"Oh cool... So you're STILL working on this?" -- A guy at GenCon

"If I see Drah-koo-lah, I will. kick. him. in. the eye!!!" -- My 4 (almost 5) year old daughter. She GETS it!

"Meatpie Forever!" -- A playtester at GenCon 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

Updates...


  • The Winter Home has been updated. I added a Male Valiant and Female Hunter. So now all 5 pre-gens are available in male-female varieties.
  • I've been busy proof-reading and editing the draft. Right now, I have completed 7 chapters. They are awaiting layout. I have either 7 or 8 left to go.
  • As I've edited, I've added a few sections. Most of them try to clear up things that seemed less than clear such as: can a 0-Level clergyman turn unholy?
  • I went back and added a section on Lifepaths. It's not as gonzo as Cyberpunk 2020. And not as detailed, deadly, or focused as Traveller. But it helps distinguish between a character that's 15 and one that's 50. Mostly it addresses the character's circle of friends and loved ones. As well as any good or bad things that may have happened to the character prior to the 0-Level Funnel.
  • I also added a section to the CharGen chapter that should make the history buffs happy.
  • And as a last bit, I went back and detailed what levels in Transylvanian Adventures signify. As well as the typical sort of character arc a TATG character can expect. An example of a character arc would be a DCC Warrior fighting monsters, acquiring a castle, building a following, and becoming a warlord.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Now That's What I Call An Update

Draft is done.

Working on proofreading and getting the Gamma out to the Gamma crew.

Layout should start early next week.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mad, Mad Libs!

The last, hugest piece I've been working on for Transylvanian Adventures was what my wife and I have affectionately called the "Mad-Libs" section of the character sheet. And, as it turns out, that has been the most asked-about section of the character sheet since it was introduced with the updated Winter Home pre-generated characters.

For those who still have not (warning: shameless plugpicked up a copy of the Winter Home Introductory Adventure yet, the Mad-Libs section (titled "My Story" on the character sheet) looks like this...


This section tells a player the pertinent facts about his character, while giving enough information for the player to roleplay that character immediately after reading it. Appearance, motivations, character flaws as well as what makes a character "heroic" are all represented in this section.

All generated through random tables.

It takes about 5 minutes and 4 dice to fill in that block. The tables deliver customized results based on a character's alignment and gender. So a Lawful-Male and a Chaotic-Female would roll on completely different tables. And "altruism" would mean different things to a Lawful character and a Neutral character -- while it wouldn't even be available to a Chaotic character.

It's an enjoyable process. I would compare it to creating a super-hero in the old TSR Classic Marvel Superheroes roleplaying game (a.k.a. FASERIP). You could sit down for an hour or so and make dozens of "mad libs" for characters. And with over 100 absolutes, over 80 principals, 80 appearance traits and over 60 Hobbies, you can get an idea of how many varied options are available for the characters of Transylvanian Adventures.

Here's another example (again from the pre-gens in The Winter Home):


There are also mechanical underpinnings to these items but they aren't heavy-handed. Take hobbies. Charlotte likes reading about ESP and Ulbrecht likes Sculpting. The mechanical underpinning for a Hobby is that it equates to one-half of a DCC RPG Occupation. So whatever bonus you'd give a character for an Occupation in DCC RPG, cut it in half and award it whenever a character can sensibly use a hobby. All the items you see in the "My Story" section have easy-to-remember, Tweet-sized rules like that.

Characters can also have more than one Hobby. Notice how Charlotte has more appearance traits than Ulbrecht? That's because her Personality score is that much higher than his. Everything from Height to Build to Fashion Sense to Absolutes and Hobbies ties back to a character's ability scores. This isn't some tacked-on system that you'll set aside and forget about once the game starts. 

The Character Story section has been designed so that it's useful at the start of a 0-Level Schoolteacher's career and equally useful when that character is a 10th level Valiant.

There's a method to my mad-libs.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Tales from the Tomb: What's The Point?

Oftentimes, someone asks me a variation of the following question:

It sounds like Ravenloft. What's the point? Why not just play Ravenloft?
Once I regain control of my beserker rage, I try my best to illustrate how Transylvanian Adventures is so fundamentally different from every other attempt at a horror RPG I've ever seen. But I always fall a little short.

Every other attempt at a horror-themed roleplaying game follows this kind of approach...

  • Something weird happens
  • You freak out and lose some important bits that means you'll...
  • Freak out more!
  • And then you die...
But despite all best intentions, a competent Judge/GM and the most efficient, tight and infinitely enforceable testicle-vice mechanics, 80% or more of all horror roleplaying games play out like this...

  • Something weird happens
  • You freak out and lose some important bits that means you'll...
  • Go find a shotgun!
  • And then shoot it until it dies...
Transylvanian Adventures follows the examples of video games like Castlevania and the original Castle Ravenloft adventure. And who better than the playtesters to illustrate what a game of Transylvanian Adventures is and can be. 

Here are a few of their exploits...
  • One character, having fired his musket into the eye of a Zombie Velociraptor in a lost world in the Carpathian Mountains, planted his musket in the ground and performed a series of running kicks against the other two Zombie Velociraptors trying to attack him.
  • One character saw a giant spider dragging a woman out of her home. He got a running start, slid up under the spider's legs and discharged two flintlocks into its torso. Killing it before it even realized the characters were there. He was covered in spider guts. But he was a Bad A.
  • One character had drawn a crossbow. But then a zombie jumped on his back. Just as the zombie was about to sink its plague-infested teeth into the character, the character shoves the shooty end of the crossbow in its mouth and blows its head off. The player rolled a "20" on the attack roll. Nuff said.
  • One character stabbed a vampire in the head with a silver dagger. The vampire then threw the character to the ground and pinned him. Unable to use his arms, the character head-butted the dagger further into the vampire's skull -- ultimately killing the vampire.
  • One character was pinned beneath a female vampire. The vampire was about to rip his throat out with her fangs. Another character rushed to his aid and beat the female vampire with a torch, inadvertently setting his comrade on fire and killing him in the process. (One of the only fatalities I've had in a game of TATG in almost two years of playtesting).
One playtester summed it up like this: "It's like you're just barely getting out of there. But somehow you pull through. And then you do it again. And the whole time you're just thinking that ohmigod this is the time I'm going to die. I can't possibly survive this."

That's pretty much how it plays out. To capture the feeling of Transylvanian Adventures with another horror RPG, you'd have to dress all in black and play it by candlelight in the middle of a busy freeway.

The characters in Transylvanian Adventures are not super-heroes. They're mostly average joes who, even at the vaunted 11th level, probably couldn't tie the shoes of a 6th level DCC RPG Wizard or Warrior. But what I've found is that these Average Joes (and Janes) are awfully heroic (in deeds not on paper) and they legitimately kick-ass.

Not because they have a 20 Strength. Or because they have a Draconic Vorpal Blade +80 with 670 Fireball spell charges built in.

TATG characters kick-ass because it's the only option they have. Like that character above whose arms were pinned. Had he not head-butted that dagger, he would be dead. But it wasn't some mechanical mumbo-jumbo that made him head-butt the dagger. It was his desire to live. And even the guy with the torch. He was trying to save his friend so he beat the vampire with the only weapon he had on hand.

And it was all extremely kick-ass. Even the guy whose character burned to death gave it the verdict of "awesome".

THAT'S why Transylvanian Adventures is different. That's why it isn't the same as [insert scary game that came before here]. It is a game that puts characters in an impossible situation, like most horror RPGs. But instead of watching the characters flounder and drown in the bodily fluids of their own weakening mental faculties and meagre incompetence, Transylvanian Adventures sits back and revels in the characters beating the unholy feces out of everything in sight.

As another playtester noted recently, "I really like this game because something really crazy and awesome always happens."

I hope that clarifies things.

More playtest anecdotes to come...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Another Update

It's been an exciting time. The Winter Home has been updated and I'm still almost, kinda getting close to finished with the book. It should be going into layout mid-July -- which is good news. It will have the same sort of look as The Winter Home. I'm not sure about the release date (yet) but I hope soon-ish is good enough. I'll be sure to give plenty of advance notice as it's getting closer.

So what's been going on in TATG the last part of June?

  • OLD NEWS ALERT: I updated The Winter Home. Wouldn't you know it? I found some typos and math errors on the character sheets (as well as a couple of curious omissions in the Equipment list). Expect another update in the not-too-distant future.
  • I'm still trying to block off time to do those last two Examples (In-Between Adventures and Investigation). That's it, that's all, once those are done. I've got some interesting life activity coming up in the near-term so I'm hoping I have enough time to get those examples done this week because...
  • I still need to proofread almost the entire book. There are a few chapters that are a-ok and have been done-done-done for months. But there have been lots of changes here and there. Just today I found a block of text in the Character Classes chapter that was easily one full re-write out of date. Yikes!
  • Once proofread, I'm bundling the Gamma and sending it to the playtest and editing crew. Shortly afterwards, it will be going to layout.
  • Layout is anticipated to take about a month. I'll keep you all updated if that slips. So, timeframe-wise, we're probably looking at mid-to-late August or September. 

Playtests!

I've also had the opportunity to run through some more TATG with the awesome group here in Austin. I had a chance to subject them to the latest rule edits and here's what I found:

  • The new Death/Dying rules appear to be fine. They're a simplification of what was there before (and that was already pretty simple).
  • The changes to Fear saves were very nice. One less chart -- but when someone flubs that save it's sheer gold.
  • The changes to Turn Unholy sucked. In the same spirit of the new Death/Dying rules and the Fear saves, I had simplified the Turn Unholy bits and, well, they were sanitized beyond boring. It also turned out that my math around Turn Unholy (which I had based off the regular DCC RPG spellcheck math) was way off. Fixed and fixed. Caster levels to Turn Unholy have been beefed up and the old, flavorful Turn Unholy Mishaps table has returned from the grave.
I'll have more information on playtests in general, how they're going and what I've learned from them in future blogposts.


Where Do We Go From Here?

Layout is right around the corner. After that, it's tying up loose ends and done. My plan is to increase the marketing blitz while the book is in layout. I plan on putting together a "designer's notes" series of blogposts. As well as an overview of the chapters in the first book and the Character Classes in TATG (specifically how they've changed over the last year).

I hope you all are as excited as I am. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

We're BAAAAA-ACK!


This was the news I was hoping to be able to give sometime today.

The Winter Home is back online. Updated version and all.

Sorry for the mix up.

Now go forth and be awesome.

P.S. Alex Lucard has a great review of The Winter Home over on diehardgamefan.com. It's awesome and please check it out.