This Unofficial Don't Rest Your Head FAQ lists topics in the order of the game's table of contents. The exception to this is errata and Gming advice, which go at the beginning and end, respectively.
P. 31, under 'MAJOR USE (ADDITIONAL SUCCESSES)', 1st paragraph, 1st sentence, replace 'the number of exhaustion dice' with 'the character's level of Exhaustion', and replace 'rolling those dice' with 'any successes gained from dice rolling'.
P. 34, under 'To make use of a madness talent', add '(plus any permanent madness dice one has)' after 'one to six temporary madness dice to the roll' and before the comma.
P. 71, under 'THE SCARS OF EXPERIENCE', 2nd paragraph, 2nd 'sentence', replace 'a.' with 'At any time, once per session or at the session's conclusion, the player may indicate an experience from the session that has left a scar on the character.'
I assume that the player has to declare how many madness dice and whether he will add an exhaustion die to his total (raising his exhaustion by one) before he rolls. So he can't just roll Discipline dice, see what results he got, and then decide to roll madness dice and add them to the pool, etc.
Note that depending on whether the player succeeds or fails, and on whether Discipline, Madness, Exhaustion or Pain dominate, there are 8 possible results of any challenge: Success-Discipline, Success-Madness, Success-Exhaustion, Success-Pain, Failure-Discipline, Failure-Madness, Failure-Exhaustion, Failure-Pain. Only the first result has no bad mechanical consequences for the player. Success has no mechanical effect (although it at least means the character succeeds at whatever the challenge was about). Discipline may (Player's call) make you less tired or less insane. Failure may (GMâs call) make you more tired or more insane. Madness will make you more insane. Exhaustion will make you more tired. Pain will give the GM a Despair coin (except if the GM used a Despair coin in the challenge). Despair coins are bad news. So is getting too tired or going too insane.
Where can I get cheap dice?
Try a dollar store.
Is there a 'mechanical' benefit from a character winning a conflict that parallels the 'mechanical' changes the GM makes to one's character if that character fails? Or does winning (by having enough successes) prove to be its own reward?
Winning proves to be its own reward.
Are the number of successes by a protagonist indicative of an absolute level of success, or is this relative to the GM's number of successes? If the protagonist gets three successes, is this an extraordinary result regardless of whether the GM gets 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4+ successes?
It's absolute, and represents the extent of success if the player wins. In other words, say the GM rolls 2 successes and the player rolls 3 successes. The player wins, and his level of success is treated as extraordinary (in accordance with the 3 success level). If the GM had rolled 4 successes against the player's 3, the GM's side would win, despite the protagonist's performance being extraordinary.
If a player starts with X Exhaustion, he can, before his roll, add an Exhaustion dice to the pool (so would roll X+1 Exhaustion dice, plus the discipline and (maybe) madness dice), and, if Exhaustion dominates, he ends up with another Exhaustion dice in the pool, so finishes with X+2 Exhaustion?
Does the application of the Major Exhaustion Talent happen after or instead of the application of the Minor Exhaustion Talent?
Instead of. A minor use raises low success totals to a higher minimum. A major use says, hey, let's start at that minimum, and add whatever you rolled.
Does the application of the Minor Exhaustion Talent happen before or after the application of Hope coins?
Before. Hope coins should add successes only after all other success-adding things have occurred.
Assuming that the character survives being asleep, he wakes up and for a while is 'normal'. During that time, though he cannot use talents, can he still add exhaustion dice or madness dice to rolls?
I did not state this explicitly in the book, but my answer to this would be 'he can't' — but there's nothing especially wrong with your running of the game if you allow it. But, conceptually, I wouldn't — mainly because exhaustion and madness dice are meant to represent tapping into the abilities that insomnia gives you, and during this time, you haven't reclaimed your insomnia.
Can a character that has crashed and is awake, but not yet Awake, still use scars?
Can he still access coins of Hope?
It is possible that such a character may have some permanent madness dice. Do they still get added to his rolls?
Again speaking off the cuff, I'd say yes, due to the 'permanent' bit
If a character has even one permanent Madness die, and then Crashes, then does he still wake up with Discipline 1 or is the character already at Discipline 0 because of that permanent Madness die replacing his 1 Discipline?
The 1 Discipline thing is temporarily replacing whatever his Discipline score was before. Once he reclaims his insomnia, his Discipline should be set back to what it was before.
Do permanent madness dice count for activating one's Madness Talent? Or does one always have to use 1-6 additional temporary madness dice, as indicated on the rules summary on p. 34?
They count. They're madness dice; they just don't go away at the end of the roll. This explicitly supersedes the Rules Summary on p. 34 and should be considered errata.
Another slightly unclear area is Madness talents vs. Pain dice. It seems that Madness dice are for how powerful the madness talent will be in this encounter, while the Pain dice are set to the difficulty of the task involved. But since the madness talent is activated during a challenge, this means either that pain will already be involved (perhaps the GM might add to the Pain?), or that the madness talent cannot be activated except during a challenge, or that the GM makes a special challenge specifically for the use of the madness talent - but the creation of challenges is meant to be reserved for significant events.
Combine this with the 'only roll when significant' advice. Now, one GM may think that using a madness talent is, itself, significant (and for my personal taste I admit I do lean this way), but another GM may not, and that's perfectly fine. You've got a Madness talent for walking through walls? Maybe it means you can pass through that door into your apartment without having to roll dice — just because it's a cool visual. But if there's a gorbeling monster on the other side of that door? Yeah, maybe it's time for some dice.
Why don't madness talents have a mechanical effect on successes (like exhaustion talents do), in addition to the narrative effect?
The idea here is that madness talents, when used, allow you to do something impossible otherwise. The sort of stuff where the GM would say, 'No; you can't even try that sort of thing.' Thus madness talents allow challenges where otherwise the character would be stuck without recourse.
Is the limit to the amount of pain a nightmare that was a PC will have limited by the actual dice rolled by the PC, or the number of dice in the PCs roll after Hope and Despair coins are taken into account?
Okay, so you're asking because Hope can add a '1' (success) into someone's die pool, and Despair can add or remove a '6' (dominance). More accurately, these things are adding the 'idea' of such a die, rather than the actual die, to the results of the roll. I'm instead talking about actual 'physical' (not virtual) dice when saying that a PC's current number of dice equals their pain as a Nightmare.
If the former, the Pain of that nightmare can be no higher than 15.
That is correct.
It's intentionally capped at 15.
A protagonist in his eleventh hour, at his full power — 3 discipline, 6 exhaustion, and 6 madness — totals 15. The Awake are actually some of the most powerful people in the setting — under the right circumstances.
Consider that even Mother When — who's potentially an incarnation of death — only hits Pain 12. And Officer Tock, for that matter, but only at 13 o'clock, with a warrant, inside of District 13.
Pain levels 13, 14, and 15 are essentially 'reserved' (the way I've designed things) to be the home of those most terrible of Nightmares…
It is theoretically possible for a character, while not Awake (having Crashed and not yet had enough sleeplessness to become one of the Awake again) to have madness dominate 4 times and thus Snap before becoming Awake. If this should occur, would this character, having no responses to check off, and with a discipline of only 1 (now becoming 0), become a Nightmare on Snapping, even if he has not regained his Awake status? If not, what else would happen to the character?
My ruling on this is that, surprise, you just became a really, really small Nightmare. But I happily place this firmly in the hands of the GM of your own game. Maybe something else happens. More horrible? Could be.
On p.23, you say that the Pain increase for multiple opponents should be equal to the Pain of the highest opponent +1 per extra minion, +2 if the opponents are 'equal' in pain level. This phrasing has two interpretations, but your examples of Lieutenants seem to follow both of them! Is the interpretation meant to be read as +2 instead of each +1 per additional opponent (thus making it +2 per additional opponent) (the Blind Knight approach, p. 62), or is the +2 meant to be in addition to the +1 per additional opponent (the Ladies in Hating approach, p. 55)? If the person is facing five opponents of Pain 2 each, would that mean a total of 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 10 Pain, or 2 + 1 + 1 + 1 +1 + 2 8 Pain?
Let me say this up front: In practice I do this pretty fluidly, so I don't think about the down and dirty finger-counting precise methods.
That said, what I mean is this:
3 minions who'd normally be 3 pain apiece with a 8-pain boss with them — count that as 8+1+1+1 = 11, because the minions aren't 'equal' to the 8-pain boss.
3 minions who'd normally be 3 pain apiece, stacked together, without their boss in tow: 3 pain (the first guy) + 2 + 2 = 7 pain, because the additional dudes are 'equal' to the first guy.
Now, in practice, with the individual writeups and examples, I did not apply this rule consistently, usually because I was doing this by 'feel'. Certain minions just felt floppy and 'weaker', so I didn't feel like adding 2 for each additional; others were more 'oomph'-y, so, they got a bigger boost.
How should pain be calculated if there are 3 opponents, and one of them shares the same Pain rating as the 'leader' but the other does not?
+2 for the same, +1 for the weaker spare, if I were applying my intent consistently. Total of +3.
Contrariwise, on p. 70 you say that multiple Minions would add their Pain ratings in a different manner, based on being an 'efficient group' (just adding all their individual pains together) or an 'inefficient group' (giving a somewhat undefined lesser total of pain).
I think setting pain is something a GM gets a 'feel' for after anywhere from a third of a session to a full session, and past that point most of the guidelines I give are pretty much bunk. The idea of boiling bad guys down to a single number is meant to be there so that the GM doesn't have to stop to think, and runs simply on the juice of 'that feels like 7 pain, okay, let's roll!' So long as you're within a couple pain of what either recipe suggests, you're doing fine.
To some extent I base my thinking on how early into things we are, as well. Early opponents are going to be less intent, less intense, less coordinated, and thus less 'efficient' at eating the hero. So I give them less pain. I dial up the pain more — by bringing in bigger bads, and by making their minions more of a threat — the deeper we get into the story. It gets very rapidly clear at the table (to my basic GM attentiveness at least) whether I'm throwing too much or too little pain, and that's really easy to adjust (again, the magic of the single stat at work).
Look at it this way, too:
The guidelines I produced later are rooted in the idea that the game has some pretty clear breakpoints in terms of multiples of three.
1-3: This doesn't require the player to use more than discipline in order to match or beat the threat. Thus minions live here.
4-6: The player's going to need to get up to 3 more dice into his pool, but these are still equal or fewer dice than his discipline, so the threat of dominance is minimized. Thus lieutenants live here.
7-9: It really starts to hurt, here. At this point, in order to match the GM's pain, the player's going to have to bring in more dice than he has discipline, and that means the odds of discipline dominating are starting to go down significantly. Not to mention the GM's quantity of pain dice starts to make pain's dominance all the more likely. Thus minor bosses live here.
10-12: Oh holy ow. Okay, at this point, we can see that 10-3 = 7. If the player needs 7-9 additional dice to match this, he's gotten close to max in one or both of Madness and Exhaustion — which means he's danger-zoning. Snapping and Crashing are real threats now. Major bosses live here.
13+: I don't tend to create things that have this much pain. Players who've come up with enough dice to match the category prior to this one are already creating enough of their own problems.
Use this as your guideline to thinking more than anything. Don't take the pain strength guidelines for minions/lieutenants/bosses too literally! They're just getting at this same every-three-dice-is-another-break-point math. Keep your ear to the ground, listen to the pace of the game, and play with pain strength to keep the protagonists pushing themselves.
What does 'efficient group' and 'inefficient group' mean, if anything, in game terms?
'Efficient group' + a pack of coordinated dogs, like the needlenoses, and 'inefficient group' keystone cops, bumbling into one another as they attempt to get their job done. No game terms here.
If a player is helping another in a challenge, can he use a scar to reroll the discipline dice that he is adding to his friend's roll?
Yes, but he can't use it to reroll his friend's dice.
Could a character that is not Awake (at least not at Awake at the moment) help a character that is Awake?
With his 1 discipline die and nothing else â yes.
If one player is helping another, and Discipline dominates, then do both characters get the benefits of Discipline dominating or only the main character in the conflict?
Well, first keep in mind that 'helping' discipline dice 'do not participate in the determination of strength'. So the only way that discipline dominates is if the main protagonist's discipline dice do so.
A couple paragraphs down, it says 'Everyone who participates in this effort is vulnerable to whatever dominates'. Reconstructing my thinking at the time, I think I meant 'vulnerable' to imply 'they don't get the benefits of discipline dominating'.
From a pure game design perspective, the reasoning here is straightforward. There's some incentive to help another protagonist in order to add successes to his result. But there's risk: you could all snap, or all get more tired, etc, etc. This balance means that folks won't decide to help on every roll, just based on the 'dice game' side of it — sometimes that risk doesn't look very attractive.
But if everyone gets the benefit of discipline dominating, that biases that balance more heavily than I, as the designer, would want. At that point, with a reasonable chance of discipline dominating and helping the helpers out, there's not as much reason not to hop right on in.
This is especially true if the main protagonist has a small amount of exhaustion and madness in play. Suppose his helper is someone with a lot of exhaustion dice and checked off response boxes. The helper would hop in on the main protag's efforts in hopes that any discipline dominating would splash back and reduce his exhaustion or response checks… in a reasonably safe way. Much safer than if he'd been rolling as the main protagonist.
That feels a bit like a cheat, and that's why I'm inclined to say no go.
If the protagonist loses the conflict, should those that helped the protagonist also suffer the (optional) penalties that the GM can impose upon the protagonist for failure?
Your decision here should be parallel to your decision on what happens to those that help the protagonist if discipline dominates.
If the GM uses despair to add or subtract a '6' from a madness or exhaustion pool, will that have any effect upon the character's use of her madness talent or minor or major exhaustion talents?
Sixes don't count as successes, so adding and subtracting sixes never affects the degree of the roll ('degree' = 'number of successes').
The sixes that are added or removed are done to the 'result set' of the roll, and have little to do with whether or not the player rolled enough madness dice to allow for use of the madness talent. The dice were added already, and already rolled. That requirement's fulfilled. Adding and removing sixes just affects whether or not certain pools dominate.
When you're making a Major Use of an Exhaustion Talent, you're adding your *level* of Exhaustion in successes to the result of the roll. Messing around with the number of Exhaustion dice you have, by adding or removing sixes with Despair coins, does not change your level of Exhaustion. Therefore you're still adding +3 successes if he has raised his Exhaustion from 2 to 3 to use his Major Exhaustion Talent. This supersedes how Major Exhaustion Talents are described on p. 31 and should be considered errata.
When the GM spends Despair coins to 'cast a shadow' is he or she limited to adding one 6 and/or removing one 6 only? In the example the GM spends two coins to both add a 6 and remove a 6, could she have spent 3 coins to add 3 6s instead?
The GM can spend X coins to add or remove X sixes. Removing's limited by the number of sixes already on the board; adding isn't limited (save for the limit that both of them have, the number of despair coins to spend).
One minor potential for abuse: Since the Hope coins are communal, it is possible (though unlikely in a mature group of players) for one player to become a 'Hope coin hog' and spend most/all the Hope coins on himself as soon as he can.
Yep — that's definitely an abuse risk. If you don't have a table full of people you can trust, you're well within your rights to suggest that hope get divided up so everyone gets their share. I just didn't want to mandate that.
Can a player use a hope coin and apply it to another character's disicpline pool, if first player is helping the second player?
Since it's a shared, communal pool, there's not much call for that. The player can simply suggest to the main protagonist's player that he could grab a coin from the hope coffer and pay it for the effect. But honestly, I'd allow this.
What if the first player is not helping the second player?
I'd allow this too. Hope is there for the benefit of all the protagonists, after all. And, if you're uncomfortable with the open, general pool thing — vis a vis the abuse questions from earlier — putting a restriction on using hope coins as 'you can only spend them on other players' is a pretty awesome one.
In a Flashback scene the GM may allow a conflict to happen, with the player only rolling Discipline Dice vs. the GM's Pain dice. No madness, exhaustion or talents involved, since it happened before the character became Awake. Now, aside from the possibility of it being a 'moment of rest', would such a dice conflict have the usual mechanical results on the character in the 'present' (from Discipline Dice dominating, from Pain Dice Dominating, or from Failure: the player subtracting a response or reducing exhaustion, the GM ticking off a response or increasing exhaustion, etc.) or merely a 'Story' result dictating what happened in that flashback (the winning or losing of that conflict) without any mechanical results being added to the character sheet once the flashback is over? Can one use Despair and Hope coins during a Flashback conflict?
Honestly, if I was doing anything of the sort, I'd probably just set aside the side-effects and just go with a did-it-succeed-or-not interpretation of the dice (i.e., just looking at successes and not worrying about the rest of the stuff). But that's personal choice.
Sticking strictly to how the game rules function, there's nothing wrong with using the flashback to inflict a consequence of failure (which could mean that flashing back increases your exhaustion, or triggers a response — at which point I'd say, damn, that was a really ugly memory you just unearthed) — or from Pain dominating, generating a coin of despair. Plus, if your discipline wins out, then unchecking a response or reducing your exhaustion by one happens, and may save you some hope coins that you'd be spending due to the 'moment of rest'.
The question though is how much you want to risk taking your flashback to the point where the darker of those outcomes are possible. If the GM cranks the pain … ouch.
Can a character use scars while having a Flashback?
I don't see a rationale for it, if the flashback explores a time before he acquired the scar. But that's just applying common sense to the problem. There's no mechanical restriction on the flashback (aside from you-only-roll-3-discipline-dice-ever), therefore, scars are fair game.
Can he use coins of Hope?
Yep, though that's sort of silly. Part of the 'point' of doing a flashback is so that you can get 'a moment of rest' in order to spend coins of hope in order to improve your present circumstances (i.e., reduce your exhaustion, clear responses, etc).
I assume during a Flashback sequence, that Pain should be kept to a minimum (1-3), and that no individual 'sleeper' would be more than Pain 1 (maybe even a group would only be Pain 1). Is that about right?
That would be a fair guideline.
The City Slumbering
Is the whole 'You are easy prey for Nightmares' thing only in the Mad City?
No. The barrier between the City Slumbering and the Mad City is porous at all times, except when it's 13 o'clock.
What happens when you go to sleep when you're back in the Slumbering City?
The Nightmares come and eat your complexion.
Can Nightmares and such go into the Slumbering City and such?
The examples show them already doing so. So yes.
If they go into the Slumbering City, does it change what they can do there?
Nope. If you remember the invasion of the Scissormen from Orqwith in Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol — when they invade an asylum and start cutting people out of the air â it is kinda like that.
Heck, half of the adventures that the Doom Patrol go on could be reinterpreted as journeys into the Mad City. Danny the Street may even be part of the Mad City, somewhere in the unpublished corners of my mind.
I was under the impression (given your description at the beginning of the game of a character becoming Awake hearing the 'click' of a safety coming off a gun, thus becoming a 'smellable' target for Nightmares and their Minions) that Nightmares and their Minions could not affect people that had not yet become Awake (although they could affect those that had been Awake, then Crashed). Did I misinterpret this?
Not necessarily. How do you *want* the Mad City to work in your version of the setting? Going in an Orqwith direction makes the Mad City more aggressive and predatory on the City Slumbering. But you don't have to go there.
Is it more like the Nightmares and their Minions can affect absolutely everybody in the Slumbering City, but only have a strong interest in the Awake (they are tastier, or more useful, or something), or was my first interpretation of the Not-Yet-Awake having some sort of 'immunity' correct?
I'd shy away from outright immunity. Things are much more interesting when the Bad Things from the Mad City can come out into the world and threaten the things you hold dear.
Can scars be picked up in the middle of a play session, or only at the end of a particular play session?
Yes. At any time, once per session or at the session's conclusion, the player may indicate an experience from the session that has left a scar on the character.
Can it then be recalled or transformed during the same play session that it is picked up in?
Recalling a scar allows a player to reroll his discipline or exhaustion or madness dice pools, replacing the old roll. If a GM has played a despair coin on one of the latter two dice pools to add a '6' to it, or remove a â6â from it, and then the player recalls a scar to get a reroll of that particular dice pool, what happens?
First answer: If I were running a game, I'd be inclined to ask that the player make all decisions about using scars or not before I made any decisions about whether or not coins are getting spent. This would require the GM to allow the player time to decide whether or not to apply a scar, before the GM (or players) apply any Coins.
Second answer: But that's not the only way to run precedence, and I tend to feel that anything that was done most recently is the thing that should stand. So, if a 6 got added or removed, and then someone recalled a scar to reroll, the addition or removal is wiped away by the reroll, since that was the most recently done thing. The coin is still considered to be 'spent' and so still goes into the Hope bowl.
Technically, a similar question could be asked about a player rerolling his discipline pool after using a hope coin to add a '1' to it, but I cannot imagine a circumstance in which a player would do those actions in that particular order, unless he is very foolish indeed.
Right. Similar results would apply to Hope coins as to Despair coins with respect to scars.
Assume I have 2 protagonists squaring off against 2 Pin Heads. Now, these PCs have just had it with these yes-man and want to tear their heads off. How would we go about rolling this? Would each PC roll his dice against the Pain of one Pin Head? Would one player lend his successes to the second player, who rolls against the Pain of both bad guys? Or does it depend on how they approach the fight?
Here's how I'd handle that fight — I'm going for a semi-traditional, task-resolution take on it, rather than a more scene-and-stakes conflict resolution, because I think it presents more paths of approach this way.
- Determine which protagonist gets to act first. As a rule of thumb, go with the guy who acted least recently, since it's about time for him to step back on up. We'll call him 'A', and the other protagonist 'B'.
- Ask A what he's doing. Attacking one pinhead? Attacking both?
- If it's one pinhead, just count the pain for that pinhead.
- If it's both pinheads, combine pain for both.
- Look to the others in the scene. Are they in a position to help?
- If B is in a position to help, ask B if he's looking to help here. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't; after all, if madness or exhaustion dominate on A's roll, if B's helping, he'll suffer the consequences of that. Maybe it's better to hang back, maybe not.
- If B's not helping, no worries, we wait for his turn.
- If B is helping, then A seems to be the lead protagonist here — A gets to roll all of his dice. B rolls only his Discipline dice, and adds the successes to A's result. B's dice don't get involved in the determination of what dominates at all.
- Make sure to quiz B about how he's helping. Is he getting involved with the other pinhead, keeping him busy? (If that's the case, and you didn't combine their pain because A was just attacking one of them, then because B has included the other in the fight, I'd say, combine the pain.) Or are they ganging up on just one of them? (In which case, leave the pain at wherever it is.)
- Based on the results, make a call as to whether the protagonists defeat none (if the roll's a failure), one, or two of the bad guys (two's only viable if the pain was combined). Even if 'A' was taking on both bad guys, if 'B' didn't help on it, I'd only interpret success as defeating a single one of them, so I could then give B a turn to do his thing against the remaining one.
But wait! Shouldn't one use a single conflict to resolve a situation like that, using the helping rules as described in the book? Every roll the players make has a pretty good chance of sending them further down the spiral of exhaustion and/or madness. It's important to pace how many rolls the players are making. If you've got a scene with, say, 10 Pain 1 opponents, taking out 1 opponent per successful roll would have a significant effect upon the game due to the dice mechanic.
I should clarify, the main reason I was only taking out one per roll was so that B could get his full shot as well. Really, it wasn't 'one per roll', it was 'half per roll'. I.E., the total number of pinheads divided by the total number of protagonists.
As for a situation with 10 pain one opponents, 2 protagonists? If each one of them isn't taking on at least 4-6 at a time and knocking them all down like bowling pins, something is wrong.
Any advice on how often to use despair coins?
Make sure to spend those despair coins, and to throw large enough pain at the players to generate those despair coins now and again. As nasty as despair can be when it's pushed out there, its conversion to hope is an important part of the game economy; plus, with meaty pain in play, it at least reduces the chances of a player's exhaustion or madness dominating (even if it does, in essence, defer it, since a spent despair coin can do similar things).
To some extent, you could look at Pain as adrenaline… without really nasty stuff coming after you, you get complacent, you crash. But pour on the adrenaline, and, sure, your life's more complicated and dangerous, but you're not having as much time to get tired.
The despair coins mean that the GM now can choose moments when your exhaustion or madness dominates, but it *costs* the GM to do that — and sometimes it costs more than 1 despair coin to do so. That's intentional and good. Which would you rather have as a player, +1 exhaustion because your exhaustion dominated, or +1 exhaustion because the GM spent 3 despair coins, turning them into hope, in order to add enough sixes to your exhaustion pool to force it to dominate?
The upshot being, the GM has her hand directly on that particular dial. So I get a little meta about it when I run the game. I look at where the players are at, and I dial the pain up accordingly. When they're stretched particularly thin, by having a lot of responses checked off or a lot of exhaustion dice, *that's* when I want to hit them hard with a lot of pain. First off, they've got the dice to be able to take it on. Second off, a lot of pain means that they'll be scared about going over the edge, but it won't be quite as likely.
With one exception no player pool is more than 6 dice (i.e., twice Discipline), ever. Think about that. That means whenever you provide more than 6 pain, the pool most likely to dominate is pain.
This is why every-three-dice in any given pool in the game is a bit of a breakpoint, in terms of how the odds work… and if you look at the guidelines for setting pain for opponents, they strongly track to multiples of three. 7+ pain is the domain of the Big Bads for a mechanical reason. See the section on Pain in this FAQ.
Incidentally, the exception to the 6 dice per player pool maximum is someone who gains some permanent madness — their madness pool could go as high as 8 dice. But anyone who lets permanent madness stick on their sheet for long is already in for a world of hurt; it's less significant that they have +1 madness die than it is that they're down from 3 discipline to 2. Someone who's pushing for a lot of madness when he's low on Discipline is just asking to become a Nightmare, so, I expect that to be a bit self-limiting.
I found that with four people, I'm going to have to really ramp up the amount of pain dice floating about, because there was enough people to soak up the various effects, and no one was in any danger of crashing or snapping this session. I'm not quite sure how to handle this. While I don't want to force the players into more and more dangerous situations, if I don't constantly present high-pain danger to them, the chance of a large group being in any meaningful conflict is slim.
Keep in mind that the protagonists can be their own worst enemies, too. Give them a low-pain-dice conflict that's still important to their characters and, while they'll win, the small number of pain dice will mean pain's unlikely to dominate — producing no despair, yes, but increasing the likelihood that it'll be their exhaustion or madness dice that'll kick in.
If pain dominates, but you have plenty of despair coin, set aside getting a despair coin in favor of messing around with the sixes to force their responses to check and exhaustion to increase. The coins are there to help you pressure them. It's not always about more pain.