An interesting question came up last night in my Dresden Files campaign. The practitioner was conducting (casting) electricity from himself to a hapless white court vampire to fry the poor chap. He put 7 shifts of power into the spell, and rolled a 3 on his discipline roll. He tagged his aspect of Struggle for Power for a +2 bringing his final roll to 5. At this point, he didn't want to spend any more fate, so took backlash for 2 stress to get the roll to 7 and successfully cast the spell.

My question is, would his targeting roll be affected by the backlash or not? I know that he loses none of the power of the spell since he took backlash, but I'm just not sure if that makes up for the targeting also. The book explicitly states in the example of fallout on YW251 that in that case the power and targeting are reduced. But it only states in the example of Backlash on the same page that power is not reduced, and doesn't mention targeting.

Updated to re-add research and further links/information.

I think I found an answer on the DFRPG forum.

A quote from the post is below:

The book says nothing about taking backlash raising your roll or counting as any kind of bonus. It says "Any uncontrolled power taken as backlash remains a part of the spell and does not reduce its effect. Fallout is different: every shift of fallout reduces the effect of the spell."

The power remains a part of the spell, that's all. The attack roll isn't part of the spell's power, any more than the attack roll with a gun is part of the gun's Weapon damage.

This seems to make the most sense to me, though I ruled in the players' favor as I tend to do when there are any questions. But I still don't see an official answer, so I guess I'll have to keep searching.

UPDATE: I went to the source, and this is what Fred Hicks had to say on the subject:

Quick comments:

To a comment near the top -- IIRC, mathematically, invoking an aspect for a reroll only makes sense when the roll was at -2 or lower. If your guy had a Great discipline, no extra modifiers on control, and rolled a -1 to get a control of 3, then invoking for the +2 was the right move. :)

The guy -- you, I believe! -- quoting "the attack roll isn't part of the spell's power" is on target. :)

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I'd have to check my book to get back to you about the real answer, but I want to mention while I'm here: Don't forget that Invoking an aspect can let you re-roll, instead of just getting a +2 bonus. If the PC had a decent Discipline, then rolling a total of 3 indicates a terrible roll, and he may have been better off re-rolling with that Fate point. My players tended to forget that option, so I thought I might remind you. \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Sep 28, 2011 at 15:05

2 Answers 2


No, the targeting roll is not affected by the backlash, i.e. if the discipline roll was a 2, that is the targeting roll regardless of what happens to the effectiveness of the spell.

When casting an evocation, a player has 2 options when they fail their discipline roll, either to take backlash, or to let the spell spill out into the environment. Taking backlash allows the spell to stay at its maximum power while the player inflicts stress on themself. There is no other cost to this method.

Letting the spell spill out into the environment reduces the effectiveness of the spell. It isn't spelled out in the book from what I remember, but shifts of power are lost from the spell. So there are a few options: reduce the damage that can be dealt, reduce the number of targets, and a couple of other options I can't remember that you can put shifts into to alter the spell. So, depending on the GM and the player, it could be decided that the spell loses power or reduces to a certain number of targets, or one of the other options could be chosen.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I understand that the power stays at its intended amount, but the discipline roll has two purposes- to control the power, i.e. cast the spell, and to target the opponent, i.e. the target number for the opponent's dodge roll. I just wasn't sure if both of these were affected similarly or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Sep 28, 2011 at 15:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @wraith808 I dont think the roll is affected at all. you should end up with a formula something like this: ([discipline roll]-[target defense roll]) + [Damage Shifts - fallout assigned to damage shifts] - target armor. The discipline roll is considered before the shifts put towards the weapon rating are, and the shifts are what's affected, not the roll. \$\endgroup\$
    – DForck42
    Sep 28, 2011 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I updated your entry to make the answer clearer, and made this the accepted answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Oct 11, 2011 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @wraith808 now I feel like a jerk... \$\endgroup\$
    – DForck42
    Oct 11, 2011 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't... I think this makes it clearer. And I think it was misunderstanding, as I posted my answer as an update to my question at the same time that you posted your clarification above. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Oct 11, 2011 at 16:29

I would say that the backlash represents the cost of getting the spell to work as expected. Therefore, the targeting and so on continues as if there was no backlash. However, the characters has paid a price for this: they gained stress. They better bet that this spell will work otherwise they are in trouble for round two.


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