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MinusInnocence's picture

Dread is a tabletop horror RPG with a twist. I guess the premise is that in a horror game, you're really trying to rattle and unnerve the players, not the characters, but the people around the table are never as scared as the ones actually in that situation. Here, there's a simple and effective mechanic introduced to address that issue: Jenga. To accomplish complicated or dangerous or plot-necessary tasks, the player must successfully draw a piece from a Jenga tower. Failure can sometimes result in automatic death, so it makes that run from the front door down to the car, fumbling with your keys along the way, all the more critical. If you fuck up the draw, your character gets mauled by zombies.

In the example of gameplay I watched on YouTube, the group had two towers: one for critical tasks and one for less serious situations. The moderator for the game consistently asked which stack each player wanted to draw from whenever something important happened: failure on the less important tower didn't mean certain doom, but success was less fruitful, too. So, for instance, when the tour bus they were all on careeneed off the road and into a tree, there was an encounter between the crash and morning. If you drew from the super serious stack, you could remain conscious and participate in the encounter; otherwise you were out cold.

What do you think of this mechanic? Has anyone played the game before? One thing I felt might be an issue for some groups is that it favors being really good at this other random game that has nothing to do with roleplaying. It came up in the video I watched, where one guy actually works in a game store and basically plays Jenga all day by himself while he's waiting for customers to come in, so he's a fucking pro at Dread even if he's an idiot and makes stupid choices during play. A new player in their group had never even heard of Jenga before, somehow, and was new to roleplaying too, so the learning curve for her was ridiculous.

Fixxxer's picture

I think you've hit the nail on the head. It's a cute idea, but it's sort of akin to the lockpicking minigame from the Oblivion video game. And nobody I know actually played that little game (we all just burned up lockpicks with the autopick button). If you're good ad Jenga, but bad at roleplaying, then you'll be a lucky idiot. If it's the other way around, you'll be hamstrung as the smart, capable guy that gets fucked by circumstance. If you're bad at both, then you'll just be some random mook that gets mauled in the opening days.

deadDMwalking's picture

It's not for me, personally.

I enjoy being 'in character', and resolution mechanics are going to inherently be 'disassociative'. But some are more disassociative than others. Rolling a die isn't great for immersion, but you can see how it represents random chance and is modified by your skill. Something like a Jenga pull isn't reflected by the character's abilities AT ALL.

But Jenga is awesome. I'd totally play Jenga instead of Dread.


Would be cool to use it as some type of reward system... like the "adult" Jenga that has stuff to do each time you pull a block. So you could write rewards on the blocks that the player/character gets and then some set punishment for it failing... or rewards and punishments on the blocks.