Obsidian Portal and Wiki World Development

Everyone probably already knows about Obsidian Portal, right? I mean, I found out about it from reading Penny Arcade, and they have several orders of magnitude more readers than I do. So, I’m pretty sure I’m a little late to this particular barbecue, but I want to talk about it anyway, because I think it rocks.

For those who don’t know, Obsidian Portal is a combination wiki, blog, and social networking thing, designed specifically to manage RPG campaigns. You register, log in, create a campaign site, invite players, build a wiki for your world, and post to an adventure log to track events in the campaign. It’s dead easy to use, and the basic level is free. You get a fair bit at the basic level, too: the ability to create two campaigns, upload a map, and all the wiki, blog, and networking you can squeeze in. The premium membership costs $40 for a year, and gives you unlimited campaigns, 10 maps, more levels of map zoom*, and the ability to limit who can see your campaign.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I’m moving away from the Scales of War adventure path that’s being published in Dungeon magazine***, and taking the characters into adventures of my own devising. So I decided I would develop the new campaign using Obsidian Portal to see how I liked it and if I wanted to use it for other campaigns, as well.

Now, Scales of War is based in the Elsir Vale, the setting for the 3.5 mega adventure Red Hand of Doom, and takes place roughly a decade later. This means I have a fair bit of background material from both the original module and the adventure path to plug into the wiki****.

And I have discovered that I absolutely love the way wikis work for world design.

This is the first time I’ve ever used a wiki, and I had no idea what to expect. I watched the tutorial video that is linked from Obsidian Portal’s main page, learned about forward linking, and thought, “Huh. That looks pretty simple.” And I was right.

Not only is it simple, it really helps guide the creative process. I can see at a glance what bits I need to fill in on any given wiki page. I can look at the list of pages and identify gaps that I want to fill, and opportunities to expand the information. I can watch the campaign world take shape in a non-linear but still usefully structured way. There is even a special GM Only pane of each wiki page where I can put in my secrets and notes, and not have to worry about the players seeing them.

So, I’ve invited the players to the campaign to register for Obsidian Portal and sign up for my campaign. I’ve only got two of them to do it, so far, but the rest will come along eventually. I’ve also told them that they’re free to add stuff not only to the adventure log, but also to the wiki itself*****.

Anyway, that’s it for now. If you’re interested in a peek at the campaign, you can see it here. I hasten to point out that it’s still in early days of development in the wiki. But let me know what you think, anyway.

Just be gentle. It’s my first wiki.



*This is important: the map I uploaded shows up as a single pixel at highest zoom. I can view the original image by clicking on a link, but I was hoping for the zoom to work better. I probably did something wrong**.

**Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything in the help or forums that specifically addressed this issue. One of the hazards of a new service – not enough time for real depth of support to develop.

***As a complete aside, I was really impressed by the latest adventure in Dungeon. It’s called Depths of Madness, and focuses on a number of interesting and well-developed skill challenges, rather than just a lot of dungeon crawling and fights. Don’t get me wrong – there’s still a lot of fights and some dungeon crawling, but I think this is a big step in the right direction.

****Technically, this is a violation of copyright. Well, not just technically, I guess. I’m hoping that WotC won’t care enough about my little indiscretion. If they do, I’ll have to figure something else out.

*****Though I’m not sure if this will actually work.

What’s the Story? – RPG as Narrative

I’m gonna get a little philosophical in the following post, so be warned. There’s some musing ahead.

I play a lot of RPGs. Right now, I’m playing in three different games, and running three more, not counting the computer RPGs that I indulge in as time permits. I also read a lot of books – got four of them on the go at the moment. And I write a fair bit. Writing is my day job (technical writing), and I’m currently trying to finish writing a novel.

This means that I think a lot about stories.

I’m thinking now specifically about stories in RPGs, because I just finished writing up the character diary for one of my characters. This is something I decided to take on because my character is a bookish, scholarly sort who would keep a diary. My GM in that group has asked me to post it on the game’s forum site, so that it can serve as a recap for the players, and I’m cool with that. It’s fun to write, fun to explore the development of the character out of game time, and fun to let his voice mature through the entries. I’ve done similar things with other characters, but this is the first time I’ve decided to keep a game diary from the get-go, and to make it public. Well, public among the others in the group.

But it’s got me thinking about narrative structure and convention within RPGs, and whether we are, in fact, generating stories when we play.

(Now, when I say “story,” I’m using the word in a very particular way. I’m referring to something that would appear in a novel, short-story collection, movie, or television. That’s a pretty formal and narrow definition, I know, but that’s really part of the point I’m trying to make.)

Yeah, I know, the current trend is to view RPGs as collaborative improvisational storytelling, but are we really telling stories?

I’ve been noticing that, as I write up my diary entries from my notes during play, that I have to do a fair bit of fleshing out of things that didn’t actually happen in play, or smoothing over and conflating things that did happen in play. And even then, it’s hard to call my finished product a story. Even when taken together, the entries from an entire adventure don’t really make up a story. Here’s why:

  • Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. RPGs certainly have a beginning, and a whole lot of middle, but the ending is very often not a clean, defined thing. Sometimes, games fade out as interest wanes, sometimes they are abandoned when something new comes along, sometimes they’re ditched after a TPK. Sometimes they make it to a defined ending point, but even those often leave many loose ends and follow-ups. And the middles sort of go on forever, which is really part of my next point.
  • Stories have focus. They tell a tale, and show you what’s important to the narrative progress. RPGs may have that sort of thing set up in their structure, but focus tends to go out the window once the players get involved. Because people pick up on different things, are interested in different things, and think about things in different ways, they don’t always spot the plotline right off the bat, and tend to wander around a bit trying to find it. Even when they do find it, they rarely want to focus specifically on it – their characters all have other interests as well as the main storyline.
  • Stories are (generally) controlled by the teller. This is what give stories their structure and focus. One voice, one vision, one direction*. In RPGs, the control is split among all the participants, players and GM alike, and each has a different agenda. Each player views his or her character as the main character in the story, and views the story to be about them. Plus the others, but mainly them. This is what weakens** focus and structure in RPGs.

When I look at my completed diary entries, or talk to people about what happened in a game, it doesn’t come out very storylike. The diary entries feel like diary entries, in that they are a strung-together account of events. They may have a little more focus and direction than real-world diary entries, but not a whole lot. Talking about games is the same way – outlining everything that happens in a game doesn’t provide a clear, focused narrative, because of all the little things that clutter it up. If we want to talk about the experience in a meaningful and interesting way, we tend to string together anecdotes from the game to highlight moments that had an impact on us.

Let’s look at the standard D&D*** game. If you tell the “story” of the game, it goes something like:

Goblins were attacking the town, so we went out into the woods, and fought some goblins. Then we fought some goblins with wolves. Then we camped overnight, and a bear attacked us. In the morning we followed the goblin trail to the caves. Along the way, we fought goblins twice more. One of the groups had a shaman. At the caves, we fought goblins with wolves in the first room, then goblin archers behind stacks of haybales in the second room. In the third room there was a pit trap, and we fought some more goblins. Finally, we got to the leader, and he was a bugbear, so we fought him and won. Then we went to collect our reward.

As a narrative, it’s not all that interesting. You fought a lot of goblins and things, and saved the town. There. I just boiled it down to a single sentence. Even if you have a group of very skilled roleplayers who are totally immersed in their characters, it’s not going to really add all that much to the story except some filler scenes to separate the fights.

I wouldn’t buy a book that told that story.****

And have you ever tried to tell a game story to a non-gamer? Don’t even bother. Their eyes glaze over pretty quick, even if they understand what you’re talking about. Even with gamers, what interest there is comes from comparison and identification with their own gaming experience. And a lot of gamers you tell your game story to are just nodding and smiling until you’re done flapping your gums so that they can tell you a real cool gaming story from their own lives.

Now, the argument could be made that I’m oversimplifying and that some RPGs are rich in story. I don’t think so, but I’m fine with being told I’m wrong. What we call story in RPGs is primarily background – the stuff in behind the stories. Or the infamous metaplot, which is closer to what I think of as story, but that I don’t think really comes on stage properly in the average game.

You could also say, “It’s the GM. My GM makes great stories.” And you may be right, but I don’t think so. It’s not that your GM isn’t great, but your GM is making campaigns and adventures, which are story skeletons that get fleshed out by play, and it’s the play that keeps the RPG experience from being story.

I’ve done it myself, creating a campaign that ran for just about eight years, with a storyline running through it, and a beginning, middle, and end, but I have to admit, after the fact, that it wasn’t a story in the way I’m talking about here. It was a collection of events, with a common theme and a sense of linkage to lead from one to the other, and a resolution that tied up most of the loose ends and put a lid on things. But it wasn’t really a story.

So, by my definitions, as outlined above, I’ve pretty much proved***** that what happens in RPGs is not story in the strictest sense. What is it then?

It’s a game.

Now, that may sound obvious or ridiculous, but I think it’s an important distinction. It’s a game, with rules that simulate events in which we participate. It produces a series of linked, simulated events that occur because of our interaction with the rules. These series of events can be adapted and restructured to produce a story, if we put in the effort to weed out the extraneous and add the missing. By applying the structure, focus, and control I mentioned above.

It’s fine that RPGs don’t produce stories as I’ve defined them. In fact, it’s a good thing. The bits that keep RPGs from being the same as novels are the interaction and surprise that emerges from play. Those are great things to have. Control of narration in the hands of the participants is a whole lot of fun. As a GM, not having to flesh out every detail of a plot, and relying on my players to supply the exciting parts is fun. As a player, knowing that I can steal a moment or two in the spotlight, and watch each of my friends do the same is fun.

What about the repetition? Well, that’s fun, too, because in the simulationist rules of the game, it produces varied and interesting results. What does that mean? It means combats are exciting. Introducing a random chance element into play is exciting. It doesn’t look exciting when it’s written down on the page, but man, when you’re rolling and praying for that natural 20, you are excited.

It just doesn’t make for such an interesting story.

So, enjoy the game for what it is. And enjoy stories for what they are. The two are not the same, though, so think about that the next time you read a book or play a game. Look at the differences between the two. It can tell you a lot about the nature of narrative and play.

And, in closing, lest you think I’m picking on games, it happens elsewhere, too. The musical Cats, for example, is a wonderful show, with good music, good lyrics (yay for T.S. Eliot!), good dancing, and great look to it. I love it.

But it ain’t got a story, neither.


*Now, admittedly, this isn’t always the case, but I’m playing it up as a rule to heighten the contrast of my argument. So all you postmodernists out there just bear with me.

**I say “weakens,” but it’s not necessarily a negative. I could also have said “increases the freedom and spontanaeity,” but I am, once again, trying to make a point.

***If there is such a thing. This may be the same sort of philosophical construct as the square root of -1, which doesn’t exist as a number but makes some important high-level math work.

****To be fair, I have bought books that tell that story. And I’ve enjoyed them. I just wouldn’t call them good stories.

*****And if I haven’t, sshhh. I’m bored now, and moving on to the next section.

“I’m Sorry, But That’s What My Character Would Do.”

Good god, I’ve come to dread that sentence in games.

Most of you recognize it, right? The cry of the dedicated roleplayer when a character choice causes problems.

“I have to be true to the character.”

No matter what the cost. That’s what being a true roleplayer is all about right?

Once upon a time, I would have agreed with that. But after several years (Hell, who am I kidding? After nearly three decades!) of gaming, I’ve come to a different conclusion.

Let’s look at the evolution of me as a gamer, because I’m going to assume I’m pretty typical for gamers in my age bracket. Yeah, that’s a big assumption, but I’m trying to make a point here. How about we suspend judgment for a bit, and just go along for the ride?

When I started gaming, back in high school, it was all about the hack ‘n’ slash. Kill things, take their stuff, repeat until you collapse. It was fun, and I still run one of those games today for a group of beer-and-pretzel gamers.

But after a while, I wanted something more out of gaming. In the heady days of the ’80s, I delved into more and more complex systems, looking for more realistic simulations. While this held my interest, the more complex rules meant I had more problems finding people to play with.

So, things turned around again with the publication of Vampire: The Masquerade. Simple system, strong emphasis on storytelling and characterization. And that’s the way I went. Right into the heart of being a completely dedicated true character roleplayer.

And that’s where the problems came in.

See, another character in the game did something that infuriated my character, and passed it off as, “Sorry, but that’s what my character would do.” This led to my character (who was a bit of a prick, truth to tell) retaliating in petty little ways. And her character would retaliate. And so on.

By the time the campaign wrapped up, we had been playing the last several years with the GM and the other players and even us going through these bizarre contortions to get the entire party together in the same place, or working on the same problem. When really, they should have killed each other off long before.

I swear to God, it was like the A-Team. Every week, you wonder how they’re going to get Mr. T on the airplane, and the methods get crazier and stupider.

And here’s my point:

It’s a game.

You’re there to play. With other people. Who also want to have fun.

Now, I’m not trying to say that people shouldn’t play their characters, or that the experience shouldn’t be immersive, but you gotta keep your eye on the prize, and the prize is for everyone to have fun.


Here’s why I’ve been thinking about this the past couple of days.

I’ve started playing in a new D&D campaign with my group, and one of the players is the one who played the character that my character feuded with all through the Vampire campaign. Saturday night, we butted heads again, our characters pushing each others’ buttons, and getting into a situation where, for a while there, I thought that I was going to have to retire my character or face a repeat of the whole Vampire campaign.

(“C’mon, BA, just drink the milk. We didn’t drug it this week!”)

But I made my character make a gesture of conciliation to her character. Then she sent me some e-mail the next day, saying, “Let’s figure out how to make this work between our characters so that we don’t go down that road again.”

And you know what? We did.

Over the course of a few e-mail exchanges, we turned a potentially disasterous encounter into a bonding experience for our characters.


We communicated. We explained where we were each coming from in playing our characters the way we had. And then we did a few in-character conversations via e-mail. And now, our characters are closer and more loyal to each other than they were before the incident. They respect and understand each other more. And they’ve each grown in interesting ways.

Notice I said that the characters have grown, not that the characters have changed. Nothing about how we see our characters has been invalidated; if anything the whole experience really reinforced our concepts. But they’ve expanded and deepened, in ways that work.

We met each other half-way, and turned what could have been a really souring experience into a positive one. I can’t wait for the next session.

So, I’ve come to see the cry of, “But that’s what my character would do!” as a bit of a selfish grab for the spotlight. It only gets said when the culprit has brought a problem into the gaming experience. Notice I didn’t say, “Into the game.” Complications from character actions in-game are fine. But the phrase is usually only trotted out when there’s a real impact on the fun for the players or GM.

It’s a lame excuse.

Be true to your character, but be truer to your friends in the real world. You’re there to have fun, and so are they. Keep that in mind when you make choices for your character, and consider what the impact will be on the play experience for the rest of the people sitting around the living room with you. Roleplaying is a co-operative endeavour; make sure you do your part to make it fun for everyone.

And when problems crop up, as they will, as they did for Penny and I on Saturday, work it out. Communicate. Compromise. Co-operate. If you meet each other half-way, you can turn a potential problem into a real nice moment for both characters.

And now I’m getting down off my soapbox.

Away We Go

Tonight was the first supernatural character creation session. It went very well. I had four people attend this evening, and we came up with five characters. Two of the character concepts did not fit the structure of the Supernatural Stunts chapter, but they were both very easy to house-rule in. Took maybe five minutes of discussion, total. I like that sort of robustness in a system.

What were they? One was a ghost, which winds up with a 0 Refresh Rate after all the required stunts. Easy enough to make one of the stunts optional, giving the player a Refresh of 1, and therefor a playable character. The other was a ghoul, which necessitated creating a new permission and deciding what other powers he should have. Easy. Done.

The rules so far stick very close to canon, but have a flexibility that easily allows one to extrapolate and house-rule things. With a little bit of thought and comparison, it’s easy to fit pretty much any concept that fits in the Dresdenverse into the structure and build it for a PC.

So, as a treat for those of you who have been waiting, here’s the first supernatural character to be posted. It’s a supernatural remix of Crazy Tom, one of my mundane characters. I did this to see how the system handled it. I wound up with an interesting pair of characters – supernatural Crazy Tom is more powerful, but mundane Crazy Tom is more resourceful. I like it.

Have a look.

The Great Mystery

Or why my dream magic system will never be made in a roleplaying game.

I’ve read a lot of roleplaying games in my life. Really, a lot. And one of the criteria I use to judge the system is how they implement magic.

Let me define my terms here. I’m going to be talking specifically about magic as a mystical force. The same systems are often used by RPGs to model other types of special powers, whether they call them psychic abilities, cybernetic enhancements, super powers, or whatever. For the purposes of this little rant, I’m just talking about magic that is done through mystical means – you know, the kinds of things wizards and sorcerers do. It could be in a pseudo-medieval setting, like D&D, or it could be in a modern setting, like Dresden Files, or even a futuristic one, like Shadowrun. It’s the use of supernatural abilities to elicit a change in the environment.

How’s that for a definition? Good. Moving on.

There is a strong tendency in fantasy RPGs to make magic a technological substitute, and to approach it in a very scientific, mechanistic kind of way. Some do this behind the scenes, like D&D, while others get the player or character involved, like in Savage Worlds. Either way, you wind up with recipes for magical effects that are repeatable and predictable.

Fantasy novels have embraced this idea, as well, especially those that have mystical characters as main characters. You get exposition on how magic works, what laws it adheres to, how the various factors intermix, etc. There is a decided effort to make magic understandable, to minimize the necessary suspension of disbelief to integrate magic into the story.

And I like those books. Well, not all of them obviously, but in general.

And I like those games, too. Again, some more than others.

But in both cases, the magic doesn’t really feel, well, magical.

It’s reasonable that authors and game designers take this path for their magical systems, and I don’t argue it. You need a predictable structure to magic in a game, so that the players know what their characters are capable of. So that the GM can properly assess challenges for the characters. So that there is a shared understanding of what magic is and what it can and cannot do. In books, it helps the author avoid contrivance in plot and present believable limitations and challenges for the characters. It helps them play fair with their audience, not relying on deus ex machina in the form of magic to save the day.

It’s a perfectly viable approach. Understandable. And, done well, enjoyable.

But there are other ways of understanding magic that I like better.

Like not understanding it.

Charles de Lint wrote a book called Greenmantle which is all about Mystery in the deep green places of the world, a power that predates modern understanding, and can never be completely understood. It touches everything around it with a transformative power that cannot be denied.

Guy Gavriel Kay wrote a book called The Summer Tree, in which a young man sacrifices himself to a god on an old oak tree, and is sent back into the world with a power of knowledge. He knows things, whispered to him by the god’s ravens, and, though he has no real mystical ability himself, he is accorded equal status by the lesser gods and goddesses in the world.

Sean Stewart wrote a book called Resurrection Man, where magic awoke in the concentration camps of the second world war, and runs through the world to this day. Minotaurs form in the twisting slums of the violent inner cities, and some few people have an angel inside them that shows them the truths of the world in dark and disturbing ways, and leads some of them away from humanity into a new existence.

(By the way, you should read everything that those three gentlemen have written. They are each of them magnificent authors. And the two that I have met are very gracious with their fans.)

I cite those examples to show a different approach to magic. Joseph Campbell, in his book Primitive Mythology, talks about magical thinking as a process different from the logical thinking that typifies modern life. The RPG Nephilim tried to produce that sort of experience for the players, and came pretty close when they moved from the standard list of magical spells to the more free-form type of magic in the supplement Liber Ka.

This is the kind of magic system I want. One that works on The Logic of Elfland, as G.K. Chesterton called it, instead of on the mundane, predictable logic of the real world.

I want to be able to act on a symbolic, mystical understanding of a situation, and have it work both narratively and mechanically. I want to be able to weave the lies told by a villain into cords that will bind his happiness, never letting it free. I want ants to come to my rescue because I prevented my brothers from destroying their hill. I want to win the fair maiden’s hand because I’m the third son and my name is Jack. I want to trick Death into a sack where I can keep him confined forever. I want to stand between life and death, able to look into each realm, and negotiate between the inhabitants of both.

It’s not going to happen, though.

Maybe I’ll be able to play someone like that in an RPG some day, but it’ll be a very rules-light, GM-intensive game. Because of the problem Joseph Campbell noted.

Magical thinking isn’t like our modern logic.

So, how can we develop mechanics that properly reflect it? We can’t, in my opinion. Every rule we create to structure magic strips away some of the mystical, leaving it a little more predictable and a little less magical. By the time we get something playable, the sweet mystery of magic has been tied down and tamed. The wildness is gone.

I’m going to keep looking for it, though. If nothing else, it lets me find a whole bunch of interesting games that do it the other way.

And that’s not bad.

It’s just not my dream system.

After the Fighting’s Done

So, Friday night I ran the second half of the group through the conflicts to test the system. Now that I have no more secrets to keep from the players, I’ll give you some more detail on how things went.

For the Mental conflict, I chose trying a case before the Triumvirate of the Council of Ghosts. The set-up was that the ghost of a woman was released from the Vaughn Street Jail after evidence came to light that she was wrongly convicted of murdering her children back in the 1930’s. Citing this release as precedent, four other executed murderers were suing for release, with the aid of a ghost lawyer. The characters had certain knowledge that the four would take vengeance on the city, rather than move on as the woman had done, and so had to convince the Council not to release them.

For the Social conflict, I had five einharjar from Gimli come into town and start tearing up the local bar where the characters were gathered. The characters had to convince the einharjar to leave. Simple and straightforward.

And for the Physical conflict, I had the daughter of one of the lead detectives of Operation Clean Sweep kidnapped by the Mad Cowz, and held in a drug house guarded by a dozen gangbangers led by a hyena lycanthrope. Straightforward, but not so simple.

Because of time limitations, we only got to run two of the three conflicts with each group. For the first group last Monday, I ran the social and physical conflicts. For the Friday group, I ran the mental and physical conflicts.

We got off to a slow start, mainly because I had to teach the conflict rules to people in both groups. There was also the expected learning curve delays, as people tried to get their heads around some of the concepts and options they had available to them. Both those factors are to be expected in any system, so we knew they were going to crop up.

Once things got rolling, it was fun. Everyone got to try doing interesting things, and events flowed in a fairly interesting manner.

We did run into a bit of trouble because of the restrictions I put on each conflict, forcing players to stick to either mental, physical, or social tactics. Of course, in a real game, I wouldn’t restrict things this way, but the idea was to test the systems independently of each other.

Anyway, I’m compiling my impressions and reports from the players to send to the Evil Hat folks to let them know how things went. In the meantime, here are a couple of moments that really worked nicely:

  • Anne using her skill at chemistry to spike the einharjar’s drink, making him talk in a squeaky voice, and embarrassing him to no end.
  • Crazy Iris realizing what a huge combined advantage a shotgun and surprise can be.
  • Artemis deciding to use his Lore skill to bluff the einharjar with the threat of Odin’s wrath.
  • Boniface, so careful not to kill any Mad Cowz, accepting a compel to kill one who had almost killed him with a gunshot.
  • Sydney using a combination of Conviction and Lore to stand up to a ghostly lawyer, while Jim’s police training allowed him to lay out the evidence to undermine the case, and Boniface kept the lawyer off-balance with his knowledge of the hidden crimes of the past. Good uses of declarations by all players, filling in details of the Accord of Two Waters, the lawyer, and the criminals.

All in all, we had a good time. The more we try the system, the better things look.

Getting Into the Weird

So, I’m looking over the Supernatural Stunts chapter of the Dresden Files RPG. Interesting stuff.

I mentioned back when I was talking about the mundane character creation that you buy stunts by spending refresh rate. Mundane stunts are one point each. Supernatural stunts may cost more. This means that supernatural characters tend to wind up with fewer Fate Points at the start of a session than other characters, and have to work at getting their Aspects compelled to earn the Fate Points that they’ll need in play. Since compelling someone’s Aspect usually means that their choices are restricted in some way, Evil Hat has equated Fate Points to free will.

That’s right. Supernatural creatures have less free will than mundane folks.

They do a good job of supporting this with references to the source material. Think of how many times Harry gets the ever-loving crap kicked out of him early on in the stories, only to rise from the ashes when he really needs to, and do some kicking of his own.

He’s not just getting beat up; he’s collecting Fate Points for the climactic showdown he knows is coming.

It seems a nice mechanic, and has worked well with the mundane characters. We haven’t made supernatural characters, yet, so I can’t speak to that, but it looks like it will work just as well.

There’s a little twist to the supernatural stunts that set them off from the mundane ones: Permissions. Permissions are stunts that allow you to take other supernatural stunts in keeping with the specific Permission that you’ve taken. They tell you what other stunts you must take, and what other stunts you may take. So, if I want to play a wizard, I need to take the Wizard Permission, and all the stunts that Wizards need to have (things like Soulgaze, and The Sight, not to mention the spellcasting stunts). There are a couple of other stunts I can take if I like.

Not all of these stunts cost Refresh Rate; some are free (these are usually permissions), and some actually return some Refresh Rate (by effectively discounting other stunts by applying restrictions to them). But at the end of the day, you generally wind up with fewer than five Fate Points at the start of a session.

I think it will work; I’ll let you know how things go after I’ve tested them.

This does do one thing that will have a real impact on how players think about character creation: most of the Permissions require you to have at least one Aspect relating to it, often two. This means that, when creating supernatural characters, players need to consider the stunts they’re going to need right from the start, not pick them after deciding everything else. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a change that the players need to be ready for.

Anyway, those are my observations so far. More to follow as testing continues.

About Last Night

I don’t want to get into too much detail in this report; I still have another group of players to run through the conflicts. Some general observations:

  • Conflict in this game, physical or otherwise, is very much narrative-driven. This is a real change in perspective for players who are used to D&D’s very mechanics-driven combat system. It requires a different way of looking at conflict.
  • No matter what the system, a sucky roll is a sucky roll, and it can still make you sad. Or dead.
  • Getting to choose your own injuries and consequences is a very interesting choice. Watching someone try to decide where the machete hit them or how bad the bikers scared them is a lot of fun.
  • The key to conflicts in this system seems to be co-operation. One character (or more) uses a maneuver to stick someone with an Aspect, and then the finisher comes in, tags the Aspect(s), and strikes home.

On Friday, I’m running the conflicts with the rest of the group. Once I get everyone’s feedback and have consolidated it and forwarded it to Evil Hat, I’ll post a more specific report.  I’m not sure how much detail I can include, but I’ll tell you what I can. I just don’t want to give away anything for the other group, or prejudice their comments too much.

Playtest Update

Just want to let you folks know the status of things, and our plans for the playtest over the next couple of weeks.

First, a couple of days ago, Evil Hat sent us two background chapters on the Dresdenverse. One is a Who’s Who of characters from the books, and the other is sort of a monster chapter – info on the types of bad guys that might come up.  I’ve distributed those to my playtesters, and we’re currently reading through them. They were written by Chad Underkoffler, who also used to write for Unknown Armies, so I know they’re going to be solid stuff.

Second, just tonight, Evil Hat sent us the chapter on supernatural stunts. There’s still the chapter on spellcasting and the one on artifacts to come, but this really puts us in a good position to start seeing how the magic works in the game.

Now, my plans.

Next week, I’m running a couple of sessions using only the mundane characters that have been created. It’s just a test of the conflict system – not a full game. So, I’m going to try to run one physical, one mental, and one social conflict in each session. If possible, we’ll rerun one or two of them, to see what effect different choices make.

A week or two after that, we’re going to get together and create supernatural characters, using the new rules.

Once that’s done, we’re actually going to run a couple of games – maybe two or three session arcs, seeing how the whole thing fits together. That’s the part I’m really looking forward to.

So, that’s what you can expect to see about the DFRPG over the next little while.

Oh, and I’ll continue posting characters as I receive them from my playtesters. I know it’s tough to wait, but it can be even tougher to get them to send them to me.