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Transylvanian Adventures: The Winter Home
by Paul W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/06/2015 15:16:15

Transylvanian Adventures is my favorite "port" of the traditional DCC RPG rules. This adventure, in particular, does a great job of capturing both the DCC experience and the Hammer Horror milleau.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Transylvanian Adventures: The Winter Home
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Transylvanian Adventures: The Winter Home
by Steven W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/17/2015 11:17:32

As a stand alone, mid-level adventure for DCC or DCC: Transylvanian Adventures, this is an excellent and probably deadly location that could probably use a longer introduction for campaign play. For a one-shot or convention play I'm fine with hand waving all the build up and getting to the meat of the adventure, but if I was using this in a campaign game I'ld like a slower build and the chance for the players to research and piece together some information before plunging to their dooms.

As an introductory adventure for Transylvanian Adventures, I think this is a bit weaker as it focuses heavily on the "horrific encounter area" , and ignores most of the background and societal details that makes Transylvanian Adventures a Victorian / Hammer Horror game and not just another muderhobo dungeon adventures game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Transylvanian Adventures
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/26/2013 07:00:16

Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/11/26/tabletop-review-transylvanian-adventures-dungeon-crawl-classics/

Back in July I reviewed an adventure entitled The Winter Home for the Dungeon Crawl Classics system. This adventure, set in a quasi-homage to 1950/60s Hammer Horror films, was for an upcoming campaign setting known as Transylvanian Adventures. I really enjoyed the adventure and it made me excited for the eventual release of the core product. Now that it’s been in my hands for a few weeks and I have thoroughly devoured it, I have to say you will more than get your money’s worth. After all, it’s 300+ pages for only thirteen dollars. That’s an insanely good deal. Is it perfect? No. There are a few minor strikes against it, as we’ll see throughout the review, but for the most part, this is a wonderful addition to any DCC fan’s collection and it’s arguably my favorite release for the system yet.

When you see the name Transylvanian Adventures, I’m sure your first thought is to think of it as Dungeon Crawl Classics‘s Ravenloft. Well that’s not quite the case. Ravenloft was merely a campaign setting. There were no new classes, races or major rules change. Sure, Ravenloft added three types of checks (fear, terror and powers) and slightly modified some spells, but Transylvanian Adventures does far more than that. In fact, it almost reinvents DCC from the ground up. You have only one race (humans, since it’s set in a quasi-real world). You have entirely new classes for use with this game, but none of the original DCC classes are compatible. You don’t have any spellcasters in this book save for some classes that can read scrolls (the equivalent of mages/clerics comes later in a different release). There are lots of rules changes, some major and some minor, and by the time you are done, what’s here has some resemblance to Dungeon Crawl Classics, but it’s still a very different beast. I’d say a better simile is Transylvanian Adventures is to Dungeon Crawl Classics what Street Fighter: The RPG is to World of Darkness or Know Your Role: The WWF d20 OGL RPG is to Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition. This is neither a bad thing nor a good thing, just a clarification that a DM really has to pay attention to, and keep track of, the myriad changes that occur in a Transylvanian Adventures game. At times I wondered if Land of Phantoms would have been better off just creating their own rules set from scratch rather than trying to modify DCC, as now you have to have two large weighty tomes instead of just one to play a game.

Which brings me to the next disclaimer I have to give about Transylvanian Adventures. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, you’re going to need to buy two large rulebooks in order to play TA. Unfortunately, though, you will still eventually need one or two more books to get the entire rules set. The Hanging Judge’s Guide to Transylvania and The Transylvanian Grimoire will contain monster stats, spells, a new character class than can cast magic and a lot more. Unfortunately, those aren’t out yet, so you’re really kind of sitting on this book (and DCC if you bought it just to play TA) until those come out. This also means you’re going to need to buy another one or two books to actually have Transylvanian Adventures fleshed out enough to play and/or homebrew some adventures for it. That’s a lot of books, a LOT of reading and more importantly, a lot of cash being spent before you can optimize the game. Most RPGs only require a single core rulebook (New World of Darkness and Dungeons & Dragons are notable exceptions though) and so, for gamers on a limited budget, Transylvanian Adventures might not be for you. 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.

So let’s talk about the actual game now that we have the petty concerns out of the way. Transylvanian Adventures has a unique narrative. The author is speaking to us, instead of the usual “in-game” narratives you see with games like Shadows of Esteren or Shadowrun. It also lacks the more professional but lecture style tone you see in most core rule books. Instead, one would call the tone of Transylvanian Adventures conversational. The author cracks jokes, makes puns and can be outright flippant towards his audience. It’s far from the gloom and doom atmosphere you’d expect from such a game, but then, it’s an homage primarily to Hammer Horror, and many of those films were more than willing to take the piss at themselves. The end result is where the book feels like an actual person trying to describe the game’s rules and mechanics to you. This is both bad and good, depending on what you like to personally read. For the most part, I found it a pleasant change of pace.

Transylvanian Adventures describes itself as “Gothic Ass-Kicking Horror.” Of course, it’s set in the late 1800s/early 1900s, so it’s more Victorian, as Gothic Horror actually starts in the mid-1700s, but feel free to play with the time period. You’re the one playing/running the game after all. Influences besides Hammer Horror include M.R. James (which I wholeheartedly approve of), Polidori, Le Fanu, Castlevania video games (primarily “mine!” Whoo!) and the Vampire Hunter D movies, but not the original books by Hideyuki Kikuchi… probably because the author doesn’t read Japanese and the English translations are awful. Still, I approve of all the motifs and inspirations for the game, aside from Babylon 5 and Buffy, but again, we see that these sources are very different from Ravenloft, which more or less plagiarized Shelly, Stoker and some other authors without trying to hide it.

There are many big differences between Transylvanian Adventures and Dungeon Crawl Classics, so we should cover them. First up, the 0 Level characters you start as. DCC advises four characters per player because of the high death rate. TA is a lot kinder to PCs, and so you only really need two 0 Level characters per player at the start. You can’t use any of the previous 0 level classes, like the Cheesemaker in TA, but there are SEVENTY new 0 Level classes to choose from. You can roll on a random table to see what you get or just pick one. Then, when you hit Level One, you can pick from one of eight base classes to advance in for the rest of the game. It’s worth noting that, while DCC only goes up to Level 10, TA goes to 11 (It’s a Spinal Tap reference, but I was hoping it would be a nod towards Working Designs). It’s also worth noting how important turning undead/unholy can be in this game. Some 0 Level classes let you turn, which is very nice. Of course, what if the Level 1-11 class you want doesn’t let you turn? Do you lose that ability? Well, it’s your choice. You can either lose the turn power or you can keep it in exchange for lower two ability scores (which are all the same as regular DCC by 1) and permanently raising your Ruin score (more on what that is below). Depending on your rolls, this might be worth it.

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. This doesn’t make sense to me, as any anthropologist would tell you most shaman/witch doctor like figures tend to be the lynchpin of societies that have them, and thus they’d be more inclined to Lawful. Of course, there’s nothing in return that Lawful or Neutral Exotics get, so why would you give up a huge power? 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. So on and so forth throughout the classes. Basically, the game seems to push you to a very specific alignment per class, and I really don’t like that. If you want alignment restrictions for a character class, you need to make them hard and fast, ala a Paladin or “No Lawful Scoundrels.” Character classes could have used a bit more work before release, and I definitely see this section getting picked apart and/or house ruled like crazy.

Perhaps the biggest change to DCC with this campaign setting is the Ruin score. Ruin is a somewhat flexable attribute that helps a character survive the usually extremely brutal world of DCC. 0 Level Characters start at a Ruin of 0 and when you hit first level, it drops down to 1. Lower is better like old school AD&D Armor Class. Each time a character drops to 0 Hit Points, a point of Ruin is added while a point of stamina is decreased. Now, instead of outright dying horribly ala DCC, you go through a slightly complicated procedure to stay alive. First you roll a number of d6 equal to your ruin score. So if your Ruin is 4 (0 Level Character + 1 for being down to 0 Hit Points), you must roll 4d6. The result you roll is the target you must roll on a Luck check. So in the previous example if you rolled a 7 with your 4d6, you would then need to succeed on a DC of 7 with your Luck roll. If you had rolled a 24 on your Ruin Check, you’d have to make a DC of 24 with your Luck check. So once again, lower is better. If you succeed, you live but are unconscious. If you fail, you die. It’s a little complicated and there are probably ways to streamline it, but I like the idea that you can survive a brush with death. As well, the DM can subtract points from your ruin ala a Numenera GM Incursion. If the DM wants to give a bad guy an advantage on an attack, he can subtract Ruin points from players and for each Ruin point he removes, the antagonist gets a +1 to his move of choice. So don’t feel Ruin is a slippery slope ala Sanity in Call of Cthulhu

Another big change involves healing. There is no magic healing in Transylvanian Adventures, which will make some of you balk at first. After all, DCC is extremely lethal to begin with, so no magic healing just ratchets up the threat of a horrible demise. Thankfully though, TA has lots of new ways to heal naturally. You can take non permanent hit dice damage instead of Hit Point damage for one thing. After each battle you get 1d4-1 Hit Points back. You can also trade in a point of stamina for 1d6 Hit Points + your character level. This can be done as an instant action which is very nice indeed. You also gain Hit Points by having a good night’s sleep and the Heal Others skill (Which everyone seems to take right away for obvious reasons). I really like the new ways to heal and it does balance things out in the long run. It is a bit of a mind shift to get used to the idea of magical healing not being available, but the new ways are pretty useful. I mean, if your players are really unlucky with their rolls, you can always throw an exceptionally easy encounter at them to get them a Hit Point boost (and a tiny bit of XP!)

Transylvanian Adventures comes with an adventure entitled “Starkweather Mountain.” Unlike most rule books that place their complimentary adventure in the back, this adventure is in the middle of the book, which is an odd placement to be sure. Having an adventure in the back makes it much easier to find when you want to use it. Instead you have to hunt for “Starkweather.” The adventure is a very atypical dungeon crawl, especially for DCC which tends to be more about rolling dice and combat rather than storytelling. Not so with “Starkweather” or the previous TA adventure I reviewed in July. Here players have to explore the horrible machinations of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the results of one of his experiments. Here players will kill monsters, evade traps and discover that perhaps humanity is a far greater evil than the sin against nature they will also find within the laboratory walls. It’s a lot of fun and a nice 0 Level adventure to introduce the setting and system with.

After the adventure you have a little bit more content and roughly 100 PAGES OF TABLES Yee cats! Random rolling tables are fun, but no game needs THIS MANY TABLES. Still, they’re optional and clever, so you can definitely make use of them. I just wish the sheer number of tables had been confined to a supplement instead of some core rules like magic and monster stat blocks.

Overall, I really loved Transylvanian Adventures. Sure it’s far from perfect, but my issues with the game are minor and have to do with either the organization/layout of the book, character class balance or the spreading out of rules across three rulebooks instead of one. The rules provided here are solid, the setting is fantastic and you’re getting a veritable truckload of content for a fraction of what you would pay for most RPG books of this girth. It’s definitely my favorite release for DCC so far and with a little fine tuning, I can definitely see this becoming a hit for fans of the system or those looking for a good horror game that feels more like D&D instead of Chill or Call of Cthulhu. Again, thirteen dollars for all you get here is a phenomenal deal and I’m looking forward to the next two planned rulebooks for the system. I’m just glad all of these are digital releases instead of physical, especially if they’re going to be as big as this one.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Transylvanian Adventures
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Transylvanian Adventures
by Noah S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/30/2013 23:58:36

Chock full of great stuff and I am no doubt going to incorporate many things into my campaign soon

That said, I feel like maybe (although I confess I snapped it up ASAP) the thing needs a little more polish. Some layout issues in the tables for character generation and others, a wide variety of tiny typos (mostly missed spaces for some reason). I'm not sure if the character sheet near the end is a final version - it seems like it maybe suffered from some artifacts of the scanning/compression/enlargement/reduction thing - it's grainy and pixelated (this is page 286). I don't remember the sheets in the entry module looking this way and I think they might be hard to use on paper. Still, they are very very cool and better than the original DCC sheets IMHO (also seem like a positive influence from DW/AW)

The artwork is great - kinda Edward Gorey in places - and the ideas and tone are awesome and just the kind of thing I am looking for. There is an influence from Dungeon World, I think, and that's for the best. I have waited very long for this (my ears perked up at the first rumor) and it's good but sell no wine before its time - I'm not sure if I can change my rating with an update, but it's only a number of small things in the layout of the thing that nag. Overall, (and I confess maybe I can wait until the whole has sunk in), I'm impressed with the integration of new ideas, particularly Ruin and the PC classes and all the great random charts that I have come to associate with DCC

Please don't let my comments give you the impression I don't like it. Obviously, since it came out mere hours ago I haven't incorporated all this good stuff into a game, yet and maybe I'm a little hasty or something in my remarks but I hope they are taken in the spirit they are given. Good work overall - a little buffing will make the shiny thing fairly gleam in the dark



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Transylvanian Adventures: The Winter Home
by Noah S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/20/2013 23:24:03

Nicely done! The whole reverberates with Hammer vibes, as promised in the description. Lurid, dangerous, and ethically charged (personally, I'd give the bandit up quick as a wink to stay on the WHOOPS SPOILER).

This is just the kind of work I have come to expect and admire from this group of people, well written, with good flow and path choices that make for a double-whammy. Strange that a main Big Bad is literally within feet of the front door of the thing, but hey, we're hunting dark forces here.

A tantalizing work, and I look forward to the full shebang when it comes. The character sheets are a wonder, and a model of what good ones ought to look like. I think this is just the kind of module my group would play of a wintry eve, and one I would be happy to run for them.

The only criticism I have is that the primary body font (identified as Didot) hurts my eyes - I don't know if this is a rendering issue on my end or what, but it makes the reading of the thing a torrid affair. At 300% zoom it still sort of looks spindly, and although it's a classy font I read it all in one sitting(with a mild headache) and wish I could change it somehow. It does give the whole thing a nice "gaslight" feel, but if I could offer a suggestion to the publishers it would be to go with something with some more weight in the crossbars, and that doesn't get all jaggly at the intended size (maybe this could get fixed with some settings in the render of the .PDF, I don't know). Otherwise, a really nice module and I think the Fear saves merit yoinks-ing into my Barrowmaze campaign, as well as use of the silvered weapons for harming undead (I rarely use this myself since it would end it TPKs in the Barrowmaze, but YMMV of course).

Altogether, beautiful work and the art and cartography is nice, too. I think it's excellent that people take the basic framework of DCC and put these kinds of fresh spins on a thing that is chock full of freshness, already. If you're looking for the new classes, then you may want to wait for the full work, and if you object to semi-historical settings based in Europe, then I think this might be easily switched over to your standard Horror/Fantasy portion of your world.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Transylvanian Adventures: The Winter Home
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Publisher Reply:
Just wanted to note that the font in the Transylvanian Adventures core book was changed from Didot to Adobe Garamond Pro. I'll get around to updating the font for Winter Home once the work from Transylvanian Adventures slows down. Thanks for the feedback. I wanted you to know it had a positive and (hopefully) noticeable impact.
Transylvanian Adventures: The Winter Home
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/01/2013 20:34:58

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/07/01/tabletop-review-transylvanian-adventures-the-winter-home-dungeon-crawl-classics/

Transylvanian Adventures is an upcoming campaign setting for Dungeon Crawl Classics, that is an homage to Hammer horror films from the 60s and 70s, as well as the Ravenloft campaign setting from Dungeons & Dragons. The campaign setting will feature some new rules, new character classes, and will have a slightly different feel from the more fantasy oriented version of DCC. It’s a low fantasy setting where some players will have magic, and there are definitely monsters, but there aren’t any demihumans and technology is more advanced, with the campaign setting occurring in the 19th Century and on an Earth similar to one found in Victorian penned horror. All the things you love about the game will still be intact, though, as Transylvanian Adventures will have a high body count, a lot of hack and slash based dice rolling and the corruption table. This first release for the setting contains some basic rules for Transylvanian Adventures as well as multiple premade characters to let you see what the new character classes will be like. Later in the year, the core rulebook for Transylvanian Adventures, as well as The Hanging Judge’s Guide to Transylvania and The Transylvanian Grimoire will be released, giving us a far more comprehensive look at the setting and system changes, so for now, you’ll have to run this adventure with the premade characters that come with it. That’s not a bad thing, but if you really have players that dislike pregenerated characters, you’ll have to wait to play The Winter Home.

Before we get into the adventure itself, I’d like to talk about the new rules. First up – fear checks. Although fear and horror checks are very familiar to Ravenloft fans, the fear check in Transylvanian Adventures doesn’t have much in common with it except for the name. A fear check in this game causes a player to roll a saving throw, and if it fails, said player loses his turn (frozen with fear) and takes a point of Intelligence damage. Ouch. The next is that TA is far kinder to PCs in terms of death and damage than its source material, Dungeon Crawl Classics. When are character hits 0 Hit Points, they are knocked out and lose a point of both Stamina and Luck. Then you roll a d20. If the result is higher than the character’s Luck, they die. If lower, they’re just hurt and will wake up with 1d4 Hit Points, which is very kind, no matter what system you are looking at. As well, at the end of EVERY encounter, any player who takes damage heals 1d4+1 Hit Points once combat is finished. PCs can also burn a point of Stamina at any time to heal 1D6+4 Hit Points. So there are a lot of great ways to get your Hit Points back that are unique to this system. The VERY abbreviated rules here imply that there is no cleric for Transylvanian Adventures, which is a bit odd to me considering how important faith and religion is to fighting vampires in a lot of Hammer films, but I’m sure the explanation as to why will be forthcoming in the core rule book.

The Winter Home is an adventure designed for four Level 4 characters, which is actually quite high for a DCC release. At the same time, the fact that the adventure is only for four character rather than eight or sixteen is also a very big change from the usual DCC fare. For those unaware, most players usually have two to four PCs EACH due to the crazy high death count in the adventures. To only have four characters was a bit of a culture shock to me, especially from all the Goodman Games, Purple Sorcerer and Purple Duck adventures I’ve reviewed over the past few years. Because of this, the adventure does feel unbalanced with the pre-generated characters, especially since none of the characters cast magic or have magic weapons. As there are several enemies that can only be hurt by magic, it would have been nice to give one of the playable characters that instead of having to find a spell here or there, or the lone magic item in the house already. The method of healing and regaining Hit Points in TA offsets this slightly, but not enough to give a small group a true fighting chance – ESPECIALLY with DCC rules and the sheer number of monsters in this adventure.

The Winter Home is a fun little adventure, and while it is exactly the sort of thing you’d see come out of a British film studio starring Cushing and Lee, it is a very fun adventure, in the same vein as many of the DCC adventures, and sports some fine artwork from Doug Kovacs and S.A. Mathias. The plot of the adventure has villagers traveling from a small village named Strauburg to a long abandoned chateau, reputed to be the home of a vampire. It seems a young flim-flam man has convinced the local Burgomeister’s daughter that he is a great monster hunter. He’s not, and really only wants to fleece the young girl of her money and virginity before moving on to the next town. So off to the estate they go. The PCs are hired (or offer freely) to bring the girl back, especially because of the rumours of the undead there. The good news is you that you really have to worry about spiders more than vampires. The bad news is they are demonic intelligent spiders whose matriarch has zombie creating venom. The worse news is there are still vampires to deal with. The worst news is the place is cursed, and players who dilly-dally will most likely be DEAD BY DAWN. So go ahead and knock yourselves out with this one, as there are many a way for PCs to die horribly. With the sheer number of monsters (far more than I’ve seen in most published DCC adventures – more than two or three adventurers combined in fact) a TPK is very possible.

There are so many memorable encounters from this adventure, I don’t know where to begin. You have the waltzing zombies, the cocooned man, the bloodnymphs, the final battle against an SUV sized spider, an asphyxiating ghost and more. This really is a wonderful adventure, and it not only showcases how to utilize DCC as more than just another fantasy hack and slash system, but it also has me extremely pumped for the eventual release of the full campaign setting. Transylvanian Adventures has so much potential it’s not even funny, and I’m been longing for a nice Ravenloft style horror setting for a fantasy game since the Sword and Sorcery version went kaput. With a price tag of only $3.99, The Winter Home is an amazing bargain any DCC or fantasy horror fan should pick up immediately. I can’t say enough good things about what I’ve seen here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Transylvanian Adventures: The Winter Home
by Joshua L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/28/2013 20:00:31

Could use a bit more of a introduction to the future system. Other than that, its amazing! Im very excited to see what this guy has in store for future releases. He has a great handle on the world he is building. Cant wait for more!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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