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Survival-Horror Dread Requires A Jenga Tower To Play

The nostalgic family game Jenga usually has happy memories and positive connotations attached to its intense gameplay. However, the iconic wooden tower carries new meaning in survival-horror tabletop RPG Dread.

Much like Jenga, Dread’s concept is rather simple. Imagine a regular game of Dungeons & Dragons – packed to the brim with fantasy, challenges and charming characters – but instead of rolling the dice to determine action resolution, the Jenga tower decides. It’s a bizarre mechanic – combining two tabletop games at opposite ends of the spectrum – but it appears to create added tension to thrilling campaigns.

Related: Kickstarter Launched For New Carnival Horror Setting For D&D

Dungeons & Dragons campaigns can be expansive, and so can the premise and setting of Dread. While players can create their own campaign, the rulebook encourages the inclusion of a horror theme, and also provides three base narratives to play. The survival-horror Beneath A Full Moon and Sci-Fi-themed Beneath A Metal Sky offers a good starting point for adventurers. The third narrative, Beneath The Mask, is based on a slasher movie, where players need to figure out which one of them is the killer, Game Master included.

The Jenga tower is interacted with in the same manner as its own respective game, except the successful removal of a block – without the tower capsizing – actions the attack you directed at another player. If the tower falls in the process, however, your character dies. It’s a costly mistake, but it gives gameplay that extra layer of intensity and slow-motion dramatics when it falls.

Another interesting consequence to knocking the tower over is turning into a zombie. Your character can receive this sentence if the tower is knocked over accidentally, in a way that cannot relate to the campaign narrative, such as a spilled drink or a clumsy knock to the table. The now undead character cannot make any more moves, and must wait until the next dramatic event to get killed in style.

Dread’s innovation – from designers Epidiah Ravachol and Nathaniel Barmoreand – with crippling intensity has been widely praised with glowing recommendations. The game was also featured in a two-part episode of Wil Wheaton’s TableTop, who applauded its ability to give players new levels of fear.

The basic rules for Dread can be downloaded for free, with a PDF or softcover book option available for $12 and $24.

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