Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dresden Files RPG review

The Dresden Files RPG

In the novels a professional Wizard Detective solves crimes and encounters a number of threats both mundane and supernatural. Ritualized magic, demons, vampires, werewolves, angels, and so on interact in secret with modern cops, robbers, social elite, and dregs of everyday society. Most people aren’t going to know much about the supernatural, but that doesn’t really stop a lot of people from believing in it or being affected by it in some way. So you can really cater the game to any taste… high fantasy and adventure, gut-wrenching horror, gritty noir, or just fun and giggles. Unfortunately, it’s not a really unique concept and the books might risk a lot of comparison to other pieces currently on the market. There are plenty of other games out there that allow you to explore dark fantasy enmeshed with our own modern world.

What sets this game apart is the core engine system. I’m most familiar with previous usage of the Fate System in “Spirit of the Century”, where character creation was just as much fun as actual game play with regards to player interaction. The players are encouraged to work together much more closely from the very beginning, as other players connect their characters with shared background traits and a fantastic “city building” technique that I’d never seen before. Utilizing Fudge dice to determine action success and failure, characters are built with a much more generic system of descriptive “Traits” and various trademark stunts. Using these traits, rather than hard-line numeric "Trait" assignments can offer bonuses or penalties as they are invoked. Characters can become exhausted through physical, social, and mental challenges offering a little more flexibility in the type of character playable in the system. Game play may be a little less comfortable for those players who are used to crunching numbers, but offers much more narrative possibilities from both the players and the game master.

The Dresden Files RPG is divided by two books from Evil Hat Productions. The first book, “Your World” gives you everything you need to know in order to play the game fast and loose while building everything you might want from the ground up. It focuses entirely on what your imagination might bring to the table, with a very loose interpretation of the world in which Harry Dresden operates. In fact, the Dresden Files becomes more of an example basis for the things which are possible with the system rather than the cornerstone of the game world in general. Fans of the series will find all the good stuff they might want or expect from a game adaptation, while more generic RPers will find the bare bones minimum to create a wholly independent world based on modern magic, fantasy, and horror elements. In the meanwhile, “Our World” is the much more definitive “Dresden Files” core setting, giving you everything you might need in order to play within the same world as Harry and his merry band of heroic misfits. From the nuances of the Faerie Courts to the slums of Chicago’s criminal syndicates, this is the book for the die hard fan who wants to play in Dresden’s world.

The art is amazing and the books are both available in traditional full-size hardcover. Evil Hat continues to impress with their fan friendly approach to independent publishing, and an acquisition of new licensing seems a promise of bigger things to come.

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