Dresden Files RPG Review: Book Two - Our World.
Warning: If you haven't read all of the Dresden Files books, there may be spoilers involved here. You have been warned.
The Dresden Files RPG will have been released at Origins during which this episode drops. And while I haven't gotten my hands on my hardcover pre-order, I have finally finished reading through the nearly 300 pages of Our World, the complementary (supplemental, not free...that one is spelled with an "i") setting book for the Dresden Universe.
This could have been a good book if it was just written as a standard gaming tome: bits of fiction, straightforward rules explanations, and a little bit of a who's who. However, Evil Hat have outdone themselves with this book and the meta-concept that drives the writing and book design.
If you haven't heard already, the conceit of DFRPG is that Billy the Werewolf wants to update the idea of introducing supernatural defense to the mundane public, a la Dracula vs. the Black Court. And DFRPG is presented to us, the readers, as a messy first draft, complete with margin notes from Harry, Bob, and Billy on everything from game design topics, to paranoid redactions, to teasing. All this makes for an immensely readable book that serves as a guide to the Dresden Universe as well as a bestiary and setting. Although some portions get a little bit encyclopedic, it's not really a detraction from the entertaining writing and fun color commentary left by the authorial characters.
Our World begins straightforward enough, with a new piece of fiction by Jim Butcher, the "player" of Harry Dresden, PC. It gives a little bit of further background into Harry's time training new wardens, and the mistakes he has made in the past. For popcorn stories that are admittedly full of cliché, Butcher's characters manage to be remarkably deep and intriguing; and every short story does great things to add snippets of character background.
The actual game content of Our World starts with a macro view of the world. Politics, factions, and finally conflicts -- and how every single one of them can destroy you. We then move into a general view of "What Goes Bump." This section is the "bestiary" complete with every type of ghoul, ghost, vampire, and faerie that show up within the pages of the first ten books AND instructions on how to derive your own custom baddies based on the "type," and while none of these rules are so strict that you can't roll your own half-werewolf-ghostly-faerie-lord, you'll quickly find yourself with a refresh cost that casts your new monster as a true Monster, driven solely by the aspects you assigned. Next is the Dramatis Personae Dresden with stat blocks (or instructions on how to derive their general outline. This was one of my favorite parts of the book, for its deep write-ups of characters you meet during the course of reading Butcher's series. It reminded me of what had happened over the course of the novels and got me back in touch with what it means to be part of the DresdenVerse.
Finally, Alex the werewolf digs up all the dirt he can find on "Weird Chicago," giving a gaming group a complete research package that can be used for their own city creation process. It draws on a great deal of real-life historical situations and both explicit odd behavior and the implied possibilities to explore a rich setting that is one of the more interesting game-city backdrops I have ever read.
As mentioned previously, Our World is not required to play DFRPG. And since the production value of the pair of books puts the hardcovers out-of-reach for a lot of gamers, this book may get passed over by a lot of gamers trying to hang on to some of their cash. Evil Hat has actually recommended this route to gamers who come up a little short. I applaud their drive to make sure that their consumers can get what they need, and I have been consistently pleased to hear that despite the cost, the pre-orders for Our World have still been plentiful.
I wish Evil Hat all the best, as this is an incredible product - certainly one of the best of the year; 5 Stars.
[5 of 5 Stars!]