You know how it is, you're sitting there going through your hard drive and you come across some notes you wrote for the players in a campaign you were running, and then you think, "Hey, maybe these notes would help other people who play this game!" Crazy idea, right? Anyway, here's a little guide I wrote for making Madness Talents in DRYH, with a little revision and expansion; I've put this under 'Make Stuff' because you could use the examples given fresh off the page.
Powers: Function, Form and Features
Don’t Rest Your Head has some offbeat ideas of what a 'superpower' should look like: these aren’t the simple powers like ‘superstrength’ or ‘invisibility’ that you might think of at first. To give you some idea of what you can do, and to help you come up with really effective Madness Talents, here’s my preferred method of creating them.
Function: start with a simple superpower that you want to emulate to some degree; pick a power you want your character to have, such as ‘flight’ or ‘x-ray vision.’ It could be something that fits the character's identity, such as invisibility for a spy, or it could run counter to it, such as a priest who can summon demonic flames. It could even be something completely tangential to their identity, like a telepathic bus driver, or just a surreal power with no reason behind it at all, like being able to create & control butter golems, though that is tipping into the next stage of the process, 'Form.'
Form: now decide what that power looks like: how does your character do that thing? Be creative and think outside the box: a power doesn’t even have to be physically tied to your character, it can be accessed through some supernatural or metaphysical contact with another person or people, or by visiting a location that only you can access. Even if it is a part of you, how does it manifest? A physical feature, a tattoo that comes to life, a new form you metamorph into when you activate the talent?
Try to free associate a path from the function to the form, e.g. if the superpower is teleportation, that makes me think of Star Trek, so maybe the form is literally an episode of Star Trek my PC can step in and out of? On the other hand, when I think about teleportation, I can think about the glowy, swirly effect and seeing bones through translucent skin; I like that mental image, of the different aspects of the physical form being treated as layers of skin, muscle, nerve and bone... maybe my PC can divide into those layers, separating them out from their main body to perform the tasks they are best suited for? That's drifted a long way from the teleportation concept, but it's resulted in a much cooler idea!
Features: look hard at the form you’ve chosen and consider all the ramifications of it; these can all be additional ways you can use your power, e.g. if your power manifests through other people, consider what else they can do for you; if through a place, consider what else you might find there or be able to do while there and so on. Powers in DRYH can generally be graded into three levels of operation: a low level that provides 1 or 2 dice, a medium one that provide 3 or 4 and a high level that provides 5 or 6, the maximum. Think about where the features of your power slot into this scale and agree a couple of suggested uses with the GM.
Telling is one thing but showing is better, so here are some quick examples of the above process in action.
Function: Flight, so you can fly from place to place.
Form: Your torso is a bird cage and when you open it, hundreds of budgies fly out to do your bidding; they can all grab hold of you, flap their little wings and carry you anywhere they can fly to.
Features: 1-2 dice: Let a couple of birds out to fetch a small object for you; let a few dozen out to fly around and create a distraction for your escape.
3-4 dice: Let hundreds of birds out to lift you up and fly with you, to dive bomb your enemies and attack them or to blanket the city looking for something.
5-6: It’s not always budgies in that cage... open it and you might find a parrot that speaks all languages, an owl that was once a wizard’s familiar or even a pterodactyl that can lift you and a friend and eat anyone who stands in your way!
Function: X-Ray Vision, so you can see through walls.
Form: ‘Big Brother’ – for some reason, a network of spies and informants report to you; you don’t know where they’ve come from, who they are or why they’ve picked you, but they’ll whisper all kinds of secrets to you.
Features: 1-2 dice: A single spy appears and tells you what’s going on behind that wall or takes a message to where you need it to go.
3-4 dice: A handful of spies run around the city, reporting on several locations at once, or take someone away with them and imprison them in their secret facility for a while.
5-6 dice: Dozens of spies work tirelessly to bring any secret to you, no matter how deeply hidden or forgotten it is; they can also intimidate or brainwash any target into doing what you want at their secret facility; you might even get one of the elite agents who can carry out assassinations and other sensitive operations on your behalf.
Function: Invisibility, so you can slip past without being seen.
Form: Ghost Town; you see dead people and can walk their streets for a while, unseen by the living.
Features: 1-2 dice: Slip into the streets of the dead and be unseen while you remain there; whilst there, haunt someone, giving them the chills.
3-4 dice: Talk to the dead and discover what they know or take someone’s hand and guide them along the streets of the dead with you, but don’t let go... Also, walk through walls, just like a ghost.
5-6 dice: Walk the streets and arrive anywhere: Atlantis, your primary school classroom, Treasure Island. Just don’t get lost... There are also things besides ghosts on the streets of the dead, so maybe you’ll run into a vampire or ghoul, or even become one.
Function: Healing, so you can recover from injury and sickness more quickly.
Form: Bodies-R-Us; there’s this little shop you know where you can buy a new body when your old one wears out. It’s as easy as changing your socks, though a little more costly.
Features: 1-2 dice: Pay a visit to the shop for a cleanup and repair of your current body; get it purged of poison and disease or have all those little bumps and bruises buffed right off.
3-4 dice: Use their call out service; their van will pull up, skidding right through a pool of your blood, and deliver a new body to the scene of your latest death. Also, visit the shop and try out something different: pick a body of a different age, gender or ethnicity and wear it for a while.
5-6 dice: Visit the shop and look for someone else’s spares; maybe you can borrow one and pretend to be them for a while? Also, use your store credit to get a replacement body for a friend who needs one or hire out one of the ‘special’ models with its own unique skills and abilities...
Function: Icy Blast, so you can shoot bolts of intense cold at your foes.
Form: Cold-hearted: there’s liquid nitrogen in your veins and you heart is a heat pump, keeping you nicely chilled.
Features: 1-2 dice: Take hold of anything and lower it’s temperature until it shatters; create a sheet of ice on the ground that slows your enemies when they try to follow you.
3-4 dice: Fire a bolt of ice at a target and trap them in it, or shatter them; open your veins and let the liquid within boil out, sculpting it with your hands into the form of a wall or ladder.
5-6 dice: Walk through Hell unscathed as its flames go out around you; concentrate hard and drop the energy of the sun, starting a new ice age; put someone into cryogenic suspension, preserving their life until you can find the help they need.