An Adventure Per Year: Dracula Unredacted (Bonus 2015)

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 cover of Dracula Unredacted

Bram Stoker originally had a longer manuscript for his novel Dracula but close to publication he edited it down, removing characters and scenes to make it tighter. He also changed the title at the last minute, from ‘The Un-Dead’ to the familiar Dracula.

In the fiction of the mega-campaign Dracula Dossier, the novel Dracula is an after action report from an actual espionage operation concerning the threat posed by the vampire Dracula. The process where Stoker shortened and edited his novel is recast as redacting it for the purposes of publishing it as a piece of misdirection and obfuscation.

Dracula Unredacted is a prop to be used while playing Dracula Dossier. The campaign’s premise is that the characters get their hands on the unredacted version of Dracula, complete with annotations from three generations of secret agents. This in-game artifact has been published in its entirety as a 476 page book, based on the version of his novel Stoker had before he started cutting unnecessary elements out. Thus, it’s simultaneously an object of Dracula geekery and one of the most extravagant handouts ever published for a roleplaying game.

The way the Dracula Dossier works, the characters can follow up on any of the clues in the novel or the annotations and they will find something. Reading the entire book is a tall order at the beginning of a game session but they can skim it and just pursue one detail to start with.

Looking at the material Stoker removed, a lot of it provides a feel for a more extensive setting. There are side characters such as the journalist Kate Reed and the policeman Inspector Cotford who have their own encounters with Dracula parallel to those of the characters who remained in the published version. They’re less relevant in terms of the plot but also more colorful than the novel’s bevy of interchangeable male heroes, from Jonathan Harker to Lord Godalming.

One scene in particular stands out, with Kate Reed attending a society dinner of important London figures who are being corrupted by their new guest, “de Ville”, Dracula in disguise. It feels like the kind of vampire fiction that would later be explored in roleplaying games and larp.

It’s been over 20 years since I last read Dracula and this was the first time I read it in English. There are some fun stylistic tics like the insistence of always spelling the word undead as ‘Un-Dead’ and Professor van Helsing’s endless pontificating on Dracula’s ‘child-brain’, inferior to his own ‘man-brain’.

Related Post