The Dresden Files RPG

Every weekend, I get together with an amazing group of friends, and we play tabletop RPGs. This particular group has been getting together for the past five years, give or take. We’ve played D&D, Pathfinder, Spycraft, Rifts, and sometimes we even dabble in good old fashioned board games. Everyone at the table has taken their turn at DMing for the group, some more often the others, and I thank them for that.

We’re currently in the a transition stage of games once more. It turns out for us, when one game ends, most of the others tend to as well. We’ve started up a new Pathfinder campaign, a trial run at Harnmaster, a yet to be determined game in the works, and a Dresden Files game.

I want to take a few minutes, and just really praise that system. I’m pretty much a d20 girl. I love the d20 systems, and just how easily they translate from one d20 system to another. I’ve played d6 systems, and I don’t dislike them, but I really cut my teeth on the d20 systems, predominantly Dungeons and Dragons. So, I was rather apprehenisve when my roommate said he wanted to put our beloved Spycraft game on hold in order to run a Dresden game.

This was a system that I knew nothing about. Looking through the corebook for players, I was actually more confused than enlightened. There were really no dice to roll, and charcter creation seemed to be a very convoluted process. At least at first glance, that was what I thought.

About a month ago, before we had to postpone a few games due to real life issues, we had gotten together at our normal gaming haunt, and we started the character creation process. Let me be straight with everyone. Character creation in this system is a very detailed process, and you need to be prepared to put the work into your character. When you create your character, you also are creating the city that the table will be playing in, and you are building relationships with each of the other characters.

These relationships do not have to be positive relationships, but they are necessary. This informs each player how they know the other characters that are going to be in the game, and it also informs the DM of the very same. So, before any scene takes place, you already know how your character might react to the guy who refused to help you a few months back.

During this process, you also are creating various aspects for your characters: essentially tags that can be used either for or against you, and that help shape the story of these characters. Beause at the very essence of this game system, the story is truly the most important thing. The charactesr are literally shaping this story, and every one at the table, players and DM, have a say in that story.

Take for instance, our first game session that was this past weekend. Our group was investigating a haunted house, where a local girl had last been seen. Somebody at the table suggested that we look for secret passageways that maybe linked the house to the Underground Railroad. We were just outside New Orleans, so it was possible. (As a quick google search confirmed.*) So our DM let one of us spend a fate point to see if the case. It wasn’t something that he had planned for the house to have, but it was certainly an intriguing idea to have a serious of tunnels under this manor. However, a roll of the fudge dice proved that this house wasn’t. But, we still had the influence to possibly change the story.

All rolls in the Dresden setting involve fudge dice. Simply a (-), a blank side, or a (+).   It all boils down to success or failure. There are some contested rolls, but it comes down to who has more sucesses (or the least failures). Even though there is some dice rolling, the only thing that really limits a player is themselves. No character should be great at everything, but if you find yourself in a combat situation with a non-combat character? There are still ways to be an asset without feeling useless. That’s a huge plus for me. Regardless of the type of character a person chooses to play, they should have the opportunity to help, even if it’s small.

So, I know it may seem like a rambling post, but if you’re still with me, I’ll just say that in all the systems that I have ever played, I have never had a single character just pop, for lack of a better word, from the moment I started to play him or her in the game. I normally have to get a slow feel for them in story that the DM is placing us in, before I really get my RP feet underneath me. That’s when the writer part of my brain will normally be able to hear the character. Yet, in this game, after a month where I didn’t even look at the character sheet, I sat down on Saturday, the DM started the story, and my character Yumi Matthews was right there.**

I have nothing but applause for this system.

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* Our group likes to take a realistic approach even in our RPGs, so we cross check facts so that we are doing things properly. Be very careful about using your Google-fu in this respect, at least if you are playing in a game set on Earth with a relatively modern setting.

** As a result from how much this character has come alive in my writer brain, I actually have started a bit of a “gamebook” from her perspective. Be on the lookout. I may be posting excerpts here from time to time.