I just ran my first Dresden Files game the other day. One thing I couldn't figure out how to adjudicate correctly was readied actions. There were a couple occaisions in combat where a PC went first in initiative, but there were no bad guys on the scene yet (they were inside a building, and about to come out). The player said basically "I'm going to get ready to attack as soon as they come out".

In D&D 4e, this is handled by giving the PC an action directly after the triggering event. Is there anything like this in Dresden? The way I adjudicated it on the spot was to give the character an aspect of Ready to Pounce or similar, and they could tag that to get a bonus to attack on their next turn. Is this the right way, or is there a better option under the rules?


2 Answers 2


From YW199:

You may opt to delay your action until a future point in the exchange, allowing you to interrupt someone else’s action later in the initiative order. Once this happens, your initiative is set at that point for the rest of the conflict, unless you delay again.

On that same page, they carry on with an example:

Harry, Murphy, and Mouse are being attacked by ghouls in a parking garage. Mouse ends up with the highest initiative, but he wants to delay his action to see what the ghouls are going to do. On their turn, two of the ghouls try to knock over a car onto Harry and Murphy, and Mouse interrupts them, getting in an attack before they get to do anything. For the rest of the conflict, Mouse will take action just before the ghouls do.

So, in your case, your PC would just declare as they did. When the opponents are visible, make note of the opponent's alertness- that's where the PC will go from then on instead of on their own alertness.

The only other issue (which I haven't found a rule for) is if the PC delays beyond the end of the round. We'd come up with the idea that it resets and you lose the action if you delay beyond, instead of getting your action. That made it so that you couldn't just delay if you thought that someone was coming, and still expect to be able to interrupt if you were wrong. Not sure if that was right or not, but without RAW, that was what we came up with.

Also adding a bit about stealth and ambush, as it works a bit differently from SotC-Fate:

From YW142:



With the Stealth skill, you can set up an ambush by rolling to hide as per the Hiding trapping, below. Given time to prepare, you might even create aspects on the scene to set up the ambush. When you decide to strike, the victim gets one last Alertness roll to see if he notices something at the last moment. You have the option of keeping your hiding roll or rerolling your Stealth in response to this last Alertness roll. If the victim succeeds, he can defend normally (but not take a normal action in the first exchange). If the victim’s roll fails, he can only defend at an effective skill level of Mediocre.

As you can see, because of the changes to the Hiding trapping in stealth, the progression is a bit different from the plain-vanilla SotC Fate.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Whoa, in Dungeons and Dragons if you delay your turn, when you jump back in your turn goes after whoever's currently going. You can react, but not interrupt. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2014 at 23:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MooingDuck - D&D is more rules and balance based. I think being able to interrupt is more appropriate to the narrative. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Mar 5, 2014 at 1:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MooingDuck, while it's true that a readied action in 4e is an Immediate Reaction (so it happens after whatever triggers it), you can react to any kind of action, and perform it in the middle of another character's turn. For example, "I attack when Wulfgar enters melee range with me" would react to Wulfgar's Move action. If Wulfgar moves before taking his Standard action, my readied action happens before he gets to do that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian S
    Mar 5, 2014 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BrianS: (A) I didn't know that! Awesome! (B) Your action interrupts, but your turn in the initiative order is now after the current turn. rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/10137/ready-an-action-in-combat Sorry for being unclear. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 5, 2014 at 17:10

The Dresden RPG uses the FATE system, so I'll be quoting rules from the FATE SRD

There are two possible concepts to look at: holding an action and readying an action. Holding an action lets you wait until a later point in the turn order to act, usually so that you can wait for an ally to change the battlefield or be in a more advantageous position.

Hold Your Action

A character can opt not to act when his turn comes around. When a character takes a hold action, he has the option of taking his turn any time later in the exchange. He must explicitly take his turn after someone else has finished their turn and before the next person begins. He cannot wait until someone declares what they’re trying to do, then interrupt them by taking his turn.

This doesn't quite get what your player wanted (essentially ambushing the enemy), but it's certainly close.

Readying an action lets you prepare a specific action to perform on a certain trigger. As you say, in D&D 4e a character can use a Standard Action to create an Immediate Reaction to be used later in the round. FATE doesn't exactly have an identical mechanic, but it does have a means to "block" actions.

Block Actions

When the character’s action is preventative – trying to keep something from happening, rather than taking direct action to make something happen – he is performing a block action. He declares what he’s trying to prevent and what skill he’s using to do it. Players may declare a block against any sort of action or actions and may theoretically use any skill, but unless the block is simple and clear, the GM may assess penalties based upon how hard it would be, or how much of a stretch it would be. Players should never be able to “cover all bases” with a single block.

Depending on your player's ultimate goal, he may block the enemy from exiting the building, block the enemy from attacking once he's exited, etc. As the text says, though, the player shouldn't be able to cover all of his bases: be specific in what the character is trying to block.

Another option would be using Stealth to set up an Ambush, which is apparently what the player wanted in the first place.

◉ Ambush [Stealth]

While we can be sure that heroes would never strike an opponent from ambush, they may end up on the receiving end of such nefarious actions! When a strike is made from ambush, the target gets one last Alertness check to see if he notices something at the last moment. On a success, the target(s) can defend normally. If that Alertness roll fails, the attack is made with the target’s first defense roll at Mediocre.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "we can be sure that heroes would never strike an opponent from ambush..." Yeah, right. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4, 2014 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ because of the addition of spells and such, DFRPG is considered Fate 3.0 pretty much- and is a bit different in those regards, especially in terms of held actions, it contradicts you. Posting my own answer, but did want to chime in with that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Mar 4, 2014 at 21:41

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