Solitaire Storytelling: Grimoire

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you already know who I am, but just in case: Hello there! My name is Cory Deepwood, and I am a witch. I have been practicing for many years, now, learning the ways of the earth and the sky and quite a bit in between. At first it was tradition, passed down from my mother to me . Eventually, though, I began to think of myself as something of a steward, taking care of the lands I have worked on and the people within them. Within these pages are the spells and appurtenances I have used in my craft. Whether I have now passed it to you or you have found it in a dusty library somewhere, I hope you use my Grimoire well.

Sun in the Shadows – Signature Spell

Type: Ward

Potency: Legendary

Components: A firefly in a jar, a jar of ink, a few sticks of charcoal.

Potency: Legendary

Brings the benefits of sunlight to an encircled area. While the light it provides is somewhat dim, all within its bounds can feel the warmth of a bright summer day, and plants and other growing things are nurtured as if they were in a sunny field. Useful for my own work, but have had success in offering it to farmers, miners, and explorers traveling in cold climes.

Reverse Torpefied Terrain

Type: Conjuration

Potency: Sorcery

Components: An hourglass, a sparking glass vial, a handful of peat

Revitalizes soil that has been rendered barren by simple overuse or some other external force, whether mundane or magical. Please note that this spell is primarily used to return once-fertile soil to that state –  making originally barren lands such as those found in desserts and at high elevations requires practice and particularly fine components, as well as frequent reapplication of the spell.

Posologist’s Publication

Type: Enchanted Object

Potency: Sorcery

Components: A bundle of herbs, an old book, a handful of dust

Creates an enchanted book with blank pages. Upon placing a plant, fungus, or other such component on a page, an image of the component will be copied onto it, and the various types and amounts of elements within it are inscribed on the opposite page. Placing a collection of components will do the same, and the inscription will include the expected effects of the mixture.

Sudden Growth

Type: Conjuration

Potency: Legendary

Components: Sunflower seeds, a star-fragment

Causes vegetation to burst forth from the ground, even if the chosen area was barren. What kind of vegetation depends upon the will of the caster – a lapse in concentration or a lack of conviction can mean the conjuration is completely random, both in the variety and the kind of species that manifest. Granted, there are times when I have found that to be useful or interesting.

Storm Strix

Type: Conjuration

Potency: Legendary

Components: A firefly in a jar, a handful of river-amber, a drop of owl’s blood

Creates a small, living stormcloud in the shape of an owl which obeys your commands. With claws of wind and feathers of lightning, the storm strix makes for an excellent guardian that can keep a weather eye out and fight without risking yourself.

Also handy for dealing with stubborn rodents in the herb garden.

Aviary Summons

Type: Conjuration

Potency: Enchantment

Components: A love-letter, a handful of dried petals, a small figurine of a bird

Summons birds to the caster, enables communication with them, and makes them amenable to the caster’s requests for a time. Useful for gathering small items (such as more components), sending messages, and the like. Do note that that the spell summons all birds within a certain radius, and depending on the quality of the components the radius may be quite large indeed. Use this spell near pigeon-infested parks or seagull-cursed beaches at your own risk.

Waning Desire

Type: Potion

Potency: Sorcery

Components: A jar of honey, an intense wish, a bottle of acid

Eases the pang of longing for something beyond your grasp – applications are wide, from material wealth to the love of another. Be aware that while the effect only lasts for a time, overuse can lead to a sort of all-encompassing apathy. I advise using the time from the initial dose to find something equally satisfying but more attainable to satisfy the base problem.

Authority Over Adam’s Ale

Type: Conjuration

Potency: Enchantment

Components: A song, a thin, twisting chain, a bottle of spring-water

Grants precise control over water. Extremely varied uses – adjusting the course of streams, pulling moisture out of the air to mist over the garden, boiling a pot, holding off a leak, filling a well, ice cubes for drinks, etc. Note that while it can pull water out of almost any place it is present it cannot create water, and the spring water used as a component is consumed, so it cannot be used infinitely.

Between Anna Landin‘s Grimoire and last month’s Cryptid Apothecary, Solitaire Storytelling seems to have stumbled into a sub-genre of the solo journaling RPG, that of an arcane practitioner cataloguing their techniques, in this case the eponymous witch’s grimoire. I’ve got something different lined up for next month, promise, but in the meantime: this is pretty neat!

The first step in playing Grimoire is to create the witch whose grimoire you’ll be crafting. What is their name? What are their pronouns? Why are they practicing magic: intellectual pursuit, following in another’s footsteps, thirst for power, protecting something, etc.? What is the theme of their magic? Cory here ended up being very growth and nature based, but your witch might dabble in alchemy, harness dreams and mystery, experiment with elements, or wrangle stars and shadows. The experience and ability aren’t decided here, but rather through play, so you don’t really go into the game with more than that. I should also note that Landin refers to Grimoire as a spiritual sequel to another game, Steading, wherefrom you might bring a ready-to-play witch and skip this first step entirely.

The building blocks of a spell are the cards, of which there will be two or three per spell, that tell you both what components the spell uses and how strong the spell is. Each card in the deck (except the jokers, which are removed before play) corresponds to a unique component, with the suites overall forming a broad category. Diamonds are catalysts like a pouch of gunpowder or a set of glowing stones. Clubs come from nature, such as a chunk of meteor iron or a chimera’s horn. If you want to include an artifact then you’ll be hoping for spades to bring you something like a chess piece or an intricate clockwork mechanism. The name of something ancient or words in a dead language are found among the immaterial components, found on hearts.

Each card has a value, usually equal to its number, with jacks being 11, queens being 12, kings being 13, and aces being 14. As you add cards together to create a spell, the total value of the cards tells you the spell’s Potency. Cantrips are the weakest spells, then Enchantments, Sorceries, and then finally the mighty Legendaries. The Potency helps guide you in crafting the spell. The example given is that a water cantrip would fill a glass with clear water, while a water legendary would create a tidal wave – from everyday spells to real show-stoppers. Cantrips have a value ranging from 4-11, while you need a value of 33+ in order for a spell to be legendary. Any spell that includes an Ace is also automatically legendary, which does make me wonder why it is assigned a number value at all, but given the kind of components they represent (like a whispered secret) one can’t argue with the effect.

So, those are the building blocks – how does it actually work?

First, you create your Signature Spell – this is the spell that is your witch’s calling card, the magical incantation they are most known for. You draw three cards from the deck, and combine them however you want. You could combine all three, you could just use two. Either way, you record the spell’s components and potency and then use those two ‘prompts’ to help you create the spell: you name it, determine what type of spell it is, and describe it. Then you shuffle the three cards back into the deck.

For the rest of the spells, you roll 1d6: that is how many hands of seven cards you will draw over the course of the game. Upon drawing the first seven cards, you use them to create more spells in the exact manner as you did the Signature Spell, with two or three cards each. There’s one additional bit, though: if you use a hand to create two spells with three cards each, the leftover card can be set aside, and added to another spell in the next hand. If you have any leftover cards by the time you’re done drawing your hands, you can instead add their value (but not their component) to an existing spell to increase its Potency.

So, for example, I got a 3 on the die, which means three hands of seven cards. A leftover five of spades was added to Aviary Summons in the second hand, A leftover two of clubs from the third hand was used to push Sun in the Shadows over the threshold to Legendary, while Sudden Growth leapt to Legendary status with the ace of diamonds,

There are a few others tidbits to help guide your spellcrafting. First, you have to create at least four spells – easily attained with the Signature Spells and one three-card and two two-card spells even if you only got one hand. Second, there are four types of spells: wards, conjurations, enchantments, and potions. Each type (once chosen) can serve as a third prompt when creating a spell, but also come with a requirement: you have to have at least three different types of spell within your grimoire. Cory here had a ward, a conjuration, and an enchanted object by the end of their first hand for example, fulfilling this requirement.

With all the hands drawn, cards put together, and spells created the grimoire is complete: “What you do with these spells – whether you use them to tell a story, or bring them with you into another game, or simply let this bundle of magic sit in a desk drawer as a reminder of your spellcrafting – is up to you.”

I found Grimoire a little more challenging than usual, actually. Everything about a spell aside from the bare bones is up to the player to create, and that can be a little daunting for your first time playing because so much is open to your interpretation. Having a strong idea of who your witch is ahead of time will be very helpful for this. Personally, I also found it easier to ‘roll ahead’ a bit to find out how many hands and what kind of components I was going to work with, as it helped me get a better feel for how experienced Cory was. While I didn’t do it myself, I think another helpful trick would be to pick your ‘difficulty’. If you want an easier crafting effort with a rookie practitioner, simply choose to draw a single hand. If you want to end up with the grimoire of the Witch of All Witches, choose to draw six hands.

The reason so much is open to interpretation is because there’s so much variety, so there’s a direct line from the potential creative writing challenge of the game to its quality. 4 types of spells, each of which have a lot of variety just within themselves, 52 unique and interesting components!  4-19 complete spells! Yes, the amount that’s left up to you might be challenging, but that also means great creative freedom. I could play Grimoire again just with Cory and create a unique Volume 2 of their grimoire if I wanted… and I think I just might.

You can get your own copy of Grimoire for $7, which comes with the sepia-toned pdf, an accessible plain text version, and some nice page template print-outs that include a spot to illustrate your spell if you are so inclined. You can find the rest of the offerings from Anna Landin/Tea Witch Games on,

Now, Cory has a few more components lying here. I wander what they can do with some braided vines, a needle and thread, and a long-held grudge…

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