Don’t Rest Your Head is an indie tabletop RPG where players take on the role of insomniacs, sleepless men and women who for whatever reason can no longer fall asleep. One night, at a pivotal point in their life, be it mundane or supernatural, they find themselves in a strange city, full of the anachronisms of times collapsed upon each other in a dizzying amalgamation. This is the Mad City, and they have become the Awake, a place where sadness and memories can be purchased, and order is kept by a man with a pocket-watch for his head. The Awake have discovered special powers, talents that tax their sanity and their sleepless bodies; however, they will be stalked and tormented by the vicious nightmares that populate the city, eagerly hunting them down. Every action will bring the Awake one step closer to perilous sleep, or to falling into madness and becoming nightmares themselves.
The game has essentially one goal, in the words of Nancy Thompson, “Don’t. Fall. Asleep.”
Don’t Rest Your Head remains fairly character-driven as the nightmares and the situations the characters find themselves in will be determined by the personal stories and the paths the players set out for their characters. Their special abilities usually come from their own inner struggles and real-world talents. Plot is usually determined based off of the player’s chosen path for their character, example what the character is hoping to achieve in their life, or in the Mad City.
Because of the character-driven nature of the game, as opposed to setting up a natural plot, I merely introduced a new adversary into the mix and built upon the world based off the events of the previous campaign I’d run. In the last game, a young girl Marceline and a runaway gay youth named Ryan were tasked by the Wax King to destroy the factory of flamethrowers run by Officer Tock and Mr. Tack that were being used against is candlewick army. They succeeded, and in exchange he was able to send them home to the slumbering city.
Now, the Wax King has taken over the Mad City, ousting Officer Tock and Mr. Tack from their positions of power and replacing all members of authority with his loyal candlewicks. He has also blotted out the sun with his special machines, for the candle army thrives best in the dark where only they can see. Yet something has stirred since his people have abandoned the sewers, and without the coming of the dawn there is nothing left now to hold it back from spreading its terrible filth across the land.
I didn’t want there to be too much emphasis on the plot and setting as I wanted to leave the direction of the story primarily in the player’s hands; however, I needed very much to create for them a terrible adversary. It needed something to be enigmatic and terrible for them to overcome or succumb to depending upon their chosen stories.
Without further ado, I give you the player-characters I’m going to torment.
Oliver Lennox Jr. played by Bastian, my boyfriend
The son of an experimental genre author most well known for a surreal novel that has achieved moderate cult status. His son however has spent all of his father’s money and now in his 40′s, has taken work guarding a junkyard. Voices in his head calling to his darkest desires and cruelest intentions keep him awake at night. He has a talent for obfuscation, lying to others about who he is, deceiving them into thinking he’s a much more interesting person than what they think. In the Mad City, he dips into the pools of insanity to bring the surreal visions of his father’s book to life in terrible ways. Oliver will either try to suppress his dark urges, or give into them and embrace his newfound power.
Marceline “Mara” Myers played by Owl
Years ago as a child, she found herself wandering around the Mad City, tormented by Mother When, the nightmarish school marm, and her vicious Ladies in Hating relying on her only friend to protect her, a dog named Casey. Marceline survived the encounter and returned to her mother safe and sound. Unfortunately, this happiness was not too last as crime gradually overtook her neighborhood and the gangs grew more violent and more powerful. Casey was the first casualty, and then they came after her mother. Marceline has now joined the rival gang of those responsible for the death of her loved ones and now calls herself Mara. Their war is coming to a bloody conclusion and she’s been losing sleep over it. Normally, Mara has a talent for manipulating others into doing what she wants them to do. Now that she’s awake, she can summon any weapon she needs out of thin air to blast away her enemies. Her one goal is revenge, to take out the gang who killed her mother.
These characters are smart and resourceful and seemingly well empowered to deal with whatever the Mad City has to throw their way. Perhaps if things were simply as they had been when Ryan and Marceline had first chanced upon it some years ago, it would be enough to survive, but now that the Growth has awakened and the disease has begun to spread these new nightmares, death may be preferable to the horror that is to come.
Oliver, Mara, welcome to the Mad City.
Don’t. Fall. Asleep.
More to come later…