Hey everyone, first-time author here. I’ve been lurking on the forums for a decent stretch of time, and after a great deal of hemming and hawing, I’ve finally decided to ignore my crippling lack of confidence and try my hand at writing a story of my own. This is my first foray into interactive fiction, so I have no idea what I’m doing! (Naturally, my first response, therefore, was to make my first project long and ambitious, and probably ultimately unwieldy. I’m sure nothing will go wrong with this plan.)
Spellbound: A Ghost Story is the story of a ghost, who is bound by a spell. (Hint: that’s you.) It’s primarily a fantasy story—both modern and medieval, with chapters taking place in both eras—with just a dash of mystery thrown in there so I can make it look like this whole thing was really well thought out. You play as a disembodied spirit—a remnant from a much older era, floating listlessly through your seemingly endless (un)life, before getting unwittingly caught up in a magical conspiracy, all while struggling to remember your long-gone life from ages past. For more details, see the Summary header below.
Once upon a time, you were a legend—a warrior of unparalleled skill, who rose from nothing but wielded the power to change everything. To some you were a savior, a shining beacon of hope; to others, a cancer, too stubborn to stamp out. With an army of followers, you waged a decade-long war against the kingdom that slaughtered your family and razed your village to the ground—until finally the day came that you faced the greatest battle of your life, the battle that would tip the scales in your favor, and lead you and your troops down the path to victory.
Then you died.
Betrayed by your closest ally, the one man that stood by you through thick and thin, you were cut down, your soul rent from your body and cast into the world, invisible and unheard. Then your standing army fell, helpless without your command. Without your army, your crusade fell to pieces, just another footnote in history. Seasons changed and ages passed, countries rose and fell, and the world kept turning. You watched it all go by, a silent phantom in an ever-changing world. And there was nothing you could do about it.
That was 800 years ago.
Now, you are here, an age-lost spirit drifting through a world that moved on without you. You currently reside in the vast city of Stillport—if residing is something that you can be said to do, when you don’t sleep or eat. You have no idea how you’ve maintained your sanity all these centuries, though you suspect that the gradual decay of your slowly fading memories has something to do with it. Some days, you remember your ages-past crusade like it was yesterday; other days, you barely remember your own name. Your daily routine is a whole lot of nothing—people-watching, mostly, sometimes reading a book over someone’s shoulder, or slipping into houses to watch television. Mostly, you wait for the day you inevitably fade away forever, forgotten by the world—with dread or with longing, you’re not yet sure which.
Until today. A day like any other, until the explosion. That strange sensation you feel, dragging you toward it, familiar, like a magnet. The blast of dark energy that slays everyone in its vicinity, and shreds your feeble soul to fibers—just like the blast that killed you so long ago. And, of course, the mage—the first one you’ve encountered in centuries, and now, your only link to the rest of the world.
To save your (un)life, you’re forced to bind your soul to her, tethering your existence to the whims of a young, impulsive sorceress who seems determined to risk her own life, and now, by extension, yours. Still, she’s the best shot you’ve got at getting what you want, whatever that may be—conjuring a new body for yourself, learning magic, discovering time travel, or maybe, just maybe, saving the world.
Until then, you’re spellbound.
Your contemporary compatriots, whether you like it or not. After 800 years alone, this is somehow the best company you could find.
Magical Specialty: Transmutation
Romanceable by: Any gender
Appearance: Fair skin. Average height and build. Shoulder-length auburn hair, hazel eyes flecked with silver, with round glasses. Wears a fancy cap at a jaunty angle, and an olive-green jacket with several pins attached to it, over a plaid flannel shirt. Generally looks like she tried to blend ‘trendy’ with ‘hipster’ and ended up with something that didn’t quite accomplish either one.
An impulsive and excitable young mage with a penchant for biting off more than she can chew—and your spellbound companion, for better or worse. Haphazardly self-taught, which makes her staunch confidence in her abilities troubling at best and life-threatening at worst (that second one is the part that concerns you). Not as smart as she thinks she is.
Magical Specialty: Manipulation (AKA Telekinesis)
Romanceable by: Male and female
Appearance: Light brown skin. Tall, lean. Well-groomed black hair with a goatee, dark brown eyes swirling with a hint of purple. Wears a dark blue suit at all times, accompanied by a magus cloak while on magical business.
A cool and confident magus, savvy negotiator, and typically the most capable person in any given room. The current head of the illustrious Cortez family of magical adepts, despite being the youngest of his generation. Exactly as smart as he thinks he is, and not afraid to show it.
Magical Specialty: Witchcraft
Romanceable by: Female only
Appearance: Unusually pallid skin. Average height, unhealthily thin. Long black hair, deep red eyes. Wears a long black gown with feathers adorning her shoulders, and a wide-brimmed witch hat that crooks at the tip. Frowns often.
A surly and fastidious witch who rarely interacts with other people, and would very much prefer to keep it that way. Despite her relative youth, she earnestly believes that the “old ways” of magic are better, and still insists on mixing her potions in cauldrons, making dangerous contracts with otherworldly beings, and generally being as feared and misunderstood as humanly possible. She is never too far from her imp familiar, Qolvar, which is frankly all the company she needs, thank you very much.
Magical Specialty: Apparition (AKA Illusion)
Romanceable by: Any gender
Appearance: Fair skin. Tall and wiry. Intentionally messy blond hair; eyes are obscured behind a fancy white Venetian-style half-mask. Wears a somewhat ostentatious white suit with gold trim and a cravat.
A mysterious and eccentric masked man who somehow worms his way into your company. Generally regarded as both convivial and melancholic, in more or less equal measure. He seems unusually interested in you, or perhaps he just likes the cut of your jib (he claims it’s the latter). May or may not be harboring a deadly secret.
Dr. Andrei Malikov
Magical Specialty: Theory
Romanceable by: Female and nonbinary
Appearance: Lightly tanned skin. Somewhat short for a man; average build. Messy ash-brown hair, blue eyes with round glasses. Wears plain, professional clothing that he probably hasn’t properly ironed in a while.
An enthusiastic physicist and tinkerer who finds himself on the wrong side of history. Nevertheless, a genuinely affable man who passionately believes that there exists an undiscovered theory that can scientifically reconcile magical principles with Newtonian physics. Always eager to discuss and debate his theories with others, even (or especially) those who disagree with him. Your existence fascinates him more than is, perhaps, entirely healthy.
Det. Farah Kensington
Magical Specialty: N/A
Romanceable by: Male and nonbinary
Appearance: Dark skin. Above average height, athletic build. Bushy black hair, haphazardly tied back; light brown eyes. Dresses professionally while on the job, but switches to a black leather jacket and scarf when off-duty.
A passionate young police detective who (initially) has no knowledge of magic, but quickly intuits that there’s something deeply unnatural about the mass deaths around the city. As such, she has dedicated herself to a one-woman hunt for truth and justice. Unfortunately for you, her prime suspect at the moment is your hapless partner in crime, Valerie Castella.
In addition to the above six, there will be one (1) secret RO, whose identity shall remain hidden for their own protection.
Flashback characters. Present in the past.
Age: Same as you
Magical Specialty: Animation (AKA Spirit Magic)
Appearance: Pale. Average build, on the tall side. A mop of black hair that naturally looks good, even though he does nothing to style it. Stormy gray eyes that later start to swirl with black as his magical power increases. Kind of a pretty boy. Wears dark clothing.
Your most trusted companion, until he wasn’t. Secretive, irreverent, and smug since the day you met him, and yet he never gave you a reason to seriously distrust him, until the day he slaughtered half your army and ripped your soul out of your body. Worse, you can’t help but notice that the recent attacks on Stillport bear an eerie similarity to his style of magic…
Age: One year younger
Appearance: Fair skin. Slight build; short as a teenager, but later undergoes a growth spurt and becomes rather tall. Thin face, delicate features. Long wavy strawberry blonde hair, light green eyes. Tends to wear greens and blues. Likes frilly, feminine clothing, sometimes to the point of impracticality.
Callum’s childhood sweetheart, and a royal pain in your ass for a significant portion of your life. Pompous and elitist, and possibly the most stubborn human being you have ever encountered in over 800 years of existence. You feel like you’ve forgotten a lot about her over the years…or maybe you’re just willfully blocking her out of your memory.
Dyren of Landry
Age: Eight years your junior
Appearance: Fair skin. Lanky, tall. Extremely unkempt blond hair. Blue-gray eyes. Generally looks gaunt and poorly-rested. Dresses simply.
Your best scout, despite his relative youth. Somber and skittish, and perennially distrustful of magic—not helped by his persistent animosity with Callum. He really looked up to you, until you got him killed.
Divided by subject matter, for your convenience.
How long will this game be?
The plan is to have ten chapters for each timeframe—both present-day and the medieval-era flashbacks—plus the prologue and epilogue (and Chapter 0, I guess, if you want to count that). Given that the prologue alone (which was supposed to be on the short side) is over 20,000 words, my best guess is that the whole game will be somewhere in the range of ~500,000 to ~600,0000, but given how easily the prologue got away from me in terms of length, I wouldn’t be shocked if it ended up being even longer. We’ll see.
How often do you plan to update?
Honestly, my work ethic is pretty garbage, so expect updates scarcely and sporadically. The day I announce an official update schedule is the day you’ll know that I’ve finally been killed and impersonated.
When will this be finished?
I have no earthly idea. Given the length of the game and the snail-pace at which I’m writing it, probably years from now.
Is there, or will there ever be, a Discord/Patreon/Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Subreddit/Myspace/LiveJournal for this game?
There is a Discord, which you can find in the External Link(s) section. I’ll consider Patreon if I ever end up with a big enough fanbase that I feel its existence is warranted.
You know there’s already a WIP where you play as a ghost, right?
Yes, I’m very much aware. In fact, I’ll admit to experiencing a touch of panic when I first saw it, because I immediately worried my game might draw comparisons when I finally got around to posting it. However, having tried Ghost Simulator myself, I can say with some certainty that beyond the basic premise of “ghost protagonist trying to remember their past”, the two games have very little overlap in terms of ideas or presentation, and I think anybody who actually plays through both demos will agree with me on that front.
But since we’re on the subject, Ghost Simulator is a fine game that you should check out if you haven’t already. It’s a more classic portrayal of ghostly shenanigans than my game, which takes more of a fantasy-genre “spirit guide” approach—so if you’re finding yourself disappointed by the lack of horror elements in Spellbound, Ghost Simulator might be more your speed. (Of course, you could also just play and enjoy both games. That would be my preference, personally.)
Wait, how do you already have a Frequently Asked Questions section when nobody has actually asked you any of these questions yet?
Hey, I didn’t say people asked me these questions! They’re frequently asked in general!
Well, except the ones that are about my game specifically. I guess those are just excuses for me to talk to myself.
Why even bother writing a FAQ when nobody is going to read it, and everybody is just going to ask all these questions anyway?
So I can shame people for not reading it, I guess. Consider yourself one of the lucky few to avoid this ill fate.
Where does Spellbound take place? Do real-life countries exist, and is Stillport in one of them?
The world that Spellbound takes place in is technically fictitious, but it’s still essentially a version of Earth, and (at least in the modern day) a pretty close approximation of the world we live in. The countries in our world probably don’t exist in exactly the forms we’re familiar with, but since international politics aren’t really relevant to the present-day storyline, I don’t feel particularly inclined to define that one way or the other. I guess the best I can give you is that Stillport is probably somewhere in the Spellbound equivalent of the US, just because I’m from there, and therefore all the terminology and dialect in the game will be American.
I guess this doesn’t really explain why the characters in the past era all talk like modern-day Americans too, when the flashbacks implicitly take place in the equivalent of medieval Europe, but I’m willing to leave that one up to people’s suspensions of disbelief.
How does magic work? Can anyone learn magic? Can I?
This requires a more complex answer than I can give right now (there will probably be some optional exposition about this in-game, if you’re still interested by then), but the long and short of it is that magic flows through all people, but only people born with the “gift” can learn to actually harness it. As a ghost, you’re sort of an exception—since your current state of existence is inherently magical in nature, as is the bond you form with Valerie, you’ll gain the option to learn a limited selection of magical effects, including a few that approximate what one could consider “spells”.
What do the magical specialties mean? Are there different kinds of magic?
Again, this information will probably be in the game at some point, and in greater detail. The short answer is that there are twelve schools of magic—Conjuration, Transmutation, Disintegration, Manipulation, Conversion, Disruption, Divination, Apparition, Vexation, Amplification, Animation, and Affliction—sorted into four branches of three schools each, known as the Weave, the Whelm, the Will, and the Wight, which correspond to the elements of matter, energy, thought, and life/soul, respectively.
Mages have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the various schools of magic, and while all mages are theoretically capable of mastering any or all of the schools, most specialize in one and dabble in two or three others (often, but not always, within the same branch). For example, Cortez is a master of Manipulation, but he’s also proficient in Conversion and Disruption, all three of which are schools in the Whelm branch.
How do I get ____ to like me? I’m always nice/supportive with them, but their relationship stats aren’t going up!
It’s definitely possible that it’s a bug or misjudgment on my part (even I make mistakes sometimes!), but it’s also worth considering the possibility that being nice or supportive just isn’t what the character wants or needs in that scenario. Every character is different, and the simplest solution isn’t always the correct one—not everyone wants mindless praise, for example.
My recommendation is to take some time and put some thought into figuring out who each character is and what kind of behavior they’d likely be receptive to. This might take some trial and error when you’re first getting to know someone (not everyone is open with their feelings, after all), but my hope is that over time, readers will be able to identify patterns in the ROs’ tastes on their own.
If you’re really struggling with this and need some hints, though, feel free to make a post on the subject and maybe I’ll give you some pointers…if I’m feeling generous.
How do I romance ____? How does romance work in general?
Well, this question doesn’t really apply to the game in its current state, since romance hasn’t been implemented yet. But I’ll answer it anyway, for posterity.
Assuming you’re talking about one of the characters who is actually an RO, and you’re a gender compatible with their orientation, the main requirement for most characters will be a high enough value in their Fondness and/or Respect stats. Note that different ROs will have different requirements—for example, Valerie will be easier to romance if you have a high Fondness stat with her, while Respect is more important when romancing Cortez.
I don’t have the exact structure of how romance is going to work planned out, but my tentative guess is that there’ll be scenes sprinkled throughout the game where you can optionally express interest in one of the ROs, who may or may not be receptive depending on how high their stats are. This won’t be considered a commitment, and the actual for-real choice for who you want to romance will come late in the game (Chapter IX?), meaning you won’t be officially locked in (or out!) of a romance until then.
As a note, the flirting feature’s existence will depend on how well I’m able to write flirting options in the first place, which are pretty far outside my comfort zone as a writer (and as a person, for that matter). If I decide not to stick with it, romance will still fundamentally work the same way (you’ll build up your relationships with the characters throughout the game, then make a choice near the end), it’s just that you won’t get as much romantic content throughout the game in general.
The main exception to these rules is the secret RO, because that romance is structured differently from all the other romance paths, but that’s all I’m going to say on that front for now!
So romance is going to be slow-burn, then?
I guess so. I’m aware that’s not everyone’s preference when it comes to romance, but it’s the only kind I have even the remotest idea how to write, so it’s what I’m sticking with.
Why are some of the romances gender-locked?
Because I write my characters with canon sexualities. You can find a more detailed explanation for why this is here.
I understand why some people don’t like this, but it’s how I prefer to do things, and that’s probably never going to change. Sorry if that’s not your cup of tea.
Will the secret RO be similarly restricted by gender?
No, the secret RO is pansexual.
Who is the secret RO, anyway?
Well, it wouldn’t be very “secret” if I just told you—
It’s Callum, isn’t it?
Uhh, I mean, I’m not definitively ruling that possibility out, but—
What about the villain? Can I romance the villain??
You don’t even know who the villain is yet!
But can I romance them??
Oh man, I love violent, unhealthy romances with selfish, homicidal bad guys! I can’t wait!!
…Well, you’ll have to.
Also, that’s not a question.
Hey, can I be the selfish, homicidal bad guy? I’m so sick of all these games that force you to play as a decent, reasonable person who doesn’t kill or manipulate anyone!
…Uh. Right. Apparently a lot of people feel this way? Which is, you know, completely normal and not at all unnerving.
In all seriousness, though, I guess my answer would be…sort of. There will never be an option to play a sociopathic, serial-killing psycho. (Apologies to all the serial killers reading this.) The protagonist is fundamentally written as a character who believes (or once believed) in something, and their entire backstory is fueled by an innate desire to right wrongs in the world. However, there will be options later in the game that could be considered “evil” in the deontological sense, where you can go against the conventional definition of “good” and make selfish, extreme, or even ruthless decisions—and people might die as a result.
Hopefully that’s close enough to satiate your bloodlust!
Will you make ____ an RO?
The only ROs, now and in the future, are the ones mentioned under the “Romanceable Companions” section—nobody else will be “made” into one. If the character you’re asking about isn’t one of the six main companions, your best bet is to hold onto that desperate glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, the object of your desire will happen to be the secret RO.
Speaking of which, who is the secret RO? Is it—
Will there be any poly options?
No. Romance in general is already pretty far outside my wheelhouse, so I don’t expect this to change in the foreseeable future, either.
What about sexual content?
Probably not. There might be some implied sex, but definitely nothing explicit.
Why are all these questions about romance?
Because that’s what people care about, I guess.
But there’s stuff in this game besides romance, right?
Yes, very much so. Romance is 100% optional, and even in the romance paths, the explicitly romantic content will actually comprise a pretty small percentage of the game.
Buuuut, I know a lot people like to plan their whole playthroughs around who they’ll eventually end up with, so I’m fine with clarifying stuff on that front.
Like who the secret RO is? I’m really hoping it’s a bad guy—
Oh, look, it’s the end of the FAQ section!
If you have any questions that aren’t listed here, feel free to ask, and maybe I’ll answer them! (But no promises.) And who knows—if you ask something particularly uninspired, it might even get added to this already-way-too-long FAQ!
Stuff depicted in uploaded chapters:
- Semi-graphic violence, mass death, and war
- Possible suicidal ideation (depending on player choices)
- Moderate profanity (f-word and below)
- Classism, mentions of other prejudicial attitudes
Stuff depicted in future chapters (subject to change/expand):
- Chauvinism and (non-violent) transphobia, possible (also non-violent) homophobia
- Mental illness, including (but not necessarily limited to) depression and anxiety
- Non-violent bullying and harassment
- Mental and emotional child abuse (mostly, but not exclusively, limited to accounts rather than onscreen depictions)
February 12, 2020
Chapter I-2 has been released to the public. The current build of the game contains ~52,000 words, which means the length of the whole game has been re-estimated to “even longer than before, somehow”. Scientists are still wondering how this story got made in the first place.
January 22, 2020
Does the original posting count as an update? I contend that it does.
The first build of the game includes the prologue through the first third(?) of Chapter I, clocking in at ~35,000 words. The prologue alone is over 20,000 words, so I anticipate the whole game being somewhere approximately around the ballpark of “way too long”. Here’s hoping my readers have long attention spans!
…And that’s it for now! Maybe someday I’ll make other stuff worth posting here.
And so, without further ado, the demo. Let me know what you think!
Or just ignore all my flaws and mindlessly praise me. I’m fine with that too.