TTRPG Preview: All the Witches by Emmapanada
This article is brought to you by Emmapanada: “Emmapanada (She/They) is a queer TTRPG performer and content creator. They started playing Dungeons & Dragons in college 10 years ago, and their TTRPG interests have only broadened in the years since. You can find them @Emmapanda on Twitch and Twitter”
When I grew up I was surrounded by stories of magic and fantasy that captivated my imagination and cultivated my creativity. Like so many others, no story captivated me quite like Harry Potter by She Who Must Not Be Named. When the first movie came out I was the same age as Harry, Hermione, and Ron so I instantly connected with the story and threw myself into the books.
However, as I reached adulthood and left the white-centric Christian umbrella I was raised under I began to learn about the racist, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist elements of the various pieces of literature and media that I had been consuming all my life. Perhaps none more so than the world of Harry Potter.
Shortly after I came out as transgender I began to encounter other members of the LGBTQIA+ community who had grown up with this story and become inspired by it. Many of whom attributed a large part of their personality to the series. However, when news began to come out about She Who Must Not Be Named’s opinions about the transgender community, we all felt a great deal of conflict within ourselves. How could we love something so much, but then later have it be ruined by its creator? Many of us are still struggling with how to consume this story in a healthy way, while others have stepped away from it.
I myself have stepped away from it, and in doing so I began to see more content from POC creators where they were sharing their hurt with the series. I learned about the lack of representation and tokenism within the story, and I learned about how many of the fantastical elements of the series were based on racist portrayals of various groups of people.
This series inspired the world, but now so many of us are lost but have continued to look for good content about witches and wizards. And that brings us to today.
All the Witches initially started as a Final Fantasy TTRPG. I used to not understand how someone could find the motivation and inspiration to write hundreds of pages of rules and content to flesh out a new TTRPG system, but that changed when the trailer for Final Fantasy XVI was released in 2020. When I first saw it, I was filled with an unreasonable amount of excitement that I had no idea what to do with, so I channeled it into writing a ruleset that would allow me to craft my own Final Fantasy adventures. I ended up writing 130 pages for the system, and then I started to playtest it with friends. Surprisingly, those who took a look at the system and played it really enjoyed it! It was far more than I could hope for!
But after the first round of playtests, I realized that a lot of rules needed to be updated, and I’d effectively need to rewrite almost everything to balance it properly. As I thought about it more and more, I realized that if I was going to put more work into the system, I wanted to make it into something unique so that I could share it with the world and make it something truly special without having to worry about Square Enix coming after me for Copyright Infringement.
It took me a long time to realize what I wanted to turn the system into. Eventually, however, I came across a slew of Tiktoks made by others like me talking about Harry Potter and their desire to support something they’ve loved their entire life, but also feeling conflicted because they don’t want to support the work of someone who is actively hurting so many. Around this time, the Dimension 20 show Misfits and Magic also began to air, and I immediately fell in love. I began to feel inspired again, and I started thinking of how I could reshape some of the rules and ideas I had for the Final Fantasy system into something new. Something for people like me to use to create their own stories of witches and magic. Something for All the Witches.
All the Witches Premise:
All the Witches is set in a world of fantasy made up of Humans, Spirits, and their children, Stars, where Witches are but one small piece of the larger machine of society. In the world, a dark influence of magic called Discordance is ever-present that pulls people away from inner harmony. In times of great stress, peoples of all kinds begin to fall into Discordance’s influence.
A human can become greedy, causing them to hoard wealth and further impoverish others. Or they may become prideful and do whatever it takes to maintain a powerful position in society. Or perhaps they become so angry that they begin to hurt or even kill others. As a human falls further and further into Discordance, their actions can de-harmonize their surroundings, causing others to fall into Discordance. When a spirit falls to Discordance, their physical form begins to change until they no longer resemble themselves and become a wild spirit. They can unintentionally hurt others or cause destruction to the environment around them as they turn ‘monstrous.’ As children of humans and spirits, stars can exhibit Discordance in ways similar to spirits and humans, or a combination of both.
A Witch’s primary duty is to find those who have been lost to Discordance and use a magical ceremony called Harmonization to help them find peace again. In order to do this, Witches will travel with their coven to help humans, spirits, stars, and even entire ecosystems. This allows for a variety of adventures to be had within the world.
Your coven of Witches could travel to a large city due to reports of major Discordance and have to navigate an environment where many people are affected by Discordance due to the major victim. They must investigate while dealing with people being hostile towards them, perhaps to the point of violence, until eventually, they find the source of the problem. At that point, they have to get to the person under the most Discordance and either convince them to undergo the Harmonization Ceremony, or they must fight them to knock them unconscious so they can perform the ceremony.
Or perhaps a wild spirit has been spotted in a forest near a small farming village, so you have to go there to find the spirit among an environment that the spirit has brought Discordance to. Perhaps the trees themselves turn against you, and you have to battle or maneuver your way through to find the spirit, face them, and then perform the ceremony.
There are also Witches that don’t belong to a traditional coven in the world, and their purpose might be different than others. They simply could be using their magic to help their kingdom gain or retain power in an area.
What kind of adventures your coven goes on can very well be determined by where your Witches are from and how they learned their magic. Some cities and kingdoms are beginning to sponsor magical schools that teach Witches their magic, and Witches that learn from those schools could potentially be influenced by a sense of loyalty to that city or kingdom. Other Witches might learn magic the traditional way, being taught directly by another Witch or larger coven. These Witches may lean more toward performing the traditional role of Witches in the world. It’s important to talk to your group before the game begins to see what kind of adventure they’d like to go on.
All the Witches Gameplay
Dice and Attributes
All the Witches uses the full array of dice except for the D100 for skill and ability checks. Your attribute ranks and skill proficiencies determine the success range for a test, and your GM will declare the difficulty of the test by telling you what die to roll. For instance, the 5 attributes in this system are Power, Agility, Soul, Mind, and Endurance. If you needed to make a stealth check, you would roll an Agility check. If your Agility rank was 3, and the GM determined the skill was a D6 difficulty, then you would roll a D6. If you rolled a 1, 2, or 3, you would pass the check. Skills give you additional benefits and advantages, but that information will be revealed in the playtest documents.
You can choose for your character to be either a Human, Spirit, or Star. Each species has a different Discordance tree that allows them to willingly put themselves into various levels of Discordance to achieve different mechanical advantages. Spirits can change their physical forms to give themselves flight, the ability to breathe underwater, a faster running speed, or various other advantages that you can choose at character creation. Humans get rerolls or bonuses on checks. And Stars get a weaker variation of both.
Instead of classes, this system categorizes spells and abilities into Magical Disciplines. There are currently 10 Magical Disciplines in total: Alchemist, Conjurer, Enchanter, Elementalist, Healer, Illusionist, Necromancer, Oracle, Psychic, and Transmuter. Under each discipline are various skill trees that you can use Ability Points to unlock spells and abilities to use in game. You aren’t restricted to spending Ability Points on only one Magical Discipline. You can spend points and take spells and abilities from any of the disciplines to make your character as unique and personal as you’d like!
Harmonization Ceremonies are a core aspect of this game. Witches use Harmonization Ceremonies to help people who are in Discordance reach harmony again. During these ceremonies, Witches project themselves into the target’s subconscious, reliving scenes of stress that led the target to Discordance and battling dark magical creatures in each scene until the target is no longer in Discordance.
Mechanically, magic is harder to use while in a person’s subconscious, and this is illustrated in the fact that you use cards to represent your spells during these scenarios. You get a card for each spell and ability you have unlocked during the game, and those are arranged into a deck. You have a certain number of cards in your hand, and you largely must rely on luck and the abilities you’ve chosen to get through the ceremony successfully. Outside of the Ceremony, you have full access to your spells and abilities and can use them a number of times per day equal to your Endurance Attribute rank.
Currently we’re working with artists to create visual representations of each magical discipline, the cover image, the graphic art, and stills representing each of the three regions that are currently in development.
Three diverse worldbuilders are working together to create three different regions that exist in the world of All the Witches. These regions make up only a small part of the world at large, and you can choose to have your adventure in any of them! After you explore that region for a while, perhaps as a GM you want to take them to other places in the world and having the world not fully fleshed out gives you the opportunity to build your own pieces of the world to coexist with the pieces we’ve created. Once the project goes to kickstarter, there will be stretch goals for more unique regions and writers to be added to the project!
Additionally, I’ve been working on a player’s guide for the system so that I can begin play testing with my team and friends. Some of these play tests will be live streamed, so if you’re interested in seeing how the system runs in an actual game, please keep an eye out. An early version of the player’s guide should be completed by the end of May or early June.
This entire project is self-funded, so progress is slow as of right now due to funds. However, we will be announcing a Kickstarter date around the beginning of August. So please keep an eye out!
I’ve been incredibly touched by the interest this project has received so far, and I’m working with my team to deliver an exceptional product to you all.
If you’d like to follow along with project updates, please follow us at https://twitter.com/allthewitches_.