Sunday, May 5, 2024

The Infinite Orrery

One of the things I like about blogging is that it exorcises the daemons and geniuses that haunt your head. That is, it gets your ideas out of your head and onto paper so they stop bothering you. Maybe other people pick them up, maybe not. 

Here's a capsule game idea that I had that I don't have time to make right now. It's called The Infinite Orrery. The premise is that the players are apprentices (querents) serving a wizard. The vibes are Witch Hat Atelier, Wizard of Earthsea, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Howl's Moving Castle. 

Click these to make them big mode.

The gimmick of the game is that you play as a wizard's apprentice, called a querent. All the players live in the wizard's house, doing magical chores, gathering reagents, studying astronomy, creating potions, and learning spells (more on that in a bit). There's no limit on how much magic you can cast, just the outcome of what happens as you meddle with magical dangers. The GM takes on the role as the wizard, sending the players on quests. Eventually, players would graduate from their apprenticeship, and sail to another island to take on the challenges of the archmage and graduate to wizard-hood.

The game book is written to be as diegetic and in-character as possible. There are no numbers. You create your querent by doing a tarot reading and making decisions about important choices in your life. As you make choices, you gain defining virtues for your character - attributes, lores, items, etc. You start with one spell, too, based on your zodiac sign.

It was a challenge to write the resolution mechanic in-character, but I think it turned out oh-kay. There's some missing details here, but I only wanted to spend one spread on any concept. Basically, the more advantages you have, the more cards you draw. (An idea I briefly considered was using a magic 8 ball as a randomizer instead.)

The basic gameplay flows between two phases - the quest stage, when you're adventuring and solving open-ended problems on your island home for your master, for your neighbors, or for yourself - and the study stage, when you learn magic. 

I wanted to give the experience of learning magic both in and out of character. Players have to memorize the "Sidereal tongue" which is represented by a runic cipher. 

The players do not get to read the list of spells. All spells are 3 letter words (AGE, AID, HIT, HIP, HOT, FLY, FLO, FLU, etc.). During the study phase, you guess a combination and write down the runes of the spell you're attempting to learn. If you guess one of the spell words and your runes are correct, the GM (the master of magic) shows you the spell page which you copy down into your spell book. As you play the game, you literally make a little spell book out of a journal, with runes and illustrations on one side and in-character game rules on the other.

The master of magic has a separate book from the players. Some of it is spells (which they reveal to players when they correctly guess the letter combinations) and some are quests. Basically, every section of the island has open-ended problems that need to be solved, and different items that the master of magic might ask his apprentices to get for him. The GM just needs to choose a few for an evening of play, and see what sort of trouble the querents get into. The intention would be to include a lot of randomizers, too, to help drive play and keep things interesting.

Anyway! This was just a little thing I put together as a diversion. I don't have time to take on another project at the moment. I hope you thought it was interesting!


I made this proof of concept with a mishmash of borrowed assets. 

The whole project is spawned by an admiration for the feelies from video games - the Book of Patterns from Loom or the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom from Ultima.


  1. Really interesting, I'd like to try it with my group!
    Already have beta testers?

    1. Glad you got a kick out of it! Not only do I not have playtesters, I don't even have a game. I only wrote those 5 spreads directly in layout.

      If there's something here that you think is neat, though, please put something together for your group and let me know how it goes. I cited my sources, so you could continue to build the idea out.