Dread Scenario Meditation: Scooby-Doo

…Because who doesn’t like Scooby-Doo??

This idea started with playing Betrayal at House on the Hill. Terrible, terrible game. I don’t need to explain why. I’ve heard the Legacy version is even worse.

But a Scooby-Doo version? I’ll try it.

In this, the players work together, gathering clues, exploring the map, and revealing secrets. Until they learn too much! One of the players is captured (ala Daphne’s usual role) and the monster reveals itself! The player whose character was captured BECOMES the monster. Now it’s 4 vs. 1 or whatever the case may be.

That’s the nugget that got me to think Scooby-Doo Dread Edition.

So, initially, I started writing this out like it was a finished product with phases and rules-wording and such. But I’ve since scrapped it (or rather, Scrappy’d it). This is just a big ball of potential. Treat it with disdain.

Look for clues!

Alright, so the tension in Scooby-Doo is whether or not they’re going to find the culprit, right? It’s never “Oh no! Is Scooby gonna DIE?!” They don’t do that to the audience. It always looks like the monster will get away before the mystery gang uses a trap and nabs them.

So, should you allow for failure in a Scooby-Doo game? Is there a state where the monster gets away with the money or off to terrorize another town or the culprit simply smirks because the mystery gang doesn’t have enough clues to pin the crime on them?

This is the central tension of the game’s design and one I keep bouncing around with: is this a storygame that follows the genre conventions (mystery gang never loses) or one that has actual tension (ie. a potential fail state)?

If there is a fail state, do you focus on the player skill of finding the clues and actually SOLVING the mystery (eh) or the player skill of being courageous and making pulls from a Jenga tower under pressure (more likely)?

Because if there is a lesson to Scooby-Doo, it’s that you should go after the monsters regardless of how you feel for the sake of justice… or snacks. If food the real motive of justice? Do we just want to eat in peace and monsters disrupt that?

Anyway.

I think most of the genre conventions should come from the questionnaires that Dread is known for.

  • “Shaggy, what’s one skill that you learned as a college drop-out?”
  • “Fred, what’s one fascination that no one has bothered to ask you about?”
  • “Daphne, what very expensive thing did your parents buy you for your recent polo championship victory?”
  • “Velma, what scathing article from “Spooks Magazine” did you help write?”
  • “Scooby, how do you comfort your friends when they’re sad or upset?”

Structure

Each episode has phases: Initial situation, looking for clues, monster attacks at some point, optionally someone gets capture (as referenced in the board game), the gang sets up a trap.

And with this version where the gang can fail, the end may be different from “Now, let’s see who’s under this mask!”

Phase 1: players are pulling from the Jenga tower and looking for clues. They’re talking with folks, making sandwiches, and poking their noses where they shouldn’t be. Every couple of pulls, they find a clue. How many? We’re not there yet.

Details are also being added to the setting with each pull. Is the GM declaring what they find? “You come into the billiard room and see a pool table.” Is the GM giving a Dread-questionnaire prompt but for the room? “What do you see when you enter the billiard room?” Or is the player just declaring with veto power from the GM? “We’re in a “potentially haunted” mansion, right? I going into the billiard room looking for clues.”

Or maybe there’s a stack of shuffled index cards that adds details. Players draw one after each pull. “Bike.” “Extra-springy couch.” “Video camera.” Or it’s a d100 table.

If that’s the third/fourth/fifth pull, that detail becomes a clue.

Okay, so why Dread? Why are we using a Jenga tower? There’s this tension: the more clues, the easier it will be to capture and reveal the monster later on. The gang has more evidence to trap them with.

Phase 2 is triggered by the tower falling. The monster attacks! And just like in the show, the monster capturing a member of the gang seems optional.

Basically, there’s two ways to do this: one, a gang member gets captured and they’re player controls the monster. If the monster escapes, they win! If they’re captured, the gang wins!

Or two: Velma says “I smell a trap coming on!” And the gang then attempt to capture the monster with the clues they have.

As you can tell, I’m undecided.

Phase 3: the trap. Now, players are to use the clues they’ve gathered. Say they found five clues (again, numbers don’t matter). Setting and springing the trap will now be easier than if they only found three clues before the tower collapsed.

How?

Again, undecided. Imagine the trapping is a final Jenga challenge. The total number of pulls needed to trap the monster is reduced by having more clues. Or there’s a timer and having more clues means the players have more time. Only found one clue? You better have FAST hands.

Just like each pull before added details to the setting, each pull here would be a detail in their Rube Golderberg machine. “First, the monster trips kicks into a bowling ball.” Makes a pull. “The bowling ball clatters into a stack of glass cups.” Makes a pull. “Which crashes down and releases a net!” Makes a pull.

Does having a set number of pulls make the game less arbitrary? Yes. Is the game being arbitrary an icky part of Dread? Sorta. Is that just a part of the spooky genre to *think* the problem is over only for the “OH NO!” to strike again?

Maybe.

Misc

Rewards for following genre conventions? Feels very Powered by the Apocalypse. “Get a Scooby Snack when you say jinkies for the first time. Get another one when you say jinkies after you see the monster.”

Making scenarios could be as simple as finding a lesser known episode of the show and just ripping the monster, places, and named folks straight out of there.

If playing online, here’s an option from Technical Grimoire: an online tension minigame. Replaces the Jenga tower, keeping the elements of dexterity and patience. Kinda like the stopwatch game.

Here’s another option that replaces the Jenga tower.

When asked to make a pull, roll a d6. If the number is 4 or higher, you’re mostly okay.

If the number is 3 or lower, roll that many d6s. Add their total to the Tension. If the Tension is at 13 or higher, your character dies.

You can die on the first roll, just like you can die on the first pull, but the chances are slim.

Example:

The current Tension is 4. Kelci is asked by the GM to make a pull. She rolls 1d6 and gets a 2. She rolls 2d6 and gets a 7. The Tension is now 11. If she had rolled a 9 or higher, her character would be dead.

Easy enough.

And OH MY THERE’S A SCOOBY-DOO JENGA TOWER.

Anyway, these are things just rolling around in my head.

Overcoming the Resistance of the day.

Scooby-Dooby-Doo!

2 thoughts on “Dread Scenario Meditation: Scooby-Doo

  1. Have you looked at Brindlewood Bay? I think you might be on track to merging Dread with B Bay. In Brindlewood Bay players gather clues as they go. When they’re ready to solve the mystery, they roll 2d6 because it’s a PBTA game. They take the number of clues gathered minus the mysteries complexity level and add that to their roll. And, there is no prescribed solution to the mystery. The players gather clues as they go, when they’re ready to solve the mystery they just have to account for every clue and how it fits into the mystery, if the GM agrees then they can roll. If they fail the role then they have to go gather more clues and try again with a new solution. Seriously check it out.

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