TableTop: Dread (Part 1)
For much of the last 40 years, the only RPG a person could play was D & D. Then, in the late 80s players who had grown up on that system began designing their own rules and systems. By the time the turn of the century rolled around there were dozens of new systems serving pretty much every style of player and game master. In the last few years, we’ve begun to see a new wave of indie RPGs that all have their unique rules and loyal communities. Today, on tabletop Molly Lewis, Laura Bailey and Ivan Van Norman are here, and we are playing a very unconventional, very indie RPG.
The focus will be on the characters and their interaction, and there won’t be any min maxing, because there aren’t even any dice. What there will be is tension, terror and dread. Dredd is a cooperative play, storytelling game that is so indie. I have one of the only printed copies left in existence. Don’T worry, you can download this as a PDF and you will be able to play it after you watch this episode.
Dredd uses a very innovative device to build up tension and really put the scare into its players now I know this stack of generic wooden blocks may look familiar to some of you, but I will assure you that, while visually similar to a trademarked word, we are Not allowed to say on camera, it is in fact, legally distinctly different from the wooden blocks you might be used to. This is, in fact, the tower of Dredd, unlike other role-playing games that ask players to roll dice or use cards, to resolve skill checks or to perform heroic actions in Dredd. The players must use their actual physical dexterity and draw wooden blocks out of this tower. If a player ever reaches for a block and the Tower of Dredd collapses, their character is removed from the game, usually via death. That’S it!
No save, no die roll, no second chance, no take-backs just dead. The other main game mechanic that makes Dredd amazing is its character sheet. It’S more of a personality questionnaire that encourages the players to dig into their character and understand what motivates them. It also lets the GM find out what they’re most afraid of in our story. Today, three characters are going to go on a simple relaxing vacation.
What could possibly go wrong? Who will make it to the end of our horror story and who will crack under the pressure let’s find out hi, I’m Laura Bailey, I’m a voice actress. You might know me from something like World of Warcraft. I played Jaina Proudmoore. My name is Molly Lewis and I play the ukulele and write songs.
My name is Ivan Van Norman. I’M a campaign manager for crowdfunding campaigns, including tabletop, welcome. Oh thank you welcome to dread. So you may all notice that I’m in a different space than I normally am. It is because my friends here will be needing to pull blocks out of this tower and I don’t really need to be.
When I did my introduction about explanation, I forgot to credit. The designer of this game – and I want to tell you this right now – that the original concept of dread is from epidural chawl and nat wood, elf bar more, and it was developed by a group that called himself The Impossible Dream. So I’m going to tell you a little bit about what is happening in your scenario. Right now. You are all college students, it is the year 1983.
You are on spring break. You all attend the same school. You don’t know each other before this particular excursion, but you have all decided to go survival, camping in the Grand Canyon, great break, right, yeah, fishing and kayaking. That’S what we’re up for yea beans per day yeah. I typically build a loose framework where I kind of know what my tent poles are.
So in this dread scenario, I have things that are absolutely key to each act, and then I have things that can happen in any of the acts as long as they happen. Your trip started on Saturday, you went down the Colorado River and you sort of landed a little ranch. That’S down in the bottom of the canyon. You spent Sunday getting to know each other, I’m playing Emily and she’s a freshman in college um. My roommate is a cheerleader she’s um, a party girl.
I am very kind of uncomfortable with that environment, so I thought to separate myself as much as possible from that sort of world, and I heard about this trip and it seemed kind of cool. I am playing Alice and she’s an English major. I kind of don’t have a lot of friends. I spend a lot of time reading. You know it’s kind of why I became an English major, and so these kids invited me to go to the Grand Canyon for spring break and I didn’t really want to go home because my parents just don’t get it so I’m playing maddox felspar so he’s going Into fashion design, because that’s where the chicks are at so I’m at the Grand Canyon going to spring break one because it’s beautiful and two because the two girls I was with like they were down to party.
So you spent two days of hiking down the river. Doing it’s a little bit of primitive camping along the the banks as you went down and then eventually you get to a landing where a raft has been set up for the three of you and your guide. Your guide is this sort of like aging hippie kind of guy right like he was at Woodstock, he’s like really about being part of the land and and and like living in harmony and those sorts of things. I can smell this guy yeah. He can write like there’s.
Definitely the faint scent of patchouli right he’s, not Native American, but he seems to have adopted a lot of Native American runner isms there. What’S your guides name, let’s call him. He beat Don Pete Pete the tour guide, but but he is also known as white horse Wow. This is a game that my wife would not want to be around this table and whoever wins gets a Rolex. I may have been a name that was given to him.
Who knows? Yes, that’s true, okay, great all right, so he wears this like silver charm around his neck, that has kind of like a little stone, little milky stone in the center of it huh. When you asked him about it, he tells you this is very special to me. This is the thing that tends to draw people’s attention quite a bit Maddox, he kind of has a connection with Pete. You know he kind of feels that himself he’s misunderstood, he’s taken on something that he loves and he just wants to be a part of that.
Maddox just wants to be a part of something too you guys get into your raft. Yeah you raft down the river. It’S pretty fun, he’s you’re having a really nice time. The it’s like clear skies. We did.
We do we sneak in some extra. You know, drinks for the trip on down. You think yeah, you managed to sneak a beer into your backpack. Cymatics just pulls out a beer cool, I kind of want to try it. So, at the end of that day, you pull the raft up onto a onto a sandbar, that’s down there, and then you hike up into like a box canyon, that’s kind of off on the side and you make your camp there.
You know the Sun Goes Down that you have never seen so many stars in your lives. It’S so it’s gorgeous. It’S a great night. You go to sleep in the middle of the night. You are awakened by the sounds of a struggle and it is, and it sounds like, like two dogs fighting, then you hear blood-curdling screams.
What is unmistakeably the tearing of a tent your guides voice? Ah, and then it is cut off. There is another terrible tearing of a fabric and the sounds of a big animal. Oh right, all right and you guys hop out of your tents and you come up on your guide. Okay, he’s messed up, you guys he’s unconscious, he’s breathing his breathing’s, really rapid and really shallow.
He has these giant claw marks across his chest and down one of his arms. I don’t know what just happened, but we need to get out of here. Was it an animal it had claws right, I mean it ripped him open. I mean he’s conscious, though right because I’m gon na just start tearing my shirt apart, that’s gon na. Do you want to stabilize him as much as I can yeah?
Absolutely you can stabilize the guy you’ll have to pull from the tower to do that because you don’t have any medical experience primarily in your education. So I know about how to make you know sort of like so you’re you’re cutting strips off of your clothes right and good work, because, as it turns out, there was an artery that was beginning to sort of like spurt arterial blood and you managed to stop The bleeding from from coming out in dread, you have what they call the metaphor of the tower, and the tower is a metaphor for the uncertainty that everyone is experiencing, the tension that everyone is experiencing, because there’s not quite enough of what they need, whether it’s time Or resources or some other factor, and it also represents how everything is beginning to fray right, the nerves of the characters and the the plans that they’ve laid out and how everything is slowly. Coming apart. Until eventually it tumbles down with like catastrophic results for those characters and then for their players as well, the animals gone. Can we hear them at all anymore?
You do hear the sound of something crashing through in that and what you can’t tell if you would like to ascertain whether it’s coming toward you or away from you, you would need to pull from the tower. I mean there’s something coming like whether it’s leaving or not there’s an animal coming. I would love for you to just make sure that we’re in a good place, while I see what’s going on with that guy, all right all right, full-on freshmen. Do it so you’re. Looking across right and luckily your eyes have remained, you still have your dark vision.
You can see reflected from beyond the tree line, the sort of like greenish, yellow eyes. That seems to be like you’re, pretty sure that this that, whatever this is it just made you it was looking directly at me. It’S pretty freaky. If he’s still awake, you’ll want to try to talk to him to see what happened he is starting to make. Some sounds if you would like to try to interpret what he what he’s saying then I’m gon na need you to pull to understand.
You tell me how much do you want to hear from him? You know what I’m just gon na I’m just gon na I’m just gon na. Let him say his piece huh and I’m like. No, I am I’m gon na do it. I want to know, what’s up?
Okay, all right, so you you, you uh all right. So you get down and you ask him what’s going on and yeah so his eyes are still closed right and he sort of tenses up and what you hear is like no, no just an T empty so close and then his eyes, snap open and he locks Eyes with you, and he says we have to leave yeah and then and then and then he falls and then he falls back. He is like just lapsed back down into unconsciousness. I think I should leave. I don’t care if it’s a green eyed monster pack of coyotes.
All I know is we got to go, we got to go, we got. We need to get back in the raft and go downriver, so you guys are gon na need to break your camp and you’re gon na need to decide what you take with you. Okay, all right right. How does Alice feel right now about the current situation and the options available team, I’m just throwing cans of spam into my backpack frantically and just weeping? Okay, all right!
The thing is right now: alice is feeling supremely freaked out right and maybe Alice doesn’t want to come out of that tent and for Alice to maintain her composure and break this tent down and get this and get this food out. I’M gon na need Alice to make a pull from. This is dead. Okay, fine, you’re, cursing us Alice. Why are you going to a single?
Don’T don’t listen to the brain demons? Okay? Oh! I don’t! I did two hands, I’m sorry!
That’S all right! I’M gon na! Let it I’m gon na, let okay, so you guys have successfully broken up your camp, yes and my knife out just making. You know like him since I got out since I at least brought something with right, and you know the knife actually was a gift from his father. You know he didn’t really do a lot for him in his life and he’s only got one or two things from him that he feels is special.
But this is the one thing that he’s holding on to still who’s gon na pull, to make a stretcher of some sort for the for your guide who’s gon na. Do that? Do you know about fashion? You know how to put things together right, yeah! No!
I guess I could just you know, moving that structure. It’S not my turn to Braille. Do it. I will make the gurney. I don’t know if we should carry this guy down the mountain because we got to get to that raft.
So I’m gon na probably take my sleeping bag so like wow, so you managed to do that and you pick him up and now you begin the journey down through the through the side of this canyon and in the light of the nearly full moon, the walls Of this canyon looks sort of like grey and foreboding echoing down the canyon behind you is, is sort of like you don’t like when one coyote starts going and then like five or six coyotes also start going, and then they all kind of go at once. It sounds like them all kind of going at once now. Let’S use your flashlight look behind us. I feel I’m feeling like. I want a double time it like.
I know that I know that we’re like walking through rocky territory and I’m holding our guide, but I want to hit there faster all right, you’re gon na need to pull from the tower in order to do all right, pull them from the tower. Do I say anything when I look behind me with my flashlight? You don’t hear you don’t see anything. You do hear that noise a second time okay, but you’ve been able to double-time it. The two of you have exerted a great deal of grace, while under pressure – and you make it to your raft, okay cool, so two of you are gon na have to row, and one is gon na have to run a tiller okay once the till is the Question, and do we want to like really hoof it like?
Do we want to draw attention to ourselves with this machine? We have a long raft trip down. This isn’t just like. Oh we’re gon na be like going down the rest. A couple hours yeah a little bit of extra information.
The eastern sky is beginning to lighten just a bit: oh no wait a minute. So what what type of moon is it? The moon is in the at the edge of the western sky like kind of up there, and you know that it is the night before the full moon. Okay, no, no. We need to hoof it.
The heck outta here you guys oh yeah, so I’m putting I’m putting the guide in I’m laying about probably the middle partition, oh and, if you’re tilling, then I think we just throw the provisions in the front and we start rafting, we’ll just start rafting. Okay, you push away from the shore, you look back as six Coyotes, come bolting down the canyon and are sort of pacing back and forth, and that starts that, like yep yep, yep yep, and then that big, how will happen again? You are now safely what about those eyes? What about them? Do I still see them?
Are they still there? They are no longer there. Okay, there are these eyes really. I think it’s the creature and it’s creepy now, when you say the creature, what exactly whatever well for all we know these could have been wild animals like those. This could have been those coyotes.
We don’t know it looked like one big and a moment. I thought it would be kind of cool to give them a false sense of security and maybe set up a little bit of like paranoia in Emily that she’s convinced she’s seen this thing, but so far no one else has seen it, and now everyone has identified A terrifying noise, but now they’ve seen a pack of coyotes making that noise, so what’d you guys notice – is that there’s something going on inside of her and she’s not being forthcoming with it. I feel that maybe the information that she’s withholding could be relevant to what we just saw. I’M not gon na push it hard, but I’m just gon na I’m just gon na Co a coerce a little bit to be like. What did you see like?
This is important to all of our lives. To be much of anything, I saw a pair of eyes. It looked at me. It looked at you, okay, that’s not good! You!
Some animals. Look at you! You know something’s, weird I’ll, give you that I don’t know. What’S going on yet, but Pete’s messed up dude and we just got to get him back about an hour – has gone by the sky has lightened it’s not it’s no longer pre-dawn, it’s actually dawn and you can see sort of that. The white glow of the sun’s corona over the edge of the canyon wall.
Let me tell you about a couple of things that are actually in the raft, because I think that this will be. This will be some useful stuff for you, ankles. Okay, there is a pair of Flair’s in there all right, like the lights, not the pants right. That’S that’s correct relevant. That is, that is correct.
There is a little first-aid kit. Okay, there’s a little box of strike-anywhere matches beautiful right, an extra cannister of propane for your propane lantern of it. There is a two-way radio. It’S a single kind of like two-way radio. Okay got it it’s a two-way radio.
What’S, on the other end of the two-way radio, presumably another person, you remember, seeing your guide use it. When you were at the beginning of this whole trip, it’s it’s pretty heavy. It says realistic on it. It has a leatherette case. I set this game in 1983 because I don’t want them to have access to cell phones and smart phones, and things like that.
I think it’s kind of cool to give them one of those old, eighties transistor radio, things that may or may not actually be useful. I’M hoping that whoever’s on the other end is is like another guide to somebody stationed at the campsite. Further down, I’m still rowing right, yeah go ahead, you’re kind of looking after Pete all right. You go ahead and pull you. You pop out the radio and you extend its many feet of antenna, yeah right, okay and you click the radio on right, okay and I’m gon na tell you what happens.
Okay, based on based on what how good a study based on how good you are tuning. The radio, so what you hear as you’re as you’re as you’re working on the radio is distress and here at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, so on anyone. Anyone please no well. The good news is that the Orioles have two ads at the bottom right. All right, well, okay, I guess the best we can do is just keep going down the river as you get deeper into the canyon, you, you come to a place where the river sort of widens up a fair amount and things sort of slow down.
So you really got a you got to start rowing to kind of get through this and you’re fairly certain that you hear what sounds like an aeroplane somewhere up up. Above that’s a great idea. Oh, it is really bright, but I mean it’s still alight. It has lights good, at least in regards to this, so I’m just gon na grab the player poppet. Okay, I think because this was Emily’s idea.
Oh I’m sorry! Yes, I think Emily’s gon na go ahead and pull that out. So now. Here’S nice have a question for you in terms of Emily’s character. Does she take this initiative entirely on her own?
No, no? Okay! So who does she run it by which of the other two people did she run it by? She would probably say it to Alice because she’s used to having to ask permission from women. Okay, so my mom’s really strict.
She kind of puts me in the closet for punishment. You sparked the flare right. You stand up on the thing and wave it, and now you pull from the tower to find out what happens. You can do this. Why did I go for a bottom piece?
I don’t know freshmen. Why do so? This airplane is sort of circling around sort of like comes over, and now you can like you hurt it, but now you can clearly see it right and it’s sort of like a Cessna, and you are waving your flare like crazy at it right, okay and and The airplane, so it goes over you and it goes over you and it and it turns and it continues over in and it goes and you don’t know if it’s all you it could have seen you could it’s. The Grand Canyon planes are gon na fly over the Grand Canyon because it’s giant and gorgeous, but we have another flare, so we should be more cautious with the second one. It is coming to be around the midpoint of the day.
It’S very hot you’ve been awake at this point for 12 hours and you’re on roughly three hours of sleep that at some point you might want to start thinking about maybe taking some naps or you’re gon na need two big pulls to stay awake all right. All right, okay, look at lines, yeah sure, damn so there’s a little bit in me that wants to see a dead body in person. Yes, I was trying to flush out the Pete character. He’S got see, he’s got a wound there and he’s. This is supposed to be patchouli smell, he’s a little disoriented he’s, not feeling it do.
We want to crack into the first-aid kit and see if we can stave off infection or do we want to hold on to that. For later sure you definitely have a first-aid kit and you could okay. So why don’t you go ahead and treat Pete’s wounds? I mean look that is like you know, books about wounds. Yeah, I mean we’re all college students were equally under qualified for this task.
I feel I had some good luck. Okay, sure, so you open up the first-aid kit and he and in that first-aid kit, there’s some gauze and some some bandages and there’s also like some antibiotic ointments and unlike alcohol and peroxide, and things like that. So you see there’s so much foaming from the peroxide and then as you’re, placing down the things his eyes open up again and he reaches up and he sort of grabs on to the to the edges of your shirt. And he says, and he falls back down as your guide slips back into unconsciousness. There is the roar that just came echoing down the canyon walls behind you or or maybe it’s above you, oh my god, that’s odd!
There is a shadow of some sort. There should be shadows on the side of the canyon, the only way that there could be shadows on the side of the canyon. If there was something on top of the canyon, there is a shape. That’S above you on one of the on one of the canyon walls, and there was something on top of the canyon. Isn’T that cool man?
This is not cool. What’S up the walls, I don’t know good vision. I can try to get a look at it. Go ahead, take a look at it because it’s fired yeah go for it, so you look up and as as as you are, as you are looking up as you’re looking up, you see this creature, it’s pretty big, it’s at least one and a half times the Size of this table its pacing back and forth. It makes that roar and it leaps over the canyon, wide and lands on the top of the other canyon wall and looks and looks back and it locks eyes with you again.
Is this something that you’ve run into before we decided to take a trip? I’Ve never seen anything like this before I don’t know why it would be coming after me, specifically, his Rapids seemed to have pushed you very quickly, and now you find yourselves what appears to be sort of like a cave and you go in, and you pick him Up out of his crib and he he looks up at you and he has a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth here. Rhythmic splashing, another beast similar to the one that is now pacing in front of you comes crashing through. Really we have to contend with another one. She knows that she’s gon na die at this point, she’s kind of figured that you know there’s not a lot of ways that this could turn out.
No, oh god! No! I’M bandoneon!