In The Dresden Files RPG, mental stress is accrued for casting spells. As you cast spells, you become more mentally fatigued. The mental stress track is cleared at the end of the conflict- so if you cast spells to defeat the big baddie, after he's defeated, and you take a second to catch your breath and clear your mind, your mental stress track is zeroed.

So my question- if you're not in a conflict, and no conflict is imminent, and you cast a spell for an effect, how and when is stress cleared? I'd think in most cases it wouldn't matter as if there's no conflict in the making, the effects of casting the spell beyond the moment wouldn't affect the story, but I was just wondering.

An example: The group is investigating a murder, and creeps into the office of one of the suspects. The office is locked, so the wizard p.i. casts a 1-stress rote in order to open the door. Then once inside, they find a scrap of fabric that the wizard p.i. realizes is the same as the fabric of the coat of one of the victims, so casts a psychometry spell with 4 shifts (equal to his conviction) to verify this, for another point of stress. After verifying, and seeing that there is a clock with a reflective surface facing the door, the Wizard P.I. picks that up and casts a 5 shift spirit spell to see everything that the surface reflected in the last day, for 2 more stress. He sees that in contrast to the suspect's tale, the victim was in his office just yesterday. So they leave to go question the suspect again. Scene over. Does the mental stress clear at this point?

My read of the rules says yes, but I wanted to verify that mental stress in non-conflict situations is just for record keeping and such (and as a herring perhaps to disguise conflict vs. non-conflict, i.e. if the suspect was going to return, they wouldn't know it).


2 Answers 2


I would say that the stress continues either until the end of he scene or until such a time as the character can rest for a little time.

So, in your example, if after casting the last spell, a monkey demon were to burst in and combat start then the stress would remain. If on the other hand, the character made a cup of coffee and relaxed for a little while before the monkey demon attached, then they would regain the stress.

Since they are leaving the office to go and see the suspect, I would rule that yes, the stress is gone. However, if they knew that the suspect was on his way to the airport or the characters had to solve the mystery before midnight or the Queen of Winter will wear their skin for a hat, or they are under duress of any kind, then I would say that the stress does not clear. I am mean like that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretty well what I was going to say \$\endgroup\$
    – DForck42
    Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 21:48

The rules clearly state that stress clears at the end of a scene, as Sardathrion pointed out, and not at the end of a conflict as in the question. The trick here is in figuring out when scenes end, then.

My rule of thumb is to ask myself, "Has the emotional event of this scene ended yet?" It's better than a change of scenery, because these events, for instance, could all be in one scene:

  • The wizard and his friends are trying to rescue a little girl kidnapped by a Faerie prince who wants her for his cupbearer. They start at the girl's room.

  • The K9 cop's dog tracks her scent to an abandoned movie theater.

  • The wizard detects a recently closed Way, and he re-opens it.

  • The half-fae in the group takes them through the Nevernever to the prince's demnese.

Even though they've changed physical locations a lot, this is all one continuous emotional event - they're following the girl's trail, hoping they find her, wary for dangers on the way.

The Stress accrued along the way would clear at the end of this scene in my games, unless conflict broke out before they could get a breather. For instance, if they had a scene in which they planned their assault on the prince's stronghold, that would be a new scene with a Stress reset. But if they were discovered by the prince's guards and set upon before they could have another scene, I wouldn't clear the Stress.

You might refer to this answer for more on this general topic.


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