Archmage Rules

- Version 1.1 -

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Archmage by Dominic Camus

These rules are copyright 1994-1995 Dominic Camus.

Permission is given to distribute this document as long as it is left unchanged and no charge is made.

This version was converted to HTML by John Reynolds.


Contents :

* Introduction
* The Game
* Spell Lists

- The Book of Lore
- The Bronze Codex
- The Tome of Wisdom
- The Book of Hades
- The Book of Cabrius
- The Book of E.C.Dark
- The Book of Form
- The Book of the Way


Archmage Rules Version 1.1

Introduction :

This is a card game about wizards. If that sounds familiar I can only say that it's deliberate. However, all that is required to play is one normal pack of playing cards and preferably a pen and paper. Having a bank account like the Federal Reserve confers no advantage. Although the game has a significant random element in the long run it is a game of skill.

Version 1.0 was first published in 'Nightflyer 26' the magazine of the Oxford University Roleplaying games society. The popularity achieved by the game there has led to this version being produced. Several spells have been altered in minor ways : Spirit Theft, Sacrificial Flame, Ancient Power, Undying Warrior, Freeze and Iron Tower. This was necessary since many players have developed such effective strategies that some other spells were seldom useful! Thanks to them for their help.

Objective :

The game is played between two players (wizards) who are fighting a duel to determine who becomes the new Archmage (originality is not a game feature here). The game is played in 'rounds' and scores added up over a number of rounds to determine the winner. Players can either agree to play a fixed number of rounds or first to a fixed score.

Abbreviations :

C, D, H, S will be used to mean the suits clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades respectively. A, K, Q, J refer to the ace, king, queen, jack of a suit, collectively called 'court cards'. Aces are always high. Where the 'face value' of a card is referred to this is A-14, K-13, Q-12, J-11.


The Game

Starting the Game :

Each wizard starts with 200 'damage' points. Also the players must decide which spell books each has available. The game is best if both players have all of them but this is much too confusing for the first few games! Next, each player is dealt 8 cards face down which form their starting hand (they may look at them of course). Play begins with the dealer. Dealership alternates between rounds.

Ending the Round :

Reaching 0 damage points or fewer knocks a wizard out of the round. The surviving wizard scores points equal to her remaining damage total. All spell effects finish at the end of a round.

Sequence of Play :

Play begins with the dealer then alternates. Each turn consists of an effects phase, a spellcasting phase then a draw phase.

Effects Phase :

Any existing spell effects due to take place in the wizard's turn do so now. If it makes any difference then the wizard whose turn it is may choose the order.

Spellcasting Phase :

The wizard whose turn it is may attempt to cast a spell or illusion. Casting a spell consists of placing one or more cards face down on the table and calling out the name of the cast spell along with any other details required. An illusion works in the same way as a spell except that the caster in fact places down incorrect cards for the claimed spell. The number of cards placed must still be correct, however. Next, the target has the opportunity to block the spell or illusion (if blockable). Finally he may attempt to 'disbelieve' the spell (claim it to be an illusion). If an illusion is disbelieved then it has no further effect and the caster suffers damage equal to the face value of each incorrect card. So, if a spell required a run of 6 to cast an the caster tried with 2, 3, 6, 8, K, A then the damage is 19 from the 2, 3, 6 and 8 (since this is the lowest total possible). If a true spell is disbelieved then the disbeliever suffers 2 points of damage per card used to cast the spell and the spell also still works as normal. Note that an illusion which is not disbelieved works as the spell it was supposed to be.

Discarding Cards :

Unless a spell description states otherwise all the cards used to cast a spell are discarded. If the spell was an illusion then the caster still discards as though the cards were what they were claimed to be (important in the case of disbelieved illusions).

Draw Phase :

The wizard may now draw cards. Note that there is no option to discard unwanted cards. The normal number of cards drawn is two, subject to a maximum hand size of eight cards. However, if a wizard has only one card she may draw 3 and if she has 0 cards she may draw 4. Note that spells which alter draw rates do not necessarily alter hand size limits and vice versa. A spell may also cause a player's hand to temporarily rise above the limit, this is often not stated explicitly but where it is possible for this to occur it is legitimate. When the card pile runs out the discard pile is reshuffled to form a fresh pile and play continues. Regardless of spell effects a player who is below his hand size limit may always draw a minimum of one card no matter what. The only exception to this is if both the deck and the discard pile are empty because all cards are in play.

Cumulative casting :

Except where noted in the spell descriptions, those spells which have permanent effects do not multiply that effect if cast twice or more by the same wizard whilst still in effect.


Spell Lists :

The rest of the game is the spell lists :


The Book of Lore :

This is no one book but a general description of those spells common to all wizards. In any game all wizards automatically know these spells.

Learn Magic : The spell is cast with any one card. The spell has the effect of forcing the caster to draw one card (regardless of hand size).

Fireball : Requires a run of two or more cards in the same suit to cast (eg. 4S, 5S, 6S). On casting the caster must declare which cards are allegedly used. The target may block the spell by discarding a card in the casting suit that is higher valued than the largest card in the fireball. A successful fireball causes 5 damage to the target per card used in casting.

Summon Wild Beasts : Requires a pair of cards of the same value to cast (eg. 5C, 5H). On casting, the caster must also make a claim as to the numbers on the cards but need not make any claims of suit. The target may block the spell by discarding a run of two cards in any suit (eg. KH, AH). If successful then the spell caused damage to the target equal to the combined (claimed) face values of the two cards. Thus the example above would do 10 damage.

Summon Spirit : Analogous to Summon Wild Beasts btu requires three cards of the same value to cast and a run of three in a suit to block. (eg. cast 7C, 7H, 7S for 21 damage, could be blocked by 8D, 9D, 10D, say).

Summon Monster :As per the previous two spells but requires four cards of the same value to cast and a run of four in a suit to block. (eg. cast 2C, 2D, 2H, 2S for 8 damage, could be blocked by JS, QS, KS, AS).


The Bronze Codex :

A powerful book whose followers have been amongst the greatest mages alive. The spells of the Codex are now used by most mages.

Teleport : Requires any two court cards to cast. Play immediately passes to the wizard of the caster's choice (usually himself). Note that the caster therefore does not proceed to the draw phase (if he passes play to himself he begins his whole turn again).

Elemental Control : Requires four or more of the same suit to cast. The caster must use her entire hand to cast the spell (ie. it usually needs a one-suited hand of at least 4 cards). For the rest of the round the caster may treat any card of her own as if it were in the controlled suit for purposes of spellcasting and/or blocking (eg. Elemental Control of spades means 3D, 4C, 5S, 6S could be a 20 point fireball in spades). It is possible to cast this spell multiple times for the purpose of controlling several suits. The casting cards are not discarded but are picked up into the caster's hand.

Mighty Strike : Requires a run of 6 cards but these need not be in the same suit. The next spell cast by the caster which causes damage to another wizard will instead do double damage. This only applies if damage is really scored and not if blocked etc. This spell never applies to disbelief damage.

Dimension Travel : The caster must use his entire hand to cast the spell. The casting cards must consist entirely of pairs of cards of the same value and each pair must contain one red and one black card (eg. 2S, 2H, 7C, 7H is OK, but 2S, 2C, 7H, 7D is not). Thereafter all fireballs cast by the caster become 'warp bolts' and instead of doing 5 damage per card they do the face value of the cards in damage. The caster must discard either all the red or all the black cards. The rest are picked up into his hand.


The Tome of Wisdom :

Assembled over many centuries by monks and philosophers the tome was not originally intended for battle magic. Recently, though, it has been rediscovered by the more inventive duellists with spectacular success.

Stone Armour : Requires any 8 cards to cast. The next time the caster suffers damage for whatever reason it is ignored. This includes disbelief damage (combined with spell damage if appropriate). If this spell is cast again before it was used then the first casting is wasted.

Mystic Library : Requires a run of 4 to cast but these need not be in the same suit. They are picked up into the caster's hand after casting. After the cards are picked up the caster may discard any number of cards from her hand and then must immediately draw the same number to replace them.

True Sight : The caster must use his entire hand to cast this spell. It requires any 8 red cards to cast. Thereafter every time the caster suceeds in disbelieving an illusion then the damage thus caused to the wizard whose illusion it was is either double normal or 10 points, whichever is the greater. The casting cards are picked up into the caster's hand.

Inner Strength : The caster must use her entire hand to cast the spell. The casting cards must contain no court cards and have a combined face value of at least 60. Thereafter, the caster takes half damage from all sources (rounded down) for the rest of the round.


The Book of Hades :

These two volumes contain a great deal that might be better left unspoken. However, the braver or more foolish duellists who have read them have found their secrets more than slightly useful.

Call Chaos : Requires two adjacent pairs to cast (eg. 4S, 4H, 5C, 5H) and any one other card. The first four cards are discarded and the fifth is placed to one side as a 'wild card'. The caster may use the wild card at any time to represent absolutely any card. After use the wild card is always discarded, regardless of the use to which it was put. It is possible to have multiple wild cards at once.

Dark Pact : Requires that the caster's hand contain no cards at all! This is not as easy as it may sound since it must be her turn to cast spells. This spell gives the caster an unlimited hand size for the rest of the round.

Vampire Blood : The caster of this spell must have 8 cards or more in hand and the target must have 4 or fewer. Any four cards are used to cast. The casting cards are then turned over one by one. When each card is turned over one of two things happens. If the card is of the same suit as one in the target's hand then both cards are discarded (target's choice if there are several). If the card does not match then it is picked up into the caster's hand. Also, if at the end of this process the target holds no more cards then she suffers 10 damage and the caster gains 10 damage.

Spirit Theft : The caster must use his entire hand to cast the spell. It requires 8 black cards to cast. The caster of spirit theft may call out the name of a card in their effects phase and if the other player holds that card in their hand then they must hand it over. This does not include golems etc. The spell works for the whole round. The casting cards are picked up into the caster's hand.


The Book of Cabrius :

This famous tome is the work of the great Cabrius Galloway and represents the highest ideals of magic. Sadly, few mages have the patience to pursue these ideals.

Magic Mastery :The caster must use his entire hand to cast the spell. It requires a minimum of 4 cards, all of which must be court cards. In all subsequent turns the caster may cast one extra spell. This may be re-cast multiple times to give 2 extra spells, 3 extra etc.

The Ascension :The caster must have a hand of at least 8 cards. To cast the spell these must all be passed to an opponent of the caster's choice. If the caster wins the round then she recieves double the usual number of points. This spell may not be cast twice in one round by the same caster.

Sacrificial Flame :Cast with an ace and any other card in the same suit. The caster takes 5 damage on successful casting. The target must discard two cards at random.

Path of Purity :Cast with a 7 and any two court cards, all in the same suit. Once only, in the event phase of a later turn, the caster may discard one card. This spell can be in effect multiple times at once, allowing several discards.


The Book of E.C.Dark :

This large volume is the work of one of the most notorious duellists of recent years. Dark's rejection of conventional tactics made many interested in his work.

Create Golem :Cast with any three pairs. Any three of the casting cards are discarded and the other three form a 'golem' which is placed in a separate pile in front of the caster. The cards forming the golem may be used by the caster as if they were in his hand at any time except during his own turn. This is mostly for blocking. Once no cards remain in a golem it is destroyed. If any wizard has two or more golems in play at once they may also use cards from either golem in their own turn. Note that cards in a golem may not be transferred to the caster's hand except as the side effect of a spell.

Freeze : Requires two cards from each suit to cast. One card from each suit is discarded and the rest are picked up into the caster's hand. The target of the spell misses their next two turns. Freeze may be cast again whilst still in effect in which case the turn count is reset.

Stalking Doom : Cast with any two triples. This spell can be blocked by a run of three cards in a suit in the same way as a spirit. If successful then the target suffers two points of damage in the caster's next effects phase, 4 during his following effects phase, then 6, then 8 etc. This process continues indefinitely, adding 2 each time. After each dose of damage the target has another opportunity to block (in the same way as before). As soon as it is blocked once the stalking doom ends.

Undying Warrior : Cast with 4 cards in the same suit of which no 2 are adjacent. Elemental control may not be used for this. Once successfully cast the power of the spell may be discharged when one of the caster's later spells is blocked (caster's choice). The block is immediately cancelled and the blocked spell takes effect. Note that the target may attempt a second block if they are capable of it. It is possible to cast this spell multiple times before it is discharged.


The Book of Form :

Compiled by the great mage Ezekiel of the Mirrors this book contains arguably the most powerful spells known. Rejected by some mages as too difficult.

Call Shadow Force : The caster must use her entire hand to cast the spell. It requires a minimum of 4 cards, all of which must be below 6 in value. Thereafter any mage who attempts to disbelieve one of the caster's spells that is not an illusion will suffer 5 damage per card instead of the usual 2.

Shapechanger : The caster must use her entire hand to cast this spell. It requires a minimum of 4 cards which must either all have the same value or all form a run in suit. Thereafter the caster has the power to shapechange once every time she plays one or more cards. A shapechange allows one of the cards played to be altered in value by 1 point up or down. An ace may not be altered up, nor a 2 altered down. (eg. 5S, 6H, 6C, summon spirit for 18 damage).

Curse : The target of the spell picks a card value and the caster must use a card of that value to cast the spell (if he doesn't have one he must cast anyway, it will be an illusion). If cast successfully the target must give the caster any two cards of her choice from her hand.

Regeneration : Cast with any five 3s, 6s or 9s. From then on the number of cards drawn by the caster increases by 1 for the rest of the round under all circumstances, except where this would exceed the hand size limit. This spell is cumulative.


The Book of the Way :

Written by the Order of Psionic Adepts, this book is little known amongst mages. However, the better duellists seek to learn its lessons, seeing it as the next great step on the road to mastery.

Arcane Ritual : Cast with two runs of three, both in suit (but need not be the same suit). At any point later during the game the caster may draw a separate pile of 10 cards. Some of all of these cards may be used immediately for a single purpose (eg. to help cast one spell) and then any unused ones are discarded. It is possible to cast further Arcane Rituals before the first has been used.

Iron Tower : Cast with one court card from each suit. Thereafter the caster may block fireballs etc. with any suit (as opposed to just the casting suit) and may block successfully with a card of value equal to the highest card in the fireball (as opposed to just greater).

Maze of Webs : The caster must use his entire hand to cast this spell. The casting cards must contain all four suits. Furthermore, all the clubs must be lower valued than all the diamonds which must in turn be lower valued than all the hearts which must themselves be lower valued than all the spades. The number of cards drawn by the target decreases by 1 for the rest of the round under all circumstances. This spell is cumulative.

Ancient Power : Cast with a king and any two cards from the other suit of the same colour. During one of her subsequent effects phases the caster may draw one card of her choice from anywhere in the discard pile.