I'll be running a Dresden Files campaign in a couple of weeks using the up to your waist power level, and one of my players has requested a character with the ability to "turn off" pain for a certain period of time (limited to a day or two total), at the cost of feeling ALL the pain he would have felt all at once at a later date, which I'll roll for.

How can I work this into the game? I felt like he would probably take the damage in the mental stress track once the pain hits him, but that ignores physical consequences, and would make him literally impossible to take down in a fight. Maybe I could use some combination of the Inhuman Toughness and Inhuman Recovery powers? Can anyone more familiar with the system give me a hand here?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not familiar with DF specifically, but in general Fate discussion, stress and consequences do not always equal pain and injury. While the character may not be taken out of a brawl by pain alone, stress could represent their avoidance of becoming exhausted or knocked clear from the fighting arena. "Taken out" really just means that someone else gets to narrate what happens to the character when the dust clears. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2015 at 15:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ … and be careful about Fate Fallacy #1: Stress is not damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Jun 4, 2015 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


My suggestion is that the character take a stunt related to manipulating consequences, rather than stress. Stress is ephemeral - it vanishes after the combat is over, and unless you're in the middle of a combat, taking stress is basically meaningless, which means that 'delaying' stress doesn't really work. Consequences, on the other hand, represent the lasting effects of injury. 'Being in pain' is one of the standard lasting effects of injury, so being able to defer consequences fits reasonably well with the idea of deferred pain.

Also, it should be a limited ability, either requiring resources (fate points) to use, or having a set maximum number of uses (or both). A character that simply doesn't take stress or consequences will, as you say, break the combat system, and being able to ignore pain doesn't prevent your body from being damaged.

As a starting point, consider the Last Leg stunt from the Fate Core website:

Last Leg: You may spend fate points to keep standing. Any time you would suffer a consequence or be taken out by physical stress, you may spend a fate point to remain standing or otherwise defer a consequence for one more exchange, or until you take stress again, whichever comes first. Once the extra time you've bought is up, all the effects you have deferred come to bear at once. You may keep spending fate points each time the time limit expires until you run out.

Personally, I think this is a bit weak for a stunt - it requires a Fate point to power it, and only lasts for one exchange. DFRPG powers often give significantly greater benefit-per-refresh than this, so I would suggest making something that uses a similar mechanic, but is better - allows the character to defer the consequence longer (in keeping with your description). Perhaps something like this:

Ignore the Pain: You may spend fate points to ignore injury... for a while. Once per scene, when you would take a physical consequence, you may spend a Fate point to defer that consequence until the next day (or the start of the next session, whichever comes first). If you are unable to take the consequence when it returns, it rolls up to the next higher consequence slot. If you cannot take it at all, you are taken out at that time.

In addition to keeping the consequence slot open, this has the benefit of denying the enemy who would have inflicted a consequence their free invocation thereof, at least for the duration of the fight.

My assessment is that, balance-wise, this is pretty strong for a 1-refresh stunt, but weaker than a 2-refresh power (like Inhuman Recovery). Depending on how much refresh the character wants to spend on their 'deferred pain' ability, you could ramp up this power in a variety of ways: remove the fate point cost, allow it to be used more times, defer the consequences longer, etc. It could also be combined with one of the Recovery powers, which would make it much more likely that the character can clear out their other consequences by the time the 'deferred' one(s) arrive.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Last Leg seems perfect as a DFRPG stunt, to me. If the player just wants to be able to ignore the consequences of pain, that's what Endurance (and by extension Inhuman+ Toughness) are for. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2015 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's an example stunt No Pain, No Gain in DFRPG that gives a character two extra mild physical consequences. They stack with the ones from having Superb or better Endurance. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 20, 2016 at 18:21

This sounds like it would be heavily overpowered, but it doesn't have to be- ignoring pain is not the same as ignoring injury. If anything it can play in the opposite direction as pain works partly as a warning that there is a physical problem going on so a character with this ability may miss a serious problem that affects them badly later.

If I can ignore pain, but my leg is broken, that doesn't mean I can walk- my muscles are still pulling broken bone around and that's going to make walking pretty much impossible. If I'm shot and I can ignore the pain, that doesn't mean I can breathe with that punctured lung or that I won't die from loss of blood. I may be more comfortable than I would be, but I'm going to need urgent medical attention if I'm going to survive.

With that in mind, it should be possible to develop a fun and interesting stunt or even an aspect ( a character who isn't aware they are walking into a dangerously hot or cold area would offer opportunities for you to compel them ) based around this concept without breaking the game.

In fact Fate Core actually has a very similar stunt already:

Hard Boiled.

You can choose to ignore a mild or moderate consequence for the duration of the scene. It can’t be compelled against you or invoked by your enemies. At the end of the scene it comes back worse, though; if it was a mild consequence it becomes a moderate consequence, and if it was already moderate, it becomes severe. (Fate Core, p.127)

This works well in terms of your character's concept because the mechanics already allow a character to choose a consequence instead of taking stress, which you could consider as being similar to ignoring pain but being unable to ignore the inhibiting factors caused by an injury.

You could extend this to work across sessions rather than scenes.

This isn't switching off all pain, though - that doesn't read like a stunt to me as stunts are more like one-off events. If you wanted to have something that persisted longer, you might need an aspect:

I don't have time for this right now

You can ignore pain for the time being, but when it comes back, it's going to come back hard.

Invoke to:

  • Resist incoming damage
  • Traverse painful environments

Compel to:

  • Remind you about damage you resisted earlier.
  • Limit your awareness of physical harm being received.

I would suggest designing a new stunt. It only matters that the two of you and the rest of the gaming table agree that it'll work so it's not putting anyone's nose out of joint...

The Stunt might be something like :

Ignore Pain. Once per session, this stunt can be invoked to establish that the pain of physical wounds do not restrict the character's actions.

This does not have any direct mechanical representation, but it does prevent other players from using the characters consequences against him (and for him using them to his advantage) in this manner.

If you don't like the "once per session" change how often or sdwitch it out for a fate-point expenditure. The point behind it was to ensure that the player has to make a decision to block the pain. Also, there is nothing to say you and he can't agree to extend that for a narratively-appropriate length of time.

There is nothing to say that these consequences can't be tagged, invoked or compelled in different ways, though! This refers specifically to the pain of a physical wound. A consequence like CONCUSSION might still be compelled to establish dizziness, a possible loss of consciousness, double-vision. A consequence like BROKEN LEG can still be compelled to restrict movement.

I'm not sure how to address "all the pain he would have felt" coming back to this character later But if it's not in the middle of a combat scene, it's probably a strictly narrative thing, anyway and doesn't need to be modeled with mechanics. I mean, you're not actually adding any new consequences...

You also might want to advise the player that there is a real downside to turning the pain off. Pain tells you when something worth being concerned about has happened. This character might turn off the pain to get over the headache of a concussion and therefore not notice that he was later hit with a shrapnel which lacerated an artery.... Character gets a severe consequence BLEEDING OUT and narratively, the character shouldn't be aware of it... at least until they've performed a narrative action, like a rapid body survey, to assure themselves that they haven't taken on any life-threatening injuries in the mean-time...

All in all, I think this could be kind of fun to play out...

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    Jul 8, 2015 at 2:03

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