Guest Blogger

The Rithmatist Melee

rithmatistIf you have patrons that are Harry Potter fans and would join a Quidditch game, then you should try a Rithmatist Melee from Brandon Sanderson’s book (an Illinois Children’s Choice nominee last year). As explained here, in this story, Joel is the chalkmaker’s son at Armedius Academy. Here the elite children are the rithmatics students who practice drawing magical geometric chalk drawings to eventually protect the citizens of the United Isles at the Tower of Nebrask, where wild chalkings are attacking and trying to get loose. If chalklings escape, they will eat the flesh and eyes of any person they come into contact with. Joel wants more than anything to be a rithmatist, but he failed his inception and is a lowly servant son. While delivering messages to teachers on campus, he hangs around Professor Fitch’s classroom trying to soak up the lessons. Meanwhile, rithmatic students are starting to disappear. Joel sets out to save the school and students.

We wanted to do this program because our teen section is part of the adult department and our youth department ends at 6th grade. At many libraries that are formatted like this (and even some others), when kids are finally kicked out of the youth department into the adult abyss, many of them drop out of the library all-together, only to return when they have their own kids. Our library wanted to put a stop to this and build a bridge between the youth and teen programs, staff and physical space. So I started planning joint programs with our teen librarian, one of them being the Melee.


I also wanted to make this program as a fun way to promote our state award list, the Rebecca Caudill nominees that the kids vote on each February. Each year, our votes have lessened since the schools are focusing more on nonfiction now in the classroom; fewer kids are finding the time for fiction. I also get about 12 copies of each of the award books, so I wanted to get my money’s worth out of the collection.

When doing our research, we found many rithmatic forums where participants talked theoretically about which defenses were the best and how you could beat opponents. However, most of these were adults discussing the mathematical concepts in the book. And no one had actually tried a real melee!

Our first step was to plan the rules so that the game was as close to the book as possible, but still doable. How would we score lines of vigor that couldn’t actually move to attack in real life? How did we score the detail of a chalkling’s body? How did we determine which ruins destroyed which defenses? It was a huge headache to develop a working playbook. We grew a lot of synapses in the process! And brushed up on our math skills, which makes this program a boon for STEM programming for the older groups. Finally, a math related program that wouldn’t put kids to sleep or make them feel like they were in school.


We copied the defenses that we were able to score and thought the kids would actually be able to complete. These were: Sumsion, Ballintain, Matson, Eskridge, Basic Easton, Shoaff, Advanced Easton, and Taylor defenses. There are more in the book and online, we just did not choose all of them. Then we added the information for how to make  the 4 rithmatic lines of making, 2-, 4-,  6-, and 9-point circles, lines of forbiddance, line strength, lines of vigor, and  types of chalklings and how and why to bind them.

At the front of our Rithmatist Handbook, we added our made-up rules for scoring so the kids could see how they could rack up the most points against their opponents. Try to play our game!

We thought about trying to contact Brandon Sanderson to come play with us, but he was in Wisconsin at the time (close, but not close enough).

Circle of Warding

  • Two-Point Circle = 10 pt
  • Four-Point Circle = 12 pt
  • Six-Point Circle = 15 pt
  • Nine-Point Circle = 20 pt

– 1 pt for each mistake (- 4 pts tops)

– 1 pt for each dot or circle signifying a point

Drawn without a ruler, if within 5 degrees of each angle of the triangle:

  • Two-Point Circle = 1 pt
  • Four-Point Circle = 2 pt
  • Six-Point Circle = 3 pt
  • Nine-Point Circle = 6 pt

Lines of Forbiddance

  • Drawn straight without a ruler = 2 pts for each line
  • For each centimeter in thickness = 1 pt for each line
  • After the Battle is initially scored, players will have a chance to edit their lines of forbiddance. They can only edit by dismissing a line of forbiddance (they don’t have to) to release an offensive chalkling. If they don’t, the chalkling is ineffective (no points off).
  • If the line is dismissed, the opponent’s free offensive chalklings can take points off of the player’s remaining score.

Lines of Vigor

  • All lines of vigor should be 12 inches long, and pointing in the direction of the target. Points will be taken off of opponent’s line of forbiddance or circle of warding (whichever it touches first). The direction of target is where the midline of the wave points. Do not draw midline.
  • Once your opponent’s line of forbiddance reaches 0 pts, it is erased. Extra points carry over to the next obstacle (line, circle, chalkling).
  • Each time the wave hits the midline within allotted 12 inches, a point it added.
  • Waves need to be equidistant; -1 pt per mismeasure
  • 13 points maximum (waves can’t be less than an inch apart).

 This would be 8 pts and 12 inches.

Defensive Circles

The only scoring will be +1 pt on bind points for the whole drawing, or -1 pt for faulty bind points.


  • Basic = 2 pts
  • Detailed = 5 pts
  • Defensive chalkings subtract points from opponent’s score. There are no points if the defensive chalkling is not bound to your circle or if it bound with a visible dot.
  • Offensive chalklings add points to player’s score.


Photo courtesy guest blogger

Our guest blogger today is Rachel Reinwald. Rachel is a youth services librarian at Lake Villa District Library. She loves crazy creative projects and researching professional development. She blogs at

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

One comment

  1. Chebett

    Love the Lake Villa Library!! they have great programs for our children

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