Sunday 30 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: Gazing over the side, you see the dark water is filled with currents and eddies that suck and claw at the ferry, but without any effect. Turning to ask the ferryman about this, you see him hunched over the pole, his cloak flapping in a wind you cannot feel!
Mungo: I can smell it, though.
Ferryman: The Styx is a river of time, mortal.
Braggart: It does seem to be taking forever.
Ferryman: You cross the dimensions from the edge of life to the realm of the dead.
Brad: On the far bank, the ferry beaches on a mud-flat and the ferryman extends a skeletal hand for your payment.
Rob: Give him the coin. I mean, what would be the point of not doing so? I literally just got given it. And at no point was it established that it's currency I can spend elsewhere, like Debenhams.
Brad: Fishing the coin from your pocket, you drop it into the ferryman's hand and jump upon the soggy earth of the underworld.

Ferryman: I thank you, mortal.
Braggart: Quick! Before he realises it can't be used at Debenhams!
Ferryman: The one you seek lies yonder at the pit of time, yet you may learn wisdom at the halls of the dead.
Mungo: We're going to be able to get back, right? I don't want to spend Hallowe'en dead.
Braggart: Fair enough.
Brad: How will you react to this strange advice?
Rob: I'll listen! Were you not reading the description? He's scary! Plus he's the cheapest public transport I've come across, and as a white person that's incredibly and inexplicably important.
Brad: Do you want to head towards a ruined, temple-like building on your left, or strike out in the direction the ferryman points, straight towards Ausbach?
Rob: Temple meaning Halls of the dead I take it?
Brad: That's the implication, I think.
Rob: Okay, not just me then, good stuff. I'll go towards the temple.
"May learn wisdom" is a better chance than "Continue in your life as a software tester and blogger"
Brad: You blog?
Rob: Yeah, just started.
Brad: A thin mist rolls across the dusty track which leads towards the temple of the dead. The building is a ruin. Great columns have tumbled to the ground, bronze statues, headless and armless, rot beneath layers of verdigris. A thin plume of grey smoke escapes from the broken roof.
Rob: I boldly enter the temple. I'm not bold, but i put on a front of boldness. Sorry, that should read:
Enter the Temple
Brad: The interior of the temple is thick with an evil-smelling smoke that curls from a great fire in the centre of the floor. On either side the walls are lined with tiers of earthenware jars, encrusted with dust and sealed with clay representations of various beast's heads. Beyond the fire is a low dais, a curious tripod and a high-backed chair, in which sits a wizened creature. As you skirt the fire, a dry voice croaks from the seated figure.

Figure: Greetings, mortal. I am the Guardian of the Dead.
Braggart: Hi...?
Guardian of the Dead: What brings the living to my hall?
Braggart: Well, it's certainly not envy of your deadness. I was hoping to talk to you about Ausbach. Please don't kill me. [points to Mungo] If you must kill someone...That's sort of what I brought him for.
Guardian of the Dead: Wisdom?
Braggart: Who's Winston?
Guardian of the Dead: Yes. You may learn some wisdom. Ausbach is a servitor of the High Priest of Het. At this moment, he is both at the pit of time, summoning his mistress, and within these walls.
Brad: As this riddle passes from the Guardian's cracked lips, he clicks his fingers and you hear the long-drawn howl of a mad dog. In the silence that follows, the Guardian points at you.
Mungo: I say again, that this has gotten weird.
Guardian of the Dead: Fool! I am not here to help you. I am here to destroy you!
Braggart: I...what? Wait...Hunh?!
Guardian of the Dead: You are a trespasser and a meddler and your interference has already cost us valuable time - but now my creation will punish you!
Brad: A crouching human figure rushes from the shadows to your left. It pauses then growls at you.
Rob: Reflex Clothesline!
Brad: The creature is a man with a dog's head.
Braggart: Dog-Man!

Brad: The dog-man raises his muzzle in the air and sniffs; his eyes roll back and his lips curl.
Rob: Man, my character's a poof. He just sees something scary and loses SAN.
Brad: A vicious snarl rends the air as the creature leaps at you.
The dog headed creature is listed as having a dog's head mace. Which makes about as much sense as a mace shaped like a human head. Or, if you take it one step further, a hammer shaped like a nail.
Rob: Maybe it's carved into the pommel.
Brad: How will you defend yourself against this abomination?
Rob: Thoth's Mace! Mum always said "Fight fire with Mace."
Brad: Your Mum is awesome.
Rob: Never raped, either.
Brad: You deal the dog-man a blow with the mace. The dog-man mocks your taste in corduroy.
Braggart: What's wrong with yellow?
Brad: You crush the dog with your mace. And your cock.
Rob: They are comparable.
Dog-Man is defeated.
Brad: Your blow shatters the creature's head and it collapses on the flagstones of the temple. With a triumphant grin, you turn on the Guardian of the Dead. I assume that's "turn on" meaning "face" and not "arouse".
Braggart: Move on out here and die like a fool.
Brad: The wizened Guardian has left the chair and now cowers behind its back.

Guardian of the Dead: Don't harm me, mortal. If I die here, my soul will be consigned to the horrors of the Outer Darkness.
Braggart: Is that bad?
Guardian of the Dead: I will answer any question you put to me.
Braggart: How is Ausbach Aus there and back here?!
Brad: The Guardian points towards the jars which line the hall.
Guardian of the Dead: There, on the third shelf. Ausbach's life is within the pot, bound there by his mistress, Het.
Braggart: ...Horcruxes? Really, JK Rowling? Really? Lifting plot ponts from gamebooks now?
Guardian of the Dead: Destroy the contents and you will destroy Ausbach at the same time.
Brad: Flinging the Guardian to the floor, you stalk across the temple to the shelf. There lies a jar whose lid is fashioned into a perfect bust of Ausbach's odious features.
Rob: When did I have him in my hands? Or did I throw him on the floor...from across the room? I Jedi.
Brad: Tearing off the lid, you dip your hand inside and draw out a brain that shudders in your hand! Dropping it back into the jar, you take the pot from the shelf and march off of the temple for the pit of time.
Rob: So my fearsome action was to take the brain out of the jar, go "uggggghhhhhh", and then put it back in?
Brad: Yes.
Rob: I deserve to die.
Brad: As you advance, the slope grows steeper, the air warmer and pink glow thickens to a curious read. Ahead a great circle of monoliths rears out of the ground.
Braggart: Have I taken a wrong turn somewhere? Only, this is Stonehenge.
Brad: Passing between two of the standing stones, you have to shield your eyes; you are looking upon a vast pit which glows with a demonic light.
Braggart: Ooooooooh...

Brad: You have found the pit of time.
Rob: Does time glow?
Brad: Framed against its edge, Ausbach stands before an altar on which lies the pyramidion. He is chanting in a harsh guttural tongue.
Rob: Welsh?
Brad: Even as you watch, his chanting reaches a frenzied peak, he flings his arm in the air and a pillar of fire roars out of the pit. You must act quickly, for Ausbach has just opened a gateway to the Outer Darkness.
Rob: Seems like a good reason to hurry.
Brad: At any moment Het the Destroyer will enter the Underworld. Rushing from the cover of the stones, you charge towards Ausbach. Clutching the jar, you rush forward, shouting Ausbach's name over the roar of the flames.
Braggart: Ausssssbach!
Brad: The Baron turns and his obscene laughter fills the air. He raises a hand and points towards the pillar of fire.
Ausbach: Fool! You are too late! Your meddling is over. I have opened the gateway to Heyt!
Braggart: Bullshit! I never stop meddling! Oh, by the way, how did that blind date go?
Brad: You dip your hand in the jar but already Ausbach is passing his hands frantically through the air and his spell begins to grip your mind.
Rob: I grip his mind!
Brad: Ausbach's spell grips your mind. Your hands grow numb and you drop the jar. He chuckles and, pointing towards you, he utters a horrible clicking sound. Immediately a fiery hand sprouts from the pillar of fire and arches towards you!
Rob: Dive for the jar!
Brad: You dive for the jar, but will you be able to pull the brain out and destroy it before the flaming hand grabs you?
Rob: Wait, did he tut at me?!
Brad: Plunging your hand in the jar, you squeeze the brain and hear Ausbach cry out in agony.

Braggart: Hey Arsebach, remember maths? Not for long!
Brad: Instantly, the flaming hand disappears and you turn to see the Baron feebly clutching the altar. You squeeze again, and he clutches his head, swaying from side to side, then crumples to the ground. Where the brain was, dust now fills your hand; where the Baron died, there are only his clothes and a brownish dust.
Mungo: I'll get a mop.
Brad: Then a hissing draws your eyes back to the pillar of fire. Emerging from a nebulous haze at the centre of the fire is a monstrous snake head!
Mungo: Crom!
Braggart: Hi! I can explain.
Brad: You must act swiftly to close the gateway Ausbach has created. Your only hope is to destroy the pyramidion. But how?
Rob: Hmmmmm...Throw it on the grouuuund! The pyramidion, that is.
Brad: Glowing with luminous blue light, the pyramidion lies on top of the altar. Rushing forward, you grasp it with your hand and howl in pain.
Mungo: Pussy!
Brad: Its surface is red hot and you have burned your hand. Gritting your teeth, you lift the pyramidion and hurl it into the pit. For a second it flashes in the flames, then it plummets out of sight and the pillar of fire roars with fury. Shielding your face, you back away.
Braggart: Hey Assba...oh he's dead, isn't he?
Brad: You look up to see the giant outline of Het, with the flames writing around her. She reaches out a huge taloned hand to seize you, then the flames falter and she tumbles back into the pit. You have closed the gateway! As you turn to leave, the ground shudders beneath you, great cracks open at your feet and a biting wind howls out of the sky.
Braggart: Jesus, Mungo!

Brad: Panicking, you leap the rift in the earth and run for the edge of the stone circle. Before you can reach it, the wind tears your feet from the ground and sends you spinning up into the sky. A chill fills your body as you watch the land slip away and the pit become a faint dot. Then the wind fails, you begin to fall, and everything goes black. You awake to find Petrie-Heydrich leaning over you, dabbing at your forehead with a damp cloth.
Braggart: I...this makes literally no sense.
Brad: You can remember little of your escape from the pyramid, beyond finding yourself once more in the room that lies at the edge of the underworld and fleeing through pitch-black corridors as they crumbled and shook around you.
Rob: So...a fair bit then.
Brad: Petrie-Heydrich tells you to rest and relates how he mustered a search party to hunt for you when the pyramid began to collapse.
Charles: It was Harold who found you, slumped on the floor of the Grand Gallery.
Braggart: Cheers for that.
Charles: He says you were clutching this curious statuette.
Brad: Your old friend passes you a crude representation of the god Thoth. In one hand he holds a mace and, in the other, the unmistakable figure of Baron Ausbach.
Harold: No sign of your butler, though.
Braggart: Easy come, easy go.

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.


An expedition led by adventurer Darren McCall and funded by the wealthy Harry Vargas braves the impenetrable jungle to retrieve a fabled bejewelled dagger from an ancient burial ground. But pulling the dagger from its rightful resting place awakens the beast. Part plant and part animal, the massive mandrake awakens thirsty for human blood.

Thanks to our friends at Lions Gate Home Entertainment, we've got two copies of Mandrake on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Sunday 13th November, making sure to put "Mandrake" as the subject. The first two entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a copy of this awesome DVD!

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

Mandrake is available now, courtesy of Lions Gate Home Entertainment.

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

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