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Eric: In his spare time, he makes lovely sculptures... OUT OF THE PURE AWESOME THAT RADIATES FROM HIS BRAIN!

Long time and even medium time readers of this here blog know that one of the people I have the most respect for, over in the Role Playing Game Developer's community (it's a lovely place with citrus punch and rocking chairs and they're talking about getting a Super Nintendo) is Chad Underkoffler.

Now, one reason I have respect for M. Underkoffler is his name. His name is Chad Underkoffler. That is just an amazingly kickass name. Even if it does mean "Chad Beneath the Koffler," which I believe is some kind of waffle iron. But that's not the best reason to have respect for him.

The best reason is his sheer skill and brilliance in the world of RPG design.

He is the author of two of the games I have most liked and respected in the wide world of RPGs in the last couple of years: Dead Inside, which came out the same year as the "new" World of Darkness and so pushed the boundaries of modern RPG horror beyond it it's not even funny, and Truth and Justice, which is at once one of the best superhero RPGs of the last decade and the only superhero RPG that encourages the same freewheeling use of powers that you see in actual comic books.

(As a side note? I had a Champions GM insist that my ice based character couldn't use his ice blast or his ice entanglement to extinguish a fire, because I didn't take any power neutralization powers. I even pointed to text in the Big Blue Book that supported my doing what any idiot would assume I could do with ice powers, but he stood absolutely firm on this point. Later, I asked if it would be okay if I made ice cubes to put in my character's lemonade glass, and he made me roll for it. With minuses. But, in that GM's defense, he was a dick.)

As a third piece of evidence for Underkoffler's amazingness, I submit Zorcerer of Zo, which I also think is brilliant but, as I edited the book, I can't give it the same unqualified support due to a conflict of interest. Hell, if you buy a copy of that amazing, educational, skillfully written, beautifully illustrated, competantly edited and overall fun game, I get a royalty out of the deal, so clearly if I tell you it's really really good and you should go here for an electronic copy either here or here for a beautiful offset printed softcover copy here, well, you might have some bizarre thought that I was biased and hoping to get my cut of those sales.

Seriously. Buy this book. I'm poor.

Regardless, editing Underkoffler gave me firsthand experience in just how huge his big developer brain is, but every so often I get independent confirmation of that fact. Fred Hicks is one of the developers working on the Dresden Files Role Playing Game, for Evil Hat Productions and for Jim "Dresden Files" Butcher. (He's working alongside other really cool people like Rob Donoghue and Leonard Balsera... and the frighteningly-brilliant-in-her-own-right fellow In Nomine Alumna Genevieve Cogman. Between this and the source material, this is a game to watch out for regardless of Herr Underkoffler. But I digress.)

Hicks brought in Chad to do some work. And then....

...well, let me quote Hicks's own post on his experience with Chad:

So a while back I signed [Chad Underkoffler] on board as a Dresden Files RPG collaborator. In short, he's been working on reading the nine currently available novels and four short stories (two of them as yet unpublished) to build the "this is what lives in the Dresdenverse" sections spanning two (apparently due to be massive) chapters of the RPG.

He recently concluded his *preparatory work* for this, and if you think that means oh, [Underkoffler] just read the stuff and now he's ready, well, dear reader, you would be sadly fucking mistaken. Today he turned over the Dresden Files Matrix document to me that forms the research basis of all the stuff he's going to be writing from here on out. It's a table in Word with a few columns: entity name, page references, entity type (multiple choice from a short list: character, magic, item, location, quotation, creature, maybe one or two others), notes, and details.

It's over 50,000 words. 9 point type. 128 pages long.

It's not a matrix, it's a flippin' setting bible for the Dresden Files RPG. I had originally had this project on my plate, and I never would have done as good a job has done here -- not by orders of magnitude, no way.

This is, if anything, typical for Chad. He doesn't do anything by half measures. He dives the fuck in and goes to town on projects. If it's of any interest at all to him, it's worth being obsessed over it.

Hicks continues (emphasis his):

Chad was kind enough to extract a list of what he needed me to comment on, in terms of how much writing I wanted him doing for each entity, which is what I was working on most of the day. It's basically a list of every person and creature type in the Dresdenverse.

It's about 300 items long.

You know something? I don't watch The Dresden Files. I also haven't read the books. I intend to -- I just haven't gotten to it.

But I will own this role playing game. Oh yes. I will. Because it is fully Underkofflered. Throw in Hicks, Donoghue, Balsera and especially Cogman, and I know damn well this is going to be one of the best games of the year, entirely aside from the source material.

So in conclusion. Buy Zorcerer of Zo. God damn it, I have a cat to feed.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at June 27, 2007 8:00 AM

Comments

Comment from: LurkerWithout [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 27, 2007 9:43 AM

I did buy Zorecer of Zo. And it is great. I'd buy Dead Inside and Truth and Justice if I could find POD versions. I don't buy pdfs. No matter how awesome cool the product. But ZoZ was definately worth the 30 dollars. And its a fairly small book, so thats saying a lot...

And as someone who HAS read Butcher's books I'm VERY happy they got Underkoffler as one of the people working on the RPG...

Comment from: Michael Weaver [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 27, 2007 10:26 AM

They've got Underkoffler working on a Dresden Files RPG? Wow. Alone the concept seemed silly and pointless, since most of the time they would get things utterly wrong, but with Chad freaking Underkoffler working on it...

Understand, I'm not a die-hard fan of Jim Butcher's by a longshot, but the man knows his stuff. From the mere two books I've read of the Dresden Files, I know he does his research. The descriptions of werewolves, for instance, stem from the original myths, and are very well portrayed. Bob, his wind-spirit-slash-encyclopaedia-in-a-skull, is perfectly done as well (and very different from the TV show's version, mind you.) It's his genius and attention to detail that made me doubt an RPG could do the Dresden Files justice.

Still, with Underkoffler on the job, it'll get done. And it'll get done damn well, at that. On his name alone, I might have to track this book down.

Comment from: Fred Hicks [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 27, 2007 12:14 PM

Thanks for pointing people to my entry on Chad's fine work for the DFRPG. Man, I cannot wait to see the end result of all this.

Comment from: Alexandra Erin [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 27, 2007 10:00 PM

"But, in that GM's defense, he was a dick." Hee!

I know it was a sidenote, but I may have to check out Truth and Justice. I'm always looking for superhero games that feel like they're simulating the "reality" of a comic book rather than simulating the reality of a game. :P

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 28, 2007 11:05 AM

Question, what exactly are the Dresden Files?

Comment from: Prodigal [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 28, 2007 2:58 PM

The Dresden Files are a series of books about a PI who's also a practicing wizard. He winds up investigating a number of cases where black magic has been used to harm others. His best friends are a cop, and a centuries-dead wizard whose soul has been bound to his skull (which resides on Dresden's desk).

I've enjoyed what I've seen of the TV adaptation a good deal, and plan on buying the books in the near future.

Comment from: Doc [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 29, 2007 6:17 AM

I've just had an ungodly hectic day at work and so when I finally got to catch up on websnark my defenses were totally down. So now I add Zo and T&J (not to mention the turtlezilla supplement that I was unaware of) to the Dead Inside PDF in my PDQ folder.
Damn you Eric Burns! DAAAAAAMN YOOUUUUUUU!

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 29, 2007 10:27 AM

Just one tangent question to this conversation: is your cat a good RPG gamer, Eric?

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 29, 2007 10:51 AM

My cat is awesome.

Well, you have to interpret her movements.

Sometimes liberally.

And her brain is walnut sized.

Comment from: Aquarion [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at June 29, 2007 12:26 PM

I would, incidentally, recommend the books over and above the TV series. If you intend to watch the TV series, however, do so first.

Because the other way around will make the series a disappointment, and it doesn't deserve it.

It's good... It's just not the one.

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