The Invisible Sun kickstarter that is going on now has inspired a discussion on Google+ about what other surreal role-playing games are out there, and the first thing that came to my mind was Don’t Rest Your Head by Evil Hat Productions, and while I remembered it being a surreal horror game, the details of the game and setting had slipped my mind. So I decided to go ahead and re-read the game and since it is a tiny book just tipping the scales at less than 80 pages, I knew it wouldn’t take long.
The first thing that I noticed on my re-read is how well laid out it is and just how easy it is to read. This book is set up so that it would be easy to start and finish it in the same day. It reads fast and has nice atmospheric art. The text clear with a nice amount of contrast un-like some of the physical books that I have read recently.
The next thing that I noticed is how packed the book is with examples. For such a small book, you would think it would not have an extensive set of examples, but everything that I had questions about or wasn’t sure how it was intended to be used, there was a nice clear example right after the concept was introduced (This seems to be a pattern in all of the Evil Hat products).
Another thing that I see especially on this read thru is how easily this system could be applied to other games. The simplicity of the system, three dice pools (discipline, exhaustion, madness) could be applied to other settings with just changing what the dice pools are called. An example that might fit for a Call of Cthulhu like setting might be Investigation, Realization, and Madness, and a Vampire style example might have pools called Experience, Monster, and Blood. This is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many other ways that this game could be changed to handle different settings.
The last thing that I want to mention is the five questions that are the main part of character creation. These questions get to the root of the character. What does the character want, what do they appear to be, what are they really, what brought you into the world, and what just happened to you. These questions a designed to give you a lot of freedom to design your character and a lot of hooks for the game master to tie the character to the setting and to drive the story.
So what did I get out of this re-read? That I need to come up with a list of questions possibly three to five for future games that I run that are tied to the setting. Open ended like the above to get the players to think about their characters and to give me insight into how they want to be tied into the overall story of the game that I am about to run.
As an follow-up there was a project at one point to do some variations of the basic rules in this game for different settings. The last I heard it was dropped from the production schedule.