Math and Miscellany: Magic in DFRPG, Part Six

This is, I think, going to be the last post in this particular series. After this one, I don’t think I’m going to have anything more to say about the magic system for a while. This is sort of a hodgepodge of stuff about magic; it’s basically everything that didn’t fit under the other headings. So, let’s get going.

Calculating Your Bonuses

Just looking at the powers, most Wizards are going to look very similar. They’ve all got Evocation, Thaumaturgy, The Sight, Soulgaze, and Wizard’s Constitution. That doesn’t leave them a lot of Refresh to spread around on stunts or other powers, so they all wind up looking the same, with the same range of powers. But they can be very specialized, being better at some things than others. While this is a cool thing, it does lead to some complexity in working out just what the values for doing different things are. The Wizard player in my Fearful Symmetries game made herself up a little spreadsheet to help track the various bonuses, so she doesn’t need to sweat things during play, and honestly, that’s a pretty good idea.

Your base scores for various things are your skills: Conviction for the save level of power you can call, Discipline for controlling that power, and Lore for figuring out thaumaturgic rituals. But different situations bring different bonuses into play. For our purposes, let’s assume a Wizard with a Conviction of Superb (+5), a Discipline of Great (+4), and a Lore of Great (+4).

Specialties

Let’s look at Evocation, first. When you take Evocation, you first choose which three elements you have familiarity with. Then, you get to apply a specialty to one of them. This specialty is going to be be for either power (increasing the effective Conviction score of the caster when using this element) or control (increasing the effective Discipline score of the caster when using this element).

Picking the element to apply this to is going to be a matter of taste. You can get pretty much the same effects out of any element – provided you’re creative and clever enough – but each element has a different style and feel to it. And, of course, each is just better at some things than others.

The choice of power or control is going to be a much more difficult matter. Mechanically speaking, it’s good to have equal scores Conviction and Discipline, because that lets you call a fair bit of power and still have a pretty good chance of controlling it. If your Conviction is higher than your Discipline, then you’re either not going to be calling on all the power you can, or you’re going to be running a higher risk of uncontrolled power and the concurrent fallout or backlash. If your Discipline is higher than your Conviction, you’ll have less trouble controlling the power you call, but you’ll have less power available without taking Mental Stress. Having the two skill ratings equal to each other is a good compromise.

Now, I’m a firm advocate of ignoring the mechanical benefit in favour of the story or character concept, so you may not want to have your Conviction and Discipline equal each other. Maybe, like Harry, you want to have access to a frightening amount of power, and always be running the risk of losing control of it. Or maybe you like the idea of a careful, precise Wizard, with little power, but total control over what he or she is doing. Character considerations should always come before mechanical ones.

For purposes of our demonstration, though, let’s go with a bit of a funk element theme of Earth, Air, and Fire. We’ll give our Wizard a specialty in Earth (Control +1).

With Thaumaturgy, you don’t need to pick which areas you know, the way you do with the elements of Evocation. You automatically know them all. But you do need to pick one area of specialization, and choose whether the bonus is for complexity (increasing the effective Lore skill of the caster when using this area) or control (increasing the effective Discipline skill of the caster when using this area).

Looking at the two options of complexity or control bonus, I have to say that I think the complexity bonus is going to be most widely useful. Because of the way casters can draw in limited amounts of energy over a number of rounds, what control bonuses effectively do is speed up the casting time of a ritual. While this is handy, a complexity bonus comes in handy in speeding up the preparation time of the ritual – usually a much greater amount of time – and bringing more complex spells realistically into play. Still, if taking a control bonus means that you now have one or more shifts of power you can draw each round without a chance of failure, it’s definitely worth considering.

Choosing the area is somewhat less structured than choosing an element for Evocation. The wide range of specialties available for Thaumaturgy – basically, any kind of magic you can think of – can mean that you’re spoiled for choice. Here’s where it’s vitally important that you focus on your character concept to make the decision: pick the area of magic that works best for how you see your Wizard actually using magic.

Let’s go with a specialty in Wards (Complexity +1) for our notional Wizard. This makes more powerful wards available with less preparation time, showing that he or she has paid special attention to the theory of warding magic.

Refinements

Refinement is how your Wizard specializes even more in his or her magic. Each level of Refinement gets you a new element, or two specialization bonuses, or two focus items. These all work the same way as above, though there is an explanatory paragraph about how you need to take your specializations in columns, like skills.

So, let’s give our Wizard one shot of Refinement, going for two specializations: Air (Power +1), and Wards (Power +1).

Foci

Like specialties, focus items give a bonus to power or control (for Evocation) or to complexity or control (for thaumaturgy).  You get two focus slot items for taking Evocation and two for taking Thaumaturgy. Now, there’s nothing in the rules that say you can’t use the slots from Evocation to buy Thaumaturgy foci – you can, by the rules, take all four focus item slots and buy a four-slot item for Thaumaturgy, for example. I can’t even see it messing too much with game balance, though there may be some profound thing I’m overlooking.

Still, it makes sense thematically to limit the slots you get from Evocation to buying focus items for Evocation, and the same for Thamaturgy. At least, it makes sense absent any story or character reason to deviate from it.

Focus items can take pretty much whatever form the caster chooses, though there are size considerations: the required size of the item increases with the number of slots spent on it. The same follows for enchanted items. Let’s stick with one focus item for Evocation, and one for Thaumaturgy. Each item will use up two slots, meaning they can be no smaller than a ring.

For the Evocation item, we have to choose not only the element that the item applies to and whether it’s a power or control item, but also whether it works for offense or defense. Let’s make this one a small geode pendant that grants a power bonus and a control bonus for offensive Earth evocations. That’s Geode Pendant (+1 Offensive Power and Control for Earth).

For the Thaumaturgy item, let’s keep going with the wards theme. We don’t need to narrow the focus the way we did choosing offense or defense for the Evocation item, so let’s just make it a ring of cold iron inlaid with silver that grants a complexity and control bonus to wards. That’s Iron and Silver Ring (+1 Complexity and Control for Wards).

Final Totals

Here’s how it all breaks down. Our Wizard works magic with the following scores:

  • Water and Spirit Evocation – Can’t do these.
  • Fire Evocation – Superb (+5) power and Great (+4) control.
  • Air Evocation – Fantastic (+6) power and Great (+4) control.
  • Offensive Earth Evocation – Fantastic (+6) power and Fantastic (+6) control.
  • Defensive Earth Evocation – Superb (+5) power and Superb (+5).
  • Thaumaturgic Wards – Fantastic (+6) complexity and Fantastic (+6) control.
  • All Other Thaumaturgy – Great (+4) complexity and Great (+4) control.

Enchanted Items

Enchanted items come out of the crafting area of thaumaturgy. They’re handy little gizmos that you can trot out when you need them and release a prepared spell with no Mental Stress, no risk of backlash or fallout. You can trade in a focus item slot, gained when you take Thaumaturgy, Evocation, Channeling, Ritual, or Refinement for two enchanted item slots.

Any spell you can cast, or even conceive of, can be stored in an enchanted item, with one big catch: the power of that spell is limited to your Lore. This is called the strength of the item. While that may not limit your options with storing evocation effects in your enchanted item, it does seriously put a crimp in how powerful a thaumaturgic effect you can store. There are two other, not-quite-so-heavy limitations on enchanted items: first, they only work for you, and second, they only work once per session.

These last two restrictions are more flexible than the first one. You can get an extra use per session out of an item if you reduce its strength by one, down to a lower limit of Average (+1); you can also get two extra uses out of an item by spending an extra enchanted item slot on it; and, finally, if you’re all out of uses but you really need to use that item, you can squeeze another use out of it for one point of Mental Stress. You can also make the item usable by others by reducing its strength by one. Note that, with the exception of the Mental Stress thing, all of these decisions must be made at the time you create the item, and don’t change after that.

The only way to increase the strength of an enchanted item above your Lore score is to spend an extra enchanted item slot on it. Period.

So, looking at these points, it becomes pretty obvious that most enchanted items are going to store evocations (like Harry’s duster and force rings) or use thaumaturgy for maneuvers or simple tests. I’ve put a couple of enchanted item examples together below, based on the stats of our notional Wizard example, with the Lore of Great (+4). They specifically use thaumaturgic rituals, because there aren’t any of those as examples in the rulebook.

Parkour Shoes

These shoes let the wearer move for one scene as if he or she had made a Great (+4) Athletics roll for changing zones, overcoming barriers, and basically doing cool free-running stunts.

Spell Provided: A thaumaturgic ritual granting Great (+4) Athletics for one scene.

Power Crystal

When activated, this crystal enhances the spellcasting ability of the Wizard for one scene.

Spell Provided: A thaumaturgic ritual using a maneuver to place the sticky Powered by Crystal Aspect on the user. The user gets one free tag; thereafter, he or she must use Fate Points as usual for invoking the Aspect.

Potions

I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m on the fence about potions. I think they might just be a little too good, compared to enchanted items. See, they work pretty much like enchanted items, with the following differences:

  • You must allocate an enchanted item slot to a potion, but you get to decide every session what potion is in that slot.
  • You only ever get to use a potion once.
  • Anyone can use a potion once it’s been created.
  • You can leave the slot allocated for a potion empty at the start of a session, and fill it with a potion that you just happen to have prepared that fits the situation. Doing this requires you to either pay a Fate Point to have the convenient potion, or succeed at a Lore roll.
  • When you create a potion, or when you use it, you can boost the strength by +2 for every Aspect you invoke (with the normal Fate Point cost). You can even take compels in advance to get this boost.
  • If you allocate extra enchanted item slots to a single potion slot, the strength of the potion you create and carry in that slot increases by one for every extra enchanted item slot allocated.

So, really, the only downside to potions is that you can only use each one once, while the upside is extreme flexibility, far beyond what enchanted items offer. Of course, that may be why Wizards are so famous for their magic potions…

As with enchanted items, any effect you like can be stored in a potion, with the strength limited by your Lore skill. Here are a few samples, again using our example Wizard’s Lore of Great (+4):

Shadow Juice

This dark liquid makes the drinker hard to see or hear for a scene.

Duration: One scene

Effect: The drinker moves with a Stealth of Great (+4) for one scene

Bottled Confidence

While not actually making the drinker more attractive, this potion gives them an air of confidence and comfort that draws people to them.

Duration: One scene

Effect: The user gains the sticky Aspect Magnetic Confidence. The first tag is free; thereafter, the user must pay Fate Points, as usual.

Aqua Regia

This powerful, mystic solvent can be sprayed at a target as an attack.

Duration: Instantaneous

Effect: Acts as a Weapon:4 attack. It is equally effective against flesh and inanimate material, dissolving both rather speedily and messily. Must be applied with the successful use of a relevant skill.

The Sight

Unlike the previous material, which is aimed mainly at players, this section is primarily for GMs. There are no spoilers, but using the Sight is pretty passive for the player; most of the real work comes on the GM side of the table.

First thing, it’s important that players understand that using the Sight is dangerous. If they’re running around with their third eyes open all the time, the GM has to show them the error of their ways, with stunningly, absurdly high hits of Mental Stress. They’ll get the message soon enough.

Why? Two reasons. First, it reinforces the source material – Harry goes on at some length about how keeping your third eye open will fry your sanity. Look at what he goes through after seeing the naagloshi. Second, coming up with an interesting symbolic scene for what is revealed by the Sight takes some work on the part of the GM. If he or she has to come up with five or ten every session, that’s putting too much of a burden on him or her – you’re going to wind up with lacklustre visions as the creative well runs dry. Maybe not right away, but it’ll happen.

But the Sight is an important piece of the Wizard’s kit, and deserves some love. I’ve found that prepping for a scene where a character is going to use the Sight is similar to prepping for a conflict scene: you need a little bit of ground work, but then you can fit it in anywhere you need it. When you look at the overall structure of your scenario, it’s pretty easy to spot the main potentials for conflict scenes, so you work up some stats for the opposition. Same thing with the Sight: you can guess the points at which a character is going to want to take a little peek behind the curtain, so you work out what they’re going to See in advance.

Most times, they’re going to be looking at someone, something, or someplace that you’ve signaled to them is important in some way: a mysterious figure who may or may not be on their side, a bloody knife left on the floor of an otherwise-spotless apartment, a standing stone in the middle of a forest, that sort of thing. If you put something like that in your scenario, write up a short blurb about what it looks like to the Sight, along with a short list of possible Aspects for the character to suss out. And then figure out how hard it’s going to punch the Wizard in the brain.

Setting the intensity of the vision can be a little tricky. On the one hand, you don’t want to make it so easy that there’s no risk to it, but on the other, you can rapidly trap the character in a Sight-induced death spiral if you set the intensity too high. Remember, the character takes a Mental attack of the intensity +dF for looking at whatever it is. If the character does not successfully defend against this, he or she keeps looking and gets punched in the brain again. The character cannot close his or her third eye unless and until he or she successfully defends against that attack. As long as the third eye remains open, the attacks keep happening. See? Death spiral.

If you set the intensity at equal to the Discipline of the character, it’s pretty much a toss-up each round whether or not the character successfully defends, and that’s not a bad default. That’s kind of arbitrary, though, and tends to penalize characters who really bought up their Discipline score. If we’re talking about looking at a creature, you could do worse than let the Refresh cost of the creature set the intensity – not directly, but relative to the starting Refresh of the characters. So, if you’re playing at Submerged level (starting Refresh 10), and you’re looking at an elf (Refresh cost -6), maybe set the intensity two shifts below the character’s Discipline. If you’re looking at a grendelkin (Refresh cost -18), maybe set it three to four shifts above the character’s Discipline. Does that almost guarantee a death spiral? Maybe. But three things to remember: one, the character may have Fate Points to spend; two, they can always concede before being taken out; and three, they’re the one who had the bright idea to look at a grendelkin with the Sight.

Upshot? Prepare for the characters using the Sight. Think about what they’re going to see, and how much it’s going to hurt them.

Soulgazing

Not much more to say about soulgazing than I said about the Sight. It’s somewhat safer than the Sight, because you can’t get stuck in one, but the person you’re soulgazing is also looking into you, and will wind up with some of your Aspects figured out. Again, preparation is key for the GM: figure out what they’re going to see, and what will be seen by the other party.

The only other real trick is that soulgazes can be initiated by other people. Read over And Then Our Eyes Met on p228 of Your Story. It’s a good way to hook characters into plotlines, or to feed them info when they need it, or just to creep the hell out of them, depending on how you use it.

Faster Magic (Minor Spoiler for Turn Coat)

Shapechanging like Listens to Wind has come up frequently in discussions. Using the basic thaumaturgy rules, how does Listens to Wind do the super-fast shapechanging, keeping up with the naagloshi in Turn Coat? The mechanics of the magic system don’t support it. How about other powers, like the Gatekeeper’s ability to worldwalk? Again, doable via thaumaturgy, but he does it so fast!

The answer to this is pretty simple. They have the appropriate supernatural powers: True Shapeshifting and Modular Abilities for Listens to Wind, Worldwalker for the Gatekeeper. They paid the Refresh, and they have the power, along with their spellcasting.

But how do they change it so that they do it using their spellcasting? Again, it’s simple. They say, “I can do this because I got very good at the spells and learned how to do them very fast.”

So, if you want a Wizard who can change into a bird via thaumaturgy without spending hours preparing for and casting the spell, spend the Refresh and take Beast Change, then say you got that power through your thaumaturgy. Want someone who can spurt out streams of fire every round without the Mental Stress of evocation? Breath Weapon. I did it with magic. Bam. Done.

Law Breaking

One thing the group needs to decide when setting up the game is how big an impact they want the Laws of Magic to have on play.

For example, in the Fearful Symmetries campaign I’m running, the characters are in on the ground floor of the Thirty Years’ War. Things are chaotic and life is cheap. That means that there’s less White Council oversight in Prague, so people can get away with a little more in bending the laws. In fact, during one of the first big fights, Izabela blew a mortal’s head off with magic, thinking he was a vampire. I didn’t force her to take the Lawbreaker powers, because of the circumstances and the fact we were early in the campaign. On the other hand, a large part of her backstory and her Trouble is based on the fact that her mother was a lawbreaker who enchanted a man she was in love with. So, we obviously want some weight to the laws.

The Lawbreaker powers are a neat little feature of the system, much like the Dark Side points in Star Wars, giving the characters more power if they break the law than they get if they don’t. But as they gain that power, they lose control of their own destinies, becoming closer and closer to being creatures completely governed by their nature rather than their choices. There are certain players who will like that sort of character, the draw of power and the slide to darkness. There are also players who don’t want to deal with that sort of thing.

Forcing a character to take a Lawbreaker power is a bad idea. Don’t do it. It’s forcing change on the player that he or she may not be comfortable with.

That said, you need to make the possibility very real to the players if you want to keep the weight of the laws real for them. So, if a character is about to break one of the laws, make sure you warn them. Give them a chance to back off and do something else. That way, the player gets to choose whether or not they get to play a Lawbreaker, rather than having it forced on them. And those clever fellows with an Aspect alluding to the lure of the Dark Side? Well, go nuts with the compels. They asked for it. But never, never, never when they’re out of Fate Points. That’s just forcing the choice on them.

Those of you playing along at home will have noticed that, while I’ve said this is the last article in the Magic in DFRPG series, I have ignored a large, complex chunk of the system: Sponsored Magic. That’s not really an oversight; or rather, it’s a deliberate one. Sponsored Magic is kind of tricky in the system, and I haven’t got my head all the way around it yet. I may come back to this series with a final article on it, but it won’t be right away.

No, the next thing I think I’m going to tackle in DFRPG is Mortal Stunts. I’m finding they’re often overlooked by the players, but have a wealth of good stuff for all types of characters.

But that’ll be after the Armitage Files game post from tonight’s game, and then my week-long pilgrimage to GenCon. If any of you are attending the con, I’ll be helping out Pagan Publishing and Dagon Industries at booth #315. Stop by and say hi, and I’ll fulfill my booth weasel duty of trying to sell you some cool Cthulhu stuff.

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21 Responses to Math and Miscellany: Magic in DFRPG, Part Six

  1. Deadmanwalking says:

    I’d like to start by saying that I’ve been following this Blog since the Playtest stuff in Magical Winnipeg, and that you, sir, are awesome, as is this Blog as a whole. I’ve just never felt the need to comment beyond that before. I do this time, just to point out a couple of things:

    Focus Items: There’s actually proof that you can use Focus Item slots for either Evocation or Thaumaturgy: Harry has three in Evocation. Personally, I don’t think Thaumaturgy Focuses are actually worth as much, but that’s more of a personal thing.

    Enchanted Items/Potions: Potions are really cool, but Enchanted Items can be used additional times after their normal usage per session at 1 Mental Stress per use (so the same cost as casting a spell). Defensive Enchanted Items can also be used without requiring an action, making them really cool defensively. The combination makes for definitively more powerful effects than Potions in some ways, though not nearly as versatile.

  2. Rick Neal says:

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog.

    You are, of course, right about both your points. Thanks for setting the record straight, especially with regards to potions vs. enchanted items. While I had read the rule you pointed out, and even pointed it out in the post, I had been discounting what a big advantage that reusability is, focusing on he versatility of potions. I am no longer on the fence; enchanted items are as good as potions.

    With regard to thaumaturgy foci, I understand where you’re coming from with that. Certainly, power foci for thaumaturgy seem less useful than other foci, but complexity foci really increase the range of spells you can whip up with just the junk in your pockets. Considering that you can use thaumaturgy to essentially give you an automatic skill rating on something, each +1 to complexity means a one-shift bonus to the final skill result or a bump up the duration ladder. It’s shown itself to be pretty useful in the game I’m running. But, of course, your mileage may vary.

  3. Rel Fexive says:

    Great stuff, as always 🙂

  4. Greg says:

    We’re talking about skill ratings on another board, and the example came up of giving yourself a 12 rating in a skill. (4 lore, 4 strength enhancers, 2 fate points for effect) What’s your take on this? It seems… game breaking for me. We’re also in doubt as to the starting time frame of a potion. Given some of your other examples, you seem to be using scene-length (15 minutes). Is that pretty standard in your games?

  5. Rick Neal says:

    @Greg: Keep in mind that, to get that skill level, the character has spent all four base focus slots, and will need at least one level of Refinement to have a potion slot to spend on that. He or she will also need to spend two Fate Points, which are in quite short supply for Wizards. So no, I don’t think it’s a game-breaker. The caster can do it, but not often, and it costs.

    As for potion duration, I use a scene as a default for thaumaturgy effects in potions because I find it usually fits what the character is trying to do with them. Of course, for evocations, the base duration is usually one exchange. With any magical effect, however, it’s very much a judgment call based on the specific potion and application. Go with what feels right for the situation.

  6. Greg says:

    Thank you so much! We just started playing DFRPG and of course the magic system is where we are having the most debates. Your blog has helped tremendously in learning to assign complexities!

  7. time says:

    This blog is awesome. I really appreciate what you’ve done. I have a question on enchantments.
    1. In Fool moon Harry makes a potion to give him more energy, “a full nights sleep in a bottle.” In another book he uses a belt buckle in the shape of a bear to recover from stress. What’s your take on this? What system would you put in place to allow players to do this (in the source book after all) but not be a game breaker.

    2. I’m on the fence about using enchanted item’s 1 time per session, or 1 time per scene. I can see anyone playing a cautious character only doing 1 fight per session under the current rules. Also, I’m pretty sure that there are a number or scenes in the books where Harry’s duster has deflected multiple shots. White night comes to mind.

    Again, love your blog.

  8. Rick Neal says:

    @ time: Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoying the blog. I’ll do my best to answer your questions, but the real answer is that it works whatever way the wizard and the GM negotiate it working. 😉

    1. For the full night’s sleep in the bottle, I can see two different ways of doing it. One is to have the potion apply a sticky Aspect, something like Well Rested, or Awake and Alert. The other way is modeled on the Reiki Healing spell in the rulebooks, and would reduce the severity of fatigue-related consequences to a lower level. One would be preventative, and the other curative. I don’t recall the exact function of the belt buckle from the novels, but it would work roughly the same way. It really depends on what the in-world mechanic for the magic effect is – i.e., does it increase his endurance, give him fresh energy, wash away fatigue, or whatever – and that’s part of what the wizard decides when creating it.

    2. I strongly urge you not to increase an enchanted item’s uses to once per scene. There are a couple of reasons for this:
    – Spellcasters (who are the only characters with access to enchanted items) already have a whole range of options in every scene. Giving them more options means that they will be stealing more spotlight time from other characters. And that’s what enchanted items do – provide more quick options for spellcasters.
    – The highly deadly nature of combat in this system, and the wide range of other options available for problem solving, do a lot to discourage characters from engaging in too many combats. Players who understand the danger inherent in combat tend to be very cautious about getting into physical fights. Increasing the number of uses for enchanted items won’t do a lot to mitigate this.
    – You can get extra uses out of an enchanted item by taking a one-point Mental Stress hit for each extra use during the session.

    I get the sense from your questions – and I may be way off-base, here, so forgive me if I am – that you’re looking for a combat-heavy game, along the lines of a D&D adventure*. This game, as written, doesn’t do a whole lot to support or encourage that style of play. Now, maybe you’re not looking for that style of game. But your questions got me thinking about how I would do it if I was going to do it, so here are my thoughts.

    Magic tends to take time, fast magic tends to be simple and tiring, and injuries take a long time to heal. In addition, the mechanics for being taken out and for conceding really put a lot of the decision about when a character drops out of combat into the players’ hands, which is a real shift in perspective coming from more traditional RPGs. If that’s the case, if you’re looking to make a wizard (or other spellcaster, or any other character type) that can grind through multiple combats with limited risk, tweaking the enchanted items isn’t the way to do it. The single biggest thing you can do is increase the Stress Tracks. Bumping the base number of boxes on each track from 2 to 4 would significantly increase the characters durability during combat.

    That will, of course, have a cascading effect on the game: evocation becomes far more valuable than standard weapons (whereas now it’s value is undermined by its cost), combats will last longer, maneuvers will be slightly devalued as more are required to have a strong effect in combat, stuff like that. If bumping the Stress Track doesn’t appeal, you can add some more consequence slots – giving each character an extra minor consequence in each track effectively does the same thing as increasing the Stress Track in terms of survivability, but exacts a little more of a cost from the character. Doing both would have a cumulative effect, of course.

    Anyway, enough rambling. Hope that helps. And thanks again for the kind words.

    *That’s not a criticism, I hasten to say. I love D&D.

  9. time says:

    A appreciate the quick response. You’ve put together the best online supplement I’ve been able to find. I *just* got the books for Christmas and I’m planning on running a game. So I need to figure out how the rules work.

    My gaming history is Amber, D&D, and WOD “Critter:The Adverb.”

    I’m not really looking for more combat exactly…just thinking about how Harry never worried about his duster wearing off. It’s a 4th wall thing

    Scenario 1: The character knows that magic robes work 4 times and than need a rest.
    Scenario 2: The PLAYER knows but the character doesn’t.

    In scenario 1 characters will keep track of ‘charges’ the way soldiers keep track of ammo.
    In scenario 2 the character doesn’t know that those 4 shots from a .38 special last night have left his magic robes useless and that he can’t count in it to stop the man with a gun in front of him.

    That said I completely agree with your comments about game balance and ‘feel’.

  10. Michael says:

    I gotta say, “WOD “Critter:The Adverb.”” made me laugh out loud. Too bad I’m in a coffee shop and people are looking at me weird…

  11. Travis says:

    @time
    Don’t forget that, in the specific case of the coat, one of the ways that you can enchant something is to have it give you Armor. It’s expensive (1/4 of the enchantment slots you put into it) but permanent. Note also that it’s not until later in the books (Susan gives him the coat in…Summer Knight?) when he probably has a little more enchantment slots to work with.

  12. Sarah says:

    @Rick Neal

    There’s still one question that I have that’s been a bone of contention in my new gaming group regarding foci, specifically foci that have been narrowed down to one specific spell. How many times does the +1 bonus apply when binding a focus to an evocation rote? if 4 focus item slots were invested in the item, is it +8 (+1 bonus for each point invested in the focus) or +5 (the bonus is only applied once, no matter how many points are invested in the item)?

  13. Rick Neal says:

    The real answer is that it works however the GM decides it works.

    But, according to a strict reading of the rules, you only get the +1 bonus once per item.

    “If you are willing to lock the ITEM down to only ever being useful for one specific spell… then you get a SINGLE free ‘slot upgrade’… to add an extra +1 bonus.” YS279

    This is reinforced by the rule that you can’t have a focus device granting a bonus greater than your Lore score. So, unless you’ve got a lore above Legendary, that +8 focus item is out of your reach anyway.

    Hope that helps!

  14. John says:

    So how would you do an example of a summoning? Suppose I want a ectoplasmic body with an AI intellect to wear my trenchcoat and hat and walk out of my apartment and distract the goons following me so I can follow them. Do I need a shift for the total refresh cost of something similar in YourWorld or should I pay 1 shift for each stat, stress, consequence, and power I want to give it? I mean both could work, maybe I am getting bogged down in options.

  15. Rick Neal says:

    I’d set the complexity based on the level of distraction you want.

    See, an important part of the magic system is looking at the effect you want and basing it on that. The effect is the mechanical impact of the spell, not necessarily the fiction that you wrap that mechanical impact in. So, ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?”

    If your answer is, “I want to summon/create a being with autonomy and physicality and have it do my bidding,” that’s one thing, and the complexity is gonna be higher, probably close to one shift per level of skill and the cost of the powers and possibly each box of stress (but I’m just winging this, right now, so don’t hold me to that number).

    On the other hand, if your answer is, “I want to distract the guards, making them easier to follow,” then you’re just placing a maneuver (let’s call it Distracted by a Doppelganger) on them – call it complexity 6 (3 for effect, 2 to affect all the goons, 1 for sticky) – and the jazz you use to describe the effect is up to you. In this case, it’s an ectoplasmic form wearing your trenchcoat.

    If your answer is, “I want to be able to follow the goons back to their boss,” then you want a ritual that grants you an Investigation result to substitute for your own. So, let’s say the goons have an Average (+1) Aletness (which is what you’d be opposing, right?). That means that their maximum roll is Superb (+5), so you can set the complexity at 6 to guarantee they can’t beat it, and they will follow your ruse until they get tired and one of them runs back to report to the boss. Of course, you’ll need to be making your own Stealth checks to keep shadowing them.

    So, the gist of my answer is, you need to keep your end-goal mechanical effect in mind when planning magic. Think about the fiction and the mechanism, but don’t take your eye off the end-goal, and that’ll make it easier to set the complexity on these things.

    Hope that helps.

  16. Owen says:

    You’ve overlooked something about Crafting, Specialization, Focus Items, & Enchanted Items; namely, you can have a Focus Item &/or Specialization that ups your effective Strength and/or Frequency (i.e. uses per day) of ANY Enchanted Items you make (YS 280). This is because with Crafting, unlike with all other kinds of Thaumaturgy, Complexity & Control are irrelevant thanks to the sheer time involved; it’s only how strong & how often you can use an item that matters. So, I could have a Lore +4 character with a +1 Crafting Specialization in Strength & a Focus Item giving him a further +3 to Crafting Strength & make a supped-up version of Harry’s Shield Coat with a whopping +8 effective Strength usable 1/day, even using a 2nd Enchanted Item slot to make that 3/day. Of course, there’s that easily-missed tidbit in the rules saying that you shouldn’t have a Strength of more than twice your Lore after all factors are added together, barring a VERY good explanation that makes life…interesting as a result. Regardless, a dedicated Crafting-focused Practitioner could be rather formidable, though they’d still have to split their slots carefully & probably get a Refinement or two.

  17. Rick Neal says:

    That’s a good catch, and really it comes down to the same thing that affects all of the magic in the system – if you specialize deeply enough, spend the points and don’t mind narrowing your focus, you can be absolutely outstanding in one area. But – and this is an important but – you sacrifice a lot of versatility for that outstanding ability. If that fits with your character concept, that’s awesome, but if you’re doing it because you think you’ve found a rules loophole to exploit, well, things may not work out the way you plan. 😉

    Thanks for bringing this one up, Owen!

  18. Ron Lugge says:

    How do you deal with dedicated crafters and skill replacement potions?

    At the submerged level, my wizard was able to craft base strength 8 potions with 3 uses — tag a single aspect to cap at lore x 2. That wound up being slightly insane the other night. “Oh, you don’t have enough discipline for this fight? Have a discipline:10 potion, on me…” Followed by, “Oh noes, this big bad can essentially only be hurt by our Knight of the Cross. Good thing he hasn’t drunk a potion yet, here, have a weapon:10 potion…”

  19. Rick Neal says:

    @Ron Lugge

    Well, first off, I’d check if there was a problem, before trying to figure out how to deal with it. If everyone’s having fun, and the potion bunny isn’t stealing the show from other people, then I’d just let it stand.

    See, a potion specialist falls into one of two camps: either they buff others, or they buff themselves.

    The first kind is fantastic, because the player uses their character’s awesome abilities to make OTHER characters more awesome. That rocks.

    The second kind is fantastic, because it means they husband their resources, letting others take centre stage, until they unleash and get one scene of pure awesomeness for themselves.

    Either way, that’s a character who’s gonna be very hungry for Fate points, so compel the heck out of them. Play on their Trouble aspect like it was your primary instrument in the rock band of the party. Look for other weaknesses in their aspects that can make them mess things up in order to get that Fate point for later. Make them make hard choices.

    Also, anyone who specializes so deeply leaves themselves vulnerable in other areas. The character NEEDS the rest of the team to get stuff done. Make sure the adventure shows that.

    Finally, pay attention to the logic of the fiction, too. That Weapon:10 potion for example – how does it do that? Is it something that someone drinks and then his/her attacks are Weapon:10, or is it an oil applied to a weapon that boosts its damage, or is it a fiery gas that blasts one target? Ranged or melee? Area attack? Remember, for stuff like this, if it’s going to affect more than one target, you gotta spend some of the complexity on that. If it’s going to transform you, you gotta spend some complexity on that. If it’s going to keep doing damage, you gotta spend some complexity on that. It can be a pain to stop and do the math in the middle of a fight, but sometimes, as a GM, you have to, at least to check the Wizard’s math.

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