Simple DRYH GM Trick: Modifiers
One of the interesting things about Don’t Rest Your Head is the GM dynamic. 90% of the GM’s decisions points & influence are narrative, as there’s only one mechanic to immediately press: how much Pain dice is rolled in a moment.
Normally, that’s determined by the sort of threat you have in play (or, if you’re like me, you decide how much you want to throw this beat, and adjust the moment accordingly by adding or attracting to the scene). But let’s talk modifiers!
Because DRYH is narrative in focus, and because mechanics make tactile elements of the world, you might want to show how other things are influencing the moment. When you do so, link the mechanical effect & narrative trigger together in your description.
I came up with this a few years back entirely on accident. When I first ran The Bad Man, one of the kids ran off and bumped into a Nightmare. I said, when the conflict went to dice, “So, that’s six Pain for this guy. Hey, you’re alone right? Awesome. It’s scary to be alone. That’s two more Pain.” The look of horror on the player’s face was pretty fucking sweet. So I kept this in my bag o’ GM tricks.
The trigger could be anything. “Wait, you guys are standing on cobblestones? Yeah, that’s a couple more Pain.” or “There’s a raven watching you from the rooftops. So this is three Pain less.” When you do this, you create two things: a sense that the world is bigger and stranger than the immediate conflict, and that there’s mystery all around. What’s up with the cobblestones? When do ravens make things easier? Can I trust that?
Be as consistent as makes sense, and keep in mind that cause & effect aren’t always direct or constant. After all, this is the Mad City…
 A future post