A number of years ago, Richard Bartle published a zine called Sauce of the Nile. One feature I particularly liked was the rules for new games which he produced. One game appealed to me more than the others but it never seemed to achieve the fame it deserved. Since then Richard has rewritten some of its rules and has tried to have it produced commercially but, as his proposed publishers have been using delaying tactics for some time now, he has given me permission to reprint the game. The original name of the game was Spellbinder but, as that name has been used in a commercial game since Richard thought of it, he told me to think up some other name. The game is a rarity as it can be classed as a fairy game which is totally dependent upon skill!
The game is an attempt to capture the spirit of such a battle in as simple yet exciting way as possible. The only equipment needed is pencil, paper and opponent. Time taken varies between 15 - 30 minutes. The inventor wishes to state that he has never been involved in a magical duel but would be interested to discover how realistic the game is for those who have been involved in such a bout.
Each turn a player's wizard can either gesture with their hands to weave part of a spell, stab with their knife, or do nothing. They use both hands and each hand can act independently or in concord with the other.
Monsters will obey their master's commands exactly. Monster's may change hands (as it were) as a result of enchantment. From that point on the monster's attacks are directed by the new master. Monsters may make a single attack each turn against a target chosen by their master or they may spend the turn doing nothing. Monsters may attack on the turn in which they are summoned.
Monsters are untrained, unintelligent creatures and can neither gesture nor cast spells. Players personally acquainted with monsters who wish to vouch for their ability to cast spells are requested to keep quiet.
There is one two-handed gesture: the clap (C). Both hands must be specified as clapping in the same turn for this gesture to be valid.
There also two non-gestures:
The abbreviation for each gesture (or non-gesture) is used when specifing directions for the turn.
Spells are cast using an ordered series of gestures. A list of spells and the gestures used to cast them is given in the final section. For example, three wiggling finger gestures on consecutive turns (noted as F-F-F) evokes a paralysis spell. The uniqueness of the game, however, is that a single gesture in more than one series and, hence, can be used to cast more than one spell. Gestures may be used in multiple series provided that:
For instance, the left hand could cast the F-F-F above. In the following four turns the left hand could gesture (S-S-D-D) to finish off a fireball spell since the last five gestures would then be (F-S-S-D-D). Another alternative is to simply perform another (F) for a second paralysis spell, as the last three gestures are still (F-F-F). If spells are used in a wise manner and frequently overlap, the overall number of gestures needed to cast them can be cut dramatically.
If a gesture can be construed to create two or more spells then the caster chooses which one to cast. For example, the last two gestures of a finger of death are the same as missile, yet only on odd occasions would the latter spell be chosen in preference to the former.
Another example of the one-spell-per-gesture concept is the following:
Right hand: P P W S Last 4 gestures form invisibility Left hand: W W W S Last 3 gestures form counter-spellThe trouble here is the invisibility spell needs both hands to perform certain gestures. However, since the final S of the left hand cannot be used to cast two spells, it is clear that a choice must be made between the W-W-S of the counter-spell and the P-P-(w-(s of the invisibility. Here and in the rest of the document an open parenthesis, followed by a lowercase letter, denotes a gesture to be performed with both hands simultaneously. E.g. (w denotes a W by each hand.
If the caster completes a series that casts a spell, intentionally or unintentionally, the spell must be cast. Most of these are shot off to nowhere if not required but some cannot be easily discarded. For example fire storm gets you no matter where it is released. Note also that some of the larger spells have smaller ones incorporated within their casting series.
All spells and monsters need a target, someone or something to be the victim. Usually the target is obvious. Normally enchantments and damaging spells are cast at on your opponent's wizard, whereas protection and summonning spells are cast on your wizard. However, if your target is not the usual one, it must be noted along with the gestures. For example, you may wish to cast a counter-spell on your own monster to stop a charm monster spell from making it attack you. The target need not exist at the time the gestures are made. "The elemental he's about to create" is a valid target but if it still doesn't exist when you actually cast the spell then the spell is discarded (but, once again, recall that certain spells cannot be discarded). Monsters will usually attack their master's opponent but if the target is different, e.g. another monster, then it must be written down along with the monster's action.
Spells can be aborted at any point during their development simply by performing a gesture which breaks up the series for that spell. There is no penalty, save having wasted some time. Note that no spells contain stab or nothing. Also note that nonsense (Zen?)( gestures such as (C with just one hand are considered the same as nothing (which is a fairly Zenlike concept, in and of itself). Consequently, after one of these options is taken, all spells must start from scratch. Note also that wizards carry only one dagger and so cannot stab with both hands at the same time. Wizards can, however, change hands for stabbing without wasting time. Such are the disadvantages of physical violence.
Certain spells cancel one another if they take effect simultaneously. An obvious example is finger of death and raise dead. Cancellation occurs when the subjects of the spells concerned are the same, although there are some of the heat versus cold variety which don't care who is the subject. Most other spells which cancel harmlessly are contradictory enchantments (e.g. a wizard cannot both repeat last turn's gestures and give a random gesture with one hand when amnesia and confusion are cast at the same time). If two spells seem to cancel yet are not mentioned explicitly in the section on spells, use your common sense and you can't go far wrong (henceforth this will be known as the Cosmic Encounter Rule).
Since spells detonate simultaneously, there is occasionally confusion over spells which don't cancel yet which seem to depend on which happened first. The best example is when a monster is created and, on the same turn, hit by a fireball, or something else sufficient to kill it. Since both are simultaneous, the monster will attack that turn whilst being destroyed. There are some examples explicitly mentioned in the final section. For example, ice elementals in an ice storm and counter-spell or dispel magic versus all other spells.
Another seeming conflict occurs when a target that is resistant to fire has both a remove enchantment and fireball cast on them. The enchantment is removed as the fireball explodes (since they are simultaneous) hence the poor victim is fried. If the target were not resistant to fire and was hit by a resist fire and fireball then they would start to resist fire just as the fireball exploded and be saved.
Before the battle commences, the referee casts a dispel magic followed by an anti-spell at each of the wizards so they cannot commence gesturing prematurely in order to nearly finish a spell when they start the battle. For the same reason, being made resistant to fire in your last battle doesn't do you any good in the next.
Wizards may also choose to surrender. This is not a spell, but a pair of P gestures made by both hands at the same time signals your surrender. See the final section for details.
In the notation used for gesture series, upper case letters are used as abbreviations except when two simultaneous single-handed gestures are required. In those cases an open bracket followed by a lower case letter (e.g. (w ) will be used instead.
Finally there is a short list of spells in forward and reverse order, intended for use as a reference sheet for players during the battle. To see if a spell has been cast, look up in the reverse section the last gesture and follow back.
The mirror does not affect spells which are cast upon oneself (e.g. spells from this section and the Summonning section). The mirror is countered totally if either a counter-spell or dispel magic are cast on the subject in the same turn as the mirror. The mirror has no effect on spells which affect more than one person (such as fire storm). Two mirrors cast at one subject simultaneously combine to form a single mirror.
For example, a fire storm spell could kill off a monster but not if a counter-spell were cast on the monster in the same turn. Everyone else would be affected as usual by the fire storm unless they had their own protection. The counter-spell will cancel all the spells cast at the subject for that turn (including remove enchantment and magic mirror) except dispel magic and finger of death. It will combine with another spell of its own type for the same effect as if it were alone. The counter-spell will also act as a shield on the final gesture in addition to its other properties, but the shield effect is on the same subject as its other effect.
This is the only spell which affects corpses. It therefore cannot be stopped by a counter-spell. A dispel magic spell will prevent its effect, since dispel magic affects all spells no matter what their subject.
If the spell is cast on a live individual, the effect is that of a cure light wounds recovering five points of damage, or as many as have been sustained if less than five. Note that any diseases the live subject might have are not cured.
Thus, for example, if a wizard was at ten points of damage and was hit simultaneously by a cure light wounds and a lightning bolt he would finish that turn on fourteen points rather than fifteen (or nine if there had been no lightning bolt).
The effect is not removed by a dispel magic or remove enchantment.
This spell will also cure any diseases the subject might have at the time.
The summoning spell cannot be cast at an elemental, and if cast at something which doesn't exist, the spell has no effect.
The elemental will, for that turn and until destroyed, attack everyone who is not resistant to its type (heat or cold), causing three points of damage per turn. The elemental takes three points of damage to be killed but may be destroyed by spells of the opposite type (e.g. fire storm, resist cold or fireball will kill an ice elemental), and will also neutralize the canceling spell. Elementals will not attack on the turn they are destroyed by such a spell. An elemental will also be engulfed and destroyed by a storm of its own type but, in such an event, the storm is not neutralized although the elemental still does not attack in that turn. Two elementals of the opposite type will also destroy each other before attacking, and two of the same type will join together to form a single elemental of normal strength. Note that only wizards or monsters resistant to the type of elemental, or who are casting a spell which has the effect of a shield do not get attacked by the elemental. Casting a fireball upon yourself when being attacked by an ice elemental is no defence! (Cast it at the elemental...)
C-D-P-W Dispel magic P-S-D-F Charm person C-S-W-W-S Summon elemental P-S-F-W Summon ogre C-(w Magic mirror P-W-P-F-S-S-S-D Finger of death D-F-F-D-D Lightning bolt P-W-P-W-W-C Haste D-F-P-W Cure heavy wounds S-D Missile D-F-W Cure light wounds S-F-W Summon goblin D-P-P Amnesia S-P-F Anti-spell D-S-F Confusion S-P-F-P-S-D-W Permanency D-S-F-F-F-C Disease S-P-P-C Time stop D-W-F-F-(d Blindness S-S-F-P Resist cold D-W-S-S-S-P Delayed effect S-W-D Fear D-W-W-F-W-C Raise dead S-W-W-C Fire storm D-W-W-F-W-D Poison W-D-D-C + Lightning bolt F-F-F Paralysis W-F-P Cause light wounds F-P-S-F-W Summon troll W-F-P-S-F-W Summon giant F-S-S-D-D Fireball W-P-F-D Cause heavy wounds P Shield W-P-P Counter-spell (p ! Surrender W-S-S-C Ice storm P-D-W-P Remove enchantment W-W-F-P Resist heat P-P-(w-(s Invisibility W-W-P Protection from evil P-S-D-D Charm monster W-W-S Counter-spell ! This is not a spell + Each wizard may use this spell once per battle, then the gestures have no effect.
C-D-D-W + Lightning bolt (p ! Surrender C-F-F-F-S-D Disease P-F-S-S Resist cold C-P-P-S Time Stop P-F-W Cause Light wounds C-S-S-W Ice storm P-F-W-W Resist heat C-W-F-W-W-D Raise dead P-P-D Amnesia C-W-W-P-W-P Haste P-P-W Counter spell C-W-W-S Fire storm P-S-S-S-W-D Delayed effect D-D-F-F-D Lightning bolt P-W-D-P Remove enchantment D-D-S-P Charm monster P-W-W Protection from evil D-D-S-S-F Fireball (s-(w-P-P Invisibility (d-F-F-W-D Blindness S-W-W Counter-spell D-F-P-W Cause heavy wounds S-W-W-S-C Summon elemental D-S Missile (w-C Magic mirror D-S-S-S-F-P-W-P Finger of death W-D-S-P-F-P-S Permanency D-W-F-W-W-D Poison W-F-D Cure light wounds D-W-S Fear W-F-S Summon goblin F-D-S-P Charm person W-F-S-P Summon ogre F-F-F Paralysis W-F-S-P-F Summon troll F-P-S Anti-spell W-F-S-P-F-W Summon giant F-S-D Confusion W-D-D-C Dispel magic P Shield W-P-F-D Cure heavy wounds
Turn BLACK WHITE Left Right Damage Left Right Damage 1 W W + 0 W + P 0 2 W P + W + D 3 D F + F + + W 4 D + D + P + + W 3 5 F + P S + S + 6 F + P 1 W D + 7 S D W + + D 8 S W W + + S + 9 F F + S + + F + 10 P + (C) + D + + W ++ 11 Stab + P P ++ + D + 12 P + S P + D + 13 P + S 6 C C + 14 W + W S + + S 15 + S + + S W + + P 16 + D + D W + + F 5 --------------- 17 W + S + 11 C + C 18 D + P + + S + S 19 D + F + 13 + D + D --------------- 20 C + + C S + S 10 21 W + W P + W 22 P P F + W
2. Both complete their second gestures as intended and both notice that neither can use an offensive spell on the third turn so they can switch their left hands to W-W-F-P resist fire. Black notices that the only spell White could be preparing with his right hand is remove enchantment and hence his own resist fire would be canceled. Since he cannot adjust his right hand sequence to produce a counter-spell he resolves to use his latest W to start a W-D-D-C lightning bolt.
3. White had to continue his remove enchantment in case Black called his bluff but now knows it is pointless to continue as there will be nothing to cancel. Black is certain to hit White with an unstoppable cause heavy wounds next time but notices too late that, had he instead of gesturing a D with his left hand, gestured a W, he could have cast a W-W-S counter-spell at White and stopped his resist heat from working. However, he has a lightning bolt coming as compensation...
4. Black hits White with his cause heavy wounds and White becomes fire- resistant. White notes that had he gone ahead with his remove enchantment spell he would have been doing two P gestures this turn - surrendering! Instead he performs a W with his right hand to time a counter-spell after Black's last continuation.
5. Black aborts his lightning bolt spell, but White still follows through with his counter-spell, just in case. Black switches to the other combination for lightning bolt, D-F-F-D-D and sneaks in the start of an amnesia D-P-P. White commences a summon ogre P-S-F-W with his left hand, but upon seeing that next time he will be struck by amnesia realizes that he won't be able to continue it. Knowing the nature of the spell, he decides to switch next time to a spell starting off with 2 identical gestures, a W-W-S counter-spell for safety.
6. Black hits White with the predicted D-P-P amnesia spell, meaning that White must repeat his gestures next time with the same hands. White knows that he has a "free" S-D missile on Black since Black cannot do a P shield to defend himself or he would be performing the surrender gestures.
7. Since Black knows White's gestures, he can tell that White will be able to time a counter-spell to ward off the proposed lightning bolt D-F-F-D-D, so he changes to a fireball F-S-S-D-D. However, White is resistant to fire so a P-D-W-P remove enchantment is called for from the right hand.
8. White surprised Black by repeating his W gesture in the left hand so he can now time a counter spell for the next round and thus prevent the remove enchantment from affecting his fire invulnerability (although his resistance to fire will be unaffected by the counter-spell since he has already cast the spell on himself in round 4). With his right hand, White half-heartedly starts off a confusion spell to interrupt Black next time.
9. Black does 2 F gestures having to change in mid-spells after White's cunning gestures last round. He decides to go for a blindness spell D-W-F-F-(d with his right hand, and for cold resistance S-S-F-P with his left, to cut his losses. White casts the counter spell W-W-S on himself so that his confusion D-S-F will work on Black.
10. Black writes down P for his left hand and F for his right, and White writes D and W. Since Black was hit by a confusion last time one of his gestures will be affected. He rolls a C on the right hand and this supersedes the F he had written down. Since he didn't C with his other hand and C is a 2-handed gesture, it counts as a null. Note that if he had rolled for a P he would have surrendered. White finishes off a summon goblin spell S-F-W, and a missile S-D. Black's left hand finishes a resist cold S-S-F-P but he decides to use only the last gesture as a P shield so that neither of White's attacks harm him. Now he will wish to dispose of the goblin as soon as possible so he can stop performing P's to protect himself.
11. Black stabs the goblin and, since only 1 hit is required to kill it, eliminates it. He also gestures a P shield so that it cannot harm him in that turn. White gestures for an amnesia D-P-P and a lightning bolt W-D-D-C (the sort which can only be used once per wizard). He also performed a P shield but didn't notice and since it is in the "protection" section it was cast upon himself. If he had cast it at the goblin it wouldn't have been killed. Black realizes that he will have no defence against either of White's forthcoming attacks, so chooses to work 2 spells beginning with the same gesture next time so that the amnesia won't be too damaging.
12. Black must start off both gestures from scratch after the stab and half-C and opts for P-P-(w-(s invisibility and resist cold S-S-F-P. White's amnesia spell is completed so Black must repeat next time as expected.
13. Black repeats, and White does a C gesture with both hands to terminate a W-D-D-C lightning bolt giving 5 points of damage to Black. White cannot cast another lightning bolt using the same gestures now, even if he does W-D-D-C since this type is allowed only once per battle. However, he may use the alternate gestures if he desires.
14. Black aborts his right-hand spell since a W with both hands is needed for the invisibility. White does 2 S gestures, hoping for a C-S-W-W-S summon elemental and either an anti-spell S-F-F or summon goblin S-F-W.
15. Black goes invisible for the next 3 turns so White won't be able to see his gestures. White continues with his summon elemental but has the option to change to a fire storm sequence if he so desires.
16. Realizing that he is about to be hit by an anti-spell S-P-F from White, Black opens up with 2 missiles S-D and catches White off guard. Next time Black must gesture from scratch again. Although White does not see Black's gestures he knows he has been hit by 2 missiles so can work them out.
17. For the second time, Black starts up for a lightning bolt W-D-D-C, hoping this time to complete it, and a covering anti-spell S-P-F so that White will be unable to defend himself from it. Meanwhile White realizes he is resistant to fire and unleashes a fire storm giving 5 points of damage to all those not fire-resistant which just happens to be Black.
18. White does 2 S gestures again hoping to fool Black into thinking that he will repeat the sequence he used after the last C gesture, whereas he intends to hit out with 2 S-D missiles next turn (when Black becomes visible again). Black continues with his plan.
19. Black is surprised by the 2 missiles from White and is not performing a P shield which would protect him. White is hit by Black's anti-spell S-P-F but is unaware of the impending lightning bolt anyway...
20. Black hits White with his lightning bolt as White prepares 2 more missiles which would kill Black if they hit, but, noting Black's C he daren't risk the possibility of it being followed by a pair of W's for a C-(w magic mirror which would reflect them back at White. Hence White decides to go for another anti-spell and fire storm.
21. Black does perform the 2 W's planning to cause heavy wounds or defend with counter-spell. White continues as planned and Black becomes aware that he is about to be burned to death.
22. Resigning himself to defeat Black surrenders just as White's anti-spell hits him. The battle ends before White can make the final C gesture which would have disposed of his enemy. White wins the contest.
Taken from Duel Purpose fanzine, written by Mike Lean
Scanned, OCRed, and edited by Andrew Buchananbuchanan@heron.enet.dec.com March 3, 1993
Edited by Ken Tidwell, April 9, 1994
Follow up can be directed via snailmail to:
Mike Lean 74 Friary Park, Ballabeg, ISLE OF MAN. (Near UK)
Andrew's current understanding is that Richard Bartle is deceased. His (and my) apologies and compliments to Richard should he reads this page.
Richard Bartle has been in contact and reports that his wife finds him in good health. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell