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.

Character Creation

About ten days ago, the fine folks at Evil Hat provided us with a big chunk of rules for the game. Enough, in fact, to run character creation, as long as we stuck to mundane types.

Why just mundane? Two reasons. One, they’re still working on the section for supernatural characters. Two, they want mundane characters to be viable in the system.

Yeah. They want to make it as good a game choice to play Murphy as it is to play Harry.  They’ve got an interesting balance mechanic for this that seems, right now, to work fairly well. It has to do with paying for Stunts with Refresh Rate.

What does that mean? It means that the more Stunts (which let you stretch the rules to your advantage in very specific ways) you have, the fewer Fate Points (which let you stretch the rules to your advantage in more general ways) you start each game session with. Mundane Stunts cost less than supernatural Stunts, so mundane characters will tend to have higher Refresh Rates than supernatural ones.

It looks not only workable, but truly inspired. Of course, this is early in the playtest, so things may change.


Character creation works similarly to Spirit of the Century, which you can see here, with some variations to make the system fit the setting a little better. You pick Aspects for different parts of your character’s history, pick Skills, pick Stunts, star in a novel, guest star in other novels, and you’re set.

The character creation of Spirit of the Century was one of the things (one of the many things) about that game that completely blew me away, so it’s nice to see the best parts of it live on in Dresden Files. You do character creation as a group, and you help each other with your characters. Discussion of Aspects, background, good Skill and Stunt choices, and pretty much every other part of the character really helps you zero in on getting the character you want to play.

But the sweetest, most brilliant touch has to be the novels.

Everyone makes up the title of a novel starring their character. Then they write a brief (I restrict it to a single sentence) set-up of the novel. Then they write a brief (again, I impose a limit of a single sentence) account of what their character does in the novel.

Pretty cool so far, right? Just wait.

Now that you’ve done that, you swap novels with each other. You get to guest star in another character’s novel, adding a sentence about how your character helps out in their story. And then you swap again, and guest star in someone else’s novel.

Why do I think that’s so cool? Because of too many games where the characters meet in a bar as strangers and decide to trust each other with their lives. Because of too many games where people hang together because they’re PCs, and no other reason.

Here, characters have a history with at least two other characters. They know each other. They’ve worked together. They have a reason to get together and trust each other.

And it’s just bloody fun. Try it. Check out some of the novels and characters from my Spirit of the Century Pick-Up League site. They rock.

So, we wound up with a nice batch of characters, ranging from crazy street people looked after by faeries to cops in the organized crime unit, from nightclub bouncers to victims of White Court vampire preachers.

Everyone was quite pleased with their character. They’re really looking forward to trying the combat system (we’ve got the bare bones, and that’s the next step), and to creating some supernatural characters (when we get the rules).

I’ll let you know how it goes.