Dresden Files: New York
The safest, most reliable method of doing magic. You construct a physical ritual construct, then gradually channel energy into the construct.
Because of its slow and deliberate nature, Thaumaturgy has two primary practical limitations.
- Spells take a long amount of time to prepare and perform
- Requires some sort of link must be established to the target (symbolic representations, blood, hair, a family keepsake, true name)
While it’s possible to pull off quick on-the-fly rituals by keeping the effects limited in power, there is an upper limit to the strength you can pull off. Quick and dirty magic is the province of evocation.
If you try to do too much too quickly, then you will end up releasing all energies you have stored up in the ritual upon your unprotected mind and body, or out into the unsuspecting and unprepared environment.
(More info on page 261)
1. Determine the desired spell effect which will determine the complexity of the spell.
2. If complexity > Lore, prepare: make up the deficit by invoking aspects, making declarations, accepting or inflicting consequences, or skipping scenes.
3. After prep, proceed as with Evocation steps 3 and 4. Repeat each exchange until total power equals complexity.
What Can It Do?
Thaumaturgy carries an extremely broad range of effects under its banner, the list is potentially endless.provided you have, or can invent, a ritual to accomplish it.
For mechanical purposes, define the action you are looking the ritual to perform in one of the following categories.
Solve Improbable or Impossible Problems
The most general effect of thaumaturgy. If a spell effect doesn’t seem to fall easily into one of the other categories, go with this one.
Allows the wizard to do something basic that he wouldn’t normally be able to do because of prohibitions of time, distance, and personal effort/capability. In game terms, this type of spell is equivalent to a simple action when determining complexity.
Create Lasting Changes in People and Things
Force a change of state in a person, entity, or object (usually accomplished via aspects).
At its weakest, this is equivalent to performing a maneuver. Inflicting more lasting change (like a consequence) requires more shifts depending on the severity. Inflicting a permanent, transformative change on someone is equivalent to winning a conflict in one roll.
Provide Inaccessible Knowledge
Allows a wizard to learn things in circumstances where he normally could not.
Uses thaumaturgy to perform the equivalent of an assessment action, using the requirements for an assessment as the guideline for determining complexity. Successfully casting such a spell allows you access to facts and aspects related to the target.
Allow Interaction with the Supernatural
The wizard can affects supernatural beings, forcing demons or spirits out of an area or person , coercing them to calm or rage, or simply restricting their access to an area or keeping them bound in a summoning circle.
Generally requires you to overcome the entity’s Conviction to do anything, requiring enough shifts in complexity to beat that entity in a contest of wills. 10 shifts is usually the safest bet.
Shape Magical Energies into Physical Forms
Allows a wizard to set up a evocation effect lasting a truly extended period of time (Like a ward or magical landmine)
The complexity of these spell is similar to the shift requirements for an equivalent evocation (block for wards, attack for magical traps, etc.) with additional shifts added for duration as discussed.
With the guidelines above, it’s fairly easy to determine the specific complexity of a spell in shifts.
This number represents the investment of both preparation and gathered power. You can move straight into the casting stage if the spell’s complexity is equal to or less than your effective Lore which represents your casters’s personal collection of knowledge and accouterments for performing ritual spell.
If the complexity exceeds this limit or under other circumstances dictated by logic additional effort is required to set up the spell and you go into the preparation stage.
If your target is behind a ward, a threshold, or some other form of supernatural protection, so the spell might also need more shifts to get past those.
If you intend to create spell with multiple effects (Such as multiple temporary aspects that can be tagged, or simple action and a manuver) simply add the complexity of all the effects together for a minimum complexity.
Thaumaturgic spells typically last until the next sunrise, as this cycle weakens magical energies. You can increase the natural duration of spells by one step on the time chart for each additionally point you add to the spell. Duration can either apply to how long the energies will hang around until it is triggered or how long a particular effect will last. This doesn’t apply in the case of spells that are triggered and then done consequences or temporary aspects on a living target.
For a spell that’s equivalent to a simple action (Assessment, Sprinting, Placing an Aspect on the Environment), the complexity is the difficulty of what that action would be “normally” disregarding any difficulty factors that would normally make the roll impossible.
The complexity of enhanced evocation spell effect must equal the power you would need to cast the spell as an evocation, but keep in mind that thaumaturgy allows for much greater strength in effect.
Contests and Conflicts
For a spell that’s equivalent to a contest (Placing an aspect on a sentient target, doing damage to another individual), you need to put enough shifts of complexity into the spell to make sure that you come out on top against whatever resisting skill or defense the target may use.
For a temporary effect, the complexity of the spell must account only for the target’s ability to resist.
For a consequence, the complexity of the spell must account for the target’s ability to resist, their effective stress track, and the level of desired consequence.
For a permanent change, the complexity of the spell must be greater than the target’s ability to resist, their effective stress track, and all levels of consequence, including extreme.
The collection of ritual elements, symbolic links, and power sources is called a spell construct and is the physical container for the energies of the spell. The more elaborate the construct, the more power it can hold and the more complicated effects it can achieve.
If your Lore covers the complexity and allows you to skip the preparation work, these three things are still happening in the spell—it’s just assumed that they’re done fast enough, well enough, and you have all the tools you need to cast the spell on hand, or within easy reach, that there’s no need to spend game time in preparation.
The symbolic links are the exception! If you don’t have them, with or without the preparation phase, you just can’t effectively cast the spell. Lore does NOT allow you to assume you have a symbolic link to a target, you MUST acquire your such a link in game.
If you don’t have a Lore rating high enough to cover the complexity of the spell then you need to spend time in preparation. This additional investment may involve extended research in his own library or someone else’s, consultation with spirits or other entities capable of providing knowledge, rare components or specially crafted tools, strong symbolic links, arrangements for contributions of knowledge and/or power, Hours in the sanctum poring through tomes and researching chants, consulting other practitioners, rifling through collections of possible components, shopping for new components at Wal-Mart, waiting around for that next full moon, researching ritual steps, practicing elements for the ritual, preparing your body for the casting of the spell, obtaining stronger symbolic links, acquiring additional power sources, and so on.
This need not all be done at once. It is possible to build up gradually to casting a ritual in a climactic moment by taking several sessions of game time to prepare a spell slowly.
This can be done in a number of different ways, which can be combined however you choose.
An easy way to ease spellcasting is to invoke aspects and describe the invocations as being tied to a part of the preparation process. If you have enough fate points and are willing to spend them to make up the entire deficit with invocation, then you can move straight to casting with a solid montage that gives a sense of what work your wizard did to prepare.
Use your skills to declare you have access to some resource or advantage that will help you cast the spell. You describe what kind of advantage or resource you’re trying to garner, the GM sets a difficulty, and you roll the appropriate skill.
If the roll is successful, put a temporary aspect on the spell. You can tag that temporary aspect to subtract from the deficit, again at the rate of two shifts for every aspect. As above, this provides a montage of events that the wizard goes through, but they’re covered quickly by skill rolls. This isn’t as fast as just invoking.
There are several ways you can use your skills in this fashion. Besides the stand-bys of Lore, Discipline, and Conviction. Contacts, Deceit, Empathy, Intimidation, and Rapport—all useful in their own way to acquire (or coerce) information and aid from NPCs; Investigation and Scholarship have unique research applications and enable your wizard to decipher ancient texts, track a target, or obtain other information that could lead to a vital component for the spell. Stealth and Burglary help with more “direct” methods of acquisition. With Resources you can buy your way out of a problem.
Accept or Inflict Consequences
Inflicting a consequence on a person or entity, or taking one yourself, contributes the shift value of the consequence to the preparation deficit. This does not have to be direct injury, as stated above; any consequence will work for this, as long as you can justify the steps taken to inflict the consequence as contributing to the spell’s preparation.
Actually committing murder on a sentient being as part of a spell grants the wizard all of the shifts for all levels of consequence toward the spell deficit—a total of 20 shifts, which is often more than enough to cast any spell. This is, of course, a violation of the First Law, but most wizards willing to go to this extreme probably don’t care about that.
The most straightforward method is a simple trade-off. During the game session, at any time there’s a scene that the wizard’s player could and wants to participate in, he can choose not to participate and instead describe something else he’s doing (hitting the books, practicing ritual movements).
For giving up a scene, you earn a shift toward the spell deficit, using the assumption that any spell can be cast given enough time and research. You may do this as many times per session as you wish.
The benefit of this is that no additional roll is required to gain the shifts nor any cost. It’s assumed that the invested time allows the wizard to do everything he needs.
A ritual includes the casting space as well as any special components the wizard uses as part of the procedure of casting the spell. Chanting, dance, inscription, certain ritual movements, sexual rites, and physical implements such as an athame (ceremonial knife) are all examples of ritual components. The casting space is an area set aside to contain magical energies—most wizards of the White Council begin with an unbroken circle in which the wizard can stand and arrange the other components, with the circle serving as the boundary that keeps the spell energy hemmed in until released. This can be as elaborate as a personal sanctum with a metal circle bolted into the ground or as hasty as a circle drawn in chalk on the sidewalk, but a functional casting space and some basic ritual procedure are absolute minimum requirements for any working of thaumaturgy.
Rituals are largely a matter of research and consultation. The wizard learns the steps and tools he needs from a book, scroll, or some other source of knowledge such as a mentor or contact. Magical knowledge is often very closely guarded. Many wizards do not wish to share the secrets they have learned, so they keep their sanctums warded against intrusion. Likewise, many spirits and supernatural beings (especially demons) traffic heavily in magical lore—a powerful currency when bargaining with magical practitioners. Some rituals also simply require tools and components that are difficult to fashion or acquire, like a spike of pure diamond or the blood of a White Court vampire.
The other minimum requirement is one or more symbolic links—objects that are included in the ritual process that metaphorically represent where the spell energies are being sent.
A specific target can be represented with a personal possession that has emotional resonance, a sculpture or model of the target, a sample of the target’s writing, actual hair or blood from the target, the target’s True Name, etc.
Places can be represented through models, depictions of the place (like a photograph), or things taken from the site itself.
Using more of these links in the construct and using links that are “close” to their source increase the connection and make it more likely that the spell energies will go where they’re supposed to when they’re released.
Gathering symbolic links to an individual can be a tricky prospect, as the best ones literally involve taking a piece of the target itself, whether physically or emotionally. For maximum effectiveness, you may need to break into a prospective target’s house for a prized possession, or stalk the target to find a stray strand of hair. Some wizards even resort to violence or have an independent party commit violence for them. Linking to a supernatural creature is even trickier. They are much harder to “sneak up on” in every sense—you will likely be required to risk resources, work through proxies, and make bargains with other entities.
Even getting a link to a place can be difficult at times. The best links are to-scale representations, requiring certain detail. Some areas might be guarded, warded, or restricted in access somehow, requiring you to be very clever to bypass those restrictions.
Many wizards attempt to boost their effectiveness with contributions of power outside themselves. There are various sources that a wizard can draw on to power his spells:
- Himself: Every wizard has a degree of personal strength—some more and some less—representing the strength of his belief in himself and the magic he can work. Typically, this is represented by the wizard’s Conviction skill.
- Willing creatures: Spirits, demons, fae, or other magical creatures who can lend their power.
- Unwilling magical creatures: The deliberate sacrifice of humans or animals.
- Objects that store power: Items can be tapped for later use, items that are very potent in some way, like religious relics.
- The environment: Drawn from natural sources such as the elements which make up reality (fire, air, earth, water) or actual raw power in nature (storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.).
- Outside reality: This is invariably dark, corrupt, and likely to utterly taint and destroy the wizard using it; the White Council orders immediate execution for any wizard found tapping it.
Acquiring power from entities is a matter of convincing them to contribute their power willingly, or forcing them to do so via magical binding, kidnapping, bargaining, or other coercion. Anyone capable of contributing power to a wizard’s spell is going to want an equal measure of assistance in return, and the kind of energy they contribute will bias some behaviors of the spell once cast.
Taking the power from an artifact or site requires either researching a means to access the power that is in accordance with its nature, or deliberately desecrating it—which could result in its destruction.
Harnessing the power from a natural event (storms, earthquakes) requires precise timing to incorporate the event into the casting, as nature can be rather fickle.
Mortals are either actively willing to assist in the casting, or they aren’t, and the wizard has to decide if he’s willing to kidnap, torture, and sacrifice lives in the pursuit of his goals.
Anyone not willing to assist can be forced, but that requires coercive magic, the threat of harm, and the making of enemies—and supernatural creatures are almost universally slow to forget a slight.
Types of Thaumaturgy
Thaumaturgy is divided not by a limited number of magical elements but by functional or thematic categories
These lists are not exhaustive—these are meant to serve as examples. If you play a wizard, feel free to expand on this list if you see an area of specialty that seems more appealing.
|Binding||The art of linking two disparate objects into a whole|
|Crafting||The art of producing magical artifacts|
|Conjuration||The art of creating objects of seeming substance out of nothing.|
|Disruption||The art of unmaking things|
|Divination||The art of gathering information.|
|Summoning||The art of calling spirits and other supernatural entities|
|Transformation||The art of making alterations to things|
|Transportation||The art of getting from one place to another|
|Veils||The art of concealing things|
|Wards||The art of physical protection|
|Worldwalking||The art of opening ways into the Never-never|
|Biomancy||The art of manipulating the body|
|Diabolism||The art of manipulating demons|
|Druidry||The art of manipulating elemental spirits|
|Ectomancy||The art of manipulating mortal spirits|
|Entropomancy||The art of manipulating curses|
|Necromancy||The art of manipulating death and the dead|
|Photomancy||The art of manipulating light and imagery|
|Psychomancy||The art of manipulating minds|
|Shamanism||The art of manipulating animistic spirits|