Thaumaturgy Houserules

For the most part, we want to keep it to RAW (Rules As Written) as much as possible. However, for sanity and clarity, any Houserules or Table-Clarifications are posted here so that we’re all on the same page for not only in-game play, but also GM plotting, and post-game writeups, etc.

House Rules

These are classed a houserules as they are debatable interpretations of game designer intent, handy “rules of thumb,” or flat out fixes to areas we’ve found to be a bit… broken.

Complexity Calculation Phase (1)

Houses, Zones, and Square Feet (Rule of Thumb)

After working up about six or seven different houses, they all basically translated to between 175-250 square feet per Zone (interior only). So… when in doubt, 225 square feet per Zone for the insides (round normally), plus a Zone or two for front yard and back yard (plus any other outdoor Zones).

  • Veils – Number of Zones matters
  • Wards – the entire Ward piggybacks on the Threshold so the entire area protected by the Threshold is a single Zone. Outdoor Zones are extra.

Demesne Power, Nevernever, and Zones

Unless a Scene and it’s Actors take place mainly/wholly within a specific Demesne, for purposes of Veils, Divination, or Wards a Demesne acts as a single Zone (it’s a pocket dimension with unknown size inside, but ‘Outside’, it’s all one Zone).

If the Scene takes place all within the Demesne, then the “physics” of the Demesne kick in and it has Zones as necessary/needed/described.

Meeting Complexity Deficit Phase (2)

Skill Declaration Uniqueness

  • A single character can only contribute a single Declaration based on a single skill, once.
    • Example: For instance, Resources Declaration “High Quality Spell Components.”
    • Multiple characters can each leverage the same Skill, assuming they remain thematically appropriate and are different in implementation.
      • Example: One character does a Resources Declaration “High Quality Spell Components” and another character does a Resources Declaration “Upgraded the features of the Laboratory.”
  • If a Skill is used as a Maneuver to facilitate a later Declaration, it is likewise considered “used.”
    • Example: A character does a Resources Maneuver to facilitate a Craftsmanship Declaration “I built all my own implements of high end materials.”

Skill Level and Declaration (Rule of Thumb)

  • A Character with a Great (+3) or better skill will generally figure out a way of working a Declaration into their magic off that skill. These high Skills should probably be a distinctive element/thematic trait of their Thaumaturgy.
    • This is derived from the fact that (generally) with magic 3 Shifts are needed to create a Fragile Maneuver Aspect.
  • With Assisting Characters, technically a Maneuver Aspect intended to be handed off to another character requires 1-2 shifts less… so an Average (+1) or Fair (+2) skill is all that’s required to put up an Assist Declaration. Since a passive goal of the Dresden system is to allow non-magical characters to participate in the Story of the Spell, this is a good thing. However the GM needs to make sure the Declarations are thematically appropriate and not just something silly trying to leverage another +2.

Declarations and Time (Rule of Thumb)

  1. As a general rule, add up the number of Skill Declarations from the single character that contributed the most.
    • Sacrifices (i.e. = Creatures Contributing Consequences willingly or otherwise) performed by (or from) that same character can be abstracted into additional Declarations.
    • Aspects invoked via Fate Points add no additional time
  2. Start at the Time Increment of “A Few Moments” as 1, and count upward to determine how long it will take to coordinate all these Declarations. (The “No Prep” counted for the “Instant” Time Increment)
  3. Taking Longer than this, (i.e. Skipping Scenes/Taking Extra Time) should add Complexity (1 Complexity per additional Increment)
  4. Taking Less Time than this, should require Fate Point (1 FP per Increment Reduced) to a minimum of “A Minute.”
    • Note that the way to do really Complex spells with lots of Declarations and not take weeks/years to pull them off and not drain Fate Points is to take Declarations off the busiest character – multitasking/delegation for the win.

Powering/Casting Phase (3)

Solo Spellcaster Powering Limitations

Within the rules (RAW) if a spellcaster in unhurried there’s no need to actual roll for Control of a Thaumaturgical spell.

This house rule links “unhurried” to the Time Increment table on 315. Further, this house rule links each Exchange spent gathering Power to the Time Increment table on page 315 whether or not the caster is hurried for story consistency.

  • The first Exchange/dice roll occupies the “a minute” time increment.
    • Thus the most basic Thaumaturgy spell, one performed via “No Prep Complexity” will take at least “a minute” to complete.
  • A spellcaster can add additional Time Increments equal to his or her Discipline (mental ability to focus over a long period of time) or Endurance (the body’s ability to tough it out), whichever is better.
  • To gain Time Increments past this number, requires tagging Aspects gained via Maneuvers or Fate Points as usual (1 time increment per).
  • As per RAW, the amount of power gained in each Time Increment is equal to the Caster’s Conviction, plus any Stress he/she is willing to suffer to gain additional Shifts of Power.
    • See next section for options to gain additional Power.

Gaining More Power Shifts In A Single Exchange

Other Power Sources are listed on page 248, these will be our mechanics for using them. Remember, all values below are gained PER Exchange/Time Increment, assuming the source is still present in a followup Exchange/Time Increment.

  • Willing Creatures – For each 3 points of Conviction, the caster gains 2 Shifts (i.e. a tagged aspect’s worth)
    • A spellcaster can gain the power benefit from a maximum number of Willing Creatures equal to his/her Rapport, Lore, or Discipline (whatever’s best). If there are lots more Willing Creatures that this, model it as a “The Environment” – something like “Surrounded by Cultists” or whatever.
  • Unwilling Magical Creatures – 1 Shift of power per Shift Value of the Consequence Inflicted
    • Humans and mundane animals of traditional magical significance count as “magical” for purposes of power.
      • Small animals (cats, dogs, ferrets, etc.) are worth a Minor (2 Shifts)
      • Large Animals (pigs, horses, etc.) are worth a Minor and a Moderate (6 Shifts).
      • Humans are worth 20 (extreme, major, moderate, minor).
  • Objects that store power – 1 Shift per point stored
    • Enchanted Items and Potions generally have 1 point of power per 2 points of Item Strength
  • The environment – If it’s a valid environmental bonus, it’s always at least worth 2 shifts (i.e. a tagged aspect’s worth) but may go up to 8 if it’s a Legendary situation (middle of a class 5 hurricane or on top of the main pyramid at Chichen Itza…). Generally speaking, only worth 2-4 shifts.
  • Outside Reality – This is story based so it’s up to the GM. Assume like Sponsored Spellcasting, 2 shifts per point of “Debt” to the Outsider.
Example 3

A spellcaster is able to control 5 Shifts of power per exchange, without suffering Stress to gain more. Assume our spellcaster has a Discipline of 4 which translates to four total Exchanges/Time Increments.

  • That means without any outside power sources, the spellcaster can gather up 5 Shifts x4 Exchange = 20 Shifts of Power.
  • To do so takes 4 Time Increments starting with “A Minute” (Exchange 1 = A Minute, Exchange 2 = A Few Minutes, Exchange 3 = 15 Minutes, Exchange 4 = Half an Hour), so our spellcaster can focus without difficulty for half an hour.
  • Our spellcaster has an assistant, with a Conviction score of at least 3. The assistant has a Discipline of 3. As an Outside Source Of Power, the assistant is worth 3 Exchanges/Time Increments of help, translating to an additional 2 Shifts of power for 3 Exchanges, or 6 additional Shifts of Power.
  • Our spellcaster is also casting his/her spell on top of a Ley Line convergence that the GM has ruled worth 2 Shifts per Exchange. This resource will be available throughout the spellcaster’s full four Exchanges/Time Increments, thus it is worth an additional 2×4 = 8 additional Shifts of Power.
  • Our spellcaster also prepared a special 4 Strength “Mana Potion” beforehand (2 shifts of power).
  • Our spellcaster is also a practitioner of a style that’s ok with sacrificing chickens – Santeria, voodoo, whatever (small animal worth a Minor Consequence, 2 shifts of power)
  • So, after four Exchanges/Time Increments (half an hour’s worth of casting)
Source Shifts Exchanges
Spellcaster 20 shifts across 4 total exchanges (Discipline 4)
Assistant 6 shifts across 3 total exchanges (Discipline 3)
Environment 8 shifts across 4 total exchanges
Object that Stores Power 2 shifts a single exchange, when used
Unwilling Magical Creature 2 shifts a single exchange, when killed
Total in a half hour 38 shifts of power 4 Exchanges/Time Increments

Clarifications Under Which We Operate

Nothing Stacks

This is a general design feature of FATE Games. When in doubt, assume that whatever effect, power, etc. is a substitution for a Test/Roll instead of a boost to a Test/Roll.

Generally speaking, only way to add to a Test (Skill + 4dFudge roll) after the dice have been rolled is:

  • Spend a Fate Point (+2) to Invoke an Aspect
  • Tag an Aspect (+2) (either Maneuver, Declaration, Assessment, etc.)

Magical Skill Replacement

Expanding on “Nothing Stacks” (above) and more fully explaining “Simple Actions” as found on page 264 – items, spells, or effects that replicate a rolled Test (aka a dice roll) are used in place of the roll, NOT to boost the roll.

So if you have a Magical Widget that grants a +4, that’s as if the character had a Skill of 4 and rolled a zero, or had a skill of zero and rolled a 4 or any combination thereon. It does not mean the character makes a dice roll, adds their own skill, then adds 4 on top of the result.

Thaumaturgy and Taking Yourself Out

Clarification of “Transformation and Disruption” found on page 282. Basically, if you want to change what’s on a Record Sheet, you must go through the process of “taking yourself out” (or whatever character you’re trying to transform).

  • For a spell against an unwilling target, the minimum Complexity must be sufficient to “take out” the other character. This includes Consequences.
    • A Nameless Goon will be anywhere between Complexity 3 and 5. (3 for a 2 Stress character, 5 for a four Stress Character… it must be 1 stress box more than necessary to “take out” the character)
    • A Named Minor Goon will be as for Nameless, plus six (for the Minor and Moderate Consequence) – so anywhere between 9 and 11 minimum Complexity.
    • A Major Villain Level NPC will be as for Named Minor Goon plus fourteen (for the Severe and Extreme Consequence) – so anywhere between 23 and 25 minimum Complexity.
  • For a spell against a willing target (including yourself), the minimum Complexity is sufficient to the number of Stress to “take yourself out.” So if you are a Physical Stress 3 character, your minimum Complexity is 4.

Once the minimum Complexity is determined, then you can modify the Record sheet as follows in the next section.

  • Note that due to this minimum complexity requirement, Maneuvers (usually only needing 3 for instant and 4 for sticky) are a better “bang for your buck” … this is intentional from the game designers.
  • Note that any “kill spell” or equivalent must always beat all Consequence Levels (thus at least 23-25 Complexity or higher) regardless of the NPC “type” (even nameless goons don’t want to die).

Thaumaturgical Record Sheet Manipulation

After “taking yourself out” (or taking out the NPC) the following can be used to determine additional Complexity.

  • Replicating (or removing) for the spell duration, 1 point worth of Refresh Power or Stunt. 3 Complexity per.
  • Each point worth of Skill, 1 per.
    • Be aware that if the GM asks for a Test, whatever you put here is the result used (there’s no dice roll with Thaum skill replacement) thus it is in your best interests to make this as high as possible within reason.
  • A Shift worth of effect (like adding additional zones of movement, 1 zone per shift), 1 per.
  • As this is transformative magic, Spell Duration begins from the “A Few Moments” (a single Exchange) Time Increment table on page 315.
Example 1

So if a biomancy spell wanted to grant a willing character wingless flight (a la Superman or Peter Pan), for an hour, as well as sufficient skill to be able to fly around without killing themselves… this is the math to determine Complexity. For this example, the character has zero Athletics.

  • Wings is a 1 Refresh Power (3 Complexity)
  • Glamour is a 2 Refresh Power – needed to allow “flight” without actual Wings (6 Complexity)
  • Spell duration is “1 hour,” starting at “A Few Moments” (6 Complexity)
  • For this example, the willing target has 3 Physical Stress boxes (4 Complexity)
  • Thaumaturgical Skill Replacement Athletics 1 (1 Complexity)
    • It is highly recommended to add more Complexity here in case the GM asks for an Athletics Test while flying… buyer beware.
  • Total Spell Complexity: 20
    • If actually having physical wings is ok, the Glamour complexity can be waived, dropping complexity to 14
Example 2

If an Entropomancy curse wanted to remove a player character’s ability to use Shapeshifting (Beast Change) for a day.

  • Beast Change is a 1 Refresh Power (3 Complexity)
  • Spell duration is “a day” from “A few moments” (9 Complexity)
  • The Player Character is Unwilling and has 3 Physical Stress (24 Complexity)
  • Total Spell Complexity: 36
    • Note that 36 is the minimum Complexity, a Player Character with lots of Refresh sunk into powers only accessible via shapeshifting can make a compelling argument that you must also add additional Complexity to account for the additional Refresh Points to which the character now no longer has access.

Thaumaturgy Houserules

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