James Introcaso is an enthusiastic and gifted podcaster and an ENnie-Award-winning blogger who loves tabletop RPGs. (His August 2015 interview with Ken is here.) He recently sent us a terrified final* testament revealing the horrifying truth behind his encounter with the King of Vampires.
That was my first thought when my good pal, fellow podcaster, and Night’s Black Agents Director Rudy Basso gave our group Dracula Unredacted. We had played through five sessions of NBA already and everyone loved it. Rudy and I knew about The Dracula Dossier and our enthusiasm when describing the product had infected the rest of the group. That enthusiasm turned into a feeling of, “Oh my God, homework!” pretty quickly when we actually saw Dracula Unredacted. Even Rudy, our Director and the dossier’s biggest champ, looked a little worried. “I know it seems like a lot, but I promise this game will be worth the work. Plus you get to read Dracula and that’s a great book!” The session ended and we’d reconvene in two weeks, hopefully with at least one of us having read part of Dracula Unredacted.
After the session, I took a peek at our handout. As I wrapped my mind around the footnotes, added story, and original work in the first chapter, I started making notes about all the leads our group could investigate. It started to become thrilling as I wrote notes like, “Jonathan Harker was a spy,” and “We should visit Bistritz and retrace Harker’s steps.” Even as I read what I knew was the original text of Dracula, I was thinking about what the hidden spy motives of various characters were. The added content and new context had completely changed the entire story! Genius!
As I wrote some notes late into the night, I started to get creeped out by what I was reading. I had silly, fleeting thoughts like, “If Dracula or EDOM knows I am reading this, they’ll take me out right now.” That’s when it hit me. Reading Dracula Unredacted wasn’t homework at all. It was play. Reading it completely immersed me in the game world.
All that being said, Dracula Unredacted is still huge. I didn’t want my friends to miss out on this part of play either, so we devised a plan to make it simple. First, make a shared document (we used Google Docs, but there’s tons of apps out there you can use). If you’re using the PDF version of Dracula Unredacted, that makes things easier because you can copy and paste. If we found a lead, first we’d write down the page number of the lead, copy and paste the text that interested us beneath the page number, and add a quick note about what we thought was important or any question we had. We also color-coded the copied footnotes as they are in the book. For instance:
“Flamingo coming in hit icy downdraft over Carpathians(?), Cpt Spence ordered early jump ahead of storm.” Who is Cpt. Spence? Look into this.
This helped us move through the Dossier quickly, since we could pick up where others had left off.
Of course for for this method to work, everyone needs to know the story of Dracula. Skipping around in Dracula Unredacted can get confusing if you don’t know the source material. Many in our group had never read Dracula and only seen some less-than-faithful film adaptations. Others, like myself, had only read it once long ago. Luckily Dracula (being in the public domain) is a dirt cheap audio book. I got a quality copy for less than $3 through iTunes. [You can also get one with Alan Cumming and Tim Curry on it for $16.95 from Audible on Amazon. –ed.] You can listen to it during your commute, while you fold laundry, while you do the dishes, or while you work out. If you do this, you can skim Dracula Unredacted for added text and footnotes when you’re looking for leads in addition to familiarizing yourself with the story.
The final thing we did was make things easier on our Director. The Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook is just as daunting as Dracula Unredacted. We shared our leads document with Rudy. By going through the leads we had gathered and each marking our favorites by simply writing our name in all caps next to them, our Director had an idea of the people, places, and things we wanted to check out first and he could start crafting his part of the story.
Of course, that’s just the beginning — and just one way to play one of the greatest RPG campaigns ever!