I'm an old GM, new to DFRPG. How would you create an empath or mind reader minor talent? I was thinking:

  • Empath: You can use your empathy skill to roll an assessment check and reveal a character's emotion. This can be done as soon as you can see the character and is rolled against the subject's Discipline. If you gain one or more shifts on your roll, you discover one of the target’s aspects. (-1)
  • Telepath: You can use your Presence skill to reveal a character's surface thoughts. This can be done by concentrating on the target and is rolled against the subject's Discipline. No shifts or failure means the target knows something is wrong and it may confuse or deceit you. (-1)

Do these seem to be OK?


2 Answers 2


Hopefully, Paranet will give some more guidelines on creating powers in a more concrete manner, but this is how I framed psychic phenomena in my game.

One of the characters is a shadow of the Archive- a failed experiment in creating the same sort of entity. At the beginning, he had some minor psychic abilities- different than the ones that you speak of, but the exercise applies, I think, i.e.

We looked at the Psychic abilities (YS172-173). In general, those abilities either (a) affected a skill to enable it to be used psychically, or (b) affected a typically non-offensive skill to add an offensive capability that is resisted by something else that might not be typically used.

To go along those lines, I then picked the focus skill for the power that communicated what we were trying to do with the stunt. You have done so for both of them above. How you do it, really depends on your story, so if you and the players (not just the PC) agree upon it, it works for your story. Then, if it was offensive, I chose a skill that opposed it. In general, I used Discipline for defense. That seems to be what you chose also.

The only thing I see that you might want to look into is the use of passive vs. active defense. In both descriptions, you say that the active skill rolls against the defensive skill passively, as a target number. In the case of active powers, it appears that the default skills in DFRPG are rolled against the defensive skills actively, i.e. the defender rolls also.

The choice of active or passive defense is a very important one, especially if this skill is to be used against players. Passive defense doesn't give the chance to invoke aspects and such in the version of Fate used in DFRPG.

As far as the cost of your powers, I'd look at incite emotion for more of an indicator- the base cost is -1 for touch. Add another -1 for range. I'd follow the same rule of thumb.

As far as the actual effects of your powers, I'd also think about the reveal portion of Empathy in terms of characters that don't have aspects that relate to emotional state, as empathy is in general related to emotions. But other than that, I think that they're workable.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. That put my thoughts into order. The empathy skill, BTW, allows you to detect what makes a person tick (YS129, Reading People) and reveal aspects as a side effect after 10 minutes of conversation. That was my main reason for not adding a touch requisite. \$\endgroup\$
    – user11897
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 5:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user11897 - While your statement about empathy is true, the 10 minute requirement, you seem to have done away with. One that I'd also look at is the cognition skill (don't have my book right in front of me). I'd either add the time limitation, or charge more, personally. But that's up to taste. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're right and the logic is thus: An empath can use the skill at a faster rate, enhancing his trapping by time shifts. \$\endgroup\$
    – user11897
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 15:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user11897 - Again, its a choice per campaign. But I'd think that enhancement would be worth a point, if it were me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 14:25

In a word: No. (for the Telepathy one at least, empathy is a lot more forgiving)

From the viewpoint of the base canon (Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novels), I'd say that staying away from things that "Reveal Surface Thoughts" would be best.

Neuromancy to reveal thoughts gets into the dark gray area of The Third Law: Never Invade the Thoughts of Another pretty rapidly. From the books, Harry and Molly test each other mentally to build up defenses to invasive mind magic, but they can only "legally" do that because they have each other's express permission.

p. 238 Your Story, paragraph two of the The Third Law section:

"...To read someone else’s thoughts, you have to cross one of the most fundamental borders in all of creation: the line that divides one person from another. When you break into someone else’s mind to listen to his thoughts, you’re disrupting the natural order of things..."

I'd say that the way you have the Telepathy written up to work would qualify the character for being a Violator of the Laws of Magic (Law Breaker Power) almost immediately, and as such would get the Warden's attention and ultimately end with a gruesome beheading.

Instead, I'd focus on an ability that makes use of assessment actions or specific applications of The Sight instead of a "Telepathy Ability". Perhaps an ability like "Sensitive Mirrors of the Soul" that would allow a person to trigger a Soul Gaze more easily, which in practice reveals aspects of the characters in play.


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