Well, we got around to it eventually. And just because we didn’t play my little roleplaying game, Australia Day, on Australia Day, doesn’t make its first flight any less majestic. If you wish to get a copy of your very own, scroll down my homepage to “My Australia Day Special“. In preparation, we ate Massaman Curry (as we would if we were in Australia…), gathered our nugs (dice) and Mugshots (character sheets), and I donned the High Poobah’s hat. This led to Queenie being unable to look me in the eye for most of the game, despite it being “bizzarely fetching”.
So we had our two players; Queenie started playing Stabitha the Dropbear, and Flock was running Fredamine the Caffiend. I was operating as High Poobah, a role usually referred to as “Game Master” or “Dungeon Master” in more sensible iterations of these kinds of games. This was certainly not one of those iterations. May have had something to do with the Scotch, but I would hesitate to blame Laphroaig entirely.
heroes weirdos drive out of the salt flats bordering the Drop Bear Republic in their battered Holden hatchback, struggling to escape the murderous horde of Emu Bikers hot on their heels.
This led to about five minutes of garbled laughter and questioning of my sanity.
Having realized that he was dead out of coffee, Fredamine staggered into the general store/fish and chip emporium that they had found on the dry, dusty crossroads of the town they started from, Waldongle. He encountered Steve behind the counter, his moustache waxed to hold a cigarette so that he can smoke without his hands. He was, unfortunately, fresh out of coffee, so Fredamine began rummaging through the bags of lima beans, hoping some of them were coffee. Stabitha then strode Dropbearfully into the shop, and hurled a bag of coffee sweets into his face, which he then chewed through the packaging.
A discussion ensued as to how to make my High Poobah’s outfit even more incongruous. I played a plastic battle axe as a ukelele for a while.
“So guys,” Steve rasped, “Haven’t seen you in a while. Things not go so well… down the Republic?”
The question of Merchant Republic or Banana Republic is raised. Eucalyptus I guess.
“Things are pretty lonesome out this way though. Wanda mentioned she might have an assignment for you…”
“Does she have coffee?” muttered Fredamine.
“In the chip shop…”
They turned around to see Wanda, their spirit animal, behind the fish and chip counter. It was established that currently she looked like a middle aged Mediterranean aunty.
Queenie: Why do I have a spirit animal? I’m a drop bear!
Flock: … but you’re not a spirit.
They debate turning the deep fryer oil into fuel. They figured they had enough to reach Wangdangle either way. They would have petrol there.
Wanda: Oh hey guys. Your coats looking good Stabitha. Washed in the blood of your foes again?
(Flock: I knew it. It would have alliterated if she were a wombat, so she isn’t…)
Stabitha: Don’t you know it…
She passes out some fish and chips.
“Might have a little assignment for you wandering types. There’s been a string of disappearances of orphans and cattle all along the north side of town. I’ve not been able to find any clues… so maybe you can help. If you do, I’ve got the bag of magical reagents for you” She holds up a bag of possibly illegal plant matter.
Stabitha listens quietly, eating her chips. A brief discussion ensues as to whether, in our collective minds eye, Stabitha is a CGI Koala or a poorly disguised puppeteer with a glove puppet.
Eyeing the baggy, Fredamine responds “Alright.”
Before they leave, she warns them that it is rumoured to Henry the Magical Platypus may be stalking the north side of town (Stabitha: “Ah fuck that guy”), and that Anh at the Post Office may have more information. When asked for petrol, she starts scooping deep fryer oil into the thermos, and stagger out to their car, now a rust red Dolorian. They hammer the thermos into its fuel port.
Fredamine: The car only runs because one day it’ll kill me.
They head into Waldongle to see Anh, Stabitha hijacking a busboy so that she has the same stride as Fredamine. They arrive at the Post Office.
Anh: Oh hey guys. You’re back in town. How’d the republic go?
Stabitha: Don’t ask.
Anh: That bad huh?
Fredamine: So much eucalyptus…
Anh: Ah brutal.
Fredamine: So few bandages.
Anh: Well, always preferred menthol myself, but each to their own.
He takes a belt of Scotch and adjusts his aviator sunglasses.
Stabitha: Wanda sent us by.
Anh: Right, you’re here about the mystery? Right.
Stabitha: Yeah, the dissapearing cattle and orphans.
Anh: Yeah, well, someone’s been stealing cattle and orphans. North side of town. That way.
Stabitha: Yeah, she also mentioned Henry.
Fredamine: Damn centaur enthusiasts.
Anh: Centaur enthusiasts? Ah brutal… wait. Well, centaurs right I guess. Orphanataur.
(Queenie: Wouldn’t they have to steal horses for that? Flock: I said enthusiasts, not professionals)
Anh: Well, a lot of folks seem to think its Henry up to his old tricks again. But I don’t think it fits with his usual Modus Operandi.
Fredamine: No, udderly different.
Anh: He’s just up there in the river systems and billabongs… well, I can give you the full briefing. Would you care to step through into the Room Full of Guns?
Anh: Well I can’t do the slideshow out here.
Fredamine: Eh… alright.
Anh pushes open one of the walls into a room with gun racks on every wall, and sets up an old overhead projector.
Stabitha: Which government are we under at the moment?
Anh: Well, on the way through we passed through Egypt, the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia and, well… now we’re in Queensland. Anyway, Henry as a creature tends to operate under the assumption that there is a weird sense of humour under his weird and inhuman acts. But basically, no one’s been delivered the punchline yet, so Henry’s out of the running.
Anh goes on to explain, using his overhead slides, that he has discerned a pattern, a rough line of strange incidents. First the collapse of the community rec center, then damage to religious sites of both indigenous and late arrival’s significance, then the squatters in the old rock quarry were driven away.
Anh: Pretty wild country out there. You guys get along with the emu bikers right?
There were some uncomfortable looks, and the characters agreed to take a look at the collapsed Community Rec Centre before heading north to the quarry. They leave the Room Full of Guns.
On reaching the Rec Centre, they encounter their first Villain of the game, an abstract one called “The Mystery”, with a Horribleness Rating of 2.
Attempting to locate and catch a guinea pig and use it as a divining rod, but suffers his first Terminal Blunder as he fails the Jerk roll and tumbles into the crater that was once the Community Rec Center.
Stabitha: Do you see anything?
Fredamine: (muffled) Lots of gravel.
Stabitha leaps down on the cackling guinea pigs, blocking out the sun in her silent descent and seizing hold of one before tying it to the divining rod. The others scatter, realising the trouble their in given that Stabitha is taller than they are, and thus above them (a Dropbear’s primary axis of attack). She then throws the rod to Fredamine, who begins scrying for anything the guinea pig is more afraid of than he and Stabitha. He finds his way to a square cut shaft on one side of the crater. Stabitha heads in first, with Fredamine following more slowly behind. Deploying her DEATH FROM ABOVE!!! crazy skill, Stabitha leaps, claws raking the sides of the shaft, her koalavision zeroing in on the terrified heartbeat of something below her, and immediately snaps its neck on reflex. She drags the corpse into the narrow light from above, and reveals the logo of Holecorp, the evil mining megacorporation, on his overalls. Fredamine arrives several minutes later shimmying down the steel cable.
Turns out the hole doesn’t go anywhere, they just left him down there to dig.
Stabitha: He’s better off this way…
Its at this point that Queenie was alarmed by the revelation that in my Poobah hat I looked unnervingly like Don Burke from Burke’s Backyard. I’d have sung the song if I remembered it. Strange reminiscences of childhood viewing of gardening programs followed.
Me: So you found a guy in a Holecorp uniform.
Queenie: And I kill him!!!
Me: You kill him to death!
Queenie: Didn’t exactly mean to.
Me: DEATH FROM ABOVE!!!
Queenie: (laughs) What the hell are we doing!
Fredamine arrives, pokes the dead Holecorp guy with the guinea pig stick, then rifles the pockets of his presumably throroughly soiled overalls.
Me: Yep… looks like he’s been digging for weeks.
Flock: In all that time, he never thought to dig a hole…
Me: Oh he did. You’re in it.
Fredamine wonders where the dirt from the shaft went. Stabitha worries that he hasn’t had enough coffee today.
Stabitha mentions that she probably didn’t need to kill that guy, and Fredamine replies that he could totally see her looking mildly disappointed as she wrenched his jaw out of his face and used it to stab him repeatedly before he’d hit the ground.
Flock: Bend it a little bit, stab it through both eyes.
Me: I kind of imagine it as a sort of wishbone snap to double slash maneuver.
Flock: God, The Downunderbite.
Me: Cheers, sir, you get a producer credit.
Stabitha attempts a koala mind meld with the guinea pig, and is assailed by terrible visions of what she just did, but manages to wind it back far enough to see a pair of white dickshits in suits high fiving as the community centre collapses and the guinea pigs escape their cages. The Stick-pig then gets added to her inventory.
They climb out of the shaft, and wander through town to find houses of worship, Aboriginal sacred sites and many other sites all with holes and sometimes trenches dug through them. It is assumed that the trenches are dug by Holecorp miners suspended sideways from cranes, as it is easier than teaching them to dig anywhere but down. Deciding to look further into this, they head to the Holecorp Beach Shack Kiosk out by the dry, empty salt flats, quinkins frolicking in the distance, always just out of reach.
Fredamine manages to convince the kiosk guy that he’s looking for work, and the guy points him out to the executive picnic at the quarry to the north. The execs would show him “where to dig holes for money”, because “the way of the future, the past and now is holes.” They jump into the Dolorian and head north with the strains of Icehouse echoing across the empty space.
Until it is drowned out by the roar of motorcycle engines coming rapidly closer. The Mob of Emu bikers bears down on them, and Fredamine scrambles under his seat and finally earns a magic bean. The car is rapidly surrounded, and Fredamine loses control of the car, crashing into a roadside rock. The impact and the airbag hurls Stabitha skywards, and she launches DEATH FROM ABOVE as Fredamine bleeds into his airbag. Emu screams rend the air, and Fredamine looks to finish the job by crippling their self esteem. He climbs out the sunroof, and to the sounds of Emu bike radio Black Sabbath he tries to Ozzy the head off the guinea pig. Which promptly jumps down his throat and kills him.
OH GOD, THE TERRIBLE INEVITABILITY! NOOOOO!
With Fredamine dead, Flock picks up a new character sheet.
“At last!” comes the roar from the Dolorian’s engine block, “I got him!” And a mechanical creature lurches forth from the cars mangled frame. It seems oddly friendly towards Stabitha. Lori the Dolorian used the Invention Mugshot. He lashes out with his piston fists, but the fight is still going against them.
Realising they probably can’t fight their way out of this, Lori decides that its time to use his Keep Inventing! crazy skill. Using his hatred of Fredamine to crack physics, he rips open his former owner and uses his mastery of haruspexy to create a dimensional wormhole. They plummet through an industrial nightmare, and burst through a shadowy door in a surreal factory complex into the night of an unknown desert oasis. They spy a shadowy figure in a broad hat strung with corks, his bill gleaming in the moonlight, waist deep in the billabong.
After a string of cryptic exchanges, the scene ends with Lori carrying Henry the Magical Platypus to Tity and Dong’s, a nearby family run bordello that appears to be a one room tin shack, and in exchange he kicks open a gate back to their reality with his poison spurred cowboy boot.
Back in their own dimension, they crest the top of the quarry after heating some canned beans for a group of lonely looking emu bikers who ride off into the night. Below them a number of Holecorp executives continue their junket, drinking champagne, punting orphans into a chasm for laughs, and sacrificing cattle to an effigy of Ayn Rand.
Flock: I know I’m just a car engine block, this isn’t really my fight.
Queenie: But you are a Master of Human Studies.
Me: You can get inside their minds.
Flock: Sometimes figuratively.
Suddenly, Stabitha and Lori are ambushed by a Holecorp Supersoldier, burying his shovel in the back of Lori’s head. As Lori winds up to attack, he falls apart into a pile of scrap, his hatred of Fredamine exhausted. Flock was… well, his rolling was spectacularly bad this session.
Stabitha was faced with a choice: battle the supersoldier on the plateau, or leap down onto the executives below. She goes with her instincts.
As she leaps down to do horrible murder amongst the executives, a familiar figure is being dragged towards the crevasse of punting. Wanda Rerring, the gang’s spirit animal, had never known her real parents, and was about to be punted into a chasm for it. Struggling for an escape route, she spied a hunched, woolen shadow on the wall of the quarry, and reached out to it in hope of an escape. As she was drop kicked into the abyss, the Beardaclava leapt onto her head, and the two became one deadly creature; the Beardblade.
Her deadly woolen follicles carry her back to the edge of the chasm, and she unleashes a Beardblast against the assembled executives, killing the last of them. Flock was happy to have finally succeeded at a combat roll. Bad news for Stabitha, however, as the raging follicles launched her into the crevasse. She was afraid, for a moment, until she realised that she was falling. She roared “DEATH FROM ABOVE!!!” as she plummeted into the unknown depths.
Queenie decides to make it a full house, and chooses the Showstopper so that each of the Mugshots gets a chance to shine. Apparently warned about this situation by those migrating emu bikers, Myrcy the Showstopper and her gaggle of activists surge over the horizon chanting “Don’t punt Orphans!”
Down in the quarry, Wanda is confronted by a final terrible foe.
“I er… don’t appreciate what you’ve er… been doing here. Rather ruined some er… investments for some er… friends of mine. I don’t don’t think that’s er… appropriate.”
From the shadows of a cavern, a Mad Monk strides into view, his waist length cassock tucked into his obscenely tight speedos.
“I don’t appreciate you non voting types, or your ideas on gender, so I suppose I’m gonna have to kill you in some horrible waaaaaaaaaaay…”
One wanker amongst the activists attempts the rhyme, “Don’t punt orphans, find better endorphins”, but it doesn’t really catch on.
Confronted with the fascist glory of the mad monk, Wanda launches herself at him and attempts to garrotte him with her beard. She sinks the choke, but somehow her enemy keeps spouting inanities about how she doesn’t have rich parents and thus doesn’t deserve the vote.
There is some discussion as to what Myrcy and her followers are defending for her to get the bonuses from her Peaceful Protest crazy skill, with examples in the current situation being the remaining un-punted orphans, animal protection laws, and ideas of sensible desert attire excluding speedos. She and her followers surge down into the quarry, but the roll doesn’t quite make it.
“Oh no, protestors!” the Mad Monk shouts, raising his hands, “It’s ok! I’ll stop the boats!”
Myrcy’s followers stall, and glance at each other, trying to figure out what the hell that is suppose to mean. There are no boats in the desert.
“What do we do Myrcy? Where are the boats?”
Myrcy: There are no boats.
“Where’s the water?”
Myrcy: There is no… it’s a trap!
As the protesters stall, with a thunderous sounds surging closer, Wanda’s crushing follicles close in further on her nemesis.
Wanda:There once was a Mad Monk that couldn’t be killed. But he had a fucking beard.
She then drove her beard into the Mad Monks chest, trying to Temple of Doom his heart out. She strikes true, and the Mad Monk nearly topples, though she finds he has no heart at all.
“What do we do Myrcy? The waters coming! Run!”
Myrcy: Protestors! With me! Don’t punt orphans!
They rush forward, only to have an immense amount of water wash into the quarry from an unknown source (possibly Queensland). They are carried away, confused, and the Mad Monk and Beardblade wrestle to a jagged rock in the midst of the chaos. Myrcy struggles to bodyboard on her placard towards them, and her followers begin to chant “Kiss of death! Kiss of death!”
Wanda pushes the mad monk down towards the waves, and brains him on Myrcy’s current driven placard. Her bloody beard turns to meet the early morning sunlight, and she says
“You were never popular with the boaters.” Because this is how democracy in Australia works.
The weirdos spend their day fishing orphans and cattle out of the unexpected flood-zone, then head back to Waldongle with Wanda carrying a fish under her beard-arm. They arrive at the fish and chip shop, and Wanda congratulates herself in the mirror, fist bumping her spirit animal, taking the bag of magical reagents for saving the orphans and cattle.
In the end I had really bad hat hair, and then we kind of narrated the evening to the tune of Down Under. And that was more or less that.
Things I learned: OK. I’m the first to admit that I designed Australia Day poorly. I may have done so in a haze of Kahlua. But there were a few things I noted down.
First, Villains don’t stack well. If you want your weirdos fighting a lot of Villains, just call it a Mob of What Have You, a Mob of Emu Bikers for example. Add one or maybe two to the Horribleness Meter for numbers, and that keeps things nice and smooth.
Second, when the Beardblade uses Beardblast any friendly players need to roll more Squibs than the Beardblade did to escape it. The Beardblast becomes a hazard with a Horribleness of the Beardblades successes. That wasn’t made super clear either. There might be an errata. I promise nothing.