Friday, 22 October 2010

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Clive & Ian Bailey gamebook Where the Shadows Stalk. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones.

Brad: Perhaps you are close to the surface? Ahead, you can see a sliver of light; you must be emerging from the caverns at last. You concentrate upon the light and hurry on. Then, quite suddenly, the light winks out and ahead you can only see the darkness of the caverns. You stop and listen, but no sounds disturb the silence.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Mute attacks!

Brad: Yet your ears strain to hear beyond your swiftly-beating heart, for you are sure that something is waiting for you along the tunnel. Gradually, your racing pulse abates and you hear that other sound. It is a low rhythmic churning that advances upon you out of the shadows. A sort of formless cigar-shapedmass stealithily advances into the radiance of your lamp.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Giant mute turd!

Brad: With obscene precision, hundreds of stumpy-pseudo legs propel the creature towards you.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Mute walking turd!

Brad: Look, I've put up with a lot of Lovecraft's shit, but even I have to take umbrage with "obscene precision" as a metaphor.
"How precise is this operation?"
"Cuntingly precise, sir."
The thing halts a few feet away from you. Its blind, ragged snout sways from side to side.
Rob: This turd has a snout?!
Brad: Yes. A weird, dull, red light begins to pulse across the petal-like frons of the creature's snout and it opens to reveal a livid centre that burns with a searing heat.

Red-Shirt: Hit the red part for massive damage!

Brad: The creature is trying to mesmerise you! You have met a salamander and must fight it for your life.
Rob: Salamanders can mesmerise? Okay, what the fuck?
Brad: Better than that Zombie Carrot, remember?
Rob: Significantly.
Brad: You must act fast, for the creature is edging close to you and the heat is unbearable.

Chemise-Rouge: Captain, this heat is definitely not a bear!

Rob: I rummage through my the bag. If I can't come out with anything else, there's always the gun!
Brad: You fumble in your bag. There's acid, and there's dynamite.
Rob: Acid!
Brad: You attempt to cast the acid bottle onto the ground at the base of the creature.
Rob: Cast it? Fuck that, lob the thing!
Brad: The creature writhes from side to side, spilling flaming spittle onto the tunnel floor. You manage to squirm past the thing, but some of the burning stuff spatters onto your clothes.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Argh, you motherfucker!

Brad: You limp away along the tunnel, which veers south and leads you to another junction. Ahead you can see the prone form of another human being! You run forward and find the body of a middle-aged man. He is quite dead and his face is horribly black, as if he died from asphyxiation. Then the truth dawns upon you - this is the mummified corpse of a man who died years ago.
His hair is dry and brittle, the paperlike skin is stretched taut over the skull and his lips are parted in a ghastly leer.

Redshirt: Cheryl Cole?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: It's Tweedy. The divorce is final.

Brad: The body lies on its side, dressed in the day clothes of the late nineteenth century. A necessarily brief search reveals a silver fob watch, much tarnished, on the cover of which is engraved:

Geo. Hindlett 1875

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: What the hell kind of first name is Geo?

Brad: Do you wish to take the watch?

Rob: Yeah, pikey-pikey!

***Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones has acuired GRISLY MEMENTO***

Brad: Presumably, Mr Hindlett suffered some grievous wound (ie. had his chest crushed by Mace Windu) during his solitary exploration of the caverns and expired here, alone. Perhaps he was struggling for the way out of this maze! He is lying with one arm thrown out in front of him, pointing towards the south-west.
Rob: I'm not sure I like the idea of Mace Windu wandering around this maze.
Brad: Once again you find yourself descending along a narrow tunnel, but now you can feel a fresh breeze on your face. You round a bend and see daylight pouring into the tunnel through a triangular opening. You squeeze and squirm your way through this exit and emerge on the hillside high above Bryn Coedwig.
Rob: Hey-hey! Things are looking up, I escaped the maze and my character can become a triangle!
Brad: Picking your way down the hill, you return to the Petrie-Heydrichs' house. Charles and Lucy feed you and attend to your cuts and bruises.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Hey Lucy, I cut my penis!
Redshirt: He cut my penis too!

Brad: They listen avidly as you recount the day's adventures. When you have finished your account, Petrie-Heydrich rises and goes into his study; in a moment he returns with a tattered document.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Is this a document on re-attaching penises?
Charles: Look here...This is a plan of the mine before it was closed by the 1884 earthquake. From your description, we can conclude that the strange alien tunnel follows the line of the new lode which was sealed by the earthquake.

Rob: I like the way he says "look here", making you think you're going to be getting a telling off after fighting through that maze!

Charles: Presumably the creatures, whose representative you encountered today, would have been entombed by that disaster. But what recent event can have re-activated them?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Mardi Gras?

Brad: Petrie-Heydrich flops back into his armchair and draws upon for his pipe for a few moments. Then he leans forward and excitedly jabs at the plan.
Rob: Why would you draw on your pipe? Then you're going to get ink in your mouth.

Charles: Why, of course! Look here.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: You've got pen on your lips.
Charles: The new lode and the alien's tunnel both lead east - directly towards the quarry. Perhaps the answer lies there.
Brad: After further discussions, you resolve to visit the quarry in the morning. Petrie-Heydrich turns down the lamps and bids you good night. You are left to complete your last chore: reloading your revolver. With the gun loaded, you fall back on your bed and go to sleep.
You awake with a start, positive you have just heard something. The study is immersed in shadow; the house is heavy with silence. You fumble for your fob watch before you remember it still doesn't work. Something is scratching at the window.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Fuck off, pal, that's double glazing. You are literally wasting your time.

Brad: Turning, you are just in time to spot a disfigured face pressed up against one of the panes, then it is gone. Leaping out of bed, you rush to the window and wipe away the condensation. Peering out, you see a white mist carpeting the ground. The garden shrubs stand like dark sentinels but there is no sign of the trespasser.
This game has such a high cut-scene to playing ratio, I suspect Hideo Kojima's involvement.
Rob: Hmm...I check the house for Metal Gear.
Brad: Hrpmh.
You draw on your dressing gown, pick up the revolver and open the door to the parlour. You can smell the coal on the hearth and the only light comes from the dying embers of the fire. The house is silent.
Rob: I move on to the dining room.

Redshirt: Good idea. There may be food there.

Brad: As you open the dining-room door, you are greeted by a blast of cold air. A window must be open, which means the intruder could be in the house. You creep into the room, straining every sense in an effort to try and detect anyone who might be in the darkness ahead.
Rob: What about my Bodes Ill sense? That must be going haywire.
Brad: Your heart beats faster, you find it difficult to breathe quietly and your grip on the revolver is slippery with sweat. You can detect an open window on the far side of the room.

Chemise-Rouge: There. Next to that unfunny one-panel comic with cows chatting in Dame Edna Specs.

Brad: Will you cross the darkness to close it or wait and see if you can detect any movement?
Rob: Wait and see. Worst case scenario, I have to go and close it anyway.
Brad: Struggling to control your breathing, you wait in the darkness. Then something darts from the dining room into the kitchen! You hear the pad of feet on the kitchen tiles.
Rob: Reflex clothesline! I run across and close the window again. It's probably a kitten or something.

Chemise-Rouge: You keep a tidy house.

Brad: You move quickly to close the window. As you draw it shut, the sickening realisation dawns on you that the intruder went into the kitchen to get to the front door.

Redshirt: But...that makes no sense...
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: It really doesn't, does it? Unless...
Chemise-Rouge: Yeah...is he just passing through the house? Are we on some sort of ancient right of way?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Unless what we're dealing with...is an Avon lady!

Brad: There is no time to lose. If you tarry any longer, it may well succeed in letting its accomplices in.

Redshirt: Oh, yeah. Didn't think of that. We're boned.

Brad: Spocks Bearding through the kitchen, you hurl the door open - just in time to see a pale figure opening the front door. Without thinking, you hurl yourself at the intruder.
Rob: I knew it. It's a kitten.
Brad: In your haste, you miss your footing and fly headlong into the door, missing the intruder entirely. At the same time, a loud bang deafens you and the woodwork above your head is peppered with buckshot. At the top of the stairs stands Charles, a smoking shotgun in his hands - your fall has just saved your life! Turning to face the intruder, you see his crumpled remains on the floor and a fine white dust like a haze hanging in the air where he had been standing.
The body twitches, a hand clutches feebly at the floor - then the creature is dead.

Charles: Careful. There are more of these creatures in the garden.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: I was about to say.

Rob: I help him secure the house.

Brad: Looking around, Charles draws your attention to a heavy table.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: It's lovely isn't it?

Brad: Together you drag it across the floor and, up-ending it, block the doorway. With the hall temporarily secure, Charles wanders off to check the rest of the house. While he checks the rest of the house, you muse over the night's events. The mutant's deformities were similar to those which afflited the creatures you encountered in the mines. What power can warp a man's body into a shuffling monster?

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Duh, is it possible they came from the same place?

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