Witch Girls Review

Today I’m taking a look at Witch Girls, a game about young girls that’s designed to be for new gamers. It’s an interesting game with a lot of potential for young players as well. We’ll see how it stacks up and how it compares to games like No Thank You, Evil!

The World

The details of the campaign setting carry a lot of familiar tropes: a magical society parallel to our mundane society with magical creatures and a magical school. One major twist here is that only girls are spellcasters and that witches are not actually human. Witches are immortal and they have human children, unless they are having a child with some magical creature, called Otherkin. This means you can have a male character in this game if they are fae or a werewolf or something like that.

Witches live in a magical world with magical sports and organizations, plus they go to school to learn spells and they have typical teenager problems. On the other hand there are armed commandoes of a modern day Malleus Maleficarum led by an immortal zealot, a weird society of witch-stalkers who are steeped in toxic masculinity, and classes on necromancy to actually call up the dead. This is a bit of mixed bag in terms of age-appropriate content.

Image © Channel M Games

It’s also worth noting that the book frequently mentions a fantasy book within the world of Witch Girls called Larry Spotter. Alternate rules for playing in this sort of world are provided including the strange houses of Larry Spotter’s magical school. Obviously this is a reference to Harry Potter which is a notably litigious property and not one that you want to mess with. This is about as close of a tongue-in-cheek reference as I’ve seen anyone do but it means you could conceivably use this game as a means into that more famous wizard world.

Mechanics

In Witch Girls, your abilities are listed as dice, from d2 to d12. There’s an option for “d0+1” which seems like it should just be “1” but who am I to judge. Likewise, after d12 there’s “d12+1” up to “d12+7” for increasingly crazy abilities and then d20 for “cosmic” abilities. This reminds me of the Strength scores in AD&D which stubbornly refused to consider that mortals could have Strength scores above 18 and so had a whole percentage breakdown before you reached 19. In short, it’s a little complicated. Anyways, characters typically have attributes between d4 and d8 so there’s not that much min-maxing.

Rolling, though, is very easy and is essentially just like a d20 game but with these different attribute dice. You get a Difficulty for a given task, roll the appropriate die, and add the rating of the skill involved. For instance, the Athletics skill involves Body so if you’re trying to make a difficult jump with a target of 7 you roll the right die for your Body and then add the ranks in Athletics that you have. Difficulty numbers start at 4 and then become “Very Hard” by 12 so there’s not a ton of room for mixing things up here: most rolls are going to be between 6 and 8 so you don’t have to consider many different options.

Image © Channel M Games

Making Characters

There are no classes in Witch Girls and almost all the characters are witches (some have Otherkin blood, discussed below) so your basic abilities are determined by Cliques, your witch social group. The Gothiques are the pale-skinned, dyed-hair witches that fully embrace the occult side of magic. The Insiders are witches who can pass in Mundane society more easily while Sorceresses are fully locked into the magical world and frequently don’t understand things like Youtube or bus passes. Outsiders are new to the magical scene and often don’t know about witch matters or customs and Rustics are from more rural areas and often fall into the mold of hedge witches. Cliques include starting attribute values, skill levels, magic knowledge, and a bonus ability.

Image © Channel M Games

Specifically there are six attributes: Body, Mind, Senses, Will, Social, and Magic. The list of skills is thirty-four entries long so I’ll let you discover them for yourself. They cover things like mythology, singing, or school subjects. There’s a further list of ten magical skills which is how spellcasting works in this game. While this second list includes broom riding and magic etiquette but the truly important skills are Casting, Enchantment (creating magic items), Potion, and Spell Breaker (undoing others’ spells).

Wrapping up the process of making a character are Traits which are something like feats in D&D. Some Talents are things like Warrior or Flier which give you more facility with certain abilities in the world of Witch Girls, other Talents are things like Drama Queen or Creepy that give you bonuses when acting in ways that match with certain personality types. Similar to Traits are Heritages which are origins like Attuned (especially magic-sensitive), Legacy (your parents built this school!), or Half-Otherkin (for folks with fae or werewolf parents). 

Spells

Spell organization follows a similar pattern to many other games with various schools of similar spells. From Alteration to Curses to Time and Space there are many different types of spells to choose from. Casting a spell (with the Casting skill) is straightforward and falls into the easy range (7-9) of the difficulty ranges. The system is freeform, though, using points called Zap Points to construct the sort of magical effects you want. Each school includes effects with base ranks and onto that you add number of targets, implements and gestures, etc.

For example, let’s say you want to charm a crowd of mortals. That would fall under the category of Mentalism, although just making people friendly isn’t exactly listed. Making people fall in love, though, is a rank 2 effect so this is likely a rank 1. We can assume that the crowd is pretty close by, though, so we’ll call it near and that adds on 3 more ranks. We want it to last a whole scene which is another 2 ranks and then we want it to affect a mob which is 6 ranks. The highest out of those is 6 which is how many Zap Points to spend, an awful lot considering that starting witches get between 16 and 20 Zap Points to start. Since it’s a rank 6 spell you have to include a minor gesture or a single word of incantation. Things like wands will can help reduce the number of Zap Points you need to pay.

Image © Channel M Games

Conclusion

This is a pretty awesome game that covers the genre of magic-using students really well. You could be a character out of Harry Potter, a teenage witch, or a half-werewolf football player trying to find her real parents. There are so many different directions to take with Witch Girls… but is it a good kids game? No, not really.

The mechanics of Witch Girls are pretty complicated and many of the themes are a lot more for adults looking back at being kids. I wouldn’t use this to start kids off playing RPGs, although the concept and execution is fun enough that it could work for adults whom you want to introduce to the hobby. The characters in Witch Girls might be thirteen year olds heading out to face the world but if you’re asking players to balance the relative cost of Zap Points and navigate through a freeform decision tree of spellcasting (not to mention some unclear points in the writing) then they should probably be a lot older than thirteen or you are likely to see a game that descends quickly into chaos.

Image © Channel M Games

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