Role-Playing Round-Up: The Dresden Files and Over the Edge

For those of you who aren’t already aware, I am what is colloquially known as a “geek”. This is differentiated from a “nerd” in that I have all the antisocial hobbies of the stereotypical nerd without any of the technical aptitude. One of those hobbies is tabletop role-playing games, known in the trade as RPGs. (No, I won’t tell you which trade. It’s a trade secret.) The most famous of these is Dungeons & Dragons, which I cut my teeth on about 25 years ago. For those of you in the know, I started on 1st ed AD&D (if that means nothing to you, you have probably seen someone of your preferred gender naked).

Having thus established my table cred, as it were, I feel confident offering the following reviews.

The Dresden Files Role Playing Game: Volume One – Your Story. I wanted to like this game so very much. I truly did. I’ve been a huge fan of the Dresden Files since the very first book, and Jim Butcher has never disappointed me (WARNING: I have not read past Ghost Story. If you ruin Cold Days for me, I WILL find you, and the results will not be pretty.)  The idea of being able to actually play in this world was so very appealing I was able to get past the sticker shock of $39.95 (plus shipping! the horror!) for just one book (there are two books, hence the “Volume One” in the title).

Unfortunately I just can’t look past the many flaws I found. Overall I can’t say it’s a bad system, I just can’t say it’s a good system. Considering the vast number of open-source gaming systems available today, that’s a damn shame. I realize they want to leave as much open to gamers’ imagination and flexibility as possible, but what I’ve found over the years is that at the gaming table “flexibility” usually translates as “argument”. Yes, I’ve had to deal with my share of rules lawyers (who among us hasn’t?), but that is often less frustrating than a half hour or more of “okay… um… I have no idea how to handle that.” What’s even worse is that the magic system is both undefined AND cumbersome, in a game that, let’s face it, is going to have magic. After all, everyone is going to want to play a wizard.

All of that having been said, this book is chock full of flavor text. The margin notes from characters within the Dresden universe add a lot to what is normally an exercise akin to reading stereo instructions, and I did get the feeling that experienced gamers who are willing to get past the learning curve could make the system work. Even if you chuck the system, there’s enough to go on here that you should be able to translate it to your favorite game system without too much difficulty. Despite all the flaws, I am encouraged enough that at some point I still plan to pick up a copy of Volume Two: Our World, again if for no other reason than simple flavor and filling in for the Dresden universe.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Over the Edge: The Role Playing Game of Surreal Danger. You could almost take everything I had to say about The Dresden Files RPG, crank it down a notch and be done with this review. I wanted to like this game, but I wasn’t horribly invested. It sounded cool, but I had no real connection to it going in. The price point was reasonable (under $30 and free shipping from Amazon), and there was only the one book, so why not?

Because the system is a mess, that’s why not. There’s nothing to recommend it. Where there are flaws in the other game, there’s basically no system to speak of here, or at least none I could piece together. Part of the problem is the lack of organization in the game book itself; if there are rules, they are scattered all over the place, and rules grenades seem to abound (for those of you not familiar with the term, this is when a game system drops in a new rule somewhere far apart from what it modifies, thus changing things unexpectedly – “grenade!”).

The only thing this book has going for it, if you’re willing to dig through the poor organization, bad structure, and terrible writing, is flavor. This book is stuffed full of flavor. It has great characters, locations, and plots that can be dropped into almost any contemporary or near future game easily, and with a bit of tweaking could probably work in other settings as well. Once I got through some of the dross, I was seeing opportunities for backgrounds, contacts, and settings for Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, and practically any espionage or near-future sci-fi game you care to mention.

If you’re looking for something unique and unusual to add flavor to your game or character, or you just want to surprise jaded players who have bought every printed supplement under the sun, this could be a good fit. Otherwise I’d look elsewhere.

Rating: 1.5/5 stars


One Comment on “Role-Playing Round-Up: The Dresden Files and Over the Edge”

  1. […] strange, but bear with me). I was in a friend’s basement for our weekly gaming night (as I’ve already mentioned, I’m an RPG geek from way back) and he had invited a new guy to join our group. I don’t […]

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