Friday, April 8, 2011

Dread: Horror Roleplaying Done Right

The last game I ran at the retreat was a game of Dread. I'm really glad I did that (though it was a little last minute, when we realized that Scott was running more games than others). Dread has a fantastic mechanic! In my mind it is one of the best mechanics I've seen, because it does a lot to help the feel of the roleplaying and story. It doesn't guide as much of the roleplaying, as say Polaris or Shock does, but at the same time I think it does far more for forcing the players to get into the setup of the game, and focusing the game. But what is the mechanic, I hear you asking! The mechanic is a jenga tower that you must pull bricks from in order to accomplish things. That is basically the entire system. Though the book has a ton of advice on character generation and how to generally run a good horror game.

The great thing about this mechanic is that it gets everyone very tense and concentrating on the mechanic of the game, and that tension and focus transfers well to the game that is happening around the tower.

I have since the game run it again for my Seattle group of players, and it worked similarly well. I'm planning on running a Dread session at ACNW. I'm not sure if I want to use the same story setup (something terrible happened at camp 10 years ago that is coming back on the players), but I think it could be pretty good. One of the things in the feedback of the game at the retreat that people latched on to was that I should've given them a roadmap to defeating the evil thing. That seems like a really good horror trope to give the players, since otherwise they are helpless to make the evil end (which was a focus on the game, though doesn't have to be in general).

The main problem I had the first time I ran it was a GM/plot issue that I didn't resolve well. I basically had 2 plots planned: a zombie horror game, and a camp horror one. I didn't know I had this problem, until I started the game and realized that everyone wanted to deal with the camp stuff. It couldn't be zombies, it had to be related to the dead camper! This was very obvious in retrospect, but caused the game to suck slightly in the execution.

I also tried to give something for the "eliminated" players to do. Namely I asked for some shared GM'ing so we could split the group and also give the dead folks something to do. I didn't want to decrease the sting of death by giving them another character. So, I let some folks GM some scenes. They did a great job at the scenes I asked them for, unfortunately I didn't think through my instructions very well. Shared GM'ing is something that my friend Mike really likes to do, but I still haven't found the right way to approach the scenes, and this was no exception.

Anyway, I think the game went well, and my second run of the game also went well. Dread is a fantastic system that really doesn't get in the way and really encourages the roleplaying.

I've disabled comments due to the amount of spam on this particular post.  Email me with any comments and I'll add them to the body of this post!