So, I have a player in a Dresden Files game I'm setting up who loves playing healing and support characters. Good aligned clerics in D&D, medicine excellencies in Exalted, you get the picture. It's not that he has to, it's genuinely the kind of character he enjoys most. I know being a general support is easy in FATE (Just keep using maneuvers to throw aspects on everything that looks like a target and allow your allies to tag them) but healing seems pretty ineffective. The only mentions I can find of it would be Biomancy (no examples) Seelie magic (again, no examples) and a mention in the skills section that Scholarship covers being a doctor, but still no mention of the actual difficulty of healing someone.

I did find an example in the section Spellcasting (Examples of Magic) with the Reiki Healing Spell. It's Thaumaturgy, with an 8-10 complexity, and it reduces a moderate physical consequence to a mild on. This has a few problems as a main role of a character.

First, something like this won't work in combat. I'm wondering if it would be possible to do something like this with Evocation. (Seelie magic might be the best route for this- it mentions it can perform some magic effects with evocation's speed and methods.) Could a focused practitioner with channeling(biomancy) heal someone?

Second, is this really complexity 8? Even as a thaumaturgy, where there isn't any worry of backlash (assuming you can take your time) that's hard to pull off. A lore 5 gets you halfway there, maybe you could use scholarship to set up an aspect that you could tag (7) but I can't see how to do this without spending at least one or two fate points. This spell moves a -4 consequence to a -2 consequence. This doesn't look like it's going to often be worth it.

Maybe the system really doesn't encourage this kind of thing. Maybe the ability to reduce consequences would change the feeling of taking consequences in a way that might make it less fun. An answer that says basically "It won't work and shouldn't" would be great, if you can explain why. I'm trying to figure out what kind of effect this might have on gameplay myself.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You need to study Thaumaturgy some more. There are incredibly high complexities possible, and they're not impossible without spending Fate points. Having a deficit is part of the system design, and there are story-driving ways to make it up. 8 is actually a trivial complexity. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2012 at 16:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ For more on Thaumaturgy, see How long does Thaumaturgy take? here on RPG.SE, as well as the incomparable essay by Rick Neal: "Thaumaturgy, or How to Break the Rules: Magic in DFRPG, Part Three". As a bonus, that essay also explains why there aren't any sample spells, and how it's easy (and expected by the system) to create custom rituals yourself (or by your players) during play. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2012 at 16:11

3 Answers 3


From the writer, Fred Hicks:

biomancy is a tricky, poorly documented part of magic in the source material. But, yes, it’d incorporate transformation magic, and its healing elements likely manifest as accelerated medical care, only occasionally branching into true “regeneration” type stuff at the extremes.

With that in mind, I think that a Biomancer is more akin to a doctor than a cleric, which seems to fit the source material. Keep in mind, that this is an urban fantasy, so having an easy way to heal an extreme consequence (an arm being taken off, for instance) brings to mind the question of why is cancer still a problem, and (without going into too much detail) why are extreme wounds to characters in the source material such a problem.

That said, I'd look towards the character concept and the focus of the player in creating the character to how you might tailor things to make the concept work in your game, and make things satisfying to the player in combat.

In the Dresden Files combat, there are four basic conflict actions: Attack, Maneuver, Block, and Sprint. (ref YS199). Taking sprint out of the equation and reducing the actions to their simplest intent, these actions are meant to either protect the character (thus prolonging the conflict), damage the opposition (thus contributing towards the end of the conflict), or set up opportunities for one or the other.

An application of Biomancy that would fit within these rules is a Block. If someone is in combat, the Biomancer could focus himself on increasing their natural resistance to damage and their natural recovery. The description of the effect would reinforce the use of Biomancy i.e. instead of a kinetic shield stopping the bullet or altering it's path, the bullet impacts the target, but the biomantic energies were able to knit the damaged body before the effects of the shock could even register.

If this is not enough to satisfy the concept and you want to extrapolate the rules and/or use the FATE SRD rules, you can move beyond this. An example of mitigation of consequences is already given- and I think given the statement above about what the intent of what biomancy would be fits their example. So I'd concentrate on stress.

Looking at YS201, we see a definition for stress:

Stress is an abstract representation of the difficulties that threaten to take someone out of a conflict. In a physical fight, stress can be minor cuts, bruises, fatigue, and the like. In a social or mental conflict, it might be loss of willpower, composure, or emotional control...

As attacks inflict stress (which result in consequences), and blocks inhibit stress by increasing defense (resulting in less consequences), the only actual result of removing stress is to extend the conflict. This is the balancing effect to keep in mind. If one side has the ability to remove stress, and extend their staying power in the conflict, and the other one doesn't, you tip the balance in the favor of the side that can remove stress, though the fact that this is a transference in the case of non-rotes does mitigate this concern some.

With that caveat in mind, the first place one could look for an example of what could be done with removing in-combat stress is the FATE SRD. In the FATE SRD (based on Spirit of the Century), there is a skill, Science, which has a stunt Medical Attention [Science].

When using Science as first aid in the middle of a fight, the character must take a full action with a target who’s not trying to do anything else active (i.e., forfeiting his next action). Make a roll against a target of Mediocre; if it succeeds with at least one shift, the subject may remove a checkmark in his one-stress box on his physical stress track. Every two shifts beyond the first improves this effect by one; for example, with five shifts, a character can remove a checkmark in his target’s three-stress box. Success can also be used to “stabilize” someone who has taken a severe or lesser consequence that would appear to be life-threatening (e.g., a Bleeding to Death aspect) – in game terms, this has the effect of limiting the extent to which the aspect can be compelled. A given person can’t be the target of more than one first aid action in an exchange.

Under this approach, one would use an Evocation with the spell's intensity against the target of Mediocre and follow the same guidelines.

Another approach one could use is to look at stress as taken as an intensity of the blow, especially since each dot of stress is an increasing value, and the lower levels of stress won't help with higher intensity wounds. So if your Biomancer wanted to give someone the ability to clear their 4 stress box, they would require an effect with a 4 intensity. Knowing that, you can craft an evocation spell against that intensity.

Note that for balance's sake, and because this isn't explicitly laid out in the rules, the intensity might have to be altered, especially given that a moderate consequence removes 4 stress from the hit, and a mild removes 2, so the equivalency might be a bit different. But I think that these general guidelines would fit the spirit of the rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ >biomancy is a tricky, poorly documented part of magic in the source material Which reminds me of a scene from the Dresden books where a certain Winter Court individual heals his wound and he says it's a show of power because it was a spell that convinced all of the cells in that part of his body to work together and grow at the same time. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Jul 14, 2012 at 6:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that, in later novels, it's noted that glamours may convince the body it is whole, but if one isn't a faerie, one isn't actually made whole by the magic. ISTR it being in Cold Days. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Jul 27, 2013 at 6:24

The way I like to approach it is based on the reiki healing spell.

First, assume some base amount to access the wound: I use 2 for a mild consequence, 4 for moderate, 6 for severe and 8 for extreme.

Then you add shifts of power to buy down how long it takes to heal. So healing a moderate consequence as a mild would cost a base of 4 (day to a week) plus 4 more shifts to buy the time down to an average of one hour.

You could even make a character who could clear out mild consequences in combat time using evocation, perhaps justified by a stunt or aspect. Mild consequence costs a base of 2 (1 hour) plus 6 to bring the time to a few moments, or 7 to bring it down to an instant. So if your 'cleric' can whistle up and control 8 or 9 shifts of evocation, than poof your wound is gone.

You could also use something of Fred Hicks' idea to control say 6 shifts to clear the first three stress bubble from your friend 1 for the first 2 for the second etc. Finally for big wounds, seeking out one of those ley lines of healing would be very useful.


The trouble with healing in just about any game is how quickly someone will abuse it. If you have an NPC who can, let's say, once per session reduce one of the stress tracks' severity per character then you can hide behind the GM shield. When it comes to in character stuff (and I'm not trying to be vague), the biggest problem comes in with how often they can do it. Mental magic can in theory heal emotional and mental stress but it can also fail by huge margins. So if you enable PC healing in a game like FATE/Dresden, you need to be very clear about frequency and the time it takes to do.

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    \$\begingroup\$ FATE and Dresden simply don't work if you have an antagonistic GM/player relationship. Many sections throughout the rules assume that the players and GM are collaborating to create a story, and are willing to have civil discussions about what would create the best story. "Overpowered" in FATE/Dresden is either a self-correcting problem, or simply not a problem as the players and GM work out new ways to challenge the "overpowered" character. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 8, 2013 at 19:34

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