This month I wanted to release some of my Dread RPG Play Variants. You can find them laid out below, or you can access the Free Printable PDF HERE. Enjoy, just in time to start planning your upcoming Halloween Game Nights.
Don’t know what Dread RPG is?
It is the horror role-playing game that uses Jenga® instead of dice. Players pull from the tower to succeed in their actions. Those who play will participate in a mutual telling of an original macabre tale. The goal of Dread is to sustain the delicate atmosphere that invokes the hand quivering emotion that lends its name to the game. The thrill of a Dread game lies within the tension between desire and loss. You will take on the role of someone trapped in a story that is only as compelling as it is hostile—someone who will find themselves making decisions we hope never to face in real life. Published by The Impossible Dream
DREAD RPG Play Variants
Tarot Deck Variant:
This variant adds a Tarot Deck that controls the number of blocks that should be pulled from the tower (depending on if the card is drawn Face Up or Face Down) and can optionally add extra rules for Special Cards (Death, The Devil, The Hanged Man, etc.)
How to Play:
Shuffling the Deck- if you have not already shuffled your deck, you want to ensure that the deck has about an equal number of both face-up and face down cards. Take your deck and place all the cards face up in two separate piles. Take one of the piles and turn it upside down and shuffle them together. Now you have ensured that the deck has a 50 percent chance that players will draw a face-up or face-down card. (Optionally, the Game Master “aka GM” can alter this number if necessary by ACT as well. (Ex: ACT 1 = 25% Face Down, ACT 2 = 35% Face Down, Act 3 = 50% Face Down, and so forth.)
Now that the deck is shuffled, when it is an Active Player’s turn to pull blocks from the tower, the GM will flip a card from the Tarot Deck. Whether the card is drawn Face Up or Face Down will be how it appears I front of the Game Master drawing. This will now determine the number of blocks needed to pull. (If using the “Special Card Rules” below, some of these cards will be given to the Active Player.) Once cards are drawn, set them aside in a Discard Pile. When the deck runs out, reshuffle the deck using the above guidelines again.
Block Pulls Needed:
Drawn Face-Up – Pull the regular number of brick pulls the GM asks in that Act
Drawn Face-Down – 2x the amount of brick pulls the GM asks in that Act
Special Card Rules (Optional):
The Major Arcana cards can be given Special Rules. When these specific cards are drawn, they will follow the same number of pulls needed depending on whether they are drawn Face Up/Down as above, BUT these cards can negate if any block pulls are taken. All the Keep Cards should be placed Face-Up in front of the owner for everyone to see. Whenever a Player is taken out of the game or plays a card, they must give their cards back to the GM who will put them in the discard pile.
The Fool – The Active Player’s action is an automatic Failure. No block pulls are needed.
The Magician – The Active Player keeps this card. They can then use this at any time to complete something successfully without a Pull. This can be played on another player’s turn, thus helping them succeed without needing to pull.
High Priestess – The Active Player’s action is successful with no block pulls needed.
Empress – The Active Player keeps this card. This card can be played at any time to Take another card from someone else’s cards. Alternatively, the card can be played to Give another player a card from your hand.
Emperor – The Active Player keeps this card. This card can be played at any time to Take another card from someone else’s cards. Alternatively, the card can be played to Give another player a card from your hand.
Hierophant – The Active Player’s action is successful with no block pulls needed.
Lovers – The Active Player keeps this card. This card can be played at any time before the Active Player has to pull blocks. The Active Player chooses one “Living” player to pull the Active Player’s block(s). If the tower falls, the action taken is a failure for the Active Player, but it means the “Death” of the person pulling the block(s).
Chariot – The Active Player’s action is successful with no block pulls needed.
Strength – The Active Player keeps this card. They can play this card at any time to take another person’s card.
Hermit – The Active Player keeps this card. They can then play this at any time to complete an action successfully without a Pull. This can be played on another player’s turn, thus helping them succeed without needing to pull.
Wheel of Fortune – Once drawn, the Active Player must Flip a Coin. All players will pass all cards they have in their possession to the person on their Left (Heads) or Right (Tails). If no one has any cards, the Active Player keeps it as a Play Anytime card.
Justice – The Active Player keeps this card. This card can be played at any time to Take another card from someone else’s cards. Alternatively, the card can be played to Give another player a card from your hand.
The Hanged Man – The Active Player keeps this card. This card can be played at any time before the Active Player has to pull blocks. The group (Dead and Alive players) choose one “Living” player to pull the Active Player’s block(s). If the tower falls, it is a failure for the Active Player, but a “Death” of the person pulling. (If there is a tie, the GM is the tiebreaker)
Death – The Active Player keeps this card. Anyone who has possession of this card when the Tower Falls also is Marked for Death (unless the tower is knocked over on purpose by a player doing a “Heroic Ending”).
Temperance – The Active Player will spin the remainder of the Tarot Deck to be the opposite of what it was.
The Devil – (Optional Depending on GM’s Story) The Active Player keeps this card. If this player knocks the tower over, even as a “Heroic End”, they will not be taken out of the game but will act as a direct Antagonist to the story. This player will not need to pull anymore blocks and can still interact with players or working with the GM on what is appropriate to their character now.
Alternative Devil Card– The Active Player automatically Fails their action and must pull 3x the Blocks needed. (This is not affected by which way the card was drawn, whether face up or down.)
The Tower – The Active Player must pull 3x the number of blocks needed for a success. (This is not affected by which way the card was drawn, whether face up or down.)
The Star – The GM will Reshuffle the Discard Pile back into the Deck
The Moon – The Active Player will spin the remainder of the Tarot Deck to be the opposite of what it was.
The Sun – The Active Player’s action is successful with no block pulls needed.
Judgment – The Active Player keeps this card. The player in possession of this card will not be “Marked for Death” if they knock over the tower (unless they do so intentionally for a “Heroic End”). If they escape Death, they must discard the card from their hand.
The World – The GM must Reset the Tower to how it starts the current ACT
Secret Death Variant 1:
How to Play:
For this Variant, you will need a Deck of Cards (either Standard Playing Cards or Tarot Deck). At the beginning of the game (and after every tower fall), the GM will take a number of cards equal to the number of players and then add in a Joker (or Tarot Death Card), shuffle, and deal them out at random Face Down in front of players. The remaining Card will be placed in front of the tower (or GM) if you like. When the tower falls, the players will reveal their card. The person who has the Joker or Death Card is now “Marked for Death” instead of the person who knocked over the tower (Exception: If the Active Player deliberately knocks over the tower as a “Heroic End”, the secret Death Card is negated).
Secret Death Variant 2:
How to Play:
Keep all the rules for Secret Death Variant 1, but ADD a single d20 die to the mix and roll it before the Active Player draws blocks to determine the following:
- 1-10 = 2x the blocks the GM asks players to draw from the tower
- 11-20 = regular blocks the GM asks players to draw from the tower
- Roll of “1” = All Face Down Death Cards shift clockwise
- Roll of “20” = The player that rolls can look at their card in Secret and choose to keep it or swap cards with someone else.
Cooperative Group Mode:
The goal of this variant is to keep as many players alive as possible and to have a single group check at the end of the game to see if the entire party lives or dies. Players can still leave gameplay before the end (if they knock over the tower in a “Heroic Death”, or if the GM takes a “Marked for Death” player out narratively), but the ones left alive might have a bad ending similar to how a horror movie usually ends. At the very end of the game, the GM will ask the group of players to have one person roll a d20. This person MUST be one of the survivors. The following chart will determine the number needed for a Happy Ending vs. a Bad One.
How to Play:
Each Act should have a Target Number where, if the players succeed pulling that number of blocks before the tower falls, there are no casualties or “Marked for Death” members upon knocking the tower over. (This is, of course, over-ridden if someone knocks the tower over willingly for a “Heroic End”)
Target Number of Block Pulls by Act:
Act 1: 20 Pulls
Act 2: 30 Pulls
Act 3: 35 Pulls
Act 4+: 37 Pulls
Final Result Dice Roll
At the very conclusion of the game, the GM will let the group decide for one person to roll a single d20 die. To get a “Happier Ending”, you must have at least 1 player still “Alive” (not “Marked for Death” by knocking over the tower). You will then consult the following chart below on what the number needs to be ruled. After the result, the Game Master will reveal what the overall conclusion to the game is. (GM Tip, have some very descriptive endings (good and bad) pre-written to help make a more exciting end than just “You all Live or You all Die”)
|Players||0 Deaths||1 Death||2 Deaths||3 Deaths||4 Deaths||5 Deaths||6 Deaths|
|2||2 or higher||10 or higher||Bad Ending|
|3||2 or higher||10 or higher||15 or higher||Bad Ending|
|4||2 or higher||8 or higher||11 or higher||15 or higher||Bad Ending|
|5||2 or higher||8 or higher||11 or higher||14 or higher||17 or higher||Bad Ending|
|6+||2 or higher||8 or higher||11 or higher||14 or higher||16 or higher||18 or higher||Bad Ending|