Don't Rest Your Head GM Notes

Last updated Tue Nov 8 09:02:29 UTC 2011

Fred Hicks wrote an excellent RPG called Don't Rest Your Head. I've run it many times. Here are some tricks and tips I find useful when doing so.

Coins of despair are spontaneously generated as needed when pain dominates in DRYH, but as tactile reinforcement I have two bowls (red for despair, white for hope) and give each player 5 Japanese goyen coins (which are symbolic of luck), that they pay into the bowl of despair when pain dominates. I like the symbolism of the player paying the coin. If they run out I just give them more, but 1) I don't tell them that ahead of time, and 2) that very rarely happens.

Ryan Macklin uses a nice glass bowl for hope and tin cup for despair, but I go for ease of transport and sturdiness so both my bowls are plastic. I also use 2 bowls to keep the black exhaustion dice and red madness dice handy.

The other tactile reinforcement I like is to use green and red poker chips for the Responses when madness dominates ("Green means go" for fleeing, "Red means blood" for fighting) and each player takes 3, in whatever mix they want. When madness dominates they hand me the appropriate color chip.

When they regain a response (because discipline dominates or they spend a coin of hope or they gain a die of permanent madness and reset to 3 responses) I let them choose either color, so over time they can change their mix of responses. That's a slight change from rules-as-written, but I like it better.

If people are helping each other, everyone rolls, and discipline successes are added to the successes of the person being helped. Then whichever single pool is strongest dominates for everyone, but I don't combine pools across characters. If pain dominates, everyone involved pays a coin each into the bowl of despair.

If everyone is facing a threat seperately (the classic case being everyone fleeing the needle hounds or clockwork cops) everone rolls, I compare each person's successes vs. the pain successes. Again, whichever single pool is strongest dominates for everyone, but if its Madness, then each player can choose for themselves whether they react with fight or flight.

For PvP contests, I still roll pain (based on the situation), players roll and compare successes vs. each other, with the initiating player winning ties. Again, strongest pool dominates for all (which might be pain).

Compare and Contrast with Fred Hicks' ideas on PvP and Coop rolls in DRYH.

I tend to resolve fights with one roll, not whittling down pain ratings with multiple rounds of combat. I like a fast pace since I usually run for 4 players in a 4 hour slot, including teaching the game and creating characters.

Definitely check out Fred Hicks' excellent discussion of Hacking Dice Pools in DRYH.

I've hacked DRYH to do Shadowrun (Don't Lose Your Edge), Psychic spies (Don't Push Your Luck), and have thought about using it for Popstar Dream Assassions (Don't Dream Your Death), Whispering Vault (Don't Name This Game), and no doubt other things in time.