Apologies to anyone who has been waiting for the second half of the city write-up. That will be in the next post. The plan was to post it a week or so after the first half, but after some email exchanges between all the players we decided that we needed to redo large chunks of the city burning. We fell down especially on the location Aspects, in that they tended to provide colour rather than any possible use in play. Based on this, we agreed to meet again to redo them, once we’d spent a week or so doing the characters.
What we didn’t take into account was that creating the characters took us three and a half sessions of three hours each. Given that we also missed a few weeks, this meant a delay of well over a month.
I’m pretty convinced that the game mechanics themselves were not the cause of the long creation process; what really happened is that we spent too long talking about every aspect of the characters’ backstories, and how they fitted into the secret history of Milton Keynes that we were creating. In some respects this was a good thing, as we now have a very good idea of who these people are, as well as lots of plot hooks for me to incorporate. I did find myself saying, “Let’s save some good stuff for play” an awful lot, though.
At the end of the process I asked the others why they thought it had taken so long, especially given that they have all created at least two Spirit of the Century characters each, both times in a single three-hour session. The general consensus was that they felt that the Dresden characters were somehow more “serious”. This was a combination of feeling constrained by canon in a way that SotC characters aren’t, in that they felt that they had to work more to make the characters fit in, and that the tone of the game was different and they held themselves to higher standards of verisimilitude.
Where this really bogged us down was in the creation of the novels. While I did remind everyone a number of times that we only needed two sentences and some very loose content, everyone seemed to get really into fleshing them out, and each one almost became a meta-game session where the story was spun out and the other characters drawn in. What could have been a five-minute hashing out of a quick blurb turned into, almost universally, an hour or two of intense discussion.
I would be very interested to hear if this ties in with anyone else’s experience.
The skills and stunts section went much more smoothly. I hadn’t had time to read the Spellcasting section by the time we incorporated it, but Seana had committed the whole thing to memory and did a wonderful job serving as rules oracle. She even wrote a couple of quick summaries, which I must ask her to post to the site.
We opted to use a refresh of 8, 25 skill points and a skill cap of Great, as we wanted to have competent characters, including one wizard. No one mentioned being too constrained by this, and I think the characters we ended up with are pretty interesting and playable.
We also followed the advice about looking for ways in which the characters’ Aspects could be Invoked, Compelled or Tagged, and if you look at the entries for them you should see some of these listed. It will certainly help me a lot when I come to run the game.
The only hiccough was that Seana ended up having to scale her concept for her character, Bethany Smith, back a fair bit after I said a very belated “no” to one important facet: initially she was supposed to have been a spellcaster as well as a White Court vampire, and Seana came up with a backstory that involved Bethany having been injured supernaturally, resulting in the loss of her magical abilities, only to recover them by stealing Excalibur’s scabbard and drawing on its healing energy to restore her magical power. This was the justification to get an Item of Power, and my initial reaction was that it would be an interesting opportunity to see these rules in action.
I started having misgivings, though, when I realised that the scabbard had no real impact on Bethany’s character beyond an Aspect about it being stolen. Looking at a character like Michael Carpenter, the Sword of the Cross that he carries defines who he is; his whole life revolves around it, and he is its servant as much as its master. For Bethany it seemed like it was just a mystical sticking plaster and utility item. I discussed this with Seana and she agreed, so Bethany changed radically.
Apart from this, I think the characters turned out pretty much as first planned. Linden Thorn is maybe not a formidable skill wise as he should be, especially as he’s a lawyer who will have trouble making any rolls relating to mundane law, but as that’s not the core of his character we should be OK.
Anyway, in summary, while the character generation process took about four times as long as I would have liked, it was both enjoyable and successful, and has laid the groundwork for what I hope will be a great game.