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Dresden Files (the game) without Dresden Files (the setting)

CLAVDIVS

Postmodern Futurist
Validated User
Elsethread, there was some discussion about using the Dresden Files RPG for urban fantasy without the actual Dresden Files setting, but someone said that the setting was too baked into the rules to easily remove. I was one of the proponents of using the system while dropping the setting, so that statement took me me a bit by surprise and got me wondering if there's stuff I'm missing because I happen to like the setting.

The only mechanics that are really unique to the setting, I thought, were the Laws of Magic and associated Lawbreaker powers, and probably technology hexing; you could just drop those from the game, or maybe use the Laws as a "dark side" mechanic without an organization that hunts down violators (maybe even define some laws of your own). Aside from that, the magic system I thought was reasonably generic, and the powers are versatile enough to build new templates to replace the setting-specific ones while others (like Sorcerer or Wereform) are generic enough to use as-is.

Is there other stuff I'm missing, though? Things that people don't like about the setting that I'm not noticing because they're not things I dislike? Or is it more a matter of willingness to hack the game to suit one's needs? Tweaking templates or building new ones entirely seems pretty trivial to me, but maybe not to others, and several of the included ones (like Red Court Infected or Knight of the Cross) are very setting-specific.

What do y'all think?
 

CarpeGuitarrem

Blogger and gamer
Validated User
Well, I mean...the magic system could be generic, I suppose, but is pretty loaded with Dresden Files assumptions, up to and including how you structure a spell. Plus the split into evocation and thaumaturgy, which is an explicit split I don't see a lot.

I mean...if you strip out all the Dresdeny stuff...

...you may as well use Fate Core or Fate Accelerated? Because the biggest value the DFRPG brings is the adaptation of the setting.
 

TheMouse

garmonbozia
Validated User
Looking at DFRPG as a generic urban fantasy game, I see a couple of things:

1. As you say, magic. It's very specific to the way magic works in Dresden Files. If your setting doesn't have magic that works like that, you're basically out of luck. This is the single biggest thing.

2. The specific templates. It's cake to make new ones, so I hardly want to even count this.

3. The assumption that supernaturally powerful individuals will tend to be ruled by their supernatural nature. Weirdly, this goes away as characters progress if they don't continue to gain in supernatural power as they gain Refresh; I suppose this could represent something about learning to control your supernatural nature without gaining power, which would actually fit some settings well enough.

Other than that? Pretty generic. It comes from the setting being a kitchen sink that includes a lot of typical elements from urban fantasy settings.
 

CLAVDIVS

Postmodern Futurist
Validated User
Well, I mean...the magic system could be generic, I suppose, but is pretty loaded with Dresden Files assumptions, up to and including how you structure a spell. Plus the split into evocation and thaumaturgy, which is an explicit split I don't see a lot.
What kind of assumptions? That's the kind of thing I'm asking about here. Maybe it's more that I'm not familiar enough with the urban fantasy genre to see how it differs from the rest, but frankly it looks like pretty conventional high-fantasy wizardry to me.


I mean...if you strip out all the Dresdeny stuff...

...you may as well use Fate Core or Fate Accelerated? Because the biggest value the DFRPG brings is the adaptation of the setting.
That may be the biggest draw, and maybe the biggest value, but certainly not the only value. The powers system in particular: Recreating that in Fate Core would be like reinventing several different wheels at once. It seems a thousand times easier to me to roll your own vampire template (if you don't like any of the existing ones) from the prefab powers than to try to recreate it in Core. Sure, if you have both games you can just port over the effects of the powers you want, but... at that point, why not just use the DF system?
 

Delgarde

Registered User
Validated User
Well, I mean...the magic system could be generic, I suppose, but is pretty loaded with Dresden Files assumptions, up to and including how you structure a spell. Plus the split into evocation and thaumaturgy, which is an explicit split I don't see a lot.
1. As you say, magic. It's very specific to the way magic works in Dresden Files. If your setting doesn't have magic that works like that, you're basically out of luck. This is the single biggest thing.
That's true of almost any magic system, though... there are so many different ways to do things that no two settings handle it in the same way... predefined spell lists vs on-demand effect-based casting, different scales, different ways of paying for them. It's pretty much impossible to build a generic magic system...
 

CLAVDIVS

Postmodern Futurist
Validated User
That's true of almost any magic system, though... there are so many different ways to do things that no two settings handle it in the same way... predefined spell lists vs on-demand effect-based casting, different scales, different ways of paying for them. It's pretty much impossible to build a generic magic system...
Hm. As I said, it feels like standard high-fantasy wizardry to me, but if it turns out that's exactly the kind of magic you don't want in your urban fantasy, then that could be a problem.

I have toyed with the idea of dropping evocation entirely and using only thaumaturgy; I think it would lend a very different feel to the setting by magic magic entirely ritual-based and occult-seeming. (I had a similar idea a long time back about playing Witchcraft without essence channeling.) Maybe allow certain evocation effects on focus items or items of power, on the principle that the real magical work went into creating it, but that might take some more effort to balance properly.
 

HumAnnoyd

Registered User
Validated User
I have seen fan made rules for adapting a variety of magic from different Urban Fantasy books (Iron Druid) and traditions (Rune Magic) that were quite different from the standard Dresden Evocation/Thaumaturgy. Given those examples I think it wouldn't be too difficult to strip the Dresden flavor from the game. I suppose it would just depend on what you were after.
 

Orsino

Inveterate Layabout
Validated User
As said, the mechanics of magic in Dresden line up with the fiction. Conviction and discipline, the will to force the world to conform and the discipline to make that happen, are the drivers of magic, and you could do worse than to go with that. But if you want a set up where anyone can do magic if they say the words exactly right, where knowledge and lore is mostly what's required, then Dresden's magic system isn't going to fit. You're not wrong, that it would take some time to re-invent the wheel. If the system seems fine to you, then there's no reason no to use it, and have fun! If it doesn't, then I'd go with Fate Core, simply because the rules are a bit streamlined from Dresden (iteration 4 instead of iteration three of the rules), and I don't think the wheel will take as much work to reinvent than it might in other games.
 

TheMouse

garmonbozia
Validated User
What kind of assumptions? That's the kind of thing I'm asking about here. Maybe it's more that I'm not familiar enough with the urban fantasy genre to see how it differs from the rest, but frankly it looks like pretty conventional high-fantasy wizardry to me.
Well, what if your urban fantasy wizards don't act like high fantasy ones?

Some of the assumptions are potentially easy to work around. For instance, Dresden Files assumes that there's ritual magic and fast casting magic. If your setting only has ritual stuff, then you can use only those rules. Or if your setting only has subtle magic, then you can choose to use the rules as they'd apply to someone like Molly.

Other assumptions are much harder to deal with. What if magic in your setting doesn't cause the caster any sort of harm? What if there aren't built in laws that punch you in the soul if you break them? Getting rid of those is going to be much more complicated, because the whole system rather hinges on the limitations in the number of times you can cast spells and in working within those boundaries; how much more do wizards need to spend on their magic for more convenient spell casting?

That's true of almost any magic system, though... there are so many different ways to do things that no two settings handle it in the same way... predefined spell lists vs on-demand effect-based casting, different scales, different ways of paying for them. It's pretty much impossible to build a generic magic system...
Well, yeah. That's what I was pointing out, since we're talking about problems that might come up when adapting the rules to some other setting.
 

Sonsaku

Draconian GM on TBP
Validated User
What kind of assumptions? That's the kind of thing I'm asking about here. Maybe it's more that I'm not familiar enough with the urban fantasy genre to see how it differs from the rest, but frankly it looks like pretty conventional high-fantasy wizardry to me.
Kind of assumption of urban fantasy that could conflict with Dresden Files RPG.

WoD: Specifically Mage: The awakening magic. You can do whatever you want with magic as long as you have the arcanums to do so. Mages shape reality and ignore any rule of physic that they want. In dresden they say "once you cast a fireball, the fire acts like fire" while in awakening you could summon fire who only concentrates in one small area without any regard about physic

Magic causes physical exhaustion.

Magic and technology mix (Wild Card Series)

Magic fills the gaps (Again mage the awakening magic)
 
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