Friday 4 March 2011

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 Joe Dever gamebook Highway Holocaust. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Rob: Fine, I'll go on foot.
Brad: Making full use of the broken ground and heaps of wreckage as cover, you circle the mysterious observer and creep up on him from behind. So that you can find out why he is spying on the convoy you decide to try to overpower him. However, he hears you approaching and spins around to face you, his hand reaching for a dagger concealed in his boot!
Brag: I wouldn't need to run if my car wasn't such a pussy!
He calls your mother fat.
Brag: Oh you di'n't!
You slam your knee into his groin so hard his eye pops out.
Rob: Which eye, his japs?
Brad: You know what? That's funnier, so...yes.
You blow his mind with some The Sopranos trivia.
You stuff and d20 up his nose, then headbutt him.
You are victorious.
Rob: Nice.
Brag: Critical Hit, bitch.

Brad: As you had suspected. the spy was a city gang member, a scout for the Arlington Vipers judging by the snake tattoo that encircles his throat. You have encountered many from this gang during the past few months; they often led night raids on the DC1 settlement at McKinney. You roll the dead scout on to his chest at quickly serach through his rucksack and pockets.
Rob: Right...I pikey all his ammo plus the rounds loaded into the gun, the water from his canteen, all his food, all his medical supplies, his telescopy and his mirror. So...everything, really.
Brad: Done.
Rob: Then I slit his throat with his dagger and make it look like suicide.
Brad: You return to the convoy and continue with the crossing. Two miles and two hours later you reach the opposite side of the lake. Half an hour further on, the convoy makes a rest stop and takes stock of its surroundings.
Brag: Did you see that guy who killed himself with his own knife?
Brad: Traces of a paved road that disappears towards the west are found, and Cutter Jacks, who lived only a few miles from Lake Lewisville before The Day, identifies it as the remains of State Highway 407.
Cutter: This'll get us back on course. Follow this baby and we'll make Freeway 35 in under an hour.
Brad: Sixty-one minutes later, Freeway 35 appears in the distance, its long, concrete body lying bleached and quaking beneath the fiery sun. The road you are following passes beneath it but, as you draw closers, you notice a ramp coiling away to your right, giving access to the freeway. A few hundred yards beyond the ramp you see another. It leads to the ruins of a once prestigious building - the North Texas State University.
MCSPINDLE: Wait...They have a University in Texas?!
Brag: Yeah, but they only do one course: Advanced Creationism.
Uncle Jonas: Okay, it's worth a look.
Brag: I knew you were a creationist.
Uncle Jonas: See if you can rustle up some polythene sheeting.
Brag: Right...
Uncle Jonas: We're mighty short an' we'll be needin' some real bad as soon as we hit the desert. We'll wait right here for you an' keep an eye on the road. Any trouble then jus' give a holler.
Brag: Okay, Remover of Grammar.
Brad: With your uncle's slightly bizarre request in mind, you drive towards the centre of the campus in search of what was once the chemisty faculty.

MCSPINDLE: Polythene sheeting? He doesn't actually know what a university is, does he?
Rob: Why am I looking here? Doesn't the uni have a Design Technology wing?
Brad: Most of the buildings are just burnt-out, rubble-filled shells, their contents either buried beyond reach of looted months ago by roving city gangs. A shattered sign indicates the entrance to the building you seek, and your hopes rise when you notice that it is the least damaged structure on the campus. Inside, the sounds of your footsteps echoes along the dusty corridors as you make your way down to the basement storage levels. To your disappointment you discover little remaining there of practical value.
Rob: I continue the search. Maybe I can use the time to figure out how polythene sheets will be useful.
Brad: Eventually you enter the last storage room: it contains two objects that stir your curiosity. The first is a large wooden crate, seemingly overlooked by whoever looted the other basement rooms, and the second is a reinforced steel door that is set into the far wall.
Rob: I take a closer look at the crate.
Brad: The rotten wood splits and crumbles under the slightest pressure, enabling you to open the crate with your bare hands. Inside, you discover hundreds of square plastic tubs, bound together with tape into units of twelve. Sealing the whole consignment is a vast sheet of clear-polythene - just what your bizarre uncle wanted! Using your hunting knife, you slit open the sheeting at the corners, remove it from the tubs and fold it away carefully for future use.
Brag: How was I planning on carrying it.
Brad: The tubs themselves are each adorned with blue and white labels that display the letters:
N a C l

Rob: Sodium Chloride. Or they belong to a scientist called Dr Nacl.
Brad: Which is...
Rob: Erm...It's been a while since I did chemistry...Salt?
Brad: Correct!
Rob: Wait, I was kidding...
Brad: You have stumbled upon a hige stockpile of a substance that is vital to human survival, yet one that is becoming harder to find with every passing day. In your excitement you give a shout and can barely stop yourself from dancing around the crate in sheer delight.
Rob: Why do I get the feeling I've alerted something to my presence? I take as many tubs of salt as I can carry, then return to the convoy.
Brad: With your back bent beneath the combined weight of your equipment, fifty pounds of salt and the thick roll of polythene sheeting that is slung around your shoulders, you slowly make your way back to the convoy.
Rob: Slowly is right.
Brad: The sight of you staggering out of the campus, half-hidden beneath the mountain of items you have salvaged, provokes a loud roar of laughter from the bus.
Brag: Laugh it up, fuzzballs!
Brad: Cutter Jacks and Uncle Jonas come to your aid, both resisting the urge to poke fun at you.
When they discover what you are carrying, their mouths drop open in amazement.
MCSPINDLE: Did he really bring back polythene sheeting? Hah! What a dick...
Brag: How's your conscience, murderer?
Brad: Word spreads and everyone is suddenly eager to congratulate you. You decide to keep one of the tubs. As soon as all your precious discovereies are loaded safely on the bus, you climb back into your roadster and lead the convoy along the southbound carriageway of Freeway 35. Obstructions are few on this stretch of Freeway 35. Most of the wrecks that once choked this route into Fort Worth now lie in dusty heaps at the side of the road, their bodies having been stripped of serviceable parts long ago by city gang scavengers.
The piles of auto-shells steadily increase as you near the outskirts of Fort Worth, warning you of the increasing likelihood of ambush and prompting you to keep your eyes peeled for anything that could pose a threat to the convoy.
Brag: Those scavengers do like their stuff...

Brad: To your left, you can see the buildings of downtown Dallas perched precariously around the edge of a huge crater.
Rob: This book seems to have been written in a way that makes it impossible for me to fuck it up.
Brad: These once-gleaming towers of mirrored glas and steel now lie black and broken, like a circle of charred bones. It is a murderously chilling sight. At a junction on the outskirts of Fort Worth, you decide to leave Freeway 35 and follow a safer route that will take you around the city. The remains of Highway 820 serve your purpose well, until you reach another junction where the Jacksboro HIghway crosses your path. In order for the convoy to connect with Freeway 20, the interstate highway that leads all the way to Big Spring, you must traverse one major obstacle - the Trinity River.
You consult your map.
Rob: Rivers? Wagon party? I smell trouble...
Brad: There are two places where you convoy can cross the Trinity, both of them close by. Two miles further along Highway 820 there is a bridge over Lake Worth.
Rob: If I believe Oregon Trail, we should just be able to float across.
Brad: Two miles north, along the Jacksboro Highway, another bridge crosses the river at a place called Lakeside Village.
Rob: Hmmm, let's see...Lakeside Village one is more likely to be populated, as there'll be fixed buildings in place in some vague state of disrepair. On the other hand, it'd be Sod's Law that there'd be a makeshift village set up on the other bridge.
MCSPINDLE: I take it the whole "Nuclear War" thing killed off SatNav?
Brag: WhatNav?
Rob: Let's go for the village. I think it's a double bluff.
MCSPINDLE: You're a smart man!
BRAG: You're a smart car!
Brad: After a brief conference with Uncle Jonas and the others, they agree to wait here at the junction while you go off and scout the bridge at Lakeside Village.
MCSPINDLE: I can't decide...are they all cowards, or just lazy?
Brag: I think it's a bit of both.

Brad: If it proves safe, you will return and lead them across. It takes you less than five minutes to reach Lakeside Village and, to your relief, you find it deserted. However, your hopes of an easy crossing are dashed; the bridge across the Trinity no longer exists - it collapsed several years ago. You are preparing to turn back when you notice an old school bus, almost identical to the colony's vehicle, lying on its side amid the rubble of a derelict building.
Rob: I investigate the old bus.
Brad: It takes you a few minutes to clear the rubble away from the engine compartment, but your efforts are not in vain. Some of the engine components are still serviceable and could prove useful as spares for the colony's bus.
Rob: Well, without knowing the make and model, I don't know the commonly failing parts. So let's play it safe and take the spark plugs and the fan belt. In my experience they're the most common things to go wrong.
Brad: And kidneys, remember? You return to the convoy. You tell the others the disappointing news: that the bridge to Lakeside Village is out.
MCSPINDLE: Then we have no choice. Bluewater it is.
Brag: There's always Bromley town centre. I'll get my coat.
Brad: There is only one alternative - the bridge across Lake Worth.
Brag: What's a Lake Worth?
MCSPINDLE: Not as much as it'll lead you to believe.
Rob: Ba-doom-tish!
Brad: As you take your place at the head of the column and lead the convoy along Highway 820, you can only pray that it has not suffered a simliar fate. For a mile beyond the junction, the highway passes through a corridor of petrified trees, the pitiful remains of a fertile city park that thrived before the holocaust. Then it crests a ridge of high ground that overlooks the sickly, tainted waters of Lake Worth.
Rob: So I see...
Brad: The bridge ahead is blocked by a manned barricade, and now you slow to a halt signalling to the others to pull off the road to avoid being seen. Cutter is the first to join you, his eagle eyes fixed on the barricade as silently he assesses its strength. Uncle Jonas and Hammer Harlan are the next to arrive and they are quick to ask Cutter for his opinion.

Cutter: Ain't nothing fancy down there...
Brag: Ain't there? There ain't not no moonshine?
Cutter: They've got a few cars strung out in the line, that's all. I figure if we was to hit 'em hard enough, you can bet yer boots we'd bust through their centre like a bull through a wicker fence.
MCSPINDLE: Sorry, can I just stop you there...Are we all just going to ignore that as though "like a bull through a wicker fence" is an everyday similie? I mean, are we...we are. Oh, okay.
Brag: Who the fuck makes their fence out of wicker anyway?
Hammer: We can't risk damaging a vehicle.
MCSPINDLE: I heartily agree with you, sir.
Brag: Gaybot.


Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies) looks set to deliver a sensational performance as Elisabeth Bathory, the Vampire Countess, in the chilling true story of one of history’s most notorious tyrants.

Elizabeth Bathory gets a lot of bad press. History remembers her as the most sadistic murderess who ever lived, a monstrous killer of more than 650 innocent lives, who delighted in the torture of her victims and bathed in their still warm blood in an unholy quest for immortality. The movie version looks relatively fatihful to this premise, promising "epic and explosive battle scenes". Well, that's the movie industry for you.

The trailer isn't a particularly good one. For the first fifteen seconds there's a constant barrage of action, fighting and explosions; then the bulk of the trailer is given over to headshots of actors we've never heard of (with the exception of Anna Friel, obviously). Then there's some painfully cack-handed sword-fighting...followed by someone hang-gilding over Carpathia.

Still, if one can get past the whole bathing-in-blood myth, Bathory was an interesting person and central to the politics and warfare of medieval Carpathia. There's a lot that could be told about her...but it looks that this movie probably isn't the one to do it. Hell, there's a Cradle of Filth album that manages to do it without feeling the need to stick some hang-gliding in.

Bathory: Countess of Blood is out on DVD from Monday from Metrodome, priced £15.99.

Get this in the E14 Store for £9.99

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