The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game is based on the eponymous books by Jim Butcher. The game is produced by Evil Hat Productions and based on their popular FATE System. In FATE, characters are defined by Skills, Aspects, and Stunts/Powers.
Skills: Skills define what a character can do, and usually range from 1 to 5. These numbers are added to a roll of four Fudge Dice (six-sided dice with a “+” on two faces, a “-“ on two faces, and two blank faces). Fudge Dice
create a result between -4 (rolling a “-“ on all four dice) to 4 (rolling a “+” on all four dice) and tend to roll 0 (rolling a combination of “+” and “-“ that cancel out).
Aspects: Aspects are short descriptive phrases, like “WIZARD PRIVATE EYE” or “SUPERNATURAL DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT AGENCY” Through the use of Fate Points, they can be “invoked” to give a player either a +2 to a die roll or a re-roll. If a player has an aspect that could hinder or complicate his life, he can accept a “compel” to earn a FATE Point.
For instance, if a player has the Aspect “GIMPY LEG” and has to run away from a horde of vicious Ghouls, the Game Master could hold up a Fate Point and say, “I don’t think you’re going to get
away from them with your GIMPYLEG.” If the player agrees, then the ghouls catch up to him, no skill check involved, and he gets a FATE Point. If he doesn’t like the compel, then he can pay the Game Master a FATE Point to ignore it.
Fate Points: A player starts each session (generally) with a number of Fate Points equal to his Refresh Value (generally starting between 1 to 10, depending on the Power Level of the campaign and the Template taken.) In some cases, an Aspect can be “tagged” or used without spending a FATE Point.
Stunts/Powers: A player can buy Stunts and/or Powers with their Refresh Value and gain powerful abilities. A character cannot go below a Refresh of “1,” so a character starting with a 10 Refresh can only spend 9 points on Stunts and Powers. Players can earn more Refresh through advancement. Stunts only cost 1 point each and provide situational benefits, usually to skill rolls. Powers can cost more, but they provide a bigger “bang.”
Stress Tracks: Player characters also have Stress Tracks and Consequences. Stress Tracks come in three flavors: Physical, Mental, and Social. They are used to represent damage in combat (which can be purely mental or social.) They generally have between two to four boxes on each track, depending on skills, stunts, and powers. In Shadows Over New York, a character might have a Hunger track if they were playing a White Court Vampire.
Basically, the difference between an enemy’s roll to attack you and your roll to defend is counted as shifts of damage. If a Hired Gunman gets a result of +6 on his Guns roll to shoot you, and you get a +4 on your Athletics to dodge, then the Hired Gunamn has done two shifts of damage to your Physical Stress Track. You fill in the second box on the track. If that box is already filled, then the damage “rolls up” to the third box. If the number of shifts would exceed your stress track or would roll over the maximum, then your character is “Taken Out,” either killed, knocked unconscious, or otherwise out of the fight at the discretion of the attacker.
Consequences: To mitigate stress, you can take Consequences. These are aspects that can reduce your Stress. They come in four levels: Mild (-2 stress), Moderate (-4), Severe (-6), and Extreme (-8). The drawback to them is that anyone can “tag” a consequence for free one time after you take it, and the consequence can linger on your sheet for a long time. (Mild Consequences go away quickly, but Extreme Consequences actually rewrite one of your character’s aspects!)