One Shot: Eloise
Game: Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne
Theme Song: The Devil Within by Digital Daggers
Keywords: Manipulative, sympathetic, dangerous
If you're not familiar with the game, Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne is a game about a journey to a holy isle to burn a witch. Along the way, the players must figure out if the witch is innocent or guilty and act accordingly. Elouise is that witch.
I was facilitating this game for a bunch of strangers. In preparing, I decided I would play the witch and use it as a way to act as facilitator, as the witch's role is a bit different. You get to decide if she's guilty or not. And because of the win mechanic, I felt like it would make sense to have the players try to figure out if I was guilty or not.
As I read my questions on my playbook, I wondered if the witch was guilty and if she was, why. I decided that she was guilty. She had used witchcraft to create the black plague (as per the game). Why? I didn't know. I just knew she did. I also knew that she had been having an affair with one of the knights and was bitter he hadn't protected her.
Additionally, I knew she had been tortured to confess. I was okay running the witch and playing to find out why she did what she did. Turns out, I still don't know why she decided to kill hundreds of people with illness. But she was fun to play. I played Elouise as a young woman who had been mostly passed from man to man as a responsibility.
Originally, she had been saved from poverty when she was an orphan girl by a knight, who in turn passed her off to a lord to be taken care of. From there, she served another knight's house. She then became a lover to the original knight who saved her as a child. The story she told, carefully and cleverly, was that the knight's wife had discovered them and had accused Eloise of witchcraft.
Naturally, she appealed to the apathetic knight the most, the one who had lost his faith because of the crusades. She knew that he knew her, as a serving girl, and that he was also likely to want to believe in innocence and had issues with the church. How? Well, she was a witch, after all. I took a lot of notes as we played on what the other players were saying, so that I could frame scenes around those things.
My challenge with Elouise was to play someone who appeared innocent but was secretly a vicious, careful woman. I normally play vicious women, but I don't usually play them as hiding. It was interesting to try to work that angle in a game, and I think I did it rather well. After all, they didn't burn me.
I tried to play on the brother's guilt (the monk) who had tortured me. He felt bad about it, and I made him feel worse about it. I slowly leaked the information that the knight and I had been having an affair, and that the knight was the one at fault for all of this. I hadn't confessed to where I was before because it would have destroyed the knight's reputation. The knight, baffled, refused to acknowledge it or speak about it, digging his own grave.
At the end, when it was revealed, everyone but the knight I had screwed over was surprised. I had played the waif very very well and Elouise had been very clever about how she appealed to others. I ensured she saved someone at the last moment who didn't believe her. I made sure she touched people when she could, to show that her touch didn't give others the plague. Even though it could if she wished.
I would really want to play this game again as an innocent Eloise and see if I could play it straight, or as a darker witch than I made this Elouise. Who knows? Maybe I'll play it again. I definitely felt I did well in playing her and made it unclear to the players whether she was guilty or not, and then spun a good story so that I was believed. It was fabulous to watch the players try to figure that out.
At the very end, I knew she had deliberately confessed so this journey would happen and that the knight who had abandoned the crusade would join them. It was his father who had wished her dead and charged her as guilty. So she took him with her, to France, where they married and she bore him three witchy daughters. Every time he tried to leave, he ended up coming back, cursed. It was a great ending, in which she inherited the wealth of his dying father.
Full circles. In other words, don't piss off the witch.