Dread [Dread] Jenga beat up my dice! My results from the indie horror RPG. - Page 47




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    Eunomanic, it sounds like everything went well and you all had a blast.

    Now, after a virtuoso entry to Dread, you have to face the problem of getting one of your players to run it so you can play.

    Turnabout and all that.
    "The only thing worth writing about is people." -Harlan Ellison

 

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    Agendas: BRILLIANT

    Okay, I'm not normally one to toot my own horn, but I thought I might really be on to something with my idea for "Agenda" questions (two posts back), and after running "Beneath the Full Moon" again with some Agendas, I'm convinced:

    Agendas Rock!

    Here is my tweaked set of questions for Beneath the Full Moon, reduced all the way down to six + one interpersonal question, which was handed out after character introductions (it was a casual game with non-gamers, so I figured I'd ease them in with as little prep as I could). The "agendas" are clearly marked, and all six of them created marvelous interaction between players that might otherwise have struggled to find "hooks" to latch onto the story:

    The Philosophy Major


    1. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," wrote Shakespeare. What does your philosophy include that a modern-day Horatio wouldn't dream of?
    2. What favorite hobby did you use to pursue, but gave up when you came to college?
    3. You joined a fraternity/sorority, and while you've enjoyed the experience overall, one initiation rite crossed the line into hazing. How does it still haunt you?
    4. Now that the guide is incapacitated, what will you be doing or saying to subtly manipulate the others into treating you as the leader?
    5. What's the worst thing you've ever done to a loved one?
    6. You know something that no one else does. This knowledge has convinced you that, without your guide, you're all going to die unless rescuers find you. What is it that you know?


    • Who among the others are you fiercely protective of, and why?
      [AGENDA: This character survives the story, even if you do not.]

    The Economics Major

    1. You majored in economics mostly to spite your controlling father. What degree had he planned for you?
    2. What item did you bring on this trip, despite it being forbidden? (Technological devices, additional survival gear, dangerous items, drugs, and alcohol are forbidden. Some other item may have been forbidden, too: This is entirely up to you!)
    3. While the brochure did describe this trip as “challenging”… you wish you’d realized they meant physical challenges! How are you dealing with your physical limitations?
    4. You intend to be the leader of this group, now that the guide is incapacitated. How will you go about taking control, and why do you expect the others will follow you?
      [AGENDA: You are elected group leader by a majority vote before the end of the story.]
    5. How did your parents die?
    6. On Monday and Wednesday nights, you were awakened by what sounded like an animal prowling your camp. What did you see when you peeked out of your tent, and why didn't you tell the others?


    • Which of the others don't you trust, and why?

    The Freshman

    1. It's your first year, and you've yet to choose a major. What two degrees are you unable to decide between?
    2. What's so great about being 19 years old on an adventure camping trip like this?
    3. What skill do you have that would be very helpful in this situation, but that you intend to keep secret from the others? Why do you feel the need to keep it a secret?
      [AGENDA: Keep this skill a secret throughout the story. (Write me a note if you want to use this skill without the others noticing.)]
    4. What is that pendant around your neck, and what does it mean to you?
    5. If you die on this trip, you know it will be karmic retribution for something you've done in your past. What did you do?
    6. Though you're sure the rest of the group would dismiss it if you told them, you're convinced the guide was attacked by a werewolf. Why do you believe in werewolves?


    • Which member of the group would you trust the most with your life, and why? Which member of the group do you never want to be left alone with, and why?

    The English Major

    1. You chose your major to challenge yourself... but why was English the most challenging major for you?
    2. What book have you read more than twenty times? How has it proven helpful on a trip like this?
    3. What do you think you are much better at than you really are?
    4. Why do you think you would make the best leader of this group, now that the guide is incapacitated?
    5. If you die on this trip, you will go to Hell unless you redeem yourself for what sin?
    6. What specific task did the guide give you to do before you all went to sleep on the night he was attacked? Did you do it?


    • (For this question, choose EITHER: the Fashion Design Major, the Freshman, or the Engineering Major.) Your chosen character is hiding something. You sense it, but you don't yet know what it is. How do you intend to learn their secret?
      [AGENDA: Tell me their secret at the end of the story.]

    The Fashion Design Major

    1. How is a major in Fashion Design a lot harder than people think?
    2. What skill do you have that makes you the MOST useful person to have on an adventure camping trip like this one?
    3. On the first night, the guide confiscated the illegal painkillers you've been addicted to for almost as long as you can remember. What withdrawal symptoms are you experiencing, and how are you hiding them from the others?
    4. Why are you living under a false name and a faked identity, having cut all ties to your former life?
    5. What's the most regrettable thing you've ever done due to being drunk?
    6. What sentence did you add to the "Tourist Warnings" section of Wikipedia's "Grand Canyon" article before coming on this trip?


    • Who among the others do you think would make the best leader? Other than the Freshman, who among the others do you think would make the worst leader?
      [AGENDA: Your choice for "best leader" is formally recognized by the group as leader before the end of the story.]

    The Engineering Major

    1. You've known since high school that you wanted to be an engineer. What kind of engineering are you studying? (mechanical, computer, chemical, civil, mining, metallurgical, aerospace, etc.)
    2. Parts of this trip are harder for you because of what phobia?
    3. As a child, you went camping with your family frequently, and you enjoyed it. So why haven’t you been camping in more than 8 years?
    4. Why is it so important to you that the group treat you as leader, now that the guide is incapacitated?
    5. While on this trip, you realized that you don’t want to be an engineer. What happened to change your mind?
    6. You were the first person to reach the guide's tent after hearing sounds of the attack. What did you see when you got there, and why haven't you told the others?


    • What did you secretly do to one of the members of the group yesterday, and why are you now beginning to regret it?
      [AGENDA: Undo what you did, or solve the problem you created, without your victim finding out.]

    The agendas were nothing more than empty incentives, like getting a gold star on your homework, and they worked perfectly. Whether you survived the story or not, you could satisfy your agenda and feel like your character accomplished that "extra something."

    In hindsight, the Engineer's agenda was probably the most prone to problems---after all, the Engineering Major could have gamed things by picking something really easy to undo. I was lucky to have a great Eng player who played along by writing "I stole the most valuable item I could find in the backpacks I rustled through last night while everyone was asleep," which ended up being the group's only compass, so it worked out beautifully---he kept pulling "to see if anyone is watching me", and played chicken with anyone willing to pull to be observant until everyone else backed down. He won his gold star

    The English Major never figured out her chosen mark's secret (the Freshman): Some of her possible targets had multiple secrets; I was going to give her the "gold star" if she told me any of them (for the Freshman, she could have gone for the obvious "secret skill", or the karmic retribution sin, or the reasons underpinning his werewolf belief). Regardless, her attempts were consistently fantastic: the Freshman was convinced she was in love with him by the end of the story, even proposing that this was her Agenda! (In case you're wondering, I limited her choices to three because I thought the Philosophy Major and the Economics Major's secrets would be too difficult to suss out; I anticipated more skulking about and spying, whereas the English Major took a delightfully unexpected "you can confide your secrets in me" approach which, in hindsight, would have worked for any of them.)

    The Freshman's "secret skill" was the fact that he was a medical prodigy who, after suffering through med school as a young teenager, decided to pretend to be your average dumb 19-year-old to enjoy his college years. There were at least three great scenes of him insisting on carrying or watching over the guide, stealing the first aid kit, and pulling to administer sneaky medical aid. Sneaky medical aid! Rofl! He won his gold star

    But best of all was the perfect trifecta that built up around the Philosophy Major (PM), the Fashion Design Major (FDM), and the Economics Major (EM). For their Agendas, PM chose to be protective of FDM, while FDM chose PM as best leader. EM, whose Agenda demanded he be elected leader, was a brilliant little manipulator (for being my baby brother IRL, sheesh...): He cleverly implied that he alone possessed knowledge that no one else did, and threatened to keep it to himself "because it's the only way I have to keep this group from tearing itself apart." This suckered in the PM's player beautifully (since she actually did have a question giving her knowledge no one else did, so was primed to believe something similar appeared on the EM's Questionnaire---metagaming can be a truly beautiful thing... especially when it's completely wrong!). This resulted in FDM fishing for reasons for PM to be leader, which forced PM to juggle giving FDM those reasons so she wouldn't appear totally nuts to the other players (PM being forced to protect her, after all), while at the same time not giving too many reasons lest she compete with EM's leadership bid (she genuinely bought into EM's empty threat about secret knowledge). PM ended up dying before this could really come to a head, but there was enough great roleplay between the three of them (with the other players throwing in enough that I wasn't worried about a one-sided show), that I consider their Agendas a complete success. Only FDM didn't earn her gold star; FDM survived, giving PM hers, and EM was elected leader, winning his.

    (Sorry if that last paragraph was confusing; I've read it a few times and edited it for sensicalness---which should SO be a real word---but I'm trying to balance brevity with clarity here!)

    Though I've only played Dread twice, with two completely different groups of players (and only the second game had Agendas), and only running Beneath the Full Moon... I will be using Agendas in every single Dread game I run from now on. They absolutely SANG, investing every player in the story and fueling more incredible storytelling than anything I could have offered as host! I can only imagine how much fun it can be to read a really juicy Agenda, rub your hands together, and start plotting how you're going to accomplish it... can't wait to take malcolypse's advice and convince someone to run a Dread game for me!
    Last edited by Eunomiac; Friday, 23rd December, 2011 at 05:28 AM.

  • #463
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    Can't give Eunomaniac EXP right now, but "sensicalness" deserves some, and to be a real word.

    Edit: Good luck finding a Dread GM, I've been trying forever and a day now.
    "The only thing worth writing about is people." -Harlan Ellison

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    I think the Agenda idea was good. A way to focus the PC into having a goal that fits in the scope of the setting/situation.

    it also makes a driving reason to play Dread despite the knowledge that to pull means to risk dying.

    If you can achieve your goal, then you "win" even if your PC dies.

    This makes sense for design, in the sense that Jenga itself is about "not losing" by being the one to knock the tower over.

    As a minor nitpick, I might recommend rephrasing your agenda statements into action directives:
    [AGENDA: Ensure this chosen character survives the story, even if you do not.]
    [AGENDA: Get elected group leader by a majority vote before the end of the story.]
    [AGENDA: Get Your choice for "best leader" formally recognized by the group as leader before the end of the story.]

    Like I said, minor, but I think phrasing each AGENDA entry as an action goal makes it clear that you want the PC to take action and achieve the goal to win the AGENDA point.

    I like keeping it simple and just 1 agenda per PC, without a scoring mechanism.

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    This may have come up already in the thread, but I'm too lazy to read back through all those posts to check!

    Does anyone have an idea of roughly how many pulls you get to before someone knocks the tower over?

    Obviously it will vary, but surely there is a rough zone of failure in there. I'm just trying to get an idea since I plan on running my first ever session of Dread in the next couple of months.

    Olaf the Stout
    Finished running my group through the SCAP, now I'm running them through the AoW AP

  • #466
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olaf the Stout View Post
    This may have come up already in the thread, but I'm too lazy to read back through all those posts to check!

    Does anyone have an idea of roughly how many pulls you get to before someone knocks the tower over?

    Obviously it will vary, but surely there is a rough zone of failure in there. I'm just trying to get an idea since I plan on running my first ever session of Dread in the next couple of months.

    Olaf the Stout
    The world record is 40 2/3 levels. It was set by the guy who'd been demoing Jenga for years to sell the game (to vendors).

    I've gotten giant Jenga to 39 and 2/3

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    malcolypse: I'm thinking the key is to show your players how easy it is to scare the crap out of everyone: walking around behind them, playing creepy music, and being all laid-back about it is working for me. As for finding players, I've had great success strong-arming people into the game ("come on, I know you won't even play Risk, but you'll have a blast, I PROMISE!")

    Janx: Great advice, and in fact I did alter the format a bit when I posted it. The agendas were all phrased as "YOU ACCOMPLISH YOUR AGENDA IF: <situation>", so they were clearer than the ones I posted. I do like your "action phrases" better, though, and will take your advice next time, thank you!

    Olaf the Stout: Here are the notes I condensed from this thread and from another on the subject of judging when the Tower likely falls. Each bullet is a comment from either an experienced host or the designer, which is why they occasionally conflict (all different opinions/experiences):

    • It seems like a 4 hour game would most often see 30 pulls and 1 death (happening around pull #25).
      • DESIGNER RESPONSE: "... things get ridiculous around pull 45 ... try to go for a pull every 5 minutes for a 4 hour game ... people will be making multiple pulls, so it's okay to go a half hour without a pull and then yank six. Just make sure everything feels on pace."

    • "... the tower is generally good for 35-55 pulls before it falls. With beginning groups ... it'll be near the bottom of that range."
    • DESIGNER: "... it becomes nerve-wracking for me around 25 pulls. ... other, less experienced groups get nervous with as little as 12-15 pulls."
      • USE THEIR MISCONCEPTIONS re: INSABILITY! Play up any tension about how rickety the Tower appears, AND about how every pull makes every future pull that much harder.

    • Generally only klutziness will bring it down before 20 pulls.
    • Most of the time you'll see a tower collapse in the late 20s or so.

    So, there really is a HUGE range during which the tower could possibly fall (anywhere from 20 up to nearly 60). And this range can vary a great deal even within a single gameŚthe Tower fell twice in my first game: the first time it was somewhere in the early 20s, possibly even sooner; it then lasted until at least 45 pulls, and even then it was a heroic sacrifice that brought it down.

    By far the best advice, I thought, was that players tend to think the Tower is about to fall LONG before it actually does, and that you shouldn't dispel this misconception, but encourage it. This "Dread Plateau" is a subtle aspect of the Tower that's truly fantastic. Basically, I always see the Tower in three "states:"
    • STAGE ONE: Safe, and everyone knows it. The Tower is in this state any time it's recently been rebuilt. You want to get out of this state as quickly as possible (the game is not called "Safe" for a reason).

      After the Tower is built at the beginning of the game
      , offer a lot of optional, relatively insignificant pulls to players. Even if they refuse, it sets the mood and gets them into character. But, more importantly, it gives them a sense of control over accepting vs. refusing pulls. This beats throwing arbitrary, serious challenges at them, which makes them feel like they're in a pinball machine (save this for later ). Also, you can try to trigger a player-vs-player conflict, where each player plays chicken with the Tower, alternating pulls until one backs down. This gets to a Stage 2 Tower the quickest... but it could also end up killing someone early (with potentially bruised feelings, given the PvP) if it gets out of hand.

      After the Tower is rebuilt following a character death, you have two choices, depending on where you are in the story: (1) If you aren't in an action scene, or near enough to the end of one, use the death to get the group into a low-tension situation to match the Tower: they get to their campsite, argue about what to do next, etc. (2) OR, if the Tower fell in the middle of a crazy-hectic scene, DOUBLE DOWN: More monsters arrive, AND your "Dead Man Walking" reveals he's been turned into one, striking from behind! Everybody pull to avoid scattering in mad panic, then pull again to maintain calm enough to act! Require 3-4 pulls to do anything (OFFENSE: maintain cool + get close/get weapon/aim + hit the thing + make it a telling blow; DEFENSE: react + dodge + avoid sideswipe + maintain composure)! Demanding a round of pulls from everyone, and making the situation so deadly that multiple pulls are required for almost every action, feels intense right away even with a Stage 1 Tower, and gets you to Stage 2 damn quickly. The only con here is if you have players who are slow-pullers even with a stable tower.
    • STAGE TWO: "The Dread Plateau." This is where the Tower could be as many as 20-30 pulls away from falling, BUT all your players are getting very nervous about making pulls (which is your signal that you've moved out of Stage 1). You'll be surprised how fast you get here, and how long you can stay here, which is why the Jenga mechanic is so fantastic for Dread. This is where the game is at its best, and you should get to this stage ASAP. Use their refusals to pile on complications; ramp up the tension, and wait for someone to die OR you start to feel like you're moving into Stage 3.
    • STAGE THREE: Death Is Imminent. This is where the players are convinced the Tower's going to fall at any moment... and you're starting to agree with them. (Yeah, it's a fuzzy line). At this point, you should be planning what you're going to do AFTER the Tower falls. Avoid starting a big climactic fight scene here, because it won't last very long before either the Tower collapses (throwing you back to Stage 1 in the middle of your endgame), OR someone pulls off an anticlimactic heroic sacrifice (which will be especially tempting now) the moment the climax begins. Ideally, you want to get to this point DURING a big climax, so that someone is finally pushed towards a heroic sacrifice that DOES feel appropriately heroic, after a few rounds of players refusing to make pulls (resulting in serious injuries and other complications).

    Remember: The Tower dictates the dramatic tension of your game, not you. I read this before I played, but never really "grokked" it until I ran a game. No matter how scary your scene is, if your players are staring at a Stage 1 Tower, they aren't going to be as afraid as they'd be in a fairly tame scene with a Stage 3 Tower. You want your scenes and the Tower to line up as best you can, and the best way to do this is to be supremely flexible: cut out scenes on the fly, mix them around, have a general way to ramp up the tension that would work for any scene ("monsters attack!"), but ALSO a plan to either reset the tension, or to double down (depending on how you want to get from a Stage 1 Tower to Stage 2).

    Hope that was helpful, and I realize I digressed a bit from your question, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to summarize some of the other stuff in this thread about pacing and the Tower.

  • #468
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    Hi Dreadnaughts,
    I'm running Beneath a Metal Sky for my college friends this weekend and needed some brainstorming help. I wanted to give each character an additional motivation that could create some conflict between the characters. And I'd like to hear any ideas you have for events that I could add that are related to their questoinaires. (I've attached the responses for the questionaires.)

    Thanks all!!
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wednesday Boy View Post
    Hi Dreadnaughts,
    I'm running Beneath a Metal Sky for my college friends this weekend and needed some brainstorming help. I wanted to give each character an additional motivation that could create some conflict between the characters. And I'd like to hear any ideas you have for events that I could add that are related to their questoinaires. (I've attached the responses for the questionaires.)

    Thanks all!!
    You could try a deliberate setup in the questionaire:

    On the captain, put:
    "What happened 5 years ago, when the chips were down and you crossed the line?"

    And on another PC put:
    "The captain may show signs of instability and rash judgement. What will you do if it happens again?"

    As always, feel free to adjust the phrasing, etc. The point is, the captain's question will lead him to answer about some made up event where he got angry (and thus appeared irrational). Perhaps even a Firefly-like backstory event.

    The other PC has just been lead to EXPECT such behavior and history and thus will look for it. Thus, they will review everything the captain does and see it in that light, and thus when this player thinks there's a problem (likely over a disagreement) they will associate it with being unstable, and move to take the captain out of command.

    On another PC, indicate that they are really a spy from Weyland-Yutani and have been sent to collect as much data on the organism as possible, including a specimen if possible.

    Make another PC be suspicious that someone in their party is not who they say they are.
    "Your background has trained you well to detect duplicity in others, it tells you something is amiss amongst the crew. Why?"

    It's tricky, but try to make your questions lead, but not overtly. My last question example was too heavy on statement of how the PC is, not letting the player come to that conclusion. A good clue is that half or more of the question should actually be the question, with the remainder being the part that frames it and guides the player.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Janx View Post
    slice
    Thanks for all of the suggestions! I sent those two leading questions to the Captain and Doc. I added to the Doc's backstory that she's been tasked by the Company to keep tabs on the Captain because he's been acting odd. I answered the Navigator's "Who don't you trust?" question with the Doc because he spotted her spying and taking notes on the captain. I also added to the Nav's backstory that he was dishonorably discharged by the military and a former colleague suggested that the space hulk has some importance to the military and retrieving what they want or making something disappear for them could be his ticket back in.

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