Yesterday Katie and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a longtime friend’s semi-new girlfriend, and we spent much of our evening trading stories of RPGs past. It’s been far too long since I’ve been able to sit down around a table with dice in hand and weave a collaborative tale with my friends, all the while drinking Dew and eating salty snacks.
Like a lot of us gaming types, my early exposures to games like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder mostly revolved around minmaxing my character, picking the best abilities or spells and killing hordes of nameless goblins and golems. Let’s be honest, friends, that’s still a lot of fun from time to time – I love the challenge of making a well-crafted character.
But that’s not what us and our new friend ended up talking about. It’s rarely the fact that your barbarian wielded a +3 Anarchic Earthbreaker that grabs people’s attention. It’s that he was on the run because he desecrated a shrine belonging to the demon lord his tribe worshiped, and now his former friends are hunting him to the ends of Golarion and back. We revel in the awesomeness, and, admittedly, ridiculous suspension of disbelief we engage in for these games as we craft and play out fantasies.
My more recent forays into Role Playing have been more about the character than what they can do. As soft a spot as I have for Pathfinder, right now the honor of my favorite system goes to FATE, and specifically the Dresden Files RPG. I’ll likely be writing about Dresden at a later date, as it’s the book series that really got me back into reading. The quick summary is that the books follow the misadventures of Chicago’s only Professional Wizard. He’s in the phone book.
In the Dresden RPG, you create your characters simultaneously, as one of the core elements of the FATE system, Character Aspects, is heavily reliant on the history you concoct for your character, and part of that is how they met other characters in the game, and you can gain bonuses in-game from “invoking” those aspects. Say your character is a hedge witch – she has a minor magical talent, but also concocts potions and crafts charms and such, and she met another character who happens to be a reluctant werewolf when he came to her years ago looking for a cure. She might have an aspect like “Poor Unfortunate Soul” – reflecting her desire to help those in need. She can invoke that aspect to help her succeed on a roll if it would allow her to assist someone in need.
On top of all that wonderful story fodder, the Dresden Files RPG encourages you to set the game in a town or city that you know, overlaying a fantasy on top of existing reality. Are their truly trolls in Central Park? Well how about Boston Common? What if the Golden Gate bridge is a gate in more ways than one?
I’m really thankful for my experiences with that game because it’s bled into each game since. My most recent Pathfinder game has probably been the most in-depth I’ve ever gone with characters in a traditional sword-and-sorcery type game, and it’s been a blast. It’s these sorts of experiences that serve as the best kind of reminders to build an interesting world with fun and complex characters.
What’s your favorite RPG experience been? If you’ve never played one, would you want to?
Let us know, and if you haven’t already, check out the Dresden Files book series and RPG.
P.S. Also, go listen to The Adventure Zone for a magnificent DnD story experience!