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Today on Tabletop a show run by Wil Wheaton that demonstrates various games, which I’ve mentioned before on the blog, they were actually doing something a bit different and playing an RPG. Specifically, Dread, which has a really interesting conflict resolution mechanic: It uses Jenga blocks. The video of the episode is below and well worth a watch:

Aside from being an intriguing concept to use Jenga blocks there were a few other aspects that stood out to me as being good ideas. One was giving players a series of pre-planned questions to answer about their characters before the game begins. This can help establish a loose narrative and give players an idea as to what kind of tone or theme you’re going for. The second interesting idea is how they use the Jenga block as both a means of generating tension and a resolution mechanic. The more blocks get removed during play, the more likely the tower is going to topple over and cause some kind of catastrophic result on the narrative. It’s actually a really interesting idea, because it tangibly demonstrates the escalating danger of a scenario without having to use convoluted or difficult to represent abstracted mechanics. Everyone understands the idea that once the tower gets wobbly, things are going to get pretty bad very soon!

Watching the episode, I was struck by something Wil was doing that I wasn’t entirely sure about (having not read the rules myself). Frequently he would ask his players to draw from the tower, ostensibly with the purpose of getting more useful information, such as the radio towards the end but then not giving them anything really valuable for pulling the brick? I’m not sure what the goal was there or the precise nature of the mechanic, but that seemed to be a little contrary to the intent (given the bricks form the players pool of resources, which apparently has a consequence of grisly narrative death if you make it drop). I figure he’s trying to get them to draw bricks whenever possible for time and show purposes more than anything else, but it did seem a bit disappointing to pull a risky brick only to get nothing really worth the risk in return.

Either way though, I am super excited to see the next episode and I hope this means Tabletop will showcase some other RPGs in future. I do know Wil is going to be launching an actual RPG series on there soon, with a modified version of the Dragon Age system and a unique setting. Definitely looking forward to that when it comes out! Until then, June 2nd, there is always another episode of Dread to look forward to! It’s just a shame finding the physical book is apparently impossible.