Beyond Dread: Tension

Folks! I am breathless in my anticipation for April of 2018!

Bully Pulpit Games recently announced their intention to kickstart Alex Roberts’ Tension early next year. If you’ve not heard of Tension, you will soon.

Tension comes from the bottom of my heart,” says Ms Roberts, “like a lot of the Bully Pulpit Games lineup, it fills a particular niche—in this case a niche for a two-hour, two-player game about relationships that feels both overdramatic and painfully real. Also you might want to smooch at the end. But you don’t have to!”

Inspired by Epidiah Ravachol’s groundbreaking RPG DreadTension combines exciting world-building, clever mechanics, and an unstable tower of wooden blocks to help players tell the story of two people entangled in their own undeniable, impossible attraction.

“When the tower falls,” Roberts says, “so does their resistance to their true feelings.”

Over the years (going on decades) since the inception of Dread folks have come to me with all manner of new metaphors to apply to the Jenga tower. It obviously works great for horror, but there are tales of many genres one can tell with the unnerving deliciousness a Jenga tower brings. What I find genuinely surprising about the design of Tension—and what really draws me to it—is not just how well the metaphor fits; but how the metaphor veers from that of Dread. Hiding in the gravity of that teetering tower is not the grisly finality of well-swung hammer or the existential threat of eternal void, but something far more terrifying: real human desire.

I am fortunate enough to have a playtest document for Tension in my possession. Even in this barebones version, it is a delight to read. I cannot wait to see what Bully Pulpit makes of it. Damn the distance between now and April 2018!

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Villa Paletti and Suspiria

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.

This message brought you by the venerable Isa Chandra Moskowitz who was kind enough to recommend Suspiria to me, and the ineffable Emukt, who introduced me to Villa Paletti.