In my A Game Per Year project, my goal has been to read one roleplaying game corebook for every year they’ve been published. However, I soon started to feel that it was hard to decipher how the games were really meant to be played. For this reason, I decided to start a parallel project, An Adventure Per Year, to read one roleplaying adventure for each year they’ve been published.
The Dragon Ascendant is the fourth and final adventure in the epic Transylvania Chronicles, a series spanning the distance between Vampire: the Dark Ages and Vampire: the Masquerade.
I remember when The Dark Ages came out and the prospect of a vampire campaign ranging from medieval times to the modern day naturally suggested itself. Transylvania Chronicles fulfills that promise. since vampires don’t die of old age, it’s possible to make a grand campaign going through a thousand years of history.
The title suggests that these are chronicles about Transylvania. That’s only nominally true. While many events are indeed set in this mountainous area associated with vampires, the Chronicles are really a series of short vignettes contriving reasons for the player characters to be present at various pivotal moments of vampire history.
There’s also a loose Gehenna theme furthering the end times plot device important in Vampire during its first three editions.
The Dragon Ascendant features three vignettes, the last two being the most noteworthy. In the penultimate chapter, the characters are asked to escort the Tremere Etrius to a meeting. They discover that this is really a plan by the Tremere Antediluvian himself, now residing in Etrius’s consciousness, to psychically take over the body of the Sabbat Tremere Goratrix.
The Dragon Ascendant is quite worried about the possibility that player characters might deviate from the suggested outcomes. This would lead to a world state different from the official canon of Vampire. The fear that this might happens crops up multiple times, explicitly spelled out.
The series has been plagued by a syndrome where the player characters are essentially bystanders while important supporting characters act. That hold true here as well.
The finale at least finally puts the characters center stage, at least in an action movie sense. The last villain to be unmasked is the Nosferatu Antediluvian who seeks to use medieval geomantic magics to launch Romanian nuclear missiles into Manhattan while also blowing up a nuclear power station.
The characters, all ancient vampires by now, must naturally spring into action and stop this!
I can’t decide whether it’s tasteless or thematically underlines the way the hoary worldviews of the ancients struggle to deal with the issues of modern life. Perhaps it can be both.