Wizardry: Magic Words

I’ve mentioned a few times that Wizardry uses nonsense words for spells. When you bring up a character’s spell list, it’s displayed as just magic words, with no indication of what they do (this being instead detailed in the manual with just a few inaccuracies); when you cast a spell, you actually type the magic words in. 1Unless it’s CALFO, the spell for detecting traps on chests, which can only be cast from a menu. You learn the words and their meanings pretty quickly, at least for the more useful spells. Once you have a sufficiently powerful priest, you begin every delve with a benediction: MAPORFIC, LOMILWA, LATUMAPIC! These three spells improve your party’s armor class, provide light, and identify every monster you encounter, and last until you leave the dungeon or they’re dispelled.

The interesting thing about these words is that they’re convincingly made up of morphemes. There are recurring stems and affixes. Your basic level-1 fire spell, HALITO, is clearly the basis for the more powerful MAHALITO and LAHALITO, and similarly KATINO, the level 1 sleep spell, gives us the group instant-death spells MAKANITO and LAKANITO, even if they do rearrange the letters a bit. DALTO, which does cold damage, only gets up to MA-. MOLITO (electrical damage) doesn’t get any prefixes at all, but the ending -LITO is suggestively similar to HALITO. Maybe, in this fictional language’s fictional history, DALTO was once spelled DALITO. Even if not, the ending -TO always seems to signify an attack of some kind.

Healing spells go DIOS, DIAL, DIALMA — is that the same MA that we just saw as a prefix? — followed by the resurrection spell, which is simply DI, then MADI, which does a full heal and cures all status conditions. Every single spell in the DI chain has an opposite, formed by prefixing it with BA: BADIOS, BADIAL, etc. Priests are generally more useful as healers than as direct damage dealers that aren’t quite as good at it as mages, but the symmetry is pleasing for its own sake. (Although it’s slightly broken by DIALKO, a spell for curing paralysis, which has no corresponding BADIALKO for inflicting it.)

There’s a level 2 priest spell MATU that improves the party’s armor class by 2 points for the duration of combat, and a level 3 spell BAMATU that improves it by 4 points. But wait, doesn’t BA mean opposite?

Strangely, the spell LATUMAPIC, mentioned above, is clearly a combination of pieces from LATUMOFIS and DUMAPIC, which respectively cure poison and reveal your current map coordinates. It’s not clear how those things relate to identifying monsters, but etymology isn’t always obvious.

Mind you, there are several magic words with no apparent relation to to any other: KALKI, CALFO, LOKTOFEIT, ZILWAN. TILTOWAIT, the mage’s most powerful direct damage spell, and KADORTO, the priest spell for resurrecting someone who was reduced to ash by a failed resurrection attempt, both seem to be the names of gods in the setting. More interesting are the ambiguous ones. Is the LOR in LORTO (a priest spell that attacks with conjured blades) the same as the LOR in MALOR (teleport)? I can stretch to see some sense in that, but it would be more certain if there were any other LOR words. Is KANDI, a spell for locating stranded characters, made of KAN + DI? If so, is that the same KAN as in LITOKAN, a fire spell for priests? Every direct damage spell in the game that isn’t an inverted healing spell ends with -TO, except for LITOKAN, which puts it in the middle.

At one point in Wizardry I, and another point in Wizardry II, there’s a room in the dungeon where a little man in a robe sends you back to town by incanting “MAPIRO MAHAMA DIROMAT”. None of these are spells we know — the closest is MAHAMAN, a top-tier mage spell that calls on the gods for a large favor at the cost of an entire experience level, and which could conceivably be the same word as MAHAMA with a different grammatical ending. But the rest is obscure; the only familiar part is the MA in MAPIRO, which could just as easily really be the MAP seen in DUMAPIC. The big problem with these Heaven’s Vault-ish deciphering attempts is that we just don’t have a lot of data to go on. There are just 50 learnable spells in the entirety of Wizardry IIV, most of them kind of redundant. I understand that there are new spells in V onward, though. That’s something to look forward to.

1 Unless it’s CALFO, the spell for detecting traps on chests, which can only be cast from a menu.

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