[Review] The Witcher TRPG

I haven’t found a good review of The Witcher Tabletop RPG on DriveThruRPG yet so I figured I’d grab a dagger and take a stab at it myself. Before we get started, I’d like to preface that I have had no experience with the Witcher series of books or videogames. It’s always been a series I’ve wanted to check out, but just haven’t gotten around to it. This little book is probably the stepping stone for myself falling into the wider world that is The Witcher.

Since I haven’t done a review like this before in just going to go through the sections in the book and give you my thoughts on the layout, ease of use, and general feel.

Currently the book is bouncing around the top 10 on Drive Thru RPG’s Hottest Titles. The price at time of writing is $24.99. You can check it out here.

This review is a work in progress, please head over to the discord if you’d like to chat about it!

Section Overview

Introduction – contains some information on recent events and 8 prebuilt characters which you will probably recognize from the main series including one Geralt of Rivia.

Character Creation – standard info on creating a new character, rolling up a life path, character classes, skill trees, etc.

Gear – Good info on that sweet sweet loot, weapons and armor what else could you ask for? Alchemical Items and Armor Enhancements are the answer, and they’re included in this section!

Magic – Spells and invocations for those with a talent to cast them. Also includes Witcher Signs, Hexes, Rituals, and Places of Power.

Crafting – Want to be a master swordsmith? This section has the tables of materials and crafting diagrams you need.

Combat – Combat Basics, Critical Wounds, Magic Resolution, and Healing. Quick Note, combat is absolutely brutal in this game.

World – No sourcebook is complete without a section on the world. This book goes into detail on the Northern Kingdoms, the Elderlands, the empire of Nilfgaard, Alliances, Religions, and things beyond the border.

Game Master’s Guide – This info will help you run the game, setting up encounters, and handing out rewards. There’s also a brief section on how to keep romance from getting weird.

Witchers – So much awesome, they’re a race, a class, and they get their own section here!

Relics – Experimental Technology, Runes, and Glyphs, oh my!

Bestiary – 24 different monsters full with description, stats, and my personal favorite Commoner Superstition.

Misc – a sample scenario to run, character sheets, etc.

Introduction

Straight from the book:
“The Witcher role playing game is set in a world of dark, adult fantasy where happy endings are rare and actions have consequences, often swift and brutal.”

This opening sentence really sets the tone for what is to come in the book. There’s also a good amount of detail about the setting, how the races came to be and the current conflicts between humans and the other races. This was a good primer for me

System

The main system revolves around a d10 rolling mechanic. In order to make a skill check you take the appropriate skill + appropriate stat + 1d10. This means that the randomness of the die roll is only a part of the overall skill check. Your natural ability and training actually play a bigger part in your chances to complete a task.

For many, this is a benefit to the system because you rely less on good rolls and more on who your character is.

Character Creation

This section is pretty in depth. Including how to roll for stats or use a point buy type method. It includes a few race options

  • Human
  • Elf
  • Dwarf
  • Witcher

As well as a few class options

  • Bard
  • Craftsman
  • Criminal
  • Doctor
  • Mage
  • Man at Arms
  • Merchant
  • Priest
  • Witcher

It also has an extensive life path system which is a series of tables that you roll on to determine your family, past events, etc. This really grounds your character to the game world and may give you insight on how to play your character. There’s even a fortune/misfortune table that gives you some mechanical benefit. You might be hunted by the law or plagued by nightmares. Perhaps instead you tamed a wild wolf, or gained a favor of a Witcher or mage.

I really like the life path system. It looks a bit complicated at first but I think it really helps you know how your character fits into the world.

Level Up

Each game session the GM hands out points depending on how well a member did. These points are then spent increasing stats, skills, unlocking and upgrading class specific skills via a skill tree. Each class gets a skill tree with 3 sets of 3 skills. This results in 3 different paths with a total of 9 class skills that can be improved. Each class also starts with a defining feature that they can use from the get go.

Gear

There’s not a lot to say about this section without just talking about the gear itself. There’s a number of weapons, swords, pole arms, ranged, thrown, and magic weapons (staves). The best part is each one gets its own description as if a dwarven blacksmith is walking you through his shop. He actually narrates a large number of things throughout the book which helps you understand the lore and vibe of the book a bit better. Overall an excellent section if you like drooling over flavor text and item tables.

Magic

There are 5 major types of magic

  • Mage Spells
  • Priest Invocations
  • Witcher Signs
  • Hexes
  • Rituals

The first 3 are specific to your class in terms of your ability to cast them

Mage Spells focus on the elements, dealing damage, mind control, and protection.

Priest Invocations are the Devine and nature based abilities much like spells. These usually focus on passive buffs to skills or damage. There are a few that do direct damage.

Witcher Signs are similar to mage Spells but less diverse and simpler to cast. Enhancing the spell blade style of play with additional Elemental attacks and defense spells.

Hexes are Minor curses that can be placed on creatures and can only be lifted by specific rituals.

Rituals are general spellcasting that can be learned by many magical inclined people. These take time and components to cast.

Who can learn magic?
Mages: Spells, Rituals, Hexes, Signs
Priests: Invocations, Rituals, Hexes, Signs
Witchers: Signs

Spells require stamina to cast. Some spells allow you to spend extra stamina to increase the spell effects.

Overall I really like the section on magic. Many of the spells are named after the original casters which gives a nice touch to the lore. Personally the mage spells and witcher signs are my favorite.

Crafting and Alchemy

Combat

Combat is a bit different than D&D which is what I’m most familiar with. The attacker has a few options for attacking, making a few quick strikes or a single powerful blow, along with others to shove or trip.

A difference with the combat system is the lack of armor class. Instead, the attacker and defender both roll a skill check. One to attack, the other to block or dodge or otherwise resist the assault. If the attacker wins, they hit. Scoring 7 or more points above the defender results in a critical hit. Critical hits are crazy brutal, I’ll touch on those in a minute.

Along these lines there are a number of both attack actions and defense options. You may opt to make a fast strike which allows you to attempt 2 attacks without penalty, or opt for a strong attack which makes one attack at -3 but deals double damage. Good for getting through thick armor that would deflect 2 smaller attacks. There are also a myriad of defense options. You could simply dodge out of the way, block the attack which may damage your weapon, parry which is a bit more difficult but if successful will stagger your opponent, etc. There are a number of tactical choices to be made, and most of them use a different skill or stat and result in different outcomes.

I really like this double roll mechanic, it also leads to some neat abilities that may do extra damage for each point you roll higher than the defender.

Another point in combat is that where you strike modifies the damage. Hitting the head is a big multiplier, while the torso or legs will deal less damage. You normally roll to see where the attack hits You can take aim at a body location however this increases the difficulty of the attack.

Critical Hits

Beating your opponents defense can result in a number of different critical effects. The higher you roll than your opponent the worse the wound is, as shown by the table below.

Witcher Critical Table

If you’re lucky (which you probably aren’t) you might get a simple injury like a cracked rib. Leaving you at a -1 to your BODY score until stabilized. Once it’s treated however, you’ll just have a -10 to encumbrance.

Once a critical wound has been treated by a doctor. You’ll need someone to cast healing hands on you a number of times based on the severity of the wound. The healing hands roll also becomes increasing difficult to successfully cast on higher level wounds. After the requirement is met, you’ll have to wait a number of days based on your BODY score before it completely heals. Critical hits are not something you want, and they take a bit of work to get rid of.

 

Conclusion

I’ve really enjoyed reading through this book. I think this is a great product for anyone who loves the witcher series. Reading through actually inspired me to pickup the Witcher 3 Game for PS4.

While I enjoyed the complexity I can see it being a bit too much for my table. A few of our players are fairly new to role playing games and I can see this system being too much for them.

I will however be stealing ideas and powers from here for my games. I really enjoy the contested rolls for attacking and defending, I’ll probably add more monster abilities that trigger similar effects.

You can view the witcher on DriveThruRPG here