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First time GMing the Dresden RPG with a table of four first-time Fate players. We've played three games so far (plus one session for character creation) but are all still struggling with fate points, maneuvers, and basically anything that isn't straight combat resembling DnD. I need some help understanding the best way to get my players from point A to point B when they want to do something awesome!

This is what happened: A player wanted to get some light into a dark room so that she could see the chlorofiend she was fighting. She decided her character would solve this problem by blowing a hole in the ceiling. She ended up using a spell (filling her final box in the mental stress track) to target the ceiling. I made the difficulty of blowing a hole in the ceiling a +4; she tore through the thing like paper. Effect achieved, the room is now lit.

Her first instinct was to use a spell as an attack - but then another player brought up that if she had done this as a maneuver, she could have placed an aspect like "blinded by the light" on the chlorofiend. Is this true? And if a character maneuvers by casting a spell, do they still roll and risk failure and take mental stress? Can anyone point me to a place in YS or OW where this is explained? Is it possible to fail a maneuver?

Then another player was wondering if she could have spent a fate point to make a declaration about the scene, not needing to cast the spell at all - saying that there's already a hole in the ceiling after I informed them the room was dark. That way she would still have room in her mental stress track to cast one more spell without taking a consequence. Is this a thing? If the GM sets up the scenario and says: the room is dark, then can the other players crafting the story with their fate points override what I say by spending the fate to make it so?

Really appreciate any clarification, especially if what I've written here reveals any wrong interpretations that I have about how maneuvers and declarations are used.

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if she had done this as a maneuver, she could have placed an aspect like "blinded by the light" on the chlorofiend. Is this true?

It's exactly true, look at the rules for evocation, you pick the action (attack, defend, block, maneuver)

Then another player was wondering if she could have spent a fate point to make a declaration about the scene, not needing to cast the spell at all - saying that there's already a hole in the ceiling after I informed them the room was dark. That way she would still have room in her mental stress track to cast one more spell without taking a consequence. Is this a thing?

Okay so this one is a bit trickier. You said the room was "dark". That means there's an aspect of "dark" on the zones in the room whether you write it down anywhere or not.

She can spend a fate point for the hole, but that doesn't suddenly undo the "dark" aspect. it simply creates the aspect "hole in the ceiling" which maybe she could tap when casting a light spell since it would give her something to work with.

If the GM sets up the scenario and says: the room is dark, then can the other players crafting the story with their fate points override what I say by spending the fate to make it so?

Pg 20 of YS says GM has veto over declarations. So no they can't technically overrule you. Then it becomes a question of why did she want light? and how to steer her to something that's acceptable for both of you.

A player wanted to get some light into a dark room so that she could see the chlorofiend she was fighting.

Typically this situation in FATE happens because either 1.) she's taking a penalty because of the darkness or 2.) the gm isn't letting her attack at all because of the darkness. #2 is really a non-starter in FATE the characters are supposed to be competent enough that they'd have some chance of doing what they want even if it's off the walls crazy. So...

You could let her declare a "small shaft of light". She could then either invoke it on an attack (if she had the FP) or she could spend a turn on a maneuver on top of that to get an invoke. That way when she does attack she can have it ready to pack a wallop.

Lastly, wizards are capable of great things, but only if they prepare for them. Exhausting her mental stress was a direct result of not finding light first.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you expand on "she's taking a penalty because of the darkness?" In Dresden I didn't know that scene aspects could assign negative values to skill roles. Do you mean that the difficulty class for skill roles in a dark room would be higher than the DC for skills roles in that same room if the lights were on - something the GM revises as needed? Or that because the aspect "Dark" is on the room, everyone's targeting roll, for example, or Alertness rolls would take an automatic -2 hit? I understand that functionally these would mean the same, but how I explain it to my players will change. \$\endgroup\$ – Betty Apr 22 '16 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ So I do sort of mean all of these because that's the nature of FATE. Perhaps the easiest way I mean it is that it's harder in the dark so the difficulty moves a step or two on the ladder. That doesn't really have anything to do with dark being an aspect on the room, just with the narrative fact that the room is dark, except that those two facts are identical in FATE. So yes you could say that " the difficulty class for [some] skill roles in a dark room would be higher than the DC for skills roles in that same room if the lights were on ". \$\endgroup\$ – cdm014 Apr 27 '16 at 15:27
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You've got a lot of separate questions rolled into one here. I'll try to answer 'em all.

Typically, something as basic as summoning light I'd treat as a mundane effect (a 'free' spell). It's easily done via glowsticks, flashlights, switching on the lights... dozens of things other than magic. Unless there is specifically an aspect against there being light, it just happens -- and if there is an aspect to counter, it's a maneuver rolled with an appropriate skill. Still no stress, and the risk of failure is just a wasted action.

If you want to do this, instead, as a maneuver to place 'blinded by light' on the enemy... well, it's a maneuver spell. Typically I roll with the idea that a manuever spell's power is it's targeting roll, against which the enemy gets a defense roll. So lets assume the wizard pumps 5 shifts of power into the spell and targets the clorofiend. Clorofiend defends with endurance (or another skill as you decide narratively appropriate). If the fiend rolls a 4, the aspect is landed and is sticky. If the fiend rolls a 5 or better, fragile aspect. At 6 and above, sorry, spell is wasted. If the fiend rolls a 2 or lower, on the other hand, I'd go with 'success with style' and say you just got two aspects. And given my twisted sense of humor, the clorofiend got 'blinded by the light' and the wizard is 'revved up like a duece'.

So yes, it is possible for the maneuver to fail. That's one good reason to go with scene or self aimed maneuvers, which are frequently only passively resisted by the scene, rather than an active opposition by your opponents.

As for making declarations... if the player is willing to spend a FP, and the aspect in question isn't important, I'd let them overrule me. But if I've set a scene aspect and they want to just roll a declaration... no, not so much. (I'm also a huge fan of a house rule where declarations only give a free tag if you spend an action generating it, but some of my players aren't in favor of it.)

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Her first instinct was to use a spell as an attack - but then another player brought up that if she had done this as a maneuver, she could have placed an aspect like "blinded by the light" on the chlorofiend. Is this true?

This is true. You can use spell to place aspect on something (or someone) by using maneuver action. Maneuver differs from declaration as they can be defended from. See:

  • p.116 for Declaration with example
  • p.207 Maneuvers description and p.252 for Maneuver using spells
  • p.293 for Entanglement spell (offensive maneuver)

And if a character maneuvers by casting a spell, do they still roll and risk >failure and take mental stress?

Yes. Same success/failure mental stress problems as for Evocation spell guidelines.

Then another player was wondering if she could have spent a fate point to make a declaration about the scene, not needing to cast the spell at all - saying that there's already a hole in the ceiling after I informed them the room was dark. That way she would still have room in her mental stress track to cast one more spell without taking a consequence. Is this a thing?

Yes. This is a clear use of declaration (see page 116 for example). Basically group should decide if declaration is valid and can be used. I can advice using rule of a thumb "Does this make existing situation more exciting" to weight aspect creation.

If the GM sets up the scenario and says: the room is dark, then can the other players crafting the story with their fate points override what I say by spending the fate to make it so?

They can. This one is covered by p.20 usage of fate points.

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