Monday, 4 August 2014

#RPGaDAY: Day 4 - Most recent RPG purchase

I hate this artwork; just for the record
My most recent purchase is, like most of my recent purchases, something I picked up on PDF because of a game I was running or playing in. In this case, my friend Jon's upcoming game - so, I've not played this one yet, nor even read it through comprehensively - using the Dresden Files rules, for which I picked up the payers' book, Your Story. I'll write more on the pro and cons of licensed RPGs in a later post, since there's a specific topic for licenses coming up, and today focus on the specifics.

I think because it is so recent, this will be a less personal account than some of those which came before, as I don't have an emotional connection to it.

The Dresden Files is based around a) The Harry Dresden novels of Jim Butcher, and b) the Fate/Fate Core game system, of which also more later. For those even less familiar with the books than I am, Harry Dresden is a moderately disgraced wizard who works as a private investigator in a Chicago that is positively wormy with supernatural gribblies; not that the police will admit to it. As urban supernatural fiction goes, it's pretty high-level, although the game contains options for playing anything from hapless beat cops wrestling with barely known demons, to magicians with enough oomph to split the world open.

As I say, more on Fate Core will follow, but the basic set up breaks a character down into Aspects, Skills and Stunts. Aspects are descriptors which define the character and allow the player to modify their rolls or make declarations which change the scene. Skills are basic, mundane abilities; Stunts are special abilities which come from training or natural abilities and which modify the way the rules apply to your character in some way. The Dresden Files adds Powers, which are like Stunts, but are much more wide-ranging and result from a supernatural origin or training. Aspects are activated using a limited pool of Fate points, while Stunts and Powers are always on, but are bought by expending your initial stock of Fate points, trading definite and specific bonuses for a limited, but wide-ranging advantage.

In addition to Powers, the game adds Catches. Powers are more potent and generally applicable than Stunts, but Catches reduce their costs by setting limits on when they can be used. I like this aspect of the system as it effectively models the supernatural checks and balances which lie at the heart of the Dresdenverse. Operating largely at the GM's discretion, an important feature is that certain powers must have Catches, and that Catches can reduce the cost by 0-points, so that they are important for more than just a way to rake back Fate points.

The game's licensed material is introduced through a Castle Falkenstein-type presentation, where the game text is given as an in-universe means of modelling the lives of the characters, who comment in the margins on its accuracy or otherwise. I've not read enough of the source material - or read the game text thoroughly enough - to know how well it models the original, but as licensed products go it seems to be pretty good. The game makes a decent fist at the setting's dark humour, and also uses the commentary to discuss applications of the rules, rather than as pure fluff, which already puts it streets ahead of Falkenstein's clunky presentation.

Next up, for Day 5 I'll talk about the most old school RPG I own, but sooner rather than later I'm going to need to start freeforming, because on a lot of these topics I don't have anything much to talk about.

Remember to look at the hashtag for more on this topic. Also, check out some of my friends' blogs for more #RPGaDAY:

Gonzo History Gaming Edition

The Anxious Gamer

Dice Tales