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Author Topic: Dread (The Jenga Version)  (Read 2657 times)

Justin Alexander

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Dread (The Jenga Version)
« on: April 11, 2011, 06:34:49 pm »
Anyone have a solution for the systematic pacing failure that seems to be inherent in the game?

Assume that you want a collapse or near-collapse state at the end of the game (for a tension-filled conclusion).

Per the designers in this thread, it takes about 30 pulls to reach a collapse-state on the tower, the RAW only reduces the time between collapse-states by 10% (3 additional blocks per character knocked out). That means in a two-collapse game, one of the players will be sitting out of the action for nearly half the game. In a three-collapse game, one of the players will be sitting out for 60% of the game. Even if you manage to double the pace of pulls after the first collapse (which is unlikely), the situation doesn't improve much.

(Note: This is not a "you got knocked out surprisingly early" situation for which certain options are given in the text.)

Not a problem, of course, if you've got a pool of players who don't mind being completely passive spectators for long periods of time. But the "no chatter" rule exacerbates a problem which is widely recognized as a bad idea in general game design circles.

The logical conclusion would seem to be pacing for games featuring a single collapse-state: People aren't "supposed" to be eliminated except for possibly an elimination during the final climactic struggle. This makes the game considerably narrower in its utility, but appears to be the only way to easily resolve the "bored player" syndrome.

But this solution only calls attention to the other problem the game has: Tension deflation following a tower collapse.

Theoretically, this models the traditional horror pacing of "tension rises, something bloody happens, and then tension starts rising again". But the player elimination problem forces us to abandon that pacing. And even if we didn't do that, the same problem exists at the end of the game: There's no way to quickly ratchet the tension back up.

Bill is killed by the werewolf and then... the werewolf isn't scary any more and we mop him up.

(Hypothetically, the host should make the werewolf run off and then come back later. But the problem is effectively repetitive: Whenever the tension ratchets up to the point where you can trigger an effective conclusion, there's a high-risk for a collapse... And since a collapse always indicates failure, it means the actual conclusion will happen AFTER the collapse. The game tends to either (a) end on a whimper or (b) a sacrifice. The latter is effective... but only up to the point where it becomes predictable.)

The problem appears to be insoluble. Which is a pity because the basic mechanic of pulling Jenga blocks and building the tower is, in fact, incredibly effective at generating tension around the game table.
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Dread (The Jenga Version)
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2011, 02:15:30 am »
Quote from: Justin Alexander;451274
Anyone have a solution for the systematic pacing failure that seems to be inherent in the game?


Yes. Don't play Dread.

Personally, I'd recommend trying an RPG instead.

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GeekEclectic

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Dread (The Jenga Version)
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2011, 04:10:46 am »
The rules as written are that every remaining player makes 3 pulls per character already eliminated per hour the game has been going on. So as more characters are eliminated and the games goes on longer, the chances of characters wiping out(possibly multiple at once since if you cause the tower to fall during a "reset" you're out just like causing it to fall at any other time).

Either you like emulating the horror genre tropes, in which case this game is about the best you can find for doing so. Or you don't, in which case this game is just not for you.

PS, from personal experience getting to actually play and run Dread(a couple times each), the problems you state . . . well, they don't resemble the reality of play much at all. As I explained in my first paragraph, the game has in-built mechanics for ratcheting the tension up automatically. It's not like you start with a full tower each time someone dies -- it starts off shakier and shakier each time you have to rest it.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2011, 04:15:28 am by GeekEclectic »
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Justin Alexander

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Dread (The Jenga Version)
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2011, 08:39:34 pm »
Quote from: GeekEclectic;451367
The rules as written are that every remaining player makes 3 pulls per character already eliminated per hour the game has been going on.

Those aren't remotely similar to the actual rules.

The actual rules state that the group resets the tower and then pulls (5 - current players) x 3 blocks.

You can see this on page 18 of the printed rules or in the Quick-Start Rules. The full rules also make a point of stating that the total number of pulls should be "distributed as evenly as possible among the remaining players" (eliminating any possible interpretation that it might mean 3 per player).

Interesting house rules, though. They'd probably fix the problem.
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joewolz

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Dread (The Jenga Version)
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2011, 08:49:30 am »
I've played it and it wasn't all that "tension-building" as it was made out to be.  It was mostly just telling a story and playing Jenga at the same time.  I mean, the mechanic has some potential, but something's missing.
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Dread (The Jenga Version)
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2011, 02:59:14 pm »
Dread was discussed on this weeks Actual People, Actual Play podcast episode.

Ladybird

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Dread (The Jenga Version)
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2011, 07:37:02 pm »
I've only played one session of it, but I thought it was an okay game; it's very much an N game, though, and as such is totally dependent on the player/GM (Fortunately, we had a good group). While the mechanic does make you think hard about taking risks, I don't like the effect of putting player's manual dexterity into the game; it puts more emphasis on the player's physical abilities over their mental abilities; a player with poor co-ordination would have a crap time playing Dread, and I don't think that is good design.

Even after reading the book, I can't imagine how a campaign would actually work. It looks like a session game, all the way.
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GeekEclectic

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Dread (The Jenga Version)
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2011, 09:59:46 pm »
Quote from: Ladybird;459915
Even after reading the book, I can't imagine how a campaign would actually work. It looks like a session game, all the way.


Yeah, it's very much for single session games. I suppose if you had a game in which a character or two actually survived to the end you could continue the story with them as recurring characters. Most of those '80s horror serials had at least one recurring character. Nancy from Nightmare on Elm Street, random blonde survivor chick from Friday the 13th, Jamie Lee Curtis from Halloween.

As for the Jenga mechanic not being fun for some people, well, you can't please everyone. As someone not particularly good at Jenga myself(not particularly bad either, just . . . average, I guess), I can only speak for myself in saying I loved it. In one game, I lasted quite a while. In another, I died pretty fast. With the lights down low and the story going on, it's one of those games that's as fun to watch as it is to directly be involved with. A lot of that depends on the GM and the other players, though. If you're playing with people who couldn't act their way out of a paper bag, Dread is so not the game for you no matter how much you like(or dislike) the mechanics.
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