Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dresden Files

When the Dresden Files RPG was announced I had a vague idea of the books. I had watched and enjoyed the series on Sci-Fi (back when they still were Sci-Fi and didn't show Wrestling). But I never gave the books much thought.  Over the course of the last couple years all the other books I was reading in the Modern Urban Supernatural genre kept bringing up the Dresden Files and Harry Dresden.

So I bought the game and I liked it a lot. It is cool and neat. And I quickly put it away!  The game is so full of spoilers for the books.  I had read the first book, Storm Front, and remembered it was a bit like the Sci-Fi channel movie.  But the game went so far beyond that. So I figured before I could properly read the game I needed to read the books.  So for the last six months I have been going through all the Dresden Files books.  I have been "reading" them on audio-book during my commute.  I have gotten them from my local library and I have gotten rather used to hearing James Marsters in my car.  By the way, I never really liked Spike as a character and never thought much of Marsters as an actor, but hearing him read these books has really changed my opinion of him.

Anyway I am almost done with Turn Coat now which as I understand it is the next to the last book so far.  There is a collection of short stories and a new book out soon.  I should be ready for it.  One thing I have enjoyed about listening to the book in my car is while I am driving through Chicago is every so often I'll hear of a place and immediately think of where that is in proximity to where I am at.  I once even drove by one of the grave yards mentioned in the book while it was being talked about.

Though as a Chicagoan (of sorts, moved here 17 years ago) its the Kennedy, not the JFK. It's DUI, not DWI. It's not Coke, it's Pepsi (ok that one is just me). Things that would be said if you grew up in Missouri (like Jim Butcher did, where it is the JFK and DWI).  Nor is it as easy to get a cab as Harry seems too, but then again he is a wizard.  There weer other minor issues (he drove from downtown to Deerfield in a few minutes?  The guy HAS to be a wizard for that!) but nothing that was a deal breaker for me.

Dresden Files the RPG is a different story.  I liked the background already; supernatural going ons in Chicago and the developer Fred Hicks once claimed that he loved the WitchCraft setting as a possible choice for the Dresden Files RPG.  I am just not a huge fan of Fate.  I do understand that they have taken it to new and wondrous places and that it is not very similar to FUDGE at all anymore, but I am still skeptical.  I will though review the game on it's own merits and not my pre-conceived notions of the system.

I have played in a Chicago-based Unisystem game that has some similar tropes of the Dresden books.  Though our Chicago is also 1 part Cine Unisystem, 1 part Ghosts of Albion, 1 part World of Darkness and 1 part just good old fashion knowledge of the area.

I'll certainly convert some characters sometime.  The issue though is the whole Wizards and Technology deal. Makes converting the Hex Girls difficult and Willow down right impossible.

More I guess when I am done reading the books and the game.  Maybe I'll re-watch the series too.


Gaming Ronin said...

Me and my wife love the Dresden files books. I also Like FUDGE/FATE So this was an easy buy for me.

JB said...

@ Tim:

Hmm...I wonder what word you plan for "W?"
; )

Woodclaw said...

Personally I don't like the Fate System too much, I prefer some other style of games.
At the same time I love Dresden Files, it's my favorite urban fantasy serie.

Pulp Herb said...

One thing about the Dresden Files (books not game) is it is one few genre hybrids I really like.

Generally genre mash-ups fail badly. Look at Gor.

Now, I like urban fantasy but I love detective fiction. A strong part of detective fiction for me (and I gather a lot of others) is a form of "heavy metal wish fulfillment" for lack of a better phrase. It's not wish fulfillment in the sense we thing of with Superman or James Bond: cool powers, pretty girls, neat gadgets. It's a bit different.

Let's face it, while Matt Scudder does generally get a girl in the novels they're usually prostitutes he knows from having been a cop. Plus, who really wants to be a burn out, alcoholic, ex-cop who was crooked on the force and left when he accidentally shot a child (although as the series progresses he finds peace and life).

Yet when I read the novels on some level I want to be Matt Scudder. It's because he, like most of his kin, embody a sense of justice and doing the right thing that makes the rest seem irrelevant. You can imagine Matt's tombstone reading "He Died Doing the Right Thing".

Given one of his enemies already bought him his tombstone we know that's what Harry Dresden's tombstone reads.

That is the power, to me, of the Dresden Files. When I read them I can imagine wanting to be Harry. It's not because of his magic spells (that's cool) or his former gf (that's cool too though). No, I want to be Harry for the same reason I want to be Matt Scudder. Because I wish I could be the kind of guy who winds up buried with a tombstone that says that.

I think that's a huge part of why Dresden caught on (and did so before urban fantasy exploded...along with Sookie Stackhouse he kinda lead the way).

They aren't just good urban fantasy, they're good detective novels. Good enough that detective readers can enjoy them.

Good enough they should be up for an Edgar Award if you ask me.

Simon J. Hogwood said...

I've just been looking through my own copy of DFRPG, and I think the "Willow Problem" is less than you'd think. The Hexing effect, as near as I can tell, is entirely a function of play, specifically the compelling of magic-related aspects when tech going wacky would be dramatically interesting. The character-builds themselves wouldn't necessarily mention it at all, and ignoring it in play would be fantastically easy.

Timothy S. Brannan said...


You may be right. I was reading the books again this week and for the first time really READING Them since I am now past all the bits that can spoil me.

IF I were to do it then to keep Willow and Tara special in the game they would be part of the new generation of wizards/witches that can and do use tech.

Also anyone else notice the Butcher uses "Witch" differently in the later books than in the earlier ones? He has been consistent with "Wizard" and "Warlock",