A Group Nightmare in Wonderland – Part 1
Last night, four of us got together via Zoom to play Alice’s Nightmare in Wonderland. I love these Jonathan Green gamebooks. They’re well-written, thoroughly proofread, beautifully (disturbingly) illustrated, and just enormous with content. For group play, these are our favorites.
Four of us got together: one with Alice’s dice, one with the nightmares’ dice, one with the character sheet, the other reading. Three of us had never seen the illustrations inside before, so got to admire Kev Crossley’s disturbing illos for the first time.
For character creation, we put 3 points into Agility and Logic (9 and 9) and 4 into Combat (10). After all, fighting is the number one way to lose health and die.
And our nightmare begins.
A white rabbit wakes Alice, and he’s a horrifying vision. He’s ragged and stuffing is falling out, and his chest cavity has been filled with a clock. It’s really bad, some sort of flesh / plush / clockwork golem thing. He tells Alice that she needs to get back to Wonderland pronto, because the Queen of Hearts has been making life miserable for Wonderland, and Alice needs to kill her because it’s her nightmare.
So, whoa, hold on… a talking golem rabbit thing, is telling this 11 year old girl, that she needs to murder a queen, because of a dream she had when she was 7.
Oh, why not? Down the rabbit hole we go!
As Alice falls, she makes all of her agility checks and gets some useful loot: a glimpse of a map, and a pair of sharp scissors that do extra damage in combat. She also gets attacked by a book that turns into a bat, but scissors cut paper and it’s over without Alice taking a papercut.
At the bottom, there are some clockwork golems waiting. They attack her, and she fights back, killing both of them without taking a scratch.
Now that she has some peace, we enter a brief area where we all have some meta-knowledge of how the story should go. There’s a tiny door, Eat Me cake (dosed with steroids for +1 combat), Drink Me shrinking juice, and the garden. You’ve seen the Disney version a hundred times, and surprisingly this is not particularly horrible and sanity-stressing, and we move on to the garden.
The garden too, is quite charming. There’s a water feature that’s nice to look at. There’s a cute rocking-horse-fly, and bread-and-butter-flies, and… fat plum pudding flies with flaming raisins for heads, who dive at Alice in a flaming flurry of fire! Alice uses her Pen Is Mightier ability to change the lucid dream she’s having, and it begins to rain. After a brief but intense shower, Alice is damp but the insects have been extinguished and half-melted by the water washing away the pudding. It’s pretty gross.
Alice has apparently worn out her welcome in the garden, because the hedges start growing in around her, closing off the path and forcing her out into a dark forest of mushrooms, puffballs, and toadstools. But Alice likes fungi just fine. She has an encyclopedia about them at home, and thinks they’re cool. She climbs a giant mushroom cap, and gets a good view of the surrounding countryside. The palace (presumably it’s THE palace) is to the south, but the path takes us north toward a beautiful manor house and a rabbit-eared fur-thatched cottage.
At the cottage, a tea party has been set out but nobody is here. We take a look at the house, and something bad has clearly happened: nobody is here, and the place is trashed with signs of a struggle. Alice decides to leave, but only after raiding the pantry and stealing an armload of food. Then we go out to the tea party and figure that since nobody’s coming to the party, we may as well help ourselves to another armload of food and a tea tray before we head out.
A quick, check of our gear before we move out: Alice now has 7 meals’ worth of food in her pocket; that’s 28 healing, enough to come back from the brink of death and half again. The tea tray is usable as a shield in combat, so Alice only takes 1 point of damage on a hit. And those Fiskars she snagged in the rabbit hole do 3 points of damage on a hit. And again, a combat of 10. Alice is an unstoppable killing machine.
Moving onward toward the palace, she finds herself at a hedge maze. But that’s a tale for next time.