Dresden Files: New York
The quick-and-dirty method of using magic. You gather your power, then shove it into a temporary construct of will to control its direction and effect.
Because of its quick and dirty nature, evocation has two practical limitations
- You can’t use evocation to affect anything beyond your line of sight and
- Anything you do with evocation has a very short duration, usually limited to an instant (in game terms, one round of combat).
While it’s possible to keep certain evocation effects working for a little while by continuing to feed it power, this will only work for a limited time. Long-lasting magic is the province of thaumaturgy.
If you try to draw too much power or can’t focus sharply enough on your virtual construct, then the release of energy shatters the construct inside your mind (resulting in unconsciousness, if you’re lucky) or breaks loose on the physical plane, expending more power and creating a much more dramatic effect than planned.
While evocation doesn’t actually require physical aids or focusing items, many evocators do use focusing tools for an added bit of assistance.
(More Info on page 249)
1. Determine the effect you want to achieve, describing the element you want to use.
2. Describe the effect in terms of one of the following basic conflict actions: attack, block, maneuver, or counterspell.
3. Decide how many shifts of power you want to put into the spell. Take 1 mental stress, plus 1 for each point of power greater than your Conviction modified by any power bonuses from a focus item.
4. Roll Discipline to cast the spell, plus any control bonus from a focus item. The difficulty is equal to the power of the spell. This roll is also used for targeting if you’re aiming it at a target. If you do not meet or beat the difficulty to control, the margin of failure turns into shifts of backlash (bad things happening to you) or fallout (bad things happening to everything else)
What Can It Do?
Evocation effects are ultimately very simple, and can only do one of a few things: attack, block, maneuver, or counterspell.
Caster attempts to inflict physical stress on a target. The target can roll a defense roll. Shifts of power allocated to the spell may be split up as follows:
1 shift of power increases the Weapon rating by 1.
2 shifts of power let you affect every target in one particular zone you can see You can go after more than one zone at a time by buying this effect multiple times. You can’t be selective when using this option; if you have friends in that zone, they’re targets, too—the same is true if you’re in that zone.
You can attack individual targets by splitting up your shifts of power into separate attacks. you must allocate one shift of power per each target. The targeting result is also split up between the attacks as you desire.
Caster establishes a block against a particular action or some other defense. Shifts of power on the spell can be allocated as follows:
Choose to establish a block action, a zone border, or armor rating
1 shift of power adds 1 to the block strength of the block action. A Block for the entire duration of the spell (usually 1 round), or until an attack that bypasses the block cancels the effect. The block can be used as something other than a shield (an evocation based veil is often done as a block vs perception).
1 shift of power adds 1 to a Zone border. The Zone border will last the entire duration of the spell (usually 1 round) or until another individual finds a way to reduce the border (Something throwing a bridge over your border will drop it’s effective rating to 1 or 2, multiple bridges may drop it to 1 or 0).
2 shifts of power adds Armor:1 to an individual. Additional Armor rating costs 2 shifts of power per point of rating. The Armor effect lasts the entire duration of the spell (Usually 1 round).
1 shift of power adds 1 additional exchange of duration to an effect.
2 shifts of power allow the effect to cover multiple allies within the same zone. Covering multiple zones requires 2 additional shifts per zone.
Caster establishes an aspect on an individual or the environment. Shifts of power allocated to the spell may be split up as follows:
1 shift of power for the increases the value the target must roll to avoid the aspect of the effect by 1. Establishing an aspect when there is nothing to resist requires 3 shifts of power.
1 shift per additional exchange of persistence on the aspect. Others are still allowed to take actions to overcome or remove the aspect on their own.
The caster attempts to nullify a magical effect persisting or being cast with the power of his will alone.
Counterspelling is basically an attack against the energy of the spell itself. You call up as many shifts of power you need to equal or surpass the power of the effect you want to disrupt, and you roll it just like you would roll an attack spell, if you don’t bring enough, the counterspell simply won’t work.
The caster can take a free assessment action using Lore to attempt to determine the amount of power used in the spell, if they fail the assessment they can make a guess at the amount of power they are calling forth
Even though counterspells are an evocation effect, they can be used to disrupt thaumaturgy effects.
Evocation effects are defined by elements. The most common elemental system consists of fire, air, earth, water, and spirit.
Motion and freedom. Most effects are motion-based: powerful gales to knock over foes or throw objects around, the movement of objects to the wizard’s hand, or shields of swirling air currents that push harm away. it’s possible to make pockets of vacuum to suffocate or implode targets. It also can affect the quality of air around the wizard—keeping smoke clouds localized, purifying the air in a room, or even calling up fog to conceal an escape. Movement can involve fine manipulation, which is why air magic is often called upon to pick locks and pull apart devices. Also, air is the primary medium for the transfer of sound, allowing for the creation of distractions by throwing loud sounds around, or creating “bubbles” where sound doesn’t travel for the purposes of privacy or stealth.
Maneuvers that rely on movement, like pushing and pulling stuff around, are the strong suit of air magic. Air magic is most commonly used to put aspects such as Buffeted, Dust in Eyes, and such on targets, as well as Hard to Maneuver on scenes.
Stability, gravity, and grounding. Ultimately, everything rests on the earth, and its practitioners take advantage of this fact by calling up protective walls of stone, shaking the ground underfoot, and keeping themselves stable regardless of the surrounding circumstances. Earth is also the element that governs magnetism; earth mages often use this to their advantage, strengthening or dampening magnetic fields to achieve various effects.
Earth’s strong points are in doing damage to—or reinforcing—ordered structures like buildings. Earth can put aspects like Unsure Footing and Shaken on targets, and Weak Foundations or Tremors on scenes. It can also put strong gravitational effects on targets, flattening them directly or pinning them down with something like Three Times as Heavy.
Consumption and destruction, and it is the first resort of those who wish to deal massive carnage to their foes. Besides the classic image of the fireball-throwing wizard, this element allows for a more subtle range of effects, allowing a wizard to apply or remove heat from an object or area and to melt small objects like locks or other barriers.
Fire maneuvers normally call upon the ubiquitous On Fire aspect, which can be placed on targets or scenes.
Entropy and change. Its chief power is changing the state of things, as water tends to do: eroding, dissolving, disrupting, decaying, dispersing, disintegrating. While many people wouldn’t consider water to be a very damaging element, you have to think about the kind of insidious damage water does: dissolving stone, rusting metal, warping wood— even pummeling or slicing if it’s a high-pressure jet of water. It can also flood, suffocate, assist in chemical reactions, and so on. Water is often lethal to many different kinds of machines, shorting them out or causing them to jam (like firearms). Plenty of dangerous substances— battery acid, quicksand, drain cleanser—have liquid properties that a water evocation might manipulate (perhaps with a little extra difficulty for using something unusual).
Wizards tend to use water maneuvers to break down matter in various ways. Water can place aspects like Drenched and Hard to Breathe (water strategically moved to suffocate) on a target, as well as Slick and Partly Dissolved on a scene.
Spirit is the element of the soul, the purest expression of will. In a way, it’s the most basic of the elements—the translation of the wizard’s raw desire into energy—and its presence tends to transcend different traditions of magic, being a core element in every one. Spirit effects tend to manifest as raw kinetic force and light, allowing the wizard to create or snuff light in an area, summon shields of force, strike a foe with raw kinetic power, and even bend the energies around people and objects to make them appear invisible.
A special kind of block called a veil is the special province of spirit magic. Unlike a normal block, the power invested in a veil serves as the difficulty for using skills or other magic to detect anything that’s concealed by the veil (see Veils on page 276 for a deeper treatment of the topic). Beyond that, spirit maneuvers tend to be oriented around light (Blinding Light on a scene or Lit Up for targeting someone), but kinetic strikes can also knock enemies off balance and create physical havoc.
Depending on a wizard’s temperament, he often tends to be good at the “blunt, direct” side of spirit evocations (force effects) or good at the “sensitive, subtle” side (veils and other soft effects). This is really true of any element, but it’s particularly strongly expressed in the case of spirit—the element most closely tied to thought.
Wizards with different ancient traditions may construct their evocations out of different elements than the traditional Western ones—Ancient Mai probably practices an evocation system that uses metal, water, wood, earth, fire, and spirit as its base elements, befitting her Chinese heritage. If your wizard comes from a non-Classical tradition, you’ll need to construct a basic idea of what each element does; using to the examples above and on page 254-255 for guidelines.
Your spellcaster may know a number of evocation rotes equal to the numeric rating of his Lore skill.
A rote spell is defined as one specific application of evocation in a single element. It always manifests in exactly the same way each time, has the same power level, places the exact same aspect. Any change in the parameters of the spell disqualifies it from being a rote.
The big benefit of knowing a rote spell is that you don’t have to roll Discipline to control it. It’s assumed that you can control the spell energy at a level equal to your Discipline score, allowing you to act as if you’d rolled a zero on the dice every time. You still need to make a Discipline roll to target the spell, however; there’s just no chance of accidental failure. Focus items add their bonuses automatically if they are tied in to the rote, but only if that item is a requirement for the rote every time the spellcaster wants to use it. Aspect invocations and other such trickery may be used after the fact, just as if you had rolled a zero and then wanted to invoke something.
You can have a rote that’s more powerful spell than you can control with a Discipline roll of zero, which would basically cause automatic fallout or backlash when used unless you can invoke some aspects to make up the difference.
Anything that doesn’t really do anything but add color to a scene (like light spell) can be cast without a roll and will last for a scene for free. At most, a fate point might be required if the minor effect counters a scene aspect that might be inconvenient.
You can actively funnel more energy into an evocation spell effect (like a block or attack) to maintain it, but this takes up your standard action for the round. This is functionally equivalent to rolling another spell. Summon one shift of power per additional exchange you want the spell to last, and make another Discipline roll to control it. This takes up your action and deals mental stress as per the usual rules for a normal evocation; the advantage is that you don’t have to sacrifice the efficacy of the original spell—it keeps the rating of the original roll. If successful, the spell effect stays active for that length of time.
Redirecting Spell Energy
You can reuse the spell energy from an effect you currently have active, spending the shifts on another evocation without having to roll another spell. Use the current power value of the spell to act as a different kind of spell. If the new kind of spell requires a roll for targeting (like with an attack or maneuver), roll Discipline. This can be used only be achieved if all the following are true.
- The spell must have been maintained from a previous exchange into the current one.
- The spell must not have been used already for its original function in the current exchange.
- You must be able to describe how the current spell’s function/effect could plausibly be re-purposed or redirected.
- This immediately cancels out the previous effect, as the spell energy can no longer be used for that purpose.
Property Damage Without Fallout
Often, a wizard will fling around spell energies that inevitably have an unintended side-effect on the surroundings, even if he’s keeping the spell energies under control with solid Discipline rolls. It’s the GM’s job to decide whether or not this matters for a scene (and to make it cut both ways if it does).