A Look At The Crunch Of The Dresden Files RPG
The Dresden Files RPG, by Evil Hat Productions, is based on the award winning book series The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. The game uses the FATE System, a unique game system that revolves around using Fudge Dice, six-sided dice in which two sides are listed as “+,” two as “-,” and two as “0” or neutral, rolling four of them (4dF), and using that to move you up or down a difficulty ladder. This ladder, consisting of the ratings Terrible, Poor, Mediocre, Average, Fair, Good, Great, Superb, Fantastic, Epic, and Legendary, determines both your own ratings in different abilities as well as the difficulty rating of various tests.
For example, say you have a driving skill of good. This means you are good at driving. Simple, right? Now, say you want to do something that would require a great driving test, like weaving in and out of busy traffic on the interstate while being chased, you would roll your 4dF and adjust your ability based on what you roll. Neutrals do nothing to your ability, negatives move you down the ladder, and positives move you up the ladder. So, say you rolled two positives, a neutral, and a negative. One positive is countered by a negative, the neutral does nothing, and the remaining positive would move your rating of Good up the ladder to Great. You succeed. That is how the core system of the game plays out.
When creating a character in The Dresden Files RPG, the crunch of the character is based entirely around its fluff. This is done as a collaborative endeavor, not only between the player and the gamemaster, but also between all the players. Your character will have a high concept, something that defines what he or she is at their core. This will include anything that marks them as beyond human, as well as what makes them who they are. For example, your character might be “Wizard Private Eye” (if your character’s name is Harry Dresden, for example). This illustrates that he is a wizard, as well as a private investigator. Your character will also have a trouble, something that causes him/her nothing but hardship, a negative trait. This can be anything from “dirt poor” (again, Dresden), to “Cursed by the Winter Court,” to whatever else you might imagine. In addition, you will have five additional aspects that make your character unique. These aspects are created based on your character’s back story, and they are not all created by you, the player. At least two of your aspects will be based on events involving other characters. Role-playing games in general are collaborative endeavors, but the level of collaboration is fairly unique to the FATE System.
Another interesting aspect of the FATE System are fate points. Gamemasters award players fate points when their aspects, particularly their trouble, are used against them and in turn, players use them to “tag” their own aspects, or the aspects of their environment, their allies, or their opponents to give their character an advantage in game. Players can also use fate points to make declarations, giving the environment aspects that were not there before. For example, if a sneaky character is trying to hide from a troll in a warehouse, the character might offer up a fate point and say “Its dark here.” If the gamemaster accepts, that means the warehouse is dark, giving it an aspect the character can tag in order to improve their stealth rolls. Likewise, gamemasters can make compels of player characters, offering them fate points (which, I will add, most players are more than happy to take) in exchange for the characters to either accept a consequence without making a roll to oppose. For example, a gamemaster might want a character knocked out and taken hostage by Red Court Vampires. So when the vampires attack, he might offer a fate point, or more, to the player, and say “Your character didn’t see them coming and they knock him out cold.” If the player accepts, that is what happens. If the player refutes, countering the offered fate point with another fate point, the situation plays out as normal.
In The Dresden Files RPG, the game’s simplicity is often its complexity. It is a story heavy game that blends its crunch with its fluff in ways I find very appealing. If you are a fan of modern fantasy, of The Dresden Files, or just interested in trying a different kind of game, I cannot recommend this one enough.
Image Credit: Evil Hat Productions