Mashing Up Dread and Tabletop RPGs Makes For Epic Encounters

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Dread has been making headlines recently with the release of its free Stranger Things RPG module, which makes it a perfect time to talk about using Dread as an RPG mash-up with other game systems.

By itself, Dread is a game that combines a physical prop, with the crushing weight of personal choice. Meant for one-shot scenarios, Dread is a great role playing game, that mixes both horror and hope. An example of an entire module can be found on TableTop where storyteller Will Wheaton has friends trying to survive a monstrous camping trip.

Horror is one of the hardest genres to craft stories for, since players often have a natural detachment from the encounter. Overcoming that separation requires creative tricks and creating a sense of emotional investment by breaking the standard rules on how you interact with the game–by adding tension to the simple act of opening a door.

Dread works in any RPG system as an add-on for environmental and immersion enhancement. Put a tower-of-doom on the table and carry on with the encounter as normal. It’s the most rewarding GM tool I’ve found yet. A perfect example comes from running a D&D game at lower levels when players are crossing a frozen lake. The characters engage in combat using all the normal rules and character sheets. But every time they take an action, one of them draws a piece. Any time the NPCs takes an action, the GM draws a piece. As each round goes on, piece by piece the ice cracks. When the tower crumbles, the environment changes, sending the characters underwater and scrambling for oxygen.

It’s important to remember that Dread isn’t used to replace any of the actual mechanics, attack rolls are still attack rolls, and swim checks are no different. The tower serves as an ominous reminder that every action will inevitably lead to consequences.

This type of storytelling works in just about any tabletop RPG, not just D&D. A White Wolf Vampire game can use this mechanic for when those Tremere players cast Umbra Walk. For Eclipse Phase, it could serve as a ticker for your Scum barge holding together before you are plunged into the vacuum of space. Yet, as with all horror tools, don’t overuse this trick as a storyteller. Save this for the big encounters lest it lose its effect.

There have been many other RPG mash-ups before, and we’d like to hear which ones you’ve encountered. Have you seen any amazing cross-game GM tricks? Let us know below!

Featured Image Credit: Pleuntje | Flickr

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