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The First Law of Magic in the Dresdenverse states that you cannot kill mortals with magic. The White Council gets pretty uptight about this, so it is a Law worth following.

In the Dresden RPG, generally if you take out an enemy in combat, you get to choose how they are taken out - i.e. dead, unconscious, captured, whatever.

So does this mean that, if I'm a wizard PC, I don't have to worry about violating the First Law, because if I happen to take out a mortal, I can just decide that I took him out in a non-permanent fashion?

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Ooh, good question. (Side note: the rules penalty for violating the First Law is one of the cleverest bits of game design I've seen in a long time.) – Tynam Jan 25 '13 at 18:43
@Tynam - If you would care to summarize for those of us who haven't read those rules I would appreciate it. – psr Jan 26 '13 at 0:43
@psr: The penalty for breaking the First Law is: there's a +1 bonus to all skill rolls that would break it in the future. (This is a stunt, so you're forced to pay its 1 refresh cost.) It's brilliant. A temptation to do it again in future that tempts the player, not just the character, while giving you less fate to avoid compels and tricky situations. – Tynam Jan 26 '13 at 7:22
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Yes. You can choose how an opponent gets taken out. That means you don't have to worry about accidentally violating the First Law.

There are some complications in the moment. One is that any of your aspects that indicate bloodlust can be compelled so that you do kill them. The other is that what the consequences have to match the action you took. If you fireball someone with 10-shifts for damage, it is very unlikely that someone will live through that.

More importantly, there are other complications. Those mortals you left alive? They may well come back later to make your life more interesting.

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Relevant semi-official link: (LCDarkwood is Leonard Balsera). – Wibbs Jan 25 '13 at 19:04

Being taken out in Fate terms is just losing your control as the player over the fate of your character, it doesn't dictate any specific outcome. And remember that stress isn't damage, so regardless of how many shifts of stress you inflict, you don't have to kill anyone unless you want to. You are a winner of the conflict and things should go your way within reason.

On the other hand, if you are taken out, then you could begin to worry. Assume that you got taken out on the mental stress track, then your opponent gets the right to tell that in a fit of rage, you just killed someone (not a PC) on the scene. Then you have real repercussions coming your way, in the form of a powerful White Council.

Even a social take-out could cause similar effects. You're socially taken out, and your opponent tells that all the evidence, manufactured or coincidental, points towards you as a magic-using murderer. Whoops… Lots of effort needed for name-clearing.

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I would have to say that you can only loophole to a certain extent. Your GM can easily put assets or complications into effect that can bypass your best intentions. For example if there's a complication like "On a Ledge" you get very little wiggle room until you remove it. Of course you can probably setup an asset like "Soft Paws" for when you try to club someone over the head.

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I'm the original asker, but I just thought of another way to curb a player's skirting of the First Law. If you take a human to unconsciousness with magic, your enemies could finish them mundanely, and it would certainly look like you killed them with magic...

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This won't necessarily turn you into a Lawbreaker. Different games will treat this differently, but it comes down to self-perception and how that belief changes the person. – Simon Gill Jan 25 '13 at 19:38
Totally agreed. There is a difference between the White Council wanting to off you, and an actual descent toward the Dark Side. This could result in the former, but not the latter. – RationalGeek Jan 25 '13 at 19:44
That goes along with the different sides of Lawbreaker. Check out… – SnakeDr68 Jan 25 '13 at 21:03
This could make you look like a lawbreaker in the eyes of a furious judge+jury+executioner warden, with little time to clear your name. Can be a good side story. – edgerunner Jan 25 '13 at 21:54
Conversely, any enemy could kill them with magic by their choice. – CatLord Jan 26 '13 at 21:41

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