Dresden Files: Shades of Gray
Denizens of the Dresdenverse
The following is a short summary of the major groups and creature types in the Dresdenverse. Unless otherwise noted, most of these have some options that are viable for player characters.
The Faerie Courts
The Fae is a catch all for the denizens of the NeverNever that fit the mythology of faeries and the like. The Fae have alien minds and rarely view situations the same way a human would. Although Fae can be kind and caring, they may also be cruel and harmful simply because doing so is in their nature. Fae can breed with humans and the offspring of such a pairing are called Changelings. Changelings inherit many of the traits of their Fae parent but using those abilities tips them ever closer to their Fae nature. Eventually, every Changeling must make a choice between fully embracing their Fae nature in which case they often lose their humanity completely or fully embracing their Humanity and losing their Fae abilities. Becoming a full Fae typically leaves the mind of the former Changeling unrecognizable as anything human (and thus unplayable).
The majority of Fae fall under the dominion of the Summer or Winter Court but a few very weak (or very powerful) fae do not swear fealty to either. The Courts are locked in eternal struggle for control with each Season ruling for half the year.
Each Court is ruled by three beings: The Lady, The Queen, and the Mother. The Lady is the least powerful of the three (though still extremely powerful) but enjoys the most freedom to act on her own. The Mother is extremely powerful but has little freedom to act outside of the strictures of her season. The Queen is the nominal ruler of the court for most situations and has a balance between great power and obedience to the nature of her season. The Queen is completely forbidden from direct action on the mortal plane. Therefore, she empowers a mortal agent (though ‘mortal’ may include wizards and others with supernatural gifts) to act as a Knight. Though the Knight is far less powerful, he or she is completely free to act in the mortal world and is answerable only to the leaders of the Court. Although Knights are nominally obedient, they are not mindless slaves to the Queen and particularly cunning (and probably suicidal) Knights may attempt to act on their own agenda rather than only doing what the Queen wishes.
Summer – The Summer or Seelie Court embodies concepts of warmth and growth. Those able to draw on Seelie Magic, either through being at least part fae or through a blessing from a powerful fae, are better able to manifest magic affecting fire, healing, and life in general. Although Summer’s aspects seem positive, it should be remembered that unrestricted growth favors deadly diseases as much as rose bushes. Though the Summer Fae may seem kinder and more affectionate than their Winter counterparts, they can be wild and cruel.
Winter – The Winter or Unseelie Court embodies cold and decay. Those able to access Unseelie magic are skilled with Ice and Entropic magic. Although Winter’s aspects seem negative, they also represent the limitations and structure essential to functioning society as well as the death necessary for new things to grow. Winter Fae are often cold and heartless but may also assist others because it is rational (under what passes for reason to a Fae) to do so. The Winter Queen was the author of The Unseelie Accords, a set of intricate laws created to maintain peace among the various supernatural factions. Signers include the Winter and Summer Courts, the White and Red Vampire Courts, the White Council of Wizards, and likely several others.
Wyld Fae – The Fae who don’t swear fealty to a particular Court are generally insignificant enough to avoid attracting the attention of the Courts. However, there are exceptions. The most prominent Wyld Fae is the Erlking, the leader of the Wyld Hunt. The Erlking is loyal to neither Summer nor Winter but possesses power matching that of the Summer and Winter Queens. The Erlking primarily interacts with creatures of the mortal plane during the Wyld Hunt, in which he has free reign to hunt anything he chooses. It is practically unknown for anything to escape the Erlking but those who make a particularly good showing are brought into the Wyld Hunt and transformed into Hounds. There may be other beings on par with the Erlking but little is known about them.
Other Courts – There may be other Courts within the NeverNever with Autumn and Spring being the most likely contenders but no information is available about such things.
Black Court – Black Court vampires are what most people think of when they think of vampires. They are superhumanly fast and strong, able to withstand incredible amounts of punishment, capable of changing their shape or transforming into mist, and able to control the minds of humans. Fortunately, they also share all the classic vampiric weaknesses. They burn in sunlight, are vulnerable to fire, unable to cross running water (or enter a home uninvited but that’s a weakness shared by most supernatural beings), look like walking corpses, and are repulsed by faith. To make matters worse for the Black Court, these weaknesses are well known following the publication of Dracula. Because of this, the Black Court is probably the least numerous of the courts and certainly the least organized. They are usually little more than a single elder vampire (i.e. one able to turn humans), a few weaker children, and a small group of Renfields (brutally mind-warped humans). Black Court vampires have the most raw power on an individual basis (making them too powerful for PCs) but their numerous and widely-known weaknesses limit their threat as a group.
Red Court – Red Court vampires are hideous bat-winged monsters that hide within an ectoplasmic shell to appear human. They are physically powerful but not to the same level as the Black Court. Unfortunately, sunlight only burns away their shell and does not outright kill them the way it does Black Court vampires. They are vulnerable to fire and True Faith can harm them but their lack of major weaknesses makes them a considerable threat. Far more insidious is their organization. The Red Court has the largest numbers of any vampire court and can infect any human through their saliva. Once infected, the human develops inhuman strength and resilience but also develops a taste for blood. If the Infected ever kills another person by drinking their blood, they are irrevocably turned into one of the Red Court. The Fellowship of Saint Giles was founded to help Infected (and others living with similar curses) to deal with their afflictions and battle against the Red Court.
White Court – White Court vampires feed on emotions, specifically negative emotions, due to the presence of a bonded spirit (referred to as a demon by most White Courtiers). Unlike the Red and Black Courts, White Court vampires reproduce sexually. The child of a White Court Vampire is a seemingly normal human (referred to as a White Court Virgin) until puberty at which point they develop the ability to trigger negative emotion in others and a need to feed on it. Successfully feeding on the emotion to the point of killing the prey transforms them into a full White Court Vampire. If they are able to experience a deep expression of an emotion counter to their negative emotion prior to a full feeding, the White Court Virgin is instead transformed into a normal human. Each House has a particular emotion associated with it (Lust with House Raith, Despair for House Skavis, and Fear for House Malvora) but they can learn to feed on others. White Court vampires are stronger and faster than humans but not as physically powerful as other vampires (making them a viable option for play). However, they also lack most of the weaknesses of the other Courts. They are no more vulnerable to most things than a normal human and can recover from injuries faster than any human. Their major weakness is expression of a true emotion counter to their negative emotion. A member of House Raith can be harmed by touching a meaningful gift between lovers and are unable to make contact with someone that is truly loved by another. A symbol of True Courage can destroy a member of House Malvora. Unfortunately, such expressions of true emotion are relatively rare.
Other Courts – There is a Jade Court located in Asia but little is known about it. Other courts may also exist, serving as inspiration for other vampire legends.
Demons, Angels, and The Fallen
Demons – Demon is a catch all term for beings from the NeverNever that swear dominion to DownBelow (AKA Hell). Demons are vindictive, evil, and manipulative. They can not enter the mortal realm unless summoned and put in either a binding circle, a host body, or an ectoplasmic shell. Spellcasters may summon demons to serve as sources of information or as hired guns to attack their enemies. Both can be very dangerous as demons masters at manipulation and may overcome whatever means of control the summoner puts in place. Although the White Council tends to take a dim view of Demon Summoning, it is not a violation of the Laws of Magic. Demons are vulnerable to True Faith and destroying their physical body (host or shell) sends them back to the NeverNever.
Angels – Angels are servants of The Almighty. They are much more powerful than demons and far rarer. They likely rival the Queens of the Faerie Courts in power and may even surpass them. Unfortunately, they rarely intervene in mortal matters though they may give desperately needed aid to those doing good work (The Archangel Michael has given at least one Knight of the Cross his Sword).
The Order of the Blackened Denarius- Thirty silver pieces bought Judas Iscariot’s betrayal. Now those same 30 coins hold 30 Fallen Angels. Whenever someone picks up one of the coins, the Fallen inside offers to grant them power in exchange for merging with the Fallen. Those who accept the offer become part of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. Denarians have incredible power including the ability to take horrifying forms and often wield magical powers as well. The level of integration between Fallen and mortal varies with some Denarians being wholly controlled by the Fallen while others being mostly led by the mortal with the Fallen as a willing partner and adviser. Although referred to as a collective whole, the Order is not unified with the primary factions being divided between Nicodemus and his wife Tessa. Once taken up, the coin can not be taken from the Denarian but it can be willingly given up (though this takes tremendous strength of will and character). Killing the host will also free the coin to be taken up by another. The Denarians are mortal enemies of the Knights of the Cross. It is possible that some of the Fallen regret their decision to side with Lucifer and a sufficiently good and strong-willed host might be able to turn a Denarian to positive ends.
People of Faith
Knights of the Cross – The most prominent warriors in the battle against the darkness are the Knights of the Cross. Each of the Knights bears a holy sword containing one of the three nails of the Crucifixion. These swords are capable of cutting down the most powerful of enemies when wielded by a person of true conviction. Although most Knights of the Cross are Christian, belief in a particular religion (or any religion) is not necessary so long as the wielder truly believes in Good. In addition to the Swords, Knights of the Cross are empowered by their Faith which gives them guidance and power while pursuing their missions.
True Believers- Faith has power. Even the humblest of old men may drive back the darkness if he truly believes in something. Although True Faith is relatively rare in this day and age, there are bands of believers that work together to fight evil. The Catholic Church, while mostly ignorant of the supernatural, does have sects of priests and others aware of the truth and giving aid to those in need. Other groups likely exist for most religious groups and even those who believe in the concept of Good apart from any religious dogma. The Knights of the Cross often receive succor and aid from such groups.
Spellcaster refers to anyone who performs magic through their own innate ability and will, rather than being empowered by an outside force (such as Seelie or Unseelie magic). Spellcasters play havoc with modern technology whether they wish to or not. Typically the more modern the technology, the quicker it goes out around a spellcaster. This is only exacerbated the more powerful the spellcaster becomes. Although most spellcasters are mortal aside from their spellcasting ability, it is possible for other supernatural beings to have spellcasting ability. Vampires and Denarians in particular have shown the ability to cast spells without outside assistance (though they may also gain power from other sources like Hellfire).
White Council- The White Council is composed of every wizard on Earth with a sufficient level of power and skill to be considered for admission. The White Council is ruled by a Senior Council of seven wizards chosen by their peers and led by the most powerful wizard (granted the title of The Merlin). All members of the White Council swear to abide by the 7 Laws of Magic and to aid the White Council in times of need. Other than obeying the Laws, White Council wizards are generally free to do as they wish. The Wardens serve as law enforcement and defense among the White Council. Wardens execute those who break the Laws of Magic and many wield mystic swords capable of cutting through enchantments. They also serve as the front line of defense for the White Council in times of war.
Sorcerors- Sorceror is the term for any wizard that is not a member of the White Council. Technically, no wizard is required to join the White Council but refusal to do so is a sure way to attract very careful attention from the Wardens. Therefore, sorcerors are usually those whose power is heightened through artificial means (human sacrifice and deals with other beings are the most popular) and often abuse magic for evil and destructive ends. Since Wardens are typically powerful combat wizards with great diligence in hunting down Lawbreakers, Sorcerors are usually some mix of very powerful and very secretive.
Necromancers- Necromancers are sorcerors who focus on death magic (and therefore violate the 5th law of magic). The most infamous necromancer in recent history is Kemmler and his work often serves as basis and inspiration for necromancers. Necromancy is a very powerful source of magic as there is a great deal of energy gained by ending a life. Necromancers are hunted ruthlessly by the Wardens.
Focused Practitioners – Focused practitioners are spellcasters who lack the diverse training and ability of wizards but instead focus their power on a particular area such as Ectomancy (dealing with ghosts) or Geomancy. Although generally seen as lessers by the White Council, focused practitioners can be extremely powerful in their specialty. They are still expected to obey the Laws of Magic and practitioners focused on taboo areas like mind or body transformation are just as likely to be executed as a full wizard.
Minor Talents – Minor talents are spellcasters with a single magical ability. Many are not even aware they have any special abilities, attributing the manifestation to some mundane explanation. It is rare for a minor talent to even be able to break the Laws of Magic but those in the know are still expected to follow them.
Lycanthropes – Lycanthropes are mortals bonded with an animal spirit. Rather than changing their form, they change their minds. Doing so can make them dangerous combatants as the spirit can overcome any human inhibitions and limitations but may also push their bodies beyond their limits. The spirit may also take control even when the host doesn’t want it to which can make Lycanthropes dangerous berserkers.
Weres – Weres are mortals who can change into a single animal form (werewolves, wererats, etc). In their animal form, weres have all the abilities of such an animal and are often more resilient and powerful than a normal animal. Additionally, they retain their human intellect. This leads to a learning curve in transitioning from a human to animal form but gives the Were the advantage of a human brain. Wereforms can be significantly larger or smaller than a human form. A wereform transformation is a learned ability, similar to a minor talent.
Theriomorphs (Theres) – Theres are the opposite of weres. They are animals able to take human form. They function similarly to weres but must learn to be human rather than the other way around. They may maintain some animal instincts and skills in their human form.
True Shapeshifters – Some truly gifted shifters are able to take many forms. The most powerful of such beings is the Skinwalker, which combines shapeshifting abilities with potent magical power. Lesser shifters likely exist with more limited ability but still greater versatility than Weres.