a game of duelling wizards


spellcast remotedisplay [ remotedisplay ... ]

One game window will appear on the default display (determined by the contents of the DISPLAY environment variable.) The second will appear on remotedisplay, which should be either an internet host name or a complete X display identifier (host:0.0, for example.) (If just a host name is given, display 0 and screen 0 are assumed.) If more remotedisplay arguments are supplied, additional windows will appear on those screens, and you will have a game with three or more players.

All other machines must add your machine to their X access lists, using xhost + <machine_name>. Please be careful with this since using xhost + you open a really big hole in the security of your system. You should only allow access to trusted machines.

There is a maximum of seven remotedisplay arguments -- ie, an eight-player game.


The game makes use of two X resources:

spellcast*name: namestring Sets the name used for your wizard. If you do not set this resource, the game assigns the names "White", "Black", "Red", and so forth. By default, each character is male. You can specify a gender by giving a namestring of the form

for a female character,
for a male,
for a character whose gender is ambiguous or not well-defined in human terms, and
for a genderless character.

spellcast*font: fontname The font used for all text and labels in the game window. This should not be larger than about 12-point, or things will start to overflow their boundaries.


This is a game concerning the imaginary conflict between two or more powerful wizards in a duel of sorcery. The 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 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...


In a turn, each wizard can either gesture with his hands for part of a spell, stab with his knife, or do nothing. They use both hands, and the hands can act either independently or in concert. Monsters cannot make magical gestures but will obey their masters' 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.

After choosing his or her gestures, each wizard must make a certain number of decisions -- choosing targets for his spells, ordering his monsters to attack particular targets, deciding the effects of certain spells, and so forth. After all players have chosen their gestures and made any necessary decisions, the effects of all spells and attacks are resolved simultaneously. The next turn then begins.


The spellcast window is divided into seven sections.

The text window This is a large rectangle in the upper left side of the window. It describes what happens in the duel, blow by blow. There is a scroll bar on the left side of the text window.

The gesture history list This is several columns of small squares in the upper right side of the window -- one pair of columns for each player. The player's names are listed at the tops of the columns.

Each column lists the recent gestures made by each player's left and right hands. The most recent gestures are at the bottom; as more turns pass, the columns scroll upwards. Each square may show a spell-gesture, a knife stab, or no gesture (an empty square). There may also be a 'disruption' icon, indicating that an 'anti-spell' has interrupted that wizard's gestures at that point, or a 'fog' icon, indicating that you could not see that gesture (because of blindness, for example.)

Note that everyone's columns in the history list do not necessarily scroll at the same rate. If one player makes extra gestures (because of a 'time-stop' or 'haste'), his column will scroll up extra spaces. Do not assume that gestures that appear to be lined up actually were performed at the same time.

You also use the gesture history list to enter your gestures. At the beginning of each turn, the bottom (most recent) gestures in your column will be empty. (The bottom gestures in your opponent's column will be fogged, since you cannot see his gestures until you both finish choosing.) If you move the mouse into one of your bottom gesture squares, and hold down the left mouse button, a pop-up menu will appear, listing the possible gestures with that hand. When you have chosen gestures for both hands, press the "End Move" button.

The status window This is the small window just below the gesture columns. It lists the name and status of every living being in the arena. Your name is at the top; your opponent's names are on successive lines. Names of monsters are indented, and listed below the wizards who control them. (Monsters who are uncontrolled are indented and listed at the top of the status window -- this occurs mostly in three-player game where a wizard has summoned a monster and then died.) There is a scroll bar on the window, in case you manage to have more beings than will fit.

After each name is the number of hit points that being has left. After that, there may be some letters indicating that certain spells are in effect:

I: invisible
H: resistant to heat
C: resistant to cold
P: protection from evil
b: blind
d: diseased
p: poisoned

Speech window This is a narrow window, one line tall, below the status window. Anything you type will appear here (the cursor need not be in the speech window.) When you hit Return, the message you have typed will appear in each player's text window.

The common Emacs editing keys will work: ctrl-F, ctrl-B, Delete, ctrl-A, ctrl-E, ctrl-K.

Spell List button This is a button labelled "Spell List", underneath the text window. If you press and hold the mouse button on this button, a pop-up window will appear, listing all the spells and the gestures that produce them.

If you use the left mouse button, the spell list will be sorted by gesture. If you use the middle mouse button, the list will be sorted alphabetically by spell name. If you use the right mouse button, the list will be sorted by the reversed gesture sequence -- all the spells that end with a clap, then all the spells that end with a digit, and so forth. This is useful for looking up your opponent's gestures to see what he might be producing.

End Move / End Answers button This is a button labelled "End Move", underneath the text window. You should click it when you are finished entering your gestures at the start of the turn. If the button changes to read "Move ENDED", then you should wait for your opponent to finish entering his gestures.

When the last player presses the "End Move" button, the game will determine which players need to make decisions (about spell targets or other matters.) The decisions you need to make will be listed in the questions window below, and the "End Move" button will change to read "End Answers". When you are finished answering, press the button, and it will change to "Answers ENDED".

If at any time the button reads "please wait...", then you have nothing to do but wait. (This may be because there are no decisions you have to make this turn, or because your opponent is taking an extra turn because of a 'time stop' or something similar.) When your opponent is finished, he will click his "End" button and the game will proceed.

When the duel is over, this button will change to say "Quit". When all players have pressed it, the windows will be removed and the program will exit.

Question window This is the wide rectangle at the bottom of the screen. Whenever the game has decisions for you to make, it will put them in this window, one per line. (There is a scroll bar, in case there are more questions than lines.) Move the cursor onto a question and hold down the mouse button to get a pop-up menu listing the possible answers.

You must have answers to all the questions before you click the "End Answers" button. In some cases, there will be default answers already listed. You may change the answer or leave it alone.


At the end of the game, in addition to his "Quit" button, the player who started the game will see the question "Do you want to save a transcript of this game?" If he answers "yes" before hitting "Quit", the program will store a text transcript of the game in a temporary directory (usually /tmp, unless your environment is configured otherwise.) This transcript will show all gestures made by each player, as well as all the text of the game, as seen by an outside observer. Everything said by any of the players will also be in the transcript, including comments made after the end of the game. The filename of the transcript will be printed on the standard output when all players have quit.


Spells are created by sequences of gestures made with the hands. There are five single-handed gestures: the fingers spread "F", the palm facing forward, "P", the snap "S", the wave "W" and the pointing digit "D". Some spells use two-handed gestures, which must be done simultaneously with both hands to be valid. The most common two-handed gesture is the clap "(c", but the double digit "(d", double wave "(w", and double snap "(s" are also used. The other things which can be done with the hand are the non-gestures: the knife stab "k" and nothing " ". (In the game, the gestures are represented by images of the hands in the various positions. The single-letter and parenthesis-letter abbreviations are used only to make this man page readable.)

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 later. 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
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 two or more spells then the caster must choose which one he wants to use. For example, the last two 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 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. The caster must choose one spell if the gestures are completed in the correct sequence. Most spells can be 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.

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", "nothing", or "C" (half of a clap) and consequently after pursuing one of these alternatives, any spell must start from scratch. Note also that wizards only have one dagger each, so they cannot stab with both hands 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 may be 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).

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 exceptions explicitly mentioned, for example ice elementals in 'ice storm', or 'counter-spell' / 'dispel magic' against all other spells.)

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. 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. If any wizard does this (accidentally or deliberately), he has surrendered, and will be eliminated from the game at the end of that turn. See the end of the spell list for details.


There now follows, in four sections, a list of the spells which may be cast.

Protection spells

'Shield': P

This spell protects the subject from all attacks from monsters (that is, creatures created by a summoning spell), from 'missile' spells, and from stabs by wizards. The shield lasts for that turn only, but one shield will cover all such attacks made against the subject that turn.

'Remove enchantment': P-D-W-P

If the subject of this spell is currently being affected by any of the spells in the "enchantments" section, or if spells from that section are cast at him at the same time as the remove enchantment, then all such spells terminate immediately (although their effect for that turn might already have passed.) For example, the victim of a 'blindness' spell would not be able to see what his opponent's gestures were on the turn that his sight is restored by a 'remove enchantment'. Note that the 'remove enchantment' affects all enchantments whether the caster wants them to all go or not. A second effect of the spell is to destroy any monster upon which it is cast, although the monster can attack in that turn.

'Magic mirror': (c-(w

Any spell cast at the subject of this spell is reflected back at the caster of that spell for that turn only. This includes spells like 'missile' and 'lightning bolt' but does not include attacks by monsters already in existence, or stabs from wizards. Note that certain spells are cast by wizards usually upon themselves (e.g. spells from this section and the "Summons" section); the mirror has no effect on these spells. It is countered totally, with no effect whatsoever, if the subject is the simultaneous subject of either a 'counter-spell' or 'dispel magic'. It has no effect on spells which affect more than one person, such as 'fire storm'. Two mirrors cast at someone simultaneously combine to form a single mirror. If a spell is reflected from a mirror back at a wizard who also has a mirror, the spell bounces back and forth until it falls apart.

'Counter-spell': W-P-P or W-W-S

Any other spell cast upon the subject in the same turn has no effect whatever. In the case of blanket-type spells, which affect more than one person, the subject of the 'counter-spell' alone is protected. For example, a 'fire storm' spell would not affect a wizard if that wizard was simultaneously the subject of a 'counter-spell', but everyone else would be affected as usual (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', but not 'dispel magic' or '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 its subject, in addition to its other properties. The spell has two alternative gesture sequences, either of which may be used at any time.

'Dispel magic': (c-D-P-W

This spell acts as a combination of 'counter-spell' and 'remove enchantment', but its effects are universal rather than limited to the subject of the spell. It will stop any spell cast in the same turn from working (apart from another 'dispel magic' spell which combines with it for the same result), and will remove all enchantments from all beings before they have effect. In addition, all monsters are destroyed, although they can attack that turn. 'Counter-spells' and 'magic mirrors' have no effect. Like the 'counter-spell', it also acts as a 'shield' for its subject. 'Dispel magic' will not dispel stabs or surrenders, since they are not spells (although the 'shield' effect may block a stab.)

'Raise dead': D-W-W-F-W-(c

The subject of this spell is usually a recently dead human or monster corpse (it will not work on elementals, which dissipate when destroyed.) When the spell is cast, life is instilled back into the corpse and any damage which it has sustained is cured until the owner is back to his usual state of health. A 'remove enchantment' effect is also manifest so any 'diseases' or 'poisons' will be neutralized (plus any other enchantments). The subject will be able to act as normal immediately, so that next turn he can gesture, fight, etc. If the subject is a monster, it will be under the control of the wizard who raised it, and it will be able to attack that turn. If the spell is cast on a live individual, the effect is that of a 'cure wounds' recovering 5 points of damage, or as many as have been sustained if less than 5. In this case, 'diseases', 'poisons', and other enchantments are not removed. This is the only spell which affects corpses properly; therefore, it cannot be stopped by a 'counter-spell', since 'counter-spell' can only be cast on living beings. A 'dispel magic' spell will stop it, since that affects all spells no matter what their subject. Once alive the subject is treated as normal.

'Cure light wounds': D-F-W

If the subject has received damage then he is cured by 1 point as if that point had not been inflicted. (Recall that all spells are resolved simultanously; if a wizard is suffers his 15th point of damage at the same time as he is affected by 'cure light wounds', he will remain alive with 14 points of damage at the end of the turn.) The effect is not removed by a 'dispel magic' or 'remove enchantment'.

'Cure heavy wounds': D-F-P-W

This spell is the same as 'cure light wounds' for its effect, but 2 points of damage are cured instead of 1, or only 1 if only 1 had been sustained. A side effect is that the spell will also cure a disease. (Note that 'raise dead' on a live individual won't).

Summons spells

'Summon Goblin': S-F-W

This spell creates a goblin under the control of the wizard upon whom the spell is cast. The goblin can attack immediately and its victim can be any any wizard or other monster the controller desires. The goblin does 1 point of damage to its victim per turn and is destroyed after 1 point of damage is inflicted upon it.

'Summon Ogre': P-S-F-W

This spell is the same as 'summon goblin', but the ogre created inflicts and is destroyed by 2 points of damage rather than 1.

'Summon Troll': F-P-S-F-W

This spell is the same as 'summon goblin', but the troll created inflicts and is destroyed by 3 points of damage rather than 1.

'Summon Giant': W-F-P-S-F-W

This spell is the same as 'summon goblin', but the giant created inflicts and is destroyed by 4 points of damage rather than 1.

'Summon Elemental': (c-S-W-W-S

This spell creates either a fire elemental or an ice elemental, at the discretion of the wizard upon whom the spell is cast (after he has seen all the gestures made that turn.)

Elementals must be cast at someone and cannot be "shot off" harmlessly at some inanimate object. The elemental will, for that turn and until destroyed, attack everyone (including its owner, and other monsters), causing 3 points of damage per turn. Only wizards and monsters who are resistant to the elemental's element (heat or cold), or who have a 'shield' or a spell with a 'shield' effect, are safe. The elemental takes 3 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 cancelling 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. If there are two opposite storms and an elemental, or two opposite elementals and one or two storms, all storms and elementals cancel each other out.

Damaging Spells

'Missile': S-D

This spell creates a material object of hard substance which is hurled towards the subject of the spell and causes him 1 point of damage. The spell is thwarted by a 'shield' in addition to the usual 'counter-spell', 'dispel magic' and 'magic mirror' (the latter causing it to hit whoever cast it instead).

'Finger of Death': P-W-P-F-S-S-S-D

Kills the subject stone dead. This spell is so powerful that it is unaffected by a 'counter-spell', although a 'dispel magic' spell cast upon the final gesture will stop it. The usual way to prevent being harmed by this spell is to disrupt it during casting -- using an 'anti-spell', for example.

'Lightning Bolt': D-F-F-D-D or W-D-D-(c

The subject of this spell is hit by a bolt of lightning and sustains 5 points of damage. Resistance to heat or cold is irrelevant. There are two gesture combinations for the spell, but the shorter one may be used only once per battle by any wizard. The longer one may be used without restriction. A 'shield' spell offers no defence.

'Cause Light Wounds': W-F-P

The subject of this spell is inflicted with 2 points of damage. Resistance to heat or cold offers no defence. A simultaneous 'cure light wounds' does not cancel the spell; it only heals one of the points of damage. A 'shield' has no effect.

'Cause Heavy Wounds': W-P-F-D

This has the same effect as 'cause light wounds' but inflicts 3 points of damage instead of 2.

'Fireball': F-S-S-D-D

The subject of this spell is hit by a ball of fire, and sustains 5 points of damage unless he is resistant to fire. If at the same time an 'ice storm' prevails, the subject of the 'fireball' is instead not harmed by either spell, although the storm will affect others as normal. If directed at an ice elemental, the fireball will destroy it before it can attack.

'Fire storm': S-W-W-(c

Everything not resistant to heat sustains 5 points of damage that turn. The spell cancels wholly, causing no damage, with either an 'ice storm' or an ice elemental. It will destroy but not be destroyed by a fire elemental. Two 'fire storms' act as one.

'Ice storm': W-S-S-(c

Everything not resistant to cold sustains 5 points of damage that turn. The spell cancels wholly, causing no damage, with either a 'fire storm' or a fire elemental; it will cancel locally with a 'fireball', sparing the subject of the 'fireball' but nobody else. It will destroy but not be destroyed by an ice elemental. Two 'ice storms' act as one.


'Amnesia': D-P-P

If the subject of this spell is a wizard, next turn he must repeat identically the gestures he made in the current turn, including "nothing" and "stab" gestures. If the subject is a monster it will attack whoever it attacked this turn. If the subject is simultaneously the subject of any of 'confusion', 'charm person', 'charm monster', 'paralysis' or 'fear' then none of the spells work.

'Confusion': D-S-F

If the subject of this spell is a wizard, next turn one of his gestures will be changed randomly. Either his left or his right hand (50% chance of either) will perform a half-clap, palm, digit, fingers, snap, or wave (chosen at random). (Recall that a one-handed clap is useless unless the other hand also attempts to clap.) If the subject of the spell is a monster, it attacks at random that turn. If the subject is also the subject of any of 'amnesia', 'charm person', 'charm monster', 'paralysis' or 'fear', none of the spells work.

'Charm Person': P-S-D-F

Except for cancellation with other enchantments, this spell only affects wizards. When the spell is cast, the caster tells the subject which of his hands will be controlled; in the following turn, the caster chooses the gesture he wants the subject's chosen hand to perform. This could be a stab or nothing. If the 'charm person' spell reflects from a 'magic mirror' back at its caster, the subject of the mirror assumes the role of caster and controls down his opponent's gesture. If the subject is also the subject of any of 'amnesia', 'confusion', 'charm monster', 'paralysis' or 'fear', none of the spells work.

'Charm Monster': P-S-D-D

Except for cancellation with other enchantments, this spell only affects monsters (including elementals, though it's not very usefel on them!). Control of the monster is transferred to the caster of the spell (or retained by him) as of this turn; i.e., the monster will attack whosoever its new controller dictates from that turn onwards including that turn. Further charms are, of course, possible, transferring as before. If the subject of the charm is also the subject of any of: 'amnesia', 'confusion', 'charm person', 'fear' or 'paralysis', none of the spells work.

'Paralysis': F-F-F

If the subject of the spell is a wizard, then on the turn the spell is cast, after gestures have been revealed, the caster selects one of the wizard's hands; on the next turn that hand is paralyzed into the position it is in this turn. If the wizard already had a paralyzed hand, it must be the same hand which is paralyzed again. Most gestures remain the same (including "stab" and "nothing"), but if the hand being paralyzed is performing a C, S, or W it is instead paralyzed into F, D, or P respectively. A favourite ploy is to continually paralyze a hand (F-F-F-F-F-F etc.) into a non-P gesture and then set a monster on the subject so that he has to use his other hand to protect himself, but then has no defence against other magical attacks. If the subject of the spell is a monster, it simply does not attack in the turn following the one in which the spell was cast. Elementals are unaffected. If the subject of the spell is also the subject of any of 'amnesia', 'confusion', 'charm person', 'charm monster' or 'fear', none of the spells work.

'Fear': S-W-D

In the turn following the casting of this spell, the subject cannot perform a C, D, F or S gesture with either hand. (He can stab, however.) This obviously has no effect on monsters. If the subject is also the subject of 'amnesia', 'confusion', 'charm person', 'charm monster' or 'paralysis', then none of the spells work.

'Anti-spell': S-P-F

On the turn following the casting of this spell, the subject cannot include any gestures made on or before this turn in a spell sequence and must restart a new spell from the beginning of that spell sequence. (This is marked by a special 'disruption' icon interrupting the subject's gesture history.) The spell does not affect spells which are cast on the same turn; nor does it affect monsters.

'Protection from Evil': W-W-P

For this turn and the following three turns, the subject of this spell is protected as if using a 'shield' spell, thus leaving both hands free. Concurrent 'shield' spells offer no further protection, and compound 'protection from evil' spells merely overlap offering no extra cover.

'Resist Heat': W-W-F-P

The subject of this spell becomes permanently resistant to all forms of heat attack ('fireball', 'fire storm' and fire elementals). Only 'dispel magic' or 'remove enchantment' will terminate this resistance once started (although a 'counter-spell' will prevent it from working if cast at the subject at the same time as this spell). A 'resist heat' cast directly on a fire elemental will destroy it before it can attack that turn, but there is no effect on ice elementals.

'Resist Cold': S-S-F-P

The effects of this spell are identical to 'resist heat' but resistance is to cold ('ice storm' and ice elementals). It destroys ice elementals if they are the subject of the spell, but doesn't affect fire elementals.

'Disease': D-S-F-F-F-(c

The subject of this spell immediately contracts a deadly (non-contagious) disease which will kill him at the end of 6 turns counting from the one upon which the spell is cast. The malady is cured by 'remove enchantment', 'cure heavy wounds' or 'dispel magic' in the meantime.

'Poison': D-W-W-F-W-D

This is similar to the 'disease' spell, except that 'cure heavy wounds' does not stop its effects.

'Blindness': D-W-F-F-(d

For the next three turns (not including the one in which the spell was cast), the subject is unable to see. If he is a wizard, he cannot tell what his opponent's gestures are, although he will sense what spells are cast. If he tries to cast spells (or stab) at other beings, he will miss. Blinded monsters are instantly destroyed and cannot attack in that turn.

'Invisibility': P-P-(w-(s

This spell is similar to 'blindness'; the subject of the spell becomes invisible to his opponent and his monsters. His gestures cannot be seen, although his spells can. No other being can attack or cast spells at him, with the exception of elementals. Any monster made invisible is destroyed due to the unstable nature of such magically created creatures.

'Haste': P-W-P-W-W-(c

For the next three turns, the subject is speeded up; wizards can make an extra set of gestures, and monsters can make an extra attack. For wizards, the effects of both sets of gestures are taken simultaneously at the end of the turn. Thus a single 'counter-spell' from his adversary could cancel two spells cast by the hastened wizard on two half-turns if the phasing is right. Non-hastened wizards and monsters can see everything the hastened individual is doing. Hastened monsters can change target in the extra turns if desired.

'Time stop': S-P-P-(c

The subject of this spell immediately takes an extra turn, on which no-one can see or know about unless they are harmed. All non-affected beings have no resistance to any form of attack, e.g. a wizard halfway through the duration of a 'protection from evil' spell can be harmed by a monster which has had its time stopped. Time-stopped monsters attack whoever their controller instructs, and time-stopped elementals affect everyone, resistance to heat or cold being immaterial in that turn.

'Delayed effect': D-W-S-S-S-P

This spell must be cast upon a wizard. The next spell the subject completes, provided it is in one of the next three turns, is "banked" until needed -- i.e. it fails to work until its caster desires. (If you have a spell banked, you will be asked each turn if you want to release it.) Note that spells banked are those cast by the subject, not those cast at him. If he casts more than one spell at the same time, he chooses which is to be banked. Remember that P is a 'shield' spell, and surrender is not a spell. A wizard may only have one spell banked at any one time.

'Permanency': S-P-F-P-S-D-W

This spell must be upon a wizard. The next spell he completes, provided it is in the next three turns, and which falls into the category of "Enchantments" will have its effect made permanent. (Exeptions: 'anti-spell', 'disease', 'poison', 'time-stop', 'delayed effect', and 'permanency' cannot be made permanent. Note that 'resist heat' and 'resist cold' are inherently permanent enchantments.) This means that the effect of the extended spell on the first turn of its duration is repeated eternally. For example, a 'confusion' spell will produce the same gesture on the same hand rather than changing randomly each turn; a 'charm person' will mean repetition of the chosen gesture, etc. If the subject of the 'permanency' casts more than one spell at the same time eligible for permanency, he chooses which has its duration extended. Note that the person who has his spell made permanent does not necessarily have to make himself the subject of the spell. If both a 'permanency' and 'delayed effect' are eligible for the same spell to be banked or extended, a choice must be made; whichever is not chosen will affect the next eligible spell instead.


'Surrender': (p

This is not a spell; consequently, it cannot be cast at anyone, nor can it be dispelled, counter-spelled, reflected off a mirror, or banked. A wizard who makes two simultaneous P gestures, irrespective of whether they terminate spells or not, surrenders and the contest is over. The surrendering wizard is deemed to have lost unless his gestures complete spells which kill his opponent. Two simultaneous surrenders count as a draw. It is a necessary skill for wizards to work their spells so that they never accidentally perform two P gestures simultaneously. Wizards can be killed as they surrender (if hit with appropriate spells or attacks) but the "referees" will cure any diseases, poisons, etc. immediately after the surrender for them.

'Stab': stab

This is not a spell, but an attack which can be directed at any individual monster or wizard. Unless protected in that turn by a 'shield' spell or another spell with the same effect, the target stabbed suffers 1 point of damage. The wizard only has one knife, so can only stab with one hand in any turn, although which hand doesn't matter. The stab cannot be reflected, counter-spelled, dispelled, or banked.


Does not conform exactly to the original Spellcaster rules. Tough. Some points of divergence:

The choosing of targets for monsters is handled much too late in the round, and monster attacks are not perfectly simultaneous with spell attacks. This results in a number of minor effects which are inconsistent with the original rules. Since I don't plan to do a major rewrite anytime soon, you just get to live with it.

If 'remove enchantment' is cast on a wizard who is also the subject of a summoning spell, the summoned monster should be destroyed after attacking.

If a mind-control spell (paralysis, confusion, amnesia) is cast on a monster by a time-stopped wizard, the spell should take effect on the next turn, rather than (as currently happens) the turn after next.

The 'delayed effect' and 'permanency' spells should be able to bank or extend spells cast during the same turn, as well as those cast during the next three turns.


The original paper-and-pencil version of this game, entitled Spellbinder, was created by Richard Bartle in 1977; it was printed in his zine Sauce of the Nile. He attempted to have it commercially produced, but apparently didn't get very far. It was reprinted (with some changes) as Spellcaster in the fanzine Duel Purpose, written by Mike Lean. From there, it was scanned and posted to the Net by Andrew Buchanan ( I grabbed it and wrote this X version. Richard Bartle <> would like to point out that he is not at all dead. He has nicely given his permission to distribute this program, as long as it remains free. More information about the game is available in his web page at where you will find more about the history of the game as well as other computer programs created based on the original Spellbinder game.


Andrew Plotkin <>

Copied to clipboard