Vampire Cruise (Play Report)

I recently had the chance to play through Vampire Cruise over Discord. The system was Into the Odd, and it took us two sessions to get through. Spoilers below.

“The cover of Vampire Cruise from its itch storefront. Woodcut-style religious and nautical imagery in pale purple against a black background forms the background to a the title in bold magenta letters.”Vampire Cruise is an adventure by Amanda Lee Franck.

Dramatis Personae

The role of was played by
Chadwick Nomad” Cholmondeley-Featherstonehaugh Comrade Pollux
Quentin Peterson Dan D.
Charleston Elias Stretch
Reece Walker Ty
Melvin Theodore Ian (That’s me)
Referee Warren


Melvin Theodore, C.P.A. has dedicated his whole life to the mid-sized fencing rental company at which he works. But now he finds himself on this vampire-themed ocean cruise that his sister won from a radio call-in show, and caring for her dog, Bijoux.

A balding man with pale skin and thick blue glasses shown from roughly the waist up, is holding a small dog in his crossed arms with a blank expression.Melvin Theodore, C.P.A. He's only 27.

Day 1

The first morning of the cruise, Melvin met his new friends at the breakfast table. Teetotal, he ordered oatmeal and enjoyed the company. With no particular engagements before the captain’s luncheon, the sextet passed the time in such wide-ranging discourse as the unreality of laws and correct plural of mimosa.”

At lunch, the same group was seated at the deputy captain’s table, and despite her inebriated state, she did manage to communicate some facts about the history of the ship to us. Melvin ordered a double club sandwich” (it has an additional slice of toast in it), and unsure what dogs generally eat, a mix of variously-done steaks, cut small for Bijoux. Toward the end of the meal, crewmate Brian, who we had awkwardly forced to eat with us, attempted to discreetly swap places with another crewmember, and everyone decided to roll with it. After lunch the characters went their separate ways.

Quentin, spooked by the inclusion of basilisk” on the menu, took a conspiratorial turn and began exploring and communicating with … something living in the walls. His attempts to find the source eventually led him to the sunken auditorium, where he went undercover with some hippies vibing to cult music and their towering multiply-articulated statuesque deity.

Melvin went to the pool to miserably try and enjoy himself. There he was approached by the slinky Svetlana, sensuously reapplying her SPF 50+ UVA/UVB sunblock. Strolling the deck, they bonded over memories of Titanic (or in Melvin’s case, Family Guy1), and made an appointment to reenact the king of the world” scene after the show that night.

The others took advantage of Brian’s” apparent memory loss to get a tour of otherwise-restricted areas, like the engine room. After all, the captain said it would be OK, didn’t he remember? After another change of Brians,” they had additionally each extracted a favor from Brian and the promise of an official crew uniform.

Melvin and Quentin rejoined the others on the stairwell above the glass-bottomed under-water viewing room. The party was arguing with three Brians” (including Brian) about the proper way to dispose of an apparent chimeric beast loose in sealed-off area. Charleston was casually gesturing with the gun in his hand, Quentin began ranting about the things in the walls, and Nomad and Reece were explaining to the Brians” that they were basically crew themselves already. But, not wanting to be late for the slideshow, they all broke off negotiations and rushed to the clubroom in anticipation.

The slideshow exerted a certain hypnotic influence over the whole group (excepting Reece and Quentin, who just went along with it) and eventually devolved into a cult ritual. Reece had learned from the crew that his room was next to the King of Bavaria’s, and keen to make his acquaintance, ducked out of the ceremony early.

The next thing everyone else knew, they were exhausted and sweaty, wearing loose-fitting robes in the sunken auditorium, and almost late for the night’s entertainment. On the way there, Melvin was invited to Svetlana’s private box, Reece was already seated in the king’s box, and the others were seated at a table with some other guests, where they obnoxiously and loudly discussed potential sandwiches.

The first act was the original Brian with a harpoon show, then some archaeologist’s thesis presentation, followed by a deathly presentation about real estate. Melvin had never immediately hated anyone so much as the realtor, and high on the feeling of of having made his first nemesis, asked a series of pointed accounting questions. (Perhaps inspired by Melvin or perhaps fearing the silence of a large room, Nomad then wanted to know more about fake estate” or the metaverse.”) Rounding out the night were our own Reece with a one-man rendition of the OK Go treadmill dance and an iffy comedy routine (at Brian’s expense), and Quentin with a classic Gilbert and Sullivan piece which left him somewhat winded.

The evening ended in some amount of disappointment for everyone. Obviously Melvin ended up under Svetlana’s spell and followed her back to her quarters, but ultimately woke up in his own cramped quarters fully clothed with bite marks on his neck. Reece and the king of Bavaria had bonded over their shared vampirism (!) but spent the whole night expectantly posing seductively on opposite sides of the communicating door between their rooms. Charleston and Nomad escorted their table-mates from the talent show to the bar and proceeded to bore them. One of them snuck off with a Brian,” they had picked up after the show, and the younger, a sullen teenage diarist who had lost her aunt, couldn’t drink and I believe left early. Sadly, Quentin went AWOL around this time.

Day 2

Everyone woke up late and missed the ritual they would otherwise have been post-hypnotically compelled to attend. Repeating the breakfast of the day before, they then prepared themselves for the big event of the day: a ping-pong tournament. Charleston took down the competition with his threatening old-timey chatter and claimed a bottle of old wine and Svetlana’s desirous attentions.

At lunch, the group was seated with a bitter old man (who everyone immediately hated), the teenage diarist from the night before, and a new Brian,” who was badly in need of some hair of the dog and willing to play a little loose with the regulations. Afterwards, she took all of our heroes on a tour of the castle area, where they encountered Svetlana once more. When Charleston spurned her advances, the party was forced to flee, and sadly, Brian” was lost in the escape. RIP. Reece encouraged Melvin to stand up for himself in the future, and Melvin resolved to, apart from the series of post-hypnotic suggestions left in him by yesterday’s occult timeshare presentation and the his total lack of defenses against Svetlana’s vampiric seductions, take his friends’ advice more seriously in the future.

This left one big event for the day: a formal ball. Arriving at the ball ready for combat, it quickly became apparent that the vampires could not be fought by conventional means. Reece attempted to negotiate for his friends’ safety with the king of Bavaria,2 while the humans attempted to blend in at the bar. When negotiations went South, the king appeared to vaporize Reece against the ceiling and then moved toward the rest of the party. Thinking quickly, they stirred up a latent political dispute between the king and a baron who has been making threatening small talk at the bar. As the ball devolved into a brawl, our heroes were already making for the exit when the thousand-jointed goddess from the sunken auditorium burst through the floor and began stuffing vampires into its maw.

Reece recollected himself from a mist, and the adventurers had barely enough time to rescue the teenage diarist (who, counter to the group’s advice, had not even barricaded her room), before making their escape via the balloon launch atop the climbing wall.


It was fun!3 It was a comedy adventure, and the group went for it. Consequently any number of in-jokes and gags have been excised from the above report. Some details may have also been abridged in the retelling, as I did not keep detailed notes during play. And of course, the narrative is from my own memory, and so centers Melvin’s role.

It also seems intended to have horror elements, but it was unclear at what point the characters were supposed to no longer be in denial. Certainly if the characters don’t know what’s up by the ballroom, that would be a dramatic reveal. I appreciated Quentin’s immediate suspicion because it gave Dan an excuse to start interacting with the environment in the manner of an old-school dungeon and shake loose some reactions and information. If Ty hadn’t been a vampire already (a fact I had forgotten was possible by the time of the reveal), I doubt we would have bothered trying to prepare or protect ourselves at all.

The structure throughout the first day felt much looser than the second day. If I were to run this (bearing in mind that I haven’t read the module myself),4 I might move the ping pong tournament to day one, both because it immediately introduces multiple characters and it gives the PCs something to do other than order food” and don’t get captured.” That said, nothing to do but eat and drink until 2 pm” does feel like a more-or-less accurate cruise activity. (I have never been on a cruise).

With a group so large, we probably got to see an unusual amount of the ship, but there was still a lot unexplored, and I do wonder about it. I also feel like the NPCs were numerous and fleshed-out enough that it wouldn’t feel at all lacking with a smaller group.

  1. Melvin prefers shows to movies, because of their regular schedules. However, I do not clearly recall most of Family Guy, so perhaps the gag got a bit strained.↩︎

  2. Now that Strahd the vampire lord” is Creative-Commons licensed, but no other details, I wonder if Bavaria” is the new Barovia.”↩︎

  3. I have said before, and will say again: playing games with good people is usually fun, regardless of the game. Maybe I’ll elaborate someday. Maybe it’s just me.↩︎

  4. I don’t mean to backseat GM, and for this group, it may not even have been an improvement. But it’s a constant loop running in the back of my head: what would I change?”↩︎

March 6, 2023