I sat in a quick Dresden Files demo (about 30 minutes) at a convention last summer and was told the basics about the game. The mechanics seemed simple: you roll a few dice with either a +, blank, or – on them to determine how you do, you can tap into an aspect you make up such as "Chivalry is Not Dead" to get a mechanical bonus, and you can do stunts and stuff to narratively describe what you're doing and figure it out. I was told that the system was rules light with emphasis being on narrative control for what you character does.

This seemed pretty simple overall and I imagined that the book was going to be 100-150 pages or so with about 20-30 for the rules and the rest for fluff. After all, the dice would be easy to explain, you make up the Aspects for your character (so no need to have a list), and there wouldn't be a need for many other rules if everything else was dealt with narratively by the GM. Perhaps a GM's guide would be about the same size detailing monsters and such, but there wouldn't be any more than that.

So you can imagine my shock when I discovered recently that the system is separated into two volumes that were rivaling the HERO system in size: Volume 1 is 416 pages, Volume 2 is 272 pages, for a grand total of 688 pages! This completely blows my mind, as the demo I was given made it seem like the whole rules could be put onto a few pages.

I don't have access to the books (and Amazon won't let you look inside), so I'd like to know, what is it that makes this simple game nearly 700 pages overall? Is it full of 600 pages of fluff? Did the demo oversimplify the rules? Is it just overly wordy?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The OW book is all fluff; the YS book, with the rules, has a lot of examples to help you understand how things work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Apr 16, 2013 at 23:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ So if Our World is all fluff, that still leaves a 416 page book of rules, which seems like a lot... \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2013 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dresden Files Accelerated is coming... in late 2014. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Apr 17, 2013 at 0:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I had the same reaction to Spirit of the Century, the first FATE popularizer, which billed itself as a "pulp pick-up game" despite being 411 pages long. "Can you pick it up?" "Barely!" Wakka Wakka! \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 17, 2013 at 2:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can fit the rudiments of Fate on a single double-sided sheet of paper, but then it wouldn't have any of the depth of flavour that DFRPG has. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2013 at 3:08

2 Answers 2



DFRPG is rather wordy; the manuals themselves are flavorful enough to give a solid sense of the Dresden Files world and its playful-yet-serious attitudes. Sadly, this occasionally obscures the rules a little, but overall it's very well written.

Also, the book's got a lot of art.

General Rules with Examples (35+ pages)

FATE is a weird system for the vast majority of RPGers who are used to d20-style games, and DFRPG contains subsystems unique to itself even when compared to other FATE games. This means that nearly every section has at least one example of how the game looks at the table, and/or how a general rule might be applied in a specific instance.

Examples will pad most of the other categories here, too.

IP Content

DFRPG isn't just about rules: it's a setting based on an established property. Volume Two is almost exclusively Creatures From The Books, and isn't necessary to play the game the way a D&D monster manual would be.

Extra DFRPG-specific Rules (80+ pages, conservatively)

DFRPG is crunchy (crunch = rules and mechanics; opposite of "fluff") for Fate games, and in the running for crunchiest. It splits many stunts off into multiple subgroups collectively called powers (see below for page count). Spellcasting is a relatively complicated system designed to be flexible yet balanced, and altogether occupies more than 80 pages in Volume One. Other subsystems, like the Hunger stress track for vampires and various transformative or magical options, are rolled into other pages counts (largely Powers and Spellcasting).

Campaign and Character Creation (125+ pages)

FATE doesn't just have the party make characters; campaign/setting/NPC design is a group task too. The process of city creation is about 25 pages itself; it's that important. Characters are self-designed rather than class-based, and the Dresdenverse runs the gamut from ordinary humans to werewolves, vampires, and holy knights. So the general rules for character creation and advancement take up 45+ pages (again, crunchier than normal for FATE), while specific options for templates, stunts, and powers are another 55+.

SevenSidedDie points out that just the powers alone "cover a tonne of supernatural abilities, some of them in several varieties, so that you can create new beasties and custom character types from scratch to suit your own Dresdenverse." That should give you a sense of the scope this book is trying to cover.

It's a GM manual too (50 pages)

Between Running the Game and Building Scenarios, they've got it covered for GMs.

Original Content: Baltimore (50 pages)

At least fifty pages of Volume One, and a good chunk of Volume Two, are dedicated to an original setting: a Dresdenversified Baltimore. It serves as an example and a campaign setting, and is very well designed.


Throw in a good sprinkling of art (including a full page for each chapter heading), a really good glossary and index, character/campaign sheets for both design and play, and you quickly get a doorstop for a manual.

The book's main bulk comes from examples and taking their sweet time to explain things. While it's good that they try to be so explicit, I think that often the book's style (while entertaining, readable, and good for getting into the mood of the game) gets in its own way when the rules should be presented clearly and concisely. A good solid editing with that in mind might have dropped the page count noticeably.

FATE is simple, but contains complexity

For comparison, the generic FATE Core book coming out next month will probably be 300+ pages. It's stripped of setting, but features sections on philosophy and how-to-make-your-own-setting content. Despite the mechanics of FATE being surprisingly light, teaching someone how to implement FATE without either losing him in vagueries or tying him to unnecessary rules is not a simple task--especially in a book rather than face-to-face.

The DFRPG manual tries to include setting design and game philosophy (for those who are unfamiliar with FATE from other sources) as well as dedicating a couple hundred of pages to its own intellectual property.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you talk a little bit more about the extra DFRPG-specific rules since they occupy such a large portion of Volume 1? I'm still finding it hard to imagine that Volume 1, with 50 pages of fluff for an original setting, is still 366 pages for everything else. Maybe you could also give a rough estimate of the page count for examples and rules too? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2013 at 23:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Thunderforge Better? Feel free to join us in chat if I'm still missing the mark, or just to chat about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Apr 17, 2013 at 0:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ a quibble - DFRPG isn't clearly the crunchiest - Legends of Anglierre and Starblazer Adventures both give it a really good run there, and depending upon mindset, can easily be seen as crunchier than DFRPG. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Apr 17, 2013 at 1:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth mentioning that those "powers" mentioned in barest passing cover a tonne of supernatural abilities, some of them in several varieties, so that you can create new beasties and custom character types from scratch to suit your own Dresdenverse. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2013 at 1:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Thunderforge I suppose the simple answer is: You're right, FATE itself doesn't take that much space to explain; the Dresden Files RPG does. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Apr 18, 2013 at 0:37

Fate as a system is not a "Lightweight System."

For comparison:

  • Starblazer Adventures: 630pp. While it includes some setting information, it actually expects one to be quite familiar with the comics.
  • Strands of Fate: 469, no setting.
  • Spirit of the Century 426pp. The setting is encoded strongly into the skillls and stunts chapters, and gets only a few dozen total pages.
  • Legends of Anglierre: 386pp
  • Diaspora: 268pp, no explicit setting.
  • Bulldogs: 166pp

Bulldogs strips down the core mechanics... and is not a good "first Fate game." The setting material is pretty skimpy, too; were it not a parody setting, it would be almost unplayably thin.

FATE is very different from "Traditional" Role Playing Games mechanically, and so a large amount of space is devoted to (wasted upon?) reiterating the differences in most of the FATE system rulebooks.


Page numbers from the preorder PDF - cause that's what's to hand.

An overview of the Your Story volume

  • System mechanics: pages 16-22. This is the core of the fate engine.
  • City Creation: pages 24-50. Filled with example text for the "default alternate setting", and encompassing a lot of advice as well as idea lists.
  • Character Creation: pp. 52-70. Again, a lot of advice and idea lists round out a chapter that could be presented in schematic form in 2-3 pages. Nothing in there that needs to be memorized; it can be used in reference mode easily enough.
  • Types and Templates: pp 72-86. This is support material for the setting. All the major types, and half a page per major archetype... mostly advice, but a bit of rules for several.
  • Advancement: pp. 88-96. Only 2pp is really basic character advancement. Another 3 is how to alter the city's stats. The rest is a combination of definitions and advice, and special cases. Nothing you need to memorize.
  • Aspects: pp 98-118. Rules and advice for pages 98-116, samples on 117-118. Point form, this chapter can be reduced to 3 newspaper column inches. It's wordy to teach the concepts, not because the concepts are inherently complex.
  • Skills: p. 120-144. Every skill has at least a paragraph detailing the skill, and almost all have several "trappings" - specific case special uses. For example, there's a whole paragraph about using Alertness for initiative rolls.
  • Mortal Stunts: 146-156. A wide variety of stunts, complete with special case mechanics, are presented to get you rolling right away. Also included are guidelines on new stunts and trappings. Plus advice on what types of characters would commonly have certain ones. Wordy, but also building setting through rules and advice.
  • Supernatural Powers. pp. 158-190. a page or two about each of the supernaturals defined early in the templates. A large block of "use occasionally" rules.
  • "Playing The Game" (rules for GM's): pp. 192-220 conflict mechanics (aka Combat), stress/injury/condition, etc. All the details for how to run the mechanics. Again, plenty of advice thrown in.
  • Living with Magic: pp 222-246. Almost pure setting... except for sight, thresholds, hexing, and soulgaze rules...
  • Spellcasting: pp. 248-304. The magic system isn't hard, but it is complex. It makes sense, but they provide plenty of examples and advice as well as the fairly carefully worded rules.
  • Running the Game: pp. 306-338. "Gamemastering 101" Lots of advice, much of sit specific to DFRPG.
  • Building Scenarios: 340-356. This focuses on building successful FATE stories, which is a slightly different skillset than for many games... but it's also written for novice GM's. LOADS of excellent, Dresdenverse specific, advice.
  • Baltimore: pp. 358-395. The alternate setting presented as a cohesive whole. It provides a wealth of information.

The book has a nice wide margin, and a comfortable amount of whitespace; paragraphs have 2-line breaks. Illustrations run to a quarter page every 3-4 pages. In-character advice to GM's (remembering that Dresden is a gamer, too, at least in later volumes) notes are extensive. The notes are in Bob and Harry's voice in many cases, and appear as post-its.

The game is, as a whole written in a manner that could easily be Billy explaining the game to a new player, with Harry and Bob at hand.

Examining the Our World volume

  • Old World Order: pp. 12-24. 12 pages to explain the nature of the supernatural world's general politics.
  • What Goes bump: pp 26-94. A bestiary.
  • Who's Who: 96-240. All the major charcters from all the novels prior to writing. I believe it doesn't include the last 3 novels at present.
  • Occult Chicago: pp 244-260. Dresden's home stomping grounds. Same level of detail as Baltimore gets.

This is the "So you haven't actually read the books" volume. Even if you've never seen the show nor read the books, this is enough to get you running something resembling the Dresdenverse.

Game stats take a large chunk of the book.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for taking the time to make this! It was a tough choice, but I decided to go with the other answer because of the interpretation of why things are long, but your answer is fantastic because it objectively points out what parts are longer than others. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2013 at 3:25

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