Michael here to share the notes/outlines I had for the two custom Dread games I ran at this year’s AcadeCon.
Star Wars: Return of the Dread-I
DnDread – A D&D / Dread Mash-up and
Please keep in mind that I am a heavy improv GM and tend to rely on my players and in the moment to create the details and connective tissue of my games – if the outlines below seem a bit sparse, just assume that’s why.
Return of the Dread – I
As the players are picking out their characters (images of Star Wars races from various media) I will set up the tower. No white or black dotted bricks on bottom most to top most levels. The 6 white dotted bricks have to be on a different level from one another and with random placement (L,R or middle) . The black dotted bricks can be on same level but a nice spread is desirable.
Each time a player pulls a black-dotted brick they get a corruption token ( I used black poker chips) if any one player gets 3 of these tokens they have fallen to the dark side and will begin to work against the rest of the party. They can do this in one of two ways:
1. They can add a black dot to a non-dotted brick, making it more likely others will also become corrupt.
2. They can take one of the white-dotted bricks that have been pulled and removed from the game and put it back on top of the tower following regular Jenga rules. This means the group will need to re-draw it later and can only do so if they complete a row above it.
Read to the players:
You are a group of freshly promoted Jedi Knights. Master Skywalker has asked you to come to Caravas 3 to recently located Sith temple. Master Skywalker belives that there are 6 Holocron cubes within this temple that he needs to further develop the burgeoning Jedi traditions he is discovering.
Your mission is to find all 6, (the white-dotted bricks) and bring them out — before you fall prey to the dark side influence in the temple.
Expain – the players are not allowed to pull white – dotted bricks unless, in the narrative of the story, they are in an area where a Holocron is to be found. This will make sense shortly. Also, when a white-dotted brick is pulled it stays out of the game.
Read to the players:
Your ship, Star Cluster Delta, a old H.w.k.-290, brings you out of hyper space before Caravas 3 a red marble of a planet that dances amongst a binary star cluster that has already started to devour one another.
There is no surface water present on Caravas 3. Deep reservoirs beneath the planet’s crust are the only source of potable water outside the costly process of shipping it in. It was a perfect world for the Sith to settle as no one in their right mind would come here. A quick sensor sweep pings the location of the Sith temple you were sent to investigate. Master Skywalker had a vision that there were 6 Holocrons to be found here that helps bridge the teachings lost with the fall of the Jedi. Your sensors also pick up life forms you were not expecting. The temple, set in a red rock cliff face is swarming with long reptilian beasts that scatter as your ship lowers to the ground before it.
Here is where the game actually begins. The PC’s will need to find a way into the Sith Temple. The repteillain creatures will watch them from vantage points behind rocks and such. Think curious but frightened dogs. They appear harmless, maybe even cute until the door to the sith temple is opened – when that happens they will bare fangs and frills and attack, rushing at them from all sides.
If none of the players step up you may have to ask for one, but they will need to open the temple. Have them pull a brick and narrate how this occurs (possible sensor for force usage, or a hidden lever, a panel that has to be hacked – whatever) but as soon as the door begins to open the reptilian beasts will attack
Have each of the PC’s describe how they are protecting themselves as they rush into the temple.
(In the game I ran at AcadeCon one player dicated their actions as protecting the whole group so I had them pull multiple bricks but less than the number of players – so there was a bonus to doing this but it cost more than a single pull).
Once the beasts are run off and the temple is open – a slight buzzing will begin to build in each PC’s mind. It’s unshakable and will grow steadily over time. The distraction it causes will require the PC’s to pull bricks for things they normally may not have to do (GM cackle).
The main room is an expansive anti-chamber with irregularly spaced support columns of red stone carved to look like emaciated humans with fleshless skulls exalting up dark robed Sith warriors. There are images of the lizard beast from outside ripping the exposed flesh of some of the humanoids while the Sith look on approvingly.
Once you get about halfway through the room (with the buzzing intensifying) you see that spread across the back half of the room are 6 archways leading into six different areas of the temple.
The temple begins to crumble: one of the support columns will fall over and each PC will have to get out of the way (brick pull each), as more and more begin to crash down sending them each running into a random direction. The roof splits open and red sand begins to pour in, not in a rush but steady trickle. Clearly the enter temple is going to collapse soon. You’d better hurry!
AREA 1 – Library: this area is full of old scrolls and Holocron cubes, most are of Sith teachings. The issue is finding the right one. If you want to push the ‘dark side’ feel you could ask for 1 or 2 black dot pulls before a white and have them narrate having to look at these dark side teachings as they search for the right one.
AREA 2 – Kennel: this area is where they were breading the reptilian creatures from outside. In the game I played I narrated that it there was a mixture of torture and genetic breeding involved and asked for a dark brick pull before the white as they could see that the completed version was an improvement on the base animal.
AREA 3 – Droid area: this area is a mish-mash of droid parts. Like carcasses hanging from hooks, there are rows upon rows of droid pieces and parts. Once the PC (or PC’s) get far enough in, one of the heaps rises up with a Holocron in its chest (yeah – like Iron Man). This area is simple – they have to fight the droid until they can get the holocron free. Basically they can pull as many bricks as they need too until a white one is an option.
AREA 4 – Training area – This area is where the Sith would train their students. Along the walls are depictions of various dark side techniques (force lighting, choking etc,.) – depending on how the tower looks you could ask for a dark brick pull here because of what they are seeing. Once they find the cube I had a handful of light sabers raise and attack them like drones requiring 3 pulls (with one white) to get away.
AREA 5 – Navigation – This area is filled with star charts being projected on the walls. Glowing suns and billions of worlds. The Holocron is hidden as one of the larger stars. They have to pull until a white one is free.
AREA 6 – Storage – this is the most simple and direct area. There are piles and piles of durasteel crates. They have to pull until they can free a white one. So it could take one pull or a dozen.
In my game this was the last are they entered and the tower fell as they were trying to free the last white-dotted brick. I think they got 3 pulls before that happened.
Once all six of the white-dotted bricks are free then the PC’s need to escape. As they make their way back to the main area of the temple:
Escape from the temple – The sand that has continued to poor in begins to shift and swirl in a vortex pushing each of you back. It then takes on the shape of a hulking beast nearly 20 feet tall with six arms, each wielding an oversized sand formed saber. Before you can get out, you must face him!
Each PC needs to make one last pull and then describe either getting past him or taking him partially out.
You have come to the Hueston Woods Lodge for a new gaming convention. When you arrive you find the place practically deserted with a skeleton crew of staff who know nothing of this ‘con’ you speak of. Eventually someone points you the convention hall so you can see for yourself that there is no gaming convention going on. Walking down the rickety stairs to the lower level you catch fleeting sounds of . . . battle? Is this a LARP? Is that was the confusion was about? With a bit more confidence you find the convention room, but the door is stuck. You can clearly hear sounds, the clang of swords of grunts, shouts of joy and pain – an epic LARP, it seems. Working together you push against the stuck door. It finally gives way spilling you into the room, but with a flash of light you are blinded.
Roll a dice to see who wakes up first:
You are in a dark, cramped place. You feel pressure all over your body. But not evenly. There are hard and sharp objects gouging into you in places. There is a muffled sound of moans and a crackling fire nearby. The smell of sweat, blood and other less desirable body fluids assault you. Gathering yourself you start to wiggle and slide and find yourself erupting from a mound of dead bodies. You are piled 10 high inside a make-shift cage made of freshly cut trees. Two enormous brutes stand between you and the fire you heard crackling earlier. The beasts before the fire have their features shrouded in their own shadows but you can see they are easily 7 feet tall, muscled and wearing little more than rags that are not so strategically placed. Between them you can see the fire casting the light. You also see a roasting spit and that’s when the smell wafts over, hitting you like a maul. It’s smells like pork, but you see no pig on that pole. A person is being roasted. One of the brutes turns toward the cage, maybe alerted by your movements:
Pull # 1 – to not be seen/heard. Give them a card face down – don’t look yet.
Roll a dice to see who wakes up 2nd
PC one can hear the second person is making noise and can help.
The sounds of that person being eaten (loudly ) crashes over them.
Pull # 2 and 3 to not puke at the sight/sound.
Roll dice to see who wakes up next – card
Last person wakes up-
If someone wants to search for a weapon – pull a brick to find one (could be pull 4, 5, 6 and 7 )
Now they need to either sneak out or fight their way out.
Pulls 8 and 9 to take out Orc 1 and Orc 2
Once they are out – anyone that didn’t yet have a weapon can find one here without a pull required. They can now look at their cards and see what ‘class’ they are: Wizard, Cleric, Fighter or Thief.
Their spirit is in habiting the dead body of a fallen warrior. Some of the memories of the fallen still reside in their bodies and they can sometimes access them. The Wizard and Cleric can cast spells. # of bricks = to effect of spell (basic DnD rules apply. Magic missile = 1 brick. Fireball = 3 for example except first time for each spell is double (so none one says I cast wish and pulls 9 bricks and ends the game!). Warriors can fight and win (unlike normal dread where fight = die) by pulling bricks. Once everyone is up to speed and understands the rules . ..
A war horn sounds drawing their attention, looking to the west they see a tall stone tower begin to collapse, like it is imploding. They get a flash that they need to find another tower and that it lays to the east.
As they make their way through the woods they encounter a war ban of these orcs
Pull 10, 11, 12 and 13 to hide/fight. Maybe more depending on what happens.
The rest of the way to the tower is uneventful – but takes a day or more of traveling – give ‘em time to role play and meet one another.
The next night they see the tower and hear a war horn. The Orc army is nearing but they are ahead of them. A mad dash takes them to the tower on a hillside overlooking the ocean (smell of salt and spray, gulls in the distance).
Once they enter tower, each floor is a challenge/trap that must be overcome..
Floor 1 – No way up. (GREEN)
The doorway to the tower is made of cold iron with a stylized crystal key etched into it. When the PC’s approach it opens silently as if beckoning them in. The large circular room is dark at first but as they enter an oversized fireplace roars to life against the far wall. The room is full of old furniture. Couches, chaise, chairs, tables, book shelves with a myriad of books, most written in arcane symbols or unintelligible languages but mixed among these books are some you recognize. Children’s stories. Harry potter. Stephen King.
On the hearth above the fire is a wooden box, etched with a golden image of the same key that’s on the doorway. Inside the box is a smattering of wood chips.
High above you (approx 20’ ) is an opening to the level above, but there is no visible way up.
I expect them to try and stack the furniture high enough to get there, which will work with one brick pull per PC to not fall and get hurt, but the solution is with the fire. Tossing a handful of the chips into the fire will cause a green wispy smoke to emanate out and it snakes along the floor to the other side, then tilts up forming a stairway to the next floor.
Floor 2 Work Room – Stone Golem. (YELLOW walls)
As the last of you pass through the opening in the floor it seals over. Perhaps someone else could come through it up, but you do not seem too able to go back down it.
Loud crashing sounds as the wall of the tower is struck with a large stone that bursts through the wall and crashes into a work table of books, vials of potions and other oddities. There is a strong whooshing sound as the wind tears at the opening that appeared and you can see a gathering army of Orcs below, they are moving against the tower. Other siege engines are being maneuvered into position.
The stone that was thrown begins to sizzle and pop and then crack as it sits in the puddle of alchemical mixture. Leg and arm like appendages start to bleed out of it and then solidifying and stands on wobbly 3 legs, none the same size and starts to swing it’s over sized stone fists in your direction: Combat (5 bricks worth of damage to overcome)
Once combat is over there is no way up. If they check out the hole there is a window entrance to the next level. The wind is whipping and arrows are fired, but they could probably make it to the next level outside the tower.
(1 brick per player).
Floor 3 Dining Room (PURPLE)
This floor, noticeably smaller than the room below is dived into 3 unequal parts. The larger area houses a “U” shaped dining table, currently half set as if for a formal dinner. The two smaller sections house a small kitchen area with a large pot over a long cold fire and the other a washing station. As you enter the tower is rocked again by what must be a siege stone. You see that when the plates are disturbed by the jostling that spectral figures rise from the floor and reposition the dinner ware. A plate that was dropped to the floor is carried by one of these spectral creates to the wash area and it begins to wash it with fetid water. Another takes a new bowl the cold pot and ladles out a disgusting blob of what may have once been food. As the tower is rocked once again (pull a brick) the process starts again.
To complete this room they either need to sit down and have a meal – quickly, and pull a brick not to be poisoned or rush past and up the stairs but have to fight the specters (1 brick each) as they don’t want you to leave without eating meal.
Floor 4 – Bedroom (RED Velvet curtains on the bed)
This chamber, again, smaller than the one below houses an oversized canopy bed with the thick drapes of the bed closed. On a night stand sits a candle stub next to an open book. At some point the candle was knocked over. The book did not catch fire but the candle melted down along its length blackening the page and covering it with wax. There is a solid looking chest at the foot of the bed.
Tower wall is hit by a stone again. Doesn’t break all the way through – stuck half in and half out.
Something is clearly on the bed behind the curtain. It’s a ghost, if they open they open the curtains a unearthly spirit will leap out at them but is miming excitement. Will run over to the night stand and ‘pick up’ a ghost image of the book. Go to the far wall and read some words and then disappear. There is a secret door here. It’s trapped. If someone can decipher the words through the candle wax) it will open, otherwise attempting to open it will cause the trap to activate.
Floor 5 – Beholder room: (BLUE Starry skies)
The circular room is completely devoid of any fixtures save a crystal control panel in the center of the room. The entire surface area is covered in a large mural of a night sky filled with stars and planets. Some you may recognize and others not. The console must be solved by removing a brick for each PC but not adding it to the top. As the console is being manipulated the stars on the walls/floor/ceiling begin to light up and occasionally shoot rays of energy that must be dodged.
Once the combat is over, a circular patch of the stone floor begins to corkscrew upwards revealing a circular stairway contained within it which takes them to the next floor.
Floor 6 – Multi –colored tile floor
This yet smaller room is completely bare of any items. Though there is a swath of writing on the walls in large exaggerated handwriting. Different parts of the walls have different color
The solution is to walk in a pattern that follows the same color scheme as the floor below. GREEN – YELLOW – PURPLE –RED – BLUE
Floor also has Black, white, Gray, Orange and Silver. Going out of order equals = electrical shock damage.
Top – the sextant: four statues and the sextant that must be controlled to the right coordinates.
This is the final challenge and in both of my previous games it worked out that the tower was still standing at this point. There is a sextant that can be adjusted to make a connection back to earth but as soon as the first player touches it the four statues come to life. One brick pull per player – but which order as its likely not everyone will make it back . . .
Same thing happened this time. First guy who tried it pulled his brick and got away. The other three were arguing (two were ‘injured’ from below and had to pull 2 bricks instead of one) about who would go next, finally one of the injured players jumped up and starting pulling. He got one free and then knocked the tower over on the second. Made for a great finale
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