Last year PAX Aus was another three days of hectic gaming. This year I got the opportunity to run a couple of one shot games including The Bad Man (Don’t Rest Your Head).
Each player created their own child at the start of play. Of the children characters we had; Tim (the new kid), Sam (the latchkey kid), Kenny (the poor kid), Nigel (the smelly kid) and Mark (the rich kid). Each kid had their own have their own dreams and goals. They each have a skill they are really good at ranging from Math to Running Real Fast.
Just before the characters enter the Mad City they take one item with them that grants them special powers, including; a security blanket that creates a shield, Nintendo DS that summoned Pokemon and Crayola to make art come alive.
DRYH is a perfect game for improvisation as a GM, each kid has a questionnaire where they describe why they can’t sleep, what has just happened to them, what other kids think of them, what their home situation is like, why they deserve to be punished and what they wish upon a star for. These questions give me the inspiration to get the characters into the Mad City to begin with and gives me an opportunity ahead of time to come up with ways to fulfill them during the course of the one shot.
Though the game is primarily driven through inspiration and the actions of the children , Though I admit doing a little prep in regards to brainstorming the setting. In the end the kids ended up at a Mad City amusement park.
During character creation the players and I also chose an individual features (his eyes, his mouth, his voice, his hands, his clothes and his feet) of the Bad Man. These features were not only used as descriptions of the Bad Man but they also permeated into the amusement park as well. Incorporating his large green smile into the entry gates to the park, his high pitch voice whistling carnival tunes, his cloven hooves were reflected in the park’s mascot and such.
The amusement park theme also helped with laying out the world and places for the heroes to follow clues. There was a whole alley where games of skill and arcade machines were located, places where the kids could ‘win’ some of their dreams.
The recurring minion of the amusement park was the ‘You must be this tall to ride’ placard, featuring the park mascot which ended up being a mule with hoofed feet. The animated wooden placard mules’ shtick was ensuring that everyone riding the rides were tall enough, exactly. Being too tall resulted in the mascot using a large mallet or hedge clippers to shorten the kid, if the kid was too short the mascot would use two old fashioned ice hooks to stretch the child.
After playing some games of skills and winning themselves some of their wishes they proceeded to try to find themselves a responsible adult but not before they hijacked a dodge-em car for transport. They eventually passed a fortune tellers tent who managed to spell their doom if they didn’t defeat the Bad Man and retrieve any kidnapped siblings. “How do we defeat the Bad man?” one kid asked, the fortune teller flipped a tarot card showing a heart with swords in it. This took the kids through the Tunnel of Love on swan boats to battle flying white blood cells and discovering the Bad Mans one true weakness….
I had three places in mind that the kids would go to before taking on the big bad and it all depended on the theme that permeated from the characters decisions. The Love Tunnel was a result of themes of friendship constantly arising at the ‘heart’ of the tunnel of love is the secret that Power of Love will defeat the Bad Man. The Mirror House was to give the impressions that the Bad Man is composed of aspects of their psyche where they encounter simulacrums of themselves but with the features of the Bad Man. The Haunted Mansion was going to be a place where the Bad Man kept his trophies of past spirits of devoured children (a cheap way to press the severity of not taking care of the Bad Man).
Flying on a tamed swan boat and a rocket powered dodge-em car the gang crashed the Bad Man’s party. Using their new friendship, their happy memories and love for family as ammunition against him whittling him down until the Nightmare was nothing but a bad memory.