Thaumaturgy

Thaumaturgy is the safest, most reliable method of doing magic. The primary differences between the two are matters of preparation, time, and mindset.

Thaumaturgy sets up the construct physically (or by creating a long term mental construct) and allows the elements to act as a lens through which the wizard then focuses his power. Because the spellcaster doesn’t have to concentrate to keep the construct in mind, he creates a much stronger and more stable effect. Meaning he can focus on achieving effects of much greater complexity and subtlety. He can also direct power into the spell gradually, making it far less likely that something will go awry.

Thaumaturgy also allows the wizard the luxury of drawing power from sources other than himself. Such as bound spirits, forces of nature, or the assistance of others. Over time the effects of thaumaturgy are more powerful than those of Evocation. While a blast of fire may injure, a ritual curse can leave you and your offspring crippled for generations.

Most of the spells in traditional tomes or ones passed down through schools of sorcery are basically thaumaturgy. They can be described in physical terms. If you follow the recipe of the spell correctly, feeding in the power that it requires, the spell/ritual will work.

Particularly effective thaumaturgical rituals require elaborate physical preparations (such as rare items, multiple casters, unusual times of year, or outside influence such as storms) and may also require a minimal influx of power; this makes them usable by people who, otherwise, would never be regarded as wizards. This can be useful, or it can be very dangerous.

Thaumaturgy lets you make the most of time, preparation, and materials. Without those it just cannot be done. Because of that, there are two primary limitations.

The first is time. Thaumaturgy is a slow art, with the fastest of spells taking minutes or more. Most take much longer than that. The most powerful take decades. Patience is necessary as speed is being traded for versatility and potency.

The second is a matter of symbols. In order to affect a target at great range, some sort of link must be established to that target via symbolic representations. The incorporation of recently-separated bits of the target (blood, hair, a family keepsake) and so on. Without these physical materials on hand to represent the target in absentia a thaumaturgic spell simply has nowhere to go and nothing to do. The exception to this are spells that act on the physical environment around the caster or the caster themselves.

Thaumaturgy carries an extremely broad range of effects under its banner: summoning and binding supernatural entities, divination and detection, wards, curses, temporary and permanent enchantments on people and things…the list is potentially endless.

Usually these effects fall under a subset of options below

  • Solve Improbable or Impossible Problems
  • Create Lasting Changes in People and Things
  • Provide Inaccessible Knowledge
  • Allow Interaction with the Supernatural
  • Shape Magical Energies into Physical Forms

Symbolic Links

Objects that are included in the ritual process that metaphorically represent where the spell energies are being sent. The voodoo doll is probably the most popular example from folklore. However a specific target can be represented in many different ways: a personal possession that has emotional resonance, a sculpture or model of the target, a sample of the target’s writing, actual hair or blood from the target, the target’s True Name, etc. Places can be represented through models, depictions of the place (like a photograph), or things taken from the site itself. Using more of these links in the construct and using links that are “close” to their source increase the connection and make it more likely that the spell energies will go where they’re supposed to when they’re released.

Gathering symbolic links to an individual can be a tricky prospect as the best ones literally involve taking a piece of the target itself, whether physically or emotionally. For maximum effectiveness you may need to break into a prospective target’s house for a prized possession, or stalk the target to find a stray strand of hair. Some wizards even resort to violence or have an independent party commit violence for them. Linking to a supernatural creature is even trickier. They are much harder to “sneak up on” in every sense—you will likely be required to risk resources, work through proxies, and make bargains with other entities.

Even getting a link to a place can be difficult at times. The best links are to-scale representations, requiring certain detail. Some areas might be guarded, warded, or restricted in access somehow, requiring you to be very clever to bypass those restrictions.

Summoning and Binding

Dealing with spirits and other supernatural entities from a “safe” distance is one of the hallmarks of ritual magic. The traditional sorcerer from folklore relies entirely on summoning and binding demons to accomplish his aims. Typically they pay a terrible price in the process. It is wise for a budding wizard to heed these cautionary tales dealing with spirits is no simple task.

There are three parts for summoning a spirit each of which should be done as its own spell. Though a very ambitious wizard can always try to build a spell that incorporates two or more of these parts:

  • Create a container to hold the entity.
  • Summon the entity.
  • Control (Bind) the entity.

There is no guarantee the summoned entity will behave how you want it to. You will have to bargain with the entity to achieve your desires. There’s nothing technically magical about this part of the interaction and a wizard who expects to do this regularly should make sure he’s wellversed in Rapport, Deceit, or Intimidation.

Even when contained strongly an entity may try to break the bonds of the summoning circle via trickery or by force. In the latter case this is a direct conflict of will against will, inflicting mental stress when successful. The wizard must win in order to maintain his circle and keep the entity trapped, though a victory can also be used as an opportunity to banish it. If the entity wins it escapes the wizard’s grasp and then it’s free to do as it wishes. This is usually a bad thing. With a strong container established the wizard usually has the upper hand and may be able to inflict some harm on the entity in return.

Binding the entity is a third optional step. You exert your will over the entity forcing it into your service. Done as another spell this is considered a fully transformative effect and therefore is like a full conflict.

A more haphazard and dangerous approach is using the entity’s True Name to assault the being directly. Trying to wear it down in an actual exchange-by-exchange conflict. In such a case you can use your Will as the attacking skill, inflicting mental stress on the creature or you can step it up to genuine spellcraft and assault the creature with spirit evocations.

A True Name must be guarded carefully. Any skilled practitioner that learns a creature’s True Name can make similar attacks to wrest control of the creature away from its original master. Regardless bindings formed in this way are imperfect and decay more rapidly than those achieved by way of ritual.

Once the entity is bound, you must work to keep the bond reinforced after the entity has recovered from the consequences it sustained in the initial conflict. It will likely attempt to escape and the spell will probably need to be recast. In time this cycle of need can become a problem of its own. Also keep in mind that most entities really don’t appreciate being controlled in such a one-sided way. A bound entity will likely do everything it can to subtly undermine your control until it can make a bid to break away.

Conjuration

Conjuration is the art of creating objects of seeming substance out of nothing. None of the things that conjuration creates are actually real. They are made of ectoplasm, the substance of the Astral Plane, and once the energy that’s telling that ectoplasm to be something leaches out it dissolves. First into goo, then into nothing at all.

Detail, scale, and believability are the key aspects of Conjuration. Detail primarily addresses the intricacy of function (i.e., moving parts). Simple objects require little skill while complex objects require far more. Quantity and size add to the difficulty. In terms of believability… if the wizard wants to pass the conjured object off as real it will require greater complexity in the spell. A basic coin is easy to make, but a coin you could spend in a store is hard.

Divination

Divination can take several forms, all basically falling under the general header of “gathering information.” The most common example are tracking spells. However several other forms exist: direct scrying, forecasting and prophecy, telepathy and psychometry, and various other kinds of sensory magic.

With divination spells the main things to consider are how much information you want and how hard it would normally be to get that information. That’s why tracking spells are ultimately pretty easy to pull off: all you get is a general sense of the target’s location, but no other information. This makes it a simple action which nearly always has a low complexity.

Things become more complicated when you actively monitor the target in some way. First, if the target is behind a threshold or any other kind of supernatural protection you have to overcome that. Second, even unaware targets have a natural defense against being “read” or seen against their will. This is done via a Will roll. So you will want to beef up the complexity fairly high to overcome these obstacles.

Veils

Veils are spirit evocations that bend attention, light, and energy away from prying eyes. They typically require ongoing concentration to remain in place. Evocation’s veils also tend to be fairly personal in scale. However, with thaumaturgy it is possible to set up a long-term veil. This allows you to conceal something for days without ongoing concentration.

The complexity of a veil is equal to whatever difficulty the wizard wants others to beat in order to detect whatever’s behind the veil. As with evocation, this is a block action with a base complexity equal to its strength. Veils often block detection in both directions. Perceiving things outside a veil while you are within it faces a similar block, at half the veil’s strength. For an increase in complexity you can make it easier to see through.

Bigger veils also mean a higher complexity. Concealing the caster himself is within the scope of an evocation veil and requires no adjustment. Thaumaturgical veils are not usually mobile and are constrained by thresholds and other barriers that scatter magical energies.

Casting a veil as a ritual means the wizard doesn’t really have to worry about maintaining it. If he wants it to last past the next sunrise will require higher complexity as well.

Wards

A ward is basically a very potent version of a block using thaumaturgy instead of evocation. It’s intended to protect an area from physical or magical intrusion. Most wizards need stronger protection against occupational hazards such as the supernatural, malicious magic, and hungry monsters.

A ward’s basic function is reflecting energies back onto their source. Someone who collides with a ward at a brisk walk might experience something equivalent to a hard shove, while someone running full tilt into a ward would most certainly get knocked to the ground. Magical force gets the same treatment. A powerful spell cast on a good ward usually ends up being very bad for the intruder.

In addition to this basic function wards can be rigged to contain other magic that gets triggered when the ward encounters significant force. The most common of these is a magical “landmine,” where a large evocation effect is encased in a sigil behind the ward. The ward releases its energy when the containment provided by the ward is breached. However other effects are possible such as a ward that acts as an early warning system. Alerting the caster when someone passes through it.

The base complexity of a ward is directly related to its desired strength, so you should aim for this to be pretty high. This represents the ward’s capacity for reflecting attacks. When something hits the ward, compare the complexity versus the power used against it. If the ward prevails the attacker is hit with an effect of the appropriate type for equal strength.

If the attack surpasses the block strength of the ward, then the ward is breached. Apply whatever gets through to the target just like bypassing a block. Alternatively the attacker may apply those shifts directly toward getting rid of the ward itself. Each level of power will reduce the value of the ward by one until it’s gone.

By default a ward lasts roughly 24 hours unless you add complexity to make it last longer. In addition any spells you wish to include as part of the ward construct add their complexity values directly onto the ward. It must all be cast as one spell. If you want a layered defense, you’ll have to spend a bit of time setting it up.

Wards don’t have a “scale” concern, like veils have. They are almost always tied to a particular place’s natural thresholds, so they are limited by the size of that threshold.

“Landmines” add complexity equal to the power of the evocation spell stored within the ward. The effective targeting roll will be equal to the power of the evocation, though the spell’s complexity may be increased on a one for one basis to add to the targeting roll.

Magical Crafting

While crafting things like focus items and potions is considered a type of thaumaturgy, it relies on a variety of skills to actually make them. The act of actually enchanting the items is definitely thaumaturgy, however it is considered it’s own skill because of the complexity.

Transformation and Disruption

Thaumaturgy that fundamentally, lastingly changes the target. This can be physical, mental, or emotional. Often this includes: curses, mind control, shapeshifting, and death magic. Regardless of what the spell changes, this is a violent act to the target. People and things are very good at being what they are and this sort of magic forces them to be what they are not.

Thaumaturgy transformation inflicts consequences or temporary aspects on a target. Entropic curses inflict aspects that reflect bad luck and other kinds of misfortune. Emotion magic inflicts aspects related to emotional states (lust, anger, fear, etc.) that the victim can fall prey to. Mind control is an aspect which compels and forces the victim to act in a certain way. In rarer cases, a curse might actually be fully transformative, changing the shape or nature of a being permanently.

Because these forms of thaumaturgy function via consequences, a wizard needs to make sure that the spell is complex enough to overcome any resistance the target might be able to raise. It then needs enough complexity for the desired consequence to take effect.

Transportation and Astral Travel

Transportation magics are all about getting the wizard from one place to another. Teleportation is nearly nonexistent if not completely absent, though a clever wizard can certainly make it seem like that’s what he’s done. Instead, there are spells which impart speed or other kinds of motion, and those which rip holes into or out of the Astral Plane.

Spells that impart speed focus on the idea of creating a simple action effect of a high Athletics roll used to sprint. Milder longer-term speed benefits can be imparted as maneuvers, giving a target an Unexpectedly Fast aspect that he can tag and invoke to boost needed rolls. The natural speed of some of the children of the gods works this way.

Running so fast can be hard on the body. Steering isn’t always easy at that speed, and some bodies aren’t designed to move that fast without something giving. Mild and moderate physical consequences may be an appropriate part of using a spell or potion to boost speed, representing the body pushing past safe limits.

While it’s theoretically possible to create a spell which would allow one to fly, the ability to fly does not come with an instruction manual, and thus does not come with the expertise to control the ability once it’s available. Most wizards avoid trying, and those who do usually quickly discover what the human body was not meant to do.

Real transportation is done by way of walking the Astral Plane physically. The practice of opening portals into and out of the Astral Plane is the highest art form among this type of magic. Things are connected more by conceptual distance than by physical in the Astral Plane, so a well-trained worldwalker can make it from New York to Shanghai much faster than any jet. The problem is that the geography of the Astral Plane is fluid. Someone with a good guide or training can make it through relatively quickly and safely.

Opening a way into or out of the Astral Plane depends almost entirely on the strength of the barrier between the Astral Plane and our world in a given place. Opening the way is a simple action against the target strength that must be meet or exceeded in order to open up. Typically, the strength of the barrier between the Astral Plane and our world is Superb (or better). Evidence to the contrary aside, things from the other side don’t leak through to our world every day. At least, not in most places.

Our world, however, does have soft spots. Places where the barrier is thinner and weaker. In these places, many supernatural creatures can cross into and out of the Astral Plane with an almost casual effort. Places which become used to the opening and closing of such portals become such soft spots, dropping the strength of the barrier to Great, Good, or even below. The overall barrier ebbs and flows as well.

Closing a way you have opened is a simple matter of will. Keeping it open is where things get more interesting. Most ways will close themselves naturally within a few minutes, and often much much faster than that. Reality likes to heal those holes. Keeping a way open longer takes real effort. You can add to the duration by increasing the of complexity of the spell. That said, it’s often better to let the natural order reassert itself as soon as possible. As with our world, there’s a bad element out there that will see an open door as an invitation to go where it’s not welcome.

Other forms of Thaumaturgy

Other forms of thaumaturgy exist, however they tend to be less about the how and more about the method.

Thaumaturgy

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