The monster is coming. You hear it pounding on the door outside, and you have perhaps a moment before it breaks through, and you need to put it down hard and fast. Fortunately, you're a spellcaster. What is the maximum single target damage that can be done with magic in combat?


  • Time: The monster just broke down the door and is roaring and beating its chest. You have one round before it charges across the room to you. At which point if it's not dead, you probably are.
  • Resources: you have no aspects other than you can make right now and what's already on your sheet. Taking moderate, severe, or extreme consequences is not allowed (already used up? Want to save them for later? something like that) but taking mild consequences and stress are both fine. You have whatever fate points you'd get as starting refresh.
  • Build: You have a Submerged power level, with 10 refresh and 35 skill points and a Superb skill cap. You must be using some form of magic to do the damage. Evocation, Enchanted Items, Channeling, Unseelie, doesn't matter. Ritual is fair, but remember the time and resources constraints, so probably not useful. If using sponsored magic, you are limited to one point of debt.
  • Dice: Assume you roll 0s whenever you roll.

Bonus points

  • Flexibility: being able to do this with multiple elements for example.
  • Repetition: being able to do this multiple times over a shorter timespan.
  • Reliability: being able to do this even if the dice go against you.
  • Simplicity: being able to do this with the simplest combination of powers and fewest rules.

What am I using this for?

  • Every time I introduce Dresden to a new group someone wants to be a spellcaster that makes things go boom, and they ask me how to build that. I usually point them at the Wizard template and suggest refinements, but I'm not actually sure this is the best setup for doing this. In a D&D game I can give advice on making an effective fighter, wizard, or etc if a player needs suggestions.
  • This would make a great villain. Concessions and consequences mean I can actually go pretty hardball on my players. I've found a single strong blast as an opener usually lends a certain excitement to the fray, or plants the villain firmly in their minds if they decide to bail for now and come back later. If the results from this are too deadly, I can scale back easier than I can build up.

What I know is possible- Using focus items, stunts, and specializations, an evocation user can get a Weapon:14 spell targeting a single foe. Using enchanted item slots for potions, a spellcaster can boost a combat skill by 19 shifts for one attack.

Please do not give "FATE is narrative so do not do this" type answers. This is a mechanical question, I understand FATE is typically predominantly narrative, I am generally proficient in both the underlying philosophy and with the mechanics, and I am looking for optimization advice. DFRPG gives rules for building custom spells, stunts, items, etc, which I would like to see. Sometimes the book says a thing is always fair (Like a stunt giving +1 to a trapping of a skill) sometimes they say it is sometimes fair (like a player getting Mythic Strength.) I am not looking for complete new homebrew, but I am happy with custom options built using the rules in Your Story.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're looking for answers that only use pre-made options available in Your Story, you should say so. Otherwise DFRPG's standard policy that people should invent their own mechanics makes an optimisation question nigh-impossible to answer objectively. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 0:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps you should wait a while for community answers (and clarification needs) before providing 2 self answers? It's also very very hard to see what your actual question is, your title frames it as a fireball question, your first paragraph posits single target damage, and your last paragraph references "do better than my answers". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 0:42
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Aye, but the guidelines for designing powers and spells are a lot more hand-wave-y and balance is left primarily to the group to determine. If you don't want answers that use homebrew, you should specify that. I'm honestly a little confused anyway by two self-answers to a semi-theoretical question. Based on the actual problem you describe, wouldn't it be better to ask for advice on how to help them optimise a wizard, than asking for specific builds? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 0:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Deleted self answers, attempted to clarify what amount of customization I'm looking for, attempted to clarify question to "Optimize for single target magic." Thank you for the feedback in making this clearer, let me know if it's still not well asked! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 0:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Every time I introduce Dresden to a new group someone wants to be a spellcaster that makes things go boom, and they ask me how to build that." Are you certain that helping them build to that kind of mechanics-first character concept is going to result in them enjoying/understanding DFRPG play? Not a rhetorical question—you know your players best. It just feels like something is missing for this goal to have a practical use for new players. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 7:53

1 Answer 1


If you want the truth, the best idea I've come up with (especially seeing two downvoted and deleted prior answers) is to use Incite Emotion with the Potent Emotion and At Range upgrades. Put the emphasis on "Self Doubt" or "Calm" emotions and use an attack on the monster. Depending on the monster I imagine that if they're trying to physically beat the door down they don't have terribly good Discipline and therefore lousy defense and stress tracks for Mental attacks. Regardless, most of the time things don't come prepared with mental defenses, because they expect claws, fire, and falling debris.

  • Default roll of 0

  • Deceit of +5

  • Weapon of 4 (comparable to explosive artillery)

    This means that a basic attack is worth 9 Stress before factoring the defender.

  • 6 Fate points (+6 to +12 for a knockout punch depending on Aspects that can be called on one way or the other)

Tagging the aspects means that given the perfect planetary alignment of situations you could have a +17 attack with a Weapon 4. Given that you have at least one action before the door is destroyed, you can use a maneuver at +2 (+7 attack roll) to put an aspect or just for fun as a prime. Incite Emotion can also be used as a block so if the character is buying time, a Full Defense block (a +7 total still) and with a good enough block you can get a free movement into another zone for some lather, rinse, repeat.


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