Friday, 26 November 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 is GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Robin Waterfield gamebook Phantoms of Fear. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Braggolas.

Brad: The beautiful goddess fades into invisibility, leaving a last glimpse of her enigmatic smile, and letting the two swords fall to stick quivering in the turf.
Rob: "Quivering in the turf" definitely sounds like a euphemism. I take the path to the right and investigate what is causing my precious forest to suffer!
Brad: As you walk up the path, the trees change from the peaceful, slow creatures which you know and love. Roots bulge out of the ground even as you pass and snake towards your ankles; branches brush you cheeks, but not in gentle recognition of a kindred spirit.
Rob: I would hope not.
Brad: There are no leaves on these trees, except for a few rotten remnants, which ooze thick resin and flick it at you; it burns whenever it lands on some exposed part of your skin. But worse than all this, and worse than the hideous forms of these warped trees, is the smell which the pit exudes.

Braggolas: Ah, caustic jizz. Jolly good!

Brad: Caustic Jizz sounds like an industrial band. The closer you get to it, the ore your sense scream that this is wrong, wrong, WRONG! The part of you which remains concious even while you sleep is aware that you are tossing and turning on your pallet, and are close to waking up in order to avoid the foul nightmare.
Rob: I stick with the dream. Worst case scenario, I feel a bit crap when I wake up.
Brad: You manage to block off your senses and persevere. The trees become less threatening and more lifeless - though that in itself wounds your Wood Elf heart. But the closer you get to the pit which is the source of the blight on the forest, the more you seem to be failing through a quagmire.
Sorry, that should be wading through a quagmire.
Rob: Very funny.
Brad: It is not just that the ground is sticky and hard to cross; the air itself seems to squeeze your chest, until your breathing is laboured and harsh. Like an Andrew Dice Clay routine.
Rob: I hate that guy.
Brad: In case that burn didn't get that across: so do I. Eventually, you come close to the pit. The light has entirely faded now, and you know you are close only because of the tangible aura of Evil surrounding it. A mocking laugh splits the murky atmosphere, and a cold, cruel voice speak to you:

Voice: Puny, Elf, do you seek to test yourself against me? I look forward to our meeting - if you get that far!
Braggolas: Mum? Is that you? How did you get my new mobile number? I've not given it out yet.

Brad: Then all at once a thicket of impenetrable bushes springs up all around you. Wherever you turn there is no escape, and the thicket is closing in on you.
Rob: Use a Fire Spell!

Braggolas: Spellcasting! B-U-R-Nailed you with Fire!

Brad: You remembered the earlier warning about not casting spells in a dream and are just pretending to be an idiot, right?
Rob: No Fire!
Brad: You boldly march up to the thicket - which parts and then vanishes to let you through! You know that in dreams the images that you see are formed by your own mind, and can therefore be changed or dispelled by your own mind, if you have enough Power and make the right decisions. But by dispelling this illusion, you also dissolve the dream as a whole, and you wake up. When you are fully awake, you know what you must do.

Braggolas: Weird, I seem to have a voicemail.

Brad: Somewhere in the forest is an area of foul blight, which marks the entrance to Ishtra's underground stronghold; you must find it, enter the pit, seek out Ishtra and do battle with him. This will be an immense task - a quest which, whether you succeed or fail, the Wood Elves will sing about as long as they have voices to sing.
Rob: Wood Elvis? Sorry, misread that.
Brad: To this end, you resolve to bring along the village's minstrel, McSpindle, to document your journey in song. It is a particularly daring undertaking for a Wood Elf, for your kind do not normally stray more than half a day's journey from home. You call a council of the tribal elders and explain your task.
Rob: Is one of them Hugo Weaving?
Brad: Yes!
Rob: As in V for Vendetta?
Brad: Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. They protest that the mission is impossible, but you do not allow such doubts to enter your mind. You tell them that you must go, and you make arrangements for the protection of the tribe during your abscence.

Braggolas: Fabulous.

Brad: After embracing your closest friends - and many seem to be such friends under these circumstances - you prepare to leave.
Rob: I don't keep items from dreams do I? So I've lost that bear...
Brad: All you need is your sword Telessa, a backpack and McSpindle.
Rob: There's a sitcom.
Brad: You do not take any provisions, because as a woodelf you are confident of finding enough to eat as long as you are in the forest.

McSpindle: So...which way, my liege?
Braggolas: Telessa, a backpack, McSpindle and a Pizza place...Uhhhhhh...

Brad: Lake Necros lies not far to the East, so you must choose between north, south and west.
Rob: North!

McSpindle: Let us go roughly North.

Brad: Without a backward glance, you set off North. There are few true paths this deep in the forest, but even when the sun is not visible, there are plenty of signs to show a wood elf which way is which. Although you often have to digress to avoid some obstable or other, you keep to a generally northerly direction. After half a day's journeying, it is time to rest and eat.

McSpindle: I'm bored. And hungry.

Brad: You look for berries while you continue walking, but there are not many. The presence of more light off to your left tells you that there is a glade there, and you think that it may have shrubs such as bilberry growing in it.
Rob: Turn left towards the glade! Plug it in!
Brad: Ugh. Sure enough, there are bilberries in the glade. You also find edible toadstools, wild parsnips and the fern called Skunkbear's Tongue, which Elves value as both nutritious and refreshing.

McSpindle: We Elves suck at marketing.
Braggolas: Yeah, I seem to recall an elven restaurant that sold Badger's Ballbag as a dessert. Wasn't bad though.

Brad: There is only just enough food to make a single meal for you each, however. It seems that animals have already removed much of it - more than they could eat, you think. It looks as though they have been storing food, which is unusual for this time of year. It occurs to you that they probably know instinctively that some peril is near by and are preparing for it.

McSpindle: I wish I had instincts.

Brad: After your meal, you decide to rest against a log.
Rob: I'll drift into the dreamworld, that always works out well.

McSpindle: Night, then.

Brad: In your dream you visit an unfamiliar place. There is a sandy arena, spotted with blood, in which two heroes are battling to the death. A crowd roars its appreciation, and the whole show is overseen by a cruel-looking man, dressed in rich clothes. You're picturing Darth Tyranus on Geonosis. I just know you are.
Rob: How can clothes be rich?
Brad: The appearance of these humans and humanoids is strange to you. You hear the richly garbed man speak to his neighbour:

Well-Dressed Man: Whoever survives the Arena of Death will be my champion. I'll have the last laugh at that brother of mine.

Brad: You wonder what this means: is it an illusion, or a vision of a distant land? The harsh sun which bakes the dream arena is suddenly blotted out by a vast Dragon. But this is merely the reflection in your dream of the shadow cast by the Giant Bloodhawk which is swoopingdown on your sleeping body. The pain of its talons ripping your thigh jerks you back to wakefulness. By the time you have drawn your sword, it is swooping down on you again and you have no time to cast a spell.
Rob: Oh yeah, if you die in the Matrix...
Brad: That's totally irrelevant.

McSpindle: *strumming lute*
Oh, he strode the wilds lands
With ne'er a word.
He fell asleep on a log
And got killed by a bird...
Braggolas: I love this so....wait...

Brad: Even while you are steadying yourself to meet the Bloodhawk's diving attack, the thought passes through your mind that it is far from its usual open habitat. Could it be a spy sent by Ishtra?
Rob: Sure, why not?
Brad: Then there is no more time for thinking, only doing.

Running Combat

Rob: It's a bird isn't it?
Brad: Aye.
Rob: What's the point of running then?

Flying Combat

Rob: But I can't fly...

Combat
You tell it that you think you should both fight other people.

Braggolas: It's not you, it's....no, I can't finish that. It's you.

You make it watch Robocop 3.

Rob: Jesus, did it kill my son or something?

It has an embarrassing conversation with you about contraceptives.

Rob: ...What would that involve?

You perve over the hot girls in its Facebook Friends.
You GM it through the classic Fighting Fantasy gamebook House of Hell.
You use the last of the toilet paper, but leave the empty roll on the holder.

Rob: I hate when people do that!

Bird/thing/monster is defeated.

Brad: You leave the clearing and continue north. As you proceed northwards, you see more and more evidence that the woodland creatures are preparing for Ishtra's imminent invasion.

McSpindle: So...what exactly are we doing again?

Brad: It is not just that they have been gathering much of the available food; you also notice that their behaviour patterns are different.

McSpindle: Indeed. That squirrel is filing its nuts alphabetically.

Rob: There are fewer animals than usual, as if many have already fled; normally timid creatures snarl at you from bushes; birds twitter in fright from the topmost branches.

Bird: @birdinothertree I'm frightened. Are you?

Brad: You begin to regret not bringing and provisions from home, especially since it is likely that the closer you get to Ishtra's pit, the more the forest animals will have eaten or gathered the available food.

McSpindle: And I'm really hungry.
Braggolas: God, stop whining.

Brad: You always knew that you would need to carry food when you were underground, but now it seems sensible to take time to gather Provisions for your whole journey, both overground and underground.

McSpindle: ...

Rob: Wombling free?

McSpindle: And there it is.

Brad: As you search for Provisions, you may well have to fight some forest creature, either because you try to deprive it of some food or simply because it is aggressive.
Rob: Makes sense, I get like that over Boost bars
Brad: *rolls on random encounter table* You scavenge seven meals worth of provisions.
Rob: Jesus, that's a mooch and a half.
Brad: The route you are following takes you past a Death Dripper.
Rob: Do I even want to know?
Brad: The sensitive roots of this tall, tree-like plant detect the vibrations caused by any creature's footsteps, and the plant immediately drips a fast-acting poison from its sickly yellow flowers. The poison fails to make contact with your skin, but some may have entered your backpack.

McSpindle: Good thing my lute is sap proof, eh?
Braggolas: Yeah, that's great...Douche.

Brad: You suffer no loss.

McSpindle: This is fun.

Brad: Go north, or follows the trail somewhat east.
Rob: Let's go north, I don't like the idea of going "somewhat" east. Only a Jedi deals in vagueness. And I'm an Elf.

McSpindle: *strumming lute*
Oh, he stabbed a bird of prey to death
And then he stole some grub.
He crept past a plant of fuckening
And something-something-dub.

Brad: Before long, you arrive at the bank of a creek, which is flowing east in the direction of Lake Nekros.
Rob: Lake Necros? They fuck dead people?
Brad: The creek is not too wide, and you can see the stony bottom, so it seems fordable. The water would come up to your chest, at the most. You could wade through and continue north, or follow the creek upstream to the west.
Rob: I'll Me through the water.

McSpindle: You'll have to carry me. I'm water soluble.
Braggolas: Of all the...Fine.

TO BE CONTINUED...


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