Getting Ready, or A Thaumaturgic Preperation Cheat Sheet: Magic in DFRPG, Part Four

Based on the comments from my last post on magic in DFRPG, it sounds like people are looking for a cheat sheet with a range of examples of how to prepare for rituals and some example spells, so those are the first two posts I’m going to do. This one is all about preparing for the ritual. I’ve broken this down in a list format: there’s a heading for each type of consequence and each skill, along with a few examples of the type of preparatory action you take for each, and the Aspect each action gives you. This Aspect is either the consequence (for the consequences) or an Aspect on the spell that you tag to make up the Lore deficit.

Now, these are meant to be examples; the list is not exhaustive, and you’ll come up with better ideas as you sit around the table. I’ve tried to come up with one or two fairly standard things for each item, as well as one or two less obvious thoughts. Some skills, though, are a bit of a reach, and you need to keep that in mind. Your GM may pull you up short if you try one of these things. Hopefully, though, they’ll give you some ideas to try, and a starting point for your own creativity.

Some of the suggestions below don’t directly affect the spell itself, but instead affect other preparations for the spell. That’s okay. The Aspects they place still get placed on the spell, paying down the Lore deficit. It’s all part of the story of the spell, whether you’re making a Contacts roll to find someone who knows something or using Resources to hire a detective to find someone who knows something. Basically, what I’m doing with a lot of these is choosing one moment in a longer event, and using that for the Aspect – so, if Harry’s trying to convince Bob to help him with a potion, he can use Contacts to represent knowing him, or Rapport to persuade him to help, or Resources to bribe him with porn, or Empathy to know that Bob wants some time running loose, etc.

Time-wise, some of these take longer to pull of than others. The amount of time you have to make the spell happen is something you have to work out with the GM, but thaumaturgy can sometimes take days or weeks to get everything in place to actually perform the ritual, so I’ve given a wide range of time frames in the examples below. If you’re concerned about spending too much time on getting just one Aspect, try negotiating with your GM to see if the task can be broken down into subtasks within the time frame, then come up with a way to use each subtask to give you the opportunity to stick on another Aspect.

Ready? Good. Here we go!

Physical Consequences

  • Spill some blood to help power the ritual – Deep, Bleeding Cut
  • Burn foul substances and breathe in the noxious fumes – Hacking Cough
  • Sleep on a bed of nails – Pinpricked Back
  • Walk around the perimeter of the city to define the area of the spell – Really, Really Sore Feet
  • Fast for three days to purify yourself – Weak With Hunger

Mental Consequences

  • Performing difficult calculations to compose the spell – My Brain Hurts!
  • Cross-checking ancient manuscripts, translating from multiple languages – It’s All Greek to Me. Or Maybe Akkadian.
  • Take mind-altering substances to change your perceptions of the world – Tripping Balls
  • Delving deep into your dreams for hidden knowledge and revelation – Sleepwalking Through the Day
  • Matching wits with a spirit of intellect for a secret chant – Thinking in Circles

Social Consequences

  • Ignoring personal hygiene for a few days while you research – What’s That Smell?
  • Dropping out of sight for days at a time while you work on the spell – Ignoring My Friends
  • Trading favours with one of the fey – In Debt to the Summer Court
  • Getting arrested doing a little nude graverobbing – Unsavoury Police Record
  • Watching everyone you meet to see if they’re spirits sent to attack you – Weird Stalker Vibe


  • Finding six dimes with the right dates on them to use in the spell – Matched Money
  • Spotting a bit of marginalia in a book that provides an important key – Lore of the Doodle
  • Catching a fly with chopsticks – Can Accomplish Anything
  • Knowing what to look for when the spell starts to turn – Ready For Anything
  • Checking out the pattern of stoplights blinking to red to help with your timing – In the Zone


  • Scaling a cliff to get a feather from a falcon’s nest – Merlin’s Feather
  • Running from the gang when you’re caught asking questions on their turf – Working Hard For It
  • Chasing down a fleeing informant – Caught You!
  • Dodging the cars in the middle of the busy street as you paint a targeting sigil – That One Almost Got Me!
  • Making a parkour run over the rooftops, tracing a ley line – Charted Power


  • Stealing a personal item for a symbolic link – My Foe’s Hairbrush
  • Scoping out the museum to find the pattern of the guards’ patrols – Guard Schedule
  • Solving the secret of the puzzle box – Power Unlocked
  • Breaking into a meet between two foes to overhear their plans and weaknesses – I Heard Everything
  • Stealing a famous painting to trade to a faerie lord for help – For Services Rendered


  • Finding out personal information about your target – I Know You
  • Spreading a rumour to rattle your target and get him on the defenses – Vicious Gossip
  • Getting a warning when your target is ready to act against you – Every Move You Make
  • Getting a friend to share his lore with you – Borrowed Wisdom
  • Co-opting a target’s circle of friends to isolate him – You’re All Alone


  • Seek the blessing of your priest – Blessed Undertaking
  • Psyching yourself up to attempt the spell – I Can Do It!
  • Steamrolling over others who tell you what you’re about to do is impossible – I Think I Can, I Think I Can
  • Letting your can-do attitude affect those around you – Confidence is Contagious
  • Holding true to your goals in the face of someone trying to argue you out of them – You Won’t Change My Mind


  • Carving a small figure to represent your target – Voodoo Doll
  • Crafting your own magical implements for the ceremony – Hand-Made Tools
  • Sound-proofing your workshop so the street noise doesn’t distract you – A Quiet Haven
  • Creating a miniature diorama of the city to help with location spells – Little Chicago
  • Examining a target building to see where to focus the destructive power – Weak Spots


  • Convincing an apprentice Wizard that they should give you access to their master’s library – Lore of the Master
  • Getting the fire department to show up to your rival’s house to draw him away from a ley line you need – Ill-Gotten Power
  • Disguising yourself as a security guard to get access to the museum’s Egyptian exhibit – Mummy Dust
  • Convincing one of the fey nobles that “John Doe” is your true name as payment for knowledge – Duped Fey Lord
  • Acting contrite when the cops question you so that they don’t search your car and find the stolen spell materials – Hot Merchandise


  • Maintaining a complex mental image during the creation of the magic circle – Focused Visualization
  • Fasting for two days to purify yourself – Cleansed
  • Meditating to find your centre before beginning the ritual – Centred
  • Facing down a fierce river spirit to get some water from its sacred river – Old-School Holy Water
  • Keeping your ego in check when groveling for a favour from a hated rival – Eating Crow


  • Charting the quickest route between five points of a giant pentacle centred on City Hall – Magic Street Map
  • Chasing down one of the Erlking’s Hounds to get a special material component – Fey Dog Drool
  • Getting safely out of gang territory after a meet with a contact goes badly – Home Free
  • Spray painting a magic circle around a city block at speed – Mobile Tagger
  • Winning a drag race with the scion of Hermes, and thus earning his favour – Mercury’s Respect


  • Sensing the weak spot in your target’s psyche – Chink in the Armour
  • Linking your emotions with those of the target – Simpatico
  • Understanding what your informant isn’t telling you – Listening to the Silences
  • Not falling for the con man’s lies and getting the real newt’s eyes instead of tapioca – Discerning Customer
  • Getting a sense of what the cops want to hear when you have to explain your presence in the evidence locker – Say the Right Things


  • Pulling an all-nighter to work out the complex sigildry for your magic circle – Cram Session Calculations
  • Maintaining a lotus position on top of a pole while performing the ritual – Yoga Power!
  • Crawling through a faerie bramble of razor-sharp thorns to get a special flower – Nevernever Bloodrose
  • Surviving a mystic toxin after being poisoned by a spirit angry at your theft of its power – Ghost Scorpion Survivor
  • Performing a six-hour chant without needing a break – Ritual Stamina


  • Snatching a handful of hair from your target – Sissy Sympathetic Link
  • Triumphing in a ritual battle with a spirit, gaining its help – Wrestled With an (Almost) Angel
  • Breaking out of a ring of gang members unimpressed with the mystic sigil you painted on their clubhouse – Arcane Tagging
  • Counting coup on a buffalo spirit – Blessing of the White Bison
  • Showing the proper respect to a traditional martial artist and getting him to teach you a special Chi Gong technique – Master’s Teaching


  • Using a paintball gun to hit your target with a special mixture to help you focus the spell – Painted Target
  • Casting the special alloy bullet you need to imbue with magical energy – Mystical Gunsmithery
  • Grazing a gryphon on the wing to gather the blood – Gryphon’s Blood
  • Using a holy-water-filled water pistol to trace a protective sigil on a door from a distance – God’s Supersoaker
  • Finding a collector to sell you a wheellock pistol owned by Edward Kelley – Kelley’s Gun


  • Scaring a straight answer out of a contact – Extorted Knowledge
  • Getting a fey lord to lose his temper so that he owes you a favour – Pissed-Off Elflord
  • Facing down the guardian of the sacred spring and getting your drink – One Drink at the Hippocrene
  • Getting safely through a bad neighbourhood to the spot you need to cast the spell – …For I am the Meanest SOB in the Valley…
  • Scaring off a rival who wants to poach the power from a ley line you need – Mine, and Mine Alone


  • Double-checking the information you got from an old book – Confirmed by Independent Sources
  • Uncovering blackmail material to get the help you need from a rival – Dug-Up Dirt
  • Surveiling the target to learn her routine – Creature of Habit
  • Running a background check on the target to find a weakness – Uncovered Connections
  • Finding the secret message hidden in the illustrations of a grimoire that unlock real power – Deciphered Keys of Power


  • Spending time researching the spell you want to cast – Well-Documented Ritual
  • Knowing the name of the fey spirit who knows the most about this type of ritual – Expert Advice
  • Uncovering the proper invocations to call the attention of powerful spirits – Names of Power
  • Finding the recipe for the proper pigments with which to craft the magic circle – Enhanced Circle Paints
  • Having a mystic secret to trade for one that you need – Arcane Bartering


  • Breaking through a locked door to snatch something personal of your target’s – Smash and Grab Sympathetic Link
  • Winning a wrestling match with a snake loa to get it to help you – Dhamballa’s Aid
  • Physically holding two mystically attracted pieces of stone until the correct moment in the spell – Atlas’s Task
  • Holding a door shut in the face of an angry troll after you stole his club – Grimbash’s Maul
  • Ceremonially snapping a sword in half to curse your foe in battle – Swordbreaker


  • Painting an intricate protective pattern within your magic circle – Detailed Glyphs
  • Using a Native American medicine dance to help focus your magic – The Blessing Way
  • Singing a song to calm the three-headed dog guarding the way out of the Nevernever after getting information from the spirits – The Orpheus Trick
  • Using complex dramaturgical rites to walk the Monster of Glamis through the performance of MacBeth* – Curse of the Scottish Play
  • Playing a sad tune on your instrument to harness the emotions of the audience to power the ritual – Dirge of Power


  • Gathering a small band of folks together to help with the ritual – My Very Own Cult
  • Getting a hearing at the local practitioners’ coffee klatch to solicit advice – Peer Reviewed Ritual
  • Letting your target know you’re coming for him, and then using the worry that generates to help target the spell – My Reputation Precedes Me
  • Not backing down when warned by very frightening demons that you shouldn’t proceed – I’m My Own Man (or Woman)
  • Having someone tell you a secret to try and curry favour with you – People Like to Help Me


  • Getting the bartender to open up to you about the movers and shakers in the area – Local Power Structure Scoop
  • Convincing the wee folk to do some snooping for you – Little Spies
  • Having friendly Wizards willing to offer some advice on constructing the ritual – A Little Help From My Friends
  • Not letting the spirits you’re bargaining with for information know that you’re intimidated – Poker Face
  • Getting a partner for a sex magic ritual – Tantric Power


  • Buying enough silver to make a strong magic circle – Sterling Protection
  • Having the ingredients for the ritual on hand – Well-Stocked Workshop
  • Hiring a private investigator to find information about your target – Target Dossier
  • Spreading money around on the street to gather information – Money Talks. And Listens.
  • Flying to Prague to check out the Sedlec Ossuary for necromantic sigils – Lore of the Bohemian Necromancers


  • Tracking down a complete transcript of Dutch Schultz’s last words to unlock their mystic secrets – French Canadian Bean Soup*
  • Translating a medieval Latin grimoire to find the name of a demon that you can bind to your service – Solomon’s Key
  • Knowing enough about physics to be able to focus the least amount of energy for the greatest effect – Optimized Force Calculations
  • Checking the stars for the appropriate sidereal configuration to empower the spell – The Stars are Right
  • Bandaging the cuts you got from crawling through the junkyard to find enough copper wire to wrap the stone that’s going to hold the lightning to power your spell – Blood-Bought Conductor


  • Sneaking out of the library with their copy of a rare book – “Borrowed” Necronomicon
  • Hiding in the underbrush with your prize as the goblins chase past you – Goblin Arrow
  • Following your target home to help you target the spell – I Know Where You Live
  • Mugging a dark fey for his headgear – Red Cap
  • Hiding in the office building until after hours in order to work your divination in the right place – Johnny on the Spot


  • Finding the rare herbs you need for the ritual – Real Mandrake Root
  • Befriending cats to use as a pattern for your shapeshifting – Live Models
  • Finding the hidden grove with the magic pool – Unspoiled Place of Power
  • Convincing the big cats in the zoo not to eat you as you pluck one of their facial hairs- Tiger’s Whisker
  • Keeping your seat on a faerie horse as you join the fey hunt to curry favour with their lord – Riding to Faerie Horns


  • Slicing off a piece of a Minotaur’s horn to use in your ritual – Heroic Picador
  • Performing a ritualized weapon pattern to harness and direct your energies – Magic Kata
  • Dueling another Wizard over a rare magic herb – The Last Really Magic Mushroom
  • Impressing a collector with your knowledge of Renaissance rapier makers so he loans you a rare one – Medici Rapier on Loan
  • Winning a game of darts with a leprechaun to get him to give you some of his treasure – Faerie Gold

So, there’s a big list of 140 different things you can do to help make up that pesky Lore deficit. If you can’t find what you need on it, I hope it at least gives you a starting point for coming up with your own ideas.

Next post, I’m going to look at putting together a few spells, using everything I’ve been talking about in the previous posts, and explaining the decisions at each step. If there’s a particular spell you’d like to see me put together, let me know in the comments of this post or through Twitter (@Neal_Rick), and I’ll see what I can do. If you can give me the Lore, Conviction, and Discipline scores of the Wizard creating that spell, all the better – it’ll give me some hard numbers that I don’t need to make up.

I can’t guarantee that I’ll work out every spell request posted, because I think that the post will be plenty long enough if I just do three or four spells. So, if you want to make sure that your spell request gets used, make it interesting. 😉


*Apologies to Ken Hite for stealing this one. But I try to steal from the best. Back

*This Aspect really only makes sense if you’ve read Dutch Schultz’s last words. Back

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10 Responses to Getting Ready, or A Thaumaturgic Preperation Cheat Sheet: Magic in DFRPG, Part Four

  1. Tush Hog says:

    Great stuff, as usual! Vey helpful. I’m looking forward to the example spell builds.

  2. Tush Hog says:

    Spell requests:

    Evocation spell like Harry uses on a couple of occasions where he launches an enemy a good distance away to buy himself some time.

    How to build a flying spell?

    The old reliable Feather Fall.

    A more powerful psychometry effect.

    Shapechanging with magic like Listens to Wind.

    You kind of hinted at one of my favorite spells – Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion

    In case you would like to use it, my wizard has a conviction and discipline of superb and a lore of great.

  3. Archmage_cowl says:

    hey, Thanks so much for this. I’ve shown it to my players, did a few test runs with it and already they are making amazingly more interesting and complex and thematically accurate spells. You are awesome my good sir 🙂 and i eagerly await your sample spells.

  4. mrsleep says:

    I so wish that I had a crew for this game. Every time I read one of your posts it makes me want to try and convince the boys to toss out D&D and take our home-brew into the land of Fate.

  5. Rick Neal says:

    @mrsleep: For a sort-of intermediate step, you might want to check out Legends of Anglerre from Cubicle 7. More traditional fantasy FATE-based rpg.

  6. C.K. says:

    Rick, your articles are constantly informative & inspiring – I bow to your mad & inventive genius. Please keep up the great work.

  7. Rick Neal says:

    Well, thank you very much for the kind words. I’m glad you’re enjoying them. And my horrific narcissism pretty much ensures that I’ll keep posting long after people are tired of reading.

  8. Pingback: What's He On About Now? » The Real Story of the Spell: Cooperative Thaumaturgical Preparation in DFRPG

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