Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Petit Albert, initial thoughts on gamifying

I'm going to take a break from translation to think about how we can use these spells in an RPG game.

The spells in the Petit Albert can be roughly divided in four groups, not based on the effect, but rather on the process/result of the spells.

The first are incantations - say a few magical words and presto, magic!  This is tremendeously useful for the adventuring magic user as it's the kind of spell that can be "cast in a round".  Unfortunately, these spells are rare.

The second are "talisman" based magic - following complex enchantments and preparation, the magic user creates a talisman - an amulet, a staff, a ring - that confers benefits on the user.  These often would be bonuses on certain checks (gambling for example) or might even affect the random encounter results (keeping brigands at bay).  This is very useful for the adventuring magic user too, but the effects often tend to be subtle, not spectacular.

The third are rituals - you do a series of steps, use certain ingredients, and something happens.  The bird catching spell is a good example of this.  The main difference from incantations is the amount of *time* involved.  They can be tremendeously useful, but they can't be used in combat.

The last are "consumables" - I want to call this alchemy, but some of the rituals and talismans clearly have alchemy involved too, so I don't quite have the proper term for this yet.  This is a bit like a ritual, but at the end instead of having a magical effect, you obtain a magical thing - an elixir, a magical candle etc. - that you can use later.  This item can only be used once, or a limited number of time, but the usage tends to be a lot quicker to deploy than the rituals, making their use in combat more applicable.

I'm not sure how this should be balanced incidentally - item/consumable based casters are difficult to balance without making serious stylistic sacrifices.

Speaking of balance, the limitation of this magic user means that the character shouldn't be "crippled" by very limited stats (1d4 hp etc).  The character should be able to do things besides casting.  The GLOG, incidentally, does this well.  Most characters (with the exceptions of the martial specialists like the fighter or barbarian) fight about as equally well, meaning they can all contribute in a fight even if magic isn't available.  Our magic user might have a brace of pistols, an enchanted sword or a good stout stick.

I'm not sure if I should have these spells be leveled, or level-less.  My gut says the later, and again this is something that the GLOG does well.

Lastly, I'll note that a lot of the spells are not "battle" spells.  The Petit Albert and other grimoires make it clear that the magic user's concerns were not focused on battle and war, but on solving all sorts of problems and challenges.   This makes the time constraints of the spell casting less problematic.  When I start "gamifying" the spells themselves, of course I will pick pells that are useful for an adventuring magic user, but I'll have to cast a wide net.  Could an adventurer use a fishing spell?  Maybe!


  1. Alternatively you can use the jar of grease approach of giving things that don't have an obvious adventuring use and let them figure out how that's helpful. Thought there's only so much you can do with love potions for example.

    1. the collective ingenuity of the party is indeed a thing to behold. More tools for them, and more tools for... well screw up ha!

  2. It seems like you might want these in a game that stepped away from D&D-style focus on treasure hunting and monster slaying. Some of these would fit very well in a village-building game. Others might be nice to have in a game like Ryuutama or Tokaido, where you goal is mostly to have an emotionally satisfying journey.

    1. If you are familar with the Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell book (it's really good), they would work splendidly in that settings.