Friday 26 August 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 Freeway Warrior II: Mountain Run. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: You are Brag Phoenix, a survivor, born in California on Thanksgiving Day in the year 2000.
Rob: I remember that! Well, not the birth.
Brad: In 2012, whilst on winter vacation at your Uncle Jonas' and Aunt Betty-Ann's ranch in Texas, you were invited to visit a shale-oil mine near Austin, the first of its kind in Texas.
As Chief of Construction, your uncle was proud to take you on a guided tour of the whole underground complex, which, for security reasons, was totally self-supporting.
It was during this tour on 3rd January 2012 (Blake's 26th Birthday) that the unthinkable happened. You remember how the ground shuddered when the shock waves from the first distant explosions reached the mine. Immediately you assumed it was the start of an earthquake, which you had experienced many times at home in California. However, as the levels nearest the surface begain to collapse and the central elevator shaft filled with rubble, you realised the awful truth: the holocaust. At first there was no way of telling the extent of the surface devastation.
Rob: See, last time round I treated this like playing Fallout 3. I realise now how foolish that was.

Brad: How so?
Rob: Well, it's clearly more like Fallout: New Vegas.
Brad: Below ground, the safety generators had switched into operation automatically when the main power supply failed, and the tremors had faded quickly, which encouraged your aunt and uncle to believe that the danage was superficial. Uncle Jonas was confident that the military would mount a rescue operation and that you would be brought out within a few days, a week at the most. Aunt Betty-Ann, too, was optimistic. After all, there were emergency supplies - enough to feed two hundred men for a whole month.
Rob: Or one man for two hundred months...
Brad: Little did she know that the three of you would end up consuming all those supplies, or that the mine would become your home, your shelter and your prison for the next eight years of your lives.
It was early in September in the year 2019 when eventually you broke through to the surface. When first you set eyes on the landscape surrounding the mine, it was like looking at the surface of another planet. Few structures had survived the blizzards and intense cold that had swept around the world in the years following The Day, and now, after the dust had settled and the sun had returned, the one-fertile plains of Austin resembled little more than a desert of parched and broken rock, littered with the artefactts of an absent civilisation.
A bit like Birmingham.
Rob: Sounds about right, I've been there once.
Brad: During the first few days, when you set out to explore this wilderness, it was easy to believe that you were the only survivors. But on the morning of the fifth day Uncle Jonas made chance radio contact with a family called Ewell who were living near the ruins of McKinney, thirty miles north of Dallas. They told him that they had been in touch with a handful of other groups who had managed somehow to survive the holocaust. Most were isolated and unable to move due to lack of fuel, food or water. They had urged those who could travel to join them in McKinney to start a new community there, and some people were already on their way.
When your uncle and aunt accepted their invitation, the Ewells were enthusiastic, but also warned you to be wary - not everyone who had survived wanted to establih a new community.
They did not, however, warn you of their disrespect for grammar and pronunciation.

Rob: Yeah, they are particularly verb-rapey.
Brad: The ruins of some large Texan cities, such as Dallas and Forth Worth, were controlled by gangs of criminals who fought with each other and terrorised anyone seeking to re-establish law and order. They urged you to avoid these gangs at all costs. It took more than a week to discover a vehicle that could transport you to McKinney.
Rob: Probably because of how long it took them to put together a correct sentence.
Brad: It was an old school bus, one that had been parked in an underground lot and had survived the years of sub-zero blizzards. With fuel and spares salvaged from the mine, you managed to coax it back to life, and then set off on your journey north. When you arrived at the town, it was easy to find where the Ewells lived - their ranch was the only place that was still standing. It looked more like an old frontier post than a ranch, with its fortified perimeter wall, lookout posts and stake-filled moat. However, after being ambushed and shot at by the city gangs of Fort Worth during the final stages of your journey, you fully appreciated the need for these defences.
Rob: Yeah, I remember bullets.
Brad: "Pop" Ewell, the seventy year-old grandfather of the Ewell family, was the leader of this small colony of survivors, and it was he would had urged Uncle Jonas to join them when they had first made radio contact. The colony numbered less than a dozen at the time of your arrival, yet, as the airwaves became clearer and new contacts were made, soon this number had more than doubled to twenty-five. It was decided that a name was needed to identify the settlement. The name "Dallas Colony One" was adopted, known as "DC1" for short - just beating out "Tom Brady Is The Second Coming of Christ Village" by three votes.
From that day on, everyone seeking refuge from the hostile wastelands and maruading city gangs.
"Cutter" Jacks was one such refugee. Before The Day, he had been chief mechanic at the International Grand Prix Circuit near Lake Dallas, and his incredible skill with (and knowledge of) engines was soon to prove invaluable to the colony. He taught you how to drive, and from a pile of old wrecks that you helped him salvage from the circuit, he build you The BragWagon. You used it - along with its powerful on-board computer, the Micro-Chip Single Processor Intuitive Network/Driver Liason Engine - to patrol the highways north of the city, keeping a lookout for gangs of city punks who frequently mounted raids to steal or destroy DC1's supplies.
Cutter also taught you to shoot.

Rob: That, he does do well. I recall popping many a cap in asses.
Brad: It was your natural prowess with a gun, and your skill behind the wheel, that was to earn you the begruding respect of your enemies, who tool to calling you "The Freeway Warrior". Six months after you arrived at DC1, the colony was faced with a major crises. A heat wave was causing a drought that threatened to destroy the food supply. Crops were failing and the colony's aretsian well, its only source of uncontaminated water, was beginning to dry up. The drought was also provoking more attacks from the city punks, who were desperate for food and water.
Their common need had united them and now they posed a very real threat to the security of DC1.
Rob: I meant to ask last time, is DC1 my rap posse?
Brad: Can you imagine having a hillbilly hype man?
Rob: Don King with a Georgia accent?
Brad: It was the last day of May, 2020, when Pop Ewell made radio contact with another colony who were based in the city of Big Spring, three hundred miles west of McKinney. Their situation was completely the reverse of DC1's: they had food and water in plentiful supply, but they were desperately short of fuel. They told of their contact with survivors in Tucson, Arizona, who were also without fuel.
The Tucson colony reported that the territories west of the Sierra Nevada mountains had been spared the worst effects of the radioactive blizzards that had devastated the rest of the country and, miraculously, much of souther California was still widely populated. In fact, it had survived the last eight years virtually intact. When you heard the news you could hardly believe your ears. Perhaps your family was still alive.
Brag: Aside from the...y'know...LA Riots...The second ones.

Brad: After all that had happened, there was now a real hope that one day you might be reunited with them. A meeting was held to decide how best to deal with the crises facing DC1. Everyone agreed that to stay at McKinney would lead eventually to death, either slowly from starvation or suddenly at the hands of the murderous city gangs.
Rob: They're murderous, so I hear...
Brad: The only choice open to DC1 was to try to reach California; only there lay real hope for the future of the colony. The decision was relayed to the survivors at Big Spring and a deal was struck to rendezvous with them as soon as possible. DC1 would refuel them in exchange for food and water, and together they would join up with the Tucson colony for the final stage of the journey to California. Careful preparations were made for the long trek, and three vehicles were chosen to make up the convoy: the school bus, the BragWagon, and a gasolene tanker laden with 5,000 gallons of petroleum syphoned from underground storage tanks at the Ewell ranch.
Brag: This is safe, right?
Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
Brad Harmer: Facebook Twitter
Rob Wade: Twitter
This is intended as a loving tribute to Joe Dever, the Freeway Warrior series, Slaughter Mountain Run/Mountain Run, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.


Sixteen year-old Jessamine Luxton is heartbroken. Her true love, the strange and intriguing young man who came into her life so suddenly, has disappeared.

Jessamine suspects that her father, Thomas, may have been involved. Thomas was obsessed with poisons and discovering Weed's secret understanding of dangerous plants. This suspicion and her own growing expertise with poisons have changed her. She is no longer innocent. So when Jessamine learns that Weed is alive and in danger, she will do whatever it takes to be reunited with him, including killing whoever gets in her way.

Thanks to our friends at Harper Collins, we've got five copies of The Poison Diaries: Nightshade to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Friday 2nd September, making sure to put "Nightshade" 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 "Nightshade" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Nightshade is available now, courtesy of Harper Collins.

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

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