Mikel Matthews (right) paints a dark nightmare world in his SLOT 1 Don't Rest Your Head RPG where guilt and sin are made flesh...

Sweet fancy Moses, I’m tired this morning!  Fortunately, coffee and little chocolate donuts have swept in for the rescue! Yesterday was an unrelenting day of gaming goodness here in the greater Saint Louis area.  Games started at 11:30 AM and pounded on for twelve hours.

The con’s being held at Memorial Hall in Saint Charles, the same venue as last year.  The difference is that we’ve got more space in 2009.  At the first Fear the Con, we had just the upstairs portion of the hall.  Now we have the basement and the upstairs area.  It’s a ton of space.  And we’re using it!

I arrived on-site at eleven o’clock, immediately checking out the dealer’s corner.  I had hoped to pick up a couple of  Burning Wheel books.  I was 50% successful.  I snagged the Monster Burner.  No love on the Magic Burner.  The dealer guy said that their distributor was out-of-stock.

The dealer, Gamer Ground, fella has a corner set up in a room down the hall from the main gaming area.  His little-bitty area there is better than most gaming stores in DFW.  He had books in stock that I have never seen in print.  Sean Patrick Fannon’s Shaintar (which I have been drooling over), Slipstream (drool, drool), and the new Necessary Evil Explorer’s Edition among many others.  Oh, and everything is 15% off retail.  The folks in St. Louis really have it sweet with such fantastic support from their game stores.  Envious.  Much.

dryh-220My first game to play in Friday was Don’t Rest Your Head.  In DRYH, the player adopts the role of an insomniac, someone who hasn’t slept for weeks, months.  As such, reality warps a bit for them.

Game Master Mikel Matthews gave our group a crash course in the rules and then led us through character generation.  I was initially concerned about rolling characters for a con game, convinced it would take too much time from game play.  I am used to getting pre-generated characters.

It wasn’t a problem though.  Characters were put together in no time at all.

I played Nestor, an up and coming mid-level advertising executive.  He is well-liked in the organization.  It won’t be long before he’s CEO.  What’s been keeping him up at night?  The sky is falling, man.  The sky?  It’s falling!

Nestor’s had an overwhelming sense that this successful life he’s built will all come tumbling down.  What if everyone sees me for who I am?  What if they figure it out?

It doesn’t help that things always seem to be falling around him.

His co-worker and next-door-neighbor’s house collapsed in on itself just the other day.  Miguel was in there when it happened.  Crushed to death.  Nestor was pretty sure, mostly sure, that he didn’t have anything to do with it.

At the funeral the Preacher eulogized the departed Miguel when a nasty demon thing came booming into the chapel.  Things got freaky from there.  The Preacher bore an extreme form of stigmata in which his blood could be projected from his hands.  In a spew of fire-hose-force blood, the Preacher stopped the demon burning it in its tracks.

My character, Nestor, threw prayer book at it.

The demon – a vengeance demon we would later find – was dispatched and congregants fleeing the chapel, six of us stayed behind.  Long story short, a door appeared beneath the fallen demon which led to the Wax Kingdom in which we killed a couple of the Wax King’s servants who intended us harm.  Note: Wax Kings don’t care for that.

We found ourselves on a search for the Wax King’s nemesis, Trapdoor, a big-assed-spider-guy who bosses around a bunch of other spiders (of various sizes).  These spiders drug manufacturers using small children as the key ingredient.

I selected “freaky good shot” as my EXHAUSTION ABILITY, which is the normal person ability my character can do really well.  Mid-game, I realized I chose poorly.  I should have gone with something like “smooth talker.”  My guy spent a lot of time negotiating.

At one point while we were seeking Trapdoor, Nestor approached a drug dealer.  “Hey,” Nestor said, crossing the street to the dealer, “I need a hook-up!  I got buddies up town.  We need quantity.  Who do I talk to about that?”

There was some back and forth and the dealer eventually responded, “Sure.  I can help you out.  It’ll cost you.”

Reaching for his wallet, Nestor asked, “How much?”

“A kiss.”

“Okaaay…” Nestor shifted, uncomfortable with where this was going.  “Tongue?  No tongue?”

“Not from you.”

I turned and looked at the player to my left, Chris.  Chuckling, “Sorry about this dude.”

p-640-480-80c97ce7-560c-4b12-a861-e5628eab934b.jpegOur GM Mikel glanced down at my wedding ring, “…A kiss from your wife.”

Nestor slowly shook his head, “No… no deal.”

Nestor was not about to unleash this hellish nightmare on his wife.

“Counter offer, though…” Nestor stepped forth and drove his thumb into the guy’s eye.  “You had two eyes.  Now you have one!  Wanna go for none?”

We got the information we needed.

As things progressed, my character gained some control over his ability to bring the sky down.  And I dropped lots of stuff.  With the help of another player who had the ability to make things lighter than air, I dropped the spider-horde meteor style on Trapdoor resulting in a gigormous explosion of bug guts.

Nestor was told by a fellow player, “You are too aggressive.”

A brief note on mechanics: We were mid-way through the game before I really understood how the dice worked.  And there are a lot of dice in this game.  At one point, I was throwing eleven dice for one attack.  My hands aren’t big enough to hold all those dice.  DRYH would benefit from backgammon-style dice shakers.

The dice mechanics are pretty easy.  Utilizing six-sided dice, a roll of 1,2, or 3 is a success.  And then various other dice indicate dominance (e.g. discipline, madness, exhaustion).  I won’t go into detail on that, but we were two hours in before I figured how all that worked together.  Pretty cool system.

In the final scene of the game, we returned to the Chapel exiting the doors to the surreal outer world beyond.  We walked the church grave yard… while Chris’s character met the girlfriend he’d knocked around for messing around on him, I peered into Miguel’s grave.  The realization came over me that I was indeed responsible for Miguel’s death.  I was jealous of my friend’s success.

And the sky fell on him.

From the depths of the grave, Miguel clawed his way up to me.

“Miguel, you are dead!” Nestor cried, “And you need to stay the fuck dead!!”

The sky is falling!

I threw every die I could at the roll.

And brought the entire sky down on all of us.  The ground collapsing beneath us, the characters scrambled for purchase.  The Preacher worked some miracle juice, bringing angels down for rescue…

We next found ourselves back in the church, back in what we knew as reality.  The Preacher looked pretty rough, and as Nestor helped him to his feet said: “Don’t take offense, Preacher, but I’ll be looking for a new church home.”

Don’t Rest Your Head was a blast.  I will be playing this again, sharing with the boys at home.