Friday, November 18, 2011

Season of the Witch

Season of the Witch falls into one of those rare movie spots for me. As a 'regular' movie, I'm not that impressed with it. As a gaming movie, I don't want to say its pure gold, but I could easily see a GM stealing everything from the movie itself.

I'm going to be hitting the spoilers for the movie below so if you wish to avoid such for the movie, read no more!

The plot of Season of the Witch is relatively simple. A young woman that is accused of being a witch that has brought the plague to the lands must be taken to a specific temple so that the priest there may use a special book of exorcism to break the back of the plague.

That's pretty simple no? It's a get someone from here to there bit.

Now the characters add a little something to the story mind you, but not overly. We have Nicolas Cage and his friend, two templars that have left the holy war. We get a third knight whose lost many to the plague. We get a priest whose a little shall we say, zealous in his work, and another priest who wishes to become a knight. And of course, the witch herself.

Now mind you, in almost any game I've run or seen, if the players were trying to keep things running smoothly, unless they were paid, or quested, or on their word of honor or other really pushing it factor, the witch would not have lived to see the light of day because the witch here is obviously an actual witch. Or at least she appears to be.

Because this is where the movie makes for a perfectly good Warhammer of Dark Ages Call of Cthulhu mix because of the switch. You see, at climax of the movie, if you will, when they arrive at the church, and find that place already decimated by plague, they discover that all of the priests there were making copies of that one sacred text. The witch? Turns out she's actually a demon that, for some reason, needed to be taken to the church so that she could destroy this last full copy of the sacred texts as it's actually one of the few things that can banish demons.

This leads to a battle against the animated corpses of the priests and the demon itself. It also only leaves one survivor and the young woman whose soul is saved from demonic possession. But the plague is broken and the world itself saved.

That little switch made the whole movie for me in terms of role playing elements because to be honest, I didn't see it coming. It just seemed to be a kinda m'eh movie, a no-brainer or sorts, and that took it to another level.

In terms of gaming, as I mentioned upthread, Dark Ages Cthulhu or a similar variant would be good for a one shot. The 'witch' is able to summon wolves and use illusions. She knows things that she's not supposed to but never lets out exactly how much more she knows until the end. She displays great strength as well as stamina and is able to shake off the effects of sedative drugs as well as hold a man above a yawning chasm with one arm.

The ending of the movie, also showcases that in true Cthulhu fashion, not everyone needs to survive for the mission itself to be a success.

In terms of game mechanics, the possessed priest at the end showcase something I've done with minions and one hit wonders in the past. I stat up the creature as a regular creature with a weakness and when the players discover the weakness, I break then down to minion status. If you've ever read an X-Man comic book, there are enemies they battle, like the Brood or Sentinels, where the initial one is almost a match for the whole team, but then when they fight groups of them, they mow through them. That's how I try to model it. Not easy but...

In terms of the exorcism itself, I think you could run that a few ways. You might have the players making some type of skill check and have to hit so many numbers, or that they have to hit a certain level of success or that they have to actually be reading it for so many rounds. Something that can't just be a single dice roll has to be initiated to represent the time needed for the ritual.

Season of the Witch is available for instant viewing on Netflix and if you're a gamer who wants a quick steal of a movie, this might do it for you.