DFRPG Q&A 4

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!”

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9 Responses to DFRPG Q&A 4

  1. Rechan says:

    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.

    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”?

  2. Rechan says:

    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)

    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?)

    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?

    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?

  3. 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?
    .

  4. Rechan says:

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

  5. Lanodantheon says:

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

    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)

    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?

    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?

    Thanks again for the info.

    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.

  6. Rechan says:

    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?

    From Yesterday’s Q&A:

    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.

    Also Fred says:

    Lore also sets the limit for how big of a bonus you can get out of a focus item or a specialization. Lore’s designed to add a lot of subtle but far-reaching effects all throughout the spellcasting model. Conviction and Discipline look like the rockstars, but a high Lore spellcaster can get a lot of stuff done by dint of knowing many many secrets.

    Evocation is more about Control and Power. Thaumaturgy is where Complexity comes into play, more than anything.

  7. 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.

    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.

  8. 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.

    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?

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

  9. Tush Hog says:

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

    How are death curses handled?

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

    How tough is Michael? 🙂

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