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Slaves of the Elephant God: A True Story

Slaves of the Elephant God

A True Story..

As Relayed by one Howard Whitehouse

Contained herein is Howard Whitehouse's recounting of running SLAVES OF THE ELEPHANT GOD, run Saturday afternoon at HISTORICON. Thank you, Howard, for allowing me to play along, and I thought it was a fantastic game. Such annotations as I have to make are noted in RED font. The notes are at the bottom of the post. My version, such as it is, is contained in the Saturday reporting for HISTORICON 2007, in this post.

Here's a short, incomplete and confused version of what happened. I am hoping that Walt, Nigel and Bruce can add their own impressions, as I know bugger all about what they were doing ---

It's been a tradition since 2002 (I think) that a group of us-- myself plus a varying cast of Table Directors, of whom Bruce Pettipas, Nigel Clarke and Walt O'Hara have been present at most-- to run a pulp mega-game at Historicon. The set up has been four tables, each showing a different location, running at the same time. These serve for the first two scenes (possibly with a bit of moving scenery between scenes). The director is free to run his table any way he sees fit, and with any changes or omissions to the rules he likes. In fact, I don't think Walt knows the rules. 1 It doesn't matter at all. Each scene lasts 30-45 minutes, so it has to be run at lightning speed, and turn sequence is often ignored by players shouting, pushing in, and doing whatever they like whenever they like. Indeed, I take the chairs away, so nobody can sit and relax during "the take".

At the end of each scene, the director recounts to all what has happened at his table. Then we resume, some players going to different tables (because they have a plane, or, like Wooster, they are lost), some continuing where they are.

Bruce took the marketplace at Chunderpore, since I'd just built the city for him (cash was involved). Things blew up, elephants ran amok, and Kimball O'Hara's 2 intelligence agents hunted cultists and vice versa. Was Fu Manchu there? I don't know.

Nigel is an old jungle hand, so he took a rain forest (where? Malaya? Burma? Burbank?) location. There were local caveman-type aboriginals, a crashed plane and a zombie Amelia Earhart (Nigel just made her up on the spot), and a jungle lord character called, er, Tarzam. Most of the loud fun I heard was the interaction between legendary film-maker Erich Von Schnitzel (Hoochie Coochie Girls of 1935) and his star, the always glamorous Roxy Smothers, filming an "art film" called Naked She-Devil: Temptress of the South Seas. There were lots of shower scenes involved this pair are largely responsible for bringing in the Hayes Code. Nayland Smith of the Burma police was there as well, and possibly LA PI Phillip Marlowe, in trench coat and parked car. And Biggles flew in, because he likes to land his plane in dense jungle.

Walt's scene involved a lamasery in Tibet. It was loud, and Fu Manchu was definitely present. Indiana Jones, as well. I don't know what happened. Walt's GMing philosophy is to get caffeinated and make things up at 100 mph. He's a genius, actually. 3

There were several sets of Nazis, as is so often the case. I don't know where they were, mostly. 4

My own scene was on the North-west frontier, where King of the Khyber Rifles, now a Colonel , was played by the same gamer who had portrayed him as a young subaltern the night before in my "Science versus Pluck" game. He came up the same valley to face his old adversary Mahmud Khan, and knocked in the door of the Pathan's tower just as he had in 1897. They joined forces, however, to face the Nazi menace, and drove off the Hun with excellent shooting and sharp steel. Jeeves and Wooster asked directions, and found there was no BP station anywhere in the vicinity. 5

Okay, so if I'd listened more carefully, I'd know what happened in everyone else's scene.

In my second scene the Khyber Rifles and those damned Jerries (now reinforced by Zeppelintruppen) went with Mahmud Khan (not a bad chap for a lifelong enemy) to a frontier hillfort where evil, ungodly goings on were offending the decency of the Pathan tribes. A lot of people knew of it, since Phil Marlowe was parked outside, inconspicuous in his 1932 Ford (I can't find a model for a Plymouth). Well, not as inconspicuous as in LA, but there ya go. I think Roxy Smothers must have had a beef with him, since she immediately ran her Rolls Royce into his parked car. Von Schnitzel started filming. Soviet agents and Nazis began fighting, just because. Nayland Smith arrived in a van, with the eastern dancing girl Karamanieh strapped to the roof. Nobody seemed to think this was odd.

The tribesmen in the fort watched (some taking photos) as the crazy westerners chase done another about, and tried to commit vehicular homicide all over the place. However, the no-nonsense King rammed down the gates (as he seems to, a lot) and the Khyber Rifles stormed in. As did Nayland Smith and his pals, and those sneaky Soviets. But, when the bayoneting was finished and the Zeppelintruppen had rappelled (curses!) into the tower where the cultists weren't meeting (Ach Du Lieber! Too late again!) it was Zelda the script girl/US treasury agent who was able to drag the cult priest out. Using her chief weapon (her flat and tedious monotone voice) she forced him to tell of a great gathering at the island of Rikki-Tikki where .. under the belching volcano ... the cult would bring forth the great Elephant God himself, to wreak destruction (etc etc ... the usual stuff).

After a break (in which Hercule Poirot apparently became distracted by something shiny and forgot to come back, for which he later apologized) we had a grand finale under the volcano. All the cultists and Nazis (who had gone beyond a mere anthropological interest by this time) were arraigned at the base of the volcano, with a human sacrifice. A beautiful maiden? Well, no. It was Biggles, the ace British pilot. I have no idea what they were thinking (although, since there is no sex in the Biggles stories, who knows?) 6

Anyway, we ran this at even more breakneck speed than usual, with Nigel running one side of the board, Walt the other and myself taking the middle. People ran about and crashed things. Zeppelintruppen landed on the crater rim. There was fist-fighting up there, with Phil Marlowe. Miss Wonderley tried out for a screen role. The Khyber Rifles shot holes in the zeppelin (imaginary, but hovering over the volcano. Roxy ran off in Biggles plane with Dr Petrie (Nayland Smith's cohort), giving her a chance to marry a doctor. Lots of cultists were killed. The volcano gave every sign of erupting (which gave warning to players to finish up now or die). Most of the players had the sense to escape as the volcano boomed and the Elephant God itself appeared.

End movie as heroes run for safety and the screen is covered in lava and smoke.

I always end the story by having the players tell what they were trying to do, and how it worked out for them. Mr Guttman (from The Maltese Falcon) reported that, although he was trapped on an island which must sink beneath the waves and cause a tsunami, he still felt there was an opportunity for profitable business here.

The Oscar went to young Michael, a regular these last three or four years, whose heroic portrayal of Short Round (bravely surviving a personal combat with Fu Manchu) was worthy of the award. 7

Notes from the Tibetan Director:

1) Just enough to get by.. I believe you call this the "frantic version" for convention play.
2) No relation.
3) Aw Shucks... just doing muh bit. BTW, the phrase is "Drink a lot of coffee and wait for the magic to happen"
4) The S.S. Expedition to Tibet started at the Lamasery and stayed there in Act 2. The Gestapo started in Tibet and were replaced by Biggles when it became clear I was having a Nazi pile up in tibet. The Bolsheviks, as well, started in Tibet and were sent to Jalallabad. To be replaced by a very confused Jeeves and Bertie.
5) In fact, Bertie drove Algy's beloved Bentley into a coolie pack full of Nitro Glycerin, which made a very stunning impact on the car's front end. They debated the moral concept of boosting a handy Ford Model T truck for a solid turn or two before heading out at high speed.
6) Biggles, by the by was sporting a spot-on Gary Cooper accent... which caused for some uninentional hilarity for those who are in the know. Imagine John Wayne playing Raffles, and you get the idea.
7) Michael won this award because of Short Round's incredible luck in resisisting Fu's hypnotism (twice) and then having the presence of mind to act hypnotized so he could free Marian from a fate worse than death! Yeah, Michael!!