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    Transylvanian Adventures $12.99
    Average Rating:4.3 / 5
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    Transylvanian Adventures
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    Transylvanian Adventures
    Publisher: Land Of Phantoms
    by Scott H. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 03/05/2021 18:49:11

    It's true that this game is incomplete, and sadly, from the sound of it, it might never be completed. But I'm still giving it 5 stars, because it's got some very brilliant ideas. Out of the hundreds of PDFs I've purchased on DriveThruRPG, this is among the handful or so that I've found to be the most interesting. I want to give praise to some of my favorite parts here. (Page numbers will be listed as: print page number/PDF page number)

    The book starts off with a discussion of themes (p1/8), which I think every campaign setting should include (and tragically few do). The themes here are interesting both to define what this game is about and as a general discussion of gothic horror fiction.

    0-level occupations (p16/23) are an idea shared by most versions of DCC RPG, but this book has an especially interesting interpretation of that idea. Not only does each entry give a short paragraph describing your character's background and occupation, but most of them suggest hooks for why your character might become involved in hunting monsters. Most normal, sane people would not just spontaneously decide to go risk their lives (and their humanity) chasing after monsters, so it's nice to see ideas for how each character might get dragged into that world. Lots of RPGs include lists/tables of character backgrounds, but those almost never include ideas for, "Here's how this character might've gotten dragged into the dangerous world of adventuring." I think it'd be great if more games included that. The 0-level occupations also determine your starting age and wealth level. That will become relevant once you understand the big picture of how "Transylvanian Adventures" campaigns work.

    The chapter on "Adventuring in Transylvania" (p143/150) gives you an overview of that big picture. The default campaign setting is a fictional version of Europe in the 1800s where Dracula and/or Dr. Frankenstein could potentially feature in the campaign. The general population doesn't know monsters and magic exist, or if they do, they basically pretend they don't exist. Most player characters do not start out as peasants -- they're scholars, explorers, adventurers, etc., but prior to the first adventure, they've probably had little-to-no exposure to the world of monsters and the supernatural. Adventures are likely to involve some sort of paranormal investigation that culminates in a dramatic confrontation with a monster or adversary, typically in its lair. The time that passes between adventures could be anywhere from weeks to years, and there's a system you can use for semi-randomly finding out what developments occur in each character's "normal" life during that time (this is where age and wealth level become relevant).

    The page labeled "Character Autopsy" (p152/159) gives a great overview of the (somewhat tragic) trajectory that a monster hunting PC's life is likely to take: Once they get exposed to the supernatural, they find it harder and harder to re-assimilate back into normal life. They keep getting drawn back into the fight against evil, and they kind of end up living two lives: one as a monster slayer (during the actual adventures) and one as a normal person (which can be played out in summary using the "between adventures" mechanics). Eventually, their monster-hunting life may take a toll on their normal human life. If they find themselves unable to maintain normal human relationships, it will be difficult for them to hold on to their humanity over time. I like that there's this risk here where it's not just that the character might die, but that they might end up leading a grim, tragic life if they're not careful to hold onto their relationships or their connection to the "normal" human world. This page promises more information about character arcs in a second book titled "The Hanging Judge's Guide to Transylvania." It's looking like that book probably won't get finished, but I would be very interested to see this content if the author ever posts it somewhere.

    The chapter on "Mysteries, Research, and Investigation" (p169/176) lays out a procedure for running the investigation phase of an adventure. There are some basic actions that a PC can do each day, like research a topic, interview witnesses, search a location for evidence, etc. There are some simple mechanics and random tables you can use to determine the outcome of each of these actions. Each day, after the PCs have taken their actions, there's a chance there might be some sort of event, like the adversary killing another victim. This is sort of like the typical rules for D&D combat, where each player gets a turn to act, and then the bad guys get a turn to act, and then you repeat. But instead of rounds of combat that take approximately 6-to-10 seconds, you have rounds of investigation that take approximately 1 day. Once the characters figure out where the adversary is located, they can go there and try to confront them. Even if you're not running the rules exactly as written, this basic procedure is pretty cool, and you might want to adapt it for your game.

    After that, there's a chapter on "In-Between Adventures" (p201/208), which is also great. First you roll to see how much time passes before your next adventure -- this could be anywhere from a week to a decade. Then you roll to see if anything bad happens to you as a consequence of your involvement in monster hunting -- one of your relationships might be threatened, or you might suffer from traumatic flashbacks, etc. Then you can choose from a couple different general categories of ways that you can spend your time between adventuring, and you roll to see what the result of that is. The system here is a little like the game of Life -- you can find your true love, get married, have kids, buy a house, get richer or poorer, etc. Some people might prefer not to have the PCs' life events randomly determined like this, but if you're up for it, then I think it could be very interesting. I'm the type of person who likes to show up to a D&D session to find out what happens rather than have the story all written out and predetermined beforehand, so for me, it's pretty interesting that you could show up to play and then find out all these random life events that happen to your character.

    Finally, there's a chapter full of handy random tables you can use to create adventures (p227/234). These are always nice to have in a campaign setting.

    There's a lot of other stuff in this book too, but the sections I talked about here are the reason why I recommend buying the book. Even if you don't use any of the actual rules, most of my favorite ideas here are system-neutral and could be run using any rules system.

    I just want to say to the author: Well done! This is a very cool book! I would love to see that additional information on character arcs (mentioned on the "Character Autopsy" page) if you ever decide to post it.

    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Transylvanian Adventures
    Publisher: Land Of Phantoms
    by Alan S. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 10/30/2017 12:59:41

    Not a complete game. This sucker came out in 2013 and was supposed to release two more books to make the darn thing work. The stuff it has for the classes is great stuff and it was fun to try out. But the complete lack of proper GM support is a bit of a joke. I mean if you look in the index for Stake to Stake a vampire, you get rules for a Stake Out (which is totally out of theme for Vamp Hunting at least linguistically.) I mean I have been running games for years so I can cook up a dozen different vampire rules or any other creature of the night so its not that big of a deal. Its just that the book is SO full of stuff you don't need and MISSING things you DO need. If it were a modern D&D book set up. It would be as if the spells of your player's handbook were removed and replaced with part of the GM guide, mostly superfluous parts that are largely for new GMs. And THEN they never published the monster book, or the GM guide. EVER. There is good stuff and I can use it so its not a total waste, but Big let down, and I probably wont pick it out again unless I want to add an odd duck class to another DCC based game. I say save your money and just find something else.

    [2 of 5 Stars!]
    Creator Reply:
    Hi Alan, Thanks for your review. I'm sorry that the second book didn't come to fruition. I'm not going to make excuses other than to say "life comes at you fast". I knew certain life situations might potentially derail the second book so I put everything I could into the first one. That's why it seems like a player's handbook, gm guide amalgam. These are the materials I found that I used the most to run the game. The spells are what wound up killing me. I have offered to pay writers to finish up the draft I began a while ago (given that I no longer have the time to invest in it) but none of that worked out. Your take is fair and I'm sorry to have disappointed you. Again, if time becomes available, I may be able to piece together the second book or try to get what I have in printable PDF form for download. I don't think there would be a three book set out of this. That was an idea that was bandied about briefly. I appreciate you sharing your point of view and expressing it here. Thanks for giving TA a try. I can say the character classes are a lot of fun in DCC. They balance well with the DCC core classes. My old gaming group used them interchangeably with vanilla DCC and it was a lot of fun for us.
    Transylvanian Adventures
    Publisher: Land Of Phantoms
    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.

    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Transylvanian Adventures
    Publisher: Land Of Phantoms
    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

    [4 of 5 Stars!]
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