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Sunday, 31st August, 2008, 05:51 PM #1
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
There have been plenty of horror games that have come out. I just Spent my Origins playing a in a lot of different ones and managed to have a full schedule of only horror games and never playing the same system twice. Of all the con games of horror Iíve played none of been able to match the extra level of nervousness or uncertainty that Dread has. Dread has been my best experience for one shot horror and it continues to be my game of choice to play or run at least once at each convention I goto.
Dread is a small press role playing game by the Impossible Dream. There are many unique qualities to the book and game that set it apart from other. The first is the cover. It is a plain white book with the word Dread in what I would describe as newspaper like text. And around the cover is a single bloody hand print as if someone with blood on their hands held the book. I liked that so much the year it was entered in the ENnies and I was a Judge I pushed for it for best cover. Alas, it was not to be. It was up for Best Game and while it didnít win, only Mutants and Masterminds do I see being played more it at conventions. Dread has staying power.
Dread as a friend called it is a gimmick game. But as I responded to him, it is a gimmick that works. Many people know if it as the Jenga using game. If you see people at a convention playing with a Jenga tower they are probably playing Dread. The tower is the mechanic of the game. There are no dice and no numbers. If a player once to do something that is not automatic the player must make a pull from the tower. Knock over the tower and your character dies or will soon die. Yes, one can meet their end with something as simple as an observation check. One of the best and simple things Iíve seen people who run Dread do is ask who wants to see something. The players want to see something but they have to decide if it is worth the pull. Each pull makes the tower more unstable and will lead to a character death.
The book does a very good job of explaining when to have players make pulls, and how to encourage someone who doesnít want to pull to pull. The only way to die is to knock over the tower so not pulling is sometimes important. In one game I played it there were three players left and we were near the end. My character was driving the getaway car from the evil cultists. So, the other two players agreed to make all the pulls till the end of the game from that point so that way I was guaranteed to at least live. It only turned out to be seven pulls and one of the women playing was like a Jenga master as she was able to make some very good pulls to keep us alive. There is a little strategy and risk and reward in the game. Some people are just not going to be good at making pulls. In another game on the third pull of the tower one of the guys nearly toppled it. WE only got about twelve total pulls out of it before it fell when in most cases a tower can go easily over twenty and sometimes thirty pulls.
The tower as the mechanic is not the only thing that Dread does differently. In fact the character creation process is one that is simple to adapt in other games to enhance their own character creation ways and I have seen it used for other games at conventions. The characters are a list of questions, usually about a dozen. Each question is important in some way to the character and the adventure. Sometimes it is obvious how a question will be used. One question I got was what injury had my character sustained that still hampered him. Obviously, that injury was in some way going to come up in the game. Another time I got the question of what irrational fear does the character possess? Other questions deal with the relationship between characters or particular hobbies or other items that seem more mundane. Questionnaires have been used to develop characters for decades. Dread though is the first game to only use the questionnaire and to ask leading questions to help shape the characters and the adventure. Not all the answers get a chanced to be used in the game and sometimes the storyteller is waiting for the player to make use of one of the answers but they never do. One nice thing is the answers help determine when a character doesnít need to make a pull. Iíve seen it where one person had their character be a gym rat who loved the climbing wall so when it came time for us to make pulls to climb to safety his character didnít need to.
In the games I played the best were when the players were really paying attention and into the game. This is true of pretty much any game. But what I liked about Dread was that even in the games were the players were less serious they would shut up and be a little uncomfortable when they had to make the pull. As long as the players are still care to not knock over the tower the suspense the tower brings still worked to some degree.
Another game I played had the players basically as two factions after the same thing. We were still worried about the thing in the house trying to kill us but the groups would oppose each othersí actions. At one point I and a friend who Iíve known for a while were pulling against each other and neither one wanted to admit defeat. We made about a dozen pulls on an already not great tower and turned a simple scene of trying to over hear a conversation into one of nail biting terror. It played out very well.
The game is simple to learn and simple to play. I think it is one of the few games that I would recommend to everyone to play at least once. It is also one of the few RPGs that one only needs the core book. There are plenty of games that can be played with the core book only but there are also a few supplements that are darned useful. With Dread there are no supplements. In fact I canít even think of what else the game would need. The book has the rules which do not take up a lot of space. IT has some very solid advice for designing the one shot horror game and has three adventures in it. The book concentrates on different kinds of horror games like that makes a a good mystery game verse a good gory horror game. And along the bottom of each of the one hundred and sixty pages of the book are great sample questions for the character questionnaire.
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