Friday 10 June 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!
Brad: A mile along the highway you discover that the obstruction is in fact a trench that has been dug diagonally across the road. It is sufficiently deep along its whole length to wreck any vehicle attempting to cross it at speed. You bring your car to a halt and step out on to the sun-scorched asphalt in order to take a closer look at this curious excavation.
Rob: I use the telescopy.
Brad: The scratches that cover the walls of the trench indicate that it was excavated entirely by hand. You scan the surrounding landscape through your telescopy, hoping to find some clue as to the identity of the person who dug the trench. Almost immediately you notice a group advancing towards you from the North.
Brag: Sandpeople, they're just awful!
Brad: Slowly you increase the magnification until the figures become clear: two scrawny-looking men are leading a pack of five alsatian hounds in your direction.
As the group draws closer you notice several things about them that stir your curiosity.
MCSPINDLE: Are they gaying you up?
Brad: The dogs look much larger than ordinary alsatians, and great flecks of white foam drip from their jaws as they tug and snap repeatedly at their heavy chain leashes.
Brag: I have a bad feeling about this.
Brad: By contrast, the two handlers appear painfully thin and gaunt, the skin of their hands and faces unnaturally grey despite the burning desert sun.
Brag: They're made of cement!

Brad: Suddenly the handlers see you and release the chain leashes. With a rasping scream, they command the dogs to attack and immediately the pack obeys.
Rob: Hold fire. I'll wait until they're closer.
Brad: You reach for a close combat weapon as the first of the pack reaches the highway and comes bounding towards you. You have encountered rabid dogs before and know only too well that just one scratch from an infected beast will seal your doom.
Rob: They're running single file? That seems unusually pleasant of them.
Brad: To hide their numbers.
You must fight with speed and skill if you are to survive this deadly attack.
Rob: I'm boned, then.
Running Combat
You ask them if they know Lassie.
Rob: ...Do they?
Brad: No.
You ask them if they know Droopy.
Rob: ...
Brad: No.
Rob: Damn!
You stabber it to death.
Rob: Yeaaaah.
Brad: You sidestep the dead dog as it falls limply to the ground, anxious to avoid the deadly virus that still thrives within its foaming saliva.
Rob: Yeah, best I do.
Brad: To your relief the other dogs halt in their tracks. Turning, they run away, scattering in all directions as they leave the highway. You check yourself carefully, cutting away any parts of your clothing that show traces of saliva.
MCSPINDLE: You'll leave the seat of your trousers if you're driving me anywhere, fucker.
Brag: I might even soil myself, hush up!
Brad: Slowly the two figures shamble to the edge of the highway and stare at you with vacant eyes. Your spirited dispatch of their dog has not worried them in the slightest, neither do they appear unduly concerned for their own safety. You stand your ground, challenging them to attack if they dare. They laugh.
Rob: I thought it was the dogs... that was creepy.
Brad: It is a pitiful, thin sound, which makes your flesh crawl. You return their empty stares, noting with disgust the ulcer-like sores that cover their pale, greyish skins, their almost complete lack of hair and their teeth, black with decay.

MCSPINDLE: Did you ever see The Omega Man?
Brag: I saw I Am Legend, same thing, right?
MCSPINDLE: Yeah. In the same way that Seven Samurai and A Bug's Life are the same thing.
Brad: Your disgust turns to pity, however, when suddenly you realise why they show no fear: they are both afflicted with terminal radiation sickness. Death is already their companion.
Brag: So...where you from?
MCSPINDLE: Good work. We'd better find out if there's a hot spot nearby.
[Hot Spot: A zone of radioactivity.]
Plague Vermin: 'Cisco.
Brag: Ok, bruh.
Brad: You take some dressings from your Medi-kit and place them on the ground in front of you, then you turn and walk back to your roadster. The dressings may be of little comfort to these two Rad-vics, but they may know others who will benefit from them.
[Rad-vics: Victims of high-dosage radioactiviy]
With a squeal of tyres, you accelerate away, retracing your route along Freeway 20 towards the convoy. As you drive, you are haunted by the images of the two Rad-vics that you encountered at the trench: the chilling memory of their gaunt, grey faces has awakened your deepest fears. The road crests a rise and you see the convoy parked less than a quarter of a mile away. The welcoming sight distracts you from your morbid thought, but the relief is to be short lived.
Rob: I initially misread that as "puked less than a quarter of a mile away".
Brad: As you bring your roadster to a halt alongside the bus, you see Cutter standing on the roof, a pair of battered binoculars pressed to his eyes.
Cutter: Looks like we're goin' to have company real soon...
Brag: Why did you batter those binoculars? Doesn't the fat hurt your eyes?
Brad: He is staring at a large cloud of dust that is advancing atowards Eastland from the north-east.
Cutter: I reckon there's over a hundred bikes out there on the prairie, and they're all headin' this way.
Brag: There might be a charity event, that's not necessarily a problem.
Cutter: Looks like that Mad Dog Michigan decided not to go to Killeen after all!
Brag: Shit...
Uncle Jonas: I think we should head for 'Cisco and lay low until they pass.
Brag: Uh, dude...are you a fan of extra limbs?
Brad: Uncle Jonas soon changes his mind when you tell him about your encounter at the trench. Kate leans out of a window of the bus.

Brag: You still here?
Kate: Abilene would be safer, but we'll have to pass wide of 'Cisco to get there.
Brad: Cutter convenes a hasty conference to decide the best way to reach Abilene. The terrain in this area is too rocky to attempt a cross-country detour at speed, so you must use what little remains of the secondary highways in order to reach your goal. After studying the map and staring at the surrounding plain from the rood of the bus, you determine two possible routes: north-west of the town of Albany, or south-west via the town of Cross Plains.
Rob: Albany's New York though right?
Brad: What am I? American?
Rob: "Brad" is a somewhat American name.
Brad: The colony is undecided as to which route would be best, and so, as convoy scout, the decision is left to you.
Rob: Albany sounds nicer, but then that's probably a double bluff. Let's go to Cross Plains.
Brad: You lead the convoy along the split and cratered surface of State Highway 571, across a wasteland of bleached hills and scorched scrub. In the distance you see mountains - the twin summits of Caddo Peaks and the craggy outline of Spring Mesa - standing sharp and clear against the backdrop of a cloudless sky. By mid-afternoon the temperature has climbed to 110 Fahrenheit, and the combined effects of the heat and poor road surface begin to take their toll. Two miles inside Comanche county, the tanker is forced to halt with an overheated engine.
Rob: Goddamn it! Is there no AA here?!
Brad: Luckily, the breakdown occurs within sight of the Sabanna River, now little more than a torpid stream, and enugh water is soon collected to enable the tanker to continue.
Rob: What a sneaky double-bluff!
Brad: Gradually the road turns westwards and climbs towarsd high plains country. Then, as you approach the outskirts of a town called Rising Star, Cutter signals you to stop.
Cutter: We've got six people down with heat exhaustion, and four more on the brink.
Brad: His face is awash with sweat.
Cutter: We've got to get 'em out of this travelling over and let 'em rest awhile in the shade.
Brag: I think it's funny.
MCSPINDLE: Well, how about the convoy waits here while Brag and I scout ahead? You love it when we do that, right? We can go ahead, face Mad Max Villans, rabid dogs and radioactive albinos why you put your feet up. By the time we've stared death in the face, the worst of the afternoon heat will be over and you can press on again. I mean, that's how we usually do this right?
Cutter: Good plan. Let's do that.
Brag: Motherfucker...
Brad: The road to Cross Plains is virtually free of the craters and other hazards that have plagued your journey so far, enabling you to drive at speed at last. You are glad of the cooling breeze but you cannot shake off your presentiment that danger awaits you in Cross Plains.
MCSPINDLE: Could be worse. If you were dyslexic, you'd be expecting Dengar to be waiting for you.
Brag: I always have that fear.

Brad: Tyre tracks in the dust, some no more than a few days old, indicate that this highway is used by other four-wheeled vehicles. When the town appears in the distance, caution prompts you to stop your car at a derelict gas station. You park the BragWagon under cover, inside an empty repair shop at the rear of the building, then venture into Cross Plains on foot.
MCSPINDLE: Pfft. Fuck you, then.
Brad: Tyre tracks zig-zag the main street, but you can see no sign of the vehicles that made them. The place itself appears to be deserted and unremarkable, yet your mind warns you to stay alert. At a junction near the centre of the town you notice something unusual: a tall, wooden pole, carved and painted in the fashion of an old Comanche totem, has been erected in the middle of the street.
There is a rush of wind like a sound of a whip before it cracks, then something tightens around your body, pinning your arms to your sides.
Rob: I suspect it was...a whip?
Brad: Fear wells up inside when you realise that you have been lassoed.
Rob: Yeah...
Brad: Desperately you stuggle to grab the rope that is biting into your flesh, but you are pulled roughly to the ground before you can break free.
Rob: Biting into my flesh?
Brad: Cursing wildly, you blink the dust from your eyes in time to see a scrawny youth advancing towards you, his hands tugging and shortening the rope to maintain his hold on you. He is dressed in tattered buckskin, and his cheeks and forehead are pained with coloured stripes. His strange appearance reminds you of book you read when you were young; books with pictures of Native American braves who fought cowboys of the old West.
Brag: I fucking hope this isn't Alcatraz, that guy hates me!
Brad: The youth gives a warbling scream and more of his kind appear, all of them dressed in similar Native American costumes. With howls of delight they jump on you, take your hunting knife and pistol, and hold your arms securely behing your back while the youth retrieves his lasso.
Brag: Fucking hell...
Brad: Then, without a word of explanation, they drag you to the centre of the street and tie you to the totem pole. The sound of a car horn echoes in the distance and your captors cease their whooping. The moment the vehicle glides into view, they throw themselves to their knees and bow their heads devoutly. Open-mouthed, you stare at the approaching car, scarcely able to believe your eyes. A 1960s Thunderbird convertible, its bodywork and chrome gleaming as if it were only a day old, glides towards you like something out of a dream.
Brag: They fucking worship MCSPINDLE?
Brad: Behind the driver stands a tall figure with dark, hungry eyes. He is dressed as a Native American chief, with a lamella breastplate and a magnificent head-dress of eagle feathers which frames his stern face.
Brag: Right...
Brad: The car draws to a halt and proudly the chief addresses the crowd that kneels before him. This still makes more sense than that Zombie Carrot, rght?
Rob: It really does.
Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
You can become Brad's "friend" on Facebook, or you can "follow" him on Twitter. Depends how creepy you want to sound really.
This is intended as a loving tribute to Joe Dever, the Freeway Warrior series, Highway Holocaust, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.


Following on from the home entertainment smash-hit The Zombie Diaries, one of the biggest selling zombie titles in the UK of the past decade, the highly-anticipated sequel World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries will be released in cinemas on the 24th June and on DVD from the 27th June.

Three months have passed since a viral outbreak wiped out 99.9% of the world's population, turning its victims into flesh-eating living dead. In the UK, a surviving band of soldiers and civilians have taken refuge at a rural military barracks.

Life in this new world is tough and brutal, but hope appears when a high level communication is received from a military base on the coast, telling of sanctuary elsewhere in Europe...

But just as salvation appears to be in reach, the base suffers an overwhelming defeat at the hands of the living dead!

The surviving handful of troops and civilians must now make their way to the coast to uncover the truth behind the message. Their perilous journey takes them across a now treacherous, death-ravaged landscape, where the living dead are vast in number and wandering bandits impose their own malicious sense of law and order.

What follows is a journey into hell and a desperate battle against all odds for the very survival of the human race.

Thanks to our friends at Metrodome, we've got five copies of World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name to before midday on Friday 17th June, making sure to put "World of the Dead" as the subject. The first five entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "World of the Dead" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries is available on DVD from 27th June.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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