Getting Into the Weird

So, I’m looking over the Supernatural Stunts chapter of the Dresden Files RPG. Interesting stuff.

I mentioned back when I was talking about the mundane character creation that you buy stunts by spending refresh rate. Mundane stunts are one point each. Supernatural stunts may cost more. This means that supernatural characters tend to wind up with fewer Fate Points at the start of a session than other characters, and have to work at getting their Aspects compelled to earn the Fate Points that they’ll need in play. Since compelling someone’s Aspect usually means that their choices are restricted in some way, Evil Hat has equated Fate Points to free will.

That’s right. Supernatural creatures have less free will than mundane folks.

They do a good job of supporting this with references to the source material. Think of how many times Harry gets the ever-loving crap kicked out of him early on in the stories, only to rise from the ashes when he really needs to, and do some kicking of his own.

He’s not just getting beat up; he’s collecting Fate Points for the climactic showdown he knows is coming.

It seems a nice mechanic, and has worked well with the mundane characters. We haven’t made supernatural characters, yet, so I can’t speak to that, but it looks like it will work just as well.

There’s a little twist to the supernatural stunts that set them off from the mundane ones: Permissions. Permissions are stunts that allow you to take other supernatural stunts in keeping with the specific Permission that you’ve taken. They tell you what other stunts you must take, and what other stunts you may take. So, if I want to play a wizard, I need to take the Wizard Permission, and all the stunts that Wizards need to have (things like Soulgaze, and The Sight, not to mention the spellcasting stunts). There are a couple of other stunts I can take if I like.

Not all of these stunts cost Refresh Rate; some are free (these are usually permissions), and some actually return some Refresh Rate (by effectively discounting other stunts by applying restrictions to them). But at the end of the day, you generally wind up with fewer than five Fate Points at the start of a session.

I think it will work; I’ll let you know how things go after I’ve tested them.

This does do one thing that will have a real impact on how players think about character creation: most of the Permissions require you to have at least one Aspect relating to it, often two. This means that, when creating supernatural characters, players need to consider the stunts they’re going to need right from the start, not pick them after deciding everything else. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a change that the players need to be ready for.

Anyway, those are my observations so far. More to follow as testing continues.

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13 Responses to Getting Into the Weird

  1. Rechan says:

    This actually makes me worried. It looks like it’s going to be Really Hard to play a wizard because you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel after you’ve taken what you HAVE to (The Sight, Soulgaze), by the time you get to the spellcasting, you’ll only have what, 1-2 Fate points for your refresh? And it can only go DOWN as you advance and pick up new spells, and then you become an NPC.

    So it Seems like wizards will be only able to afford one spell, and will always be something like a one-trick pony. Meanwhile Harry can throw wind, fire, make potions and do other tricks like Find People, make wards, et al.

    This is after I have looked at the SotC SRD, and realized that there’s some really unfair ways the system makes you spend Fate points. An example in the SRD is that a room has an Aspect of Dark, and you can Tag it, spending a fate point, to enhance your stealth roll. But I just think that if a room is dark, you shouldn’t have to spend Fate points to be able to hide in there – that’s just Common Sense that it should be easier, period, to hide in a dark room; there’s no need to spend Fate to do something. It’d be like spending a Fate point to get wet when you jump in water.

  2. Rechan says:

    For that matter, while Mundanes have more Fate to throw around, I have to wonder if they can really… well, kill big nasty things, because those big nasty things might not really be all that effected by a Mortal using Fists or (even) Guns. Ergo requiring some hefty magic to take out.

    It just looks very sketchy on paper, from what I can piece together. πŸ˜›

  3. Rick Neal says:

    Okay. Let me take your concerns one at a time.

    1. Taking all the basic stunts you need to become a Wizard, pretty much the way Harry was in Storm Front, leaves you with a Refresh Rate of 3, which is only two less than the recommended lower limit for mundane characters.

    2. There are only two spellcasting stunts: Evocation and Thaumaturgy. The rest of spellcasting seems to grow off these two stunts, though we haven’t seen the Spellcasting chapter yet, so I can’t say how.

    3. We haven’t seen anything on advancement yet, so I don’t know if acquiring more stunts will continue to cost Refresh, or if increasing Refresh is the basis for advancement, or what. I’d only be guessing at this point, but given how Evil Hat seems to work, I trust the guys to have thought of this.

    4. As stated in point 1, it looks like you can do everything Harry does with the basic Wizard stunts. There are options for one-trick ponies, called Minor Talents; they wind up with higher Refresh Rates.

    5. Fate Points and the spending thereof; I can see your point, from a simulationist point of view. One thing that doesn’t come across is that a +2 bonus, which is what you get when you invoke or tag an Apect, is HUGE. It’s the difference between missing on your attack and taking out two average gangbangers in a single round. It’s the difference between finishing your research in a week and finishing it in a day. It’s the difference between spending the night in a motel and renting an apartment for a month. So, that +2 is a big deal. There are also situational modifiers, as well; that doesn’t get covered as well in the SRD as it does in the actual printed rules for SotC. For example, in that dark room, you’re already getting a +2 to your Stealth roll. It’s just that, if you need to, you can also tag the Aspect for another +2 or for a re-roll, if the dice really stabbed you in the back. What I’m saying is that the system rarely forces you to spend a Fate Point, but it rewards you when it does.

    6. On the matter of mundanes vs. the big bads: it’s doable. Sure, certain things are going to hurt some creatures more than others, but it’s usually not a question of magic. In the books, Harry never hits something with “magic.” He’s always channeling fire, or force, or lightning, or something. Okay, he uses the ghost dust to hit ghosts. Granted. But that’s one thing out of many that he fights using physical means, even if those physical means are produced by magic. He hits vampires with fire, sure; mundanes use a flamethrower. And as noted in point 5, the +2 from a Fate Point is a big deal. Stack a few of those on, and even your punches and kicks are going to do some damage, as long as you’re not fighting a loup garou that can only be wounded with inherited silver. Even Harry needed his silver amulet to do serious damage.

    So, yeah, it may look a little sketchy right now, but that’s for a couple reasons. One, I can’t share all the details, so there are going to be holes in what you read here. I’m sorry about that, but that’s the way it is. Two, the game is not finished. This is early testing. Things are still being written, systems are in flux, and stuff is going to change. Keep that in mind.

    I hope that clarifies some of what I had to say.

  4. Fred Hicks says:

    Rick pretty much nailed everything I might have to say in response to Rechan’s concerns. Rechan, you’re building a few mountains out of the molehills of your assumptions, here — be careful about that! πŸ™‚

  5. Rechan says:

    1. All right. I suppose I am comparing Harry around Dead Beat instead of Harry at the beginning of Storm Front. πŸ™‚

    I could try to reverse engineer this, then. If mundane stunts cost 1, and most of the Mundane characters have a RR of 5, then that means everyone starts with a Refresh of 10 and it goes down. If starting as a standard wizard with a RR of 3, and the Permission – Wizard is free, then I suppose that means that with Evocation, Thamaturgy, Soulgaze all cost 2. The Sight costs 1 (Because Mick Bradley’s changeling writeup had “The Sight – 1” in that part of the sheet).

    2-4. Thanks for explaining that, then. With everything working off just Evocation and Thamaturgy, I’m left wondering how you have wizards that have varied magical capacity (Harry’s raw physical muscle vs. Elaine/Molly’s finesse). I also figure there ARE one-tricks (Werewolves, or other “I change into one other shape”, etc), and of course they likely have higher refresh than a wizard, but they’ll be taking other powers I’m sure (like toughness).

    5. Okay, that takes the bite out of it. I didn’t realize the significance of that +2, and I was unaware of the situational +2 bonus. Thanks for clearing that up, Rick. I suppose this is the folly of piecing things from the SRD. I understand now why Bleeding Edgers had to have SotC experience before picking up the playtest.

    6. I don’t see a mundane throwing around Force, mind you. And Carlos does throw around magical bolts there in White Night; it’s not fire or force, so I’m not sure how that directly translates. Harry just seems more in tune with elemental Air/Fire magic.

    I appreciate addressing the issues, Rick! I feel better now.

  6. Rick Neal says:

    First of all, it’s not folly to piece things together from the SRD – it’s just that SotC is very finely tuned for pulp games. Evil Hat are making some significantly different choices in Dresden Files to better reflect the source material.

    Your reverse engineering is close, if not exactly right on. Good enough for government work.

    The differences you talk about with magical capacity (power vs. control) are built right in. Very nicely, too. And yeah, I’ve focused on Wizards in what I’ve said so far, but there are one-trick-wonders out there, shapechangers, fey, vampires, champions… all the stuff you see in the books.

    And I would argue that mortals DO throw around force. They just channel it behind little bits of lead. πŸ˜‰

    It’s been a while since I read White Knight, so I’m sure you’re right about Carlos. I don’t know how that’s going to be handled in the rules; I’m going to have to wait for the Spellcasting chapter. And for the Artifacts chapter to see how staves, shield bracelets, potions, and blasting rods get implemented.

    And you’re welcome. I’m glad somebody’s interested. It looks like it’s going to be a good game.

  7. Rel Fexive says:

    There’s more than just one interested party reading this stuff. It all makes for a good informative read, so well done with that. I can’t wait for all the industrious testers like yourself to give the final go-ahead so we can all enjoy the Dresden-y fun!

  8. Devin says:

    ItÒ€ℒs hard to have a real opinion without knowing more. But from what I have seen so far, I don’t have a problem with the lower refresh rate for wizards. The fate point-refresh thing is there to allow players to bend the rules and have a large effect on things. But the magic seems to bend rules and have large effects, so it is really doing the same job as the fate points.

  9. Jonathan says:

    The other thing I like about the lower refresh rate for wizards is it is very much in Genre.
    The troubles with Harry’s godmother and the red court seem to be aspects/consequences that produce fate points for Harry.

    I think Supernatural characters will be more interested in having “negative” aspects to be compelled/to drive plot.

  10. Rick Neal says:

    Jonathan, that’s pretty much exactly what they’re going for. Getting your Aspects compelled is essentially hardwiring your character into the plot. Everyone, not just supernatural characters, should want to have some compellable Aspects, but supernatural characters NEED them if they want to have the Fate Points to pull off the really big stuff later in the game.

    Also, Devin seems right on the money with the idea that magic seems to bend the rules, and therefor supernatural characters get a nice helping of awesome despite the fact that they don’t have all the Fate Points to splash around that their mundane counterparts do.

  11. Rechan says:

    Actually, Jonathan makes me wonder about something.

    Harry didn’t start out with the Red Court issue – that developed in Grave Peril. And his Godmother’s debt was traded up to Mab.

    This suggests new Aspects, new ISSUES being added in later.

    Is this possible with SotC?

  12. Rick Neal says:

    It is possible with SotC, but SotC was designed primarily for pick-up games, so this isn’t addressed in detail. They talk about adding Aspects and shuffling things around in the chapter on advancement, but it’s pretty cursory, because the game wasn’t really designed for long-term, character-changing campaigns. Dresden Files, I think, will be different. Judging from the write-ups on the Laws of Magic on the Dresden Files RPG homepage, you can add or change Aspects as play progresses.

  13. Rechan says:

    Hey Rick! You got an email? I noticed there were some issues with your site you might want drawn to your attention, but I don’t want to clutter up the individual entries. πŸ™‚

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