We started our characters at 6 refresh and 20 skill points. The suggested progression is 1 skill point at the end of every scenario (a significant milestone) and 1 refresh + 1 skill point "when a few scenarios have concluded" (a major milestone).

Using this method, we have found ourselves 3 scenarios later with 7 refresh and 23 skill points; however, if we were to start new characters at 7 refresh, they would come with 25 skill points (not 23). Continuing down this road makes me feel like the ratio of refresh to skill points will continue to diverge.

I'm debating giving out intermediary skill points to maintain that 5:1 ratio, but curious to see what the rest of you guys are doing. Have you guys noticed the same thing? Does this pose a problem for the future?



3 Answers 3


The following is mostly anecdotal, but: It all depends on how big the story is going to get and what the mood is.

My party started out with five refresh, 20 skill points, and a skill cap of 4. A focused practitioner, a wereform, and a pair of minor talents. Around 30 sessions later, we concluded the campaign, at six refresh (Well, the very last session was at seven) and 35 skill points, cap 5. I've also run a few short lived games (One scenario, or two to three sessions) with high refresh characters. One time we even threw it up to 13 refresh! (and man, and an explosion that was! Haven't seen that much accidental playerdeath since the last time we ran Paranoia!) That said, those high refresh games actually had less than the recommended amount of skills.

Thing is, skills and refresh actually do completely different things in Dresden. Skills give you a way to model close, tense, mortal conflict. As long as the skill cap stays at 5 or below, the players are humans amid the world of the supernatural, and they can see the fantastic things around them, and run and hide and try to find some weakness to the horrible things outside. Every conflict probably has people walking away with consequences, and not small ones. The game has a bit of grit to it, is what I'm saying. If you've ever played shadowrun or a really good game of old World of Darkness, you know the mood I'm talking about. The more skills there are in play, the more the game is about skill. (I know, it took me a while to figure out that! Slow learner.)

The more refresh there is in play, the more the world tends to look like a story book. Strange powers become commonplace. Crazy random happenstance happens whenever it's convenient as players make declarations and the world of magic is impossible to ignore. Since skills are less powerful here, players often tend to use magic to solve problems that mortal means probably could have accomplished. A game of Exalted or new World of Darkness probably feels a little like this.

Don't think of skills and refresh as equal pieces of a 'levelup.' Think of the Skill/Refresh dynamic as a slider between mortal and supernatural, or between simulationist and storybook. The levels in the book are your halfway markers (actually, I suspect that those are the settings the authors and a majority of playtesters liked best) as apposed to a word of god ratio. Adjust them as you and your players like, to suit the tone of the game you're trying to run. Most games are built around one mood, and the system aids that. FATE isn't infinity flexible, but it can range pretty far if you tweak it a bit.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 Excellent answer. In Dresden, Skills and Refresh do completely different things. Love them both for what they are. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tynam
    Commented Jun 16, 2012 at 10:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Excellent answer, though I'd take exception to the idea that Skill and Refresh are totally independent, so you can't totally ignore skill in favor of refresh. Skill is totally independent I'd agree, and Refresh does enable the supernatural element- but is also used for mundane effects. Just something to keep in mind. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @wraith808 You can't totally ignore either one, sorry if it looked like I meant that. It's a slider- No refresh/lots of skills would be kinda boring, but lots of refresh/no skills would be random. (Though I kinda want to try the latter now... As a one-shot, it would be hilarious.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 17:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess what I was saying was that a slider sort of represents refresh at one end of the scale and skill a the other, where they are not independent of each other outside of a set scenario. At higher levels of skill, the skill itself can become supernatural (and a higher levels of refresh, if you choose only stunts, it won't look supernatural). It's a good guideline, but just that, IMO. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 20:44

Remember there are 3 types of milestones. Minor, Significant and Major. It sounds like you're not giving out enough Significant milestones before each Major one.

Typically I divide my "stories" into 3 Acts (like play parts, just my naming convention). The intro, the figure it out, the final battle. I do a significant milestone at each of those. I adjust the number of parts based on the story I want, but still give out a Significant Milestone each time the characters get through the Act.

At the end of two stories, I'll give a Major Milestone if they're characters have pushed themselves in the previous acts. It's not necessarily automatic. Refresh is way too powerful to give out like candy.


The three types of milestones should be interspersed to produce the rate of gain that you want to maintain in your game. Starting on YS88, the advancement system is discussed, specifically:

  1. Minor Milestone: Typically at the end of each session of play- allows a tweak in the character related to the experiences that the session has brought and a refresh of Fate points, but no real advancement in the classic sense.
  2. Significant Milestone: Typically occurs at the end of a major plotline or scenario- gives a skill point, and allows magic users to reconfigure their enchanted items, in addition to the above.
  3. Major Milestone: Typically occurs when something major happens in the campaign- gives all of the above plus the ability to clear out an extreme consequence and a point of refresh.

The starting power levels are an easy way to show the differentials of power in the game- not an absolute guideline, just as the above suggestions for when to give out the milestones are just suggestions. So your rate of progression is wrong only if you think its wrong. In general, Refresh is balanced with Skill to allow the balance of more powerful abilities with relative level of skill, though if you look at higher levels of power, the amount of skill to offset refresh becomes higher. But that's a balance that you'll have to maintain.

One other thing that can be awarded (and used to limit skill point expenditure) is a change in Skill Cap. But this (along with Refresh) should be used sparingly. After playing for a year and finishing with the first major villain/plot of the campaign (and a few character-specific side quests), my players have just gotten their first point of refresh and skill cap increase, and its changed things pretty drastically.

But that's just my campaign- you have to find what works for you and your players. If they're happy and the frustration level low, and you scale threats accordingly, then you're not doing anything wrong, just different.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .