Out of Character

"Has anyone seen my D20?"

The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game Part 1: How to Parkour Obstacles

This is the first installment in what I hope will be an ongoing series on the new Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game from Evil Hat Productions. Please note, these articles are meant to serve as helpful tips for players who are trying to improve their gameplay, or who’re are hoping to make gameplay a bit easier. I will be posting an actual review of the game as a podcast on Sunday March 12, 2017 though so please keep an eye out for it if you’re interested.

Before jumping into the tips I do want to offer a warning, there will be spoilers contained in these articles. If you haven’t read The Dresden Files books and you care about maintaining secrecy than please, stop reading now.

So you’ve purchased your copy of the core game and maybe a couple of the expansions, and you’ve played a couple of games, maybe by yourself or with a group of players. One of the first things you’ll have to learn to tackle are the obstacles. Obstacles vary greatly from book to both in the actual effects they bring to table and the number you’ll have to overcome. Ranging from one to three they’re often going to hinder your progress if not bring it to a complete halt.


For example Lunar Cycle from Fool Moon prevents hits from being added to either of the Loup Garou foes. This will protect the most powerful enemies in this book.


Meanwhile Harry Captured from Death Masks prevents Harry from Attacking or Investigating. Since every game uses Harry Dresden this effectively prevents him from helping the players move towards their primary goals.

Remember this is a cooperative game so all of the players need to work together if they’re going to have any chance at winning. One of the first things you should be doing is looking at the obstacles in play and seeing how they interact with the the foes and cases. Determine if the obstacle is a major hurdle or just an inconvenience, although in most situations you’re group will probably want to prioritize getting rid of the obstacle as soon as possible.

Harry’s Talent for moving obstacles and advantages around is one key strategy to bypassing these problematic hurdles. It allows him to move far away obstacles to a more advantageous position in the row is important in that it helps minimize the cost for getting rid of them. All of the characters have abilities that allow them to remove obstacles, but some are better at it than others.


Thomas Raith’s card Family Power allows to overcome all of the obstacles in 1 row for 5 fate points. This is perfect given the wealth and prestige of the White Court Vampires with the Raith family. (In one instance we see his sister Lara Raith arrange an airlift by the U.S. Navy.)  Now a cost of 5 fate points is nothing to laugh at, but if multiple obstacles happen to fall in the same row, especially n a game with 2-3 obstacles Thomas can wipe them out in a single go. Again, you have to weigh the cost and consider the opportunities carefully. In a game with only one obstacle in player this is almost certainly too high of a cost to pay.


Every character has a 1 range ability to overcome obstacles costing a single fate point. These pair very well with Harry’s ability to move the obstacles around when he discards for fate points. This of course means in many of your games you’ll have a chance at overcoming obstacles for a minimum cost. This strategy only works if you can get the obstacle where you need it to be and when you need it to be there.

Many characters have an ability with a variable fate cost or a variable range. A few of those cards have a fixed cost and range, which comes in handy. The variable cost cards are…not great. These should only be used in a moment of most dire need as they’re usually better for generating some much needed fate points. Besides t is so hard to be cool when you have to borrow your parent’s cars or you’re driving around in a beetle held together by the will of an underpaid wizard and duct tape.


Molly Carpenter’s card Borrow the Family Minivan is an example of one of these less optimal cards. As we can see it can eat up to five of your precious fate points, but it has a fixed range of 3.


Some characters like Sanya have attacks that allow them to overcome obstacles while adding hits. There aren’t too many of these cards so it is a great boon if you happen to get one. Since you can’t always count on a Knight of the Cross swooping into save the day these shouldn’t be counted on, if you happen to get one though you’re certainly going to want to use it. In general any cards that let you do more than one thing are going to be very helpful.

In short my tips are figure out what the obstacles are doing to your early on and then prioritize them. In most games you’re going to want to get rid of them straight away. Use Harry’s talent to move the obstacles around to help position them so that they can be overcome for a minimum cost if possible. If you have variable cards they should only be used when absolutely needed. Special cards like Family Power and Esperacchius are fantastic when the circumstances support them. Hopefully this helps everyone with getting over obstacles. I still think we need a Harry card that says “When a player overcomes an obstacle if Harry’s player shouts ‘Parkour” get x number of fate points.” Don’t judge me.

I do not own the Dresden Files and all of the art for this article was created by Tyler Walpole and Christian Mcgrath

Episode 93: Men of Minas Tirith

Episode 92: Lamp Lighters Part 4

Twilight Imperium Charity Stream

The Out of Character team is going to be conducting our first twitch and charity event on February  09th, 2017 from 11:o00 AM EST until we finish our game. We’re going to have 5 players supporting various charities detailed below. The video will be available to everyone so there is no requirement to donate to watch, but please do.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Twilight Imperium it is a science fiction tabletop game from Fantasy Flight. Various alien species vie for dominance in a custom made galaxy that has been at the center of a power vacuum for far too long.

We do have an incentive for those who donate big! Anyone donating $20.00 or more to any of the charities can choose one player and designate which species that player will use during our game. For obvious reasons this incentive is limited to 1 per person and once someone choose a player that’s pretty much that.

We’re all just hoping to have a good day, raise some money for our causes and make something you’ll all enjoy. There’s a list of the players and the organizations their support below as well as links to their various websites.

Jon: Out of Character’s default GM will be playing to support The National Aviary.

Jessica: A regular on the Out of Character podcast will be playing to support Coordinated Care Network.

Christina: A regular on the Out of Character podcast will be playing to support the GLCC Pittsburgh’s LGBT community center.

Jason: A regular on the Out of Character podcast  will be playing to support Animal Friends.

Rob: A friend and our resident Twilight Imperium expert. will be playing to support Child’splay

A local game store, Drawbridge Games, has been kind enough to allow us to play there so if you’re in the Pittsburgh area on the day of stop in and watch us try to destroy one another.

The Occultist a Dungeons & Dragons 5E Character Class

I asked Twitter what sort of classes they felt are currently missing from rpgs, and I got some really interesting answers. A few people said they want to see an intelligence or lore based class. One person suggested an Occultist and that idea struck me.

The path the leads most to becoming cultists is not usually a pleasant one. Whether it begins with an unhealthy curiosity for the magical arts or an earnest desire to learn the occultist is meant to be an intelligent character who dabbles in magic without mastering it. I love the idea of a character who delves into lore a bit like a bard, but relies on ordinary research. Maybe it’s because I’m married o a librarian?

In order to make the occultist at least a little combat effective I gave them access to some spells and abilities, but largely this is a class that favors brains over brawn.

This is an extremely rough draft I only just finished so I know it still needs a lot of work. I only plotted it out to level 5 because I wanted to do some tinkering and see if how it is working up to that point. If you have any thoughts/suggestions please share.


Class Features

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d6 per occultist level

Hit Points at 1st Level: 6 + your Constitution modifier

Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d6 (or 4) + your Constitution modifier per occultist level after 1st


Armor: Light armor

Weapons: Simple weapons, hand crossbows, longswords, and shortswords


Saving Throws: Intelligence, Wisdom

Skills: Choose 3 from Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, and Religion


You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

*(a) a longsword or (b) any simple melee weapon

*(a) a scholar’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack

*(a) a holy symbol or (b) an arcane focus


Occultists are almost to a one masters of ferreting out secrets everyone else has either forgotten, or hidden behind walls, armed guards, and “No Trespassing” signs. Your ability to conduct such painstaking academic endeavors has granted you a special insight into a variety of topics. Once+ your Intelligence modifier per day so long as your character has access to a library or any other similar facility your character may utilize the location to carry out such research.

Making a Intelligence saving throw with a DC as indicated on the table below. The final decision for what type category the information in question falls under is at the discretion of the GM.

Common Knowledge DC 5

Legends DC 7

Obscure Knowledge DC 10

Lost Knowledge DC 15

Hidden Knowledge DC 25

Forbidden Knowledge DC 30

Favored Topic

Very few occultists fail to specialize in one topic of study or another, and those that do so normally don’t live very long. Choose a topic from among the following possibilities: Constructs, Druidcraft, Fey Folk, Magical History, Religious Obscura, Secret Societies, Shapeshifters, The Undead, Wards, & Witchcraft.

You have advantage on: Charisma (Deception), Charisma (Intimidation)  Charisma (Persuasion), Intelligence (Arcana), Intelligence (History), Intelligence (Investigation), Intelligence (Religion), Wisdom (Animal Handling), Wisdom (Insight), and Wisdom (Medicine) checks made so long as they pertain to your chosen Favored Topic.

Half-Remembered Incantations & Ancient Relics

Traditionally speaking occultists are not magic-users, and most will never take their knowledge beyond the realm of the theoretical, however some are foolhardy enough to try and practice what they’ve read about in ancient books and scrolls. At the 2nd level you gain spellcasting feature. You also learn a number of cantrips from another class equal to 1 + your Intelligence modifier. These spells might serve to confound and amaze commoners but true magic-users will see them as little more than parlor tricks. They are also the sum & total of your efforts.

Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for your spells. You magic comes from countless hours of toil and study that have yielded little result. You use your Intelligence whenever a spell refers to your spellasting ability. In addition you use your Intelligence modifier when setting the saving the DC for a spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.

Spell save DC= 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier.

Spell attack modifier= your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier.

Occultist Archetype

Choose an occultist archetype, which describes the path your arcane research has lead you down: Demonologist or Arcaneologist, both detailed below.


Whispers from books sealed with chains and immersed in wells filled with blessed water have drawn more than one aspiring occultist to them. The promise of greater power fueled by commiserating with demonic beings is a temptation some simply can’t refuse, but it is a path best forgotten. Through years of research you have figured out a way to contact and bind a lesser demonic entity (usually this would be a suitably weak entity, occultists are beneath the notice of any truly powerful demons). These demons grant minor favors and snippets of knowledge, but they will continually try to take advantage of the interaction and twist it to their advantage.

Upon choosing the path of the Demonologist at your 3rd level you learn Abyssal.

At the 4th level you gain the ability to cast Banishment once per day without using a spell slot, however you must still use spell components, and the spell can only be used against demons.

At the 5th level you gain a demonic follower of a CR equal to ½ your current Occultist level rounded down. You may only have a single such follower at any time. The demon will obey some of your commands, but will not risk its own life without cause. The demon is in no way truly loyal however and will seek to take advantage of you if it is able. You may banish the demon at any time as a bonus action, however you cannot summon another follower for 1d20 days after doing so.


Devoted scholars who study the history of magic and its impact on cultures the arcaneologist is part scavenger part historian.

When choosing the path of the Arcaneologist  at the 3rd level you gain the ability to double your proficiency bonus when making either an Intelligence (Arcana) or  Intelligence (History) check.

Many types of magic seek to befuddle the mind or ensnare the senses. You have learned to resist such spells. At the 4th level you gain advantage on saving throws against being charmed. If you already have advantage on these checks from a racial ability you are immune to being charmed.

Ancient magic is often unstable and the protective wards left behind to defend lost strongholds are often more potent than when they were first cast. Layers of protective clothing interwoven with weak protective wars offer you minor protection against such threats. At the 5th level choose one of the following  (acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, thunder, bludgeoning damage from magical weapons, piercing damage from magical weapons, or slashing damage from magical weapons), you now have resistance to that type of damage.


At the 3rd level you gain access to a minor ritual. Protective wards and incantations are fairly simple aspects of magic, but powerful never the less. You have mastered a minor variant of such a spell allowing you to shield yourself against attack if only briefly.  You may cast the spell Guards and Wards once per day without using spell slots but you must still use the spell components. The spell is also cast with the following modifications.

*The casting time is increased to 20 minutes.

*The wards only protect 1,000 square feet.

*You cannot use any of the other spell effects listed under the spell.



Level     Proficiency Bonus           Features              Cantrips Known                                Spells Known   

1st           +2                           Research, Favored Topic               0                                                              0


2nd          +2                           Half-Remembered                          1+                                                           0

Incantations &

Ancient Relics.


3rd           +2                           Occultist Archetype, Wards         1+                                                           0


4th           +2                           Ability Score Improvement          1+                                                          0                   


5th           +3                           ———————-           1+                                                          0

Justice League Unlimited Season 4

In an effort to try and garner some more interest in the podcast and what we do I thought I’d run an ongoing game for a bit. I was trying to run a Dungeons & Dragons game set in Ancient Rome but that got zero interest so we’re doing something else. This time I thought we’d try Mutants and Masterminds, specifically the Justice League Unlimited Season 4! Picking up one year after the events of season 3 of Justice League Unlimited. This game will be open to everyone and will run for 13 sessions (there were 13 episodes in each season of Justice League Unlimited so that seems to fit).

Players can jump in for one session or try and make it out to each of them if they wish. Whether this is your first time playing Mutants and Masterminds or you’re an old pro please don’t hesitate to join in on the fun.

Now as for choosing which heroes to play please flip through either of DC Adventures Heroes & Villains books from Green Ronin. Don’t worry about building a hero, we’re just going to use the ones from the book because it is easier than having to double-check work for everyone month after month, allows new players to jump right in, and gives people access to pretty much every hero they could ask for. Don’t worry about Power Level either, just choose a favorite . You can always swap out for the next session.

We are running on a first come first serve basis so whoever is the first to say they want Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman gets them. Of course if those players fail to turn u the character goes back into rotation.

Our first game will be in a few weeks so please check it out here:

Episode 90: Superhero Special

In the latest episode of the podcast I make some suggestions for superhero style roleplaying games.

Newton “Newt” Scamander

Author of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, accomplished Magizoologist, Hufflepuff, and now a Dungeons & Dragons character.

For his stats I wanted to reflect the fact that Newt is smart, but not so good with people. He also doesn’t have much in the way of good judgement. His intelligence and physical abilities are all high to moderate, he works with dangerous magical creatures everyday and it helps keep him in shape.

So lets talk about his spells shall we? Most of you will notice right off the bat Newt doesn’t have many attack spells, most of his magical abilities are in fact decidedly non-aggresive. Most of the spells he does have are counterparts to those we’ve seen other Hogwarts students use on a regular basis like the abilities to create light, unlock doors, and repair damaged items. We see Newt apparate in Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find quite a few times, so much so that I gave him multiple abilities to represent his teleportation, because even when we take rests into account I don’t think he’d have been able to manage all of those jumps. I gave him a few advance spells like a summoning charm, defensive charms, water breathing (for use when studying aquatic creatures), and a few other spells that I felt made sense. You could modify the list if you’re not happy with it and swap at will by consulting the Player’s Handbook. With one exception I will not be providing the details of the spells Newt has, all but one can be found in the Player’s Handbook.

When it came to his background nothing felt quite right so I created something new with the Hogwarts House: Hufflepuff background. Since Hufflepuff’s are a mixture of a wide variety of people it is a house that allows for a fair amount of customization. Arcana and Nature reflect the education offer by a magical school and the Hufflepuff’s common room which features a variety of plant-life. Plus when the head of your house teaches herbology you can’t help but learn a thing or two.

More than one person has said feats are less useful than ability score improvements. I wanted to give Newt some all new custom feats though so I made them. One represents his ability to communicate with animals, something that he manages without spells or incantations. There are tons of spells that allow wizards to summon, compel, or command beasts and monsters, but Newt doesn’t do that. He treats them with kindness and respect and they generally seem willing to oblige his wishes. His other feat represents the advanced ability to use magic without the need for verbal incantations. I think it is a handy feat that might catch a few eyes.

In all I am very happy with him and I would be pleased to hear folks tried playing him or using him as an NPC in their campaigns.

Newton “Newt” Scamander Wizard 12

Medium human, chaotic good

Background: Hufflepuff

Armor Class 12

Hit Points 74

Speed 30 ft.

Str 13 Dex 15, Con 14, Int 18, Wis 11, Cha 9

Proficiency Bonus +4

Skills Arcana +8, History+8, Nature +8, Medicine +4

Tool Proficiency: Alchemists Tools

Languages Common, Gobbledygook


Spell Save DC 16

Spell Attack Modifier +8

Class Abilities Spellcasting, Spellbook, Ritual Casting, Spellcasting Focus, Arcane Recovery, Arcane Tradition (School of Abjuration), Abjuration Savant, Arcane Ward, Projected Ward, Improved Abjuration,

Equipment 1 set of common clothes, 1 small bag of Honeydukes sweets, 10 days of rations, 50 ft. of hempen rope, 90 galleons, backpack, bedroll, dagger, Hufflepuff banner, magic case (described below), magical photo, messkit, spellbook, wand, waterskin

Magical Case: A charm placed on the case creates a demi-plan within it making it far large on the inside than any piece of Muggle luggage. To avoid detection by Muggles the interior of the case can be disguised as decidedly non-magical with the simple flip of a switch.

Dimensions: The total area of the inside of the case is some 10,000 ft. by 10,000 feet, roughly 2 miles worth of space to hold the creatures, habitats, and tools contained inside.

Contents: The case can contain up to 75 creatures of any size ranging from Tiny to Huge at present it contains 7 bowtruckles, 1 niffler, 1 demiguise, 7 occamy, 1 erumpent, 1 thunderbird, 3 graphorns, 1 nundu, 18 mooncalfs, 1 swooping evil, 1 murtlap, 1 obscurus, and 6 billywigs.

Workshop: Newt has a small workshop at the bottom of the ladder leading down into the case, he stores potion ingredients, tools, and a few personal items.

Habitats: Newt has painstakingly created habitats for each of his creatures mirroring their natural environments. The present array includes stormy plains for his thunderbird, a moonlit hillside for the mooncalfs, savannah for the nundu, a small wandwood tree for his bowtruckles, a burrow for his niffler, a forest nest for his demisguise, a nest for his occamy, a tank for his murtlap, and other small habitats for his remaining creatures. These can be modified to accommodate any creatures he might need to take on.


Cantrips Blade Ward, Lumos (Light), Minor Illusion, Prestidigiation, Repairo (Mending),

1st Level Spells Arresto Momentum (Feather Fall), Detect Magic, Expeditious Retreat, Protego(Shield), Mage Armor, Alohamora, Comprehend Languages, Magic Missile, Sleep, Witchbolt

2nd Level Spells Enlarge/Reduce, Misty Step, Wingardium Leviosa (Levitate)

3rd Level Spells  Blink, Counterspell, Water Breathing

4th Level Spells Fabricate, Control Water, Polymorph

5th Level Spells Animate Objects, Obliviate (Modify Memory)

6th Level Spells Accio (Drawmij’s Instant Summons)

7th Level Spells Teleport


1st Level evocation

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: Touch

Components: V, S

Duration: Instantaneous

Unlocks any non-magical lock automatically.


Animal Empathy: You can use Charisma (Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion) to interact with animals normally, and you have advantage when interacting with beasts. The beasts do not understand your words, but they grasp your meaning far more easily than when others try to communicate with them.

Non-Verbal Magic: You may cast any spell of a level equal to your Proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier without the use of verbal incantations. The use of this ability causes you to suffer a -2 to your spell attack roll, and the DCs for spell saves made using this ability are also decreased by two.


Hogwarts Houses/Hufflepuff: Each of the Hogwarts Houses favor different types of students, Hufflepuffs tend to be kind, hardworking, loyal, and patient. Often less outspoken than many of the students from other houses they’re overlooked and some mock their house. Students from Hufflepuff have gone on to become as valued and important as any other house however including Ministers of magic and all manner of famous witches and wizards.

Skills Proficiencies: Arcana, Nature

Tool Proficiencies: One type of tool or one type of gaming set of your choice.

Equipment: Magical photo, Hufflepuff banner, 1 set of common clothes, 10 galleons, & 1 small bag of Honeydukes sweets.

Personality Trait: More comfortable around magical creatures than people.

Ideal: If you worry you suffer twice.

Bond: I care for all magical creatures and will do everything in my power to protect them.

Flaw: People find me to be…annoying.



The Hungarian Horntail

I didn’t feel quite done with my conversions of Harry Potter creatures into D&D 5e beasts, so I thought I’d throw up one more in the form of the fearsome Hungarian Horntail Harry Potter himself faced off with in the first task of The Triwizard Tournament. I do want to make a couple of notes about the design of this dragon as opposed to other dragons we see in Dungeons & Dragons. While it is a physically powerful creature it is much less of a threat than other dragons because the dragons of the Harry Potter universe are far less intelligent, they don’t have access to spells, and for the most part they’re just huge beasts. We see them defeated, subdued, and corralled throughout the books. That is not to say they can’t do some damage though. With that in mind I built the horntail to be a nasty piece of work capable of dealing out some serious damage.

Hungarian Horntail

Armor Class 18 (natural armor)

Hit Points 205 (12d20+75)

Speed 30 ft.,flying 100. ft,

Str 28 Dex 22 Con 30 Int 8 Wis 10 Cha 8

Saving Throws Strength +10, Constitution +11

Skills Athletics +10, Intimidation +8, Perception +7

Damage Immunities fire, poison, bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from non-magical weapons.

Condition Immunities frightened

Senses darkvision, passive Perception 12


Challenge 10 (5,900 XP)

Keen Smell. The Hungarian horntail has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks made that rely on hearing or smell.

Legendary Resistance (3/day). If the Hungarian horntail fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.

Magic Resistance. The Hungarian horntail has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Spiky Protrusions. When a creature makes a melee attack against the Hungarian horntail it automatically takes 10 (2d6+5) damage.


Bite. Melee Weapon Attack. +10 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: Target takes piercing 24 (2d12+5) damage

Tail. Melee Weapon Attack. +10 to hit, reach 20 ft., one target. Hit: target takes 22 (2d10+4) bludgeoning/piercing damage.

Fire Breath (Recharge 5-6). The Hungarian horntail exhales fire in a 50 ft. cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 18 Dexterity saving throw, taking 55 (10d8) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one.

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