I have been a big fan of Jim Butcher's "Harry Dresden" series for a few years, now. Each time a new book is released I stock up on caffeinated beverages and stay up too late reading just one more chapter because I have to know how Harry gets out of his latest fix. Well, earlier this month all us Dresden fans got a double-whammy of goodness with the release of the latest book, Changes, and the start of preorders for The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game. The game is comprised of two volumes that have every detail you could possibly need to run a successful game. They won't be available until June 23rd at Origins, but you can preorder them right now directly through Evil Hat Productions or through participating game stores and instantly receive almost-complete PDFs to tide you over until June.
The RPG is comprised of two hardcover, full-color books, Volume One Your Story and Volume Two Our World, that together give you a complete picture of the "Dresdenverse". Since there are 12 books in the Harry Dresden series, there is a lot of ground to cover. The first volume is over 400 pages and hits all the game basics like creating your character, picking your city, and how things work in the universe you're about to step into. If you are a fan of the books, you will be drawn in from page one. They're done from the point of view of Billy(a werewolf) and filled with notes in the margins from Harry(our intrepid wizard) and Bob (a talking skull/spirit). Honestly, those were some of my favorite parts of the rulebooks! The snark, camaraderie, and fun of these characters is perfectly captured as they speak through these notes. If you don't love them when you open the cover, then you will by the time you reach the last page.
The game is based on the Fate system which combines Fate Points with character traits that are broken out into four categories. Skills cover things you can physically do like fire a gun, wield a sword or drive a car. Aspects describe more who you are as a character rather than what you can do and are essential for setting the tone of how you'll play the game. An aspect could be something like, Blinding Hatred of the Red Court, because, well, they're vampires and they are pretty darn nasty. Maybe you're also really good with a gun and can shoot a quarter tossed into the air from 20 feet away. Well, that'd be a Stunt. If you're more than a mere vanilla mortal and you can leap tall buildings in a single bound, then you've got a Supernatural Power. You also get to choose what Type of character you are going to play. Sure, you can be a Mortal, but you can also be a Lycanthrope, a Faerie, a Sorcerer or any one of a number of different types of creatures. And yes, you can be a Wizard.
Once you've got the basics of your character created you need to put that character into a city full of otherworldy perils. There is an extensive amount of info on how to do this by either creating your own fictional city, using the one where you and the other players actually live or taking a city that is well-known in it's own right and then tweaking it just a bit to fit your game. One thing that is made clear from the start is that although you can spend hours and hours researching every detail of your city, or fleshing out a 20 year back-story for your character, it's absolutely not required. This is a game. It's supposed to be fun. If those kinds of details aren't your thing and you'd rather just jump in, then there's information on how to do just that, too.
Where the larger, more far-reaching first volume gives you the basics needed to play, Volume Two Our World is what brings all the supporting characters, monsters and factions to life. In the course of your game, you're going to bump into a lot of characters and probably at least a few of them will have been in the Dresden novels. This book is an essential point of reference for the GM and for the players. It will help the GM create a believable, fully realized environment for the players and it will help the players realize just how much trouble they're in when the run up against the likes of Gentleman Johnny Marcone or Nicodemus. (Answer: A whole heck of a lot.)
Together, the two volumes of The Dresden Files RPG not only instruct you on how to play, but immerse you in the rich universe that Jim Butcher created in his novels. The descriptions of locations and characters, the illustrations depicting scenes right from the books, the running commentary from Harry, Bob and Billy, all make this read like a mini-Dresden novel. Which reminds me of the one glaring omission in Volume Two and it happens right on the first few pages. It's a giant placeholder for what is promised to be a new short-story about Harry Dresden. I guess that's why they called the PDF almost-complete. This is something we'll all have to wait until June 23rd to read when the actual rulebooks will be available. If you're a fan of RPGs and especially if you're a fan of Harry Dresden, that day cannot come soon enough!