Don't Rest Your Hooves
One thought was all it took, that day. The day you looked down at your pristine hooves, at the colorful-but-glassy eyes and hollow grins of the Ponies around you. The day you asked the question that started all of this. Maybe it was "why am I here?" or "how does this all work?" or even "What am I doing this for?" but what it did was open your eyes. It made you realize something terrible, something awful.
In this paradise, where all needs are taken care of, where everything is beautiful and just, and everything is just so saccharine... in this paradise, you simply aren't happy to just go along with things anymore.
That's when you started to notice things. The way all the other Ponies just drifted without a paying attention to the world, trotting like zombies. The way things always seem to work out for the better and go back to they way they were as if the problem never happened in the first place. The world operates on a disconnect with reality that you can't help but find ultimately disconcerting. Stuff seems to happen not because it should or because it makes sense but because it ought to, and you seem to be the only Pony that finds this troubling.
Voicing these worries to your fellow Ponies got you nothing but confusion and concern... and the vague feeling that maybe you'd be better off forgetting about these little delusions of yours and rejoining the herd.
This is the game of Don't Rest Your Head, a popular indie RPG about insomnia and madness, taking place in the setting of "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic," a popular cartoon of 2011 using the My Little Pony franchise on the Hub cartoon channel. It was written by a dude on the Penny-Arcade forums who goes by the name 'Marshmellow'.
Familiarity with the DRYH rules and the MLP:FiM setting are not required, but will be helpful. The "Friendship Is Magic" cartoon is surprisingly watchable for children's television and episodes can be found on YouTube under the name "Pensive Pine." Some DRYH rules are included below with a description of character creation.
Every player has a Pony Character (PC) that they are portraying in the game. One player is the exception; they will be playing the role of the narrator of this story, with the plot of the story, and playing the role of all the yet 'Nother Pony in the Crowds (NPCs). In the tradition of other role-playing games, this player has the title Stablemaster. Just because the Stablemaster knows the plot of the story doesn't mean she has total control; the PCs are special because they don't quite belong anymore, and thus they can act on their own or even change the story.
Since this is a mostly narrative game, the character sheet is descriptive instead of the list of measurements you usually see in role-playing games. Your "stats" will be the short written answers to the interview questions below. Each question is followed by some hints on how to answer.
- My Name Is...
Your Pony needs a name. Remember that your character is a magical pony from a child's cartoon, so stay away from names like John Doe or Lord Cthonicus. Stick to names like "Pinkie Pie," "Rarity," and "Applejack."
- And I Am...
Describe your Pony's physical apperance and abilities, going into as much or as little detail as you like. Remember that almost all Ponies have a "Cutie Mark," a brand on their haunches that is iconic to their personality. At the least, you should state whether this Pony is a regular Pony, a Pegasus (with wings and flight), or a Unicorn (with small sorcery tricks related to their Cutie Mark).
- Why Am I Not Happy?
What is it that's giving you trouble? Why can't you fit in anymore? What is it that makes you a PC and not an NPC -- an actor instead of part of the crowd?
- How Did I Realize This?
What was the event that set off your sudden self-realization? What was the think that forced you to discover something was "off" about the world and Ponies around you?
- What's On The Surface?
How do you present yourself to the world? What's the mask that you show to keep the illusion of normalcy, to keep you from the scrutiny of the herd?
- What Lies Beneath?
What are you really like? What's the face you have that only your trusted friends may see (if you have friends that you trust that far)? What makes your secret heart-of-hearts beat, what are you like when you're by yourself and don't need to pretend?
- My Dream Is To...
Where would you rather be? Who would you rather be? What do you expect to accomplish that will make everything better again? What do you believe will soothe your troubled psyche and give you the peace that you crave?
- When You Get Upset...
This is the only part of the character sheet with numbers. Sometimes a Pony will get frustrated and upset, and they will react hot or cold. Next to the words "aggressive" and "passive", put down a total of three marks between them; these are your Responses, which will be explained fully later. If your Pony will always be dash at the target, put all three in "aggressive." If your Pony is more likely to shy at the fence, but not always, put two marks beside "passive" and one next to "aggressive." Leave some space here as you'll be making and erasing marks, but the first three are permanent and most important.
There are two more items that define your Pony Character: their Spark of virtue, and their Cutie Mark / Power. Before you decide on them, we should explain how they play a part in resolving conflicts.
You will need many six-sided dice, in sets of four different colours. What colours you use isn't important (I like pink!), but dice of the same colour should be kept together. There should also be a sets of tokens in two different styles: one nice (Skittles!) and one not-so-nice (sour gummies? saltwater licorice?)
Everypony starts with a pool of 3 dice in Friendship (nice bright dice, like white). This represents your normal innate abilities, and your capacity to compromise and resolve problems in mundane ways.
The Stablemaster will also have a pool of dice, called Discord Dice (dark dice, like red or black). These represent the effort required to overcome adversity, or the resolve of whoever is opposing you. Sometimes this may be more than three dice, but the Stablemaster will not roll all of them every time.
Whenever you are resolving a conflict, you would roll your Friendship dice along with other dice you would use (described below), and count how many dice show values 1-3 -- these are called "successes". The Stablemaster would do the same with Discord dice. If your dice show more successes than your opponent, the conflict resolves in your favour. If the Stablemaster's dice show more successes, then things certainly do not go your way.
To see how things get resolved, look at the dice again. Find the highest die; in case of ties, discard the highest die of each colour and repeat. Whichever pool of dice has the highest number is the tone of the resolution. If the conflict resolves with a tone of Friendship, then things work out well even if not everyone gets what they want. If the conflict resolves with a tone of Discord, then someone is upset. The Stablemaster gets a Chaos Candy, putting a not-so-nice token on the table for her to use. She can use as many Chaos Candy as she wants during a conflict to discard any die showing a '6'. Each Chaos Candy she spends turns into an Harmony Candy, giving one of the nice tokens to the Pony players. Each Harmony Candy can be spent in a conflict to add a '1' to a Pony's Friendship pool of dice. Harmony Candy don't turn into anything else, but you may wish to refrain from eating them after you spend them, don't want to run out later.
Sometimes, the problems that Ponies have to face will have more Discord than what Friendship alone can overcome. There are two more abilities that Ponies can use: their Spark, and the Power of their Cutie Mark. These use differently coloured dice, rolled with your Friendship dice, and they have their own effects when they set the tone of a resolution.
A Pony's Spark is a jewel of virtue in their their personality. This Spark is always something selfless, something to offer to those around you. Some examples are: a capacity for great Kindness, unwavering Loyalty, or a humbling Honesty. Anytime you roll your dice in a conflict, you may also add a Spark die to increase your chances of success. When you do this, you will always roll that many Spark dice from then on; it's as if you start the game rolling zero Spark dice. A Pony's Spark is so powerful in can insure success: if you roll less successes than Spark dice, just count how many Spark you used instead (i.e. you rolled 2,5,5 with Friendship and 4,4 with Spark for one success, but you have two Spark dice so you can just say you have two successes.) It's tempting and powerful to play out your role in a simple fable, and it gets easier the more you do it, but be careful: if you ever get up to rolling six Spark dice, you've lost your independence, and you've become just a 'Nother Pony in the Crowd (NPC). Furthermore, if your Spark dice is what sets the tone of the resolution, then someone in the conflict has learned a valuable lesson related to your Spark, and you add ANOTHER Spark die to what you already have. The only way to resist the temptation to use your Spark is from the help of your friends. If the tone of the resolution is Friendship, you can drop a Spark die.
A Pony's Power of their Cutie Mark is your magical ability to change the world right away to be a better place. It's a powerful gift, but it's hard not to feel a bit superior when you can take short-cuts like this. When you use the Power of your Cutie Mark, you can add up to 6 Power dice to any die roll. Unlike Spark, you can use all six at any time, and you aren't forced to use your Cutie Mark every time. There is a catch. If the tone of the resolution is your Power, then you've gotten quite upset about something in the conflict, and you must check off one of your responses and the PC will behave accordingly for the rest of the scene. If an "aggressive" reaction is checked off, then she will be hostile, brazen, or reckless. If a "passive" reaction is checked off, then she will retreat, be sullen, bitter, or sneaky. If you don't have any "passive" reactions left, you will have to use an "aggressive" one, and vice-versa. If there are any Harmony Candies available, any Pony can spend it to help another Pony to regain one of their crossed-off Reactions, and remind their friend they don't have to be alone.
There is a danger to relying on your Power more often than your friends: after you've crossed off your last reaction, your frequent use of power has made you feel aloof and separate from others, and one of your Friendship dice is replaced with one of your six Power dice permanently. You regain your composure, so your three Reactions are regained, but you are also a little more distant and cool. If a Pony loses all three Friendship dice this way, she's stopped caring about anyone but herself, and becomes not just yet 'Nother Pony in the Crowd, but also a villain of the story using as many Discord dice as the Power dice (including the two permanent ones) she used in the last conflict that pushed her too far.
- My Name Is... Sugar Bottom
- And I Am... a unicorn with a white pelt and sky-blue mane.
- Why Aren't You Happy? I'm too manipulative, using and upsetting the people around me.
- How Did You Realize This? One day I pretended to be sick so my friends would put aside what they were supposed to do and take care of me.
- What's On The Surface? A layer of glitter and perfection; beauty, grace, and impeccable conversation skills.
- What Lies Beneath? Control issues, fear of what I can do, and being found out.
- Your Dream Is To... stop feeling bad about my behaviour, by fixing that behaviour... or my feelings about them.
- When You Get Upset... Aggressive [_] Passive [_] [_]
- Spark Leadership [_] [_] [_] [_] [_] [_]
- Cutie Mark (Power) Two sugar lumps no pony can resist! (Mind Control)
- Friendship [x] [x] [x]
Existential horror and magical ponies? The possibilities are endless. (but please tell us!)
- Every year on the first day of Spring, the young yearlings who proved they are responsible will get their cutie marks in a coming-of-age ceremony. The Pony Characters are unable to attend this year's ceremony, stuck with chores or perhaps just sulking because of their recently discovered "otherness." Going about their business, they find a young filly hiding in a treestable, spooked and reluctant to talk. You recognize her as the yearling-of-honor this year, surely she would've been proud to take her place as first among yearlings? There are other Ponies that are looking for this young filly, but why would she be hiding from them? When you were a yearling, and it was your turn to get your cutie mark, you remember.... well, I mean EVERYONE was there, even Princess Celestia, you're pretty sure... and you have your cutie mark, so... oh come ON, how could you forget something like that? And why is any 'Nother Pony in the Crowd vague about their ceremony when you ask them?
- Oh no, Nightmare Moon has returned! But... what is she doing in the court of Canterlot? And she's not picking fights with anyone, she's dutifully at Princess Celestia's side, and everyone calls her Princess Luna, so I guess it's okay? When you ask, any 'Nother Pony in the Crowd will remind you that Princess Luna learned her valuable lesson about Friendship, and the elements of Harmony restored her to her honest life and the love of her family. But she looks like Nightmare Moon again, and none of the 'Nother Ponies in the Crowd seem to notice. And you're pretty sure she caught you staring at her.
- The Story of the Blanks takes seven minutes to play, and could give you ideas.
- Some minor crisis occurs - valuable (but less so than Friendship!) items are destroyed, a significant (but less so than Friendship!) ceremony is interrupted, or confusing (but less so than Friendship!) interactions are detangled after everyone involved is thoroughly annoyed. Lessons are learned, speeches are made, and life moves on. The next day, the exact same thing happens. Not just a similar thing - that's normal in Equestria, you were already coming to that realization. It's actually the exact same thing, with every 'Nother Pony In The Crowd doing the same things and saying the exact same words. When you go off-script, they get back to the original as fast as they can. And the next day, it happens again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again...
- Suddenly, there are dragons. Big ones sleeping on mountaintops and riverbeds, small ones living in Ponies' homes (and somehow delivering letters through firey vomit. Eeeewwwwwwwww.), and a handful in between. Unlike all other life in Equestria outside the Everfree Forest, these Dragons speak, and take care of themselves without Pony intervention. Everyone else acts as if this is completely normal. (Alternately, such Dragons were there before, and just as suddenly vanish.)
- The Zebras wage all-out war. Hordes of them descend upon the frontier communities, killing and pillaging. While the 'Nother Ponies in the Crowd do hide from them (Zebras creep them out), they clearly do not realize what's at stake - when their friends die, they continue to talk to the corpses, clearly seeing this as just another wacky misunderstanding with a lesson to be learned (or, alternately, denying that the dead Ponies ever existed). Will you protect the other Ponies from a threat they clearly cannot comprehend, or seek freedom among the Zebras, who at least capable of recognizing the wrong-ness in Equestria, and that you are different? And how will you react if the dead Ponies really do get back, with lessons learned and laughs all around?
- HAS NOBODY NOTICED THAT THE MOON DISAPPEARED AFTER NIGHTMARE MOON WAS BOUND BACK INTO PRINCESS LUNA? NOBODY?!
- The Elements of Harmony are being used once more! Their chosen wielders have banished a great evil from the world. And, now, they are politely asking you what's wrong. But something about those glowing eyes tells you the normal brush-offs won't work on them the same way it does on most.