DFRPG Q&A 9

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

Tush Hog says:

Again, many thanks for continuing to feed the multitudes!

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

What can you tell me about thresholds and holy ground?

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

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

Also, how does immunity or resistance to magic work?

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

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

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

Ancalagon says:

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

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

And you’re welcome.

Paul Edwards says:

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

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

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

Is there much in the books about running mystery investigations?

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

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

Stacey says:

Damn, you must be exhausted!

:D Not yet, but getting there.

Karla says:

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

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

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

Lanodantheon says:

This Q&A is awesome!!!

Glad you’re enjoying it.

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

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

John Hawkins says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Sokay. I got that. ;)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lanodantheon says:

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

For Evocation purposes would Sound be Air or Spirit?

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

Lucart says:

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

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

Lucart says:

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

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

vultur says:

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

What about Hellfire?

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

keegan says:

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

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

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

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

Iorwerth says:

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

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

Riotopsys says:

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

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

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

Lanodantheon says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vultur says:

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

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

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

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

Atlatl Jones says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, we cool with that?

Cool. Here we go.

Creature Features

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

Faerie Magic

  • Glamours
  • Greater Glamours
  • Seelie Magic
  • Unseelie Magic

Items of Power

  • Item of Power
  • Sword of the Cross

Minor Abilites

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

Nevernever Powers

  • Demesne
  • Spirit Form
  • Swift Transition
  • Worldwalker

Psychic Abilities

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

Shapeshifting

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

Speed

  • Inhuman Speed
  • Supernatural Speed
  • Mythic Speed

Spellcraft

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

Strength

  • Inhuman Strength
  • Supernatural Strength
  • Mythic Strength

Toughness

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

True Faith

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

Vampirism

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

And there you have it.

Also, how does faerie magic and glamour work?

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

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

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19 Responses to DFRPG Q&A 9

  1. John Hawkins says:

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

  2. Fred Hicks says:

    Some quick commentary:

    Some creatures use Physical Immunity to defend against “mortal magic”, but that’s not immediately obvious until you look at the statblocks… and there are a lot of them.

    Swords of the Cross are a subtype of Item of Power, but with the Item of Power “rebate” baked into the core cost. The Item of Power ability by itself says “you have some of your supernatural abilities encapsulated in an item that is a unique artifact” — that externality is why it offers a rebate. But there’s no explicit “sword of the cross without the sword” ability for the Sword of the Cross to encapsulate as an IoP, so it’s listed as a specific standalone ability.

    Holy ground = threshold (a potent one) is in fact correct. I am pretty sure we talk about that in one of our discussions of the nature of thresholds.

  3. Lanodantheon says:

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

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

  4. Fred Hicks says:

    A sword being a sword is just an element of equipment, so sometimes you don’t have to “build attacks” for an IoP at all. An IoP confers powers to the wielder.

  5. Atlatl Jones says:

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

  6. Lanodantheon says:

    @Atlatl Jones: Lawbreaker gives you bonuses when you break the law again. Habitual Offenses don’t stack as far as I know.

  7. Iorwerth says:

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

  8. Ihadris says:

    @ Iowerth: I beleive the mechanical difference between sponsered and non-sponsered magic is the sponser. I think I remember Fred saying somewhere on the forums that your sponser might deny your spell or interfere with your powers if you tried to use it in a way that would damage them and their agenda. (Please do correct if Im wrong on this)

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

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

  9. John Hawkins says:

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

  10. Iorwerth says:

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

  11. Rechan says:

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

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

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

  12. Rechan says:

    @John

    Bare in mind that a Supernatural Power = 2 or more stunts smooshed together. Stunts are fairly narrow in their operation, and powers are a bit more flexible in application. (Such as +Strength effecting more skills/situations than a Might based stunt). I don’t [i]think[/i] the system has anything to reflect supernatural ALERTNESS (i.e. Spidey Sense) or PERCEPTION. But it shouldn’t be hard to draw up. Because remember, the books only provide so many powers, and then lets you draw up the rest.

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

  13. John Hawkins says:

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

  14. John Hawkins says:

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

  15. Rel Fexive says:

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

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

    Thanks! :)

  16. Bosh says:

    Rel Fexive: that’s the Third Eye/The Sight, right? I believe how that works if that you take a mental attack (because what you see can mess you up) and the GM tells you some info about the scene, possibly giving you info about a scene aspect but since using the Third Eye is pretty subjective I don’t think there’s too much specific in the way of mechanics for what info you find.

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

  17. Rechan says:

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

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

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

  18. Rechan says:

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

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

  19. Tim "Your Personal Undead" Popelier says:

    Building on that question by rechan, I First thought that the lightning storm would have the aspect, “There is power in a storm, everybody can see that” or something alike, but then every time you go “it was a dark and stormy night” the wizard/sorcerer player will start grinning, cause he knows there is power there… So, I wonder how it is handled.
    Of course the storms in stormfront were particularly powerful ones even for the time of year IIRC.

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