Chapter 1
How to Use This Book
    grimoire: a guidebook to the construction of magic
systems that doubles as a compendium of arcane lore, encompass-
ing the theory, history, and structure of magic systems in both games
and human belief. e book thus combines the rigors of scholarly analy-
sis with the strengths of a handbook for game design and a textbook of
magic. e book is a cookbook, a compendium of recipes, a spellbook for
weaving more potent and subtler magic in games. e text is intercut with
examples of how to design and program magic systems written as snippets
of pseudocode, with working examples downloadable from the books
website. e book will show how to set up tables of correspondences and
spell components, and how to write a program integrating those compo-
nents as part of game mechanics. It shows how to divide a simulated world
into domains of inuence (i.e. schools of magic like alteration, conjura-
tion, and necromancy), and how to use specic rules systems to simulate
powers within these realms.
Cookbooks need not be read cover to cover in a linear order, although
this book is structured so that it can be read in this way. But, like a cook-
book or a grimoire, this book can be dipped into or leafed through by
designers at any point in order to inspire the creation of game magic.
Some sections cross-reference other sections, emphasizing the dense
web of interconnectedness across media that constitutes game magic.
Carry the book with you, consulting it as an encyclopedia. Wield it as a
compendium of spells and recipes to experiment with in your own sanc-
tum or laboratory, or while braving the wilderness on your own game
design quests.
2 Game Magic
e book is intended for anyone interested in game design, magic,
or the intersection of the two. More broadly, it is meant for people
who would like to make their games richer and deeper, and for those
who want a deeper and richer understanding of the history and
structure of magic. Audiences include game designers, game develop-
ers, students, and occultists. e interdisciplinary nature of the book
allows it to potentially reach a variety of audiences, and the main
thread ofthe argument will be readable and interesting to all intended
Because of the multiple audiences reached by the books interdisci-
plinary approach, symbols are used to signal sections that are especially
relevant to particular audiences, such as game designers, technical
readers, casual readers, mystical readers, and so on. For example, a par-
ticular symbol and color (such as a computer icon and a blue sidebar)
could indicate that a section is especially of interest to technical read-
ers, since the section might contain the concept of an array or relational
Although the primary audience for this book is game designers, it will
also be useful to a variety of other audiences: game design teachers, game
design students, occultists, and readers of fantasy literature, to name a
few. Some sections are directed at particular audiences more than others,
and some sections may be unnecessary to some readers. A game designer
will know that World of Warcra is an MMO (massively multiplayer
online role-playing game), but a reader of fantasy literature might not. An
occultist will certainly know who Aleister Crowley is, but a game designer
With a multiplicity of possible audiences in mind, I’ve prepared a pie
graph (Figure1.1) with symbols that stand for each of the books main
subject areas. roughout the book, sidebars and callouts contain infor-
mation on subjects that may be crucial to some audiences but unnecessary
to others. Each symbol will designate that the sidebar contains crucial
information for a particular audience. As shown in the gure, a book
represents history, a joystick represents games, a computer represents
technical knowledge, a pentagram represents occultism, and a dragon

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