Impractical Applications (Eeeeeep!)

I’d had a plan for tonight’s post, but something a tad more urgent came up.

It was my first game back after a very long hiatus, and I was restless. The group hadn’t given me much idea what their planned next move was, but they had gotten across to me that it might take a bit to get their characters back, and the next thing I had planned in much detail was something for which I wanted everyone to be as IC as possible. So I tried to piece together some minor things that would keep them busy, with a contingency plan in case I needed more time.

As a plan, this lasted all of fifteen minutes.

They got into their minutiae; the first question, easy, just verification of the mechanical effects of an item they’d just acquired. Then they pulled out the Scrying Stone, and asked something very, very similar to a question I’d drawn an image that could serve as answer to a little over a month ago—but not quite the same. The question I’d planned for? “Who is Solace?” The question I got? “What is Solace’s true name?” Then the player asking rolled more than his pool in successes.


I froze. Ranted a bit (I was underslept, what can I say?). Giving them a straight answer would bypass the part of the oncoming plot arc I’ve been having the most fun with (say what you will about Solace, I’ve found she’s an unnervingly good plot-driver, or at least small incident driver.) My players offered workarounds—they’re wonderful people, did you know that?–but I couldn’t with good conscience use most of them.

So I finally decided on a plan. Solace has, shall we say, powerful patrons, who would not want her discovered this soon—this part was a player suggestion. I didn’t want to leave them with nothing, though, and I had this perfectly good picture, so I decided that at that distance and with that much of a metaphysical gap, all they could do was force the image into a similar but less easily interpreted question, allowing me to pull out the “Who is Solace” pic. It seemed to have worked.

And then they spent the rest of the session querying the scrying stone. I’m still deciding whether I prefer answering in symbolic pictures to answering questions in Lyshaspeak.


  1. Shinali says:

    Clearly we need to take notes on our own ideas. Besides, a bluescreened ST isn’t much use to anyone. I personally loved the imagery answers, it was almost like you were whipping out 3 die stunt after 3 die stunt on the fly! I would have given you more advance notice if I had had an idea sooner, honest! Ah, it’s so nice to be back in character again!

  2. Ravyn says:

    What can I say? I loves me some imagery. (That and as you’ve probably guessed, the question about Altair’s lady friend was one that I’d planned in advance. Didn’t quite have it together enough to do a picture, more’s the pity.)

    The trick is mostly just when you get questions like what started the whole thing, that seem to require a word rather than an image–particularly asking names, since that becomes either impossible or too easy depending on who has a name-book. Or when you’re not sure you’ve left enough room for, or enough hints towards, the correct interpretation of any given image–though in the case of the current storyline that’s as much a feature as a bug.

  3. Keith Davies says:

    As I recall, in the Dresden Files (books, at least, haven’t looked it up in the RPG) true names may only be freely given by the owner of the name.

    I don’t know if a creature who knows a true name can pass it on to another. Early, early in the series that a demon wanted another part of Harry’s true name in exchange for information… but I don’t remember if it would only be usable by that demon. Even if the demon could pass it on to another demon it might only be demons or other supernatural creatures that can do this. I’d assume it can’t be, for play purposes.

    In a model like this, asking for knowledge of the true name would do nothing. You could probably get a common or use name, so you know who Solace is and can find her.

    Of course, I may have misunderstood what you meant by ‘true name’ and they just wanted to know who ‘Solace’ actually is.

  4. Ravyn says:

    This isn’t DFRPG, though (I don’t mind playing in it, but my knowledge of the books is too spotty to be worth running it); my primary game is a long-running Exalted game, and while there are a few effects that work only on real names, that wasn’t what the group was going for.

    Solace herself is a cover identity. I’d had a villain whose main point was her anonymity, though the group had had their suspect list down to about seven or eight people pretty early on, but I realized partway through that she wasn’t working, and would stay not working until I brought her on stage in some form or other. Since the lady is a master of disguise, I found the easiest thing to do would be to introduce the group to her cover–and since they were making noises about asking questions to a Powerful Character who had been known to be working with her, I used that as an opportunity both to give them a name for her that wasn’t just a variation on “the spy” and to give me a chance to see what she played like in person when she wasn’t trying to lie low.

    I don’t recall with the books, though (long times between volumes, skipping a good chunk of the series… makes for a few holes in the understanding). Main things I remember re naming are that nicknames make a metaphysical difference (Uriel was quite adamant about that one, no?), and that Ferrovax managed to wreak a decent amount of temporary havoc with only part of a name.

  5. Keith Davies says:

    Yeah, I figured about halfway through writing my earlier comment that you might not be talking about True Names so much as common identity (“who is it, really?”)… but I thought it might have bearing, in that the easy thing to do might be to disallow learning True Names through a means such as this. Ah well, barking down the wrong well, I guess.

    I can see how missing pieces would lead to incomplete understanding. For instance, the Ferrovax incident you mention, I don’t remember happening (I think it’s after where I got interrupted).

    If I were to run a game in DFRPG I think I’d keep it well away from Chicago. Even if I remembered the details better, trying to match canon can be a challenge. It helps that few of my players are likely to ever read Dresden Files… but they’re also rather unlikely to ever play not-D&D, too.

  6. Shinali says:

    Well, as one of the players of said game, I’ll note that my character, Samar, openly questioned the usefulness of a true name as she has a true name, a private name, a public name, and a few aliases. Knowing her true name would be interesting, but would do you know good in figuring out who she really is. Of course, that’s based on a tiny village’s view of the world, and does not actually correspond to setting mechanics. Then again, this is a character who still treats beings with great respect that she could probably take down with a slap, so her view of reality is skewed, and she likes it that way.

    The nice thing about the setting is with generally mortal-born PCs, you can have them believe or have traditions of almost anything, and as such, Samar’s interpretation of the question, the stone’s, and Geri’s (who asked it) were all different, and still pretty accurate.

  7. Ravyn says:

    Keith: It was during the party in the… third book, was it? I have sequence issues with this series. That Red Court one. Sort of a throwaway thing–Ferrovax says a couple parts of Harry’s name to make a point, and… I can’t even remember what happened, just that it had A Significant Effect. (And yes, no kidding on locations. In the game I played in, we were all in London and thereabouts, and “Chicago” was just a running joke when my Aisling contacted her superiors in the White Council.) Re references–I read the first five and the last two. And that short story collection from last year.

    There are advantages to knowing one’s name in the game, though. One of the PCs either has or has potential access to, and I can’t remember which, an effect by which he can diffuse someone’s anger by saying their name a certain way (one of my favorite Charms), and there was a family of antagonists who could make a person do almost any immediate action by prefacing it with his or her name. So it was a fair point. Most people just don’t realize that it might be a good idea to have a few extra names lying around (Samar from the comment below yours is a very notable exception)–which is probably just as well, as there are some cases in which I’m not entirely sure which of a person’s many names a given Charm would ping on.

    Shinali: Yep–gotta love those traditions. And I love that tendency of Samar’s to give respect whether it’s due or not–especially when it’s giving logic errors to lesser gods.

  8. Keith Davies says:

    Oh, yeah, I remember that from the party now. Just before Harry started the war, wasn’t it? It was a minor element of the scene as I recall. To be honest, though, I was blowing through the books really fast at that point because I couldn’t stop….

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