Formatting Cards for "Spells with Character" a RPG system for learning how to spell in Japanese

My question: What could be improved? Is the way to use this card self evident?

The project:

I am at the start of a long project developing an RPG system for learning how to write in Japanese.
I am trying to develop a minimal viable example for a playtest.

The system:

Inspired by No Dice No Masters, players would invoke a “spell component”, a part of the character, and do something in-game associated with it.

Then the player would flip the card, write the character without seeing it, and cast the spell.

The mockup:


Spells with character example


Spells with character example2

The big document, if you want further reference.


Looks very cool and interesting!

I don’t buy the component etymology though. Maybe in Japanese goku has a different interpretation, but in original Chinese texts country is written differently. The simplified version of the character is not ‘monarch’ + ‘tear’ + ‘pearl’, but ‘jade’ inside an ‘enclosure’ (and yeah, jade is basically a ‘monarch’ plus a stroke, but it has its own radical)

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Hi Deodatus, great question. Let me be clear: I am not using the radicals of the characters according to their dictionary definitions. I am using them as narrative components.

Although “country” is easy for most to remember, as we get deeper into the forest we begin to encounter some real problems. For example, here is the formal form of “two”. It’s a relatively complicated character that you might uncommonly see.

How would you remember how to write it?

My answer is to remember it by creating an evocative and memorable story out of its components parts.

But there are some immediate problems we need to grapple with, if we try to make use of a character’s component parts according to their dictionary definitions. Some component parts of the characters either do not have good names (e.g. “⺍”), are boring (e.g. “mouth/enclosure” 口), or they just are difficult to work into a story for every character that they are involved in (e.g. 圭, literally means “squared jewel”, but also fits into the characters “seal”, “katsura tree”, and “water’s edge”).

So my solution to these problems is to reimagine the component parts. While “one” 「一」 is easy to write, I find it is somewhat hard to remember or work into a mnemonic story. So, as a component, I rename it “dagger”; a ‘dagger’ is a much more powerful image than the concept of ‘one’. I can remember “dagger” for a long while.

This story mnemonic method is more conceptual work at the outset, but is a strategy that does pay off.

Here is how I can always recall how to write the formal form of two,「弐」. This is my “story” for it:

"The two participants in the formal duel unsheathed [弋] their blades [二], but one used a dagger [一] aswell and it ended in tears [丶].

As someone who memorizes the kanji like this, I find giving new meanings to components helps make learning more personal and rewarding.

I may not have explained myself well. Did I address your concern?


I haven’t looked at it in a long time, and I don’t know if it addresses your question, but there was a game a while back that did the same type of thing with Korean—using the characters to cast spells in-fiction and whatnot.

Maybe useful?


I literally have this on my bookshelf. Thank you for the recommendation Majcher!

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I have no problem with the mnemonic narrative method, its cool and useful. Also, you made a nice presentation. Its just that you should warn users that it does not mirror the original etymology.


It’s very cool !
Maybe the game works better if players name their own character parts, with your list as a fallback. #empowerment
Beware of typos on page 2 (evocative etc.)