Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Leaving Las Vegas

Being my memories of the airport boarding gate as we waited for our return flight home from Las Vegas.

Our flight was supposed to leave at 8.30p. We got to the gate around 7.45. And we waited while all the horrid cacophony of slot machine noises blared around us. Our plane was delayed. At 9 we asked what was going on. Mechanical trouble, another plane en route. More and more the bing ching ring tingle clack roar of flashing lights and mind-numbing hums and electronicly produced tunes tore at my ear drums.

10.30, still no plane. The one that was supposed to be the replacement couldn't leave its airport because of a bomb threat. I'll bomb threat you god damn purveyors of slot machine hells!! but that won't stop the bells and whistles, whirs and chirps, clacks and ratchet clicks as one-armed-bandits rob me of my sanity. Red eyed tired and boiling with rage I stare down the clock, daring it to strike Midnight.

Unfeeling, uncaring, the giant garish digital clock reads 12.30a. We are finally boarding. The laser light show provided by the horrid machinery is not celebratory. It is mocking. Taunting. Laughing at me with all of its many grating metallic voices.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I played my first game of Dread last night. I was host and ran the plot "Beneath a Metal Sky" found in the back of the book. The first surprise came when I found out that not everyone in my gaming group had seen the movie Alien. But the biggest surprise was how much fun it was.

I never had any doubts that I would enjoy the game. I was, however, concerned that others might find the game mechanic (Jenga tower) too gimicky. On the contrary, at the end of the game one player remarked cleverly "The game mechanic is such that the terror actually builds." As host I tried to narrate what challenges the character was trying to overcome while the player was pulling a block. I did this primarily for two reasons. It filled the time and provided a link between the time it took to pull a block and the time it would take to accomplish the task. For the few pulls where I didn't narrate, other players interrupted with humor. I didn't bother to try to stop them, because I wanted a fun game. If that meant the game wasn't as 'scary' I was ok with that.

One thing that definitely did not surprise me was how much the plot changed from what was written. I want to let my players do what they want as long as it makes sense. It made sense for them to shoot the one man who could operate the escape pods on the Auerbach. After all, he had just shot and killed a member of their crew. They didn't really uncover the whole truth, but that was partly my fault. I wasn't very clear on how much information I should give them and where.

There were a few good answers on the questionnaires. The first one made me go "oh cool" right off the bat when I read it. One player decided that the thing his character feared most was "hallucinations" or a general loss of the ability to believe his senses. This was perfect, as the radiation levels on the Auerbach would tend to cause that to happen if the group were exposed to the elements. Unfortunately, the crew came well-equipped with exploratory suits. Another memorable answer did not become apparent until late in the game. On the captain's questionnaire it asks "what food that most people like can't you stand?" The player intimated that the captain had survived a ship-wreck that left most people turning to cannibalism to survive. So the food he couldn't tolerate was ribs. At first I thought it was mere silliness and almost made him change his answers. But I wanted to let my players do what they want as long as it made sense. He explained it. It made sense. Then later when the crew encountered one of the strange zombie-like monsters, the fear of cannibalism and disgust with ribs came into play. The tower almost fell as the captain tried to maintain his composure.

I hope that the players would be willing to play another session of Dread, this time with a home-brewed plot line. I know that I'm hooked. The only trouble I foresee is the lack of continuing characters from session to session. Perhaps if I were to adopt a more consistent time-line or plan a more longterm storyline. Depending on how characters exited the game, they could be brought back in another session. Hmm....