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In Dresdenverse the invitations through the threshold are big issue. Some beings cannot enter at all (Ghosts for example) while others have large portion of their magical power stripped (for example Wizards, White Court Vampires). Therefore people aware of the issue are really careful before inviting anyone/anything into their house.

However why not loophole the whole issue and not invite say for example "I invite Harry Dresden, wizard of the white council" instead of the detections and tests?

PS I'm currently reading Ghost Story so I would be grateful for marking spoilers.

2 Answers 2

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TL;DR: better safe than sorry?

From what we've seen in the Dresdenverse, much of the power of the supernatural creatures comes from intent and meaning. The words themselves don't seem to have much real significance in how they affect the world, it's what the speaker believes and means when he/she says them.

If that's true, than saying anything with the intent of allowing the suspect creature through your threshold would have the same effect, regardless of how you worded it. Your words would be directed at the "thing" you are speaking to, even if that thing is not who/what you assumed it was.

We've even seen cases where, for example, a completely different entity that legitimately claimed to be "Harry Dresden" went around hurting people (the Nightmare, after it "ate" Harry's power). Even if invitations were as precise as you want them to be, its not clear how such a creature would react to being invited in as if it were Harry.

Given all of this ambiguity over how they actually work and what is/isn't effective to keep bad things out, anyone with enough awareness to know why an invitation is significant is probably going to err way on the side of caution and not take any chances.

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  • Actually, with the Unseelie (for example, the Accords), it's the words and not the intent.
    – rsegal
    Jul 23, 2013 at 17:22
  • With the Faerie we've seen that they just naturally exist in a state where words and intent are inseparable; with the Accords I assume they made the words of the agreement precisely and exactly match the intent of all present for just that reason. We've certainly seen cases where Fae were unable to even try to "get around" orders from higher-ups via wordsmithing, just because they knew they were going against the intent of their boss.
    – KutuluMike
    Jul 23, 2013 at 17:42
  • The Fae don't have an intent of the law - that's been established multiple times by Harry, including specifically with regards to the Accords. Multiple Fae factions with conflicting interests writing a legal document is the reason it's considered airtight. Plus, if you're talking about the donut incident, that worked specifically because Harry gave the Fae in question a way to carry out the letter while ignoring its spirit, because that Fae didn't want to follow his superior's intent.
    – rsegal
    Jul 23, 2013 at 17:47
  • Then why not use it in addition? You have suspect A that you believe that is not a shapeshifter (blood test) and tested in other means. Then you invite "Harry Dresden" as the additional precaution. Jul 23, 2013 at 18:04
  • Power from intent over words is also pointed to with the incantations from wizards in the setting; the words don't have to mean anything at all, they're just to help focus the wizard's mind. Harry often uses pseudolatin (maybe he should have attended an actual course instead of learning Latin-by-mail), while Molly's incantations are rooted in Japanese.
    – Brian S
    Jan 30, 2014 at 14:53
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We actually do see a complex form of invitation - summoning. Given the absurd intricacy involved in summoning, it follows that lawyering up and using summoning instead of a simple bleed-CAPTCHA and passwords would be exceedingly intricate - you certainly can do it, but as compared to the ease of a small cut and a password, it's actually more of a bother to do it that way.

Further, as you'll discover late in Cold Days, certain threats are exceptionally difficult to detect, and the human factor (of tests and challenges and passwords and so forth) actually allows other humans to pick up on subtle clues to whether the being is who they claim to be.

In Ghost Story, Harry was subjected to a battery of tests as to his Harry-hood because his situation was highly implausible and many of the people present didn't want to believe it, after all [Ghost Story spoilers ahead]

it's not every day that you get your chest blown out by a centuries-old, professional sniper in your own employ now is it?

But, all of this ignores the real kicker: there is a way to circumvent the tests and passwords and bleeding and so on: a wizard's True Name. One could, with proper inflection and enunciation, invite Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden in for a short duration, providing he act as a guest ought. The only catch is that they, and everyone else in earshot, will then know your True Name.

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