Sunday, July 26, 2020

Episode 155: Magic Systems

We discuss designing magic systems for roguelikes, with Owen (aka Scatha), co-developer of Sil, Alexei Pepers and Darren Grey.

You can download the mp3 of the podcast, play it in the embedded player below, or you can follow us on iTunes.

Synopsis & Useful Links
  • Implementing a Tolkien style of magic with the systems in Sil (in particular its song system)
  • Should magic be structured and scientific, or mysterious and subtle
  • Creating immersion and adding depth to magic
  • Exploring different magical archetypes
  • Mental magic systems (Sil - Monster morale, Illusion magic)
  • Magical environments in roguelikes (DCSS - The Abyss)
  • Horror and magic - Lovecraftian and unpredictable systems that work against the player (Infra Arcana)
  • Material components as a system that provides meaning and context to magic
  • Procedurally generated magic and hand crafted bespoke design elements (Caves of Qud, Dwarf Fortress)
  • Procedural generation as its own type of 'magic' in the hands of developers, and Alexei's Roguelike Celebration talk on Proc Gen Practitioners
  • Should magic be something the player has control over or something you have to work with
  • Balancing risk and reward, and how overpowered or limited magic should feel
  • The issues of scrolls, potions, and the identify system in roguelikes
  • Customisable consumables and magical systems (Elder Scrolls)
  • Moments we found magical in roguelikes
  • Roguelike Celebration will be going virtual this year:


  1. always beatiful and interesting <3, plus i discovered Sil which uses a rule system similar (and better!) to a pen&paper rpg system i'm using for a custom version of Ars Magica!

  2. So, we gonna have to wait for another summer to roll around to get another Rogue-like radio?

    Great to see you doing another regardless.

  3. Thrilled to see another of these up. Thought the channel was done!

  4. A little disappointed with this discussion. I know I'm being reductive, but it seems like the general consensus was that RNG effects "feel more magical". Even if this were true, I think that tends to lead to unbalanced and unfun gameplay. I would have liked to hear some more debate and difference of opinions.

  5. Super stoked with the new episode! Have been patiently waiting. I thought the topic was great and really made me reflect on how magic systems, potions, and scrolls are implemented.

  6. The Myth series is by the late Robert Asprin.