I have a player who has taken the Blessed Words stunt out of the Baltimore section of the Dresden RPG book. (Multiple characters have it, sample char at page 379) At first it didn't seem like that big of a deal to me -- given time to pray, he can lay an aspect on the scene. Pretty fair. Basically a transplanting of the alertness ability to conviction.

Then he started wanting to do things like praying for rain. Or cops. And look! A siren goes off, answering his prayer for reinforcements in the middle of the fight!

I'd assumed -- and he didn't -- that the aspects would be limited to the type of things conviction does. Faith. Mental fortitude. Etc etc. He's going, 'well, I'm a priest and God answers my prayers!' He keeps arguing that he's not doing something that alertness couldn't do, but the point is that this is conviction not alertness. Alertness is about noticing things on the scene, it can do things conviction can't -- and vice versa.

We're going back and forth over it, and to me, what he's wanting to do is a power. And possibly -- though I haven't mentioned it yet -- a more than 1 refresh power. I mean, the ability to just make things happen...

So where is the right limit to this ability, and how do I explain it?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Which stunt is the alertness equivalent? I can't find anything like that. \$\endgroup\$ – Radhil Dec 20 '15 at 0:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not a stunt, it's the ability to make declarations, @Radhil. With alertness, you can notice things about a scene. \$\endgroup\$ – RonLugge Dec 20 '15 at 6:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ sigh Right. More coffee... \$\endgroup\$ – Radhil Dec 20 '15 at 15:41

There are three ways in which a player can use skills to bring aspects into play. The most straightforward (and therefor irrelevant) of these is "assessment", in which one uncovers aspects that already exist. The remaining two (maneuvers and declarations) essentially have the same caveat. The aspect being added MUST be reasonable in the context of the skill and fiction. For instance, using Alertness to declare that it is raining doesn't make sense if it has already been established that there is a drought. However, observing that a warehouse has a sprinkler system likely makes sense. There is no hard and fast rule for this. That is what the narrator is for.

It should be made clear at this point that the Blessed Word stunt is not a "reskin" of an an Alertness trapping, but rather an explicit declaration that Convinction can also do something that many other skills can do as well. One would not, for instance, try to use Lore to declare that IT IS RAINING, but one might well use it to declare that THESE CREATURES ARE FAE with all the good and ill that implies.

The real question is not "How does this stunt work?". The ability to simply change the universe at a whim is beyond even the Powers in the book, so clearly there is no question that your player has gone overboard. Rather the questions should be, "What could one declare with Conviction?" and "Is this reasonable to be true in the current scene?". Certainly, GOD WILL PROTECT US fits, though how is easily open to interpretation. But... what does THE POLICE ARE OUTSIDE or IT IS RAINING have to do with Conviction?

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 - Yeah... although I think twists of fate are possible, anyone who actually says 'well, I'm a priest and God answers my prayers!' needs to be retaught what faith actually does, I think. \$\endgroup\$ – Radhil Dec 20 '15 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's kinda what I thought. He's wanting something that's definitely crossing the line into powers -- some weird kind of guide my hand variation that I can't... quite... define yet. \$\endgroup\$ – RonLugge Dec 20 '15 at 21:23

Say no.

Or at least, start applying some aspect logic.

If he is praying for reinforcements in the middle of a fight, it is unlikely any given enemy will allow him "proper time" to pray. If he is praying for miracles like rain, or a SWAT team, that's a little more than a scene aspect, that's a scene rewrite. The ability might work as written, but either extend the amount of time required to pray to be consistent with the power of the intervention desired, or tamp down the effects to be consistent with what a single aspect is supposed to do for the scene. Basically, all a single scene aspect is supposed to be is a colorful important detail and a potential advantage. You wouldn't want to allow his power to invoke an alteration that's permanent, or interfere with larger concepts - it's a scene aspect, not a character, location, or campaign aspect or any other kind of core concept that should change the story.

Consider also that divine intervention has to avoid breaking free will, especially in the Dresden universe. So here's a good rule of thumb avoiding gods (or characters wielding gods like clubs) writing your plot for you - gods answer prayers sideways. Things shouldn't just happen, they should be in the realm of likely probability - really, same as any declaration would work. If he wants a particular effect, like divine rain, a burst pipe nearby would work just as well. If he wants reinforcements, someone can wander by and server as a distraction or fodder, he doesn't need full sirens.

Not to mention, if someone notices that he actually invoked cops on a supernatural conflict, someone somewhere is going to be deeply pissed, as bringing in mortal authorities is grounds for full nuclear response in the Dresdenverse.

Adding this - finally found a single sidebar next to the other Conviction stunts that says Blessed Words is based around the same logic as a maneuver. So if any particular maneuver could pull off what he's trying to pull off with prayer, I would allow it. If it goes beyond that, and your player is still pushing it, have God start showing him how to rely on himself for a change.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the great answer, nearly gave it to you as instead. \$\endgroup\$ – RonLugge Dec 20 '15 at 21:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RonLugge - ya welcome, considering how little I get the chance to actually play these games, I'm often surprised I come up with good answers at all. Glad to be useful. \$\endgroup\$ – Radhil Dec 21 '15 at 23:35

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