Dresden Files: Reno Reborn

 Posted by on November 2, 2011  Filed as: Editorial  Add comments  Topic(s):
Nov 022011

“It is the nature of the universe that things remain. Nothing ever disappears completely. The very sound of Creation still echoes throughout the vast darkness: The universe remembers.” Ghost Story

In The Dresden Files RPG, the world of the Dresedenverse is a magical place. You may live in Chicago, Baltimore, Edenburg, Scotland, Mexico City; or Your Home Town, but no matter where you live, the supernatural world co-exists with yours. Mortals have been around for a long time, but there are much longer-lived things out there…

Being a game powered by FATE, players have much higher control of story and setting than in many other games. The greatest demonstration of this is in the default assumption of The Dresden Files that your group will create the setting “city” you are playing in before creating your characters. In “Chapter 3 – City Creation”, players work with the GM to develop themes and threats of the setting. From the start, this collaborative approach helps inform the GM what expectations the players have for this game.

Normally, the first choice the group makes is to decide in which city the campaign will take place. If you read my last article, you know I have taken GM license in saying that I want the game to take place in Reno, with my players playing themselves as PCs being introduced to the mysteries of the Dresdenverse. From there, we will decide as a group some themes we might want to see in the setting.

As an example, I am going to throw out a couple of potential Themes to get us started… Let’s say that we want to see some corrupt politicians and gangsters lining their pockets, but in a Reno way (as opposed to “the Chicago Way” or as it’s done in the Big Apple). We may want to emphasize our connection to the Wild West or how mining and gambling have influenced the local scene. This may lead us to historical connections to the silver mining industry of the mid-to-late 1800’s or to the mob bringing legalized gambling into the state or any number of other perceptions we want to have of our fictionalized home town.

Playing with this theme we talk about potential Aspects and get the following:

  • Power is Good, but Politics is Better
  • It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who you Know
  • Good Old Boys

I particularly like the last two, but want to tweak them to be more engaging for our setting. The second might be shortened and therefore more useful: It’s Not What You Know… This now makes it broader and more sinister feeling. I can still use it for its original purpose, but the dangling ending can be used in other ways (i.e. …It’s What You Don’t That Can Kill You, or …It’s What Knows You). This change might also lead to certain implications, maybe that the politically powerful in Reno are clued in to the supernatural players and activities in their town. Maybe it just means that there is a lot going on in Reno that the PCs are unaware of.

The last aspect really speaks to me, especially with a very minor change. Good “Old” Boys. This still evokes the feel of connections equals power, but also suggests many possibilities for me to look at as a GM. Does “Old” refer to vampires, wizards, decrepit Mafiosos, ancient Native American spirits, the Civil War, or all of the above? Are the “Old” in Reno attempting to maintain the status quo because “that’s the way it’s always been” and can’t break the cycle, or to some other villainous end? Are they trying to destroy the status quo?

Thanks for tuning in, next time I’ll show our finalized theme aspects and maybe a Threat as well. We will also discuss the importance of Locations and Faces and how they will help breath life into our setting.

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Colin Dowling

I’m an avid gamer who enjoys RPGs, board and video games (I’m currently replaying the Dawn of War games due to an overabundance of Warhammer 40K and Fantasy exposure). When I’m not hopelessly wasting time with these games or my wage-slave job, I’m moonlighting as a know-it-all for my chummers at the ’Shack. Peace, and watch out for street sams, they’re everywhere (just like chupacabras). Profile Page / Article Portfolio.

  2 Responses to “Dresden Files: Reno Reborn”

  1. The Dresden Files was a blink and you missed it TV series based off of the published novels by the same name. It was one of those shows that I wanted to watch, but never got around to it. And then it was gone (because everyone else did the same thing I did!). The series was short (reminds me of Firefly) but still has a following, and for good reason. I promised not to do the same thing with the RPG when I found out it was nominated for so many awards, including ENnies and Origins Awards (and it won many of them).

    Being one of those guys that isn’t too familiar with Fate, are you talking about campaign traits with the three aspects you listed? If so, I’ve seen this done in other games too. One game which used this particularly was Spycraft 2.0. They had attributes you could use to modify the campaign to make it more deadly, less deadly, easier to complete tasks, more stealth based, etc. Or are those aspects that you are suggesting for characters in the campaign?

    I’ve played campaigns in areas where I have lived before. There are pluses and minuses to that. One bonus is if everyone is from the same area, they know the lay of the land very well. At some point though you have to deviate from the real world. For example, do you really know what the basement to the local grocery store looks like? At some point you have to make it clear to your players, this is generally where we keep the world the same with what we know of the world, and this is where I may (or may not) deviate from it. I ran into issues with the player and GM arguing over how a specific street and building actually were. When it came down to it, the GM basically said, “Okay, that may be how the building is laid out in real life, but not in the game.”

    I think it is a challenging thing to do. Also you have the issue of who wants to roleplay something in their own town, like their own life? A lot of why we roleplay is to immerse ourselves in something completely different than our own life. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying it can be hard to do.

    Another possibility is to do it in a modern day city that no one really has experience with. Lets say, for example, none of your players have ever been to New York. We all know about the major areas of the city, the major buildings, major parks, ghetto areas, sports stadiums, etc. But no one has REAL knowledge of it since they’ve never been there. This could be an easier way to do a modern campaign in a game like the Dresden Files.

    Just food for thought. Reading the article made me think a little about those aspects of the game you proposed.

  2. Sam, thanks for the great post, let me see..

    I glossed heavily over the Themes and Threats intention of The Dresden Files and fast-forwarded to my favorite part Aspects. Yes, in my game these Aspects will be Campaign Aspects as referred to in other incarnations of FATE. They can be Invoked or Compelled against you as make sense. For instance:

    Sam: I know Deputy X can probably give me the information I’m looking for since he’s on the SWAT team and probably responded to the shoot-out. I give him a call…

    Colin: Sorry, Sam. [as a FATE point is passed to Sam] You’re not in tight with the SWAT guys, so X is staying pretty tight-lipped… [Clearly, “Good ‘Old’ Boys” was just compelled against Sam and he got a FATE point for his trouble.]

    Alternatively, Sam could beat Colin to the punch by Invoking the same aspect by saying he and Deputy X went to the academy together and were frequently partners at the jail before X went full-time SWAT. By invoking, X considers Sam one of the “Good ol’ boys” and knows Sam can keep his confidence…

    “A lot of why we roleplay is to immerse ourselves in something completely different than our own life…” I completely agree and I think the dynamic of the Dresdenverse intruding on our mundane existence and how that would change or day-to-day living (employment, relationships, acceptance/denial of the supernatural, survival and existence, friends and family’s safety, etc) is the interesting part of that equation. Fortunately, if it turns out to be a bust – John’s 40 k games will bring us back to the table together!!

    Another aspect (pun intended) of this play style is the fact that the GM and players live here. There is definitely the potential for people to “rules lawyer” the canon of the setting, but fortunately there are several pros for me going this route.

    1. Anything we “know” about the setting can be affected by the mundane and supernatural forces in play
    2. The act of making Assessments and Declarations allows easier manipulation of setting details than in other games.
    3. If I was to set the game in another set like NYC or Frisco, we still potentially run into the issue that someone knows that the Statue of Liberty faces East not West, etc. (although The Dresden Files RPG has a great supportive info for tweaking Your City)
    4.The people at my gaming table are really good about letting each other take artistic license within established bounds of the setting and even outside the bounds if there is sufficient justification (that’s right, you guys are awesome!)

    Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what magical significance you guys add to Locations (coming soon!)

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