Originally posted January 2009

This is the second in the Dresden Files homebrew posts, with guidelines on how to do Dresden-style magic with the disconnect between Evocation and Thaumaturgy.

Evocation

Evocation places power before control.

To evoke an effect, roll the character’s magic power statistic (e.g., Arete in Mage, Sorcery in Buffy, etc.). The result on the roll is the Power of the effect. Before rolling, the player can choose to roll as if with a lower score, to hopefully wind up with a less powerful effect (if only minor power is needed).

Next, roll the character’s magic control statistic (e.g., Spheres in Mage, Occult in Buffy, etc.). Add any bonus from Foci. The result on the roll is the Control of the effect.

If the Control total is equal to or greater than the Power total, the effect is a complete success. For attacks, treat the Control total as the attack roll (and can be dodged or resisted), and the Power total as the damage. If the player got more Control than Power, the difference can also be used to achieve special effects (such as multiple targets, subtlety, etc.).

If the Power total is greater than the Control total, the effect is not perfectly controlled. For attacks, the Control is still used as the attack success (and can be dodged or resisted), and the Power total is still used as the damage. However, for each level the Power exceeds the Control, the GM is encouraged to apply a special, detrimental effect to the casting (destroys the environment, is especially noisy, etc.).

Inability to speak or gesture each impose a -1 to the Control roll.

For example:

Harry is trying to incinerate a vampire with his blasting rod. He rolls his Power statistic and gets a total Power of 7. He then rolls his Control statistic (with the blasting rod modifier) for a Control total of 5.

The vampire rolls 6 for its dodge, and dodges the clumsy blast. Meanwhile, the
unfocused effect is loudly burning down a nearby building. If Harry had rolled a 7 on his Control, he would have succeeded in burning the vampire and driving it back, and would have even had a spare level of control to keep the blast quiet.

Thaumaturgy

Thaumaturgy places control before power.

Thaumaturgic effects range in rating from 1-13 (or whatever the theoretical upper maximum roll is for the game system in use, without extended successes). The roll on the related control statistic (e.g., spheres, occult, etc.) indicates how powerful of an effect can actually be generated from the spell. (e.g., if the player rolls a 5 on the control statistic, only up to a rank 5 thaumaturgic effect can be created at this time).

The character then proceeds to roll the power statistic (e.g., arete, sorcery, etc.) to catalyze the ritual; this is usually done in a magic circle with each roll taking about a minute. (Some effects, like enchanting items, take longer than this.)

The GM creates a required success total based on the rating and complexity of the ritual. Once the final success needed is gained, the intended effect occurs. Wide-ranging, complex effects have more success per level than narrow ones.

Ratings:

(These ratings are based on a starting character being able to get a roll as good as 9, with an average of 5, and for masters to have no problem getting a 13. If your system has a smaller range of success, the chart below should be collapsed appropriately. If you collapse this chart, you should increase the successes for each level of scope.)

  • 1 – Very minor parlor trick: locate a target nearby with a good sympathetic link
  • 3 – Noticeable effect: locate a target within a mile with a good link or nearby with a tenuous link, send a calling to someone with a great link
  • 5 – Full effect: locate a target within the city with a good link or within a mile with a tenuous link, impede a minor being with a good link (power 1-2), summon and bind a minor being with a true name link
  • 7 – Significant effect: locate a target within the city with a tenuous link, impede a powerful being with a good link (power 3-4), harm someone with a good link, summon and bind a powerful being with a true name link
  • 9 – Major effect: impede a very powerful being with a good link (power 5-6), kill someone with a good link, summon and bind a very powerful being with a true name
  • 11 – Amazing effect: impede an amazingly powerful being with a good link (power 7+), kill someone with a tenuous link, summon and bind an amazingly powerful being with a true name
  • 13 – Epic effect: impede or summon a legendary being, kill an unknown target, bring ruin or a major curse on someone, rewind time, and all the other fun stuff the Laws of Magic prevent

Successes per Rating (Scope):

Multiply the scope ratings below by the difficulty rating of the effect to generate the total number of successes required (e.g., a Minor complexity Noticeable effect requires 3 successes).

  • 1 – Minor: A single target, a three-foot radius, and/or a few minutes duration
  • 2 – Moderate: A couple of targets, a ten-foot radius, and/or 15-minute duration
  • 3 – Significant: A few targets, an acre, and/or an hour’s duration
  • 4 – Major: A dozen targets, a city block, and/or until sunrise
  • 5 – Extreme: A hundred targets, a square mile, and/or a few days duration
  • 6 – Epic: A thousand targets, a dozen square miles, and/or a life’s duration
  • 7 – Apocalyptic: A city and/or as long as a bloodline persists

If this system makes it too common for players to pull of very complex, wide-ranging thaumaturgy, there are several ways to make it harder:

  • A: Add the complexity to the difficulty rating
  • B: Punish failure harshly with magical backfire
  • C: Punish success harshly due to probably breaking the laws of the Council
  • D: Increase the time per roll by some factor for each step up the complexity chart
  • E: Any combination of the above

Belief and Failure:

It is often said that it’s impossible to work magic that the wizard doesn’t believe in; and that he or she must be truly passionate to pull off a major spell. This is because the power to work magic comes from a wizard’s internal life energy which is replenished when in the throes of strong emotions (which, inevitably, color the magic they’re replenishing).

A wizard that begins a thaumaturgic effect with a rating higher than his Power statistic rating must spend a point of the default magical expendable (e.g., quintessence, health, etc.) every roll, for no other benefit than rolling.

Each time the caster fails to spend a point, he or she takes a cumulative-1 penalty to the rest of the rolls for the casting. During the casting, the wizard can regain expendable points at the same rate, as long as he or she feels a strong emotion that is appropriate to the spell being cast. Otherwise, the wizard must find an alternate source of energy, such as a storm.

Concert Effects:

Up to 13 individuals can help with a thaumaturgic effect. One of these is the primary caster and the rest are assistants. The assistants can spend expendable points, on a one for one basis, to negate any penalty the caster has for a single roll. For example, if the caster is currently at -1 because he failed to spend an point, an assistant could spend one to negate that penalty. Next turn, the caster will be up to a -2 penalty if he cannot spend points, so his assistants will have to spend two points to counter the penalty.

For example:

Harry is trying to locate a missing child, and has some of the kid’s hair for a good link. However, it’s a good bet that the kid is miles across the city. This is a level 5 effect, and Harry easily beats that number on his control skill roll. He has a power score of 5, which means he does not have to spend points for every roll. He figures he might need more than an hour to track the kid, so settles on a scope of 4 (the area of the search isn’t important for a directed search).

Harry needs 20 successes (Rating 5 times Scope 4).

His first roll is a a total of 6. He marks 6 successes. His next three rolls are a total of 3 each time. He now has 15 successes. His fifth roll is another total of 6, so he marks off the last successes, which completes the casting. He spent five rolls and, thus, five minutes on the casting.

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