Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Practical Magic for the WitchCraft RPG

Practical Magic

Note: I am not setting this up as one of my October Movies since it is not really horror, and I have seen it so many times now that I could not count it.

FOR MORE THAN two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town. If a damp spring arrived, if cows in the pasture gave milk that was runny with blood, if a colt died of colic or a baby was born with a red birthmark stamped onto his cheek, everyone believed that fate must have been twisted, at least a little, by those women over on Magnolia Street. It didn't matter what the problem waslightning, or locusts, or a death by drowning. It didn't matter if the situation could be explained by logic, or science, or plain bad luck. As soon as there was a hint of trouble or the slightest misfortune, people began pointing their fingers and placing blame. - Intro to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (and the movie as a voice over by Aunt Jet).

Sally Owens: I dream of a love that even time will lie down and be still for.

While I set out to like The Craft and didn't so much, I was also set to dislike Practical Magic and found it to be very enjoyable. Sure both Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock can get on my nerves at times, they both turned out a very enjoyable performance. What really increased my enjoyment of this film was the book.

Practical Magic is based on the novel written by Alice Hoffman. Ill admit that I have never read anything else of hers and I read this book only after seeing the movie. But I am glad I finally did. Despite the title and subject matter, Practical Magic is not really about magic or witches but about sisters and their bond. It is also about love, both platonic and romantic, but mostly about a deep connection between people. Hoffman showcases this with her portrayal of the three generations of Owens witches; Frances and Bridget, Sally and Gillian, and Antonia and Kylie. It is interesting to note that the only Owens witch without a sister is Maria, the same Maria whose spell against love turns into the Owens Curse.

Practical Magic, the movie, has a lot going for it. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman make very fetching witch sisters. It is the first major roles for future stars Goran Visnjic (Hotel Sarajevo was his break out role, but this was his big American one) and Rachel Wood. Plus I always liked Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest from their earliest works as well, not to mention a soundtrack by Stevie Nicks. Although she had no lines, I also thought Caprice Benedetti was great as Owens clan matriarch Maria.

The Movie vs The Book
The movie is really is more in line with the universe of WitchCraft than the book (the witches have more power), but the book is much better. The movie and the book do have some significant differences. In the book Sally spends a great deal of time away from the Aunts to try to live a normal life, only to discover that normal is not really what she wanted. This is touched upon in the movie, but not to the same degree. There is more interaction with and between Sallys daughters Antonia and Kylie in the book. Plus the movie reverses the two daughters and has them a little younger. In the movie Jimmy Angelov is Bulgarian and a lady killer in the figurative and literal sense. In the book Jimmy Hawkins is American and just a dumb hood that sells some kids some bad drugs. Both are though are close enough to each other to me to be the same character, so I opt for using Angelov. Goran Visnjic gave an inspired performance as Eastern European-cowboy-Dracula; much more interesting than Hawkins punk thug. Besides, a drunk Goran Visnjic singing You Were Always on My Mind while planning to kill Gillian is very creepy. Not the same creepy as his I am really into sisters now, but still creepy.

So where the movie and book differ, I am likely to go with the book. Ill use the casting from the movie, keep the movies power level for the witches and minor bits here and there.

The Owens Sisters
Each generation of Owens sisters is presented below. You will notice that in most respect the sisters, while physically different from each other, have very similar stats. This is on purpose. The sisters were one part of the genesis of my Anamchara Quality and my example of their use for non-romantic love and for WitchCraft.
In the case of these stats I kept them at the power level and age they were in the movie (the movie was out in 1998).

Gillian Owens: You southern shrew!
Aunt Jet Owens: Ingrate!
Aunt Frances Owens: Goodie two shoes!
Sally Owens: WITCH!

Associations and Concepts
Well, Alice Hoffman didn't consult with C.J. first, so the Owens don't quite fit, but that is not to say we can't make them fit somewhere. Their attitudes, powers and history remind the most of the Wicce. They, Frances and Jet in particular, are great Weird Ones, but really Eccentric ones would be a better choice of words.

Aunt Frances Owens (Stockard Channing)

Sally Owens: All I want is a normal life.
Aunt Frances Owens: My darling girl, when are you going to understand that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage!

Aunt Frances is the older of the two aunts. She is tall, thin, formidable and looks very much like a Harry Potter witch. If we continue with the book timeline she would 90 today, and most likely still alive.

Strength: 1 Intelligence: 4
Dexterity: 2 Perception: 6
Constitution: 2 Willpower: 5

Life Points: 32
Essence Pool: 51

Skills: Rituals (Wicce) 5, Driving (car, standard transmission) 1, First Aid 1, Herbal Medicine 4,
Qualities: The Gift, Essence Channelling 3, Increased Essence Pool 6
Drawbacks: Accursed (The Owens Curse), Emotional Problems (Fear of Commitment) 1, Status -1
Metaphysics: Affect the Psyche 3, Cleansing 4, Consecration 2, Symbols of Protection 3

Aunt Bridget Jet Owens (Dianne Wiest)

Aunt Jet: This is what comes from dabbling; I mean you can't practice witchcraft while you look down your nose at it.

While Frances would allow the girls to eat chocolate cake for breakfast because others say she cant, Aunt Jet would let them do it because she cant say no to them. Cheerful, plump, short, she would be 88 in 2010

Strength: 1 Intelligence: 5
Dexterity: 2 Perception: 6
Constitution: 2 Willpower: 5

Life Points: 32
Essence Pool: 52

Skills: Rituals (Wicce) 6, First Aid 2, Gardening 4, Herbal Medicine 4,
Qualities: The Gift, Charisma 2, Essence Channelling 3, Increased Essence Pool 6
Drawbacks: Accursed (The Owens Curse), Emotional Problems (Fear of Commitment) 1, Status -1
Metaphysics: Affect the Psyche 3, Cleansing 4, Consecration 2, Symbols of Protection 3

Frances and Jet thought they were going to die together at ages 94 and 92 respectively. That all changed when they had to take in their youngest sisters daughters Sally and Gillian after her death. They raised the girls as their own for years. Their own husbands had died years ago due to the Owens Curse. Frances and Jet are old-school witches. They dress in all black, with funny hats to hide (barely) wild and crazy hair. They ran a very successful, but secret (secret in the way that everyone knew but no one ever talked about it) potion business. They provided potions to cure all sorts of ailments, the get rid of spirits, but most famously were their love potions. They would warn the women who came to them that they were asking for trouble, but in the end they took the money and women left with a small vial. The Owens sisters where also well known for their gardens. When spring came theirs would be in full bloom with jasmine, rosemary, verbena and garlic while their neighbors would still be muddy from the thawing snow. The lilac, lavender and roses grown there could be smelled from blocks away.

Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock)

Sally Owens: Since when is being a slut a crime in this family?

Strength: 2 Intelligence: 5
Dexterity: 2 Perception: 6
Constitution: 3 Willpower: 5

Life Points: 34
Essence Pool: 26

Skills: Rituals (Wicce) 2, Craft (botanicals) 3, Herbal Medicine 3
Qualities: The Gift, Attractiveness 1, Essence Channelling 1 (3), Increased Essence Pool 1, Anamchara (Gillian)
Drawbacks: Accursed (The Owens Curse), Emotional Problems (Fear of Commitment) 1, Impaired Seneses*
Metaphysics: Affect the Psyche 2, Cleansing 1, Elemental Fire 1

*Cant see orange since her first husbands death (from the truck that hit him).

Sally Owens wanted nothing more to live a normal life. Her mother died soon after her father did. He died from the Owens Curse, she died from a broken heart. So she and her sister Gillian went to live with her two aunts. From a very early age Sally displayed the greatest potential, but she turned her back on magic and witchcraft to avoid the curse. She even tried to avoid love, but as fate would have it she fell in love with man named Micheal, got married and had two wonderful daughters. They opened an herbal bath products store. Sally used her knowledge of herbs to create botanicals. Then one day she heard the Deathwatch Beetle clicking away the minutes of her husbands life, Sally ran to find her husband, only to see him get hit by an orange truck. She spent the next year depressed and never left her bed.
One day her sister comes back into her life.

Gillian Owens (Nicole Kidman)

Gillian Owens: Hang onto your husbands, girls!

Strength: 2 Intelligence: 3
Dexterity: 2 Perception: 6
Constitution: 3 Willpower: 4

Life Points: 32
Essence Pool: 26

Skills: Rituals (Wicce) 2, Craft (botanicals) 3, Herbal Medicine 3
Qualities: The Gift, Attractiveness 2, Essence Channelling 1 (3), Increased Essence Pool 1, Anamchara (Sally)
Drawbacks: Accursed (The Owens Curse), Emotional Problems (Fear of Commitment) 1, Mental Problems (Mild Lechery)
Metaphysics: Affect the Psyche 2, Cleansing 1, Mind Hands 3/3

Gillian was the younger of the two Owens sisters. She was the partier. While Sally even at a young age tried to get her homework done, eat her vegetables and go to bed at a decent hour, Gillian was running off with first one boy or another. Soon boys that were terrified of her when she was a preteen, couldnt stop following her when became a teenager and adult. If Sally inherited Maria Owens magic, then Gillian inherited her ability to break hearts and turn other women against her.

Gillian and Sally also have the Anamchara Quality, WitchCraft version. While there is obviously a strong love here, it is the sisterly type. The type born out of tragedy, only Gillian understood Sally and visa versa. While they were as different as night and day, they were really one complete person. Maybe this is a by-product of the Owens Curse, since no man could become their soul mate they needed a proper substitute.

It would be interesting to see if the same unfolded for Antonia and Kylie.

Antonia Owens, 16 (Alexandra Artrip)

Kylie Owens, 15 (Evan Rachel Wood)
blond (dyed, normally black) hair.

NOTE: in the book, Antonia was the oldest and Kylie was the younger. In movie this was reversed. I am opting for the movie casting, but the book characters. This is fine since Kylie ending up much taller and looking more like Gillian.

Kylie Owens: Mom, I'm worried about Antonia. Did you know that she put on her mouse ears and drives around town, all liquored up, NAKED?

Children (to Antonia): Witch! Witch! You're a bitch! Witch! Witch! You're a bitch!
Sally Owens: You'd think after three hundred years they'd come up with a better rhyme!

I have not stated out Kylie and Antonia yet. My plan was to introduce them into a game as sisters, but nothing more than that and see where they go. But at last count I have the stats for close to a hundred different witches. Its hard to keep up, let alone try to work them all into a game.

Both are Gifted and are more powerful than Sally and Gillian. I had decided on not giving them Anamchara. In the book they just didnt get along so well, except at the end and it left me wanting more.

Can love really travel back in time and heal a broken heart? Was it our jointed hands that finally lifted Marie's curse? I'd like to think so. But there are some things that I know for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.
- Sally Owens


Tim Knight said...

Thanks for this, Tim.

Surprised how much I loved this film when I first saw it and continue to enjoy it on repeat DVD viewings. But then again I love The Craft as well ;)

The Happy Whisk said...

Hi. I enjoyed this movie as well. Thanks for the post.

Happy Haunting :-)

Suzy, The Grey Brunette said...

You've made me even more keen to get my hands on a copy of the book now. I totally LOVE the movie so I know I'm going to completely fall in love with the paperback even more. Thanks!
Suzy Turner, YA Author