This one goes up to eleven!
Folks, this is likely going to be the last Q&A for this week. There definitely won’t be one tomorrow, and I may not get back to it before Monday. I’m going out of town for the weekend and, truth to be told, I need a bit of a hiatus from this. It’s fun, but it’s taxing.
So, keep the questions coming if you have them, but please understand that I won’t be answering them for a couple of days.
With that out of the way, let’s get rolling!
Mike Ryan says:
I can`t believe you`re still at it. Nicely done.
Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying it.
In an earlier post you mentioned the different tiers of play (submerged, feet in the water, etc). I`d like to get a feel for what those power levels feel like. Harry (in Storm Front) is supposed to be the poster-boy for Submerged, so that one is pretty straight forward, but I`m not very clear on the others. Can you list a couple of characters for each tier? Iâ€™m obviously just looking for names here, not asking for a stat block or anything.
Fred pulled together the best answer for this on the comment thread. It is kind of hard to estimate, in part because the stat blocks in the book only list spent Refresh. For those of you who missed it, Fred’s list was as follows:
Feet In The Water â€“ Father Forthill
Up To Your Waist â€“ Alphas (maybe)
Chest-Deep â€“ Molly (maybe)
Submerged â€“ Harry
He added some caveats, about how this was pretty rough, and many of these folks could be bumped up or down the ladder a little bit.
You’re welcome, again.
John Hawkins says:
Note that the following is really just a lot of rambling from my head, so take it for what you will.
You bet. I like rambling.
The way theyâ€™re setting up power levels, they arenâ€™t really defining capability, but rather how much capability you can have and retain free will. Now, free will (in FATE) is itâ€™s own kind of direct mechanical power, but if I describe two characters to you, one with the ability to lift small trucks and summon fire from thin air, the other with no extraordinary capabilities whatsoever, they could both be refresh 8, but the first would have (roughly) 2 refresh remaining of her free will, while the second would have the full complement of 8 + 2. A character with -9 worth of powers has slipped too far into that power to be a player character (at chest-deep).
One of the interesting things that using Refresh to represent free will does is that it gives people with more Refresh more opportunities to transcend their own limitations. I look at it as what you choose to define yourself: if you have all these amazing abilities that you’ve worked to acquire, you have more of your sense of identity bound up in those things, and you have a more natural tendency to accept the implied limitations. If you haven’t spent all that effort to learn magic, for example, you don’t hold yourself as limited. Harry knows that he can’t take on a troll hand-to-hand, but Murphy doesn’t know that – she just knows that she has to, and therefor she does.
Or something like that.
I was thinking about these issues more today, and it brought several things into greater clarity. The idea of lawbreaking and the significance of Greater Powers in the game, in particular.
Lawbreaking is a negative refresh power, and confers bonuses. Bonuses for doing POWERFUL things! Like killing foes outright, or walking backwards through time. But exercising that power quickly sets you on a path that you cannot control unless you possess tremendous amounts of innate willpower (base refresh). And notably the â€œpowerâ€ of lawbreaking kind of sucks, insofar as its application promises to take you on an accelerating path to servitude, even if itâ€™s not clear _to what purpose_ you would serve.
The book brings up an interesting point about this. Basically, the Lawbreaker powers say the you ARE the type of person who would, for example, kill someone using magic. You’ve proved that, because you used magic to kills someone. You can fight against it, but you’ve already made a choice that marks you.
Now, we might presume that the Queen of Summer possesses tremendous amounts of innate willpower. But she also must join battle with the forces of Winter, even when the costs are, well, everything. So when it comes right down to it, she actually has very little practical free will. The idea of being an NPC and the idea of being beyond your own control are intriguing ideas to bind together.
As a GM, it also helps you to build consistent behaviours and choices for your NPCs. Just follow the Aspects, assuming that they’re being compelled with every choice.
Obviously this all gets fuzzy and frayed at the edges, but compared to the usual deal where there is absolutely no justification at all for the line between PC and NPC (or hero and prop), and players are power limited by fiat alone, itâ€™s a pretty neat concept.
It also makes it a bit clearer why Rick (and of course the authors) advocates so heavily for the +2 pure mortal bonus. That first touch of power has *tremendous* cost. And it should.
I guess my takeaway is that part of what makes power supernatural is that it pulls you away from this stable, rational world in which we control our actions*.
Yes. Very much so. You have given voice to an idea that has been brewing in my brain.
So you can be powerful, or you can have a firm tether to reality, and each is its own kind of strength. Indeed, the choice a Changeling must make is perhaps the most profound choice the game offers relative to its own metaphysics. A Minor Talent or a newly minted Changeling is in fact somewhat weak, because they have not yet committed to conventional reality or turned their back on it. But they are also very powerful because they have the best of both worlds â€” they have not yet lost their core being to their power, and yet they have power through which to channel the lions share that remains.
A very nice discussion of the issue. Thanks, John.
thanks for answering my questions
is there a money system or rules for how favours work
Bosh got this one on the comment thread. Thanks, Bosh! You’re dead-on right, though there are some extra mechanics for favours that you owe the sponsor of your sponsored magic.
John Hawkins, I also think the big hit for taking your first bite of the supernatural makes a lot of sense because:
-It provides a nice dynamic tempting players to dig in deeper (well Iâ€™ve already blown my mortal bonus, might as well get something out of it when I advance my characterâ€¦)
Indeed it does.
-Iâ€™m assuming that generally the marginal utility of more supernatural powers starts dropping after a while. What I mean by that is that going from no magic to fire Evocation is a BIG increase in your power but each additional element you add on on top of that gets less and less helpful (because you can only do one thing every round). This keeps people from being able to do one kind of supernatural thing really really well and then doing it over and over and over again with only a minor refresh cost. If you want some powerful supernatural shtick, youâ€™ve got to pay for it. FATE really shines at kicking min-maxers in the nuts (I canâ€™t think of any games with SotCâ€™s level of complexity or greater that are anywhere near as muchkin-proof) and this seems to be something in that tradition.
I find this an interesting statement, because I think that FATE games can be min-maxed with all the others. The difference is that the real pay-off is in the Aspects. Picking the right Aspects can really help out the rest of your mechanics. I always tell my players to pick Aspects that can do triple-duty: you can invoke them for a bonus with your skills and power, you can be compelled to earn Fate Points, and you can invoke them for effects. Players who figure out this little trick get some amazing synergy out of their characters.
However, and this is where the genius lies, this means that, to get the best out of such Aspects, you have to roleplay them. You have to use them as tools to help you play your character in order to get the most mechanical benefit out of them.
Basically, what I’m saying is that the system isn’t hard to min-max, it’s hard to min-max in a way that doesn’t serve the play experience of the whole group. It’s a subtle trap that takes munchkins and turns them into roleplayers.
A list of the skills as they stand would be fantastic but I didnt want to ask for them as I thought it might be overstepping the bounds a little. It came out of looking at the skills in SotC and thinking if skills like art, or pilot would still be as I couldnt think of much of an application for them in terms of Dresden games.
Knave has pointed out where you can find such a list. Thanks, Knave! I’m going to post a list from the book, anyway, just in case there are any differences.
Ok, hereâ€™s my Q â€“ relating to the discussion of control rolls above and the process of spellcasting.
How are these people making these rolls?
Fair enough with Thaumaturgy where you can essentially do maneuvers to give yourself a bunch of free tags by roping in eighteen chapters of freemasons, but with evocations you need to be spending fate like itâ€™s going out of fashion to control a complexity 8 spellâ€¦ and wizards are the people with virtually no fate points to begin with.
I assume that because these are rotes that the wizards concerned donâ€™t have to worry about making the control roll â€“ itâ€™s just there for targetting purposes. So, e.g. Morgan tries to hit the 4 targets with his Earthshock. His discipline is 4 and he rolls a -1 making for 3 shifts of targetting. He now has to split that between the 4 and take whatever mental stress is required because the spell has a higher power than his conviction? Is that right?
First of all, 8 shifts of power is a lot to control through evocation. Morgan does it because Morgan is good. That said, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility for a “lesser” character to pull that off every once in a while. Let’s say you’ve got Good (+3) Discipline, just like everyone’s favourite Wizard PI. He’s using his blasting rod, for a +1 to the control, and invokes his Wizard PI Aspect, for another +2. He’s now at Fantastic (+6), and may choose to chance the roll, though the odds aren’t great. To make sure he can control the power, he can either invoke another Aspect (though that will cost him a second Fate Point), or maybe he decides to take 2 stress worth of backlash, giving him a Legendary (+8) before the dice bounce. Now, he can still blow the roll, but he’s up there.
And he’s probably not going to do this more than once per session or so. Not only does channeling that much power tax him a lot (a 3-stress hit for exceeding his Conviction), but a Weapon:8 attack is on par with getting hit by two artillery shells. It will outright kill pretty much any mortal it hits.
So, yeah, the example we used is high-end, but it’s not out of the running for Wizards. You don’t want to get on the bad side of a Wizard.
as an aside: I love the way the Fate system plays out the fact that the more powerful you are the more you act in terms in of your nature. Itâ€™s both very realistic and very pretty. The less people fear the consequences the less they deviate from their nature, the more used to not deviating they become. Itâ€™s there in SotC, but the refreshes are much lower in Dresden bringing it to the surface with far more force.
I agree. It just works very nicely together.
Are there rules for Rituals? In the books even pure mortals can do supernatural effects this way (the adult movie entropy curse cult in Blood Rites) but Iâ€™m not sure how this would work balancewise in game, since the major limit on them in the novels is that well-known ones donâ€™t work since the power of the entity the ritual calls on is divided up to the point of uselessness.
Or is it like Sponsored Magic? But rituals arenâ€™t really an ability of the *character*â€¦
Rituals that anyone can use (as opposed to the specialized Thaumaturgical Rituals that spellcasters use) are governed by the Lore skill. So, yes, there are rules in the game for it, and it’s different from Sponsored Magic. Basically, if you can find a Common Ritual (as they’re called), you can roll your Lore to try and cast it. But Common Rituals are pretty rare.
Minor Inconvenience says:
How does advancement work? Iâ€™ve seen some indication that it is done primarily through a gradual increase in refresh rate, but what about the skill pyramid (if it even is still a â€œpyramidâ€ shape)? Anything you can reveal would be greatly appreciated.
Advancement works in Milestones. There are three levels of these: Minor, Significant, and Major. They happen when the characters accomplish things of the appropriate significance. Each type of Milestone has a list of what your character gets – for Minor Milestones, you pick from a list, and for Significant or Major Milestones, you get the whole list, plus everything that the lower level(s) of Milestone gives you.
One of the things you get at a Significant Milestone is an extra skill level. The skills aren’t arranged in a pyramid for this game, but in columns. So, instead of needing one more skill at the next lower level, you need an equal number of skills at the next lower level.
And the big thing for a Major Milestone is that you get a point of Refresh.
One of the cool things about the game is that there are also rules for advancing the City, so the setting changes along with your characters.
Fred Hicks says:
Behold! A decision on Earth Stomp (and evo sprays in general).
When youâ€™re casting a evocation spell, youâ€™re rolling once, with your Discipline, both to control the amount of power youâ€™re summoning up â€” 8 shifts in the Earth Stomp case, setting the control difficulty at Legendary (+8) â€” and to target the attack. When you split up the attack spray-style, you split those controlled shifts of power and you split the targeting result. Letâ€™s say you really rock the house and make a Discipline roll of L+1 (+9). Youâ€™re controlling all 8 shifts of power (you determined & announced those ahead of time, which set your control difficulty), and youâ€™ve got 9 shifts of targeting too. You split those 8 shifts of power up into 4 Weapon:2 effects, and you split your targeting into one Good (+3) attack on the guy whoâ€™s up in your face and three Fair (+2) attacks on his back-up dudes.
This is in CONTRAST to how the spray rules work for someone attacking with a regular weapon like an automatic gun. The Weapon:X value on a mundane weapon does not get split up, since its value is not *produced* by the attack. So if you had a Fantastic (+6) attack with a Weapon:2 gun, you could split that into two Good (+3) attacks all at Weapon:2, three Fair (+2) attacks all at Weapon:2, etc.
Thanks, Fred! I think I speak for everyone when I say we really appreciate this clarification.
Atlatl Jones says:
I really like how Lawbreaker works. It sounds likely a deliciously seductive slipperly slope. I could very easily see that mechanic being borrowed by Star Wars version of Fate.
It’s tailor-made to handle stuff exactly like the steady, tempting slide to the Dark Side.
Iâ€™m also curious about rituals, mainly because Iâ€™m in the middle of reading Blood Rites. (I want to read most of the first 10 books before I get the game, because I avoid spoilers like the plague; I was disappointed that the reveal about how White Court vampires work was spoiled for me by reading the archetype writeup).
Well, The answer to that one is up a little bit in this post. And yeah, the game does have some spoilers for the novels, but that’s really pretty much unavoidable when you’re doing a sourcebook.
@Rick The following is a series of comments and not questions, feel free to omit to cut down your word count for the inevitable Spinal Tap joke.
You totally called the Spinal Tap joke. I felt it was a humour imperative, considering my audience. 😉
It is not difficult to make a Wizard or should I say Wizard-like character at lower power levels. Iâ€™d use an aspect called, â€œPlucky Apprenticeâ€ . You just have to a remember that an apprentice has no political ground to stand on until they become an actual Wizard.
True, especially if you don’t take full Evocation and Thaumaturgy, but instead take Channeling and Ritual, or some other lower-powered set of abilities. It restricts what you can do, but you can get a Wizardy taste at lower power level games.
The +2 bonus to Pure Mortals to me is absolutely necessary in a game like this. For me it and The Laws of Magic solve the â€œJedi Problemâ€ as I call it. The Star Wars RPG is notorious for its Force User/Non-Force User system and fun balance issues.
In Star Wars, it is not fun to play second banana against someone who can pull a Star Destroyer out of orbit no matter how many blasters you have(because that Jedi is pretty immune to it).
This is the practical reason for it. If you make a game where people can play Wizards and non-Wizards, the non-Wizards have better have some fun stuff to do, or no one is gonna want to play them. And that would kind of undermine the world as developed in the novels, where Murphy can hold her own beside Harry.
In DFRPG, it is comforting to know that can Magic Users run out of gas rather quickly if they arenâ€™t careful while Pure Mortals have it in spades, that guns are the great equalizer and that Magic can have the same level of cool as firing 2 guns whilst jumping through the air.
I agree with this about 90%. The only thing I would change is that I would say that surprise is the real equalizer in this system. Give a Wizard a few seconds to think, and he’ll whip up a ward around him if he doesn’t already have a magic leather duster. But surprise him, and you can take him out with a baseball bat to the head.
Rel Fexive says:
When asking my question in the previous edition Iâ€™d completely forgotten youâ€™d already said â€œwhoâ€™d aâ€™thunk itâ€, Rick. How weird is that?
Anyway, more great questions and answers here. Thanks to Bosh and Rick for answering my query; it was the â€˜Lore for Alertnessâ€™ thing I was looking for, but the info on how The Sight works is appreciated nonetheless. Thanks guys!
Speaking for Bosh and myself, you’re welcome!
I have another question, and one more vague than before: just how magical are Baltimore and Chicago as presented? One of the things Iâ€™ve noticed from reading playtest comments is how often the Dresden-ised cities seem to be seething pools of hidden magicness, with spirits, ghosts, faeries and city-wide magical effects around every corner â€“ something that, to me, isnâ€™t apparent from the books. A lot of the time they end up like how World Of Darkness cities seem to be, where every important thing that has, will or can happen has a supernatural origin. Are Baltimore and Chicago written up in the same way? Is this presented as the expected way to do things, or are they more toned down/less obvious than that, or is that just one of the ways a group can â€œmagic upâ€ their city of choice?
The Chicago chapter is called Occult Chicago for a reason. The cool thing about it is that, while it doesn’t have any game stats the way the Baltimore chapter does, it throws buckets of real-world weirdness at you, coupled with a few specific references to Dresdenverse to tie it into the game.
As for the Baltimore chapter, it’s pretty heavy on the supernatural, as well, but not at the expense of the mundane interest. I mean, anyone who’s watched The Wire can come up with some great non-supernatural monsters and heroes, and this chapter certainly helps that along. But the main focus is on the supernatural landscape.
It’s a bit different than the World of Darkness stuff, though, because the supernatural in the Dresdenified cities happens in parallel to the mundane, not superseding or controlling it. For example, while Bianca was a vampire prostitute with some high-powered clientele, she didn’t run crime – or even just prostitution – in Chicago. Harry’s now a Warden of the White Council, but he has zero pull with the mayor or even with most of the cops. The supernatural is prevalent, but separate in most cases. Marcone’s recent signature to the Unseelie Accords may be setting a very dangerous precedent.
All of that said, the cities focus on the supernatural mainly, I think, because it’s reflective of the novels. It’s pretty easy, given the city creation process, to set the dial where you want it to be, and that choice is going to be informed by the power level you set the game at. You’re going to emphasize different things for Feet in the Water than you are for Submerged.
That’s it for this installment. If you’ve got more questions, send them in, but remember that there may not be a Q&A update again until Monday.