Dresden Files RPG -- Character Creation

Hi All,
Our group is just starting to get into a Dresden Files RPG (DFRPG) game -- 2 of us are also in the DFRPG game at HammerCon II.
First off -- I thoroughly enjoyed reading through both the RPG books and I've got to say they're the best books I've seen in a long while, both for content and the physical books themselves -- Way to go Evil Hat!
In creating our first PCs, we've noted a few things weren't very intuitive -- at least to us, who haven't used a Fate system before -- and so I thought I'd share our steps as we go through our set up and first few games, to help out other non-Fate/DFRPG gamers get into the game and avoid some of our mistakes.
A bit of background on our group, to aid in understanding us a bit : )
  • Some have read the Dresden novels, but the majority haven't.
  • We're long time roleplayers (many having between 20-30 years in the life)
  • I'm the GM for this game and have read the first book (Your Story) and am almost finished the second (Our World), some of the players have also read the books.
  • We use a Facebook group to keep connected and plan things out
So let's begin.

General Game Setup: (no real issues here for us so far)

  • As the book suggested, I talked to the members of my group and asked them:
    • To research areas of Toronto, GTA and the Golden Horseshoe to come up with locations and themes that they would like to explore.
    • What types of PCs they wanted to play.
  • We wanted some magical PCs so I set the Power Level at "Chest-Deep" -- which just barely allows Wizards -- one of the players was thinking about being a young "wet behind the ears" Warden (I made a Warden for HammerCon as well).
  • Locations and ideas were submitted to the Facebook group for everyone to look at.

Character Creation:

  • Players submitted ideas for characters.
    • I didn't ask them to pick a template -- as the designers stated, the templates are only samples of what has already been written in the books.
    • So far we have, 3 characters, including my PC for the Con -- A Warden (my Con PC), a Minor Talent (just a concept so far) and a Messenger of Thor (We both liked Donar in "Changes" and wanted to explore a that a bit more, his PC is also being used in the Con)
    • I am taking the time to go over each PC so that I understand what each player envisions for them.
  • The Warden and Minor Talent are straight out of the book, so there isn't too much trouble with them for the basic PC setup.
  • With the Messenger the player and I went back and forth on how to build him, at one point we were going with a sort of shapechanger, but in the end we decided that he would just be a normal guy, except for when he activated an item of power he was given by Thor. We still used the beast change/human form for his transformation into a Viking Warrior. This was what he ended up with:
Stunts & Powers:
  • Marked by Power [-1] - Thor's Messenger
  • Item Of Power [+2] - Pendant/Hammer of Mjöllnir (Me-Yoll-Ner)
    • Beast Change [–1] - Viking Form - Changes into a large Red-Haired Viking
    • Human Form [+1] affecting:
      • Inhuman Speed [-2]
      • Inhuman Strength [-2]
      • Inhuman Toughness [-2]
      • Inhuman Recovery [-2]
      • The Catch [+2] - Must be in Viking Form -- otherwise just a normal geeky guy.
Total Refresh: -5
The biggest pitfall here for us was figuring out the breakdown of the Powers and how they went together and what pluses and minuses to allow and use.
Be warned, talk this type of thing through with the player and make sure to agree with what it all means ahead of time when you create something that isn't a template -- we took over 4 hours and many emails back and forth to get this PC done up. But for my game, this works and is acceptable at the Refresh noted based on what we discussed -- other GMs may not agree with this setup or Refresh.
  • Magic and Spells:
This was a bit intimidating at first -- so much so that I created a 2 page add-on to the character sheet to help me with it.
There are only 10 example spells and 4 of those I used -- albeit modified in some ways to fit my power level and chosen Elements.
As the Warden is my PC for HammerCon I did most of this by myself -- although I bounced many ideas off the player of the Messenger (he was also interested in the magic system and another GM in our group)
It took a while for me to clue into the fact that you can create anything as a spell, you simply have to assign an Element, Type, Power, Control and Effect description.
One thing I did, as was suggested by the designers, was to design and write down a few -- OK 8 -- "frequently used" and Rote spells, this is where I went back and forth with the idea of my spellcaster, I really liked a few of the spells from the book and mimicked them but I also had a few spells in mind that I wanted my guy to have.
This is where much of the heavy lifting came in for me.
As I started to build and think through my spells and why my PC had them, I changed many things from my first draft. I went from Elements Air, Fire & Water with 4 Focus Items to Earth, Spirit/Force & Water with 2 Focus items and 4 Enchanted Items. I knew that I wanted Water to be his primary Element (hey I liked Carlos' Entropy Shield from the books) and going with the Norse flavour of the Messenger of Thor, I thought that it would also fit.
I'll tell you this, I gained more and more appreciation for this system and the designer's hard work to keep things balanced by going through the work of creating a Practitioner.
Another thing to note here is that I created all my spells using the base levels of Power (Conviction Skill) and Control (Discipline Skill) that my Warden had (including his Focus items). I figured it would make it easier when at the Con, as I could always add shifts to the spells if I needed to boost the power, range or duration.
I also thought about Variation and added Notes, to hopefully let the GM see my intent for the spell's use.
Another thing that I almost missed was the Prolonging of Spells on page 259 of Your Story. Originally I paid a bunch of extra shifts for duration built into some of my spells, but this information helped me to rethink some of this.
In summary, there is a heck of a lot of effort to build a Practitioner or a non-templated PC, but I think that it is time well spent! As the system designers say, "Character Creation Is Play" and I firmly believe this with the 2 PCs under my belt.
Here are PDFs of our PC sheets as examples:
We’re still building PCs and I'm compiling the location data that the group has supplied to create the City we'll be playing in.
Next time I hope to be able to give you a good overview of how play works from my experience at HammerCon.
Let me know what you think and I'm always open to any questions. Also, if you have experience with DFRPG, please feel free to share it!