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First of all, this game DOES NOT use Jenga for in game resolution – that’s a different Dread!
Dread is described as a modern horror-action game. Written by Rafael Chandler it is published by Neoplastic Press and is only available as a print on demand book from lulu, either as a soft or hardcover. I bought the soft cover version and I’m very impressed with the excellent job done by lulu, from ordering to delivery took 5 working days and it’s just as good as any book you could buy from your local gaming store (if not better than quite a few other RPG books I’ve bought lately).
I also got a Hardcover version, purely so that I could use the softcover as my “players copy”. Again lulu did a good job with this, the binding and cover are both sturdy and the print quality is very good.
First impressions on flicking through the book are very good, the design and layout is excellent – just from this you would be hard pressed to beleive that this is to all intents and purposes an “indie” game, it looks as good as a lot of the more mainstream publishers. The artwork ranges from excellent to pretty dissapointing to be honest but it’s still a lot better than a lot of other indie games manage.
So, what’s it all about then? I guess the easiest (and probably therefore the laziest) comparison would be either of White Wolf’s Hunter games. You basically play a human with some supernatural powers who battles against the “minions of darkness”. However Dread does this with a style and panaché that I feel is lacking from White Wolf’s efforts. Whereas Hunter was, in my opinion, designed as an add on to an already pretty unweildy set of rules, Dread has been designed from top to bottom to deliver one of the most elegant systems I’ve ever seen.
Rafael Chandler has come up with system that allows PC’s to indulge in as much kick-ass narration as they are happy with whilst still giving us enough crunch to keep the traditionalists happy. Named the Disciple 12 system it, funnily enough, uses D12’s. Task resolution is a case of rolling your relevant stat vs a target number, with 7 being an average TN. Opposed tests are a simple matter of rolling vs the other guy, highest roll wins. If you come up with a cool description of what you’re doing then you get an extra dice. You’re either going to be rolling your attribute or skill level in dice, although skills are never opposed.
Stats in the game are:
Strength: Power. speed and endurance
Sense: Intellect, education and wit
Soul: Spiritual fortitude and will
Stats are rated from 1(below average) to 6(superhuman). You get 9 points to spend on stats but one of them must be at least 5. This obvioulsy results in pretty specialised characters but that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned – giving a PC a focus often results in better roleplaying, in my opinion of course!
PC’s in this game have been contacted by a supernatural entity and enlisted in a battle against Demons. Characters have been trained in both magic and combat and are several steps above the average human’ abilities. The system is quite traditional in it’s approach to magic – there’s a set list of spells to choose from and PC’s can cast a number of spells equal to twice their Magic score (which is in turn equal to their Soul stat). What is different in this game is the highly evocative descriptions for each spell. The author has pulled out all the stops in his text in this section and it’s the first time I can ever remember actualy enjoying reading a spell list.
Combat is quick and nasty in Dread – roll your attack value (equal to Strength) vs your oppositions defence, if your roll is higher the difference is taken from your opponents hit points. Good narration on the PC’s part gives him a bonus dice. Players also get Fury points which can be spent to perform special moves, which come with some excellent titles such as Clusterfuck and Cock Punch.
Against average humans your PC’s are gonna wade through large numbers without batting an eyelid, however as you’re supposed to be protecting average humans from Demons then surely this won’t be much of an issue?
Talking of Demons there are lots detailed here, they come in 3 classes, Defiler, Hunter and Stalker. Defiler’s possess their victims and usually get them to do bad things, Hunters are the games main combat opposition and Stalkers mentally abuse victims and push them over the edge. Again the author has excelled here and the extensive amount detailed here are all well presented and have atmospheric write ups. Ideas for scenarios leap off the page as you read.
As for scenarios there a few “hooks” included in the back of the book, all of which read well and 2 full length scenarios.
I’ve GM’d and played in Dread now, and enjoyed it a lot in both roles. The system is quick and easy and needs minimal explanation before play can start. I must admit to prefer playing it to running the game, this is purely because it’s so much fun! Pulling off the various special moves in combat and casting the spells is a real blast.
The author is very enthusiastic about his game – he is very active on his own forums at Neoplastic Press and there are a few sourcebooks available already. He’s always ready to answer questions you may have about the setting and system which is always nice to see.
All in all I give Dread a 9 out of 10, it would have been a 10 but I’m real picky about artwork!
Reviewed by Jez Grey