Double Extraction–Inception via Don’t Rest Your Head

On Wednesday nights right now we’re running a short campaign play-testing the rules for Noblesse Oblige, the lordship supplement for Chronica Feudalis. However, last night we were one lord short and a little crunched for time so we quickly threw together a one-shot of something else.

You should know that I have always been very fond of the Don’t Rest Your Head rules system ever since Dan Bayn (you know, of Wushu fame) ran it for us last year. You should also know that I’ve had a huge itch to play some role-playing implementation of Inception since I saw it a couple of months ago. I figured these two thing would go together like bread and butter. You should know that they do.

They go so well together that Fred Hicks made his own Inception game based on a hack of his DRYH rules and ran it on Skype not long ago. Dan actually participated in that game. He could have probably regurgitated Fred’s rules for us, but we decided on a more straight-forward re-skinning of the DRYH dice pools.

So I wanted to share what we came up with. Before you read any further, you might want to make sure that you’re familiar with DRYH as well as the film Inception. Spoilers and all that.

The Hack

So, just like in DRYH, everyone has a pool of three Discipline (white) dice. This represents your character’s base competency.

We started both players (Dan and myself) off with a pool of two Lucidity (black) dice. These mechanically work like Exhaustion in DRYH. Though flavor-wise Lucidity is more akin to Madness; your Lucidity Talent is your ability to manipulate the dream in unreal ways. My character (we never came up with names, lets call him Jay) had the Lucidity Talent of “Architecture” and Dan’s character (who we shall refer to as Dee) had the Talent of “Forgery.” The idea is–and this concept comes directly from the movie–the more you manipulate the dream world, the more the dreamer becomes aware of you and the more hostile the projections come. If you ever gain six Lucidity dice, the projections kill you and knock you up a level.

The other dice we had access to were Baggage (red) dice. These represented aspects of our character’s own subconscious seeping into the dream world. Mechanically these dice worked like Madness dice while they represented something more like Exhaustion in the fiction. Your Baggage Talent is something you could be good at in the real world, but you’re amazing at it in the dream world. Things like shooting guns, picking-locks, and seducing women. Jay’s Baggage Talent was “Martial Arts” and Dee’s was “Running Away.” As your Baggage dice start eating away your Discipline dice, more of your subconscious issues start manifesting in the dream world. Like Cobb’s wife in the film.

The last part of the hack are some things that this group has been doing for a while to allow DRYH to bring all its awesome in a short session of a couple hours. Get rid of Fight or Flight. Anytime Baggage dominates, it eats one of your Discipline dice right away. Get rid of Hope and Despair points. If Discipline dominates, you can get rid of a Lucidity die. If Pain dominates, the GM can make you take an extra Lucidity die. All this means you have about 10 dice rolls, give or take, before you gain six Lucidity or loose all your Discipline. It all works as a great pacing mechanic, at least for our group, to tell us when things need to start getting climactic.

Oh, and one more thing. We ruled that whenever you shift a level in the dream, you can get rid of a Lucidity die. So whenever the projections start getting too hostile, it’s time to go down a level or kick back up one and try something else.

The Session

So, Mark was GMing this for us. We didn’t want to spend a long time planning. Instead we were just going to kick of in media res and just interject things like “oh, that was part of the plan all along” whenever we felt like it.

Level One is the Guggenheim museum. Dee and Jay are in all black, like art thieves generally are, running down the ramps from some security guards. Dee is forged to be a stunningly attractive woman and has some small piece of art (we never really defined what the MacGuffin was) tucked under her arm. There’s this guy on a ramp below, Mike, who’s watching the whole thing. Is he the target? He believes, in the dream, that he’s part of this Ocean’s 11 style heist and he’s George Clooney. Something happens and Dee gets in trouble. Mike rescues her and Dee hands off the art object to Mike. Jay does crazy martial arts to kick down the guards in front of the elevator. We’re all trying to escape but Dee and Jay get into the elevator just before it closes, leaving Mike abandoned. The elevator line snaps and the car begins to fall.

This was all part of the plan. Jay hits the button on the device in Dee’s backpack and the two of them fall asleep.

Level Three is the Winchester Mystery House near San Jose. It’s a dinner party. Lots of well-to-do Californians with purse chihuahuas. Jay and Dee meander to the study where they find Emma, Mike’s wife, making out with the pool boy. Dee forges as Mike and storms in confronting her. It’s a whole setup to get Emma to open her safe and check the prenup agreement that’s in there. Meanwhile Jay architects himself up to the study’s balcony so he can ambush her once the safe is open and take the documents. The extraction. This works, but we’ve built up quite a bit of Lucidity dice at this point and the projections are becoming hostile. All those little purse dogs start barking. Jay gets the documents from Emma but she pulls out a derringer and shoots him. He goes up a level.

Level two is Munich Germany during Octoberfest. Huge beer tents and drunk people, already pretty hostile, in lederhosen. Because we’re in a falling elevator in level one, gravity is pretty light here in Munich. Jay leads the hostiles away from Dee’s unconscious body to give Dee more time to finish the plan in level three.

Dee improvises a plan to forge as a messenger with forged documents. He convinces Emma that he has a special delivery with the read documents and she should give him the ones she took out of the safe. The crazy plan actually works but not before South African death squads start jumping in through the windows. Dee’s subconscious is starting to mess up the level.

Jay’s subconscious is starting to fuck things up as well. Suddenly his father–a giant, looming version of his father–is there with the Germans trying to stomp him into the ground. Jay runs/floats into one tent which his father summarily flattens with his fists. But then we see Jay coming out of another tent behind his father. A bit of an architecture shell game.

Dee comes back to level two just in time to see Jay facing off amongst the scattered tents and tables against his father. As dad stomps towards Jay, Jay pulls out a revolver and shoots himself in the head. Dee suicides as well.

Back to level one. Jay and Dee both wake up just before the elevator smashes into the ground floor. They pry open the doors to see Mike and a bunch of security guards coming for them. There’s been so much Lucidity that Mike is now very suspicious of Jay and Mike. He orders the guards to arrest them.

Dee, in stunning babe form again, takes off running luring Mike after her. Jay stays deal with the guards, getting his martial arts all over them. Dee runs into a guard. As they fall, she grabs his gun and shoots him. Then Dee forges as Emma and forges the guard as the stunning art thief. Mike just now comes around the corner. He thinks that’s his wife who just killed the thief. Dee, as Emma, uses the information extracted from the real Emma to blackmail Mike into giving up the stolen art object, the metaphor of a second extraction.

Jay has fought off all the guards but one. This guy has a tazer and Jay already has a bullet wound from an earlier scuffle with the guards. Jay breaks the guy’s arm but he swaps the tazer into the other hand and jabs it right into Jay’s open wound. The electricity flows into Jay’s heart and kills him.

Jay wakes up in the real world, and kicks Dee awake. The double extraction was a success.

  1. Thanks for tackling this, Jeremy. We packed a lot of convoluted action into a few hours. I think we were all very happy with how the mechanics shook out. DRYH is versatile in extremis.

    It may be worth mentioning that we all agreed to pursue a more “dreamlike” tone than the film, Tim Burton presents Inception. Hence, all the giants and death squads and homicidal purse dogs.

  2. Any chance we can get the regurgitation (just for curiosities sake)?

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