Spell Complexity

Yeah yeah yeah, magic is cool. It’s also a pain in my arse as the GM.

Base System

  1. Replicating a Skill Roll (aka Simple Action) = The roll required
    • ex: A Great (+ 4) skill roll is a 4 complexity
  2. “Upgrade” an Attack or Block Evocation
    • “Magical Trap” for Attack, “Ward” for a Block, etc. = caster sets the mark
      • i.e. Caster sets Complexity is equal to the value of the Weapon rating (of the Trap) or Block value (of the Ward), plus number of targets, zones affected, etc. etc.
  3. Perform a Maneuver (aka Assign an Aspect)
    • Versus Environment = as per Simple Action
    • Versus Another = caster sets the mark
      • I.e. = guess how well the target can roll and set a difficulty accordingly. If the target rolling a zero on 4dF adds a Good Skill (+ 3), then the absolute base complexity is a 3.
    • Create multiple Tagable Aspects = multiply the base complexity by the number of times you want the aspect (so a 3 complexity aspect, that you want to be able to tag twice is a 6 total complexity)
  4. Inflict a Consequence
    • Max Defense Skill Roll (Skill + 4) + Levels of Stress Plus One (To Take Out) + Consequence Level(s) Inflicted
    • Example: Victor Sells “Kill Spell” Versus Harry Dresden
      • Harry’s Endurance: Good (+ 3) plus a “best possible” 4dF roll of 4 = 7
      • Endurance Good yields 4 Stress boxes, plus 1 to Take Out = 5
      • Mild Consequence is 2, Moderate is 4, Severe is 6, Extreme is 8 = 20
        • Total: 32 Shift Complexity
    • Notes
      • All Characters, even “Nameless Goons” have all Consequence levels for purposes of Kill Spells and the like.

Extending Duration

This is deliberately vague. However by default a Thaumaturgical spell lasts until sunrise. Using the chart on page 315, increasing the duration from the default step (here assumed to be “A Day”) is one shift of complexity per increase. Reduction in complexity of a few steps is also possible (but never below Complexity 1). Thus a generic spell that is supposed to “last forever” is + 13 complexity (several mortal lifetimes).

  • Thaumaturgical spells that replicate Attacks or Blocks are case-by-case, but often start at “a few moments” as the beginning point rather than “A Day”

Spell Construct (Preparation)

Since Thaumaturgy has several ways of allowing a Caster to “set the mark” the preparation phase can also be used to determine complexity (as well as overcome it).

  1. Spend Fate Points and Invoke Aspects
  2. Make Declarations using Skills
    • There are 25 skills, the theoretical maximum (unlimited time and money) is therefore 50 Shifts (25 Declarations). However Lore, Conviction, and Discipline are special cases:
      • A “Symbolic Link,” a “Power Source,” and “a Ritual” are the bare minimum requirement for the spell itself and do not count towards additional Declarations/etc. Likewise in Fate you generally cannot do a Declaration with the actual skill used to make the mechanic dice roll itself.
        • Lore is generally the Ritual, Conviction the Power Source, and some sort of other skill used to get/create a basic Symbolic Link. Discipline is the actual dice roll itself.
        • These four skills generally cannot be further used in a Declaration to gain a “double-whammy” (though if a really really creative player comes up with a fantastic one a GM may allow it – the requirement would be for the player to clearly delineate what was the basic requirement and what about the Declaration was “over and above” the baseline).
      • All other skills could conceptually come into play too boost either Ritual, Power Sources, or Symbolic Links (the three components of the spell construct/preparation phase).
  3. Inflict Consequences
    • Minor = 2, Moderate = 4, Severe = 6, Extreme = 8
    • Just like with a Kill spell, a Sacrifice adds 20 Shifts (Mild, Moderate, Severe, & Extreme)
  4. Cooperative Magic
    • Other characters can provide the Skill Declaration (no stacking) or Inflicted Consequences (does stack)
      • ex: A wizard already has a Symbolic Link, has a talented friend use specifications the wizard provided to use Crafting to gain the Declaration “Voodoo Doll”
      • ex: A coven of three sorcerers all inflict a Minor Consequence “Deep, bleeding cut” to gain six bonus shifts (2 for a Minor x3)


  • Thresholds (Mystical Barriers)
    • Spells that have to go through a Threshold will need to add between 1 and 10 Complexity based on the strength of the Threshold.
  • Border Value (Physical Barriers)
    • Some Zones have natural borders that are automatic increases in complexity, for instance the average household or building wall adds between 4 and 8 Complexity
  • Specialization & Focus Items
    • Spellcasters with Refinements can have bonuses equal to a maximum of the Lore skill (+1 and +2 values are very common) for Specializations and/or Focus Items and they boost the “No-Prep” Thaumaturgy Complexity (else the bonus goes to the Control/Discipline roll).
  • Skip a Scene
    • Generally speaking, only an actual Player Character can gain this bonus. To help limit it, basically choose a Skill and grant a free Declaration on that Skill to represent what the character was doing in that time.

Type of Magic Specific Complexity Modifiers

  • Summoning & Binding
    • Containing = Complexity as per a Ward, strength should be of the summoned entity’s Conviction plus a safe margin (entity will attack the ward with Conviction)
    • Summoning = Complexity is versus the Conviction of the entity plus a safe margin (contested roll)
    • Binding = As per “take out” in a full on conflict
  • Conjuration
    • Simple one-part objects (coin, piece of paper) = 1
    • Handheld weapons with a couple of moving parts = 3
    • Animated semi-complicated things (jumping frog that ribbits) = 5
    • + 2 for each identifiable factor after that
      • 7 for a basic car (5 for the machine itself, 2 for the size)
      • 11 for infesting a park with frogs (5 for the frog, 6 for the number of Zones)
    • Actual functioning technology ramps up the Complexity very, very quickly (functionally impossible)
    • See above rules for Extending Duration
  • Divination
    • Target of Divination defends with Conviction or Presence
    • Both Thresholds and Zone Borders add to Complexity (as well as any Wards)
    • If the Diviner wishes to be invisible to the target, add Complexity to basically create a Veil Block (1 shift per difficulty to detect)
  • Veils
    • Add 2 to make it possible to see out, but not in
    • Large size adds complexity as per increasing the Zones affected with Evocation (2 per)
  • Wards
    • Add 2 for a warning device (wardflame)
    • Add 2 for portable symbolic links
    • Landmine spells (like a flame that explodes if the ward is breached) adds their full complexity and it’s all cast in one spell – beware First Law
    • See rules for Extending Duration, default lasts until sunrise
  • Crafting
  • Transformation & Disruption
  • Transportation & Worldwalking
    • Transportation = Complexity is 1 for each Zone, plus any intervening Thresholds and zone Borders. Also any Threshold of Good or better blocks Teleportation completely.
    • Worldwalking = Generally the Barrier is Superb (+ 5) and how long the opening stays open depends on how many shifts were used to Extend Duration up from “a few moments.” Barriers will attack the spell each turn trying to close itself unless the original complexity was set at Barrier strength + 4.
  • Thematic
    • Biomancy
      • Adds its shifts to physical skills (boosting) and can help heal Consequences (complexity equal to shifts value of the Consequence)
    • Diabolism
    • Ectomancy
      • If the Ectomancer wishes to add the Ghost’s skills to his own, add the value of the skill gained to the complexity of the spell
    • Entropomancy
    • Necromancy
    • Photomancy
    • Psychomancy
      • See Biomancy re: boosting
  • Sponsored Magic
    • Can spend Fate Points that are not possessed by going into “Debt” with the Sponsor

Spell Complexity

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