2012-04-14 : Jessica Hammer on Dread

Jessica Hammer's written up her ideas about marketing Dread to non-gamers: Making Horror, Selling Dread. Her analysis lines up really well with Eppy's, Bret's and my observations - I'm nodding along straight through.

We talked about quick to pick up packaged scenarios while we were at the con. Jess's additional idea of stand-up character cards is really great, for Dread in particular, because putting them on the table with the Jenga tower would communicate beautifully about the game. They'd say "this is Jenga, but it isn't just Jenga, but don't worry. It makes sense anyway."

Also, the 90/9/1 split she talks about? I'm going to incorporate that into my thinking starting right the heck now.

1. On 2012-04-14, Vincent said:

Here's a conversation that seems possible.

Congoer: Oh hey! Jenga!

Me: Take a pull!

Congoer: Really?

Me: Yeah, of course, that's what we set it up for. Please do!

Up to this point, this conversation happened a bunch of times at the con. Here's the new part:

Me: Oh but before you pull, choose one of these. [pointing out the character stand ups] This one is trying to get her car started while the zombies are coming. This one is trying to find a hiding place in the basement while the slasher is kicking through the door at the top of the stairs. This one is trying to cross thin ice while ravenous giant mutant eels swirl around below her.

Congoer: Ha ha, I get it! I choose... the zombie one. So I pull now?

Me: Yes you do.


2. On 2012-04-14, Bret said:

Great idea! Making the transition from talking about Jenga to talking about the RPGs was really hard.


3. On 2012-04-15, Amphiprison said:

On 'selling' RPGs to church folks:

Role-playing games: THE DEVIL

Interactive storytelling games: CREATIVE FUN FAMILY TIMES


4. On 2012-04-15, Brand Robins said:

It is true, telling church teens that roleplaying games are the devil is remarkably effective at selling to them.


5. On 2012-04-15, Leftahead said:

FWIW, we have found at the shop that it's way easier to hand-sell Dread House than Dread proper for these reasons.

The idea of a basic set is very sound, I'm much more dubious about the subscription model, unless that's meant just for the 1%.



6. On 2012-04-16, Nate said:

So, to paraphrase, sell it as something like "How to Host a Murder" and then offer the current book as an add-on if they want to make up their own.


7. On 2012-04-16, Vincent said:

People often say "like 'How to Host a Murder'" and I never know what they mean. I see "How to Host a Murder" sets in people's houses - I think there was one in mine until last time we moved - but I've never heard of anyone playing them.

I bet a dollar that, like Monopoly, practically all of them are bought to be given as gifts, not bought to be played.

So, what do you mean?


8. On 2012-04-17, Troy_Costisick said:


It was a big fad in my home town of Columbus, IN.  People would plan these things months in advance and getting an invitation to one of the ritzier homes was a big deal.  People would have the food catered and everything.  In high school, I had a lot of friends who got to go with their parents.  I was quite jealous.  I never got an invite.  I know of at least six that were big to-do's my senior year alone.




9. On 2012-04-17, David Berg said:

My parents bought HTHAM about 20 years ago, and I think they've played it twice.  On both occasions, it was an event where they invited two couples over and everyone dressed up for nice dinner.  Having two couples over for dinner is something my parents do semi-regularly, and HTHAM was a way to make it a special occasion.

There was a little bit of prep involved—figuring out how to coordinate play with dinner, mostly—but the game itself was vary undaunting.  Mostly you just contribute what the prompts tell you you discover.  How much you want to flesh it out and roleplay is up to you, but there's no authoring going on; the plot is fixed.

My mom doesn't enjoy being asked to make stuff up on the spot, but she does like the occasional bit of acting, imagining, or playing pretend.  This game suits her pretty well.

My sister made some customized dinner invitations for the game.  They're quite pretty.

My other experience with the game was my freshman year in college, where my classy senior friend (who also ran D&D for us) summoned a bunch of us to... dress up fancy, eat refined snacks, hang out, and occasionally say something dramatic in character.  Those who had a yearning for class and culture in our extremely casual dorm seemed to really enjoy it, and our host loved presiding over the experience.


10. On 2012-04-17, David Berg said:

As for Jess's points, I assume that the only reason we haven't been selling booklet & stand sets for $10 all along is because it isn't economically feasible.  I'll be curious to hear if Animal Crime says anything about this.


11. On 2012-04-17, Bret said:

I think it's feasible in higher volumes than what we tend to sell.


12. On 2012-04-17, Ben Lehman said:


That's nuts.

Yes, Monopoly sells for $10 when deep discounted on Amazon. But, say, Settlers of Catan (a boxed game any of us would kill for the market share of) is $40.

If you're going to do a boxed set, price yourself at $40. Please. Do it for future you.


13. On 2012-04-18, Jess said:

I don't know pricing, just pedagogy.

I do know, though, that no one is going to spend $40 on a set that you have to own Jenga to use.


14. On 2012-04-18, Roger said:

The more I think about it, the more shocked and awed I become at how cleverly Fiasco does so many of these things.


15. On 2012-04-18, Ben Lehman said:

Oh, yeah, $40 is a good price point for "everything in the box."

For "must own Jenga to use..." actually, you know, don't do that. That just seems like a bad idea, in terms of mass marketing.

Come to think of it, why the heck doesn't Dread come with Jenga-like pieces? Jenga's out of patent...



16. On 2012-04-18, Gregor Hutton said:

Don't make Eppy handcraft the pieces, Ben. You know he will try to.


17. On 2012-04-19, Marshall Burns said:

Heck, it wouldn't be hard. A plank of yellow pine, a tape measure, a saw, some sandpaper, some polyurethane and a brush to apply it (and maybe some black stain if you want), and you're golden.


18. On 2012-04-19, Marshall Burns said:

Hm. What's the standard size of a Jenga piece? My guess would be 3/4" x 3/4" x 2.75". Is that right? I could totally price all the materials tomorrow at work and see just how feasible it is.


19. On 2012-04-19, Marshall Burns said:

Gah, sorry, math fail. I meant 2.25", not 2.75.

Also, sorry for the triple post.


20. On 2012-04-19, PeterBB said:

This ( claims that the proportions need to be 15x5x3, and suggests 1.5 x 2.5 x 7.5 cm. My off-brand tower (bought for Dread!) says it's 3" x 7/8" x 5/8", which is pretty close to what wiki says.


21. On 2012-04-19, Meguey said:

Marshall, if you want to make your own custom Jenga tower, that's great, you should! I love the idea of people hand-making their own towers! Do you want to make 20 of them? How about 200? 2000?


22. On 2012-04-19, Marshall Burns said:

Hm. That standard size is unfortunate; a table saw will be necessary (as opposed to merely useful) and there will be waste. I'll look some crap up, do some calculations, and put a detailed write-up public on my G+ so I can stop derailing.


23. On 2012-04-21, Paul T. said:

I can't imagine a "close-enough" size would be a problem. Why would it?


24. On 2012-04-22, Eppy said:

Everyone who thinks I should be hand-assembly Jenga sets to ship with Dread, raise your hands. Cause I'm thinking of making myself a custom set out of those fingers you got up.


25. On 2012-04-22, Larry said:

Now that would be a super atmospheric Jenga set to demo at the horror convention.


26. On 2012-04-22, Ben Lehman said:

I'm not sure how we got from "provide a full dread set include knock-off-Jenga" to "make it by hand."



27. On 2012-04-22, Josh W said:

to "make it from hands"...


28. On 2012-04-23, Marshall Burns said:

Haha, Eppy, FWIW I didn't think that you *should*, merely that you might want to.


29. On 2012-04-27, Brand Robins said:

I think we have the scheme for the new Dread kickstarter.


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