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Replacing Jenga in Dread

Nagol

Unimportant
I've been toying with trying Dread, but one member of my group has a visible tremor. I expect the Jenga tower would be unfair to him. Can anyone think of a similar, but less physical mechanism?

I'm thinking a 1% cumulativre chance of the tower toppling?
 

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Pbartender

First Post
Not really... The nervousness, stress and tension created by having to pull a block from a nearly toppling tower is pretty integral to the ambiance of the game. You'd effectively eliminate the whole purpose of the game, if you got rid of that.

Although, thinking about it, you could probably replace it with a similar type of "remove (or add) bits until you crash" sort of game -- [ame=http://www.amazon.com/Mattel-37092-Ker-Plunk-Game/dp/B0000205X3/ref=sr_1_2?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1313504582&sr=1-2]Ker-Plunk[/ame], [ame=http://www.amazon.com/Pressman-Toy-9026-Topple-Game/dp/B00000IZEL]Topple[/ame] and [ame=http://www.amazon.com/Milton-Bradley-04785-Spill-Beans/dp/B00000IWDP/ref=pd_sim_t_4]Don't Spill the Beans[/ame] come to mind -- that takes a little less motor skill and a little more luck to play.
 
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Not really... The nervousness, stress and tension created by having to pull a block from a nearly toppling tower is pretty integral to the ambiance of the game. You'd effectively eliminate the whole purpose of the game, if you got rid of that.

Although, thinking about it, you could probably replace it with a similar type of "remove (or add) bits until you crash" sort of game -- Ker-Plunk, Topple and Don't Spill the Beans come to mind -- that takes a little less motor skill and a little more luck to play.

Having not played Dread, I would tentatively agree with this. There are probably other "kid's" games that would emulate the effect as well ("don't break the ice", etc).

Maybe stacking blocks upward, instead of removing would be a less physically daunting in this case.

Also, a card deck mechanic might work, but may not have quite the same ambiance:
1. shuffle a deck.
2. split in half and shuffle a joker into the lower half.
3. object: if the desk runs out, you lose (die, fail, etc.)
4. if you pull a jack, pull one extra card.
5. if you pull a queen, pull two extra cards
6. if you pull a king, pull 4 extra cards
7. (the above can either be secret pulls (just discarded) or live pulls that stack.)
8. if you pull the joker, discard remainder of the deck. (i.e. you lose)

That should give you some risk with every pull (more so with live pulls), with exponential risk as the game progresses. (eventually the cards WILL run out)


Good Gaming!
 

Asmor

First Post
As has been noted, you lose a lot by not having the actual, physical tower there.

That said, your 1% idea does lead to an interesting curve.

You've got a 95% chance of surviving 5 rolls, a 59% chance of surviving 10 rolls, 28% chance of surviving 15 rolls, and a 10% chance of surviving 20 rolls. (source)

That actually feels a little high to me. YMMV.
 

jaerdaph

#BlackLivesMatter
This all depends on someone having a laptop or tablet with a connection to the Internet, but this might be a solution:

Jenga - Free Online Games (FOG)

Edit: Do a Google search for "jenga online", "play jenga online" because there are other versions of the game out there.
 
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I've spent a lot of time thinking about this problem, for much the same reason as Nagol, but I haven't come up with any good solutions. The best I've come up with is "if one of the players really doesn't want to draw from the tower because of shaky hands, they can delegate their pulls to another player (but still take the consequences)." That works, but it's a little frustrating all the way around (and it depends on player-player trust--you have to be able to rely on the physically drawing player to not throw the other player's character under the bus to reset the tower).

Other ideas I've considered:
1. A progression of dice rolls: first 5 draws you roll a d100. Next 5 draws you roll a d20. Next 5 draws you roll a d12. Etc. Any one, on any die, equals tower falls. When "the tower is reset," you eliminate a number of dice equivalent to the number of draws you would make (e.g. if the tower has fallen twice, you would pull six times before it goes live, so the next "pull" is the second d20 roll).

2. Take an opaque bag of beads. It starts out with, for example, 100 white beads and one black bead. On a pull, you draw a bead. If it's white, great, but it doesn't go back in the bag. If it's black, the "tower falls." After a black bead, you reset the bag, but pre-pull the same number of beads as pulls in the normal game. If you like, you could start with an all white bead bag, and have the first pull (or the sixth pull, or whatever) be the addition of a black bead.

Like with the cumulative percentage chances or card draws, you can fine tune the curve however you like with either of those options.

I think any of the purely random options would in a sense work, but they all lose something.

Jenga has, in my mind, five main advantages in Dread over a random system with similar characteristics (probability of collapse, etc.)
1. Jenga is visceral. Maybe drawing from a bag of beads would get some of this, but in a traditional Dread game you have this physical experience of pulling on the tower that increases tension in a way that is, I think, greater than the tension of a high-stakes die roll or the equivalent. The fact that the player's tension increases the difficulty of the task also plays into this.

2. Different towers are different. In a purely randomized system, the 10th draw always has the same odds of collapse. In an actual Jenga tower, sometimes you have a really wobbly, off-balance tower with lots of stuck pieces, and sometimes you have a really solid tower with lots of easy draws at the same point in the game. That makes it a more interesting process. (This could be summed up as "playing Jenga is more fun than 'roll a die, don't roll a 1'")

3. Jenga allows strategy in pulls. In competition with the other PCs? Maybe you should make a nasty pull that makes it more likely that somebody else will knock down the tower (like leaving only one block in a layer very close to the bottom of the tower). Working as a team? Pull in ways that make the tower stronger, and avoid the easy pulls that make the tower weaker. In my experience playing Dread variants, this came up regularly.

4. You get information from the tower as you try to pull. Often, in a Dread game, a player will want to make two pulls, but will test the tower a little and decide not to pull at all, or to pull only once, because the tower seems too dangerous to risk another pull. That process of investigating the tower, tapping blocks and so forth, is part of the fun, part of the tension. There's nothing comparable in a random mechanism. (I suppose you could use a blackjack like mechanism, where there's information gained but a chance of failure? But that would be complicated to design.)

5. The big one: people systematically misestimate the odds of failure in Dread, because Jenga gives you information, but the information is opaque. I've run something like 15 or 20 games using Dread or variants on Dread. In pretty much every one of those games, we hit a point where players were making estimates of the likelihood of the tower falling. "I think there's about a 50% chance of the tower falling on the next pull." "I think there are two, maybe three pulls left before it falls; no way we're getting five." Those estimates are almost always wrong, and in my experience they're systematically pessimistic. When a player estimates that there is a 50% chance of failure, my guess is that there's actually more like a 10% chance of failure. You can see this in Asmor's comment that a 10% chance of surviving 20 pulls seems high to him. My estimate is that, in fact, you have something like a 90% chance of surviving 20 pulls in a Dread game. I would guess that something like 30 pulls is the median pulls to failure, although I haven't gathered systematic data about that. But people are scared as heck by the time they've made 15 pulls. Pulls feel more dangerous than they are, and that's good. It increases the tension, it makes people more likely to voluntarily knock over the tower before it's necessary, and it means that heroic efforts (maybe if I can pull four more times from this rickety tower I can destroy the vampire!) succeed more often than you would expect but still feel heroic. It's true that over time players will get a more accurate sense (and take more risks), but I view that as a feature, not a bug. The problem with randomized methods is that they are too transparent. "Oh, I only have a one in six chance of failure? No problem, let's roll the dice." Instead of the equivalent Jenga tower, which is something like twenty pulls in (maybe more), and where the player is thinking, "wow, every pull is hard." That also means that unsatisfying, "I thought my odds were good so I took the shot" failures are less common in Jenga Dread, and would be more common in randomized Dread.

If you do try out some alternative, I look forward to hearing how it goes. But sadly, despite my best efforts, I haven't been able to get to a good solution.
 

Asmor

First Post
You can see this in Asmor's comment that a 10% chance of surviving 20 pulls seems high to him.

You misunderstand me (I suppose I wasn't terribly clear). I think the mortality rate of the die seemed high.

I agree with you, most people are terrible at judging Jenga.

I don't think I'm especially good at it, but I've played a normal game of Jenga with a friend before and we actually got to the point where there were literally no more moves (i.e. every layer was either the two side blocks or the single middle block).

Choose your block with care, pull it with speed and confidence, and you'll be fine.
 

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
I agree with everything Cerebral Paladin has just said.

I think the best solution is to allow that person to have a 'designated puller' on their behalf, someone to be their hands for the actual pull. That would be miles more exciting than any randomised alternative, because it still allows advantages 1, 2, 4 and 5 from CP's list.

Cheers
 



Janx

Hero
I'm building Giant Jenga for a friend's birthday present.

made of 2x4's cut to 10.5" lengths, sanded, stained, and waxed.

The giant jenga rules allow for using 2 hands, including being able to hold the tower with one hand, while pulling a block.

I haven't yet played Giant Jenga yet (i will this weekend at his party when i deliver the present). But the concept seems easier to me.

Partly because I am a Jenga Master. The game is easier when you are confident and careful.

It might be worth having your friend try regular jenga, just to see how hard it is. a lot of people think Jenga is harder than it is (hence my title, I know exactly how hard it isn't).

If nothing else, the game will get harder for him earlier, and it will scare the other players (perhaps the GM should make a point of that, thus if he dies, that's not good).
 

Living Legend

First Post
I have never played Dread, it was on the top of my list of games to try at Gencon this year but I never found the time. So I'm just guessing here, but might it work having a second tower for our tremor prone friend, only it's just a third of the normal height, and therefore way more stable. He would be the only one that pulls from this second tower.
 

Keeper of Secrets

First Post
The bead option seems like it would be close. But 100 beads probably does not replicate the tower as much as say 75 or 60, maybe.

I don't think this solves the problem of the friend with the muscular problem but the Dread book does suggest each person stacking D6s as their own personal tower. Maybe you could try that and see how many dice your friend can reasonably stack.
 

Janx

Hero
:uhoh:

The amount of restraint I am showing right now to not comment on this line further is staggering...

B-)

I'm not entirely sure what jaer's objection is, but it does hit a final point.

There are some activities that people with disabilities just can't participate in.

If one of the alternative suggestions doesn't cut it, this person may have to sit out. this is the technical reason that disabilities are called disabilities and why its no fun to have them.

At some point if an alternative adjustment doesn't help them participate without compromising the game's design integrity, it just wasn't meant to be.

Perhaps this person should be the GM. No pulls needed.
 

I strongly disagree with what I understand to be Janx's approach. Partly because of my professional background, I tend to think about disabilities in terms of trying to find reasonable accommodations. Sure, sometimes there isn't a reasonable accommodation available. But disabilities cause lots of problems for people with them as a matter of course. In our play, we should be striving to reduce those problems, not being blase about creating more ones.

One of the things I've always liked about gaming is that while it can be lacking in certain forms of diversity, it often attracts a large number of differently abled people. In an RPG, a player who can't walk, or is blind, or has a missing limb can still be, do, and achieve just as much as anyone else. I think that's a real virtue in rpgs.

There are exceptions. Boffer LARPs, for example, necessarily privilege physical ability. But I like to keep those exceptions rare.

So with Dread, my approach would be "can I find a way to make this work, despite some players having physical issues that make it hard for them to play?" And I would be hesitant to just say, "tough, maybe you should sit it out." To be honest, before I got to that point I would say, "maybe we should use a different system"--and I love Dread. I think that the "designated puller" approach works. It's not perfect, but it works, and it's what I've used in the past and will likely use again. But if I concluded that that didn't work and that the randomized approaches don't work, I would tend towards using a different system rather than ostracizing people (except maybe in the context of a con or something where there are plenty of other options for them).
 


Janx

Hero
I strongly disagree with what I understand to be Janx's approach. Partly because of my professional background, I tend to think about disabilities in terms of trying to find reasonable accommodations. Sure, sometimes there isn't a reasonable accommodation available. But disabilities cause lots of problems for people with them as a matter of course. In our play, we should be striving to reduce those problems, not being blase about creating more ones.


I think you've misintepreted my statement, given that i wrote it with your well thought out alternatives and reasons why Jenga resolution is still better.


I said that IF the alternatives are not a sufficient solution, than the person is going to have to accept that this is an activity their disability blocks them from participating.

I am not advocating 'screw the cripples'. its just that some alternatives were put out AND were shot down. If they truly are not viable, than the person is not going to be able to play Dread. It's simple logic.

A man with no legs cannot run in a race. You can say "oh yeah, what about that guy in the Olympics!" And I will point out, that man solved his disability by getting replacement legs and thus he was no longer a man without legs. Logic still dictates that you can not run with out legs and therefore cannot run in races.

Wheelchair basketball is an adaptation of the game for wheelchair bound players. It can't really be played as a mixed sport (foot and wheeled players). Because ultimately, the adaptations to make it handicap accessible do not make it compatible, safe or fair.

I am all for fixing disabilities and removing arbitrary barriers for handicapped people. While disabled people should never let those disabilities discourage them from what they want to do, there are still some things that the nature of disability prevents.

So if Dread can't be adapted so he can play, then he can't play Dread.

As for whether the group should play Dread, that's ultimately up to the group. While it would be nice of them to find something everybody can play, it is also wrong for the 1 person to expect everybody to accomodate him every time at the sacrice of the majority's preferences.
 

Some ideas for replacing the Jenga mechanic:

Math option (for nerds):

Make a large stack of 3x5 cards, and write increasingly difficult equations on them, like you were making flash cards. Start with simple arithmetic and work your way to more difficult stuff (what is considered difficult would depend on the group). The most difficult cards should be math that is still possible to do mentally, but would take a player a bit of time to think about. There should be a few cards that are very difficult (but may have a simple trick to solve them is you can recognize it). If desired, put one impossible question in stack.

Shuffle the deck. Each time you would normally have to pull a Jenga block, draw them a flash card. They then have x seconds to give the correct answer. Failure is the same as if the tower toppled. Don't replace cards, and allow the fear of getting a really difficult one to rise as time goes on. For multiple pulls, you can either draw cards in rapid succession, or cut down on the length of time allowed to answer.

Language option:

Same as above, but use a foreign language instead of math. Go from simple words and phrases to complex conjugations and sentences, and make people translate on the fly.

Ball 'n Basket option (for players who have shaky hands but still have otherwise good motor function):

Place a basket in the middle of the floor. Have a bag with a large number of balls. Ideally they would have slight variation to the hardness and size, but it's not critical. Each time a person would normally have to draw a Jenga block, they instead have to toss a ball into the basket from a short distance away. If you miss the basket, or if the ball falls out, you fail as if the tower had fallen. The difficulty is that the basket is never emptied, so the odds of a ball staying in goes from very easy to very difficult as the basket gets filled.

Ball 'n Bucket option

Fill a 5 gallon bucket with ping pong balls. But mark x ping pong balls with a black sharpie. When they would normally have to draw a Jenga block, a player has x seconds to reach one hand into the bucket and withdraw a marked ping pong ball. Failure to find one, or knocking any balls out of the bucket, results in a failure. If you want to be sneaky, you can vary the marks that you put on the balls; some will be almost entirely black, some will have circles, and some with have only a couple of dots.

Metronome option (for the musically inclined)

Every time you would have to pull a Jenga block, roll a six sided die. Keep a cumulative total of the number. After rolling, the GM plays a click and starts timing. The player must mentally (silently) count off the cumulative number, in seconds, and signal back when the time is up. If the player is off by more than x seconds, it is treated as if the tower toppled, and the cumulative number is reset. This task will get harder and harder as the players get more excited, and the length of time gets longer.

This option can be even more fun if you have a digital metronome (like Dr. Beat) and can require various tempos instead of just seconds. Play 4 beats at a random speed, and require the player to count off the cumulative number of beats.
 

jaerdaph

#BlackLivesMatter
I'm not entirely sure what jaer's objection is...

That was just a joke as Asmor pointed out. B-)

There are some activities that people with disabilities just can't participate in.

I'd like to see as many of those barriers eradicated whenever they can be. That's why I suggested trying one of the online Jenga games as an alternative - it might be easier for a person with disabilities to manipulate, and the other folks at the table could share the same experience by using the program as well.

FYI: There is also a Jenga app for sale in the Android Market for Droid devices. I'm sure the App Store probably has one too for their devices.
 

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