Gaming in Neverwhere

I posted my review last night of the novel Neverwhere after my second reading of this splendid book by Neil Gaiman. The reason I started reading it was that I was preparing an urban fantasy rpg game set in London for a gaming weekend with some friends. The game didn’t happen, in the end we ran out of time for it, although I shall now take it away and work on it some more for a later date. I am using FATE for it, a la Dresden Files RPG (DFRPG), for it – there is no doubt, FATE has rapidly become my go to system for all things outside Pendragon. There is also a free official Neverwhere RPG which can be downloaded here which I shall certainly now read through as well for further inspiration.

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Review: Grave Peril

Grave Peril
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third in the Dresden Files series. I felt this was a better read than the second, helped by the growing familiarity of the main characters and the inclusion of Michael. As with the other books in the series, this was an easy action packed read – not one if you’re looking for profound reflection, but just the job for summer holiday reading. Shall no doubt gradually press on through the rest.

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Review: Fool Moon

Fool Moon
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Second book on the Dresden Files series, although as you can tell from my book list I’m reading them somewhat out of order. This was a good light read after working through the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels which required more than a fair bit of concentration (but well worth the effort). Out of the books so far, I’d say this was my least favourite, although still enjoyable. I’ve probably been spoilt by reading some of the later books which have more depth to them, and to be honest, werewolves aren’t really my thin. That said, I have just picked up the third book in the series to read next so it hasn’t put me off by a long shot!

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Review: The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game: Volume One: Your Story

The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game: Volume One: Your StoryThe Dresden Files Roleplaying Game: Volume One: Your Story by Leonard Balsera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this on the back of Evil Hat’s first outing with FATE, The Spirit of the Century, as part of a burgeoning love affair with the FATE rpg (roleplaying game).

For those who don’t know what an rpg is, its a game of collaborative story telling. One player comes up with the story and describes what is happening (often called the Games Master or GM for short). The other players design characters who will feature as the heroes in that setting. They get to describe what their characters do in response to the scene that the GM sets. The GM then, using his imagination and the rules in the game, determines what the outcomes are, and so it goes.

This particular rpg is based upon the urban fantasy series of novels called The Dresden Files – modern pulp if you like with a cast of vampires, werewoves and other fantasy tropes set in modern times. The books are a fun read, if not overly demanding on the little grey brain cells, but as a gamer, to me they instantly called out to be used as an rpg setting – hence this gem!

FATE is the rpg system used behind this book. At its heart it is a very simple game, but with layers of complexity that can be added to it, building up the crunch level as desired. Its a large book, not so much because of the complexity of the game, but because it is bursting with full-colour pictures and written illustrations of how the rules work. In places it seems a little disorganised, but this is inevitable with such a large work. Personally I love it. It’s use of FATE’s Aspects – simple phrases used to describe the character – really lends itself to this particular genre.

I suspect I’ll not use it for playing within the world of the Dresden Files all that much – to be honest vampires and werewolves aren’t particularly my thing – but will certainly adapt it for use in other urban fantasy settings. Already I have used it to run ‘Day After Ragnorak’ games, and have campaigns based on ‘War of the Flowers’ and the Fables series in mind.

A great game. Recommended!

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Pulpy Madness

In need of fast inspiration! Tomorrow night I am running a games set in the world of The Day After Ragnarak, but rather than running it with its default system (Savage Worlds) I am using FATE, specifically of the Dresden Files RPG variety. This will be my first game using FATE, either as a player or as a GM. Having offered to run it a week or so back, but with not so much response, I thought we would end up board gaming and so put it to one side to focus on prepping some Pendragon scenarios I’m writing for a Fenland Sourcebook (a personal project, not one that’s been commissioned!) Then, yesterday, all of a sudden, it’s game on. Two days to plan the game, learn the system and produce the character sheets and other handouts. Serves me right!

Quite nervous about running it now. Instinctively I like what FATE is trying to do. I love the concept of aspects and what reads as a fairly free and flexible system, but I’ve never seen it in action and so I’ve no idea what it will turn out to be like in practice. As for finishing the plans on time, this suddenly seems to be a good time to put some GM Prep-lite plans in place as previously mentioned.

Making GM-Prepping Easier

Just read an interesting article on prepping for GMing roleplaying sessions: Prep-Lite Manifesto- The Template
I know that I try and prep too much and can veer towards the railroady if not careful. Might try following this template for my next session – particularly useful as I’m using FATE/DFRPG which lends itself to this with its aspects.
Have recently also been using 3×5″ index cards a lot in prepping and running games, specifically for NPCs although I may extend that to locations too. Before a session I prepare one for each major NPC – a name at the top, and a few introductory lines describing them, bullet points really. As the game goes on, I write down facts that are discovered (or improvised as played), and encourage players to write their PCs interactions with them on the cards too. This helps keep track of these aspects, and allows me to grow and develop them as NPCs in and between sessions. I also make a few more generic NPC cards too – for example a set of standard knights in Pendragon. These characters, I’m discovering, have a habit of coming to life and developing surprising roles as we play.
As a preacher, this concept of a template is an interesting one too, is there something in this idea that can help me make my sermon prep more effective too, focussing on the important and leaving the unimportant to one side etc. I’ll come back to that sometime!