"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, 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.