"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

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yippee Kai Yay, Kemosabe...

This time around we have another class that will be making its appearance in the Transylvanian Grimoire. The Exotic will be joining the Theorist and the Half-Breed in the triumvirate of awesome that will be tentatively delayed until after the release of the Transylvanian Adventures core book.

Without further ado, The Exotic…
The Exotic hails from a remote, exotic region of the world such as India, China, Africa or the Americas. The Exotic exhibits strange, yet effective, fighting styles with seemingly inferior weapons like staves or oddly shaped knives. The Exotic also has special techniques for combat, healing and working with nature that seem magical to people accustomed to the customs and conveniences of Western Europe.

What the Exotic Does

I thought I may have been too coy with initial class summaries so I thought I would give more information on what these classes do and what separates them from the other classes in Transylvanian Adventures.

  • Exotics worship strange deities and have strange customs.
  • Exotics are the martial artists of the classes. They have fighting capabilities similar to a D&D Monk.
  • Exotics can advance to take on more of a "healer" role in the party. Or they can focus on their combat abilities to become more of a kung fu mahstah. Or they can focus more on the wilderness side of things to more closely mirror a scout.
  • Exotics have access to Weapon Trainings that no other class has. By contrast, the Exotic doesn't have easy access to firearms training. Many will find it difficult to use any firearms more sophisticated than a musket.
  • Exotics are hard to hit but don't have many hit points. This makes playing them an exercise in constant movement around the battlefield. If an Exotic gets pinned down, it could be lights out. But if an Exotic can stay mobile, he'll be in much better shape.
  • Exotics are one of three classes that have access to Mighty Deeds, although their Attack Die is not as good as DCC Warriors, DCC Dwarves and the other classes in Transylvanian Adventures.


The Exotic isn't directly inspired from Gothic fiction, although the taciturn, mysterious foreigner does make appearances in the genre. The more direct inspiration comes from Mani of Brotherhood of the Wolf. Or Tonto from the Lone Ranger. Kato of Green Hornet would also be comparable.

Other Uses

If using the Transylvanian Adventures rules and classes outside of the setting or genre, Exotics make good "forest people". Some of their abilities border on magical (even if they aren't spells) and they could easily fill the role of an Elf or a mysterious group of indigenous people with odd nature-based powers and a unique fighting style.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bringing the Hammer Down...

I ran a group through the proposed 0-Level sample adventure in Transylvanian Adventures. I feel the playtest went well, despite a few bumpy spots. The adventure needs some sprucing up but I was surprised at how easily everyone figured out what was going on. I thought the scenario would be too complicated but the sub-plots seemed obvious to the group after they'd explored the cavern in full.
I don't want to give too much away because a lot may change with the adventure before it's done. But I'll hit some High Points, What Went Right and What We Learned below. First off, the cast members…

The Survivors

  • Berthold the Albino Artist: Survived, just barely, by fleeing the cavern in the last room.
  • Clara McMillan the Alcoholic Vacationer: Though spending much of the adventure in a drunken stupor, Clara successfully navigated the cavern and made it out alive.
  • Sybilla the Scout: Used her wits and her shortbow with a bold confidence to emerge from the cavern unscathed. Her low-cut hide dress and shapely figure saved her from one of the Hunchback's crossbow bolts. Cleavage Rule, for the win.
  • Tito the Outlaw: Showed the guile and drive to make it through the caverns.

The Dearly Departed

  • Matilda the Inventor: Died by falling from a tree. She rolled a 1 while attempting to climb it.
  • Willie the Bondsman: Died after being shot in the back of the head by Fergus -- who rolled a 1 while firing a Musket.
  • Jeffery the Local Hero: Shot dead by a Hunchback with a crossbow.
  • Jacques the Unlucky Inspector: Eaten by Frankendog.
  • Mary Lynne McMillan the Student: Also eaten by Frankendog, while clutching a stack of love letters to her bosom. We'll never know who broke that poor girl's heart.
  • Father Grasu Teodorescu the Clergyman: A rather lecherous priest who proved an ample late-night snack for the Frankendogs.
  • Fatima Ganoush the Bellydancer: Yet another life claimed by the surgically enhanced jaws of the Frankendogs.
  • Fergus the Consumptive Pioneer: Shot dead by a Hunchback armed with a crossbow.
  • Sir Hugh Manderly the Explorer: Died after inhaling a vile poison left as a welcoming gift by the cunning Dr. Frankenstein.
  • Ariel the Local Beauty: Her 15 Personality proved quite enticing to the Frankendogs, who mistook her for an appetizer.
  • Albert the Miscreant: Full bellies all around for Dr. Frankenstein's pets as the Frankendogs claimed another meal.
  • Dr. Haephestus the Tinker: When faced with one of Dr. Frankenstein's vile monstrosities (no, not a Frankendog) Dr. Haephestus was overcome with fright and fled. Only to slip, fall and crack his skull open on the cavern floor.

High Points

  • Clara as an Alcoholic made the 0-Level Disadvantages worthwhile all on her own. As you might have noticed, not all characters have the option to take a disadvantage. But those who were capable of doing so were some of the most memorable cast members.
  • The party had a fun time with Dr. Frankenstein's creations. They didn't quite get it at first. And tried several different things… like Turning them. Ultimately they figured it out. But had lost several members beforehand.
  • The party pieced together the sub-plot at the end with no prompting and no additional information on my behalf. That was a good sign to me. The sub-plot is very Hammer Horror inspired and it was nice to see how ingrained that type of fictional arc was in the overall psyche of the group, despite only one player having seen Christopher Lee as Dracula thirty years ago. No one else in the group was familiar with the term "Hammer Horror".
  • The game played like DCC with some reskinning. I thought this was encouraging because it's what I intended. I don't want 2nd edition Ravenloft. I don't want Call of Cthulhu. I want something with the trappings of Gothic Horror that is as much fun to play as DCC and other games inspired by the "world's most famous roleplaying game". In that endeavor, the playtest was a pretty big success. I did notice a few things that need changing and I'll list them below.
  • The Fear rules worked like a charm. Easy. Simple. And even though they only came up once, when they did it was memorable and pretty awesome. See Dr. Haephestus above. I think that should also indicate how TA differs from something like Call of Cthulhu. There aren't Sanity Checks around every corner. Fear can happen. But it isn't going to be a driving component of the game. It'll be sort of like a mental "fumble". When it comes up it's pretty hilarious but it won't be a factor more than a handful of times in any adventure. 
  • Women roll different dice than Men on the Fear table. The effects Fear can have on Men are far more disastrous and embarrassing. Women are more likely to faint and swoon.
  • Three words that made Dr. Frankenstein's creations memorably awesome: Slasher. Flick. Teleportation.

What We Learned

  • The 0-Level characters were too well-armed. It may not look like it with all the "death by Frankendogs". But they were. They killed the Frankendogs fairly easily with their weapons. Each other too. The Frankendogs just kept coming back for more. It's like these guys had never seen Evil Dead. I need to tone down some of the weaponry available to 0-Level characters.
  • I need one more really awesome trap. One of them was really good. It's just a character got a lucky roll. I hate rolling for "Spot" and that's why. I won't be making that mistake again in this adventure. The other traps were okay. One would've taken out about three party-members if it would've gone off (which it didn't). The other killed the Inspector.
  • I need to telegraph the final room sooner in the adventure. It's only about 9 rooms. Pretty linear with one shortcut that bypasses two rooms. Not as flashy as Portal Under the Stars but it had a good atmosphere to it. One more trap and a reorganization of the cavern rooms and I think we'll be good.
  • Four 0-Level characters per player was unwieldy for this game. I think it works with DCC, having a small army of peasants. But it beggars belief that such an odd cadre of  party-members would hazard their way into the wilds of Transylvania. I think Transylvanian Adventures would benefit by having two 0-Level characters per player and by having mechanics in place that would make those 0-Level characters a little more survivable. Something that better models, say, Van Helsing's party at the end of Dracula. A party of 8-10 instead of 16-20. I'm going to work on that.
  • Transylvanian Adventures needs to outline the character story arc better. It isn't the "adventurer conquerer king" sort of story arc that's familiar to fantasy roleplayers. Characters won't be acquiring gold, buying castles and setting up kingdoms. But it isn't the Call of Cthulhu descent into madness, either. There are a few different types of story arcs, each involving a different kind of emergent play. And I don't think any of them are part of the contemporary lexicon of roleplaying. I could also see an episodic type of game getting tiresome after a while, especially with TA. I need to give thought to what the overall end goal of playing a TA character would be. This section might wind up in the Transylvanian Grimoire. But I think it would be good to know and illuminate the idea of "what's next" in broad strokes to give some guidelines to the type of emergent play TA is driving towards.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Both Sides Against Me Since The Day I Was Born

Yes, that's a Cher reference. So be it!

Since Zdanman did such a great job of getting the inside scoop on this class, I thought I'd go ahead and throw it out there. It's one of my favorite classes in the game and I was sad to have to move it to The Transylvanian Grimoire. But this guy, or gal, is probably used to that sort of treatment.

Today I introduce... The Half-Breed!

The Half-Breed was born from an unnatural lineage. The Halfbreed is often sickly but is gifted in the arts of magic and fighting (or aiding) the forces of darkness

Is that really it?

Well, yeah, sorta. The Half-Breed needs little-to-no introduction. It's half bouncing baby and other half dark broody not-quite-sure. It was emo before Emo Phillips. And it's one of the more interesting classes in these books.

Why? Well, let's review what I leaked to Zdanman.

  •  As they progress, each class is capable of "upgrading" their abilities. Such that, they are more divergent from one another over time. Like wildly so.
  • The Half-Breed is distinct because part of its customization can be random. And that's pretty awesome, IMO. A Half-Breed is like a box of chocolates...
  • The Half-Breed could be Dhampir. But the class allows the player to decide what's he's half of. So a Half-Breed could be a anything, really. 
  • The assumption is that the half-breed doesn't know what his heritage is. Over time, the player can make a clear distinction that the character is part-whatever as his abilities emerge. Or maybe even a reincarnation of something or other. It's pretty wide open.
And as a final bit of information, Half-Breeds are the best two-weapon fighters in Transylvanian Adventures

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What We Know So Far...

Over on the TA/TG thread on the Goodman Games' forum, Zdanman asked a lot of good questions and I gave a handful of nebulous answers. It's hard for me to figure out what to say and what not to say because things are still in flux. But I am releasing some information out when I can.

Here's the stuff Zdanman and I discussed last week. I'm collecting it here so that no one has to roll a Spot check.

About the Valiant...

  • The Valiant class models the typical horror protagonist
  • The Valiant doesn't have a lot of combat prowess
  • But the Valiant does have abilities that will give him or her an edge when it's really needed

About Classes in TA/TG...
  • The Classes in TA are different from the Classes in DCC
  • Classes from TA are not designed to be compatible or mixed with Classes from DCC
  • That said, there's nothing stopping a group from trying it. It's just not something I'm playtesting or putting a lot of effort towards.
  • In some cases, a skill bonus (?) for a class in TA could outclass a DCC Thief's skill bonus unless that Thief were very high level (7th+)
  • Classes are "modular". Meaning... customizable. Two Valiants at 6th level could play very differently.

About Transylvanian Adventures in general...
  • There is no magical healing
  • Outside of Transylvania, TA could be used straight for a low-magic fantasy game. Or it can be used in bits and pieces to spice up a game of DCC.
  • TA does not feature feats, powers or any of the types of trappings found in 4e or 3e
More to come soon.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Keeping It Classy...

I've just finished cleaning up the Classes section for Transylvanian Adventures. Due to space concerns and containing the scope of the first book, I'm having to move 3 Classes to the Transylvanian Grimoire. Those three classes are... The Half-Breed, The Exotic and The Theorist.

That means there will only be one "spellcasting" class in the first book -- The Polymath.

But I did add a new character class to TA: The Redeemable. No, he's not a coupon. But that keeps the number of classes introduced in Transylvanian Adventures at 6: The Valiant, The Survivor, The Polymath, The Hunter, The Charger and the new one (The Redeemable).

There are a number of rules tweaks in TA that build off of what's in Dungeon Crawl Classics. I'm looking forward to sharing some of those soon.

But for now, I'll introduce the first class in Transylvanian Adventures... THE VALIANT!

The Valiant is a man or woman whom destiny has thrown into the greater conflict between good and evil. The Valiant can come from any walk of life but all hold in common a lack of martial prowess for which they account with exceptional virtue and bravery. This class is the Everyman or the Girl Next Door who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances.