[Dread] Cyberpunk/Horror for Halloween

Started by Gregor Hutton, October 27, 2009, 04:27:06 PM

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Gregor Hutton

So, Matt, Russ, Joe P and I met up again at the Prince Household for another bout of Monday-night gaming. For Halloween we wanted to do something "horror" as a one-shot and I said I could bring a non-Jenga-branded wooden-block tower and my copy of Dread. I made up a generic short questionnaire for everyone (helped by a recent thread on RPGnet about a Dread/House of Leaves game) and we'd make the rest up on the night. My vague idea was that the tension would start in the Arasaka building in a lift(the inspiration for this was a Dutch film I saw years ago called "De Lift", I think) and that I would tap into the Cthulhu/Resident Evil-biomonster feel once there.

It was a fun, fun game. Lots of good in-character role-playing and good tension when making pulls. I found that when making pulls, even though the player was focused on performing a physical act of dexterity, we were also really invested in the fiction of the moment. All of us. It was theatrical and thrilling. There was lots of awing around the table, with further embellishment of the predicament as the block came out. Especially so when it was with difficulty or over two pulls. Great fun. I can't recommend this game enough for a night of gaming.

Anyway, here's the AP notes (over a few posts I think).

My Questions to the players at the start were...
What do you fear? Why?
What past indiscretion fills you with shame? Does anyone know?
What are you naturally gifted at? And what have you learnt to be good at?
What's on the outside?
What's on the inside?
What is your name?

I set up the Tower (and removed the three blocks for every player under a total of 5, so 6 blocks pulled to start) and the players filled in their questionnaires. The characters were...
Joe was playing a high-up Corporate from Militech. He was a bit of a racist, with two Solos accompanying him to an illicit meeting with Arasaka to cut a deal. His talent was at getting people to do what he wanted.

Matt playing Akiru the janitor for the building. I checked if he was a "cleaner" (like Leon), but no, just an actual caretaker! He was gifted at Chess and excelled at his job. He said the inside contained a starved jaguar and I took the idea of a beast from this.

Russ played Tim, a Fixer and a survivor of a hillbilly massacre in his past. He had sold out a business partner to get his first big deal and he was a dab hand at electronic security and espionage. A weasley character and a bit of a coward.

With everyone introduced, why were they here? This was pretty easy and quick for us to put together.

Akiru was easy. He would start in the building and be at work.

For Joe's Corporate he was attending an illicit meeting at 3 am with Arasaka. He'd be meeting Tim the Fixer and getting in to the skyscraper by a secret entrance.

For Tim, I said he had been abducted by Aaraska preceding all this. All the other Fixers were lying low and he was out of the loop on why. When he'd been grabbed by Arasaka it all became clear. They wired a lot of money into his account and told him to sell Joe's Corporate out. They told him that they had framed him for it, so he might as well do it. (Up to him, of ocurse, if he did or not.)

So we started with some role-playing between Joe and Russ. I noted that Joe's Solos were Flint and Marble -- Aryan Ubermensch who wanted to get even with the wise-cracking Tim from the off.

Tim calls "Mike" his contact to get the back door open and he's straight through to Akiru in the janitor's room. Tim acts like he knows what's going on even though he doesn't, and he tells Akiru/Mike to get the lift down to the secret back entrance and let them in. Our first pull of the night was Matt finding the right key as he described a mass of keys as he raked through the drawers in the janitor's room. Later in the game I would have let him have it for free (he's good at his job, real good), but to get the ball rolling I found it useful to get an "early" pull in. Matt made the pull and we were off.

More to follow.

Gregor Hutton

Gah! How terrible that I haven't got around to adding more to this. (And even though we never gamed in November we had a brilliantly fun Playtest of Joe's Hell For Leather -- such effortless gaming fun we've had with Dread, S/Lay w/Me and Hell For Leather).

Anyway, the key things to this game of Dread were the pulls and the free playing between them. We didn't find we needed any mechanical "checks" or prompts from a mechanical component to say or do things. None of this bullshit about "can I say this or that" or "is what I said cool enough?" or looking for being a performing monkey. No! The players had characters and they just played them.

Sometimes they said stuff that was mundane and grounded in their character. Cool! It created a story, a mood, a basis for the characters. Something else for us to hook on to.

Sometimes they said stuff that they were doing or planning that just rocked the vibe of the game. No problem, no need for a pull we just bought it whole.

Other times they said stuff that the table didn't buy or me as the GM was raising an eye-brow. In those cases they either pulled, asked for a pull or were told to take a pull. And it works.

I don't think in those tense moments when the tower was shaking that we weren't thinking of the fictional outcome if that tower falls. We were jawing and speaking in character as the pulls were made. As the GM I was specualting on what might happen if it fell, or if it didn't. Great theatre.

Joe Prince died trying to climb through the garbage disposal chute. Someone else made it through before him. He hesitated and they pulled. It was tight but thrillingly they made it. Joe tried to make the pull to get away too and the tower fell in awful slow motion. He knew he was done as it fell but the tower still jarred us all as it rattled off the wooden table we were playing on.

Matt bought it when he was getting up to make a pull and accidentally kicked the table. A swfit crashing of the tower. No crying about it being unfair. We all knew that when it fell it was going to kill someone.

Russ survived. The tower was reset and I made him get through 3 or 4 pulls over a series of fictional events and he made them all and lived. It was thrilling stuff and great verbal fun. The group felt this was "right" and I guess this is the bit in Dread which says the story ends when it ends. No mechanical trigger to say "end now" or not. We just did. Very satisfying.

The "monster" was some project which absorbed those it killed. Like The Things meets an Octopus, Akira and Cthulhu. I was vague it was indistinct but creeping and horrifying. I stole bits from the players when they speculated on its nature and at other times imposed my vision of the enemy when they were fumbling in the dark.

A great one-off and I'd recommend it for a night of entertainment.