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"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What is "Dread?"

And now, for something completely different, I'm going to start updating this blog again.


No, that was of course just a pithy statement since this blog is easily updated once, sometimes twice a month.  But I am going to talk about something I usually don't: a roleplaying game.

Wait, where are you going?  Come back!

Yes, roleplaying games (or RPGs for the initiated) are for complete losers.  But you're on the internet right now reading some guy's obscure writing blog, so what does that make you?  Exactly.  But I'm going to be honest (which I almost never have been before on this blog): I'm prety ambivalent about RPGs.

I love the role-playing part of it, developing a character and creating a story with other people.  But since RPGs are mostly played by a certain breed of people, let's call them future job creators, they tend to be rules-heavy.

Like, EXTREMELY rules-heavy.  Like, I never know what the hell I'm doing because there's fifteen dice rolls and willpower checks (what?) between me and ordering a beer at the local tavern.

So me being not particularly a future job creator, I've always been a little on the fence about RPGs.  Then one of my dear, dear friends introduced me to a game that is exactly in my bailiwick: Dread.

Dread is a horror RPG (yeah!) with almost no rules.  In fact, to prove that point, I'm going to list all of the rules right now:

1.)  Set up a Jenga board.  One person plays the host, who is running the game, and every other person at the table is a player.

2.)  The success or failure of every action made by a player is determined by pulling a block out of the Jenga board.  There are two kinds of pulls: compulsory and voluntary.

3.)  Compulsory pulls are mandated by the host.  For example, the host could say, "If you want to hotwire the car, you have to make a pull."  If a player successfully pulls the block out, he was successful at his action.  If he refuses to make the pull, he failed at his action.  If he pulls out a block and the tower tumbles, he dies/goes crazy/is removed from the game in a horrible way. 

4.)  Voluntary pulls are requested by the players.  For example, the player could come to a door and the host says nothing, but the player says, "I elect to check the door for booby traps."  Again, he either succeeds, fails, or dies horribly.

5.)  The only other rule is that a player can make a heroic sacrifice.  If he elects to knock the Jenga board over, he succeeds magnificently at whatever he was trying to accomplish, while dying horribly in the process.  For example, the players could be surrounded by man-eating aliens and one player elects to stay behind and set off a grenade so the others can escape.

6.)  Since the rules are so simple, character creation is purely about background.  The host creates a questionnaire, sometimes tailored to the player, sometimes not, full of leading questions.  You get to decide who you are, and then you sit down and play.

That's it.  Seriously.  The rest of it is developing an atmosphere of, well, dread.  In honor of Halloween, I'll be hosting a game on October 30 if any of my real-world friends are interested.  Meanwhile, all of my blogosphere friends get a special treat: over the next few weeks I'll be posting all the information from the last scenario of Dread that I ran, "Dread and Breakfast." 

For one thing, this well help me focus a little bit and think about the new scenario that I'm developing, "You Can't Go Home Again."  For another thing, it'll let the people that actually played the game last time have a glimpse into my demented psyche and planning process.  And finally, it's a pretty fun little scenario that anyone who wants to can appropriate and play.  I hope it'll encourage you to try the game.  You can, of course, buy the rulebook from the website here, or you can pretty much just go by the rules that I listed.  (IT'S REALLY THAT SIMPLE.)

Here's looking forward to a new blogging/gaming experience this Anytober.

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