Weeeeeeee’re off the stop the wizard!
Last night, a friend and I played The Wicked Wizard of Oz by the illustrious Jonathan Green. One of us read while the other chose, so it was a fun interactive time with the two of us.
She picked the not-at-all-cowardly Lion, who is celebrating one year since he became the king of the forest. The speech was short and well received (mostly on account of it being short, which is everyone’s favorite speech) but just as the party is about to get started, the gathering is attacked by a band of kalidahs, which are ferocious bear-tiger hybrids. She fought off several of them, then with a mighty roar took off into the forest to pursue them as they fled.
She followed for some time, but lost the trail… and discovered something far stranger. Some time back the Lion killed a giant spider (meaning, the size of a draft horse) while defending the other animals of the forest from its predations. But it’s back, and this time it’s a steampunk cyborg-enhanced monstrosity! A spider the size of a Clydesdale, with a smokestack on its back, serrated steel pincers, and circular saws on two of its legs. Now that’s a reason to be afraid of spiders!
Fortunately, Lion had heard it coming some ways away and was able to hide up a tree and get the drop on it. Lion got scratched up a little, but she completely wrecked the steam-spider-mech. Unfortunately, the existence of such a creature in the forest doesn’t answer anything about the kalidahs, but brings up a lot more questions.
While looking for clues and trying to regain the trail, Lion hears rustling in the bushes, footsteps along the trail, and voices. She leaps out and terrifies the trespassers… who are her old friends Dorothy and Tin Man! What in the world are they doing here? Turns out they’re pretty confused, too. A second tornado swept Dorothy to Oz (very farfetched), where she was immediately attacked by winged monkeys (which were thought to have dispersed after the Wicked Witch of the West died). Tin Man just woke up on the Yellow Brick Road with no memory of getting there. They’re on their way to The Emerald City to ask Oz if he knows what’s going on, but are taking the forest path since it’s less exposed to prying eyes. Together the three of them head westwards toward The Emerald City.
The first day’s walk is uneventful. But as the city comes into sight, the ground begins to quake, to shake, to rip apart in front of them. The Yellow Brick Road splits open as an enormous metal beetle tears its way through the earth, the turns on them. Like the spider, it’s a horrifying steam-powered monstrosity of saws and lenses and pinchers – and it’s coming at them! Lion focuses on the legs, and it’s a fierce battle. Eventually Lion tears off a leg, causing the thing to collapse in a spout of oil and smoke – and she was only moaboutderately bruised up in the process.
So now they have a choice, to continue along the road out in the open, or to go into the burrow-hole and perhaps find some answers as to where it came from. They opt for the tunnel.
The tunnel leads to… a mining operation? Scores of Munchkins are collared and chained, using pickaxes to mine glowing green stones under the watchful ministrations of an overseer, who is wearing a mechanized battle suit. Curiouser and curiouser, to paraphrase another book. 😉 Lion won’t let slavery stand as long as she can help it, so of course charges to the attack. Within moments the overseer is dead and the Munchkins are freed. Worse, nobody knows anything about the beetle (how? it wasn’t easy to miss, and it came from this tunnel!) and the other exit from the cavern leads back to the surface near the gates of The Emerald City. So we still know nothing at all.
Pressing onward, the band arrives at the gates. Knock knock. Instead of a Munchkin’s face at the view-hole, several small ports open and extend a variety of microscopes and telescopes and other robotic eyes to look us over. A metallic voice informs us that Oz is not available. But it’s important, Lion says, we insist! The door then unleashes bolts of lightning over the entire party, injuring Lion even more (she could really use a spa day about how) as they pass into unconsciousness.
They awaken to find Oz’s throne occupied not by the weird wizard they all know and love (well, know and fear, and keep at arm’s length because he’s an amoral mad scientist) but a seven-foot-tall gleaming metal skull with glowing green stones for eyes. It introduces itself as Oz Great and Terrible, and it will be filling in for the wizard while he’s away on business. Uh oh.
During its brief reign as regent, the robot became self-aware and decided that the magical Land of Oz needed a stronger border protection policy. Specifically, it intends to launch a preemptive attack on the outside world with magic-enhanced missiles, and to exterminate all life outside of Oz. Uh oh!
And now that we’ve been examined and determined not to be a threat, we are to be terminated. Uh oh!
Lion has heard enough, and uses her immense strength to rip her way out of the restraints then to free the others. Oz Great and Terrible disappears into a sliding wall panel, as several guards enter the room. Roars and screams, and slashing and clanking, a terrible noise of violence… and the party stands bloodied and bruised, but triumphant over the dead bodies of Oz’s guards. But how are they going to get to Oz Great and Terrible to stop it? Well, they won’t – because OGT begins venting a toxic and corrosive gas into the room, killing all three of our heroes.
First published December 5, 2022. Last updated December 5, 2022.