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I'm running a Dresden Files game, and I think my PCs need a Bob. Because I need a mouthpiece and exposition engine.

But the description of Bob in Our World is skimpy at best, equating him to just a Lore check at +5.

I'm comfortable creating the story of our Bob equivalent. But how does the relationship with the PCs get modeled in-game? And has anyone used the existing Powers / Skills to create something like this in more detail?

My thought was to introduce the artifact / character and then allow the PCs to swap an existing Aspect for one related to it at the next opportunity. That Aspect will let the players use our "Bob" for Declarations, for effects, etc..

And if they don't, then I have all the control over Bob. I say when he speaks, and when he won't. What he knows and what he doesn't.

Bottom line: If they don't incorporate our Bob into their Aspects, then he's my plot device, my mouthpiece. If they do, he becomes a way for them to tell their stories and solve their problems.

Sound fair?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm vague on the rules, but can't they use aspects even if they aren't associated with them? I know they can create them on the fly by fate point expenditure or a skill check, but I thought there was a way to pull an aspect out without needing it on your sheet. That said I think your idea is perfectly reasonable. (Random aside, Bob in the books is quite different from Bob in the TV show...I didn't know that initially). \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    May 18 '11 at 22:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Players can create Aspects through Declarations, and they can discover existing aspects through Assessments. And yeah, show Bob is very different from book Bob. I understand why the show was different, but I didn't like it much. It's too bad, because Dresden would make great TV. On Showtime, like Dexter. \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    May 18 '11 at 22:40
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I honestly think your suggestion in the question is probably the best route.

There are major pros for the players if they pick Bob up as an Aspect

If they have Bob as an aspect, it becomes a good way for them to gain fate points by using that aspect to stumble into danger, as well as giving you a pretty good way to introduce plot hooks. If they want to use Bob to augment their die rolls, they could spend a fate point to gain a bonus to whatever roll/reroll (I'd guess lore or something else applicable that's an applicable use of an aspect, but I can't quite recall). Once you've got them hooked on their new Aspect, take it away, and toss them a plot point so they can go get it back.

If they don't grab him as an Aspect, well, you've got a plot device, but they won't be getting any fate from when he decides to throw them a bone.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is the solution I have chosen. The players know the consequences and at their next appropriate Milestone will decide whether to adjust their Aspects to include our not-Bob or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Jun 7 '11 at 22:01
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In addition to Cthos' answer you can also let the lucky player take Bob as a stunt. This would give him some game-mechanic related bonuses.

The basic usage would probably be that The character has access to Bob's skill pyramid. If that's too powerful, assume that occasionally Bob takes over, and the character can swap skill pyramids, using Bob's but losing access to his own pyramid for the time being.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like that idea. It costs Refresh instead of an Aspect slot, so I think it has about the same cost associated. Is there a similar stunt you're modeling this on? It seems like a Lore stunt to me... \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Jul 18 '11 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nope, just made it up after reading the Wikipedia article about Bob. \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Jul 18 '11 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmmm...Aspects are of fixed number, whereas Refresh can be increased through play. So maybe Aspects are in fact more valuable than Refresh... \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Jul 18 '11 at 19:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd say make it both an aspect and a stunt. Aspect as a taggable story element, and stunt to add some interesting game mechanic. \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Jul 18 '11 at 19:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Stunts-that-get-you-allies is a standard FATE thing to do, so this fits. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 11 '11 at 23:21
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Bob can easily be:

  1. An aspect
  2. A stunt
  3. an NPC
  4. a PC.
  5. A tool which grants a skill

Which is best varies by what role he's to play.

Bob as Character

Bob, as a character, has an unpleasant set of aspects to cope with:

  • Lives inside a token (the skull)
  • obligated to serve the owner of the skull
  • allergic to sunlight
  • porn addict
  • smart-alect
  • Brilliant but unprincipled
  • bodiless spirit
  • can't work magic

He likewise has only a few skills, but we can say clearly he's Lore +5, and probably Scholarship +4.

The behaviors when owned by Butters are pretty much the same as for Harry. We really don't know enough about his time with Kemmler to judge, but the Kemmler-Chunk Evil Bob certainly shares most of them.

As an NPC, Bob's far less interesting, and really would be a waste.

Bob as seen in the novels is a playable but very limited character. As seen in the TV show, he's much more interesting, tho' limited in very different ways.

Bob as Tool

Bob as a tool is a Lore skill that can only be used in the presence of the skull, and only for knowledge checks.

But....

this overlooks Bob's ability to ride the cat.

Bob as stunt

Bob as a stunt is likely to be equivalent to a library in and of himself. So, one can do research using Bob alone.

Harry does so in several books. Including Cold Days. But again, this ignores his abilities to ride the cat.

Or he could be a +1 to magical actions across all three magical skills. Bob does certainly prop up Harry's Discipline on a few occasions.

Bob as aspect

This is a weak yet very broad application. Bob can be used to possess animals. He can be used in Lore checks, or Thaumaturgy. Or even Alertness.

Harry uses knowledge from Bob for purposes including all the following skills: Alertness, Burglary, Contacts, Conviction, Deceit, Discipline, Intimidation, Investigation, Lore, Presence, Rapport, Scholarship, Suvival.

But, as an aspect, Bob can be used to compel the player. Or worse, to declare that "Bob was wrong!" and take away from the role. Which isn't unprecedented in the novels, either.

Which to use?

It depends on what you want to do with Bob in the game.

  • If he's just a color bit to get bonuses, he's a stunt.
  • If he's unreliable color, he's an aspect
  • If he's a participant in the plot, he may be best as a character, even a PC.
  • If he's just a penalty avoidance, he's a tool or stunt.

Or, you can have him be two or more as needed. From the way Harry is affected, he's a character and an aspect and a tool. Some times, he's important (his player is there), others he's just a wizard's audiobook (his player is absent).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Bob can use magic. When he has the memories from his time with Kemmler he nearly kills Harry. Its probably related to Bob being a spirit and the magic of necromancy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zan Lynx
    Nov 17 '14 at 2:01
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Don't you see? The real Bob was inside you, all along!

Exposition and Knowledge Dumping

Sometimes the GM just needs to give the group a lot of information, and the character with a high Scholarship skill tends to be the conduit of that. When the GM needs to knowledge dump, if you have the highest Scholarship skill, the GM may ask if she can use you as a mouthpiece. Assuming you agree, the GM can share all appropriate background and is encouraged to give you a fate point for having your character temporarily commandeered for the purposes of the story.

-- "Skills", Your Story p.141

But wait, you may say, that's Scholarship. However:

Arcane Research [...]

Other than the subject matter, Lore behaves exactly like the Scholarship skill when it comes to the functions and methods of research, allowing most of Scholarship's trappings [...] to be used, with the focus changed to arcane and occult matters.

-- "Skills", Your Story p.134

Not just the Research trapping of Scholarship: most trappings. So, you don't get arcane Medical Attention or arcane Computer Use, since there really isn't a "focus changed" version of those, but you do get arcane Research, arcane Answers, arcane Declaring Minor Details, possibly arcane Languages if your GM wants there to be multiple languages of magic, and, most usefully for this situation, arcane Exposition and Knowledge Dumping.

So if you just want to knowledge dump - if you're just providing background detail that's common to everyone in the know, not the actionable and advantageous stuff you'd get from looking for Answers - you don't need a Bob. Whoever in your group has decent Lore can be your mouthpiece.

But maybe you don't have a loremaster in your group. That's understandable - Lore tends to be one of those "all or nothing" skills, because that's what you have in the fiction. There isn't the Lore equivalent of "somebody who can take care of themselves in a fight" - there are loremasters, and there are people who need to consult loremasters. In that case, yes, you do need a Bob.

The Bob Emergence

Your description sounds like you're looking for a Bob, not the Bob; since he doesn't come in six-packs, I assume you're trying to come up with a local equivalent. Now, something about Bob that doesn't get a lot of page space in the books is that Bob works in trade. In this information age it's generally not hard for Harry to make that trade, and it's also not something that's dramatic enough to demand a lot of narrative focus, but you can make that principle do some work.

Since you want this to be someone accessible to the entire group, not linked or accountable to one member, you're probably best off introducing it as an Aspect linked to one of the Locations in your city. And -- you know what? Let's stop talking about a thing in general and talk about a thing in specific. Let's talk about an urban legend in your city called Liar's Corner.

The legend is simple enough: somebody's neighbor, or brother-in-law, or it-was-actually-me-I-swear, is having a nice night in a local drinking establishment when this voice from the corner behind them starts saying the most patently wrong things. In short order an argument starts up, but when it comes to the spin-around-dramatically-and-throw-hands part, there's nobody there.

As it turns out (in the course of the investigation that puts a Location and Liar's Corner out into the city) the culprit is a free agent information broker working with all manner of practitioners. They're happy to go by "The Liar" for now, and these incidents are just them gathering information, using the most traditionally reliable means: being wrong on the Internet in a public drinking establishment.

The simplest way to let the Liar be a Bob to your PCs is to just have that aspect be available for them to spend on when they're trying to do Lore things, basically trying to get Answers with a difficulty based on the Lore they'd need to get Exposition about this in the first place.

But you probably want the Liar to actually be a library, the same way Our World hints that Bob might be capable of being, so your PCs can effectively do arcane Research and get answers even if they're not good enough to get Answers. In that case you're going to need to get a little Extra about things. Maybe something like this:

Liar's Corner

When you're testing Lore for arcane Answers and willing to discuss matters with the Liar, you can invoke Liar's Corner to roll the Liar's Dice. Roll a separate set of Fate dice; players can reroll or boost either result after the roll as normal, but you can pick the roll you want.

Special: Library-In-Trade. You can effectively "do Research" after failing a Lore roll where you invoked Liar's Corner. This is actually tracking down mortal-realm information the Liar wants in exchange for the answers you were looking for. Finding this information is not risky or dangerous for you, but it is time-consuming - start at "a few hours" and move up the time interval track for every shift you failed by past the first.

Special: Liar's Business. The GM can compel Liar's Corner after you fail a Lore roll to have the Liar's request involve some risk or danger you'll need to scene around. The GM can also compel Liar's Corner for the whole group before you try to invoke Liar's Corner, if you're asking after information where the Liar can't help you - they'll claim they can't divulge it as a result of a previous arrangement.

Special: Liar In Your Corner. This 1-Refresh stunt may be available after further plot at this location and confers all of the following benefits:

  • When you invoke Liar's Corner, you can flip one of the Liar's Dice from a ➖ to a ➕.
  • When you gather information for the Liar and it isn't risky or dangerous, it takes one fewer unit on the time interval track.
  • When the GM compels Liar's Corner against you, they need to give you at least 2 Fate Points to do so.
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    \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't even considered a location Aspect. Great addtion \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Mar 22 '21 at 6:25

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