Greatest Hits 2009: The Hangover: The Movie That Begs to Be a D&D Adventure

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 22, 2009

While the Dungeon’s Master team enjoys some well-deserved vacation time, we’re breaking out the greatest hits and shining a spotlight on a few of our favourite articles from 2009. We’ve searched for hidden gems that our newer readers might have missed and our long-time readers will enjoy reading again. Enjoy a second look at these greatest hits from Dungeon’s Master.

With the movie The Hangover just out on DVD I thought it timely to run this as part of our 2009 Greatest Hits. I still haven’t had an opportunity to use this idea in my campaign but I’m always looking for the right time to spring this on my regular group. If you’ve tried this kind of adventure, please let us know how it worked out in the comments below.

We received some great feedback after we ran this the first time. One reader rightly pointed out that this kind of adventure works better with players who are more interested in role-playing than just killing everything. After all, if the PCs are more the hack and slash types then there wouldn’t be much of a mystery as to what they did the night before. They probably fought and killed everything in their path and need only follow the bodies and blood trail to solve the mystery.

It occurred to me afterwards that the Forgotten Realms novel, Azure Bonds by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb is structured in pretty much this exact way. The hero, Alias, awakens in a dark room without anything other than a strange glowing azure tattoo on her arm. But in her case she’s missing more than the last 24 hours; she’s got absolutely no memory of who she is or how she ended up in the room where she awakens. It’s an excellent read and if you can find the novel (which is unfortunately out of print) I highly recommend it.

If you’re watching The Hangover on DVD this holiday season, think about how you can adapt it into a D&D adventure. There’s plenty of great material in there to work with so multiple viewings may be required. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

From July 8, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: The Hangover: The Movie That Begs to Be a D&D Adventure.

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?

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