Character Generation - Making Ken Doyle
Normally, when I sit down to create a character, I open a Windows sticky note and begin hashing out some basic details. But when sitting down with Dresden, I found myself facing a whole sheet dedicated just to the background. For those unfamiliar with the Dresden Files chargen system, the creation of the background allows the player to establish Phase Aspects, quirks of personality and character history, such as "Lucky at all the wrong moments" and "Ma's Chicken Soup Recipe," that the player can invoke in situations to gain in-game benefits and the GM can compel to complicate your life. My overall inclination rested upon shamelessly ripping off how the designers modeled Harry Dresden as the example for character generation. I essentially took a different approach to Ghost Whisperer and morphed the Jennifer Love Hewitt character into a tough street boxer, who realizes his gift by meeting the ghost of his final boxing opponent, whom he killed in the ring. Both end up working together in order to bring peace to restless souls. In his first adventure off-screen (Round Seven), during one of his "jobs," he takes on a mage bent on inciting a large gang war in Boston. With the additions of some skills, powers, and mortal stunts (special ways to use skills), I fashioned him into a fairly competent boxer just new to investigative work. Through this process, Ken Doyle made his appearance:
- High Concept: Haunted, Grizzled Boxer
- Trouble: Anger and Fists Don't Always Mix Well!
- Aspect 1: These Streets Run Through My Blood.
- Aspect 2: Trust the Dead; You'll Live Longer.
- Aspect 3: Mage-Breaking Uppercut. "Hadouken!"
- Great (+4): Fists, Contacts
- Good (+3): Endurance, Intimidation
- Fair (+2): Athletics, Presence, Might
- Average (+1): Conviction, Discipline, Investigation, Resources, Rapport
- Powers: Ghost Speaker
- Stunts: Footwork, I Know Just the Guy, You Don't Want Any of This!
Session 1 - Hours 1 & 2
When the group finally amassed at my apartment, we continued the character generation system by adding the last two aspects, which are awesomely derived from how our character impacted the first story of two other characters at the table. Since our table consisted of only three characters, we all showed up in each other's stories. After some negotiation and editing by all players, we finally settled on in how we knew each other. In terms of my relationships:
- Sabine [Changeling] (Player: Em) - I saved her from a bunch of thugs when she arrived in America. Aspect: Never Overlook a Chance to be Heroic
- Kira [White Court Virgin] (Player: Beth) - After she witnessed a murder at a convenience store, I interviewed her while attempting to catch his killer. Aspect: A Case w/ a Supernatural Twist
Impression: In terms of the whole process, the collaboration at this stage was impressive, and everyone really worked together to establish relationships and interactions prior to our new adventure. This stage also represented one of the more challenging parts of the game, as it can become difficult to find realistic ways of getting characters into certain First Adventures. With a larger number of players (4+), there will be instances where characters will not be in certain other characters' intro stories, which can be quite helpful when an American native who has never left the country would be hard pressed to find his way into a European tale. However, with just the three of us, a healthy dose of rhetcon was needed to get everything in place. Also, the fact that another character, potentially of supernatural origin, enters into the First Adventure could alter its nature and make it rather difficult to manage. This was not a gamebreaker by any means, but it did create some issues at our first meeting as we got our stories straight.
Session 1 - Hour 3
After chargen was finished, we hit the streets of Boston and found ourselves facing the appearance of the Morgan in artifacts at a museum exhibit. My character caught a glimpse of a fleeing raven-haired woman, but the pursuit turned up nothing. Given the abundance of this visual image and the attitude of undead spirits in their "devotion" to the artifacts, we did what every modern investigative party should do: we went to the library and did some research. After gathering a bit of information, Sabine and I parted company with Kira and had dinner at a local Italian restaurant. Upon our exit, two abnormally sized ravens descended upon us and attempted to kill us for conducting our investigation. However, they stood no chance to my physical prowess and Sabine's quick thinking, as we quickly subdued and restrained them.
Impression: I must say that I love FUDGE dice. Unlike d20s, which give a huge range of success and failures, these four, six-sided dice have three different faces (-, 0, and +) which lend themselves to a range of -4 to +4 for any given roll. As such, it means that stuff you will likely not botch stuff that you are really good at, and you could be competent on stuff that you have no training in due to sheer luck. For example, with my Great (+4) Fists, I will have a range of Mediocre (+0) and Legendary (+8), meaning that I will never truly botch and have a reasonable chance on any roll of still doing quite well. The skills rolls felt fairly balanced under this system.
The invoking and compelling mechanics were quite cool to watch in use. Invoking aspects, which leads to a +2 to a skill check or a reroll, requires the use of Fate points drawn from the character's limited pool, so it made the timed usage of Aspects rather important. When we were doing library research with my Average (+1) Investigation, I spent a Fate point to invoke A Case w/ a Supernatural Twist to temporarily make it Good, and with the subsequent +4 on the roll, I went into full-on search engine mode and found much of what we needed, and it felt really epic. I managed similar stuff during the fight with the ravens. Compelling is also pretty neat, in that the GM can offer you a Fate point to use your Aspects as a means to complicate the scene and compel certain reactions. To avoid this, players can spend a Fate point to ignore the compel action. In the session, the GM used it quite openly to push us into the plot, which worked out nicely for us since we all received that Fate point in return. The mechanic was not really used to complicate the situation, but I am certain that will be in store for us next session.
However, my favorite usage of Fate points in the game came when Sabine was looking for a trashcan during our fight outside the restaurant. By spending one point, she immediately ported the item into the scene and made it available for her use, which was really cool and ended up as a rather nasty way of containing one of the ravens.
I won't go too far into the combat and conflict system, as I am still a little fuzzy on how it all works. It is currently the aspect of the game that I understand least, although future sessions should rectify that.
Having played Pathfinder for so long, jumping into this game was a healthy refresher. While Pathfinder requires characters to be mostly dedicated to a specific party role, this system was much more flexible in terms of allowing players to craft their characters and, especially for mundane characters in a sea of supernaturals, to contribute meaningfully to the story without a huge disparity in power. The character creation and system are simple, yet robust enough to allow a hefty degree of customization without overloading players with too much crunch.
Will this book make its way onto my shelf and into my heart? It is too early to tell, but I can say that it offers a unique approach to modern supernatural fantasy/horror, a genre that is rather hard to get going lately in a sea of Paizo saturation.