Dreading Dread

Happy Halloween, everybody! Today, I’m going to be playing Dread! Now, for those who don’t know, Dread is a horror RPG where task resolutions are done via pulling blocks from a Jenga Tower. Yes. You read right. You play a game of Jenga in order to play an RPG.

Now, I have done a video where I play a solo Dread session using an actual Jenga Tower and the GM’s Apprentice deck, but it was pretty lackluster in my mind. I mean, it had very funny moments in it, like how I said that the Tower will fall five seconds before the Tower actually falls, but it compared to moments like conspiring with a family to oust their wicked mother who’s trying to tear them apart or negotiating with a demonic god to stop her from destroying Babylonia, the game felt more like I was running on fumes.

Thus, I’m gonna play Dread as a text recap. That said, allow me to explain the writing process to a Solo RPG Voyage session.

The process is mainly me using a word processer to type out the game mechanics and my reactions/strategy/narrative. At the same time, I would use a program to help me run those mechanics. In particular, Roll20 or Tabletop Simulator, though Roll20 is less resource heavy. The session report can go from a meager three hundred words to almost five thousand, but the writing time it takes can differ.

See, I play the game as I’m writing the report. I don’t play the game, then type in my report. Any roll I make is told on the report. Depending on how fluid the game is, this process can take anywhere from a single day to even a week. Most of these is the reason why I tend to fluctuate between having a weekly schedule and having months of hiatuses with occasional games.

So, with a lengthy time that can go anywhere from a single night to a whole week, especially with a busy schedule that I have in real life, I can’t exactly have a large Jenga Tower standing on my table next to my laptop. Especially if it can simply fall over when I’m not focusing on playing Dread.

Long story short, I won’t be playing Dread in the sense that I’ll be using the Tower. Instead, I will play Dread using the Mythic GM Emulator rules I made for Dread, which, to my theory, will emulate the Tower.

On top of this, I will also play a published adventure that is included with Dread: Beneath the Full Moon. Spoilers for those who haven’t played it, but the title is pretty indicative of what the antagonist is gonna be. The Engine I will be using is Mythic GM Emulator, as I will also use it for the Tower.

Now, part of the reason I chose to play a published adventure is so that I can use a premade questionnaire. This is how one creates a character, or rather, fleshes them out. When I played Dread solo before, I had no questionnaire to fill out. Hell, I never had a scenario beyond “you get a house infested with a ghost. Oh and zombies”. To assist us is our trusty BOLD. Without further ado, let’s flesh out some marrow!

  • Unlike most philosophy majors, you chose your major for practical reasons. How do you intend to use your degree outside of academia?
    • Ravenous power play. I would use my degree to further my own career and agenda.
  • Why did you choose to join, and live in, a Greek house?
    • Impending pursuit. I decided that, based on the fact that the wording is “Greek” rather than the more common “Frat”, that this game is set during ancient Greece. As such, my character had no choice to join a Greek house. He was born into it due to his Spartan blood.
  • While your Greek experience has been almost entirely positive, one initiation rite crossed the line into hazing. How does it still haunt you?
    • Fledgling struggle. The word “hazing” definitely brought to mind the Frat House idea rather than the Greek House idea, but I decided to keep with my Spartan idea. The rite that my character partook in was a fight to the pain. Not to the death, but to the pain, as in you had to injure to end the fight. He was the ‘lucky’ guy to win his fight, but that scream still haunts him.
  • Why did you decide to do an adventure camping trip instead of the usual Spring Break beach party?
    • Fragile power play. He had the offer to go on vacation, but he chose to instead work alongside his fellow soldiers in order to rise up in the ranks.
  • What is your filth threshold? How do you respond when things aren’t clean enough for you?
    • Bitter bandits. His only threshold for filth is social filth. He absolutely can’t stand
  • How did your first pet die?
    • Depraved festival. This hatred towards criminals started from when a bunch of nomadic rogues raided his town and killed some people in their wake. His first pet was one of them.
  • Now that your guide is injured, why do you expect the others will start looking to you as the leader?
    • Hallowed afterlife. Our leader encountered what seemed to be Artemis wandering across the forest. The only other person who knows this is my character, and so, with that information, he can hope to guide his troop.
  • How did you get that scar?
    • Sudden hell. Of course, it wasn’t easy and during his first encounter with the beast, he ended up getting his scar.
  • Other than the events of last night, what was the most surprising part of this trip so far?
    • Bitter afterlife. It was perhaps coming across the specter of his deceased dog during the first hunting trip of the trek. He’s yet to find out what happened.
  • How did you cheat on your last botany midterm?
    • Grim illness. He took a dying plant and passed it off as a new species of plant.
  • Part of this trip is harder for you because of what phobia?
    • Abnormal myth. The fear of the Gods. As a believer of the Greek Gods, knowing their antics caused him to be afraid of them.
  • What childhood hero has let you down?
    • Pedantic trap. His own leader, Lykos. He used to believe that Lykos was this badass dude, when in reality, he’s just some school teacher who doesn’t tend to fight as much.
  • What is your name?
    • Christophoros

Alright, we are definitely going for some sort of Greek theme here. I’m actually really intrigued by what’s gonna happen, especially with all these threads and NPCs I generated.

Screw it, let’s just dive right in!

The game starts moments after Chris’ squad got wiped out by the beast. The group was on a trek to see if they could find a means to access Mount Olympus. Lykos spotted Artemis and believed it to be a sign that they were close to it.

However, moments after, they got attacked by a vicious wolf, killing a couple of his teammates and wounding Lykos in the process. Chris is now with Lykos. He orders a trooper to investigate the tracks.

[Does the tower fall? No.]

It’s an exceptional no, which means the metaphorical tower becomes sturdier. The soldier found the tracks made from the beast and Chris assigns two soldiers to find the beast. Of course, some people decided to challenge Chris’ authority and Chris has to convince the soldiers that he’s the closest leader they have.

[Does the tower fall? Yes.]

… I… I am gonna laugh my ass off now.

{exits the room. A faint laughing is heard, then the Voyager returns}

Okay. Okay. Here’s how the scene goes.

“You found the beast’s tracks? Good. Go find the beast then, and take Traitoro with you.” Christophoros asked.

“Erm… Why in Hades’ name should we follow you?” Traitoro asked.

“Because Lykos told me that he saw Ar-” However, Christophoros was stabbed to death by Traitoro. His bleeding body falls onto the floor as Traitoro turned to the others.

“Will anyone else attempt to fill his shoes?” Traitoro asked.

[Q: Very Unlikely. A: 12]

“I will! Raaaaaaah!” Ignoramus ran forward with a spear in hand.

[Does the tower fall? Yes. (just two points away from a no)]

And Ignoramus stabbed Traitoro with his spear, killing him.

“NOW WE ARE FREE MEN! LET’S PARTAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” Ignoramus shouted as the four remaining soldiers cheered on.

… What.

The.

Fu-

Nope. This is why I like solo RPGs. Only in Solo RPGs do you have your PC change from this determined leader to a backstabbing asshole to some stoner Spartan. The plot isn’t even about finding Mount Olympus or fighting the werewolf. It’s now about this one guy having a bonfire with his friends while people try to screw him over. The scene ends with the Chaos Factor going up.

[Scene Roll: 1]

So the scene is later into the night.

[Q: Is Lykos dead? Odds: 50/50. A: 87]

Nope. Not yet. I’m gonna have one of the troops make a fire. First, by getting wood.

[Does the tower fall? Yes.]

A scream is heard across the woods as he gets eaten by the wolf.

[Q: Did the werewolf do this stealthfully? Odds: 50/50. A: 92]

Oh no, he made it so blatant, that everyone else noticed and are ready to fight him. The werewolf lunges at one of the soldiers. He tries to dodge…

[Does the tower fall? Yes.]

But the wolf easily rips him to shreds. One of the troops will try to keep their cool.

[Does the tower fall? Yes]

But freaks out and runs away, falling off a cliff in the process. It’s just Ignoramus and one other soldier left. The other soldier will try to skewer the wolf with his spear.

[Does the tower fall? Yes]

He makes the sacrifice and pushes the tower down.

[Q: Is it a fatal blow? Odds: Likely. A: 92]

Nope, not enough to kill it. At this point, there’s only one option left…

Run.

[Does the tower fall?]

Hang on, let me guess… Yes?

[You got it!]

… Okay. I’m that guy who makes mechanics that sound great on paper, but when put into execution leads to what is perhaps the most laughably bad game of Dread I’ve ever played. Hell, it could have just been the most laughably bad solo game I’ve ever played period.

Not only did my first character die because the tower fell, but then the character who replaced him died as well. After that, it just became, to quote an abridged series, a never ending parade of failures and f-ups, proving that, maybe Dread should be played with the tower instead of having some fancy chart and overtly complicated rules system.

See, whenever the tower fell, you’d have to build the tower again, but make some more pulls. I translated this to increasing the odds. If you played Mythic, you’d know that the higher the odds, the more likely that answer’s gonna be yes.

I was able to pull more blocks on a virtual Jenga tower than I was ever able to with the bonkers system I made. The Jenga tower in my own video lasted about twenty five or so minutes before it fell, and I went through three adventures with that Jenga tower!

So we end this entire game with the squad dying, Artemis taking her doggy back to her place and downing a whole bunch of wine to try and make sure she forgets about this little incident. I actually thought this was gonna be a little more grand, but it just goes to show that, much like the tower itself, even good RPG stories can fall apart.

Bon Voyage, Gamers. Next month is gonna be Solo Gaming Appreciation Month. You know what that means: Another Campaign.

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