Monday, October 9, 2023

Scare Tactics: Shock - Doll's House



I wanted to write about shock next and thought it was pretty clear how horror movies get it: jump scares. Being loud and all of a sudden. Jump scares, often maligned, are cheap. Some might say they're too cheap to work. A patented Rotten-Tomato-Meter horror movie would never be so crude. 

Jump scares being lowbrow is ironic since their origin is what was once the artiest thing you could do in a movie. 

A jump cut is a kind of cut where - that there was a cut - is obvious. The person who made it cool was a director named Jean Luc-Godard, who was French and a critic and wore a beret and in France. 



Entertainment Values

There was an entertainment industry in America before there was a movie industry. What early movies had to compete with it were pictures of those entertainers - dancers or comedians - manipulated in ways that added to what was already pretty entertaining about them: how they moved. Dancers danced. Comedy duos beat each other over the head and chased each other around.  

But with movies the stage wasn't exactly the stage anymore - it was a composition factor. Where should I put the entertainers on the stage inside of the picture I take of them there? The critical term for this, adapted by French critics from its usage in the theater, was mise en scène. And as it became easier to manipulate the sequence of the pictures made of entertainers - something was discovered. Changes could be put in with such a fineness that the fact there was a change put in at all could be hidden from the naked eye. 

Anyone who's fiddled with a camera and editing software - so like anyone with a phone - so like everyone reading this: you know: 

You have a person standing there. 

Then: that same place without them in it. 

Because the sequence of images appears continuous it looks like that person - all of a sudden - disappeared. 

What it didn't look like - was what had actually happened: someone was standing there - they walked away - and we kept looking at the place they used to be at - with the walking away left out.

That part of the theater - stagehands in black shuffling backdrops in and out - actors hustling to their places behind a curtain - movies could hide with immediate and actual invisibility. 

In France, where movies were being observed not as bread-and-circuses by critics in the magazine Cahiers Du Cinema, Godard wrote about the value of never noticing the changes, attributing it especially to that industry where movies were made to achieve it: a Hollywood style, starring an Invisible Cut. 

Godard also made movies and he was like, but what if noticing the cut didn't suck? What else could it feel like?

So he made BREATHLESS which was a pretty good name for the thing it could feel like: something like:


Some might hear that and think: Ok you're fucking your movie up. A more generous take could be there's an intensity coming across. BREATHLESS broke the rule and did something with the pieces. It was cool about it. 



Written and Directed By

There's a director I can think of who makes cool movies that shock without being loud and sudden. He named his production company after a Godard film. Like Godard, he's also a critic. Like Godard, his movies can be didactic about the movies.  

Imagine you never tasted the word postmodern - what's a Quentin Tarantino movie? Very simply: 

 one where cool people are depicted in the style of the kind of movie they would want to talk about with each other.

Sharp-dressed smart-asses, babes, nazi-killers, regulators, filmmakers, those who go medieval on the asses of the Confederacy, the various and merciless, Zoe Bell as Zoe Bell, Pam Grier as Pam Grier as Coffy, Sharon Tate as Alive and Happy. Y'know: cool people.

Making a movie these characters would want to talk about together means cutting out all the stuff they wouldn't want to talk about. What we don't want to talk about makes a lot of hay in dramas touted for their psychological acuity. Movies where characters for good or bad kill and steal and lie usually take pains to depict tortured consciences. I'd argue Tarantino does include the not-talked-about sex and violence stuff, but just in a way that is - conscientiously - hard to discuss. But anyway. 



So Good It's Bad

DEATH PROOF (2007) was the only strictly-Horror movie Tarantino ever made. He says it is his worst movie and most people agree. It's sticky though because the movie is supposed to be bad. 

What does that mean, well: 

DEATH PROOF was one half of a double-feature presentation called GRINDHOUSE. Grindhouse was the name for a kind of theater exhibition featuring cheap thrills, which GRINDHOUSE directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were admirers of. 

There's been a lot of movies like GRINDHOUSE since. Way worse ones. Most of the random independent horror movies you can find on Amazon are lazily-made but with half an eye toward being post-modern-y pastiche of older movies that couldn't help but later on seem lazily-made. 

DEATH PROOF is not lazily-made or bad. It may though have had a forbidding or incomplete structure that - based on what has later been added in the unrated version (really a cheeky name for the director's cut) - Tarantino himself may acknowledge. 

It has, on purpose

- scratched film 

- jump cuts that are not from arty experiment but from just the putting together of a scene backwardly - going from a picture of a person to a picture of the person someplace in a way that makes it for a moment incoherent when and where they are

- an audio track that dips in and out - like someone didn't have the fine-tuning devices to smooth them into each scene one to the next

- people talking about pointless bullshit

- people looking into the camera and winking at it

- the director - recognizably the director - in his own movie - enjoying himself

- shots of cute butts for no other reason than the butt is cute

- long stretches without violence, without anything sinister

- half-way through it introduces a whole other movie's-worth of characters

Lazy-movie stuff. Unless, like Godard and his jump cut, it expressed an intensity. 




The most dreadfully shocking moment in DEATH PROOF is its singular and most spectacular moment of violence - when Stuntman Mike kills all the girls at once with his car. 

It happens in the middle of the movie, clears out all the protagonists from the first half of it, and creates for the villain absolutely no extenuating consequences whatsoever. No scratches on the new car. 

So on the whole it's shocking. Shocking in the way of "how long have I been watching this movie and this is what's happened in total?" The totality of a movie though, you only get an idea of when it's over. So to understand how the moment is so dreadful we have to look at the entire movie. 

All we have to know about the second half of the movie is that it doesn't refer at all to what came before. 

What comes before it is an hour of people bullshitting in bars, wondering if they're going to have sex or not. Sometimes in the bars - like in real life - there's other people there wondering about if they're going to have sex or not. One of those people is psychopathic serial murderer Stuntman Mike. Okay, saucy. Well: Stuntman Mike is in that bar talking about bullshit too and wondering not if he's going to have sex but if he's going to kill four women with his car. It's still a lot like normal life for the most part. 

Except that in the movie it's fascinating. In a Tarantino movie it often is. The dialogue, the way people talk to each other, what they're talking about, there is a rhythm that is shockingly realistic - a sound like fumbling out of tape but that wastes nothing. 




For A Little While

Let's take a look at this large sequence - the second bar the girl's go to - which seems to be  them kicking back and nothing changing except eventually the villain is there kicking back too. What does change? The weather. 


- There's Arlene going out for a smoke to see that it's, to quote the scene description from the script, "fuckin' pissin' cats and dogs."



- Then there's another scene of Arlene on the porch, but with Nate, who wants to make out. It's still fuckin pissin raining cats and dogs. So hard that note the highlights placed in the background of the shot, where the rain on a tin roof create white showers. 


- The kind of rain this is makes problems. People arrive places late with their hair dripping and mussed. We get a shot of the new people arriving, with an angle on the spattering outside through a fogged up window pane. The bar inside must be warm then. The kind of warm it is must be from body warmth. Austin, Texas doesn't need the heat on for a little rain. 


- We find out more about the rain: it's not not one you have to run away from exactly. The rain feels good. It's a cooling rain, breaking the heat. The girls let it dry on their bare legs and wash their feet. 


- The next change: the rain just about stopped. There's a fine amount of liquid in this shot of Kurt Russell. It's a couple heavy drops of rainwater dripping off from where it's collected and pooled somewhere above him. It's not a drop from the sky. It's precisely twinkling leftover drops. 


- Then the next minute of rain we notice is that minute after a rain has stopped when everything it has gotten wet has also stopped dripping. All of the wet it made is on the ground. So we have this shot high above the parking lot to show us glistening asphalt pebbles. 


- There's big puddles which tires hit with a kind of visual exclamation mark like saying "look here now it's about to get serious."


- The final minute of rain we are sensitive to is that dried minute of rain and how this shot creates it is by very slightly peppering the windshields where droplet stick and are held in place oddly by the aerodynamics of a car moving. Then that utter blackness outside the window - which wants to be opened so as to perfect the temperature. The cool-off is dissipating, or the heat is back on. We need to make a breeze. But the kind of breeze it is must be warm. And not with a desiccating contact like from an open oven but a contact which only warm breezes made from driving cars with the window open after a cooling rain would have: because of the moisture in the air - not even the moisture anymore - the after-moisture. And the speed of a car pushing through. 



A Little Blue

An important detail about all these shots and the quality of rain differences they suggest that is totally missing from this essay and must by nature be missing from this essay is The Beam.

The Beam is the thing which, while it existed, cinematography was designed around. 

Like the fact that the picture cinematographers were making would be something projected in a beam from behind a bunch of people and onto a big screen in front of them - all the magical depth pulled out of the actual flatness of the final image came from re-applied sensitivities to the literal beam of light passing over an audience's heads.

Like: you were in a dark room. There was a point of light behind you which became an enormous lit thing in front of you. But the picture in front of you also had darknesses. And those darknesses would be the same quality of darkness of the room you were in, and the brightnesses would have the same quality of brightness as that single point behind your head. 

So you could steal people's sense of the actual darkness and illumination of the place they were in to trick them into thinking they were looking out into actual rooms of darkness and illumination. 

This is why the cinematographer John Alton, who shot several iconic film noir movies, wrote in his book on the subject of cinematography, that for creating depth in a shot - which was the secret key to the looking glass dream of the cinema - whatever you do: the farthest away thing in the shot must be the brightest-looking thing.

Painting with Light, John Alton

But none of that applies if there's no beam. 

And it seems likely to me that it may not apply for a beam that's anything other than from film projection. What film projection preserves of the active play of light that digital projection sharpens out I think may be essential to what John Alton's talking about. 

TVs and computers and smart phones only glow. Their light is not played off of a wall with the source behind you from a single point. All of this is especially important for the movie we're talking about because to watch DEATH PROOF you were meant to go to the theater and spend a long ass time there doublefeaturing in a way which by then was no longer economically feasible and had to be the pet project of a Palm D'or winner. 

GRINDHOUSE was made for The Beam - and in color. 


Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio, David Hockney

In addition to The Beam having the darkness of the room, it could also have the quality of the colors of the illuminated day outside the room. 

Glancing yellows, departing reds-on-blue-black, diffused pinks-through-blue and blues-through-pink, baths of tangerine, the white of never-looking-at it, gone-away purples. Colors of light recall times of day - which create mood. 

This can be literal. When you are in an enormous partly illuminated box and you are catching that light onto yourself you receive light not just through your eyes but as something on your skin. Our skin has a sensitivity to the light of day which cinematographers in color may trick. 

If there's a scene of heavy downpour rain and the color is correct and you have the god damn beam then your skin is sensitive to the light of rain as though there was actual rain. Your skin may know something about an everywhere-at-once blue-silver your eyes don't.

The cinematography of DEATH PROOF, shot by Tarantino himself, accomplished both a hyper-specific genre detail we talked about before (the sleaze shots and the janky set-ups) as well as a hyper-real mis en scène, here defined by sensitivity to the light of different minutes of a Texan rain. 



Not Tripping

So we set our scene. We put some rain in it. What else is put in it? Actors. What are they doing? They are fucking acting. 

The most evergreen thing said about acting is from Shakespeare: speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue - rudely translated, means: oh my god just say the fucking line asshole. For an example of this advice going all the way wrong, here’s the Coen Brothers:

The script for DEATH PROOF is interesting in the filmography of Quentin Tarantino because there’s a lot in it that’s not in the movie. He’s said that in the editing room he played the character of a passionless grindhouse movie producer, and killed all his arthouse darlings.

In the video below you may see there are slight changes from the script. Some lines go missing. There’s “And”s inserted, and other filler phrases like “Now look.” Why do actors do that?

You could think of the dialogue in a screenplay like tablature for a guitarist. Sometimes guitar tabs ask for a movement from chord to chord that playing will twist your fingers up. Actors, with their tongue teeth lips and lungs playing the instrument, may sometimes find smoother finger-placements to get the right sound.  

Here's what's going on in just 12 lines of dialogue - 


The scene begins by quoting from a poem. “The woods are lovely dark and deep.” The rhythm is iambic tetrameter. Which means it has an UP-down-UP-down-UP beat that goes on for four beats-long. The WOODS are LOVEly DARK and DEEP. 



Then: the omission of “Stuntman.” The word MIKE has an IIII in it that makes you bare your teeth, and a K that is harsh. MIKE, like, FUCK. Russell is being short. He’s impatient and harsh with Julia.  



The line “is that true did I miss my chance?” IS that TRUE and MISS my CHANCE have the same beat. It’s right there in the sentence as written then for Russell to draw out the didIIIIII in the middle and motivate the character’s playful vulnerability. 



Vanessa Ferlito’s line comes out of a long silence and she puts the silence into the line by losing the front of it with a swallow before she talks. We still get the gist because the emphasis is on the last most important word: CAR. 



The beat starts to pick up. “You’ve seen” “I saw him” “I saw you” “You saw my” “I saw your”. Russell, who is in fact stalking them, plays up the character’s deflection by repeating what’s been said. He also creates a pause between “I saw your” and “legs.” Without the pause there’s a triple emphasis: “iii SAW YOUR LEGS.” Instead, he stops, like not wanting to over-emphasize, then does it anyway, like he can’t help himself, and makes the line playfully immodest rather than only blatant. The next thing he says is about how he can’t help himself. NOW LOOK gives us a couple important sounds: Ls and Ws and Os and OOs and a secret Y in the Ws. Sta(L)kin (Y)a(LL) (W)asn’t (W)(O)(L)f. Wolf is the most important word at the end of the sentence and gets more weight from the additional NOW LOOK. The alliteration between WASn’t and WOLF motivate Russell’s vain pout.



Ferlito’s first line to make as much music as this, that isn’t just a clipped response, is the line “why should I be wounded?” WHY should IIII be WOUNDed? This line has an iamb: UP-down-UP-down-UP-down. It also has rhymes: WHY with IIII, and SHOULD with WOUND. Usually you don’t have dialogue with recognizbly poetic beat or rhymes because it sounds too prettily artificial. That’s perfect for this moment. It allows Ferlito to affect the vanity the characters are discussing. 



Next we have Russell laying on the seduction thick, with soft Fs and Bs and T-Hs, moan-y OOs, all culminating in a juicy G and L word an(G)e(L). (TH)ere are (F)(EW) (TH)in(G)s as (F)etchin(G) as a (BR)(UISE)d e(G)o on a (B)(EAU)ti(F)U(L) an(G)e(L). The OOS lean in, the small F and B and Th shapes the mouth makes lower the volume, pop with G and L, in order to get all the way to the romantic sigh: SOOhhh How about that lap dance?



Once Stuntman Mike is rejected, he tell us about his book. BOOK is not a sexy word like ANGEL. BOOK starts soft and ends harsh and the OO is kooky in the middle. Russell says it a lot. It gives him a lot to work with, trying to make a joke. We can’t see the audience’s reaction to know if it’s landing, but from what we know about him, it’s not funny: whatever his obsessions are, charmingly confessed or no, we’re suspicious of. The K of book strikes five times like reminding us of the violence we fear. Note the change in angle too. 



Ferlito comes back with “and what if I did it?” The line has a short III vowel sound like ihh and a long III vowel sound like eye. They make her show her tongue and teeth to give the line a requisite rawr-meow color. The pounce behind the meow is for Russell to take in luxuriously with his WELL, all the rest of his line, one romantic sigh from out of the WELLs inhale. 



Ferlito keeps the growl: m(I)ke (I)’m butterfl(Y). Then she has a line that recalls Russell’s line, “few things as fetching as a bruised ego on a beautiful angel” by lowering of the volume. She does it with Js and Ss. (J)ungle (J)ulia (S)ay(S) that (J)ukebo(X) in(S)ide i(S) preeeetty impre(SS)ive. 



The scene doesn’t end as written, with Arlene telling Stuntman Mike to pick out a song and establishing some ground rules. Instead it’s “Why don’t you go get ready for your lap dance.” Rather than make explicit the erotic situation of her command, the new line just suggests it. The question has an obvious answer. Gs and Ds firm up the silky Js and Ss of the line previous, and sound like insistence. 



Julia drum rolls us into the next scene by rolling through a list of stuff as if it was all one sound. Rhymes, repetitions, alliterative Ks Ts and Xs, turn the volume back up. The line is long but has a place to take a breath in it - “HISterically” - which is good because it also emphasizes the word “hysterically” and puts the wink in “BUT NOT funny-looking.” 




If you’ve been able to watch this whole long sequence we've been talking about, all the way through, all fourty-five minutes in sound and color, and by the time the girl’s car is hurtling toward Stuntman Mike’s duckie, noticed the droplets on the window of their vehicle do not in fact shiver like they were something on the surface of an actually moving car: well, I don’t believe you.

The car doesn’t actually move. The shots were done on a stage. The black outside is too black. The light on her foot is too consistent. We just spent $$$$ dollars making it rain. Why not spend $$$$ dollars lighting toes from a moving car? 

Because, for what’s about to happen, the shot must introduce - invisibly - stage-like qualities.

In the script it says what's about to happen is the “slow-motion equivalent of the crash test dummy footage we’ve all seen, but with real people.” The kill will use too-dangerous-to-film-from-within angles to imply something too dangerous to witness. Kurt Russell underlines it just before he gets on the road.

The bodies are dismembered like dolls parts - and they are doll parts - but with effects artist Tom Savini making them flesh-y and bleeding. The kill images, which are just seconds long, are full of vividly horrible information about bodies, like how skin might stretch if a tire sped over it and how a leg might bounce off the pavement if it was severed. Sparks, spectacular ejections, and the grind of metal on metal are all real.

And there’s jump cuts. 

Not one like the others, for genre detail, but like Godard’s: to express intensity. Four cuts. Four perspectives on impact. A kill four times more dreadful than expected. 



Icy Hot Reality

When I asked people in the Demon City Discord about satisfying jump scares they got to talking about real life jump scares. Usually from out of a slight adolescent terror - someone taking advantage of someone younger. It's no brilliant artifice to hide behind a corner and wait until someone doesn't know you're there to get in their way. But people seemed to agree it ends up being satisfying in a way the jump scare in a horror movie no longer really is. 

You couldn’t call the crash in DEATH PROOF a jump scare. It does shock.

On the level of structure: 

the whole cast, dead forever. Here’s a new cast, a new bar.

On the level of character: 

Stuntman Mike was a scary guy in a cool car. There’s lots of ways we can imagine a scary guy with a cool car killing four girls. We kept hearing about a beach house. We maybe expected to see someone die there. Instead, Mike kills everyone in the most surprising way imaginable, all-at-once instantaneously and at the expense of the things which he most values, including, seemingly, his own life. 

On the level of this sound and color dream: 

Four beautiful women each beautiful in a different way have been holding forth drunkenly and convincingly and always-interestingly on the stuff that actually matters to them, such as having some dick or not, which is to say, the raw stuff of real life which lesser writers can’t put into our dreams without waking us up. The girls never existed and now in the movie its as though they never existed. Touché

The sequence shocks dreadfully by giving the obvious depth.




The Monster That Does That

You’re sitting on a bench in a stranger’s house with your dear friend. You step outside. Outside is a familiar inside. Your childhood bedroom’s blue ceiling. Your first grade classroom. The last place you saw him before he changed and - with a little teamwork and some luck - was trismigestusly quartered and drawn. This is to be expected because: you’re dreaming. You’re passing through harmlessly or through you is passing harmlessly bits of old days and nonsense as you sleep. Only now its not harmless and everything belongs to her. 

Doll is a chitinous beast of mannequin parts sewn together helter-skelter out of the nightmares of a long-running campaign. She and her House may imperil the survivors of Horrors in their sleep. 

The Layout of the House

If you’ve ever made an investigation-as-dungeon map of some Horror conspiracy, like it says in the game book, that's great: imagine each clue-hallway piece was an actual interior connecting other interiors. If your conspiracy map looks a little more crackpot like the meme of Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny: that’s fine. The point is: the layout of the House comes from a conceptual map of campaign elements reimagined as if it were a literal map of a place. 

If you bullshitted all the way through your conspiracy and can’t remember how anything fit together: you could 

- Write down some things the PCs said or did that was especially memorable, making sure to fill the whole page. 

- Encircle the stuff in concentric rings. 

- Label the rings 1st, 2nd, 3rd. Those are levels now. 

- Box the things into rooms with at least two things in each room. If one of the things was a room and one of the things was a character - cool: put that character in that room. If it doesn’t make sense: that’s cool and like a dream. If one of the things was a joke and another thing was an event: make something clever up just make sure there’s a room with an NPC in it. 

What's in Doll's House 

Figments (Dream NPCs) C10

1-3 If hostile in waking life, is now friendly. If friendly: now hostile

4 Is engaged in some odd repetitive task involving the location of a dream door that if interrupted will make it hostile  

5 Is in their underwear and freaking out about a test they’re going to take on the location of  dream doors in this room. Will immediately become hostile if you question its intelligence or raise your voice for any reason

6 Speaks in a slow and spooky Twin Peaks Black Lodge accent and knows it got here through a dream door but has trouble remembering where it is. If asked will only tell you a place the door isn’t.

6 As awake except visibly endowed with the sex characterstics of the opposite gender, which it can’t get over how neat it is. Enthusiastically shares the location of a dream door. 

7 As awake except older and hotter and bearing this place an obscure vendetta. Will want your help destroying a dream door.

8 As awake except younger and luckier and looking for someone to help it find: you. Will not want to tell you where a dream door is for fear of being abandoned. 

9 Believes you’re in its dream and will be prohibitively smug about it especially with regard to the location of dream doors

10 throw for +1 more characteristics max 4

 Dream Doors

Familiar places now slope weirdly into other places. The entrances and exits are hidden. C10

1-5 as a picture of the adjacent room in a screen or poster or mural or painting or…

6-7 through a peephole found in the “O” of the bottom of a shot glass or a roll of toilet paper or a telescope end or a donut or…

8-9 underneath something heavy - a couch - or awkward - someone’s wig

10 outside of a window with a drop that looks like it will kill you. Helpful Figments will assure you its safe. It is. You'll enter the room below by waking up on its floor. You're still in the dream though.

The Dreamer

All of the PCs are asleep. One of them, however, is being harrowed. Significator Items are things from the life of the Dreamer PC that clearly belong to no one else but that PC: jewelry or a jacket or a trusty sidearm the character is known to have. Significator Items exploit Doll’s weaknesses and are clues to the identity of the Dreamer. 

"Her False Complexion Until Various Merciless Seethes"

Doll's incursion begins with a mysterious brand. It can be a reward or a curse-trap or an elective spell. The name of a PC appears as if sewn into the palm of another PC. The PC will gain the other’s aptitudes. If Bob gets Joan’s name on his hand, and Joan has Firearms +5, Bob now has Firearms +5 too. This is lucky - but weird - and bears investigating. The party may learn or already know this touched PC can gain the additional skills of any other PC its bled in battle with by cutting the name into the flesh of another hand or foot. 

A sewing PC gains a lot of bonuses. So will Doll.  


Doll looks like the PCs bodies sewn together. Based on how many PCs are sharing stats, she gets bonuses. 

R -

A 6 +1 each PC sewn

T 6 +1 each PC sewn

P 6 +1 each PC sewn

A -

C -

K 6 +1 each PC sewn


Supernatural Abilities


Nightmares don’t need to breathe or digest, don’t age, and are immune to poison, etc. and cannot be mentally controlled with psionic abilities. Knows the history of emotions of the Dreamer. Cannot be brought below 0 Toughness except by loss of control of the dream. 


Can climb across any surface at a normal walking speed.


Each body (as many as PCs sewn) attached to Doll has the stats of the PC it’s modeled on.  Doll will only abandon a body if its health is depleted or the body is saying things that are embarrassing to it. 


At 0 Toughness Doll will fall asleep. Doll regenerates all Toughness and has +1 advantage on throws after it sleeps 17 minutes. 


If Doll successfully attacks with one of its huge mutant starfish-hands-with-legs-and-arms-for-the-fingers it can grapples as if it were a bite attack.


Knows the location of all dream doors 

Has a sixth sense for prey in their domains and catch the scent any time one passes through a dream door.  

If a dream door is destroyed it will - violently and calm-checking-ly - emerge from a new one, effectively creating a tunnel from wherever they were before 


Significator Items from the Dreamer’s waking life cause a Nightmare to make a Calm Check or flee until they are out of sight. The Intensity of the Calm Check is equal to the degree of significance to the Dreamer’s life of whatever is wielded (1–9). In the case of an incidentally encountered artifact (their car in a parking lot) the Intensity is 2.

Touching a Significator Item does damage to a Nightmare as an ordinary physical attack.

Invoking the name of the Nightmare’s Dreamer causes it great pain, and the creature must make a Calm Check against the speaker’s Calm each round to avoid obeying the attacker. 


Doll's House is for people who've been playing together a long time. Old arenas become locked-room puzzles, fan favorite NPCs come back insaner, inside jokes are magical weapons. The immediate-individual benefit and eventual-collective-problem of the "Her False Complexion" spell jokes on player dynamics: oh you think I should do what? Here's my character sheet then.

As for how to enter the dream: the session starts as if the party is asleep with no indication whatsoever of a dream until the PCs are drawn to some location - ideally one they’ve been to before - that’s on your map of Doll’s House. Once they’re in - lock and load. The PCs are basically in a race to figure out they're in a dream and who's dream it is and where the hell is the door out of here before Doll finds them and rips them in half.  





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