Dread (role-playing game)
|Publisher(s)||The Impossible Dream|
Dread is a horror RPG published by The Impossible Dream. The game uses a Jenga tower for action resolution and was winner of the 2006 Ennie Award for Innovation as well as being nominated for Best Game and Best Rules.
Dread is a horror game, commonly played as a one-shot at conventions. It can also be used for ongoing gaming, though in practice this is less common. In order to play you need:
- One Jenga tower or equivalent
- 3-6 players
- 3-5 hours (can be extended to multiple sessions of similar length)
- A pre-prepared adventure and character sheets
Dread has no fixed setting - instead you can use it for any horror setting 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 Steel 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).
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?" Sometimes even the innocuous questions lead to challenging results.
For example, my game was set in the 1920’s. Xath played a flapper in her early 20’s. I originally pictured her as sort of innocent, a rich girl having naughty fun. But one of the questions was the very innocuous “Where did you get those shoes?” and her answer (paraphrased here) was completely character-defining.
“I was at a Harlem speakeasy swilling hooch with one of my friends when she tried to make a move on one of my swells. Once my ‘friend’ had passed out I took her into the alley around back and stripped her of money and clothes. I left her there naked and went on home. Her shoes look wonderful on me, and they’re still my favorite pair.”Wow. Okay, character established, and a lot darker and amoral than I had anticipated.
Dread uses a very simple system. When you try to take a challenging action pull one or more blocks from the tower (a stack of blocks, such as Jenga or the like), as dictated by the GM. 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 - or 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.