Dread is a great game. It's a horror/suspense/slasher movie simulator, and one of the few horror role-playing games that really works. Part of the reason is because it uses a Jenga tower, which gets ricketier as play goes on. In order to do almost anything, players have to make pulls from the tower, and when the tower falls, the player's character dies. The tension created by the tower adds to the atmosphere of the game and creates a real sense of threat and impending doom that is hard to come by in similar games.
Issues with Dread on Hangouts
Dread would be an ideal game for late-night G+ Hangout play, except that there's only one way to play Jenga: in person, sitting around a table, with a bunch of able-bodied people. This doesn't work for all play groups! The Dread book does suggest alternatives to Jenga, but they all have a similar physical component.
We'd like to find a solution that will work for people playing remotely, or for people who lack fine motor control. Any alternative mechanic should fulfill at least the following requirements:
- It should use readily-available materials.
- It should build tension - the lethality should start near zero and ramp up over time.
- It should be obvious to all the players how "rickety" the tower is - how dangerous a "pull" will be for them - at any given time.
- It should kill players in about the same number of "pulls" - 35-55 according to the authors - that the Jenga tower in Dread does.
I believe I have a Hangouts-friendly alternative that meets all of the above requirements - I call it "D20 Dread".
D20 Dread only requires two items: a 20-sided die or die roller and a shared sheet of paper. That's it - all you need! Here's how it works:
- Write the numbers 1-20 in the left column of the document
- Every time a player would make a pull, they roll a d20.
- For each result, make a mark next to the number that was rolled.
- When the fifth mark is placed next to any number, the player who rolled that number dies, as if they had knocked over the Jenga tower.
- A player may elect to "knock over the tower" at any time, with the same rules as in the normal game.
- Any time the rules refer to resetting the tower, instead erase all the marks.
This system fulfills all the requirements set out above. DiceStream is always available in G+, and failing that, most gamers have a d20 lying around. The only other object needed is a piece of paper, physical or digital, which can be provided by Google Docs on G+. The tension also ramps up over time as the checks next to each number fill up. As I'll show later, for the first twenty rolls or so, there will be almost no danger of death. Once the number goes north of 30, however, the danger ramps up significantly. And based on the number of rows with four check marks, it's pretty obvious to players exactly how dangerous a roll is going to be.