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S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2020 11:23:45

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/11/classic-adventures-revisited-s4-lost.html

One of my all-time favorite adventures is S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

A solid two-level dungeon crawl, filled with new monsters, dangers, and the promise of great treasures. Additionally, there are rumors of an ancient witch/archmage and her battles with demons and even the threat that some of those demons are still around. There is plenty of wilderness area as well. A wide expanse with a gnome community nearby and a raging blue dragon.

With its "Booklet 2" filled with new spells, magic circles, and demons it made me think that a witch class with ritual magic could be something that would work for D&D.

There is so much great stuff in and around this adventure it is hard to know where to begin. So let's start with the adventure itself.

S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth The adventure, S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, was published back in 1982 by TSR. It was written by none other than Gary Gygax himself. It is listed as "S4" and was the last of the labeled "S series" or Special modules. This includes some of the most popular adventures ever written; S1 Tomb of Horrors, S2 White Plume Mountain, and S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

The adventure itself is comprised of two 32 page booklets. The first book is the adventure itself, which I will get into detail in a bit. The second booklet covers all sorts of new magic, monsters, and more.

Book 1: The Adventure

The adventure is of the classic sort; the rumor of treasure and a vague threat coming from an area of the map known as Iggwilv's Horn. The adventure is designed for characters level 6 to 10. I have found over the last 40 years that it can be adapted to a variety of levels, though higher levels are better. Though the original tournament adventure featured slightly lower levels. Likely due to the addition of the wilderness adventure.

The wilderness adventure is actually well put together and not the older crazy random monster encounters. The encounters make sense for the area. Among the encounters are the Hermit, and I could not help make this the same hermit from Keep on the Borderlands (also a Gygax creation) and the Blue Dragon. The Blue Dragon, in particular, became so much a hit the first time I ran this that in future runnings of this I changed the dragon to Korbundar from CM2 Death's Ride to have a reoccurring villain. A lot of adventure is packed into 12 pages.

The second part of the adventure covers the Lost Caverns themselves, which includes the Lesser and Greater caverns. This features a large variety of new monsters, some living here, some just wandering around. Even encounters such as "The Garden of One Thousand Earthly Delights" have a good (enough) reason to be there.

The final encounter is in the center of the Greater Caverns and it is not for Iggwilv's Treasure, but rather against Iggwilv's Treasure; the vampire Drelnza. She is a bit more powerful than your average vampire and she has magic to help her out. Eventually, she will succumb to heroes and the treasure will be found including the infamous Demonomicon of Iggwilv, Daoud's Wonderous Lanthorn, and the Prison of Zagig.

Book 2: Monsters and Magic

This second booklet, as I have mentioned, grabbed my attention as much as the first, if not more. Listed inside were new monsters, only some appeared in the adventure, including new demons and demon lords. There were the mysterious Xag-ya and Xeg-yi, the Derro and the awkwardly named (for the early 80s) Valley Elf. All these creatures would later be reprinted in the Monster Manual II for 1st Edition. This is fitting since the original tournament adventure introduced monsters that would become part of the first Monster Manual. There are some magic items including some wonderful artifacts mentioned above. Of these The Demonomicon of Iggwilv capture not just my imagination, but that of hundreds of others. The Demonomicon became a feature in Dragon Magazine and even a 4e book of the same name. Iggwilv went from a "long-dead archmage" to "The Mother of Witches" and the premiere demonologist in D&D. This little booklet also contains plenty of new spells.

This was classic AD&D at the end of it's 1st Golden Age.

The adventure is extremely playable and I have adapted it over the years for AD&D 2nd ed, D&D 3rd, and 5th Editions as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (1e)
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Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e)
Publisher: Xacur
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/30/2020 10:35:57

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/5e-witch-project-witchcraft-magic-of.html

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.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e)
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Charm Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Strange Machine Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/29/2020 13:51:57

Originally Posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/witch-week-review-charm.html

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.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Charm Roleplaying Game
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Creator Reply:
Thanks for the review! We can add a sheet to the DTRPG file folder that may address the jumpiness. Feel free to shoot me an email if you have some specific thoughts.
Hidden Oddities: A Witch's Primer
Publisher: Eva Brown
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/29/2020 13:43:00

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/5e-witch-project-hidden-oddities-witchs.html

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.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hidden Oddities: A Witch's Primer
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The Witch: a 5e class
Publisher: HopePunk Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2020 15:21:07

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/5e-witch-project-witch-5e-compatible.html

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.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Witch: a 5e class
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Kids on Brooms: Core Rulebook
Publisher: Hunters Entertainment
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2020 15:07:36

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/witch-week-review-kids-on-brooms.html

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.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kids on Brooms: Core Rulebook
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The Great American Witch
Publisher: Gallant Knight Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/27/2020 12:06:19

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/witch-week-review-great-american-witch.html

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.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Great American Witch
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Complete Witch
Publisher: Mage Hand Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/27/2020 11:31:04

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/5e-witch-project-complete-witch.html

Complete Witch from Mage Hand Press

This book is 41 pages (cover, table of contents, credits, OGL, for 37 pages of content).

This PDF sells for $5.99, but currently is $4.99 for the Halloween sales. Given that the art is more expensive for an OGL book than a DMsGuild book I am not sure if my 10 cents per page rule of thumb is appropriate anymore. In any case, this one is very close to that.

If my expectations were for better art, design and production then Mage Hand has met those expectations and surpassed them. The layout is extremely clean and readable. The art is fantastic and liberally used. The cover in particular is very dynamic. This is a product that grabs your attention.

The witch class itself is a full 20 level caster with spells to the 9th level. The witch has a number of cantrips known and a maximum number of spells known. This witch also gets something called “Hexes” at the first level and these progress. The witch has 1d8 HD. She is a charisma based spell caster and can cast ritual spells. Ok so far every box has been checked.

Each witch also has a curse. Now this is a nice touch and I really like it. I am not going to detail the curses here, you should really buy it to see, but I am very, very fond of the Burned, Hideous and Hallow. But the coolest is Visions. As a DM I’d use that one to my advantage.

As the witch progresses she gains other powers. Most notably the Hexes. These are roughly equal to the Hexes of the Pathfinder Witch or even of the Occult Powers of my witches. There are a good number of them, including Grand Hexes.

The Archetypes of this Witch are the Witch’s Crafts. I would call these Traditions and others call them Covens. But regardless of the names, they work really well. Each craft gains a list of additional spells and choices of Hexes unique to that craft. There are 14 different Crafts. I would have gone for 13 myself, but hey I am not going to complain here. Special shout out for the Tea Magic Witches.

IF that was all that this publication gave us, then frankly I would call myself happy and been good. But that is only half the book.

Up next we get a Chapter (yes a proper chapter) on Familiars. There are many new ones introduced here too. There are 17 here including the very inspired Pet Rock (I am nor joking! I love it!)

Chapter 3 covers spells. This is the witches' spell list AND new spells. There are 18 new spells here. For a D&D 5 book that is a lot. But again, that is not everything we also get some new Dark Rituals. There are 11 of these and they remind me a lot, in form and function, of the Ritual Spells I also give my witches. They are very well done.

We get a new god/monster/elder thing.

We end with an Appendix on Epic Boons! (This is a first!)

At 41 pages, this one packs a huge punch.

I can’t find a single issue with this product save for a couple of nit-picky layout issues. It is really, really good.

I had very high expectations and this product met and surpassed them all.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Complete Witch
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Wonders of the Witch
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/26/2020 15:12:16

Orginally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/dmsguild-witch-project-wonders-of-witch.html

This PDF is 50 pages (front and back covers, legal, 47 pages of content) and runs for $9.99. It is light on art (save for a great cover) but high on design. It is a very attractive book to look at and super easy to read.

I have not talked about PDF bookmarks so far because there has never been a need; all the other pdfs have been small enough to not really need them. This PDF is larger and uses them. So another plus in their favor.

We open with a fiction section with Baba Yaga instructing a young Igwilv (sic) on the nature of magic and witchcraft. Seriously are you guys just flirting with me now? As someone that has spent a lot of time with both characters in my games, this one feels right. Canon accepted. Hell that cover could double as the young Iggwilv/Tasha really.

We start out with witch-related background details. There is the Dedicate, the Disciple, the Healer, the Hidden One, the Malefactor, and the Temptress (or Tempter). Each with associated Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws. Eight pages of this and I want to figure out a witch for each one.

Next is the Witch class proper. It is a full 20 levels with powers at many levels. The archetypes/subtypes/subclasses for this are known as Covens and they are Hag, Grey, Elemental, and White. Spellcasting ability is Charisma. This witch has spell slots like all casters, and a max number of spells known. Witches are Ritual casters and use arcane spell foci. So yeah, everything I want to see in a witch really.

Witches gain a power at 2nd level (Beguile) and then a "Witch Craft" at levels 3, 10 and 17. These function a bit like Hexes (Pathfinder) or Occult Powers (mine). There is a list to choose from and these are independent of coven.

The covens are nicely detailed. They are all written in a manner that immediately makes you realize that the authors could add any number of extra covens as their imagination sees fit. This is yet another positive aspect of this class. The covens also feel different enough and cover a wide variety of witchy archetypes.

Spell lists follow with the expected spells. There are also NEW SPELLS. This is the real gem of this book. There are 27 new spells here. They are truly new spells. There are some that will feel familiar, but many that are new.

For clerics there is a new "Black Magic" Domain.

We also get some new named covens. There is the Daughters of Twilight, dedicated to Shar (and a new spell). The Vistani get the Stravaneska Tasque, and a new spell. The Secret Shards dedicated to Selûne (and a new spell). The Sun Sisters, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sun. The Blood of the Green, witches of the forests. The Red Witches of Thay, a Lawful Good sect of witches in Thay! So six more new spells.

There are some Tools fo the Trade which covers many new magic items. 50 plot hooks for witch adventures.

A bit on the Mother Goddess in the Realms, or bringing the Witch Goddess to the Toril. Finally a bestiary of witch related creatures. These are the: Brownie, Gallows Hag, Rune Hag, Weeping Hag, Gilt Hag, Severed Hag, Daughter of Darkness (!) Witch, and Witch High Priestess. They are organized by CR.

This really is a quality product. One of the best of the DMsGuidl Witches to be honest.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wonders of the Witch
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Witch Class (D&D 5e)
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/23/2020 10:42:35

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/dmsguild-witch-project-5e-witches-part-3.html

This PDF is 11 pages (1 title, 1 legal, 9 content) and no art. The layout is clean but the background image makes it a little harder to read. The PWYW price is $1.00. That comes right in at my 10 cents per page guideline so yeah this is good.

There is some background given, relating the witch to the druid. It is fine, but I don't quite think it came over the way the author wanted it to though.

This witch is a full caster of 20 levels and to the 9th level of spell ability. This witch is also a wisdom caster and has ritual casting. These witches also gain a familiar. The archetypes are known as covens, as expected. There are two, Creators and Hag's Disciple. The Hag one is expanded based on the type of Hag used.

There is a spell list, but no new spells.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Witch Class (D&D 5e)
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Witch Class for DND 5e
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/23/2020 10:40:28

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/dmsguild-witch-project-5e-witches-part-3.html

This PDF is 8 pages, all content. The PDF sells for $0.50 PWYW, so under my 10 cents per page guidelines. Since it is also all content and no filler, so $1.00 would be appropriate here.

The class is a full 20 levels with spell casting to the 9th spell level. There is a max Spells Known per level. The ability for spell casting is Intelligence.

These witches have a "Binding Locus" that gives them their power. This also grants them abilities at certain levels. Binding Loci can be Arcane, Void, Wilds and Entity. The Entity is somewhat like the Warlock's patron and has a few more powers.

We end with the spell list. No new spells.

It's Halloween, go ahead and give them $1.00.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Witch Class for DND 5e
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Witch Class
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/23/2020 10:38:33

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/dmsguild-witch-project-5e-witches-part-3.html

UPDATED REVIEW

This PDF is eight pages, all content. The PWYW price is set to $0.00, but following my guidelines $0.80 or even a buck would be good. There is no art but the layout is good. This is one of the earliest witch classes submitted to DMSGuild.

This witch is more like a warlock, but that is what it is advertised as. These witches appear to be manipulators of Fate. These witches also use Wisdom as their spellcasting ability. Instead of pacts or traditions, this witch has "Heritages"; the Traditionalist, the Blighted, and the Clairvoyant. Each one gives the witch some different sorts of powers. Ends with a spell list. At eight pages it seems a bit thin but does exactly what it said it was going to do.

It is less like a witch and more like a "Hedge Warlock" in my mind. Granted, this is not a bad thing at all.

Toss the author a buck and wish them "Happy Halloween."



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Witch Class
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D&D 5e Witch Class
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/22/2020 09:15:33

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/dmsguild-witch-project-5e-witches-part-2.html

This PDF is 18 pages (1 title, 17 pages content). There is no art and no layout above what can be done in a simple word processor. It also only sells for $1.00, so that evens everything out.

This witch is at 20 levels, but only progresses to the 5th spell level ability. Interestingly enough this witch also uses a 1d8 for HD, so making her a little tough than other witches. This one also puts more details into the various familiars the witch can get.

The archetypes are referred to as "Teachings" here. There are Fortune Teller, Herbology, and Sigils.

We get a spell list at the end.

Some interesting ideas, but it feels a bit like a rough draft rather than a completed product. Then again for $1.00 you can buy it and detail it any way you like.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
D&D 5e Witch Class
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Witch Class 5E
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/22/2020 09:12:54

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/dmsguild-witch-project-5e-witches-part-2.html

This pdf is 15 pages (1 title, 1 legal) and selling at $1.00 PWYW, falling below my 10 cents per page price threshold. The PDF itself reminds me a bit of the style and presentation of an Unearthed Arcana article, but with art. I am sure that is the author's intent.

This class has a bit more flavor than others, with a little more background for the witch. It takes a specific point of view on witchcraft but is easily adopted or adapted. Like most of the other DMSGuild witches, this one is a full 20 levels with casting to the 9th spell level ability. This one also has a limit on the total number of spells the witch can know. The witch gets some powers common to all witches and some that specific to their coven. The common powers are known as Witchcraft (naturally) and revolve around channeling life energy.

The covens include the Celestial, Fey, and Infernal. There is a spell list and four new spells. So this gives it an edge over many of the others.

There are a lot of neat ideas here and many worth looking into deeper.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Witch Class 5E
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Creator Reply:
Thanks! I appreciate the review, if through reading the class and concepts you find any adjustments or balancing suggestions, please let me know! This class is a fun one, and I'd like to continue to improve it.
Witch Class: Cackling Guidebook for lonely Spellcasters
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/21/2020 09:39:22

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/dmsguild-witch-project-5e-witches-part-1.html

This PDF is 9 pages and $1.00 PWYW. There is no art but the layout is nice. 1 page for the title and 1 page for legal and changelog, bring the content down to 6 pages. This class is a full 20 levels, with spell casting to the 9th spell level ability.

This one is interesting since your "Source of Power" determines your spellcasting ability. You may choose Intelligence or Charisma. This witch is also a ritual caster. Logically it could be taken a step further and expand to Wisdom too.

Covens grant the witch some "secret spells" starting at the 2nd level and special powers. The Covens are Coven of the Beast, Coven of the Storm, Coven of Nature.

There is a list of spells, but no new spells. This is fine, no new spells were advertised.

Has some good points but I'd like to see it expanded a bit.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Witch Class: Cackling Guidebook for lonely Spellcasters
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