Trials of the Magi is a quick and easy role-playing game centered around a Harry Potter inspired world, where arcane scouts track down and test those with the potential for magic. These gathered candidates are required to overcome a crucible of mental simulations in order to prove that they have what it takes to become a fledgling magus.
These tests compose the core fiction of Trials of the Magi, following the players as they guide mental projections of themselves through the strange and treacherous landscapes of the trials. The psychological and imagined nature of these landscapes allows the Game Master to create interesting and creative locations that can bend the laws of reality.
Where Trials of the Magi tries to shake the RPG formula is that in the game's fiction the "real" players are the ones actually being tested by the arcane scout. As such the mental projections that navigate the trials are literal representations of the players. Meaning they look, act and talk just as the players would. Not surprisingly, it is really easy to role-play yourself, making Trials of the Magi a great game for first time players of the hobby. It allows them to get familiar with navigating a shared fiction before trying their hand at more role-play intensive storytelling. This idea of the player being the character is expanded upon in the game’s mechanics, where a character’s strengths and abilities come from a player's real life experiences. These memories are written on custom dry erase cards [or blank Index cards] and a hand of these cards act as a player’s character sheet. No complex calculations or overabundance of stats. Just simple tactile mechanics that allow players to get into the game easily and quickly.
Trials of the Magi includes two decks of cards, the Arcana deck and the Entropy deck.
When faced with a problem players can play their arcana cards to overcome it. The more difficult the challenge, the more cards required. When playing an Arcana Card, a player must justify it's use by incorporating the card's Enigma word in the action being performed.
As an example, when faced with a large chasm of a difficulty of two, 2 cards must be played in order to overcome it. The player can play their "Insect" and "Wind" cards to meet this requirement. Justifying the chosen cards by saying:
"I use my Insect card to grow moth wings on my Pesona's back and ride a powerful gust across, created by my Wind card."
However, Once the cards are played, they are laid on the table and are no longer available for the player to use. In order to return played card to their hand, a player must spend an in game resource called Entropy.
Entropy is represented by a deck of pass or fail cards [substitutable for a standard deck of playing cards]. When trying to overcome an obstacle, a player can choose to draw a card from the Entropy Deck instead of playing one of their Arcana Cards. If the player draws a positive entropy card, the Persona succeeds the action, acting as though an Arcana Card was played. Draw negative entropy however, and the Persona’s situation is complicated and made worse. Each Entropy Card drawn is then held onto by the player and can be spent later in the game to pick up their played Arcana Cards, at the cost of one entropy each.
93 page softcover, 2 decks of cards