On November, 2nd 2013, I played a game of Dread with my friends. I was the host which was a fascinating experience and unlike other games which I was a game master.
For initial setup, players answer directed questions about their characters. It gives a skeleton background which players can assign details. As the host, the answers gave me tools to push the characters and explore details.
Sam Alexander Smith – English major ladies man
Victor – Economics student who overcompensate
Janet Evanston – Fashion designer student who was first on the scene.
Kevin Wong – Computer engineer student with lots of bling who enjoys movies
Cedric Maison – Philosophy student/football player
The premise of the story: Student who go adventure camping in Grand Canyon. They find their guide, Tom Thompson mauled. They have to figure out what to do, survive with whatever resources they have including their guide who is surviving on a thread.
The game uses a Jenga tower for action resolution. In order to succeed an action, the player must successfully pull a block without the tower falling. If tower falls then the character is gone from the story (usually through death). If players refuses to pull then the action fails. This leads to the player decided whether to pull or not and thus the value of the action. The GM known as the Host never pulls unless rebuilding the tower.
The story starts with the group waking up early morning to screams, nylon shredding and aluminium poles snapping. First on the scene, Janet panicked over the guide being unconscious and bleeding. Cedric applied first aid to stabilize Tom. He learned an animal attacked Tom. The animal initially went for Tom’s throat but changed to his guts. Cedric found a silver peace sign pendant on a hemp rope on the guide’s neck. While Victor tried to operate the radio, Janet searched the area of the tent. She found some strange footprints of a strange beast. At this point, the group suspected it was a bear.
Victor reached the emergency contact and let him know of the situation. Looking at maps, they could get at their destination past the 2 days of rapids (about 10 days of hiking) or go back to a landing about 7 days of hiking. The emergency contact mentioned he’ll reach his superior to figure out an alternate plan and contact them at 8AM. The group talked about continuing down the river to their destination. Cedric and Janet tried to go to sleep while Victor, Kevin and Sam prepared the gear for the morning. They heard the distant rumbling of a storm.
In the morning, they stabilized Tom for moving and Cedric carried him to the river. At the river, they contacted the emergency group but they found the storm interfered with the discussion. They got part of the message and then it stopped. They had to decide where to go. They could continue on the raft or start hiking. The raft would reach strong rapids which they never experienced and hiking would take longer than they have food. Cedric wished to hike next to the river while the rest wishes to use the raft. The majority of the group won. The group separated themselves onto 2 different rafts. Victor, Janet were on the first raft with Tom. Sam, Kevin and Cedric were on the other raft. A few close calls later, they survived their first day on rapids.
Janet went looking for a good camping spot in the surrounding. I gave the player a choice to pull to find a spot in time or she can find a camping spot late. She chose not to pull and thus they arrived at their campaign spot at sundown. It was an open spot with lots of visibility, vegetation but exposed to the elements. Kevin and Cedric went to gather wood. While gathering wood, they heard some growls and felt like something was watching them. They quickly returned to their camp with the slightly less wood they need. They built a small fire. During the night, I made them have pulls based on certain fears they characters had. I used the answers to the questionnaire. They proved quite effective at making pulls. They made it through another night. Some were cold and some chose not to have a good rest.
In the morning, they marched towards the shore. While marching, they saw a small plane flying overhead. Sam quickly took out the flare gun and tossed it to Victor.
This is how the tower looked after Sam’s player succeeded in his pull.
Victor wildly shot the flare in the wrong direction. Panicking, Victor ran into the forest while reloading the flare gun and hoping he can get another shot before the plane vanishes from sight. The group heard a growl and Victor’s death scream. After a fearful pause and a rebuilding of the tower, the group found Victor’s corpse savagely attacked with his throat ripped. Whatever was following them had taken one of their own. They salvaged whatever gear they could from Victor’s corpse and set up the rafts.
Sam and Kevin decided to take care of Tom this time in their raft. Cedric and Janet would travel together. These were challenging rafts and their few folks didn’t help. They were lucky with their pulls. During a rough turn slightly before the end, Sam got violently thrown overboard and get his head smashed against rocks. Miraculously, Kevin managed to stabilize the raft as their reached shore. Noticing it was late at night, I asked if the group wished to end it now with the death of Sam or conduct a final scene to reach the cabin. They chose to rush for the cabin.
After rebuilding the tower for a last time, we conducted a chase scene. First, an unconscious Tom rode piggy back on Cedric. His football training helped. I made the werewolf finally appear as it chased them. Suddenly, it leap in front of the group blocking them. Cedric tackled the werewolf to move it to the side while keeping Tom on his back. The group continue with Cedric now at the back. Janet managed to keep her focus onto the ranch as she saw some familiar lights on the side. It was those same light she saw when Tom was savaged. I had decided it was a will-o’-the-wisp intent on sending her into a trap. Kevin was the first to arrive and the door was locked. He broke the front window, quickly entered and unlocked the door letting the rest of the group in. They managed to slam the door in the werewolf’s face. Unfortunately, the window was open. Cedric and Kevin grabbed an armoire to bring to block the window. As Cedric backed his way towards the window, the werewolf ripped Cedric in half. Janet jumped in to help Kevin block the window. Janet, Kevin and their guide Tom were the survivors of this savage werewolf attack.
I enjoyed running Dread. The combination of the questionnaire and the tower are useful tools to raise the tension which makes it perfect for a Hallowe’en game. I was surprised the initial tower stayed up for so long. I used the book’s advice of requesting a pull around every 5 minutes. Before it fell, there were a few refusals of pulls. Letting the players decided if their fail or attempt the task is pure genius. I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out non-death failures when the player decided not to attempt the pull.