"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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Revenants and Ruminations

Following up on Alex Lucard's review of Transylvanian Adventures, I'd like to say, first, thanks. I'm grateful for everyone who is spreading the word and getting information out there on TA. I'm not Hasbro. I'm not Fantasy Flight. I'm not even Frog God Games. So the only thing that's going to keep the undead heart of this game beating are those who appreciate it and have a passion for it.

That said, I'd like to clear up a couple of things in the review. Transylvanian Adventures contains an insane (and insanely deceptive) amount of information. I tried my best to convey it all as clearly as possible. But I'm afraid that sometimes I zigged when I should have zagged.

If I may, I'd like to clarify some points and answer some questions raised in Lucard's review.


1.

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.
The Polymath can cast rituals. And any character can take the general upgrade to cast 0-Level rituals upon acquiring a level. It's pretty widely available.

More on that balanced thing in a bit.


2.

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.

I've run playtests with every variation of the 8 classes and 3 alignments. That's a lot of playtests and a lot of characters. They are balanced. But it may not be immediately obvious.

Listeners of the Spellburn podcast would not be surprised to learn I spent a lot of time crunching numbers on these classes. It was important to me to get them right and more important for them to be fun. I viewed the classes as the players' interface to the game world. And a crappy interface means a crappy game.

But what I didn't do was follow a more recent trend of "math-ing" out. You know, where all the bonuses are listed out in exhausting detail and the game just becomes an exercise in, well, minimizing penalties and maximizing bonuses.

So a lot of those numbers exist under the hood. Let's take the Valiant as an example.

It is true that a neutral Valiant gets a +2 to a save of his choice at 1st level while the other two alignments only get a +1. That's a one time bonus.

But chaotic Valiants get the equivalent of a free weapon upgrade. A Neutral Valiant can start out with a Will save one point higher than his compatriots. But a chaotic Valiant can start out with a flintlock pistol or a short sword. The neutral and lawful Valiants are stuck with a club or handaxe. The chaotic Valiant also has a d6 Luck die. The others have a measly d4.

And are lawful Valiants left out in the cold? Not really. Lawful Valiants recover hit points when they use Luck to help their friends. No other alignment of Valiant has that ability. Well, at least until they spend three upgrades to get there.

But still, it looks like that chaotic Valiant got away with murder, doesn't it? Nope. He didn't. And here's why: the classes in Transylvanian Adventures are balanced on multiple axes. Check out the skills available to Valiants and you'll see they most favor neutral characters (first) and then lawful characters. Chaotic Valiants have the absolute worst skill bonuses of the bunch -- garnering nothing better than a +1 at anything with the other classes landing a +4 or +2 at 1st level.

All the classes are built this way and "balanced" on multiple axes. I didn't make this readily apparent because, well, I wanted you to have fun and not have to worry about it.

Hopefully, this increases the awesomeness factor of Transylvanian Adventures. The balance is in the play. You play it, you'll find it in surprising ways.

3.

0 Level Characters start at a Ruin of 0 and when you hit first level, it drops down to 1.
Just want to point out that 0-levels start with a Ruin of 3. 1st levels start at 1. Except the Half-Breed (and soon-to-be Theorist), they both start at 2.

And when rolling Ruin, the Judge rolls the d6s to establish the DC. This makes it more competitive and fun. I can't tell you how many players have faked me out of a simultaneous roll to get a glimpse at the DC. Not that it helps all that much. Muwahahahaha.

Oh and how I explain Ruin? When a player is dropped to 0 hp I ask: "how many points of Ruin do you have?" I then say, "I'm going to roll that many d6s. You roll a d20, add your Luck bonus, and try to beat me. If you roll higher, you live. If not, you die. Or worse."

That "Or worse" part always gets 'em.

4.

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.
Many of the tables (including the entire Investigations and In-Between Adventures chapters) were supposed to be in The Hanging Judge's Guide. I had to accept that there was a possibility that Transylvanian Adventures would completely fall on its face. And if it did, what would be the bare minimum I would want in the book if there was no chance of a second book? Both the IBA and Investigation sections were so important to how the game is played at the table, I felt I had to include them. It also helps that some of the most fun sessions we'd had revolved around the use of those tables. I also felt the other tables were likewise useful.

The biggest question most players had after a game in playtest or a campaign was "What's next?" I don't think anyone complained about a lack of magic or monsters. In truth, there are so many monster books out there that groups could play Transylvanian Adventures until the end of time without another line written.

I put what I felt was ready and necessary into the first book. That's why it may seem a bit of a mishmash. It is a compilation of various pieces of the first and second books.

As far as pricing, The Hanging Judge's Guide and The Transylvanian Grimoire will be around the same price range. Maybe less. I wouldn't imagine more. Remember, the softcover will be $19.99 for 300 pages. That's not terribly bad. And if you can catch me here in Austin or at a game convention, you can buy a hardcover or softcover off me and spare yourself shipping.

Yes, I can still get you a free PDF if you buy a hardcover from me off the street.



1 comment:

  1. I just love when designers explain their choices and the underlying maths of their game.

    ReplyDelete