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DFRPG / OFFICIAL Harry Dresden Statblocking Contest
« on: May 14, 2013, 04:19:22 PM »

All right, y'all. You know what to do. Make me proud.


DFRPG / The First Law of Magic In-Play: Semi-Official Advice
« on: March 15, 2011, 11:19:44 PM »
So, very few things are less interesting to me than determining when a Law of Magic is "officially" broken. Your Story, page 284, end of commentary.

What is interesting to me is the stuff the game will do when it comes up in play. So let's talk practical and leave the fictional lawyering for others.

A Word on Killing

Consider that the game rules do not, in fact, allow for an accidental or emergent result that kills someone.

The only way you can kill someone is to take them out in a conflict and then declare you killed them. As the player who wins the conflict, you absolutely can always declare that when you throw magic at a mortal or off-limits being, that you put them in the hospital, knock them out long enough for you to achieve your goals, etc. If you're going to kill someone, it's a willful player choice to put that drama into the game.

(Though, theoretically, the GM could also propose it as a compel if you have "Anger Management Problems" or whatever as an aspect. Or, someone could take you out in a mental conflict and declare that you lose your shit and roast a guy. Whatever. The point is, the dice are never going to tell you that you killed someone. Someone at the table is choosing to bring it into play.)

So whenever you're talking about a First Law violation in your game, keep in mind that there's going to have to be, by default, some sort of consensus about crossing that line.

To Power or Not to Power

At the end of the day, a Lawbreaker power is the same as the rest in one key area - all that matters is that you can somehow justify bringing it into play.

When you're figuring out how to make that decision, I'd like to suggest that the least important question you should be asking is whether it's a fact or not that the law was broken. Instead, you should ask yourself if the impact on that character makes things more interesting or less interesting, and how.  

Consider the case of Joe Wizard, who blasts a guy in a fight that's about to shoot his friend and takes a compel to say he killed that guy. He takes the stunt and shifts an aspect to "I Do What Is Necessary", which becomes the justification for more killing.

Late in this storyline, some scenarios down the road, we find out the dude he axed was actually a White Court vampire flunkie working for a more powerful boss.

Does that make the process of corruption suddenly invalid? Do we rewind everything?

Hell no! The Dark Powers are always willing to help. If I've convinced myself I have a conduit to killing magic, why would they argue with me? Magic is belief. The line between "the universe is corrupting my soul" and "I believe my soul is corrupt" is super, super thin.

So regardless of the initiating circumstances, there's something to be said for taking on the power anyway - it provides a tangible benefit to using that kind of magic again, which puts a new set of choices in front of the player every time he takes his stuff out for a spin. It puts a temptation out there for a free benefit if you're just willing to declare your magic inherently, unremittingly lethal.

Keep in mind, too, that there's nothing technically stopping you from spending one of your actual milestones on a Lawbreaker power, if you later decide that an "edge case" incident counts as a Lawbreaking as far as your character is concerned.

Aspects Work By Themselves Too

Understandably, though, this isn't always the effect you're going for. Sometimes, maybe you just want to give Joe Wizard something to think about or reflect on, an attitude adjustment, personal reflection, etc. Maybe the point is that he *almost* went over and is pushing at the boundaries of Lawbreaking with an edge case.

Every session gives you the opportunity to rename an aspect. If you want this in your game, all you have to do is change up an aspect to reflect it. Anything that happens in the story of the game can be given tangible weight by reflecting how it affects the character through renaming aspects.

This is a good option to take if, for some reason, there is serious disagreement about whether the violation is "real", but you want it to have an in-game effect anyway. So if you can't reach the consensus that says, "this is a Lawbreaking", your character can still go through "Loss of Faith in My Magic" or "Overcautious About Battle Magic" or whatever you want.

Of course, I think you get the best mileage with the Lawbreaker power *and* a changed aspect, but that's just me.

Corruption Isn't Always About Evil

We have a tendency to look at the Laws as things that turn ordinary, nice wizards into MFing Kemmler. So, it's understandable that some players are going to have an issue with the idea of being a Lawbreaker, because they don't really want their character to be an Evil Jackass.

But all we really know, as a baseline, is that breaking the Laws fundamentally changes you somehow. There's a lot of room to decide how you're going to express that change. That's why you don't have to, if you don't want to, worry about intent too much - good intentions can cause corruption just as much as bad ones.

Let's look at another Joe Wizard. This is a young dude, just getting started, who fries a mugger in self-defense because he's afraid. First Law violation, period dot.

But what if we decide the aspect is "Crippling, Massive Guilt"? 'Cause clearly, Joe's not a bad guy, right? No one expects he's going to go from magical self-defense to setting kittens on fire just to listen to them shriek.

However, what could happen is that his guilt keeps him from using his magic, even when its arguably necessary. Even when it could help people and prevent harm. Even when an innocent is being held up by the throat by a loup-garou, and he could save that person, but God, what if something goes wrong? What if he misses? What if he kills another innocent? Better that they die by the loup-garou's hand than his, right? Better he doesn't have it on his conscience, right?

And soon, this Joe Wizard finds himself utterly incapable of risk and sacrifice. His decisions become inherently selfish, all centered around keeping him, at all costs, from having to deal with that guilt again.

How is that not a kind of corruption?

So, keep in mind that you don't have to characterize this process as a descent into blistering, making-soup-with-babies sadism. Anything that people can feel can be taken too far and become destructive.

The World Doesn't Know the Difference

In terms of what happens outside the character, regardless of whether you express the incident with a Lawbreaker power, an aspect, or both, keep in mind that people in the setting are going to draw their own conclusions.

I mean, Morgan came after Harry in Storm Front for a crime he didn't even commit, and then came after him again for investigating it because of how much of a hard case Morgan is about the Laws.

The White Council doesn't have some mystical way of knowing with 100% certainty who broke the Laws and who didn't. And like any other organization, they turn a blind eye toward Lawbreaking they deem necessary to achieve their goals (see the Blackstaff).

So, whether you choose to take the power, change an aspect, both, or neither, it doesn't say anything about what's going to happen in the story relative to the incident in question. You could all agree that no Lawbreaking took place, make no changes to the character, and the White Council might still come down on you because some Warden heard you broke the Law and gets zealous.

You could take the power and an "All Kittens Must Die" aspect, and have everyone else in the setting think you were totally justified and totally off the hook. And any combination of things between these extremes. Maybe that's what's actually the interesting part about the situation - not what happens to the character, but in the world around the character.

In Sum

Whether or not the Law was broken is the most boring thing to dwell on - either you reach consensus quickly or you don't. From there, move on to what's interesting. Where the drama lies in the situation, whether for your character or the setting or both, should be your guide to playing with the Laws using any or all of the options above. Have a guy take a Lawbreaker power when everyone else thinks it was cool. Have the world tell a character he's evil and broke a Law when his sheet doesn't change. Play with the middle ground and all of its awesome potential.

And don't worry about the so-called facts.

DFRPG / Enchanted Items Patch - Important, holy crap!
« on: April 12, 2010, 03:12:30 AM »
So, Fred and I had a discussion internally, and we're going to patch enchanted items. You all need to know for wizardy types, so I'm posting what the book's going to say here.

But, first, soapboxing, because that's how this works. :)

The Rationale

As we've been discussing persistent use items, it has become clear that the real awkward issue with implementation is the very idea of persistence - what does an "always on" X or Y mean, etc.

The issue is, as I said elsethread, there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine for magical energy in the Dresden Files. Everything needs recharging or maintaining - mojo has to come from somewhere. We know that even on Harry's ensorcelled duster, the enchantments need to be maintained or recharged, because it mentions that in the books.

Originally, we thought of "always on" as a shorthand for this, assuming the maintenance stuff was between-session color. However, the real honest assessment of the setting is that everything runs out of mojo eventually.

Also, it's pretty clear that with some effects (namely Armor), cutting the effect shifts in half for persistence means you have to have a pretty high Lore to get items that are worth a damn. Especially in the case of the Warden Swords (which has been bothering me for a while, you know), it means that certain items just don't live up to their reputation from the books, which kinda sucks.

We concluded that the trade-off of allowing items to be more powerful less often was more setting-appropriate than being nerfed.

So we got cracking.

The Patch

There is no more such thing as an "always on" item.

Item slots still work the same.

Default item strength is still equal to Lore + spec/focus bonuses, with one free use per session.

You can remove shifts from item strength to add directly to uses per session.

You can also add additional item slots to frequency, to give you an additional two uses per session. The original extra slot benefits of +1 strength and new item still apply.

When you run out of uses per session, you can take a 1-stress mental hit to give yourself another use of the spell effect, like you would if you were casting a spell of your own. This isn't always going to be a good trade-off, but it gives you options. Hence, any item could potentially function perpetually, if you're willing/able to keep paying the piper.

Other Thoughts

This allows you, on any defensive item, to use either the Armor or block benefit with one use and take the more advantageous effect. It also means that you can get a benefit on odd-numbered Lore scores, and make a defensive item even if you only have Average Lore that doesn't totally suck, because you no longer have to cut the shifts in half twice.

Before you worry about defensive items and frequency of use, consider this - you'd only lose one "use" of the effect whenever it needs to be triggered, not every time you defend. If you dodge an attack, that doesn't use up energy - it only applies if you get hit and the item is what blocks/absorbs the hit.

So it makes defensive magical items more of a mystical ass-saving measure, which feels a lot more like how it's described in the books - it's Harry's last resort for when he can't dodge or otherwise protect himself. "Luckily, the blade was stopped on the flaps of my enchanted duster, or I'd have been a dead man," etc.

And if you're in a long fight, you have the option of throwing stress at it as a last ditch measure.

This also makes the Warden Swords hella awesome like I think they should be. It always bothered me before, that they had to be limited to three shifts of effect. Now they can do a Fantastic (+6) counterspell three times per session. Hell yeah.

Some Defensive Item Examples

Over in the 'Item Crafting' (,16727.msg769640.html#msg769640) thread, we experimentally posited a specialist crafter who even put his focus item slots into helping out with crafting. Let's look at him again and see what we get.

In summary: Superb (+5) Lore, crafting strength spec (+1), focus item strength bonus (+2) from evo, default item strength 8, 4 enchanted item slots from thaumaturgy.

He uses one slot to make an ensorcelled coat. At default, that's a Legendary+1 (+8) block or Armor:4, with one use per session.

But he has three more slots. If he dumps all of them into more uses, he can do that effect 7 times in one session. (2 uses per extra slot, times 3 = 6 plus the free one)

He could also put two slots into effect strength, giving him a +10 block or Armor:5. That saves him one slot for frequency, which gives him three uses per session.

That's one hell of an armored jacket, ladies and germs. He literally has no other items, which means his evocations will be less effective and more risky, and his thaumaturgical spells will require more prep, take longer, and may be riskier. But, holy hell, +10 block.

Now let's go back down the ladder.

A novice wizard with a Lore of Average (+1) wants to make a defensive item. Default item strength is 1. He decided to put all his thaum slots into enchanted items, so he's got four slots to play with.

He uses one to make his default coat - Average (+1) block, once per session. He has three more slots. He splits them up, using two for strength and one for frequency, and ends up with a Good (+3) block or Armor:1, with three uses per session.

That doesn't suck, you guys! It potentially saves him a fate point or two on a botched defense roll, and puts him solidly in the territory of being able to ignore mortal assailants who aren't specially trained at killing. And remember, that's just 'cause his Lore is Average... maybe he's a really good evocator, so he normally brings active shield spells to the table. The coat is just for when he gets mugged or has to deal with your typical thug.

So, there it is.

DFRPG / Answering some stuff about Crafting and Armor...
« on: April 10, 2010, 08:16:47 AM »
This is a new thread designed to centralize my response to a bunch of stuff about crafting that's come up in other threads. You guys type way too fast for me to try and get to you all individually.

Regarding Always-On Effects

So, here's the deal: when you're talking about what you can and can't make an "always on" effect, some interpretive dirty work is required. You have to look at what the nature of the effect is, how it manifests in play, and then ask yourself what makes natural sense. (Note: That means there might be differing answers. I'm okay with that.)

So, let's look at blocks and Armor. The rules say that an evocation block is something you manifest and can pay for duration on, but once it's bypassed, it vanishes. That presents an immediate issue for a persistent enchanted item, because once you defeat the block, what happens? Does it go away permanently? Does it get turned back on again later? Where does the power come from to reconstitute the block?

So, probably, an "always on" block is not possible. The nature of the action contradicts the idea of persistence. Hence, Armor.

Now let's talk about attacks. How do you have an "always on" attack? That wouldn't be like a gun, it'd be like a gun that never stopped shooting. Evocation attacks require a process of gathering power and then releasing it. There's no "perpetual motion machine" for magical energy, just like there's no real way to make a gun with unlimited ammo. (Even though we shunt mundane firearm ammo off into a matter of narrative color, the analogy still works.)

So, if it's me, no persistent blocks, no "always on" attack items.

(I know, I know. What about the Warden Swords? Here's the deal: the Warden Sword doesn't expend energy to attack. Its damage comes from the fact that it's a sword. So it's a sword that has persistent spell effects on it, allowing it to ignore other enchantments. Even the counterspell ability, you have to be casting a counterspell to get it to work, because the sword expends no energy. Make sense?)

About Requirements

You don't have to have Crafting spec to craft. You just have to have slots. Crafting spec just lets you do it better.

About Armor and Stacking

So, the rules say that Armor ratings are based on what the armor is ideally supposed to be protecting the wearer from. There's an implication there that the ratings could be situationally variable under different circumstances. So if we're talking about a big honking Kevlar vest that's Armor:2, we're also saying that it's designed to protect against bullet impacts. A quick Google search reveals that Kevlar isn't so good against the stabbity stuff. I'd also argue it isn't going to do a damn thing against an evocation attack.

So, a lot of times, there isn't any stacking simply because the way you're defining the protection in the fiction suggests that situationally, stacking wouldn't occur. So there's that. How you want to deal with stuff like Michael's mail/Kevlar combo armor or whatever is up to you. I'd have it as side-by-side bonuses (Armor:2 vs. X and Y). Whatever. It's all good. (I'd also have that add to the difficulty of Resources/Contacts rolls to acquire any.)

Armor and Stacking Continued: The Numbers and Stuff

In Fate, a difference of one shift (or one step on the ladder) is bigger than you probably think. It can mean the difference between just taking stress and taking a consequence. It can be the difference between being able to take a consequence and being taken out. It can mean the difference between succeeding and needing to invoke an aspect to succeed. These thin lines manifest in actual play all the time.

So, you have to understand, stacking one armor benefit on top of another has a much bigger impact than it might seem from the numbers. Moving from Armor:2 to Armor:3 is a big step in weight class.

Let me do a quick example. Let's say you have Armor:2, and my Weapon and skill are such that I can inflict stress on you if I roll at least a 0 on the dice.

Without the influence of aspects, I have a 61.7% chance of doing that.

Now you upgrade to Armor:3. That means that now I need to roll at least a +1 on the dice to damage you.

Without the influence of aspects, I have a 38.3% chance of doing that.

That is a huge jump, which has a big cascade of effects on how things turn out. There's a 23% greater chance I'm going to have to spend a fate point to affect you now, every time I roll against you. And we're assuming your defense total stays the same here for simplicity - but in real play, it doesn't, because you roll every round and spend fate points of your own, further exacerbating the effects of this simple probability gap.

So, when I tell you that any stacking changes things significantly, I'm not exaggerating.

Armor and Stacking Continued: System Intent

Fate is not a physics simulator. It functions poorly in that regard. That's just a simple fact about it. It relies on abstraction. So you make trade-offs when you're talking about situations like this.

On the one hand, we don't have stacking rules by default. The default assumption is the same as for blocks - you get the benefit of the highest applicable rating to your situation. On the other hand, we also don't have rules for armor ablation over time, which is a very real issue that faces real-life body armor manufacturers.

If I'm going to go out of my way to say that you can layer different types of protection for cumulative effect, then I'm also going to want to know when one of the contributors to the stacking has been damaged enough that they're no longer actually contributing. You don't get to be specific about the one and handwave the other - that would privilege the defender way too much.

(I know, I know... but what about Weapon ratings stacking? There seems to be no restrictions on that! Doesn't that privilege the attacker? Absolutely, yes, it does. The Dresden Files is gritty. Fighting is scary and nasty. You're going to get hurt. It's not an action movie, even when you have powers. So there's that.)

The problem from a design perspective is, if you open up one of those cans of worms, you have to accept the fact that if you're going to be fair about it, you have to open the others associated with it. That road has led, through the process of this game's development, to a whole lot of stuff I consider not fun. I chose to spare you folks that pain. :)

The Post-Soapbox Solution

That said, if you really must, you could try this: vary it off of the "complementing a skill" rules on YS page 213-214. So, if you have two sets of protection at different totals that would apply together against the same source of damage (oh fine, like ensorcelled Kevlar), you can add +1 to the highest rating. But only +1, for the love of everything holy. So two Armor:2 values stacked give you Armor:3, not Armor:4.

DFRPG / Important Errata About Mythic Recovery - Holy Crap!
« on: April 06, 2010, 09:13:22 PM »
On page 205 of Your Story Preorder Edition, it says: "No amount of supernatural healing or other abilities can speed up the recovery of an extreme consequence, and you cannot take another extreme consequence until after the next major milestone in the game, regardless of your powers."

But under Mythic Recovery on page 186, it says, ""The exception is extreme consequences, which may last the duration of the next scene before vanishing."

That is not true. The text on page 205 is correct. We're making the correction to the Mythic Recovery entry. Future versions will reflect the correction.

Apologies for any potential inconvenience.

-Lenny Balsera

DFRPG / Introductions...
« on: January 04, 2010, 08:47:20 PM »
Hey, everyone.

My name's Lenny, and I'm the lead system developer for the Dresden Files RPG.

It took a while, but my workload is finally starting to diminish on the game, as more and more of it goes to final editing and layout.

Just wanted to say hi. It's probable I'll be around more readily now.


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