Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Transylvania Chronicles Redux -- Intermission

So, I’m halfway through reading and trying to “fix” the Transylvania Chronicles and this seems as good a point as any to stop and take stock of everything up to this point.  Honestly, so far, I’m pretty disappointed, both in the Chronicles and my ability to redeem them.  The Chronicles came to me pretty highly rated, and I was excited to try and run a campaign through vampire history.  What I have read and worked on, though, leaves me tired, and frustrated.

What I dislike (so far)
  1. Lack of player agency. Not only in the railroaded “you have to do THIS” which is pretty much expected in any large published module, but in general. There’s little for them to do, or challenges to overcome, in any of the Acts.
  2. Dracula.
  3. The history seems thin. The players are involved in an early act of the Anarch Revolt. Then they do an escort mission. Then they are present for the big Treaty. Then they skip 200 years and avoid the Sabbat War.
  4. Escort missions, in general.
  5. NPC’s. Quite a few of them are interesting, but the players never really get to know any of them in any significant manner. They might meet one in passing in one Act, only to see them again later in a later one, but with no real meaning.
  6. Nothing seems to change. This is partly the fault of the writers of Vampire: The Dark Ages and I can’t blame them too much for this. They went with the most “playable” society for the Dark Ages, but I find it unsatisfying.
  7. Easy and constant travelling. It’s one thing to do this in a modern game of cars, RVs, private planes, and hotels. I always felt that in the Dark Ages travelling more than a couple of hours away from your home should be terrifying, and a major risk.

What I like (so far)
  1. Kupala. I don’t know what’s going on with this thing, but seems like a solid framework for the campaign. I wish more was about the sleeping demon.
  2. The NPC’s.

Shit just got real.
I will still keep going with the project. As we enter the back half and new writers come on board, I’m hoping that things start clicking into place. But, based on what we have so far, I don’t think I’d run Chronicles. Instead, I’d want to run my own. Something more intimate, something concentrated in a single locale. With a smaller cast of characters that the players really get to know, and struggle with and against. I want to span the centuries and see how time changes this one area, and its inhabitants. I want to see how the Black Death affects the characters, how they respond to its challenges. I want things like the Anarch Revolt and the founding of the Camarilla and Sabbat to be personal, and immediately impactful.  What happens when they revolt directly against their own sires? What happens to their friends, allies, and lovers in the chaos of revolution, inquisition, and war? How does time change things, and how to the players respond to it all?

I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull all this off, but I know that so far the Chronicles isn’t what I had hoped it would be, and I don’t know how much I can change before I’m no longer playing it.

Ah well, now that Dracula has been embraced, I’m sure he won’t be popping up again and hijacking the Chronicle from the players any more. So, we have that to look forward too.

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