Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rising Waters DFA Playtest: Character Conversion!

Mock-up cover, courtesy Evil Hat Productions
Woo hoo! So my group and I were fortunate enough to get into the Dresden Files Accelerated Beta Playtest, which has been a complete blast. Rather than making characters from scratch, we converted the characters from our ongoing game into DFA characters last session.  Before I go into what we ended doing this evening, though, I want to talk a bit about the playtest and the effects the change in system have had.

So, to no one's surprise, DFA is based on FAE (Fate Accelerated Edition). For those who've played the Dresden Files RPG, you'll know that it's FATE plus some clunkier bits as it tries to encompass the magic and setting and variety of critter abilities within one game. I love the game, don't get me wrong, but it's definitely not the most streamlined system in existence. The magic system in particular was far more complicated in practice than was convenient, and using it always slowed the game down for us -- particularly annoying when you're playing a Dresden Files game, wherein we had two wizards as a matter of course (well, one was a focused practitioner, but whatever).

Character Conversion

The conversion of the characters was really rather simple. Character types are called "mantles," and those are the sorts of things one expects in Dresden -- vampires, werewolves, magic users, mortals, etc. The playtest provided several mantles to choose from, enough that we were able to make the characters over again with a minimum of conceptual effort. No one really had to change what they were to make it fit, or even build a new mantle. Given that I've got:

  • Uno, a changeling summer knight/squire, 
  • Zeke, a lawman hosting an angel's presence (like a reverse Denariian), 
  • Eldi, a dewdrop fairy wildfae, 
  • Adia, a ghost-talking human who's good at sneaking and knows people, 
  • Dylan, a kinetomancer, and 
  • Victor, a White Council troubleshooter... 
I think that says a lot about the flexibility of the character types. One playtest change is that our partial practitioner now has effectively no difference game-wise from our White Council wizard except for the "element" of his magic, which really makes sense if you're not looking at it from a White Council perspective specifically. We could have cobbled together a partial practitioner mantle (the playtest didn't include one), but the player decided he'd rather just work with the full template given the changes.

I kept experience levels to beginning characters, and although there were a couple of bells and whistles that didn't transfer over, the flexibility of the stats/approaches instead of skills and the way stunts have been redefined and clarified made it a much simpler operation to tweak things to bring them in line with what the characters had been known to do. The approaches allow more flexibility in what characters are good or bad at in a given situation in addition to providing some sense of continuity in terms of character development and style. Also, the smaller number of aspects actually let people get rid of some that weren't working, making the lists more indicative of the characters overall. Stunts were well received, especially the formula given for creating custom stunts, which three of my players took advantage of with no issue. Some of the players, particularly Eldi's player, were concerned that by taking the stunts for Diminutive Size and Wings in addition to the Glamour core stunt of Wildfae she wouldn't be able to sufficiently contribute. That was before, however, we understood the role of ritual magic. I'll come back to this.

One notable result: One of my players is... well, not quite system averse, but he has a hard time internalizing rules. Great with RP and remembering story and stuff, bad with having his character actually do stuff and knowing what he can do and how things work. We have gone so far as to just make characters for him in previous games, just to cut down on the overhead and his frustration. By the end of DFA character generation, he answered a rules question for another player before I could! And that's with only one copy of FAE at the table (that wasn't open) and someone else looking at the binder with the playtest document! This has never, ever happened before to my knowledge. FAN_FREAKING-TASTIC!!!