My Take On The Dresden Files RPG

When I received my PDF review copy of the Dresden Files I had not read the books.  I wasn’t completely clueless on the setting since I had seen the TV show and attempted to start the first book multiple times.  I just kept getting distracted.  So going through the rule books I had a very basic framework to understand the world from.  My wife had at that point read all the books and kept talking about wanting to play the game.  This made me wonder if someone who did not completely understand the setting could capture the feel of the Dresden Files world and provide a game to satisfy a true fan.  I also wondered if a system like FATE would work well for a group of people who either had not gamed, or only gamed a few times.  That was my mindset as I read through the books.

The Dresden Files rulebook surprised me almost from the first page.  It was all in character from the perspective of one of the novel characters.  Billy the werewolf was writing an RPG for the sole purpose of informing people about the dangers they could face in the world.  He is following in the foot steps of Bram Stroker who in the Dresden world wrote his book as a veiled way to spread the methods of killing a specific type of vampire.  Harry and Bob the Skull serve as his proofreaders and leave frequently humorous post-it note style comments throughout the book.  I found myself drawn into the rulebook like I were reading a novel instead of jumping around like I usually do.  This book just had a different feel than other rule set I had seen and it was this feel and the short story written by Jim Butcher that finally drew me into the world enough to give the books another try.  It was less about the rules themselves but how they were being presented.  I was very short on time and didn’t think I could muster the focus needed for reading a series with so much going on.  I can always listen to an audiobook while working though and our local libraries do stock them.

Over the next two weeks I listened to all 12 Dresden Files novels as audiobooks on my ipod.  The world was so engrossing that I wanted to jump right to the next book as each one finished and all other podiobooks\podcasts took a backseat.  I was also building more and more game ideas from the books.  The further I got into them the more I wanted to run not just a one-shot, but a whole campaign.  The rules for city building and tying characters together seemed to be the perfect foundation for a strong game and would allow the players to have a big part of the world that is their own creation.  I just kept getting more and more excited about the system.

Then disaster struck.  Chad got sick with a nasty bug that lasted two week and generously shared it with the rest of us.  I caught the sickness and when I finally recovered I passed it on to my wife.  The other players we were expecting decided that they didn’t want to game as World of Warcraft was their current priority.  I had a few volunteers, but they were not new gamers and the sickness left me dragging and not in the mood to organize a game.  With each day the idea of a beginner’s game slipped further and further away.

I approached the Dresden Files RPG from the perspective of using it to change fans of the book into gamers.  What happened instead was the opposite.  I found a captivating world and the book changed me as a gamer into a fan.  I regret to say that as of writing this I have still not actually played the game, and I hope to rectify that someday soon and come back to share my experiences.  I can’t say for certain if the system is as new player friendly as I believe it is.  I know it was very easy to understand while reading it from a GMs perspective, but I don’t actually know how easy it is to run.  What I can say at this point is that for the first time I am a fan of a game system that I have not played and that to me is a very strange concept.

* Atomic Array: Episode 047: Dresden Files, Vol 1: Your Story

* d20 Source: Welcome to The Dresden Files

* Dice Monkey: The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game

* 3.5 Private Sanctuary: PS0 140- Flavour – Backstories

* Emerson’s Bookshelf: City Creation and Cooperative Play

* Gnome Stew: Werewolves and Harpies, oh my!

* Atomic Array: Episode048: Dresden Files, Vol 2: Our World

Comments (8)

The AberrantOctober 19th, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I completely agree. I had been a fan of the Dresden Files books back in the day, but had stopped reading at around the same point the TV series was canceled, due to general lack of time in splitting up my hobbies. But I’d heard great things about the Dresden Files RPG (and of course the interview with Fred Hicks) and was curious enough to give it my attention.

I loved the book, loved the concepts behind the game (I’m considering rewriting the system for use in Star Wars), and I badly want to run a game. But most importantly, the book reminded me how much I loved the Dresden Files books. Long story short, I looked through my closet, dug out all of the Dresden novels I had read (1 – 6), poured through them in the space of a month, and then ordered the remainder of the books off Amazon. I just finished Turn Coat on Sunday.

And I do think that the game will be a little strange, conceptually, to new players. Overall though, it’s pretty rules light, so I’m not sure that new players will be necessarily turned off by the setting. I think it’ll just take people with some mighty big imaginations.

WillHOctober 20th, 2010 at 10:39 am

My podcast Actual People, Actual Play has been covering the DFRPG extensively. Episodes 24 and 32-36 are about Dresden. There will be more Dresden episodes in the future as well.

WayneOctober 20th, 2010 at 11:12 am

I have actually been listening to you as well as The Walking Eye Podcast just for the Dresden Files content.

ShasjinOctober 20th, 2010 at 11:34 am

I am a fan and a gamer and I am currently running the game for a new group and one entirely previously non gamer. She and another player had also never read the books. I can say from a month of experience now that this game works wonderfully for new players especially character building and world building. Even for someone who knows nothing about the Dresdenverae, they can contribute to the game world. Also the relative simplicity of the system is easy to teach to new players and new gamers.

nanoboyOctober 20th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I don’t know if it’s forbidden to say so, but the Podgecast did a two-part episode on the books. They convinced me to buy them.

Also, I tried to start a game of the Dresden Files, but I couldn’t get interest. I was trying to start a new group from scratch as well, so it just didn’t pan out. I’ll get to run it some day, I hope.

KytanosOctober 21st, 2010 at 1:57 am

If I may comment Wayne. Unless your adverse to it i’d recommend trying to get a game going online. You miss the visual component of tabletop but with a decent mic and skype or ventrilo you can have a fun and engrossing campaign. Ive met some great friends and have had some truly memorable campaigns online.

I dont know why, but so many people seem adverse to audio roleplay over the internet. They either play exclusively live. Dismissing the idea that you can know, befriend and have fun with someone who you cant keep constant eye contact. Then their are text gamer’s who act as if picking up a mic is some horrifying taboo.

It’s a missed opportunity in my opinion. So many people looking for games, yet so few actually willing to do what it takes to get one.

MechalusOctober 28th, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Shameless Plug:

If you like the Dresden Files RPG (or FATE in general) and are considering hacking the system to run something else, I strongly consider checking out Strands of Fate. It’ll save you a lot of trouble.

Strands of Fate was designed to be a toolkit for using FATE for any genre or power level and is currently #1 on RPGNow/DrivethruRPG and #1 in games on Lulu.

David GrayNovember 3rd, 2010 at 9:24 am

I think the new Side Jobs book is a wonderful… not supplement, really, but example guide to accompany the Dresden Files RPG. Short stories, not generally with any earth shattering encounters, some from non-Dresden points of view; I found reading through Side Jobs freed up my imagination in some ways on how to tell a story in that world without the overtones in some of the full length novels.

After having read the new book, I find myself totally rethinking my Dresden offering for FtC4…

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