WoJ on Magic in the Dresden Files (Part 2)

Link back to the main Dresden Files WoJ compilation


The Laws of Magic

the White Council’s mouth, quite frankly, writes an awfull lot  of checks it’s muscle simply will not cover.

Shecky is entirely correct imo.. The wc would claim jurisdiction over Bianc, and Mavra, etc, etc, if it could..it can’t. So it chews up teenagers instead.

Though a Council loyalist would probably phrase it, “So it does what it can, where it can, to protect mankind.” :)

And yes.  The Council in part relies on having a damned good bluff.  I mean, can you ever really be /certain/ that a wizard doesn’t have what he needs to get to you?  They do, after all, make a point of, every so often, demonstrating that they can still take the kid gloves off.

2009 Whisper radio interview @1:14:22
What kind of laws govern the use of magic in the world?
The White Council enforces Seven Laws of Magic.  They are basically a list of “Thow Shalt Nots,” and their purpose is to enforce these laws and prevent wizards from using their abilities to abuse people.  These are supposed to be laws that are restraining wizards from using their powers to do too much harm.  And to enforce the laws they have a group of wizards who are known as Wardens, and the Wardens are sort of the White Council’s interior police.  If you break one of the laws, it’s the Wardens who are the ones who drag you off for a trial and generally if you’re not killed resisting arrest, you’re killed pretty much after you show up for trial… Right to a speedy trial and an even speedier execution.


Dark Magic (and grey)

  Likewise, you are attracted by a smell of pie, that’s normal.  But, someone manipulates the timestream to guarantee that pie isn’t the nice fresh cherry pie it was supposed to be, that’s just wrong! ;D  Heh, pies aside, my focus is on the controlling of the free will of another person, not on just changes in the environment using magic.

Man.  The existential morality of using PIE to shape the course of reality.  GOOD or EVIL?  That’s . . . one of those discussions I never really thought I’d listen in on. :)


“Actually, Molly’s intentions when she broke that particular law twisted her.”  Here’s where I think you hit the nail on the head Lightsabre.  It’s the intentions of the caster that matter.  Time Travel, Nercomancy, and Mind Control are all tools that can be used to do *bad* things.  I’m fairly sure what we see in the laws of magic is a sort of wizard gun control, trying to limit the existence of these problematic classes of spells.

But if the substance of the consequences of the act itself does not have its own inherent quality of good or evil, then how can the /intentions/ behind it determine a similar quality?  “Really, I was only trying to provide a better quality of life for my family and my employees.  It wasn’t my intention to destroy that particular species of flower in the rain forest that cures cancer.”  “I was just trying to give those Injuns some blankets.  It wasn’t my intention to expose them to smallpox and wipe out hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”  “I just wanted to get that book finished while working two jobs and finishing a brutal semester of grad school.  It wasn’t my intention to screw up the name of Bianca’s personal assistant whose death had motivated her to go all power hungry to get revenge on Harry.”

There’s some old chestnut about good itentions serving as base level gradiant on an expressway that goes somewhere, but I can’t remember the specifics right now.  :)  While I agree that the /intentions/ of the person taking action are not without significance, they carry far less weight than the /consequences/ of that action.

“I meant to shoot him in the leg and wound him, not hit the femoral artery and kill him, so I should not be considered guilty of murder,” is not something that stands up in a court of law /or/ in any serious moral or ethical evaluation.  You had the weapon.  You knew it was potentially lethal, even if you did attempt to use it in a less than fully lethal fashion.  (Or if you DIDN’T know that, you were a freaking idiot playing with people’s lives, something really no less excuseable.)  But you chose to employ the weapon anyway.  The consequences of those actions are /yours/, your doing, regardless of how innocent your intentions may have been.

Similarly, if you meant to drill that ^@#%er through the eyes, if you had every intention of murdering him outright, but you shot him in the hand and he survived with minor injuries, again the consequences overshadow your intentions.  You might have made a stupid or morally queestionable choice, but it isn’t like anyone *died* or anything.  He’s fine (at least in the long term), you’re fine, and there are fewer repercussions–regardless of your hideous intentions.

The exercise of power and the necessity to consider the fallout from your actions isn’t something limited to wizards and gods.  Fictional people like Harry and Molly just provide more colorful examples.

As for violating the laws of magic themselves turning you good or evil, well.  :)  There’s something to be said on either side of the argument, in the strictest sense, though one side of the argument is definitely less incorrect than the other.  But it’s going to take me several more books to lay it out, so there’s no sense in ruining the fun. :)


(PS–Murphy can’t be Kumori, obviously.  Kumori is a powerful and dangerous necromancer with the personal will to hold a knife to a wizard’s throat.  And more to the point, she was TALL ENOUGH to do it.  If she was 5′ 0″ Murphy, she’d have had to be wearing freaking STILTS to hold a knife at 6′ 7″ Harry’s throat from behind.  To say nothing of the fact that Harry has touched Murphy’s skin on multiple occasions and never picked up a ripple of /any/ of the aura of a practitioner, much less the utterly obvious one of a fellow heavyweight.  I try to follow my own rules, guys. :) )

Quote from: Lightsabre on February 11, 2007, 08:20:42 PM

Look at it this way.
The entire council banded together to kill Kemmler.

All the Wardens did, and the Senior Council, and several of the more responsible/combat-capable wizards who weren’t either of the former (like Ebenezar, Klaus the Toymaker, and the Germans).  But it wasn’t literally the entire Council.  Plenty of the wizards there have got precious little gift when it comes to actual combat magic–like Ancient Mai.  Their strengths simply lie in other areas.  Others . . . just aren’t suited to it, mentally, and could probably prove to be more of a liability than an asset.  Some of them are just plain chicken.

But it was a more sizeable chunk of the Council than had, at that point, ever been all together in one place to take on /one/ guy.


They murdered, with magic.
They broke the laws. Are they all tainted?

Technically, they didn’t actually kill him with magic.  They rendered him helpless with magic and then found other ways to execute him.  (Swords are the usual.  For Kemmler, they also used guns, axes, shovels, ropes, a flamethrower, and a number of other extremes.)  It’s a semantic difference, in some ways, but an important technical distinction in others.


Note also the killing law only applies to Humans.
You can kill as many faeries as you want with magic.

Bingo.  It hardly seems fair, does it?

The Laws of Magic don’t necessarily match up to the actual universal guidelines to how the universal power known as “magic” behaves.

The consequences for breaking the Laws of Magic don’t all come from people wearing grey cloaks.

And none of it necessarily has anything to do with what is Right or Wrong.

Which exist.  It’s finding where they start or stop existing that’s the hard part.


PS–“sinister” as in “bend sinister” or “bar sinister” is a general term originally meaning “left,” and not “evil.”  However, there’s some overlap in traditional magickal terms, with references to the “left hand path” or black magic, and so on.  Left handed people were often viewed with suspicion during the middle ages.  In Islamic belief, the left hand is considered to be unclean.  For that matter, the entire concept of “right” is tied in with the negative connotations to “left.”

And I agree.  Harry has some sinister leanings. :)

So, it looks like Bob’s [from the TV show] crime against nature was resurrecting his dead love.

Well, I guess that makes him more sympathetic than the virgin-sacrificing sorcerer I was hoping he was…

Ah.  But what did he have to DO to ressurect his dead love, is the question.  Bob says “he crossed the line.  Several times.”  And while the magic isn’t being depicted from the same angle as the books, there /are/ several similarities in the rules that govern magic, one of which is: you don’t get something for nothing.  The forces of magic exist in balance.  I mean, if you want to bring back someone from the dead, it’s only reasonable that someone /else/ must . . .


April 09, 2007:

On this topic, just summarizing a few posts which hit upon key points:

Practically speaking, most of magic is in the mind.

Use of black magic warps your mind.

Corpsetaker had taken a LOT of bodies.  Luccio’s switched one time.

Luccio was a victim in the transfer, not the one controlling it (and taking advantage of it).

Oh, and I’ll add one for myself:  Corpsetaker wasn’t what anyone would characterize as a conscientious housekeeper.  Mwoo hah.


Death Curses

What death curses are able to do? How powerful can they be? Why don’t more wizards just use die as their curse? Its short and kills your killer. 

They sometimes do. :)  See what happened to all the vampires around Simon when they assaulted his compound immediately prior to the onstage events in Summer Knight.

However, while taking your killer down with you might be the most immediately gratifying thing to do with a death curse (assuming that they haven’t up and prepared to defend against that kind of magical retaliation, which only a real moron *wouldn’t* do if they knew they were off to murder a wizard), it might not be the SMARTEST thing you could do with it.  Still, magic in the Dresden universe is only as formidable as a wizard’s imagination can make it.

I mean, Maggie’s death curse on Raith did /more/ than render him virtually powerless.  It freaking crippled the entire White Court by rendering its head executive suddenly unwilling to get aggressive.  It took that same executive’s focus and warped it from an outwardly-oriented expansionist agenda (What, did you really think Raith just bumped into Maggie at a /bar/ somewhere?) to one of frantic power-defense, paranoia, and infighting.  Had she merely killed Raith, another vampire much like him would simply have stepped into his shoes.  Instead, her curse sandbagged the entire White Court for two or three /decades/.

It isn’t until the events of White Night that the White Court really begins to . . .

. . .but perhaps I’ve said too much.   ::)

Anyway, Maggie’s curse, of course, also made Raith suffer.  Horribly.  It made him live in a constant state of drug-withdrawal-level hunger, and fear, and eventually reduced him to outright slavery to someone with centuries of comeuppance to dish out.  But that was just icing on the cake.

2012 Reddit AMA:
domino7: 3) Is there a qualitative difference between Death Curses and regular magic? Not just using someone’s lifeforce to supercharge a spell, but to do something intrinsically different. Would it be hypothetically possible for someone to stockpile magical energy to cast a huge spell and fake a Death Curse, like drawing blood to spray an otherwise fatal amount around a crime scene?
Jim: 3) Definitely a qualitative difference. I mean, we rate nukes in terms of “how many thousand tons of TNT is this equal to?” but let me see you try to deploy 80,000 tons of TNT as a weapon. If you could, the destruction would be the same, in theory, but the nuke has a quality all its own that makes it stand out. A death curse is the same thing. A really powerful practitioner (any member of the Council) could probably simulate a death curse with enough time and forethought, but there would be traces that an investigator could find, afterward. “Hey, why are there tire tracks worn into this road? Because someone was using it to haul 80,000 tons of TNT to the site of the explosion, and you can’t do that without a LOT of trucks.”

Wizardly power origination 

Most people in the Dresdenverse do not believe in magic which, of course, hinders any inclination towards investigating and practicing the craft. If, however, an uninitiate found interest and conviction in the craft, would he or she be able to delve into it? Would he or she be able to harness the very same forces that Harry seems so adept at manipulating? Is one’s ability to utilize magic directly proportional to some genetic/descendant factor, or can anyone pick up the craft given the proper training and exposure to resources?

Assuming that any human being can wield magic, does one’s biology have anything to do with how easily he or she can access magical energies? Storm Front spoke so frequently about how much power Harry possessed, and he clearly was more than a match for Victor Sells; but I wonder if that is a result of the amount of time Harry has been practicing and amassing power, or the amount of potential power he has above Victor’s potential?

Discussed before, I think, but I can give the summary version here:  Using magick in the Dresden universe is like absolutely any other activity.  Some people are born great at it.  Some people are born with no skill whatsoever.  Some people spend a lot of time and effort increasing their innate talent, and hard work can make up a lot of the difference in innate talent.  Some people born with a fantastic talent never realize they have it, and consequently never use it, or develop it.  Talents left undeveloped tend to wither away, and even the talented, if they don’t work and practice, can’t ever be really first rate.

So, a wizard like Harry is someone born with a tremendous talent for accessing magic, and then they spend a lot of time working and developing that talent.  Someone like Victor had some kind of innate talent, made a deal to get themselves a bunch of extra power, but while they might have the same kind of  “musclepower” Harry has (or at least been in his weight class), someone like that doesn’t have Harry’s experience or skill.

Put it in brawling terms.  Victor was a big, mean, strong guy made dangerous by LSD and too much booze.  Dresden, by comparison, is a professional heavyweight martial artist/bouncer/bodyguard well versed in real combat.  Now, that big mean drunk might, if the professional is stupid or taken off guard, smash his face into the concrete.  But part of being a pro means being alert and careful in a potential confrontation.  If he can face the drunk on his feet and alert, he’ll beat the drunk most of the time.  Probably.

(Real fighting, alas, is extremely chaotic and unpredictable and even being the best is no protection against bad judgment or simply bad luck.)

Anyway.  Most people could probably do SOMETHING with magic, just like most people could probably learn to sing a little.  Some people are just born with an incredible voice, and training only enhances them.  Others can’t carry a tune in a bucket, and no amount of training will ever do them much good.  But there’s a world of difference between an American Idol winner and, well, all the people they love to show on the first several audition episodes.

Of course, you can cheat a little more easily when it comes to magic.  I suppose you can cheat when it comes to sports, via using steroids and so on, though it isn’t as simple to cheat at singing. :)  Cheating with magic generally involves you trading something to something bad to give you more power.  It doesn’t make you any more skilled at USING that power, and you generally have to be stupid or desperate to make the deal to begin with, but you CAN cheat.  There are benign sources of power out there, who might be happy to help you, but the truly benevolent among such beings generally help you get stronger by, say, giving you lessons, or encouraging you to work out, rather than just dumping it onto your head.  Bottom line:  there ain’t no free lunch.

Bad guys love the quick and easy path.  Forever will it dominate your destiny.



Jim said at DragonCon 2006 that because of the age difference between Molly and Daniel, Molly will be the only magical Carpenter kid. He elaborated on the boards:

[snip] what’s critical to this particular equation is the fact that Charity was consciously and deliberately neglecting her talent–which hadn’t been all THAT hot to begin with.  She went through the time she got engaged to Michael, all the way through Molly’s term, all the intervening time, etc, before she got to Daniel.  It had been more than two, maybe three years since she’d done anything with her magic by the time Daniel was conceived.

Well, like many things in life, it just isn’t as simple as positive/negative, either/or.  Genetics /are/ a factor.  However, they are not the /only/ factor.  I think I’ve said that at least a couple of times before this, but I’m happy to reiterate. :)

Look, even the simplest genetic traits are way less simple than you get in basic biology classes when they’re operating in the real world.  Sure, you can inherit the gene for tallness, which is dominant, but if your mom is horribly sick, or starves during the pregnancy, it’s going to impact your birth and development.  So is your health, environment, diet, behavior, the behavior of those around you, etc, as you grow.  That tallness gene is gonna be in the mix, sure, and will be a powerful factor in determining how tall you get.  But if you’re an annoying little twit who gets on people’s nerves so bad that someone whacks you before you turn 11, /that/ is going to have a stronger effect on your maximum height than your genetics. :)

While that is an overdramatic example, magical potential and heredity operates along those same lines.  Charity was, essentially, stacking up environmental factors against her unborn children developing their genetic propensity for magic into a real, tangible gift to the point where the chances of them actually doing it were negligible.  If Charity had been possessed of a monster gift, of if she’d been constantly around and involved in magic during the course of the pregnancy, it would have been more difficult for her to reduce it to practically zero like that.  But instead, she was making a deliberate and willful choice to deny her children’s potential a chance to find a chance to take root and bloom.

Maybe her kids, if they wanted, could go out and work hard and stir up a latent talent.  A watershed sort of life event might do something along those lines–shake them up enough to jump-start a dormant gift.  But then, that’s most of humanity in the Dresden Files, really.  Everyone has some kind of ability, if they just want to look hard enough to find it.  That’s where the Alpha’s came from.


Quote from: anwan7 on September 07, 2007, 05:40:35 PM

Michael can be wrong.  He was dead wrong about how Harry should step back during Death Masks.  I’m pretty sure he’s right about letting magic die.

When Morty’s powers were at there lowest, he was still doing séances.  Harry guessed he reached a real spirit one time in 10 or 20.


Different situation entirely.  Morty’s powers were failing him because he didn’t /believe/ in what he was doing.  Remember that magic has to come out of who and what you are.  It might not always be right or good, but magic absolutely /is/ always one thing:  sincere.  (Which is one reason why the Wardens and the Council are so hard on wizards who break the First Law.)  If you make something happen with magic, it’s because you truly believe that it it can and /should/ happen, that it is /right/ that it should happen.  You can’t lie through your teeth with magic.  And what Morty was doing with his talent was borderline slimy and he knew it.  And he didn’t really believe in it, and as a result, his talent started failing him from time to time–which affected his confidence, which in turn made his talent even shakier, a vicious cycle.  He was still trying–he had just gotten himself into a situation where he was sandbagging himself psychologically.

(It was ironic because if he really was a slimebag, his talent would have been just fine.  He was actually at least a little bit of a decent guy, down deep, or there would have been no conflict between his conscience and the use of his magic.)

Charity’s situation was another animal entirely:  she was deliberately abandoning the use of her talent.  And while riding a bicycle isn’t something you forget–it isn’t terribly complicated, either.

Pretty much anyone can learn to ride a bicycle.  Not just anyone can learn to be a professional concert violinist.  And of those who can, the ones who do must spend /years/ learning how, spend endless hours in practice, and /continue/ to practice if they wish to keep their skills.  If they simply stop playing violin for ten years, fifteen years, twenty years, and then go to pick it up again, they are /not/ going to have the skills they had before.

In the case of a violinist, they’re going to be able to play something, but not at the skill level they once had–and without the hardened fingertips that a violinist needs, they won’t be able to play for very long at all, before their fingers start bleeding.  In short, they aren’t professional violinists any more–and that’s just on the technical level.  Factor in all the other considerations that come into play.  They haven’t been sight reading music regularly.  They won’t be able to do that again for some time.  They haven’t been keeping up with the music in popular performance.  They don’t know the pieces currently in vogue.  They don’t have contacts in the industry, while many others do–it’s going to be much more difficult for them to find a job (even if they could pass an audition, which they couldn’t).

In short–they aren’t a concert violinist any more.

Could they get all that back again?  The technical skills, the contacts, the awareness of the business end?  Maybe.  Maybe they’d be willing to go back to square one again, live in the tiny apartment and eat a lot of ramen noodles again while they looked for work, practiced on the sidewalk with the violin case open to beg for coins from passersby again, until they could build up enough of their skills, contacts, etc, to re-enter the field.  But it would take a person of extraordinary character or motivation to go through that twice.

(Hell, I’m not sure I could go through the breaking-into-the-field process for writing again.  It’s freaking grueling.)

Wizardry, in the Dresden books, is much the same way.  Being a wizard isn’t a simple skill, like riding a bike.  It’s a complicated talent with /many/ different aspects, all of which have to work together to cause an effect–IE, a spell.  If you neglect that group of talents over the course of years, regaining them and getting them all to work together again would be extremely difficult, if it was possible at all.

This is /especially/ the case if you consciously, knowingly abandon your magic–because you’ve made the decision that abandoning your magic is the right and proper thing to do, and that therefore by extension, any use of your magic talent is implicitly /wrong/.  You’ve essentially turned the power of your own magic against itself.

In the Dresden books, you /can/ annihilate your own talent.  But then, you can pretty much do that with any given talent you have in the real world, too, in one fashion or another.


Forum Timeline reply:
You spoke of the age difference between Molly and Daniel as being part of the reason Molly will be the only magical Carpenter kid.  However, Molly is 17 in Proven Guilty, whereas Daniel is about 15 or 16, “maybe old enough to take a driver’s test.”  There’s not much of an age difference at all.what’s critical to this particular equation is the fact that Charity was consciously and deliberately neglecting her talent–which hadn’t been all THAT hot to begin with.  She went through the time she got engaged to Michael, all the way through Molly’s term, all the intervening time, etc, before she got to Daniel.  It had been more than two, maybe three years since she’d done anything with her magic by the time Daniel was conceived.

3rd Sight and Soulgazes


Wizards base a great deal of their perceptions of people on the soul gaze. In theory, when you look into another being you see into the core of them– their true nature. But it seems to me from the evidence we have so far that this is not always totally accurate. When Harry gazed into Molly, he saw numerous potential outcomes, but judged that she was at the core worthy of his help and support. We know he soul gazed Ebeneezer, and yet he was surprised to find out he was Blackstaff. If the soul gaze is so open to interpretation, can it actually cause a wizard to believe an untruth? Is a soul gaze a truly accurate way to determine the nature of a person?


What it shows you is /true/.  But it isn’t necessarily /all/.

For instance, a ‘gaze could show you that a man was self-disciplined, sober, highly organized, dedicated to his principles, and that he loved dogs, and all of that would be /true/.  But it /doesn’t/ tell you /everything/ about Adolf Hitler.

Granted, a soulgaze of Hitler would probably have given off a big vibe of either “crazy” or “ruthless” too.  They tend to give you a pretty good core sample of the individual in question.  However, every wizard gets things a little bit differently than any other, in terms of how the soulgaze is perceived.  Not every wizard sees things in symbols and allegory, the way Harry does.  There’s a whole spectrum of different “filters,” I suppose, of how the basic natures of others are perceived.

As for misinterpreting what they perceive, or putting their own preconceptions on their interpretations?  Please.  EVERYONE does that, wizard or not.  It’s part of being human.


In reply to the question of whether a soul can change over time, my humble opinion lays thusly:

Since your soul is the essential you, anything that truly touches you will change your soul.  I know that having to watch a five year old die over a period of months while I and the rest of my pedi ICU did everything we could to save him changed me.  I know that meeting and falling in love (yes, and finally marrying her!) with my Lady and Wife changed me.  And I know that there are more changes down the road.

I an not the person I was at twenty.  Nor am I yet the pperson I will be at sixty if I should get that far.  Life is an ongoing process, after all.

Ah, but is it a process of pressure and change, or is it a process of polish and refinement?  One could argue that the events that “changed” you in actuality only revealed a truer facet of your soul than had previously been perceiveable–that those events only changed you inasmuch as a rough diamond is changed by a master jeweler’s tools.  The diamond doesn’t become an emerald–it just becomes a more beautiful and quinessential diamond.

(Just Devil’s Advocating here, for the most part, and throwing that thought out.)

In any case, it may just be possible for a person to change enough for a soulgaze to reveal something else–but it would have to be an utterly incredible kind of change.  Something along the lines of the billionaire executive who, after a near-death experience, gives all his worldly goods to charity, leaves home in his pajamas, and takes up a life of underwater basket-weaving and meditation.  And even that seems a little mild to me, thinking of it.

Anyway, it’d take a truly epic change of heart and mind–to the point where you would practically *be* a whole different person, and not just a person who happens to be you with a lot more life experience to inform his outlook.

(And, in fact, there’s all sorts of theories about people who this happens to after a near-death experience, regarding “walk-in” souls who come and inhabit a person near death, changing them and becoming a kind of inner Yoda to the “native” soul.)

All of the above, of course, is more or less a discussion of angels dancing on the heads of pins, but it’s fun. :)




If Charity has some power when she met Michael. How did she avoid looking him in the eye and starting a soulgaze? I have to assume it never happened since he doesn’t know about her abilities.  I assume it took years for her abilities to fade away and from what I read, it sounds like they were a couple fairly soon after he rescued her.

One answer may be that she wasn’t strong enough to initiate a soulgaze. That raises the question, how strong do you have to be. The question could be asked of Molly too. When did or when will her ability to start one come on?


You got to have some serious magical chops before a soulgaze is an issue–and yes, it’s one of the markers that the Council uses to see if you make the cut, though it’s far from the only one.  There are folks running around who can do it who aren’t on the Council, but not many of them.

Charity was small potatoes in the magic department, for a number of reasons.  It was never an issue with her.


Miss Demeanor:

The third sight reveals truths about people and places that aren’t evident to the naked eye.  Are the specific images that are seen intrinsic to the subject, or is there a measure of personal metaphor and interpretation on the part of the viewer?  In other words…  Let’s say that Wizard A grew up in America, and may consider the embodiment of evil to be a devil-like figure.  Wizard B is from India, and might instead associate evil with a rakshasa.  They each view a subject with their third sight.  The subject is a vile and malicious person.  Would this be revealed to them both in the same way, or would what each one sees be influenced by his own cultural background?


Not only would the Western-raised wizard and Eastern-raised wizard perceive things according to the cultural biases and subjective experiences, they might not even perceive them with the same /senses/.

The Third Sight is different for everyone, subjective, and inherently slanted towards ones own experiences and background.  So while two wizards might look on some totally-gone, bloodthirsty warlock and see a bloodthirsty warlock, they might see it in very different ways.

Maybe Harry looks on him and sees some Hannibal-Lectery figure crouched on the floor grinning and soaked in blood.  But maybe Ancient Mai looks on him and sees a bare, twisted white tree in the center of an unbroken field of white snow, representative of the individual’s loss of spirit and humanity.  And maybe Rodriguez looks at him and hears some kind of hideous music that accompanies the individual and makes the hair on the back of Carlos’ neck stand up.  Maybe Klaus the Toymaker looks at them and sees that his head is covered in cracks and flaws, and that underneath the parts where the flesh looks chipped away, something rotten and horrible is underneath.  Maybe Listens-to-Wind looks on the warlock and smells something rotted and vile.

It’s way different for each wizard, and it’s why even though soulgazes and third sight can be used as evidence in, for example, warlock trials, there is also room for argument and interpretation–that’s how Ebenezar defended Dresden, for example.  He claimed that he Saw more than just “murdering warlock.”

Plus, it isn’t flawless.  I mean, if a wizard looks at someone who has just suffered some kind of horrible physical or emotional injury, he gets a much different picture of that person than if he sees them a week sooner, or a year later.  If a wizard looks on someone who is in a towering rage at the moment, it’s going to have an effect on what is Seen.  Maybe not an enormous effect, true, but at times even a little bit of difference in shading can change the overall picture.  Oh, plus if the /Wizard/ is in a radically altered state of mind, it can shade things differently, too.

Ultimately, the Sight is something that is best relied upon for making one’s own decisions, for supporting one’s intuitions and observations–as long as one remembers that while it is always true, it isn’t always completely correct.  Circumstance can, at tmes, effect what is Seen.



Wards and Thresholds

Keep in mind that Harry’s wards (because I’m sure there are some on the office as well as his apartment- even Harry is not quite that dense) don’t seem to have interfered with the rest of the building’s electrical, gas, or other utility functions.

 No wards on the office.  You need a threshold for anything but teensy defenses, and the office is a public place of business, not a home.


The scorpion was dormant magic when it entered.

Mab probably isn’t affected by those types of wards, she’s exceedingly powerful fae (Were the fae even an issue with wards that weren’t the fry-to-crisp type, in the books, let alone a powerful one?)

But I do not remember Jim ever mentioning wards in the office. Then again, since Harry has begun using serious wards in the books, we’ve had few office scenes. When Jim originally started writing the early books with the office scenes, he may not have really considered wards for it.

No wards on the office.  To build a ward, you have to use a threshold of some kind.  (Well, you can use other kinds of similar energy structures, like ley lines, ogham stones, etc, but you can’t just slap them down anywhere.)  No wards on Harry’s office in the books for that reason.

The office doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot of “home” energy around it.  Virtually none.  I mean, a hotel room would have more.  Harry could probably sling up some kind of tripwire-rings-a-bell equivalent ward, if he wanted to, but even that would be tricky and he has better ways to spend his time and effort.


I mean, Jesus Christ, how many times do I have to type that?  OF COURSE, if you PERSIST in basing every evaluation of the show by the yardstick of “how close is it to the books” it isn’t going to measure up terribly well.

This is very nearly as frustrating as reading these huge disappointed reviews of the Codex Alera because “they aren’t like the Dresden books at all.”  Which is exactly true.  The Alera books are TERRIBLE Dresden novels.  Apples make AWFUL oranges.  DUH!

Rant, rant, rantity rantrantrant!


Excerpt from a DFTV post that pertains to thresholds source
even if there HAD been a threshold, it wouldn’t have done diddly to stop any number of supernatural baddies.  The fetches in PG hammered down the /Carpenters’/ front door, and that’s a threshold like the rock of frickin’ Gibraltar.  The loup-garou sneered at such things.  A threshold wouldn’t slow down a Denarian for a moment, nor would it stop ghouls, ogres, or any number of largely physical (as opposed to manifested spiritual) beings.  And even if the skinwalker had been something summoned from the Nevernever into a manifested physical body, the toad demon was one of those too, and IT stomped through Harry’s pathetic threshold in the very first book.

Wizards & Tech (murpheonic field)

The ‘Harry screws up guns’ thing hasn’t been seen for several novels now, and I sincerely hope it’s something JB has decided to let go to dust.  First away, if Harry’s disruption thing is so bad that it can mess up simple chemistry and even simpler mechanical operations, then howinblazes does his car ever work?  Orders of magnitude more complex, mechanically, chemically, and electrically speaking…

On the other hand, using a GUN in earnest tends to be a tad more emotionally (and therefore magically) engaging than your average drive in a car.  Proximity has a lot to do with it, too.  Harry’s actually TOUCHING the gun, generally in his right hand (the hand that projects magical energy) to boot.  In fact, the gun is small enough that it’s actually going to be encompassed by his bioelectric field (a very mild, but totally individual field of electromagnetic energy that the human body produces).

The car is a much larger (relative) object that is (relatively) farther away, even when Harry is driving under stress–and even so, the Beetle (and other cars) have broken down on-stage more often than guns have actually jammed on-stage.

And there are other factors involved of which Harry is not entirely aware.  Alas, that the viewpoint character is non-omniscient. :)

The rules aren’t changing.  The proper circumstances just haven’t all aligned the way they have in the other instances of guns glitching.


2009 Chicago signing:
Q:  How can Harry continually go to Burger King without blowing the equipment?
A:  Unless there’s constant exposure, technology usually fouls up if magic is being actively used or a wizard’s emotions are running high.  He generally remains calm when going to BK.
Dragon-Con @2:50
As technology advances, will wizards become marginalized?
It sort of depends on where magic goes.  Magic wasn’t always screwing up post WW2 tech.  Before WW2 magic had other effects.  It sorta changes slowly over time, and about every 3 centuries it rolls over into something else.  At one time, instead of magic making machines flip out it made cream go bad.  Before that magic made weird molls on your skin and fire would burn slightly different colors when you were around it.  I do mention this in Ghost story (in passing).  It’s not really aware or something like that, but it is something that changes along with the people who use it.
Patrick Rothfuss interview of Jim
PR: So, do you, yourself, when you’re writing them, do you draw lines in your head between, say, the sort of magic that Harry does and the sort of magic the people in Bayport are capable of? Or is it just an issue of skill and quantity?
JB: Well, it’s all a little bit different, but everyone interacts with that kind of energy in a different way. For instance, wizards cause disruptions in technology and other things around them because, you know, people are never all one thing or all the other, people are a conflicted group of weirdos, and so when you have human beings that are using magic, that sort of self-inner conflict, that’s one of the side-effects that comes out, that’s why they wreck things that are around them. If you’re a fairy who’s using magic, you’re doing the same thing as a human being, but you don’t have that cluttered human nature. You can sit around as a fairy and play X-box all you want, you’re never going to ruin it, and still be an awesome wizard, but not as Dresden.

Magical Items

+ a few nonmagical (The Blackstaff is lumped in Ebenezer’s section in the “mortal” “allies” post)

Staff – seems like a basic staff. In Blood Rites, it’s described as slender, and longer than Kincaid’s spear. Which puts it firmly in the 6’+ category. I seem to recall it is made of polished oak, and has runes carves in it. It’s from the same tree as Ebenezer’s staff. My impression is that it’s basically an all-purpose focus, but Harry seems to use it mainly for wind and force-based effects. He has used it for light on several occasions.

And it’s just a shade over 6 feet long.  (Kincaid’s spear was /not/ a lengthy one–about four feet of haft with an 18 inch head with crosspieces at the base of the head.  Actual boarspears were longer, but you didn’t generally hunt boars inside basements, the way Kincaid was hunting vampires.)


Sword Cane – We’ve only seen this one a couple of times. It has some runes on it, I think allowing him to perform something not dissimilar to telekinesis.

Most of Harry’s TK stuff is wind based (ventas servitas!) or force-based (forzare!).  The sword cane was actually a focus geared toward earth-magic (magnetism).


Duster – Harry’s original canvas duster had some spells woven into it, but his leather duster – a gift from Susan – has some pretty major protections. Unlike the shield bracelet, these spells use no willpower from harry. They apparently make it hard to penetrate the duster and dissipate kinetic energy. This provides good protection from teeth and claws, and helps against but won’t stop a bullet.

Not only will it stop a bullet, it stopped /assault rifle/ bullets.  Harry’s wearing protection which is effectively equivalent to the new Dragonscale body armor, there.


Ring(s) – Elaine uses a number of rings. Their purposes have not been explained.

Actually, one has been–one of Elaine’s rings, the one she used on the “unicorn,” specifically.  It’s a gizmo a great deal like Harry’s original energy ring, only instead of storing back kinetic energy, it stores random short-term memories.  That’s why Harry walked into a memory of walking down a sunlit sidewalk when one of those little sparks hit him.  Now imagine getting hit with, oh, let’s stay a hundred and FIFTY abrupt, random, utterly unconnected yet virtually real hallucination-memories.  That’ll take ya a minute or two to sort out.


Thorn Wand – a carved wooden wand which looks like a very large thorn, this seems to be equivalent to Harry’s blasting rod.

But with lightning.


Gauntlet – Ramirez has a glove made of segmented metal plates with what Harry tentatively identifies as Olmec or Aztec writing. Seems to work like Harry’s shield bracelet, probably more like 1.0 than 2.0.

Oh not even remotely.  Ramirez’s gauntlet works with entropy-magic (a sub specialty of water magic–all things flowing, constantly changing and shifting, but never gone).  The field it creates is essentially a screen of pure entropy which breaks down the molecular bonds of things that go through it.  It projects what amounts to a disintegration screen.  Not pure and perfect disintegration, but fifty percent disintegrated is generally enough to get the job done. :)


Robe – As is mentioned in Summer Knight, wizards attending a council meeting are required to wear a robe. Apprentices wear black robes (likely this hearkens to Medieval students, who were also required to garb themselves in black). Full-fledged wizards have more leeway, but Harry incensed the old guard by wearing a flannel bathrobe.

Wizards wear black robes, and denote their rank, status, titles, etc by the color of their stole.  Apprentices wear brown robes (like the one Ramirez had on in his uncredited appearance in Summer Knight, or the one Harry presents to Molly in PG).


Swords – All Wardens prior to Harry are armed with a sword which is apparently able to cut through anything, and which can destroy any enchantment. As Luccio explained in White Night, these swords are unique for each Warden, and were all made by Luccio. With her recent body-swap, Luccio no longer has the ability to make more swords, thus Harry has not been provided with one. Luccio refers to her “design”, implying that there is a common language for creating such items, and therefore another wizard may be able to make these swords in the future.

They don’t cut through anything.  They are super good for cutting through/disrupting fields of magical energy.  They rip through magic-charged ectoplasm of the nevernever, like the kind demons make when they need a body to inhabit in the real world, like there’s no tomorrow.  Otherwise, they are simply swords created by a master of the craft with centuries of experience from the finest alloys available at the time of their creation.


neurovore, February 12, 2009:

It seems a reasonable working hypothesis that the athame is a vector for crazyness.

It seems a reasonable working hypothesis that the athame is a vector for crazyness.

It’s a vector for /power/, not insanity.

At least, not directly. >:)


kazimmoinuddin, June 05, 2011


So the crystal contain all the knowledge of margret lefay had to do with the ways, where they were, where they would be, how to find, hide, build, destroy, change, block and alter. HArry has soul fire, so he can create amazing feats of magic.
Being able to travel the nevernever and the world is great and powerful, but what would it mean for harry really.
he needs no longer pay for shipping, he can visit suppliers him self.
he has a huge business range, could offer his sevices international, set up dresden investigation in many places.
The ability will bring in the money, harry dresden could become the supernatural version of the transporter.
if he has so much power, a whole new group would be after him for work simply to gain the ability of the ways.
if he could make new paths or doors, could be richly rewarded.

The crystal sounds very much like a notebook,  or grimoire, that margret wrote on the ways. When she left raith, she left all the dodgy people, but she likly had her own grimoire, which is what the lord raith kept as a trophy, as she likly wrote secrets that others dont want being spread both magical and political. the thing is margret would have secured it so harry would be the best to activate it, but no one knows.


And that’s really the issue for using the Ways, isn’t it?  You don’t ever know what’s on the other side until somebody actually goes through it.

That’s the reason wizards mostly stick to established, known, “safe” passages.  No one wants to be the first guy into uncharted territory, especially since that uncharted territory could prove to be an environment of, for example, all molten lava.  No one wants to be the one that finds out that the portion of Earth that this side of the Nevernever hooks up to is at the bottom of the Laurentian Abyss.  Especially when “finding out” means being exposed to it first hand, without any warning.

I mean, there’s more than one reason Maggie the elder got dubbed “LeFay.”  Sure, it was because she was on good terms with the faeries, and sure it was because she could travel all over the world in very brief amounts of time the way some of the fae can.  But remember that “fay” or “fey” is also an old word for “crazy.” :D

She was the one who was insane enough to go /exploring/ in the /Nevernever/.

The observation that her jewel is basically a notebook is bang on.  It’s nothing but knowledge.

I mean, come on.  How powerful could THAT possibly be?  :)

2010 Bitten by Books Q&A:
#321 “Is it just coincidence that the Blue Beetle and the Water Beetle are both Beetles or is there a batman (batmobile, batboat, batjet) scenario going on in the background?”
It was more about Thomas poking fun at Harry by naming his cruddy old boat after Harry’s cruddy old car. :)
#330 “Jim–someone else asked this as well, but I couldn’t see an answer: Little Chicago wasn’t mentioned in Turn Coat, and was barely mentioned in Changes… was it destroyed in the fire? Did the FBI notice it? It’s it gone for good?”
It was made of (mostly) pewter. The rest was plastic. Harry hadn’t taken steps to make it less destructible (which would have interfered with its function anyway–it was built to be sensitive, not tough). There was just no way it could have survived the fire. And no, the FBI didn’t confiscate it.
Changes is, in many ways, about loss. About encountering it and feeling its pain. That happens to all of us, sooner or later. There’s no avoiding it.
The real question is, how do you pick up the pieces and keep going, afterward.
2011 Naperville Signing
Does the Black Athame allow the Fae to forswear themselves?
Ooooh!  Because if it did that would be awfully nice.  Even if it just let them fib wow.  That would be awful.  And the answer to that question is NO, and kind of.  We’ll get there, and actually we will get to part of that in book 14, Cold Days.
What is the Black Athame, and what is it’s relation to Medea’s Bodkin?
The Black Athame was Morgan La Fay’s athame.  That was the one that got traded around in Grave Peril… at the vampire costume party.  Well an Athame is the original knife that was used in magic, and while they aren’t necessarily magical themselves, if you involve them in enough really cool big things that are going on, they start gaining their own sort of power and their own sort of awareness.  Which is not to say they become intelligent or anything, but they become very extremely dangerous tools.  And that one was a very, very dangerous tool, on a level with Ammoracchius, which is why it got traded that way.  Medea’s Bodkin is another Athame that is far older, and is used more classically documented witches.  The ones who actually survived falls of several empires there –you still hear about them- Also a very bad news kind of implement, just so you know.
2011 Bitten by Books Q&A
Is the Merlin’s staff a special staff of office, like the Blackstaff, with special abilities?
There are very few objects that have “special abilities.” I’ve only shown about five of them, in fact, including the Swords, the Blackstaff, and the Noose.
Kansas City release party Q&A
In what book will we find out who fixed Little Chicago?
Probably not until 19 or 20.  Since I’m a lazy writer, probably 20. I think that would be good for the last of the case files, so I’ll hold off on that one.
2011 Atlanta Signing
In Blood Rites, Harry uses this bear shaped belt buckle, and it just gives him an instant recharge; it never came back!
He used it, and then it left him semi-comatose, so it’s not the kind of thing you want to rely on in a life and death situation.  All of the stuff he has like that takes him months of work to upkeep, he spends two days a week – his weekends are just staying at home and making sure his magic items still work. He’s such a nerd; he’s a magic nerd. So he doesn’t get out a lot
2011 DC signing
You’ve established in the books that Morgan’s sword is the one used for executions in the books. Does is predate Luccio?
No. Morgan’s sword was used because Morgan was the guy who would do it and not have nightmares afterwards. Or, you know actually, point of fact, he probably did have nightmares afterwards, but he would tell everybody that he didn’t. He was one of those guys who was very big on the, “don’t ever give somebody an order that you wouldn’t follow yourself,” sort of line of thought. So, lopping off heads? Sure, absolutely, somebody has to do it. That’s the kind of guy he was. I mean, kind of a jerk, but he had some redeeming features, too
2013 Wyrdcon Q&A
How do you decide what is going to become a part of Harry’s permanent arsenal and what isn’t
Harry spends about 20 hours a week just making sure that his stuff keeps working.  For the most part he’s got a part time job where he’s at the wizard Gym making sure that his stuff keeps going.  I’ve got a vague limit figured out of this is how much he can maintain at any one time.  So the stuff he maintains as part of his arsenal is stuff that is going to be useful in the majority of the situations he’s going to face.
He often needs to blow something up:  Blasting Rod.
He often needs something to help him out with a number of minor chores:  Staff.
Not getting shot by bullets is great:  Shield Bracelet.
The force rings were something that were great, because you never know when you could be going to the grocery store and BAM 30 ghouls.
He can’t have unlimited stuff, he’s got to keep it up.  If he’s got a new toy, it’s something I’ve got a purpose in mind for in the story.
2015 Stokie signing
As far as how the thorn manacles work:
Essentially what it does is when a wizard’s drawing the magic in, the thorn manacles divert it to somewhere else. Wizards have to give a little bit of energy from inside themselves, but mostly that’s to pull it in from the outside.  And the thorn manacles take that and go, “Nope, ok, we’re shunting it out into the Nevernever and you don’t get to use it.”
The pain is just a result of the energy that is going by and going elsewhere, it’s inefficiency of transfer, if you want to put it in engineering terms. That’s really nerdy, so I won’t do that.
@longshotauthor Could Harry use the same enchantments he did on his duster on someone’s skin? Bulletproof werewolves and such. XD
@andre_g_p He could, but when their emotions changed, it would change the enchantments too with various results, sic Susan’s tatts.


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