Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for WitchCraft RPG

W is for WitchCraft, and by that I mean C. J. Carella's WitchCraft RPG.

WitchCraft is, hands down, my favorite game.  Period.  Picking up a copy of this book back in 1999 was just like picking up a copy of the Monster Manual in 1979.  Everything I ever wanted in a game was right there.

WitchCraft had such a profound effect on my gaming that I can draw a rather clean line between what came before and what came after it.  Granted a lot was going on in 1999/2000 both gamingwise and personal that may have added to the this effect, it was an effect all the same.

Back in 1999 I was really burned out on D&D.   I was working on my Witch netbook and reading a bunch of different games when someone, I forget where, must have been the old RAVENLOFT-L that TSR/WotC used to run, told me I really need to check out WitchCraft.  At first I balked.  I had tried Vampire a couple years ago and found I didn't like it (and I was very much out of my vampire phase then, see yesterday's post), but I was coming home from work and the my FLGS was on the way, so I popped in and picked up a copy.  This must have been the early spring of 2000.

I can recall sitting in my office reading this book over and over. Everything was so new again, so different.  This was the world I had been trying, in vain, to create for D&D but never could.  The characters in this book were also all witches, something that pleased me to no end, it was more than just that.  Plus look at that fantastic cover art by George Vasilakos. That is one of my most favorite, is not my favorite, cover for a game book. I have it hanging in my game room now.

WitchCraft uses what is now called the "Classic" Unisystem system.  So there are 6 basic attributes, some secondary attributes (derived), skills and qualities and drawbacks.  Like I mentioned Monday, skills and attributes can be mixed and matched to suit a particular need.

WitchCraft uses a Point-Buy Metaphysics magic system, unlike Ghosts of Albion's levels of magic and spells system.  Think of each magical effect as a skill that must be learned and you have to learn easier skills than harder ones first.    In D&D it is possible to learn Fireball and never have learned Produce Flame first.  In WitchCraft you could not do that.  But also WitchCraft is not about throwing around "vulgar magics".  WitchCraft is a survival game where the Gifted protect humanity from all sorts of nasty things, from forgotten Pagan gods, to demons, fallen angels and the Mad Gods; Cthulhoid like horrors from beyond.  WitchCraft takes nearly everything from horror and puts all together and makes it work.

The Eden Studios version was the Second Edition, I was later to find out.  The first one was from Myrmidon Press. I manged to find a copy of that one too and it was like reading the same book, from an alternate timeframe.  I prefer the Eden Edition far more for a number of reasons, but I am still happy to have both editions.

The central idea behind WitchCraft is the same as most other Modern Supernatural Horror games.  The world is like ours, but there are dark secrets, magic is real, monsters are real. You know the drill.  But WitchCraft is different.  There is a Rekoning coming, everyone feels it, but no one knows what it is.  Characters then take on the roles of various magic using humans, supernatuals or even mundane humans and they fight the threats.  Another conceit of the game (and one I use a lot) is that supernatural occurances are greater now than ever before.  Something's coming.  (dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria).

It is most often compared to World of Darkness, but I think it is vastly superior in nearly every respect.  Unlike (old) Mage there is no war between the (good) Mages and the (evil) Technocracy.  There is a war certainly, but nothing so cut and dry.  And unlike new Mage there are rarely clean divisions between the factions.  Yes, yes Mage players, I am being overly simple, but that is the point, on the simple levels new Mage dives everything into 5 because that is how the designers want it.  There are factions (Associations) and there are different metaphysics for each, but also overlap, and sometimes no clear and defined lines are to be found or given.  It feels very organic.

C. J. Carella may be one of the best game designers out there.  WitchCraft is a magnum opus that few achieve.  I took that game and I ran with it.  For 2000 - 2002 it was my game of choice above and beyond anything.  The Buffy RPG, built on Cinematic Unisystem took over till I wrote Ghosts of Albion also using Cinematic Unisystem.  I mix and match the systems as I need, but WitchCraft is still my favorite.
I ran my very first Willow & Tara games using WitchCraft and I still feel in many ways they are more at home there than anywhere else.  I also used it for various other media and book adaptations of witches, such as the Owens from Practical Magic (movie and book), Elizabeth Bathory (who was going to be the Big Bad) and the girls from Vampyres.

WitchCraft was also one of the first Wikipedia articles I ever worked on.  The images of the covers are scans of my own books.

But you don't have to take my word for it, Eden Studios will let you have it, sans some art, for free.

Download it.  If you have never played anything else other than D&D then you OWE it yourself to try this game out.

My thing is I wish it was more popular than it is.  I love the game, I even wanted to do Ghosts of Albion as a WitchCraft game, but there were other, better reasons to go Cinematic with that.
Back in the day I did work on the Wicce Association book.  I would love to see that printed.  I also have on my hard drive "WitchCraft 3rd Edition".  Not complete mind you, but it takes the rules and re-organizes them and improves on what little I can improve on.

Eden Studios WitchCraft Page,
Mixing WitchCraft with Witch Girls Adventures,
Get WitchCraft RPG for free,


Unknown said...

Your enthusiasm for Witchcraft has rekindled my interest in this excellent system. I haven't cracked the book in a few years but I now find myself wanting to pick up the Abomination Codex, which was always on my wish list.

To me, this is probably the premier modern fantasy/horror RPG.

Srith of the Scrolls said...

I'm on the hunt for new magic systems to play around with. Thanks for pointing this game out. I've just downloaded a copy.