Game Magic: A Designer's Guide to Magic Systems in Theory and Practice, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Game Magic

A Designer's Guide to Magic Systems in Theory and Practice, 1st Edition

By Jeff Howard

A K Peters/CRC Press

376 pages | 79 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2014-04-22
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Make More Immersive and Engaging Magic Systems in Games

Game Magic: A Designer’s Guide to Magic Systems in Theory and Practice explains how to construct magic systems and presents a compendium of arcane lore, encompassing the theory, history, and structure of magic systems in games and human belief. The author combines rigorous scholarly analysis with practical game design advice in the form of a magical recipe book (grimoire).

The book gives you an in-depth understanding of the history and structure of magic to make your games richer and deeper. It shows how to set up tables of correspondences and spell components as well as how to write programming code integrating these components as part of game mechanics. It also illustrates how to divide a simulated world into domains of influence (such as alteration, conjuration, and necromancy) and how to use specific rule systems to simulate powers within these realms.

Showing you how to weave compelling magic into your games, the book is interspersed with examples that illustrate how to design and program magic systems. Working examples are available for download on a supporting website.

Table of Contents

How to Use This Book

Who Is This Book For?

A Note on Audience, and a Symbolic Key of Intended Audiences

Triangulating Game Magic

Magic Systems in Theory and Practice

Putting the Magic Back in Magic Systems

A History of Game Magic Systems

Occult Magic and Game Magic

Magical Grammars

Ritual and Symbolic Correspondences

Ritual and Multimodal Input

Rituals as Puzzles

From Exemplary Game Magic Systems to Code Recipes

Magic Systems and Language

Interactive Fiction and Enchanter

St eve Jackson ’s Sorcery! and Gamebooks

Modern Magical IF

From Roguelikes to Recipes

The Runes of Dungeon Master


The Incantations of Wizardry

The Magical Syllables of the Ultima Series

Spell Reagent s in the Ultima Series

The Magical Language and World Simulation of Ultima Underworld

Ultima VIII

Loom and Music as Magic


Arx Fatalis

User-Generated Magic and the Elder Scrolls

The Void

The Legend of Grimrock



Magical Gestures

Magic in MMORPGs

The Magic of Alternative Controllers

Augmented REALITY and Location-Based Magic

Schools of Game Magic

Chapter Summary

The Schools of Magic

Beyond the Four Elements

Mage and Vampire’s Alternative Spheres and Disciplines

Eternal Darkness

The Colors of Magic

Mythology and Schools of Magic

Colors of the Tree of Life

Planar Magic

Alternative Schools of Magic and World Simulation

Schools of Magic and Magical Character Customization

Magical Combat

Magic as Programming, Programming as Magic

Arcana: A Ceremonial Magick Simulator

Recipe: Combining Linguistic Elements through an Array

Game Design Lessons from Occult Magic

Occult Ritual Flowcharts

Mapping the Do mains of Ritual Traditions through Pie Graphs

Occult Magic and Game Interactivity

The Occult History of Symbolic Correspondences

Videogames and the History of Ritual

Iamblichus and Neo-Platonic Magic

Writing Game Incantations and the Barbarous Names of Evocation

Viking Magic and Runes



Magical Level Design and Ritual Space

Game Spell Foci and Ritual Objects

Ancient Egypt an Magic

Magical Books: Grimoires

Modern Grimoires, Modern Practices

A Videogame Designer’s Guide to Non-Digital Game Magic

The Magic of Ancient Games

Chainmail, Dungeons & Dragons, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Ars Magica

White Wolf, the World of Darkness, and Mage

Occult Role-Playing: Unknown Armies, Maléfices, and Nephilim

Taking Performative Magic to the Next Level in the Palladium Fantasy RPG

Adapting Game Magic from the Literature of the Fantastic

Procedural Adaptation


Pulp Magic: Robert Howard’s Conan, Fritz Leiber

True Names and Ursula Le Guin

H.P. Lovecraft and Chaos Magic

Jack Vance and Vancian Magic

Larry Niven and Mana

Roger Zelazny Chronicles of Amber (Planar Magic and Tarot)

Michael Moorcock and Elric’s Ritual

Dragonlance and the Moon-Based Magic of Krynn

Death Gate and Quantum Magic

Harry Potter

A Song of Ice and Fire

Contemporary Magical World-Building

Comic Magic

Fantasy, Games, and Magical World-Building

Works Cited

Appendix A: A Magic System Worksheet

Appendix B: Timelines


About the Originator

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
COMPUTERS / Programming / Games