Categorized | Reviews, RPGs

CJ Carrella’s WitchCraft Review

Posted on September 20, 2004 by Flames


Written by C. J. Carella, M. Alexander Jurkat and John M. Kahane, Eden Studios (EDN4000), 1999, 320 pgs, $35.00US

Witchcraft is a tabletop role-playing game set in our modern era. The Armageddon has yet to happen. Before it does, your players will create characters that are attempting to guide humanity to their preferred Armageddon. You can play psychics, witches, sorcerers, Mundanes (humans with no magical abilities), Bast (cats with the ability to perform magics and change into human guise), supernatural hunters, secret society members, and MORE!

The artwork in this book is both beautiful and fitting. It helps to set the mood of the game, right away. In fact, the cover, by George Vasilakos, gets you started in the right direction, before you even open the book. RK Post, Fred Hooper, Guy Burwell, Heather J. McKinney, and Dan Smith do the interior art. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, RK Post is the next Tim Bradstreet. I can see RK Post revolutionizing the role-playing game world, like Tim Bradstreet did with Shadowrun and Vampire: The Masquerade. And when it happens, you can tell them that Oaxaca said it first. Fred Hooper’s work lends itself well to the horror genre. His work is much more flat black and white, as opposed to RK Post’s line art. The rest of the artwork in the book supplements the material very well. While the artwork does not stand out as much as RK Post’s or Fred Hooper, it is well done. I’m not an avid fan of Dan Smith’s style, but it mostly works here.

The writing is very well done. The book is easy to read. The words flow, and present well thought-out ideas and ideals. Great effort was taken to make sure that the reader understands the different settings and player character types available. The main body of the book is written by CJ Carella. However, Alex Jurkat and John Kahane helped in contributing additional writing and development.

With Witchcraft, your characters can learn how to use Essence magic, Places and Items of power, Psychic powers, The Sight, Necromancy, and Divine Inspiration. While I do wish there were more options for magic and that ilk, what is there, is wonderfully done. In fact, there are fifty-eight pages worth of magical goodness for your players.

More Powers could have been included in the magic section. For those looking for more, check out the Mystery Codex. Not only does the Mystery Codex update earlier versions of CJ Carella’s Witchcraft, published by companies other than Eden Studios, it presents more information on magic, inhumans, supernatural creatures, and a couple of other items. I’ll review that book at a later date.

The rules for magic are as simple as the rest of the system, so you don’t have to worry about headaches.

The section on Supernaturals reads a bit like a well-done Monster Gazetteer. The Supernaturals are presented as antagonists, and range from Lovecraftian Mad Gods to Spirits, Ghosts, and Gremlins to Seraphim, and on to Followers of the Mad Gods. You get fifty-seven pages full of bad-guys and how to use them in your campaign.

Speaking of “in your campaign:” the last section of the book, before the glossaries, indices, and such, is about running a Witchcraft game. I’ve seen more than a few games published WITHOUT this section. Most of those games are now in the pile of games-that-will-never-be-published-ever-again. The Chroniclers section of this book proves that CJ Carella’s Witchcraft will be around a long time for everyone to enjoy.

The different Covenants presented in the book will help you in creating your group of player characters. You could easily have the players all choose Covenants to belong to, that would work together. You have your Rosy Cross/Illuminati types, Templar hunter types, Wicca types, loner types, a group that talks with the dead, martial artists, and more. This will help lend a hand in long-term campaigns. The Covenants represent different organizations in the Witchcraft setting. Supplemental material on them is forthcoming from Eden Studios. Much of it is currently being written or in play testing.

Witchcraft uses C.J. Carella’s Unisystem, which is in use with most other rpgs from Eden Studios. The basics of this system are:

Primary Attributes – This is your strength, dexterity, and so forth.

Secondary Attributes – These are your hit points, speed, magical ability, etc. They are derived from your Primary Attributes.

Skills – Just that. I think these have the same meaning, no matter which
role-playing game you play. A “2” in any Skill is considered low average. A “3” is a high average. And “4”s are mostly unheard of.

Qualities/Drawbacks – Advantages/Disadvantage, Merits/Flaws. Call them what you will.

Powers – These include psionics, magic, faith, and anything else metaphysical.

For task solution, take the appropriate Skill, add it to the proper Primary Attribute, and a roll of a D10. You are rolling this versus an average of a “9.” So, if you are low average in your Primary Attribute and your Skill, you would need to roll a “5” (2+2+5=9) to succeed. That gives you just over half a chance on a die roll to succeed.

Not too bad, especially if you play with devilish game masters who love to give you outlandish and difficult scenarios to complete. A roll of “one” is a critical failure/botch. A roll of “ten” is a critical success/crit. Easy ‘nuf.

There are only six Primary Attributes listed for this game. This is a good thing. I’ve found that game systems that go into too much detail in the Primary Attributes go too far into everything that they do. I like my systems streamlined and easy to play. The Unisystem does this, and does it well!

The Secondary Attributes pretty much stand by themselves and do not get rolled. They are necessary parts of the game. It is nice that CJ Carella/Eden Studios thought to put these statistics in the rules system.

Other gaming systems have failed to give us places on our character sheets for these Attributes, let alone remembered to put them in the game.

The Skill list for Witchcraft covers over 64 different Skills available for your players. Nine pages are devoted to describing each Skill, as well as, there being two quick lists in the back of the book. There is at least one paragraph on each Skill, if not more. The list is comprehensive enough for my tastes. There are “regular” Skills and “special” Skills. Regular Skills cost one point during character creation, and Special Skills cost two points per level, until level five, where they begin costing five points per level.

The Qualities and Drawbacks fill up 16 pages of this tome, and there are even two pages in the back of the book with them listed upon it. The Q/Ds cover all of your basic Advantages/Disadvantages, and doesn’t really go beyond the basics. Creative players and game masters will find this list wanting. However, with five seconds worth of thought, you can figure out what you want and how much it will cost. The system is that easy.

For those who are thinking about Witchcraft, because it sounds like the World of Darkness: Witchcraft does not lend itself to the Harano of Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Instead, it combines the resourcefulness of Mage, and the back-room cutthroat activities of Vampire. Intellectuals will enjoy this game. Munchkins will probably like it too, but they should stick to games like Werewolf, Vampire, and Truncheons and Flagons.

So, if you’re looking for a role-playing game of modern magic, with mythological possibilities and an easy game system, find yourself a copy of CJ Carella’s Witchcraft as soon as you can!

Reviewer: Derek Stoelting

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