Dread (role-playing game)

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DesignersEpidiah Ravachol
Nathaniel Barmore
PublishersThe Impossible Dream

Dread is a horror RPG designed by Epidiah Ravachol and Nathaniel Barmore, and published by The Impossible Dream. The game uses a Jenga tower for action resolution.[1]

The game[edit]

Dread is a horror game, commonly played as a one-shot at conventions.[citation needed] It can also be used for ongoing gaming, though in practice this is less common. In order to play you need:[2]

  • One Jenga tower or equivalent
  • 3-6 players
  • 3–5 hours (can be extended to multiple sessions of similar length)
  • A prepared adventure and character sheets

The setting[edit]

Dread has no fixed setting - instead you can use it for any horror setting[3] where it is expected that most of the characters will not survive through the session. The examples in the Dread rulebook are Beneath A Full Moon - survival horror, Beneath A Metal Sky - sci-fi, and Beneath The Mask - based on a slasher film and in which not even the GM knows which of the PCs is the killer at the start (they all have reasons to not know they are).[2]

Character creation involves each character in the game being assigned a part (in Beneath the Mask there are the Jock, the Head Cheerleader, the Nerd, the Slacker, the Rich Kid, and the Best Friend) and each part coming with about a dozen questions, the final one being "What is your name?" Most of the questions are deliberately loaded, for example "Why do you intend to convince the others to split up whenever the opportunity arises, despite the recent events?"[2]


When you try to take a challenging action, pull one or more blocks from the tower, as dictated by the Gamemaster. If you pull and succeed, you succeed in your action. If you knock the tower over, your player character is out of the game, usually due to dying. If there is no sensible narrative way for that to happen (for instance a knock over by spilling your drink) they are the "walking dead," unable to pull any more blocks and subject to death or removal at the next plausible or dramatic opportunity. Removing more blocks makes actions more difficult to perform, which causes a feeling of suspense.[4]


Dread was the winner of the 2006 ENNIE Awards for Innovation as well as being nominated for Best Game and Best Rules.[5]

In May 2015, Dread was featured as a two-part episode on TableTop.[6] Wil Wheaton praised Dread's "very innovative device to build up tension and really put the scare in players". In March 2019, Dread and its co-creator Epidiah Ravachol were featured on the ProudGamers podcast, The ProudTable,[7] and Epidiah spoke about his inspirations behind the game.

Dread’s use of a Jenga tower to heighten narrative tension in a role-playing game later inspired the same game mechanic in the romance game Star Crossed by Alex Roberts (game designer), which won a Diana Jones Award.[8]

Reviews of the game praise the "lethal suspense" of the game and its innovation, but note that it's useful only for horror gaming and one shot games.[9][10]

Charlie Hall for Polygon pointed out similar rising tension in Dread and Ten Candles.[11]


  1. ^ "Why Dread Is A Heart Attack-Inducing Horror RPG". Nerdist. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  2. ^ a b c Dread Rulebook, p91
  3. ^ "Dread: Dredd, the Jenga-powered horror RPG and comic-book crossover with the perfect name, is official and out next week". Dicebreaker. 2022-03-25. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  4. ^ "Dicebreaker Recommends: Dread, a survival-horror tabletop RPG played using a Jenga tower". Eurogamer.net. 2020-10-09. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  5. ^ "2006 Noms and Winners | ENnie Awards". www.ennie-awards.com. Archived from the original on 2013-04-25.
  6. ^ "TableTop: Dread (Part 1)" – via www.youtube.com.
  7. ^ "Spotify: ProudTable Podcast". Spotify. Archived from the original on 2019-03-24.
  8. ^ "One Good Thing: A game that turns romance into a teetering tower, doomed to fall". www.vox.com. 8 February 2022. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  9. ^ "Review: Dread - Play Unplugged". 2013-12-30. Archived from the original on 2013-12-30. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  10. ^ "Review of Dread - RPGnet RPG Game Index". www.rpg.net.
  11. ^ Hall, Charlie (2018-01-18). "My New Year's resolution is to play more indie role-playing games". Polygon. Retrieved 2023-05-13.

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