The postman arrived at my door a couple of months ago containing a rather heavy package from Hero Games. Turns out that this box contained the hard copies of the newly released Dresden Files RPG. What does this mean? Well you might remember that I had previously done an early review of The Dresden Files RPG based on the pre-order PDFs. I’d said that I would follow up once I’d got my hands on the physical copies and played a few games and, two story arcs later, this is that follow up.
The books are gorgeous. I haven’t seen such high quality RPG books since I got my hands on Pathfinder RPG last year. I’d earlier expressed some misgivings about the price tag on these things, but after holding them in my hands and inhaling that new book smell I’ve got to say that I may have been wrong. The pseudo book draft layout looks a lot nicer in a physical format than it ever did on a computer monitor and the full color pages go a long way towards saying that this is a Tier 1 RPG product.
I can’t say if anything has changed since the early PDF copies as far as actual content goes, but sitting down and playing the game has really highlighted some things that I didn’t appreciate so much my first time through. The first one of these things is the collaborative city creation. It’s great. My group had more fun giving our city the Dresden treatment than we did making characters. Delving into the history of your city and dropping gremlins and other supernatural beasties onto your landmarks is more fun than it has any right to be. City creation is simple enough, every player comes up with some locations and people and they give them a distinctly supernatural twist. The entire process is very much like creating Aspects for your character, only on a grander scale.
I have a love/hate relationship with the character creation. I find it to be very, very time consuming, but it is also very, very good. Luckily, you don’t need to do this too often and having the players work together to integrate each other’s characters into their own histories to generate aspects is a stroke of genius. It creates a cohesive group of characters with a reason to be together. One area I would have liked a few more options with is the archetypes. Looking through the options I felt more constrained than I would have liked. Most types of characters can be created with what is given, but I can’t help feeling that I would have liked more. Of course, I can’t think of what I would actually add, so it can’t be that bad.
I’m going to gloss over the mechanics for part 2 because I covered that in the last review. It’s Fate, plain and simple. The ladder works great, and the books even came with these handy bookmarks with the ladder printed on them for ease of use. Aspects work for the players and the GM. As a GM you can compel players to help move the story along and players will try and trigger their Aspects as much as possible. This means they need to accept more compels. It’s elegant to play. A concern raised by one of my players was that they didn’t like the metagame it creates. It’s a valid concern. A good part of character creation is manipulating and choosing aspects that are easy to activate and compel. This isn’t going to sit well with every player, especially ones that don’t like taking a step away from the first person. As a story creation mechanic it works great, but it does make for a game that is a half step removed from fully taking on the mantle of your character. I should note that after some initial chaffing this player got past it and into the game.
There have been some unexpected side effects of running this game. The first is that my GM style is much different when playing it. Part of this is because we are playing in the city we reside in. I don’t need to mark people, places, or things down as much because I already know them all. This makes improvising much easier. I’ve also noticed that each game is more fragmented with each player doing their own things throughout the story arc. A lot of our game revolves around the characters day jobs and various phenomena in the city coming together to give the full picture of the plot. I find myself regularly jumping between players as their paths crisscross throughout a story arc. It’s much different from my regular more focused approach. Finally, I’ve learned a lot about my city. I’ve been visiting the library to look up old newspapers, visited paranormal investigation websites, and looked at folklore oriented travel guides. According to local folklore there is a sea serpent, a two headed giant lake snake, a vampire (being watched by a secret Christian monks), many hauntings, satanic cults, and an extensive network of underground tunnels in my city. The tunnels are real by they way. No word yet on the serpents and vampire.
After having played DFRPG weekly for two months now I’ve got to say that I like it. There are some initial hurdles, but they are easily overcome. All of my players also play in other regular games and like the more story and role play oriented focus this game has. This is a strong entry into the supernatural/urban fantasy RPG landscape. I don’t believe it will be unseating WoD as the dominant game in the genre, but its lighter tone and excellent system are perfect for those that are have White Wolf fatigue.
[tags]RPG, Dresden Files, DFRPG, Fate, Fate RPG, tabletop[/tags]