“A Bride for Dracula” is a silly, but hopefully fun, system neutral scenario designed to be played in one session. Dracula is looking for a new partner to join him for eternity—though talk of eternity is cheap, as we’ll see. You play the hopeful contestants, and associated characters, traveling to his castle to vie for the prize.
Oct 25th Update: Now also available as PDF, with additional art!
My thanks go to my intrepid playtesters Karen, Heydon, and Fan. We had a marvellous Sunday morning together with an absinthe breakfast before running through the scenario. Please note that I would rate the adventure at PG16, easily adapted for a younger audience by omitting or altering a few scenes.
The scenario starts in medias res, with the characters on their way to the festivities, all together in a carriage. Until the characters arrive at the final venue, the events are quite linear, but this helps get the game and the action going quickly. Describe the characters traveling at high speeds through the looming Carpathian mountains, through dark, oppressing forests, and narrow cliff-hugging paths. Each contestant must bring a gift for Dracula. Tell the players this early on so they have time to think one up.
The author recommends that you keep the descriptions of the scenes, buildings, and weather serious and threathening, but use levity and hyperbole when in comes to the looks and behaviour of people. Explicity point out suspicious things about them. This help hang the comedy on the personas, while keeping the environment threatening.
Here is how the session might go. The characters travel to the venue, via a couple of detours, and encounter grim portents on the road. At the venue they meet Renfield, the master of ceremonies, and the rival contestants. They have a chance to look around, and possibly sabotage their rivals’ chances. Dracula finally arrives. The contest consists of three rounds: dancing, biting, and Q&A. A variety of complications is likely to occur during or between rounds. Finally, Dracula makes a decision. Or a runner.
Encourage players to create characters that are potential brides, or at least have a vested interest in seeing a fellow player’s character win. For a running start, you may also pick from these pre-generated characters and stat them in the system of your choice. Don’t be afraid to give them outlandish powers or items. Use two or three of the characters that didn’t get picked as rival contestants, who arrive separately (except for John).
- Queen Ursula Andress of the Pale Hills. You are the absolute ruler of a sizeable kingdom, an elegant, powerful woman of stature and presence. But even though your power is considerable, you desire more. You are ineligible for the bride contest (Dracula likes them young), but you are here to support your daughter in any way you can.
- Secret: You’re much more into bathing in the blood of female virgins, than men, even Dracula. Still, with him on your arm, your power would definitely be grander. You don’t want to openly compete with your adopted daughter, but if he chose you regardless, she would surely understand that you couldn’t say no.
- Goal: Win the heart of Dracula, contest or not. Or blackmail him.
- Fear: Lack of hygiene.
- Good at: Beguiling, deducing.
- Bad at: Crafting.
- Princess Naomi Andress of the Pale Hills. You are the adopted daughter of Queen Ursula, and in prime marrying age. Olive-skinned, with shiny, long hair, and smart to boot, you are generally paraded around and cooed over at royal functions.
- Secret: Under your princess gown you wear torn fishnet stockings, a short, crushed velvet dress, and tall, leather boots. You are a goth. And you’re waiting for the right moment to rip off that prim princess dress and show Dracula. If you’re to be with him, he’ll have to see and accept the true you.
- Goal: Be Dracula’s first goth (not gothic) bride.
- Fear: Rejection.
- Good at: Eavesdropping, stealing.
- Bad at: Dancing.
- Sturmbannführerinn Brigitte von Taubenstein, Brain Thereof. You are the still living brain of a Nazi femme fatale who experimented with occult rituals. Your brain floats within a greenish liquid of your own devising, which feeds it and keeps it alive. It’s inside a glass jar that sits atop a metal automaton figure, draped in long robes. Strange tubes extend from the jar to the body, allowing you to speak in a tinny voice. Every word you utter lights up the brain liquid.
- Secret: Yeah, the Nazi femme fatale part above is the secret really. You pretend to be but a humble milk or chamber maid, with decidedly mixed results.
- Goal: Conquer the world, by adding Dracula’s power to your own.
- Fear: The horror you unleashed in a past ritual could turn up at any time.
- Good at: Breaking, dancing.
- Bad at: Deceiving.
- John the Carriage Driver. Suspiciously effeminate, yet a real man’s man, with a manly mustache, and curvy—I mean manly—hips. You’ve only signed up for this job relatively recently.
- Secret: You are Mina Harker in disguise, and a surprise contestant. You are totally smitten with Dracula, and you’d never let him go!
- Goal: Drive Dracula mad with love when he first lays eyes on you when you reveal yourself as a woman.
- Fear: That something is not perfect.
- Good at: Glowing, clinging.
- Bad at: Reasoning, letting go.
- Elsa Van Elseling. You are clad in a simple dress that’s seen better days, with a leather waistcoat, and you are perpetually carrying a bag that definitely holds no stakes or holy water. Also, you’re definitely not Van Helsing Senior’s daughter. Nope.
- Secret: You are definitely Van Helsing Senior’s daughter.
- Goal: To avenge your father in some fashion, involving an elaborate death for Dracula.
- Fear: Blood.
- Good at: Staking, acrobatics.
- Bad at: Flirting.
- Yvonna Fackelot. You are a literal succubus from the most coveted parts of hell, sent here by your demon master or mistress to ensnare Dracula in a web of love and lust. Scorching crimson skin covers your perfect body, while your glowing yellow eyes match your claw-like fingernails. You have a retinue of servants handing you new dresses throughout the proceedings, since your body heat slowly and suggestively smoulders them to ash.
- Secret: Yvonna has no need for secrets.
- Goal: Lord your obvious physical superiority over the other candidates and guests, until Dracula inevitably chooses you.
- Fear: You know no fear.
- Good at: Dominating, everything.
- Bad at: Algebra.
There are a few encounters along the way, before the characters reach their destination.
- Howling wolf. The character hear a wolf’s bone chilling howl from up ahead. A huge white wolf blocks the road. If they approach, the howl turns into a man’s cough, and the man apologizes about his voice—he’s literally got a frog in his throat. And he’s in pain because he’s got a splinter in his paw. If the characters help, they might get the werewolf’s help in return later. In his human form, Englund is an older man with a bushy white beard and hair. He’ll be among the guests at Dracula’s event.
- The first note. The approach to Dracula’s castle is over a needle-thin, vertigo inducing bridge, barely wide enough for the carriage. The crossing is harrowing, but the carriage doesn’t fall off, otherwise the adventure would be over. Nailed to the giant entrance doors to the extremely gothic castle is a note: “Dear guests. We regret to inform you that the contest has been relocated to the church, due to a rodent problem. —The Dracula Estate.”
- Burnt-out pyre and second note. The church is a little ways outside of the village, standing on its own as the sole pillar of light in this dark valley. Except it’s really more of a convent or monastery, with tall, thick walls and high-set, slender windows. On a hill in the vicinity are the charred remnants of a huge bonfire, a badly burnt post in the middle reminding the characters of the power of superstition and the single-mindedness of mobs. Nailed to the forbidding entrance door is a note: “Dear guests. We regret to inform you that the contest has been relocated to the mayor’s mansion in the village, due to Dracula’s vampire spawn exploding as soon as they crossed the threshold into our holy grounds. —The Mother Superior.”
- The gibbet. A cage swings lazily from a crooked pole, next to the road to the village. The gibbet contains a decomposing corpse; a handful of crows sadly bickering over the slim pickings.
The Mayor’s Mansion
The village is a small collection of terrified houses huddling together for shelter against the darkness and malevolence that inhabits the surrounding hills and valleys. Of interest for this scenario is really only the mayor’s mansion, a three story half-timbered house throwing its corpulent shadow onto the village square. You can’t miss it, the whole village is heading to it.
Greeting contestants and guests alike at the door is Renfield, a stout, dark-skinned man with judging eyes, an expensive suit, and round spectacles. Renfield takes prospective brides’ gift for Dracula, and sets it aside in a dedicated room, before accompanying them down the corridor into the main hall, where he loudly announces the contestant by full title and name.
- Main corridor. Leading from the entrance to the main hall. It has bathrooms, the gift room, and a cloak room branching off it.
- Main hall. A large, lavishly decorated, and well lit room. A dance floor bisects it, with tables and chairs filling one end, and a small stage with a musical string quartett, and another small stage with an empty wooden throne at the other end. A broad staircase circles half the room before arriving at a landing that overlooks it. Several doors lead to adjacent rooms, standing open, with a servant posted at each. All servants sport impeccable livery but their eyes are somewhat glazed over.
- Teeth room. A set of fake ivory fangs with a name plaque for each contestant is stored here, split among two glass display cases. These are to be used in the biting round of the contest, and ready to be sabotaged. Though regardless of what happens to Yvonna’s set, she will just use her own, real fangs for that round, if she’s an NPC.
- Dancing partners room. Standing completely still here are the male dance partners for the contestants, for the second round of the contest. Half of them are glazed-eyed, dominated youths from the village, the other half are ornate automatons made of metal and wood. If you wish, throw a flesh golem in. As before, each one is pre-allocated and has a relevant name plaque.
- Mayor’s sex room. Located either in the attic or deep in the cellar, this room has a large bed, a wooden pony, and two human sized bird cages. One of them contains a woman with a papier-mâché bird beak, a feathered cloak, and not much else. The mayor and the Mother Superior are likely to be found here—see Complications below.
- Other rooms. Fill the place with additional rooms as necessary. To keep the action focused this author has found it best not to bother with a map for the place, and simply say “yes” when the players ask whether the mansion has such and such room.
Schedule of Events
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, this is the order of events as Renfield envisages it. After some initial mingling, where guests and contestants may get to know one another, the three rounds of the contest are as follows. Naturally, things are likely to go horribly wrong. For one, Dracula has trouble getting into the mansion—see complication 1.
- Dancing. The contestants are paired up with their dominated or automaton partners and set loose to impress the count. Handle this with whatever rolls are appropriate for your ruleset, taking consideration of what it says the characters are good or bad at. And don’t forget any sabotage that may already have taken place, obviously.
- Biting. With the fake ivory fangs, each contestant gets to choose a male or female “volunteer”, and show off the blood-sucking technique they would employ were they to be made Dracula’s bride immortal. Best handled through roleplaying, with rolling only for extreme stunts where the outcome is dubious.
- Questions and answers. The contestants sit next to the stage with Dracula’s throne. He pulls out his index cards, and asks away, directing his questions either at individual applicants or the whole group. Here are some sample questions.
- This first one should be directed at an NPC contestant like Elsa or Mina. “Caprese salad or meatballs?” To which they reply “meatballs.” Of course Dracula assumes Swedish meatballs, which are heavy in garlic, and accuses the contestant of wanting to kill him! He has the contestant dragged away, kicking and screaming.
- “Where would you take me on honeymoon?”
- “If you could steal any historical figure’s dress for the wedding, whose would it be? And how would you steal it?”
- “If you had to pit two candidates or guests against each other in a duel to the death, who would it be? And who would win, and why?”
- “What new source of blood would you recommend, for our eternity together?” (This is an excellent time for complication 5.)
After the last round, Dracula retires to tally up the scores, and announce the winner upon his return.
Apart from the first one, these complications fit well between official contest rounds.
- Delayed entrance. Dracula cannot enter the building without being explicitly invited by the mayor, who is not in the main hall. He is in his sex room, bent over the wooden pony, being flogged by the Mother Superior.
- Working conditions. An altercation breaks out between the dancing bear and his handler. The bear claims they can’t work under these conditions and storms out.
- Tainted blood. A guest cries out that the wine contains blood! “Only a single drop per glass!” exclaims Dracula. “I have no idea how that got in there.” Yvonna drinks it as a matter of course, and licks the glass for good measure. Will the other contestands dare to still drink it?
- Elsa Van Elseling makes her move. Whether torn and bloodied after being dragged away from the Q&A, or simply because an opportunity presented itself, Elsa reveals her true nature to the surprise of no one, and attempts to assassinate Dracula.
- The ex. Dracula’s previous bride has managed to claw herself out of the grave she was buried in. Who was in charge of burying her, and why didn’t they do a good job?
- The horror. The horror Sturmbannführerinn Brigitte von Taubenstein unleashed in a past ritual turns up and seeks bloody revenge. Use this complication if Brigitte is a player character.
Concluding the Adventure
Feel free to mark down notches when one of the player characters does well in impressing Dracula throughout the evening. Ultimately though, in good OSR fashion, there’s no predetermined ending for the adventure, since there is simply no way to predict the players’ actions. Here are but a few suggestions of how it might go.
- Dracula is appalled with all the choices presented to him. He tries to abscond. Perhaps with the Mother Superior.
- Dracula selects someone other than Yvonna. Naturally, the succubus goes off the hinges and tries to murder everyone. Good if your party is salivating for a fight.
- The brain in a jar character is powered by summoned and captured demons. She enacts her ritual for this, ensnaring the demon within Dracula, absorbing it and becoming invincible. Meanwhile, the physical form of Dracula, now without any evil in him, roams the countryside, ashamed of his deeds.
- It was all a ploy, and the characters (or one of them) were only really here to kill Dracula.
Did I miss an opportunity for another obvious punt at a gothic trope? Let me know. I love gothic literature dearly, and my lampooning thereof comes from a place of love and respect. Now go, and have a spooky Halloween!