Guest Author - Jay Shaffstall
Designing a game for a younger role playing audience is one thing, and designing a role playing game for girls is another. Witch Girls Adventures has done both.
The basic premise is that certain girls throughout history have been blessed (or cursed, depending on your viewpoint) with the ability to perform magic. In more primitive times, those girls might have been called witches, and persecuted. In other times, they may have been revered as wise ones, and consulted for healing and advice.
Each player character is a girl aged 11 to 13 who has the ability to work magic (there are also rules for running older or younger characters). By definition, they are outsiders to the rest of mundane humanity. The Witches' World Council does their best to find these girls and train them in the use of their powers. Some they miss, and those girls train themselves, or stop believing in magic altogether.
Witches can only be girls, but if you have boy players who don't want to run a witch, there are also the other-kin. A creative GM could allow a boy character to play a werewolf, for example.
In Witch Girls Adventures, the basic attributes are Body, Mind, Senses, Will, Social, and Magic. Each is assigned a die type: e.g. d6, d12, d20, etc. The higher the die type, the better your character is at tasks involving that attribute.
There are some secondary attributes calculated from the basic ones, such as Life Points, how well your character can dodge magical attacks, resist magic, and the energy she uses to cast magic.
Checks against attributes are given a target number, and you roll the die type for the attribute to try and get equal to or above the target number. Skills will also add to this roll.
A character's clique is their basic background, and will help to determine some of their basic attributes, education, and experience with magic. Each clique also has some sort of bonus ability associated with it.
Some cliques, such as the Insiders, try to balance the time they spend in the magical and mundane societies. Others, such as the Rustics, are more nature based and come from isolated communities. There's also the Gothiques, who embrace what popular mundane culture says witches should be, the Outsiders, who are more associated with the mundane world than the magical world, and the Sorceresses, who are more associated with the magical world.
Choosing a clique gives you the rough background for your character, but there's still a lot you can do to personalize her.
Skills are just what you would expect...extra training a character has had in performing a particular set of tasks. Skills are rated in the amount they add to a die roll involving the attribute for the skill. For example, the Acting skill adds to the Social attribute.
The game has a nice list of both mundane and magical skills (including broom riding, a must for the genre).
Traits are those special abilities and disadvantages that distinguish your character from the others.
A trait can be a Talent, which is generally something your character does better than others. For example, a witch who is Devious gets +1 to rolls that involve controlling others, while a witch who is Meek gets +1 to mundane skill rolls performed when nobody else is looking.
A trait can also be a Heritage. A Heritage is a mixed bag, and has both advantages and disadvantages associated with it. For example, a witch who is Attuned is better at magic, but in reaction their body is weaker than it should be. A witch with a werewolf Heritage has better senses, but their Will die type is lowered since they're driving more by emotion than logic.
Magic comes in different types, such as Alteration, Conjuration, Cybermancy, and others. Each magic type has a set of spells available at each rank. A beginning character will typically get 8 ranks to spend on magic types, plus a free rank or two in specific magic types depending on the clique they chose.
Beginning characters can have max of rank 4 in a single magic type. Each magic type has up to 6 ranks available, giving a lot of room for character growth over time. Each rank typically has 3 to 4 spells available. A character can increase her rank in a magic type beyond 6, which will increase the range, duration, and other aspects of her spells in that magic type.
Characters will use magic to overcome many obstacles in the game, and the variety of magic available ensures that each character will have unique abilities and a chance to contribute.
Witch Girls Adventures uses an abstract way of figuring out what a witch can buy. They get an allowance that's measured in allowance points, and each piece of equipment costs a certain number of allowance points. Those points refresh each week. A starting character has some extra money to use for initial equipment.
The variety of equipment is very impressive!
There are pets, of course, and pets can be purchased that have magical abilities of their own. You can have a cat that breathes fire, or a bird that can turn invisible.
No game about teenage witches would be complete without cool magical clothing, and Witch Girls Adventures delivers. There's the Bigger Bag, the game's equivalent to a bag of holding, an Invisibility Cloak, an outfit that can change into one of twelve different outfits on command, and many more.
There are also hobby kits, such as the Build-A-Monster kit, the Wand-Making Kit, the Voodoo Doll Kit, and more. There are magic bracelets and rings, computer related magic items, and even a Celestial Cell phone that never loses signal (and can even connect from some other dimensions). There are potions, there are magical conveyances (brooms, carpets, etc), magic wands, and magic books.
You can even spend some of your allowance points on mundane equipment, if you really want.
Running The Game
So far all we've covered has been character creation. If it seems a bit complex, I wouldn't worry about that. The target age range does better with a system that's slightly complex but they can master, than with an ultra simple system.
Someone, though, will need to run the game. That person (the Director), needs to design the adventure, assign difficulties to tasks, decide what the non-player characters do, etc.
Combat in the game is fairly cinematic, and kind to player characters. When a witch takes damage in combat, she can roll her Body die type and ignore that many points of damage. A character that does die can be saved by friends who survive using First Aid. Healing is fairly quick, too, with a witch regaining however much they roll on their Body die every day.
The game book gives a lot of advice on how to structure your game, including offering up a lot of different themes you can use. The witches' school is a classic setting, but you could also put your group of witches in any environment and see how they cope.
There's also a chapter that gives you background on the world of Witch Girls Adventures. Your players don't have to know this information, especially if their characters are new to their powers, but you should read it to get ideas for campaigns.
About half the book is advice and information for the Director, so even if you haven't run a role playing game before, you're in good hands. There are stats for the various beings the witches might encounter (both magical and mundane), information on the various organizations in the world, the laws of witchcraft, stats for various powerful NPCs in the world, and more.
One chapter details a possible setting for a campaign, the Willow-Misst School, a school for witches. This includes information on the town, important NPCs, and a map of the school. An appendix includes a complete class schedule for students.
There's also a sample adventure at the end of the book you can use as a guide, or run as is.
I've gone way over the word count I normally shoot for in reviews, and feel like I have barely scratched the surface of this game. The game itself is a great value for the cost, and is very well done.
Role playing parents with daughters in the right age range should snap this game up. You can get the print version at the Witch Girls Adventures site for $19.99 as of this writing, or the PDF version at Drive Thru RPG for $16.99 as of this writing.
You might have to help your daughters through the character creation process the first time, but after that they'll enjoy mastering the system and growing their characters over time.