The BBC have been doing a series, Worlds of Fantasy, about… err… Worlds. Of Fantasy, strangely enough. Unfortunately they stuck them on at the same time as Torchwood, and I never got organised enough to record the repeats, but huzzah! for iPlayer. The first was fairly so-so, looking at child heroes. The second was better, devoted to Tolkien and Peake with contributors including the incomparably magnificent Joe Abercrombie. The third I found most interesting of all, what with goodly chunks of, amongst others, Pratchett (I thought Hugh Jackman’s rig in Swordfish was ludicrous Hollywood invention, turns out they just got PTerry’s actual setup and scaled it down a bit), Moorcock, Lemmy, Richard Bartle, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, and Neil Gaiman (I’d like to withdraw the previous labelling of Joe Abercrombie, he’s in fact comparably magnificent to the comparable magnificence of Neil Gaiman). Anyway, I’d entirely forgotten about it as per usual until Melmoth mentioned it, and I just caught it before its seven days on iPlayer expired. If you happen to be reading this within about 24 hours of the posting date, you’ll be just in time, otherwise sorry! It was good, though.
Melmoth and I were cruising the underworld, as you do, searching for the head of some undead abomination called Neville Bamshute or something. Rounding a corner, we briefly glimpsed some glowing yellow text in the distance indicating Lord Bamshute was down the end of that corridor before about seven hundred flaming balls of death slammed into us. Turned out Lord Neville had company, a whole bunch of Bruisers or Maulers or something; whatever they were, they fired spikey balls of flaming death that exploded with a most alarming lethal radius. Being the veteran muhmorpuhguheristas that we are, we know the drill: pull the minions away to clear them, then take down the boss. Step one is a bit of a challenge, as The Bamshute and his posse are at the end of a long, narrow corridor about 41 metres away, and our demon-smiting rifles have a range of 25-30 metres. Each pull therefore consists of small-scale re-enactment of the Charge of the Light Brigade with me representing the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, Melmoth as the 8th and 11th Hussars and an assortment of bots and drones filling in for the 17th Lancers, zigzagging down the corridor wildly firing, hoping a few Bamshutettes will notice and lumber down the corridor to be picked off. Several deaths in, we pretty much get the hang of it, pulling away groups of three and four and gunning them down. There’s no let up in the barrage of shot and shell, though, so we pause to take stock. Are the minions respawning, or are there just hundreds of the damn things? It’s a bit difficult to tell, what with them all huddling around at the end of the corridor of eternal peril and not standing conveniently still for a head count (“Undead fiend one?” “Here, sir!” “Undead fiend two?” “Present!” “Undead fiend three? Has anyone seen undead fiend three?”) Melmoth volunteers to take a look, and in a series of impressive corpse-spawn-jumps gets close enough to report that they are, indeed, respawning. Fortunately Neville Bamshute didn’t appear to regenerate his health, so the encounter was merely a tedious battle of attrition rather than physical impossibility.
Time for Plan B, then. Unfortunately it turned out Plan B had originally been devised as a contingency plan for Hitler focusing on a Mediterranean strategy with the aid of Mussolini, Franco and Petain’s Vichy France, and thus wasn’t much use against Herr Bamshute. Plan C was a slight improvement. Codenamed “Yo! Bum Rush the Show”, Plan C involved firstly exclaiming “Yo!”, then proceeding to bum rush the show (where in this particular case, Neville Bamshute was “the show”). In the “Bloody April” of 1917, the average life expectancy of a new Royal Flying Corps subaltern on the front line was eleven days. For a participant of Operation Yo! Bum Rush The Show, the average life expectancy was eleven seconds. And that included the corpse run. That gave just enough time to knock down Neville’s shields and perhaps a sliver of his health, so he was being whittled away, but it was a slow process. After two and a half weeks, with his health bar still around 75%, we huddled up to formulate Plan D.
Some rummaging around my pack turned up a rocket launcher, a couple of machine pistols, a rocket pistol, a lightning gun, a toxic lance, a watering can, a complete collection of National Geographic magazines, March 1974 – February 1978 (apart from the July 1977 issue), a bag of strawberry bon-bons and an anvil. Not so much use… but underneath those, a sniper rifle! Something with enough range to hit Neville Bamshute without having to rush halfway down the corridor of eternal peril. Enter Plan D, “All The World’s A Stage”, wherein Melmoth and I are putting on a show for the world’s rowdiest audience. The moment they catch sight of you they start flinging rotten tomatoes (giant, exploding rotten tomatoes that do significant splash damage), but fortunately quite slowly, giving just enough time to get off a shot at von Bamshute before legging it over to the wings on the other side of the stage before the wave of devastation crashes past where you were just standing. A quick pause to get the breath back, then it’s back the other way to repeat the performance. I like to think we had a straw boater in one hand and a cane in the other and did a little dance (either side of the whole sniper rifle business), but the lack of an emote system in Hellgate put a bit of a crimp on that. Still, even without the dance, the health-whittling went significantly faster without corpse runs every eleven seconds, and His Bamshuteness finally exploded in a shower of loot. A couple more suicide runs cleared the now non-respawning Bamshute-groupies, and it was home for tea, cake and carting four slightly-dripping decapitated demon heads off to some portal somewhere to summon Neville Bamshute’s boss. What could possibly go wrong with a plan like that?