Some Thoughts on DRYH
Posted by Nathan P. on November 3, 2006
I ran a Halloween-themed game of Don’t Rest Your Head at StoryGames Boston the other night. The premise of the game was that the characters would be insomniac children going Trick-or-Treating on Halloween, and they would slip into the spooky suburbs of the Mad City over the course of the evening. I made some pre-gen characters (filling in bio info, What Keeps You Awake and What’s On The Surface – I used the latter to put down their Halloween costume!). I had three players (Jon Walton, Dev and DJ).
I have two main observations. First, was that I made a poor choice. DRYH does not specify how narration rights are distributed, and explicity says “each group will have its own style, you should talk about it with your group.” I thought it would be interesting to experiment, and have me as the GM basically have all narration authority. I wanted to see how/if this would work, with the way that the game produces outcomes through it’s dice mechanic.
In restrospect, this was a very poor choice. I was tired anyway, and boy, it’s hard to do all the talking! It led to at least one case of hard deprotaginization, of Jon’s character, because I had a specific idea in my head of how a conflict would go, and he had a very different idea. The burden was all on me to make the cool happen, and I petered out pretty quick. It was a very solid illustration of the Czege principle – I was creating the adversity for the characters, and I was also resolving it. The resolution was informed by the mechanics and the information I got from the players between rolls, but it was still coming from me.
Next time, I think it would be most awesome to split up narrational authority based on what is dominent in a roll. So, Pain = GM, Disclipline = Player, Madness = Player to left, and Exhaustion = Player to right. Or Madness and Exhaustion are explicitly “lets all brianstorm on this one.”
The second observation is about the game itself. It’s very interesting to me that it’s totally up to an individual player as to whether they engage with the reward system or not. I mean, yes, the GM can present huge amount of Pain in order to push a player to bring in more dice, but, really, until you choose to bring in Exhaustion or Madness, you don’t engage with the reward system, AND you don’t face the two ultimate penalties (falling asleep or snapping).
Once you step onto the spiral, the GM has more tools to push you, and you have more forces pushing you farther down. But, that first step is totally up to the player, and thats very interesting.