"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, December 23, 2013


  • My bad on the RPGNow/DriveThruRPG hardcover not being available. It's still awaiting review. I've tried contacting them twice thus far with no response. I'm thinking holidays are impacting response/review time.
  • If anyone grabs a hardcover copy via Lulu, email me your preferred RPGNow/DriveThruRPG email address, the date of your order through Lulu, and your order number and I'll send you a coupon for a free PDF through RPGNow/DriveThruRPG.
I should have an update after the new year that will detail what's coming for Transylvanian Adventures in 2014. It's going to be an exciting year.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Just in time for Friday the 13th

Print editions of Transylvanian Adventures are now available.
  • The softcover edition is $19.99 and is only available through Lulu.com.
  • There is a hardcover edition available for $34.99 through Lulu as well.
  • There is also a hardcover version that will be available through RPGNow and DriveThruRPG after they complete their review process. The Print+PDF bundle can be purchased at either of those links.
Those who have bought the PDF and have allowed publishers to send them promotions through email will receive a discount coupon for the RPGNow/DriveThruRPG hardcover in their inbox. If you bought the PDF and don't have that set up, now's a good time to do that to get that discount. You could turn it on tonight or tomorrow and then turn it off after you get the TA discount email.

It's also worth noting that Lulu is running a holiday sale for 10% off (up to 30% if you purchase over $80). They periodically run specials for free shipping too. Of the two, I prefer the printing at Lulu.

I can give free PDF downloads to those who buy a hardcover from Lulu. We'll have to work out some sort of arrangement on that. For now, just email me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Revenants and Ruminations

Following up on Alex Lucard's review of Transylvanian Adventures, I'd like to say, first, thanks. I'm grateful for everyone who is spreading the word and getting information out there on TA. I'm not Hasbro. I'm not Fantasy Flight. I'm not even Frog God Games. So the only thing that's going to keep the undead heart of this game beating are those who appreciate it and have a passion for it.

That said, I'd like to clear up a couple of things in the review. Transylvanian Adventures contains an insane (and insanely deceptive) amount of information. I tried my best to convey it all as clearly as possible. But I'm afraid that sometimes I zigged when I should have zagged.

If I may, I'd like to clarify some points and answer some questions raised in Lucard's review.


Core character classes are interesting, but I wouldn’t say balanced. Depending on your alignment, a class may get more or less abilities. For example, only a Chaotic Exotic (a non-white character, more or less) can cast Level 0 rituals.
The Polymath can cast rituals. And any character can take the general upgrade to cast 0-Level rituals upon acquiring a level. It's pretty widely available.

More on that balanced thing in a bit.


No, there needs to be something to balance out that a Chaotic gets an ability but other alignments don’t. We see this in just about every class. The Neutral Valiant (everyman type of hero) gets +2 to his High Save, while Chaotic and Lawful Valiants only get +1. Why does a Neutral Valiant get a better save? The game doesn’t say, nor make any attempt to justify the imbalance.

I've run playtests with every variation of the 8 classes and 3 alignments. That's a lot of playtests and a lot of characters. They are balanced. But it may not be immediately obvious.

Listeners of the Spellburn podcast would not be surprised to learn I spent a lot of time crunching numbers on these classes. It was important to me to get them right and more important for them to be fun. I viewed the classes as the players' interface to the game world. And a crappy interface means a crappy game.

But what I didn't do was follow a more recent trend of "math-ing" out. You know, where all the bonuses are listed out in exhausting detail and the game just becomes an exercise in, well, minimizing penalties and maximizing bonuses.

So a lot of those numbers exist under the hood. Let's take the Valiant as an example.

It is true that a neutral Valiant gets a +2 to a save of his choice at 1st level while the other two alignments only get a +1. That's a one time bonus.

But chaotic Valiants get the equivalent of a free weapon upgrade. A Neutral Valiant can start out with a Will save one point higher than his compatriots. But a chaotic Valiant can start out with a flintlock pistol or a short sword. The neutral and lawful Valiants are stuck with a club or handaxe. The chaotic Valiant also has a d6 Luck die. The others have a measly d4.

And are lawful Valiants left out in the cold? Not really. Lawful Valiants recover hit points when they use Luck to help their friends. No other alignment of Valiant has that ability. Well, at least until they spend three upgrades to get there.

But still, it looks like that chaotic Valiant got away with murder, doesn't it? Nope. He didn't. And here's why: the classes in Transylvanian Adventures are balanced on multiple axes. Check out the skills available to Valiants and you'll see they most favor neutral characters (first) and then lawful characters. Chaotic Valiants have the absolute worst skill bonuses of the bunch -- garnering nothing better than a +1 at anything with the other classes landing a +4 or +2 at 1st level.

All the classes are built this way and "balanced" on multiple axes. I didn't make this readily apparent because, well, I wanted you to have fun and not have to worry about it.

Hopefully, this increases the awesomeness factor of Transylvanian Adventures. The balance is in the play. You play it, you'll find it in surprising ways.


0 Level Characters start at a Ruin of 0 and when you hit first level, it drops down to 1.
Just want to point out that 0-levels start with a Ruin of 3. 1st levels start at 1. Except the Half-Breed (and soon-to-be Theorist), they both start at 2.

And when rolling Ruin, the Judge rolls the d6s to establish the DC. This makes it more competitive and fun. I can't tell you how many players have faked me out of a simultaneous roll to get a glimpse at the DC. Not that it helps all that much. Muwahahahaha.

Oh and how I explain Ruin? When a player is dropped to 0 hp I ask: "how many points of Ruin do you have?" I then say, "I'm going to roll that many d6s. You roll a d20, add your Luck bonus, and try to beat me. If you roll higher, you live. If not, you die. Or worse."

That "Or worse" part always gets 'em.


Personally, I’d have rather seen some more magic and a few monsters instead of thirty pages of superfluous tables, but at least it’s only thirteen dollars? To me, that’s still a great deal. Unless, of course, the next two books cost like $25-30 for a PDF version. Then I’ll start to get annoyed.
Many of the tables (including the entire Investigations and In-Between Adventures chapters) were supposed to be in The Hanging Judge's Guide. I had to accept that there was a possibility that Transylvanian Adventures would completely fall on its face. And if it did, what would be the bare minimum I would want in the book if there was no chance of a second book? Both the IBA and Investigation sections were so important to how the game is played at the table, I felt I had to include them. It also helps that some of the most fun sessions we'd had revolved around the use of those tables. I also felt the other tables were likewise useful.

The biggest question most players had after a game in playtest or a campaign was "What's next?" I don't think anyone complained about a lack of magic or monsters. In truth, there are so many monster books out there that groups could play Transylvanian Adventures until the end of time without another line written.

I put what I felt was ready and necessary into the first book. That's why it may seem a bit of a mishmash. It is a compilation of various pieces of the first and second books.

As far as pricing, The Hanging Judge's Guide and The Transylvanian Grimoire will be around the same price range. Maybe less. I wouldn't imagine more. Remember, the softcover will be $19.99 for 300 pages. That's not terribly bad. And if you can catch me here in Austin or at a game convention, you can buy a hardcover or softcover off me and spare yourself shipping.

Yes, I can still get you a free PDF if you buy a hardcover from me off the street.

Long time, no update

So here's what's been going on in the world of Transylvanian Adventures of late...

  • Alex Lucard (awesome name, btw) has put up a nice review of TA. I think it's fair and a generous 4 star rating. So that's cool. There are a couple of inaccuracies in there (likely my fault as a writer) that I will try to clear up in a blogpost soon.
As for the print books...
  • I've gone through a couple of rounds of minor edits. Each round takes a while to clear through the approval process. That's the big hurdle at the moment.
  • Bad News: I may have one more edit cycle to go.
As for what's next...
  • You might guess that supporting and finishing up the print-on-demand version of Transylvanian Adventures has absorbed most of my time. That's true. So no new progress has been made on the second book.
  • After the print-on-demand edition is available, I'm going to work on a PDF only cheapo edition. I don't have the street cred at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG to offer it as a free download. But it will be entirely inexpensive, feature only the bare bones of Transylvanian Adventures, and contain no art. It will be a way for people to check it out and see if it's for them.
  • As far as the second and third books are concerned, I'm still formulating the release plan for them. Transylvanian Adventures is doing well but it's not doing well enough, unfortunately. This means I'm going to have to rethink my next steps. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'll have more information towards the end of the year but, from what I've been pondering, it could mean more content is made available in PDF form sooner while the full books themselves take longer to complete. We'll see on that.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tales from the Tomb: Crunch De-Fanged

This week I was on a podcast with the guys from Spellburn. It should be out soon. There was a lot of focus around the new character classes and the rule enhancements in Transylvanian Adventures. Moreover, there were some comments directed at the "crunchiness" of Transylvanian Adventures. Something that surprised me because, frankly, it hadn't translated to play.

And here's why I think that is...

First, the rule enhancements introduce "crunch" of two varieties: situational and optional. Situational crunch covers rules like Ruin, firearms damage, Fear, and damage recovery. These only rear their heads every now and then. Ruin enters play 3 or so times a session when a character is dropped to 0 hit points. Fear, once -- maybe twice or not at all -- at the Judge's discretion. Optional crunch represents rules like the different approach to Luck spends and the bonuses and penalties around the "Mad Libs" section. This is crunch that a group can buy into if they want.

Judges have the same latitude to cut corners, adjust rules, ignore rules, and overall tailor gameplay for their group. Just because a rule is in a book doesn't mean it has to be used. Especially those with "optional" in their title.

Second, things are different in Transylvanian Adventures. And some things are new. That can be hard to grok at first. And I think it gives the impression of an illusory learning curve. Most people -- without having read the book -- figure out Ruin the first or second time they roll it. The alternate Luck spends take a little bit more effort to remember. But after a session or two, I've found that they tend to make sense. Especially for seasoned DCC RPG vets. And, at the end of the day, the Transylvanian Adventures character classes are just that -- level-based character classes. Had the Exotic been named the Monk, the Polymath named the Cleric, the Half-Breed named the Elf, the Valiant named the Bard, the Scoundrel named the Thief, and the Reaver named the Dwarf, I think Transylvanian Adventures would seem less foreign. But, really, that's all that it is. And the analogues between the genre-based classes in Transylvanian Adventures and the role-based classes of other OSR games become fairly clear after a minimal time investment.

In my experience running and playing both extensively, I've found no real difference in crunch between DCC RPG and Transylvanian Adventures. Before running convention games, Michael Curtis and Harley Stroh give a short tutorial on DCC RPG. It runs about 10 minutes or so. Before running a game of Transylvanian Adventures, I give the same sort of talk, covering the same ground with the additional Transylvanian Adventures bits added in.

It still takes about 10 minutes.

Things may have some unfamiliar names. And a couple of rules are turned on their ears. But when the dice are done clattering, Transylvanian Adventures is still very much DCC RPG.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What's the hold up?

Sorry it's taking so long to get the print-on-demand books together. Here's the whys and wherefores...

I'm getting some edits in. I'm taking care of a few of the issues that have been raised over the past month or so. The PDF should be updated around the same time as the POD is made available.

I misunderstood how Lulu handled discounts, coupons, etc. I know I've gotten coupons in the past for specific titles or authors. But, apparently, I can't offer them as a new publisher for some reason. I'm currently in the process of getting POD set up through DriveThruRPG/RPGNow so that those who have the PDF can receive a discount on the hardcover as promised. Canadian folks can contact me directly if they don't want to pay across-the-border shipping costs.

We'll work something out.

The extended kerfluffle at Lulu dovetailed nicely into the need for me to clean up a couple of items. If it wasn't clear, there will be a hardcover version available at Lulu and RPGNow for $34.99. The hardcover will come with a free PDF through RPGNow. Lulu will also have a softcover version for $19.99. That's a deal right there.

Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Busy night

Proof copy of the hardcover and softcover just came in today. Looks good so far...

Doug's art looks amazing, by the way. And yes, that wall in the background is really that color green.

Not sure what's going on with the character sheet but...

I've gotten more than a few heads up regarding the non-printability of the character sheet in the PDF. I'm still unable to track down why the character sheet in the big book doesn't want to play nice yet the same character sheet in The Winter Home looks fine. Score one for Adobe.

I've put together a PDF Character Sheet that I'm hoping will do for now until I can track down the reason for this rascally situation.

Sorry for the craziness. I promised there wouldn't be any Sanity Checks...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

So... What About a Sequel?

It's been just a short while that Transylvanian Adventures has been available as a PDF download and there've been some common questions brought up about its future and what's coming up. I'll try to answer the biggies here...

Print Copies?

The plan is to go print-on-demand as soon as possible. First, through Lulu, so my Canadian pals can get copies without paying ridiculous shipping. Then, through RPGNow. I'm trying to get that process underway this weekend.

For a time, I will be giving those who buy a hardcover at Lulu a free PDF. I only have so many free PDFs I can give out. Fortunately, I'm pretty stingy with them. So there's a good number of them.

Conversely, I will try to give a decent discount for hardcover copies to those who buy the PDF. I'm still working out the details but it should be pretty comparable to the other route as well.

After I get the book up at RPGNow, there will be a print+PDF bundle. Until then, I'll have to do it the hard way. But the hope is that everyone who buys a hardcover gets a PDF free. And, for a limited time, everyone who buys a PDF while the print-on-demand is getting going will get a good discount on a hardcover through Lulu.

What happened to the Grimoire?

About a year ago, it became clear that I would have to split the books up into 3 books -- Transylvanian Adventures, The Hanging Judge's Guide to Transylvania, and The Transylvanian Grimoire.

Transylvanian Adventures includes 8 character classes for DCC RPG, a sample 0-Level funnel, a large number of tables for lots of Hammer-themed fun, a bevy of rule enhancements, and -- well -- general awesomeness. It's 300 pages and it ain't in 34 pt font. There's a whole lot in there. It has one spellcasting class, three rituals, and some guidance on what spells in DCC RPG might work well with Transylvanian Adventures. I'll just say this: I've been playing TATG for years now with nothing but the DCC RPG spells and the bare bones of what will become the Grimoire and I've had a fine time. The Grimoire will be great. But there's a lot of fun to be had with Transylvanian Adventures.

The Hanging Judge's Guide to Transylvania is the next release on the schedule. It will happen sometime next year. The reason it's #2 is because it was mostly written but soon became apparent that Transylvanian Adventures would be way too big a book (and it would take too long to finish properly) if all that content was included. So instead of waiting a whole 'nuther year to release a nearly 600 page book, I opted to release a working and complete Transylvanian Adventures without the items that will be featured in the Judge's Guide. Included in the Judge's Guide is a full hexmap of Transylvania, a few of the more radical rules hacks that were excised from Transylvanian Adventures, factions, adversaries, monsters, and a crazy amount of setting info on Transylvania. This will be a healthy-sized book but it will likely be the smallest of the three. Still easily past the 200 page mark.

The Transylvanian Grimoire is the magic book. It will feature the Theorist class, spells, rituals, potions, patrons, and setting hacks. I'm also writing up monster character classes in the Grimoire. It's the last book because it's the least written. I'll be able to give a better timetable on it when the Judge's Guide is done.

I think it should be apparent that, if the first book does well, the other two will come out sooner. If it doesn't do so well, the other two books are more likely at risk.

Anything else to add?

Once the print-on-demand is good. I'll be working on an artless, cheapo copy of Transylvanian Adventures. It will most likely be free and will be a nod to those who are either too cheap to buy a copy or on-the-fence in making a decision. It will have a subset of the classes in Transylvanian Adventures but will feature the full set of Rules Enhancements. It will not have all of the tables in Transylvanian Adventures. If you want the Mad-Libs, you'll have to buy the real thing. Same with all the adventuring tables and Investigation tables. The cheapo version will have 4-5 classes and the rule enhancements and that's about it. It will only be available as PDF.

As I complete some sections, I'll make portions of The Transylvanian Grimoire available for purchase. These will be things like the Mercurial Magic tables. Patrons. Maybe a setting hack or two. Enough stuff to give people who want to play TATG long-term a boost.

At some point, I'm hoping to revisit The Winter Home and make it available for print-on-demand. That's low on the list. But could bump up higher if a strong demand is there.

Tales from the Tomb: Humble Beginnings?

It's hard to believe but I started working on Transylvanian Adventures back in 2007. The impetus was a series of threads on a number of role-playing game sites debating the value of a Hammer Horror style of game. It was the conversations in these threads that steeled my resolve to undertake what I'd hoped would be the definitive Hammer Horror RPG.

Back in the early days, the biggest thing with which I struggled was finding a system to use as a base for Transylvanian Adventures. I vacillated between Barbarians of Lemuria and Swords and Wizardry, while devouring hours and hours of much-beloved Hammer films and reading page-after-page of Gothic horror. It was a time-warp back to my youth, when a Slurpee and the latest Tomb of Dracula was all I needed to dull the doldrums. In all honesty, it was probably my favorite slice of the early days of Transylvanian Adventures.

As time went on, I began collecting research on Romania and Transylvania, even briefly interviewing people who had lived in Transylvania and grown up in the region. All the while, I was testing out my ideas on the system and systemic changes that would be needed to create a game I would be proud to add to my own collection. It was around this time I decided the game needed levels. Levels, tried and true, encouraged repeated play. And I found the familiar mechanics of saving throws, hit points, and armor class to be just fine -- even preferable.

Shortly thereafter, Joseph Goodman announced his intention to publish Dungeon Crawl Classics and his approach resonated with me. What he was attempting to accomplish with DCC RPG and Appendix N was exactly what I wanted to do with Hammer Horror and Transylvanian Adventures.

Since then, Joseph, the Goodman Games team, and the community over at the Goodman Games forum have been incredibly supportive of the project. They have validated over and over my decision to marry this labor of love to DCC RPG. Thank you all. And especially Joseph for providing the template and the system upon which Transylvanian Adventures is built.

I also need to thank two more people besides Joseph Goodman. The first is Daniel Bishop who signed on to help with the project in any way possible way back before anyone had heard of it. Daniel was the very first artist to work on Transylvanian Adventures. 

Second, I have to recognize the contributions of Doug Kovacs. Getting the opportunity to work with Doug was one of the greatest privileges I've experienced in my time creating Transylvanian Adventures. Doug came in at a time when the project was stuck in neutral. Without Doug, this book would not be here.

He showed Transylvanian Adventures the way home.

Which brings us nicely to the next topic. Transylvanian Adventures is available now for PDF download. It's 300 pages and is on sale for $12.99.

And here is a look at Doug's outstanding cover art. One of my favorite pieces.

Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Update: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

The final draft of Transylvanian Adventures has entered into the approval process. Once Goodman Games and RPGNow give it the okay, it will be available for PDF download. Following that, work will begin on offering a print-on-demand version.

The final PDF comes in right around 300 pages. Price for the PDF is still in question. I have a better handle on how much the POD version will cost. For a limited time, I'll be able to offer a free PDF to those who buy a hardcover POD version. I'll try to offer coupons for those who pick up the PDF early, so that they get a decent discount on the POD version.

I'll have more details soon, including a post where I feature the amazing cover art by Doug Kovacs.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Terrifying Tales of GenCon 2013, Part 2

Following my first GenCon 2013 post, I'm going to recap some highlights from my second (and last) day at GenCon.

The second day I was there, GenCon seemed no less large. It was a bit comical at times because Indianapolis had managed to schedule a biker rally, a music festival, a baseball game, and GenCon all on the same weekend. The foot traffic around the convention center was pretty wild at times, between Cosplayers and Bikers who, for all I know, might've been cos-players themselves.

The people in Indianapolis seemed very friendly and had nothing but nice things to say about the GenCon attendees -- which was nice.

I did my best to help out on the second day. I did a coffee run and helped Doug Kovacs out at his booth. I had a game scheduled in the afternoon but, surprisingly, it was a no-show. But that was okay because Saturday night wound up ending with a bang.

We had a group that evening that ran TATG characters through DCC RPG's Tower Out of Time by Michael Curtis. The group featured Jobe Bittman, Doug Keesler and several others who had shown up for the DCC RPG meetup at Embassy Suites. I had a great time and it seemed like the players did as well.

Some highlights included:

  • Doug Keesler playing a Reaver he named "Rock". At one point, the Exotic in the group had to help Rock lift a door. A string of Monty Python-esque double-entendres ensued involving the name "Rock" and the character needing help getting the door... well... up. The conversation and laughter prompted Joseph Goodman to wonder what exactly was going on, to which Harley Stroh explained that "Scott creates a very accepting space at his table. People just feel okay sharing things like that." Thanks, Harley!
  • Our romp through the Tower involved a Shark (more on him later), flying Nazi monkeys, a dirigible, a werewolf, shapechanging lizard people, and the nefarious Dr. Caligari. Don't ask how all that tied together. I'm still not sure. But one player had requested a "one-on-one fight with a sexy werewolf". Unfortunately, the one-on-one part was difficult as most of the party seemed more interested in fighting the werewolf than shooting down the Nazi blimp from an alternate monkey-infested future that was heading to destroy the village. But it was a fun, if chaotic, combat. The werewolf was a playtest of the Werewolves from the second book.
  • Then... the Shark. Jobe played his Valiant to perfection. Fearless. Brave. Chiseled. And Brawny. Instead of wimping out at the first sign of trouble, the Valiant dove into a moat -- only to find it was home to a pre-historic shark! What does Jobe do? Swim away? Cry for help? Try to beat the shark to the other side? NO. He punches the shark. In. The. Face. And rolls a 20. Once the shark goes belly up, Jobe cuts it open and eats its still-beating, prehistoric heart. It was awesome. A game-defining point of no return, actually. There's a saying nowadays about something "jumping the shark", meaning "the point at which something became very, very bad". I'd like to propose "punching the shark" as the direct opposite -- the point at which something very much started to kick ass. Here's hoping more people "punch the shark" in their games when Transylvanian Adventures is released in October.

As I've said before, this is pretty much how most games of TATG turn out. Shark punching. Shooting down flying monkeys with a tiny monkey machine gun fired with a shark tooth. Genderless, shape-changing lizards inciting lusty soliloquies in the characters. And Ken doll references.

It's all very crazy.

I'd like to think it's some serendipitous alchemy between the character classes, the setting, and the very particular risk-reward system built into TATG. Players do crazy things. Partly out of necessity. Partly because it seems like a good idea at the time.

I've run all sorts of games over the last 30 years. There aren't a whole lot of games that I haven't played or run. So this seems unique to me. It's some old-school sort of madness that rests somewhere between Hammer Horror, Paranoia, Call of Cthulhu, and good old D&D. And I can't recall a game where there hasn't been some sort of memorable moment like those above. And I'm absolutely short-changing the players here. There were far more moments of action, hilarity, and tear-inducing awesomeness. I was just really bad about taking notes.

I'm not saying that TATG can't be played straight, with a Wuthering Heights sort of Gothic drama or whatnot. I've done that. But there's just something about it that punches the shark even when I've been in a group that was really, really serious about being serious. The game reaches a point where the Librarian puts his kids to bed, kisses his wife goodbye, sharpens his wooden stakes, loads up his crossbow, and heads out with his team of Victorian Ghostbusters to kick Dr. Frankenstein in the balls.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Terrifying Tales of GenCon 2013, Part 1

Last weekend I attended GenCon in Indianapolis. It was sort of a last minute decision so I didn't get to go all out with time off or lots of events. Mostly I went to help out where I could, run a few games of Transylvanian Adventures, and generally do what I could to get the word out about this book.

It was pretty much all of my "marketing budget" for all time. As evidenced by the total lack of Transylvanian Adventures movie trailers all over the net.

Cool Stuff

My first impression of GenCon was that it was really big. I had never been before. So it was all new to me. It was altogether exhilarating and overwhelming at the same time. I got to see a lot of neat things people were working on. And we all got to talk shop and compare notes. That was a lot of fun. Some of the more interesting things I got to check out were:

  • This supplement Jim Wampler is making for DCC RPG. It is seriously, awesomely cool. It's kind of a hush-hush thing at the moment. So I won't say much more about it. But it looks legit.
  • A card game called "Shinobi Clans" that was being pitched by a guy named Jurgen. It looked like a lot of fun. I wish I had gotten the chance to play it. It was a big hit at the DCC RPG meetup.
  • Impact Dice's Dice Farm game. The game looked fine and all. But what caught my eye was the fact that $20 got me three d4s, d8s, d10s, d12s, d14s, d16s and six d20s and six d6s. Oh, and three coveted d18s! Holy moly. I'm not a huge fan of the odd dice (d5s and d7s), although the RPS d3s do have a special place in my heart. I have plenty of d30s. Rarely use the d24s. So this bag-o-dice was an unprecedented value in a pouch.
  • I got to see the "I guess it was life-size?" L'loth in the D&D area. That was cool. It was one of those things I'd like to have in a garage or something so the next time a player complains about a failed Sanity Check or something I could put him in the garage with L'loth and turn off the lights. Just to clear up the debate.

People I Met

Thanks to Doug Kovacs and everyone at the Goodman Games booth, I got to meet a lot of people. First  off, I don't think there are nicer group of people than the Goodman Games crew. Harley, Joseph, Michael, Jon, Doug, Dieter and Jobe were all most excellent. That also extends to Rick Hull, Adam from Kickassisstan, Wayne Snyder, and the many, many others who make up the extended family of Goodman Games and DCC RPG. Oh, and another Adam (the guy who wrote Dungeon World) was super-nice as well.

I hope I didn't leave anyone out. It was a pleasure meeting all of you and I hope our paths cross again in the near future.

0-Level Game

On Friday afternoon, I ran a Transylvanian Adventures 0-Level funnel. It played out the way most TATG funnels have. A little more than half of the characters died gruesomely. Most everyone seemed to enjoy it. I've run a bunch of funnels for both DCC RPG and TATG. The experience is very much the same with the exception that players get only two 0-Levels in a TATG funnel. Playtesting has shown that those 0-Levels are moderately more survivable than their DCC RPG counterparts.

One thing I haven't tried is running DCC RPG 0-Levels through the 0-Level funnel in Transylvanian Adventures. I have a feeling the death toll would be memorable.


As with most Transylvanian Adventures games, things got pretty wild. Here's a few highlights...

  • In the first 20 minutes, a character murdered his nemesis (an NPC) by pushing him down a well. The nemesis proceeded to haunt the character for a little while at the start of the adventure.
  • Once again, the hunchback rolled a "1" when attempting to ambush the party. Eventually, he did take one of them out. But if, in the future, you ever need a sniper, don't get a hunchback. Apparently, they are clumsy at range.
  • After a couple of fatalities in the first quarter of the funnel, the party got simultaneously more cautious and more reckless. One of Dr. Frankenstein's experiments got the better of a 0-Level. But then a Local Hero PC decided to go all WWE on it. We also had one electrocution, which did not result in a fatality.
  • Pointless Near-Death Award: Goes to the Riverman. Who blew poisonous dust off a piece of parchment in order to be able to better see what was written on it. The catch? The Riverman couldn't read. 
  • Best For Last Award: One player was playing a Bodyguard whom he had named "Meatpie". Meatpie was nigh-unkillable. Although I do believe he was crushed beneath rubble at some point toward the end of the adventure. In any case, Meatpie had been dropped 3 times in the funnel. TATG features a kind of death mechanic that I'll talk more about in a later blogpost. But suffice to say, he had a very high probability of dying on his fourth close call. Something in the range of "only 5% chance to survive". Unswayed by the odds, Meatpie made an improbable roll and lived to die about 25 minutes later. Sometimes Luck is a lady, sometimes she is a kitten with a ball of yarn. Swept up in the moment, however, Meatpie's player exclaimed "Meatpie Forever!". Which explains why that appears now at the top of this blog. Because that moment was truly awesome.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Paper Hero vs. Transylvanian Bad A** (Level 0)

I'm putting together a series of posts contrasting the characters from Transylvanian Adventures to their corollaries in more recent versions of the World's Most Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game. The hope is to illustrate what makes these characters playable and heroic in their respective games. Some will resonate with what I'm calling "Paper Heroes" -- which are those other characters. Others will find Transylvanian Adventures' approach more appealing.

And while the term "Paper Heroes" is a bit pejorative, it's not my intent to alienate those who find fun in both types of characters. I have played RPGs since 1981. I've played all sorts of characters in all sorts of settings and games. If there's any negativity associated with this blog's characterization of those other heroes, it's of the snarky and harmless variety. I'd throw down in 4e and Pathfinder just as soon as OD&D and DCC RPG. It should be apparent that my preference is for the latter, however. Hopefully, the bias is more engaging than not.

Huzzah! 1d4 Hit Points!

The first installation in the Paper Heroes series is the Zero-Level character, whose chance of survival to 1st Level is roughly 50%. This is perhaps the easiest blog in the series and the most lop-sided because the Paper Hero does not come in a 0-Level variety. The Paper Hero starts out at 1st Level and only 1st Level. He begins life fully formed as a 1st Level whatchamacallit.

What We Know About The Transylvanian Bad A** (0-Level)

For our Transylvanian Bad A**, we'll take one of the pre-gens I used in the 0-Level game I ran at GenCon: The Clergyman. I actually did a pretty good job of rolling up the Clergyman, because he has Strength, Intelligence, and Personality at 15. That was 3d6 down the line and lends proof to the notion that sometimes 3d6 down the line isn't as bad as people remember.

But beyond numbers, what else do we (or can we) know about our Clergyman?

Well, we know he's 25 years old. Middle Class. Likely from Britain. But speaks Romanian. He's Average Height and Wiry. He wears Conventional Clothing and enjoys reading about Supernatural Phenomena. His high Personality grants him Strong Cheekbones and Smoldering Good Looks. For some reason about half of the GenCon male characters had "Smoldering Good Looks". I swear, there are more results on that table. I guess my dice just liked the number 14.

The Clergyman is also Optimistic. Which, because he's Lawful, means he'll always assume the authority with whom he is aligned (in his case The Church) is acting for the greater good. A Neutral character who is Optimistic would have a completely different take on the term. And I'm not sure a Chaotic character can be Optimistic.

The Clergyman also has the Absolute of never backing down, even if it puts the group in danger. And we find out he's pursuing the supernatural because he has "seen something unnatural". The rest of the details are left for the player to fill in during play.

All that took less than half an hour to roll up. If we took an extra 10 minutes, we could roll up some more life information on the Clergyman (which I did). It turns out our Clergyman had about as good a childhood as one could've hoped. He has a younger brother and sister, a childhood buddy whom he has known since he was a small child, and he was very recently wed before accepting a position as a village priest in Transylvania.

I don't recommend rolling up all the supporting information on a 0-Level character. Because roughly half of all 0-Levels perish in the funnel, it becomes lost work. But the option is there if groups enjoy rolling up random people.

What We Know About The Paper Hero

He will have stats that align roughly with 8,10,10,12,14,16.

What The Transylvanian Bad A** Can Do

At first glance, we have cause for concern. Because our Clergyman only has 2 hit points. Youch. And he fights with an Aspergillum. Gah!

Through the forging fires of the 0-Level funnel, we find the Clergyman is tougher than we might think a 0-Level should be. In the GenCon game, he could Turn Unholy and was a defacto leader among the group. Unfortunately, he was ambushed with a crossbow bolt to the chest. There's that 50%. But we'll retcon a bit to continue his story.

The other 0-Levels dove onto the backs of monsters to prevent them from setting off a volcano. They also rescued a village girl. And climbed a sheer cavern wall in pursuit of the adventure's big bad.

In the end, the 0-Levels saved the day. And I was trying hard to kill them all. Really hard. In a future post, I'll explain the conclusions I've reached on the topic of character mortality and how that has influenced Transylvanian Adventures. And also how that often makes Transylvanian Adventures a fairly wild ride. Especially once the players figure it out.

What The Paper Hero Can Do

At this point, not much. Check back next level.


It would be silly, absurd, and pretty uncool for me to force a conclusion on anybody here. There are some players who don't find enjoyment in the 0-Level funnel. I get that. But this is more about showing an A and a B. And showing why A can be fun. It's more about proving out how this Transylvanian Bad A** can be as much fun to play as the Paper Hero. And why.

I guess the major thing that stands out at 0-Level is that Transylvanian Adventures characters are given something to fight for. That and the character mortality bit make the Transylvanian Bad A** a pretty fun character -- even at the lowly 0-level.

More on the character mortality bit in a later blogpost.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Update: So proof-reading... takes... forever...

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I mean, there's a reason I had to split this mammoth into two (and then THREE) books. It's big. Well... maybe not big compared to the World's Largest Dungeon or Starblazer Adventures or even DCC RPG. But... gah!

  • I've finished proof-reading 11 chapters. That's right. 11. There are 4 more to go. These four are much smaller. Consisting mostly of random tables.
  • The first two chapters are through layout. We're about 2/3 of the way through the 3rd chapter. That's the 0-Level chapter, for those keeping score. It's huge. And we're debating presentation at the moment.
  • This week will not feature much progress. I'll be at GenCon. And I have a few materials to get together.
  • Those materials will not include deadtree versions of anything. Which makes me sad. But time and financial constraints conspired to run out the clock on me. Come by for some business cards, though. And I should be prepped to run a ton of games, if called upon.
Not much of an update, I'm afraid. Once I'm done with proof-reading, I have some fun blogposts lined up. I'd look for those week after next or shortly thereafter.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Update: What's Taking So Long?!

Yup. I know. I said layout would start this week. Yeah, well. I was wrong.

Proof-reading is taking longer than expected. I'm right now about halfway through the book. I have two very big chapters to get through. And then 6 other smaller chapters to get through.

The book should go to layout about the same time the Gamma is sent out.

I've had to go back and add some sections. Move a few things around. And rewrite a few parts because I think I was suffering from sleep deprivation when they were first written.

I'm also getting ready for GenCon. And that's its own ball of wax.

News coming out of the batcave this week...

There will be a free version of Transylvanian Adventures. It will contain a subset of the classes in TATG. It will only be available in PDF form. It will not have any art in it. It will have the Sample Adventure and Rule Enhancements. It will not have all the tables in it. It will be (roughly) 40% of the real book, sans art. It will have the map for the Sample Adventure in it, however.

The reasoning behind this is because I first got many of my favorite OSR publications in a "free" format. It did not detract from me buying the final product, however. In fact, I oftentimes was unsure if I wanted the final book until I read through the free version.

I think TATG is awesome. I understand that some people might be on the fence about it. I don't want to eliminate doubt. I want to obliterate doubt.

We're close enough that I think I can post a potential release date. Release for the first book, Transylvanian Adventures, will be sometime around or before October. The express/free version will be made available roughly 6 weeks after the first book is released.

Happy Halloween.

I'll keep everyone posted as to whether I think I can beat that date. But I highly doubt (barring tragedy or misfortune) that TA will get pushed beyond that date.

I'm also working on getting The Winter Home available in deadtree form. Hopefully, the book will be available in that fashion from day one. If you buy a deadtree big book, you get a PDF free. That's how I roll. If you've bought a PDF of The Winter Home and want it in deadtree form, I'll figure out a discount or something once that option is available.

Monday, July 29, 2013


  • 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. 


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


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.

Friday, June 28, 2013

I Am So Grumpy Right Now

So I do something I think will be really, really awesome. And that is, I updated The Winter Home pre-gens to be closer to the characters in the finished book, Transylvanian Adventures. Things are going swimmingly, especially considering I haven't done layout since the heydays of Quark and Pagemaker.

I get the file finished up. Upload it. Click to send all the customers an email saying "Hey, guess what? The pre-gens are now about 12 hundred-thousand percent more awesome and....


Not only is my updated PDF incapable of being downloaded but the product is now "inactive" (again).

Overall, I look and feel like this right now.

I have two support tickets open for DriveThruRPG/RPGNow at the moment. One for the file not really being updated (despite the spiffy email I received saying it was) and the other for the de-activation of The Winter Home.

So far... not loving it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Many Kind Words Over At Halls Of The Nephilim

Thanks to Justin Issac for spreading the word about The Winter Home on his blog, Halls of the Nephilim.

Go over and check it out. I was always a fan of the band, Fields of Nephilim, back in the day. So I was completely jazzed by the name.

Thanks, Justin.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Winter Home Now Available

The wait is over!

Sort of.

An introductory module for Transylvanian Adventures is now available on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. The introductory module is titled The Winter Home. It includes some abridged rule enhancements from Transylvanian Adventures and 5 pre-generated 4th level characters (Valiant, Exotic, Half-Breed, Reaver and Hunter).

It's worth noting that these pre-gens are scaled back a bit and don't feature all the options available to characters in Transylvanian Adventures. Why? Mostly because some class abilities would've required more of the rule enhancements from the book to make sense.

So head on over to the Land of Phantoms online store.

Or go directly to the page for The Winter Home.

The Winter Home is available for $3.99.

And an update...

  • The final chapter needing draft has been completed. Most chapters have been proofed and are headed to layout soon.
  • I was also able to finish up a couple of random tables I'd forgotten about. One for the Investigation chapter and another for the In-Between Adventures chapter. Nobody's perfect and that's doubly true for me. But proofreading saved the day.
  • I'm on my last table for the first book now. Well, it's really a set of tables. They carry no more mechanical weight than the Occupations table but I think they'll make for better characters overall. These tables are, of course, entirely optional. Some groups will love them. Others will ignore them.
  • I'm going to add some more examples, especially for the In-Between Adventures and Investigations chapters. Those are really different. But good different, I think. It's just that they do things that I haven't ever seen a roleplaying game try to do. If a group doesn't care for them, they can fully ignore them as well. But they definitely add an element to a campaign or adventure that is typically overlooked or poorly supported rules-wise.


  • Yes, I'm chatty tonight.
  • For all those who have purchased The Winter Home and those who've received it as a free download from the Free RPG Day promotion, please spread the word (feedback would be awesome too!). If this thing gets off the ground and does anything, it will be because "You Demanded It!" -- as Stan Lee likes to say. The first book is a given. I'm committed to finishing the next two as well. But the quality of those books and the speed with which they are completed rests solely on the success of what has come before. Basically, the better the intro adventure and first book do the easier it will be to find (and make) time to work on books two and three.
  • As promised many moons ago, I'll be doing a chapter by chapter blog series to preview what's coming up in Book One (Transylvanian Adventures). Along those lines, are there any questions or blogposts you all would like to see? Any questions about it? Or things you'd like to know?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Free RPG Day

As mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm working my way through getting the Transylvanian Adventures Introductory Adventure available for download through RPGNow/DriveThruRPG. It's been kinda-sorta-maybe sitting in "Product Approval" now for 24+hours. I don't think it's going to be approved by the time Free RPG Day hits (which would be now).

It's my bad for not anticipating the duration of the product approval process on their end. I've also submitted a support request for some clarification but I would not expect any more information until Monday at the earliest.

So here's the deal-ee-oh, starting at midnight tonight (now for many of you), email me through the blog or PM me (smathis) over on the Goodman Games forums. If you give me an email address, I will send you a promotional coupon to download the Transylvanian Adventures Introductory Adventure for free when it becomes available at RPGNow.

As a bonus, I'll add you to a TATG mailing list -- unless you tell me you don't want to be on a mailing list. I have no idea what I would send to a mailing list and I'm not a hugely promotional type of guy. So whatever I wind up sending (if anything) will be somewhat interesting, no doubt. And likely just a reminder that I'm not dead yet.

This deal is going to last until midnight on Monday, June 17th. After that, no more freebies. The adventure will cost $3.99.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

More Updates

It's been a busy few weeks...


  • I got a chance to head up to Dallas for NTPRG Con. Got to meet Doug Kovacs, Harley Stroh, Paul Wolfe and Michael Curtis among many others. Had a great time.

Quickstart: The Good News

  • It's been through layout. It's been approved. It's good to go. After a couple of minor edits, it will be available for PDF download on Free RPG Day.
  • The finished booklet is 50 pages long.
  • The cover art (shown below) is by Doug Kovacs. And it looks amazing.

Quickstart: The ?! News

  • I'm going to be selling my books through RPGNow/DriveThruRPG. It's the best option I've found thus far and allows people to print-on-demand for hardcopies.
  • I don't quite understand the RPGNow/OneBookshelf approval methods. So I don't know if the book will actually be available for download on Free RPG Day.
  • It appears I can't only have one product and have that product be free. We're not unhappy about the prospect of people actually buying the Quickstart (a lot of work went into it). But I did want to do something worthy for Free RPG Day. By some means, we'll figure out a window whereby people can get the Quickstart for free -- whether that be coupons through RPGNow or what. But when that window is done, it will cost around $4. So pay attention when the announcement goes out. The window will START on Free RPG Day (this Saturday) and will go no longer than one week.

...and then there's that BOOK thing...

  • Surprisingly, I have done nothing on the book while doing NTRPG Con and working on the Quickstart.
  • There is still one chapter that is in draft. The rest are all being proofed. Layout will begin on the finished chapters very soon.
  • Thanks to the encouragement of Doug Kovacs and Harley Stroh, I will be attending Gen Con this year. You'll most likely find me lurking or helping out at the DCC RPG booth. It may not be apparent at first but I'm really good at working conventions -- having worked SXSW and a number of others. So I'll show up, do my thing and he'll wonder how it was ever done without me. Find me at the booth if you want to set up a game of DCC RPG or TATG. I'm signing up a bit late to jump into events myself. But I run a mean pickup game.
Without further ado, here's the cover of the Quickstart (a.k.a. "Introductory Adventure"). If it isn't patently obvious by now, I'm not an expert marketer. So if there's pertinent information I'm overlooking, please comment and I'll try to follow up with a Q&A blog soon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Just Another Update

This has been a crazy, crazy month. To say it's gotten away from me would be an understatement. I won't bore you with the grisly details of life outside the lines of TATG but it's been a doozy of a month.

  • Research and Investigation? Done. The entire chapter has been re-written, simplified and tested out thoroughly. It does what you'd think it would do. I had more grandiose plans for a sub-system of Investigation and such but that blew up in the face of people trying to, you know, play it... so... I settled for a section that promotes highly emergent play with a few guidelines and rule enhancements to help groups out if they need it.
  • In-Between Adventures? Done. This chapter retained its same core. The tables in the chapter have been simplified and the rules for using them have been simplified as well. Rules for "Assets" and "Relationships" have been added. These rules are very simple. Like 1 or 2 pages simple. But they're just enough to get the point across. Characters can (and should) win fortunes, find love, get married, have children, encounter misfortune, and suffer tragedy. In essence, this chapter brings its own "mini-game of life" into TATG and helps to answer the questions of (a) how long has it been since the last adventure, (b) what have the characters been doing in that time and (c) what have the characters' adversaries been doing in that time? On paper and in practice, it helps answer the key question so many asked in early playtests: "So now what?"
  • The How-To chapter? Well, it's got a lot in it. But it's still in draft. Most of it is in some written form at this point. It features some general advice for running a game. And also some specific ideas for campaigns in TATG. The largest section left is the Example of Play, which will be pretty significant.

Geez Dude, Is That All?

No, not really. ;-)

  • Several awesome individuals have sent edits for the TATG Quickstart. Those have all been completed. I'm trying to figure out what to do about a cover, given that I am not going to have time to make one myself. Beyond that, it's ready for layout. I'm hoping to run it at NTRPG-Con.
  • I created two sets of tables that will be included in Transylvanian Adventures. Both sets are related to randomly creating adventures or ideas for adventures with a Hammer Horror theme. They will be featured in a new section titled "Adventuring Tables". There's somewhere between 6-8 tables in total. One group of tables create an entire adventure on the fly. So a Judge could roll up an adventure, then prep it out and run it at the next session. The other is a relatively large table called "Kickoffs" which illustrate a situation that the characters must deal with. It can be used to either generate an opening scene for an open-ended adventure or it can be used in conjunction with an existing adventure. The Kickoffs table may be shortened during edits. But right now it requires a d100 to roll on.
  • I also revisited Rituals. Simplified upgrades. And started working on a few tables that should make 0-Level characters (and the 1st level characters they become) more fun.
  • We've got fonts picked out for layout. And a design template should be completed in the next week or so.

See you all at NTRPG. Once again, thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sneak Peek at the Quickstart Map

  • I'm still going through the chapters of the first book (Transylvanian Adventures). I've hit a couple of snags in the Research/Investigation chapters and I already had a known issue I wanted to resolve with the In-Between Adventures chapter. The purpose of resolving these issues is to provide two optional "mini-games" for groups to play through if they want to blow through these portions of game prep or pre-dungeoneering. They're essentially "emergent play" engines. I should write a blog on what that means. I'm probably working on that for the foreseeable future. I don't expect to be done before the end of the month. When I am done, the alpha/beta groups will get a "Gamma" copy to review, Hulk up and smash the internet to little pieces because they will be irradiated with awesomeness (I hope).
  • I've also been going back through the Quickstart. It's drafted but there are a couple of issues I ran into with mapping it that will require a minor rewrite of a couple of room descriptions. I'm also going back to rewrite the adventure setup. The intent is to give players a feel for what the Research/Investigation system will bring to the table. I should be wrapping this up within a week.
  • I've just (and I mean just) completed the adventure map. I've included a preview image of it below. I've also completed one piece of interior art, have another just beyond sketching and have sketched a cover piece. I'd anticipate those will take a few weeks.
  • One of the alpha/beta group has put me in touch with a playtester who really, really wants to write some adventures for TATG. I'll let him reveal the details when he's ready. But his ideas for adventures sound amazing. Freaking amazing.
  • I've been too busy to do much on the How-To chapter (which still needs drafting). I have been able to flesh out a rough (new) outline, however. Sorry that I won't be finishing the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure tutorial. But that thing went pear-shaped real quick.
  • Around two-thirds of the book is done-done. As in REALLY done. The blockers now have all been listed above -- Research/Investigation improvements, In-Between Adventures improvements, How-To draft.
Thanks to everyone for the patience. This has been a long, hard road. Hopefully, Book 2 goes faster and Book 3 goes even faster. Once I get things drafted and into layout, I'll start doing little blurbs on the chapters and how they've changed (if they have).

Here's the preview of the Quickstart adventure map. It will be for 4-5 2nd Level Transylvanian Adventures characters (which will be included) but it could be run with 4-5 DCC fantasy characters as well. As you can see, there is at least one giant spider, three women in nightgowns and something undead down there at the bottom. It's called "The Winter Home". And I'll find a way to offer it as a free downloadable PDF on Free RPG Day.

Hope you're looking forward to it...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Logo and an Update

  • Transylvanian Adventures has a new logo. The old one from the flyer in DCC was a placeholder. I put that flyer together in about 4 hours, logo, creepy art and all. Didn't have much time to do more with it.
  • I needed a logo and art for the Free RPG Day Quickstart adventure so there it is. I'll also be taking a stab (ha!) at a Land of Phantoms logo too. Land of Phantoms is the publishing imprint I'll be using.
  • Regarding the Quickstart, it's drafted. I need to draw up the map. I've sketched a cover piece and need to drag it kicking and screaming into the line art phase. Beyond that, I'll be doing a few interior pieces as well.
  • The Quickstart has been a great mental exercise for me. In the process of reducing the scope of the rules to just a few pages, I've greatly simplified a number of rule enhancements. In addition, the classes chapter has gotten one further refinement -- each time getting less and less complicated. Right now, Transylvanian Adventures sits comfortably between Dungeon Crawl Classics and Swords & Wizardry on the complexity scale -- meaning it's a simpler game to play than DCC but a bit more complex than S&W. I'm pretty happy about that.
  • The How-To chapter will no longer feature a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure tutorial. I will draft a sample of play instead.
  • The scope and breadth of the changes put the project into another pretty significant rewrite. All this was happening while the Quickstart was being drafted. This means a Gamma version will be on the way in a bit. (Alpha... Beta.... Gamma?)
Without further ado, here's the logo...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Update April 2013

What I've been up to recently. Usually I put these over on the forum but I decided this one was a big enough item to put it on the blog.

Free RPG Day

  • I'm working on the Free RPG Day adventure. It's going to be a doozy. I'll give some more details in a sec. Two of three floors of the adventure are drafted. I have one more to go. I've also sketched out some cover (more like "front page") art and have started working on the map. I intend to make this free "quickstart" adventure a downloadable PDF. It will be available somehow, somewhere... and it will be free.
  • The Free RPG Day adventure will feature some pared-down rules from the first and third TATG books. Specifically, fear, dying, healing up and what crosses do to vampires from the first book and ritual casting from the third book are covered in a very limited fashion. There's an opportunity for the pared-down rules to sneak into the final publication, however, if people feel they rock sufficiently.
  • The Free RPG Day will feature five TATG pre-generated characters -- all first level and likely to die horribly. The classes represented will be the Valiant, Half-Breed, Reaver, Hunter and Exotic. Some of these classes will also be pared down from the book. At most they will be missing one ability or other.
  • This Quickstart absolutely assumes the reader has a copy of the Dungeon Crawl Classics roleplaying game nearby -- as does Transylvanian Adventures. It doesn't explain things like what Luck points do or give you things like Fumble or Crit tables. TATG is a supplement for DCC. You'll need DCC to run the Quickstart or you'll have to improv a few things.

Other Things

  • My work on finishing the book has crawled to a halt because I shifted my focus 100% to Free RPG Day. Those following the forum probably know I overhauled the Dying rules and that prompted a minor revision of the Character Classes. All that was good stuff and it made the game a lot simpler without sacrificing the fun. I'm more interested in a game that's fun than a game I can write on a notecard.
  • At a minimum, I'm trying to get a cover piece and the map completed for the Free RPG Day Quickstart. I think I'll be lucky to get those in. I'll try to do some interior pieces as well but no guarantees. If anyone has some suggestions or art they'd like to include, I'm open to ideas or contributions.
  • I've been busy on the "How To" section of TATG. The final chapter to draft, really. I had intended to make a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style solo outing to go over some of the rule changes in TATG. And I still might finish it. But I'm about 2/3 of the way into it and... well... it's a slog. The adventure is fine. But I'm having some trouble around all the branching the CYOA format is doing. There's a growing chance that solo adventure may not make it into the book. Just a heads up.
  • I'm hoping to be at NTRPG con in Fort Worth, Texas. I'll update with more details once I get a ticket and a room. If I make it, I'm hoping to play lots and I'll also be up for running DCC and TATG.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Got XP!!!

I could go into the whys and wherefores of how all this came about. But the summary is... A long while back, I worked with an awesome group of guys led by Brian Isikoff that included Mark Humphreys and Mike Holmes. We were all working on a second edition of the role-playing game Hero Quest, which eventually would be handed off to Robin Laws.

I was working on genre chapters, some examples of play and actively involved in some of the mechanics discussions back then. After the publisher shifted over to Robin, Mark Humphreys took over the project and took it all the way to completion.

It recently came to my attention that the project was published as Other Worlds.

The two genres that I'd worked on that were adapted into the book are the Horror and Pirates genres. While my text has been heavily edited, there's still some stuff in there that I put my John Hancock to.

First off, kudos to Mark on doing such a great job. The book looks fantastic and he should be really proud of what he accomplished. He hunkered down and made this thing happen. And I got XP for it!!!

Please check it out if you get a chance.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Please Judge This Book By Its Cover

It can't get any more official. So here's the scoop. Doug Kovacs is doing the cover for Transylvanian Adventures and, if I have any say in it, he'll be doing the covers for the other two books as well. Even if I have to go rescue him from a clan of rabid ninjitsu monkeys. Or UNDEAD, rabid ninjitsu monkeys.

Suffice to say, I'd save him from kobolds.

He's awesome and I am humbled and deeply thankful to have him on the team.

Now here's a sketch Doug sent of the cover. It's brilliant. Thank you, Doug.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Drachammer 20K

For those who've been following Transylvanian Adventures, it is probably no surprise that this haphazardly updated blog has been hand-in-hand with the TATG forum over on the Goodman Games website.

About a week ago, I posted that I'd show a glimpse at the TATG character sheet when that forum logged its 20,000th view. Much to my amazement, it eclipsed the 20K mark in no time.

So here is the TATG character sheet, filled out with the details of one of the playtest characters -- H. Meneleus Collins, Esquire -- an 8th level Polymath played by Tony Hogard.

Enjoy! And thanks again for all your support and interest in Transylvanian Adventures. The first book is almost to layout.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Going Back to Where It All Began

A short while ago, I put together a high-level play test of Transylvanian Adventures using the module that started it all. You've probably guessed it already but it was the original adventure for the World's Most Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game. Rhymes with Hassle Gravencroft.

What I Learned

I learned many things about both old-school modules and the game supplement I'd been putting together. Maybe I'll share my old-school observations at some point in the future. But in the interest of brevity, I'd like to stick to what I'd learned about Transylvanian Adventures.

High-level adventuring in Transylvanian Adventures is nothing like high-level adventuring in DCC

Especially at this point in time. Spells and magic aren't the same. They're similar. But very different. Giles (from Buffy) is different from Gandalf who, himself, is different from the typical 10th level DCC Wizard.

Even though all three of those characters fill a similar sort of archetypal Transylvanian Adventures' class (the Polymath). A 10th level Polymath is going to be a lot more like Giles than Gandalf and a lot more like Gandalf than the Wizards you'd see in a high-level game of DCC. In a similar fashion, the DCC Fighter is going to be more deadly than a Transylvanian Adventures Reaver, Survivor or Hunter. But the Transylvanian Adventures characters are going to be hardier, more versatile and more resilient than a DCC Fighter.

In summary, Transylvanian Adventures characters are going to have a longer life expectancy than a DCC character. Transylvanian Adventures characters seem to escape by the skin of their teeth a good deal. And often find themselves in a position to use their wits (as opposed to their Attack bonus). They'll have a tougher time, say, killing a dragon. But they'll be more likely to survive first contact, make it to a library and come back better prepared.

Any sort of cross-pollination with DCC is highly unlikely

Following the above point, it is nearly impossible for me to imagine DCC character classes and Transylvanian Adventures characters existing in the same party. I could see Transylvanian Adventures being used to play a low-magic, sword-and-sorcery style game. But I couldn't see a Valiant, Reaver, Elf, Wizard and Thief going off in search of gold and glory. Not unless the Valiant and Reaver are okay with being outclassed from time-to-time. Especially if the other classes were given the same advantages that make the characters in Transylvanian Adventures so survivable.

In a way, this was liberating. So much of what I'd done was done in the spirit of keeping things on an even keel between DCC and Transylvanian Adventures. When I discovered that all that work was futile, it allowed me to consider Transylvanian Adventures' character classes on their own terms and in relation to themselves. This sort of focus enabled me to make changes that disregarding any sort of power struggle between Transylvanian Adventures and DCC.

The character classes were too complex

Probably the worst observation I made was that players didn't know how to use their characters. And it wasn't getting better. On the whole, a Transylvanian Adventures character would have between 7-9 class features. Worse yet, many of those class features were overly specific and didn't get used. So not only was it overly complex but a good chunk of what was intended to differentiate these classes wasn't seeing the table.

The character sheet was an impediment to fun

On top of all that, I noticed that the character was a mess. In the interest of offering as much information as I could on the character sheet, I came up with a contemporary design that featured boxes, lines and demarcations familiar to most role-players who've played the third or fourth edition of the World's Most Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game. What I observed was that this was too much. Players couldn't find the important information because it was buried beneath items flagging seldom used rules that the players likely did not need to know. I forgot that, in the good old days, if something was really important to me, I'd just write it on the character sheet. Contemporary character sheets are so filled with boxes, lines and formulae that it's often difficult to find a spot to write your party members' names.

What I Did

Some of these realizations were liberating. It meant I didn't need to worry about keeping Transylvanian Adventures' character classes on par with Dungeon Crawl Classics' character classes. In some ways, Transylvanian Adventures' characters are more resilient and certainly more versatile. But DCC characters are more powerful on the whole.

Not having to worry about how a Valiant stacks up to a Dwarf allowed me to make some changes to affect gameplay significantly. Hopefully making things simpler. Considering the games on a scale of complexity where 0 is Risus and 10 is Rolemaster or Aftermath, I'd list Dungeon Crawl Classics in the 7-8 range whereas a game like the old Red Box version of the World's Most Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game is probably in the 3-4 range. As of today, Transylvanian Adventures is solidly in the 5-6 range. It's an imperfect comparison. Highly subjective, of course. But hopefully it gives everyone an idea of where Transylvanian Adventures falls in terms of complexity.

When I observed players struggling with Class Features and experiencing a form of analysis paralysis with their character sheets, I went back to where it all started (for me) with that Red Box set. And here's what I came away with.

Classes need to be good at their one thing and their one thing needs to count

In Red Box, the characters all have their one thing. There isn't much shared among them. They all fill a role in the party based on what they can do. Starting with the Elf, the rest of the classes qualify as hybridizations of the function-based classes introduced in the original version of the game. I went back to the classes and boiled them down to one (at most two) things that they do differently from the rest. So classes that previously contained 7-9 class features, now feature only 2 or 3.

Customization needs a slacker path

Some people will pick up the concept of upgrades intrinsically. Levelling up a Transylvanian Adventures character was never a point of friction. But for newer players, having that option to keep a character to the basics (like the Fighter of yore) is valuable. This allowed me to break out common upgrades into their own thing. If a player doesn't want to explore the depths of what it means to be a Half-Breed, there is now an option to stick to very basic yet useful upgrades that will make that character better to play without adding complexity.

Skills are their own thing

Among those "common upgrades", I threw in skills. The Thief is the classic skill-monkey. There isn't really a Thief in Transylvanian Adventures. But now there can be. All characters are potential skill-monkeys. Skills represent the skill sets detailed in DCC with a few new ones added in to reflect the investigative aspects of Transylvanian Adventures. If a player wants to play a traditional Thief with a Transylvanian Adventures character, there is now a path available to them to do so.

Pugilists need love too

One thing I noted about the Fightery types -- like the Reaver and the Hunter. They didn't get much spotlight at higher levels. Some of their schticks were so specific that they didn't translate well. Stick a Reaver in a room with 20 goblins and that will be one happy player. But that kind of thing doesn't happen frequently enough in Transylvanian Adventures. To add a new dimension to combat, a small set of Combat Options will allow Fightery types (or characters aspiring to be fightery types) to have a few strategic choices during any combat. The refining of the character classes also helped to broaden the value of what features Fightery classes did have. Hopefully, the Reavers, Hunters and Survivors will come to appreciate this.

Magic weapons are rare bordering on non-existent

One of the biggest hindrances was the meta-knowledge that (a) some creatures in this module need a +1 or better weapon to cause damage and (b) no one in this 8th level party has a +1 or better weapon. As part of the "common upgrades", there's a bonus path that allows this issue to be ameliorated. Using the monsters presented in book two of the Transylvanian Adventures series will also help. Very, very few monsters in that book will require a magic weapon to hit.

The character sheet shouldn't hinder play with too much rules info

The new character sheet is way simplified. It features only the information that actual players said they valued on a character sheet. I went over the existing sheets with several players, as well as my own notes on the numbers and sections players referenced the most during play, to design a new character sheet that harkens back to the olden days.

This marks the fourth or fifth time I've rewritten the character classes. This was more of a serious revision than a complete rewrite though. It also marks my fourth attempt at a character sheet, although this is the first character sheet attempted with the idea of showing just what was necessary on the page.