Guest Writer: Timothy Brannan
I supported the WITCH: Fated Souls Kickstarter back when it was coming out and have been meaning to do a review for ages. So near Halloween and with the PDF on sale at DriveThruRPG, this might be a great time.
Elizabeth Chaipraditkul is a new name to the RPG biz, but one that is getting out there. In addition to being the lead hamster at Angry Hamster Publishing, she has also worked with Stacy Dellorfano on a new adventure for the upcoming Swords & Wizardry Complete 3rd Printing Kickstarter. WITCH: Fated Souls, though, is her masterwork.
WFS is a modern supernatural game. It has elements of horror and universe destroying, or defining, magics. Now lets be 100% fair here. We all have several of these sorts of games. I have more than I can count right now and I have written or worked on a few myself. So any game in this field has some really steep competition. For myself, I am likely to compare this game to CJ Carrella’s WitchCraft and to Mage: the Ascension. I am also likely to compare this to Ron Edwards’ Sorcerer.
Liz has an impressive RPG Playing career and you can see influences of D&D, Vampire, and Mage in her game. So WFS can be judged both on setting and game mechanics.
As mentioned, WFS is a Modern Supernatural game with elements of horror. Not “you fail a SAN check” sort of horror, but more along the lines of “what are you willing to do, willing to give up, for power”. The characters of WFS are witches, also known as the Fated. These characters have sold their soul to a “demon” for power. In some cases, this is a fire and brimstone devil or it’s a nebulous concept, the Horned Beast, the Reynard, or it is something the witches don’t even understand themselves.
For my review, I am looking over my hardcover book and PDF from my Kickstarter package. This included a GM screen and a deck of “Devil Deck Cards”. I also got a lot of images, character sheet package PDF, and some desktop wallpapers. The book is 208 pages, standard format with full-color covers and interiors, though the color palette is predominantly blacks, blues, and violets.
WITCH is divided up into nine chapters and an introduction.
Here we get some setting fiction and the typical “what are RPGs” section. There is also a Chapter overview here.
CHAPTER 1: Character Creation
WFS is a character focused game. One might even say it is a story-telling game, but it has more crunch than most storytelling games. Regardless of what you might, or might not, call it, characters are the most important element. What will your character do for power? What will they sacrifice and how much of their humanity is left when they are done? In this respect, it has a lot in common with Vampire and Sorcerer. You are expected to have a concept in mind when you begin your character creation. To this end, the various “Fate” or types of Witch you can become are presented. These include the Hecks, Druids, Djinn, Yokai, Sósyé, Liches, and Seers. You can read about all of these and get details on who they are and what they do on Angry Hamster’s website. Also detailed here are the types of demons associated with each Fate.
When creating a character the player needs to think about who this character is and what they are going to be doing in this world. So there are prompts like “Before my Fating…” and “I was Fated because…” and “My relationship with my demon is…” Here, and throughout the book, there are examples and story elements to help guide you. There is also a step by step instruction guide.
Character creation, mechanically speaking, is a case of point-buy. If you have played WoD, GURPS, Unisystem or other games then this will feel familiar. Like WoD and WitchCraft we also get a couple pages, with character art, dedicated to each Fate. The art in this game is really great.
CHAPTER 2: Vital Statistics
This deals with the stats of your character: Attributes (nearly fixed qualities like Charisma, Dexterity, and Intelligence), Skills (how good are you at driving, etiquette, and social empathy), Pursuits (things you own or are), and Talents (akin to magical skills or qualities).
This is set up similar to many games so navigating what this is and how to use it are not difficult. There is a LOT of room for customization so the number of potential characters is really great. So there is no reason for every Sósyé or Djinn to be the same as the others.
CHAPTER 3: Magic
Now this is a fun chapter. An overview of the game mechanics of magic is given including the important “botch” roll. Magic here has a bit of different feel than other games. The closest for me is WitchCraft, but with plenty of Mage added in. Magic spells are grouped by Fate. So the Djinn have different magic than the Hecks and so on.
All the fated also have access to Rituals. These are “longer” spells that take time and sometimes multiple casters. Others are simple spells that are more rote. In a similar concept we are also given potions. This is a true gem of these rules since it represents one of the best potion creation use and mixing rules outside of the 1st Ed Dungeon Masters Guide. It also has some of the most attractive art too. The magic alteration section is great.
CHAPTER 4: Higher Spell Levels
This chapter is a treat since “higher level spells” are treated as something qualitatively different than the lower, more common magic. The only thing I can compare this to is as if there was a new D&D book that covered 10th level spells. These spells, known as Deireadh spells, can significantly alter the world and the character including, but not limited too, casting off their own demon. Even if I never get a chance to use this chapter in a WFS game, it has given me plenty of ideas.
CHAPTER 5: Mechanics
The mechanics of WFS are pretty simple. Roll 2d10, add the necessary mods, and roll higher than a 13 (or 11 in some cases). This makes many of the rule mechanics easy to abstract. Sure, if you roll higher (with mods) than a 25, then you get an Outstanding Success and a natural 20 is still good. Botching is getting two “1”s. So again, the feel here is very much like WitchCraft. Picking up these rules are a simple matter. The rules have some special cases of course. Combat versus non-combat and using Talents. But nothing here will cause any experienced gamer any concerns.
There are plenty of weapons here too. Don’t go into this looking for differences between various types of guns, the rules are simplified to “light revolver” and “heavy revolver”. But that is really all the game details you need.
CHAPTER 6: Expanded Mechanics
This chapter covers some specifics like Wishes (we have Djinn afterall), Familiars, Artifacts, and using the Devil’s Deck. The Devil’s Deck was part of the Kickstarter and it looks fantastic. I think you can order one from Angry Hamster, but a “Witches” Tarot deck would work out well too.
CHAPTER 7: Setting
This chapter covers the setting and the history of the WFS world. This is what helps set this apart from other games of it’s genre. I say “world” but I also mean areas and places from beyond this world.
CHAPTER 8: Animals, Entities, and Foes
Pretty much what is says on the tin. Though there is a section up front on the various demons you can serve and what they are all about. A lot of creatures are present here (and many more an be added). There is also a good section of NPCs.
CHAPTER 9: GM Guide
This chapter covers running the game and how to set the tone for this game. I have been picking at this book for months and maybe because it was close to Halloween, I now get what I want to do with it. This is a great game and with the right group, it will be a ton of fun.
I’d love to try it at a con sometime, but this is a game of many sessions and developing plots and layers of story. This is a game of investment. I will be spending some more time with it. Will it replace WitchCraft in my life? No. But it will make a for a nice addition. I really, really like this game and want it do well. The potential here is great.