Monday, October 19, 2015

Ghoulish Games - Dread

Dread is a horror roleplaying game designed by Epidiah Ravachol and Nathaniel Barmore. Although the game can be used for ongoing campaigns, Dread is at its strongest when used for one-shot scenarios.

There are two things that make Dread a truly unique game within the horror genre: how it handles characters and the game's system.

Unlike the majority of games within the hobby, Dread doesn't use specific mechanics to represent characters. Instead, characters are created and modeled by answering a questionnaire based upon the scenario being played out. Each questionnaire is different and helps players flesh out the different aspects of each character, giving the Game Master things to play with during the session. The only rule players must follow when answering these questions is they cannot contradict a question. For example, when asked a question about why did you break your mother's heart, you can't answer that you didn't do that.

The second unique element is the task resolution system that Dread uses. The game doesn't use dice to determine a character's success, but a simple Jenga tower. When a player attempts something particularly challenging, one with serious consequences that could possibly end with his demise, they must pull one or more blocks from the tower (at the GM's digression). The action succeeds if the player manages to pull the aforementioned blocks and place them atop the tower without knocking it over. However, failing to do so means your character has met his fate and is removed from the game. With that being said, the GM can bring you back in to torment your fellow players if she wishes to do so.

The reason why I love this mechanic is because it does an amazing job at build a sense of tension at the table. Each time a block is removed from the tower, its structure becomes more and more unstable. You know the tower will eventually fall, but you don't know when and you don't know if you'll be the one two do it. That makes every pull tense, since it could be your last, helping build the necessary tension that you need in a great horror game.

While I love Dread, I admit its not a perfect game. This game, like others in the horror genre, require you to have a group of players willing to buy into the scenario and allow themselves to feel scared. Furthermore, the nature of the mechanic requires players to forego some control of the actions of their characters due to the strict results of a block pull and what happens to the character if they fail. Because of this, Dread will not be for everyone.

With that being said, I still think everyone should give Dread a chance. I believe it's one of the best games for short-form horror scenarios and incredibly fun. Check out the game's website if you're interested.