Sunday, April 11, 2010

10 Questions with Dresden Files RPG Publisher Fred Hicks!

With the recent release of the pdf copies of the Dresden Files RPG (picture borrowed from Evil Hat Productions) as a precursor to the, by all accounts gorgeous and gigantic core books, Your Story and Our World, designer/publisher Fred Hicks agreed to answer our grueling and terrible 10 questions. With games such as Don't Rest Your Head, Spirit of the Century, and now the Dresden Files under his belt, Fred's a guy with a lot to say worth listening to.

Fred really doesn't need much of an introduction, but you can follow him on Twitter here and check out his blog here.

On with the questions!

1. The Hopeless Gamer (THG): What games did you play and interested you most as you grew into the role-playing hobby?

Fred Hicks (FH): Red Box D&D hit me around 3rd grade or so, but more than anything I was fascinated with dice and creating characters. I don't know that I *played* much.

High School featured a smattering of various things, with plenty of Champions and Beyond the Supernatural in the mix, and the occasional half-foray into something GURPS.

Then came college in the early 1990's.  I played a little White Wolf stuff, but not a lot; Amber Diceless is what really grew big for me, both in real space and online, along with the discovery of games like Fudge that were rising out of the mind-soup of the Internet.

2. THG: What games are you currently playing or fascinated with?

FH: It's not roleplaying games at present that are fascinating -- though the bug of D&D 4th Edition bit me hard when it was out and claimed my attention for a good year or so. It's board games.

I'm playing a lot of Lost Cities with my wife. It's a two-player game with an archaeological dig theme to it, and very engaging. But there's also Dominion, and man, what an incredible design. There's a reason it's getting so much play these days -- it's like Magic: The Gathering deck building as a game entirely unto itself, and it plays nice and fast.

3. THG: What's your favorite game you've worked on?

FH: The Dresden Files RPG (which is in preorder now at the Evil Hat web store).  It's been a labor of love spanning years, but I'm so incredibly pleased and proud of the two-book set that's come out of the other side of that process.  From talking with the early adopters, it's the sort of game where folks are really picking up on the love and bringing it to their own tables too.

4. THG:What's your role in the development of the Dresden Files RPG to released this year?

FH: I'm the publisher, and I've done all the art direction and layout work on the final product. I also did some of the early development on it, laying down some of the foundational text that then got refined and expanded upon (or in some entirely deserved cases, thrown out) by the later editors and authors.

5. THG: How does it feel to be involved in one of the most anticipated RPG releases in recent memory?

FH: Yikes, is it really that? Well, if it is, then I suppose I've been doing my job. :)

It's a mix of fear and exhilaration, whatever it is.  Like a rollercoaster that does a really good job of making you think it's going to fly off the tracks at any point.

6. THG: Your games, specifically Don't Rest Your Head and PACE give a strong sense of economy and give-and-take of story telling resources between players and GM. What inspires you to build your games in this direction?

FH: It's about creating moments of tension in the system that resonate out to what's happening on the story-telling level of play. When you can induce dramatic tension through your system, it all feels like it fits together better and really engages people. It gives them a sense that what's happening has real weight instead of being a light and airy thing constructed purely out of consensus, I think.  Think about a fight in D&D; then think about a fight in D&D when you're down to 3 hit points.  In that latter case, you're feeling the fight more -- it's more desperate, because there's an economy (however overinflated) at work in those hit points, since they're a resource. And when resources get scarce, tension rises, and with tension comes investment in what's going on.

7. THG:Do we see any similar type of economic play in the Dresden Files RPG?

FH: Absolutely.  We've always had the basic economy of fate points, their ebb and flow, in Fate, but we've kicked that up a few notches in DF by tightening up the availability of fate points.  The more powers you take, the fewer fate points you'll be able to generate when you "refresh" -- so people who are super powerful will also be hungry to take those fate point generating compels. Which in a way explains Harry Dresden's life.

8. THG: Don't Rest Your Head has a terrifyingly-unique and deep setting. Are there any specific inspirations you drew from when creating it?

FH: Plenty, as I talked about towards the end of the book.  Probably the biggest ones in my head were J. Michael Straczynski's graphic novel Midnight Nation; Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere; Grant Morrison's run on the Doom Patrol comic; and the movie Dark City.

It wasn't until after I'd written the thing that I sat down and read some of Simon Green's Nightside novels. It was almost a rude shock -- there was a lot of overlap there. But any similarities folks see there are a case of parallel evolution.

9. THG: You described PACE in its introduction as a "24-hour game" in the same vein as the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Could you describe the experience of creating it, and would you be interested in trying it again in the future?

FH: Oh, maybe. I like the 24 hour game idea because it forces you to really zero in on a core concept and put it into motion -- and making it work -- at high pressure and speed.  There's no time to divert, and really no time to lack confidence.  All execution.  That's where I like to live anyway, but this method turns up the volume.

But, man, I created that one years ago. I mainly remember walking around feeling infected by the idea of the core mechanic -- the only mechanic, really -- and deciding the only way I could purge myself of it was to get it down on "paper".

10. THG: Where can my readers buy games by Fred Hicks?

FH: At the Evil Hat webstore --

At Indie Press Revolution --

And thanks to our recent partnership with Alliance Game Distributors, in their local game store, soon if not already.

Thanks to Fred for answering our questions. I know for sure at least a couple of the guys in our gaming group have been following the development of the Dresdent Files RPG for a good while now and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their hardcover copies.


  1. Already grabbed the preorder. Damn but that's alot of reading ;)

    I'll give my impressions on my blog after I digest some of it.


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