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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 16, 2007, 09:29:36 AM



Title: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 16, 2007, 09:29:36 AM
Thorsten is playing my character’s ex-wife on the phone and says, “Daniel, you shouldn’t have called me.”

My character’s name is Andy, Daniel is the guy whose head got severed below the upper jaw with a meat chopper and whose corpse mysteriously disappeared. Surely Thorsten mixed them up. “My name is Andy”, I correct him, casually.

“Andy, Justin, whatever, please, I still love you, but I really shouldn’t talk to you.”

And my heart misses a beat. I look from one fellow player to the other. None of them had a clue, but it’s making sense. Oh, my, fucking, god. My brain is doing a fast forward replay of what happened so far. Six persons, the player characters, who don’t know each other at all, find themselves in a messy apartment with the corpse of a guy called Daniel, with no clue as to how they got there. They get all hysterical and talk to cops and neighbors, who act a little strangely, and then the corpse is mysteriously gone and they get chased off by a badly intimidating guy called Butch who has something supernatural about him.

And now we realize that we are the multiple personalities of Daniel York, and that Butch is right there with us inside Daniel’s head and people are going to get killed—real people. Slam. What a blow. And that Jenga tower is already looking damn shaky. I am tense, excited, shaken, and euphoric. My fellow players express as much, in muttering something along the lines of “shit, shit, shit” under their breaths.

Thorsten has been displaying his nervousness about the game for weeks. It is GroFaFo summer rally, 36 role-players on a castle/youth hostel with nothing to distract them from role-playing. Thorsten ran another game of Dread half a year ago on GroFaFo winter rally. I wasn’t there, but it was very successful. Half of the group now is made up by the same players who played that last game. We are four men and three women between roughly 25 and 30 years of age. Most of us know each other pretty well from GroFaFo (my German “home” forums) and several rallies.

Thorsten has decided to do something along the lines of Identity (the movie). So he has requested from us some rough character concepts and, true to the Dread rules, has asked two specific questions: When do you feel strong? When do you feel weak? The game is supposed to be “personal horror” which had been announced even before he came up with that plan. When he did, he warned us that he would possibly intrude into our characters pretty hard. I did not have the slightest clue, then, that he was referring to the very fact of their existence!

For those of you who don’t know this particular game called Dread, it works by a simple very mechanism: Every time you state an action that the GM deems dangerous or likely to fail, you have to draw a piece from a Jenga(tm) tower. You can also refuse to draw and accept your failure. If you draw the piece and the tower doesn’t fall, your character succeeds. If however you tumble the tower, your character dies or otherwise gets written out of the story. There is one more option: You can choose to tumble the tower intentionally, which means your character sacrifices herself to save the day.

This little mechanism is all there is. I think it is freaking brilliant. Every one can see the level of tension with their own eyes in front of them, in form of the Jenga tower. Drawing the pieces inevitably makes your heart beat faster and your hands shake, even if it’s someone else who has to draw. It’s like a suspense turbocharger. It challenges player skill without the least hindrance in the process of shared imagination. On the contrary, the fictional content lends strong meaning to every single piece you draw, making you even more nervous. When I first heard about this game, I thought it just might be the best thing I’ve ever heard, and even by that measure, I have not been disappointed.

The way we played it the system revealed a few weaknesses, but these had no real impact on our enjoyment of the game. I have to muse about these for a good bit before I can present a conclusion.

Firstly, the resolution is task-based, not conflict-based. Drawing the piece means your action succeeds, not you achieve your goal. Probably some clearer IIEE guidelines could clear that up. I think it’s important that proving skill and guts in drawing a piece from a shaky tower must be rewarded by some sort of real progress toward your goal which cannot just be negated by the next action. That negation happens a few times, and Thorsten admits to having used a little force here and there to drive the plot his way. I am feeling some mild frustration about that, but it doesn’t threaten my delight for the game at any moment. Importantly, the end of the story is not railroaded.

“I pick up the phone”, I say, hoping that “I” in this instance includes the body of Daniel York, and not just to that none-corporal personality Andy that I am playing. “I call 911. ‘This is Daniel York. I murdered Dr. Tom Stevens two hours ago. I am at my parents’ house at [address] right now. Come quickly before worse happens!’”

This is not how Thorsten has imagined the story to end when he did his thorough prep work, reading up stuff on dissociative personality disorder and plot theories, talking it through with a guy from the forums who happens to be a psychologist, and others. Thorsten’s master solution is that we all together decide to tumble the tower. But Kathy, who is playing the arrogant successful marketing guy, decides at some point that she is going to provide adversity to the very end. Justin, her character, is the egoistic and careless part of Daniel’s self and he is here to stay. Marco and Sabine both tumble the tower at some point, fighting Butch or Justin respectively, and Micha does us all the favor of screaming as the pieces hit the table. But still, with Kathy working against us, the best we can do is get Daniel’s body into jail where it can hurt no one.

This leads me to the second weakness of the Dread mechanic. It is set up for GM vs. players adversity. It is not built to handle player vs. player adversity. If players work against each other, the rule is that you take turns drawing pieces. But that is not satisfactory. For one thing, there is the IIEE problem mentioned above, with which any success is instantly negated unless a player willingly lets the other have her way. And it’s also an ownership problem. Can I tumble the tower and sacrifice my character, but through this move also own your character? That does not seem satisfactory.

However, I have not yet read the game text myself, so I will take a look at what the author has to say about this before I make a final judgment.

The Jenga tower surely had a huge impact on our enjoyment of play, but that is not to diminish the fact that the players at the table put up a great performance, and that Thorsten did a superb job preparing and running the scenario. His pacing was nearly flawless, he was highly concentrated and precise in revealing clues to us, he perfectly handled the difficult task of moderating a group of six highly involved and emotional players, and he came up with that idea about the multiple personalities in the first place. Had somebody told me, “I’m planning to run a scenario where the players make characters like normal but really they are only the multiple personalities of one guy, which they are going to eventually find out”, I would have called him a fool. But Thorsten found a way to not only make the existence of these various personalities plausible, but also a reason why they should suddenly meet each other.

He even made a soundtrack for the game, which he turned on every time that Butch was about to appear, and turned off as Butch left the scene, which was another suspense turbocharger. He handed each of the players a CD with that soundtrack, and even made a foldable booklet with credits and a diagram showing the relationships of characters and personalities. He also had photos of several NPCs which he handed out. We were joking that he had now set the all-time high score for game mastering at GroFaFo rallies and the rest of us could quit trying.

Some of Daniel’s sad story was found out, or hinted at, in the course of play. Thorsten told us the rest afterward. It contained some pretty heavy stuff, including the in-game confrontation with Daniel’s father who had abused him as a child, brutally murdered Daniel’s mother, and had been released from jail after 25 years because he was suffering from a lethal illness and tied to a wheelchair. Justin, Kathy’s PC, finally drove Daniel to cause a gas explosion and set his parents’ house on fire, but the remaining three PCs made Daniel save his father from the flames and deliver himself to the police.

When we went into the game, I was pretty tired and thinking about getting more coffee, but an hour or so into the game, I was wide awake and captivated. This was certainly one of the most intense role-playing experiences I have had so far.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 16, 2007, 09:51:15 AM
P.S.: This highly intense, emotional thing we were doing here shares some roots and methods with the thing the guys next door with the minis and battlemap were doing, but I repeated saying that evening that both are totally different hobbies. That's not to say that one person cannot like both, but they are very, very different.


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Callan S. on July 18, 2007, 03:43:37 PM
Hi Frank,

I like you Jenga tower - I vaguely remember something on the forge before about jenga towers. Rather than make up alot of complex rules for making uncertainty, its bang, there in front of you! Great!

Your observations on it being task based rather than conflict based are cut right to the issues about it, I think. Yeah, I've always thought a display of skill skill and guts simply can't be negated. I'd really like to see a playtest of it being used with a conflict based resolution - that'd be cool to see! :)

I don't understand how the Jenga towers worked - you state that deliberately pushing the tower is sacrificing yourself. But then, in an iffy 'game world just has to effect (rewrite) the rules' since your all part of one personality, anyone pushing it sacrifices you all. Bah! It should just sacrifice the personality that pushes it (or more to the point, it sacrifices the players stake in the game), just as the rule always was! So one part of his persona dies - seems cool to me.

What would be interesting though, is to somehow establish that if one personality dies, everyone else has to draw perhaps one or two blocks. That way they can influence everyone else going down - but it doesn't have to happen. But as is, that's just a stuff up by the GM - he's confused himself with the situation so much he's bungled the rules.

Anyway, I'd love to hear about using the jenga tower with conflict resolution, and deliberate toppling only takes out the person who toppled it. And as is, it sounded like a thrilling game! Thanks for posting it here! :)


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: fjj on July 20, 2007, 05:14:49 AM
Thanks for posting the play report.

I've read Dread and very much liked the use of the Jenga tower, but so far haven't tried it out. Being more into games with a less dominant GM at the moment, I've put the idea on hold. Your description have made me reconsider that decision.

The actual story reminds me of a Danish roleplaying scenario from 1997 called Arken. The slow revelation to the players that they are in fact all occupying the same body is excellent. It is, unfortunately, a one time gimmick (a bit like The Usual Suspects). For those with Danish skills who have not yet played Arken, here's a link: http://alexandria.dk/data?scenarie=11 (http://alexandria.dk/data?scenarie=11).

Dread has two very important game concepts: 1. Player buy in to the pre-sketched player characters through questions answered by the players at game start. 2. Increasing story intensity through the tower.

As you write, it seems best suited at player vs. GM play, not player vs. player. I think this is just something all participants need to accept, not playing outside the game board, so to speak.

However, I'm interested in how it actually works out with the tower. Does everyone accept that the tower actually represents the story development? Is the tower preventing resourceful players from bringing new ideas to the table, fearing that the likely result from any inventive action is a dead player character? Are some players gaming the story by defining unlikely player character capabilities early on where the risk is low? Do players accept that their only interface to the story is their player character and they (the player) must leave the story (the room) when their character dies?

Best regards,
Frederik J. Jensen


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: hix on July 25, 2007, 10:18:54 PM
Hi Frank,

I've been thinking about your write-up for a while, because one aspect of it is completely contrary to my own experiences with Dread. Specifically, I've found it really satisfying to participate in player versus player conflicts.

In the first game I played there was no player versus player stuff.  We were spacers who found an abandoned spaceship, that turned out to be filled with creepy modified crew. The game was fun, but I can remember noting that all the adversity seemed to be coming from the GM towards us, and there was no real opportunity for us to contribute to the game.

The second game was 'kids go out to a creepy cabin the woods and somebody's trying to kill them' scenario. Here, it turned out that all of us were potential suspects, and we all had good reason to hate each other.  Lots of player versus player conflict ensued, and that led to some of the most memorable points in the game.

I can certainly remember that these confrontations became "how far will you go to beat me?" situations. Players with good Jenga skills versus mediocre ones, single pulls from the tower versus voluntary double pulls. Basically, the last hour of this three hour con game was the edge-of-the-seat stuff.

Not sure where I'm going with this - just a different data point, I guess


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 26, 2007, 12:33:56 AM
Hi Frederik,

Your questions on the Jenga tower make its significance to the game sound more abstract than it really is. You see, Jenga plays much like a freeform role-playing game most of the time. Drawing a piece is not your only or most important way as a player to impact on the story. Playing your character is. Anything you say your character does, and the others, including the GM, react to that. Only when things get difficult or dangerous are you required to draw a piece, which you well know, and therefore, watching the tower get ever more shaky inevitably makes you tense. For a player that’s all that is required. Maybe as a GM you can use it in a more intentional way, like, decide when to make the monster appear or something.

It’s also not like you could just lean back and watch the story unfold if you refuse to draw any more. The GM will be making things worse and worse if you try that. That is a core principle of the game. The more dangerous the tower, the more likely are you to accept some negative consequences for your character, but at some point someone will draw. For example, in our game, I accepted that Butch kicked me around and crushed both of my hands with his iron grip, because it did not seem worth drawing a piece. Then Sabine sacrificed her character and the tower was rebuilt. We had to draw six pieces from it before we could start again, but anyway, it was then much easier to draw pieces in order to pick up the phone despite my maimed hands and call 911.

Hi Steve,

I guess you must have had the IIEE straighter than we did. To use an example from our game: Justin wants to kill the old man in the wheelchair with a knife. I want to stop him. Positively the only way that this conflict can end by the rules is one of us dies or gets otherwise written out of the scenario. Right? I can’t just beat him up, tie him down, and he can get out later to cause new havoc, unless his player at some point decides to leave it be. So well, okay, I guess that could happen when the tower is on the verge of collapsing. But in turn, that then means that someone else is going to die pretty soon. Gotta think about that for a bit, maybe it’s a feature, not a bug.

In our game, it turned out the other way round. One of the other players voluntarily brought the tower down in order to stop Justin from killing the old man. What now? Her character dies on Justin’s knife, but has Justin been stopped for good? And if so, how? The GM ruled that Justin was so impressed by this that he gave up his plan. Justin’s player grudgingly accepted, but told us later that she really didn’t like that because it contradicted her image of her character. Any thoughts on that? Or didn’t that happen in your game?

Maybe this is all easier if you have less players at the table. Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience. I surely don’t want to mislead people to think you can’t do player vs. player with Dread if you indeed can!

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: fjj on July 26, 2007, 12:54:54 PM
Hi Frank

I would play that way as well, as I did for years with my friends: Freeform, immersion, strong GM to control the story. Until I discovered games with narrativistic game mechanics, taking the strong GM authority and distributing it more evenly between the participants using explicit rules.

However, I know some of my old roleplaying friends who would definately try to min/max the game and let that influence their approach to the story. I.e. playing to win the game more than tell a story. So I was wondering if Dread requires an agreement up front that players don't play the game but tell the story? Or if player abuse is kept at bay by the almighty GM? I.e. back to the implicit social rules.

My experience with The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach is mixed because of the confusion whether the goal is to win the game or to tell the best story. I speculate that Dread can have the same weakness. Especially the competition about not being the one who collapses the tower that everyone knows is about to fall. On the other hand, I can definately see the fascinating aspects in pushing the players to accept a lot of punishment when the tower is about to fall.

Thanks again for sharing,
Frederik J. Jensen


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 27, 2007, 02:32:42 AM
Hi Frederik,

I think playing Dread and not engaging in the fiction is nearly impossible and at any rate a terrible waste. Also, in order to function, it relies on some shared sense of what's plauslible, or possible. That's not much different from games like e.g. The Pool or Primetime Adventures where "what's possible" is also not at all covered by the rules. These games, just like Dread, have rules that are so straight and simple that they really don't leave much space for "gaming", system-wise. They rely heavily on a spirit of mutualism between the players, and in my experience they tend to inspire such mutualism. Of course you can still engage strongly and want your character to succeed, but that's not the same thing as wanting to "win the game".

The Roach, on the other hand, leaves more room for a little gambling, and also by choice of fictional content has a tendency to get over the top and a little silly (much the way InSpectres often does). Jason addressed that specific problem through the "no bullshit" rule.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 27, 2007, 02:36:14 AM
P.S.: Oops, forgot to answer to Callan. You figured it out right: The way we played it, sacrificing "yourself" meant eliminating the split personality you were playing.


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Callan S. on July 29, 2007, 02:46:04 PM
Hmmm, I don't really like that. It puts the imagined space ahead of an agreement made between real people (I assume you went into play thinking everyone had agreed to 'Only the player who pushes the tower loses his stake'), and it does so without really thinking about doing it. Which means little reflection post game on whether it was a good idea, because they didn't really think about it as an idea to begin with.

Also the person who can switch around how the rule works is working at a higher level than everyone else who is working with that rule. That means he just has control - there's no conflict which will turn his control into something unexpected and take the group by surprise. Again, by not really thinking about doing this, he also wont reflect on how he's in this position.

But by saying I don't like that, I think it doesn't meet certain goals of play. You can probably see my goals pretty clearly amidst my bias. So as a disclaimer, they don't have to be your goals of play, of course.


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 30, 2007, 04:25:32 AM
Hi Callan,

I think you have a point, but you make it sound worse, and maybe imagine it worse, than it actually was. Yes, the GM was in control and the players had no mechanical means to make the story turn their way. But from that does not automatically follow that the players’ decisions had no impact on the story (= how the imagined situation evolved). It just places the GM in a position of responsibility as a judge of what impact certain actions have or do not have on the imagined situation. That’s something you need to accept to enjoy this game, and you need to trust the GM to be a fair judge.

I think Thorsten struggled at some points with the inherent conflict between what he would have liked to happen, for dramatic reasons, and what seemed likely to happen because of player decisions and character actions. He used some mild force at some points to push for his desired dramatic “plot points”, and in some instances met our resistance. When we pushed back too hard, he released his pressure and allowed for a turn he hadn’t planned or imagined. Solid prep certainly helped him to do this and keep going.

This is just the standard task that any “dramatist” GM is faced with. I know that some people round here tend to regard it as flawed because of the underlying contradiction. I for my part have been unhappy in that specific position at times, and I have been unhappy with some GMs who did not do a good job at it. But the best games I’ve had yet all featured a GM in that exact position who did a great job. So, contradictory or not, for me it seems to work.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Callan S. on July 30, 2007, 05:56:42 PM
Hi Frank,

It's not the lack of mechanical means to change the story - that's all been done before and it's great. What bothers my goals is that there was an agreement about rules, and one person there ignored a real life agreement in favour of 'how the game world works'.

And I'm not imagining that it was horrific. But it makes me think of situations on the edge, like BASE jumping or a kid bouncing around in a kitchen that has pots on the stove, boiling. Except that with BASE jumping the guys have thought about it, while the kid has no considered what could go wrong. Sure, take on extreme danger - but I don't like a lack of consideration of whether there is any danger. Here it's breaking a promise to follow certain rules, and that's risky and risk is fine, but I don't think he's considered whether what he's doing contains risk.

Meh, maybe I just want to be recognised for the risk I've taken on, and someone who doesn't see it wont recognise the adversity that was faced. And yeah, sometimes that sort/level of risk is too much for me as well, I'll admit. So it's a few things.


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 31, 2007, 12:24:47 AM
Ok, maybe we have a misunderstanding. Here’s what happened: I made a character. The rule was: If the tower falls, your character is out. And that rule was not changed. Two players brought the tower down, and at that moment, the character they had made up was gone from play and they were audience from that moment on while the others continued. That is exactly what was agreed on before play. The only thing that was unusual was that our characters weren’t actual people, but only the split personalities of a guy with dissociative personality disorder, which we had not been told in advance because it would have sort of ruined the whole punch of the scenario. Thorsten did warn us, though, that he was planning to intrude into our characters pretty hard.

So, Callan, is that the circumstances you understood? Because if so, um, I’m afraid I’m not getting your point after all.

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Callan S. on July 31, 2007, 12:55:16 AM
Sorry, I took your previous thoughts 'Can I tumble the tower and sacrifice my character, but through this move also own your character?' and that PS as an answer to my question that you would eliminate the entire split personality, ie every player. Sorry for the missunderstood posts! :(


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on July 31, 2007, 01:22:31 AM
Hey, no problem, no harm done! :)

- Frank


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on September 18, 2007, 05:00:45 AM
Now I’ve read the game text of Dread and played it again, this time as a GM, one on one with my girlfriend. Here is my conclusion:

Dread is very similar to The Pool, in that it provides a billiantly simple, open resolution mechanic allowing and requiring players to give direction to the game. Unlike the 3-page-document by James West, the Dread book provides a lot of advice as to how, but I found most of that advice to be ill suited to my personal preferences.

Especially the “negation of progress” issue and IIEE waffling are obviously intended by the authors as a means for the GM to control the plot and deny the players a firm grasp on what they can achieve by pulling a block. I would play the game differently, designing scenarios in a way that allows for real player-driven progress (as opposed to the GM controlling the characters’ progress). I would also be very clear about the consequences of success or failure of each action, or the effects of a sacrifice. All that however does not require any change to the resolution mechanic. It just requires using the mechanic in a way that works for me and my group.

As for player vs. player adversity, Steve, I think why it worked for you was because it was the dramatic final anyway, so tension was high and death was likely, and there was no additional adversity provided by the GM. Again it’s a question of using the mechanic in a way that works for you. I think that adversity can either be player vs. player or GM vs. player, but if both conflict, it gets messy. The authors presume that players in a PvP situation should draw a block or two and after that one should back down. But why draw any blocks then in the first place?

Here’s something to ponder: Early in the story, my character is sneaking up on yours, and none of us is willing to back down in the conflict. Both of us are adept Jenga players. We will take turns pulling, or do multiple pulls. Two things will happen: Firstly, no longer does every single pull signify some action in the SIS. They lose meaning. (Well, you could go to pains backing every pull up with some narration, but with 20-30 pulls, that gets pretty meaningless at some point, too.) Secondly, when we are finally done, the one to back down will have done so because the tower was tight. No lose blocks left. Therefore, most likely any action by a player character that follows must fail or someone must die, in order to restore the tower. That’s not a feature. It’s a bug.

So I guess anything but a fight to the death between player characters is best not resolved using the tower. If players are aware of that and act accordingly, everything will be fine. But “acting accordingly” is not always that easy, especially when your suspension of disbelief is challenged.

Here’s another parallel between Dread and The Pool: They’re not easy to play, but highly rewarding once you figured out how they work for you.


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: FredGarber on September 20, 2007, 08:39:06 AM
Could the conflict over stabbing the man in the wheelchair bound man have been described as:

"If Justin wins, he stabs the old man (presumably killing him)"
"If Andy wins, Justin is unable to stab the old man."

  It's not up to Andy to say whether or not Justin still wants to kill the old man.  The player of Justin can keep pushing for new ways to kill the old man (if he's tied to a wheelchair, there's a lot of that).  But if Andy wins, then the knife is dropped in the trash, or out the window, or is kicked under the heavy TV cabinet, or something else removing the knife as one of Justin's weapons.
  And yes, it would probably continue until one or the other players took it to the "either give up trying to kill him, or topple the tower" stage.


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Callan S. on September 20, 2007, 03:48:32 PM
I don't think I agree with the mechanical assessment of the tower. No one really knows when the tower is tight. When someone backs down, it's because they estimate the tower was tight. There's no certainty here, it's still a gamble.

In addition, the tower getting closer to someone having to die to restore it makes any conflict its used in signficant (as significant as PC lives are in the particular game). You can't have throw away task/conflict resolution here, like you do in D&D where the GM gets you to make a skill roll but really it doesn't matter in the end. Any time you use the tower, its as significant as the lives that rest upon it. Rather than a bug, using it in a throw away manner is going to cause the fault. Realising that a character is going to die for no other reason than some throw away stuff happened might at first seem like a bug, but that's due to the initial missuse.


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on September 20, 2007, 11:37:51 PM
Callan, I see your point. Still, you are looking at the other guy. Who is going to back down? One of you clearly should, for the sake of the group and the story and everything. But who is it going to be? Why does it have to be you? Who backs down is who loses the conflict. The system doesn't help you to decide that.

So, no vanities over what's bug or feature. The point is, PvP conflict in Dread must be solved without the tower. Right?


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Callan S. on September 21, 2007, 02:28:27 AM
For the sake of wha??

Sorry, I've been looking at this in much the same mode as Capes system use, you use it try and have your way. In capes you don't win a conflict and then...give it up for the sake of story or the group. You winning a conflict and narration IS the story. If other people don't like that, they should have used the system better to stop you. This isn't being nasty to each other - good natured conflict between people is creatively beneficial, and everyone knows the conflict is just a temporary thing, like the conflict in a game of chess isn't being nasty to anyone. In context to this, you either back down because your afraid to go one more block and think you can get your way by some other method, or your character isn't morally invested enough to risk one more brick/risk his life that much. In a pure duel to the death, keep drawing blocks - your counting on the other player screwing up. That's how I understand it to work here, and achieve its goals I think it does.

However, from my own history of play and what I see in other peoples accounts many people, without a system to manage who wins...well, who backs down? Why does it have to be me? In many groups this does become a real social sore spot.

The thing with these groups, and again I'm thinking of my own history as well, is that faced with that social nastyness, people stop wanting to win. It's better to just supress the desire. In fact in forums here and there you often see it lauded as being a good gamer or GM to give up the desire to achieve something.

From observing accounts here and there, I hypothesize: After awhile of this, even if the group is exposed to a system where someone can dare to win and it seriously, honestly wouldn't result in social nastyness, they still wont dare to win.

When the system didn't decide who backs down, did you think it'd still result in social nastyness if you just decided to go for the win? Or would continuing on, taking that next block, be emperilling 'the group' as you put it? Emperilling the investment everyone had in 'the story'?

Tough questions. Don't worry, karma will get me back one day! :)


Title: Re: [Dread/Jenga] Heartbeat, slow down (long)
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on September 21, 2007, 03:20:44 AM
Yeah well, Capes is designed for players to provide adversity to one another. Dread is designed for the players to ultimately stand together against the adversity provided by the GM. That’s why only the players have to draw, and not the GM. That’s how it works. The more blocks they draw, the more dangerous the situation gets as they move the plot forward. Progress is slow, each conflict meaning a block or two only. The story climaxes as the tower is on the verge of collapsing.

This wonderful dynamic is knocked off balance if two players step out of line and draw 20 blocks in a single PvP conflict early on. The game is a collaborative one, not a competitive one.

Social nastiness? Not entirely unlikely, depending on the group. If both players are invested in their characters, it can become a lose-lose situation. The one to back down may feel uncomfortable about it even if he backed down deliberately.

Here’s a rules change I thought about. Instead of taking turns drawing, there is only a single draw. The single draw is made by the player whose character is acting. If both characters are acting at the same time, it is made by the player whose character is more likely to succeed in the conflict, based on the character concept as laid out in the questionnaire. If he makes the draw successfully, he wins. If he abandons, he loses. If the tower falls, he’s out. That could work, but it could also provoke players to a “strike first” policy…

Others have suggested to just toss a coin.