Here we go again!

Rechan says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lanodantheon says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rechan beat me to this one. Thanks, Rechan!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Hawkins says:

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

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

You get the picture.

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

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

Loving this, thanks guys.

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

Lanodantheon says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice! 😀

Exploding_brain says:

Great stuff Rick. :D


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

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

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

An item that boosts Might for one scene per session.

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

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

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

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

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

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

keegan says:

do the books have much detail on the undercity

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

Atlatl Jones says:

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

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

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

Iorwerth says:

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

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

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

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

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

Lanodantheon says:

Rechan can probably answer this minor clarification:

What is included in each element?

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

Fire = Fire, Heat and Combustion?

Air = Air and Lightning?

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

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

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

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

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

What are the odds? 😉

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23 Responses to DFRPG Q&A 8

  1. Tush Hog says:

    Again, many thanks for continuing to feed the multitudes!

    What can you tell me about thresholds and holy ground?

    Also, how does immunity or resistance to magic work?

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

  2. Ancalagon says:

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

  3. Paul Edwards says:

    Thanks for all the info so far, I am getting really excited about this game coming out!
    Since the novels all follow a mystery/investigation story format to a greater or lesser degree, does the game have good advice for running a mystery story?
    I find you can often get stuck having to hand out clues regardless of character success in order to keep the game moving, or scambling to improvise something to match their actions, neither of which I find ideal for satisfying mystery stories.
    Is there much in the books about running mystery investigations?

  4. Stacey says:

    Damn, you must be exhausted!

  5. Karla says:

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

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

  6. Rechan says:

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

    Potion fills an Enchanted Item Slot. At the beginning of the session, you declare what potions you have in your slots (If you have a Crafting specialty, you can use a Fate point to declare you have a potion for just that occasion During a session; or you can do that with an open slot and a successful Lore roll later on). The strength of the potion is your Lore skill (so a Great lore means a potion of 4 strength). A potion is only usable once (and then it can’t be used during that Game session).

    It’s an enchanted item so you can pop a Thaumaturgical effect or an Evocation effect in there. Rick all ready said a Dr Pepper Can could be used like a grenade (I’d say that’s a zone-wide Evocation attack in a bottle, sure).

    When you pick up E/T, you get 2 free item slots. You can trade 1 slot for 2 Encahtned Item slots. You can take Refinement to pick up 4 item slots. So if you wanted to devote some refinements, you could pick up a lot of potions, or a few really strong ones. I THINK that then it has to follow the rules of an Evocation (so, cast the spell into it using Conviction and Discipline, bla bla). But a fat Lore is probably your best bet.

    A Wizard who focuses on Crafting, with an Aspect or two with Potion making, and Specialization on Crafting (Strength), and a Focus item for crafting – you could do some very terrible things. You could get away with a Focused Practitioner who deals with Rituals (Thaumaturgy’s little brother), but those would only grant Declarations really, not big boomy effects.

  7. Lanodantheon says:

    This Q&A is awesome!!!

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

  8. John Hawkins says:

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

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

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

  9. John Hawkins says:

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

  10. John Hawkins says:

    @Lanodantheon While I can’t speak to the breakdown of specialties in the DF setting per se, as I don’t have the books, I would venture to guess that the DFRPG specializations are primarily for fluff purposes. You can MakeDamageHappen(tm), and if you want that to be a frickin’ laser, that’s presumably going to be between you and the GM. In the Codex of Alera they … well, to avoid giving spoilers I’ll just say that they don’t use spirit magic to that end, and it’s the same author. 😉 So you probably have various options there.

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

  11. John Hawkins says:

    (Sorry. To paraphrase Bosh, numerous posts are numerous.)

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

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

  12. Lanodantheon says:

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

    For Evocation purposes would Sound be Air or Spirit?

  13. Lucart says:

    @Lanodantheon In episodes 43 and 44 of the Game Master Show (DFRPG games run by Robert Bohl) it’s stated that Sound is part of the Air element. Admittedly, the episodes were posted in May ’08 so this might not still be the case.

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

  14. Lucart says:

    Uh, I should probably clarify the parenthetical statement in my previous post applies to those specific episodes not the podcast as a whole.

  15. Lucart says:

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

  16. vultur says:

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

    What about Hellfire?

  17. keegan says:

    are there monsters and people not in the dresden files books in the game
    and is there advice or anything for running a game that happens near or around the times of
    harrys adventures

  18. Iorwerth says:

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

  19. Riotopsys says:

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

  20. Fred Hicks says:

    The game does cut off at Small Favor. We made a decision to support only the material that will have been out in paperback for a solid amount of time, reducing the likelihood of spoilers to the mostly-but-not-fully-up-to-speed set.

  21. Lanodantheon says:

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

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

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

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

  22. vultur says:

    OK, sure.

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

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

  23. Atlatl Jones says:

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

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

    Also, how does faerie magic and glamour work?

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