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

Hey, thanks for the feeback, Epidiah!

I'll go check out your website forthwith. Either way, I've already been highly impressed by this idea, and I've heard nothing but rave, rave reviews of the game session mentioned above over on ENWorld's sister site, Circvs Maximvs, where many of the people in the game (and in the room next to it) were able to see Dread in action.
 

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Epidiah Ravachol

First Post
Tiew said:
Sounds extremely cool. Do you think it would be a good system for introducing new role-players to the idea of a role-playing game? I have literary type friends who'd probably get bored a few minutes into me describing the rules of D&D, but who might get into the interactive story thing.
I'm biased, but I've seen many, many folk dragged to conventions by their spouses break their role-playing fast on Dread. I think your literary types will particularly enjoy the character creation method. It is essentially stolen from the writing exercises I had to do in college oh so many years ago.
 

Epidiah Ravachol

First Post
Hobo said:
Hey, thanks for the feeback, Epidiah!

I'll go check out your website forthwith. Either way, I've already been highly impressed by this idea, and I've heard nothing but rave, rave reviews of the game session mentioned above over on ENWorld's sister site, Circvs Maximvs, where many of the people in the game (and in the room next to it) were able to see Dread in action.
No problem. If you have any questions after viewing the material, I'll be happy to answer them.

Dread can be a bit of a spectator sport at conventions. And at home, that same quality really helps to focus the players' attention on what is happening whenever anyone goes to the tower. I suspect it is also why, even after their characters are removed from the game, players usually stick around to watch the fates of their companions unfold.
 

Lockridge

First Post
Thanks Epidiah,
I plan to check out the stuff you linked to. The idea seems great. In d20 its so difficult to make players actually nervous. "A demon? I attack with my sword and collect my gold"
Cool.
 

GreatLemur

First Post
Piratecat said:
Err... build little castles out of the blocks? :D

This wouldn't work well for a high-combat game, I think. Too deadly.
I dunno. Lord Tirian's idea about using it for an action point mechanic might be workable.

In that kind of use, though, I almost have to wonder if each player should get their own tower, but that'd obviously just be a pain in the ass. If everyone's pulling from the same tower, though, you'd need some mechanic to keep players from trying to hog all the early, easy pulls. I really like the idea of the later, riskier pulls being worth more. Also, maybe pulls from lower on the tower could be better? I imagine they'd be harder. I bet there are multi-colored Jenga set out there you could use to build color-coded towers...

And when somebody inevitably topples it, do they die (or go mad, get imprisoned, join the Dark Side, etc.) as in Dread, or should it be a lighter penalty, like a severe botch of what ever the character was attempting, probably incurring attacks of opportunity (even automatic hits?) if in combat. And do you rebuild the tower immediately afterwards, or is the whole party denied their "action pulls" after one guy screws up? Maybe the tower's rebuilt, but the player who knocked it over doesn't get to pull anymore?

This sounds like a hell of a lot of fun, really. It'd make for a lot of action point use, though. And it certainly wouldn't be as high-tension as Dread (unless you do go with the topple-and-die option), but it would definitely add an interesting new element. Worth trying out, I think.
 

Schwebs

First Post
The block tower to build suspense is genius. Perfect for the genre.

I think that incorporating some type of character defining q'naire (the 13 questions) is something that could be added to any RPG immediately. What a great way to help people new to role playing to get into character. I suspect it would help any role player actually.
 

Zaruthustran

The tingling means it’s working!
Piratecat said:
It does; knock down the tower, and you set it up with an immediate three pulls per remaining player. It'll start out rickety.

It's a good sign that I just ran it, and I really want to run it again.

Perfect solution. Man, that sounds so rad. I'm going to add the Jenga mechanic to my Savage Tide campaign. Maybe for ship maneuvers? Or for chase scenes?

What do I need to do in order to convince you to run a game at PAX? :)

-z
 

Epidiah Ravachol

First Post
I'm reluctant to correct Piratecat because of all the wonderful things he's saying about the game, but the number of pulls you make after rebuilding the tower is based on the number of players you've lost so far in the game, and not the number remaining.

It is, however, a very loose rule, and either way will achieve the objective, which is to jump start the tension again. A few folks have also suggested doubling the number of pulls required for actions after the tower is rebuild. I think this sort of happens naturally, because more dangerous situations tend to generate more pulls, and flat out doubling them might be overkill. But if you're using the mechanic in another game to represent something else, that might also be a solution.
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Epidiah Ravachol said:
I'm reluctant to correct Piratecat because of all the wonderful things he's saying about the game, but the number of pulls you make after rebuilding the tower is based on the number of players you've lost so far in the game, and not the number remaining.
Err... oops? Makes sense, of course; I must have misread it!
 

Thornir Alekeg

Albatross!
This sounds really cool.

When mentioning the struggle over the gun, two players were making opposed pulls. Does the GM make pulls for NPCs to counter the player's action, or is it soley based upon the player at that point? I would think GM pulls could heighten the tension, but it also might discourage the players from trying things, because they don't want to end up in a Jenga duel.

Piratecat, how much will it take to get you to scrap your plans and show up at KahunaCon to run this? I'll open with $10 and the dessert of your choice, and I could probably get others to chip in ;)
 

Epidiah Ravachol

First Post
Thornir Alekeg said:
This sounds really cool.

When mentioning the struggle over the gun, two players were making opposed pulls. Does the GM make pulls for NPCs to counter the player's action, or is it soley based upon the player at that point? I would think GM pulls could heighten the tension, but it also might discourage the players from trying things, because they don't want to end up in a Jenga duel.
Fortunately for all that are involved, the GM should never touch the tower. When I'm running the game, I usually put some serious distance between myself and the tower, because I have the crazy legs.

In fact, I've noticed that most players do, too, because the rules don't care why the tower fell, just who caused it. A player standing up to go to the bathroom and bumping the table could just as easily lose a character as a player making one of those heart-pounding end game pulls. I like to think of it as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Effect. If you've seen the original, then you remember that horrific moment when Kirk is inside the house looking for help for their engine problems, the door behind him slides open and within a breath Kirk drops, twitches, and is dragged behind the door as it slams shut. And the audience is left with the most unsettling case of WTF in the history of audiences.

That's Kirk's player knocking the tower over while reaching for a bag of Cheetos. There one moment, not even really trying to do anything, and then gone before anyone even has a chance to witness the events.*

The Jenga duel only comes up when the PCs are in conflict with each other and willing to risk the tower for what they are fighting over. It is a special case that runs slightly different than the rest of the game. It is a game of chicken in which each pull does not necessarily have to mean something is happening. Normally, if you pull from the tower, you absolute succeed or get something for each pull. So an action that takes more than one pull has significant steps that you accomplish with each pull. But while the PCs are duking it out, the tower becomes more abstract, and pulls just represent each character's willingness to escalate the conflict and see it through to its inevitable end.


* To be fair, I've probably run Dread games for hundreds of players over the years, taking into account all the cons and store demos, and I've only seen this sort of unfortunate demise twice, and it happened so early in the game for one of them that I used the dead man walking option on him. The game is about the threat of this happening and not so much about tricking the players into killing their own characters off.
 


Wraith Form

Explorer
Epidiah Ravachol said:
I've probably run Dread games for hundreds of players over the years, taking into account all the cons and store demos.
How in the bloody, oozing name of dread Cthulhu do you come up with the questionnaire? That was probably the one thing that turned me off to the game: I'm not smart enough to create good questions, and {most of} the people playing in my group aren't imaginative to fill out the questionnaire appropriately.

:: cry ::
 

Epidiah Ravachol

First Post
Wraith Form said:
How in the bloody, oozing name of dread Cthulhu do you come up with the questionnaire? That was probably the one thing that turned me off to the game: I'm not smart enough to create good questions, and {most of} the people playing in my group aren't imaginative to fill out the questionnaire appropriately.

:: cry ::
That's actually the hardest part for me, too. So I steal them. I will take some questionnaires from a previous game, go through them, crossing out everything that doesn't make sense for the current game, altering those that can be made to make more sense, and filling in the gaps when I'm done. I forget the exact number, but I think the book has over 200 questions in it to help get things going. Plus, I've collected a few on my blog in the interest of helping other GMs out. And I will shortly be adding Piratecat's questionnaires to that list. And if anyone else has run their own games, I would dearly love to add your questionnaires as well.

Also, I find it much easier if my players suggest the sort of characters they would like to play to me, and I start thinking about questions specific to those.

Last night I was just talking to a friend about this very problem. He said he liked to write a bunch of questions out first that relate to the story, but aren't character specific, and then start to mold characters out of those. He also suggested a sort of web-based questionnaire generator, which I'm now looking into.

But let me be honest with you: you are smart enough, and your players will surprise you. And that's not just a vacuous pep talk. I feel the same anxiety every time, and cringe at many of the questions I've written, but the pay-off is grand and never disappoints. And as Piratecat illustrated in his original post, it is often the innocuous questions that surprise you the most.

Hmm, now you have me thinking. Perhaps I should do some sort of online questionnaire workshop . . .
 

Asmor

First Post
I've gotta say, this sounds really, really freaking awesome. From a purely game-design standpoint, the jenga mechanic is probably the single most perfect mechanic I've ever seen. Simple, elegant, intuitive, and it actually serves the mood as much, if not more so, than the game.

I really, really want to give this a try some time. Hopefully I can talk my group into trying a one-shot of it.
 


Asmor

First Post
Just thinking about this game in the shower, I came up with this idea... Might be a little rail-roady, but it might be interesting.

Have two questionnaires. One is mostly generic stuff that applies to everyone, What's your name, what do you do for a living, why are you on the train from LA to San Francisco, etc. Toss in a question or two that links people together, if appropriate, i.e. How do you know Barry's character? Let them do this one before the game.

Then, prepare a second set of loaded questions, one for each player, which are to be randomly-distributed and filled out in secret right before the game. Some examples:

*Why do you hate dogs so much? Do any of your victims' owners know you killed their precious little pooch? How old were you the first time you drowned a puppy?

*How many times have you been in jail before? Why are you trying to avoid the police this time? What did you hide in your luggage, and how?

*How does your father's suicide when you were a kid affect you as an adult? Describe the scene when you came home early from school that day. Have you forgiven him yet?

*Why do you cut yourself? Do you try to hide your scars? What does your blood taste like?
 

Crothian

First Post
Having loaded questions is part of the Questionnaire according to the game. And not everyone should have the same questions now will players know what each others questions are.
 

EditorBFG

Explorer
Wraith Form said:
How in the bloody, oozing name of dread Cthulhu do you come up with the questionnaire? That was probably the one thing that turned me off to the game: I'm not smart enough to create good questions, and {most of} the people playing in my group aren't imaginative to fill out the questionnaire appropriately.
Well, you really can't fault somebody for coming up with a clever RPG that requires creativity and imagination, can you?

I've been on a "story games" kick lately-- Agon, Carry, Mortal Coil, and the ultrapopular Dogs in the Vineyard have been run at my wonderful FLGS-- and Dread is now on my list of things to try. The guys that work on this stuff are the ones who are really evolving the hobby.

It has really made me wonder how-- or if-- it is possible to apply some of these principles to something like d20. So I'm digging this discussion.
 

greuh

First Post
I have GMd two games of Dread now, and I have to GM one at the french Gen Con next month. I second everything PirateCat said, it is an really fine game and the system is really excellent.

I had something just like the rifle thing in the "under a metal sky" scenario of the gamebook : a player was the CO of the team, another the casual ET. The CO ordered the ET something, which he didn't want. The tension was really high (because the order meant near death). Players decide their character do the chicken game : the CO orders and pull his gun, menacing an on-the-spot execution. The other, a cat-like humanoid (damn furries fan) pulled out his claws. They both pull and pull, until the CO decided not to. The player of the ET said to me after the game that he had big adrenalin rushes while pulling (as the tower was already in a dangerous state before their conflict).
Excellent game !

Three players sacrificed their character to save the others. Some players moved their character a little out the action when the tower was beginning to threaten to fall, which is also fine.

The "13" scenario found on the website, which I used at the second game is, IMHO, not as good as the ones found in the book : it needs development and some rearrangement of the scenes. I will reuse this scenario at the genconFr, rearranging some elements : the little girl won't be one of the first thing encountered, the catlike thing will be found beforehand, and I'll try to be more subtle. Because my players found out the whole thing at the beginning, and one of my players was too much of a bully.

A problem I've still got with the system is the combat. AFA I've understood the system, players pull for attacks and then pull again for dodges. I think I've been mistaken, and I'm going to change this in pulling for both attack/dodge and more pulls if the PC need to dodge more than one attack. I don't know, I need to reread the book or to have some insight from Epidiah (if you still read this).

excellent game anyway,
greuh.
 

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