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Thursday, 26th July, 2012, 02:20 AM #501
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
If I were running a game with a small number of PCs and some party NPCs, I might consider letting the PCs sacrifice NPCs to avoid pulling. "Okay, you're jumping out of the window. You can pull to land safely. If you don't pull, you'll twist your ankle. Or the zombies can catch Charlie before he makes it out of the window, in which case you can land safely without taking a pull." And of course, whether you're using this variant rule or not, when NPCs are legitimately threatened, the PCs may end up making extra pulls to try to save them.
I think if you combined Piratecat's pull twice, three times in combat rule with a "sacrifice an NPC to avoid pulling," you could get pretty close to the 4-6 player feel. (Allowing them to sacrifice an NPC to negate a tower fall reduces the danger level too much, imo, to get a standard Dread feel.)
Thursday, 26th July, 2012, 01:03 PM #502
Novice (Lvl 1)
Cerebral Paladin, do you tell your players what the outcome will be if they do not make a pull from the tower? Like in your example, do you tell them that without a pull, they will twist their ankle or let them decide first and then tell them the result?
Also, I really like this idea. I will have to use it in my upcoming session. Thanks!
Thursday, 26th July, 2012, 11:02 PM #503
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
I typically run a Dread variant, not vanilla Dread, but: I often tell them exactly what will happen if they don't pull. I always try to give them some guidance, so I might leave it at "if you pull, you'll land safely," which implies "if you don't, you'll get injured." Of course, sometimes there's less information and sometimes there's more. If someone's searching in a book for information, I might say "pull twice to get all the information in there, pull once to get some useful information." Again, it's implied that if you don't pull, no info for you. With that example, one pull would usually aim to be a piece of information that's sufficient for the PCs to figure out the rest--a good clue, if you like--whereas two pulls would spell things out. I always want the players to feel like they're getting good value from a pull, and I want them to feel like the harm they get for refusing to pull is harm that they've agreed to, not that's being foisted on them.
Friday, 27th July, 2012, 05:05 AM #504
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
A coworker sent me a link today. The URL contained something about water balloon RPGs. I was actually disappointed when it just turned out to be a new Japanese toy that fires rocket-propelled water balloons.
But that got me thinking... Imagine playing a game of dread with a water balloon? Not sure how exactly it would work... Maybe get a hose, hang it from the ceiling (or over a tree branch), and secure the balloon onto it tightly enough that it won't come off. Then whenever someone would pull, instead they have to turn the water on for a moment or two while standing under the balloon.
Dread + campfire horror stories?
Friday, 10th August, 2012, 04:44 PM #505
Lama (Lvl 13)
Sunday, 9th September, 2012, 11:58 PM #506
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
Dread without the Jenga
I recently ran a Dread (technically a Dread variant--I used my Heroic Dread rules) game where I experimented with using a deck of cards to replace the tower.
Here's how it worked: I took a deck of cards, and separated out the Ace of Spades. I shuffled the rest of the deck. I took roughly the top half (deliberately not a perfect half), and I put it aside. I then took the next roughly quarter of the whole deck, and I shuffled the Ace of Spades into it. I then reassembled the deck, putting the last untouched quarter on the bottom, the quarter with the Ace of Spades in it in the middle, and the half on top. So the Ace of Spades was roughly between cards 27 and 39, but could be a little higher or a little lower.
Every time someone pulled, they drew a card from the top of the deck. If it was the Ace of Spades, the tower falls. If it was any other Ace, they had to pick a number between 4 and 13; we would then take 3 cards out of the deck, spaced at that interval (so if the first card was the Ace of Hearts and the player picked the number 4, we would remove the 5th, 9th, and 13th cards as well as the 1st card). All of those cards are revealed as well--if any of them are the Ace of Spades, then the tower falls. If necessary, we would wrap around to the beginning to draw enough cards (so if someone draws an Ace and chooses 13, there would always be 3 bonus cards drawn). Drawing an Ace on an Ace would cause a cascade--in theory, you could draw 10 cards on a single draw, if you drew an ace, with an ace in its three cards, and then an ace in its three cards. The deck is kept neat, the discard pile messy (so the discard pile can't be easily used to judge where in the deck you are).
Overall, it worked quite effectively. Like with the tower, the dynamic feels somewhat random, but not perfectly random. There's risk even on the first pull, but the risk is low (but increasing) until you get about 25 pulls. At that point, every pull feels dangerous. 2 of my 3 players expressed a strong opinion that it was better than Jenga Dread; the 3rd viewed both as equivalently good.
Potential advantages over the tower:
1. It's much, much faster. A pull in a conventional Dread game takes time--sometimes a lot of time. A draw of a card is over in an instant. That meant more time role-playing, less time Jenga playing.
2. Minimizes player skill effects--an expert Jenga player has a big advantage over an inexpert one. With card Dread, an expert player has only a small advantage over an inexpert one in playing the tower. (Of course, skill in e.g. decisions about when to pull still makes a big difference.)
2a. Some of the players I've run Dread for (mostly older players) have had extremely shaky hands, such that they felt they couldn't really pull. We solved this by letting them delegate their pulls. But in card Dread, they can just pull.
3. Can be played over the internet. Since there's no skill in the physical act of pulling, a GM with a web cam can keep the deck and simply pull when the players tell the GM to.
4. If small children or pets are around, they won't knock down the tower by accident or the like. Similarly, bumping the table is not nearly as destructive.
5. Some players may find it less intrusive--less disruptive of the immersion of the game.
1. Some players find that the delays while pulling a block are productive--that they build tension. A fast play mechanic may reduce the tension.
2. Minimizing issues with bumping the table, etc., may have the negative effect of losing the "tower keeps us focused and nervous" dynamic. A deck of cards isn't a loaded gun in the way that a Jenga tower is.
3. Some players really like the specifically Jenga aspects, either because they like playing Jenga, or because they like some of the strategic aspects (I can pull to make it easier for later players or I can pull to make it harder), or because they like the tactile feedback you get when you test a piece in a Jenga tower.
Anyway, I'm going to try this variant more in the future. I'd be very interested to hear about people's opinions if anyone else tries it.
Monday, 10th September, 2012, 01:36 AM #507
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
interesting card method. the stuff with dealing with non Spade aces sounds convoluted, but that may just be my speed reading of it.
As a Jenga expert, I find that beginners under-estimate their ability/over estimate the difficulty. Obviously, there are pulls I can make, they can't, and I can do it quickly. But until we reach the end game, they're in far less danger than they think.
There's value in this.
Cheap Ass Games' had a design philosophy that their games should reward somebody who uses their brain and thinks a good strategy, but not give that person an overwhelming advantage. thus, they're games are still very random, but if you are smart, and your opponents aren't you have a slightly better chance of winning.
Jenga kind of does that. My skill gives me an advantage, but in general, it doesn't really dominate. Especially since Jenga only has one loser. A skilled player really washes out in the mix. They simply lose Jenga less often than anybody else, and if you play enough times, everybody is a winner with few repeat losers.
There's also this sense of control. If I'm just drawing from a deck, I don't have less input on the outcome. Kinda like most RPGs. If I'm drawing from a tower, I have a lot more feeling of control over the outcome. It's better than rolling a dice to see if I hit.
Monday, 10th September, 2012, 10:05 PM #508
Defender (Lvl 8)
I think as an alternative mechanic for when Jenga is impractical, the deck of cards is viable... but I wouldn't want to give up that atmosphere if there was any way to avoid losing the Tower.
Tuesday, 11th September, 2012, 01:58 AM #509
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
My proposal is that the PC pulls for the benefit or doesn't pull for the consequence. If he pulls and the tower falls, an NPC MIGHT take his place as being dead. The NPC is a placeholder for another player who really might have been the one to take that pull instead AND the tower really would have fallen and reset anyway.
I suspect either method can work, but my intention was to make NPC sacrificing work as an analog to having the real players present. Thus, with 4 players or 2 players and 2 NPCs in a game paced for 3 tower topplings means that 1 PC survives at the end in both games.
with CP's way, when you reach a climactic moment, and you opt to sacrifice an NPC, you are still at climax (tower is shakey), and the player will have to pull pretty soon. Result is, 2 inevitable tower topplings = game over before the denoument.
Note, I don't fully assume that Dread will have 3 tower topplings, but if you follow the 3 act play pacing model, it lines up that way for the most part.
Namely because once the tower is rebuilt with the requisite pre-pulls, it's still a lot safer to make enough checks to escape the villain from the continuing attack for the scene pacing to calm down (hence, the shakiness and toppling is the climax, and the rebuild is shifting to a new Act/scene.
Tuesday, 30th October, 2012, 04:15 PM #510
Novice (Lvl 1)
I'm running a pre-Halloween game of Dread tonight. This is going to be the second game of Dread I've run (though I am a fairly experienced GM for other systems).
My first game... did not go so well. I ran the "Beneath a Metal Sky" adventure from the book, and, bolstered by the constant recommendations of this as a great gateway game/game for newbies, I ran it for a group of 6, only 2 of whom were experienced roleplayers.
I found there were really two major problems I encountered — one was that the adventure (or perhaps simply my understanding of it) was too rigid. It reads very well, but I found the actual play of it to be mostly a lot of running back and forth around the ship. Go to the X section on the Y level of the ship, then head to the J section on the K level of the ship... repeat.... My players got bored and restless trying to figure out how to escape this ship full of monsters, and frustrated with what they felt amounted to a wild goose chase.
The other was that a lot of the players seemed to have trouble buying into the whole "horror trope" aspect of the game. They all decided to be calm, rational, cautious characters, and they all made cautious, sensible decisions. If you've ever seen a horror film, you know this is anathema! I struggled to find ways to spook them into action without tipping my hand too early. After all, the scariest things are those you don't see.
That was a few months ago, and I've had quite a bit of time to reflect on it and attempt to figure out a way to run the game more smoothly. I was impressed with the mechanics of the game, and felt it had great potential... if only I could make it live up to that.
Tonight I'll be running the official adventure "13", about a group of kids in a haunted house. I like this module for several reasons: I think ghosts are really scary, and feel confident in my ability to scare my friends with ghostly happenings; The module is a lot more loosely written, with events happening in locations that are not preset, but in fact, shifting; The characters are all kids, and not hardened, jaded, cautious adults who will avoid danger or panicked responses.
I'm also more confident in my group — it's smaller (4 players), and they're all experienced roleplayers.
I'm considering doing a full write-up of both sessions, and a comparison of them, after I run this game tonight. Especially if this one goes well. I think a rundown of pitfalls I ran into, and solutions I found for them is something that other GMs (or hosts, whatever) may find useful.
A recurring theme I noticed in this thread is "I like this game, but I'm having trouble wrapping my head around how to be a good Host. Can you help me?" and GMs responding with "Well, it's different. Your players do most of the work." While this is true, it's also not very helpful.
GMing a game of Dread IS quite different from running a more traditional game. It requires a lot less concrete planning, and a lot more improvisation and (above all) facilitation. And it's that last aspect I think is really important. Above all, the Host's duty is to facilitate the game and the players' interactions. This means using subtle leadership techniques to guide the players, reduce friction with the system, and (in many cases), with each other (unless dramatically appropriate of course).
Umm... yeah, wow, one long rambling post later, I bring it back to the beginning. I'm running a game of Dread tonight, and I'm running the adventure "13". I really really liked Uenomiac's "Agenda" mod. Only, I'm having a bit of trouble coming up with suitable agendas for the cast (8-10 year olds). I think seeing the filled-out questionnaires will help (I asked them to fill them out ahead of time and email me. Though I have seen some indications that many people prefer having them filled out at-the-table...), but I would love it if anyone had any suggestions for possible agendas.
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