In Dread, the status of the tower is pretty much the entire game. If it falls over accidentally, it really sort of ruins everything. Obviously the GM stays as far away from it as possible to avoid the worst, but accidents happen. In the case of such an accident, what is a good strategy to salvage the rest of the game?
Why does it ruin everything? If the GM caused the fall then re-stack and pre-pull the same as if a player had.
If at any time a player other than the host causes the collapse of the tower, their character is removed from the game.
This implies to me that if the host causes the collapse then nothing much happens, just re-stack and pre-pull the correct number for the number of remaining players.
Page 50 is clearer:
Don't sit near the tower. Nothing happens in the game if you knock it over, but the story will grind to a violent halt. If it does happen, rebuild the tower and ask for some free pre-pulls -- this is the only time besides the beginning of the game when a tower fall does not mean the removal of a character.
Italic emphasis mine.
The players win! Whatever the dread threat is loses this time, and they don't all die. Woot!
In Dread, pacing is already heavily dependent on chance and other people - they can have 4 collapses in the first hour and game's over. So playing Dread, like any board game, you have to roll with the pacing and be ready to start a new one a lot, so this doesn't necessarily ruin the game by cutting it short. May as well let the players win from time to time!
In practice, I'd choose one of the following two options:
- Restack the tower and pre-pull, as per the rules.
- Restack the tower and don't pre-pull, because it takes time, and hell, let's just get on with it.
But there's another consideration. In Dread, the tower collapsing feels important. When a player collapses the tower, there's been a death.
Thus, when the GM collapses the tower, it feels as though something should happen. Simply rebuilding the tower would be an anti-climax.
So I'd use the collapse to narrate something into the story. Give the PCs a breakthrough against the horror. Give them a moment of hope. Or make the creatures suddenly become much, much worse.
This is often easy when the game's running. You'll suddenly think: well, OK, if the tower's collapsed, that must mean X happens. I'd use the tower collapse to narrate that thing.
I would re-stack and then make as many pulls (being fair about it) as were made on the previous tower. If I was being especially sheepish, I might even leave an extra block or three in, but that might mess with your pacing.