Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Harry Dresden, Wizard Private Eye

So, Evil Hat recently threw down a gauntlet. Harry Dresden is statted in the Dresden Files RPG as he appears at the beginning of the series. The series is now around book 14, and he's grown a bit. So, the challenge is to advance Dresden up to the point he would be at the beginning of Changes.

I am totally up to this challenge.

In point of fact, to prep for a DFRPG game (that sadly never got off the ground), I started listening to the series again. (I like the audiobooks because they are narrated by James Marsters, who does a great job.) I was specifically listening for how the action in the books matches up to the system. I was statting a bunch of different things in my head. And, I happen to be at the end of Turn Coat, which is the point in the series the challenge is targetting.

It's like fate. Pun completely intended.

Before I jump into the actual stats, I want to go through my process a bit. I started with the character as described in the book, assuming that that was as of the end of Storm Front (which matches the phases outlined). I assumed that each book thereafter represented a signficant milestone, and every three-ish books represented a major milestone. Boiling it down, that means I get to add 10 skill ranks and 4 refresh. Unfortunately, to make things work, I'm going to need to declare a couple more major milestones, because I need at least 6 refresh.

Harry's injured hand and the presence of Lasciel are both extreme consequences that he has since bought off. Lasciel also gave him a Hellfire power, which was replaced with the Soulfire power after White Night.

Molly doesn't need to be represented, as she is essentially another PC. Adding an aspect that connects the two would be good, but isn't required.

Bob does, IMHO, need to be represented. He does not have independent free will, so is not a separate character. He very clearly boosts Harry's Lore checks. He is almost entirely incapable of defying Harry. There is no question that he is an extension of Harry's character, that grants mechanical benefits. To give Harry Bob without cost is a huge free boost. The fact that Bob changes based on the wizard who owns him is another big indicator that he is a stunt, not an NPC.

Mouse is a little trickier. He is a sidekick. Based on Changes, he is clearly a full NPC in his own right (probably not a PC, though). DFRPG doesn't really handle sidekicks well. Mouse does a lot of good stuff for Harry, especially when it comes to fighting. So, he should have some representation. But, his contributions are not as cleanly defined as Bob's Lore boost. If there is a point of refresh left over to define Mouse with a stunt, I'll want to use it. If not, I can live with defining him as an NPC ally, and letting the GM dictate his actions.

Demonreach is hard. How do you represent that kind of connection? Especially with all we discover in Cold Days? For these purposes, I'm going to say that the connection with Demonreach was a special circumstance in Turn Coat. The groundwork has been laid for Harry to add it as a stunt later, but it isn't on the sheet yet. That way, at least, I don't have to think up rules for it.

Looking through the rules, it is clear that any wizard who has gone through 4 major milestones should have at least one refinement. But, I honestly can't think of a single one that applies to Harry. I guess that's why people still think of him as a thug.

Oh, except that refinements are also used to get more magical doodads. And Harry has significantly upgraded his gadget score a couple of times. There are three enchanted items that need to be represented. The first is his duster. That's very straightforward, and I'll simply accept the 2-slot version that it's in the book. (Since Harry has, unfortunately, stopped doing much with potions, that will just fit into the 2 slots reserved in the Storm Front version.) The second is his force rings. The single ring he used for several books is a very simple item. The crazy three-rings-per-finger brass knuckles version he's sporting by Small Favor is over the top. Created as described, it's 2 slots per ring, so 6 slots per finger, so 36 slots total. That's 9 refresh. How about no? Instead, let's look at how Harry uses the rings. It's pretty much always "punch, punch, punch, OMG-MEGA-PUNCH". So, we just model that. A basic force ring that is Weapon:2 (because Lore of 3) usable three times per session for 2 slots, and a second ring that is Weapon:5 usable once per session for another 2 slots. Boom, same effect, for one measly Refresh.

The third enchanted item is the trickiest by far. Little Chicago is a weird little device for the rules to model. And, honestly, I'm not crazy about how it was done in Our World. It is super powerful, from a straight-up magic perspective. And it gets a lot of things attributed to it, like protecting Harry from Cowl's mental blast. But, does it need to do that? I don't think so. It really does one thing. It allows Harry to cast divinations as though he were in any outdoor space in Chicago from his lab. Honestly, I don't want this to be an enchanted item at all. I'd much rather this be a specialized variant of the "Workshop" stunt. So, that's what I'm running with.

After Proven Guilty, there are numerous examples where Harry notes that teaching an apprentice has really been good for his control and precision. As such, I felt that boosting his Discipline up to Great made sense. And, given the large number of people that Harry is now entangled with, it made sense to boost Contacts up to Good (which also preserves the ladder). That takes up 7 of the 10 ranks from advancement right there. As Harry's reputation builds, and he gets better at fending off social attacks, it makes sense to bump Presence up to Fair. Primarily in order to use up the last point, and playing off the newly found ability to take a few shots in social warfare, I'll bring his Empathy up to Average.

Stunts and powers are always the complicated bits. How many of Harry's tricks need to be represented here? As a decent rule of thumb, it should be something that comes up at least every other book. Ideally, it should have an obvious name from when it is referenced in the books. And, it should give a clear boost that simple skill can't duplicate. Harry's skill at Listening, which is included on the original sheet, is a great example of ticking off these criteria.

As I mentioned above, Harry used to have the Hellfire power, and now has the Soulfire power. Comes up in every book (well, in Small Favor, Turn Coat, and Changes). Has an obvious name. Can do things beyond regular spellcasting. Done. Now we just need details on what it does. Fortunately, Our World has it covered.

I'm very sure that Harry should now have the Za Lord stunt. Comes up frequently. Again with the obvious name. The question is whether Toot Toot and his brigade represent something more than just a Contacts check. Given how steadily the impact of Toot Toot's help has grown over the series, I'm inclined to say that it does. Especially as the fairies are willing to do just about anything for Harry.

I am inclined to remove the Lawbreaker stunt. While it was very important to Harry's interactions early in the series, I feel like he's grown out of it. An argument can be made for keeping it, as part of his relationship with Molly and her Doom of Damocles. And, of course, an argument can be made that you never unbreak a Law. But I just don't see it as all that relevant anymore, and certainly not worth the point of refresh.

The most important part of any FATE character is, of course, the aspects. Harry has changed a great deal since Storm Front, and the original aspects need to change, too.

I'm not going to touch the High Concept or Trouble. I considered changing out Wizard Private Eye for something regarding being a Warden. But, McCoy has a line in Turn Coat about Dresden being the most gifted investigator in the White Council. And, of course, alternating between magus and gumshoe is pretty much how Dresden solves most problems. If I was playing out all the variants of Dresden, I would have had his Trouble change to Lasciel's Shadow during the few books when she was present. But, it has now changed back to The Temptation of Power.

A couple of the aspects are still core to Harry's personality and modus operandi. You just can't argue with Epic Wiseass, or with Not So Subtle, Still Quick to Anger.

After Dead Beat, Harry had two major life changes. First, he became a Warden. Second, and as a direct result, he was getting a steady paycheck that meant he was no longer Perpetually Broke. Not enough to bump up his actual Resources skill, mind you. But enough to change out the aspect. I don't want to go with a vanilla Warden of the White Council aspect, because Harry's relationship with the concept is much more complicated than that. I went for the wording of Drafted Into the Grey Cloak.

I've noticed that Harry's attitude towards women has changed significantly lately. The bit with Ordo Lebes in White Night still nailed him square in his chauvinistic chivalry bone. But, otherwise, he hasn't been such a sucker for the ladies. I blame both Lasciel and Lara Raith. Anyway, it's enough to warrant switching out Chivalry's Not Dead, Dammit. A couple different people brought up that Harry is a creature of habit. And he makes the comment on more than one occasion that he likes things like his apartment and the Blue Beetle because they're his. Hell, that's most of his reasoning behind not getting his hand amputated. So, it's a pretty good move to make the aspect Because It's Mine, Dammit. The symmetry of the wording there is nice, too.

Finally, one of the biggest changes in Harry's life has been finding Thomas. But, I don't just want to make an aspect around Thomas. It's a bit limiting. More importantly, we know that family is going to be HUGE in Changes. We might as well make the aspect about family in general, and not just about Thomas. Furthermore, we know that Harry's mother has left a legacy of landmines throughout the supernatural community. That should play into the aspect, if possible. The aspect really clicked when I thought about the conversations Harry had about being an orphan, and how much he doesn't really get what it's like to have a family. So, I wanted to make the aspect Family is a Mystery to Me. That covers both the general family bits, and the fact that all of his family connections involve secrets. But, it wasn't quite right. First, it doesn't really cover how important Thomas is to Harry. Second, the "to Me" part doesn't entirely feel right. So, I changed it up to Family is a Precious Mystery. I wish I could have used an actual line for the aspect, but I think this covers all the bases as succintly as possible.

So, without further ado, here is Harry Dresden's character sheet:

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden

High Concept:  Wizard Private Eye
Trouble:  The Temptation of Power
Other Aspects:
     Family is a Precious Mystery
     Because It's Mine, Dammit!
     Not So Subtle, Still Quick to Anger
     Epic Wiseass
     Drafted Into the Grey Cloak

     Superb (+5):  Conviction
     Great (+4):  Discipline, Endurance, Intimidation
     Good (+3):  Alertness, Contacts, Lore
     Fair (+2):  Athletics, Investigation, Presence, Rapport
     Average (+1):  Empathy, Fists, Scholarship, Stealth, Weapons

     Physical:  O  O  O  O
     Mental:    O  O  O  O
     Social:     O  O  O

Stunts and Powers:
     Listening (Investigation) (-1)
     Evocation (-3)
     Thaumaturgy (-3)
     The Sight (-1)
     Soulgaze (0)
     Wizard's Constitution (0)
     Sponsored Magic - Soulfire (-3: -5 reduced by 2 for Evoc and Thaum)
     Refinement (-1) - Gives 4 enchanted item slots for force rings
     Little Chicago (Resources) (-1) - While in lab, Harry may cast divination magic as though he was in any outdoors space in Chicago.
     Za Lord (Contacts) (-1) - Once per session, Harry may call upon Toot Toot and associated fairies, who will serve him with fanatical devotion.
     Bob (Lore) (-1) - Whenever Harry is able to consult with Bob, he gets +2 to his Lore check. Bob is able to do some very limited independent Investigation, though at -2 because he is unreliable. Harry must keep Bob a secret from Molly and the Wardens.

     Evocation: Fire, Air, Spirit
     Thaumaturgy: Divination

    Staff, Blasting Rod, Shield Bracelet

Enchanted Items:
     Duster: Armor:3 twice per session
     Force Rings (individual): Weapon:2 three times per session
     Force Rings (burst): Weapon:5 once per session


  1. Very interesting, and very reasonable.

    I would only add that, given what we know now about Demonreach, it needs to be an aspect (bare minimum); you could probably get away with either Emissary of Power, then, or a stunt (+2 to any alertness check made on the island, +1 if you expand it to include any other skills.)

    After Cold Days . . . I dunno, I think Harry becomes an NPC, given how many refresh points he's spent.

  2. I agree. Several people statted Demonreach as a "place of power" (a 3-refresh power). It's actually how it's statted in the book. I think the intellectus is at least another 1-refresh add-on. But everything that we learn later makes this clearly an insufficient representation of what's going on. And, I'm pretty sure there are major revelations yet to come. It's likely to reach the point where Demonreach should actually be statted as a separate PC.

    It would entirely depend on how many refresh Harry's GM gives him. Also, it would require a ground-up rewrite. Harry gains a lot of power, but also loses a lot of his previous tricks. It would be a wholly different character.

  3. Given that Little Chicago's been unavailable for some time now, probably due to mindbending by Mab, it really shouldn't count against Harry's refresh ...

  4. Spoiler Alert:

    Um.... wasn't Little Chicago blown up?

  5. Yes. But that was in Changes. This build is explicitly at the end of Turn Coat before Changes begins.

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