Monday, November 18, 2013

Tommy's Take on Dresden Files RPG: Our World

Pictured: Ape demons who fling flaming poo.

Dresden Files: Your Story gives you almost everything you need to play...Our World is the "setting guide", focused primarily on Dresden's Chicago, but covering a bit more ground than that.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: At almost 275 pages, it's a bit leaner than Your Story, and a bit less expensive ($40 in print and $20 in PDF). As with Your Story, it covers the first ten books (and a few short stories), so there will be spoilers for those books within. It's a full color hardcover, written in a very informal style with lots of conversational notes back and forth between Billy, Harry and Bob. This review is of the hardcover version.

Pretty much all the rules you need for the game are in Your Story...this is NPCs, monsters, etc. The first chapter (Old World Order) is an overview of the world, including a broad overview of the Unseelie Accords (because they are so arcane and convoluted that codifying them would be incredibly difficult), and they are contrasted with the Laws of Magic (Letter of the Law versus Spirit of the Law). All of the factions of the world are touched on, including the White Council (who are ostensibly good guys, but can be as big of a pain at times as bad guys), The Knights of the Cross (who are barely a faction, as there are only three of them when they are at full "enlistment"), the Vampire Courts (with sidebars discussing other possible courts), The Order of the Blackened Denarius (crazy powerful Fallen Angels) and The Circle (the mysterious force behind a lot of what's happened in the books to this point).

What Goes Bump is the bestiary, about 70 pages of the books. Each entry includes a Name, Description, First Appearance, What We Know, Powers and Weaknesses. Most entries also include a stat block, though a few do not (Angels wouldn't have a generic stat block, for starters, and rarely get personally involved anyway). A few demons, some magical constructs, Ghouls, Hags, some Ghosts, the various Vampires, warped animals, zombies, etc., are all included with stat blocks. As much details as possible is given for other entities, like Angels, The Fallen, Dragons...stuff that haven't thus far proven encounterable by the average supernatural joe. Other beings, like the Fae, aren't given generic stat blocks, but are given guidelines on how to build your own NPC Fae, with similar treatment given to different wizards and practitioners (like what is liable to separate Wardens and Necromancers, for instance).

The bulk of the book is NPCs, specifically individuals Harry has encountered in his books. Again, as much information as possible is provided for pretty much everyone. Annoyingly, this leads to a lot of "...and we're not really sure about this...Aspects are at least usually provided for everyone. There are even lots of helpful little sidebars, like with Murphy's ex, who has two Aspects that contradict each other, but this is specifically pointed out in the sidebar (and cited as a good thing, as people are sometimes complicated like that). The Harry Dresden write-up is FULL of sidebars...such as how to advance him from the end of Storm Front through each of the books, or running a game without Harry in the world (and how that might affect things)...or even situations in which Harry might have gone bad. Every major character, most minor characters and even a few "Cameo Characters" which should give you, at minimum, a lot of inspiration for your own NPCs.

The last chapter covers Chicago itself, with a little look at its history and a few paragraphs on each neighborhood.

The index covers both books and, as a bonus, includes some early concept art for the book.

WHAT WORKS: A fantastic read for fans of the Dresden Files, as well as a great guide for adapting the creatures and NPCs from the novels as a guide for making your own. Again, the production values are top notch, and the sidebars are very useful and informative, especially when dealing with issues like how to handle Harry in your games (if at all). The index covering both books is also a great thing. Also, it's The Dresden Files.
I'm a fanboy. I admit it.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: My biggest gripe is the overabundance of "We don't really know, so we're hand waving this" entries...that said, Harry is considered to be an "unreliable narrator", so you can OFFICIALLY take anything in the book with a grain of salt.

CONCLUSION: Not quite as high on the "Must Buy" list as "Your Story", but still a great, well-written and gorgeous resource. I certainly don't regret picking it up, even though my eventual game will probably having nothing to do with Chicago or the inhabitants of the books (at least not directly). Worth buying? Yes. Must have? Maaaaaybe, if only because Your Story lacks a bestiary.