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Spell Patterns

I’ve always wanted to build a game that contains a system of magic which is itself a game. A game or a puzzle or an experience beyond Press-Button-To-Zap.

I wanted to use a magic system which obeys the natural laws of the game world. In my fantasy, a young magician could be like a scientist, learning the esoteric truths which govern the universe (like gravitational force F = Gm1m2/r2). The invention of a spell could be a discovery, a natural consequence of the system of magical rules. In the pop parlance of the day, an Emergent Behavior.

Someday I’ll make this game.

But for now, I’m genuinely interested in the system of magic for Snakelike. Here’s how it works. You snake your way around the dungeon until you see a pattern inscribed on the floor. Slither yourself unto that pattern and you ‘learn’ the spell. Thereafter whenever you slither into that pattern, no matter where you are, you will cast the spell. That’s it.

Should specific spells be permanently pared with specific patterns? Advantages? It would be nice for the more difficult spells to be cast via the longer more complex patterns. And it might be nice for advanced players to have the muscle memory for casting Blast right-right-up-left-right or what have you.On the other hand, it’s a roguelike and one of the things that that means to me is a new world every playthrough. So the spells could be randomized to the patterns – the same way in Nethack the potions are a different color every game.

Actually what we’re leaning toward right now is a compromise. Spells will be tied to a specific length pattern. So you know the blast spell pattern will always be 7 long. But you don’t know what it will look like, game to game.

There’s no mana – the only thing preventing you from casting a spell every turn is the fact that you’ll need to re-contort yourself into the pattern. This has a similar effect to mana, but it feels like – and indeed it is – a natural consequence of the system.

What if you’re not long enough to form that pattern? Well, then you’re not long enough to cast the spell. This feels like your Spellcaster Level, but again, it’s natural to the system of Snakelike. You can even come across patterns that you’re not yet long enough to learn. Might be exciting to return to them later. I want this to feel like discovering a spellbook of Polymorph on Dungeon Level 2.

Anyway, that’s the magic system in broad strokes. The spells are mostly what you’d expect. Healing spells, and attack spells and equipment spells.

So what I like about this Snakelike magic is that it uses the systems native to the game to create a new (at least new to me) way of casting spells. I am officially intrigued. Now let’s find out if it’s actually fun!


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