Dread is a rules-light toolbox for exploring (surprise) the theme of dread. Instead of dice, it uses a Jenga set to determine the outcome of difficult actions. The tension mounts as players remove blocks from the stack. If the stack falls, the character run by the player who pulled the last block is removed from the game.
Characters have no statistics. Instead the gamemaster presents each player with a questionnaire that helps determine who the characters are and how they behave in the game.
Dread is not a game for the faint of heart; it is explicitly designed to make players tense and nervous. It was created for one-offs, and without contortions it is not suitable for campaign play.
Here’s how the publisher describes Dread:
The goal of Dread is to sustain the delicate atmosphere that invokes the hand quivering emotion that lends its name to the game. The thrill of a Dread game lies within the tension between desire and loss. You will take on the role of someone trapped in a story that is only as compelling as it is hostile — someone who will find themselves making decisions we hope never to face in real life.
Three Things About Dread
- Jenga: Instead of dice or cards, as the game progresses the players use a Jenga tower to resolve actions. As the action continues the tension mounts.
- The Questionnaire: While each game of Dread is a one-shot, the questionnaire bakes in character identity, giving each player a connection to their character.
- Certain Death: Unlike many roleplaying games where lethality is low, death is a certainty in Dread.
- “What you’re looking for has everything to do with how much Dread will appeal to you — some people will love it and some people will hate with a passion unrivaled by the flames of a thousand burning suns.” — James D. Hargrove, RPG.net
- “I’ve had the opportunity to run two sessions of this wonderful game, and think that they have been two of the most entertaining RPG games that I’ve ever participated in.” — Chris Norwood, RPGGeek
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