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Don't Rest Your Head

 
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hix



Joined: 25 Jan 2006
Posts: 406
Location: Poison'd

PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 9:09 pm    Post subject: Don't Rest Your Head Reply with quote

Anyone who’s interested in surrealistic horror gaming should put "Don't rest your head" on their radar. It's a game about insomniacs who can see what's behind the real world (because of their lack of sleep). It's scary, in a Grant Morrison 'Doom Patrol' way. And you get to have sleep-deprivation fuelled super-powers.

Conan ran this for me and Nasia on Saturday night, starting at about 11 o’clock at night and going through till about 1 in the morning. Character design is simple – you answer questions:

- why are you awake? (in our game, we came up with some pretty emotionally hardcore reasons for this)
- what just happened? (A Kicker, really. Something that – in our case – played off the reason we were awake, that threw our lives into disarray, and gave Conan something to frame our first scene with)
- what would you like to have happen to you? (Basically, the ideal case of how you’d like to see your character end up).

So, my character was Ben Livingstone.
He’s awake cos’ he’s lonely.
He’s just met someone.
He needs to have real friends or true love pull him back into the normal world.

So, here’s my first scene. I start by saying I’m taking coffee over to the girl I’ve just met – Bella, who can’t sleep either. Because it’s my Kicker, I’m playing it scared – I don’t want to say anything that’ll drive her away.

Then Conan throws his first Bang at me – Bella keeps looking away from me, out the window, asking what the time is.

What’s a Bang? The term’s been used in the playing of RPGs for decades, but in Sorceror, it’s defined as “… those moments when the characters realise they have a problem right now and have to get moving to deal with it.” I like to think of it as the moment when the player has to make a decision for their character, and the GM has NO IDEA which way the player’s going to go. It’s especially useful when the Bang is thematically ON. In the case of this game of DRYH, anything to do with loneliness or a relationship with Bella is going to hit me really hard, because that’s what I’ve honestly indicated to Conan that I’m interested in exploring.

So, Bella’s looking out the window, asking what the time is. I don’t know where Conan’s going with this yet, so I say that my eyes are really blurry and can’t focus on my watch properly. I know there’s a ‘2’ in the time somewhere, but I can’t tell where. Then I ask if Bella’s looking out the window because she’s waiting for someone.

That’s a sort-of-Bang, back at Conan. What’s he going to tell me? But, also, I’m giving him the opportunity to screw me over – she could tell me anything. She’s waiting for her boyfriend, or to kill herself, or that she’s a monster. (Oh, and before the game started, I gave Conan permission to mess with Bella any way he wanted to – I wasn’t going to get mad; I wanted to throw myself into the game).

So, Conan has Bella say that she’s just quit her job for the Taxman, and she was a little nervous. That makes me relax – obviously he’s not a romantic rival.

(And when I say “me relax”, I mean that literally. I got so into this game that I was short of breath and my chest hurt. My shoulder’s still hurting, three days later.)

So, I throw another Bang at Conan. Even though Ben’s scared of frightening Bella away, I have him ask her if she see’s … strange things in the city. Like traffic lights that have too many colours on them, or people with no faces. Bella nods. “I work for the Taxman,” she says. “If you’re on the streets of the Mad City at one o’clock, you have to stay with him for a whole hour. And an hour last a long time.”

Bang.

So, I look down at my watch. And up at Conan. “It’s 12.39,” I say. Bang, right back at him.

That’s when the Tacksman’s needle-dogs show up. Pursuit ensues. I throw a couple of Bangs at Nasia – will she let us in to the safety of her apartment? will she help me get Bella back when Bella’s swept up in a tornado of needles and sucked into the Black Obelisk at the heart of the Mad City?

And the reason this game really sticks with me is that we failed (in a way). We rescued Bella but were stuck in the Mad City for however long the 13th hour lasts there. But I succeeded, in a way, too, because I found someone I could fall in love with – even if we’re trapped together.

So, thanks for running it, Conan. It was probably my most thought provoking game of the weekend in terms of tone, imagery and emotions. Especially with this idea of players and GMs being able to throw Bangs at each other.
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Conan



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 472
Location: Wellington

PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for the late response - haven't really checked out Random Play until today. Smile

DRYH is really all about that interactivity between Players and GM. It advises to *not* plan ahead, but rather the players set the ball rolling with their Kickers/Questions which lead to the slow but inexorable ramping up of stakes as the game progresses.

What impressed me was that the game puts all the power in the players hands, but gives the GM enough to feel comfortable with doing this. The players set the tone and pace, they decide how far they are going to push their characters - and the game just ticks along, mechanically keeping the tone and atmosphere going.

I really did like the game and thanks to you and Nasia for giving me the chance to get it going. Smile

Conan
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MikeSands



Joined: 19 Jan 2006
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Location: RV Steadfast, bearing west

PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 10:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Having just got my own copy, my feeling from just reading it was that the presented setting elements would be best regarded as suggestions rather than used as is. Not that the author intended them used this way, but I suspect that the forces of nightmare ought to be defined by each group to resonate with them in particular.

Partly this is just because a few of them pretty much just left me unimpressed - the nightmarish bits just didn't seem scary to me, so I don't think I could make them scary in play.

I think that if I run it, I might add an extra question to the character sheet: "What is your nightmare?" and build things from there.

Conan, I'm interested to hear what you think of those ideas after actually running the game.
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artemis



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
Posts: 718
Location: Wellington

PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally I found it fairly intense and creepy. Partly because of the blend of the real world and all these bizarre bits that you are now aware of. I wasnt entirely sure the characters were sane and at the very least they were disturbed in there own personal ways. Things were very surreal and I was quite tired. I know my character was cautiuous enough not to look to closely at some purely out of fear.

Something that happens a lot in life, we never really like looking at what we fear and I think this game is very much about pulling these dark little pieces out and twisting them up in front of your eyes.

Ok not very coherent but maybe you get what I mean.
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Conan



Joined: 23 Jan 2006
Posts: 472
Location: Wellington

PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Mike,

I happened to like the Mad City presented in the book. It is a bunch of suggestioins with which to get started, but I loved the Nightmares suggested. The Tacksman really struck me as a creepy character, which is why I used him - because it was great playing the confusion between Taxman and Tacksman - so that when he and the Pinheads showed up it really was creepy.

But yeah - DRYH is really about presenting a system that allows for a particular style of play, and I found it to really work. The idea of "What is your Nightmare?" as a sixth question is pretty cool, I feel. I might just try it next time I run the game. Smile

Conan
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MikeSands



Joined: 19 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool. That all makes sense.
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