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I'm slowly gearing up to run a one-shot of Dread, but I'm finding myself a little wary of the elective pull rules. They feel a little "cheap" to me, and I'm not quite sure how often I should be bringing them up.

Here's the example given in the book:

A trained surgeon [...] may not know that the patient has a rare allergy to the anesthetic being used. In these cases, asking for another pull will most likely alert the player that there is something wrong. [...] In this case, the host may opt not to offer the pull. [...] If the player does ask to make an elective pull, the host can assume the character is investigating for further complications.

The adventure I'm planning on running has one elective pull spelled out. But the question I have is how often should I be adding elective pulls to the complications I create?

Is this something I should be trying to add in as often as possible, to help train the players to make the pulls (and give value to the pulls themselves)?

Or is it something that I should do fairly rarely, to help add impact when something does go horribly wrong?

Clarification: How often should I penalize the players for not taking/not thinking to take an elective pull? I.e. how often should situations like the one quoted above come up?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I would be quick to offer elective pulls often if this is a first time group. As the quote says, suggesting an elective pull alerts the player that something is wrong. Sometimes its a good idea to prevent "gotcha" type effects, but sometimes it makes the game way to easy for the players (or can lead to a very strange death that is rather meaningless). With a more experienced group I wouldn't offer as many as they should be asking for a couple of pulls to feel out a situation.

But be more free with elective pulls early in the game. They will still be getting their feet wet, but as the game goes on each pull should be more and more meaningful (as the chance of death increases exponentially).

As your group gets more experienced with the game they may start asking to make a pull to get more information. If this is the case watch your pacing and don't let them pull too many blocks so early that the tower will inevitably fall sooner than needed (or expected). Although this can be an amusing way to make a very cautious group move more quickly...

I always feel like I am tipping my hand when I ask for an elective pull. Sometimes this is good, sometimes its bad, its going to be up to you to be cognizant of the situation to determine if its a good idea or a bad one.

It sort of comes down to the type of game you are running. If you want it to be a bloodbath then make them pull constantly, offer an elective pull anytime they do something. If you want more of them to make it to the end (or closer to the end) then be less prolific with the pulls and don't offer as many elective ones.

As for how often to include these situations I'd suggest starting with an elective pull that has severe consequences (they learn that not pulling can be really bad) and then have a couple where its not a big deal (miss a sort of important detail, but its not a huge in the end game). Its sort of like trap design in D&D. You want your group to be cautious of a trap, but not have it be so predictable that "oh sure there is definitely a trap here" kind of thing

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