I recently picked up a copy of the horror RPG “Dread.” I read through the book and listened to this actual play podcast from The Walking Eye, which is a great primer on the game if you don’t feel like buying the book just yet. That being said, I have not yet played or hosted a game of Dread, so what follows should be taken accordingly.
I am fascinated by the action resolution mechanic in this game. A Jenga tower is, all at once, simple and inspired. It is a binary mechanic, meaning your character either lives or dies, without modifiers, by your own (hopefully) steady hand. It’s simply you and the tower. It’s quite clear how such a diceless system could create nervousness in a player as they approach the tower.
In the book, there are also several alternatives to the tower. The game Topple seems closest to the Jenga tower, but stacking dice is also suggested. Elsewhere, I have also seen building a house of cards as an alternative. All these things have something in common – they rely on a steady hand, yes, but they also rely on the presence of a steady surface. I want to propose a different resolution mechanic that does not require a steady surface, and yet instills that same growing sense of impending failure that the tower does. It uses a standard deck of cards. Continue reading