Sometimes I like to buy RPGs without knowing a thing about them. I love when stores have sales on their old stock for this reason. It might be the gambler in me, but I don’t mind dropping ten dollars on something I might not ever play. It could turn out to be awesome and that in and of itself is a fun game to play. It could also turn out to be a ten dollar waste, but…. meh.
The last one I picked up in this fashion was called A Penny for my Thoughts by Evil Hat Productions. It was a small, unassuming book that had something to do with regaining your memory. It seemed interesting enough for five bucks, so I took it home and forgot about it for a few months. Then came the “I want to run something new!” feeling and I picked it back up.
I started reading it right before bed and started getting so many ideas. The game deals with regaining your memories after suffering some sort of trauma. The problem is that you might not want to regain those memories. You play the roll of a patient in a self led therapy session. Everyone has taking an experimental drug that allows them limited access to each other’s minds. It’s up to everyone to help each other out to see their past.
I started the game by giving everyone a smarty. That’s right, the sugar candy you’d get too many of on Halloween. Those were our doses of the memory linking drug. Then we did a little guided meditation, just to get in the mood. It helped the feel of the situation and centered us for the exploring that was about to happen. I wore nurses scrubs for the duration. It was a game that really lent itself to mood and ambiance.
A player then starts reliving their memories, based on the script in the book and their “character sheet.” When they get to a spot that is foggy, they ask the other players, “then what happened?” The other players then get to offer up what they think would have happened next. Whichever answer the acting player likes the most gets awarded with a penny, hence the title. Pennies act as a sort of initiative system and physical focus, as well as a few other things. After that, the next player starts reliving their memory.
As the game went along, we wove some interesting stories about each other’s pasts. At times, it got intense. If you don’t already, this is a great game to implement safety tools for. The very nature of the game has you dealing with trauma. It’s a really good idea to check in and make sure everyone has some shared language to communicate when things potentially get to be too much. It’s fun to explore deep feelings but not at the expense of someone’s mental well being.
At the end of the game, you get to decide if you want to remember your past that you have discovered, or take a pill and let it all blissfully disappear. We felt as if we had had an experience by the time everyone made their decision. The way it is written, you can actually open up the book and play it as you read, which is worked into the overall script of the game. This could be a great filler game for when everyone can’t make it or a pretty cool experience all by itself. Buy the ticket, take the ride, eat a smarty. A penny for your thoughts is a trip.