Feints & Gambits: Circle and Sword

We’re rapidly closing in on the finale of the Feints & Gambits game. This was the antepenultimate1 session of the game, so only two more sessions left now that this one is complete. Things are coming to a head, and the pressure is on.

I had the smallest group for this session in I-don’t-know-how-long. Only three players were able to make it, and that’s the bare minimum we’ve set for quorum2. It was a bit of a surprise, because the previous several sessions have been full houses, or pretty close, but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s nice to play with a smaller group. Better able to give spotlight time to everyone.

So, who showed up? Well, we had Nate and Mark O’Malley, affectionately known as the Terror Twins3, and Rogan O’Herir, the heir to leadership of the ancient pride of were-smilodons who serve as mystical guardians of Ireland4. That gave us the bulk of the heavy-hitting power in the group, but little in the way of… shall we say, the social graces.

The game started with a recap, and then the gang started talking about what they wanted to do. Given that the overall goal was to prepare Liam Dalton for his ascent to the High Kingship, they knew what was needed: the Sword of Nuada, the Spear of Lugh, the Cauldron of the Dagda, the Stone of Kings, and as many allies as they could scrape together. In the previous session, they had determined that the stone at the top of the Hill of Tara was, in fact, the true Stone of Kings, so that was done. They also knew that Aengous Keogh had the Cauldron of the Dagda, but he had left for parts unknown after the fight at the Guinness Brewery. Macha, at the Silver Arm, however, told them that Aengous was prone to show up when and where he was needed.

That left the Sword, the Spear, and allies. In a wonderful display of confounding expectations5, they decided to try and enlist the Ciorcal Fuinseog6 onto the King’s side.

Now, I mentioned that none of the three were exactly diplomats. In fact, it might be fair to say that the majority of them7 are the reason diplomats exist. They were overmatched and outgunned in this department, and more likely than not to shoot themselves in their collective foot.

 

Okay, let’s look at a quick rundown of the players here:

  • Nate O’Malley, incredibly powerful evoker, specializing in fire. He’s got the typical temper of a fire evoker, and a big chip on his shoulder. But he’s trying to do the responsible thing, and that counts for something.
  • Mark O’Malley, not as powerful as Nate, but able to work both evocation and thaumaturgy. More polished and sneakier, but has a chip on his shoulder at least as big as Nate’s. He’s been turned down for membership in the White Council unless he undergoes a seven-year apprenticeship, so he’s trying to prove he doesn’t need them.
  • Rogan O’Herir, who turns into a smilodon. She tends to solve problems with her teeth and claws, in a very permanent manner. Last session, though, she promised to return to her pride at the end of this battle and prove herself worthy of leadership, so she’s tryng to turn herself into the kind of leader she’d want to follow.
  • The Ciorcal Fuinseog, a loose collection of minor mystical types – similar to the Paranet – who are dedicated to preserving Ireland. Well, sort of. It’s kind of a lie to say that the entire Ciorcal is dedicated to anything. They are fractious, bickering loners who co-operate only because it’s safer.

That’s three people who are not optimal for enlisting a strong ally, and an ally who’s not as strong and unified8 as anyone thinks. The thing I found interesting about the choice is that it wasn’t about who the characters are. It’s about who the characters want to be.9

But10 they had the secret weapon of the FATE system on their side – time to prepare.

They used their circle of customers from the bookstore to make contact with someone from the Ciorcal and laid the plan out to her. She agreed to get some representative fraction of the group to a meeting to hear the whole thing and make a determination. They also researched the Ciorcal to find out a little bit of information about them – this gave them the idea to offer them bread and salt to make them guests, seeing as how the Ciorcal tended to like the old ways.

Nate even apologized to Macha and got readmitted to the Silver Arm11, where he wanted to buy a bottle of mead to drink to seal any agreement that they reached. When he explained to her what he was trying to do, she brought him a special bottle of mead12 that she had made herself long ago. Rogan baked some bread13 and brought in some other food, as well, to lay a good table.

At this point, the group looked at me and said, “Well, I still don’t think we have a chance. What else can we do.” I blinked at them for a second or two, and then told them to write down a list of three or four aspects that they had accumulated through their preparations, which I had been treating like maneuvers14. They said that they hadn’t rolled for them, but I said that roleplaying for them trumped rolling for them any day of the week. Thus, armed with their preparation aspects, and the aspects of the Hole In The Wall bookshop, they brought in their guests and proceeded to make their case.

I ran this as a Social conflict, with a couple of little tweaks. First, I treated the entire dozen of Ciorcal representatives as a single opponent, giving them six or seven stress boxes, a single skill I called Resistance, set at Good (+3), and a few aspects. The idea was that, if the group was taken out, they’d join the fight. I would use Consequences to represent how close they were to being swayed. I didn’t want them to counter-attack, though, but I still needed a way for the characters to fail persuading them, so I set up three Strike boxes. Whenever the characters failed a roll against the Ciorcal’s Resistance, or when they did something that violated the sensibilities of the Ciorcal15, I would mark in a Strike. Three Strikes, and the Ciorcal walks – maybe right over to the other side, depending how things went.

Well, the conflict went about as well as I could have hoped. Everyone pitched in, incorporating the aspects in the fiction, not just for dice rolls, and fought as hard to accomplish this as they ever had to bring down a physical16 foe. Fate points flew hot and heavy and, in the end, they managed to convince the Ciorcal to join with them with two Strike boxes filled in. I was impressed by the play from all the players, and was very happy that the system could handle this sort of debate in a way that made it dynamic and interesting, providing mechanical structure for it without making it devolve into mechanical dice-rolling17.

It was about 11:30 at that point, and we try to wrap things up around midnight. The gang wanted to push on and try and get Nuada’s Sword from Newgrange18, and I thought about things. There were two ways I could go with the claim-the-Sword adventure – quick and dirty, which I could probably do in about an hour, or longer and more involved, which I would need to leave for the next session. I decided to go for the quick and dirty solution, because the players were riding high on their success.

I invoked a little GM-fiat coincidence, and had one of the Ciorcal members be an archaeologist working in the Boyne Valley, who got them up and to Newgrange in the dead of night. I was able to use my own visit to Newgrange to describe the site, and the claustrophobic tunnel inside, and the incredible arched central chamber, so that was good.

Inside, it was Nate’s turn to use The Sight19, and he saw a neolithic shaman sitting in the bowl where the midwinter light would fall in the central chamber. This shaman asked Nate some riddles20 and, when Nate answered correctly, opened a doorway into the Nevernever that only Nate could see.

He stepped through, found himself facing a band of Winter Court warriors, and promptly burned them to a crisp21. Then he opened the grave vault, had a bit of a chat with Nuada, claimed the Sword, and scampered home. Everyone cheered and they went to bed22.

That leaves the Spear – and possibly more recruiting of allies – for next session. And the big finale for23 the final session.

Game is soon done.

  1. For my discussion of ultimate terminology, you’ll have to look at this post. I’m not repeating it here. []
  2. See, I’ve run the campaign in a very episodic manner, because it’s tough scheduling with a large group. We play as long as three players can make it. Thus, three is quorum. []
  3. They’re not twins. Just brothers. And are considered to be weapons of mass destruction in our magical Dublin. []
  4. God bless collaborative character and setting creation. I’d never have come up with something like that. []
  5. Both mine and their own expectations of their characters’ strengths. []
  6. That’s my barbarous Gaelic rendering of Ash Circle. []
  7. At least. []
  8. Well, not as unified, anyway. Band together the resources of the group and focus it on one goal, and you’ve got a pretty potent weapon. Keeping them from arguing about what the goal should be or what his Joan said about our mum last Solstice, though, that’s a bit of a challenge. []
  9. This is one of the things that I love about DFRPG, and FATE in general. It promotes character growth and story arcs where the nature of the characters change. Characters can strive to become better people, not just faster or stronger or more powerful. Nicer. Happier. More heroic. And the system has a way to model that sort of aspiration, and to both quantify and reward it. []
  10. And this is a glorious but that exists because of the way the game works. []
  11. He’d pissed her off last session, and she threw him bodily out of the pub. []
  12. Metheglin, actually. []
  13. Not her first choice of job. []
  14. I just hadn’t thought to tell them that. Figured I’d get to it. []
  15. As represented by the Ciorcal’s aspects. []
  16. Or metaphysical. []
  17. I’m looking at you, D&D 4E. []
  18. Macha told them it was there last session. []
  19. Those with the ability tend to take turns, spreading the potential hurt around. []
  20. Three, of course. The player used his Lore skill to answer two of them, but got the third one on his own. Considering I was creating the riddles on the fly, and drawing on more reading of Celtic legend than the player has done, one out of three ain’t bad. []
  21. I think they managed to land one shot, and it wasn’t a good one. I think I mentioned that Nate is a weapon of mass destruction, right? []
  22. Except Nate, who took the Sword by the Silver Arm to give Macha the message from her husband, Nuada. []
  23. Fittingly. []

Fearful Symmetries: Trial (In More Ways Than One)

This post has been delayed, because I’ve needed to do some thinking and formalizing the stuff I’m going to say here. The reason is that I tried something kind of new to me in the last session, inspired by reading games like Leverage RPG and Apocalypse World. It was an experiment in a different narrative structure to the adventure, breaking away from the start-middle-end assumption and defined events to something more free-form and collaborative.

What does that all mean? Well, basically, it means I ran this session as a flashback episode.

At the end of the previous session, we left things with our heroes about to descend on the house where, they were told, a cell of Catholic spies were based. They wanted to bring these spies in and thereby clear Emeric’s name of charges of espionage. In the time between that session and this past one, I had been thinking about the kind of game this has become, and how I wanted to provide a few more options for the characters, and how I didn’t really want this round-up of a spy network to be a kick-in-the-door-kill-the-bad-guys scenario1. On the other hand, the characters are good at that kind of thing, so I didn’t want to take that option totally off the table.

As I was thinking about this, I remembered a couple of off-hand comments that my players had made about not getting a lot of use out of their social skills, and about some of their goals – specifically, about wanting to become more involved in keeping Prague safe in the face of the impending arrival of the Catholic League. Both those things implied wanting to be more involved in the upper levels of society in the city, so I wanted to give them the opportunity to make that happen, too.

Apocalypse World offers some interesting perspective on creating scenarios: don’t do it. Play to find out what happens. And Leverage RPG allows the use of flashbacks to establish facts in the past for effect in the current game. And we’ve all seen and loved movies and TV shows that start in media res and then fill in the backstory as we go along2. I got this idea stuck in my head that it would be fun to do a game like that, giving a lot of the creative control over to the players to decide how they managed to get to their current situation, and then letting them use that stuff to get them out of it.

It was a big enough departure from the usual way we do things that I spent a lot of time agonizing about whether I should try this or not. Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place: I talked to my players about it3. They agreed that they’d be interested in trying it, but that they didn’t want to waste the evening if it turned out the approach crashed and burned. I thought about that, and said that I could build in some trap doors to abandon this approach in favour of our more traditional one if we felt it wasn’t working.

Based on that feedback, I went ahead and figured out what sort of structure this experiment was going to use, and how I wanted to incorporate the mechanics of the game into the story we were telling. My primary goals were:

  • Provide a way for the characters to begin interacting with the nobles of Prague.
  • Give them some use for their social abilities, ideally through some Social Conflict.
  • Let them write as much of the backstory as they wanted to.
  • Make sure we all had fun4.

I went for a pretty sparse set-up: the characters were standing before a council of nobles in the throne room of Prague Castle, being asked to account for themselves and prove that they were not spies. There were about two dozen nobles present, but I figured that there were really six key figures that they would have to sway to their side in order to gain their freedom, and that swaying was going to be accomplished using the Social Conflict rules.

To this mix, I added some minor rules for flashbacks. Specifically, I had a short list of key questions that the council wanted answered, and each time one was asked, it would trigger a flashback to provide the answer. In addition, players could call for a flashback if they wished to introduce an event or fact that would affect play. Each completed flashback would allow the players to put an Aspect on the scene, which they could tap in their attempts to influence the nobles.

We got off to a rocky start, mainly because I hadn’t explained my assumptions and expectations clearly enough to the players. The fact that I didn’t have any real expectations of what had happened between them learning about the spy ring and them having to account for it took a while to sink in – they kept wondering what I wanted them to do, and I kept waiting for them to take the freedom and run with it. We hashed that out in the first flashback episode, and after that we were rolling5.

In the flashbacks, we found6 that the characters had staked out the house in question, and that Izabela had gone off to follow one of the many men coming and going from it, seeing him meet with many servants of the noble houses and exchanging messages with them. Emeric, meanwhile, was spotted watching the house and pulled inside to answer questions, where he managed to convince the spies that he was working for a sympathetic party and had come to warn them to move house. As the last one was about to leave, he cold-cocked him to keep for interrogation.

The interrogation led to finding that at least one of the noble families was collaborating with the spies, and that there was evidence of this collaboration hidden in a cemetery near the now-burned-out Malvora manor. Izabela made a deal with another captured spy to let him leave the city in hopes that they might still be able to broker a deal with the Catholic League that would prevent the bloodshed she knows is coming7, which kind-of upset Emeric.

In helping the spy escape the city, she faked an explosion, which stirred up the guards. As Emeric is already being sought as a spy, they tried to disguise themselves as a housemaid bringing her drunk master home in a wheelbarrow to get across the Charles Bridge and retrieve the evidence. It kind of went south, and they wound up under arrest, but their friend Captain Amiel was in charge, and so they wound up in front of the nobles’ council with a chance to tell their story.

During their trial – the framing event for the flashbacks – they outed one of the collaborating nobles, swayed a couple of others, and intimidated another into shutting the hell up. In the end, they took the whole gang over to the cemetery, got the evidence, and proved their innocence, as well as making some powerful and valuable friends among the nobility.

So, how did things work overall? I’d call it a qualified success. Here are some things I learned, that you may want to consider if you decide to try this approach with your own group.

  • Be clear in your explanations about how this is going to work, and what the players’ options are. We almost had a complete train wreck forty minutes into play because I hadn’t been clear enough. Especially be clear about how much or how little you want to be defined during play. Which brings up the next point.
  • You’re asking your players to essentially set scenes for themselves, and then play through them. Give them some guidelines as to how much you are going to let them establish in the scene-setting portion, versus what questions will need to be answered through play. For example, “In this scene, we interrogate the captive and find out that he’s in league with a noble house and where the evidence is,” defines a lot of things that might be more fun to come out during play. If you’re not cool with that, let them know so that they can give you something like, “In this scene, we interrogate the captive to try and find the extent of the spy ring.” Everything else comes out of the questions they ask the captive and the answers he can be convinced to give8. If you make this clear to the players, you can avoid doing what I did, which was often saying, “That’s too much stuff. Let’s get back to the basics of the scene, and see what you can do in play.” Which is just another way of saying no to players, and that’s something I like to avoid.
  • Have some things in your back pocket to toss in if the players are coming up blank thanks to the choice paralysis. In my case, the questions from the nobles provided some guidance, but picking out two or three main flashback scenes that you’d like to see in the game and prepping them gives you some options if they get stuck.
  • Keep the flashbacks short. If they just play the adventure straight through in a so-called flashback, it’s not different than just playing the game normally. You can also throw them in out of chronological order, which is fun, but it requires that both you and the players keep more careful track of the other flashbacks, so you don’t wind up with a paradox.
  • Recognize that this approach is not going to work for some players, especially those that prefer an immersive play experience. Players have to pull back from their characters to set scenes, to call for flashbacks, and to decide what Aspects they get out of the flashbacks, as well as to keep track of the chronological weave you’re making – all the meta-thinking about playing the game instead of living through it as a character. A flashback structure demands more meta-thinking from players than the more traditional style of play.
  • I don’t think this approach is sustainable as a default game style. Maybe every now and then, as a change of pace, but too frequently and it would just get annoying and bland.

So, that was my big narrative structure experiment with the game. In the end it, it worked, but I’m certainly not planning on trying it again anytime soon. The bite-sized flashbacks of the Leverage RPG are easier to handle, less disruptive, and more in keeping with the genre, and I think I may allow similar things to take place in this game, but the longer, more elaborate, more gimmicky style that this was? No. It needs more work, and more polish, and more testing before I could say it’s a truly usable tool in my GM toolkit.

That said, many thanks to Clint and Penny for agreeing to try it with me. It was a fun experiment. And now we’ll return to our regularly-structured games.

At least until I get my next crazy idea.

  1. There’s nothing wrong with those, but there’s been quite a few of those in this campaign, and I wanted to offer some possibilities of different kinds of solutions. []
  2. Things like The Usual Suspects or Sunset Boulevard or the Nevada Day episodes of Studio 60 for example. []
  3. To be fair, I talked to one of my players about it, and she talked to the other player about it. This works because they are husband and wife. []
  4. Of course, this is the most important point of consideration. The only reason it’s listed last is because it should pretty much go without saying. []
  5. More or less, anyway. []
  6. Though not in the order I’m laying it out here. []
  7. I’ve decided that, though we’re going with most of the historical facts of the Thirty Years’ War as of 1620, the actions of the characters have a chance of changing how things happen, and she’s trying to do just that. []
  8. This is an application of the old writing principle of “Show, don’t tell.” []

DFRPG Q&A 14

Last time pays for all.

Rechan says:

On the topic of using Evocation for maneuvers: Does the target get a defensive roll, or are you just trying to statically beat their defensive skill?

Fred got this one on the comment thread. Thanks, Fred! Just to elaborate how that meshes with the earlier comment about the power levels needed for Evocation, the target still makes a defensive roll, but the attacker needs that minimum amount of power to make the Maneuver take place. So, if you’re trying to tag someone with Blown Away, and they’ve got Great +4 Might, you need to have 4 shifts of power in your air Evocation for it to affect them, but you still need to roll to hit their Fair +2 Athletics, and they get a roll to dodge it.

So any word on your next Dresdenverse campaign? :)

Well, I’ve talked it up with some of my players, and the interest is there. But I really want to wait until I’ve got the physical books – it just makes everything easier. That said, in the next week or so, I’m going to start posting some thoughts here about designing the campaign. Starting with some ruminations on the Power Levels and what they imply in terms of characters, stories, mood, and tone in the game. And then, I think, I’ll look at some options for settings that aren’t cities.

You can drop inhuman x or other supernatural powers into the Were-form right? Or is there anything else that symbolizes the “You have a form that you use to battle”? I’m actually pondering a “Dr Jeckyl/Mr Hyde” character.

You can certainly drop those things on the template. In fact, you must add at least -2 worth of other powers. There is, however, a limited list of what qualifies for Were-Form powers. Of course, as has been discussed repeatedly, the templates are simply a guide.

Christopher says:

Regarding what you said about Buffy-verse vampires:

That’d work. Of course, it wouldn’t be that difficult to build Buffyverse vampires with the system, but then you either need to create a new Court, or get rid of the Dresdenverse idea of Courts, with all their wonderful rich politicking potential.

Maybe vampires are like humans — and some of them just plain HATE politics. The Buffy-verse vampires, what with their long history of “impulse control,” could well be just a breed who “hate all that donkeys and elephants crap,” and are looked down on (IE “never mentioned”) by the vampires of the various courts. After all, there are renegade wizards and wild fey– why not some “rogue vampires?”

Just a thought.

Sure! That’s completely doable. It’s just that – in my mind – that’s creating a new Court, even if it’s the Court of No-Court, if you take my meaning. But yeah, that works fine.

Bosh says:

Question: how supernatural something is seems to scale with how powerful they are (more supernatural = lower refresh blah blah), how then does the game handle critters that are very supernatural but not very powerful at all such as Toot Toot?

Fred got this one, too. Thanks again, Fred! One thing that I’d add is that not all your bad guys – or good guys – need to have started at the same Refresh as your PCs. So, even if Toot-Toot has only a -4 Refresh Cost, that doesn’t necessarily mean he has free will – he may have started with a Refresh of 3, say.

Sephilum says:

What stunts must a ghoul take according to the template? And what is the base refresh cost for each?

Fred got this one, too! Go, Fred! And thanks once more! For an example of how we twisted that idea around during our playtest, check out Christian Manger. Take note, though, that the number noted for those Powers are not the same in the final game version.

P.S.

‘Thanks for doing all of this. You’re awesome! :)

You’re welcome!

Fred Hicks says:

Rick/Others:

I’m looking at the discussion of a pure mortal being able to fight a wizard, above — talking about an expert martial artist with a few stunts and a ton of fate points going up against a wizard, and “see how long that wizard lasts”… Well, right! Wizards are potent when they get a chance to prepare — or, if they have a solid talent at Evocation, when they get a chance to see you coming. But they’re squishy, too, which is very true to the source material. In Storm Front, Harry gets taken down by a relatively common thug with a baseball bat at one point.

How someone will fare in a conflict in our system is highly, highly dependent on how much control they have over what battles they get into and what circumstances and preparation they can bring to bear. It’s definitely a “planner’s” system in that respect — which again, we feel resembles the source material pretty well. Combo that with our advice to GMs to put the PCs under time pressure, always driving things forward, the ability to make those choices will certainly be constrained at times. That’s the tension of the novels, and that’s the tension I want to see in a game.

This is a very important little clarification here. Looking back at the discussion Fred mentions, it’s easy to see how the impression can be that Wizards don’t have a chance against Pure Mortals, and that’s just wrong. The point that I was trying to make was that Pure Mortals can share the stage with Wizards, and Knights of the Cross, and Faeries, and Vampires, and not be the weak sisters!

Character creation in DFRPG is essentially point-buy, and that means that most characters will wind up with a specialty area or two. Can Murphy beat up Harry hand-to-hand? Sure. But Harry can probably prevail at range, thanks to his magic. If you want to triumph in this game’s conflict system, you gotta know your Sun-Tzu, and bring your strength against the enemies weakness.

And surprise, as ever, is the great equalizer.

Rel Fexive says:

Hey.

Numero uno – Evocation can be used for an attack OR a manoeuvre – um, maneuver – but it takes a bit more power to do both? So a ‘firebolt’ could burn someone or set them “on fire”, but more power will do both at the same time?

John Hawkins came up with a good compromise for this on the comment thread. Thanks, John! One thing that needs to be said, though, is that you essentially get a Maneuver whenever your target takes a Consequence – the attack is putting an Aspect on the character. So, if you hit someone for 5 shifts of damage with your firebolt, and they’ve only got 4 stress boxes, they may wind up taking the Consequence Clothes on Fire from the attack.

Numero, uh, duo? – I like the ‘rogue’ or ‘wild’ vampire idea for a Dresden/Buffy mashup, but if I were bringing the two together somehow I think I would concentrate more on bringing a Slayer-like character into a Dresden game then trying to force the two to mostly coexist somehow. To me there are too many disparities (the Courts, the nature of vampires, etc) for it to be a smooth blend. Others might have other ideas of course :)

Both universes are pretty full of good source material and rich mythology. Picking and choosing what you take from each is the secret to a good mash-up, and everyone’s gonna have their own ideas.

Only one more Q&A?!? How will we cope?! ;)

Re-read the novels. That’s what I’m doing. 🙂

James says:

When can I buy it and how much will it cost?

John Hawkins got the when part. As for cost, Your Story is set at $49.99, and Our World at $39.99. Prices were apparently just added to the home page today.

Knave says:

My earlier point was more that the beauty of the thing is that clever aspects and a stack of fate chips to use them gives a character as much flexibility/spotlight as serious power does so packing in the stunts is certainly not the only way to skin this particular cat.

Exactly!

Tim “Your Personal Undead” Popelier says:

I don’t think this has come up yet, but I might be wrong. (gosh you should be sick of people saying that by now, no wonder your stopping)

I’m not stopping because I’m sick of the questions, just because doing this is eating all my time, and I need a little bit of that back. 😉

Anyhow, could you give us a idea of how true names as handled in the game. And perhaps also, how are they used as a bartering offer like harry does, do they add a special tag for the demon, (know part of your true name) or something like that?

True Names work in a few ways. For one thing, they act as symbolic links to a creature, letting spellcasters target them with Thaumaturgy at a distance. Second, they can be tagged for bonuses using spells (like Bindings) against creatures. Third, they can allow Evocations to target a demon’s essential self, instead of just its corporeal manifestation.

Knave says:

@Rick re: Harry v Victor S.

Thanks for the info : ) – I’m guessing that Victor’s statblock has had a tune up since it was published in the October Status update on the dresdenfilesrpg.com where it had both his conviction and discipline as Great and Killing Flame as 7 shifts ( conviction + rod + lawbreaker bonus ). – I assumed he’d cast it with a roll of 0 for an effective Weapon:7 + 4 targeting. (assuming he managed to soak up the 4 shifts of mental stress that would cause him – granted)

which would mean Harry with an athletics of Fair (again by the character sheet from the site) would need to roll better than +2 to make the dodge and avoid taking a hit of at least 7 shifts of fire damage… which basically brought me back to the magical defence, and my clarification question:

How much damage does the defence prevent? Assume that Harry does have 7 shifts of damage and 4 shifts of targeting coming at him, in order to take no damage does he need to summon up a defence of power 11 with no targeting element, only control? Or is it power + targeting of 11? i.e. in an attack the discipline ‘finesse’ element (sort of) counts twice – once for control of the power and once for targeting and in that targeting capacity as a bonus to your effectiveness – the ‘what makes Luccio so dangerous element’ – but from what you said that targeting element isn’t present in defence. Is that right?

Because if it is right Harry sure as heck better win initiatiative and shoot first, or just creating the shield he’ll be taking (superb conviction(5) 1 shift + an additional 6 shifts of mental stress to get the power to 11 plus 11 – (good discipline(3) + roll) mental stress to control it -> which works out at 15 +- 4 to defend against 11 damage… which can’t be right?

If the targeting roll does count toward the total he’d need to make a shield of power 8 (4 stress) + take 5 stress on the control (assuming he rolled 0) to control the shield… in which case he needs to soak 9 mental stress to prevent 11 physical damage… which still seems wrong.

The last possibility I can think of is that he only needs to defend against the power of the spell -> i.e. 7 damage. In which case he’d need to spend 3 stress getting the power to put up the shield and 4 to control it (again assuming a 0 roll) for a total of 7 mental stress to avoid 11 physical stress, which is at least better than dodging with an athletics of fair.

I’m probably way off base though.

Thanks again, and sorry for getting all mathematical on you :p

No worries about the math. But I missed something that Matthew pointed out below. Thanks, Matthew! You may be new to FATE, but you’re dead on with what you said.

Harry’s block only needs to beat the targeting roll. If it keeps the fire from hitting him, he takes no damage. He’d only need to soak up all the damage with the block if he had failed his defense roll entirely, in which case he’d deduct the shifts of power in the block from the damage. For an example in the novels, check out what happens when he tries to soak up a blast from a flamethrower in Blood Rites.

Lucart says:

If someone has an aspect on them like ‘Thrown to the Ground’ on them, does that aspect have to be tagged in order to impair their movement? Are they still free to move at will (with the aspect still there) as long as nobody has tagged it trying to stop them?

Knave got this one. Thanks, Knave!

Rechan says:

If DFRPG is about an enemy’s prep, how do you avoid the pitfall of “The PCs kick in the door of the villain’s hideout, and pretty much walk into a death trap because the villain has prepped his lair/has all his toys right on hand”? It’s rather easy to imagine any villain being fairly prepped for a frontal assault. And as the DM, you can give your villain as much prep as you want – so how do you justify LESS prep on his behalf?

Knave and Tim had some good advice on this in the comment thread. Thanks, Knave and Tim! My own advice is trying to stay within the bounds of verisimilitude with the villain’s prep, based on the following questions that I ask myself:

  1. What does the villain want? This says a lot about his outlook. Someone who wants world domination is going to be a much better planner (well, maybe) than someone who just wants to eat all the homeless people he can find.
  2. How is the villain pursuing this goal? Careful plotters are better at prep than psychotics with poor impulse control.
  3. How far along is the plan? Early on, not as much preparation time has been invested than later on.
  4. What does the villain know about the heroes? Pretty much every supernatural creature knows Harry, and will have some idea of how to deal with him, but fewer know Sigrun Gard, and may not have planned for that battleaxe.
  5. What resources does the villain have? If you’re living on the street or hiding your dark magic from your wife, it limits what you can set up. Also, as far as resources, information sources and resources for advance warning become important.

Now, you don’t have to answer these questions in order to find out how much prep the villain can set up – you can, but you don’t have to. What I often do is work backward – decide how ready the villain is (i.e. how hard do I want to smack the players), and then come up with the answers that lead to that.

Also check out the scenario-building advice in the book. It’s got some very good bits on villain motivation and resources.

Matthew says:

(new to Fate/DFRPG discussions; be gentle)

Regarding the Victor vs Harry discussion:

Doesn’t the attack have to ‘hit’ (control roll >= defense roll) in order to do any damage at all? So wouldn’t it make sense to use your defensive magic to ‘deflect’ the incoming attack (via a Block) instead of trying to ’soak’ the damage? In the example given (Weapon: 7 with 4 control) a block strength of 5 would be enough, rather than 11 shifts to negate the damage. This might entail simply using Discipline as a Block (possibly powered by Fate points) rather than formally casting a spell. Or perhaps an actual spell would add shifts to the defensive control roll, making it easier to block attacks at the cost of stress to cast the defensive evocation.

Then again, I won’t pretend to fully understand the system. Perhaps one of the experts can clarify?

As I mentioned above, Matthew, you got this one right. I had missed this important bit when writing about it previously. Thanks for chiming in and setting us straight!

Exploding_brain says:

Could Bob be made into a playable character? Maybe only when he’s riding Mister (who obviously has an ample supply of free will to loan him). I have this image of B-squad adventure, in which Bob (with Mister’s help), Toot-Toot, and Mouse, (and maybe Billy?, or would it be more fun to add Butters or Molly?) have to deal with something in Harry’s absence.

Bob has no stats in the book. Could he be a playable character? Sure, you could work him out that way, especially with him riding Mister to cut down on the cost of his Spirit Form power. And that B-squad adventure sounds like fun, though I’d go with Butters rather than Billy or Molly, just to keep the overt powers down. But that’s just me.

What kind of game mechanics reflect Little Chicago?

No game mechanics are given for Little Chicago. I’m gonna quote the reference from the book here, because I think it’s a beautiful example of how flexible the game is, and how much room there is for both player and GM creativity:

Little Chicago gets some play here, but it’s unclear how that manifests—is it a complex high quality spell component, or an actual focus item investment, or a special plot contrivance concession by the GM? Jury’s out— each GM out there might run it differently.

See what I mean?

How hard would it be to remove the problems that wizards have with post-WWII technology? Maybe you want to drift the game into something that would allow Mage style Sons of Ether, or Ghostbusters tech. Or possibly you want that one-of-a-kind wizard who has found a way to prevent that particular complication.

Bosh is right that it’s easy to remove. Thanks, Bosh! But there is a little more to the effect than just compelling an Aspect. There are rules and mechanics for both accidental and deliberate hexing of technology, for good and ill.

Do other types of magic mess up modern tech? Could Harry use Toot-toot to wipe the hard drives of his enemies?

Hexing is reserved for mortal spellcasters, and there’s a very interesting discussion as to why that is in the book.

One last time, thanks so much for the (deep and extended) peek at the game. It makes me more confident that ever to say the following:

@Evil Hat, now I know how some folks feel about the iPad. To misquote Ryan Sohmer, I dearly want to transfer money from my bank account into yours, and I’m OK with that. :-)

I’m right there with you, my friend. And thanks for the kind words.

Murph (No,not that one) says:

Just found out about the upcoming DFRPG a few weeks ago and have greatly enjoyed reading this Q&A, so a big CHEERS to Rick and all the contributors.

On behalf of myself and all the other folks chipping in, you’re welcome!

Anyways, a quick question if you don’t mind. How much refresh does Physical Immunity cost during character creation? (I have a descendant of Balder concept for an NPC I would mind solidifying up a little)

Physical Immunity is a stunning -8, but you get some of that back when you take a Catch, which is required for the power, as John Hawkins points out in the comment thread. Thanks, John!

Thanks for all your effort Rick, it must have been quite taxing at times.

You’re welcome. It was work, but it was a labour of love.

@Fred It’s been close to 13 years since I’ve done the whole P&P gaming thing,but this has seriously relit the fire so to speak and I can’t wait to get my hands on the books. The fate system sounds awesome and much more along the lines of how I prefer to play than the old systems I did indeed play. I think I will have to buy SOTC to get a general feel for the system while waiting for DFRPG. (not to mention it sounds pretty damn cool itself!)

John’s recommendations for other games to check out is very good. I would go a step further, and say to take a good look at the Indie Press Revolution site – there’s a wonderful, varied assortment of games that will knock your socks off. I’m particularly partial to Dogs in the Vineyard, Trail of Cthulhu, and How We Came To Live Here for innovative design and cool ideas.

So, thanks for the hard work and the openness about the development of the game. I, and I’m sure many,many others, really appreciate it.

Seconded!

Oh, also, from a previous Q&A session someone was asking which element lightning came under air or earth. I don’t have it with me, but I seem to remember in Storm Front (novel or comic) that Harry was talking about all five elements being present within the storm while squaring off against the toad demon. I swear he states that lightning represented fire, just in case anyone was still wondering. I’m probably wrong, stupidity runs in the family.

There’s a good discussion in the Evocation section called Mommy, Where Does Lightning Come From? that talks about how phenomena can be mapped to different elements, based on the desires and imagination of the Wizard, so yeah, lighting as Fire works just fine.

Knave says:

@Matthew – re: magic defence

That’s possible, but my understanding is that a fire evocation produces actual fire, so it doesn’t really track to be able to deflect it just by rolling discipline without casting – unless you can do the same thing against a flame thrower.

True, but if the block makes the fire splash into the wall instead of hitting you in the face, you don’t need to worry about the fire. Well, not as much. As for the flamethrower, the difference is that magical fire will require fuel to keep burning. If it hits a barrier of force in mid-air, there’s nothing there for it to burn, so it goes away. A flamethrower, though, is spewing burning fuel that sticks and clings to the nothing in the air, and we go again to the scene in Blood Rites.

Rel Fexive says:

RE: magic defence — such a defence, like with Harry’s shield bracelet, is apparently done as a Block that can be eroded by every attack it blocks (or so I’ve deduced from previous comments). I’ve not got ‘the book’ but I reckon that means that a character would cast a spell in the normal way (power/Conviction, then control/Discipline) to end up with a number of shifts that represents the strength of the Block/shield. This would probably then be matched against the number of shifts used in the attack – any attack – and probably with the “damage bonus” added on; so shifts + Weapon:X vs Block shifts, because heavier hits are harder to stop.

I imagine the Block then either stops the attack cold (by having more shifts) or lets some through (by not having enough), and can be reduced by the hit in some fashion. This would seem to reflect the source.

/guesswork

Evocation blocks collapse if the attack punches through. They also only last for a single round, unless you spend some of your power shifts on maintaining it. But if you use it as a defense instead of armour – the deflect vs. soak discussion from above – you only need to beat the targeting roll to avoid taking damage.

vultur says:

Are there stats for fungus demons?

In general, asking for a complete list would probably be too much; but we’ve seen previews of the character types, but not really anything on the monsters. Can you give an idea of what monsters are included?

Rechan gave a very nice and complete answer to this in the comment thread. Thanks, Rechan!

Lanodantheon says:

Awesome Q&A!!!

Thanks!

Probably the last question I’ll be able to ask before just doing it myself when the game comes out.

How would I give someone a “Spirit Sword ” ala Yu Yu Hakusho. Basically it’s a conjured sword made of Spirit energy. My first blush is Claws.

If anyone else with access to the material cares to weigh in, please do.

And indeed, someone else did! Thanks, John Hawkins! His very complete response pretty much covers anything I could have thought of, and more. There are a myriad of ways of doing something like this in the system; you’ll pick the one that produces the jazz you like best when you build your character, and negotiate with the GM.

It’s all about negotiating with the GM. 😉

So, we wind down to the end of this little Q&A.We’ve got 14 installments, and a total word count just north of 37,000. That’s about a third of a good-sized novel. And this final one is the longest of the bunch.

I’ve put a link to the complete Q&A series on the DFRPG Playtest Samples page, so it’s easy for folks to find.

I want to thank everyone who has come by to read, to ask questions, to answer questions, and just generally talk about the game. I think you all start to understand my enthusiasm for the game by now, right?

And you’re all going to buy it, right?

I especially want to thank Fred, Lenny, and Chad, not only for joining in on the discussion and helping keep me honest and on track – obviously, they know the game far better than I do – but for having the visionary idea of a Disclosure Pledge for the playtesters in the first place. It’s a fairly new way of looking at the community of gamers, as a vocal force that you can mobilize on behalf of your product, and it shows a great deal of respect and appreciation for their fans out here in the world.

And it let me see and talk about the game early, so bonus! 😉

It’s been a fun ride, everyone. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Now I go back to my other games, and my other writing. But I’m not leaving Dresden Files behind. Not by a long shot.

I am eagerly awaiting the June release of the final hardcover books, so I can get into setting up my own campaign.

Fin.

DFRPG Q&A 13

Unlucky 13! Black 13! Jacques de Molay, thou art avenged! Other obscure 13 references!

And away we go…

Bosh says:

The more I hear about the magic system the more I want this game, it’s the first time that I’ve EVER heard of a magic system in a game that functions like how magic generally does in fantasy novels. If the system actually works as it’s described that’ll be a massive step forward for the Fate system. I’m already having ideas floating around my head about how to hack it for other settings. For example in a more historical game it seems you could get an awesome magic system by just ripping most of evocation out.

I’m tremendously happy with the feel and mechanics of the magic system. And you’re right – the system is eminently lootable for other games where you want the same sort of feel from the magic system.

Atlatl Jones says:

You wrote about the spray attack as a “special action”. Are there other kinds of special actions detailed in the book?

First off, “special action” is my term, not a game term. It’s a special-case rule governing one narrow type of situation. There are a couple of other things, like special effect attacks (tasers and the like, for example), impact damage, explosions, environmental hazards, etc. The place they fit in the game is more as a side effect or special circumstance to a normal situation that requires a few extra rules to give it the proper feel.

I’m also curious how the extended conflicts rules work, the ones that were based on Spirit of the Century’s chase rules.

They work pretty much the same as in SotC, but are slightly simplified to cover more options without getting bogged down.

Bosh, I agree. If I felt like running a Buffy game, I would use this in a second (maybe with one or two extra boxes of stress). Buffy clearly has a low refresh, and Willow spent so much refresh on magic powers that she briefly became an NPC.

It would work very nicely for this.

Right now, though, I want to run a Victorian London version of the Dresdenverse. Maybe centered upon the upheval that Bram Stoker unwittingly unleashed upon the vampire courts’ balance of power.

Ooooooh… that sounds like a lot of fun! If you do run something like that, please let me know how it goes.

After taking another look at the power list, I’m convinced that the Dresden Files RPG would be a great fit for the Fading Suns setting. I’d just borrow the starship combat rules from Diaspora, and make all the motley aliens, theurgists, psychics, Changed, and symbiotes using the powers. There’s not much like evocation, but theurgy is basically thaumaturgy, and I could see some theurgists or psychics having channelling for a single element or type of force.

As I said, the magic system is eminently lootable for other settings. Fading Suns is a setting that I really like, though I always felt kind of let down by the system.

Bosh says:

Atatl: exactly, just like SotC unleashed a whole flood of people hacking SotC to different genres, I think we’ll see the same kind of flood with Dresden magic and creature creation rules (which are pretty generic/toolkit-ish) being adapted to all kinds of fantasy. For example the rules we’ve seen so far for statting out supernatural creatures seem like they’d be absolutely perfect for, say, Simarillion elves (too low refresh and you get on a boat ;) ) that can actually work in a party without either watering them down to humans with pointy ears or having them steal all the spotlight. Low refresh works beautifully for the sort of powerful but passive shtick we often see with Tolkein’s elves. And this is just one example, I could think of a dozen more just off the top of my head.

I love this take on Tolkien’s elves.

Ryan says:

I have been stalking your Q&A and I must say, WOW! Great info.

Thanks! Glad you’ve been enjoying it.

I have been loving Dresden Files for a couple years now and this game is driving me nuts with anticipation. I actually do have a question. I don’t think it has been asked yet….

I think it was Gard that was described as using runic magic, like the electrical serpent in the security locker. Would that function as a magic item (soda grenade?) or more like a spell with a conditional trigger? Sorry if this has already been touched on. There has been an incredible amount of awesome here.

Nope, it hasn’t been touched on. In the book, Sigrun Gard is statted up as having Sponsored Magic: Runes. The actual building of the electrical serpent thing would probably work best as a Thaumaturgical ritual, setting a conditional trigger as you suggest.

As for other cool worlds you could use this system on, I’m thinking Elric would be a great fit for the thaumaturgy rules, maybe even Evocation.

Definitely for the Thaumaturgy, though I don’t recall anything in the books about wizards blasting away with power. Still, it could work, if you do it right.

Rel Fexive says:

The good work continues. Um… that’s legally different from The Good Work that we leave to holy types. Anyway…

😉 Probably for the best.

Hi! Can you give us a real brief (like, X is +1 and Y is +3) comparison between weapons (melee and guns) as presented in the rules? I just want to see how they stack up compared to those +8 Earth Stomp spells… I gather much of their advantage is situational, though, so I understand if their ’stats’ aren’t defined enough for such a comparison. The situational stuff itself sounds pretty nifty, too, but I won’t ask you to go into detail on that ;)

Sure! Here’s the default breakdown:

  • Weapon:1 – small pocket weapons, knives, saps, and “belly guns”
  • Weapon:2 – Swords, baseball bats, batons, most pistols.
  • Weapon:3 – Two-handed weapons, oversized pistols (Desert Eagle and company), rifles and shotguns, most fully automatic weapons.
  • Weapon:4 – Anti-personnel weaponry, explosives.

As you note, though, this can play a bit fast and loose, depending on the situation. The advice is pretty light on this – basically, adjust up or down depending on how nasty the weapon is under the circumstances.

Ta!

You’re welcome!

Exploding_brain says:

Regarding advancement, it sounds like the “deepest” suggested starting level is Submerged (10 Refresh, 35 Skill points, and Skills capped at Superb).

Correct.

How much deeper does it look like the system lets you go, and how quickly do you acquire those Minor, Significant and Major Milestones?

There is no inherent limitation on advancement. A lot of it is going to depend on what sorts of stories you’re trying to tell. If you want the tale of big-league heroes fighting off the Outsiders and defending all of reality, that’s certainly doable as you increase in power. The real limitation is going to be the GM’s ability to generate interesting, challenging foes and circumstances as he players acquire more and more resources. And that doesn’t look too difficult, what with the build-it-yourself functionality of the Supernatural Powers and the way you can shift conflicts around in three different arenas. I’d say the system supports you right up to at least a Refresh of 20 or 30, after which the GM will have to start considering how to stat out some of the “plot device” foes.

As for how quickly you acquire the advancements, again that’s going to depend on the GM and the stories you’re trying to tell. The default recommendation – and they clearly state that it’s just a recommendation – is:

  • Minor Milestone – conclusion of a  session, or when a significant story piece is resolved.
  • Significant Milestone – conclusion of a scenario when a major plotline is resolved, or about every two or three sessions.
  • Major Milestone – only when something happens that really shakes up the campaign, after a few scenarios or a long, large-scale plotline is resolved.

Do they have guidelines for, say, Harry at the beginning of Small Favor? Any indication for how deep you can go before the system begins to break down? (insert clever submarine, nitrogen poisoning, crush depth, silly extension of analogy here).

They’ve actually got a full page discussing how Harry “levels up” at the end of each novel. By the end of Small Favor, they set him at -16 Refresh, starting from -9.

As for when the system breaks down, it looks pretty scalable and robust, as I mentioned above. I’d be leery of reaching beyond about Refresh 30, myself, but that’s just because I find it more interesting to have stories centered around people with more mortal concerns than you’d really have left at that level of power.

Calvin says:

Hi Rick. Thanks for all your Q&A. All your hard work is much appreciated.

Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

Can you tell me about Martial Arts? Are there Martial Arts stunts and Skills? Can you let me know what kinds of stunts are in the book? Do they split things into Hard/Soft styles or types (ie Karate, Kung Fu, etc). And can you combine martial arts with Evocation (ie to create Chi fireballs a la Dragonball).

Lanodantheon got the core of this. Thanks, Lanodantheon! All martial arts would be handled by the skills Fists and Weapons (depending on the style), and then you’d use added Stunts to round them out. As the Stunts are basically do-it-yourself, you can decide the mix of hard/soft, internal/external you want. There are a few example Stunts, like Martial Artist, but this is an area where you get to brew up pretty much exactly the kind of martial artist you like.

And yeah, if you’ve got the Refresh to spend, I can’t see any problem with combining Evocation and martial arts. No problems, at all.

I am asking because I am going to run a Dresden game in Hong Kong and martial arts will be important. Thank you very much.

Sounds very cool. Let me know how it runs for you.

Popo says:

Thanks for these Rick. I’m definitely getting this book.

You’re welcome. And getting the books is, I believe, the proper way to thank Evil Hat for allowing this to happen.

“And can you combine martial arts with Evocation (ie to create Chi fireballs a la Dragonball). ”

Could Channeling accomplish this? I imagine that if you could have a fire channeler, you should be able to have a spirit or force channeler too.

Yup. That would work quite nicely.

I can’t wait to get this for a Buffy campaign I’m going to run. I might just merge the two worlds/stories… I can see many ways that a slayer might exist in the Dresdenverse and I prefer the Dresden File’s magic system. *fan squeal*

Chocolate, meet Peanut Butter.

Atlatl Jones says:

While I don’t expect the game to have detailed martial arts rules, I’m curious about how it represents Murphy’s Aikido.

Well, she’s got Good Fists, three stunts to represent different facets of her martial arts training, three different Aspects that could easily get pulled into a martial arts action, and a raft of Fate Points to use those Aspects.

Popo, I like the way you think. Buffy and the Dresdenverse fit together perfectly. The buffyverse was always rather vague about the nature of magic and the supernatural, so adding in the detail from the Dresden Files would help a GM out a lot. Buffyverse vampires and Black Court vampires have almost identical strengths and vulnerabilities, aside from Buffy vampires being much prettier, so you could just say that all Black Court vampires have the Human Guise power.

That’d work. Of course, it wouldn’t be that difficult to build Buffyverse vampires with the system, but then you either need to create a new Court, or get rid of the Dresdenverse idea of Courts, with all their wonderful rich politicking potential.

Having both the White Council and the Watchers in the same setting opens up a lot of interesting dramatic possibilities too.

It certainly could. Indeed, the Watcher Council could sort of fill in (or share) the niche currently occupied by the Venatori Umborum.

Exploding_brain says:

Can you give us a brief description of how defenses are addressed in the mechanics? For instance, Harry’s leather duster and shield bracelet?

They are produced by two different sub-systems of magic. The duster is an enchanted item that grants Harry armour, so that’s shifts of stress coming directly off attacks. The shield bracelet is a focus item that gives him a bonus to control with defensive Spirit evocations, which manifest using the block mechanic, which is kind of like less enduring armour.

If you wanted a character with bulletproof skin, would it be similar to Harry’d duster, or a supernatural stunt? Could a wizard/sorcerer/channeler/magic mortal take those kinds of supernatural stunts, or are some things like inhuman toughness limited to vampires/faeries/lycanthropes etc?

Inhuman (and higher levels) Toughness are the way to go in order to simulate bulletproof skin. Mythic Toughness gives you Armour:3, so that offsets the damage bonus of things like hunting rifles and Desert Eagles. Coupled with the extra stress boxes it gives you, it very nicely simulates someone who is just damned tough to hurt.

Inhuman Toughness is generally available, but the higher levels require having specific templates in order to take them. At least, by the book. That’s easy for the GM to handwave, but the high levels of all the stat boosting powers are awesome, and letting too many creatures have them would tend to water down their cool factor. Having said that, if I were running a game, and someone started with a lower level, I would be amenable if they wanted to upgrade later using the advancement system.

Knave says:

re: aikido

@Atlatl

just try running a mock combat with a 12 refresh pure mortal with fists 5 and athletics 4 say and a few ‘murphylike’ aspects e.g. ‘aikido champion’, ‘cute as a button, but hard as stone’, and maybe even ‘Having another bad day’ (just for good measure) and try putting her up against a wizard… see how long the wizard lasts : p.

Well, she’s not rated quite that high by the book – Good Fists and Athletics. But then, she’s statted out as of Storm Front. As Rechan points out, she’s got a nice stunt that let’s her tag an opponent with the Aspect Thrown to the Ground with a successful defense roll using Fists, as well as a couple of other handy things. The applicable Aspects she has are Don’t Judge Me by my Size, Aikido Master, and Avenging Angel. And her Refresh Cost is -4, so she’s got a stack of Fate Points. It’ll come down to that old contest of whether she can lay hands on the Wizard before he can blast her with Evocation.

Very few things can stand up to a couple of rounds of +6 bonuses so a 12 refresh character is pretty much guaranteed a few rounds of shining brilliance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one lay the smackdown on a black courter – for a few rounds anyway… :p

My view of combat is that, contrary to something like D&D, where hitting for damage is of primary importance, using maneuvers to impose Aspects is paramount. If you set up a few of those, and pass the free tags to one character who can unload with a few Fate Points, things go splat in a very satisfying manner.

Knave says:

I have a Q about using magic- specifically evocatiion to add aspects to targets. If you want to do something like set a target’s clothes on fire or glue them to the floor how do you go about setting the spell’s power?

Good question! You do this by using Evocation to perform a Maneuver, imposing an Aspect on a successful targeting roll. Power required for a Maneuver defaults to three shifts, but if the target has a resisting Skill of Great +4 or better, then that’s how much power you’ll need. So, if you’re using an Air Evocation to put the Aspect Blown to the Ground against someone with a Might or Athletics of Superb +5, you’ll need five shifts of power. You can also channel extra power to make the Aspect persistent.

Also, how do magical defences/counters work? If, for e.g. Victor Sells hits Harry with his Killing Flame Rote for +7 damage with another +4 on the targeting, how does Harry go about defending himself from a potential 11 points of owie? Does he have to create a fire shield of power 11?

He has to create some sort of shield with a power of 11 if he wants to avoid getting crispy. Now, that said, hitting someone with 11 shifts of stress is gonna be moderately rare – Victor’s rote only lets him call up 5 shifts of power, so he’d have to beat Harry’s dodge by +6 to get that 11 shifts of damage. Considering Harry’s got Athletics equal to Victor’s Discipline, Harry would have to roll at least a -2, while Victor would need a perfect +4 roll. So, yeah, the example you cite looks pretty rough on the defender, but you need to understand the context of those numbers, and see that such a situation would be a real exception to the norm.

Thanks again for all the info!

You’re welcome!

Looks like that’s it for this penultimate edition of the DRPG Q&A. If you have any more questions, make sure you get them to me by Friday, ’cause that’s the last installment, and I will be deaf thereafter to your pleas! Mwahahahahaha!

Ahem. Sorry. See you Friday.

DFRPG Q&A 12

I’m back. It was a nice break.

We’re getting near the end of useful things I can say about the books without cutting and pasting huge swaths of them into my post, so this week, I’m only going to update the Q&A on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then probably say we’re done. Really, a lot of the questions are starting to deal with minutiae, whether of system or of content, and that says to me that most of the big questions have been answered.

Yes, I know that it will still leave some of you unsatisfied. But you knew this ride was going to end some time, right?

That said, it’s not like I’m going to stop talking about the game. I’m getting pretty excited about starting up a campaign, myself, and have started doing some thinking along those lines. I’m going to be doing some posts about the thinking and planning process of getting the game up and running, though this is very early days, yet. The game probably won’t start until after I manage to buy myself a hard copy of the book, which means June at the earliest. Yeah, I could start running right away with the playtest version, but having a physical copy of the game just makes things so much easier. Besides, this way, I’ve got a nice lead time to plan.

Anyway, that’s the plan for the future of DFRPG on this blog. And so, without further ado, let’s get to the questions!

Zooroos says:

Hi! I’ve got an easy one, maybe it was already answered. Do Mortal stunts cost Refresh?

Bosh and Lanodantheon got this one on the comment thread. Thanks, Bosh and Lanodantheon! Yeah, they do, and it’s one point each. Some also require Fate Points to use.

A most excellent Q&A thread Rick, thank you and all the people who heeded the call for nice, sweet spoilers!

You are most welcome. And I’m glad your enjoying it.

Lanodantheon says:

Here’s a question Rechan might be able to answer over Rick’s much needed weekend, how does the RPG define the law, “Thou shalt not reach beyond the borders of life.”? Does it cover just Necromancy (magic involving the dead) or does it also include magic to lengthen your own life span such as giving yourself inhuman recovery(a healing factor)?

Rechan fielded this one. Thanks, Rechan! I do want to add one point: giving yourself a permanent healing factor through Thaumaturgy would be prohibitively complex, simply because of the need to expand the duration. Now, the easy way to do it is to take Inhuman Recovery, pay the Refresh cost, and say, “I did this with my magic!”

Exploding_brain says:

Regarding fate points, free tags, and backlash. In SotC, it’s always been my understanding that you make your roll, check out the result (even the NPC’s result, if it’s contested) and then decide if you want to use fate points or any available free tags to add bonuses or re-roll. Based on the description of Harry trying to manage a +8 discipline roll, it sounds like that may not be the case in DFRPG. Can we get a quick synopsis of how that may have changed?

I hasn’t. The reason I did it that way was that, even with his blasting rod to help him control the power, Harry would have needed to roll +4 on four dice, which is an 80:1 long shot, so I did it a little bit out of order.

Thanks.

You’re welcome!

Rechan says:

On the topic of spray attacks (Thanks Fred for fixing the Earth Stomp issue), I thought it was a decreasing effect. You know, if you attack two guys, your first attack is at a -1, but your second is at a -2. Reading Fred’s analysis, you can split them up in any fashion you want (So if you have a +6 on your roll, it could be a +4 to attack 1, +2 to attack 2, or +3 to both attacks, or any combination thereof). Which is nicer.

The decreasing effect kicks in if you’re making separate attacks – then you take a -1 for each additional supplementary action. But this is one special action: spray attack.

Also, yes – catching a wizard off guard is going to be bad news for the wizard. But then, catching ANYONE off guard is generally bad news in a system where you can easily get greased.

Which is why I’m starting to think the Concession rules are such a good idea.

Iorwerth says:

I was wondering if it is possible to have a list of the mortal stunts – it would be very interesting to see if any of them are the same as in SOTC!

I’m gonna say no on this one, for two reasons. First off, there are over a hundred in the Stunts chapter, and that’s too much to just list here. Second, they are only examples: the emphasis of the chapter is on how to build your own, tailor-made stunts for your characters. There are some stunts that you will recognize from SotC, but some of them have been tweaked to work better with the source material.

Iorwerth says:

I meant mundane stunts, I think!?!

You were right the first time. Mortal Stunts.

Knave says:

Thanks for the reply, but just to clarify.

Does a wizard take ( 1+ Spell Power – Conviction ) stress _as well as_ whatever he or she missed the discipline+focus item roll by (with the option of throwing this out into the environment) for rotes? And does the spell also fail if it isn’t a rote?

Rechan jumped on this one. Thanks, Rechan!

Thanks for your great work!

Thanks for the kind words!

Rechan says:

Rick: Where are the gun stats listed at?

Page 202 of Your Story.

Minor Inconvenience says:

Rick: Thanks for taking the time to answer my (and everyone elses’) questions. I’ve waited for 4 years for this game and this last bit of waiting is almost the worst of it.

You’re welcome. I’m waiting anxiously for the final, hard-copy version, myself.

Knave says:

@Rechan,

Rechan got these. Thanks, Rechan! I’m adding a few clarifying notes where necessary below.

I’m basically trying to clarify the casting process and what the total stress spend on an evocation is. My understanding is

1) decide how much power you want to spend. That establishes a basic stress cost for the spell of ‘Chosen Power’ – Conviction +1. Assume 8 power – 5 conviction +1 = 4 stress.

That’s correct.

2) roll Discipline to control that power – so roll disc v 8. If you miss that number you can take the difference as more stress, or blow it outward. However this is also a targeting roll. Does blowing the missed control stress outward rather than taking it on yourself have any effect on the power of the spell? i.e. If you miss the power by 3 and blow the power outward rather than take it as stress – does that spell decrease in power as a result?

It does indeed. Plus, you now have some interesting environmental effects to deal with.

3)From what you’ve said if it’s a Rote then you don’t have to roll even to target the spell, so if you know a power 8 rote, you can always make that attack without rolling at all? Is that right?

No. You do need to make a targeting roll with a Rote spell. While the spell always works, you might miss with it.

4) Assuming you make it, and your opponent doesn’t dodge they take Power:8 + Disc roll – Defense Roll. So, at least 8 stress, and you take at least 4 stress.

That’s correct. Given that most starting characters will have four or five stress boxes maximum, that’s a devastating hit for both of you. But more for him.

5) Is there any possibility of failing to cast a non-rote spell?

Failing? Kind of. If you fail to control the power you’ve channeled, and can’t afford to take the stress hit as backlash, then you’ve got a whole bunch of fallout around you. That’s a nice, spectacular failure. For Thaumaturgy, if you just can’t get your Lore to match the spell Complexity, you fail to cast the spell.

Yikes – maybe I had more questions than I realized. I really just need to get my grubby mitts on the book I guess : )

June is coming, my friend!

Thanks for the info!

On behalf of Rechan and myself, you’re welcome.

vultur says:

That pain-blocking thing Lash teaches Harry. Is that in the game, and if so is it a Mortal Stunt or a Supernatural Power? It’s not all that clear, but it *seems* to be non-magical, more like one of those body-control things martial arts masters can supposedly do…

I couldn’t see that written up anywhere. It would be easy enough to model in the system in a number of different ways, either as a Mortal Stunt or a Supernatural power.

Also, if a Pure Mortal takes up a Denarian coin (presumably by accident), then gets rid of it, do they get their +2 refresh bonus back when they go back to being nonmagical? And does a Changeling that makes the Choice to be mortal get the bonus?

These aren’t explicitly covered in the rules, but I’m with Fred and Knave on this one. Yes, they would get the bonus. But really, it depends on the kind of game you’re running and the kinds of stories you’re trying to tell.

Iorwerth says:

Any chance of a rundown of the stunt building rules?

As Fred said on the comment thread, these aren’t easily extractable. You’re looking at 10 pages in the book, crammed full of illuminating examples. The high level view is that you pick a skill, decide what extra bit the stunt adds to it, and negotiate with your GM about whether what you’ve done is acceptable. Some of them will cost you a Fate Point to use if they’re very good.

But I can’t wait – I might explode through excitment!

😉 Dump some of the levels of excitement as fallout, rather than taking it all as backlash. That should keep you alive until June.

Lanodantheon says:

I seem to be good at answering my own questions, so I may just end up answering this myself in this comment and Rick or the designers or Rechan can just nod and go, “Yeah that’s about right…”.

What element(s) do explosive reactions fall under? Say the evocation spell in question turns otherwise benign materials into a short-lived magical explosive. (This is primarily for a Warlock bad guy BTW)

I could see it falling under Fire or Earth. Air can make naked kinetic energy but that’s just the shockwave. The purpose of the spell is to destroy an object entirely and turn the whole thing into shrapnel.

Fire: This would already be used to make something combustible, but an explosive could be be made by increasing the material’s potential energy and releasing it.

Earth: An explosion is when the matter of a solid object converts itself into a gas rapidly. You rearrange the particles in the matter or break them apart. This would probably only work on materials that come from Earth such as soil, rock, concrete and metals and the more unrefined metal the better. If you try this on plastic or fabrics you’d be SOL.

I think I did just answer my own question and if so, enjoy the info Q&A goers.

Yeah, you pretty much answered it. Rechan also provided some extra examples on the comment thread. Thanks, Rechan!

One seemingly prevalent misconception is that there are hard and fast lists of what you can do with each of the five different elements. That’s not the case. There are examples, and some discussion of the areas where each one is strong, and what the feel of the different elements is like.

But there’s also a sidebar on using different elemental models, like the Chinese one, or possibly the Medicine Wheel idea of North American native peoples. And another sidebar on whether lightning is the province of Air or Earth. Here’s the telling line from that sidebar:

Figuring out how to creatively apply your command of the elements is one of the most fun parts of being a spellcaster…

So, how do you figure out if a character can make an explosion with his or her command of an element? Ask the player how they plan to do it. If they can give you something even borderline plausible, say yes. Using Water to force entropy on the bonds holding the molecules together? Cool! Bang! Using Spirit to supercharge the tiny spiritforms of the various components of an object so that they react violently to the presence of each other? Cool! Bang! If it sounds good and adds to the fun, then it works.

At least, that’s the kind of thinking I find the game encourages.

vultur says:

So, the whole Senior Council is statted? How do his stats deal with Eb’s ludicrously powerful stuff mentioned in Blood Rites: Tunguska Event, Krakatoa, etc.?

Rechan and Knave got this one. Thanks, Rechan and Knave! I just want to add one note specifically about the staff – in the Notes section of Ebenezer’s stat block, they make it pretty clear, without coming out and just saying so, that the staff is pretty much a plot device machine. It does what the story needs it to do.

Rechan says:

Hey Rick – what Supernatural powers need/use Fate points to work? I haven’t spotted any.

None that I’m aware of. You pay your Fate Points up front by spending Refresh for Supernatural Powers. Otherwise, Wizards wouldn’t be able to actually do anything with all their funky powers.

Sandy says:

So… what’s this game all about, Rick? ;>

Cute. Just remember, funny lady, I know where you live.

That’s it for today. Next installment of the Q&A is on Wednesday, but only if I get questions.

You know what to do, folks.

DFRPG Q&A 11

This one goes up to eleven!

Folks, this is likely going to be the last Q&A for this week. There definitely won’t be one tomorrow, and I may not get back to it before Monday. I’m going out of town for the weekend and, truth to be told, I need a bit of a hiatus from this. It’s fun, but it’s taxing.

So, keep the questions coming if you have them, but please understand that I won’t be answering them for a couple of days.

With that out of the way, let’s get rolling!

Mike Ryan says:

I can`t believe you`re still at it. Nicely done.

Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying it.

In an earlier post you mentioned the different tiers of play (submerged, feet in the water, etc). I`d like to get a feel for what those power levels feel like. Harry (in Storm Front) is supposed to be the poster-boy for Submerged, so that one is pretty straight forward, but I`m not very clear on the others. Can you list a couple of characters for each tier? I’m obviously just looking for names here, not asking for a stat block or anything.

Fred pulled together the best answer for this on the comment thread. It is kind of hard to estimate, in part because the stat blocks in the book only list spent Refresh. For those of you who missed it, Fred’s list was as follows:

Feet In The Water – Father Forthill

Up To Your Waist – Alphas (maybe)

Chest-Deep – Molly (maybe)

Submerged – Harry

He added some caveats, about how this was pretty rough, and many of these folks could be bumped up or down the ladder a little bit.

Thanks again.

You’re welcome, again.

John Hawkins says:

Note that the following is really just a lot of rambling from my head, so take it for what you will.

You bet. I like rambling.

The way they’re setting up power levels, they aren’t really defining capability, but rather how much capability you can have and retain free will. Now, free will (in FATE) is it’s own kind of direct mechanical power, but if I describe two characters to you, one with the ability to lift small trucks and summon fire from thin air, the other with no extraordinary capabilities whatsoever, they could both be refresh 8, but the first would have (roughly) 2 refresh remaining of her free will, while the second would have the full complement of 8 + 2. A character with -9 worth of powers has slipped too far into that power to be a player character (at chest-deep).

One of the interesting things that using Refresh to represent free will does is that it gives people with more Refresh more opportunities to transcend their own limitations. I look at it as what you choose to define yourself: if you have all these amazing abilities that you’ve worked to acquire, you have more of your sense of identity bound up in those things, and you have a more natural tendency to accept the implied limitations. If you haven’t spent all that effort to learn magic, for example, you don’t hold yourself as limited. Harry knows that he can’t take on a troll hand-to-hand, but Murphy doesn’t know that – she just knows that she has to, and therefor she does.

Or something like that.

I was thinking about these issues more today, and it brought several things into greater clarity. The idea of lawbreaking and the significance of Greater Powers in the game, in particular.

Lawbreaking is a negative refresh power, and confers bonuses. Bonuses for doing POWERFUL things! Like killing foes outright, or walking backwards through time. But exercising that power quickly sets you on a path that you cannot control unless you possess tremendous amounts of innate willpower (base refresh). And notably the “power” of lawbreaking kind of sucks, insofar as its application promises to take you on an accelerating path to servitude, even if it’s not clear _to what purpose_ you would serve.

The book brings up an interesting point about this. Basically, the Lawbreaker powers say the you ARE the type of person who would, for example, kill someone using magic. You’ve proved that, because you used magic to kills someone. You can fight against it, but you’ve already made a choice that marks you.

Now, we might presume that the Queen of Summer possesses tremendous amounts of innate willpower. But she also must join battle with the forces of Winter, even when the costs are, well, everything. So when it comes right down to it, she actually has very little practical free will. The idea of being an NPC and the idea of being beyond your own control are intriguing ideas to bind together.

As a GM, it also helps you to build consistent behaviours and choices for your NPCs. Just follow the Aspects, assuming that they’re being compelled with every choice.

Obviously this all gets fuzzy and frayed at the edges, but compared to the usual deal where there is absolutely no justification at all for the line between PC and NPC (or hero and prop), and players are power limited by fiat alone, it’s a pretty neat concept.

I agree.

It also makes it a bit clearer why Rick (and of course the authors) advocates so heavily for the +2 pure mortal bonus. That first touch of power has *tremendous* cost. And it should.

I guess my takeaway is that part of what makes power supernatural is that it pulls you away from this stable, rational world in which we control our actions*.

Yes. Very much so. You have given voice to an idea that has been brewing in my brain.

So you can be powerful, or you can have a firm tether to reality, and each is its own kind of strength. Indeed, the choice a Changeling must make is perhaps the most profound choice the game offers relative to its own metaphysics. A Minor Talent or a newly minted Changeling is in fact somewhat weak, because they have not yet committed to conventional reality or turned their back on it. But they are also very powerful because they have the best of both worlds — they have not yet lost their core being to their power, and yet they have power through which to channel the lions share that remains.

A very nice discussion of the issue. Thanks, John.

keegan says:

thanks for answering my questions

You’re welcome.

is there a money system or rules for how favours work

Bosh got this one on the comment thread. Thanks, Bosh! You’re dead-on right, though there are some extra mechanics for favours that you owe the sponsor of your sponsored magic.

Bosh says:

John Hawkins, I also think the big hit for taking your first bite of the supernatural makes a lot of sense because:

-It provides a nice dynamic tempting players to dig in deeper (well I’ve already blown my mortal bonus, might as well get something out of it when I advance my character…)

Indeed it does.

-I’m assuming that generally the marginal utility of more supernatural powers starts dropping after a while. What I mean by that is that going from no magic to fire Evocation is a BIG increase in your power but each additional element you add on on top of that gets less and less helpful (because you can only do one thing every round). This keeps people from being able to do one kind of supernatural thing really really well and then doing it over and over and over again with only a minor refresh cost. If you want some powerful supernatural shtick, you’ve got to pay for it. FATE really shines at kicking min-maxers in the nuts (I can’t think of any games with SotC’s level of complexity or greater that are anywhere near as muchkin-proof) and this seems to be something in that tradition.

I find this an interesting statement, because I think that FATE games can be min-maxed with all the others. The difference is that the real pay-off is in the Aspects. Picking the right Aspects can really help out the rest of your mechanics. I always tell my players to pick Aspects that can do triple-duty: you can invoke them for a bonus with your skills and power, you can be compelled to earn Fate Points, and you can invoke them for effects. Players who figure out this little trick get some amazing synergy out of their characters.

However, and this is where the genius lies, this means that, to get the best out of such Aspects, you have to roleplay them. You have to use them as tools to help you play your character in order to get the most mechanical benefit out of them.

Basically, what I’m saying is that the system isn’t hard to min-max, it’s hard to min-max in a way that doesn’t serve the play experience of the whole group. It’s a subtle trap that takes munchkins and turns them into roleplayers.

Ihadris says:

A list of the skills as they stand would be fantastic but I didnt want to ask for them as I thought it might be overstepping the bounds a little. It came out of looking at the skills in SotC and thinking if skills like art, or pilot would still be as I couldnt think of much of an application for them in terms of Dresden games.

Knave has pointed out where you can find such a list. Thanks, Knave! I’m going to post a list from the book, anyway, just in case there are any differences.

  • Alertness
  • Athletics
  • Burglary
  • Contacts
  • Conviction
  • Craftsmanship
  • Deceit
  • Discipline
  • Driving
  • Empathy
  • Endurance
  • Fists
  • Guns
  • Intimidation
  • Investigation
  • Lore
  • Might
  • Performance
  • Presence
  • Rapport
  • Resources
  • Scholarship
  • Stealth
  • Survival
  • Weapons

Knave says:

Ok, here’s my Q – relating to the discussion of control rolls above and the process of spellcasting.

How are these people making these rolls?

Fair enough with Thaumaturgy where you can essentially do maneuvers to give yourself a bunch of free tags by roping in eighteen chapters of freemasons, but with evocations you need to be spending fate like it’s going out of fashion to control a complexity 8 spell… and wizards are the people with virtually no fate points to begin with.

I assume that because these are rotes that the wizards concerned don’t have to worry about making the control roll – it’s just there for targetting purposes. So, e.g. Morgan tries to hit the 4 targets with his Earthshock. His discipline is 4 and he rolls a -1 making for 3 shifts of targetting. He now has to split that between the 4 and take whatever mental stress is required because the spell has a higher power than his conviction? Is that right?

First of all, 8 shifts of power is a lot to control through evocation. Morgan does it because Morgan is good. That said, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility for a “lesser” character to pull that off every once in a while. Let’s say you’ve got Good (+3) Discipline, just like everyone’s favourite Wizard PI. He’s using his blasting rod, for a +1 to the control, and invokes his Wizard PI Aspect, for another +2. He’s now at Fantastic (+6), and may choose to chance the roll, though the odds aren’t great. To make sure he can control the power, he can either invoke another Aspect (though that will cost him a second Fate Point), or maybe he decides to take 2 stress worth of backlash, giving him a Legendary (+8) before the dice bounce. Now, he can still blow the roll, but he’s up there.

And he’s probably not going to do this more than once per session or so. Not only does channeling that much power tax him a lot (a 3-stress hit for exceeding his Conviction), but a Weapon:8 attack is on par with getting hit by two artillery shells. It will outright kill pretty much any mortal it hits.

So, yeah, the example we used is high-end, but it’s not out of the running for Wizards. You don’t want to get on the bad side of a Wizard.

as an aside: I love the way the Fate system plays out the fact that the more powerful you are the more you act in terms in of your nature. It’s both very realistic and very pretty. The less people fear the consequences the less they deviate from their nature, the more used to not deviating they become. It’s there in SotC, but the refreshes are much lower in Dresden bringing it to the surface with far more force.

I agree. It just works very nicely together.

vultur says:

Are there rules for Rituals? In the books even pure mortals can do supernatural effects this way (the adult movie entropy curse cult in Blood Rites) but I’m not sure how this would work balancewise in game, since the major limit on them in the novels is that well-known ones don’t work since the power of the entity the ritual calls on is divided up to the point of uselessness.

Or is it like Sponsored Magic? But rituals aren’t really an ability of the *character*…

Rituals that anyone can use (as opposed to the specialized Thaumaturgical Rituals that spellcasters use) are governed by the Lore skill. So, yes, there are rules in the game for it, and it’s different from Sponsored Magic. Basically, if you can find a Common Ritual (as they’re called), you can roll your Lore to try and cast it. But Common Rituals are pretty rare.

Minor Inconvenience says:

How does advancement work? I’ve seen some indication that it is done primarily through a gradual increase in refresh rate, but what about the skill pyramid (if it even is still a “pyramid” shape)? Anything you can reveal would be greatly appreciated.

Advancement works in Milestones. There are three levels of these: Minor, Significant, and Major. They happen when the characters accomplish things of the appropriate significance. Each type of Milestone has a list of what your character gets – for Minor Milestones, you pick from a list, and for Significant or Major Milestones, you get the whole list, plus everything that the lower level(s) of Milestone gives you.

One of the things you get at a Significant Milestone is an extra skill level. The skills aren’t arranged in a pyramid for this game, but in columns. So, instead of needing one more skill at the next lower level, you need an equal number of skills at the next lower level.

And the big thing for a Major Milestone is that you get a point of Refresh.

One of the cool things about the game is that there are also rules for advancing the City, so the setting changes along with your characters.

Fred Hicks says:

Behold! A decision on Earth Stomp (and evo sprays in general).

New approach:

When you’re casting a evocation spell, you’re rolling once, with your Discipline, both to control the amount of power you’re summoning up — 8 shifts in the Earth Stomp case, setting the control difficulty at Legendary (+8) — and to target the attack. When you split up the attack spray-style, you split those controlled shifts of power and you split the targeting result. Let’s say you really rock the house and make a Discipline roll of L+1 (+9). You’re controlling all 8 shifts of power (you determined & announced those ahead of time, which set your control difficulty), and you’ve got 9 shifts of targeting too. You split those 8 shifts of power up into 4 Weapon:2 effects, and you split your targeting into one Good (+3) attack on the guy who’s up in your face and three Fair (+2) attacks on his back-up dudes.

This is in CONTRAST to how the spray rules work for someone attacking with a regular weapon like an automatic gun. The Weapon:X value on a mundane weapon does not get split up, since its value is not *produced* by the attack. So if you had a Fantastic (+6) attack with a Weapon:2 gun, you could split that into two Good (+3) attacks all at Weapon:2, three Fair (+2) attacks all at Weapon:2, etc.

Thanks, Fred! I think I speak for everyone when I say we really appreciate this clarification.

Atlatl Jones says:

I really like how Lawbreaker works. It sounds likely a deliciously seductive slipperly slope. I could very easily see that mechanic being borrowed by Star Wars version of Fate.

It’s tailor-made to handle stuff exactly like the steady, tempting slide to the Dark Side.

I’m also curious about rituals, mainly because I’m in the middle of reading Blood Rites. (I want to read most of the first 10 books before I get the game, because I avoid spoilers like the plague; I was disappointed that the reveal about how White Court vampires work was spoiled for me by reading the archetype writeup).

Well, The answer to that one is up a little bit in this post. And yeah, the game does have some spoilers for the novels, but that’s really pretty much unavoidable when you’re doing a sourcebook.

Lanodantheon says:

@Rick The following is a series of comments and not questions, feel free to omit to cut down your word count for the inevitable Spinal Tap joke.

You totally called the Spinal Tap joke. I felt it was a humour imperative, considering my audience. 😉

It is not difficult to make a Wizard or should I say Wizard-like character at lower power levels. I’d use an aspect called, “Plucky Apprentice” . You just have to a remember that an apprentice has no political ground to stand on until they become an actual Wizard.

True, especially if you don’t take full Evocation and Thaumaturgy, but instead take Channeling and Ritual, or some other lower-powered set of abilities. It restricts what you can do, but you can get a Wizardy taste at lower power level games.

The +2 bonus to Pure Mortals to me is absolutely necessary in a game like this. For me it and The Laws of Magic solve the “Jedi Problem” as I call it. The Star Wars RPG is notorious for its Force User/Non-Force User system and fun balance issues.

In Star Wars, it is not fun to play second banana against someone who can pull a Star Destroyer out of orbit no matter how many blasters you have(because that Jedi is pretty immune to it).

This is the practical reason for it. If you make a game where people can play Wizards and non-Wizards, the non-Wizards have better have some fun stuff to do, or no one is gonna want to play them. And that would kind of undermine the world as developed in the novels, where Murphy can hold her own beside Harry.

In DFRPG, it is comforting to know that can Magic Users run out of gas rather quickly if they aren’t careful while Pure Mortals have it in spades, that guns are the great equalizer and that Magic can have the same level of cool as firing 2 guns whilst jumping through the air.

I agree with this about 90%. The only thing I would change is that I would say that surprise is the real equalizer in this system. Give a Wizard a few seconds to think, and he’ll whip up a ward around him if he doesn’t already have a magic leather duster. But surprise him, and you can take him out with a baseball bat to the head.

Rel Fexive says:

When asking my question in the previous edition I’d completely forgotten you’d already said “who’d a’thunk it”, Rick. How weird is that?

Spooooooooooky!

Anyway, more great questions and answers here. Thanks to Bosh and Rick for answering my query; it was the ‘Lore for Alertness’ thing I was looking for, but the info on how The Sight works is appreciated nonetheless. Thanks guys!

Speaking for Bosh and myself, you’re welcome!

I have another question, and one more vague than before: just how magical are Baltimore and Chicago as presented? One of the things I’ve noticed from reading playtest comments is how often the Dresden-ised cities seem to be seething pools of hidden magicness, with spirits, ghosts, faeries and city-wide magical effects around every corner – something that, to me, isn’t apparent from the books. A lot of the time they end up like how World Of Darkness cities seem to be, where every important thing that has, will or can happen has a supernatural origin. Are Baltimore and Chicago written up in the same way? Is this presented as the expected way to do things, or are they more toned down/less obvious than that, or is that just one of the ways a group can “magic up” their city of choice?

The Chicago chapter is called Occult Chicago for a reason. The cool thing about it is that, while it doesn’t have any game stats the way the Baltimore chapter does, it throws buckets of real-world weirdness at you, coupled with a few specific references to Dresdenverse to tie it into the game.

As for the Baltimore chapter, it’s pretty heavy on the supernatural, as well, but not at the expense of the mundane interest. I mean, anyone who’s watched The Wire can come up with some great non-supernatural monsters and heroes, and this chapter certainly helps that along. But the main focus is on the supernatural landscape.

It’s a bit different than the World of Darkness stuff, though, because the supernatural in the Dresdenified cities happens in parallel to the mundane, not superseding or controlling it. For example, while Bianca was a vampire prostitute with some high-powered clientele, she didn’t run crime – or even just prostitution – in Chicago. Harry’s now a Warden of the White Council, but he has zero pull with the mayor or even with most of the cops. The supernatural is prevalent, but separate in most cases. Marcone’s recent signature to the Unseelie Accords may be setting a very dangerous precedent.

All of that said, the cities focus on the supernatural mainly, I think, because it’s reflective of the novels. It’s pretty easy, given the city creation process, to set the dial where you want it to be, and that choice is going to be informed by the power level you set the game at. You’re going to emphasize different things for Feet in the Water than you are for Submerged.

That’s it for this installment. If you’ve got more questions, send them in, but remember that there may not be a Q&A update again until Monday.

Thanks, folks!

DFRPG Q&A 10

Ten! Ten, I say!

John Hawkins says:

Interesting — Item of Power and Sword of the Cross are listed separately, above. Am I correct in guessing that the Swords are called out more as an homage to their DF-relevance than because they are really a different power? Or are they somehow outside the scope of a standard Item of Power (like maybe the second section could have been called “Weapon of Power”, and can do somewhat different things from an IoP)?

Fred got this one on the comment thread. Thanks, Fred!

Lanodantheon says:

So, what’s used to build attacks for those items of power (like a magic sword)?

I could see Breath Weapon used to make Link’s Master Sword. I don’t know how a PC would justify having it let alone why it would exist in the Dresdenverse, but you could do it.

He also got this one. Thanks again!

Atlatl Jones says:

Does the Lawbreaker stunt have a mechanical benefit or effect, beyond moving the character closer to being an NPC?

Lanodantheon got this one. Thanks, Lanodantheon! However, I do have a couple of clarifications. First, you get a new Lawbreaker power for every new law you break. Each one only gives you the bonus for using magic to break that specific law again, and each one costs you -1 Refresh. If you have three or more of the Lawbreaker powers, the bonus increases for all Lawbreaker powers. And habitual offenses do kick in if you break the same law three or more times: the bonus increases, as does the Refresh cost. So, gaining Lawbreaker powers starts you sliding down towards NPC-hood.

Iorwerth says:

I may have missed it somewhere, but what are the mechanical differences between sponsored magic and non-sponsored magic?

Ihadris answered this one. Thanks, Ihadris! You got it right, but I’m going to supply a little more detail.

Your sponsor and his/her/its agenda can greatly affect your magic. For example, Seelie Magic is more potent for healing and more effective against Winter Court opponents than mortal magic. And it can supercharge a power you already possess on your own – this is where things like Hellfire and Soulfire come into the picture. You can also, from time to time, call on your sponsor for aid, essentially invoking an Aspect without spending a Fate Point, but that puts you in debt to the sponsor. And the debt will be collected. And, of course, as Ihadris said, if you try using the magic against the agenda of your sponsor, it’s not going to work nearly as well, if at all.

Ihadris says:

Again, as always, thanks for writing these Rick. I was just catching up on the Q+A’s and I wanted to ask another question further to one I asked previously concerning skills. In relation to vehicles you said that “Specifically, there are no rules for vehicles in the books.”. Does this mean that skills like ‘Drive’ and ‘Pilot’ have been removed?

Well, Pilot has been rolled into Driving, but Driving still exists. What I mean is that there are no tables listing different stats for cars, or planes, or tanks, or motorcycles, or boats. This is not a (mundane) gadget-heavy game – most equipment is handled through handwaving, as pieces of narrative colour and story props, not as items with their own mechanics attached. The exceptions are weapons and armour, which are each broken into four broad categories, and magical toys like focus items, enchanted items, and potions, for which there are more extensive rules.

And you’re welcome!

I understand completly where and why you have drawn the line and had assumed as much previously which is why Im not asking for you to give out a full list.

I appreciate the understanding, but lists are easy. It’s when we get to people asking for a complete description of everything you can do with the Deceit skill, for example, that I have to say no. What did you want a list of?

John Hawkins says:

I was trying to think how to model various types of cool characters, and it occurred to me that I’m not sure how the system as discussed thus far would model Inhuman+ *Precision*. I’m thinking of Kincaid, here, but in general I know how to simulate creatures with really badass endocrine, or musculoskeltal systems (speed, recovery, toughness, strength), but what if I want to model a really improved nervous system that allows for incredible precision with a firearm or something like that. Is there an obvious way to model such a thing? (I assume so, since there’s a write-up of Kincaid.) I guess you could get partway there with mortal stunts, but the same argument could be made for feats of strength or recovery, and there are outright supernatural powers for those, so I feel like there ought to be something with a bit more oomph.

Rechan’s chimed in with an answer in the comment thread. Thanks, Rechan! I have some further comments I want to add, though.

Kincaid is modeled by giving him Superb combat skills, along with Inhuman Speed and Strength, a nice array of combat Mortal Stunts and Aspects, and a possible Supernatural Sense. While it would be possible to build an Inhuman Precision power, I would be very wary, because it could easily become too good. If you plan on going that way, I would strongly recommend paying very close attention to the way Speed, Strength, and Toughness are built – different bonuses for narrow applications of things, rather than one big blanket bonus covering everything. Otherwise, I think the power would become so good that no character would pass it up, which means that their foes will probably have it, which means it’s kind of like nobody having it.

Anyway, that’s just my two cents on it.

Iorwerth says:

Thanks Ihadris. If your magic comes from a sponsor do you use evocation and Thaumaturgy mechanics, or has it got a system of its own?

You use the same mechanics, but there are a few tweaks, depending on what type of sponsor you’ve got. Basically, you get to be a little better at a couple of things.

Rechan says:

So can the game be played Solo (1 player, 1 GM)?

Definitely, though I recommend in that case that the GM create a character or two as NPCs in order to give the PC some folks to share novels with. And some contacts in the game, of course.

while a focused practitioner wouldn’t be able to make an Evocation potion specifically, Thaumaturgical rituals can be built that do the same things, only slower – or in potion form.

Now, what do you mean? How would you mimic evocation with thaumaturgy? I know that T takes longer. But are you saying that you could create the same effect for a potion/ward, even if you didn’t have it? Since I thought that T was limited merely to making declarations.

Thaumaturgy is far broader than that. You can use Thaumaturgy for pretty much any effect you can imagine. They even stat up Victor Sells’s tear-your-heart-out ritual in the rulebook. In the Thaumaturgy section of the Spellcasting chapter, there’s even an entry on the subject of Enhanced Evocation and Duration. Basically, by taking the time and building the ritual, you can use Thaumaturgy to strike an enemy with power, either in the form of a curse or as a direct attack.

I want to answer Iorwerth’s question, but I’m actually confused. I can’t figure out why Sponsored magic costs MORE than when it clearly comes with bigger limitations.

If you just go with Sponsored Magic, you actually get away with it being cheaper. Taking Seelie Magic or Unseelie Magic gives you the ability to use a narrow set of both Thaumaturgy and Evocation for -4, instead of the -6 it would normally cost you. If you buy it as an upgrade to either Thaumaturgy or Evocation, you get it at -3, and at -2 if you already have both. The bonuses depend on the type of Sponsor: Seelie Magic ignores one step of Toughness possessed by Winter Court faeries and a talent for biomancy, while Kemmlerian Necromancy gives you bonus specializations to power and complexity with necromancy. Stuff like that.

John Hawkins says:

@Rechan @Iorwerth my understanding from earlier discussions of the topic was that Sponsored magic allows you to call upon greater levels of power from your sponsor than you would be able to safely summon up by yourself, and that the constraints placed upon you by that sponsor are not sufficient to zero out that advantage. As to how that works mechanically, I’ll have to defer to those of you holding the book.

That’s the bottom line. I’ve laid out some examples above. Thanks, John!

John Hawkins says:

@Rechan — that does partly answer my question, but I’d love to see an actual synthesis of such a power as an example of how those very guidelines for new power creation are laid out. And to be clear: I’m actually more interested in Inhuman Precision or something that would allow you to very precisely aim a weapon at a long distance or that kind of thing. Heightened perception would factor into that, but it’s only part of what I was envisioning.

There aren’t actually any power creation guidelines in the books, but it’s fairly easy to eyeball things and set Refresh costs for them. The key is to keep the scope of the power in mind.

For example, Inhuman Precision strikes me as being a particularly slippery thing to nail down. Obviously, you want it to work with ranged weapons. How about lockpicking? That can benefit from the same type of combination of heightened perception and body control. And acrobatics? Driving? Martial arts? The scope begins to creep very quickly.

One option is to be very restrictive when creating it, maybe even renaming it to Inhuman Marksman and only making it apply to ranged weapons. Another possibility is to make it cost more Refresh because of its broad application; Inhuman Strength is -2, so maybe make Inhuman Precision -4, say.

Personally, I like the way they did it with Kincaid: Inhuman Speed, Superb Guns, several Stunts, and a few relevant Aspects. However, if that doesn’t do what you want it to in the game, then building a new Power may be your best bet.

Rel Fexive says:

Here’s another question for you – who’d a’thunk it? ;)

That’s what I said! 😀

When Harry does that thing with his “wizard senses” to sense wards, spells, magical creatures (like fetches) and such, how does he do it in the RPG? Is it a spell effect, a narration of the use of his Investigation skill, an extension of his Sight power or something else?

Bosh gets part of this in the comment thread. Thanks, Bosh! The information is pretty much spot-on with The Sight stuff, though there are more rules attached to it than there were in the playtests, which produces a little more guidance as to what sorts of Assessments characters can make with The Sight.

The bit missing is something that I don’t think has been mentioned on my blog yet. Wizards can use Lore as a substitute for Alertness when inspecting magic with their normal senses. This is primarily how Harry detects magical effects and creatures, though he needs to use The Sight if he wants specifics. Although, as Bosh noted, that can be dangerous.

Thanks! :)

You’re welcome!

Bosh says:

I’ve love to play a burned out old wizard (so old he’s forgotten his childhood) who doesn’t have any power left (or memories of how he lost it) except Wizard Constitution and The Sight. His shtick would be that due to long experience and a horrible memory he’s mostly immune to the mental damage you get from The Sight and keeps his Third Eye open far more than just about anyone else can do without going crazy.

I like this idea a lot! Reminds me of the old Fallen Jedi template from West End’s Star Wars game, or the burnt out street mage archetype from the original Shadowrun. Cool!

Rechan says:

I seem to be at a loss how the math works here, Rick. I read the examples, scratch my head, and don’t see how they play out.

Look at the Earth Stomp spell (293). It says that it starts with 8 Shifts. Then the Discipline roll is 8 (so, 16 total). Now, it says the target rolls 2. Which results in 10 shifts? That doesn’t add up! 16-2 = 14!

So where do the numbers come in as far as spell slinging and resolving it all go?

I think the math is off, but not in the way it first appears. Here’s how I work it out. Fred or Lenny, am I doing this right?

First off, the Discipline roll of 8 is just enough to control the 8 shifts of power. You don’t add them together. Now, to target the four enemies that the spell describes, you’re making a spray attack (p 236), so you split your 8 shifts of Control (which is also the targeting roll) into four attacks of Fair (+2) with the power split between the four targets for four attacks of Weapon:2, as per the Evocation Attack section on p 251. So each target should take a stress 2 hit, plus every whatever they missed the Fair Might check by.

Is this right, guys? Do we split both the targeting and the power when using an Evocation as a spray attack?

Rechan says:

I wish there was an “edit” comment button. i have thoughts way after I posted. :P

Sorry, man.

Is there anything about spellcasters supercharging spells? For instance, Harry using the Lightning storm to blow up the toad demon. Or was that just a special effect for E?

That was Harry dumping Fate Points to tag a whole bunch of Aspects, including the Lightning Storm Aspect that was on the scene. And he still wound up taking a whole bunch of backlash!

That’s it for tonight. You know the drill, folks. I’ll be back tomorrow evening if you leave me more questions.

DFRPG Q&A 9

Wow. Part nine. Who’d’a thunk it? Hold on, folks, this is a big one.

Tush Hog says:

Again, many thanks for continuing to feed the multitudes!

Yeah, THAT comparison isn’t going to swell my head at all! 😉

What can you tell me about thresholds and holy ground?

While there’s nothing specifically that I could find about holy ground, the two pages on thresholds state that they work for all types of magical barriers or transitions, including things like running water or sunrise and sunset. This makes me think that the same rules would apply to holy ground.

A threshold can act as a block that opposes any affected supernatural actions, as a target for attempts to breach it, as a suppression of magical effects or abilities that cross it without permission, or as a source of harm against excluded supernatural entities that try to cross.

Also, how does immunity or resistance to magic work?

There are no powers that confer this. It can best be modeled with high scores in things like Conviction or Discipline, to make it much harder for magic to affect a character, along with an Aspect like Magic Resistant that can be invoked to increase the defense. Not much can be done about resisting a lot of Evocations; no matter how it got started, fire burns.

What can you tell me about Morgan and his Earth magic?

Morgan’s Earth magic is primarily Earth-based Evocation. It’s mainly good for knocking stuff – and people – down, and then dropping a building on them. It also affects things like gravity and possibly magnetism, and there’s a sidebar on how it can be used for lightning, as well. As for Morgan himself, he gets a nice write-up, including a fairly complete stat block. He’s got a Refresh Cost of -13.

Ancalagon says:

Can you tell us a bit more about potions? I thought about the idea of having an alchemist (a focused practitioner who does all his magic via potions) as a PC (or NPC). Could this work? Could he chuck greek fire at people? How many potion could a character carry around? etc :) (thanks for fielding these questions!)

Well, Rechan fielded this one. Thanks, Rechan! The one clarifying comment I would make is that, while a focused practitioner wouldn’t be able to make an Evocation potion specifically, Thaumaturgical rituals can be built that do the same things, only slower – or in potion form. So, yeah, I’d say that greek fire was a definite possibility, and an alchemist character would work just fine.

And you’re welcome.

Paul Edwards says:

Thanks for all the info so far, I am getting really excited about this game coming out!

Since the novels all follow a mystery/investigation story format to a greater or lesser degree, does the game have good advice for running a mystery story?

I find you can often get stuck having to hand out clues regardless of character success in order to keep the game moving, or scambling to improvise something to match their actions, neither of which I find ideal for satisfying mystery stories.

Is there much in the books about running mystery investigations?

Lenny Balsera actually had a really good answer for this back here. To sum up, he recommends picking an NPC with an agenda, figuring out how far along he/she is with it, and what pieces the PCs might stumble across. Harry’s mysteries are more like Phillip Marlowe mysteries than Sherlock Holmes mysteries: he solves them by poking his nose into things until someone tries to cut it off, then opens his can of mystical whoop-ass on the bad guy, rather than following an intricate trail of clues to a solution that no one could have guessed.

But yeah, there’s an extensive section on creating and running scenarios in the book, all about how to structure, pace, and run scenarios in this world. It’s all about making connections between the Aspects of your city, the Aspects of your PCs, and the Aspects of your NPCs. As I’ve said before, if you do the full city creation and full character creation, you will be brimming over with adventure ideas by the end.

Stacey says:

Damn, you must be exhausted!

😀 Not yet, but getting there.

Karla says:

All of this is really interesting, and I’m reading all the questions and answers avidly, but the one thing that really struck me from this post was:

For real, you don’t know about Avatar: The Last Airbender? Man, you are missing out. It’s a kid’s show, aired on Nickelodeon if I recall correctly, and it’s amazing. Three seasons of funnier humor, more engaging drama, and better character arcs than most adult shows can manage.

Let me clarify: I know ABOUT Avatar: The Last Airbender. I’ve just never watched more than the first couple of episodes. Too many other things going on for me to fit it in. At least, I haven’t been able to fit it in YET.

Lanodantheon says:

This Q&A is awesome!!!

Glad you’re enjoying it.

Spirit = Light. Does that mean that a Spirit Specialist Wizard can shoot Frickin’ Laser Beams?

John Hawkins pretty much nailed this one in the comment thread. Thanks, John! Short answer: yes, if your GM is okay with it and you can rationalize it.

John Hawkins says:

Meh. I find the argument that a Minor Talent with a Refresh cost of -1 actually costing -3 because you don’t get the 2 extra Refresh a Pure Mortal gets to be spurious. You might as well say that it also costs them the ability to use Evocations or change into wolves, because they didn’t take those powers.

::nods:: Sure, I get it. I guess it just seems odd to me that there’s no middle ground. Your point about thinking of it as a +2 refresh cost power is useful. I guess a relevant question is (and obviously this would be up to the GM, more generally) to what extent does the Character Advancement chapter imply that it’s good or bad practice to allow characters to gain more supernatural powers over time? I infer from previous discussions that that’s a likely possibility. In which case the Minor Talent isn’t shafted, just in transition. (They could choose to — with proper story support — become a full fledged lycanthrope on the second adventure or something.)

Character Advancement is pretty open to stuff like that, with the exception of the High Concept – the Aspect that tells you what your character is. So, Harry’s High Concept is Wizard PI, for example. This is a very important choice during character creation, and will affect your character for a good, long time. The books recommend that the High Concept should change only at major milestones, if at all.

Notice that the High Concept is not the template? Good, ’cause that’s also very important.

The templates, like Minor Talent, are far from strait jackets. They are a starting point to get the character creation started, and to reflect some of the distinctions we see in the novels. Once you use them during character creation, you’re pretty much done with them. You are no longer your template, you are your collection of Aspects, Powers, Stunts, and Skills. And these can change.

So, to answer your question, if you choose the right High Concept at the start – something like Fake Psychic Awakening to Real Power, say, or Seeker After My Berserker Heritage – then you could definitely scale up during advancement.

I might personally prefer that the transition were more gradual, so the first -1 power brings you to 10 refresh, and the second -1 brings you all the way to 8, but that’s a) very minor, and b) house-rulable.

You are very right that it’s minor and house-rulable. Also in that it will come down to personal preference. I’d encourage you to give it a try as written first, because I really think it’s not as big a deal as some of the posts I’ve seen make it out to be, but it is, after all, your game. Do what you need to do to make it fun.

Er… That first paragraph was wrapped in blockquotes, but I must have broken the syntax somehow.

‘Sokay. I got that. 😉

These posts and the comment threads have been the highlights of the last few days (and they have not been bad days).

Awwww, shucks. I’m glad you’re enjoying them.

There was a burst of discussion on Lenny Balsera’s blog about compels, and although it’s not really a question about DFRPG per se, I’m interested in your thoughts:

In your mind, how do compels work? What are your favorite compel examples from the books? What are your favorite compel examples from your own playtests?

How do they work? They work great! They are a wonderful mechanic for bri… er, REWARDING players for staying true to the more problematic parts of their characters. My one caveat is that, especially at the beginning, it can be a bit tough for the GM to keep track of everyone’s Aspects and what compels might be appropriate on top of actually running the game. But it gets easier with practice, and you can enlist the help of your players to let you know when they feel they’ve earned a compel. After a few sessions, though, it gets to be pretty much automatic.

My favourite example from the rulebooks is the multiple Aspect compel example, where Michael has to choose between his Knight of the Cross Aspect and his Family Man Aspect. It’s a nice little dilemma he’s placed in, having to make that choice.

From my playtests, I gotta go with the failed magical circle’s bright light chasing off a Red Court Infected PC. I wrote about it in greater detail here.

Lanodantheon says:

I just thought of another element I wonder the place of: Sound.

For Evocation purposes would Sound be Air or Spirit?

Lucart had an answer for this on the comment thread. Thanks, Lucart!

Lucart says:

I’m wondering if you could manipulate Sound by controlling the medium through which it travels, which could make Water or Earth viable as well under the right circumstances.

The Evocation section shows that there is overlap between different elements for different things, and that the guidelines for the different elements are just guidelines. With a creative explanation and a complicit GM, this sort of stuff is very possible.

Lucart says:

How does a character who has touched one of the Denarian’s coins function in the game? Can they even be PC’s?
Would it be similar to how Changelings work, with taking up the coin being akin to becoming a full faerie? If this is possible for a player character to do, would it have be its own character type?

There is no template for them, but it would be pretty easy to whip one up. And yeah, I’d work it in the same manner as the Changeling template, so that the more powers you take the closer the demon gets to taking over, perhaps with a touch of Emissary of Power thrown in. I’d say it would be its own character type, but those are easy to build.

vultur says:

Are there rules for Soulfire? The naagloshi? (Does the game still cut off at SmF or are any TC things included?)

What about Hellfire?

Yes to Soulfire and Hellfire – both are types of Sponsored Magic. No on the naagloshi. And yes, as Fred confirmed on the comment thread, Small Favor is the last of the novels covered by the game. Thanks, Fred!

keegan says:

are there monsters and people not in the dresden files books in the game

No, though there were several minor things that I had forgotten about, both people and monsters. Oh, and stuff from the Welcome to the Jungle graphic novel, and some of the short stories.

and is there advice or anything for running a game that happens near or around the times of harrys adventures

The basic assumption seems to be that you will be running around the same time – i.e., now. And the chapter on Occult Chicago gives you a wealth of source material to run in Chicago, though you’ll have to work out the Themes, Threats, and Aspects.

Iorwerth says:

How many rotes does a character start with and how are they built?

You get a number or Rotes equal to your Lore rating, so someone with Great Lore will start with four Rotes. They’re built just like other Evocations, except you build them once when you start playing, and then that Rote is exactly the same every time you cast it. You don’t need to roll Discipline to control the power – it’s assumed you can control it if it’s equal to or less than your Discipline, or that you automatically take backlash or fallout if it’s higher – but may still need to roll to target an attack. If you want to use a focus item with a Rote, you have to build it in to the Rote, so that the Rote won’t work without the focus. You can use Aspects when casting a Rote for an extra boost, either to the power or the targeting, but keep in mind that automatic backlash/fallout thing if you channel more power than your Discipline.

Riotopsys says:

Do the books contain any details on chronomancy or is it treated as strictly a plot device? Also thanks for doing this Q&A.

By chronomancy, I’m going to assume you mean specifically time-travel magic, which can include such funky things as duplicating yourself in the current time frame, warning a past self about future dangers, killing your foe’s grandfather, and trapping an enemy in stasis for a thousand years. Is that what you’re looking at?

If so, then there are no details, but the rules for Thaumaturgy certainly have the potential to produce such things. However, many of them violate at least the Sixth Law of Magic: Never swim against the currents of time. Even the Gatekeeper, who has shown he has the ability to at least communicate with his future self, is very, very careful about this law. Besides the obvious issue with being marked for death by the White Council, this is ripe material for the GM to runs some game-world experiments relating to the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Lanodantheon says:

I’ve come to the conclusion that the wonky math of a single -1 or -2 rrefrsh power actually costing -3 or -4 was indeed wonky and off-base. I was wrong.

I wouldn’t say you were wrong, but that path of thinking, I found for myself, led to some assumptions and ideas that play did not bear out with regards to the effectiveness of a Minor Talent.

Thinking about it more it is the sort-of happy medium between Pure Mortal and Full-blown Spellcaster. You have the one ability, but at every refresh you have copious amounts of Fate points base that allow you use that one ability. Plus, the math precludes the idea of taking any other mortal or supernatural stunts.

This is the spot the template was designed to fill, definitely. But I do have something important to say regarding templates.

People. Don’t get hung up on the templates in the book. Not only are they just starting points, they are also just examples, based on the things and ideas set forth in the novels. The guys at Evil Hat got this big time, and the first paragraph of the Types & Templates chapter reads:

While you and your GM can work together to devise new and strange character types for you own campaign if you wish, the actual Dresdenverse has many already-established peoples (mortal and semi-mortal) to draw from. In game terms, we refer to these “pre-packaged” character types as templates. Think of them as recipes for cooking up your characters quickly and easily.

Emphasis is mine. I hope Fred doesn’t mind me quoting from the book, but I think this is an important point to make.

Unfortunately, I know a lot of players of a certain persuasion who will be counting every Fate Point in hopes of breaking the system. I certainly know at least 2 players in my future games who will (for fun) experiment with a Pure Mortal who has a Base Refresh of 1. I can also see at least 1 player choosing to to take as many levels of Evocation or Thaumaturgy as allowed at first and being the Human Cannon/Thatumatalurgical God.

Good luck to them, I say. In running FATE games, though, I have come to the conclusion that the really important min/maxing takes place when selecting Aspects, and then playing to them in game. You need the right combination of Aspects to fuel your other character elements, and to provide you with a useful source of Fate Points during play to use them.

Fortunately, the FATE system doesn’t just reward players for playing characters with depth and variety of personality, a player has to do that ore the game doesn’t run. Especially when you do round-table character creation like I like to do so you don’t double up on Aspects.

You got it. You have definitely got it. And doing character creation as a group is one of the (many) best parts of this game. Create the city and the characters as a group, and the rest of the campaign starts writing itself.

vultur says:

I saw a mention of ‘True Shapeshifting’ somewhere, probably here; is that full naagloshii/Listens-to-Wind type “turn into many animals” (as opposed to a werewolf only being able to turn into a wolf, for example)?

Exactly right. To round out the power, I’d also take the Modular Abilities power, which lets the naagloshii pull in some special powers based on the form he takes.

If so, a naagloshii should be fairly easy to stat out myself, this doesn’t look like it’s going to be a ‘crunch heavy’ game …

Should be easy. And, as you say, the game works more on the descriptive/narrative path than math-heavy mechanics.

Atlatl Jones says:

The talk about shapeshifting is making me want to use this for an Amber game. The Amberites clearly all have Wizards Constitution, Inhuman Strength, and Inhuman Endurance as part of their template, as well as a custom Pattern Walk power.

That’d work, and there are some Supernatural Powers that could serve as guidelines to how to build the Pattern Walk power.

Is there any way you could write a list of all the supernatural stunts in the game? I don’t want to ask too much, but I’m desperately curious about what we might not have seen.

I will list them, but I gotta put a caveat on this.

This is not an invitation to get me to describe what each individual power does in detail.

What I mean by that is that I will answer general questions, but I won’t get too deep into the mechanics of the individual powers. There are two reasons for this:

One, I want you to buy the books when they come out. Evil Hat has been incredibly generous and open about this game, and we need to encourage that. You encourage game companies by buying their products, and if I’ve given away too many details on this blog, it may tempt some people to play with what they cobble together instead of rewarding the hard-working folks who laid the foundation and built an incredible game.

Two, these posts started at around 2000 words, but are creeping steadily higher. That’s starting to cut seriously into the spare time that I usually use to do my own writing and preparing for games. If I start explaining every power in detail, it’ll just get worse. Now, I don’t mind answering questions, and I knew what I was getting into, but I need to let you good folks know where I’ve drawn my line.

So, we cool with that?

Cool. Here we go.

Creature Features

  • Addictive Saliva
  • Aquatic
  • Breath Weapon
  • Claws
  • Diminutive size
  • Echoes of the Beast
  • Hulking Size
  • Living Dead
  • Pack Instincts
  • Spider Walk
  • Supernatural Sense
  • Wings

Faerie Magic

  • Glamours
  • Greater Glamours
  • Seelie Magic
  • Unseelie Magic

Items of Power

  • Item of Power
  • Sword of the Cross

Minor Abilites

  • Cloak of Shadows
  • Ghost Speaker
  • Mana Static
  • Marked by Power
  • Wizard’s Constitution

Nevernever Powers

  • Demesne
  • Spirit Form
  • Swift Transition
  • Worldwalker

Psychic Abilities

  • Cassandra’s Tears
  • Domination
  • Incite Emotion
  • Psychometry
  • The Sight
  • Soulgaze

Shapeshifting

  • Beast Change
  • Demonic Co-Pilot
  • Flesh Mask
  • Gaseous Form
  • Human Form
  • Human Guise
  • Mimic Abilities
  • Mimic Form
  • Modular Abilities
  • True Shapeshifting

Speed

  • Inhuman Speed
  • Supernatural Speed
  • Mythic Speed

Spellcraft

  • Evocation
  • Thaumaturgy
  • Channeling
  • Ritual
  • Lawbreaker
  • Refinement
  • Sponsored Magic

Strength

  • Inhuman Strength
  • Supernatural Strength
  • Mythic Strength

Toughness

  • The Catch
  • Inhuman Recovery
  • Inhuman Toughness
  • Supernatural Recovery
  • Supernatural Toughness
  • Mythic Recovery
  • Mythic Toughness
  • Physical Immunity

True Faith

  • Bless This House
  • Guide My Hand
  • Holy Touch
  • Righteousness

Vampirism

  • Blood Drinker
  • Emotional Vampire
  • Feeding Dependency
  • Tattoos of St. Giles

And there you have it.

Also, how does faerie magic and glamour work?

Faerie magic is a type of Sponsored Magic, based on the Court you owe allegiance to. So, there’s Seelie Magic and Unseelie Magic. Each lets you use rituals that reflect the nature of the Court they represent. Glamours also come in two flavours: Glamours and Greater Glamours. Both of them give you access to seemings and veils – basically, illusions – but Greater Glamours gives you a bonus to these and access to True Seemings, which lets you create objects out of ectoplasm.

That’s it. If you’ve got more questions, send them in. I’ll post them tomorrow if I get any.

DFRPG Q&A 8

Here we go again!

Rechan says:

Now, I know the book talks about advancing the opposition. But here’s my inquiry:

Does it talk about NUMBERS of opposition? To put it in D&D terms, you can gauge the level of the challenge based on the COMBINATION of the monsters in the encounter. Is there advice or a way to handle that here?

I mean, if you have 4 characters who are in the Submerged category, is a single opponent at -10 or so worth fighting, or do you need to drop several -10 enemies in there to make it a good threat?

Yes, there is advice on this in the Scaling Opposition section of the Running the Game chapter of Your Story. Starts on p 334 under the heading PC Groups.

This might constitute “niggling”. There’s a stunt called “Subtle Menace”, which says ‘when the context of power is absent, or when the victim is in a superior position’. What does this mean? Are there rules for ’superior positions’, and what do they constitute? As well as just the terminology of ‘context of power is absent’ is confusing to me.

John Hawkins got this one on the comment thread. Thanks, John!

As for niggling, it only gets to be niggling if it devolves into argument over inconsequentialities, so you should be safe. 😉

How does “The Catch” and Vulnerabilities work? For instance, I see Faeries have “The Catch: Cold Iron, magic of the other court, etc”. But, reading the Catch, it has nothing to do with making these things happen. It doesn’t deal with damage. So if a faerie gets hit with cold iron… what happens?

Basically, what happens with this is that none of the Toughness powers possessed by the creature work. So, no extra armour, no extra stress boxes, no fast recovery, none of it. This is on p 185 of Your Story, the first sentence of the Effect listing for The Catch.

What establishes Initiative? In the Notes section, it’ll say a creature has great initiative, but I just don’t see how they’re getting to that point.

Generally the Alertness Skill, though they have a few other options in the section on initiative on p 199 of Your Story.

Lanodantheon says:

Thanks to Rick, Rechan and everyone else who drops in an gives their 2-cents(and helps advertise for free). Now for a butt-load of Qs.

1. I don’t fully understand Wizard’s Constitution and Soulgaze. They don’t cost anything, but you have to be a Wizard to get them. How do you get these powers? Are they just free after taking Evocation and Thaumaturgy x number of times? I could imagine Harry chiming in on this saying, “It’s not like you get this from the White Council membership card and decoder ring, these abilities are marks of a certain level of power. ”

Wizard’s Constitution is a -0 power, so you can take it for free, as long as your High Concept supports that idea. It’s a good way to model other long-lived creatures. Soulgaze is a -1 power, but you can take it for free if you also take The Sight, which is -1. The rationale is that a Soulgaze is a special application of the Sight.

2. What’s the Marked by Power ability do?

It makes it so that you have some authority invested in you by a more powerful entity. You are their representative. Upside: people who might otherwise mess with you may think twice if they know you’re an emissary of Mab. Downside: people who hate Mab might target you as a vulnerable point. Upside: it opens the door to some other abilities, like Sponsored Magic. Downside: the boss is going to have an agenda, and you are expected to serve it. Mechanically, it gives you a boost to social abilities when dealing with those who fear or respect your boss.

3. How do the rules handle opening portals to the Nevernever? Is it possible for a non-Wizard to open a portal via some power or item of power? (I have a character in mind, Chauncy’s B$*%#, whose Aspect, “I’m 20 minutes away, I’ll be there in 10…” would be made really cool by Nevernever travel.)

There are a couple powers that specifically deal with crossing over, and things like demons and some fey have them. Of course, a Wizard can build a ritual to cross over, as well.

4. Would enchanted items cover non-potion one-use magical objects like say a can of Dr. Pepper turned into a magical grenade?

You bet. And of course, using it up frees up the slot for another one when you have time to make it.

5. What are some examples of Minor Talents? I love using Lucky FIrth, but I’d like a larger spread of examples.

Rechan beat me to this one. Thanks, Rechan!

6. I’ve been watching too much Fullmetal Alchemist lately. That said, how you simulate a Transmutation, a spell or power that changes something into something else of equal size? If used on a life form it is Transmorgification and break the laws of magic. But I was thinking of a spell that allowed a Magical Entrepreneur (An Aspect) to make stupid amounts of money by turning lead into gold or coal into diamonds.

Good thought, but the problem with this is the huge complexity and power requirement to make a change that lasts permanently. Most magic vanishes by the next sunrise or sunset if it’s enduring. Making it last longer can really bump things up in the complexity department, and hence the power requirement and the time requirement. I don’t think this is the reason for the way the magic system is set up, but a byproduct of it that I like. Really, if it was that easy, Harry wouldn’t be broke, and therefor wouldn’t have to take all the cases he does, right?

7. I assume rituals would be perfect for creating a Golem or a Homonculus(an Artificial Human)?

Yes, though again we’re dealing with some pretty high complexity, I’d say. A little homonculus servant might be doable, but building a lasting artificial human would be extremely difficult.

8. Let’s talk vehicles, how do they work? What if they have weapons like a Tank or a fighter jet? I ask because my game will be taking place within spitting distance of Fairchild Airforce Base and I could imagine one of my more ambitious/suicidal players taking advantage of that. Plus, I don’t think most demons would have ever anticipated the feeling of getting shot by a tank.

They work by plot. The vehicle does what the story needs it to do. Specifically, there are no rules for vehicles in the books. And you do not want to get a wizard anywhere near complex electronics. Not if you want the complex electronics to survive. So, that’s a no-go on most modern military vehicles beyond a humvee, and the humvee computer chips wouldn’t be happy.

9. As a point of comparison for this gritty system, how difficult would it be for a Pure Mortal to fire two guns whilst jumping through the air?

First off, I wouldn’t call the system gritty. Combat is significantly more dangerous than in SotC, but it still has a high-action, cinematic component to it. Stuff like the gun-fu thing you mention above is perfect. With the right combination of Aspects and Stunts, plus a few Fate Points to buy off the penalty for supplemental actions, it’s pretty easy. The write-up for Kincaid, the bad-ass mercenary bodyguard of the Archive, is a perfect example of some ideas, even though he’s statted as a supernatural character.

10. For laughs, how difficult would it be for a Wizard to fire a gun with one hand and evocate with the other whilst jumping through the air?

A little more difficult, because the Wizard would have fewer stunts, fewer Aspects that might be applicable, and fewer Fate Points to spend. But doable from time to time.

11. Again for laughs, how would you stat up the Evocation Avada Kedavra?

Evocations don’t quite work that way. It would be a powerful Spirit Evocation, without a doubt, but you decide on the amount of power kind of spur of the moment, and you’d need to pull in a pretty large amount to be sure of killing someone outright, which would be hard to control. The magical paradigms between the two systems just don’t mesh very well. Sorry.

12. Thinking about your statting up of Egg Shen and Lo Pan, I’m now interested in if it’s possible to do The Last Airbender or if I’m feeling really silly, Yomiko Readman aka The Paper from Read or Die (Paperkinesis).

I’m not really familiar with either of those characters, so I gotta take a pass. Anyone out there want to speculate?

I will say that the system is pretty flexible, and can build just about anything with judicious tweaking, but the farther you get away from the core tropes of the setting (modern magic in the western tradition working in a close approximation of our real world), the more tweaking you’re going to have to do to make it fit right.

John Hawkins says:

Do Minor Talents get 10 refresh base? 12? giving up the two freebies just for one tiny power sounds harsh, but I could imagine going to 11 (hah) to be a fair trade. What’s the scoop, there?

The trade is that, while Mortal Stunts are cool and all, they still give you options within a very specific set of limits. Supernatural Powers go beyond those limits in qualitatively different ways. Want an example? Vampirologist stunt. Lets you get a bonus to Lore checks about vampires. The Sight. Lets you open your third eye and tell which people around you are vampires. Or werewolves. Or where magic has been used. Or…

You get the picture.

What we found in the playtest is that Supernatural Powers – all of them, but especially the Spellcraft powers – opened up more options and more versatility for the players who took them. To minimize the spotlight hog effect of more versatile characters, Pure Mortals needed more Fate Points, whether for Stunts or for normal use in the game. This was all done to make it viable to play a Harry and a Murphy in the same group.

That’s the start. There are more points raised in the next question that I’m going to tie back to this.

Loving this, thanks guys.

Speaking for everyone who’s chiming in on the comments, you’re welcome.

Lanodantheon says:

@John Hawkins, I pesonally think of all the templates/character types/magical cookie cutters of the Dresdenverse in RPG, Minor Talents are by far the worst off.

Everyone is going to have a template that they think is worse off than the others. Sometimes, they’ll be the same, sometimes not. It’s one of the downsides of having multiple choices mapping complex combinations. It shows up in discussions on D&D races and classes, and on WoW boards (I’m told) and everywhere else where a game has a menu of choices. In fact, I have a friend who takes them as a challenge: he likes taking the choice that everyone is most down upon and building absurdly cool (and often horrendously effective) characters out of them.

I don’t want to get into an argument about what the “best” character type is, even for an established value of “best.” It’s kind of pointless when the books haven’t even been published, and most people are reacting to hearsay. In addition, everyone has certain things that push their own personal Win and Lose buttons. Also, they bore me. I will, however, try to address some of the concerns that have come up.

They give up those 2 extra refresh for 1 supernatural talent. Of course, that is assuming you don’t buy more than one talent or supernatural ability. I don’t have the books in front of me, but I gather from previous Q&A, analysis of preview content and extrapolation based on similiar games with copious lists of abilities that a template is just that, a template.

This is a very important point to keep in mind in these discussions. All of the templates are starting points, and get modified and personalized by the player. So some Minor Talents can wind up not being so minor after all.

If you stay “At template” as it’s been referred to at say a Base refresh of 10, a Pure Mortal will have 12 minus however many mortal stunts they take(I know and game with a few players who are going play Pure Mortals with adjusted Refreshes of 1). Meanwhile, the Minor Talent will ended up with an adjusted of 9 or 8 base on what talent they take and how many other stunts they take.

But a Template is just a template and you can take powers outside of what qualifies for it as long as it relates to the High-Concept and your GM isn’t an idiot. As a GM, I am not going to screw over a player who decides to take, “The Sight” to simulate his previous exposure to 3-Eye or the ability to talk to spirits.

Which I happen to think would be a very cool starting point for a character, by the way. 😉

Of all the components of the Dresden RPG, Minor Talents seems to be one of its 2 problemed character types. The cost isn’t worth the reward in my opinion because you are spending 3 or 4 refresh so your character can have a single 1 or 2 refresh ability. But, the 2 refresh Pure Mortal reward has to be there so Murphy and Harry and Marcone can be created equal and not suffer from the Star Wars RPG eternal problem of Force Users always having more….advantages then non-Force Users. The only way a Minor Talent can be worth it is if you take more Stunts and powers beyond that one trick otherwise, you don’t have as many abilities as other character tyoes have or as much refresh as a Pure Mortal.

Meh. I find the argument that a Minor Talent with a Refresh cost of -1 actually costing -3 because you don’t get the 2 extra Refresh a Pure Mortal gets to be spurious. You might as well say that it also costs them the ability to use Evocations or change into wolves, because they didn’t take those powers.

I find it’s more useful to think of the Pure Mortal template as a power that gives you 2 extra Refresh, but means you can’t take any other powers.

But you’re right – the balance is there so that non-supernatural characters can usefully go on the same adventures as Wizards and Faerie Knights. Which is in keeping with the source material.

The other problemed character type IMHO is the Lycanthrope. Their problems were discussed on the DFRPG’s comment thread. If I were running a game with a Lycan I would rule that they don’t need a Full moon restriction(if they still have one) so the player doesn’t feel useless ~28 days of the month.

Well, they get access to their powers about 5 days a month, according to the rules. This is easily tweakable, but let’s leave it where it stands as written. There is a discussion of what the impact of playing this type of character will be, mentioning the possibility of granting the character a compel if the full moon isn’t near, and the +2 Involuntary Change power takes some of the sting out of it.

What it comes down to is that there will always be templates that won’t do it for you. The ones you don’t like may or may not match the ones I don’t like, and may or may not do it for the same reasons. There’s plenty of other stuff in the book that should make you giddy with glee. 😀

But I don’t have the books in front of me(they aren’t out yet) so this might have been addressed already. I could see the sidebar:

Harry: Doesn’t it seem like Minor Talents get Jacked in this system of yours Billy?

Bob: That’s the lot of the small fish in the Supernatural pond…

Nice! 😀

Exploding_brain says:

Great stuff Rick. :D

Thanks!

How do the mechanics support the use magical powers to augment the physical or mental abilities of more or less normal mortals?

These work best as Enchanted Items, granting either bonuses to certain skills (Might, Athletics, etc.) or some powers (Inhuman Strength), for example.

For instance, how would the bear shaped belt buckle that Harry uses to boost his strength in one of the earlier(?) books work?

An item that boosts Might for one scene per session.

It would be cool to play something along the lines of an eastern monk, hardening his skin to block blows, channeling the power of his chi through his punches, making Jedi style leaps, using mental discipline to resist psychic attacks. Would that work better if you start with the knights of the cross template, or could you do it by messing around with a sorcerer/wizard/focused practitioner template, or some other approach?

Working with the GM, it would be pretty easy to build this as a special kind of Evocation. There’s even some mention of using Evocation for movement, which Harry doesn’t recommend, but it looks doable to me.

Or on a less grandiose scale, a gunslinger using a minor ability or two to augment his eyesight, speed, and/or coordination?

Could be done, but I’d be more inclined to go with Inhuman Speed (-2) and a Guns/Alertness stunt or two.

Oooh, new idea, any support for an enchanted sniper rifle?

Not in the book, but doable, as long as it’s not a high-tech gun or scope.

keegan says:

do the books have much detail on the undercity

Not a lot of detail, no, but the Occult Chicago chapter of Our World has a some entrances to Undertown pointed out in the neighbourhood write-ups, along with some features of Undertown in that vicinity.

Atlatl Jones says:

What kinds of evocations are there? The four elements and spirit have been mentioned, but are there other types too?

What do refinements do? They’ve been mentioned in many places, but I haven’t a clue how they can affect a wizard’s powers.

Rechan answered these quite completely. Thanks, Rechan! The one thing I would point out is that there can be other types of Evocation, and it’s mentioned that Ancient Mai probably uses Evocations based on the Chinese elements rather than the Greek ones, but details for that are left up to the GM.

Iorwerth says:

What is the difference between a focus item and an enchanted Item? Are they anything to do with rotes? if not, how do rotes operate?

Lanodantheon got the Focus/Enchanted Item question. Thanks, Lanodantheon!

Rotes are Evocations that you’ve mastered well enough that you can perform them safely. The power is safely within your limits, and all you need to do is roll to target. This is like Harry’s Fuego spell. If you want to stretch your limits, you use the regular rules for Evocation, but sticking with your Rote is easier and safer. Focus items can figure into Rotes, but if you have a Rote using a Focus Item, you cannot use the Rote unless you also have the Focus Item ready.

I feel a bit guilty continually firing questions and really appreciate you taking the time to answer them!!

As I said previously, I knew what I was getting into. I’m glad you’re enjoying the Q&A sessions.

Lanodantheon says:

Rechan can probably answer this minor clarification:

What is included in each element?

Water = Water, Ice (Rearranging the molecules) and Entropy?

Fire = Fire, Heat and Combustion?

Air = Air and Lightning?

Earth = Earth(as in soil), Gravity and Magnetism?

Spirit = Raw Kinetic Force (like Forzare), Veils/Glamours and….Spirit Energy?

You got it pretty much spot on, except that raw kinetic force seems to also be Air, you can also generate lightning from Earth (that’s one way lightning works in the real world), and Spirit includes emotional magic and light and interacting with the mind and ghosts and stuff. There is some crossover, as you can see.

And so ends another Q&A session. The longest yet, by my word count.

If you’ve got more questions, let me have them, and I’ll be back tomorrow if I get any.

What are the odds? 😉

DFRPG Q&A 7

Here’s a little Dresden Files RPG lovin’ to round out your Valentine’s Day.

John Hawkins says:

Actually, I’m a liar, one question does present itself: I’ve seen Channeling mentioned in a couple of places now, but it’s not obvious to me how it differs from Evocation. At 2/3 the cost I assume it’s not super limited — can you talk a bit about how it works?

Rechan jumped all over this one on the comment thread, and I’ve really got nothing to add. Thanks, Rechan!

Mike Ryan says:

Your enthusiasm is giving me some high hopes for this game. I’m looking forward to the release.

I think your hopes will all be rewarded.

My questions:
1. SotC was full of examples, and it’s probably safe to assume DF will be as well. Are those examples drawn solely from the novels, or do the playtest groups get some love? I can see the value of using just the books, but the playtesters (your group and others) have put some really cool things out there and it might be interesting to see it referenced beyond just an acknowledgments page.

From my reading, the examples come either from the novels or from a fictitious (I’m assuming) game being run by Billy Borden. I think it’s probably more than enough material to wade through in the novels that combing playtest reports for the right kind of example is just a time sink without any return on it except for a playtest group here and there being able to go “Cool! That was us!” While this kind of cool is nice for the playtesters, I would rather they spent their time putting cool into the game system itself. And they really did.

But yeah, there are lots of examples, which is great, coupled with the marginal notes and conversations that really help illuminate the rules and discuss special cases.

2. You’ve mentioned things like the Feeding Dependancy. Does a character with a limitation like that have to map all of his powers to that dependency? What I mean is, if I’m a vampire, can I have some powers that I can use freely and save the Feeding Dependency for the big guns?

The templates for the two types of character that have Feeding Dependency (White Court Vampire and Red Court Infected) both have a set list of powers that are linked to the dependency. These are mainly physical augmentations – Strength, Recovery, etc. The actual abilities that make them vampires – Blood Drinker and Addictive Saliva for Red Court, and Incite Emotion and Emotional Vampire for White Court – are not governed by the dependency. The listings for the different vampires in Our World have some extra powers that are governed by the dependency, and some that aren’t. My call on this would be to assess the individual power and ask if it’s something that the vampire learned, or is it something that he/she can do because she’s a vampire. If it’s learned, then it wouldn’t be governed by the Feeding Dependency (though I’d ask the player to make sure that the High Concept or another Aspect supported learning this type of power – A High Concept of Vampire Savage would not, in my opinion, make it likely that the character sat down and learned a spell to turn to mist, for example). If the power is something that the character does because he/she is a vampire, then I’d tie it to the Feeding Dependency.

From a min/max point of view, tying a new power to the Feeding Dependency essentially means getting a discount on it, so that’s something for the player to consider, as well.

3. Various sources have mentioned different categories of powers (“you can select powers from the Creature Feature or Minor Talent category”). If it’s not too much of a pain, can you fill in some of the other power categories?

It is not too much of a pain, but Rechan already beat me to it. The guy’s been busy while my back’s been turned! 😉

Rel Fexive says:

You’re doing great work here!

Thanks! I’m glad so many people seem to be enjoying it.

I have a question: harking back to all the talk about Thaumaturgy and the Complexity of spells, can you give us an idea about the various levels of Complexity and what sort of things you can do at each?

Here’s a list of effects from the Thaumaturgy section, along with the Complexity of each:

  • Dreamless Sleep (Easy Version): 4-6, depending on duration.
  • Dreamless Sleep (Weapons-Grade Version): 6-12, depending on duration.
  • Entropy Curse (Mild): 9, based on target’s Discipline.
  • Entropy Curse (Weapon’s Grade): 26, based on target’s Discipline.
  • Extended Divination: 8 or 9 at least, sometimes up to 16 or more.
  • Faerie-Trapping Spell (Pixie Strength): 4. More powerful faeries are tougher.
  • Harry Blinds the Loup-Garou: 9, based on conflict.
  • Harry’s Tracking Spell: 2-8, based on difficulty of Investigate task.
  • Illumina Magnus (Magically Dusting for Prints): 3-8
  • Memorium, Memoratum, Memoritus: 5, based on the ghosts being present and tagging all in the zone with one Aspect.
  • Mind-Fog: 12, based on conflict and covering 3 zones
  • Nevernever Crossover Detection: 8
  • Phobophage Redirection: 14, based on conflict.
  • Reading the Dead Eyes: 4-10, based on the time since death.
  • Reiki Healing Spell: 8-10, based on the consequence healed.
  • Victor Sells’s Heart-Exploding Spell: 32, based on conflict.
  • Zombie Animation: 6-10 for summoning the spirit, based on conflict, and 10-14 for binding it, based on conflict and duration.

How’s that?

Cheers! Keep up the good work!

I’ll keep doing this as long as I get questions that I can answer. When things start getting too niggling or the answers start being entire sections of the book, then I’ll pull the plug.

Rechan says:

What I find slightly annoying is that Sorcerers are pretty much identical to Wizards, mechanically. The only difference is thus:

Wizards get Wizards Constitution and Soulgaze. They also MUST take The Sight. Sorcerers have the option (but it says that almost all of them DO, and they’d be “flying blind” without it).

So there’s not a lot of mechanical distinction between the two. Hell, you could take a Wizard and call him a sorcerer because he’s self-taught. The main distinction is fluff. So why make a distinction in mechanics I donno.

Also, I’ve not delved into the “making your own powers/spells” chapter, Rick. But I had an idea of a monster with a power that basically is an attack that does damage to the target, but “heals” the monster. Not quite the same as a Hunger Dependency (it doesn’t need to feed, but feeding makes it heal). The idea being a Mummy whose touch dessicates the target, while giving it back vitality. I’m not sure how to DO this (or even if it’s balanced; that’d make it REALLY LETHAL).

Fred jumped on both of these in the comment thread. Thanks, Fred!

I guess there ought to be a ‘Wizard Watchdogs +1′ flaw for Wizards, given how the council is fairly on-top of them.

You could do that, I guess, but given the few other +1 powers out there and how restrictive they are, I think this is too big a bonus. Especially during the War, when the Council is focused externally and pretty short of Wardens. I’d suggest instead taking an Aspect like The Council is Keeping an Eye on Me, which could be used for compels when the character is thinking of playing loose with the Laws of Magic, and also could be invoked for help if the character needs to get in touch with the Council.

Lanodantheon says:

Thanks for the answers.

The Ascension Rite does look like a Big Bad Plot Device. I personally was going to use it for an origin story.

Imagine an Aspect, “Failed Ascension Rite”

Nice!

Jon Hammersley says:

Will there be a “suggested reading” section with some places to start mining ideas for different magical cultures (i.e. Native American Spirit magic, Voodoo, Chinese Daoist magic, etc). Another thing I’d like to see would be more generic examples of beings not mentioned in the books (Babba Yaga, Rasputin, Jack-in-Irons, etc). I suppose these might be statted out already (Hag, Giant, Creepy Priest with Craaaaazy eyes, etc) but I’d like to know if they are actually called out by their more familiar names as examples.

Currently, there is not a suggested reading/viewing section. If people are interested, I could certainly compile a list of decent books for game-level research on different magical traditions and post it here.

As for the creatures not mentioned in the books, not a lot on them. Mainly just mentions like “this is one version, there are other variants.” Honestly, though, building and modifying creatures and other foes in this system is pretty easy – five minutes with the books and a pencil, and you’ve got a highly-customized version, especially if you work more with the Aspects than the powers.

Aspects, people. That’s where it’s at with FATE-based games!

Lanodantheon says:

I just thought of a good question.

Necromancy. I assume it is linked to spirit and zombie hordes require thaumaturgy.

You got it. There’s about a page of info on Necromancers in general, including a short bit on the Disciples of Kemmler, many of which get statted out (though not in the same section).

What do they have to say about Kemmler?

There’s about half a page on Kemmler himself, the most telling bit being Bob’s marginal note that if you have the slightest suspicion you might be encountering Heinrich Kemmler, RUN THE HELL AWAY! No stats, of course. He’s in that plot-device villain category. Several of his disciples – Grevane, Cowl, Corpsetaker, and Kumori – get their own entries. Corpsetaker (-17), Grevane (-19), and Kumori (-8) all get stat blocks, though with the usual this-is-a-starting-point caveat.

Ihadris says:

Again thanks for answering all these questions Rick! (Also to Rechan since youve started too)

You’re welcome!

Just a question about skills. Have they changed much since Spirit of the Century? Have any been removed or added in or perhaps changed what they do?

They’ve been tuned a little bit to better reflect the source material. This is mainly little things – Academics becomes Scholarship, for example – and tweaks to the applications to better reflect the modern era. Essentially, though, they’re pretty much the same as SotC.

Chad Underkoffler says:

Rick, here’s a challenge: estimate the refresh level of BTiLC’s Lo Pan. ;)

A challenge! The gauntlet has been hurled! You’re on, sir! And I will show my work for extra credit. 😀

  • Obviously, he’s got both Thaumaturgy and Evocation: -6
  • It’s Sponsored Magic, tied into the demons he’s made his bargains with, giving him more power, but a couple of curses: -2 (based on Unseelie Magic)
  • Let’s throw in a couple more levels of Refinement, just to round him out: -2
  • Now, his funky two-forms. He’s got his Human Form at +2, because he can’t control the change himself. His powerful form has Hulking Size (-2) and Spirit Form (-3). In both forms, he’s got Wizard’s Constitution (-0).
  • What else? Let’s see. Demesne (-1), of course. The Sight (-1). No evidence of an explicit Soulgaze, but Jack is temporarily blinded by meeting his eyes when they go all glowy, so let’s give him that, too, at no extra cost, because he already has the Sight.
  • Oooh! Domination (-2)! Yeah, it could have been a Thaumaturgic ritual, but it works pretty quick, so let’s give him the power.
  • He’s broken at least the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Laws of Magic, so that’s 4 x Lawbreaker (-4)
  • Marked By Power (-1)
  • Swift Transition (-2) to explain his vanishing acts and ability to show up almost anywhere.

So, that’s a total of -22. I could see giving him a couple more levels of Refinement, and maybe a few Mortal Stunts to round him out, but that’s my baseline.

How’s that?

Iorwerth says:

How do soulgaze, sight, and Wizards Constitution operate?

Well, I’m not going to lay out all the mechanics, but here’s how it works in a nutshell.

Soulgaze: This is a mutual mental attack, which can allow the participants to assess Aspects of the other participant if they do well. There is a real possibility of taking mental stress, though.

The Sight: This allows you to make an Assessment of the surrounding area using magical vision, so you can pick up the mystical Aspects of things you examine. It also can cause mental stress.

Wizard’s Constitution: The long life part of Wizard’s Constitution doesn’t really affect game play, but the other part of this is that you can eventually heal from pretty much anything that doesn’t kill you. It just takes time – sometimes a really long time, because it doesn’t actually speed the healing. It just makes it happen.

Atlatl Jones says:

@Chad – That would be awesome indeed! Hmm… would that make Egg Shen a local Wizard? What stats would you give the Six Demon Bag as a focus?

Yeah, I’d rule Egg Chen would be a Wizard. His Six-Demon Bag I’d stat as a focus item (probably Power rather than control) for each of the six Chinese elements – metal, water, wood, earth, fire, spirit – one demon for each element. That strikes me as a cool little item. In fact, it strikes me as so cool, I’d probably give old Egg the Aspect Six-Demon Bag, so he could tap it to help his spellcasting.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow if anyone posts any more questions.