I'm about to play in my first game of Dresden Files. I'm new to the system, and it's a lot different from other RPG rule's I've used. I'm having a bit of trouble grokking the game and figuring out how to build my character.

My high concept for my character is a city assistant district attorney. Pretty much like a younger version of the Ben Stone or Jack McCoy characters from Law and Order. Someone who can convince a group of people to accept a particular explanation of events, and can wring the truth out of someone on the stand.

I'm wondering what kind of skills and stunts to use to make a good trial lawyer with some decent investigation and persuasion abilities.

If it helps the intended power level is "chest-deep".

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 and welcome to the site. That is a very nice question indeed. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12, 2012 at 14:25

3 Answers 3


I did such a character recently, and with a little thinking outside the box, I came up with some decent skills/stunts for him:

First, I started with

  • Superb: Resources
  • Superb: Presence
  • Great: Rapport
  • Great: Performance
  • Good: Investigation
  • Good: Scholarship

He had other skills, of course, but those were the base (his pyramid was stacked 2-deep to Superb for 30).

For those skills, I chose the following stunts:

  • (Custom Stunt - Resources) Dedicated Staff Spend Fate point to use Resources for any one Contacts, Scholarship, or Investigation roll
  • (Custom Stunt – Scholarship) Lawyer (Estate) +1 to any roll regarding law, additional +1 regarding estate law. Modeled off of Doctor.
  • (Custom Stunt – Performance) Closing Argument Can be used to apply APPEARANCE OF GUILT or APPEARANCE OF INNOCENCE aspect to a specific person. Modeled off of Pointed Performance.
  • (Presence) The Weight of Reputation When doing business in an official capacity, use Presence instead of Intimidation.
  • (Deceit) Honest Lies When using the truth to deceive someone, gain +2 to the check.

To reiterate something that Sardathrion said, the skills (and their levels) enhance the story, and the stunts help to round out the concept. I think that's one of the reasons that his answer centered so much around the concepts- it's very hard to separate the two. These skills would make a very good trial lawyer, but one based around certain principles reinforced by the stunts chosen, rather than necessary a template for a lawyer.


Legal battles (the dramatic courtroom part, at least) are social combats in DFRPG. So check out Your Story p.215 for starters. It lays it out fairly simply for you:

The skills mainly used to attack in a social conflict are Deceit, Intimidation, and Rapport; those three and Empathy could all be used to make social maneuvers. Empathy and Rapport are most commonly used to defend. This list is not exhaustive, however, and depending on the context of the interaction, there might be situations where another skill (such as Conviction or Contacts) may seem a better fit.

The social stress track is modified by the Presence skill, representing the resilience of a character’s persona to hostile influence.

So, I would check out:

  • Deceit (p.126)
  • Intimidation (p.132)
  • Rapport (p.138)
  • Presence (p.136)
  • Empathy (p.129)
  • Conviction (p.124)
  • Contacts (p.123)

From my own point of view, you might want:

  • Scholarship (p.140)
  • Resources - some lawyers do more than OK for themselves! (p.139)
  • Performance (p.135)
  • Investigation - if your lawyer examines crime scenes / evidence himself (p.133)

The relative strengths of these skills can go a long way towards making different kinds of lawyers. A shifty ambulance chaser might be high on Deceit and Performance, while a crusading DA might be high on Intimidation and Conviction, and a principled public defender might max out Empathy and Rapport.

Social conflict in DFRPG is a first-class member of the game, not an afterthought or add-on, so you've chosen a great system to play a lawyer in!

Also, don't forget to browse the stunts (starting on p.146) to see if there are any you think fit you, and make sure you take skills to support them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Stunt-wise, pay particular attention to Contacts stunts, the Deceit stunts 'Honest Lies' and 'Takes One to Know One', all the Empathy and Rapport stunts, and the Performance stunt 'Pointed Performance'. Take stunts which complement your best skills and reflect the kind of character you imagine. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tynam
    Jul 12, 2012 at 16:32

What I would do, is to start by listing the main skills that Ben Stone and Jack McCoy have. You already have two in your description. Think of an elevator pitch for either characters. This should give you a clear idea of what could be skills for their characters. From there, do an elevator pitch for your character as if you were pitching it to Law and Order writers.

As a side note, flawed characters are interesting. So, make sure that your skills have a negative side to them. For example, can wring the truth out, may make the character a rather anti-social person, such as Dr. Cal Lightman (from Lie To Me). Or maybe your character is closer to Alan Shore (from Boston Legal).

Think of skills in Fate as methods to enhance the story (to tell a better story) and not as things you can do. That is not really what they are but if you think of them as such, it will help. From your elevator pitch, everything after the first two sentences should be more skill focused rather than aspects.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That seems more like the concept of aspects than skills or stunts. \$\endgroup\$
    – CaulynDarr
    Jul 12, 2012 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CaulynDarr: Oh yeah, I see how you read that. Yes, that is a fair comment. Answer edited. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12, 2012 at 15:08

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