Saturday, October 20, 2012

10 20 12: Dread: Horror be Thy Name

As some of you may know, I'm a huge horror movie buff. this is not really by choice, but rather a product of my environment. My parents loved horror films like The Thing, Poltergeist, and Friday the 13th, and as such, i was often subject to these movies. after realizing that these movies were meant to be morality plays, and understanding that it was fun to be scared, i embraced the genre.

now, as such i have played a lot of horror RPGs, with each one having a certain feel and element that separated then from each other. well, now i have found the one system that is completely designed for horror, and i fear that i may never go back to another system for a horror game.

Its name is Dread, and it is pure horror joy...

i first heard about this game about three or four years ago, from a friend of a friend. this individual had told me about the core mechanics that made up the game; a simple questionnaire and a jenga tower.


in a nutshell, the game is played by first having a questionnaire unique to each player filled out, in doing so, they make a profile of a person with some history, fears, quirks and the like. the questionnaire is approximately 13 questions long, with the last question always being "what is your name?".  this collective of individuals are then put into the proverbial horror wringer to see who survives in the scenario the host has set up for the players. resolution of problems, fighting, feats of heroism,etc. are resolved by pulling bricks from the jenga tower following basic jenga rules. with some other quirks covered in the booklet, the main rule is this; if you make the tower fall when making the pulls, your character is out of the game (generally involving the death of the character is some horrific way)


that's it. no dice, no stats, no other hard rules. just you and a tower.

so how does this work for a horror game?

the answer is simple, Very VERY well.

there is something interesting about staring down that tower, knowing which each pull, someone is one step closer to dying in the game. i've only ever had one game that no one has died. i've had three games in which two or more individuals have met their demise. additionally when the tower is rebuilt, there has to be pulls for each player that has been removed from the game before the game restarts, so the tower is never whole again until the game is complete. multiple people can be taken out after a death if the tower falls again before the reset is complete.

in other words, mortality is high, and death is always a step away.

i have hosted this game several times, using some homespun scenarios that i came up with. the best part about this game is that since there are really no hard rules or stats, anything can be done and the host can really zero in on the story.

the worst part about this game is really building the questionnaires. if you are expecting 5 or 6 players and you have to make a questionnaire for each player consisting of 12 to 13 questions each, that's approximately 60 to 80 unique questions the host has to come up with. luckily there is some help with the booklet, which has several questions at the bottom of the pages, and there is also a pretty good bulletin board that has both fresh scenarios and questionnaires.

occasionally, i'm going to post some Dread related materials and content on this blog. i highly recommend this game. it lives up to its name.


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