• Don't link to the video of the Christchurch shooting, or repost links to the shooter's manifesto.

[Dread] (the Jenga one) Looking for tips and advice

Shan Andy

One man and his giraffe
Validated User
#1
My players are lovely. I offered them three choices for our first game as a group and they, of course, chose the one I am least prepared to run. Bless them. They wanted to play Dread (the one with the Jenga tower).

I've never run or played it before, but I have seen the Tabletop episode where they play. So, assembled experts, does anyone who has played/run it have any tips or mistakes to avoid?

I await with baited breath.
 

Heavy Arms

Registered User
Validated User
#3
The only general thing off the top of my head isn't something I can offer solid advice on: keep in mind your pacing and intended real-time play length. The game works really well for short or long sessions, but you have to compensate for it in how often you setup situations where the players will want to draw a piece. But because Jenga is a skilled based test, it's really hard to figure that pacing out with your group until you've played a bit.

I ran into problems with it because of players with usually minor physical ailments making the skilled based part very unfun, but it doesn't sound like your players are predicting that will be an issue if they're asking for the game. Even so, it's worth considering some alternatives to the tower in case - for whatever reasons - they end up collapsing it way too frequently and it starts getting tedious.
 

Crothian

Registered User
Validated User
#4
Make sure the players understand the rules for the Jenga tower. You can only use one hand and the piece has to be placed on top. Make sure you've thought about what you might do if a player knocks over the tower on the very first pull of the game. I've seen it happen. We also have the tower on a different table then the game is playing at so players have to stand up and walk to the tower to make a pull. This also makes so that players don't bump the table and have the tower fall. Make the pulls count. I was in a game at Origins where we made pulls for what were knowledge checks and it didn't work well.

The questionnaires though I always felt were the more inspired part of the game. You can really craft some fun interactions with these questions.
 

Adam Reynolds

Registered User
Validated User
#5
This is one of my favorites as well, in that character tension and player tension at least have some correlation(though it still doesn't always work for real horror, it is probably the closest system I have seen).

Make sure the players understand the rules for the Jenga tower. You can only use one hand and the piece has to be placed on top. Make sure you've thought about what you might do if a player knocks over the tower on the very first pull of the game. I've seen it happen. We also have the tower on a different table then the game is playing at so players have to stand up and walk to the tower to make a pull. This also makes so that players don't bump the table and have the tower fall. Make the pulls count. I was in a game at Origins where we made pulls for what were knowledge checks and it didn't work well.
Personally I am of the opinion that this system works best to represent physical actions and that you should leave almost anything else down to roleplaying, including things like fast talking a guard. The beauty is that you can always treat it as a case of say yes or roll the dice, drawing from the tower if the GM is not convinced.

The questionnaires though I always felt were the more inspired part of the game. You can really craft some fun interactions with these questions.
The questionnaires are also a fantastic blend between pregen characters and player creativity.


If the Jenga tower is an issue, you can achieve a largely similar effect with either playing cards or marbles in a bag that have to be drawn(as used in Follow). I have actually started using this solution as a substitute most of the time because it works regardless of who is playing and is more adaptable. The lack of skill is a downside, as it gives somewhat less of a feeling that you should have been more careful, but giving a choice between lower and higher risk is close enough in terms of the desired effect.

In the case of playing cards, I have arranged it by suite with only 40 cards. Hearts represent mortal danger, diamonds represent serious danger, spades represent moderate danger, and clubs represent minor danger. When the ace of hearts is drawn, it represents an absolute failure that resets the deck in a similar fashion to knocking over the tower. In each case, face cards represent a failure state, with three drawn equaling a drawn ace. The reason for only 40 cards is that the risk goes up each deck higher, with more face cards and fewer low cards. I take away 2-4 of hearts, the ace and 2-3 of diamonds, the ace, king, and 2 of spades, and the ace, king, and queen of clubs. One of the cool mechanics is that you can escalate to a higher level, either in PvP or to buy off a failure because you really want to succeed at a particular action. It leads to a bit of trade off in terms of whether to save the lower risk pools for later.

In the case of marbles in a bag, it works best with at least three different colors and a couple of different bags to a largel similar effect. One color only has a single representative, as a case of absolute failure equivalent to knocking over the tower and resulting in the PC being removed from the game. Other colors represent failures that can compound to the same effect as face cards. My default way of doing this is with different types of dice(d6-d20) rather than marbles, in which it is obvious which one you are drawing. You could also incorporate actual dice rolling as well, but I generally don't.
 

Shan Andy

One man and his giraffe
Validated User
#6
Thanks Crothian Crothian for the warning about first-pull fails. I may institute a grace period while they get used to it, maybe by having a few scenes at the start that set up the premise and lay out the (non-terminal) consequence of a failure. Some thinking to do before the game.

I know my players pretty well, so they're comfortable with the tower Heavy Arms Heavy Arms . Thanks A Adam Reynolds , the alternative suggestions. If it becomes an issue then I won't be flailing around in the dark.

I'm thinking of approaching the game, as a whole, with a "say yes or pull" attitude. I'm working on the assumption that pulling is not a randomiser but a risk analogue. It's not there to represent "does the character succeed?" but to represent "the character is willing to risk failure because the consequences of not acting are high enough".

Crothian Crothian & A Adam Reynolds I will attempt to really hone those questionnaires to make sure I get intra-party tension goodness.

Thanks again for your help.
 

Godfatherbrak

Registered User
Validated User
#7
When I run Dread, I tend to do the following:
1) I don't want the tower to fall. I find it kills the tension and it's hard to build it back up in a single session. I want them terrified the entire time that it's going to fall, though.
2) I usually have the same things on the front of the questionnaires for every character. It's on the back where I get interesting.
3) When I run a zombie game with it ("Last Hurrah", which you can find on rpggeek), I ask the players, "Pull to find PERSON X alive." Person X is someone they've told me is important to them in the questionnaire. Honestly, that and the Jenga tower's tension do a TON of work for you.
 

Shan Andy

One man and his giraffe
Validated User
#8
2) I usually have the same things on the front of the questionnaires for every character. It's on the back where I get interesting.
Double-sided questionnaires? Hadn't thought of that.

I'm going for a fairly short (7) question one to get things up and running more quickly. But I might use that in future.
 

Nicholas Carter

Registered User
Validated User
#9
Its technically possible for a group of people who are really good at jenga to go three or four hours without knocking over the tower (I've seen it) prepare your response ahead of time to a game where nobody died the whole way through, unlike my con gm who was caught quite flatfooted by our insane jenga skills.
 

Amberpup

Registered User
Validated User
#10
During our game at the con, I used my down time (when someone else was talking) to study the tower for future pulls. It may seem weird but doing it that way actually up the personal tension (and fun) for me. As the session rushed to a ending, I knew which blocks I was going to pull and my rough chances to fend-off a tower collapse and survive.

I've heard of one GM having two towers, so if one did fall there was little delay getting back into the game (since they didn't have to rebuild the first tower).
 
Top Bottom