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Cardboard Children: Bionic Horse

What A Fool Believes

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1

Hello youse.

Today I would like to step away from normal business and talk a bit about game books. Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, Sorcery! You remember those, right? I want to reminisce. Please join me.

If you would like to continue reading this column, scroll to paragraph 2.

If you’re a bit tired of me, your adventure ends here.

2

You step down from your bionic horse and dust yourself off. You’re not sure why you’re covered in dust all the time. You should really make an appointment with your GP.

The townspeople eye you with suspicion. Many of them have never seen a pencil before, never mind an eraser. The womenfolk pull their children away. The menfolk move a hand towards their concealed weapons.

You grip your dice and smile. “I’m here to find Robert Florence, the God of Games”, you say.

There are gasps. A woman crosses herself and faints. A dog tries to cross himself, unsuccessfully, but manages to faint.

“I am here to kill him,” you grin.

The people relax. They smile. Swords are sheathed.

A fat man approaches on a Segway. He is the MAYOR of this sorry town. He gestures for you to follow.

If you would like to follow the MAYOR, scroll to paragraph 4.

If you would like to throw your shoe at the MAYOR, scroll to paragraph 3.

3

You remove your shoe, a nice sensible shoe that your girlfriend hates and calls “a school shoe”, and launch it at the MAYOR’s head.

To your horror, his head transforms into an ARMED BOAT. Of course, this is Transforming Head Town! The Old Crone had warned you! You had thought she was drunk, admittedly, but still.

The ARMED BOAT launches a barrage of missiles at your face and chest. Your adventure ends here.

4

The MAYOR leads you into a small shack.

“This town is Transforming Head Town,” he says. “Many a foolish traveller has, for instance, thrown a shoe at us or something and learned our true nature the hard way.”

“Just tell me where this tiresome games columnist is, Mayor,” you say.

The MAYOR opens a hatch in the wall.

“Through here is the tunnel network that leads to his stinking chamber. I don’t know exactly which direction it is, but I’d imagine it’s either Left or Right from here. Any other directions would be… far too complicated.”

Would you like to follow the tunnel Left? If so, scroll to paragraph 5.

Would you like to follow the tunnel the other way? Right? Your right? Scroll to 6.

5

You crawl along the tunnel. A strange music fills the air. It seems to be “What A Fool Believes” by The Doobie Brothers. You must be heading in the right direction!

Suddenly, a fearsome TINY AND INCONSEQUENTIAL RAT appears. It is carrying a SPEAR! No, sorry, that was just a whisker. Trick of the light. It is just an UNARMED, TINY AND INCONSEQUENTIAL RAT! You must fight it!

UNARMED, TINY AND INCONSEQUENTIAL RAT: Combat Rating 1

(Roll a D6. If your roll equals or exceeds the RAT’s Combat Rating, you win.)

If you win, turn to paragraph 7.

If you somehow lose, then reality itself folds in on itself. Your adventure ends here.

6

You crawl along the tunnel. There is light ahead. You hurry towards it.

But as you get closer you realise that it is a TRAIN FULL OF ANGRY COMMUTERS! And it is heading in your direction!

Try to escape! Make an ESCAPE ROLL. (Roll higher than a 6 on 1D6)

If you cheat and jump out of the way of the train, scroll to paragraph 7.

If you are honest and roll a die, your adventure ends here with my respect. But you are flattened under a train! HAHA! Belter!

7

You wipe sweat from your brow, having just battled a RAT like a hero or escaped from a TRAIN like a fucking liar.

You are at a huge door. You push it open. You are hit with a wave of heat and stink. Yes, this must be the chamber of the God of Games himself!

The filthy chamber is full of board games, piled high in swaying towers. The walls are shelved with IKEA Billy bookcases, and are full of video games, including a ridiculous amount of import PS2 games that cannot be understood and will never be played.

Girls in kneehigh socks are carrying silver trays stacked high with packets of beef Monster Munch and a concoction known as Fiery Irn-Bru.

There, in the middle of the room, on a throne made of HDMI cables, is the God of Games himself.

“You made it here alive,” Robert Florence says. “Impressive.”

“It was never in question. I will kill you today,” you reply.

“I can’t believe you shagged the Old Crone,” The God of Games says. “I mean… that’s pretty desperate stuff.”

If you regret shagging the Old Crone, scroll to paragraph 8.

If you throw a shoe at The God of Games, scroll to paragraph 9. Hang on, did you throw a shoe at… doesn’t matter. You’d have one shoe still on. Still works. Carry on. 9.

8

“Yes, it wasn’t my proudest moment,” you wince. “But the vodka was very cheap in that inn.”

“Don’t say “in” and “inn” so close together like that. Sounds rubbish,” the God of Games says, rising from his chair. “Would you like to see my game book collection?”

“Not really,” you say.

“Well, you’ve come all this way,” Florence says. “Do you like my kneehigh sock-clad serving girls, by the way? Am I creepy for being into kneehighs? Probably. Let’s not analyse it.”

The God of Games leads you to a shelf that is rammed full of game books. He starts to talk to you about his childhood with these games. He tells you about how he would buy a Fighting Fantasy gamebook from John Menzies in Glasgow City Centre every single week. It was where all his pocket money went.

“I played all of these games. And I never cheated,” he smiles. “Not once.”

He tells you that the first Fighting Fantasy book he read was House of Hell by Steve Jackson. “Whenever I think of a Bad House, or of travellers stopping at a strange house at night, it’s Steve Jackson’s house I think about. That book changed me.” He tells you how he never beat it, and was glad he never did.

“My favourite was City of Thieves, by Ian Livingstone. It is the book that made me the gamer I am. It totally captured me. I spent a whole summer holiday from school reading and re-reading it. I am serious, dead serious, when I say it is one of the great works of fantasy fiction. It will never be regarded as such, though. It is, after all, “just a game”.”

At this, the God of Games’ eyes flicker with emotion. Is this man not the heartless beast that you thought he was?

“Do you know who illustrated this legendary book, this City of Thieves?” he asks.

“I have no idea,” you reply.

“IAIN MCCAIG!” he bellows. “Sorry, caps, Iain McCaig. He’s a big success in Hollywood these days, and I’m very glad. He changed my life with his illustrations. I’m not exaggerating. Would it be wanky of me to say that his City of Thieves illustrations are tattooed onto my soul?”

“Yes,” you cringe.

“Okay. Sorry.”

If you would like to continue listening to this tiresome bore, scroll to paragraph 10.

If you would like to turn your attention to one of the ladies in kneehigh socks, scroll to paragraph 11.

9

You launch a shoe at Robert Florence’s head.

He catches it! He plucks it out of the air with almost no effort.

“All those games of Asmodee’s brilliant Jungle Speed have made my reaction time second to none,” the God of Games laughs. He throws the shoe back at you.

The shoe lodges in your throat, like a laced leather penis.

Your adventure ends here.

10

You look at your watch as the God of Games drones on.

“Yes, the Fighting Fantasy books don’t get the credit they’re due. You know why, don’t you? It’s because they’re British. Our gaming history gets Americanised constantly. You can see it in how they call legendary British board games like HeroQuest and Space Hulk “Ameritrash” games. You can even see it in how retro gaming is perceived to be NES and SNES stuff, when we in Britain grew up on Commodore and Spectrum. FUCK the NES!”

“Can you get back on topic, please?” you ask.

“Mm. Yes. Anyway. The Fighting Fantasy game books were magical things. Simple role-playing games, but wonderful stories. A whole universe opened up to you as you lay snuggled in your bed. An impossible world invited you to explore it as you lay in your back garden. These books are our history. Mm.”

He goes on to tell you that he fell in love with Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf series. “I felt like the Lone Wolf,” he says. “I didn’t play football like the other boys. I wrote stories and rolled dice.” The Lone Wolf books followed one character through a series of adventures. An epic quest. “I cared more for Lone Wolf than I cared for most characters out of any fucking supposedly classic fucking novels I read later in life!”

“Okay, calm down,” you say.

“There was another one I played… My sister Frances bought me it for Christmas one year. It was wonderful. There was a kind of… web-type thing in the front of the book. And as you visited certain places, you would shade in parts of the web. I would dearly love to know the name of that book,” he says, looking past you.

“Who are you looking at?” you ask.

“Them,” he says. “Do you think they’ll go out and buy some Fighting Fantasy books after they read this?”

If you think that the readers of the column will-

“I’ll answer this one. No, they probably fucking won’t. WILL NO-ONE TREASURE OUR HISTORY?!!”

The God of Games thumps a fist into an IKEA shelf, shattering it into a thousand pieces.

“I met Ian Livingstone once,” he says. “I was filming a show called videoGaiden and he was at some games conference thing. And I thanked him for City of Thieves. That was it. Just thanked him. And he seemed genuinely pleased.” He is weeping now. Big tears tumble down his face like globules of sperm down a kneehigh sock. “Please tell Ian, if he should read this, that I apologise for the swearing and the sexual stuff in this column.”

The God of Games is doubled over in front of you. He is sobbing.

If you want to plunge a sharpened pencil into the God of Games’ neck, scroll to paragraph 12.

If you want to order some Fighting Fantasy or Lone Wolf books, navigate to the Amazon website.

If you want to let this pathetic “God” live, and return to your bionic horse, scroll to paragraph 13.

11

You walk over to one of the girls. She smiles at you.

“First of all, what age are you?” you ask.

“I’m 21,” she says.

“Phew. Okay then. That guy over there is banging on about game books or something. He’s such a geek.”

“Oh, I like geeks. They turn me on.”

“Do they?”

“No. That’s just a construct. Me being a geek, or being turned on by geeks, or me enjoying wearing kneehigh socks – all just constructs,” she grins. “In fact, I’m not even here. You only think I’m here because the readership of this website is predominantly male, and the writer has placed me within this fiction to appeal to those men.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” she giggles. “That’s why he’s crying, really. He was crying before you got here.”

Hey, you think. She’s flirting with me!

“Well, how about we get out of here so you don’t have to listen to all this games talk?” You fix her with your best seductive smirk.

“If I was real, I think I would probably actually like games. And I think I’d be really annoyed at how you assume I don’t. I’d be annoyed that it was even an issue, to be honest. No, not annoyed. I’d be bored by it. Have you ever visited that boardgamegeek website?”

“Yes,” you say.

“Have you noticed how most of the highest rated photos on that site are photos that men have taken of their wives and girlfriends playing games with their cleavages on show? That’s what I’d be fucking up against!” She chuckles. “If I was real, I mean! Come on, let’s go somewhere pink where I can wear a basque and heels and have sex with you or something.”

You leave with the sexy girl.

Your adventure ends here, but just think of what you’ll be doing with this hot geek-loving girl!

12

You stick it in, deep and hard.

There is a moan, a gasp. You hold it firm inside that soft flesh, and then pull out.

The God of Games falls to the floor, dead.

“Thank you,” he says. Like, he said this before he died. He goes “Thank you for releasing me from this responsibility. Do you know that people tweet at me asking which games they should buy? Seriously. CROAK!”

You turn away from his disgusting corpse, and nod at the kneehigh sock ladies.

You start to make your way out of the chamber.

Suddenly, JAMES PUREFOY is there! He points a handsome finger at you.

“You killed my creepy friend,” he says. “Now I will kill you!”

JAMES PUREFOY: Combat Rating: 27

(Roll 1D6, if you roll over a 27 then you-

JAMES PUREFOY pulls the dice from your hand. “Do you seriously play things like this? Hahaha!” he laughs. He swings an aluminium baseball hat and your nose is whipped clean off your face. “I NOSE this would be fun,” he laughs. He swings again, and your jaw is removed from your face. “Chin-chin, old bean!” he laughs. He’s laughing, right? Know what I mean? What a guy.

Your adventure ends here. Solomon Kane is available to buy on Blu-Ray now.

13

You return to your bionic horse.

“Well, Samantha,” you say. “The God of Games wasn’t much of a god after all. More a Scottish dickhead with mental health issues and a fetish for socks.”

“You don’t have any issues, do you?” asks your talking bionic horse Samantha.

“No, of course not,” you laugh.

You climb into the saddle and dust yourself off. Where is all this dust coming from?

Samantha activates her jetpack and you both fly off into the sunset.

THE END

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