I’m back. Did you miss me?

xiaolung says:

I am in the midst of creating my own Jade Court vampires for my Dresdenized Hong Kong and I think I’ve got some great ideas for it. I’ve got their basic history, who they are and what they are doing – even a reason why they are so secretive and why there are so few of them. I’ll actually stat them out later (when I’ve got all the books and all the material). But right now, the ideas have been flowing like water.

If I use this material (over 1,000 words so far) for a Dresden game, I would like it to be compatible (at least in background terms) with the DFRPG. While I am pumped about the game, I would like to see if I can complete the writeup for the Jade Court. But I can’t complete that until I know what those few paragraphs on the Jade Court actually say.

Can you give me the lowdown on what those few paragraphs say about the Jade Court? Just summarize. Not word for word.


Well, you don’t have much to worry about, there. The section on the Jade Court says,  basically, they’re based in Asia, they’re well-entrenched and well-hidden, like to stay out of the public eye, and may have significant political and social influence in the mortal world. No one who knows anything about them, including the other Vampire Courts, is willing to talk about them, and that they have had some interaction with Shiro Yoshimo (Knight of the Cross) and possibly Ancient Mai. Oh, and they’re not involved in the current Vampire War with the White Council.

That’s about it.

John Hawkins says:

I’m very interested in the toolkit aspects of the game (I’m super excited about DFRPG as a — for me — drop in replacement for White Wolf, but I’m also very excited about applying the rules in other genres). To what extent are more Marvel Comics style powers represented in the base game? (e.g. Mr. Fantastic’s flexibility, or Iceman’s ability to fire freeze beams.)

Assuming those things aren’t represented directly, can you flex the toolkit a bit for us and examine how those might be constructed for a Flexible Freeze Monster in Dresden’s Chicago?

In particular I’m interested in how such a thing might function _outside_ the auspices of magic power per se. Presumably a creature that can spit acid doesn’t need to take a 3-refresh (equiv. to Evocation) power and put points in three separate skills towards that end, but I’m not sure how that works in costing and creating systems for non-magical (i.e. less flexible) powers.


Well, this isn’t a generic game. It’s specifically tailored to produce a modern supernatural play experience. So pretty much everything is explained and described in terms of magic. That said, a lot of the Supernatural Powers can be described differently, with different origins and power sources, if that’s what you want. Spitting acid? Easy. Take the Breath Weapon power (-2) and up your Weapons skill. Ice Blasts? Still easy. Take the Channeling power (-2) and boost your Conviction and Discipline. Elasticity? That’s a little more difficult. I’d go with Modular Abilities from the Shapeshifting category, and dump 4-6 Refresh into it, which the player could then use to buy other powers as he shifts his body into the appropriate forms.

It’s doable, but it’ll take some prep work and judgment calls on the part of the GM to make it run smoothly. Of course, we could just bat our eyes and beg Evil Hat to make a Superhero Fate game, right? Or check out Truth & Justice, from Atomic Sock Monkey.

Bosh says:

Thanks for doing this, you are very awesome indeed.

Aw, shucks. You’re gonna make me blush!

Two vampy questions:

“You can recover one point of Hunger stress per scene that you skip to spend feeding”

Does this mean that your character sits out a scene without doing anything?

Essentially. You’re character is off-stage, doing the feeding thing, and not involved in the current scene. Now, before people get all steamed about that, they talk about sitting out scenes as a game mechanic in another spot – preparing for casting a Thaumaturgic ritual – and they bring up the fact that that’s kinda boring. They suggest using it only if it fits the mood, or if someone is going to pick up pizza, or something like that. Personally, I find that a lot of games have scenes where the characters scatter for a bit to take care of personal things, and that’s a good time for someone to take care of that little hunger thing. I’d also say that cut scenes (“Okay, so now you’re waiting for midnight. Now it’s midnight.”) are a perfect kind of scene for the character to miss without the player being left out of stuff. And downtime (“It’s been three days game-time since the last session.”) is a perfect excuse to clear out the Hunger stress track entirely. On the other hand, you’re getting a point of Refresh back for taking the Feeding Dependency, so it’s gotta cause you some difficulties, right?

And I don’t want to give you the impression that after every action scene a Red Court Infected character is going to need to sit out the next four scenes to feed. There’s a roll based on what powers you used during the scene to see if you take Hunger stress, so if your Discipline is strong, you’re going to be able to go a while before you need to feed. It’s a complication, not an eternal punishment.

For White Court Virgins what do they DO mechanically? In the book they seem like normal old vanilla humans except for the chance that they can turn into vampires if they kill someone, they don’t seem to have any of the powers that Red Court Infected do.

White Court Virgins start with the powers Emotional Vampire and Incite Emotion (Touch). It’s not a whole lot, but it does leave more Refresh for Fate Points or other powers they buy outside of their template.

Sephilum says:

The Merlin sounds like he’s pretty strong. But is there anyone tougher stated up in the book?

Rechan got this one in the comment thread. Thanks, Rechan!

Jon Hammersley says:

One more reason to go with preorder is to get the .pdf file so that you can eliminate (or at least reduce) the amount of page turning that you have to do. Cut and paste is your friend with electronic documents.

1. I know I keep going back to the well on this, but what does it cost to use a stunt in play (i.e. SotC has some that require a fate point and some that do not).

Most Mortal Stunts do not require anything to use in play except the correct circumstances. Some of the more powerful ones will require a Fate Point, though. There’s a nice list of stunts in the book, but these are more by way of example of how to build your own stunts using the guidelines they give you.

2. While I’m sure that there is quite a bit of information about the standard (Dresdenversse) magical forces and what you can do with them, I’m curious as to how much information is spent discussing other cultures’ forms of magic (Voodoo, etc) and how they translate to the system. Do they all have members attached to the Whitel Council or are some magical traditions considered “outside” their control (Fey sponsored magic for instance).

There are descriptions of what you can do with Seelie and Unseelie magic (the two flavours of faerie Sponsored Magic). Because of the allegiance to the Courts, these practitioners are outside the purview of the White Council. As for different magical traditions, there’s a discussion of how different Wizards will use their own cultural trappings for their magic, whether they are members of the White Council or not. The mechanics are all the same, but the types of ritual, focus items, and other trappings reflect the symbology and outlook of the originating culture.

Because the source material deals almost exclusively with the White Council as the governing body of magic in the world, there’s not a lot of information out there on other traditions of magic. Sponsored magic is outside the Council’s bailiwick, and minor talents are generally seen as beneath them. That said, the Circle has been rearing it’s head, and they get a mention, and there are some solo practitioners, though the Wardens try to hunt these down before they do any real damage. And they definitely hunt them down after they do real damage.

Well, at least before the war.

3. Will we see guidelines for playing Fey characters? I’ve been thinking of a concept that involves some poor mortal who was tricked into switching bodies with one of the Fey (who got killed while inhabiting the mortal body) and get’s stuck that way (or vice versa). If nothing else it makes for a fun time trying to fix the situation (not to mention moral dilemma of where to get a body).

You bet. Some of the minor fey, as well as Changelings, make great characters at different power levels. And your concept could work very well even with a Pure Mortal, if you take the right Aspects.

vultur says:

Going with Sephilum’s question: Are any of the high-level Fae statted? Aurora, Lily, Maeve? Leanansidhe, the Erlking, the Eldest Gruff? Mab or Titania *shudder*?

As noted above, the Evil Hat folks have (quite rightly, in my opinion) decided that most of the heavy hitters are more plot devices than characters for statting. They’ve statted up Aurora and Lily, but the Queens and Mothers, the Erlking and Lea, and the Eldest Gruff are powerful enough that giving them stats is kind of pointless. Even for the Ladies, they list their stats as a sort of starting point, implying that they may have more powers that people just don’t know about.

And what about Dragons?

Ferrovax is statted up, but again, it’s listed as a starting point.

Lanodantheon says:

1. What does the Scholarship skill do?

Bosh jumped on board with the answer to this one. Thanks, Bosh! Two things I want to add: first, Scholarship is what you generally use to do research. Second, Scholarship is one of the key skills for make Declarations and Assessments about things that your character may have no direct knowledge of. As such, it’s handy.

2. How do you do Hexenwolves or Hexenbears? Do they always carry serious consequences like madness or does it vary by the sponsor(A demon vs. a Great Wolf Spirit)?

Hexen-creatures are just like were-creatures, with the addition of Item of Power and Demonic Co-Pilot. Negotiation with the GM could change the spirit of Demonic Co-Pilot to something like a Great Wolf Spirit, as you suggest, but the main point is that the sponsor has an agenda, and you have made a commitment to help it in return for its gifts. So, not necessarily madness, but it does carry consequences. For the Wolf Spirit idea, I could see the character becoming alienated from the rest of humanity, caring less about human laws than the simple black and white of an animal’s mindset, and things like that.

3. How do you do an Ascension Rite like the one described in Welcome to The Jungle? What would be its in-game effects?

Had to re-read the comics before I could answer this one. (Oh, no! What a hardship! ;)) Here’s my take:

First of all, the hag took decades to gather what she needed. It also seemed to take place in stages. And it confers godlike power, but makes you “more of what you are.” Sounds like a stat-less plot device ritual to me. In a game, I wouldn’t work out stats for it, because the PCs would stop it before it gets completed. That’s the whole point, right? But I’ve got to plan for an interesting failure, as well, so I’d probably work out what the hag’s agenda was once she completed the ritual. And if she did complete the ritual, I’d give her power roughly on a par with the Faerie Queens, at least, meaning she becomes a plot device, as well.

But that doesn’t really answer the question, does it?

If I needed for some reason to make this ritual by the book, I’d set the complexity up around 76 (ruling that transforming oneself so completely means having to overcome the Physical, Mental, and Social stress tracks and consequences for the hag), which means that even the canny Hecatean Hag is going to have to spend some extensive time preparing the spell with researching the ritual, gathering the materials, and arranging the appropriate power sources. It also means the actual casting time is going to be quite extended, which is why it’s happening in stages (which the rules really don’t cover, but it makes sense to me).

And if the ritual is completed and goes off? Well, first of all, “becoming more of what you are” sounds a whole lot like losing a bunch of free will and becoming an NPC to me, so anyone completing it loses all unspent Refresh and Fate Points. And then they gain the power of a Faerie Queen, becoming a plot device character set on an agenda and set of goals dictated by the character’s Aspects.

(Well, if you really have to have some stats for this, let’s say they must immediately spend all their unspent Refresh on new powers, and then spend another amount equal to their new total of spent Refresh on more new powers. This’ll set them with a real Fate Point deficit, which means that they are constantly being compelled by their own Aspects. Great power, but more of what you are.)

How does that sound?

Keep ’em coming, folks. I’ve got an unrelated update that’s going to go up this afternoon or evening, but I’ll have another Q&A post tomorrow if I get more questions.


Big wheel keeps on turnin’…

Rechan says:

Since we know that Red Court infected go over if they taste blood, and White Court virgins kill the first person they feed on… how do you “take the time to feed”? If you “feed”, you go over the edge into Monsterland. So how do you handle that? Is there any advice to how to describe being “taken out”?

First off, White Court Virgins don’t need to take the Feeding Dependency, so that’s not an issue for them. Red Court Infected do need to take the Feeding Dependency, but they don’t go over to the dark side for tasting blood – only if they kill while feeding. You can recover one point of Hunger stress per scene that you skip to spend feeding, or you can regain all your Hunger stress in a single scene if you feed deeply enough to kill. Which might be a cool way to have a character sacrifice himself/herself in play, killing to feed in order to regain the power needed to save the rest of the party, and then retiring to NPC land afterwards as a very interesting new enemy.

As to being taken out, that’s actually a game term, meaning the character is out of the fight. The book recommends that in this particular case, taken out can mean things like being too weak to continue, or mindless with hunger. If the GM is feeling stroppy, this would be a good time to drop some compels on the character, encouraging feeding.

Or would that be too nasty? 😉

I’m going to take a guess that the powers on an enemy’s statblock is going to require a lot of referencing, yeah? So if the monster has “Supernatural Speed”, you’re going to either need to reference what that is, or write it down somewhere, aren’t you?

(I’ve been spoiled by D&D 4e statblocks)

Yeah, you’re going to have to do more looking things up than in D&D 4E. On the other hand, there’s a significantly smaller set of powers, so it’s much more reasonable to expect to gain some mastery over it so that you don’t have to look things up all the time. And things like Supernatural Speed tend to mainly give bonuses to other stats on the character sheet.

On the topic of enemies. Based on their statblocks, is there a way to tell how tough a monster is? For instance, “This would be appropriate for ‘Toes in the Water’ level PCs” vs. “This would be appropriate for ‘Submerged’, who have been advanced twice”? Lenny in the Podcast said that he spent a third of a chapter talking about advancing enemies. But I’m curious if there’s any indication on the statblocks currently presented. (For instance, what’s the “level” of a Hecatian Hag?)

Each character and monster statted up in the book has an entry reading Total Refresh Cost. This makes it fairly easy to judge how tough a given foe is compared to your PCs. Playing in a Feet in the Water game? Then things with a -6 or higher Refresh Cost are going to be tougher than the characters. It also allows you to “level up” foes pretty easily – either give them more Stunts or Powers, or give them Fate Points to make up the difference between their Refresh Cost and the power level of the PCs.

Continuing with monsters. We’ve been told time and again that “If it touched me, I’d have been killed”. That’s clear. And that you should pick your battles and be careful. Sure, granted. But for whatever reason, let’s say the fight has to go down. Do PCs have lots of options for ‘keeping it from touching me’? Basically, what’s between them and that Troll picking up a tree to play croquet?

Basically, Fate Points. Spending Fate Points to improve your defense is a key tactic in combat – whether by invoking one of your Aspects (“I invoke my It’s All In The Reflexes Aspect to dodge the tree the troll is swinging”), an Aspect of the scene (“I invoke the Junk Piles Aspect of the scene to duck behind a stack of old refrigerators”), or an Aspect of the foe (“I invoke the Blinded By Sand Aspect I tagged the troll with last exchange to cause his swing to go wild”). Note that, if you tagged the troll with an Aspect through using a Maneuver, you get the invocation for free, without having to spend a Fate Point. This is why Maneuvers are important in combat.

Last Q of the night:

It’s been shown that there are lots of awesome ways to beat the heck out of people physically. Combat is dangerous. Evocation, shotguns, tons of Powers, etc etc. Not to mention armor and all other sorts of things. However. Mental and Social conflicts can equally rack up stress and consequences. Is there anything that you can use in a Mental or Social conflict? Anything that’s equivalent to a weapon, anything you can use to break your competition (or use as a defense!), or is it purely a test of skill vs skill and otherwise you’re on your own?

Well, it’s mostly a test of Skill vs. Skill, but in any such test, Aspects factor hugely. You can build Stunts pretty easily that help you with Social or Mental conflicts, too. There are a few Powers, like Emotion Control, that can directly affect such conflicts, and you can easily work out Thaumaturgical effects that attack Mental or Social stress tracks. Admittedly, none of them are as flashy as having a shotgun in one hand and throwing around fire with the other, but they certainly get the job done.

Iorwerth says:

I noticed you could have stunts that increased strength, toughness and speed. How many different levels are there of these e.g. supernatural, superhuman, inhuman etc? Also, are these the only enhanced stats, or is there superhuman intelligence etc?

Do they give a +2/+4/+6 etc modifier, or do they give +1/+2/+3 etc? I presume enhanced strength stunt can act as a modifier to your Might and would also add in to stress caused by fists, melee weapons etc – would that be right? Toughness subtracts from stress damage? How does increased speed help you out?

There are three levels of each “Stat Booster” Power – Inhuman, Supernatural, and Mythic. There are also a total of three different “Stat Booster” Powers – Speed, Strength, and Toughness.

It’s not quite as clear cut as a straight progression like you have outlined above. Inhuman Strength, for example, gives +3 to Might for purposes of lifting or breaking inanimate objects, +1 to Might when grappling and the ability to inflict a 2-stress hit on a creature you’re grappling as a supplemental action, +2 to damage when using muscle-powered attacks, and always positively modifies other skills that might otherwise be limited by Might. The higher levels do pretty much the same thing, but more.

Toughness can improve recovery times, help your Endurance skill, wipe physical consequences from your character during combat, and at higher levels even grant you Armour and extra physical stress boxes.

Speed can boost your initiative, your Athletics skill, let you move farther in a given turn, and improve your Stealth because you’re moving almost too fast to see.

Rechan says:

To add to Iorwerth’s question, what about Recovery? Does it make consequences heal faster, give you stress boxes back, what?

Recovery is part of Toughness, which both lets consequences and stress hits heal faster and gives you extra stress boxes.

Lanodantheon says:

Dammit I want to play this game the more I hear about it!!!

Then my evil plan is working! Mwahahahahaha!

Anyway, I did think of some good non-random questions.

1. What are the magical elements under Evocation? Is Entropy an element? Related side note: I’ve been pondering for 2 years the idea of a Sorcerer whose shield is Entropy based, a shield redirects forces around him instead of stopping it cold (Kinda looks like Fortune from MGS2)

The book focuses on the western classical elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Spirit. However, there’s a discussion on how casters from different cultures use their own symbology and mystical understanding to work their magic. For example, they point out that Ancient Mai uses the Chinese elements of Metal, Water, Wood, Earth, Fire, and Spirit.

Entropy is generally covered by the erosive, destructive aspects of Water in the basic write-up, as epitomized by Carlos the Warden. That said, most of the side effects of the various elements are pure jazz, and easy to change with the consent of the GM.

2. What is the spectrum of Control, Power and Complexity. Harry is the paragon of Power(A magical Thug). Who are the best examples of Control and Complexity?

As statted in the book, the Merlin is the highest Lore rating (Epic +7) – he hasn’t forgotten more about magic than you’ll ever know, simply because he’s never forgotten anything about magic! The Gatekeeper and Ancient Mai are close seconds. All three of these characters are tied for Discipline (Fantastic +6) – they’ve got tonnes of practice keeping great forces under their control.

3. Related to 2: What’s a Spellcaster with a high Lore and therefore capable of high complexities look like? What’s a character like that good at?

Rechan points out some of the things in the previous comment thread. Thanks, Rechan! Basically, Lore is the foundation that the other two skills build upon. Without Lore, you won’t have much flexibility with the power you can call, and your control over it won’t matter nearly as much because you won’t have the options of calling down the big effects. If you read Turn Coat, look at the description of how the Merlin casts magic – it’s stuff that leaves Harry cold, because he doesn’t even understand some of it.

Thanks again for the info.

You’re welcome again. 😉

BTW, I’ve had to explain the DFRPG character types like 4 times already and whenever I do, I explain minor Talents perfectly with Lucky Firth.

Heh. Yeah, he was a good character – one trick, but it served him very well.

Jon Hammersley says:

Rechan’s question above about social and mental conflicts stress and consequences and it got me thinking about how you could bring these into play.

Aspects like “Knows where the bodies are buried.” could potentially be used to force information out of someone (Social conflict through intimidation?). Protective aspects might include something like “Plays things close to the vest” or “Trust doesn’t come easily”.

Giving an enemy the Aspect of “Sight not meant for mortal eyes” could have an effect on your mental state (If you stare into the abyss, blah blah blah). If you want to play up the horror aspect of a game of mortals vs things that go bump in the night, the mental reprecussions can begin to add up rather quickly forcing some sort of breakdown. Protective aspects might include “I’ve seen it all” or “Clean up, aisle 3″ for characters who have been exposed to these things in the past and have a better understanding of what’s going on.

These are all spot-on. And Intimidation is one of the primary skills used in Social conflict. I really like Clean Up, Aisle 3 as an Aspect, personally.

I’m really beginning to enjoy the idea of aspects and how they can be used in game to bring about situations that advance the game. What’s got me curious is the “stunt” side of things and how wildly different supernatural and mortal stunts are.

FATE is a cool system in many ways, and I like it for a number of reasons. But the main reason I love it is the flexibility, colour, and interesting situations that Aspects bring about.

About Stunts: it’s important to remember that, even though they use the same mechanic to acquire them (spending Refresh), Mortal Stunts and Supernatural Powers are qualitatively different within the game. Mortal Stunts are basically little Skill-based tricks that you can call on in certain situations – things that are possible, even if they may be unlikely. This is stuff like having a special in-depth knowledge of a particular aspect of a given subject, being better at running than at climbing, having friends in high (or low) places, etc. All of these things can also be represented by Aspects, and there’s a great synergy that can come into play if you have both an Aspect and a Stunt that’s applicable in a given situation.

Supernatural Powers are impossible things. They let you fly, or turn into a snake, or summon fire with the force of your sovereign will. They mark the difference between mortals and supernatural creatures, which can be important in the game world. For example, Harry is subject to the Unseelie Accords. Murphy? Not so much. And now we’ve got Marcone straddling that line.

Rechan says:

It seems like the Conviction/Discipline/Lore model is very hardwired together, and to an extent you need all three. Since you have to call up power for a ritual wtih Conviction (and if you exceed it, you take stress). Some with Discipline and evocation unless you’re not concerned about effecting the area around you.

Yup. The three are very intertwined but, as I said above, in many ways, Lore is the foundation.

Which brings me to a new question:

It’s really easy to understand when destructive attacks blow into the environment. If you call up an Evocation that isn’t necessarily Destructive, and it exceeds your discipline… what happens? Let’s say you’re calling up a Spirit evocation to Block an incoming attack (With your Shield Bracelet, let’s say). If the effect blows out into the environment… what happens?

It’s up to the GM, but I might do something like having the pulse of Spirit force that you can’t control splash out around you, knocking things (and people) over, maybe knocking out structural elements of the building, or spilling over into bright light that makes you a target for everyone in the area. This is essentially what happened in the playtest.

Sorry for the massive amount of questions from me today, Rick. :)

Dude. Never apologize for enthusiasm! That’s why I’m doing this, after all. And I knew what I was getting into.

Tush Hog says:

I’ve got a few questions to throw at you.

How are death curses handled?

Ooooh… Good one. There’s a nice little sidebar in the Thaumaturgy section that explains it. Basically, it’s a ritual with all the preparation and components being represented by the fact that he’s going to die. He can tag all the usual Aspects, as well as all Consequences he’s suffered, and can inflict more Consequences on himself. He can cast it in one round, because he’s not worried about backlash or fallout – he’s dead, after all. This lets it be very powerful, and absolutely devastating, whether it’s a short-term thing (Death-Nuke, anyone?) or a long-term complete transformation of the target’s fate.

In the books there are several instances where one wizard “shuts down” another’s magic. Is that talked about?

For short-term smack-down of a single spell, there’s the counterspell application of Evocation, where you sort of wash out one spell with the raw power you channel. For more long-term solutions, like permanently removing someone’s curse or ability to work magic, Thaumaturgy lets you build a ritual that would work, though that latter application would be difficult.

How tough is Michael? :)

Pretty tough.

Let me put it this way – he has the same Total Refresh Cost as the write-up of Harry. His Conviction is as strong as Harry’s, he’s got Superb Weapons skill, and a nifty little stunt called Wall of Death. Notice how I haven’t even mentioned the Knight of the Cross or Amoracchius or the armour Charity made him? Yeah. He’s that bad-ass without even getting into that.

Wow. Posts are getting longer because the questions are getting more detailed and the answers to them more complex.

That’s it for tonight. I will not be updating tomorrow evening, because I will be busy running a Spirit of the Century game based on this little treasure. Keep those cards and letters coming in, though, and I will resume answering them on Saturday.

…Proud Harry keeps on burning,



Burning down Chicago!


Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!

Lanodantheon says:

Thanks again. I read your write-up of Magical Winnipeg again and it is cool. :)

Thanks! We had a great time doing it, and were surprised at how gameable the result was, considering that Winnipeg is fairly small and boring.

What I mean by “RPG-specific” stuff is material that is made specifically in the RPG that isn’t in the books. Things like…new monsters, new powers, and new organizations/nations. But from what I can see, it is an open enough system that if it doesn’t exist in game you can make up your own stuff.

It is very easy to kit-bash your own stuff, even on the fly. We found it became even easier as we gained familiarity with the system and the options.

Stuff like, Jade Court stats.

They’ve got a couple of paragraphs on the Jade Court – no stats, though. And a nice sidebar on the possibility of other Vampire Courts.

The only other constructive questions I have relate to Wardens.

1. I assume a Warden’s Sword is an item of power. How much does it cost?

Actually, it’s statted up as an enchanted item, taking up two enchanted item slots. This means that only spellcasters can have one, but it doesn’t cost them any extra Refresh.

2. How do you simulate characters with authority (Like Wardens or Chiefs of Police) in the game? I would assume through Aspects for general authority and Stunts for people with game affecting authority. That Warden can call for help, but is on his own most of the time. That Chief of Police can order a SWAT Team to help take down that warlock.

I can’t see anything that deals with this question specifically, but I would say that it would require an Aspect for either – after all, the Chief of Police can’t order in a SWAT Team with impunity; he needs to be able to justify it within the bounds of the law. That said, for more readily-usable facets of authority, you could couple the Aspect with a Mortal Stunt or two,probably based on Contacts or Presence, but maybe on other skills to represent skilled people reporting to you.

Ihadris says:

Hi, I’ve been reading your blog with interest and had a blast checking out what you guys did during the play-test. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed the playtest stuff; we really enjoyed doing it.

Whilst I’ve read all the write-ups I could find for the play-tests, I can’t find much regarding the vampire templates. How do you feel that the feeding dependency affects the play of the White Court Vampire, White Court Virgin and Red Court Infected templates? For instance, how would the Virgin and Infected deal with the need to feed and would it only be a problem to them if they over strained themselves?

The Feeding Dependency “power” actually give you another stress track (in addition to Physical, Mental, and Social) called Hunger. This is where you track how hungry your use of powers makes you. At the end of a scene where you’ve used powers, you need to make a Discipline roll against the Refresh cost of the powers you’ve used, or take Hunger stress. You can buy this off by taking Physical or Mental consequences. If you don’t buy off the stress hit with consequences, you lose access to some of your power. If you lose access to all of your powers and take another Hunger stress hit, you are taken out. So, basically, this means that, playing someone with a Feeding Dependency, you really have to husband your powers during play if you don’t think you can take the time to feed. As with Wizard players and spellcasting, this won’t sneak up and bite you in normal situations, but when you’re feeding the time pressure and everything’s on the line (i.e. in a situation like you might find in an RPG adventure), it becomes something you need to consider. How far can you push yourself without becoming useless or worse?

Sephilum says:

Are there any guidelines given for how you would make a shifter who can turn into multiple animals? I’m pretty sure something like that was mentioned to exist in the books. But since we haven’t seen something like that in the books first hand yet, I’m wondering if it made its way into the rpg.

When I say multiple animals I mean multiple types of animals.

Yup. If you’ve got three or fewer forms you want to be able to shift into, then it’s cheaper to take the Beast Change power multiple times. If you have four or more forms, then True Shapeshifting is a better bargain.

Rechan says:

Chad, NPC ally is why I mentioned Companions. That means that they, an NPC ally, can be nabbed by enemies. :)

There have been some more comments on this on the previous post. Thanks to Chad and Fred, once again, for pitching in and keeping me honest!

Rick, we’ve been told that Evocation is divided into Control, Power, and Complexity. Discipline handles Control, Conviction handles Power, Lore handles Complexity.

How does Complexity come into play? What is its role in evocation or Thaumaturgy? For instance, we know that Molly has lots of Finesse and can do complex stuff. How is this represented mechanically?

Fred answers part of this in the same comment thread, but here’s a little more detail. Complexity is basically how hard it is to do something with Thaumaturgy – it’s sort of a combination of how much time it takes to design the ritual and the power necessary to enact it. Once the Complexity of a Thaumaturgical ritual is set (based on a number of factors, including if you’re trying to affect another person, duration, and overall effect), you compare it to your Lore. If your Lore is equal to or higher than the Complexity, then you basically just know how to do the ritual, and can start casting it. If the Complexity is higher, then you need to do some research and preparation, which involves trying to make up the difference in levels. Here’s were you want to tap into Aspects and Mortal Stunts and use Skills to make declarations to try and boost you up to the necessary Complexity.

When they say that Molly has lots of finesse, they’re talking about her Discipline. She can do a lot of complex stuff, but not necessarily handle a lot of Complexity, if you get my meaning – her Discipline is moderately high, while her Lore and Convction are lower. And some types of magic are just easier for some people – Molly, in the game, has an Aspect called Subtlety Is Its Own Power, that can work great things for her sneakier magic.

Also, aside from making you invisible, what can whatever magic “veils” fall under do? Typical Illusion stuff? Is that Evocation or Thaumaturgy?

Veils in game terms have a fairly narrow definition: they are special Spirit Evocations. The power of the Evocation sets the difficulty for perceiving things through it. However, Thaumaturgy can make more permanent or more varied veil effects, including illusions and multiple senses.

Finally, you’ve had the books a while. Have you read anything that’s really surprised you? Aside from just “This is how mechanics work”, anything that made you go “Damn, that’s neat” that you didn’t expect?

Good question. I’ve been doing a lot of, shall we say, directed reading to answer these questions, and I haven’t been thinking much about it.

Well, let’s see. I can’t say enough good things about the new City Creation chapter. The Nevermore/Baltimore stuff is also very cool, and packed with neat ideas – makes me want to blend Dresden Files with The Wire. The Faces From the Cases section of Who’s Who keeps making me go, “Yeah! I remember that guy now!”

Probably the thing that gives me the most fannish glee, though, are the sidebars by Harry, Billy, and Bob, especially a few wonderful geeky gamer references, including to TSR’s old Marvel Superheros game. The guys got the tone pretty much just right, and use it in a brilliant way to provide colour, insight into the game world, and answers to some questions that might arise in reading the rules. It’s very well done, and makes me smile as I read it.

Tush Hog says:

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions!

You’re welcome!

I found the different starting power levels interesting. If you have a cap at Superb, must you have a Superb stat? Also, must your skills form a pyramid (1 at 5, 2 at 4, 3 at 3, etc…)?

And Lenny jumped all over this one with a very complete answer in the comment thread. Thanks, Lenny!

Iorwerth says:

I noticed on Harry’s character sheet that he has an extra mental minor consequence – is this from his Wizard’s Constitution?

Fred got this one.

Tim “Your Personal Undead” Popelier says:

First off, I am looking forward to this, I have always been somewhat adverse to playing games based on anything, but something written by such a fellow geek as Jim really can’t evade my “want to play need.”

I’m kinda with you on playing licensed games based on a well-known property – we already know the “big story” of that universe, so what’s the point of playing someone other than the main characters? And why would your actions even matter? In most such games I’ve run, I’ve changed the specifics of the era to make sure there’s room for the PCs to make their own epic stories. With the Dresdenverse, though, it’s not as tough, because the novels are very much personal stories for the main character. Sure, there may be larger ramifications to Harry’s actions, but the stories are about Harry and his friends (and enemies), not about the ongoing Red Court War. So it’s much easier to find room for the characters your players create.

Plus, the Dresden stuff is just so damn cool!

Anyhow, gushing aside, I was wondering how well the more dangerous surroundings are handled. The top of speeding trains, sinking boats, and harries favourite: burning buildings!

I am only vaguely acquainted with the faith system so I was wondering how variedly the system can depicts these hazards and perils without them feeling the same.

These sorts of things are most easily handled by Aspects placed on the scene that the characters (PCs and NPCs) can invoke with Fate Points for bonuses to their actions or as consequences for their enemies. For example, in a burning building, the scene might have Aspects like Unsafe Floor, Smoke-Filled Air, Crumbling Ceiling, and of course, On Fire. A character could use the Smoke-Filled Air Aspect to aid on stealth, or the Unsafe Floor to help with a maneuver to put the Foot Stuck Aspect on an opponent, or use the On Fire Aspect to aid with an attack by pushing the opponent into the flames for extra damage.

It’s a very flexible way of creating widely varied environments that work well in play, allowing for some of the great action scenes we get in the novels, and giving the GM a lot of control on the different feel of different environments. It also means that the characters will be looking for neat ways to use the Aspects to do very cool things, which makes the scene even more exciting and memorable.

Selenio says:

Hi Rick, thanks a lot for all this work your are doing, it’s like a birthday gift for us all.

You’re welcome. I’m glad so many people seem to be enjoying it.

I’ve decided to run one or two games of Dresden Files RPG in the biggest game convention in my city (Barnaludica it’s the name). Unfortunately the convention is on late May so it’s pretty unlikely for me to have the books already on that dates (even with possible preorders). Therefore I’m going to try and run it with a simplified system based on the FATE I know through SoTC and the details you, Fred and Lenny Balsera are giving us. I suppose I can sort something out of all your posts. :)

Wow. That’s ambitious. Good luck with that. I’d be interested in hearing about how it goes.

One piece of advice: keep the characters simple. Stick with people who have one or two magical tricks, rather than full-blown spellcasters. That should keep things easily managed without the full ruleset.

The only thing I don’t know how to do is the city creation thing (I want to Dresdenize the city of Barcelona for the local players). Can you please explain more about the City Creation steps (not all the details obviously, just some kind of steps list or anything). Thanks in advance.

You got it. Here’s the sequence from the chapter:

  1. Choose the city. Self-explanatory.
  2. Familiarize and discuss. Of course, this is only important if you’re building the city co-operatively.
  3. Reasearch. Only do as much of this as is fun. Find cool things, but don’t sweat the small stuff.
  4. Come to a consensus. Again, important mainly in the co-operative process.
  5. Come up with Themes. A theme is a statement about something that recurs in the stories you tell about your city, like (from the Baltimore example) The Tourist Veneer Masks the Blight.
  6. Come up with Threats. These are people, monsters, and groups who make life worse for the mortal inhabitants of the city – one example they give is The Red Court is Secretly Expanding Their Territory Into This City.
  7. Get the high-level view. Start thinking about the power groups in the city. Who are they? What do they want? The rules recommend finding someone(s) who care(s) about the city, about the status quo (good or bad), and finding someone to rock the boat.
  8. Figure out the mortal response to the supernatural. Who’s clued in? Who’s keeping magic under wraps? How much do the cops know? Things like that.
  9. Locations. Break the city into neighbourhoods and other locations, trying to make sure that each location has something to contribute to the overall story and ties into the Themes and Threats. See where it fits in with the high-level view.
  10. Start tying it all together. This is where you see how the locations tie together, and how they contribute to the overall city. Season liberally with the fantastical. You may want to come up with individual Themes and Threats for each location.
  11. People your world. Start laying down the important NPCs – who they are, what they want, where their interests lie. Come up with names and a high concept Aspect for each NPC.
  12. Tie in the people. Start looking at how the people relate to your Themes and Threats and to each other.
  13. Create the PCs. This is the point at which the book suggests doing character creation, now that you have a solid setting foundation.
  14. Finalize the city. Turn the Themes and Threats into Aspects and stat up the NPCs. You don’t need a complete character write-up for each NPC – just a few Aspects and any important Stunts, Skills, or Powers.

And there it is. Now, in the game book, there are some forms to help you track various stages and record your decisions, as well as a lot more detailed advice, but that’s the skeleton.

Hope that helps.

And that’s it for tonight. If you folks have more questions, I’ll get to them tomorrow evening.

Cry “God for Harry, Chicago, and Michael Carpenter!”


Here we go.

Lanodantheon says:

When I asked my question earlier I never got around to mentioning that your playtest campaign greatly amused me 2-fold. I loved the characters and the stories and because my family’s originally from Winnipeg. Reading about it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Cool! You may have already seen it, but this is what we did with Magical Winnipeg, using the original playtest chapter on city building.

Anyway, I got some more questions I hope you could answer:

1. You mentioned that Conviction determines the power you can draw in and Discipline determines your control of backlash, but what does Lore do? I read somewhere that it has something to do with your spell selection.

Lore is very important in Thaumaturgy, because it lets you build the ritual you need for the effect you want. Basically, you can perform rituals with a complexity of your Lore rating or lower off the cuff, but you need to spend time researching, experimenting, and setting up symbolic connections (i.e. make a Lore check) for rituals of greater complexity. For Evocation, your Lore rating determines how many rote Evocation spells you know – these are dependable, relatively safe applications of power. Lore also determines the base power of any enchanted items you create.

2. Items of Power, magical foci and intellect spirits in skulls. How much are these things? I know that crafted items like blasting rods are slot based from the magical abilities you have but what do you use to buy them(in system)?

There are different ways to handle different kinds of enchanted items. Characters with Evocation or Thaumaturgy get a number of slots to spend on focus items (for things like staves and blasting rods). You can trade those in for double the number of enchanted item slots (for things like Harry’s force rings). If you’re looking for something substantially more powerful (like a Sword of the Cross, for example), you can take the Item of Power supernatural power. And you can add some extra flexibility to items that you really depend on by making them Aspects, as well, which makes it easier to spend Fate Points on them when you need to. For something free-willed like an intellect spirit in a skull, to model that in the game, I’d recommend taking it as an Aspect, and maybe a Mortal Stunt or two to have it help you with Lore checks or Investigation. You could still invoke the Aspect with a Fate Point to get it to do some other stuff – like possessing your cat, or whatever.

3. related to 2: Say I’m a 2-bit Sorcerer character who hit it big and scored a major magical item. How expensive are the major magical items like a Shadow Cloak and a broom…no Hockey Stick of Flying.

Well, if you just have Thaumaturgy at the basic level, with no Refinements spent on extra slots, you could have up to four enchanted item slots if you didn’t want any focus items. A Shadow Cloak that adds your Lore to your Stealth skill once per session would cost one slot. If you want it to be always on, it would still cost one slot, but would only add half your Lore to your Stealth. You can bump up the power by one level per extra slot you spend on it.

Now, if you want something with a little more oomph to it, you probably want to take the Item of Power ability from Supernatural Powers. That gives you something a little bit beyond the basics, but it costs Refresh, just like any other Supernatural Power. A Hockey Stick of Flying that lets you fly at will would probably run at -1 Refresh, based on the cost of the Wings ability.

4. I’ve asked this in other places and the typical response is, “Wait and see”. Any sign of RPG-specific material aside from Magical Baltimore, etc?

I’m not sure what you mean by “RPG-specific” material. If you mean source material for the game, then the entire second volume and some good chunks of the first all qualify. If you mean stuff that isn’t drawn directly from the novels, then there’s less of that – mainly just the Baltimore stuff and the real-world Chicago weirdness from that master of the weird, Ken Hite. That said, a lot of the characters and creature types from the novels have large amounts of information about them that didn’t really make it to centre stage in the novels. A quick glance shows entries on Nick Christian, Gowan Commando, Lisa Boughton, and Mickey Malone, so there’s a lot of stuff that might not be familiar to the casual reader of the series.

5. What advice do the books give on putting the supernatural into the Mundane? I’d like to get a head start on vetting Magical Spokane before the game comes out.

The main advice in the City Building chapter is all about coming up with themes and threats for your city – what aspects of the city are you going to focus on for story purposes, and what things are threatening them. The advice on adding the supernatural to the mundane is sprinkled through it, with one specific section called Locations and the Supernatural: Making the Connection. The advice is generally to look at the city from the point of view of magical beings, and see what would interest them. Draw on real-world ideas and geography to help make things work. For example, when we did Magical Winnipeg, we looked at the junction of the Red River and the Assiniboine River. This confluence is why there’s a settlement in this spot. So, looking at these two rivers, and the idea of a meeting and trading place for the First Nations people, and the fact that Winnipeg is a primary destination for recent immigrants in Canada, we came up with the idea of the Consecration of the Two Waters to give those themes and ideas a supernatural resonance.

That’s the kind of advice you’ll find in the book.

6. What is the base starting level for campaigns? At what refresh rate do things get stupid power?

Good question! There are four suggested starting levels, named for how far you wade into the supernatural world, ranging from Feet in the Water to Submerged. Each sets a starting Refresh, number of Skill points, and cap on Skill levels. Feet in the Water is 6 Refresh, 20 Skill points, and Skills capped at Great. Up to Your Waist is 7 Refresh, 25 Skill points, and Skills capped at Great. Chest-Deep is 8 Refresh, 30 Skill points, and Skills capped at Superb. Submerged is 10 Refresh, 35 Skill points, and Skills capped at Superb. To give you some idea of what that means, it takes a minimum of 7 Refresh to build a starting Wizard. At Submerged, you could build someone at about the level Harry was at the beginning of Storm Front.

Stupid power? I dunno. You definitely need to ratchet up the opposition as the characters advance through the power levels, but because of the way the Aspects tie into the character, and the flexibility of building opposition, I don’t really see there being much of a problem with things creeping up too high. Of course, your mileage may vary; we all have our own favourite power-level sweet spot where we like to game. It depends on the kinds of stories you want to tell.

Iorwerth says:

Thank you for answering my questions – much appreciated!!

You’re more than welcome. Glad to do it.

When attacking someone with an evocation spell, such as some sort of a fireball, would do stress damage equal to the difference between your Discipline roll and the defence roll, or the difference between the power level and the defence roll? Is there a defence roll at all?

e.g. Randalf has a conviction level of Good, so calls down a goodly amount of power. He then rolls his Discipline and gets a superb result, meaning he can easily control the power. The target tries to jump out of the way and achieves a fair result. Does Randalf do 3 stress with the fireball (Superb minus fair defence) or 1 stess (Good amount of power minus defence of fair)? Or am i missing something crucial somewhere?

Fred jumped on the comments of my last post and answered this. Thanks Fred! Good to know that you’re keeping an eye on this process – it means I can trust you folks to jump in and correct me if I miss something or get it wrong.

Rechan says:

So Rick, here’s my questions:

What’s the book say about Companions (ala SotC)? I’m curious about things like Spirit Companions (something like Bob, but you take it with you and use it), or refluffing it as a familiar. Or other uses.

Nothing explicitly. It doesn’t have anything akin to the Companions stunts of SotC. That said, it’s easy to figure out how to handle such things. For example, they talk about taking Aspects to reflect relationships, so you could take an Aspect like My Familiar, Hecubus. A little negotiation with the GM means that you can tap him to help with magic, either the performance of it or the preparation of it, and maybe to help with certain other things like Investigation by having him spy on your enemies. If you want a more reliable source of information, you can round this out with a Mortal Stunt or two, so that your familiar also gives you a regular bonus to your Lore skill, say. If I were creating Bob as something my character has, for instance, I would probably do both, with an Aspect like Keeper of Bob the Talking Skull, and a Mortal Stunt like Occultist (Magical Theory (Potion Recipes)).

Does the book talk about Spirits at all? Bob is a Spirit of Intellect. We know that Lycanthropes channel spirits of rage. But those are the only “spirits” we’ve seen. Monsters from the Nevernever, sure, but not straight up “Spirits” that just encompass concepts.

There’s close to two pages of discussion on Spirits in the Goes Bump chapter, and a very detailed write-up on Bob specifically in the Who’s Who chapter. Probably a few more, but I still haven’t made it through both books. Stupid day job.

Fred has said that spellcasting can create an “infinite” amount of spells. So, how is this done? Is it more “Effect based spellcasting”, or what? For instance, there are several elements out there for specialization we’ve not seen used (or barely used). There exists Water magic, but the only “Water” spell we’ve seen was the Water Bubble that Carlos cast in White Night. So if I wanted to play a Water-specialized mage, how would I make my spells? How would I make them on the fly?

Okay. There’s two flavours of spellcasting in the game, just as in the books. Evocation tosses around energy and elemental forces – this is Harry’s use of fire and air and Carlos’s use of water. There is a detailed discussion of the different elemental versions of Evocation, including talking about how water magic was also what Carlos was using to shoot out his bolts that turned the targets to dust (using the erosive properties of water). There are limited things you can do with Evocation – attack, block, maneuver, and counterspell. That said, there’s a good discussion of determining the visuals of the spell, and how you can use such bits of colour to your advantage. For example, it talks about Carlos’s water bubble shield that he then turned into an attack, using it to disintegrate an attacker.

It’s Thaumaturgy where you really get into the infinite variety of spells. This is very much effect-based magic: you figure out what you want to do, the GM sets the complexity based on how the effect is modeled by the game rules, you prepare the spell, and then cast it. It’s a very flexible system that becomes pretty intuitive after you’ve worked through it a couple of times.

Bosh says:

On the Jim Butcher boards, Fred Hicks said that damage can be situational (knives are better in some situations than in others) how does this work with what you’re talking about here? I’m very curious about what they’ve cooked up for the weapon/damage system since that’s been either not addressed or been implemented in ways that I’ve had some problems with in other FATE games.

Huh. I’ve just reread the section on weapons, and I can’t find anything like that. Indeed, the advice is to avoid getting bogged down by creating detailed weapon and armour lists, and make subjective judgments based on the situation. The combat system, as in other FATE games, leans toward the rules-light, high-trust, cinematic end. Really, with the structure of the Ladder, there’s not a whole lot of room for lots of minor variations on weapons and armour that are meaningful. That said, it’s perfectly reasonable for the GM to adjust things on the fly, or for characters to make Declarations about the weapons or armour of themselves or their opponents to gain advantage.

That’s it for tonight, folks. If you’ve got more questions, I’ll get to them tomorrow evening.


Just one set of questions today:

Iorwerth says:

How do weapons and armour work? Do they just add stress levels / subtract stress levels?

Yup. The system is pretty chunky – what I mean is, there aren’t extensive weapons and armour lists. Each has four categories, rated from one to four, that tells you how many stress levels it adds or mitigates. Given how much difference a single level can sometimes make, this is about as detailed as you really need in the game. And with the idea of setting up the kinds of cinematic, rollicking action scenes you see in the novels, that’s about the level of detail you want to keep things simple and fast.

As to magic, when drawing down power do you need to roll, or do you just draw down a level equal to the relevant skill, whatever that skill is?

Once you have drawn down the power I believe you roll your control. Do you need to get a score above the power level to control it? if you don’t, I presume it spills out and has unforseen effects, and may do the caster damage?

With a stress inducing spell, does it do the power level in stress points, or the level of control you have, or something else?

Okay. Quick-and-dirty breakdown of spellcasting. First, you decide how much power you want to use. If this is an evocation, you take one point of mental stress for drawing up to your Conviction skill rating, then an extra point for each level above your Conviction.If this is a thaumaturgical ritual, you don’t take that first level of mental stress, so if you stick to using power equal to or less than or equal to your conviction, actually calling the power doesn’t give you any stress for thaumaturgy.

Then, you need to beat that power down with the strength of your sovereign will and force it to do what you want. This is a Discipline roll, where you have to equal or exceed the levels of power you have called. If you don’t, you either take the difference as backlash (hurting you as either mental or physical stress) or give it to the GM as fallout (hurting the environment and maybe your buddies – this is how Harry manages to burn down buildings). How things are split up is your choice – you can be selfless and take all the damage, selfish and take none, or somewhere in between.

There are, of course, other factors, like focus items and preparation and taking extra time, that can come into the mix, but those are the basics. Basically, even a minor spellcaster with plenty of time to research and prepare can accomplish a great deal safely, while even a fully tricked-out badass wizard caught offguard can push himself over the edge pretty quickly, wearing himself out and melting his brain.

Just like in the novels.

That’s today’s questions. Keep ’em coming.


First off, a clarification from Chad Underkoffler, one of the authors of the game:

Point of fact: Chicago is not fully game-statted as Baltimore is, but it’s got a METRIC TON of cool, real-world (not necessarily series-based) weirdness in it.

My bad, folks. I was skimming the sections for the previous post, and missed this. Thanks to Chad for setting me straight.

Now, on to questions:

Lanodantheon says:

Question: Does the magic section talk about the limits of magic’s interaction with technology?
What I’m talking about is the magic items/foci/whatever-they’re-called that interact with technology to work.
(Specifically, Elaine’s chain thingie that she charges in a light socket.)

Well, there are rules for hexing, which covers the basics of magic and technology interacting. Elaine’s chain would be an enchanted item, like Harry’s force rings, I believe. There are no explicit rules for how it charges up in the light socket, just like there are no explicit rules for how Harry’s force ring charges from him moving his arms, because really it’s just jazz. Looking at the guidelines in the section on hexing, though, I would rule that it might cause problems around sensitive electronics, but not more than Elaine herself would. That is, unless I was using it to throw a complication at the player, in which case I’d give him or her a Fate Point to go with it.

Rechan says:

Hey Rick! I lost the URL for your site, I’m really glad to be back. :)

Welcome back! You’ve been missed.

The DM chapter, does it talk about how to make adventures? To be honest, the DFRPG scares me in terms of GMing, because coming up with a cohesive mystery every “week” is really daunting! I know “Tie it to your players aspects”, but for instance if they smoke one PC’s nemesis, that aspect – that avenue – is gone. Same thing if they shut down something one player is very concerned about, then it’s hard to bring back. Not to mention other matters of maintaining a good Noir/Mystery/whatnot feel to the game, like clues and how to make things not obvious, does it address this well?

Lenny Balsera actually posted a really good answer to this in the comments of the post. Thanks, Lenny! About all I can add to what he says there is that, at the end of the city creation process, you will have so many good locations, themes, threats, and NPCs that ideas for adventures are fairly squirting out of your ears. And if you get the players involved, then they’re going to have a lot invested in those things, and their own agendas – more rich and fertile ground for adventures. Also, the section on advancing cities talks about how to deal with changes to the established environment like killing off a nemesis or solving a major problem in the city. In short, the advice in the book is very good on this subject, but the rest of the book supports the idea of making good stories so well that really it’s just the icing on the cake.

Are Pure Mortals the only ones that can take mortal stunts?

Anyone can take mortal stunts. They’re called that because there’s no supernatural powers involved. Having said that, supernatural characters are less likely to have mortal stunts because they’ve spent their Refresh on supernatural powers instead.

How is Sponsored Magic different? Is it a template that can be dropped onto any PC? Or access to new stunts/powers? It handles stuff like deals with Fey too, right? Or is that just “Hey, look at Emissary”.

Fluff-wise, Sponsored Magic is different because it’s something that originates with an outside power source, like an angel, demon, dragon, magic talking sword, or, yes, one of the Fey. Emissarys are one of the templates that have the option of taking Sponsored Magic, but Changelings and Knights of Faerie also have it. Crunch-wise, you get a little extra oomph in some of your spells, but you are subject to the whims of your patron – if they don’t want you to work a spell, it just don’t work. And they can attach any strings they want to it. For example, if you’re the Winter Knight, and you want to use your Unseelie Magic in a manner that your Lady disagrees with, she can just not let the magic work. Or, she may allow it to work, but demand a favour in payment.

This is also a general question for you. You talk about multiple character creation sessions. How do you deal with players who want to Get to the Game RIght Now? A lot of people I know would not be patient enough for spending more than x hours doing that sort of thing. And, doing City AND character creation simultaneously sounds very… ADD. How do you organize that?

Good questions. There are options for quick play, when you don’t want to spend the time up front building the city or the characters. In these cases, the characters and city get built during play, on the fly, adding Aspects and Skills and whatnot as they come up in the story, and paying any Refresh cost then. If you’ve seen the quick play options in Spirit of the Century, then you’ve got the basics.

Now, as for the time involved, character creation goes pretty quickly – the sessions I’ve run have all taken less than three hours, and that includes explaining the system to the players. And the character creation system is fun, in itself; in fact, the game takes the point of view that making the city and the characters should be part of the play, and as much fun as all the other parts.

Doing city and character creation together would be a little taxing, I agree. The way it’s spelled out in the book, you work it in stages: once you get to a certain point in creating the city, you have enough of a framework to build characters that really fit in with what you’re doing with the city. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a single session, either; I can see doing portions of the city creation (like, say, research) independently, getting together in a session to work up to the point where you’re ready to build characters, then having another session to build characters and finish off the city stuff. Two sessions.

James Cartwright says:

Great write-up, can’t wait for these books.

Thanks! I’m anxious to get my hands on the physical versions, myself.

Are there stats for ‘Mouse’ in the books and is there the ability to make your own temple animals like ‘mouse’?


Yes, there are stats for Mouse. There’s also an extensive write-up – almost a full page – on Temple Dogs, that would make it very easy to create other Temple Animals. There’s also a note in the in-characters notes that, as statted, Mouse is a viable player character, if you choose the right power level.

Jon Hammersley says:

So how are enchanted items handled? Some (potions) are obviously single use items but how do you limit something like Harry’s ring that stores kinetic energy?

Each crafter has a number of slots allowed to them, based on the kinds of powers you’ve taken, which they can fill with enchanted items. By default, enchanted items have a limited number of uses per session. You can remove that limitation by having it take up more than one slot. Expending extra slots can also increase the power and flexibility of items.

Does using a specific created foci (ritual knife, blasting rod, staff, etc) decrease the difficulty of controlling magical forces and how does it do so?

Okay. Magic is comprised of two phases: gathering the energy and controlling the energy. When you create a focus, you choose whether it will help you gather energy or control it. If it helps you gather energy, then you can safely call in one more level of power than you would otherwise be able to. You can still exceed this amount, but then it starts causing problems, like fatigue. If you choose to make a focus that helps you control energy, then it gives you a bonus level to the skill that you roll to control the power. And if you fail that roll, bad things happen to you, your surroundings, or both.

So, that’s all the questions I’ve received so far. I hope the answers are helpful.

Let me know if there are other questions I can answer, but I won’t get to them before tomorrow evening.

Digging a Little Deeper

So, judging from the traffic coming in this past day, people are very interested in the Dresden Files Role Playing Game preview sent to the playtesters a couple of days ago. I’m still working my way through the books (did I mention it’s almost 700 pages?), but I figured I’d do two things to help satisfy the desire for information.

First, I’m going to invite questions. Want to know something about the game? Leave a question in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer it. One proviso: I’m working from the preview and, while it’s fairly complete, there may still be some last-minute changes. From what I’ve seen, I doubt it, but you should know.

Second, I’m going to put a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the two books below, with a brief comment on what’s in each chapter. That’ll give you some idea of what to expect when the book comes out and you go buy it.

Because you are going to buy it, right? Right.

Volume One: Your Story

This book is about playing the game. It’s a combination of player book and GM book; the co-operative nature of setting up the game advocated in the book makes this a natural choice.

Chapter One: Harry’s World

This chapter gives a short overview of default game world, based on the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher. It lays out some important concepts that you need to understand about the underlying assumptions of the world and game, including a section on Maxims of the Dresdenverse.

Chapter Two: The Basics

Here you get the bones of the FATE system, the modified version of FUDGE that’s the engine driving the game. It covers the mechanics of your character sheet, the dice you roll, what they mean, and how to use Fate Points.

Chapter Three: City Creation

Part of the fun of playing DFRPG is creating the city to be a home base for the game. This chapter walks you through the steps, including showing you where in the process you create the PCs. The system is more structured and focused than the playtest version, and you wind up with a nice collection of aspects and NPCs for your city, as well as some good dynamic situations for your players to deal with.

Now, there’s a sidebar in this chapter that talks about how you don’t really have to do this step as a group with your players. They recommend doing it as a group, though, and so do I. Why? because that way you make sure that the city you build has all the pieces for the kinds of stories and conflicts that your players are interested in dealing with. And it’ll give you some interesting surprises throughout the process.

Chapter Four: Character Creation

In the previous chapter, they recommend that you do the character creation as part of the city creation, to help tie the characters more tightly into the setting. This is a good idea. They also recommend doing character creation as a group. I think this is essential for any FATE game. The novel phase of character creation pretty much demands it.

They also mention the idea of having the GM create a character, and I found this to be a great idea in the playtest. We had multiple playtest character generation sessions, and I created a number of NPCs this way. It gave me a nice stable of NPCs with ties to and history with the PCs. I’m going to go one step farther than their recommendation, though; I’m going to suggest holding a couple of extra character creation sessions to have your players help put together some NPCs.

Chapter Five: Types & Templates

This is where they list the different types of characters available, and what powers and stunts you need. The options outlined here are:

  • Pure Mortal
  • Champion of God
  • Changeling
  • Emissary of Power
  • Focused Practitioner
  • Knight of a Faerie Court
  • Lycanthrope
  • Minor Talent
  • Red Court Infected
  • Sorcerer
  • True Believer
  • Were-Form
  • White Court Vampire
  • White Court Virgin
  • Wizard

There’s also a discussion about what to do if you don’t want to play one of these archetypes, but instead want to play something different, like, say, a Ghoul. Really, it’s pretty easy and flexible.

Chapter Six: Advancement

I haven’t looked closely at this section yet, but along with the standard information about how the characters advance, there’s also a section on how your city advances, which I think is a brilliant idea.

Chapter Seven: Aspects

Aspects are the meat of the system. They’re what makes FATE work. The discussion in this chapter spells out everything you need to know about them, including the kinds of things that make good Aspects, and what I call the Aspect Trick – picking Aspects that do double or triple duty for you.

Chapter Eight: Skills

Not much to say about this chapter. It’s skills -  the list of them, how to use them in different situations and for different purposes, stuff like that.

Chapter Nine: Mortal Stunts

Stunts are what give mortals their edge in the game. The way things balance, mortals will be the ones with the most stunts available to them. These are usually special ways to use some skills, or a different thing you can spend a Fate Point on, little things like that. Nothing huge, but stunts can really add flavour and variety to a character.

The chapter consists of three pages of rules for creating your own stunts, and then about nine pages of example stunts. This is very nice; one of the things my group had asked for during playtest was an expanded list of example stunts. And Evil Hat came through in spades.

Chapter Ten: Supernatural Powers

The counterpart to the stunts of the previous chapter, supernatural powers are the extra gravy you get for playing a supernatural character – the things that set you apart. These are expensive, and really cut into the Refresh Rate of Fate Points. This is the primary balance mechanic between mortal and supernatural characters, the thing that lets you play a Karin Murphy alongside a Harry Dresden. There’s about thirty pages of these, and it covers a wide enough range to let you build just about anything you want.

Chapter Eleven: Playing the Game

This section covers pretty much the entire mechanics of the game – it’s about thirty pages (well, twenty-eight), and handles actions and physical, mental, and social conflicts. Except for spellcasting, this is all the system you need. The system is great for running very cinematic, action-packed scenes, and we found that physical conflicts were threatening enough that the players were worried every time one came up that their characters would die. This is, I think, important for a game – there needs to be some risk, or success and failure stop mattering. It also led to some great roleplaying, as players (and characters) did their best to figure out ways to avoid the risk of combat, sometimes even just running away.

Chapter Twelve: Living With Magic

Here’s where the nature and flavour of magic in the Dresdenverse are laid out. Here, you find out about things like hexing, The Sight, soulgazing, the Laws of Magic, Thresholds, and Wizard biology and senses. The next chapter tells you how magic works, but this is the chapter that tells you how magic feels.

Chapter Thirteen: Spellcasting

It’s a game about modern magic, based on a series of books with a Wizard for a main character. You better bet that spellcasting gets some love, here. I’ve already talked a little about how the system has been changed to bring spellcasters into balance with the other character types. There have been a couple of other things added that really fill in some gaps: first, along with Evocation and Thaumaturgy, they’ve added a section on Sponsored Magic, which is essentially what you get when you make a bargain with a demon or a god. Second, they’ve included a nice list of examples of all the different things discussed in the chapter: evocations, thaumaturgical rituals, focus items, enchanted items, and potions. Very useful, because this is the most complex part of the game.

Chapter Fourteen: Running the Game

This is the GM chapter, and covers the GM side of all the things spelled out in other parts of the book. As is usual with Evil Hat stuff, it’s solid, useful, and detailed. The advice is practical and insightful, everything focused on telling a good story with the game.

Chapter Fifteen: Building Scenarios

One of my favourite bits of Spirit of the Century is the section on building adventures. This chapter does at least as good a job, showing how to build the kinds of situations and events you see in the Dresden Files books. It’s all about connections, in this game, tying you into the city and characters you’ve already created, so that everyone has an emotional investment in what’s going on.

Chapter Sixteen: Nevermore/Baltimore

All through the city-building chapter, they use the example of Dresdenifying the city of Baltimore. Here, they give you the results of of the fleshed-out example, a ready-to-play city for your use.

After this, there follows a glossary and index, as well as copies of the various forms and sheets used in the game. The index isn’t filled in, yet, but the rest of the stuff is complete and useful.

Volume Two: Our World

This is the setting book for the game, though some of the setting elements are covered in Volume One. As I said previously, you cold probably play the game without this book, but I think you’re really going to want it. Especially if you’re a fan of the books.

It looks like the book is going to open with a new story by Jim Butcher; for now, they have the short story Restoration of Faith as a placeholder.

Chapter One: Old World Order

Here we’ve got the low-down on the various power groups in the Dresdenverse and how they relate to one another. There’s a detailed discussion of the Unseelie Accords, as well as a lovely little section called Supernatural Conflicts That Could Kill You RIGHT NOW. Fun stuff.

Chapter Two: What Goes Bump

This chapter has a complete, detailed, statted roster of monsters, spellcasters, animals, and mortals. This does double-duty, both as a section of adversaries, and as a blueprint for building characters. It also has a very useful little list of how the various different supernatural baddies stack up against each other, so you can answer that vital question, “Who would win in a fight between a Faerie Queen and a Dragon?”

Chapter Three: Who’s Who

And this is where you find all your favourite characters from the Dresden Files. And the ones you love to hate. And the ones you’ve completely forgotten about. This section is amazingly complete – even if you never play the game, if you’re a fan of the Dresden Files, this book is a wonderful guide to the world.

Chapter Four: Occult Chicago

Carrying on in that theme, here we have Harry’s city: Chicago, in all it’s supernatural glory. Yeah, that’s right. Between the two books, you get two, fully-worked up cities, in case you don’t want to create your own, or if you need some inspiration. Because of the wealth of source material in the series, Chicago is a little more fleshed-out than Baltimore, and it’s got a lot of good information for play.

That’s it. After that, you get the index.

So, there’s the look at the two volumes of the game. I gotta say, it’s impressing me more and more as I read through it. It’s good stuff. I can’t wait to buy my hard copies this summer.

But that’s enough out of me. What are you folks interested in? What questions can I answer? Let me know, and I’ll do my best.

In My Hot Little (Virtual) Hands

Yesterday, those of us who were lucky enough to be part of the Dresden Files Role Playing Game playtest received a special treat from Fred Hicks of Evil Hat: .pdf copies of the (mostly) finished game.

Guess what I spent last night reading?

I’m not done yet, but I wanted to talk a little bit about my first impressions of the game. Keep in mind that not everything in these files is quite complete; of particular note, the introductions and indices are blank, the short fiction by Jim Butcher isn’t in there yet, none of the page references are completed (page XX), and a few – but not really all that many, from my initial look – pieces of art are missing. That said, here are my initial observations.

The books are gorgeous. The layout is attractive and readable. It’s busy without being distracting or illegible. The marginal notes are a nice touch, being comments from Harry Dresden, Billy the Werewolf, and Bob the Skull from the game world. They entertain, give insight into the game world, and help to clarify some rules points.

The books are big. Combined, we’re talking about nearly 700 pages. Now, from my initial glance, it seems like you might not actually need the Our World book, as all the rules for actually playing exist in the Your Story book. Having said that, the Our World book contains all the statted creatures and characters that you might want for running the game. For example, you can create a changeling character using only the Your Story book by making up the powers and abilities of a fey of a given type in conjunction with the GM, but the Our World book will give you a list of different types of fey and their powers and abilities, so you don’t have to do that work. And it’s always nice, speaking as a GM, to have a bunch of statted NPCs to throw into the game spur of the moment. You might not need Our World, but I really, really think you’re going to want it. Especially if your a Harry Dresden fan, just as a reference book for the world.

City building is substantially fleshed out, with more detail and structure, to help you create the kind of setting you want to play in. The running example is Baltimore, and it turns into a very interesting place as it gets Dresdenified.*

The section I went to pretty much right away was Spellcasting. See, during the early playtests, Wizard characters pretty much walked all over other character types, not so much because of their powerful, but because they were so flexible. A Wizard could, with a little time and effort, be great at anything, which caused them to overshadow other characters from time to time. The specific issue was with Thaumaturgy, which lets Wizards do pretty much anything they can imagine. I wanted to see if this was dealt with in the final version.

It is dealt with. Wizards still have their signature flexibility, but the price of using magic is higher. They get worn out and damaged (and possibly crazy) faster, which leads them to husband their resources more. The difficulty of accomplishing some of the bigger things with Thaumaturgy is increased, meaning that, if you want to do this, you’re going to be spending more time, more effort, and taking a bigger risk to get it done. I think it’s a very nice balance that lets a Wizard accomplish almost anything if they have the time, materials, and dedication, but limits what they can do within the game to things that are simpler and don’t step on the toes of the other characters.

That’s about all I’ve got for now. I haven’t finished reading both books (did I mention 700 pages?), but plan to do that this weekend. So far, I am very impressed with what I’ve got in hand. Kudos to the folks at Evil Hat for putting together such a fantastic game, and thanks again to Fred for making these files available to us playtesters.

It’s got me wanting to run a new Dresden Files game in Winnipeg.


*Yes. That’s a word, now. Why? Because I said so. Back

Its Time Come Round At Last…

Check out this press release.

Yep, after much work, the good folks at Evil Hat are on track to release The Dresden Files RPG at Origins this year.

In two big books.

This is big news for me, because I started this blog as a way to fulfill the terms of the Disclosure Agreement for the Bleeding Alpha Playtest of the game, and I know that everyone in the playtest group has been looking forward to the release anxiously.

I won’t be at Origins, but I will be at GenCon. Guess what I’ll be buying.

Catching Up

Man, I have got to get on a more regular blogging schedule. Sorry for the neglect, folks.

Been a bit of a busy time round my place the past few weeks. Here’s what’s been going on:

Dresden Files RPG

Not a lot happening on this front. I’ve been lurking on the Burner list, and reading some blogs, and of course reading the new cut of the rules. The only real rules bit that’s come down so far has been the city creation stuff, and it’s pretty similar to the version we Bleeders saw. It’s nice to read the list and see that a lot of the Burners are having as much fun with it – and discovering as many cool things about it – as I did.

Mutant City Blues

I’ve had a few people say that they’re interested in trying this, but we’ve had scheduling issues. Summer is actually a pretty hard time to schedule games in our group. Especially pick-up games or one-shots. Many of the people I play with have kids out of school, and vacation trips, and all sorts of other things that come up in the summer. They’re willing to schedule around the regular, ongoing campaigns, but trying to shoehorn in a one-shot is difficult. Hopefully soon.

D&D 4E

I’m working on putting together a 4E campaign to start next year some time, probably after the Player’s Handbook II is released so that there are plenty of option for my players. However, people have been asking me to run a campaign – even a short one – and I wanted to try out the rules and get some familiarity with what works for me and what doesn’t. So, I started a campaign.

I sent out invites to eight people, hoping to get four. I got seven of the eight, plus one person asked to bring in a buddy. Yeah, I’m running with eight people. It’s a real crowd.

We’re using the Scales of War Adventure Path being published in Dungeon Magazine. We probably won’t finish it by the time I’m ready to start the new campaign, but it’ll give everyone a chance to have a taste of the system over a longer term than demos and one-shots. And I’ll get better at the game.

I’m not going to talk too much about the game – we’ve only had one session, and that was very combat heavy. What I do want to mention is the ease with which I was able to beef up the adventure to match my party. The adventure is written for five character; I have eight. It took me no more than an hour to go through and upgrade it to be a fair challenge for my larger party. Mostly, it just involved adding a few extra monsters, but I did have to add some traps/hazards, and I had to level up a solo monster to be a good challenge.

Under an hour. Sweet.

I also had to increase the treasure the way it talked about in the DMG; that took a little more guesswork, because the adventure had 14 treasure parcels to hand out, not the normal 10, so I had to increase the default numbers in the DMG to figure it out, but it was easy.

Anyway, it looks like it’s going to be fun.

The Dark Knight

Man. I love this movie. The performances, especially Heath Ledger’s Joker, are very good. The look is a little (well, a lot, really) brighter than Batman Begins, but there’s still the same sense of urban malaise that you need for Batman.

But the realy treat is the writing. The Nolans just get Batman. They get the rage and the obsession, which are easy, but they also get the hope and the diappointment, which are harder. Lots of times, they don’t come through.

But they do in this movie. You ache for Bruce Wayne fighting against the obsession that is overwhelming his life, all the while knowing that he has to give in to it if he wants to be able to live with himself. There are several moments throughout the movie where he reaches up to the light, hoping to leave the darkness behind, but, in the end, he always goes back to the darkness. He chooses to go back to the darkness. This is especially apparent in the last scene of the movie.

And the twisted, co-dependent relationship between Batman and the Joker is spot on. The Joker even sums it up at one point, saying (and I’m paraphrasing here), “We’re going to keep doing this forever. You won’t kill me because, well, you don’t do that. And I won’t kill you because you’re too much fun!” There are also a number of “jokes” by the Joker that simply happen and don’t get commented on, like the burning fire truck and the sign on the side of the semi trailer during the Harvey Dent assassination attempt. I like that the Nolans trust the audience enough to get these jokes, without having to shine a spotlight on them.

All in all, a great movie. If you like Batman, go see it. Even if you don’t like Batman, this movie may change your mind.

The West Wing

After talking to Jane Brooks, of MyLeftFootloose.com, at some length about Aaron Sorkin series, I started rewatching The West Wing. I’ve just finished the second season, which ends with one of my favourite episodes: Two Cathedrals. It’s a very powerful episode, with a lot of different threads coming together, and it ends with Jed Bartlet about to announce that he’s going to run for another term. The last eight or so minutes really stand out in my brain, because it’s set over the Dire Straits song, Brothers in Arms, and ends without Jed announcing that he has changed his mind and is going to run.

Another instance of Sorkin’s genius with storytelling, in my opinion. He often doesn’t show us the moment, because that would be anti-climactic. He shows us how you get to the moment, and then backs off to let us finish the job ourselves. He has the skill to lead us along with him, so that we know exactly where he’s going, and the trust to let us go the last distance on our own.

I love it.

GenCon Indy

My friend, Clint, and I are leaving very early tomorrow morning for the drive down to Indianapolis. We’re going to GenCon. Now, this isn’t something new for us – this will be our eighth trip down together, I think – but it looked for a while that I wasn’t going to get to make the trip. It worked out that I can, and I am almost as excited for this one as I was for the first one.

Anyway, I may be able to do some updates from GenCon, so check back. Of course, I may not be able to, so you might be disappointed. But I’ll try. And if any of you happen to be at the show, come on by Booth 1701, where I’ll be doing booth weasel duty for Pagan Publishing and Dagon Industries. I’ll be happy to say hello, and try and sell you some Cthulhu-related merchandise that you really don’t need, but really really want.

That’s about it for now. I promise not to take so long to post again.