Recently, Evil Hat announced that they were launching a playtest of their upcoming Dresden Files LARP, based on the RPG shown above. This is awesome, and is something I’ve been hoping would happen for years at this point. At one point I even started designing one, but never got very far into it. I applied (I don’t know if my application will be accepted or not. They start sending out letters on 02 May), but regardless of what comes of that I really enjoy the game and want to get back to playing it.
This post contains spoilers for the Dresden Files, by way of talking about my Dresden Files RPG/LARP game. If your concern for that makes you uneasy about playing, then you might want to click back now. Everyone else, read on.
Back when I ran a game, it was set in New Orleans, just after the end of Changes. As you might expect from the name, that book introduced some important changes to the Dresdenverse, and I felt that running a game prior to that point would be cheating my players out of something important. Running it later than that wasn’t tenable because Ghost Story hadn’t been released yet, but Jim Butcher already alluded to it not being as epic and world-shaking as its predecessor, so I felt pretty safe in my decision. I included some additional material that appeared in things like Side Jobs as well, because I thought it was fun and applicable.
Given that I applied to run a playtest, it should come as no surprise that I am interested in recruiting new players. If you’d be interested in that playtest, drop me a note here or on Facebook, or via e-mail or phone or whatever. Most of you have that info; if you don’t, then comment and we’ll work it out. This is a local thing being run live in Baton Rouge, at the moment, so people who can’t play in Baton Rouge probably shouldn’t worry about it right now. I don’t know if Evil Hat is interested in testing out how the game works in a play-by-email or IRC or other chat format, to be honest, but if they are I’m not averse to running that provided I have an appropriate venue and player base.
I’d like to have a fairly diverse set of players with a variety of interests and tendencies, as well as schedules. It’s okay if you can only make it to a couple of games or if you’re busy many weekends; I’d like to vary the cast to get a more meaningful playtest, anyway. The Dresden Files RPG is a highly narrative game, more in the vein of the World of Darkness (classic not new, unless you count God Machine, which you should because OMG) than Dungeons & Dragons. It is also a highly cooperative game, though I expect that will be toned down somewhat (to what degree I can’t say) for the LARP. The rules were fairly simple, and I expect them to be even simpler in the LARP. I do not expect (but cannot guarantee) it to be a boffer-style LARP (the hitting people with foam weapons kind of LARP). I expect the overall playstyle to be somewhat similar to the World of Darkness, except it seems much more inherently interactive between supernatural types; everyone doesn’t stay in their own swimming pool, not even a little bit. I could be wrong about any or all of that, but those are my expectations going into it. Also, anyone with experience playing FATE-based RPGs will probably have at least some transferable experience, since it will probably be based on that. Games will probably be run on no more than a bi-weekly schedule, because that is my work schedule, but I can vary the days session to session in order to vary the cast of players if that’s needed. I don’t need time commitments or anything right now, either; I just want to gauge interest. Working out schedules will come later.
Now, to the good stuff. The setting and plot this is going to be based in is the setting from my previous Tabletop Dresden Files RPG game, described above. It is just after one of the most tumultuous events in recent supernatural history. The Red Court is in ruins, and there is a war going on over the scraps of their empire, a war to fill the power vacuum they left behind. The supernatural elements in the city are as follows:
Wizards and other Magical Humans
The White Council itself has a comparatively weak presence within New Orleans. Only one Warden claims his domain here, in the Lakeshore neighborhood of northern New Orleans. He mostly controls and manages finances for the Council, though, and so was only conscripted as a Warden after the War started and demanded all able-bodied persons join the fight. A robust network of minor talents, held together by Priestess Marie Tusaud of the Voodoo Temple of New Orleans and the Paranet, manages and protects most of the magical persons within New Orleans. Rumors persist of a necromancer within New Orleans, claiming to be the child of Kalfou himself. Priestess Tusaud, when pressed, will not acknowledge that such a person even exists, but says that if he does then he is certainly her enemy.
The Vampire Courts in New Orleans (and everywhere else, for that matter) are in an uproar right now. Their previously established paradigm and balance of power has been thrown into complete chaos by the destruction of the Red Court at the hands of Harry Dresden. As a result, the historic home of the Vampire Courts in New Orleans, the French Quarter, has become something of a battleground. Fights and gang violence are on the rise there, despite the city cracking down on such things in the heart of their tourist district. The Black Court has as yet remained unseen, so it is the White Court that has primarily fought and gained territory in these areas, at the expense of ghoul gangs and other long-time allies of the red Court in New Orleans. Those gangs have, as a result, withdrawn to their strongholds in the lower Ninth Ward, in neighborhoods that have not as yet been rebuilt after being flooded by Hurricane Katrina and looted in the chaos that followed. House Raith and its allies lead the White Court in New Orleans, allying with other supernatural powers to secure their base of operations and assets as necessary.
Unlike in Chicago and many other temperate and northern cities, the Winter Court has only a very small presence in New Orleans. The Summer Court has its stronghold in the Garden District, Audubon and City Park, led by a noble living in the Garden District, but they are primarily opposed by two different foes. The Court of Storms, led by the Erlking himself, threatens and does battle with the Summer Court (and everyone else) every hurricane season. Occasionally the Wyld Hunt breaks into the city itself – the last such time being during Katrina – but most years it simply nips around the edges and is repelled by the allied forces of the magical practitioners and the Summer fae of New Orleans. The other force the Summer Court perpetually battles against for control of the Nevernever is the Court of the Lwa, a unique entity found only in New Orleans and throughout the Caribbean. From Baron Samedi to Legba, Erzulie, and even Kalfou, the Lwa represent for New Orleanians a mix of concepts, filling a role as Catholic Saints and pagan gods. Supernaturally, they are something all their own – a kind of spirit, kind of god, a collective power unto themselves that only holds sway within cities where traditions like Voodoo are held dear. Their power is by its nature somewhat decentralized, but it is most prevalent where older, poorer, and more superstitious people live. So it is only natural that many of the neighborhoods on the West Bank, such as Algiers, Gretna and Marrero, along with some of the older parts of New Orleans itself, like the Ninth Ward, Bywater, Treme, and Uptown, are where most of these shrines and much of this influence can be found.
The Restless Dead
New Orleans is famous for its zombies. They are an undeniable part of the folklore of the town, and there is a reason. Every time it rains, it seems more of them rise out of the wet, dark earth. Some of these are merely corpses dropped in the bayou or dumped in the river by New Orleans’s criminal element, but many of them are anything but mundane. The ghoul clans of the lower ninth ward regularly leave caches of dead to feast on, and sometimes even kill runaways and homeless persons in order to maintain their supply. A few of these produce ghosts, and as a result of New Orleans’s unusually thin veil, these ghosts sometimes find their former bodies and inhabit them. Others are bound to bodies by necromancy or other dark magic, and still others are created through mind-altering, coma-inducing chemicals and rituals mastered by the Bokor, members of the occult underworld who practice the dark side of voodoo and venerate the dark Lwa in the back alleys and shadows of New Orleans, not as Wizards per se but as servants to and extensions of those dark powers of the Nevernever. In addition to the zombies, bodiless undead like ghosts or poltergeists also call New Orleans home. These dead cluster around places of suffering and paid, so they tend to congregate in places like the condemned ruin that was once Charity Hospital and in the Cemeteries found throughout the city. Late at night, the dead even stir around the Superdome, which during Katrina was the site of much suffering and violent death. Priestess Tusaud and others have been working to correct the manifestations, especially the last, but as yet the work is merely ‘ongoing’.
Shapeshifters and Lycanthropes
Stories of gator-men and bog bears and bayou panthers occasionally make the news, but there are very few genuine instances of lycanthropes or their kin living in New Orleans. Only one major instance bucks this trend. A gang called the 3’n’G, located on the West Bank in Westwego and Gretna, is known among some for being one-and-all a pack of lycanthropes. The anger that fuels these men also helps them to protect the neighborhood they call home, though their particular manner of protection is as bloody as it is efficient. More than one dirty cop has been found strung up and stabbed to death in this part of town, and as such the police generally avoid it unless they can enter in significant numbers with plenty of backup. Elsewhere in the city there are certainly a small number of theriomorphs, but they have not formed a society or otherwise gathered together in any way.
Men of Faith, Hallowed Ground
There are only a few men of faith to be found in the churches in New Orleans. Despite being very deeply Catholic, the city is also deeply involved with the voodoo sub-culture, and what men of faith there are are often Houngan of Mambo, serving as priests or extensions of the Lwa, rather than priests or holy warriors. These men and women are found in no particular place. Perhaps the strongest man of faith is Monsignor Harold Watkins, serving as a priest on staff at St. Louis cathedral in the French Quarter. It is rare for genuine men of faith to be given this assignment, but Msgr. Watkins’s activities sanctify the ground of the church so that the servants of darkness and pain cannot enter (a fact that displeases the White Court to no end). He is not himself aware of the darkness, but the holy ground he maintains makes St. Louis cathedral itself a useful island of calm and safety amid the storms going on in the world. A more aware priest is Fr. Thomas Montegut, priest at St. Patrick’s, located near St. Louis on the edge of the French Quarter. He works with elements in the church such as the Ordo Malleus and Fellowship of St. Giles, helping to coordinate their efforts and house people on the run from the White Court or other dark powers in New Orleans. Rumors of his holding one of the blackened darnarii persist, but he denies them when and if he is ever asked. Predictably, this does nothing to quell the rumors.
While the greenways in the middle of the streets in New Orleans are popularly called “neutral ground,” the only place in New Orleans that is properly Accorded Neutral Territory is in the French Quarter. The bar-cum-pirate safehouse, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, is the one place that all the supernatural denizens of New Orleans can meet relatively secure in the knowledge that violence will not break out. It is run by the descendant of Jean Lafitte himself, a man by the same name. He is known by everyone in town, but known to very few of them. It is known that he is close to several Lwa, good friends with Priestess Tusaud, regularly attends mass with Msgr. Watkins at St. Louis, and on a first name basis with the only Warden in town, but no one knows how he acquired these connections or how deep they go. He seems to like it this way, and if nothing else it makes his in-the-know patrons that much more wary of crossing him.
For those who wish to play, I’ve whipped up the following poll to help me schedule games. They’ll also have to be scheduled around my time, but I’ll manage that part. If your schedule varies bi-weekly, answer for the week starting on May 6th, 2014 (so 10 days from now). Again, if your schedule is irregular, clarify it in the comments.