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Role-play a free Stranger Things campaign using Jenga

This is the best use of your weekend

Stranger Things

Everything about this story is wonderful, so please allow me a few seconds to unpack the delight. I’m so glad I could share this with you on a Friday, when you have two entire days to act upon the news.

First, allow me to introduce Dread.

“Dread is unique in that instead of stats and dice like most other tabletop games employ, it uses a Jenga tower (yes, Jenga, the wood block game) to represent how collectively screwed the players are,” Ian Frazier wrote on writer Kira Butler’s blog. “When one of the players wants to do something challenging in the game — leaping across the fiery rafters of a burning barn, for instance — the host will ask them to pull one or more blocks from the tower. As the game progresses and tension mounts, the tower becomes more and more unstable. Eventually it will collapse, and Very Bad Things™ will happen to whichever player knocked it over.”

stranger things gif

You can buy a digital copy of Dread for $12, or download a four-page version of the rules to get up and started for free. You’ll also need a Jenga set, which I hope you already own because you’re a fun person with good taste in party games.

Once you understand how the game is played, you can download a free scenario for Dread that’s loosely based on Stranger Things.

“Stranger Dread doesn’t directly mimic the show (that would be boring for anyone who’s already seen it), but it does try to follow Stranger Things‘ lead in several respects, from the archetypal 80s-movie roles available for players, to the overall setup, where a child is snatched away to a strange mirror-world and his friends need to rescue him,” Frazier explained. “We’ve had a lot of fun with it thus far — I hope you do too!”

Even the character creation in Dread is interesting. Each story begins with a series of questions about each character that the player must answer.

“The character questionnaire provides the skeleton of a character, suitable for the story or campaign, while the player gets to add the flesh when they answer the questions, thus creating the character they want to play,” the official rules state. “In this way, characters are guaranteed to fit into the story, and yet players are invested in the characters, lending weight to the decisions they make.”

To get a feel for how that works, here are some of the questions the player of The Goof archetype in Stranger Dread have to answer:

  1. What is it about you that always seems to be able to make people laugh? Do you tell jokes, make funny faces, play pranks?
  2. What do other kids make fun of you for? (overweight, speech impediment, extreme braces, lazy eye, whatever)
  3. How did Cory become your best friend?
  4. Why are you always upbeat and hopeful?
  5. Your mother once commented that you’re the “heart of the group” after Cory and the twins went home following a sleepover at your house. What do you think she meant by that?

There are 13 questions for each character, and how you answer each one will allow you to quickly define the character’s traits while making sure they stay firmly in the story. It’s a neat system, and my imagination is already working overtime trying to think of fun characters.

You can buy Dread, play Stranger Dread, and it’s all here in time for the weekend. What a world.

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