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NAUGHT BUT SPOILERS AHEAD
What's that? You wanted to read a list of all the lion
s, with commentary by CMJ, that was originally posted on some other site
? Well, that's pretty specific, but you're in luck!
I run an online game that some people take far, far too seriously. When you run a game like this, changing a single number in a database can have some pretty massive repercussions for those who play the game all day.
One day I decided that my game didn't have nearly enough lions in it.
So, a new level one monster was conceived:
You hear a low growling behind you, and spin around.
It's a lion. An honest-to-God seven-foot-long, four-foot-high monster - a 250-kilo beast with three-inch teeth, and it clearly wants you for dinner. It must have crept up slowly while you were killing that last monster. Everyone knows, after all, that lions are sneaky bastards.
Suppressing for the moment your natural reaction - that is, to rapidly and thoroughly empty your bowels while squealing "LION LION AAAARGH IT'S A FUCKING LION" and flailing your arms around as it gobbles you up starting with your feet so you can watch - you ready your weapon, hands trembling, and see about giving it what for!
Pretty simple. Fairly mundane. Just a lion. Level two:
You wander through the Jungle idly looking for some action. Within moments you spy a little green man, no higher than your knees. He's wearing scruffy gardening clothes and wellington boots - some sort of goblin, perhaps? Either way, you ready your weapon and creep up towards the creature as it delicately sniffs a nearby flower.
Just as you get close enough to deliver a killing blow, the foliage next to the little man bursts outwards with a rustly crash. An enormous lion leaps through, snapping the goblin out of the air in one quick bite and leaving only boots behind. It swallows, turns to you, and grins. The sneaky bastard just stole your kill! Are you going to stand for that?
The Lion Obfuscation Project starts at level three:
Something catches your eye, and you put your senseless rampage on hold for a moment. Something flickers and dances, peeking from behind a tree - perhaps a snake, or a tentacle, or a... is that a tail?
Is that a lion's tail?
Your knees knock together as you whimper-whisper a pitiful mantra familiar to the noble lion: "oh no it's a lion oh no oh bloody hell it's hiding behind that tree but the tree is so small maybe it's only a little lion but they're such sneaky bastards oh shit oh shit oh shit" The lion understands this mantra the way a fighter pilot understands the beeping of a locked-on target, and seven feet of grinning, snarly beast leaps from behind the two-foot-wide tree. Lions really are sneaky bastards like that.
The eventual goal is to make the player paranoid about anything and everything. A lion could be lurking around any corner, behind any tree, inside any seemingly-awesome box of treasure. Level Four:
Not really paying attention to where you're walking, you stumble into an enormous web! You struggle to free yourself while visions of enormous spiders run through your mind and down your legs!
After several terrifying, sweaty moments you disentangle yourself and realise that this isn't a spider's web at all - it's made out of yarn. Yarn with a familiar, musky smell - yarn spun out of some sort of fur, perhaps even...
The lion cannons into your back, knocking you to the ground. Sneaky bastard!
At level five, we begin to sow those seeds of paranoia. By now, we've set up some rules, that the player expects us to follow.
A very tall man approaches you, wearing a leather trenchcoat and a large hat that casts his face into shadow.
"Excuse me, do you have the time?" he asks, in a rather nervous and timid voice.
"Sorry, pal," you reply. "Watches are hard to come by, 'round here."
"Is that all you wanted me to say?" responds the tall man. "Can I go now? Please? Oh God, no! Don't eat me! DON'T EAT ME!" The tall man pulls the homemade tape recorder out of his jacket and bats ineffectually at the "STOP" button with his huge, unweildy paws. "AAAAAGH!" he continues, shaking the tape recorder. "AAAAAAH FUCK AAAAH MY FEET!" As you ready your weapon the tall man hurls the tape recorder to the ground, his hat coming loose and exposing his long, luxurious mane. He stamps on the tape recorder until the screaming and crunching noises stop, then turns to you, growls, and pounces.
Sneaky bastard .
To fuck with your players, you have to start off slow. Build up expectations. Lions will never hide in plain sight; the player knows this, now. Any lion that appears before them, and doesn't bother trying to hide itself - well, it might be harmless, right? Level six:
You come across a clearing in which a small gathering of woodland creatures sit in rapt attention - they focus on a raised pedestal, atop which sits a throne, atop which sits a lion, atop which sits a crown.
Could it be...? Has the Improbability Drive seen fit to manifest the brave monarch of an imaginary world? Could the dreams of millions of children become flesh and blood, in this place?
The lion watches you with an air of loving benevolence as you timidly approach. He nods, bidding you to kneel.
One heavy paw whips around and impacts against your head, throwing you ten feet to your right. Through the dancing purple spots, you have an excellent view of the stitching in a nearby rabbit. They're not rapt, they're stuffed. And that's not the lion you think it is - it's just a fucking lion. A sneaky bastard of a lion.
Level Seven was kind of a gimme:
There's something wooly and white, grazing innocently just behind those ferns. Excellent - a meal you won't have to fight for! You ready your weapon, and sneak up behind the sheep.
A branch cracks beneath your feet and your prey spins around, the sheepskin flying off to reveal the lion underneath. It pounces. Sneaky bastard.
On level eight, we begin to break the rules we've previously set up. Like the underground sections in Silent Hill during which your radio doesn't work, any change to the status quo, any change to the rules, offers prime fucking-with-your-players fodder. Sometimes it's good to remind your
victims players that the rules are for them to follow, not you:
You come across a lion, stood seven feet high on its hind legs, utterly still, with a lampshade on its head.
You lower your weapon in disgust. "Oh, come on! That's not even -" the air is knocked out of you with one mighty swipe of its paw. Hell, it worked. Sneaky bastard.
You can break the rules and then start following them again in the same breath; often this is more effective than breaking the rules and continuing to break them. On level nine we go back to following the rules again:
"Shh!" You stop in your tracks, looking at the bespectacled man crouched on the ground just in front of you. "You'll frighten it."
"Frighten what, exactly?" you whisper.
He turns his attention back to the ground. "See this, here?"
You look where he's pointing. "No."
"Aah," he taps the side of his nose knowingly. "Precisely. My friend, what you do not see is called a trapdoor spider, and it's really very clever. If you look closely at this little patch right here, you'll notice that it's not truly a part of the jungle floor - it's a hinged section made out of dirt, moss and a spider's silk. The spider in question is hiding just behind it. These little strands of webbing, here, let it know when something's approaching, and then whoosh - out it jumps, grabs its dinner, and back in faster than you can say LION -" and he's gone.
For a heartbeat it's hard to say what just happened. It was as though the ground erupted beneath him, there was a flash of sandy fur, claws dug into his skin and pulled, and then he disappeared. It all happened so fast you're not sure you didn't imagine the whole thing.
A muffled voice from underneath the soil screams "LIONS LIONS FUCKING LIONS AAARGH NO NOT MY FEET AAH FUCK AAAHHH!"
The scream cuts off as the lion realises there's still more prey above the soil, and bursts out of its trapdoor to grab you!
Until now, we've played by the rule that we don't fuck with the player outside of the fourth wall. That is, we don't use the mechanics of the game itself as fucking-with-the-player material.
At level two, the player encounters a professional romance writer, and ends up fighting her. At level ten, the encounter begins the same way, and until the lion shows up, the player thinks they're fighting a much weaker foe:
You come across a clearing in the jungle. Soft sunlight filters through the canopy of leaves, casting little spots of radiance upon a peaceful-looking, bespectacled woman who sits on a log and writes in a tattered notebook.
You decide to head over and sit down beside her. "Hello," you say.
She looks up, glasses sparkling in the sun. "Oh, hello! I'm a professional romance writer!"
The paw seems to come from nowhere, swatting her around the back of the head and knocking her glasses to the ground. Her head drooping on a broken neck, she collapses forward with a tiny sigh. You give the sneaky bastard lion a nod, and draw your weapon.
At level eleven, we use the special events hook to present something that at first looks like the player is getting some awesome loot. We use the same formatting as the "real" crate-finding message, so the player is blissfully unaware that... well, this:
You found something!
You come across a wooden crate, with a small parachute attached. You spend a few minutes prying it open.
0 Ration Packs
1 lion! Sneaky bastard!
At level twelve, the double-bluffing begins in earnest:
Something suspiciously leonine is stalking around the jungle just behind those trees there. Readying your weapon, you decide that this is one lion that isn't going to get the drop on you.
You leap out from behind the tree, and attack!
Or rather, you stop mid-thrust. That's not a lion at all - it's some wanker who thinks he's funny, pratting around in an unconvincing pantomime lion suit. There are patches coarsely sewn on here and there, some suspicious stains, and one glass eye is hanging off on a thread.
You snarl. "You daft sod, I nearly hit you! Don't you know that's a good way to get yourself killed?"
The pantomime lion stands up on its hind feet, and clutches its zipper. Slowly, wordlessly, it pulls it down. The lion unfolds itself from the lion suit and stands smiling down at you, seven feet of muscle, fur, and teeth.
You crane your neck back to look it in the eye. "You sneaky bastard."
The lion nods once, slowly, and raises an immense paw.
These lions are tucked away in about three hundred other monsters. It was tempting to make more, but then that'd take away the surprise. Level twelve:1)
Jungle fighting is hungry work. You'd kill for a sandwich right now.
Fortunately - perhaps Improbably - there's one sat on the log next to you. A six-inch baguette with some fresh-looking lettuce crisping the edges.
With no small amount of caution - you remember vividly the episode with the curry - you pick up the sandwich and look inside. When nothing springs out to maim or embarrass, you take a suspicious bite.
Hmm. Not bad. Not bad at all. Except for this hair that's now stuck between your teeth. It's long, and blonde, and extends right back into the sandwich.
Who do I know with hair like that?
You pull on the hair, and a tail flops out of the bitten end of the sandwich.
A long, sandy-coloured tail with a tuft on the end.
Oh, no no no no no.
You turn the sandwich around, and peer underneath the top layer of bread.
A muzzle bearing dusty fur and three-inch teeth lets out the briefest of growls before you let the bread fall back into place.
You sneaky bastard.
You have precisely two seconds in which to wonder what you'll do with a lion sandwich before the lion in question gives up its disguise, seven feet of muscle springing out and snapping at you.
At level fourteen, we admonish the player for believing in the rules we've set up:
There's a ceramic flower pot in front of you. About six inches across, seven inches tall.
There's a pair of distinctly leonine ears poking out of the top.
Really, it isn't all that unlikely. Lions, as everyone knows, are sneaky bastards.
"You're going to have to do better than that, mate," you say to the flower pot. "I can see your ears, you know."
Two heavy paws thump against your back, knocking you onto your belly. You hit your forehead, hard, on the ground. With ears ringing, you see the lion through a curtain of fuzzy red dots as it stalks over to the flower pot and lifts out the pair of artificial ears before sitting the pot atop its head like a hat. It looks at you with a certain amused expression, as if to say "Fool! Lions are very large and can not fit in flower pots!"
Of course they can't. How silly of you.
And on level fifteen, we set up those rules again:
It's not a bad life, this Jungle Fighting lark. Plenty of fresh air, exercise, birds singing, leaves rustling in the wind, lovely sun and that bloody annoying itching sensation in your underwear. It's been bothering you all day, and now it's getting worse - it feels as though there's something writhing around down there. Perhaps something you picked up in Squat Hole.
You cast a quick glance around for other contestants, before thrusting one hand down the front of your pants to have a furtive scratch.
The lion bursts out of your underwear, spins around on the spot and pounces.
Lions are fucking ace.