Rules for the Spellcaster Game

This game originally appeared on I have merely formatted it and put it online. I have deleted some things that aren't useful to playing the game.-- Brian


			(also known as: SPELLCASTER)
			        Richard Bartle

	    Taken from Duel Purpose fanzine, written by Mike Lean
	         Scanned, OCRed & edited by Andrew Buchanan


This is a game concerning the imaginary conflict between 2 powerful wizards in a duel of sorcery. The 2 opponents perform magical gestures with their hands to create their supernatural weapons - spells. Some are so potent as to be able to blind a man, call forth terrifying creatures, or even kill the unfortunate victim instantly. Consequently each wizard must rely on his own cunning to be able to time enough defensive spells to avoid the brunt of his adversary's attack, yet force in sufficient offensive spells of his own to crack the magical armour of his opponent, and kill the wizard outright. 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...

The Turn

The activities of wizards and those of the monsters they create, are written down simultaneously in secret, both players for their respective selves and monsters but occasionally for their opponent or one of his creatures as dictated by certain spells. After both have completed this, their moves are exposed at the same time and dealt with as if they occurred coincidentally. Certain spells may alter these circumstances - for example, you don't get to see all your opponent's moves if he is invisible.

Each of these periods of activity is a "turn". In a turn, the player's wizard can either gesture with his hands for part of a spell, stab with his knife, or do nothing. They use both hands and both hands can act either independently - or in concord with the other. Monsters cannot make magical gestures but will obey their master's commands exactly - although the identity of the master could change as a result of enchantment. Since wizards are trained intelligent humans they are able to gesture and attack using both hands independently or in conjunction. Each monster, being an untrained, unintelligent biped, attacks the same way every time and picks whichever victim its master decides. As a result, only wizards can gesture and cast spells. Players personally acquainted with monsters who wish to vouch for their ability to cast spells are requested to keep quiet.


Spells are created by strings of gestures made with the hands. There are 5 single-handed gestures, these being with the fingers (F), with the palm (P), the snap (S), the wave (W) and the digit pointing (D). There is one 2-handed gesture, the clap (C) which must be done simultaneously with both hands to be valid. The meaning of each gesture can be safely forgotten as only the abbreviations are used, for simplicity. The other things which can be done with the hand are the non-gestures: stab (stab) and nothing ( ). To cast a spell, gestures are put in an order characteristic of a spell. A list of spells including the gestures needed for them is given in the last section. For example, 3 finger gestures on consecutive turns (F-F-F) initiates a 'paralysis' spell. The uniqueness of the game, however, is that gestures can be made to operate in more than one spell, provided that a) the gestures have been made in the correct sequence without interruption, b) not more than one spell is created per gesture, c) All gestures for one spell are made with the same hand. For instance, the left hand could cast the F-F-F above and could be followed by S-S-D-D in the next 4 turns to finish off a 'fireball' spell (F-S-S-D-D) as the last 5 gestures are those associated with that spell. Another alternative is to simply perform another F for a second paralysis spell, as the last 3 gestures are still F-F-F. Thus, it is apparent that if spells are used in a wise manner and overlap a lot, the overall number of gestures needed to cast them can be cut quite dramatically.

If a gesture can be construed to create 2 or more spells then the caster chooses which one he wants to use. For example, the last 2 gestures of a 'finger of death' are the same as 'missile', yet only on odd occasions would the latter be used. 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-spell'
The trouble here is the 'invisibility' spell needs both hands to perform certain gestures. However, since the final S of the left hand cannot complete 2 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 bracket, followed by a lower-case letter, denotes a gesture to be performed with *each* hand simultaneously. E.g. (w denotes a W by each hand. The caster must choose one spell if the gestures are completed in the correct sequence. Most of these are shot off to nowhere if not required but some cannot be, for example 'fire storm' which gets you no matter where it is released. Some of the larger spells have smaller ones incorporated within.

All spells and monsters need a target, that is someone or something to be the victim. This is usually obvious, for example all enchantments and damaging spells are usually cast at the opponent, whereas protection and summons spells are used by the caster himself. However, if your target is not the usual one, (e.g. you wish to cast a 'counter-spell' at your own monster to stop a 'charm monster' spell from making it attack you), then the target must be written down with the gestures. The target need not exist, for example, "the elemental he's about to create", but if it still doesn't exist when you loose the spell then you lose the spell. Monsters will usually attack their controller's opponent but if the target is different, e.g. another monster, then it must be written.

Spells can be aborted any way along their development simply by performing a gesture with the hand doing the spell which is not one needed for that spell. There is no penalty, save having wasted some time. Note that no spells contain "stab" or "nothing" (C with just one hand is the same as nothing) and consequently after pursuing one of these alternatives, any spell must start from scratch. Note also that wizards only have one dagger each so cannot stab twice at the same time, although they can change hands for stabbing without wasting time. Such are the disadvantages of physical violence...

Certain spells cancel each other if they take effect simultaneously. An obvious example is 'finger of death' and 'raise dead'. Cancellation occurs when the subject for the spells concerned is the same person, although there are some of the heat versus cold variety which don't care who is the subject. Other spells which cancel harmlessly are mostly the enchantments which direct that something be done which it is impossible to obey due to some contradiction (e.g. you cannot both repeat last turn's gestures and give a random gesture with one hand, as you would if the subject of the spells 'amnesia' and 'confusion' at once). If you have a situation where someone is the subject of some spells which seem to cancel yet which aren't mentioned in the section on spells, use your common sense (or someone else's) and you can't go far wrong.

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, for example ice elementals in 'ice storm' or 'counter-spell'/'dispel magic' against all other spells but these are clearly stated in the final section. Another example of a seeming conflict is when someone who is resistant to fire is the subject of both a 'remove enchantment' and 'fireball'; the enchantment is removed as the fireball explodes (since they are simultaneous) hence the poor victim is fried. If instead, he were not resistant to fire and was hit by a 'resist fire' and 'fireball' at once then he would start to resist fire as the fireball exploded and thus be saved.

Before the battle commences, the referee casts a 'dispel magic' followed by an 'anti-spell' at each of the wizards. This is so that they cannot commence gesturing prematurely so that they've nearly finished a spell when they start the battle. Thus being resistant to fire in your last battle doesn't do you any good in the next.


Each wizard can sustain 14 points of damage but on the 15th or above he dies and the surviving wizard is declared the winner. Simultaneous death is a posthumous draw. Damage given to wizards and monsters is cumulative (so you don't have to do it all in one go!) Dead monsters take no further part in the game. There is another alternative to being killed, namely the 'surrender'. This is not a spell, but a pair of P gestures made by both hands at the same time. See the final section for details.


There now follows, in 4 sections, a list of spells (plus 'surrender') what they do, how long they last. In the gestures given for the spells, upper case letters are used as abbreviations except when 2 simultaneous single-handed gestures are required using both hands, when an open bracket followed by a lower case letter will be used instead e.g. (w. Afterwards 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.

Protection spells

Summons spells

Damaging Spells



Reference Sheet

Players are not expected to remember all the spells and their gestures so here is a brief list in forward and reverse order:
Spells in Forward Order
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

Spells in Reverse Order
(read your last few gestures backwards to see if you've made a spell)
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

Sample Game

I now include a sample game with following comments. Significant spells are marked +,|,x. Null gestures are in brackets. Underlined gestures and above cannot be used further due to the effects of an 'anti-spell'.

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 x                   P x   | W        3
 5        F     | P x                   S     x S +
 6        F     x P        1            W       D x
 7        S       D                     W +   + D
 8        S       W                     W |   | S +
 9        F       F                   + S x   x F |
10        P x    (C)                  x D  +    W x+
11       Stab   x P                     P x|    D  |
12        P +     S                     P  x    D  |
13        P |     S        6            C       C  x
14        W |     W                     S +   + S
15      + S x   + S                     W |   | P x
16      x D     x D                     W |   x F        5
17        W +     S +     11            C x     C
18        D |     P |                 + S     + S
19        D |     F x     13          x D     x D
20        C x   + C                     S +     S       10
21        W     x W                     P |     W
22        P       P                     F x     W

1. Black starts with 2 W's hoping to use the left as a possible W-W-S 'counter- spell' in the event of White opening with an attack, or as a possible W-W-F-P 'resist heat' spell. His right hand also opens for a possible 'counter-spell' or W-P-F-D 'cause heavy wounds' if White has no possible attack; the second P will also cover against any S-D 'missile attack'. White has the same ideas for his left hand as Black and opens with a P for his right hand in case Black tries a stab, leading to P-D-W-P 'remove enchantment' hopefully.

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.

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