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Dread: A game of horror and hope

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Create and play characters that struggle in the hostile worlds of your imagination. This book contains all that is needed for two or more play, except for paper, pencil, and a block-stacking puzzle like Jenga. Winner of the 2006 Gold ENnie for Innovation.


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Create and play characters that struggle in the hostile worlds of your imagination. This book contains all that is needed for two or more play, except for paper, pencil, and a block-stacking puzzle like Jenga. Winner of the 2006 Gold ENnie for Innovation.

30 review for Dread: A game of horror and hope

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    If you're reading a review for this then you're probably pretty well immersed in tabletop gaming. Just in case, a brief digression: There are two broad schools of gaming. The boundaries are permeable and one school isn't better than the other. For want of better terminology, let's go with crunchgaming and storygaming. Crunchgaming is what you think of when you think of Dungeons and Dragons. Lots of rules, lots of numbers, lots of dice rolling, lots of action. A game master that greatly controls th If you're reading a review for this then you're probably pretty well immersed in tabletop gaming. Just in case, a brief digression: There are two broad schools of gaming. The boundaries are permeable and one school isn't better than the other. For want of better terminology, let's go with crunchgaming and storygaming. Crunchgaming is what you think of when you think of Dungeons and Dragons. Lots of rules, lots of numbers, lots of dice rolling, lots of action. A game master that greatly controls the plot. Storygaming tends towards the introspective, with the goal being character development, difficult moral choices and the collaborative development of a story. Granted, these are broad generalizations, there's overlap, it's a continuum, etc. Dread is firmly a storygame. Perhaps the best-designed storygame. Design is actually a central theme to this review, actually. Let's start with the cover. White, with the word D r e a d printed top center in a corrupted serif typeface. A bloody thumbprint lies below the title, continuing across the spine to form a left-handed bloodprint that fits as if you were holding the book and trying to piece together what just happened. Dread's tagline is "A Game of Horror and Hope", and the book works hard to develop those twin themes as motivators for character action, game design and the playing of the game itself. The design of the gameplay is stunningly beautiful in its simplicity: When a character attempts something that may not succeed, they must pull a block from a Jenga tower. If they successfully pull, they succeed. If they refuse to pull, they fail and suffer the consequences. If the tower falls? Dead/insane/vanished from the game. The game's only rule enforces high stakes, considered action, and rising tension. The design of the character generation process is similarly simple and deeeeeeply introspective. This is potentially the most ideal storygame character creation mechanic, and larding it up with pretension or further mechanics would totally ruin it. So don't try. Basically "the host" passes out a questionnaire for each player. The questionnaires give the very roughest outline of the character and perhaps sketches relationships between characters or between characters and the plot. It's up to the players to flesh out the characters to their liking and then play those characters to the hilt. The game is specifically horror themed, but incredibly adaptable across different types of suspense. The gameplay mechanic reinforces this perfectly, and the character creation process gives players flawed, believable characters that they "own" from a narrative standpoint. Actually playing the game is beautifully structureless. Host provides scene setting or sets up an event and then players interact with each other and the environment in-character. Pulls occur when requested by the host, and characters are removed from the game if the tower falls. Characters can also sacrifice themselves by knocking over the tower to ensure a dramatic and overwhelming success for a specific action. This type of action is the stuff truly great horror/suspense are made of. The layout of the book is minimal, with vague, unrelated artwork. The microfiction at the beginning of each chapter elegantly maintains the tone of the book. The questions that run along the bottom of every page are somewhat unsettling in that they force you to read outside the narrative flow of the document, and they're great for adding to character creation questionnaires. The occasionally disturbing or off-beat one among the mundane questions jumps at you, reminding you (again) of the tone and tension the game should maintain. The structure of the rulebook is perfect--overview, things for players and host to read, host-preferred material about maintaining tension, when to require pulls, etc, then optional material about developing specific types of tension and how that works for character creation, pacing, pulling from the tower and eliminating characters. The final third of the book lays out three adventures, each illustrating a different aspect of the game, from a "theme" based adventure (something Dread deals with in a way that few if any other games really have) to a more standard three-act thriller designed to showcase how an action-heavy game can play out, to a complex psychological mystery engineered to generate player conflict and internal unease. These are laid out by ease of gameplay, the first being easiest for a group to successfully run and the third being the hardest (but possibly the most rewarding). I will certainly run a Dread game (probably many) on dark nights this fall and winter, as a way to break up the "crunchiness" and non-introspective nature of my standard gaming group. In terms of concept, execution and style, it's hard to find any way in which The Impossible Dream did not completely excel with Dread.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm

    Dread is fantastic and among the most unique RPGs I've read. It is a diceless system instead relying on pulling blocks from a Jenga tower as its primary mechanic. The looming tower, its fall resulting in a character death, adds delicious tension to the gameplay. Dread is built for horror in a uniquely visceral way. Dice just don't have the same tension as a tower you know is going to have to fall eventually. The game does allow for players to refuse to pull. They automatically fail whatever was g Dread is fantastic and among the most unique RPGs I've read. It is a diceless system instead relying on pulling blocks from a Jenga tower as its primary mechanic. The looming tower, its fall resulting in a character death, adds delicious tension to the gameplay. Dread is built for horror in a uniquely visceral way. Dice just don't have the same tension as a tower you know is going to have to fall eventually. The game does allow for players to refuse to pull. They automatically fail whatever was going on but they can't die from it. I'm unsure of that myself since it means an obstinate player could simply refuse all pulls and be guaranteed immortality. Or all the players could refuse all pulls and be ensured to survive. So buying in to the story and not getting too attached to your character is essential. A lot of the interior art looks like it was free-use clip stock photos and it's not great but it's a slim print-on-demand volume so harping on the art quality isn't particularly useful. There are three scenarios included and they're all pretty good. A straight up supernatural horror in the woods, a sci-fi Alien-inspired adventure aboard a derelict ship, and a 90s slasher film. The last is the most interesting as it allows, and encourages, for organic discovery of the killer being one of the player characters though nobody, not even the GM, will know at the start. It's good stuff.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam Gutschenritter

    Very interesting system based on building suspense. Also love the questionnaire idea of character creation. (I seem to love learning about different RPG systems, almost more than actually playing them)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Phil Keeling

    Deeply unique and versatile. Can be played as a slasher game, a psychological thriller, or just about anything in between.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Rojas

    El sistema del Jenga lo hace muy especial. El problema es que un par de partidas ya agotan la novedad.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    The game is amazing. Epidiah Ravachol does a fantastic job explaining the rules and giving advice to both the players and the host. The layout of the book is a little off-putting, but the material is golden.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve Radabaugh

    I'm dying to run a game of this. I especially love the character creation process. I'm dying to run a game of this. I especially love the character creation process.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Colby

    This is a really unique game system. Despite the simple premise, the book goes to great depth instructing the GM how to best run games of various styles. I appreciated all the tips and advice.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Austin Savill

    Great game mechanics. I am excited to see how I can incorporate them into my games.

  10. 5 out of 5

    dust

    Definitely hosting a game (or two!) soon. I'm really excited to try it. Definitely hosting a game (or two!) soon. I'm really excited to try it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Sounds awesome though I doubt I would be able to play it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lady Entropy

  13. 5 out of 5

    Merlin Thomas

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ben Philip

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Shepherd

  17. 4 out of 5

    Albos

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lucien

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Toler

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stokely Klasovsky

  21. 5 out of 5

    David Stoneking

  22. 5 out of 5

    James Mastromarino

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Maricich

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alex Roberts

  25. 4 out of 5

    Yan De Almeida Prado

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tim Wainwright

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wim Vosch

  28. 4 out of 5

    Clinton

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amber

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gregor

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