Spellcasting 101


One of the regular complaints with the Dresden Files as a system is the magic. As such, we have simplified the magic system for use in our games. Please be aware that these are not core rules; if you are playing in a different Dresden Files game, these rules will not necessarily apply.

If all you want is a quick reference to a mechanical rule, you can just click on the rule you're looking for below.

Evocation

We have strongly simplified Channeling and Evocation. From a top-level view, we treat magic more like an inherent weapon to which the caster almost always has access. Magic also continues to serve as the swiss-army knife of the game, capable of creating maneuvers and scene aspects and removing obstacles. As with the core rules, the Evocation power gives characters access to 3 elements they can use for their evocation spells. Since magic is now only slightly stronger than the Weapons skill when used for damage-dealing purposes, it no longer deals stress to the caster unless they decide to take a compel.

Below, we go through the process of using Evocation in this system.

Attacking with Evocation.

  1. Determine your weapon rating. If you are using magic to deal damage, your weapon rating is already calculated based on your Conviction, as below.
    Conviction Weapon Rating
    0 0
    1-2 1
    3-4 2
    5 3
  2. Draw Discipline to hit. Make a test using your Discipline for the spell, opposed by the opponent's appropriate skill (Athletics to dodge a fireball, Endurance to endure a high-pitched noise, etc). Add your element's Specialization rank to the roll, if applicable. You can opt to affect an entire zone at the cost of a -2 penalty on your test. You may tag aspects as normal to increase this roll.
  3. Deal damage. If you beat your opponent, you deal stress to them equivalent to the amount you beat them by, added to the weapon rating of your spell.
  4. (Optional) Deal with consequences or fallout. If you failed your to-hit, an ST may offer you a fate point in return for you losing control of the spell and dealing damage to the surrounding area, or to yourself. If you succeed on your spell, an ST may still offer you a fate point for a consequence, assuming that you have exhausted yourself in the casting. You can always turn down a compel like this if you wish; you do not have to spend a fate point to do so.

Blocking with Evocation.

Putting up blocks with spells was previously more complicated, involving calculations of power vs. duration. It was also not terribly dynamic or dramatic; you had to declare a block for your turn, which may or may not end up being useful. This led to few people bothering to use magic for blocks.

We have changed the rules to streamline the system for creating blocks, and have made it easier to put up a block at a dramatically appropriate moment.

  1. Give up your next action. At any time, you may sacrifice your next action to step in and put up a magical block. This block lasts for a full cycle of initiative, i.e. if you put up your block on initiative count 2, it will go down next round on initative 2. You must declare a specific target for it as normal (blocking a particular enemy from harming anyone, or blocking a particular person from being harmed, etc).
  2. Draw your Discipline to block. Your total skill check is the value of your block. If your block is ever broken, it disappears per normal. You can choose to extend your block to cover an entire zone, at the cost of a -2 penalty on your roll.

Creating Aspects and Placing Maneuvers with Evocation.

Creating Aspects on a scene with Evocation is fairly straightforward. To create a direct effect on the immediate scene around you, all you need to do is ask your ST for a difficulty, and test with your Discipline to meet that difficulty.

To place a maneuver on someone using magic, you will have to test your Discipline opposed by an appropriate ability of theirs in order to place your maneuver. i.e. To knock someone off-balance with air magic, an ST might rule that you need to beat their Might with your Discipline.

Thaumaturgy

The following rules apply to Ritual and Thaumaturgy. From a top-level view, we have only changed small things. Below, we go through the process of using Thaumaturgy in this system.

  1. Meet prerequisites. The ST may determine that a spell is simply impossible if you are missing some crucial ingredient. You must first make sure that what you are attempting is possible.
  2. Build complexity. Assuming the spell is possible, the ST sets a complexity rating for the ritual, which you must meet. You start with a complexity rating equal to your Lore + any specializations. To add to your complexity, you may do any of the following.
    • You or another caster may tag Aspects as per normal.
    • You or another caster may opt to take a consequence to add its value to the complexity.
  3. Start casting. Each turn, set yourself a target rating (up to your Conviction) and roll Discipline to meet it. If you succeed, you may add these shifts to your total. When you reach the total complexity of the spell, it is finished.
  4. (Failure) Thaumaturgical fallout. If you ever fail, the shifts you have accumulated so far are handed over to the ST as Thaumaturgical fallout, to do with as they please. See more about what STs can do with Thaumaturgical fallout below.

Thaumaturgical Fallout.

When a Thaumaturgical ritual fails, the ST is given a number of points of Thaumaturgical fallout equal to the number of shifts of power that were already put into the spell. The ST can spend these points in the following ways, in any combination.

  1. Deal stress to the caster. The ST can deal some or all of the fallout as stress to the caster. The caster gets no fate points for any consequences they receive as a result of the fallout.
  2. Deal stress to bystanders. The ST can divide the fallout among bystanders as stress, but cannot deal more stress to a bystander than they have dealt to the caster.
  3. Create an Aspect on the scene. The ST can use 2 points of fallout to create an Aspect on the scene, on which they will receive one free tag.

Changes to Powers

To incorporate our new rules into the system, we have made some changes to existing powers.

  1. Focus items grant no mechanical benefit. We have removed focus items from the game as a mechanic. They are now considered flavour, and add no mechanical bonuses. Evocation and Thaumaturgy do not grant automatic focus item slots, and you cannot buy focus item slots with Refinement. A GM may still opt to compel you to lose your implicit focus item for the scene in order to penalize your magic somehow. Specializations still exist, but have been slightly altered as below.
  2. Specializations are straightforward. Specializations can add either to Discipline (for Evocation) or Complexity (for Thaumaturgy). Specializations must apply to a particular element (for Evocation) or area of magic (for Thaumaturgy). You must still follow a pyramid structure for your specializations. You still gain one automatic specialization with Evocation and one automatic specialization with Thaumaturgy.
  3. You must buy enchanted items and potions slots. Evocation and Thaumaturgy do not grant slots for these automatically; if you wish to have enchanted items or potions, you must pay for them through Refinement.
  4. Evocation spells do not deal automatic stress to the caster. As magic has been downgraded in power, casters no longer take an automatic stress from channeling evocation magic, though STs may offer compels to casters to take consequences after a particularly draining spell.
  5. Sponsored Magic allows one free tag with debt per test. Since magic no longer deals stress unless you take a compel, Sponsored Magic has been changed. You may now get one free tag on any spell while using Sponsored Magic, in return for one point of debt to your sponsor. If you hit 5 points of debt to your sponsor, you cannot take any further debt until you have paid off your existing debt.
    • Wiping away debt. If you really need to use debt, but your debt pool is full up, you have one last-ditch option available. At any time, you may wipe away all of your sponsor debt at once, in return for permanently twisting one of your Aspects to be more like your sponsor. This Aspect change is permanent, and while that Aspect might still change in between sessions, all successive Aspects in that slot will always remain twisted by your sponsor in some way. Characters that have had all of their Aspects twisted become NPCs.