New Adventures in Tabletop Gaming – Damn my Easily Turned Head!

The game was chosen, the characters given life, the dimmed lights and unhealthy snacks were on standby and the ball was all set to roll on our inaugural family jaunt into tabletop role playing action via Pathfinder.

Everything should have been so simple.

And then my typically indecisive tinged with short attention span nature kicked in, and my head was turned to a different game altogether. The results of which mean that where today I should have been detailing those first escapades into the Pathfinder universe, I am now putting the finishing touches to our first adventure from a completely different angle. Now we are to enter the horror soaked world of, Dread.


This is not to say Pathfinder is a no go. Far from it. The created myriad of mysterious characters (that took a bloody long time to complete) are waiting in the wings for our expected untimely Dread deaths. I’m sure we won’t be long.

The reason Dread captured my imagination is its complete lack of traditional role playing tropes. There are no dice to roll (mild disappointment having purchased some shiny new d20’s), there are no traditional character sheets, no attributes determined by a number, and no overly complicated rules systems at play. Instead Dread brings with it an emphasis on storytelling as a group, short sweet bursts of one shot horror based action, and a really neat use of the traditional Jenga tower.

The character sheets take the form of a questionnaire that allows each player to instantly begin to paint a clear picture of who they are playing in the game. It delves into potential strengths and flaws whilst also laying foundations for possible psychological or physical issues that might shift the gameplay once commenced. It’s such a cool idea and the complete lack of numbers actually makes each individual seem more vulnerable than most other games. Let’s face it, high strength, sizeable hit points and you’ll most likely charge headlong into a pack of rabid ogres without so much as a blink of the eye. In Dread you’re only as strong as the tottering tower of Jenga before you.

The basic idea is that if your character undertakes an action that might prove challenging, a block must be removed by said player from the Jenga tower. As the game moves along and the blocks continue to shift this begins to prove considerably more tricky. And here’s the kicker, if the tower goes over your character is done. Dead as a doornail. I absolutely love that!

A horror game should be a tense and fraught experience. By using the tower, Dread, goes a long way to ramping up tension to levels other games can’t achieve. I want my players to be feeling the weight of that tension at every pull of a block. Whether this pans out, I’ll update after our first experience early next week.

In terms of setting, I’ve pulled, Beneath a Metal Sky, and, Beneath the Mask, from the rulebook. The former is a deep space horror scenario that has echoes of Dead Space, the latter a classic high school kids at forest retreat slasher flick. There was a third option but we’d already sat and watched Wil Wheaton run that on Tabletop, thus killing the element of surprise. Damned shame as it looked good!

Damn you Wil Wheaton!
Damn you Wil Wheaton!

The cast, as will be the case for all the escapades to come, is formed from my awesome kids and my reluctant (borderline moaning about playing) wife. She’ll come round eventually…I think.

The tabletop adventures have just begun, the road ahead is long and undoubtedly filled with many ups and downs. But, this time I vow not to have my head turned by another game.

What’s that?..

Cthulu you say?..

Back in a minute.

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