The Farrier's Bellows - Dread


In the newest episode of The Farrier’s Bellows, Zack and Diana are pulling one more brick with the classic horror game, Dread! There is also a little bit of talk involving other horror games, such as Dead Friend and Bluebeard’s Bride.

Enjoy! And let us know what you think the replies.

Cc: @Epidiah @oh_theogony


Here’s how I approach Dread and answers (for me) to the questions they asked.

Tower Falls: I’ve got a way I run the game that, apparently, a lot of other’s don’t. I don’t want the tower to fall. I want the players to be terrified of it falling and keep that tension high.I’ve run it a bunch at Fear the Con and several times in person and I think the tower’s only fallen once (and at the end) but the early fall breaks tension quite a bit.

Sheets: This is my cheat: The front side of the sheet (usually 6 questions) is the same for all players. It sets up the situation for everyone. The back of the page is character specific. (“Why did you sleep with Rick’s wife?” “Why haven’t you been back in town since you were young? What don’t you want your friends to know about you?”)With Dread, you’re creating a pretty tight story. I’ve found it best when it’s not as open as other RPGs. I leave a lot of opportunities for the players to create stuff, but I definietly tie more into a Dread game than I do in a normal RPG I run.
Pick up and play: As long as I have things prepared, I love Dread for Pick up and play. There’s no reason for the players to write a novel for each question. A sentence or two will work. I read through those, make some notes, but the questions are giving me information I can use in specific places, so it usually slots in pretty easily. Takes me maybe 5 minutes (at most) to look through everyone’s sheet. We can also, as a group, talk over the front of the pages, which helps.

How often to pull: Having pulls be multi-steps can help.

For a zombie game: “Pull once to find the person you love alive.” Then, I have them pull when for what they do.

Breaking into a house? 1 pull to jimmy the door. Another to not be heard (so they can skip that one if they want) and then another to sneak up on someone if they need to. Depends on what happens, but bigger actions I often break into smaller chunks to make them more tense.

Also, here are some adventures I’ve made for Dread. “The Last Hurrah” I wrote up for others to use. “Staring Down the Void” hasn’t been laid out like that but the nature of the game (Haunted house where the actual evil inside is the personal demons people bring in with them) is pretty easy to do on the fly depending on what people chose.


First, I just want to say that I love The Farrier’s Bellows - it is an awesome addition to the Gauntlet Podcast Network and I look forward to each new episode.

Now, for the feedback for this particular episode:

The way I handled character generation and tower building on the beginning of the game is to combine them. I usually have a list of questions and I ask them to the players around the table (kinda like Painting the scene).

The players are free to write any stuff based answers as they wish. I usually have couple questions (one or two per player) that have potential of giving mechanical benefit/avoiding the pull during the adventure. This not only gives people time to build the tower (as only one player answers at the time), but it also lets players find out stuff about other players’ characters.

This approach worked well for my more pick-up style Dread games.


I would also just like to say I’m really enjoying the Farrier’s Bellows. My wishlist/roadmap of games to play grows longer with every episode.


Thanks for all the kind words y’all! We’re so glad you’re enjoying the show.
@Mikel_Matthews That is all excellent advice. I’m glad that tower falls seem to be rare in general, as that’s how they’ve been in all our experiences. Before playing it I always kind of expected Dread to be a TPK game, but we’re finding significant value in it as a slow burn that ends in just one person dead, and no one wanting to be that person.
@Von_Bednar I really like the full-table, round-robin sort of questionnaire technique, definitely a good way to start building the mood at the start of session and build investment in the group.

Thanks for the feedback y’all! I am excited to keep improving my Dread game. I’ve got a lot of scenarios I want to run.


Yeah, I was kinda shocked at how little tower falling there was in the game I played at a convention, which is very interesting. It still felt tense, though!


Just listened to this yesterday, very timely as I’m running Dread House next weekend at home!
(am I alone in feeling anxious for Diana playing horror games?)


Good answers @Mikel_Matthews! I too had this on the backburner for a while and can finally come over here with a few answers…

Tower Falls: I’ve been in games with just one tower fall. I’ve also been in one game where the tower never fell up to the very end and it was also an excellent ending with tons of tension. And then I’ve also played in many games with a bunch of PvP action. Player vs player means LOTS of tower falls. In one game we had 4 or 5 players, and we ended with a ton of PvP pulling in the final hour which resulted in only one person surviving. All of these situations have something to be said for them.

Rebuilding the tower: I think there are ways to take advantage of the time here and tension drop. You could use the tower rebuild to do a little bio break thing (most players will need a break every once in a while… get all that stuff taken care of in one shot, instead of it interrupting something good). Another way to handle it is to do something narratively, like have little flashback scenes or other filler, or setting the scene type fiction while the tower is being build and re-established.

Sheets: I love @Mikel_Matthews’s idea on one part being very similar for all of them and the rest / backside being different. I did something very similar with my hack of David Schirduan’s Only the Food scenario. I wrote about it on my blog (and include all the character sheets there as well): For example, on my sheets I had the top part look like a generic employee record (with Field and Position filled in to denote which character questionnaire this was), and the bottom half is the questions (which are hidden, as the sheets are folded over when I pass them around):

I think stylistically you could make the questionnaires in some way match the theme or tone of the game, if appropriate! Running a fantasy Dread game? Make the sheets like pseudo old-school character sheets from D&D! Put them on copy paper with old-style typograph for games set in the 30’s, etc.

At least one time I showed up and realized I didn’t have the questionnaires. Because I had a rough idea of what the scenario was (Aliens-ish), I just asked them questions on the fly, and they wrote some shit down on index cards. The game still went off without any drama.

I read somewhere from someone sometime ago, that the questionnaires are really half there to give you as the player investment into the character. Even if half of the answers aren’t used by the GM, it still has some of the intended effect. (Saying this so that GMs don’t feel like they need to memorize and use 6-8 answers worth of questions from 4-5 different players!)