Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday 31 January 2020

Six Brides for a Vampire

A Bride for Dracula: A System neutral, one-shot adventure of bridal contests with bite. is one-shot camp gothic scenario from Mottokrosh Machinations, a publisher best known for Hypertellurians: Fantastic Thrills Through the Ultracosm. Indeed, Hypertellurians: Fantastic Thrills Through the Ultracosm is one for the systems for which A Bride for Dracula is written, although technically, and as its subtitle suggests, the scenario is entirely systemless and its plot and set-up could be run using a panoply of roleplaying games and systems—and genres! For A Bride of Dracula takes place in a time when Dracula still resides at his castle in Transylvania, his greatest victim still loves him, the Nazis lost World War II, and ‘brain in a jar’ technology is available. So there is a technological seam to the scenario alongside its gothic theming, much in keeping with its genre.

A Bride for Dracula takes place on one night at an event hosted by Count Dracula who seeks—or rather lusts after—a new wife. Thus six prospective brides—and thus six players—have come to his castle at his invitation, their suitability to be his wife to be tested. They include Princess Naomi Andress of the Pale Hills—the prospective bride and her mother, Queen Ursula Andress of the Pale Hills; Brigitte, a humble milk maid; Elsa Van Elseling (definitely not Van Helsing Senior’s daughter. Nope.); and the crimson-skinned Yvonna Fackelot, who comes with minions and an almost endless wardrobe. They are joined by John the Carriage Driver, who is just along for the ride. All six characters come with secrets, goals, fears, and a list of the things they are good at and bad at. As written, these characters are detailed enough for players to roleplay should the Game Master want to run A Bride for Dracula as a very rules light, almost freeform scenario.

Alternatively, the players could roleplay members of the entourage for one of the contestants in Dracula’s  bridal competition. The Game Master and the players can easily adapt A Bride for Dracula to the mechanics of their choice. It would work with just about any retroclone for the Old School Renaissance, but especially with the tone of Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay, but also Troika, Into the Odd, or Numenera for example. Given that there are no stats given for any of the characters, it does mean that the Game Master will have some extra preparation to undertake prior to running the scenario. Plus, it is a pity that no stats are given for the characters written for the publisher’s own Hypertellurians: Fantastic Thrills Through the Ultracosm.

Plotwise, A Bride for Dracula is straightforward and linear. The characters start the game together and will experience the same encounters together before play opens up when the contest begins. The Game Master gets to throw in some complications too and much of the fun of the scenario will come as the players and their characters react to these complications and try to out-compete each other in Dracula’s contests. There is certainly enough to keep a playing group of six players occupied for the evening or session.

Physically, A Bride for Dracula is short book, neat and tidy. It is lightly illustrated, but the artwork is decent. The writing is clear and really, the Game Master could grab A Bride for Dracula as is and prepare it in ten minutes. So it really works as a pick-up game when not every player can make a regular session.

Unfortunately, there are couple of elements to A Bride for Dracula which may be problematic. One is the tone, which is camp and gothic, much in the style of the Carry on films—most obviously Carry on Screaming!—and the Hammer Horror series of films, and that tongue in cheek tone, even silliness, is not to everyone’s taste. The other issue is that one of the player characters is an ex-Nazi. Now the scenario does not dwell overly on this or go into further detail, but it does fit in with the campy, gothic tone of the scenario and the exploitation genre of films which inspired the scenario. As is, the character will need to be played with some care, but her very nature means that some players will find her inclusion offensive and not only will they not play her, they may not play the scenario because she is included. The Game Master will need to judge her players as to whether or not to include her, and if not, create a replacement. Arguably, it is a pity that the designer did not include an alternative.

A group need not even have a copy of A Bride for Dracula to play it, since the scenario is available online. Unless the Game Master and her group need to create characters, preparation for A Bride for Dracula is really, really quick, making it perfect to pull out and run at the last minute. There is scope for the Game Master to tinker with it at her heart’s content, but at the heart of A Bride for Dracula: A System neutral, one-shot adventure of bridal contests with bite. is a no fuss, straightforward, even linear scenario which can be run with the minimum of preparation.

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