Friday 14 October 2011

Dickass DM: Halloween Special

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 Ian and Clive Bailey gamebook Terrors Out of Time. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: The engines roar into life and the plane rolls forward. As the Junkers taxis towards the take-off point, you wipe the condensation from the window and peer out. In the glare of an illuminated hanger you see a limousine slide to a halt.
Braggart: What the fuck were they thinking, driving it down a runway?!
Brad: A curiously hunched figure emerges from the car and, as the character disappears from view, you gain the distinct impression that he was waving you goodbye. The plane climbs into the dark night sky. Your existence is reduced to the area illuminated by the pale reading light. For a while you read a newspaper, but the cold chills your bones. So you abandon the paper and try to sleep on an improvised bed of musty mail bags.
Time passes and you doze.
Braggart: Let's have a look at these letters...Dear...Santa? Oh, dear Stan A.

Brad: You are roused by a series of inexplicable and alarming noises emitted through the voice tube: strange hissings and clickings, followed by a stifled shout from the pilot.
Pilot: Mein Gott...
Brad: Then silence.
Rob: I make my way forward to the cabin and investigate.
Brad: As you rise from your seat, the aircraft lurches. You struggle forward to the cabin door only to find it bolted shut on the inside. You hammer on the wood and call for the cake to open up.
Braggart: See, Silent Hill theory in action. I won't open it. I'll battenburg this door down!
Brad: In reply, blood trickles under the door frame.
Braggart: Jammie Dodgers!
Brad: You are alone, with only the mad beat of the engines for company. And your butler, I guess.
Rob: I wait where I am. There's only one way off this plane, and that's through me! And my butler, I guess.
Brad: Whilst you ponder whether to blast your way through the door with your pistol, the plane seems to slide into a nose dive. As the engines begin to whine, you are thrown off balance against the cabin door. The bolt bursts and you are thrown forward onto the pilot's corpse!

Braggart: Please tell me we're not going down over Innsmouth. There's no scarier words in the English language than 'Innsmouth' and 'landing on water'."
Brad: You gag at the vile sight. The pilot lies face up, half in and half out of his seat. His neck has been torn open and in his nerveless right hand a Luger pistol is still clutched. Did he kill himself? Your answer comes in the form of a long and malevolent hiss.
Brad: Out of the corner of your eye, you catch sight of a pair of giant spider-like legs, scrabbling for a hold on the co-pilot's seat. The hair on the nape of your neck begins to rise and a cold sweat breaks out on your forehead.
Mungo: Hey, I was in the toilet. How's everything going up he....oh, for fuck's sake.
Braggart: We have a toilet on board?!
Mungo: Kinda.
Braggart: Santa letters?
Mungo: You might want to buy a new hat when we land.
Brad: A creature resembling a giant spider with a humanoid head drags itself onto the co-pilot's seat. Its legs bristle with thick hairs and support a leathery bag-like body, covered with bright orange blotches. Malevolent eyes regard you out of the shrunken human head.
Rob: I stab it in the eyes!
Brad: With a horrible precision, the creature scuttles sideways onto the dead pilot's chest. A high pitched cackle breaks forth from its fang filled mouth. You have encountered an assassin-bug, a creature drawn from the supernatural world to destroy you. Now, how will you deal with this vile assassin?
Rob: I wrench the fire extinguisher from its bracket and direct the contents over the beast.
Brad: As you tear the fire extinguisher from the bulkhead, the creature screams:
Assassin Bug: Submit to me!

Brad: Coolly, you pull the fire extinguisher's safety pin an punch the fire button. A cloud of freezing carbon dioxide gas spurts forth from the extinguisher's nozzle. What effect will this improvised weapon have upon the monster?
Rob: Ideally, death.
Brad: You direct the jet over the beast. Its vile taunts are silenced and it cringes.
Rob: Are my balls showing?
Brad: Then, with startling speed, the assassin-bug runs towards you, thrusts its soft body past you and scuttles away into the plane's fuselage. An instant later the side door bursts open and an icy wind rips through the plane. Now you must try to fly the aircraft. You ease yourself into the co-pilot's seat and grab the steering column. The plane is now in a shallow dive through a bank of thick cloud.
Somewhere below lurk the jagged peaks of the Alps! Can you regain control of the plane before it falls into a spin or crashes into the mountains? The engines whine and you feel your safety straps tighten. The aircraft has gone into a spin!
Braggart: That's almost the last thing I need!
Brad: As the blood thumps in your temples, you struggle to increase the plane's speed and pull it out of its death throes. With heart pounding, you pull back on the steering column with one hand and advance the throttles, to give the engines more power, with the other.
Braggart: How am I doing this?! You'd think the only person who can pilot these things is a pilot! Or a superhero! Neither of which I am. Speaking of which, that pilot's probably on my staff. Must remember to update his details, and advertise for a new pilot.
Mungo: You can fly the BragWing without difficulty.
Brad: The plane responds, pulling out of its dive of death, back onto a level flight path.
Braggart: What the, ha ha, hell are you talking about?
Mungo: The BragWing. You keep it parked next to the BragMobile in the BragCave.

Brad: The crisis has brought the plane below the clouds and into a rain storm. Visibility is poor - at any moment you may fly intom a mountainside.
Braggart: Let's get out of the mountains.
Brad: You must also find out where you are. You reach for the pilot's flight plan. You tug a battered navigational map from its stowage next to the dead pilot. His intended route is marked in red pencil: Zurich, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Lintz and on to Vienna. You check the compass: you are currently headed due north.
Braggart: Wait, he said North-East! Turn this thing right!
Brad: Glancing at your watch, you estimate flying time and decide that you must be off course, with Munich somewhere to the North West. You bank the aircraft onto a north-westerly course, certain that you have left the hidden perils of the Alpine Peaks behind. There seems to be sufficient fuel to reach your goal. A short while later, the rain eases and ahead you glimpse the distant lights of a city. Munich is approaching.
Rob: How fast? Is it coming to meet us mid-air?
Brad: The comforting lights remind you of the grisly corpse seated next to you. How could you possibly explain what has befallen you to the authorities?
Rob: Easy. I radio ahead with some plausible excuse.
Braggart: Our pilot got a spot on his neck and tried to dig it out with his gun! Turned out to be a chocolate button. Were our faces red!
Mungo: Literally. Also: brain matter.
Braggart: Yes Mungo, ha ha, brain matter for thinking!
Brad: The radio is located in the bulk head above you.
Braggart: Uh....ten four mayday mayday Charlie Victor Damacles.

Brad: Slipping a voice mask over your head, you switch on. Now, can you locate the right frequency to hail the Munich aerodrome?
Mungo: More to the point: do you speak German?
Brad: You cannot find the correct frequency, and so will have to attempt an unauthorised landing.
Braggart: Ballacks.
Brad: You circle above Munich and pick out the aerodrome.
Rob: Surely it'd be easier to attempt a clandestine...away from the aerodrome.
Brad: A green flare arcs into the night sky. Can you bring the heavy Junkers down safely? Carefully, you line the junkers up for its landing sweep in over the runway. The wheels touch the ground, the aircraft performs a spine-jarring bounce, but you are down! Easing back the throttles, you boldly roll towards the brightly-lit service hangers, bringing the aircraft to a halt next to an old biplane.
Braggart: Don't say it...
Mungo: ...
Braggart: Oh fine, say it.
Brad: You cut the engines.
Mungo: A bicuriousplane.
Brad: You scramble from your seat and jump from the fuselage door. There is no welcoming committee. Brazenly, you walk towards one of the hangers. Perhaps there you can find a safe hiding place to await the arrival of the airship "Lucretia". The flight and struggle with the assassin-bug have taken their toll.
You are exhausted.
Rob: Sounds about right.
Brad: The hanger is full of freight: rows of bicycles wrapped in corrugated paper, a variety of passenger trunks and neat rows of wooden packing cases.

Mungo: Bicycles, eh?
Braggart: Christ...
Brad: You climb up among the cases and choose a safe hiding place and vantage point to await the airship's arrival.
Mungo: I can't help but feel that we're being unneccessarily covert.
Brad: Before long you hear the ponderous drone of aero engines. The "Lucretia" has arrived. As the airship manoeuvres her bulk over the docking beacon, you slip from your hiding place and join the throng of passengers and sigthseers. Somewhere above lurks your quarry. Perhaps it is the corpse-man thief from the British Museum?
Braggart: Sounds plausible.
Mungo: What about the corpse we left in the plane? Shouldn't we do something? Tell his family, at least?
Brad: You awake to the sound of curtains being drawn. Confused, you gaze through bleary eyes around an unfamiliar room. Neat mahogany furniture and chrome fittings stare back. A man dressed in white turns towards you.
Braggart: Hunh...that's an unusual decor.
Man in White: Good morning! It's nearly midday. I expect you would like some breakfast?
Brad: He smiles and leaves the room. At last, you are aboard the airship "Lucretia".
Braggart: Did he even take our tickets?
Brad: After breakfast, the steward returns to collect your tray.
Rob: I engage him in converstion about the passengers who boarded in London.

Steward: Well, let me think...Several people came aboard in London, but only two are still here.
Braggart: One of them able to walk up walls?
Steward: An old invalid gentleman and his nurse in Cabin Three and an American gentleman in Cabin Seven. I am afraid I don't know their names. Still, you could always talk to the Purser, but watch him, he's a crabby old devil.
Braggart: He's a crab? For fuck's sake, are we going to meet any normal pilots?
Rob: I go to the invalid's cabin.
Brad: You hurry to Cabin Three and boldly knock upon the door. There is no reply from within, but you are startled by a voice from behind.
Second Steward: I am afraid the Baron and his nurse aren't in their cabin. They went aft to check their luggage.
Brad: As the steward walks away, you surreptitiously try the door handle. The door is locked.
Rob: I try to pick the lock with the Skellington key. That's like a skeleton key, but when I open every door with it, I have to start my exploration with "What's this, what's this...?"
Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
Brad Harmer: Facebook Twitter
Rob Wade: Twitter
This is intended as a loving tribute to Ian and Clive Bailey, the Forbidden Gateway series, Terrors Out of Time, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

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