Friday 29 April 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 Tom Sheldon gamebook Big Match Manager. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Terry Braggables.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: If there is a record for gum-chewing or nail biting, you broke it today...
Standing with your coaching staff in the dugout, you hold your breath and wince as a shot whizzes just wide of the post and sails into the crowd. You can't remember the last time a game was as tense as this; Leslie had put you in the lead in the thirty-fourth minute with a pinpoint header off a corner, but some "enthusiastic" defending from Fry in the box had given Borfield Albion a penalty just after the break.
Does any of this mean anything to you?
Rob: Yes. Should it?
Brad: I hope so.
Their striker had cooly dispatched it to the noisy delight of the home fans, and it's still 1-1 in the eighty-fifth minute!
Rob: Damn it all!
Brad: You can feel the tension in the visitors' stand behind you - three thousand of your loyal fans willing Hardwick City on.
Borfield are in possession in their own half.
Rob: Why is the visitor's stand behind the dugout? This must be a tiny stadium...
Brad: Your budget is £5m, dude...
Rob: That's transfer budget. It's separate from the team's finances.
Brad: Still representative of overall wealth, though, surely?
Rob: Well, yeah, but still..
Brad: A neat passing movement beats Hurley in the central mid-field, and then a lofted ball finds their man on the flank.
"Come on, close him down", you say to yourself through gritted teeth.
Rob: If I mumble everything, I'm a pretty ineffective manager.
Brad: I like the idea of "Gritted Teeth" being a glove puppet that you talk to yourself through.
Rob: As assistant managers go, I've seen less effective.
Brad: But Borfield are moving well and your defence is beaten as the ball falls to their striker who takes it on the half-volley. The ball starts to dip and is flying towards the top left corner of your goal - but Coates jumps high and takes a lightning save! The home fans let out a groan.
Terry Braggables: I almost shat myself with worry!
Brad: The referee is looking at his watch - surely that's got to be the last chance! You wish the ref would just blow the whistle as Coates quickly throws the ball out to Neville, who takes it on the run. A short pass to Duval on the left wing, who flicks it over the heads of the midfield right into the path of your top striker, Danny Knox!
Terry Braggables: Knox it in! See what I did there, Gritted Teeth?
Brad: Borfield over-stretched themselves in that last attack, and they're wide open at the back...
McSpindle: Wa-hey!
Terry Braggables: Who are you?!
McSpindle: Am I not allowed to be in this one, then?
Terry Braggables: Well, I've never met you before, but I could use an assistant manager; my puppet needs a holiday.
McSpindle: Hooray!

Brad: Knox surges forward. Just one defender to beat...Your fans are up on their feet and there's a deathly hush in the dugout as Knox reaches the eighteen yard line.
Rob: The whole stadium's gone silent? That must be incredible.
Brad: He makes to go left, but then dummies and hops neatly over the outstretched boot of the defender, before unleashing a ferocious right-footed shot straight through the keeper's legs and into the back of the net.
Brad: That was the last of the pre-season qualifiers and has seen Hardwick City FC through to the Premier Mini-League.
McSpindle: Is that even a real league? Or is is just sponsored by the local used Mini garage?
Brad: Four years in the job here at the club and you never got bored of the rush of winning. Back home, you went over the 2-1 victory in your mind as the triumphant songs of the fans echoed in your ears:
Knox had been mobbed by the other players after his spectacular goal, and everyone had gone home tired and happy.
"Spectacular" is a word only used in connection with two things: "football" and "a homosexual social life". Just saying.
Rob: And Spider-Man.
Brad: With Danny hitting the top of his form and the squad working well as a unit, you reckon the team could be in with a real chance of taking the title this season. Then the phone rings, bringing the news which will change your life forever.
Higson: (on phone) Good evening.
Rob: Charlie Higson?
Higson: This is Detective Chief Inspector Higson.

Brad: Police never get promoted, really, do they? They just seem to add another rank on the end of the last one.
Rob: DCI is pretty well respected, as I understand it.
Higson: I'm afraid we have a matter of the utmost gravity which requires your immediate co-operation.
Terry Braggables: Will it take long? My players have just invited some teenage female fans to the dressing room, and...well, you know how it is.
Higson: I'm very sorry, but we need you at the station immediately.
Terry Braggales: For fuck's sake...
Brad: You get straight into the car and McSpindle drives you to the station.
McSpindle: Do you think, maybe, he meant "Police Station"?
Terry Braggables: I suppose so...It was a mistake coming to the train depot. Get me a Twix from the shop and we'll be on our way.
Brad: McSpindle drives you to the Police Station. When you arrive, DCI Higson ushers you silently into a bare, grey-walled interview room.
Terry Braggables: Right, I just missed a striker and a defender spit-roasting some eighteen year old named Candice, this had better be worth it!
Higson: [grimly] At nine o'clock this evening, one of our patrols reported an abandoned car.
Terry Braggables: Fucking tragic. What's it got to do with me?
Higson: It had been forced off the road into a ditch, the driver's window had been smashed, and there was evidence of a struggle.
Terry Braggables: Right...I'm still not seeing it.
Higson: We've traced the registration plate, and the vehicle has been confirmed as belonging to an employee of yours. A Mister Daniel Knox.
Brad: Your skin prickes as the words sink in.

Terry Braggables: I wondered where he'd got to. Have you phoned his house?
Higson: Of course. His wife answered. He never arrived home. We're treating this as a kidnap.
Terry Braggables: ...Good call?
Brad: Your mind races, and your first thoughts are with Danny's wife and how awful this must be for her.
McSpindle: I - I can't believe this! Where is he? Who's taken him?
Brad: The Inspector stares at you both with pale grey eyes.
Higson: I'd rather hoped you two could tell me.
Terry Braggables: You are not upstaging me on concern showed! Won't someone please think of the children?!
Brad: Two challenges lie ahead: you must steer Hardwick City to the top of the league, while doing everything in your power to find Danny Knox and bring his assailants to justice.
Do you have what it takes to do both?
Rob: Man, I have enough trouble keeping my teams in the league!
===Friday 14th===
Brad: You are in your office at Hardwick City Football Club. It's 10:30pm, nearly a week now since Danny Knox disappeared, and the police are no closer to finding him. "We're doing our best" is all DCI Higson could tell you, but you know there's almos no chance of getting him safely back in time for tomorrow's match against Lowdham Athletic.
Rob: Well, I'd sort of anticipated that...
Brad: You grab your coat, glove puppet and briefcase, ready to leave for the night. But as you open your office door, you are startled by the desk phone ringing. So late at night...
Rob: I listen carefully whilst the answering machine picks it up.
Brad: You lock the door behind you as the answering machine clicks into life. But you stop dead as you hear a familiar voice on the other end. It's Danny!
Danny: [on phone] Hello? Damn...If you're there, pick up!
Brad: You fumble with the keys in the lock as Danny's breathless voice continues.
Danny: [on phone] I got away - look, I'm in the phonebox on the corner of North Street and River View. He thinks that if he gets to me he can win the league.
Rob: Now, you'd think that my leaving the answerphone to pick up would be a dumb move...
Danny: They said they'll kill me if the police find out! I'm scared...if you can hear this, just come and get me!
Brad: Lunging over the desk, you grab the handset.
Rob: Damn it, why would I do that?
Brad: He's your friend. Jesus, if this was Omer you'd go and rescue him.
Terry Braggables: Danny! Don't worry! I missed the spit roast too! I'm coming for you!
Rob: I meant why would I grab the handset, as opposed to going straight there?
Brad: Before he can reply, you hear the sound of screeching tyres, men's voices, and a sickening thud - then a click as the receiver at the other end is carefully replaced.
Rob: Replay the message.
Brad: There's something about that message...You rewind the tape, turn the volume to maximum, and press play.
Terry Braggables: [on tape] Danny! Don't worry! I missed the spit roast too! I'm coming for you!
Brad: Your own voice on tape booms over the hissing on the cassette. Then the screech of tyres, and again a thud. But this time you can make out two new voices, very faint:
Voice One: He's out col...
Voice Two: Good...ork. Now let' him back to the bef...he...ies to...cape again.
Voice One: Hey - put th...pho...ack. It looks...picious.
Brad: Then the click as the receiver is replaced.
Terry Braggables: Right, I'm looking for an ork...who lives or works out of a warese.

Brad: You bolt from the office, and jump into your car. That call box is only a few minutes away. Maybe if you're quick, you'll make it in time! But when you arrive, the place is deserted.
Rob: Shock horror.
Brad: There's the phonebox, but no sign of a car - or of Danny. You can see tyre marks on the road, and a slick of oil leading away from them and down the road.
Rob: Of those three things, the phonebox was the only thing I was expecting to be there when I got there. I search the phonebox.
Brad: You open the door to the phonebox. Everything seems normal, but suddenly you spot something small and squarish near your foot.
Terry Braggables: SquareMan!
Rob: I pick it up.
Brad: You pick up the object. It's a black wallet, and the leather feels warm in your hand. It's not Danny's...
Inside it is a small amount of cash, some receipts and a torn scrap of paper with some writing on it:
Terry Braggables: On the wages I pay him, it'd be fuller...
Room 2/
The sh\
No 13/
(/'s show where the paper is torn)
Brad: You slip the paper into your pocket. Climbing back into your car, you start the engine and set off home.
Rob: Home? What about the oil?!
Brad: Bite me. Turning the night's events over in your mind, you can hardly sleep. You want to go to the police, but you'd never forgive yourself if Danny came to harm. "He thinks he can win the league", Danny had said. So it's one of the other managers who's at the centre of this.
Rob: Assuming it's from this league. Or indeed country.
Brad: But which one has come up with this evil scheme? You sleep fitfully, and wake early on Saturday morning.


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