… It’s an intimate, tragic adventure of witch hunting in a town huddled between rivers and mountains and forests one wet and cold October.
This 68 page “adventure” describes the NPC’s in a small town and wraps some rules around for garnering support from the locals to burn people as witches. Some reference sheets are provided to help the DM with the social situation, and it is CERTAINLY a well-charged situation in which to throw some PC gas … but I’m having my doubts as to the “Adventure” nature of this thing, as well as playability. In the end, I’ve decided it’s an adventure, and a cute idea, and some decent NPC’s, but it doesn’t all come together.
If I publish a list of 30 NPC’s, is it an adventure? If I give each a quirk, like “knows he weakness of metals”, is it an adventure? If I give them each four or five “household” NPC’s of one line each then is it an adventure? If I add rules for liking/hating the party and rules for mob justice is too many people hate the party … is it an adventure? What if I say “the other NPC’s think one of the NPC’s is a witch”, is it an adventure … even if none of the NPCs are witches? What if I add “the town council give the party 3000gp to find the witch in 30 days” … then is it an adventure? Have I beaten the horse enough? As a reviewer I find the question of “what makes it an adventure” interesting … and this adventure walks close enough to the line that I can use it as a pretext to discuss that.
Ye Olde town council hires the party to find the witch in their town. If you can do it in less than a month then you get the cash. There are some mini-mechanics provided on convincing the town council that the accused is a witch, and some around the town folks growing to love, or hate, the party. There are thirty main NPC’s provided, each with a quirk or secret or two, and each generally with a small group of others in the household, also with a quirk or so. There are reference sheets for tracking the love/hate thing, and mini-rules for mob justice.
It is a social adventure. Each of the thirty days in the month has some little small event, like townsperson x tells the party townsperson Y was a witch when they were younger, etc. This is also augmented by some kind of calamity, some witchsign like stillborn cattle (and generally much weirder) that whips up the locals a bit more. Too harsh with the locals and they start to fear you. Too many fear you and a mob forms to burn the party as witches, the tables turned.
It’s a decent set up. The locals are in witch fear fever. Everyone has something to hide. The mini-rules handle the extra new situations well. The calamities and rumors on each day keep the action moving. And in to all this you add a WHOLE bunch of gas in the form of the party and wait for the shit to go down. It’s all very loose, almost a framework for an adventure rather than adventure. That’s both a strength and a weakness.
There’s no actual plot, other than what naturally develops during play. That’s because there is no actual witch … the locals are just all spun up because of some coincidences. But … no one knows that. The coincidences are not explained. The locations and events precipitating things are not touched on AT ALL. So, the pumpkin that spills teeth when cut in to? Only mentioned in passing once, in as much detail as I just typed. Or the fish that turned up dead with a handprint on them? Again, no more explanation AT ALL than I just provided. It’s literally all just rumors and people with something to hide. There’s strength to that, it recognizes that all you really need is a volatile situation and adding the party can turn it in to an adventure. On the downside … well, it feels plotless. The lack of explanation for the “bait” that starts everything is totally up to the DM. And not explicitly so, just implicitly.
It’s also the case that the party will need to frame someone to get the money … and/or save themselves from the mob. Or, they can just rob people.
The lack of the precipitating events, and of a plot, does leave things feeling a bit hollow. It’s all just fucking around. You could just as easily take People of Pembrocktonshire, or any other NPC book and say “they all live in the same village. The party is hired to find the village witch, but there isn’t one.” Same adventure, essentially.
It’s heart is ni the right place. Ut tries to provide reference sheets, etc. The entire thing needs A LOT more cross-referencing. Everything it uses the words The Mayor it also need to put “(p39)” right after it … and do the same for all NPC’s. You gotta help the DM out … especially when things are as loosy goosy as this. Councilor, Cult, Lodge could also be better noted in more locations. There’s also about a column of “background story” for each of the main NPC’s. They do a good job of communicating flavor, but are useless in play. I also think they are useless in play if you skip them … there’s no way you can hold 30 NPC’s in your head. This seems much more aimed at people just reading the adventure rather than running it. Stil, skip it and your ok.
It’s all a bit too aimless for my tastes. The secrets are not explicit, or damning, in most cases. “I can tell whats wrong with someone when I touch them.” Ok, sure. I guess so. It needs a little more push in the PC direction and just a little more pretext at the beginning, I think. Yeah, there’s a rule on how to actually put a witch in the adventure. But, it’s just random.
Luka has done something different and I applaud that. It FEELS a lot like that movie The Witch … except for the ending of course.
This is $13 at DriveThru. There’s a free version available;https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/256916/Witchburner?affiliate_id=1892600