The Hangover: The Movie That Begs to Be a D&D Adventure

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 8, 2009

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?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Groumy July 8, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Hi, interesting idea you have here.

By the way, how you describe that movie remember me of an old movie that could be use also as an inspiration : Dude where is my car !

And may be easier to take as an inspiration with all the funny impossible things that happens.

2 Shades July 9, 2009 at 12:02 pm

This could be a really cool idea for a game.

I’m already thinking of possible different ways I could implement this in my Eberron game.

The one thing I would note is that you need a real group of role players for this game. It won’t work with a bunch of hack n’ slashers.

3 Ameron July 9, 2009 at 12:22 pm

@Groumy
“Dude, Where’s My car?” certainly falls into this type of story-telling. If your objective it to go for wild and outrageous then this would indeed be a great source of inspiration. However, “The Hangover” is a better reference if you’re looking to keep things grounded. Thanks for the comment.

@Shades
You’re absolutely right. Hack n’ slashers would hate this kind of adventure. Or more to the point they’d be less like to find themselves in this situation since they would have killed everything the night before. Let me know how this works out as I may “borrow” some of your ideas.

4 Shades July 9, 2009 at 2:27 pm

@Ameron

Will do. Right now we’re in the low levels of my game. They’re sailors (mostly command crew) on a privateer flying Cyran colors in the middle of the Last War. I’m basically hearding them around with a pregenned Captain and crew before I give them an air ship. I may have them ferry a diplomat to Sharn, and then use it there.

Sharn seems like an ideal setting for something like this.

5 Ian Argent July 20, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Shadowrun did this over a decade ago with the characters waking up from a laes-induced coma. After racking my memory thoroughly, and checking my library – the adventure is from the Super Tuesday scenario pack, “Strange Attractors”. I thought there was a dragon involved, but that seems to have been an addition of mine when I ran it for my group. (I had originally thought it was part of the Harlequin scenario pack, but I was wrong).

It helped in this case that the default assumption of the world is that all the PCs would have participated in a heist; which makes it easy to explain why the heistees are after the party with blood in eye.

A way to get the more respectable party members on-board is not “what did we lose?” but “who did we rescue?” The party wakes up in a James-bond-villain deathtrap (or an oubliette without their gear), and events proceed from there. They almost succeeded at thwarting the villain’s plans (he rants about them letting “her” go), but somehow manages to miss telling them who “her” is. They escape, of course; but all the villain’s plan needs to achieve completion is “her” – and the villain’s minions know who “she” is, but the heroes don’t. Plot twists where the “villain” is actually a good guy and the heores dupes of “her” should present themselves to you as well. If not, go see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Wandering a little further afield – it’s not what the PCs suddenly discovered – it’s what the opposition did. The party rogue is Will Turner from PotC, or something along those lines; he has NO IDEA why the pirates are after him, but they are…

6 Wimwick July 21, 2009 at 8:50 am

@ Ian Argent
The idea of having PCs wake up with no memory of recent events is nothing new in either RPGs or other media. I like your spin on the idea of not “what did we lose?” but “who did we rescue?” The idea of having the PCs wake up with no memory of the past 24 hours, with a stranger who also has no memory of the past 24 hours has a lot of appeal. Some great idea’s thanks for sharing them.

7 Ian Argent July 21, 2009 at 7:40 pm

No problem. If I don’t let my gaming ideas out to romp, they drill their way out and rampage across the globe…

Another twist – they know what they did (second-hand); and need to find out WHY they did it before law and society condemn them to death and dishonor.

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