Shadows at the Crossroads
Playing the Game
The most important rule in DFRPG is a simple one: the dice only come out when there is an interesting challenge with meaningful consequences. If there’s no significant pressure on the character, and if success and failure don’t both present opportunities for drama, then don’t pick up the dice.
The Basic Mechanic
Every action in DFRPG is based on a simple mechanic: Roll the dice, and add an appropriate skill. This total is called your effort. If your effort is less than the difficulty, you fail. If your effort is equal to or greater than the difficulty, then you succeed. For each point that you beat the difficulty by, you get one shift, and these shifts measure the effect of your effort.
Borrowing from Fate Core, we also have:
If you roll lower than your opposition, you fail. This means one of several things: you don’t get what you want, you get what you want at a serious cost, or you suffer some negative mechanical consequence. Sometimes, it means more than one of those.
If you roll the same as your opposition, you tie. This means you get what you want, but at a minor cost, or you get a lesser version of what you wanted.
If you roll higher than your opposition by 1 or 2 shifts, you succeed. This means you get what you want at no cost.
If you roll higher than your opposition by 3 or more shifts, you succeed with style. This means that you get what you want, but you also get an added benefit on top of that.
Character skills, efforts, and difficulties are rated according the The Ladder, shown to the left. In this way you can describe a given effort or skill not just in numbers, but also in terms of the narrative. A Good (+3) attack is no match for a Great (+4) defense. A Superb (+5) craftsman can easily create Decent (+2) works.
On this scale, Average represents the minimum level of capability for someone who does something regularly, but not exceptionally. Most people are between Average and Good at the things they do for a living, and are Mediocre at most other things.
Player characters push the boundaries of what “normal” people are capable of and, as such, they tend to be Great or Superb at whatever their central passion is. Each PC is, in a sense, the protagonist in his own story; this means that the heroes of The Dresden Files RPG are genuinely exceptional individuals and may well be recognized as such.