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Say that Player X is 2nd in the initiative. 1st is the Black Court vampire that is in a rage and taking a swing at Player X. Player X gets a built in defense [Athletics/Fists + 4dF] but can Player X instead use his action this turn to cast his Rote Evocation Shield?

It is not his turn in the initiative order. A Block is an Action that a Player can take on his turn.

Thematically though, it seems to make sense that the char could cast a Rote Evocation Shield in response to an attack ahead of him in the initiative order. At least thematically in the books. Also, the example in YS252, shows him reacting to an attack by Agatha Hagglethorn by bring up his shield.

I am hoping there is some as yet undiscovered dark corner where this concept is covered or squashed.

Thanks in advance

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I'd love to know the answer to this; I just kind of assumed Harry had a stunt that let him defend with Conviction, or something like that. –  BESW Mar 6 '13 at 7:48
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Maybe asking "Is there is any precedent for a reactive block in the rules?" would give this question some wider utility, and provide footing for objective answers (in addition to the subjective answers of whether a person would allow it in their own game). –  BESW Mar 6 '13 at 8:48
    
I am hoping there is some reference somewhere. I love this book in almost all aspects, but it has a tendency to have portions of rules in separate places. I am hoping there is some as yet undiscovered dark corner where this concept is covered or squashed. –  Digitalnamshub Mar 6 '13 at 9:07
    
Added that in, as setting out expectations for answers can help focus our thoughts when answering and making sure what we say is actually helpful. (Welcome to the site! Please check out our FAQ.) –  BESW Mar 6 '13 at 9:11
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3 Answers

The book does answer this question, but in the margin on page 253. sigh… I love Evil Hat, but hiding this important rule here is rather… Evil. Thanks to the player that was trying to cast the reactive shield for finding it.

Billy, Can you do Block evocations instead of rolling to defend? How about counterspells?

As written, no—although your group could decide differently. But keep in mind that, when you forgo your defense roll, your attacker only has to overcome your blocking spell— no defense roll means no defense aside from that. If the block isn’ t broken, it persists until the end of the next exchange. And it would have to be an actual block; no use-as armor option. By contrast, I don’t think counterspells can be done reactively, due to the assessment requirement.

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You will find that through the entire book. The marginalia often includes rules clarifications and FAQ stuff. As such there isn't really "Flavor text", most of the writing in there is pertinent to the game system. –  Cthos Mar 6 '13 at 18:10
    
Kudos! It's always nice to find a ruling, even when it boils down to "Sure, if you want." –  BESW Mar 6 '13 at 21:48
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I am playing in the same game as the ST. I see his points, but I'm playing devil's advocate.

My opinion is that Evocation Shield is the same as a Block maneuver (as stated in the book). Block is a type of action that can be taken, on your turn as your main action. So, if something gets the drop on you before you get your shield up, you are screwed.

From how I read it...You get your auto defense that you get against every (attack, athletics fists, whatever) but you have not had time to form the spells image in your mind and put it up. That's why being ambushed sucks! That's the advantage of having surprise on a wizard. It sucks for the wizard (probably the PC) but it goes with the theme of wizards needing preparation.

In my opinion, the Example with Agatha & Harry, 252, Agatha "charged" Harry. She'd probably be taking a sprint action to move zones? Harry's action is 'Hell's Bells, I need to Shield myself!' throws up shield, and then she does her attack. I think the example is TOTALLY vague. BUT I do think that it says a BLOCK action is in preparation of someone else's action(or possible action), not as a response to their action.

I really hope someone has something to clear this up. I'm really not trying to rain on Wizard's Parades (I happen to be playing one myself!) but I feel like this is how it works.

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Welcome to the site, Elly. +1 as I agree with you. The question isn't "is there any place in the books where Harry shields against a surprise attack". You can still win initiative when surprised. The question is "does Harry ever fail to shield because he's surprised", and the answer is yes, that happens a lot. What's more, when he's going to suddenly shield against melee charge, he's always depicted as shaking out his shield bracelet, holding his arm out and getting his will ready - in game terms, readying the block. –  Tynam Mar 6 '13 at 9:39
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This is an ideal rule for subversion with a -1 Refresh power along the lines of "May defend using a relevant rote evocation spell instead of the normal defense". –  Simon Gill Mar 6 '13 at 18:17
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@SimonGill Or maybe something like the Shield of Faith stunt: Your faith protects you from harm. You may use your Conviction skill for physical defence. –  BESW Mar 7 '13 at 11:08
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I do allow reactive blocks in my games. But I can't point to a point in the book allowing that. It just feels more like the books - Harry can usually defend with magic, so why should my players not?

Also: If a wizard is forced to cast a shielding spell during his turn, he can not "drop a metric ton of destructive force on targets head" (thanks to Digitalnamshub for that term) in that turn. Boring!

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Thank you! I thought you might mean that your houserule is that if a wizard chooses to block reactively, it replaces his next turn's action (to preserve action economy, instead of using a houserule to let wizards effectively double their actions per round). –  BESW Mar 7 '13 at 10:46
    
Well, a swordfighter might defend him with weapons against an attack with a melee-weapon, without using an action. Why should a wizard be treated worse? Since a wizard can only cast 4 times (assuming that is the length of his stresstrack) without taking consequences, its balanced rather nicely even if he can defend himself with a spell. –  Blechpirat Mar 8 '13 at 11:47
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