In a recent Dresden Files game, I was whacking a sorcerer in the face with a hammer. Things were going swimmingly (for me, anyway), and the sorcerer was going to run away because he decided that hammers weren't fun anymore. The GM allowed me a contested roll on Athletics to keep him from escaping, with the implication that if I didn't keep him from going, he was going to get away somehow. (My GM prefers to hint things rather than spell them out mechanically, so I'm unclear on whether the sorcerer was going to fly away, teleport, hop in a car and drive, or just run really fast.) I succeeded in the contested roll to keep him from running away, and ended up painting the walls with him.

After the session, I couldn't remember any rules that would allow me to keep someone from escaping on foot. I suppose I could have done a Block, but that would involve not hitting him in the face; if it was just me against him, the combat would go nowhere. (Or he'd choose to attack me in exchanges where I Block him, and run away in rounds where I didn't.) If he sprinted away, then I wouldn't be able to catch him and knock him down or hurt him: if you move more than one zone, you can't do an action at the end of the move.

I have two related questions:

  1. If you didn't prepare ahead of time with other actions, can you keep someone from escaping melee range?
  2. What actions can you take to keep someone from running away, while still attacking (or allowing you to attack in future turns while still keeping them from running away)?

I'm looking for answers about the system mechanics; my GM runs a moderately-gamist version of Dresden Files, and I can't rely on him always giving me free opportunities to stop people.


4 Answers 4


There are a few ways mechanically to arrest movement from a strictly rules-based standpoint.

  1. Perform a maneuver and put an aspect on him. You can place an aspect on him that would prevent, or at least slow down, movement- but this would involve knowing how he was going to escape, whether that was knock over a trashcan to knock him over, whip your belt at his ankles to tie him up, or just sweep the leg.
  2. Use a grapple as a block to bring him to the ground. Once you have him grappled, you can inflict damage, per YS211.
  3. Attack. With enough damage, you can inflict a consequence that could stop the target, i.e. take that hammer to the knee.
  • \$\begingroup\$ How would placing the aspect stop him? Isn't Sprinting an un-opposed action? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2013 at 2:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PaulMarshall The aspect justifies opposing a normally un-opposed action. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Aug 20, 2013 at 3:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PaulMarshall - BESW is totally correct. If you get an action first, and maneuver on the opponent and are able to place an aspect on him that makes is unopposed action impossible (by virtue of being flat on his back, for instance), then he has to overcome your obstacle first. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Aug 20, 2013 at 17:37

I think that the first problem here is that your GM has made an error. Fate mechanics give in-system support to the fiction - not the other way around. You said:

My GM prefers to hint things rather than spell them out mechanically, so I'm unclear on whether the sorcerer was going to fly away, teleport, hop in a car and drive, or just run really fast.

Which is where I think the problem came from - how is flying away or teleporting an Athletics roll? The GM needed to provide a development in the fiction - something that follows logically from the pre-established conditions - and then apply mechanics to support that development. For example:

GM: The sorcerer presses a hand to his injured face, and as he backs away from you, his eyes dart towards the open doorway to your left.

YOU: I back him into a corner so I can finish the job.

GM: The sorcerer ducks his head, covering it with his arms, and barrels forward, trying to get to the doorway before you can kill him. If he wins this Athletics contest, he'll get past you without being hit again...

In that example, the sorcerer takes a fictional action that follows (who likes being hit with hammers?) and the GM tells you some important things:

  1. What is happening in the story - important so you can imagine the scene
  2. What game mechanics are going to inflect into the story now - it's going to be an Athletics contest
  3. What the stakes of that contest are - IF he wins THEN he is out of the room without being hit any further

You now have an opportunity to respond, showing what happens in the fiction from your end - "I rush him, checking him hard and low with my shoulder!"

When the rolls are finished, you can use:

  • Your own Apects (Aging Jock means I know how to hit someone!)
  • scene Aspects (You said the old storeroom was cluttered, I'm betting there's Debris on the Floor)
  • Or Consequences you just inflicted (He's having trouble standing, let alone running because I just put Staggering on him!)

To influence and re-roll, which I'm sure you know. But the point is, the mechanical influences all follow from the fiction.

So your GM's primary responsibility is to provide a clear view of the fiction - the surroundings, the events, even people's attitudes, etc., as far as your character can know them - because it is from the fiction that all mechanical interventions are drawn, and it is back to the fiction that all mechanical interventions are fed.

And the clear setting of stakes is important, too. Look at the stakes as I imagined they might be set - "he'll get past you without being hit again..." Even if you won, he might have gotten to the door - you'd just have gotten another lick in first! With stakes like that, if the sorcerer had fled, it might have led to a chase through the rest of the building, or it might have led to him getting to a vehicle and maybe a car chase, or a million other options. The stakes let you know how much Fate a roll is worth, right? If the GM sets stakes with more black-and-white conditions - "If he wins, he gets away!" - then you know you can't afford to fail and you'd better go all in. Whereas with my "softer" stakes, you might hang onto some points for the chases and possible resumption of combat you can see coming.

I would talk with my GM about stuff like this - even during the game. GMing is hard! Sometimes, if someone asks for clarification about situations, actions, or the exact stakes, it helps remind me that my players can't read my mind. And it definitely shows that they're paying attention, which all GMs appreciate!

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1! Just because the GM is playing it gamist doesn't mean it's appropriate to hide things that would be obvious to the character just to make the game-y part of playing harder. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2013 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ To clarify slightly, I was rolling Athletics, and the sorcerer was rolling an undisclosed skill. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2013 at 16:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PaulMarshall - he should disclose the skill that he's rolling against. Unless he's house ruling Fate to that extent and you've all agreed, the social contract and the rules of Fate call for that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Aug 20, 2013 at 17:35

In the Dresden Files version of Fate, here are your options:

  1. Grapple your opponent. That would let you maintain the block on your turn while also inflicting stress on your target. Unfortunately, you probably don't have Might as your apex skill. Since your opponent can try to break your grapple with anything, he'll pick something better than your Might score and this whole thing will never, ever work. On the off chance that you have super strength and made Might an apex skill, go hog wild, you're basically unbeatable by anyone with less Fate points to spend than you.

  2. Make a maneuver to establish some escape-preventing aspect on your target or the scene. When your opponent wants to escape, use the aspect (whether you're invoking the aspect on the scene or compelling the aspect on the target) to keep him around. Depending on how your game is run, you may need to spend more fate points to keep invoking the effect on subsequent turns, but you'll have your action each round to beat the target up. If you can inflict consequences on the target with your beating, I'd recommend making them things that could also be compelled to prevent an escape.

Alternate option:

In Fate Core, you're allowed to use the Athletics skill to 'Defend' against people moving past you if it makes sense that you could oppose it. That's not a bad rule (I'd also allow Might personally), so maybe you can add that to your game too.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're going to mention Fate Core: its aspects justify things automatically without needing to be invoked. In that case, you can use a Create Advantage action to place some escape-preventing aspect on the target, just like in #2, and they'll have to Overcome that aspect before they'll be able to escape. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2013 at 2:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also true. Man Fate Core is pretty darn cool. I'm happy I backed that one. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2013 at 2:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Won't my opponent get the Fate chip after I compel that escape-preventing aspect? Sure, I get the first tag for free, but after that I'm handing him a chip that he's just going to turn around and use to refuse my next compel. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2013 at 2:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PaulMarshall In Fate Core, aspects can imply "always-true" conditions that don't need to be compelled in order to be true. Fred Hicks has said that he has always played DFRPG this way, and was surprised when someone thought it was a change in Fate Core (I'm trying to track down the quote). \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Aug 20, 2013 at 2:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoeBedurndurn I think your point #2 is confusing invokes and compels. Invokes are for mechanical effect (like a +2), compels are for narrative effect (like not running away). \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Aug 20, 2013 at 3:02

What if the sorceror took a Concession? He'd need to meet the guidelines on YS pg. 206, but I think that's one way the GM could have him escape without you being able to stop him. Though as described in the Concessions details he would have to be greatly hindered in the future for doing so and the Concession "terms" would have to pass group approval.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello, and welcome to RPG.SE! While your answer here seems like it addresses part of the question, the main thing being asked is how to prevent someone from running away in the first place, and you don't really answer that. One of the site rules here is that answers have to fully answer the question asked. I'd suggest taking a look at the tour and the help center page. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Apr 6, 2015 at 17:31

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