Saturday, October 31, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Craft Legacy (2020)

Managed to get one last one in for October 2020.  And this one is rather perfect for this week.

The Craft: Legacy (2020)

This one was released to much fanfare online on Wednesday.

The movie begins with three witches, Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Franky (Gideon Adlon), and Tabby (Lovie Simone) trying to get their magic to work.  They lament the lack of their "fourth."

Enter Lily (newcomer Cailee Spaeny) and her mother Helen (the always wonderful Michelle Monaghan) moving to a new town and home to live with Helen's new boyfriend Adam (David Duchovny) and his three sons.   

From here the movie follows the same trajectory as the first Craft movie.  This is not an accident, nor is it sloppy writing.  There are a lot callbacks to the previous movie and a lot of nods.  When this movie comes to the point of climax of the previous movie it takes a turn. 

Spoilers follow.

The coven turns against Lily, not because they are abusing their power, but because she is.  They blame her for the death of Timmy. So the other members of the coven bind her and all of their powers.  

Before Timmy's funeral, Lily learns that she was adopted and she begins to suspect that Adam is not what he says he is.  We learn that Adam is some sort of warlock himself. He takes on Helen's form to get Lily to give him her powers.  When she refuses he decides to kill her.  While fighting she manages to freeze him revealing her powers were back and the other members of her coven were there.  Together they all manage to subdue and then eliminate Adam. 

The coven reconstituted Lily is taken to an institute to meet her biological mother, Nancy Downs from the first movie.  Yes, Fairuza Balk makes a cameo as Nancy. 

So. Yeah not quite as scary as the first, but it also keeps it open for future sequels.  There is the question of Adam and what he was doing all over the world.  There was certainly a vibe of "Warlocks vs. Witches" implied here.  I was expecting more horror given this is a Blumehouse flick. 

In truth, I rather enjoyed it even with its lack of real horror.  Nice nod to the first while moving ahead on its own path.

NIGHT SHIFT Content:  My NIGHT SHIFT co-author Jason Vey also watched this movie a couple of days ago and agrees it would make for a very fun NIGHT SHIFT setting. So expect to see some more from either or both of us on this. 

Watched: 60
New: 41


And that is it. Another October Horror Challenge in the bag. 60 total movies, 41 new. I am already looking at the movies for next year.

October Horror Movie Challenge: Season of the Witch (All)

ITS HALLOWEEN!  It's a Saturday. We get an extra hour after midnight and the moon is full.  

Again, today I am going to end with some movies around the same theme; or more accurately movies with the same title.

Oh no, must be the season of the witch!

Season of the Witch (1972 or 1973)

Ok, this is a repeat from 2012, but the topic and time period was just too perfect to ignore. While this month has largely been about European Horror prior to The Exorcist, this one from Horror Master George Romero could not be ignored.  

Besides, bored housewife turns to witchcraft? Yeah, that is great stuff, to be honest.  There is still a lot of fun in this movie. A nice slice of Occult Americana. Neat little bits on Rosemary's Baby, Voodoo, ritual tools, and Tarot Cards. Even an honest to Goddess coven and ritual initiation.  If anything this movie is better with another watch. The movie even has enough sense to know when to take itself seriously and when to not.  

The new special edition Blu-Ray art makes Joan look a little scarier than she is but hey, that is fine really. 

A wonderful example of the Swinging 70s and horror prior to The Exorcist. 

New View: No
Witches: Yes
Features the Donovan Song: Yes

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Now I remember seeing this one in the theaters. I loved the poster and thought it was really cool.  But for the life of me when rewatching it I could remember any of it.  This movie is best watched as disconnected from the rest of the Halloween/Michael Meyers franchise.  It fits in with the original vision of the franchise as separate, unrelated movies in an anthology.  Much like "Creepshow" and "American Horror Story."

The story is. Well it's dreadful, to be honest. It wasn't well liked then and it has not aged well either.  I do like the idea of the masks being haunted/possessed/curse or whatever it was they were.  Though seriously, trying to get a chip from the megaliths at Stonehenge? Yeah, not likely.  Though I would totally use a bunch of cursed masks in a game.

I think I remember why I don't recall this one as well. It's kinda dull and I might have spaced out a lot while it was on.  

New View: I am going to say No, even though I can't remember much of it.
Witches: None, but it does have Dick Warlock in it. So that is something.
Features the Donovan Song: No


Season of the Witch (2009, 2014)

Did Halloween III leave such a bad taste in everyone's mouth that this title had to wait nearly 30 years to be reused? I guess. 

My first "first time view" today and one of my last (!) new movies of the season.  Make no mistake, this one is not good. It is a little indie film from England. The actors are mostly unknowns.  Mary Blackwell travels back to her hometown of Maiden Hollow to clear out her recently deceased father's house. There is a priest who becomes obsessed with Alice (Beth Kingston) who looks like his dead wife.

Or that's what I think. There are times when the music soundtrack overwhelms the voice track. Calling this a "slow burn" is charitable. Calling it boring might be closer. 

Which is too bad, because I had hoped for some English folk horror.  The "village justice" scene at the end is the closest we ever get to that.  Actually, I felt the whole scene was overdone to be honest. 

The movie was finished in 2009 but not released till 2014.

The tag line is "Don't look behind" which makes no sense. Given how times the question is asked the tag line should be "Did You Have Breakfast?"

New View: Yes
Witches: Not really
Features the Donovan Song: No

Season of the Witch (2011)

This one is pure horror-action cheese.  I saw it when it came out but I am a little surprised in never made it into my Horror Movie Challenge till now. 

So this one has a lot of good going for it on paper. Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman star as Teutonic Knights.  There is a girl, Anna, played by Claire Foy in her first movie role, being accused of witchcraft and they need to take her to a monastery. 

It goes about as you would suspect. Knights take the witch in a cage. She protests she isn't a witch. Crazy shit happens on the way.

It's a fun romp and Cage never fails to amuse and Ron Perlman is always fun.  The demon effects are also really good. After spend so much time in the 1970's horror it is nice to see a really scary looking monster.

In some ways this movie could be considered part of a series along with Vin Diesel's "The Last Witchhunter." There is a similar vibe to them both.

New View: No
Witches: Yes
Features the Donovan Song: Sort of. It's on the soundtrack, but it is a symphonic instrumental. 

Judgment: If your "Season of the Witch" movie does not feature the song by Donovan, then your movie is going to suck.


I started early while waiting for Trick or Treaters.  I might be able to get in one more tonight!  The new Craft movie is out now!

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-school Content:  The "Season of the Witch" is a potent concept for me. 

I used it for the name of my Willow & Tara series (essentially "Buffy, Season 8") and it is coming around again in relation to my War of the Witch Queens

Watched: 59
New: 40


Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday Night Videos: Witch Songs

It's Halloween Eve!
So I guess that makes it All Hallows Eve ... Eve. 

Whatever.  It's Friday. The moon is Full and tomorrow is my favorite Holiday of the year.  I am been building up all month to this.

Since it is also "Witch Week" let's have some Witch Music.

Of course, you know I have a playlist of witch songs!





Happy Halloween!

 

October Horror Movie Challenge: Witchcraft of the 70s

I want to get in some Witchcraft documentaries from the 70s.  These really cover what formed some of my earliest thoughts on witchcraft and the occult.

These movies are not really horror, but they good supporting movies for all the horror movies I typically watch. All these titles received an X rating when they were released but are really all pretty tame.  

An interesting note that all these films feature Alex Sanders and Maxine Sanders.

Legend of the Witches bluray cover
Legend of the Witches (1970)

This is a nice weird one and It is part of a larger DVD/Blu-Collection I grabbed from Amazon.  The first part is a slow narration over scenes of the moon and sun rising and setting in glorious black & white.  It reminds me a little of the start of Aradia, Gospel of the Witches.  We get to the creation of man and we see a number of neolithic shamanistic cave paintings. 
We get to the part about witches with prerequisite naked dancing under the moon.

We get to see a witchcraft initiation, which looks a bit Gardenarian or Alexandrian (checked it is Alex Sanders, so Alexandrian). We get some history of England including the notion that William the Conqueror was the son of a Witch, and Robin Hood had a coven. This leads to a bunch of material about witches including the witch hunts. 

Different witch rituals are shown from wicca to Luciferian with copious amounts of nudity (likely the source for the X ratings) but nothing even remotely shocking really.

Secret Rites (1971)

This one starts off with a "witches orgy" and a woman being dragged to "unspeakable obscenities" but fear not! Her lover "John Goodfellow" has come to rescue her brandishing a cross and rebuke witches as if they were vampires.  The scene freezes and our narrator continues in saying that this has been the perception of witches for years.  We cut to Alex Sanders who tells us it is complete rubbish. 

This covers the initiation of a new witch into Alex's coven. As well as a very brief look at his discussion group (likely brief since there is no nudity), a Wiccan handfasting, and even a Great Rite.

The following were included on the same DVD. 

The Witch's Fiddle (1924)
A man gets a fiddle from a witch that can make anyone dance. 

Out of Step (1957)
A documentary series that covers witchcraft in this episode.  Interviewed are Margaret Murry, Gerald Gardner, and Alastair Crowley's friend, Louis Wilkinson. 

The Judgement of Albion (1968)
From Robert Wynne-Simmons, the director of Blood on Satan's Claw.  Based on the poems of William Blake. It is a trippy little flick where faeries, in the guise of young college students, still roam "A Green and Pleasant Land" amid modern troubles.  Completely experimental and yet so utterly British. 

All of these movies and shorts reveal an interesting look at Britain at the end of the 60's.  While in the US we were moving headlong into the excess of the 70s and "left-over hippie shit", England seemed to be two different places at the same time. A country aware that it is slowing down even as new prospects are on the horizon and a country whose Pagan past was just a little bit below the surface. These two are likely related to each other.

Witchcraft 70 poster
Witchcraft '70 (1970)

This Italian "documentary" follows the lives of various real witches in England. I say "documentary" because it only details the most salacious elements of the neo-pagan movement in England.  It also conflates all witchcraft with satanism.  Now a few of the people they profile like Alex Sanders dabbled in "the Left-Hand Path" decades before and Anton LeVey who was a Satanist, others like Eleanor Bone and Maxine Sanders were Wiccans.  The Sanders in fact developed the Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca.  In fact, there are many times that what is depicted on screen and what the narrator is telling us is happening are complete conflict.   There is a hand-fasting between Alex and Maxine Sanders which is described as Maxine marrying the Devil in the guise of Alex.  They imply that in all of these "Satanic Weddings" that Alex, as the Devil, gets to have sex with the women first.  A lot of criticism has been laid at the feet of Alex Sanders and Alexandrian Wicca, but this is not one of them. 

Oh there is the implication too that Brazilian witches engage in incest.  If that feels like it came out of nowhere then yeah, I thought so too. In the middle of talking about proper British witchcraft we get this side trip to Brazil. 

Another unforgivable sin (if that word can be used) is that the Narrator (Alberto Bevilacqua) quotes Jacob Sprenger of the Malleus Maleficarum as an authority. 

Finnish witchcraft is shown to have a nubile nude witch submit to a cult leader as her future husband, chosen by the high priestess. 

It is all very Mondo with plenty of blood sacrifices.  There is a bit on Ted Serios and his psychic photography.  Mediums. Krishna Consciousness (which is entrapping all of America's youth!) and some more on Brazil.  Oh. and they spend some time on LaVey.  Plenty of nude women hanging around including LaVey's own daughter and future high priestess of her own sect. There are a few scenes in the LaVey piece that I am sure got in front of some of the artists of White Dwarf

And it ends with Cryonics, or the freezing your body after death.  Cause why not.  Even the start of the 70s was weird.  I guess their issue was the artificial extension of life. 
It feels like some Christian scare tract/documentary.  Better watch out those English witches will get you!

It has an X rating, but there is nothing here that I have not seen in a "TV-MA" series on Amazon or Netflix. 

Reading other reviews online I just watched the Italian version "Angeli Bianchi... Angeli Neri" (White Angel ...Black Angel), not the redubbed, re-edited "American" version. 

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-school Content:  A few notes.

I have had this game idea for a while now, Spirit of '76, that takes place in the summer of 1976.  It has a solid Americana feel to it and it is inspired as much by movies like "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Convoy" as it is "The Omen" and "It's Alive".  But this got me thinking of a similar idea, only maybe set in England during the end of the 60s, 1968 to 1972 in particular.  Something very Mod but with horror and supernatural elements.   I'd love to set it in London. 

Watched: 55
New: 39



Willow & Tara: NIGHT SHIFT Veterans of the Supernatural Wars

It was really only a matter of time before I got around to posting this. 

One of my personal goals with NIGHT SHIFT was to be able to create any character, any situation, I could think of.  While I have dozens of characters I have created for NIGHT SHIFT I am only posting a few to show off the capabilities of the system.  Since we are getting to the end of Witch Week, this is a must post.

Following up on my 2018 Update of my witches I had them coming out of retirement to battle a bloated orange monster.   Looking over my recent posts of both NIGHT SHIFT characters and Baba Yaga from a couple nights ago, I wonder if maybe there is something else going on.  

What if Baba Yaga was targeting the girls of the Wayward Sisters so Jodie and Donna seek out the help of Rowena (who can't help them because she is in Hell) but instead gets them in touch with Charlie, who in turn leads them to Willow and Tara.   Feels like it could be a part of my War of the Witch Queens campaign set in modern times.  It would be appropriate.  I'd just have to figure out how to also work in the Charmed Ones!  

Why go through all that effort? Well to be honest it would take something this big to pull Willow & Tara out of their comfortable retirement. I honestly have not used these characters in anything of my home games in years. Baba Yaga, especially how I am thinking of revisioning her? Yeah. That is big.
Maybe that is one of the reasons the War of the Witch Queens starts, Baba Yaga is on some other world now. 

I digress.  Here are Willow and Tara in their 2020 versions.

Tara Rosenberg-Maclay

11th level Witch, Human

Strength: 12 (0)
Dexterity: 9 (0) 
Constitution: 12 (0)
Intelligence: 16 (+2) s
Wisdom: 18 (+3) P
Charisma: 16 (+2) s

HP: 34 (11d4)
AC: 9
Fate Points: 1d10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +5/+3/+2
Melee bonus: +2  Ranged bonus: +2
Saves: +5 to spells and magical effects

Special Abilities: Arcana, Casting 105%, Telekinesis, Arcane bond (Willow), Innate Magic (Cure), Telepathic Transfer

Skills: Dance (Dex), Literature (Int), Research (Int), Theology (Int), Beast Whisperer (Wis)

Languages: English, Latin, Greek, Gaelic, 

Spells

1: Bless, Cure Light Wounds*,  Dancing Lights, Detect Evil
2: ESP, Locate Object, Produce Flame, Protection from Evil
3: Clairvoyance, Dispel Magic, Fly, Protection from Evil 10'
4: Cure Serious Wounds*, Dimensional Anchor, Restoration
5: Heal, Contact Higher Plane
6: Enchant Item


Willow Rosenberg-Maclay
12th level Witch, Human

Strength: 9 (0)
Dexterity: 11 (0) 
Constitution: 11 (0)
Intelligence: 18 (+3) P
Wisdom: 16 (+2) s
Charisma: 17 (+2) s

HP: 32 (11d4+2)
AC: 9
Fate Points: 1d10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +6/+4/+2
Melee bonus: +2  Ranged bonus: +2
Saves: +5 to spells and magical effects

Special Abilities: Arcana, Casting 110%, Telekinesis, Arcane Bond (Tara), Enhanced Senses, Telepathic Transfer

Skills: Computers (Int) x2, Science (Int), Research (Int), Theology/Mythology (Int)

Languages: English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew

Spells

1: Chill Ray, Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Magic Missile
2: ESP, Invisibility, Produce Flame, Protection from Evil
3: Clairvoyance, Fly, Remove Blindness/Deafness, Speak w/ Dead
4: Arcane Eye, Daylight, Produce fire
5: Commune, Dispel Evil, Raise Dead
6: anti-magic Shell, Enchant Item

Yes. I can see these versions working out great, to be honest.  In fact, these versions feel just as "right" as the WitchCraft RPG versions and the official ones in the Buffy RPG (which I worked on anyway).  Looking over them again I maybe should have given them an extra level each.  They are retired, but I am certain they still managed to stay busy.


NIGHT SHIFT Characters

5e Witch Project: Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e)

This one is a last-minute find.  I am going to have more to say on all my 5e reviews and how they might work together.  But for now, let's look at this one on its own merits. 

Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e)
From Xacur

This one caught my eye with its very striking art. Downloaded and the art continues throughout the book and the layout and design are top-notch.  I do want to get into detail about the art, more so than other products I have reviewed, but first I want to talk about the 5e content.

The PDF is 121 pages for $13.00.  That might sound like a lot, but given my guidelines of 10 cents per page that is only a buck more.  So that is fine.  You also get a mobile version for your phone or tablet.

This looks like the first OGL book for this author, prior to this they have had some DMsGuild Titles. 

This witch appears to be based on the Web Comic "Pepper & Carrot" which helps explain the art. Again, more details on that in a bit.  But for playing purposes this is part class and part world guide. The world of Hereva to be precise. 

The Witch Class

The witch class presented in this PDF is a full 20 level caster.  They do get spells up the the 9th level, but they do not have the normal spell progression as say Wizards or Clerics. They have known Cantrips (max 4) and known spells (max 15). It is the same as the warlock, without the Invocations. They do get Spell Research starting at 11th level and something called Rea ("Reality") Points starting at 1st. Rea points to power your spells.   Doing some quick mental calculations this means that there are many spells that will tap out your Res points quickly.  This makes this spellcaster a bit underpowered compared to others. They do have some other powers though.

I supposed here it should be noted that this is not a generic Witch class, but rather a Witch of Hereva. 

This witch gets 1d8 hp per level and is a Charisma-based spellcaster.   You do get familiars, and they have a mechanical benefit to the characters.  

Witches of Hereva's archetypes or subclasses are known as Houses. A nice change from the others I have reviewed all month.  You get your House at 2nd level.  

These witches also can brew potions (3rd level) and get Broom riding at 5th level. 

There are six Witchcraft Houses. Each provides an additional list of spells and powers. Each also has its own special niche to cover in the world. 

There is a chapter on Player's Options. This includes a number of backgrounds. Most are specific to this world, but all can be altered as needed and easily done.  There are some Feats as well that fit both the world and the witch in general. 

The magic chapter has the witches' spell lists as well as 43 new spells. It also 74 new magic items for witches. Making this chapter a step above many of the other witch classes I have reviewed all month long. 

There are also two Appendices. The first covers Familiars. The second monsters. Both feature creatures that are unique to this world. 

We end with some art credits and the OGL.

The Art and Artist

I grabbed this product because of the art. It has a cool "Kiki's Delivery Service" vibe about it and that is something I have been wanting to play lately. I thought this might be the product to do that, but I was prepared to like it anyway if it wasn't.  

Since this is based on a webcomic I thought I should check it out. After all, the art here is fantastic.  The webcomic is "Pepper & Carrot", Pepper is the witch and Carrot is her cat familiar. It is created by David Revoy.  You can find him at davidrevoy.com and the comic at peppercarrot.com.

It was here I discovered that Revoy releases his comic into the public free as Open Source!  I mean wow. The comic is supported by his Patreon who charges per comic released. That is seriously cool. The comic looks fantastic and I am going to have to start reading it.   I went to his story to see if there was a paper/dead tree version of his comics, there are, and to see if there was a paper or even PDF version of this D&D 5 supplement.  There wasn't.  Ok, no big. Did some digging.

So according to this post the Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e) was a Kickstarter project (again, no big deal) BUT the comic creator didn't know anything about it. He was not consulted or asked.  Now that all seems to be fine with Revoy, he released the comic as Open Source after all, so it fits with his overall philosophy.  There is a bit about how any new art created will be released back into the public domain via Creative Commons. That sounds nice and Revoy seems to take that as good enough.   The author of this game supplement Xacur did in fact do that.  But it was only two pieces of new art; a broom and a wand.  The Kickstarter for this PDF raised a little over $3,100.00.  You would think that most of that money would go for art, as typical for a Kickstarter, but all of the art was free/open source.

I can't help but think that this PDF adheres to the letter of Revoy's Open source philosophy while violating the spirit of it.  No mistake, the class is fun and the spells and magic items are very nice, but I was drawn to this product based on the art and style. That all belongs to someone else's vision.   Strip away what started with David Revoy and what is left?  Well. Mostly an underpowered warlock with some powers I have seen in various "Hedge Witch" products.  I mean the author didn't even have the decency to list Revoy as the artist on the DriveThruRPG page. Note: He is listed on the supplements for this class. 

Is this a playable class? Yes.  Is this a fun playable class? Absolutely.
Could have Xancur created this class without the influence of the webcomic? I don't think so.

But there is something here that I feel is a bit distasteful. I know that David Revoy is likely ok with all of this. But it feels a little off to me. 

Here are the links to David Revoy's sites.

In the end, you have to decide if this product is the one for you. 


Kickstart Your Weekend: Halloween Theme, Part 2

Part 2 of my Halloween-themed Kickstarter round up.  Today I have mostly some comics. 

Brian Pulido's Newest: Hellwitch: Sacrilegious #1!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brianpulido/brian-pulidos-newest-hellwitch-sacrilegious-1?ref=theotherside

Brian Pulido has assembled an all start group of comics writers, illustrators, and colorists to bring the latest in his Hellwitch Saga.  I have picked up a couple of these over the years, but have been looking to complete my collection.  This looks like a good way to do it. 

This is the same talent that brought us Lady Death. I will admit I have used more than a few things from these comics in my own versions of Hell for my games. 

Stake Presents: Jessamy #1


If vampires are more your speed then might I suggest meeting Jessamy from the world of Stake.

David A Byrne has also brought us an A-Level team for this comic.   I know less about it, but the art is fantastic. 


Looking forward to reading more on this one too.

And finally!

Elvira's New Comic Book Quarantine Special!


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dynamiteent/elviras-new-comic-book-quarantine-special?ref=theotherside

Do I really need to remind everyone here how much I love Elvira? No? Good.

It's Elvira. She has a comic from Dynamite Entertainment. That's all I need!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Demon Witch Child (1975)

Demon Witch Child (1975)
Demon Witch Child (1975)

Another one that has been on my list for a while now.  I had it on tap for 2018, but for some reason, I never got around to it.  I think I just forgot about it. Actually, it is perfect for this year and right now.

Before I get into the plot, such that it is, I want to talk about what this movie represents.  All month long I have been focused on the time period in Europe, and mostly Italian and Spanish cinema, just right before the Exorcist hit.  The sweet spot for me has been 1971 to 1973.  Now maybe someday I'll do a post Exorcist run of movies, but until then this is the film that I will hold up as Exhibit A as to the effect the Exorcist had on filmmaking. 

Demon Witch Child, aka The Possessed and La Endemoniada, has a pedigree of sorts.  Marián Salgado who plays Susan, the titular "Demon Witch Child," was the Spanish voice actress for Linda Blair's Regan in the Exorcist.  So she was handpicked by director Amando de Ossorio for his Exorcist rip-off, er, homage.   The fact that she also bears some similar facial features to the old witch played by Tota Alba helps.

The Exorcist influences are all over this movie.  Susan crawls around, her body (not just head) spins around 180 degrees. She swears, she makes rude sexual comments all the time, she speaks in different languages (though we never hear them).  And it is all a little weird. I honestly got the feeling that the movie was written one way, but when the Exorcist hit more was added. 

An old witch desecrates a church and is arrested.  She is suspected of kidnapping a baby, but instead of talking she throws herself out of a window.  Her daughter (played by Kali Hansa who also spent some of time working with Jess Franco, including one of his hardcore outings, Weiße Haut und schwarze Schenkel, 1976) witnesses this and decides to curse the daughter of a local politician, Susan. 

Susan it seems is now possessed by the spirit of the dead old witch. The make-up effects are pretty good and do a good job of making Marián Salgado look like Tota Alba.  

Sadly the movie goes nowhere really.  Susan sacrifices babies, eats them,  gets people killed, murders a reporter, and comments on how well hung he is before castrating him. But there is also a surprising lack of gore or nudity for the time.  There is a subplot with a priest, our would-be exorcist, how before he became a priest he was engaged.  It is all very random in places. 

This is not the only movie I have seen from the time that suffers a lot from comparisons to The Exorcist, but this one of the most glaring ones. 

Watched: 52
New: 36

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
Possession is always fun in a game. Unless you happen to be the one possessed.  While this movie was obviously about demonic possession they can be other types.  Based on similar tales, I posted about the Eretica Vampire a few years back.  I even used a still from this movie.

Eretica (Vampire)
Eretica (Vampire)
No. Appearing: 1
AC: 6
Move: 40ft.
Hit Dice: 7
Special: 2 attacks (claws, bite), Mind control, Strong and Fast, Witch spells, blood drain.
XP VALUE: 750 

Eretica are the spirits of dead witches who possess the living, turning them into a sort of living vampire.

Unlike the typical Vampire, these creatures cannot Polymorph and cannot create new vampires.  In their host form, they can also move about during the day and are immune to holy items.  In their "possessed" form they have all the standard weaknesses of vampires. 
They can witch spells at the 4th level of experience.



Witch Week Review: Charm

Ok, this is not a witch RPG per se, but that is not going to stop me.  

Also, this one appeared on my doorstep and I have no idea if I ordered it, if it was sent to me, or what. I looked back and I have no interaction with the author or the company Strange Machine Games (SMG).  

So let's get into it.

Charm RPG
by Jeff Mechlinski, illustrations bt Yimi Jian "Meammy"

Charm is a "universal" RPG designed to be quick and usable across any genre or playstyle.  It advertises itself as being portable enough to keep your character sheet in your pocket and use a dice roller app to play.

For this review, I am considering both the softcover physical book and the PDF.  The book is 158 pages, 8" x 8" format. The covers are color, the interior art is black & white.

A quick note about the art. I like it, it does have a comic-book, almost anime style to it, but it also fits the game well. 

The first 40 pages cover the basic rules and the remaining 100 or so cover the seven different sample "worlds" you can play in.  

The rules are pretty simple, roll a d20 (sometimes with a d6) to get over a particular Target Number set by the GM.  Greater levels of success or failure result in added effects.  Rolls can be modified.  You add the d6 when your character is particularly good at something. 

Characters regardless of the Power Level of the game are assumed to be good at what they do.  So out of the gate this game is going to have a more "Cinematic" feel to it.  A thief will almost always be able to break into a place or steal something for example.  Rolling occurs only when there is a chance of failure, combat (or other opposed rolls) or the GM needs it.  

The Challenge Threshold, or target numbers, are pretty easy to use and memorize, so players and GMS will catch on very quickly.  The levels are all multiples of 3, so abstraction of the rules is easy.

Characters are built using some basic abilities in a way that reminds me of Fate, but a little crunchier.  To me this is a GOOD thing. I find Fate a little too fluffy for my needs. This includes the use of a similar term, Aspects. At first level you have three aspects rated at 4, 3 and 2 points.  As you level up you can add points to these or gain new aspects. A list of sample aspects is given with guidelines on what else can work.

And that is it.  Not difficult to learn and certainly very easy to play the first time.  Get together with some friends, decide on a world and then make characters with various aspects. You are ready to go.

While not as crunchy as say GURPS it is crunchier than Fate or FUDGE.  I'd put it just south of True 20 and Unisystem in that regard.

The seven sample scenarios are:

  •  Action 5 News: You are the city's most elite local news team! It isn't easy staying on top. You'll need to pull together all your guile and charisma to keep the number 1 spot.
  •  Temporal Raiders: Travel time, seeking the ultimate heist. Ally with powerful historical figures, change history, be your own grandfather. What could go wrong?
  •  Dustbound: Take on the role of a god-touched gunslinger in a bleak world of dust and decay. Fight Oni, rival gunslingers, and vengeful townsfolk.
  •  Mystery Incorporated: Jeepers, guys.  Play as a gang of kids, or possibly a lovable pet, who solve mysteries using their astonishing meddling abilities.
  •  Pact of Night: Small town woes meet big monster drama. Play a Vampire or Werewolf as you balance your life with the humans during the day and beasts at night.
  •  Onitech: You exist in a high-tech world ruled by demon masters. Civility has superseded morality, leading to a perverted and deadly state of affairs.
  •  Asylum Reflections: In Victorian London, people are being replaced with mirrored doubles. Uncover the duplicitous mystery in this dark world.  
Actually, these all sound like a lot of fun.  I have to admit it was the Action 5 News that really grabbed me at first.  In this one, you are not likely to get into deadly combat, but your social "hit points" could take some damage.  No they don't call them "hit points" but that is my translation to my readers.  I will admit, years ago I tinkered with a True 20 idea of newspaper reporters, tabloid writers and news bloggers as a game. When Fate came around I tried it in that too.  Never really got it to jell the way I wanted.  Action 5 News though does this now for me.  A few EASY tweaks, and to be fair all tweaks in this game are easy, and I can run it like I was planning some 20 years ago.

Mystery Incorporated practically jumps off the page and begs me to run something with it. 

If I had a complaint at all it is that book makes me jump all over the place to get the information I need.  For example there are lot of "see page XX" (no actual xx though, they do have page numbers.)
So reading about Power Level on page 11 I need to jump to page 25 to get information on aspects. There are a few of these. Now to be fair you quickly figure out where things are and how to get to them fast.  But maybe a character creation flowchart might be nice for first time players.

Still, there is a lot to like about this game.

Supernatural: Rowena MacLeod for NIGHT SHIFT

It's Supernatural Thursday of Witch Week and that can only mean one thing; let's do some NIGHT SHIFT stats for Rowena MacLeod.

Spoilers up to Season 15 follow.


What is there not to love about Rowen? She is a badass redhead witch who gave the Winchesters a run for their money for seven seasons. She was the big bad for Season 10. She was born in the 17th Century Scotland, she is a pagan and is the mother of the former King of Hell, Crowley.  Now she is the Queen of Hell.  She only "died" because she needed to turn herself into a giant ghost bomb.

There were a lot of magic-using characters in Supernatural as well as a lot of them that were witches, but Rowena was the most powerful. 

Rowena MacLeod
15th level Witch, Human

Strength: 12 (0)
Dexterity: 13 (+1) 
Constitution: 15 (+1)
Intelligence: 18 (+3) P
Wisdom: 17 (+3) s
Charisma: 20 (+4) s

HP: 52 (11d4+8)
AC: 8
Fate Points: 1d10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +7/+5/+3
Melee bonus: +3  Ranged bonus: +3
Saves: +6 to spells and magical effects

Special Abilities: Arcana, Casting 125%, Charm Person, Enhanced Senses, Pre-cognition, Innate Magic (Raise Dead, self only), Suggestion

Skills: Sleight of Hand (Dex), Body Control (Con), History (Int), Research (Int), Theology/Myth (Int), Convince/Deceive (Cha)

Languages: English, Latin, Greek, Gaelic, 

Spells

1: Bane, Command, Disrupt Undead, Inflict Light Wounds, Sleep  
2: Cause Fear, ESP, Hold Person, Locate Object, Suggestion
3: Cause Blindness/Deafness, Curse, Fly, Remove Curse
4: Arcane Eye, Cure Serious Wounds, Inflict Serious Wounds, Produce Fire
5: Dismissal, Finger of Death, Harm, Raise Dead*
6: Disintegrate, Enchant Item, Projected Image
7: Death Aura, Draw forth the Soul
8: Wail of the Banshee


I will admit. I adore Rowena.  She was a fantastic enemy AND ally of the Winchesters, and I would have loved to see a little of Rowena's and Charlie's road trip. That would have been a lot of fun.   

If I am serious about running a Wayward Sisters game, Rowena will have to show up. Dead? That never stopped her before!  And we know that Rowena/Ruth supports the Wayward cause!

 

Ruthie Connell is an absolute delight.  I can't wait to see what she does next.

Links

5e Witch Project: Hidden Oddities, A Witch’s Primer

Here we are at the end of all my 5e Witch class reviews.  I was saving this one for last just because it is so complete and there is so much here.  

Again, I am following my own rules for reviewing these; I want to stay fair. 

Hidden Oddities, A Witch’s Primer
By Eva M. Brown

Hidden Oddities is a monster of a book.  At 154 pages for a single class it has my attention.  Also at 154 pages, no point in figuring out how much is content vs. title, ogl and the like.  It is a beast of a book.

This book rivals any other published book for the D&D 5 game or any other game.  The layout is great, with crisp easy to read text. The artwork is fantastic.  And the authors know their OGL.  I should really just say "Author".  While it looks like Eva M. Brown surrounded herself with a great team to work on this, it is obvious from the reading that this is a single voice and author vision. 

Up first is a Foreword and it becomes obvious that this book is just more than a witch class. There is a bit of world-building going on as well.  This can only be a good thing in my mind.   There are Seven Chapters in this book. 

Chapter 1 covers the Introduction, what this book is about and the list of Kickstarter backers.

Chapter 2 is the Witch Class.  There are little quotes and “magical text” all throughout the book that really gives it a nice feel.  Break the code of the magical text for more information!

And in a bit of “magic text” of my own, “yes Eva, I do think we will be great friends!”

We start off in a place I think it great.  Background.  There are also d6 tables of “I Became  A Witch Because…”, a d6 table of “We Whisper to Each Other By…”, “Our Relationship Is…” and “My Curios Are…”  This is great stuff and perfect not just for EVERY D&D5/DMsGuild Witch I have reviewed but nearly every witch I can think of (and that is a lot is I can be so bold).

An aside. Curios are a great idea. I love them. I wish I had come up with them first.

The witch is a full 20 levels spellcaster. She can’t use armor and has 1d6 HD.

Instead of getting spell slots the witch gets curios, which are tiny mundane object that can store spells.  The witch records her spells in her spell book but uses that knowledge to charge her curios.  The witch gains two spells per level (four at level 1) of any spell level she can cast, half her own level rounded up.  This means the witch can know up to 42 spells. She can only cast the number of spells as she has curios.

The witch also gains an otherworldly companion. These are roughly the same as Familiars, but can be more than just animals.  The witch’s other worldly companion teaches the witch, Witch Script. It is invisible to all non-witches save for when detect magic is cast on it.

The Witch Archetypes are known as Sacred Secrets. There are also some powers known as Arcane Wonders.  

Between these, the different types of otherworldly companions and the various types of Curios, there should be an unlimited variety of witches one can create with this book.

Chapter 3 covers the Sacred Secrets.  Each one has their own background, Arcane Wonders and other powers.  Again, these are treated like subclasses, Traditions, or Covens in other books.  There are 14 of these and are all quite details have a lot of great potential.

Chapter 4 (mis-labeled Chapter 3 in text) are Additional Options.  This is a great chapter and one often forgotten about by other authors of Witch classes (including myself on occasion) and that is other archetypes for other classes.  There is a new Druid Circle, a Fighter Archetype, A Paladin Oath, a Ranger Archetype, and a Wizard Tradition. There are also new backgrounds, complete with personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws, for any class.

This chapter also has a number of new feats and some new equipment.

Chapter 5 gives us Spells.  Here there are 111 new spells. Overtly for witches they can be used by other classes as well.  Some of these spells share the same or similar names with spells I have written, enough to make me do a double take.  But it is obvious from reading them that these are not used OGC, merely the result of both Eva Brown and myself reading a lot of the same source materials.  Which in a way is really cool.

Chapter 6 Lore is our world-building chapter. Here we get some organizations the could belong too, or are against the witches. Even if you only use them as ideas or seeds there is a lot here to add to any game.   Membership, leaders (some detailed), goals and headquarters are all detailed.   Nine such organizations are detailed here.

The Appendices cover how to choose a companion, what equipment you might need and the roles of the witch. 

Additionally, there is art information and a Witch’s Script translation guide.  OGL and a four-page Character sheet.

While this might not be my favorite 5e Witch class, it is my favorite 5e Witch book.  There is just so much here that is great and really grabs my imagination.

I mentioned before that the art is great, but it really needs to be re-said.  This is a great book.

You can also get the Character Sheet for PWYW.  It works nicely with other witch classes as well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Baba Yaga (1973, 1975)

Baba Yaga (1975)

I started watching this one a couple of years ago, but for some reason, I never finished it.  I kept meaning to come back to it but never did.  Next thing I knew Amazon Prime no longer listed it.  So I picked up the Blue Underground BluRay of it.  I always enjoy Blue Underground's DVDs and BluRays, so when I saw they had this one I knew I better jump on it.  

So glad I did.  Blue Underground is now listing it as Out of Print.  If the years of doing this October Challenge has taught me anything it is to jump on the movie when you can, I have lost track of all the ones that have gone out of print or have become unavailable over the years. 

Carroll Baker plays a very haunting version of Baba Yaga, one is immediately reminded of Delphine Seyrig's Elizabeth Báthory from "Daughters of Darkness".  Isabelle De Funès plays Valentina, a photographer in Milan. They meet when Baba Yaga's car nearly hits Valentina while she is petting a stray dog.

After Baba Yaga takes a clip from Valentina's garter belt some strange things start to happen.   
Valentina goes to Baba Yaga's home and it is wonderfully creepy. Full of strange antiques, seemingly bottomless wholes, and a doll wearing S&M gear. Though when photographed it is wearing a normal doll's dress.   There are times too when the doll seems to come to life (played by Ely Galleani).  

There is also a clear plastic phone that I am sure was the coolest thing ever in 1975.

When Valentina's models start to get hurt or die she begins to suspect that Baba Yaga might be a witch. 

The movie is slow. No doubt. And it tries to be experimental in places, various hallucinations or visions of fascism or even silent German horror films. But it does have a nice creepy vibe and you never really know what is real or not. 

The story is based on the Italian comic, or fumetti, Valentina by Guido Crepax.  The movie even features some of the art from the comics in the credits and the actors can be seen paging through some of the comics.  Isabelle De Funès certainly has the look of Valentina down.  She looks like she walked right off the page, to be honest. 

The movie is listed as 91 minutes on IMDB, but my BluRay is 83 minutes.  There are some cut scenes on the BluRay that add up to the missing time.  But I am not sure if they are the same missing minutes or not.   They don't really add anything to the movie really. 

Watched: 51
New: 35

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
Movies about Baba Yaga in English are so rare. This one was dubbed into English from Italian, so rarer still.  This is not your Russian Grandmother's Baba Yaga. This Baba Yaga drives Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud not a mortar and pestle.  The ancient myths of Baba Yaga were about an old witch that devoured or sometimes protected young girls.  The Swinging 70s Baba Yaga is an older woman that preys on younger women in a carnal way. What would a 21st Century Baba Yaga be like?  Maybe a powerful businesswoman, who employs a number of young beautiful women. Likely models or maybe webcam girls.  In the modern retelling, she is not a predator that eats or seduces the young women, but rather uses them up in other ways. Maybe something like I did with Willow & Tara: Web of Lies.


Witch Week Review: Kids on Brooms

Let's go with one I have had since the Summer.  I love the concept and can't wait to see what I do with it.

Kids on Brooms

Before I get too far into this review I want to start off by saying how much I love the art by Heather Vaughan.  It just fits, or more importantly sets, the tone of this book.  This could have been a cheap "Harry Potter" knock off, but Vaughan's art makes it feel darker and more dangerous.  The kids in her art have power, but they also have fear, and even a little hope. So kudos to Vaughan for really setting this book up for success from the cover and into the book.

Again for this review, I am considering the PDF from DriveThruRPG and the physical copy I picked up at my FLGS.

The game is 96 pages, roughly digest-sized. The art is full color and used to great effect.  The layout is crisp and clean and very easy to read.

Kids on Brooms (KoB) is a new (newish) game from the same team that gave us Kids on Bikes. Authors Doug Levandowski and Jonathan Gilmour with artist Heather Vaughan. New to the team is author Spenser Starke.  If Kids on Bikes was "Stranger Things" inspired then the obvious inspiration here for Kids on Brooms is Harry Potter.  If it were only a Harry Potter pastiche then there would be nothing to offer us.  

The game follows in the footsteps of many newer games in that narrative control is shared. The players help decide what is going on.  So our Session 0 for this game is to have the players come up with their school.  This can be just about anything to be honest, Harry Potter's Hogwarts is the obvious model, but I also got some solid Night School from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as well. Also, I could see a Breakbills Academy easily being created here, though the characters in Magicians were older.  These students are very much of the 12+, highschool age, variety. 

The players create their school and even provide some background history and some rumors. It all looks rather fun to be honest.  This section starts with the first of many questionnaires to do your world-building.  None are very long, but they are rather helpful to have. I should point out that prior to this school building you are tasked with setting the boundaries of the gameplay. What is and what is not involved.  A LOT of people think this is a means to stifle creativity. It is not. It is a means to keep everyone at the table comfortable and playing what they want.  I mean a drug-fueled sex party prior to a big magical battle is not something you would find in Harry Potter, but it is the exact sort of thing that happens in Magicians or Sabrina.  

Something else that is a nice added touch is talking about the systems of power in the game world. So figuring out things like "This form of bigotry exists (or doesn't) in the game world and is different/same/better/worse than the real world."  To quote Magicians, "magic comes from pain." Happy people in that world are not spell-casters. Quentin, the star, was depressive and suicidal. The other characters had their own issues, or as Quentin would say "we are fucked in our own ways, as usual."  To ignore this page is to rob your game of something that makes your world fuller.

Character creation is equally a group effort, though the mechanic's piece of it is largely up to the player. The player selects one of the Tropes from the end of the book, these are only starting points and are more flexible than say a D&D Class. You introduce your character (after all they are young and this is the first day of class) and then you answer some questions about your character to build up the relationships.

Mechanics wise your six abilities, Brains, Brawn, Fight, Flight, Charm, and Grit are all given a die type; d4 to d20, with d10 being average.  You roll on these dice for these abilities to get above a target number set by the Game Master. 

As expected there are ways to modify your rolls and even sometimes get a reroll (a "Lucky Break").  The "classes" (not D&D, but academic levels) also gain some benefits.  You also gain some strengths and flaws. So if it sounds like there are a lot of ways to describe your character then yes! There is. 

There is a chapter on Magic and this game follows a streamlined version of the Mage-like (as opposed to D&D-like, or WitchCraftRPG-like) magic system.  You describe the magic effect and the GM adjudicated how it might work.  Say my witch Taryn wants to move a heavy object. Well that would be a Brawn roll, but I say that since her Brawn is lower and instead I think her Grit should come into play.  So that is how it works. Rather nice really.

At this point, I should say that you are not limited to playing students. You can also play younger faculty members too.

 Filling out the details of your character involves answering some questions and getting creative with other ideas. You also fill out your class schedule, since there are mechanical benefits to taking some classes.


The mechanics as mentioned are simple.  Roll higher than the difficulty. Difficulty levels are given on page 45, but range from 1 to 2 all the way up to 20 or more. Rolls and difficulties can be modified by almost anything. The first game might involve the looking up of mods and numbers for a bit, but it gets very natural very quickly.  As expected there are benefits to success above and beyond the target difficulty numbers and consequences for falling short of the numbers. 

Some threats are covered and there is a GM section.  But since a lot of the heavy lifting on this game is in the laps of the players the GM section is not long.

There is also a Free Edition of Kids on Brooms if you want to see what the game is about.  It has enough to get you going right away.

This game is really quite fantastic and there is so much going on in it. Personally, I plan on using it as a supplement to my own Generation HEX game from NIGHT SHIFT.  

Plays Well With Others, Generation HEX, and my Traveller Envy

I am SO glad I read this after I had already submitted my own ms in for Generation HEX in NIGHT SHIFT.

Thankfully I can see a game where I would use both systems to help expand my universe more.  The questionnaires here for both the school and the characters would also work well for a Generation HEX game.  In this case though everyone knows about magic and the school is AMPA.  OR Use the background of the hidden school like in KoB and then add in some GenHEX ideas.


So let me take another character today, Taryn, Larina's daughter.  Taryn is my "Teen Witch" and a bit of a rebel.  She was my "embrace the stereotype" witch, but has grown a little more since then.  Compared to her mother her magic came late (Larina was 6, Taryn was 12) so she feels like she has a lot to make up for. Her father is a Mundane and her half-sister has no magic at all.

Taryn is cocky, self-confident, but also a little reckless. Now that she has magic she is convinced it can solve all her problems.  She feels she has a lot to prove and is afraid there is some dark secret in her past (spoiler there is).

She spends her nights in an underground, illegal broom racing circuit.  She is very fast and has already made a lot of cash and a few enemies.  She is worried that one of her secrets, her red/green colorblindness, will affect her races. 

Her other weakness is guys on fast motorcycles. She is particularly fond of the Kawaski Ninja Carbon. Yeah, she judges people based on their bikes.  

Speed is her addiction of choice. Not the drug, the velocity.  Though that might be an issue in the future.


I find I am able to depict her rather well in Kids on Brooms, NIGHT SHIFT and Dark Places & Demogorgons.  I even gave her a try in the Great American Witch (she is Craft of Lilith).

This game has a bunch of solid potential and I am looking forward to seeing what I can do with it.

5e Witch Project: The Witch A 5e Compatible Class

Getting back to more 5e Witch classes today I wanted to review one from Hope Punk Press that caught my eye.    Again, these are OGL based classes, but I am still following my own rules on reviewing them.

The Witch: A 5e Compatible Class
by Brandon Elliott, Hope Punk Press

This is a 26-page pdf (cover, 2 OGL pages, 23 pages of content) for the witch class.  The art is good and used well. The layout is good and very clean to read, but the background image makes printing a bit expensive. 

This witch is also a full 20 levels (as expected) with spellcasting to the 9th level.  This witch has 1d6 for HD and can’t wear armor.  These witches use Intelligence as their spellcasting ability.  This witch is a ritual caster.   

These witches choose a magical conduit; eight are presented here in two broad categories. Each one gains a list of bonus spells and new powers as expected of any archetype/subclass.   Other conduits could easily be added to these lists. 

The two broad categories, Dawn and Dusk witches have slightly different spell lists.  This is a nice touch and something I have done with my various Traditions for my own witches. 

There also 11 new spells for this witch so that is pretty nice.   

A discussion on magic items, feats, and spells from other books to add to the witch.  With the way the conduits are put together, there is infinite flexibility to this witch.  

This one has quite a lot going for it as well. It takes the witch in different directions and I like it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Blood Sabbath (1972)

Staying in the 70s tonight. In fact, I seem to be stuck in 1971-1973, but that is fine really.  I had seen this one before but I realized I had never reviewed it for my October Horror Movie marathon. 

Well, there is not a lot to recommend here. A very young Anthony Geary stars as a Vietnam Vet and a bunch of women run around completely naked.   How much of the movie is that? I have an edited for TV version that is only about an hour-long, so at least 20 mins were cut.  He meets up with a woman, Yyala, but he can't find her later. 

It does have Dyanne Thorne as Alotta, Queen of Witches.  So there is that I guess. The biggest issue is that the movie is so slow. 

I remember first wanting to see this for the overt association with hippie culture and witchcraft and it certainly has that.  Alotta makes for a good if somewhat stereotypical 70s-era witch. But that doesn't make her less fun.  Susan Damante as the water nymph/witch Yyala is less entertaining, but I think it is because her lines are so bad.  

So to love Yyala, David has to get rid of his soul. A bargain the Witch Queen is happy to oblige him with. Then of course the horror ensues. 

It is pretty typical of the Occult 70s right before the Exorcist hit the theatres. Lots of jumbled up occult ideas, lots of weird filming, and plenty of soft-core nudity.  It also pretty much typifies what I call the "leftover hippie shit" of the 60 going into the 70s.

There is a pretty good review of it (with plenty of screencaps) at the Grind House Database.

Watched: 50
New: 34

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
So one idea I had based on this one and The Boy Who Cried Werewolf last night is the PCs find a group of hippies, yes in 2020, but these hippies seem a bit stranger than most. That is because they are all Fey or nymphs and satyrs. Maybe even Dionysis is still with them but instead of wine he the god of drugs. 

The characters run into problems when these fey want them to "Tune in, Turn on, and Drop Out" with them for the rest of eternity.


Witch Week Review: The Great American Witch

Let's start off the week with a game that is brand new.  How new? It was only two months ago that I was interviewing the author and designer, Christopher Grey, for the Kickstarter.

Last week or so I go my physical copy in the mail and codes for my DriveThruRPG downloads.  That was fast.  So such a speedy response deserves a review. 

The Great American Witch
by Christopher Grey

For this review, I am considering the hardcover, letter-sized book, and the PDF.  On DriveThruRPG you get two different layouts of the core book (1 and 2 page spreads), and several ancillary files for the covens and the crafts.  I was a Kickstart backer and got my products via that. Both the hardcover and the pdfs are available at DriveThruRPG.

The Great American Witch is 162 pages, all full color, with full color covers.  The art is by Minerva Fox and Tithi Luadthong. There are also some photos that I recognize from various stock art services, some I have even used myself.  This is not a criticism of the book; the art, all the art, is used effectively and sets the tone and mood of the book well.

The rule system is a Based on the Apocalypse World Engine variant.  Over the last couple of years I have had mixed, to mostly negative feelings about the Apocalypse World Engine.  Nothing to do with the system itself, but mainly due to how many designers have been using it.  I am happy to report that the version being used in TGAW is a stripped-down version that works better for me.

It is also published by Gallant Knight Games, who has a solid reputation.  So out of the gate and barely cracking open the book it has a lot of things going for it.

The Great American Witch is a cooperative, story-telling game of witches fighting against perceived injustices in the world.  I say "perceived" because of what injustices the witches fight against is going to largely depend on the witches (and the players) themselves. The framework of the game is built on Grey's earlier work, The Great American Novel.  TGAW is expanded from the earlier game.

Like many modern games, TGAW has a Session 0, for everyone to come together and talk about what the game should be about, what the social interaction rules are, and what the characters are.  The older I get the more of a fan of Session 0 I become. As a Game Master, I want to make sure everyone is invested in the game, I want to be sure everyone is going to have a good time. So yes. Session 0 all the way.  The first few pages detail what should be part of your Session 0.  It's actually pretty good material that can be adapted to other games. 

The game also wears its politics on its sleeve. Frankly, I rather like this. It helps that I also happen to agree with the author and game here. But besides that, there is something else here.  This game takes the idea, or even the realities and the mythologies of the witch persecutions and "Burning Times" and revisions them into the modern age.  It is not a bridge to far to see how the forces of the Patriarchy and anti-women legislation, politics, and religion of the 16th to 17th centuries can be recreated in the 21st century. After all, isn't "The Handmaids Tale" one of the most popular and awarded television programs right now? There is obviously something to this.


The main narrative of the game comes from the players themselves.  The Guide (GM) plays a lesser role here than in other games; often as one running the various injustices, NPCs, or other factions the players/characters/witches will run up against.  The system actually makes it easy for all players to have a character and rotate the guide duties as needed.

True to its roots games are broken down into"Stories" and  "Chapters" and who has the narrative control will depend on the type of chapter.  A "Story" is a game start to finish. Be that a one-shot or several different chapters over a long period of time.  A "Montage" chapter is controlled by the players. A "Menace" chapter is controlled by the Guide. A "Mundane" chapter is usually controlled by the player and the details of that chapter are for that character alone.  "Meeting" chapters involve the characters all together and are controlled by them. "Mission" chapters are the main plot focus that move the story forward. "Milestones" are what they sound like. This is where the witch would "level up."

The game uses three d6s for the rare dice resolution. Most times players use a 2d6 and try to roll a 7 or better. "Weal" and "Woe" conditions can augment this roll. The author makes it clear that you should roll only when the outcome is in doubt.  There are a lot of factors that can modify the rolls and the conflicts faced.  It is assumed that most conflicts will NOT be dealt with with a simple roll of 7 or better. The author has made it clear in the book and elsewhere that more times than average a conflict is not just going to go away like defeating a monster in D&D.  Conflicts are akin to running uphill, that can be accomplished, but they will take work and they will not be the only ones.

Once gameplay is covered we move into creating the player character witches. The book gives the player questions that should be answered or at least considered when creating a witch character. Character creation is a group effort, so the first thing you create is your group's Coven.  This also helps in determining the type of game this will be as different covens have different agendas.  There are nine different types of Covens; the Divine, Hearth, Inverted, Oracle, the Storm, Sleepers, the Town, the Veil, and Whispers. Each coven has different specialties and aspects. Also, each Coven has a worksheet to develop its own unique features, so one Coven of the Storm is not exactly the same as another Coven of the Storm from another city or even part of the city.  These are not the Traditions of Mage, the Covenants of the WitchCraftRPG, or even the Traditions of my witch books.  These are all very local and should be unique to themselves.  Once the coven is chosen then other details can be added. This includes things like how much resources does the coven have? Where does it get its money from? Legal status and so on. 


If Covens cover the group of witches, then each witch within the coven has their own Craft.  These are built of of archetypes of the Great Goddess.  They are Aje, the Hag (Calilleach), Hekate, Lilith, Mary (or Isis), Spider Grandmother, and Tara.  These are the Seven Crafts and they are the "sanctioned" and most widespread crafts, but there are others.  Each Craft, as you can imagine, gives certain bonuses and penalties to various aspects of the witch and her magic. Aje for example is not a good one if you want a high value in Mercy, but great if you want a high number in Severity and mixed on Wisdom.   All crafts are also subdivided into Maiden, Mother, and Crone aspects of the witch's life.   

Character creation is rather robust and by the end, you have a really good idea who your witch is and what they want.

The Game Master's, or Guide's, section covers how to run the game. Among other details, there is a section on threats. While there are a lot of potential threats the ones covered in the book are things like demons, vampires, other witches, the fey, the Illuminati, ghosts and other dead spirits, old gods and good old-fashioned mundane humans. 

The end of the book covers the worksheets for the various Covens and Crafts.  You use the appropriate Craft Sheets for a character.

The PDF version of the book makes printing these out very easy.  It would be good for every player to have the same Coven sheet, or a photocopy of the completed one, and then a Craft sheet for their witch.

While the game could be played with as little two players, a larger group is better, especially if means a variety of crafts can be represented.  Here the crafts can strengthen the coven, but also provide some inter-party conflict. Not in-fighting exactly, but differences on how to complete a Mission or deal with a threat.  After all, no one wants to watch a movie where the Avengers all agree on a course of action from the start and the plans go as though up and there are no complications.  That's not drama, that is a normal day at work.  These witches get together to change the world or their corner of it, but sometimes, oftentimes, the plans go sideways.  This game supports that type of play.

The Great American Witch works or fails based on the efforts of the players.  While the role of the GM/Guide may be reduced, the role and responsibilities of the players are increased.  It is also helpful to have players that are invested into their characters and have a bit of background knowledge on what they want their witch to be like.  To this end the questions at the start of the book are helpful.

That right group is the key. With it this is a fantastic game and one that would provide an endless amount of stories to tell.  I am very pleased I back this one.

Plays Well With Others, War of the Witch Queens and my Traveller Envy

I just can't leave well enough alone.  I have to take a perfectly good game and then figure out things to do with it above and beyond and outside of it's intended purposes.  SO from here on out any "shortcomings", I find are NOT of this game, but rather my obsessive desire to pound a square peg into a round hole.


Part 1: Plays Well With Others

The Great American Witch provides a fantastic framework to be not just a Session 0 to many of the games I already play, but also a means of providing more characterization to my characters of those games.

Whether my "base" game is WitchCraftRPG or Witch: Fated Souls, The Great American Witch could provide me with far more detail.  In particular, the character creation questions from The Great American Witch and Witch: Fated Souls could be combined for a more robust description of the character. 

Taking the example from WitchCraft, my character could be a Gifted Wicce.  Even in the WitchCraft rules there is a TON of variety implicit and implied in the Wicce.  Adding on a "layer" of TGAW gives my Wicce a lot more variety and helps focus their purpose.  While reading TGAW I thought about my last big WitchCraft game "Vacation in Vancouver."  Members of the supernatural community were going missing, the Cast had to go find out why.  The game was heavy on adult themes (there was an underground sex trafficking ring that catered to the supernatural community) and required a LOT of participation and cooperation to by the player to make it work. It was intense. At one point my witch character was slapped in an S&M parlor and I swear I felt it! But this is also the same sort of game that could be played with TGAW. Granted, today I WAY tone down the adult elements, but that was the game everyone then agreed to play.  The same rules in TGAW that allow for "safe play" also allow for this.  The only difference is that those rules are spelled out ahead of time in TGAW. 

Jumping back and forth between the systems, with the same characters and players, and a lot of agreement on what constitutes advancement across the systems would be a great experience.  

I could see a situation where I could even add in some ideas from Basic Witches from Drowning Moon Studios.  

Part 2: Traveller Envy

This plays well into my Traveller Envy, though this time these are all RPGs.  Expanding on the ideas above I could take a character, let's say for argument sake my iconic witch Larina, and see how she manifests in each game.  Each game giving me something different and a part of the whole.

Larina "Nix" Nichols
CJ Carrella's WitchCraft RPG:
Gifted Wicce
Mage: The Ascension: Verbena
Mage: The Awakening: Path Acanthus, Order Mysterium
Witch: Fated Souls: Heks
NIGHT SHIFT: Witch
The Great American Witch: The Craft of Lilith OR The Craft of Isis.*

There is no "one to one" correspondence, nor would I wish there to be. In fact, some aspects of one Path/Order/Tradition/Fate/Craft will contradict another.  "The Craft of Lilith" in GAW is a good analog to WitchCraft's "Twilight Order" and the "Lich" in Witchcraft: Fated Souls.  But for my view of my character, this is how to best describe her. 

* Here I am already trying to break the system by coming up with a "Craft of Astarte" which would be the intersection of Lilith and Isis.  Don't try this one at home kids, I am what you call a professional.  

Part 3: War of the Witch Queens

Every 13 years the witch queens gather at the Tredecim to discuss what will be done over the next thirteen years for all witches. Here they elect a new Witch High Queen.

One of the building blocks of my War of the Witch Queens is to take in as much detail as I can from all the games I can.  This is going to be a magnum opus, a multiverse spanning campaign.

What then can the Great American Witch do for me here?  That is easy.  Using the coven creation rules I am planning to create the "coven" of the five main witch queen NPCs.  While the coven creation rules are player-focused, these will be hidden from the players since the witches are all NPCs.  They are based on existing characters, so I do have some external insight into what is going on with each one, but the choices will be mine alone really. 

Looking at these witches and the covens in TGAW they fit the Coven of the Hearth the best.

Coven of the Hearth, also known as the Witches' Tea Circle (tea is very important to witches).  
Five members, representing the most powerful witches in each of the worlds the Witch Queens operate in.
Oath: To work within witchcraft to provide widespread (multiverse!) protection for witches
Holy Day: Autumnal Equinox. Day of Atonement: Sumer Solstice. Which was their day of formal formation as well.
Hearth: A secured build in an Urban setting.
Sanctuary: Lots of great stuff here, and all of it fits well.
Connections & Resources: Organization charged with finding those in need.

Going to the Coven Worksheet:

Resources: Wealthy coven (they are Queens)
Makes money? A shop.  Let's say that the "Home, Heart & Hearth" stores from my own Pumpkin Spice Witch book are the means to keep this operation funded.
Distribution: Distributed based on need.
Status: Mainstream.  They ARE the mainstream.
Importance? Witches need to come together.
Mundanes? Mundanes are important. but not for the reasons listed. Mundanes are the greatest threat.
Influence: Extraordinary.
Members: Five or six local, but millions in the multiverse.
Authority: Through legacy and reputation

Wow. That worked great, to be honest.

Here's hoping for something really big to come from this.

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