"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

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.


  1. "Don't be like that guys, maybe the next town we'll visit won't burn to the ground after we hit the local tavern!" -Chaotic optimism

    Maybe you should talk with +Jon Marr about making TA character generator with lifepaths on the other side.

  2. Lol. That would qualify as a Chaotic Optimist alright.

    I was planning on contacting Jon in the not-too-distant future. I would definitely like to see Purple Sorcerer do a TATG character generator.


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