Cooperation between the players’ characters in Dread usually takes the form of the players divvying up the pulls, sharing the responsibility and the risk. And this works largely because it lets each individual player experience a little ease in their burden without tampering with the pacing of the game.
But recently, in Piratecat’s ever-growing ENworld thread on Dread, there was a request for a mechanic that helped to focus the game on trust between the characters, and this inspired the following optional rules.
Horror doesn’t always have to be in grayscale. If you’ve never seen Suspiria, then you owe yourself a rental, or a NetFlix, or what have you. The sharp, otherworldly aspect of the brilliant colors used throughout that film are just as unsettling as the murky shadows we typically attribute to the genre. Suspiria is what I thought of when I played Villa Paletti for the first time. Since today seems to be my day for Dread experimentation, I’ll daydream a bit about what grotesque fairy tale I could host with this Jenga substitute.
“What stops me from just refusing to pull?”
It’s a question I often get when introducing someone to the rules of Dread. And it is a legitimate one. Usually, I’m moments away from hosting a game for them, so I can answer with an enigmatic, “You won’t.”
But recent discussions on the Dread message board and through e-mail have me reconsidering this terse answer.
Let’s take a moment and examine Jenga.
The Tower serves two major purposes in the game that are only tangentially related to determining who succeeds, who fails, and who is removed from the game.
The first is as a physical representation of the tension and pacing in the game. The Tower sits in the middle of table (or to a reachable side) and looms over the players. It is an ever-present reminder of the impending doom. Both it’s height and instability are clearly visible at all times. And this is even more evident through the sense of touch. The tactile nature of the tower engages the player on a more visceral level.
The second is to use this physical embodiment of tension and work with the player’s fear. For this to happen, the player needs to be invested in their character (something the questionnaire should help in). But if they are invested, each time they reach for that Tower and it twists or shakes, they will feel it like a shock.