I am thinking of putting together a little campaign based around the Castlevania series of video games for my gaming…

I am thinking of putting together a little campaign based around the Castlevania series of video games for my gaming…

I am thinking of putting together a little campaign based around the Castlevania series of video games for my gaming group and could use your help. Most of my players are diehard fans, so I need to be faithful to the source material, making sure to have all the familiar rooms/locations/monsters. However, I know there are elements of the video games that just wont work in Dungeon World (or any tabletop game), so I’ve come to the Tavern for advice.

Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of experience running dungeon crawls in dungeon world, so I’m not quite sure how to guide them through Castlevania in a way that hits the landmarks while avoiding the minutiae of room-to-room navigation and meticulousness that I normally equate with dungeon travel in the traditional sense. I know a big part of DW is “draw maps, leave blanks”, so my instinct is to go through some of the game maps, and work up a list of the areas found in Castlevania and put together something new yet familiar, but I’m unsure if that’s the right approach or not.

The game is ultimately about navigating through a castle full of monsters and boss fights, getting to Dracula’s Lair and killing him. I could do that, but a constant stream of combat might get boring in a game of Dungeon World. Another element tends to involve a lot of backtracking once you’ve unlocked a new area/located an item or key, but that’s one of those things I’m not sure will work. I’m not opposed to this taking a few sessions to complete, so a move for abstracting castle/dungeon travel might not be the right thing here either, in case anyone was going to suggest that.

What would your personal approach be for prepping a dungeon crawl through Castlevania? What elements of the video games would you be sure to include and what would you leave out?

19 thoughts on “I am thinking of putting together a little campaign based around the Castlevania series of video games for my gaming…”

  1. Check out Brian Holland’s Session Zero zine for ideas on how to convert known material to Dungeon World. I think the key is to plan some iconic “set pieces” but then let your players guide you with their answers to your questions. Allow them to bring strange new elements into the story. Ultimately, they’ll play up the Castlevania elements or go off on some tangent of their own. As long as you follow their lead, you can’t go wrong.

  2. What I do with my zine is boil the absolute essentials down into a series of questions. The features (hazards, flora, etc.) and creatures are usually the most iconic from the source material, made to work with Dungeon World.

  3. I also thought of the Labyrinth move for this. Mark Tygart ‘s adventure, “The Tomb of Atuan”

    plus.google.com – Labyrinth of the Tombs of Atuan Revised Just a little revision to my most mi… uses a variant that gives the players control (via spending hold) of which rooms they want to visit, people (NPCs) they want to meet/encounter, and of course treasure. As to the backtracking thing, I would probably just handle that by using the “Make them backtrack” move more than I normally would. (of course, preparing a few ideas ahead of time for how that might work in the fiction).

  4. Here are both versions of the move:

    Jason Cordova’s Labyrinth Move:

    When you attempt to navigate the labyrinth, describe how you do it, and then roll +STAT.

    *On a 12+, hold 2

    *On a 10+, hold 1.

    *On a 7-9, hold 1, but you also encounter a guardian.

    *On a miss, you encounter a guardian.

    *On a 1-3, also lose all hold.

    If multiple party members navigate in turn, their hold is pooled together for the entire party. To find one of the labyrinth’s treasures, spend 1 hold and describe the room it is found in. You may spend 3 hold at any time to find the entrance to the heart of the labyrinth.

    Here is my version designed specifically to drive the party into encounters with an evolving villain:

    Searching for the Throne Room

    When you search for the Throne Room in the twisted castle ruins, choose a leader and have them roll +WIS.

    On a 10+, describe the terrain you travel through and the party holds 1 (on a 12+, hold 2).

    On a 7-9, the party holds 1, but the GM will introduce a hazard (rickety bridge, treacherous slope, tight squeeze or something nasty only they can dream up).

    On a 6-, the Baron’s minions or random monsters attack the party while they are dealing with one of the hazards.

    At any time, the party may spend 1 hold to come across a cache of valuables or resources. Describe the area containing this cache.

    At any time, the party may spend 1 hold to encounter the Baron (because they are headed in the right direction and can hear the rattling armor of his knights). If the party defeats the Baron five times, they have reached the Throne Room.

  5. You could treat “Vampire Killer” two different ways:

    A: It’s a whip and you ask what it’s called and what makes it unique

    B: It’s called “Vampire Killer” and you ask what type of weapon it is and what makes it unique

    If your players REALLY want it to be THE “Vampire Killer”, they will make it a whip called “Vampire Killer”, but by phrasing the questions that way you leave room for them to make it totally different and unique while still evoking “that whip”

  6. Brian Holland Since you mentioned Vampire Killer, I’m curious if you have any thoughts on including it in the game. It’s a pretty iconic part of the franchise, and I think my players would be upset if it wasn’t in there somewhere, but I’m kind of worried about everyone going “I’m a Belmont!” and wanting to claim it for their own.

    Would you give it custom moves? Special abilities/stats? Thinking back on the games, the weapon itself is more of an heirloom than a magic item. In some games it’s kind of a morningstar, in others it’s a leather whip. The closest thing I can think of as far as it having a power goes would be the upgrade icons you get in some of the earlier games that really just elongates the whip, or maybe CV2 when you obtain extra items (crystal balls, etc) that enable the whip to do increased damage, fire, etc.

    As for my worries of everyone wanting to be a Belmont, my initial plan was to just pre-gen up the four characters from CV3 and make this game either a retelling of the third game, or the further adventures of the group, but after some consideration, I think there would be more player investment if I let them make new characters, but I want them to be connected in some way either directly or through some faction or with those characters, so now I’m thinking I’ll ask some loaded questions that imply connections with the Belmont clan, Alucard, Grant the Pirate, Sypha or something else.

  7. I’ll start with the “I’m Belmont” and work back to Vampire Killer.

    Yes, let them make their own characters. To ensure they’re not playing Belmont, ask questions that leave no doubt that they are NOT Belmont. “How did you react when you heard of Simon’s death (Is it Simon in all of the games)?” You may not want to go the the extreme of killing Simon off, but this is their story, not Simon’s. Link was dead in a Legend of Zelda game I ran about a year ago. They can be taking up Simon’s quest. If you don’t want to kill him, come up with another question that leaves no doubt.

    Once you’ve established that they’re not Belmont, you can use Vampire Killer in different ways. “Was Vampire Killer buried with Simon?” or “What rumors have you heard of Vampire Killer’s disappearance?” Maybe when they reach the end and find Dracula he taunts them with it, and they’ll get it as a reward (and if that’s the end of the campaign it doesn’t even need to be super special, the fact they they recovered Vampire Killer from Dracula may be enough).

    If someone still ends up finding/using Vampire Killer, have something ready for them. It needs to be more special than a regular whip, but doesn’t need to be the UNSTOPPABLE SLAYER OF ALL VAMPIRES or anything like that. Maybe it’s precise so they can use DEX instead of STR to Melee, or they can add STR to the damage roll… IDK.

    Just my thoughts, hope they help a little

  8. Brian Holland This is perfect. Exactly what I needed. I’m now actually thinking of setting the campaign between games in the video game time line. Maybe after Simon or after Trevor’s story is over, but before the next iteration from the Belmont clan rises to power. Either that, or I may make it some alternate dark(er) timeline where whoever was responsible for defeating Dracula failed and these PCs are all from some sort of new clan or faction charged with infiltrating Castlevania to locate the remains of the fallen Belmont with the hope that Vampire Killer might be close by.

  9. Yeah that sounds cool! Something I thought after I posted was that VK has precise AND add STR to damage… Simon used it so effectively because he had a high DEX and STR (maybe…)

  10. Brandon Fincher Maybe they have to kill the vampire Belmont to gain Vampire Killer? Plot twist!

    Also, make sure you include a red gem that someone has to hold while kneeling down in some random area for a few seconds so a whirlwind will come and carry the party somewhere. Or don’t… you know, whatever lol

  11. Scott Selvidge Actually, since starting this thread yesterday I think I’ve decided to go with the concept of an alternate time line where the events of Castlevania 3 don’t unfold like they did in the game.

    Trevor Belmont and company got inside Castlevania, but they failed to defeat Dracula. With the last of the Belmont clan destroyed, Dracula’s reign of terror goes unchecked and the world falls into chaos.

    The PCs are members of a new order of heroes attempting to drive back the darkness. Most of the Belmont legacy has been obliterated by the forces of evil, but a record of their family history is discovered and the heroes have recently learned that the holy relic “Vampire Killer” was said to possess the power to defeat Dracula, so they’ve made a plan to infiltrate Castlevania, locate Vampire Killer, and defeat the Prince of Darkness once and for all.

  12. Brandon Fincher gotcha. I just thought it would be a good plot twist if Dracula made the Belmont he destroyed into Vampire Killer’s undead guardian. Whether a vampire or some other horror. So the party would face its former owner in order to retrieve it.

  13. Scott Selvidge That’s a great idea and I may just use it! A friend who is a diehard fan pointed out that Sypha and Trevor from CV3 go on to get together in the lore and it’s written somewhere that they were an item, so having something awful happen to Sypha would be the ultimate jab at Trevor.

    I had initially considered having Trevor dead and his remains (scattered throughout the castle) are the keys to unlocking different areas of the castle. This is a thing in Castlevania 2 where the Simon goes through collecting bits of Dracula to get through the game. If CV2 is canon for this adventure, having Dracula do that to a Belmont would also be a great jab.

    If I end up going the “Trevor as an undead guardian of Vampire Killer route”, I could justify that by making Sypha a captive of Dracula’s and the only way to insure her safety is if Trevor agrees to guard Vampire Killer for Dracula.

    Decisions, decisions

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