As a DM, I often draw inspiration for my D&D games from the most unexpected places. This weekend I saw the movie The Hangover and afterwards I realized that the way the story is structured would work beautifully as a D&D game. For those readers who haven’t seen the movie, I won’t present anything in this article that will ruin it for you. The high points that I’m going to cover are all revealed in the trailer.
The basic premise for the movie is this: four guys go to Vegas for a bachelor party, wake up the next morning with no memory of what happened and then spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out what they did by piecing together clues they find along the way.
With a few small tweaks and adjustments this becomes a great D&D adventure. It can be a self-contained, one night game or the makings of a longer story arc. Here’s how I see it playing out.
The PCs awaken in a lavish room at the local inn. They all remember checking in the day before but have no memory of the events of the past 12-24 hours.
This is where it’s up to the DM to decide what actually happened. The characters in the movie are motivated not only to find out what they did the night before, but they have lost something valuable and they only have 24 hours to find it. Recovering a lost item is probably the easiest way to get the PCs motivated. The ticking clock adds additional excitement and danger. A countdown also provides parameters around which options the PCs are likely to choose. If they only have 24 hours then an extended rest is probably out of the question.
From the DMs point of view, it’s important to have the actual evens that happened the night before clearly defined. You never know what the PCs may choose to do, so it’s important to be ready for any eventuality. Each time they discover an “encounter” from the night before, reward them with a clue to an event that happened before that one or a clue as to where they might have gone next.
This kind of adventure works best with a close knit group who’s been playing the same characters for a long time. Since the DM has to determine what each PC did the night before without any input from the players, you want the actions to be reasonable for that PC. Saying that the “Mr. Law & Order, holier-than-thou Paladin” took part in an elaborate break in probably won’t go over well with the guy who’s played that PC from level 1. However, if there’s a good reason for this out-of-character behaviour then make sure that the PC realizes that something else was amiss. In the end the idea is to have fun and not screw over the PCs.
The DM should be encouraged not to lead the PCs around by the nose. Let them ask questions and struggle a bit. After all, their PCs don’t know what’s happened so the disorientation should seem genuine. But to be fair, make sure to leave them plenty of clues. In the movie the guys were stinking drunk and left plenty of clues along the way. Another way for the DM to keep the PCs on the right track is to introduce a lot of NPCs. Each significant NPC should be able to provide a clue to what happened. That’s not to say that every NPC needs to be helpful. Some of them might be looking to settle a score.
This kind of adventure allows for good role-playing opportunities and possibly even a fair amount of combat. The DM should be encouraged to use a lot of small skill challenges. Success means the PCs get another clue, failure means they get information they already had or nothing useful.
It may be a while before I get a chance to try this idea out with my group, so if you like this idea and use it please let us know how it goes. If you’ve already played a similar kind of adventure, then let us learn from your experience. What worked and what didn’t?