Dec 13, 2022

Esoteric programming languages as spells and vice versa

An esoteric programming language is a programming language that makes everything harder by design, either as a proof of concept, or just as art.

Take Whitespace for instance, which only consists of white spaces (tab, space, and line feeds), or Piet that uses bitmaps for its input. Extremely impractical, but still; people invent it, and people will use it.

What if spells were that way? I mean, everyone and their dog knows that a wizard must study tomes and prepare spells and rest well and wave their hands and utter incantations with a stern look to cast them - one would assume that that's the most practical way of learning and using spells, because everyone's doing that.

But what if there were free spirited wizards, talented but bored beyond any reasonable means, that invented harder ways of learning the same old spells? Oh you learned magic missile from a tome? I learned it by treating the white space on the page as a labyrinth and forced myself to solve it in less than fifteen seconds.

Or take the esoteric programming language Shakespeare, were everything must be formatted as plays. What if it took the wizard an entire evening in a theatre, with full cast and audience, to learn a simple spell? Or even cast it? Having the number of attendees impact the power of the spell? Or even have the spell being delayed until the first review is in, and if the reviews are positive, the spell succeeds, otherwise it backfires. Slow cooking.

One might say, my players won't use that, that's impractical. But there are lots of non-player characters in a game world, why not make one of them be an esoteric bored wizard that makes things harder for herself, not because she has to, but because she can.


  1. The layout of the dungeon is a spell, and you learn the spell by mapping the level. Level one of the dungeon is a level one spell, all the way down to level none.

    (Maybe the GM checks your map for accuracy and based on that applies a % chance that the spell has an unexpected side effect.)

    1. Oh I like that a lot! That’s really clever.

  2. I had a similar idea except that Brainf*ck (pardon my French) seems more appropriate for tampering with the underlying fabric of the universe. [*ck]