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

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
I doubt you'll be sorry. It plays that well.

My new scenario will hopefully involve a space colony and angry, angry prisoners -- as the PCs. We'll see how it goes.
 

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Shawn_Kehoe

First Post
Piratecat said:
I doubt you'll be sorry. It plays that well.

My new scenario will hopefully involve a space colony and angry, angry prisoners -- as the PCs. We'll see how it goes.
Cool! David Fincher wishes you good luck ;)
 

woodelf

First Post
Shawn_Kehoe said:
I'm not sure if Dread should be run with Jenga Xtreme though - I just picked up the set today, and after several tries my best result was 28 pulls. This might be dread's equivalent of the "killer DM." :)
Jenga Xtreme is for the group that has gotten too good at the pulling part of the game, or just is cocky and doesn't take it seriously, so it breaks the mood. And, yes, it is comparatively vicious. Though, if you're getting 28 pulls, you're doing pretty well. And keep in mind that 28 pulls just fiddling with it solo on a desk probably translates to like 15-20 in a Dread context.

Also, a word of warning: don't buy the "Vintage Edition" Jenga for your Dread game. It has numerous flaws that make it a lousy Jenga, and extra-lousy for Dread. It is painted and due to either poor manufacturing tolerances, or the inherent nature of painting (which is why i stained a set, rather than painting it, to get it darker), the blocks vary significantly in thickness (the variance could easily hit half a millimeter which, in this context, is huge) and appear not to always have flat, parallel sides. Simply stacking up the blocks led to a tower with a noticable kink of a couple degrees part way up the tower in 2 out of 3 tries. The alignment tool is, of necessity, folded in falh in the box, meaning you'll have to assemble it eac time you play, likely significatnly decreasing its lifespan. The tower can't be stored assembled (this is also true of the latest cylindrical packaging of regular Jenga). And, while i'm bitching, the insert for keeping the blocks in place is cheap flimsy plastic which (1) won't last and (2) looks completely out of place with the nice wooden bookshelf case. It really should've been dense cardboard, like the stuff they make egg cartons out of. Finally, the paint makes the blocks super-slippery which, combined with their unevenness, makes the tower very unstable. At one point, just playing with the Jenga, with no Dread characters on the line, i successfully pulled a block, the tower was not visibly moving at all, and then it just spontaneously collapsed before i could put the block on top. Oh, except for in high-humidity situations, where they get super-sticky. All around, i can't recommend the Vintage Edition Jenga for anything, but especially not for Dread.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
I have a generic "Jumbling Block Wooden Tower" that works well enough, other than getting me mocked repeatedly by Rel. Except when I lend it to someone for a killer clown game and they drop it into a player's coffee... :D
 

Epidiah Ravachol

First Post
Piratecat said:
I have a generic "Jumbling Block Wooden Tower" that works well enough, other than getting me mocked repeatedly by Rel. Except when I lend it to someone for a killer clown game and they drop it into a player's coffee... :D
Did that stain it at all? I'm half tempted to coffee soak a generic Jenga just for the aesthetic.

But I must add, I've seen some really, really awkward Jenga knock-offs. So while I don't officially endorse any brand, I will caution people to pay attention to what they're purchasing.
 

Chaldfont

First Post
I saw this at Gen Con and thought about getting it, but I had already spent over seventy bucks on Reign and Dogs in the Vineyard. After reading these threads, I ordered it last night.

Wife: "Didn't you just buy a bunch of games at Gen Con?"
Me: "Uh, yeah... But.. eh... I looked all over for it and couldn't find it, so I ordered it online."
Wife: "Suuuuuure ya did."

BTW, I love the Jenga idea. Back in collage we had what we called Drunken Jenga. One night we took a Sharpie and wrote all kinds of nasty Truth or Dare junk on the pieces of our friend's set. Basically you had to pull a piece and do what it said.

I don't think Dread needs it, but this could be an interesting way to expand the game.
 

Nareau

First Post
Epidiah Ravachol said:
Did that stain it at all? I'm half tempted to coffee soak a generic Jenga just for the aesthetic.
No, only my reputation. :)

Dread was a little difficult to find at GenCon. I spent a while looking for it, and eventually found a copy at some indie publisher booth. I finished reading through it yesterday.

There's some excellent info in the book, but some issues (like combat) need to be addressed better. The developers do communicate via their forum though, so that isn't a big deal.

I think I'm going to try to run a series of games based around the "Breakfast Club" characters from my GenCon game. Each one will take place a few years later (at highschool reunions and the like).

Nareau
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Nareau said:
There's some excellent info in the book, but some issues (like combat) need to be addressed better. The developers do communicate via their forum though, so that isn't a big deal.
Epidiah is the author. Yay, accessibility!

The game was for sale at the Indie Press Revolution booth. I had no problem finding it, but I knew where to look. I think it suffered from not having someone there to demo it. (unless there was, and I missed them.)

And not to worry, Nareau. While it's fun to give you a hard time, I never would have noticed the coffee if you hadn't told me. It wasn't a problem at all.
 

Shawn_Kehoe

First Post
woodelf said:
Jenga Xtreme is for the group that has gotten too good at the pulling part of the game, or just is cocky and doesn't take it seriously, so it breaks the mood. And, yes, it is comparatively vicious. Though, if you're getting 28 pulls, you're doing pretty well. And keep in mind that 28 pulls just fiddling with it solo on a desk probably translates to like 15-20 in a Dread context.

Also, a word of warning: don't buy the "Vintage Edition" Jenga for your Dread game. It has numerous flaws that make it a lousy Jenga, and extra-lousy for Dread. It is painted and due to either poor manufacturing tolerances, or the inherent nature of painting (which is why i stained a set, rather than painting it, to get it darker), the blocks vary significantly in thickness (the variance could easily hit half a millimeter which, in this context, is huge) and appear not to always have flat, parallel sides. Simply stacking up the blocks led to a tower with a noticable kink of a couple degrees part way up the tower in 2 out of 3 tries. The alignment tool is, of necessity, folded in falh in the box, meaning you'll have to assemble it eac time you play, likely significatnly decreasing its lifespan. The tower can't be stored assembled (this is also true of the latest cylindrical packaging of regular Jenga). And, while i'm bitching, the insert for keeping the blocks in place is cheap flimsy plastic which (1) won't last and (2) looks completely out of place with the nice wooden bookshelf case. It really should've been dense cardboard, like the stuff they make egg cartons out of. Finally, the paint makes the blocks super-slippery which, combined with their unevenness, makes the tower very unstable. At one point, just playing with the Jenga, with no Dread characters on the line, i successfully pulled a block, the tower was not visibly moving at all, and then it just spontaneously collapsed before i could put the block on top. Oh, except for in high-humidity situations, where they get super-sticky. All around, i can't recommend the Vintage Edition Jenga for anything, but especially not for Dread.
Good warning! I bought a standard Jenga set for dread, and will save Xtreme for when they get really good. :)

I was a little disappointed with the alignment tool in my Jenga set too. The box showed an illustration of a plastic sleeve, and my research online matched that. But the actual sleeve was flimsy cardboard, no good at all. I've taken to assembling it and using a hardcover book to straighten the tower.
 

Asmor

First Post
Not very happy with my Jenga set, either. I got the orange round box one, since that's all they had at Target (it was an impulse buy, I don't even have dread yet!). Flimsy, cheap cardboard aligner that doesn't work very poorly... I remember playing older sets with the plastic ones that worked well. And the box is terrible, hard to store and annoying to fit the pieces in there since they're not kept in a tower form, but if you just drop them in all willy-nilly they won't fit in.
 

Lockridge

First Post
Nareau said:
No, only my reputation. :)
There's some excellent info in the book, but some issues (like combat) need to be addressed better. The developers do communicate via their forum though, so that isn't a big deal.
Nareau
I can see your point but at the same time I think that for me, Dread really isn't meant to be a combat game at all. I'm sure you're not looking for some sort of dice system or something because that would kind of spoil the point.

I'm comfortable with the combat system resolved by pulls. For someone from a D&D background I did have to put some thought into it to get away from my d20 mindset. Once I did that though it all made sense. You sort of have to "let go" of the standard rulebook in your head that we've been trained to have from playing D&D. I can just imagine what reaction I'd get if I just winged the combat rules in a D&D game with my group. Dread works differently but it does work.
 

Shawn_Kehoe

First Post
Asmor said:
Not very happy with my Jenga set, either. I got the orange round box one, since that's all they had at Target (it was an impulse buy, I don't even have dread yet!). Flimsy, cheap cardboard aligner that doesn't work very poorly... I remember playing older sets with the plastic ones that worked well. And the box is terrible, hard to store and annoying to fit the pieces in there since they're not kept in a tower form, but if you just drop them in all willy-nilly they won't fit in.
Yeah, that's the same set I bought.

Look at the illustration of the aligner on the box - TOTAL false advertisting. :)
 

woodelf

First Post
Shawn_Kehoe said:
I was a little disappointed with the alignment tool in my Jenga set too. The box showed an illustration of a plastic sleeve, and my research online matched that. But the actual sleeve was flimsy cardboard, no good at all. I've taken to assembling it and using a hardcover book to straighten the tower.
There's been a noticable cheapening of Jenga in the last 5 years. The quality control on the blocks is poorer, the finish is lighter and i think the newest sets don't even have a finish, the alignment tool has gone from heavy plastic to heavy cardboard to light cardboard, and now the switch to the cylindrical box. I'll be writing a letter to Hasbro.

Chaldfont said:
BTW, I love the Jenga idea. Back in collage we had what we called Drunken Jenga. One night we took a Sharpie and wrote all kinds of nasty Truth or Dare junk on the pieces of our friend's set. Basically you had to pull a piece and do what it said.

I don't think Dread needs it, but this could be an interesting way to expand the game.
I'm pretty sure they still sell a "truth-or-dare Jenga", which is pretty much what you say. Though i'm sure both the questions and dares are rather tamer than you came up with in college. ;)
 

woodelf

First Post
Piratecat said:
The game was for sale at the Indie Press Revolution booth. I had no problem finding it, but I knew where to look. I think it suffered from not having someone there to demo it. (unless there was, and I missed them.)
We've debated that matter. I don't think there's any point--the reason Dread works is the building tension--a dozen pulls is way more than the sum of 12 pulls. In a demo, we could only show what happens with, say, a couple pulls. It would, i think, actually undermine the game--being worse than nothing.

And, yeah, we could pre-stack the Jenga for a demo, but merely having a tippy tower isn't the point either--it's specifically that you got there by making all those pulls. Same as pre-pulls during a regular game don't have anywhere near the tension-raising effect of the same number of pulls made during play.

And, as you've observed, a noisy, distracting environment makes the focus and tension harder--imagine trying it in the exhibit hall. It would more than likely just reaffirm preconceptions that the mechanic is just gimmicky and silly, rather than shatter them.

Finally, while we could show people some example questionnaires, i don't think it gets the point across as well as answering a questionnaire does. And that, again, take a fair bit of time. Maybe what we should do in the future, in addition to running as many games on the con schedule as we have manpower for, is have a steady presence at Games On Demand, and signage indicating as such at the IPR booth, and make sure the staff knows as much, so they can direct anyone who wants a hands-on demo there.

Now, i *didn't* double-check that the folks working the booth at least could *explain* the game, and maybe i should've. I just assumed that enough of them were familiar with the game (since i actually knew that a number of them were) to sell it. [Also, i have a bias: i'm not sold on short demos, in the first place. For me, 9 times out of 10, a short demo doesn't do anything to help me decide if a game is for me or not. I do much better flipping through the book and reading some bits, or having someone explain the game to me. Showing isn't better than telling, for me--i'm very much an abstract, rather than concrete, learner. And i've heard from at least a few other folks that were similarly turned off on the Forge booth's emphasis on demos, in the past--that the demo wasn't helping, but they couldn't get the sort of help they did needed on understanding the games. I'm happy to report that, for the most part, that was no longer true this year.]
 

Gameday 'Dread' session, after-action report

I plan on running this game at future gamedays, so if you think you might ever play in one of my games, you should skip this....





So, I ran my first Dread game at the DC Gameday last weekend. I was a little apprehensive -- Dread is a little out of my comfort zone DM'ing-wise, as I tend towards more tactically oriented games for the most part. Still, I had what I thought was a cool setting, and I tried to absorb as much as I could from Piratecat's exemplary game at GenCon.

The setting was the SS Morro Castle, a cruise ship that went up in flames off the coast of New Jersey in 1934, killing 134 people. It made a regular NY/Havana run at a time when there was increasing tension between the countries, smuggling, etc. To this day, no one is sure what really caused the fire, but 20 years later a crewman considered a hero during the tragedy was convicted of arson and murder...

So, the players knew ahead of time that the ship was going to burn. I wanted the players to start with the knowledge that people were going to die, and that the clock was ticking. I also wanted to give a setting where they could (literally) get away with murder, as there would be little chance of getting caught in the chaos.

The characters were: a businessman (who was actually an agent-provacateur for the US gov't), his wife (who didn't know of his secret), a ship's steward with a shady past, an auditor for the Ward Line investigating suspicious activity aboard the ship, a former diplomat returning home, and a nun. For the questions, I had a mix of personal background, some political, some seemingly innocuous (Did you order the chicken or the fish for dinner?), and a couple to start the players on the road to distrusting each other (What did you witness at the Hotel Nacional?).

Everyone did a great job with the questionaire, and with the characters in play. Some things went in a direction I totally didn't expect (2 out of 6 were closeted homosexuals, including the nun, so there ended up being a little of the Love Boat) but for the most part things played out more or less as I expected. They didn't all go for the main 'hook', but a couple of them stumbled upon it. A couple of them managed to get away with a fair bit of ill-gotten booty. And one of them got the gold, too :)

I screwed up a couple of opportunities -- I had a perfect chance to put the auditor on the trail of the treasure and the nun at the same time, and I totally brain-farted. I'm usually pretty good at winging things, but 15 minutes after the chance I was mentally kicking myself this time. Unfortunately, events had proceeded such that there was no way to retcon things at that point. Also, I apologize to the player of Mary Billings, as I don't think I had enough for her to do to make her an integral part of the session. I think in the future, I'll make that character an NPC (as it provides another reason for the spy character to be careful) and come up with another character concept to replace her.

Preparation wise, I read up fairly extensively on the history of the event. Aside from the rough time-line, I didn't script anything. There were certain historically accurate events mixed in (the captain's suspicious death hours before the fire, for example), but I did play a little fast and loose with the timing (there was more time between the interrupted party and the fire in real life). Pacing-wise, though, aside from a little nip and tuck, the game played out in a lttle over four hours, which was darn near dead on. I did the whole game from my head, with just a couple scribbled notes as the game went on. Next time I'd like to have some printouts of pictures of the ship to help set the mood, and also serve as an abstract map so that as people explore, it's easier to keep track of who's where.

As is typical with gamedays, the location was a little noisy, but not as bad as I'd feared, and I didn't find it distracting. Perhaps I was intent enough on juggling all the pieces, though -- I hope it didn't detract too much from the mood. I was fortunate to be able to exercise 'hosting privileges' and snag the area with the comfy chairs and sofa and coffee table, as opposed to the round table and folding chairs that most had to use. For Dread I think that is critical to have that sort of set up, where people can gather around but not have to worry about bumping the table, and be able to move about for pulls.

With what I've learned from this session, I've got several ideas for tightening things up and making the characters more inter-dependent/mutually suspicious, and of hooking them with the main macguffin earlier. I hope to get the chance to run it again.
 
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John Crichton

First Post
Rodrigo Istalindir said:
Also, I apologize to the player of Mary Billings, as I don't think I had enough for her to do to make her an integral part of the session. I think in the future, I'll make that character an NPC (as it provides another reason for the spy character to be careful) and come up with another character concept to replace her.
Feel free to replace her, but I still had a blast. :cool:

I will admit that I could have done more with the character and it's very possible that my severe lack of sleep hindered my playing ability.
 

Chaldfont

First Post
I'm putting the finishing touches on a scenario for a Dread game Friday night. Any hints on character questions? Mind posting the questions you had for the Morro Castle game?
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Personally, I'd avoid any questions that don't either (a) lead to plot revelations or (b) make the player think about what the PC would answer. Binary questions like Rodrigo's "chicken or fish" probably wouldn't always be my first choice unless they were plot related.

Thank about how you personally see the characters -- then write questions subtly steering thoughts in that direction. For instance if you think a character might be greedy, ask questions that lean towards that. "When out with friends, why are you often reluctant to pay for your full portion of dinner?" "Would you cheat your subordinates in order to make your fortune?" The trick is not mandating the behavior unless it's essential for the plot.
 

Piratecat said:
Binary questions like Rodrigo's "chicken or fish" probably wouldn't always be my first choice unless they were plot related.
[sblock]That one was (a) a way to screw with the character's heads, and (b) a clue that maybe there was something they should investigate.

The characters were to have dinner with the captain of the ship, but he begged off and they dined without him. Later that evening, he was found dead after having his meal delivered to his cabin. By forcing an either/or rather than making it open-ended, I guaranteed that some of the characters would have had the same meal, leading them to question whether or not he'd been poisoned, and also making them worry that maybe they had been, too.
[/sblock]

Questions (and answers) from the game attached.
 

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