Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Coven, campaign setup

I was rereading some old blog posts that I removed for personal reasons and I thought of rewriting the campaign setup that I wrote to play a coven of witches. To do so I want to get rid of the material linked to the LotFP book Vaginas are magic (VAM).

VAM could have easily been trans inclusive, I mean magic... you can easily writestuff to include trans women. This is a book about spells, you can even write a transition spell (even with all the nasty miscast effects) and add it to your spells list. Or you know, you can simply avoid writing that vaginas and fertility are the only ways of defining womanhood in your magical cosmology.

At the time of publication of VAM, some of us defended VAM by saying: "the book don't have to include trans women, this is the OSR, you can simply hack who can cast these spells or devise your own magical means for trans women to gain a vagina and a fertile womb if they really want to cast these spells." And at the time I was feeling uncomfortable but I thought: yeah I guess this is the OSR way of resolving problems…

At that time I was really trying hard to like VAM and to continue to like LotFP, I even ran a campaign entirely built around VAM. But as I took some distance from my initial love for LotFP, I saw how trans exclusive and shitty the game text of VAM was. Looking back on how I was ok with these excuses, I cringe a lot at my past self.

The text of VAM present the spells as women's magic and state that you need to have a fertile womb to be able to cast them (the book title also imply that you need a vagina).

"Now about this “only women can cast these spells”
thing. When creating new spells, It is perfectly fine
to say that certain spells can only be cast by one sex,
or people with brown hair, or people with no eyes.
Or by those in certain moods, or who are wearing/
not wearing jewelry or clothing made of certain
materials, or who are covered in squirrel shit. It can
be that arbitrary, that simple. If a caster wants to use
these spells without the specific restriction, she can
recover a spellbook with the spell in it and research
her own version without the restriction. Spell
research rules aren’t just there to fill out a page count.
For the purposes of being able to cast the spells
in this book, “woman” is defined as someone (or
something, non-human magicians can cast these
spells too) able to be impregnated and carry a child to
term. Is a character Postmenopausal? Prepubescent?
Infertile for any other reason? These spells are not for
them. Exceptions are made for those normally barren
if they have been infected with parasites which are
then naturally expelled through their normal birth/
life cycle.
Yup, these spells will have players of male Magic-
Users (and old crones, and etc.) begging you to run
Alien for them, just so their characters can get face-
fucked. Isn’t gaming grand?"
What I get from the text is that in LotFP, the cosmic magical forces of the universe align with some of the arguments that TERFs use to exclude trans women. If I play a trans woman, VAM tell me that my character need to get impregnated by a alien parasite for the magical laws of the universe to consider her a woman or that she need to do some magical researches to rewrite these spells so that a “non woman” can cast them.

Again with all the trans people playing and creating gaming material in the OSR, I think that our allies can show more creativity and do better than this.


The characters are all witches (magic-users) and they are all members of a secret coven that researched the dangerous spells list of a long dead Elder Witch. Something happened and the coven have been recently dismantled, the player characters goal is to rebuild their coven and to find a way to deal with what menace them. While doing so, there should be plenty of opportunities to impact the campaign's setting.

The campaign can be run as a sandbox build around a small town and a situation that is affecting everyone in the area. The player characters could first try to find back their former allies and resources, then personal goals would surely emerge and the game could become more about dealing with the big situation (or other emerging stuff). Naturally dealing with the legacy of the Elder Witch and other supernatural elements will come in to complicate everything.


The Elder Witch should have lived some generations ago, she was a brilliant witch that grew obsessed with her magical researches and accessed dangerous planes of existences. After her death her spell book became a precious artifact, copies were made but errors slipped in. The original book eventually gained a “soul” of it own and became a magical entity, a bit like the necronomicon in Evil Death but maybe more alien than “evil”. Finding back the Elder book is something that witches booth desire and dread.

Keep the Elder Witch history vague and shrouded in mystery and rumors, give her some scary traits but also some positive and relatable ones. Echoes of herself still survive, trapped between the planes, she feel anger and regrets, her feelings are conflicted, maybe she can be redeemed or maybe not.

Crafting the Elder Witch’s spell list

The Elder Witch discovered a plane of existence that she explored until some of it secrets consumed her. This plane have it own ecosystem and rules, think of the Upside Down of Stranger Things or the Otherworld of Silent Hill.

Her spells are about accessing and manipulating the energies of this strange plane, define the plane and maybe around 10 spells to start with.

Spells effects (d20)
  1. Perceiving the plane
  2. Accessing the plane’s background energy
  3. Locating portals to the plane or toward it orbiting sub planes.
  4. Travelling to or through the plane
  5. Using the plane to affect our reality
  6. Contacting and influencing denizen of the plane
  7. Imbuing someone with the essence of the plane
  8. Unleashing the energy from the plane
  9. Manipulating the plane energy or essence
  10. Controlling a positive or beneficial effect of the plane
  11. Controlling a negative or dangerous effect of the plane
  12. Reaching or accessing the plane’s core, lower or higher levels
  13. Harvesting the plane’s primordial or forbidden energy
  14. Awakening sleeping parts of the plane
  15. Contacting a primordial and elder entity of the plane
  16. Draining or corrupting the plane to achieve a major effect
  17. Warding or protection against the plane energy, influence or hazards
  18. Sensing or harvesting the plane’s natural resources or hazards
  19. Summoning minor flora or fauna from the plane
  20. Imbuing a traditional feminine craft, art, activity or item with the energy of the plane.

Casting and miscasting spells

A part of the fun of the campaign is to see how much the witches are willing to use these dangerous spells and how using them will affect and impact their live, their world, the plane and reality itself.

You will have to hack a bit the game system that you use. Character of any levels should be able to cast spells of any levels. Spell of higher level than your own should be more dangerous to cast.

When casting a spell, a witch need to make a saving throw, depending of your system, greater spell effects should be harder to save against. On a failed roll the witch lose control of the spell and she must roll on the miscasting table. There is also the possibility of casting spells when you expanded your magical spell slots for the day, this should automatically lead to a roll on the fumble table. 

The conditions in which a character is casting a spell could also impact the miscasting save. But keep in mind that casting spells should always involve some risk. 

Miscasting Table (higher results are potentially more dangerous)
  1. The area of effect is larger than anticipated (in a bad way)
  2. The spell effect someone else you know, a ally (or a enemy depending of the effect).
  3. The effect become contagious or move travel through potential targets
  4. The effect have a extra horrible side effect
  5. The effect is corrupted, twisted, toxic or dangerous
  6. The effect is too potent and out of control (in a bad way)
  7. The effect attract hostile supernatural creatures
  8. The effect hide in someone you know, emotions may trigger it
  9. Casting the spell displace things between reality and the plane
  10. Casting the spell mess up your mind or perception
  11. The spell imbue a object and create a cursed item, scroll, tattoo or mark
  12. The spell effect become a dangerous elemental or construct
  13. The spell create a doppelganger of the caster
  14. The spell germinate inside you like a parasite (ask the player how it manifest).
  15. Casting the spell mutate your body
  16. The spell awoken a terrible threat
  17. The spell rewrite itself and it effect and become a new spell
  18. Casting the spell edit a part of your the local area, ecosystem or reality
  19. Casting the spell edit a part of your personal life or history
  20. The spell try to rip you apart (save or die)


Players characters are women (cis or trans) magic-users.
Characters can be from level 01 to 03
>Level 01 characters can reroll 2 stats and keep the best
>Level 02 characters can reroll 1 stat and keep the best
>Level 03 characters don’t get a reroll.
Any character can switch a stat with their magic casting score (probably INT).

Starting ages:
Level 1: 15 +1d6
Level 2: 16 +2d6
Level 3: 17 +3d6
  • Each character choose one spell from the Elder Witch spell list.
  • Each character roll a number of spell equal to their level on the magic user spell list of your game system. This spell can also trigger miscasts and is linked to the plane discovered by the Elder Witch or one of it sub planes.
  • No duplicate spells between character are allowed (reroll duplicates).
  • Character understand better the spells they chosen and rolled and get +1 to save against miscasting these spells. All the characters’ spells are pooled together to create the master spell book of the coven.
  • The referee add a extra spell from the Elder Witch’s spell list that is harder to master and that always inflict a penalty when saving against miscasting it.
  • All characters can use the master spell book to prepare spells.
  • Your personal spell books start with level+2 spells written in it selected from the master spell book.


The referee should name the town.
Go around the table and answer these questions together.
If a question don’t inspire you, pass it to the next player.
  • What is the town main landmark?
  • A local product that you appreciate?
  • A local product that you find cringy?
  • A local tradition?
  • A place where you feel safe in town?
  • A place where you feel unsafe in town?
  • Someone in town who abuse of their power?
  • Someone in town who try to restrain them?
  • Someone new and ambitious?
  • A old incident that disturbed the town?
  • A distant calamity that is starting to affect the town? (war, natural disaster, plague, revolution, etc)
  • A rumor about it? (ask each player)


The game will be mostly about rebuilding the coven…
Go around the table and answer these questions together.
If a question don’t inspire you, pass it to the next player.
  • Who founded the coven?
  • How did she learn magic?
  • What was her relation with the memory of the Elder Witch?
  • Where was the coven situated?
  • What special resource the coven had?
  • What magical artifact the coven lost?
  • What spell did the founder was never able to master?
  • What native beings from the other plane the coven feared?
  • Who was secretly allied with the coven?
  • Who betrayed or abandoned the coven?
  • Who raided the coven?
  • Who of your sisters died in the raid? Who still perceive her?
  • Who of your sisters ran away?
  • Who of your sisters was captured?
  • How the founder failed the coven before her demise?
  • How the founder perished?
  • Where were you instructed to go if things go wrong? (were the game will start…)
Personal questions for each characters
  • How the coven recruited you?
  • What did you glimpse from the other plane during your initiation?
  • You admired or feared the founder?
  • Who are you close with within the coven?
  • Who do you trust in town?
  • Who do you fear, hate or avoid in town?
For transgender witches
  • How do you transition? (socially and or physically) 
  • Do you use potions, herbs, rituals or other magical means of transition?
  • Who taught you this secret? 


Cavegirl said...

If you run this online I will 100% be down to play.

Evlyn said...

Thanks Emmy, I have so many campaign that I want to run. :P
I will let you know if I ever get to this one. :)