Jul 062010

One of the most unexpected and enjoyable game sessions that I had at Origins was that of Dread. As I stated in my first post on the subject, Dread is a tabletop RPG with a twist: instead of rolling dice to resolve what happens in the game, you pull a block from a Jenga tower. If the tower collapses, then your character is out.

When I first heard of the mechanic that was used, I was skeptical. I love my plastic polyhedrons as much, or more, than any gamer you care to mention, so to abandon them in favor of a tower of blocks seemed¬†sacrilegious, almost. Looking back, I am very glad that I took the time to play. The Tower mechanic, as it were, works very well to build the tension, and as Dread is a horror RPG, that’s exactly what you need.

But let me back up for a second.

Creating a character for Dread is also very different, not only because this was the only session at Origins for which I made my own character, but also because there are no stats for your character. Not a one. The character creation is simple, but lets you make a character of surprising depth. When starting a character, you are handed a piece of paper with ten questions on it. You are to answer all ten questions, in order, without going back and changing your answers. Having not had a chance to read the books yet (yes, I bought them; the game was that good), I don’t know if the questions are different for each scenario that gets played, but assuming your character survives a given scenario, it wouldn’t be too hard to use the same character idea for multiple games.

Once your character is done, as process that took us about 45 mins (sorry about the dead air during the recorded session), you hand your sheet to the GM, who then writes down some notes about your character, and then you begin.

I won’t give away the details of the game session itself, (after all, you have the audio to listen to), but I will say that I had a blast, even though my character died about halfway through. As an interesting twist, as I said, a character is out when they make the tower fall. When this happens, you re-build the tower, but you have to pull blocks from it before you start playing again. That way, you don’t start with a full, stable tower, and you don’t lose the tension. The formula is this, 1 block for every half-hour of gaming that has been done, plus 3 for each player that has died. When the last character left had to begin his pulls, he had to make twenty-three consecutive pulls before the story could resume. Talk about tension.

If all of this sounds a bit hokey, trust me, it’s not. I encourage you to listen to the session and see for yourself. Also, if you are planning to go to KantCon, then make sure you check out the session of Dread that will be played there.

[tags]Origins, rpg, rpgs, role playing games, Dread, Actual Play[/tags]

About Tracy

I love games, and I love to write about games. Hopefully when I write about games, you'll find something to like. I actively play Pathfinder and Savage Worlds, but am always willing to give something new a try. Follow me on Twitter, and check out my openly developed campaign setting for Pathfinder, Savage World, and Fate: Sand & Steam.

  8 Responses to “Origins 2010 Expanded Coverage – Dread”

  1. Awesome idea for a one-shot. Not sure I’d want to run a campaign with this mechanic, but for a crazy night of horror, I could see this being really fun :)

  2. I started reading through the book for the system, which is very good, and I definitely would like to try a multi-session story arc with Dread sometime.

  3. That sounds like a load of fun. I think I might have to check that out, already have my Jenga set ready to go, heh.

    Probably could convince some non-gamers to get into it with a mechanic like that as well, I know a couple of friends in particular that are already suspense charged and terrified when it comes to their turn to pull a block.

  4. That’s my only problem: I don’t have a Jenga set. Shouldn’t be too hard to remedy.

  5. Dread is a great game, especially for conventions. Sounds like you had fun.

  6. I definitely did. Reading the book really makes me want to play it, too.

  7. Well, if you are at Gencon this year I’ll be there running 6 sessions of Dread. I think they are all sold out but I made a couple extra characters per scenario for those that couldn’t get signed up.

    My Dread games this year take a B-Movie Horror/SciFi twist to Dread. The playtests were great and everyone had a good time.

  8. I will definitely be at GenCon, and I’ll see if I can’t make it. Thanks for the heads-up.

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