Author Topic: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks  (Read 18667 times)

Offline Set Abominae

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In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« on: June 08, 2011, 05:06:25 PM »
The other day, Fred Hicks was kind enough to do a little Q&A with me regarding the game and the use of scene aspects in certain hypothetical situations. I had some areas I was fuzzy on and Fred cleared them up nicely for me. Out of respect, I'm posting the relevant bits of the conversation here, for posterity, in case it might help clear things up for anyone with questions like mine. I've highlighted Fred's responses for easy spotting. Heaps of thanks to Fred for his helpful feedback! So, here we go:

Let's say the scene is an old abandoned house that the GM is having the PC visit. The house is old and in poor repair, and thus the GM has decided it has the Old and Busted scene aspect.

Now situation one might play out like this:

The player enters the house and asks or is asked to make an Alertness or Investigation check. Let's say it passes and the GM reveals the Old and Busted aspect (and of course describes the house dramatically). Since this was an Assessment, the player is entitled to his free tag at sometime on the scene aspect.

So let's say he explores the house, no problem, but perhaps he's on his way back out when he gets confronted by a ghoul at the end of a hallway. The player decides he might be able to use his tag to use the Old and Busted aspect to his advantage against the ghoul.

As I understand it, he could then use the tag to invoke Old and Busted, either getting a +2 on his roll or a reroll, or he could invoke it for effect.

Your scenario is correct so far. (Though honestly sometimes I just reveal aspects up front as a GM and let the players get a tag out of it if they can come up with an inventive use.)

So what has me wondering is let's say he decides to invoke for effect with the tag and Declare that the ghoul is standing on a weak, rotting section of the floor. Would he then have to use an additional actual fate point (having used up his tag on the declare) to get a +2/reroll to invoke the aspect again to perhaps blast the weak floor out from under the ghoul (maybe getting an easier roll than the Gm would give him on a "strong" section of floor to better reflect Old and Busted)? Or would it be more appropriate for him to use the invoke for effect to declare the ghoul steps on a weak spot and falls right through? The method in which this could play out, and the "power" of invoking for effect is fuzzy for me.

The latter is more appropriate in the kind of game I'd run. Simply saying "the ghoul is on a weak section of floor" is simply a color detail of little consequence. It doesn't interact with the system or the drama in any way until something happens as a result of that.

The something that happens could be:

Invoke: "... so he stumbles and gets his foot caught when I pull out my pistol, giving me a +2 on my Guns roll!"

Invoke for effect: "... so he falls right through when he tries to leap at me!"

It's in the text (though not always caught by the reader) that Invoke for Effect is, in essence, an event that begins a compel. The GM runs that compel (because it's her job to run compels), but the IFE is what got that ball rolling. So unless your IFE has the "teeth" of a compel, it's not worth charging a fate point (or free tag) for.


What brought this question into sharp relief for me was the Skill Declaration process because situation two might play out like this:

The player explores the house, but Old and Busted never comes up (maybe GM never thought of it). Then the ghoul confrontation happens and the player thinks, "Hey, this is an old house, maybe it's not so sturdy and I can use that against the ghoul." So the player states the house might be in bad shape and he'd like to try for an alertness roll to declare that the ghoul is standing on a rotting floor in this old house. Let's say the GM agrees and it passes. The player then gets to declare the floor under the ghoul is Old and Busted and also gets to tag it (getting his +2/reroll as part of the "package") since it was a skill declaration.

That sequence of events is equivalent in effect to the player assessing the existence of the aspect and then making use of the aspect that results.

Or equivalent to the player undertaking a maneuver to weaken the boards in the floor and then making use of the aspect that results.

That's the "secret" of assessment, declaration, and maneuvering, in fact -- they're all the same action, in essence, a skill roll that gives rise to an aspect, which offers a free tag out of respect to the successfully made skill roll. The only difference between them is in terms of how the authority model appears to work. Assessment is a discovery of something the GM thought of, uncovered by a successful skill roll. Declaration is the establishment of a player-invented reality, backed by a successful skill roll.  A maneuver is a character-imposed change in circumstance, successfully established if the player makes a (often contested) skill roll. But outside of those authority models, it's the same basic game move.


This seems to suggest that "on the fly" skill declarations are somewhat more "bang for the buck" than assessments (as mentioned in the blurb on page YS116). One seems to suggest a tag and a fate point to use the aspect fully, where one seems to get it all for the price of a skill roll. Thus, I'm trying to "reconcile" how the assessment version of the scenario would be able to approach parity with the skill declaration scenario. Since I may have it all wrong some way, I'm asking you, the Jedi Master.

I think anything that increases player investment and authority helps the game, really, so in a social sense, declarations are more bang for the buck. But not everyone's going to be comfortable with that authority model having broad applicability.

That said, aside from the differences in authority model, I continue to assert that assessments and declarations are identical. :)


One final question, can a tag be used to "buy off" a compel? Say for instance the PC does his assessment, gets his tag, and then wants to use it to pay off a compel when the Gm tries to use Old and Busted scene aspect to compel the PC to fall through the floor himself.

Maybe -- that might be a fine way for folks at your table to feel comfortable about any perceived difference between assessments and declarations.

Personally I'd take the fate point, though. They're yummy. :)
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Offline devonapple

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2011, 05:24:53 PM »
This is great - thank you for posting it! I wish we had a Sticky Thread with items like this. I'm going to add the hints I have received:

On the subject of Free Tags and Invoke for Effect
I asked Fred:

Assuming someone has a legitimate opportunity to "free tag" an Aspect they have discovered, is Invoke for Effect one of the available options? Or is that "free tag" only good for a +2 or a reroll?

If there are situations when Invoke for Effect is eligible for the "free tag," where can one draw the line between an Invoke for Effect and a Compel?

As I see it:
Scene Aspects: Invoke for Effect if it benefits you, Compel if it hinders an NPC
NPC Aspects: Invoke for Effect if it benefits you, Compel if it hinders an NPC
Personal Aspect: Invoke for Effect if it benefits you

To which he replied:

Short form: yes. :)

Longer: A tag is an invoke (tag just means free invoke); an invoke can be done as an invoke for effect; an invoke triggers a compel, which is run between the GM and the target.


On the subject of Incite Emotion
I asked:

Incite Emotion (at least the basic power) mentions needing to be able to touch an opponent. Some folks are interpreting that as requiring a Fists roll to succeed against a target before making an Intimidation/Deceit roll against the opponent's Discipline (per the Incite Emotion power). Others have ruled that any contact - such as a target hitting the WCV - can create the circumstances necessary for using the Incite Emotion power. In one example, a wary opponent in a physical conflict interpreted an Incite Emotion attempt as a physical attack and so was allowed to dodge.

I'm interpreting the RAW as taking for granted that *touching* a target isn't any challenge at all for a WCV, and that the requirement simply exists to specify that WCV and target must be in the same Zone, and close enough that a physical touch would be possible, but that a Fists check isn't required, even in combat (though I would let wary opponents use Athletics/etc. to create Aspects they could tag to defend against the Incite Emotion attack).

He replied:
Intent:

- WCV must deliberately touch opponent
- some opponents are willing or unaware; those circumstances likely justify a no-roll touch
- some wish to avoid it; there, some kind of contested skill roll is appropriate

The nature of that skill roll might change based on context. Combat, fists vs athletics might do it.  Or maybe it's social, and we're looking at Deceit or Stealth vs Lore-as-sixth-sense or Alertness. Etc


On the subject of Magic Circles:
Another user asked:
How are magical circles supposed to be implemented in the game? In YS, all it says is "it should behave somewhat like a threshold," but that seems inadequate. Up to now, while Dresden had Cauncy try to break through that circle, it seems that, overall, circles are utterly impregnable to magical energies. How should this be implemented in a game?

He replied:
...combine the description of thresholds found on YS230 with the notion of how one builds spell effects. You treat a circle like a block (the way a threshold acts like a block), that if you push through it, reduces your powers. Take a look at page YS230: as a block, as a suppressor, as a source of harm, etc. All of these concepts apply. The circle manifests as part of the spell effect you're constructing. Want to construct a Legendary threshold-equivalent magic circle? Your difficulty target starts at 8. Etc.

On the subject of ongoing environmental damage:
Another user asked:
Fire: Dresden goes around setting people and places on fire all the time, but there are no rules for ongoing damage applied by the players; only aspects like On Fire, which does no ongoing damage, just becomes taggable; Claws with Venomous; environmental damage defined by the GM; and grapples, which does a mere 1 damage per turn, which seems appropriate for choking someone, but not for setting someone on fire. Should there not be some means of creating ongoing damage by the player (setting them on fire, whether by fire spell or molotov cocktail) that goes beyond 1 damage grapples?

He replied:
Nope. You're thinking about simulating the fire of physical concepts. The game does not simulate physical concepts. It simulates story concepts. A story that goes like "The target burned; then he burned some more; then he burned some more; then he burned some more" is dull as dirt. What fire does in a story is force people to take action or change what they'd otherwise do (that's where tagging and invoke-for-effect and compel logic from aspects should play in). That said, if you want to construct your "ongoing fire" spell like a grapple, certainly, go ahead and do that. Or if you want to create one spell that makes two attacks, the second one delayed, go ahead and do that if your GM's willing to allow that kind of thing (but man, that's gonna be a difficult one). But the aspect notion should really be doing most of the heavy lifting here because of the role that fire plays in the story.

On the subject of Constructs:
Another user asked (but many of us were curious about):
Constructs: OW defines all kinds of different constructs, such as true golems (AI+natural materials), spell constructs, demons wearing ecto-suits, etc. Well, there's been a lot of discussion on how to make these other than GM fiat and hand-waving, and we are getting frustrated at the lack of any kind of guidelines whatsoever on this. So, the question here is... how are these constructed by a player character (as, obviously, a GM can just handwave behind the scenes for what his NPCs have).

Well, that's the thing. The player doesn't do that, really. The character gets the name of a demon or figures out a way to construct some kind of artificial behavioral patterning and hopes to hell the guesswork and research is on track. The reasons the rules are a bit soft around anything having to do with summoning is because we can't know what you're trying to pull off and even if we did we don't know in advance what the context of your game is when you're doing it. Go to summon a minor demon to answer a few questions, you might end up with no answer, or something incredibly powerful that you're going to find yourself in a contest of wills with. Call for a sylph, get the Queen of Air and Darkness. That's why there's GM fiat as a big component of that, because the GM is going to be inhabiting what you "create" and offering you challenges to maintain your control over it. (More on this below.)
 
In other words, how, precisely, would a PC wizard use thaumaturgy to make a Victor Sells' Scorpion, Cassius' snakes spell, or ward hounds? There are no guidelines or rules whatsoever on how to stat out such magical efforts for a PC to go by.

For those, honestly, I'd run it along the lines of what it takes to create a spell that kills such things. Think about it: taking out a target means you get to utterly define what happens to it. Such as "becomes subservient to me". So what would it take to build a thaumaturgy spell that one-shot kills the above? That's probably the equal or the ballpark of what it would take to utterly control such a creature. Shorter-term control could orient on reliably inflicting consequences of an impermanent nature.  Just to moderate things a little more, I might also tack on a difficulty surcharge equal to twice the refresh cost of the creature's abilities (drawing directly from the stated logic in stunt construction that 1 refresh = 2 shifts of some kind of effect) -- or, if your GM doesn't find the notion of "you must 'kill' it to control it" appealing, use that as your summoning difficulty guideline instead. (The breadth of magic in DF is so great, we do expect people to extrapolate from existing principles rather than provide explicit step by steps for every possible thing.)

 
Of course, I suppose anyone making a construct will have to apply that against magical item slots or some such?

I wouldn't involve magic item slots at all. Constructed things are usually very short term. That said if you think you can build an enchanted item that produces the amounts of shifts needed to summon, bind, and control the thing in question, you could end up using slots for that item for a longer-term thing. The spell effect necessary defines what you can achieve in that regard. But really: long-term constructs and so forth are not the stuff of the novels. You don't see wizards dripping with long-term construct creatures; they're hard, and one of the few examples we have were created by Ancient Mai.

On the subject of creating and tagging multiple Aspects on multiple targets, usually in a Zonewide situation:
I asked:
You have established that a free tag of a new Aspect can be used to Invoke for Effect, even becoming a Compel.

The (hopefully) simple question is: how much weight - as far as free tags go - does a Maneuver-based Aspect have when it is one of several such Aspects successfully placed at the same time on each of many targets within a Zonewide Evocation? (As differentiated from a simple Zone Aspect which maybe cost 3-5 shifts.)

If a spellcaster successfully places the "On Fire" Aspect on 10 NPCs in a Zone (having used a Zonewide Evocation Maneuver, and successfully overcome each of the NPC's defense rolls, and paid presumably 10 shifts to get it), and then Invokes-for-Effect/Compels it ("each NPC spends a round screaming and putting out the flames"), is only one of those tags free? Or should the player have 9 more Fate Points in reserve to Invoke/Compel that Aspect on the 9 other NPCs?

Should this be different than if the spellcaster had simply placed the scene Aspect "Building on Fire" (for something like 3 shifts)?

And what if a caster had instead used a Spray Attack on an Evocation Maneuver to surgically apply that Aspect to multiple NPCs (for significantly more than 10 shifts)? Would each of those Aspects be worth a free tag?

Fred brought in system guru Lenny to weigh in on it, and the response was:
So the question hinges on whether or not what the player's asking for is "for effect" or if its a full-on compel, which hinges on the intent of the benefit the player's looking to get out of it.

If it's, "...and we get away because they're all on fire," I'd call that a compel, and not free. But I don't know that I would charge 9 Fate Points for it or whatever -- I might use the escalation rule and say, "Well, you want to compel all the NPCs in the scene... I'll escalate once and take that compel for two of your fate points." Or something like that.

If it's, "...and we get a breather this round to prepare something, like a spell," I'd call that tag for effect, and free.

But where there is no debate about compel vs. for effect, yeah - a tag is a tag is a tag. 10 NPCs with a maneuver put on them at the same time = 10 free tags
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 05:48:16 PM by devonapple »
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Offline Set Abominae

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2011, 05:40:28 PM »
This is great - thank you for posting it! I wish we had a Sticky Thread with items like this.

My pleasure. Thanks really goes to Fred for taking the time to let me bounce questions off of him!  ;D
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Offline EldritchFire

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2011, 07:57:51 PM »
Thanks, Fred! You rock!

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Offline Arcteryx

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2011, 06:01:42 AM »
Yeah thanks for this. CC:'d to my players to help them out - and it was a great explanation and reconcillation of some of the game mechanics.

Offline Papa Gruff

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2011, 04:43:15 PM »
Would be awesome if we could make something like this semi regular. Perhaps with a thread were we compile a list of questions and example situations...

... I mean if Fred would be willing to participate of cause.
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Offline Set Abominae

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2011, 06:20:42 PM »
Would be awesome if we could make something like this semi regular. Perhaps with a thread were we compile a list of questions and example situations...

... I mean if Fred would be willing to participate of cause.

Maybe, but I imagine Fred is plenty busy enough already.

That said, I don't see how it could hurt to have anyone else who has had Q&A with Fred and the Evil Hat crew add their Q&A results to this thread to make a kinda FAQ master list. Would probably help if people followed the same formatting that Devon and I did, for ease and consistency of reading.
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Offline Yukidaore

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2011, 02:48:11 PM »
Couldn't help but think of this when I read this post, and I apologize if it's been covered somewhere else a more in-depth search than I gave would have found, but... assume you lay out those 10 On Fire Aspects on all the baddies in a room at once, with a free tag on each.  Next round are you then able to tag them all for a followup AoE spell, adding +20 to your roll?  Seems legal, though well beyond abusive.  Or can you only benefit from one unique tag per roll, or some such?

Offline Drachasor

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2011, 03:51:48 PM »
If Bob is On Fire, and standing in the same zone as Steve, does it make sense to get a +2 bonus on Steve when you invoke Bob's being On Fire?  I'd say in this case you just get the +2 bonus with respect to Bob (essentially Bob has a harder time with the spell/effect than Steve).  So in the 10 person scenario, you'd get a +2 bonus on all of them, rather than just one of them.  That seems to make the most sense.  (Though, AFAIK, you can't tag an aspect with the same name to get the same effect anyhow, so your initial concern is handled by that as you suspected).

More interesting here is that Frank is saying you can do a zone-wide maneuver with a spell, which actually isn't something the rules spell out as possible -- they only go over maneuvers on a scene or on one target.  I think this makes sense to allow, however, since it is definitely better for the game.  Otherwise maneuvers become less and less worthwhile for an evoker as he grows in power, which makes the game less fun and interesting -- and honestly, a zone-wide spell that puts a maneuver on everyone is generally a lot less powerful than a weapon 8 attack or whatever, but it is a lot more party-friendly.

So I guess in this view, one should treat Maneuvers as having the same options as attacks and at the same cost (this seems to make the most sense).  You can also treat the whole scene as one target.

Offline DFJunkie

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2011, 03:59:15 PM »
Quote
Next round are you then able to tag them all for a followup AoE spell, adding +20 to your roll?  Seems legal, though well beyond abusive.  Or can you only benefit from one unique tag per roll, or some such?

The appropriate GM response to that sort of request is to roll up a newspaper and smack the offending player on the nose whilst yelling "bad!" in a sharp voice. 
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Offline Yukidaore

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2011, 04:40:27 PM »
I'd say in this case you just get the +2 bonus with respect to Bob (essentially Bob has a harder time with the spell/effect than Steve).  So in the 10 person scenario, you'd get a +2 bonus on all of them, rather than just one of them.  That seems to make the most sense.

Mm, the thing is that technically it's only one casting roll and as such you don't really get to "divide" the bonus from multiple tags among different targets on the zone castings, so it feels like the Rules as Written would leverage that +20 bonus, if not the Rules as Intended.  Still, since it's basically a bonus on a to-hit roll it could just as easily be handled per target.  Probably doesn't matter though, as if by some small chance there isn't a rule against re-invoking the same aspect for one roll there really should be.

More interesting here is that Frank is saying you can do a zone-wide maneuver with a spell, which actually isn't something the rules spell out as possible

Good catch!  There are clear rules for multiple targets on Attack rolls, and I guess I always just made the logical assumption that those could be extended for maneuvers.  Didn't realize it hadn't actually been spelled out before, and that really would be crippling for maneuvers.

The appropriate GM response to that sort of request is to roll up a newspaper and smack the offending player on the nose whilst yelling "bad!" in a sharp voice. 

I'm very much inclined to agree!   :D
Still, I find it an interesting mental exercise.

Thanks for the responses!

Offline Drachasor

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2011, 04:50:29 PM »
Mm, the thing is that technically it's only one casting roll and as such you don't really get to "divide" the bonus from multiple tags among different targets on the zone castings, so it feels like the Rules as Written would leverage that +20 bonus, if not the Rules as Intended.  Still, since it's basically a bonus on a to-hit roll it could just as easily be handled per target.  Probably doesn't matter though, as if by some small chance there isn't a rule against re-invoking the same aspect for one roll there really should be.

Well, my response, if I were the GM would be that you can't tag an aspect for a +2 bonus on a group if the aspect is just one one person.  Don't make no kind of sense.  I would let you get a +2 bonus on each relevant person by tagging their aspects.  Could get a bit confusing, so if there were people with the aspect and those without, I'd handle it on my end by treating a +2 bonus to hit as a -2 penalty to defense.

As for the rules, YS page 99 has
Quote
you canít use the same aspect
more than once on the same roll or action
  On the boards most people go with the interpretation that if two aspects have the same name, then for this purpose they are the same aspect.

Offline devonapple

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2011, 05:00:10 PM »
If you were using a Spray Attack (Evocation or otherwise), I'd allow that +2 bonus for each individual target.

If you are just casting another ZoneWide effect, I wouldn't let you use the Aspect for the control roll, BUT you could tag each individual Aspect to give an effective +2 to *against* each target's Defense roll.
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Offline computerking

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2011, 05:35:26 PM »
Alternate usage:
What if you wanted to perform a spell that removes the fire from all of the burning minions (and maybe the scene, as well) and turns it all into a huge fireball to hit the big bad? It could be argued that because the spell is meant to make magical "contact" with all the burning minions, that all of those minions' "On Fire" aspects can be tagged. Would this be something to allow?
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Offline Drachasor

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Re: In the head of Fred - Q&A with Fred Hicks
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2011, 05:48:52 PM »
Alternate usage:
What if you wanted to perform a spell that removes the fire from all of the burning minions (and maybe the scene, as well) and turns it all into a huge fireball to hit the big bad? It could be argued that because the spell is meant to make magical "contact" with all the burning minions, that all of those minions' "On Fire" aspects can be tagged. Would this be something to allow?

I'd say not for a +20 bonus...only for a bonus for each person.  On a rules level I view them as the same aspect.

It would also be extremely bizarre to turn what is essentially a 6 or so shift spell into something that's more like a 15 or so shift spell.  In the end, one can make all the arguments one wants, but it certainly wouldn't be good for the game.  It would be really overpowered.  It's also uninteresting, since rather than have people invoke those tags one bit at a time or for effect for something dramatic, you are instead just pouring them all into one attack that ends the combat.  Lame.