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It was one of those missions that you only take because you have nothing left or you have no choice. It would take a full decade to complete, and we had little information given to us.
The brief was simple:
Travel to the Lumair System.
Make contact with the science team.
Retrieve the containers.
Return to the Solar System.
Deliver the containers.
Do Not Open the Containers.
The science officer has authority on anything relating to the cargo.
The captain has authority on anything to do with the ship.
Crew will be paid upon return.
The crew of the Horizon was a skeleton operation. A Captain who was drunk most of the time, an Engineer who never looked at his tool bag, a Doctor who hated everyone on the ship, a Custodian who knew how and did make liquor with barely any equipment (supplying the Captain), our helmsman who pretty much punched in “go” on the consol and did little else for the trip, and the Science Officer, an android who used to be a pleasure-bot.
The 5 year voyage to the Lumair System was as expected – not a great deal happens in the vaccuum of space. Although, by the end of the five years, the crew was ready to kill each other. They made contact with the team on the surface and a small group went to retrieve the containers.
Dread is a TTRPG system that caters to the Horror/Suspense genre very well. The only mechanic in the game is a Jenga tower. When a player wants to do something that could endanger them in any way, or take them out of the game in some way, they pull a block from the tower (sometimes two!). If the tower falls, you are removed from the game.
This game was GM’d by Matthew Fallaize, who runs one-shots for us on occasion. This was the first time I had met him, and I’m happy to say that I’ve regularly sat at the gaming table with him ever since. He’s an excellent GM, actor and story-teller.
For this story, I played Kate Summers, the pleasure-robot who left that life and got her degree in science. She was hired as the Science Officer of the Horizon. When I wrote in “Failure is not an option” under “What is your greatest failure?” I asked “Wait…am I going to be the bad guy?” We all had a good laugh about that.
Dread is pretty freeform when it comes to character creation. The GM provides questions for the players to answer, there’s sometimes character conflicts built in (or created organically by the players), and you get to decide what your character is carrying.
The party retrieved the containers, secured them in the cargo bay, and began the 5 year return. However, something was strange – there was a life form in the cargo hold. It must’ve been Trevor’s cat, Fifi. Trevor, a crewman who did odd jobs around the ship, went to investigate. He discovered his poor cat dead, and shortly after, a large insect-like creature appeared, spewing acid across his form, melting him and devouring him all on the cameras.
The next 4 hours we spent securing the cargo hold, running from this large alien, trying not to die and trying to figure out how to kill it.
Early in the game, power was lost through out the ship. Our engineer, Patrick Pedro, took from his bag some graphite pencils and duct tape – the only tools he ever used – and managed to bring the power back online. He used the graphite to conduct electricity, securing them with the duct tape.
When the alien was loose on the ship, the custodian, Gina Smith, pilford the science and medical labs and created molotov cocktails. They were used extensively throughout the game. So much fire.
We had the idea of locking down the cargo hold, opening it to space and sucking the alien out. During this mission, Doctor Hurly and Science Officer Kate Summers went to the cargo hold to manually close the doors. During this, the base of the elevator shaft was on fire. This was one of the doors that needed to be closed. Summers, being an android, went through the fire to close the door (thus, becomig a crazy Terminator-looking thing with a lot of her skin melted off), and poor Doctor Hurly didn’t make it out of the cargo hold alive. She was spotted and attacked by the alien (the Jenga tower was toppled). One door was still open.
The alien put up a big fight, but eventually was killed. It was a lot of creative thinking on the players part (and the GM! HA!). The game ended with everyone in the cargo hold, with the cargo broken open revealing more eggs. The crew wanted to destroy them, but the Science Officer, Kate Summers, the android who said “Failure is not an option” still had a mission to complete. The crates would be delivered. This triggered some good ol’ fashion PvP with Gina Smith, the ship custodian. They fought and fought until someone talked some sense into Summers, convincing the android that the cargo can be delivered, but the contents don’t need to be in one piece. She remained with the cargo the rest of the trip.
It was a really fun, highly intense game. The use of Jenga is such an excellent way to maintain the feeling of anticipation and anxiety (the good kind). If you get the chance to play Dread, don’t pass it up. We are playtesting a way to play it online(!) so you may see a Dread event pop up on our list. Keep your eyes peeled.
Have you played before? Share some of your own stories in the comments!