Multiballs of Madness! How to Play Bram Stoker's Dracula Pinball
For those completely out of the loop, Williams had an interesting tendency to keep releasing pinball machines based on IPs that...didn’t end up doing so well. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is arguably the most iconic example of that, and while the Coppola film garnered mixed reviews due to Keanu’s awful (but endearing) accent and Gary Oldman’s hilarious hairstyle, the pinball machine is another piece of evidence that a bad movie doesn’t mean we get a bad game.
This is very much a love-it-or-hate-it table. Those who enjoy the game love the challenge in its simplicity, centering on running a series of multiballs at the same time for absurdly lucrative jackpots to appear out of nowhere. Those who hate the game usually resent it for its unforgiving, albeit relatively simple, layout. I can’t say I’ve ever found anyone who went from the former to the latter. Usually, it’s the other way around. It’s what many might call a “player’s game,” one that seasoned veterans enjoy more than the casual player.
Hopefully, this guide can help you see the excitement in this game.
Bram Stoker's Dracula Production Details
Bram Stoker's Dracula is a pinball game manufactured by Williams Electronic Games Inc. in 1993. Design by Barry Oursler, Mark Sprenger. Mechanics by Zofia Bil. Art by Mark Sprenger. Code by Bill Pfutzenreuter. Sound by Paul Heitsch. Music by Paul Heitsch. Callouts by Tim Kitzrow. Animation by Scott Slomiany.
- Design: Barry Oursler, Mark Sprenger
- Code: Bill Pfutzenreuter
- Mechanics: Zofia Bil
- Art: Mark Sprenger
- Sound: Paul Heitsch
- Music: Paul Heitsch
- Callouts: Tim Kitzrow
Bram Stoker's Dracula Playfield Overview
Among everything else, the first thing to be aware of is that BSD typically uses the infamous “lightning flippers” which Williams was quite fond of at the time. Characterized by their molded lightning bolts on top of the flippers, these flippers are ⅛ inch shorter than their non-lightning counterparts, and you’ll find pretty quickly how much you miss that ⅛ inch.
The pop bumpers are rather nasty and will often feed the ball out horizontally. Get control as quickly as possible and try to stay out of the bumpers as best you can.
There are really only four major shots on this table. The most important shot, by a very significant margin, is the left ramp that loops all the way around the table. The ability to loop this ramp repeatedly is basically a requirement for any decent scores, so get comfortable making that shot over and over again. The good news is that it’s easy enough to get into a rhythm, the bad news is that a failed shot tends to send it straight down the middle.
From the right flipper, there’s also a hole in the upper left side of the game (the “Mist” hole). From the left flipper, there’s a comparably loopable ramp hiding under the Coffin on the right side. It’s worth decent value and is important, but it pales in comparison to the left ramp. There’s also a loop on the right side which starts a video mode, but that’s not very important.
I cannot stress this enough: the left ramp is the most important shot in this game. Be comfortable looping it all day.
To be honest, that ramp is so significant that if you’re finding yourself unable to hit it because of something outside of your control (such as the flippers being weak or the ramp being dirty), you should contact a tech to get the game repaired or removed. If this is for fun or a game on location, I’d suggest finding something else to play.
I’ve played on nasty machines where 20,000,000 points is a winning score, but scoring well into the billions is absolutely in the cards.
Quick Bram Stoker's Dracula Pinball Tutorial
This game is very hard. The flippers are small, control is hard to get, and horizontal motion is very deadly. Get comfy with how the ball comes out of the pop bumpers first, and then figure out how to shoot the left ramp repeatedly. It’s the most important shot on the table.
There are three multiballs, which you can stack with one another. Scoring is doubled or tripled when playing two or three multiballs simultaneously. The goal is to get all three going at once.
To start each multiball:
- Castle: Shooting the left ramp or standup three-banks around the playfield lights locks. Lock balls at the left ramp. Ignore the standups - they’re too dangerous when you can use the ramp to light locks instead.
- Mist: Lit at the upper left hole after enough left ramps.
- Coffin: Shooting the right ramp lights locks, also at the right ramp. Three locks starts multiball.
The left ramp will alternate between lighting Castle locks and Coffin locks at the “bonus” awarded every six ramps. If Coffin locks are already lit, then this will always light Castle locks. Unlike the Castle, Coffin locks are easy to get without the left ramp, so make sure that Coffin locks are lit prior to collecting that bonus.
To play each multiball:
- Castle: Shooting the left ramp locks the ball and lights the jackpot for a few seconds. Locking a second ball doubles the jackpot for a few seconds. Shoot the Mist hole to collect the jackpot when lit.
- Mist: All shots are worth 10,000,000 points. Loop the left ramp.
- Coffin: Right ramp spells DRACULA which awards a jackpot upon completion.
Barring situations where one multiball is all you need to win, try not to start any multiballs until you’re close to starting all three. They’re worth decent value alone, but always set your sights on triple multiballs.
Castle is the most valuable of the three by a significant margin and should be all you focus on during a triple multiball. Mist is decently valuable and can be used for reliable points. Coffin is awful by comparison and should be ignored.
Left ramp shots also start Bats, which is completed by collecting 15 switches as fast as possible and is awarded in every bonus for the rest of the game. Getting a good Bats mode scored early can be worth a few hundred million.
Right away, figure out how to get control of the ball out of the bumpers. Dracula has an extremely limited ball save and is very prone to house balls (i.e. balls where you don't actually touch the ball with your flipper - just from the plunger to the drain). Stop the horizontal action, trap up, and you're in good shape.
Dracula is not a particularly complicated game, at least regarding objectives. There are no long-term or endgame goals. Dracula is all about multiballs, so much so that it has three unique multiballs, each with their own objectives and scoring schemes: Castle, Mist, and Coffin. We'll go over all of them later, but more important than knowing how to score in the multiballs is understanding Dracula's signature rule: scoring is multiplied by the number of multiballs currently active (minimum 1x - you still score points during single-ball play).
So, if you can get two multiballs running at once, all scoring is doubled. Get all three going, and scoring is tripled. In short, that's your goal: get all three multiballs running at the same time, and score triple jackpots as many times as possible.
Starting Multiballs in Dracula Pinball
We're going to cover all three multiball objectives in detail, but the short version is that Castle multiball is typically significantly more valuable than the other two, which effectively act as Castle multipliers more than anything else. Despite the fact that Castle is the most important, you still want to start all three since that triple scoring is where the big bucks are. So, above all else, knowing how to start each multiball is arguably more important than knowing how to play them.
Castle Multiball is, for the most part, your typical "lock three balls" affair. Locks are lit by completing the three banks of standups around the playfield, but those are incredibly dangerous to shoot for and should be ignored. Instead, you can light a Castle lock by shooting the left ramp repeatedly. Every six shots awards a “bonus,” which will either light a Castle lock or advance toward Coffin; it alternates between the two. (This is why getting dialed in on that left ramp is so important.) There's also a "sneak-in" bonus you can get by getting halfway up the ramp and dropping into the Castle lock without clearing the whole ramp, but that's not easy to do intentionally. Locking three balls starts Castle Multiball.
Mist Multiball is probably the easiest to light, but it’s only two balls (the others are three). It's lit after shooting the left ramp five times (seriously - get comfy with that ramp!) and again every ten times after that. Mist is started at the hole shot next to the bumpers. Well, kind of. In what's arguably the coolest magic trick in pinball history, a ball will eerily float across the playfield (i.e., get dragged by a magnet).
To start Mist, you have to hit that floating ball before it goes across the entire field. It is possible to shake the ball off of the magnet by nudging it, but tilts tend to be crazy tight in this game, so I don't really recommend trying unless you're really desperate.
Coffin Multiball is the only one not started on the left ramp. Instead, it's lit by repeatedly shooting the right ramp to light Coffin locks, which are also collected on the right ramp (well, kind of - the ramp lifts up, and you shoot the ball under it, but the shot is the same). Three locks start Coffin multiball.
While you can always progress towards multiballs, it’s definitely ideal to set up all your multiballs in single-ball play. Mist is easy enough to light, just shooting the left ramp repeatedly will suffice. But Castle and Coffin have some nuance: as mentioned above, the left ramp will award a bonus every six shots which alternates between lighting a Castle lock and lighting a Coffin lock. However, if the Coffin lock is lit, the left ramp will always light the Castle lock instead. Given that Coffin locks are very easy to light without the left ramp and that Castle locks are not, it’s a good idea to make sure that the Coffin lock is lit when you would otherwise collect a bonus. It makes collecting Castle locks much easier. (Plus, that right ramp is worth decent points early on!)
So, to reiterate: Loop the right ramp to light Coffin locks. Loop the left ramp to light Mist and Castle Locks (if the Coffin is lit). Try to light all your multiballs (or at least get very close to lighting all of them) before starting any.
After the third left ramp and every ten ramps after that (so 13, 23, 33...), you'll start a special mode called Bats. Bats is a hurry-up round during which you have to hit fifteen switches as rapidly as you can. The sooner you hit all fifteen switches, the more points it'll be worth. Starting Bats feeds the bumpers, which is the ideal way to complete it fast. If Castle locks or Coffin locks are lit, collecting either will also feed the bumpers, so keep those in mind when playing Bats. Alternatively, you can just keep looping the left ramp since there are three switches on it. Although it won’t make Bats worth as much, it’s a safer way of completing it.
The thing to keep in mind is that this is scored in bonus, not immediately, but more importantly, it's a super bonus: you'll be awarded the value collected at the end of every ball for the rest of the game. The value starts at 50,000,000 and counts down from there, so cashing in a 50,000,000 point Bats on ball one is effectively worth 150,000,000 points. Since you’re going to get at least one Bats started on your way to a triple multiball, be ready to complete it! Also, Bats scoring is multiplied by the playfield X during a double or triple multiball and is easier to complete than anyway.
So, with three multiballs to go for, what do you go for at the start of the game? There are three goals you want to try for right away. You can do these in whatever order you see fit (or whatever order turns out to be easiest). There are pros and cons to each:
- Start your first Bats. If you can get control on the right flipper right away, you can figure out where the left ramp is and get started looping it. Three shots starts Bats, which, as mentioned, is incredibly valuable when completed early on. Plus, it gets you closer to starting Mist and Castle multiballs.
- Collect your first Castle lock & light Mist. Five shots to the ramp lights Mist, six shots lights a Castle lock, and seven collects the Castle lock. This also will put the ball back into the bumpers, again, throwing your rhythm off. In any case, you want to start collecting Castle locks and get Mist lit right away. In the event that you accidentally light the Castle lock from a target bank, that’s fine, just make sure that Mist is lit and you’ve collected at least one Castle lock.
- Light Coffin locks. If you end up getting control on the left flipper instead, you can start looping the right ramp until the Coffin opens up. The upside is that this makes Bats easier to complete (again, we’ll cover this more in detail later), the downside is that it doesn’t help you get dialed on the left ramp.
Personally, I do whichever one I can first - if the ball ends up on the left flipper right away, I’ll open the Coffin. If I get it to the right, I’ll loop the left ramp. In any case, these three objectives should be your first priority. Afterward, try and set up your triple multiball. Before starting any multiball, I suggest making sure Mist is lit, all Coffin locks necessary are lit, and you’ve locked two balls for Castle. I find Castle to be the hardest to start, so I suggest starting that first, beginning Mist and Coffin during Castle.
One thing to be wary of: with Mist lit, the bumpers can theoretically kick a ball into the Mist hole and get it started. If this happens, just start Mist as per usual, try and trap one ball on each flipper, and loop ramps until you can start the other multiballs.
Castle is a bit weird: Jackpots are lit by shooting the left ramp, which will lock the ball for a brief period of time. You can shoot a second ball up the ramp to lock it as well, which doubles the jackpot for a few seconds. (It’s a little similar to Terminator 2 for those who are familiar with that game.) You can collect the jackpot at the hole to the right of the ramp. The jackpot value starts at 20,000,000, increases by 20,000,000 each time you collect it, and caps at 80,000,000. The Castle Jackpot can also be increased on bumper hits after completing the top lanes (similar to how Taxi works), but that’s pocket change compared to the 20M increases.
Castle jackpots are the biggest payouts in the game. If you're only playing Castle, a double Castle jackpot can be worth 160,000,000, but during triple multiball, it's worth a totally-not-absurd 480,000,000 points. Getting one or two of these is sure to lock in a win, provided nobody else is able to do the same. It is far and away the most valuable multiball.
The trick to killing it is to stay in control as best as you can. You need three balls in play to score the double jackpot since you need two balls locked, so ideally, you are in a position with two balls on the left flipper and one on the right. Make the ramp, cradle separate the other two to make the ramp again, then post pass for the jackpot shot. Get control out of the bumpers, rinse, and repeat. If you only have two balls in play, don’t worry about the double jackpots since they’re still worth a ton if you have scoring multipliers active.
During Mist, every shot is a jackpot worth 10,000,000 points, which isn't that bad. If you get a triple multiball running, then everything is worth 30,000,000, though you can’t loop the left ramp ad nauseam since it’ll lock shots for Castle jackpots, which are more valuable anyway.
I find Mist to be a very consistent source of decent points, which makes it the best multiball for instances where triple multiballs are unnecessary.
Don’t get me wrong: triple multiball is super payday. But if you only need 100,000,000 points as opposed to a couple billion, Mist is easy to start on its own and will get you those points.
During Coffin, shots to the Coffin (i.e. right ramp) will add letters to D-R-A-C-U-L-A, which awards a jackpot when completed. The jackpot starts at 20,000,000 and increases by 10,000,000 each time you collect it (maxing out at 50,000,000, or 150,000,000 when tripled). The good news is that your DRACULA letters carry over from multiball to multiball. The bad news is that this multiball sucks. The jackpot is harder, more dangerous, and less valuable than Castle jackpots, and with a Mist running, you’ll get more out of Mist just lighting the Coffin jackpot than you will out of the jackpot itself. That said, it’s still valuable, but just as a playfield multiplier.
One more thing to play with is Video Mode, which is lit by spelling V-I-D-E-O on shots to the right orbit. When lit, shooting the right orbit starts a video mode where all these werewolves are trying to kill you, and you have to shoot them. It's pretty self-explanatory, flip a flipper to shoot a werewolf on that side of the screen. The closer a werewolf is to you, the more points they'll be worth, but don't get killed by the werewolves! I'll be honest, this is worth...decent value, but I'd say only shoot for it if you happen to light it on accident. Focus on looping that left ramp instead. It's much more important.
End of Ball Bonus
Your end of ball bonus can be very valuable, especially if you’ve gotten lots of Bats points. You can advance your bonus multiplier and hear a strange moan by completing the top lanes, but this is pretty insignificant as it doesn’t affect your Bats which is where the big value comes from.
It’s also worth noting there’s another mode called Rats which is started after enough shots to the “Altar” (lower right scoop). Rats is extremely similar to Bats; they’re both timed switch frenzies awarded as super bonus. The difference is that Rats will score a fixed value for each switch you hit and runs on a timer, vs. the hurry-up style of Bats. Rats will be worth the same value regardless of how quickly you complete it, and unlike Bats, is still worth something if it times out. That said, Rats is borderline worthless when compared to Bats, and since the altar is otherwise pointless, don’t shoot for Rats. However, if you start it by accident, don’t ignore it - play it like you’d play Bats.
Finally, there is a notable bug in Dracula where getting a tilt warning as the ball is draining will cause your bonus not to score. So, be careful on outlane saves! If you have a significant number of points in Bats, be wary of getting a tilt warning on the way out.