Your Complete Introduction to Dread Tabletop RPG: Start Here!

Introduction to Dread tabletop RPG

Welcome to your complete introduction to Dread tabletop RPG! If you’re new to the world of Dread, this beginner’s guide will provide you with everything you need to know about the Dread RPG system. Created by The Impossible Dream, Dread offers a unique and thrilling gaming experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

In Dread, traditional dice mechanics are replaced with a Jenga tower. Each action you take in the game requires a pull from the tower, increasing the tension with every move. The tower becomes more precarious as you and your fellow players pull more blocks, making every decision a risky one. The aim of Dread is to create a story filled with suspense, where the consequences of your actions can have a lasting impact.

Whether you’re a seasoned tabletop RPG player or new to the genre, Dread’s unique mechanics and focus on tension make it an exciting choice for your next gaming session. So grab your friends, gather around the table, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure with Dread RPG!

You can find the core rulebook on Amazon or drivethruRPG

Key Takeaways:

  • Dread is a tabletop RPG that replaces traditional dice mechanics with a Jenga tower
  • The aim of Dread is to create suspenseful stories filled with risky decisions
  • Dread’s focus on tension makes it a unique and thrilling gaming experience
  • The Jenga tower mechanic adds a physical element to gameplay, increasing immersion
  • Dread is suitable for both experienced RPG players and beginners

What Makes Dread RPG Unique

Dread sets itself apart from other tabletop role-playing games (RPGs) with its unique mechanics that focus on tension and suspense. Unlike traditional RPGs that rely on dice rolls to determine success, Dread introduces a physical element with its Jenga tower mechanic. Every action in the game requires players to pull blocks from the tower, making each decision a nerve-wracking experience. As more blocks are pulled, the tower becomes more precarious, increasing the sense of danger and uncertainty.

By eliminating dice rolls, Dread allows players to fully immerse themselves in the story and character development. Without the need for complex calculations, players can focus on making meaningful choices and role-playing their characters. This makes Dread an accessible choice for beginners and emphasizes the storytelling aspect of tabletop RPGs. Additionally, Dread is designed for one-shot adventures, making it a convenient option for players with limited time commitments.

What Makes Dread RPG Unique

Dread RPG’s distinctive features set it apart from other tabletop role-playing games. The Jenga tower mechanics, which replace traditional dice rolls, add a thrilling physicality to the gameplay, heightening suspense and keeping players on the edge of their seats. The tower becomes increasingly unstable with each pull, mirroring the escalating tension within the narrative. Unlike dice rolls, which can sometimes feel detached from the storytelling experience, the tower mechanic ensures that every action is fraught with risk and consequence.

Moreover, by abolishing dice mechanics, Dread encourages players to focus on character development and storytelling. The absence of complicated calculations streamlines the gameplay, allowing players to fully engage with their characters and the narrative. This accessibility makes Dread an excellent choice for both seasoned RPG enthusiasts and newcomers to the genre.

Furthermore, with its emphasis on one-shot adventures, Dread caters to those seeking shorter, self-contained campaigns. This format eliminates the need for long-term commitments, making it ideal for players with busy schedules or those who prefer concise storytelling experiences. As such, Dread offers a unique and memorable tabletop RPG experience that stands out in the gaming landscape.

In summary, Dread RPG’s innovative mechanics, tension-filled gameplay, and focus on storytelling make it a distinctive and captivating choice among tabletop role-playing games. The Jenga tower mechanic brings a physical and immersive element to each action, while the absence of dice rolls allows for deeper character development and narrative immersion. Whether you’re a seasoned RPG player or new to the genre, Dread offers a thrilling and accessible gaming experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Basic Setup and Gameplay in Dread RPG

Getting started with Dread RPG is simple and straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the basic setup and gameplay:

Character Creation

Before diving into the game, each player fills out a questionnaire about their character’s past. This helps to establish their background and motivations, adding depth to the storytelling experience. Once the questionnaires are completed, the Game Master (GM) can use the information provided to weave a compelling narrative.

Building the Tower

The Jenga tower is a crucial element in Dread RPG. It represents the increasing tension and risk as the game progresses. To start, the tower is built according to the Jenga game rules. Each player then makes an initial pull from the tower, introducing their character and setting the stage for the story.

Gameplay Mechanics

During gameplay, the GM guides the story, setting the scene and presenting challenges for the players to overcome. When a character attempts a risky action, such as attempting to sneak past a guard or search for clues in a dangerous location, a pull from the tower is required. If the tower falls during a player’s turn, their character is eliminated from the game.

It’s important to note that players can also choose to deliberately knock down the tower, sacrificing their character for a successful action. This adds an extra layer of strategy and decision-making to the gameplay, as players must weigh the potential consequences of their actions.

With its unique mechanics and focus on storytelling, Dread RPG offers a thrilling and immersive tabletop experience. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced player, the simple setup and engaging gameplay mechanics make it easy to jump into the world of Dread RPG and embark on your own suspenseful adventure.

Advantages of Playing Dread RPG

Dread RPG offers several advantages that make it a compelling choice for tabletop role-playing game enthusiasts. One of its key strengths is its RP-focused gameplay, which allows players to fully immerse themselves in the story and make meaningful decisions. Unlike traditional RPG systems that heavily rely on dice rolls for outcomes, Dread prioritizes narrative and character development, creating a more engaging and dynamic experience.

Another advantage of playing Dread RPG is its simple character sheet. The character creation process is streamlined, requiring minimal calculations and allowing players to quickly jump into the game. This simplicity makes Dread accessible to beginners who may be overwhelmed by complex character creation systems in other RPGs. Players can focus on exploring their character’s motivations and relationships within the story, rather than getting bogged down by numbers and statistics.

Additionally, Dread is designed for one-shot adventures, making it a convenient choice for players with limited time commitments. Unlike long-term campaigns that require ongoing commitment and regular sessions, Dread allows players to enjoy a complete and satisfying gaming experience in a single session. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for players who have busy schedules or prefer shorter, self-contained stories.

Advantages of Playing Dread RPG:

  • RP-focused gameplay for immersive storytelling
  • Simple character sheet for easy entry
  • Designed for one-shot adventures for flexibility

Overall, Dread RPG offers a unique and engaging tabletop experience that focuses on storytelling and decision-making. Its RP-focused gameplay, simple character sheet, and convenient one-shot adventure format make it an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced players looking for a thrilling and immersive RPG experience.

Potential Challenges in Dread RPG

While Dread offers a unique and thrilling tabletop RPG experience, there are a few potential challenges that players may encounter during gameplay. These challenges include the elimination of player characters, dealing with shaky hands, and ensuring a steady table.

PC Elimination

One challenge in Dread is the potential elimination of player characters. When a character is eliminated, the player is left with nothing to do in the game. However, this can be mitigated by still enjoying the story as it unfolds. It’s important to remember that Dread focuses on creating a suspenseful narrative filled with tension and risky decisions. Even if your character is eliminated, you can still be engaged in the story and the outcomes of other characters.

Shaky Hands

Another challenge that some players may face is dealing with shaky hands. The Jenga tower mechanic in Dread requires players to carefully pull blocks from the tower, and having shaky hands can make this task more difficult. However, there are a few tips that can help. Consider taking breaks during gameplay to rest and reset your hands. You can also try using techniques such as deep breathing and focusing your attention to help steady your hands. Additionally, you can discuss with your gaming group about finding alternative methods or adaptations that can accommodate players with physical challenges.

Steady Table

A steady table is crucial when playing Dread. Accidental tower collapses can occur if the table is not stable, which can disrupt gameplay and create frustration. To ensure a steady table, consider using a sturdy dining table or a dedicated gaming table. Avoid tables that are lightweight, wobbly, or prone to movement. Adding rubber grips or felt pads to the bottom of the table legs can also help stabilize the playing surface. It’s important to create a solid foundation for the Jenga tower to ensure a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience.

shaky hands

The combination of Dread and Trail of Cthulhu creates an unforgettable gaming experience, where players must confront their deepest fears and make life-threatening decisions. With its emphasis on tension and storytelling, Dread provides a fresh and immersive approach to horror role-playing games. Embrace the darkness and embark on a journey into the unknown with Dread in Trail of Cthulhu campaigns.

Dread and Player vs. Player Dynamics

Dread offers a unique opportunity for competitive gameplay and player vs. player dynamics. Unlike traditional RPGs where players compete indirectly through character interactions or combat, Dread’s mechanics allow for more direct and suspenseful player interactions. The Jenga tower adds an additional layer of tension, as every player’s move can potentially affect the balance of the tower and the fate of the characters involved.

Player vs. player interactions in Dread can be intense and strategic, as players jockey for position and try to outmaneuver each other without causing the tower to collapse. The limited number of available blocks in the tower creates a resource management challenge, forcing players to carefully consider their actions and the potential consequences. This competitive element can add a thrilling dimension to the game, as players not only navigate the challenges presented by the Game Master but also must contend with the actions and strategies of their fellow players.

It is important to note that player vs. player dynamics in Dread should be approached with consideration for the overall enjoyment of the group. While competition can enhance the game’s excitement, it is crucial to maintain a respectful and cooperative atmosphere. Setting clear expectations and boundaries, as well as establishing guidelines for resolving conflicts, can help ensure a positive gaming experience for everyone involved.

Example Scenario: The Tower of Betrayal

“The tension in the room was palpable as Jack and Emily faced off against each other, their characters locked in a battle of wits. Both players had carefully planned their moves, strategizing to gain an advantage without causing the tower to collapse. With each pull of a block, the tower swayed, increasing the stakes and the pressure on both players.

Finally, Jack made his move, carefully removing a block and successfully completing his action. The tower held steady, but it was Emily’s turn. She surveyed the tower, weighing her options, and decided to push her luck. She pulled a block from a precarious position, hoping for success. But as the block left its place, the tower tumbled, and Emily’s character met a tragic end.”

  • Intense and strategic player interactions
  • Heightened tension and suspense
  • Resource management challenge
  • Enhances overall gaming experience
  • Potential for conflict or hurt feelings
  • Requires clear communication and boundaries
  • May not be suitable for all player groups

Player vs. player dynamics in Dread can be a thrilling addition to your RPG sessions, adding a new level of tension, strategy, and competition. It allows players to test their skills against each other while navigating the ever-uncertain tower. Just remember to approach it with respect and consideration for your fellow players, ensuring that everyone has a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Incorporating Secrets and Hidden Agendas in Dread

Secrets and hidden agendas can add another layer of intrigue and suspense to your Dread RPG sessions. By assigning specific roles and agendas to players through questionnaires during character creation, you can create a sense of paranoia and tension within the group. This adds depth to the storytelling and encourages players to think strategically about their actions.

One popular mechanic that introduces hidden agendas and potential conflict is the hidden infected mechanic. In this scenario, one or more players may be secretly infected and have to resist the urge to attack their friends. This creates a dynamic where players must navigate the line between trust and suspicion, leading to compelling narratives and difficult choices.

“The hidden infected mechanic in Dread adds a whole new level of excitement to the game. You never know who you can trust, and every decision is filled with tension and uncertainty.” – Dread RPG enthusiast

To incorporate these elements seamlessly into your Dread RPG sessions, it’s important to establish clear guidelines and expectations from the beginning. Communicate with your players about the potential for hidden agendas and how it will impact gameplay. Encourage open communication and emphasize that the goal is to enhance the overall experience for everyone involved.

Example: Hidden Infected Mechanic

Here’s an example of how the hidden infected mechanic can be implemented in a Dread RPG session:

Player 1SurvivorProtect the group
Player 2InfectedSecretly infect others without getting caught
Player 3MedicDiscover the identity of the infected

In this scenario, Player 2 knows they are infected but must keep it a secret. Player 3, on the other hand, has the agenda of discovering the identity of the infected. This creates tension and suspicion among the players, as they must try to achieve their goals while not revealing their true intentions.

By incorporating secrets and hidden agendas into your Dread RPG sessions, you can elevate the gameplay and create memorable experiences for both players and Game Masters alike.

Dread and Trail of Cthulhu Integration

Incorporating elements from Dread into your Trail of Cthulhu campaigns can create a truly immersive and interconnected gaming experience. By seamlessly integrating the mechanics of Dread with the dark, Lovecraftian world of Trail of Cthulhu, players can delve deeper into the mysteries and horrors that await them.

One way to incorporate Dread into your Trail of Cthulhu campaign is by using the Jenga tower mechanic to build suspense and tension. As investigators pull from the tower to determine the success of their actions, the looming threat of collapse mirrors the ever-present danger lurking in the shadows. This adds an extra layer of excitement and uncertainty to the gameplay, as players must carefully balance their decisions against the risk of catastrophic failure.

Furthermore, the outcomes and decisions made in a Dread game can directly impact subsequent Trail of Cthulhu adventures. The choices made by the players, the secrets uncovered, and the characters’ fates in Dread can all shape the narrative and provide a sense of continuity in the shared universe. This integration allows for a deeper level of storytelling, with the actions and consequences from one game carrying over into the next, creating a rich tapestry of interconnected stories.

Dread and Trail of Cthulhu Integration

By seamlessly integrating Dread and Trail of Cthulhu, players can experience the visceral tension and thrilling horror of Dread, while also exploring the cosmic mysteries and eldritch horrors of the Cthulhu mythos. This integration opens up a world of possibilities for imaginative and immersive gameplay, where the fate of the characters and the world itself hangs in the balance.

You can find the core rulebook on Amazon or drivethruRPG


In conclusion, Dread RPG offers a unique and thrilling tabletop experience that sets it apart from traditional role-playing games. The Jenga tower mechanic adds an intense physical element to gameplay, creating tension and suspense with every pull. This innovative approach eliminates the need for dice rolls and allows players to focus on immersive storytelling and character development.

While challenges such as potential player elimination and the requirement for steady hands may arise, the overall gameplay experience and the potential for creativity make Dread RPG a worthwhile addition to any tabletop collection. The RP-focused gameplay, simple character sheet, and adaptability for one-shot adventures make it accessible for both beginners and experienced players.

With Dread RPG, you can embark on epic adventures filled with suspense, risky decisions, and unforgettable moments. So gather your friends, build the Jenga tower, and immerse yourself in the thrilling world of Dread RPG today!


What is Dread RPG?

Dread RPG is a tabletop survival horror role-playing game created by The Impossible Dream. It uses a Jenga tower instead of dice for determining the success of actions.

How does the Jenga tower mechanic work in Dread RPG?

In Dread RPG, players pull blocks from a Jenga tower to determine the success of their actions. The tower becomes more precarious as blocks are pulled, increasing tension in the game.

Is Dread RPG suitable for beginners?

Yes, Dread RPG is beginner-friendly. The character sheet is simple and doesn’t require complicated calculations, making it accessible for new players.

Can player characters be eliminated in Dread RPG?

Yes, when the Jenga tower falls, the character belonging to the player who caused the fall is eliminated from play. However, there are ways to still enjoy the game even if your character is eliminated.

Are there any challenges in playing Dread RPG?

One challenge in Dread RPG is the potential elimination of player characters. Additionally, players with physical disabilities may face difficulties with the Jenga tower mechanic, and finding a steady table can be challenging in a lively gaming environment.

Are there any reviews or gameplay videos of Dread RPG?

Yes, Dread RPG has been featured in various reviews and gameplay videos, including on Will Wheaton’s Tabletop and Geek and Sundry.

Can Dread RPG be integrated with other role-playing games?

Yes, Dread RPG can be seamlessly integrated with games like Trail of Cthulhu, allowing for shared universes and interconnected stories.

Does Dread RPG allow for player vs. player dynamics?

Yes, Dread RPG offers player vs. player dynamics without the risk of instant elimination. The Jenga tower mechanic creates natural tension and limits the ability to eliminate other players.

How can secrets and hidden agendas be incorporated into Dread RPG?

Secrets and hidden agendas can be introduced through questionnaires for character creation, assigning specific roles and agendas to players. The hidden infected mechanic can also create compelling narratives and difficult choices.

What are the advantages of playing Dread RPG?

Dread RPG offers RP-focused gameplay, immersive storytelling, and a focus on tension and decision-making. It is also designed for one-shot adventures, making it convenient for players with limited time commitments.

What is the overall gaming experience like in Dread RPG?

Dread RPG offers a unique and suspenseful tabletop RPG experience, with a focus on tension, decision-making, and storytelling. The Jenga tower mechanic adds a physical element to gameplay, increasing immersion and creating memorable moments.

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