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Running DRYH one-shots

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Running DRYH one-shots

I've run and played Don't Rest Your Head a lot, but normally in a lightly-hacked way in different settings. I have run it a few times vanilla as a one-shot with mixed results, and after yesterday's not-great game I was wondering if anyone has ideas.

I think the first issue is getting to the point. By default, the player characters are just finding out about this new mad city they wander into. It often happens that they wander around a bit, wondering if they're insane, and not really having any strong connection there. They don't use their powers because they don't know they have any. The most successful game I ran I started off saying 'just assume you know what this place is and that you have superpowers'. That worked okayish, but was still kind of disjointed. In yesterday's game, I forced a few-weeks-later timeskip halfway through so we could get past the whole dazed-and-confused phase.

Next issue being - as GM, I find myself flailing. The first scenes are from the character sheet, but not all of the kickers are created equally. Even if they're fine, they don't necessarily lead to exciting Mad City things in an obvious way. More than most other games, it feels like DRYH relies on the GM being on the ball, having ideas for scenes, and pulling things together. There's no real space to prep things before seeing the character sheets, and it turns into throwing ideas at the wall and hoping something sticks. Yesterday, in desperation, I engineered some PvP halfway through, which got me through the session, but isn't what the game is built to do at all.

And, really, the setting isn't helping. Maybe just me, but nightmares like The Tacks Man and Officer Tock are just ... horribly lame and not the sort of thing that can be reasonably thrown into a horror game. Some things are fine, like the trading-weird-things at the bazaar, the demonic schoolgirls, or the papers that tell tomorrow's news - but otherwise there's not much in the official setting that I can fall back on.

I think DRYH should make for a good one-shot game - and I have had good one-shots of it before, but those feel like more like luck than something repeatable.

One thing I'm pretty sure I'll do next time is have a joint-kicker - the book recommends chaining kickers together but that is way too hard to engineer on the fly. Just having all the characters in one place interacting from the start will hopefully reduce the general scope of the game.

Anyway - experiences/ideas?