In Dresden Files, you can use magic to grant yourself a temporary skill; with 5 shifts of power, you could give yourself a skill of 5 in Athletics for a short while. (Or a longer while, if you use Thaumaturgy instead of Evocation.) But what if your Athletics skill is higher than your ability to cast magic? Aside from using a Maneuver (free tag for +2, additional uses take Fate chips once per roll), how can you improve a skill for an extended time when your skill is higher than your ability to use magic?

(For context, my character has 3 Discipline, 3 Conviction, and 4 Lore in a game with a 5 skill cap. I'm barely able to cast Evocation Maneuvers, and several of my skills are higher than my ability to cast.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you want an extended effect, you want to look at Thaumaturgy. Evocation isn't gonna help much there. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2013 at 2:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie true, but the question still stands. I could improve my Lore by adding a stack of declarations, but would Lore 3 help an Athletics 5 character without them? (Or I could spend another round extending the duration on an Evocation.) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2013 at 2:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ When you're doing Thsumaturgy, declarations (up into the +20 range or higher!) are normal. You can fly using Thaumaturgy—nevermind doing something easy like granting super-climbing or leaping or whatever athletic thing you want to be good at. If you're looking at Thaumaturgy with your Lore as a limit, you might as well not bother. :) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2013 at 3:02

3 Answers 3


Somewhat disappointing answer: If your non-magical skills are better than your magic, you should just use the non-magical skills.

If you want to be the kind of character that gets things done with magic, then the game's mechanics encourage you to make your casting skills your character's highest skills. You can use your magic skills in place of your other skills in certain situations (particularly via Thaumaturgy), but there's no way to enhance your effective non-magical skills aside from using your magic to create aspects (which is no better/different than aspects created by other skills).

If I had to guess, I would say that the reason for this is that it'd wreck the game's balance badly if you could raise effective skill levels above the game's skill cap with a persistent effect instead of via single-use maneuvers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Magic can create aspects that normal skills can't. For example, I can't think of a normal skill that can place the aspect "I own your soul", or, more mundanely, "Look at me, I'm invisible!" \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2013 at 4:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have to agree here - it's not a whole answer, but there aren't a lot of instances I can think of in the books with people being provided with magical skill boosts - mostly potions in the earliest novels, and then, very briefly. \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Aug 20, 2013 at 10:55

Magic can do things ordinary skill uses can't, no matter how high you rank them.

It's a pretty long list, but here are a couple of the standouts:

Magical blocks can last multiple rounds.

You can spend extra shifts to extend the duration of an evocation block! This is a magic-only feature in DFRPG.

You can make large weapons easily.

A mundane Weapon:4 is a rocket launcher or heavy machine gun: hard to get, hard to hide, and hard to haul around. A magical Weapon:4 is much easier to make, though it doesn't last as long.

You can stack multiple theurgy checks in a row to get astronomical numbers.

Using theurgy, you can roll to control just one shift per round, but add the shifts together to get a final result of... basically as high as you want to take the time to stack up.

But as you've noticed, magic needs some good skill ranks.

Most magical effects require lots of shifts to be useful. Now, the "easy powerful weapons" thing can help mitigate that to some extent, but you might be better off focusing on creative non-shift-related benefits, where simply having the ability to do magic justifies things you normally wouldn't be able to do--but which don't require opposition.


My answer would be that in Dresden Files, you actually can't use magic to grant yourself a temporary skill, but rather a specific spell effect limited to a specific application of a specific trapping.

I could be wrong though, as just because I haven't found an example in the books of a Spell granting temporary access to a full skill, doesn't mean that the example doesn't exist, as that Core Rule book is a "brick" (400+ pages) and finding things in it is difficult at times.

I personally would say that granting broad access to a skill based on shifts of power would be a slippery slope and would cause some potential game balance issues.

A Stunt (and by extension Refresh) is useds to add a new trapping to a skill. Essentially letting the character do things with one skill that that normally couldn't be done with that skill.

I may allow temporary access to some effects in the same way temporary powers are gained (p. 92). Thus Spend Fate points to get the power you're seeking. The caveat is that access to temporary powers is to be done in RARE circumstances (See Below). If this is a common function or part of your regular use of power then you should pay the refresh for it.

Otherwise temporary access to power will need to be granted in a similar method to the way the book describes: "In rare circumstances, it might be appropriate for a character to temporarily take on supernatural powers. Usually, this happens when a supernatural entity imbues someone with power for a short time in order to take on a threat or fulfill some part of its agendas."

Thus, using Magic to replace other skills you don't have would seem pretty difficult, but not probably impossible. Like everything in this game, it's an issue of judgement call based on the reasoning for the spells use and funciton, and the fate points to spend to be able to access the skill you want but don't currently have.


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