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

Epidiah Ravachol

First Post
Damn, now I have to go buy this, and convince some people to play. I should have just bought it at the con!
I recommend purchasing through IPR at the moment. We all but sold out of our copies at GenCon and it'll be a while before the new print run comes in. Fortunately, according to their website, IPR still has 17 left.

I know I mentioned Rodrigo when talking to you cause he's the one who first ran Dread for me and got me into the game. That's the Morro Castle (sinking ship) game that he's run a few times at ENWorld gamedays. Sorry you didn't get to meet him, cause he runs a good game of Dread and I think, along with Piratecat, has helped introduce a lot of people to the game.
Ah, that about sounds right. (And now I can place a face to your boardname). I own a debt of gratitude to so many ENworlders for championing this game. Thank you all.
 

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Hypersmurf

Moderatarrrrh...
I own a debt of gratitude to so many ENworlders for championing this game. Thank you all.
We were playing a game on the Hyatt 3rd floor, run by Queen Dopplepoppolis (DangerGirl! on Circvs Maximvs), and someone passing by saw the Jenga tower. "Hey, is this Dread? Cool - I know the guy who wrote this!"

In another session she ran, there was a table of people playing Settlers of Catan adjacent to her table. The last fifteen or so pulls of the game were all player vs player, and the last five were clearly defying physics. Two of the Settlers players were saying "Come on, guys, can we just play our game?" But the other three were completely riveted to the Jenga tower...

-Hyp.
 


Hypersmurf

Moderatarrrrh...
We've been talking about Dread all week over here. Even have a few variants...c'mon over and take a gander.
You might notice that most of the Rah Rah Rah in this thread comes from people who have played Dread.

The Jenga tower might appear at first glance to be gimmicky. And maybe it is... but it's not a gimmick with no purpose other than to draw attention.

Most resolution systems rely on independent events. The dice have no memory. A DC 20 saving throw is as easy or difficult to make at the start of the game or the end of the game.

The Jenga tower, on the other hand, is influenced by every pull that has come before it. At the start of the game, pulls are easy. By the end of the game, the tower is unstable, and pulls are much harder. During the end-game, the tension at a Dread table is visceral and palpable, and that's why the system works for the horror genre. The mechanic reinforces the genre.

It's easy to read the book and dismiss the tower as gimmicky. Play a game with a decent table, and that dismissal becomes a whole lot harder.

Can someone game the system, and refuse to make pulls? Sure - I've seen it done. And it was done by someone who doesn't get it. And I wouldn't invite him back to play at my table again. But weighed against that one guy, I've played with twenty people who did get it, and the experiences were fantastic.

Feel free to scoff without understanding why the 'gimmick' works. Feel free to be the guy who doesn't get it. I'll continue to play with the people who do, and I'll continue to have those stellar gaming experiences.

-Hyp.
 

John Crichton

First Post
We've been talking about Dread all week over here. Even have a few variants...c'mon over and take a gander.
As Hyp suggests, try a playtest. You may be pleasantly surprised. It's entirely possible that you're missing out on some serious fun. More fun than simple mockery of something misunderstood.

As an RPG fan, I'm sure you can see where I'm coming from.

Feel free to scoff without understanding why the 'gimmick' works. Feel free to be the guy who doesn't get it. I'll continue to play with the people who do, and I'll continue to have those stellar gaming experiences.
This.

Can someone game the system, and refuse to make pulls? Sure - I've seen it done. And it was done by someone who doesn't get it. And I wouldn't invite him back to play at my table again. But weighed against that one guy, I've played with twenty people who did get it, and the experiences were fantastic.
Well said, Hyp. As one who has played a few times, it's easily the best game to run for horror. Especially as a one-shot.

The game certainly requires an amount of buy-in and is entirely dependent on roleplaying. It's not a game where one can "win" like most social, tabletop roleplaying games.
 

scholar

First Post
I can't tell you how cool it was to finally meet all the ENworld people I met at GenCon. And to be a creepy little ninja spying on the late night Dread games on the third floor of the Hyatt.
i didn't ge to meet you, but apparently you talked to my girlfriend while I was spying on a 316 game in he embassy...

so irritated I missed talking to you:(

she was the one telling you about my random idea for a dread larp where people have to move a card table holding the tower a few inches to advance down hallways and such

and I'm getting ready to run my first dread game in about a month or so at the albany game day, so wish me luck:D
 


jdrakeh

Adventurer
The Jenga tower might appear at first glance to be gimmicky. And maybe it is... but it's not a gimmick with no purpose other than to draw attention.
This. As I stated in my initial review, in a niche market that seems to be defined by its self congratulatory fervor at times (often times digustingly so, in my opinion) Dread's modesty is incredibly refreshing. The game itself doesn't once claim to reinvent the wheel or openly boast of the Jenga implementation.

The big thing that discounts the Jenga tower as a mere marketing gimmick, however, is that the Jenga tower actually does something that dice can't easily mimick (namely, organically building tension as play progresses). A completely "gimmick" mechanic doesn't produce results that are any different than those that a straight, traditional, die roll will.

I guess the best example of this that I can think of is the roulette wheel mechanic in Fastlane, which is simply a binary pass/fail mechanic despite all of its author's claims about it being innovative and brilliant (indeed, he even offers a die roll option in the book that produces the exact same end results as spinning the roulette wheel will).

That's a gimmick. Dread's Jenga mechanic, however, not only resolves action but also influences the course of game play by impacting all future action that is resolved. I can't think of a single dice roll mechanic that does this, off the top of my head.

Can someone game the system, and refuse to make pulls? Sure - I've seen it done. And it was done by someone who doesn't get it. And I wouldn't invite him back to play at my table again. But weighed against that one guy, I've played with twenty people who did get it, and the experiences were fantastic.
I do feel compelled to point out that not pulling bricks isn't really gaming the system, as anytime that you opt not to resolve action by taking a pull, the action in question automatically fails (unless something has changed in the rules since the first printing of Dread). There simpy isn't any benefit in refusing to take pulls, unless your goal is simply to ruin the game for other players.
 

Asmor

First Post
Just as an aside, it is certainly possible to simulate the jenga tower using dice. Not perfectly, mind you, but you get the same end result: early rolls are easy, later rolls are harder.

Start a dread counter at 1. People roll d% when they'd take a pull. Whenever someone makes a roll, increment the dread counter by 1. If someone rolls equal or under the dread counter, they just toppled the tower and it resets at 1.

There are some pros and cons to this. Big pros are that it's not dependent on manual dexterity, and it's a lot more convenient (no need to worry about bumping table, no need for "specialized equipment" since most gamers should have the dice already, no need to set up the tower).

Of course, the big con here is that the tower just has this visible quality that makes it a visible, palpable threat. I don't think a number written down on some piece of paper is quite going to cut it. Also, I suspect that the d% method might be more likely to knock someone out faster.
 

jdrakeh

Adventurer
Just as an aside, it is certainly possible to simulate the jenga tower using dice.
Well, in fairness, I didn't say that it wasn't possible, only that I couldn't think of an existing die mechanic that produced the same end result. My point was that this kind of die mechanic is by no means commonplace in the hobby and that the Jenga mechanic actually does bring something completely new to the table in this regard.

When dice mechanics that effect all future action resolution in a given game become commonplace, then people can call the Jenga mechanic a marketing gimmick in good faith. Until then, the Jenga tower mechanic actually accomplishes something unique by organically staging story pacing via action resolution.

So far as I'm aware, no other roleplaying game on the market does what Dread does in this regard. Is there another roleplaying game on the market where the resolution of a single action directly affects all subsequent action in the game, ramping up tension, and changing the direction of play as a result?
 
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Xath

Moder-gator
The Jenga tower adds so much to a horror game. In almost every Dread game I've ever played, I've been physically shaking out of nervousness during the later pulls of the tower. It adds a level of suspense and anticipation that truely adds to the game, wheras I think that a dice mechanic in a horror game pulls people away from the suspense of the situation.
 

nerfherder

Explorer
We were playing a game on the Hyatt 3rd floor, run by Queen Dopplepoppolis (DangerGirl! on Circvs Maximvs), and someone passing by saw the Jenga tower. "Hey, is this Dread? Cool - I know the guy who wrote this!"
The Jenga tower adds so much to a horror game. In almost every Dread game I've ever played, I've been physically shaking out of nervousness during the later pulls of the tower. It adds a level of suspense and anticipation that truely adds to the game, wheras I think that a dice mechanic in a horror game pulls people away from the suspense of the situation.
I played in DangerGirl's Dread game at Gencon, and it was one of the highlights for me (and I played in 12 other game, none of which were duff). The tower certainly did add an increasing level of tension through the game, as I think you can see from some of the photos I took.







 

Hypersmurf

Moderatarrrrh...
There simpy isn't any benefit in refusing to take pulls, unless your goal is simply to ruin the game for other players.
If the player defines success in a horror game as surviving until the end, not pulling can ensure it. He might survive in a world that's been wiped out by the zombie plague, and the character might perish in the epilogue the moment the game itself ends, but if he is resolved not to exit the game before the end, refusing to pull can ensure it.

I think it's no coincidence that the one person I've seen who approached the game with this mindset is the one person who appeared to have the least amount of fun in any game I've been involved in. The guys who were told "That's pretty insane - make five pulls", or who had half-hour tower duels against each other? They're the ones whose chances of exiting the game skyrocket, but they're also the ones who still tell the stories a year later, and (I suspect) will still be telling them in five years.

The Jenga tower adds so much to a horror game. In almost every Dread game I've ever played, I've been physically shaking out of nervousness during the later pulls of the tower. It adds a level of suspense and anticipation that truely adds to the game, wheras I think that a dice mechanic in a horror game pulls people away from the suspense of the situation.
I've found it seems to take about an hour and a half for the tension and shaking to completely work its way out of my chest and shoulders after a Dread game.

I don't get that from a d20. Dice have provided me with many, many moments of sheer awesome, and the occasional instant of terror... but dice have never given me that sustained anxiety that horror aims to inspire.

-Hyp.
 

jdrakeh

Adventurer
If the player defines success in a horror game as surviving until the end, not pulling can ensure it.
I suppose that's true, though. . . if a Dread player is refusing to draw, they're effectively refusing to do anything or take any action, which seems to be less about gaming the system than it is about deliberately avoiding expectations of the other players or the game. Exactly like those folks who join D&D groups and then refuse to have their characters partcipate in any adventures. Or folks who join games billed as 'serious' and then create characters with names like "Mister Nuckinfutz" :hmm:

I seriously doubt that such attempts to avoid playing Dread by refusing to take action (or pull for action) have anything to do with prioritzing survival as a goal or 'not getting' the game. From experience my own with such folks (while playing Dread, as well as other games), I'm inclined to believe that refusing to play a game in the spirit that it is intended to be played or deliberately bucking the expectations of the group with regard to the game usually has more to do with somebody trying to ruin things for the other players.
 

Hypersmurf

Moderatarrrrh...
I seriously doubt that such attempts to avoid playing Dread by refusing to take action (or pull for action) have anything to do with prioritzing survival as a goal or 'not getting' the game. From experience my own with such folks (while playing Dread, as well as other games), I'm inclined to believe that refusing to play a game in the spirit that it is intended to be played or deliberately bucking the expectations of the group with regard to the game usually has more to do with somebody trying to ruin things for the other players.
In this case, the player didn't actually refuse to pull ever. But he did do whatever he could to avoid getting into a situation where he would be forced to pull, and if he were offered a pull, he'd generally decline if he thought he could get away with it.

He wasn't out to deliberately ruin everyone's fun; I think he was quite literally afraid of the tower. And it's the wrong way to approach the game. He didn't ruin the game (I don't think one player in an otherwise great group could ruin a game with Piratecat at the helm)... but he did, I think, make it less than it could have been.

-Hyp.
 

Bubbalicious

First Post
At the start of the game, pulls are easy.
Yeah, at least if you're not cocky and nonchalant about it! :eek:

Seriously, another beautiful aspect of the tower is in that there are times when the tower looks like it can't possibly still be standing, but is. Or the times when someone thinks they have made a successful pull, only to have the tower tip over, agonizingly slow, and then crash. There is also the fact that the pulls you make earlier can make it easier or harder for the later pulls to be successful, depending on how much you "mess up the tower" on your pull!

All this having been said, I think Dread can stretch it's legs a small ways away from the Horror genre. I have an idea for an action/suspense Dread game that I hope to have ready for '09 Gamedays and GenCon. It'll be "Blade Runner Dread: Are You a Replicant?" I've already re-watched the movie (for the first of, probably, 10 or 12 times), and will next read the story on which it was based for the first time in 20 years, and then I think I'll be ready to plot it out!
 

Maerdwyn

First Post
Glad this thread got revived - Dread looks fantastic for one shot Horror games, which is all I've had time for for quite a while. Will be picking it up ASAP :)

It also occurs to me that the system might work for the style of Paranoia game I like to run - I'll have to experiment.
 


Cassander

First Post
I'm thinking Dread can work somewhat off genre as well, though you have to make sure your players know what to expect. Some of my players I think expected a bit more horror and a bit more camp.

I am planning on using Dread or at least a Dread blend for some gritty heroic fantasy. Stuff like the Hobbits and the Black Riders kinda thing would seem right for Dread.

I'd also love to do a Dread campaign at some point. I would think the tension would be really ramped up when you've had your player for more than one session so I think it'd make a great campaign game.
 

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