“The Witch is Dead” is a free one-page free RPG by Grant Howitt. Designed to be played in a single session, “The Witch is Dead” gives its players control over one of the late witches familiars and a single goal: revenge. You see, the witch was not the wicked kind. She was wise and benevolent and her familiars loved her, and now that some lousy witch hunter has strolled into your house and killed your witch, you’re going to go to his home and rip his eyes out. There’s also something about bringing his eyes back within a week resurrecting the witch, but there’s no guarantee of that.
The subject matter of this RPG might make you think it’s for kids, what with the woodland critters being on a quest in the style of The Secret of NIMH or the Redwall series, but the nearly immediate use of profanity and the game’s emphasis on murder (not justice, but revenge fueled murder). Not to say that you couldn’t play it with your kids, but you might have to tone down some of the language.
The game is very rules light, which is good because this is clearly not a game that you should be trying to take extremely seriously. A lot of the setup, from the adventuring party to the plot twists are handled through random determination which means you’re very unlikely to play through the same story a second time. This also means that the GMs role is less about building a world and more about facilitating storytelling and deciding on encounters.
The rules are well put together They likely wouldn’t hold up to any real stress testing but the nature of this game is so loose that if you’re trying to test it for imbalance you’re missing out on all of the fun, which comes from the experience that this game will create between you and your friends. The game even points out that a task that might be simple for a human, such as opening an unlocked door, would likely be a multistep process for a cat, who would have to find something to climb in order to jump over to the handle in order to get it to turn, all without opposable thumbs. That makes something like that “open/close” spell a priceless tool.
If you’re looking for a complex wargame where your characters abilities are all deeply fleshed out, then this is not the game for you, but if you’re looking to have a good time with your friends in a game that you don’t have to take seriously then this game is perfect for you. This game would also be perfect to run when you’re bringing a new gaming group together and are still testing the waters for compatibility.
Final Grade: B+
Final Grade Justification: This game is a lot of fun with no immediately detectable flaws. It does exactly what it is designed to do, and it executes it with excellence. The only reason this game didn’t get an A rating is because the nature of the game makes it limited to one type of story, and I feel like an A-rated game should have more versatility.
(Note: There were some slight changes to the second paragraph because it was pointed out to me that I made it sound like the profanity was what made it not kid-friendly instead of the eye-gouging and death and “violence is ok but profanity is terrible” is not a message I want to send)