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.