When Encanto Comes to Your Village

The latest Disney movie, Encanto, is about a magical family using their superpowers to help their community. There’s a lot of lessons for fantasy campaigns too. Please Note: This article contains spoilers!

encanto.jpg

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

In Encanto, each Madrigal family member receives a gift when they turn five years old. The gifts are magical, seemingly permanent, and unrelated to each other. They’re not like superhero mutations in that they are magical blessing (not genetic heritage), but the blessings act a lot like superhero powers. The plot revolves around what happens when Mirabel doesn’t get a gift and how that legacy changes the family dynamic.

Unlike other superhero movies, Encanto keeps the focus on the tightly-knight community where the family lives. The Madrigals live a life of service, using their powers to help the village. The village is cut off from the surrounding world by mountains, so there are no external distractions and little modern conveniences to intrude. But watching each member work with the community is an interesting thought exercise for how powerful characters can change the social and economic foundations of a small population in Dungeons & Dragons.

Listed below is each power and the level when a PC might have access to it, along with the character who has the power in Encanto.

1st-Level: Super-Strength (Luisa)​

Luisa’s super-strength is so powerful that she can lift a church, hoist five donkeys over one shoulder, and kick a building back into place. Her strength becomes something of a crutch for the community, as everyone asks Luisa to do everything for them, including tasks that they probably could have avoided with a little forethought (like not letting donkeys roam).

Few characters will have the strength of Luisa, but the movie demonstrates just how useful a very strong character can be. Any PC species with a +2 bonus to Strength can potentially have Strength scores reaching 20 early in their career. With magical assistance, it can be even higher. If they live anywhere for long, their strength in helping out with chores will be in high demand. Similarly, any friendly giant could solve a lot of problems for a village in a very short period of time.

1st-Level: Healing (Julieta)​

In a closed-off community, health of its citizens is reliant on what they have available in town. Thanks to Julieta’s ability to create healing food, nobody is hurt for long. In fact, this makes the community reckless. Julieta’s own husband is constantly getting stung by bees, and his allergy is significant enough that he could easily asphyxiate. It’s played for laughs, but the lesson stands: accessible healing means the village has one less thing to worry about.

Goodberry is a 1st-level spell. The ability to turn simple berries into a sustainable food source is massive for an impoverished village. Most damage that happens in day-to-day life is at most a few hit points, and goodberry can heal 10 at once as well as nourish the creature for one day. A druid with ready access to the spell could keep busy just creating goodberries all day to keep everyone healthy.

1st-Level: Animal Friendship (Antonio)​

The youngest of the Madrigals is able to not just speak with animals but summon friendly creatures from all over. Wild animal attacks on livestock can be the occasional problem for a village, but an even bigger challenge is keeping that livestock fed and happy. Antonio can simply talk to them to figure out what they want.

Several low-level druid spells manage animals, including animal friendship and speak with animals. A druid will have to carefully navigate conversations with livestock and may balk at summoning animals that are to be eaten later. But for a community that relies on its livestock, being able to quickly and easily communicate with them is a big deal. And if things get rough, summoning ferocious predators to defend the village is always an option.

3rd-Level: Prophecy (Bruno)​

Bruno’s prophetic powers complicated the family dynamic because they don’t provide a clear resolution. This becomes a problem when his prophecies are inevitably interpreted as heralding the worst outcomes.

3rd-level clerics can cast the augury spell which is filled with similar uncertainty, particularly with repeated castings. But the ability to see the future, even if it’s not always accurate, is too good for a community to pass up. Someone like Bruno would probably be elevated to an advisor to a village leader at the minimum, and consulted on every major issue the village faces. Spellcasters with access to the spell can expect similar treatment. At least, until one of the prophecies turns out to be wrong...

3rd-level: Shapeshifting (Camilo)​

Encanto makes it a point of giving family members some tremendous power and then downplaying their efficacy so they don't seem quite as threatening. Camilo’s ability to shapeshift, mimicking other people he meets, is meant to be funny. But Camilo can easily abuse this power; in one scene, he pretends to be his sister Dolores just to grab some extra snacks.

The 2nd-level alter self spell gives casters Camilo’s ability, and some characters will undoubtedly abuse it. Encanto implies copying others is a boon, like matching someone’s height when hanging a sign, or holding a baby while its mother takes a nap. But it can also be used as an intelligence-gathering tool, for spying on the village, or even for simply standing in for a critical community member when that person is unavailable.

5th-Level: Plant Control (Isabela)​

Isabela causes plants to grow. At first, it’s just flowers. She later develops the ability to create all kinds of plants, including carnivorous ones.

Any 5th-level druid in a community who can cast the 3rd-level plant growth spell will radically change the long-term viability of the village. Causing flowering plants to appear is important in lands that do not lend themselves to farming or cultivating crops. Keeping those crops sustainable can go a long way to avert a famine. Moreover, there’s no reason the plants can’t grow in the off season, which frees up the villagers to do other things. And of course, if someone decides to attack the town, entangle and summoned plant monsters will come in handy.

5th-Level: Super-Hearing (Dolores)​

Poor Dolores. She can hear everything, and if you watch carefully, sometimes she covers her ears because it seems she can't turn the power off. In fact, Dolores' super hearing-extends to over a mile away, including secrets exchanged between villagers.

If used as a protective measure, Dolores’ power is a massive boost to security, along with its accompanying loss of privacy. The ability to detect intruders, hear secrets, or otherwise spy on anyone at any time begins with the clairvoyance spell, but there are plenty of divination spells that can gather similar information. For villages that are cut off from civilization and lacking a military force, surveilling an area unseen is critical to ensure it safety.

15th-Level: Weather Control (Pepa)​

Like Camilo’s shapeshifting power, Pepa’s awesome weather control abilities are meant to be a benign distraction instead of an earth-shattering power that could wipe a village off the map. Since the weather Pepa invokes is tied to her emotions, she has little control over it. But when she does control it, the implications for a community are significant.

Similar to plant control, controlling the weather essentially insulates the community from the vagaries of the climate. Depending on where the village is located, this can be everything from invoking rain during a drought to warding off a hurricane. Communities can flourish in hostile environments as a result. Control weather is an 8th-level spell, but there are many lower-level spell effects that mimic weather changes: the 1st-level create or destroy water can be a massive boon to a desert community.

What This Means for Your Village​

Encanto does an excellent job of portraying heroes not as someone who punches bad guys, but as giving back with their talents where they live and work. If PC or NPC spellcasters ever settle down, or if even one fighter with belt of giant strength decides to retire, they too could become pillars of their community.
 
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
And to take this from Encanto (great movie!) to the wider world of D&D, once you can move beyond the confines of a single isolated village there are additional powers/spells that can be handy. Be it something like Sending in order to send messages of import on a daily basis, or for more powerful casters something like Teleportation Circle to remove danger and travel time for those whom it would be a burden.

This does suggest as well that perhaps more ribbon abilities for leveled non-caster adventures in ways they can affect the communities would help enrich the world and provide more meaning to retired adventurers besides "running the tavern".
 


aco175

Legend
On the flip side, when a BBEG finds out about a family like this, he may want to hire/kidnap them for his own purposes. The king needs a strong man, a-la whatever Fantastic4 movie where Ben fights for the military on several missions. Your country needs a super spy with hearing. This is of course unless every village has a super or two kicking around, then it it is just common.

There is also the old western cliché about the fastest gun and everyone comes looking to kill him to be him. Bad guy NPCs with similar powers make great plot devices. Not only to fight directly, but to frame the PCs with their strong guy destroying the bridge and making it look like the PCs.
 


This is fantastic, I saw Encanto the first time when had my 8 year old's birthday party at the movie theater in mid-december and I just fell in love with it even faster than Moana or Hamilton.
 


It was nice to see superpowers actually causing at least minor social change, even in a tiny village rather than simply having a "normal world" backdrop. Goodberry alone would be world-changing and a lot of other D&D spells would be pretty profound. Even Eberron doesn't quite give full rein to this, though the inevitable changes to magic each edition do make it a challenge for any setting to really go for it. Seems like a village with even a couple of kindly ex-adventurers in it would likely be pretty influenced by that, too.
 

The prophetic gift is paradoxical, because the fact to know the future can change it or cause it.

Self-fulfilling prophecy - Wikipedia

I remember something about "Marty McFly effect", the fact to know the future causes this to be changed or altered. For example if Emmet "Doc" Brown discovers he is going to be shooted (by terrorists), then he will wear a bulletproof jacket to save his life thanks warn by the visitor from the future. (Is it really a spoiler when you know a character will survive because this appears in the cover/poster of the sequel(s)?)
 

MarkB

Legend
The prophetic gift is paradoxical, because the fact to know the future can change it or cause it.

Self-fulfilling prophecy - Wikipedia

I remember something about "Marty McFly effect", the fact to know the future causes this to be changed or altered. For example if Emmet "Doc" Brown discovers he is going to be shooted (by terrorists), then he will wear a bulletproof jacket to save his life thanks warn by the visitor from the future. (Is it really a spoiler when you know a character will survive because this appears in the cover/poster of the sequel(s)?)
Contrast this with the Cassandra's Tears prophetic ability in the Dresden Files, which I believe is statted up in the Dresden Files RPG.

It's an ability which gives you indistinct, hard-to-interpret visions of future events which are always accurate - but it's also a curse, because nobody ever believes your predictions until it's too late.

That can work in an RPG as a way to foreshadow events - essentially it's a deal made between GM and players. "I'll give you this heads-up on some of what's involved in the next scenario, so long as you agree not to do anything in-character to stop it in advance."
 

talien

Community Supporter
Contrast this with the Cassandra's Tears prophetic ability in the Dresden Files, which I believe is statted up in the Dresden Files RPG.

It's an ability which gives you indistinct, hard-to-interpret visions of future events which are always accurate - but it's also a curse, because nobody ever believes your predictions until it's too late.

That can work in an RPG as a way to foreshadow events - essentially it's a deal made between GM and players. "I'll give you this heads-up on some of what's involved in the next scenario, so long as you agree not to do anything in-character to stop it in advance."
This is one of those things where player knowledge conflicts with PC knowledge.

Knowing how augury works as a player makes you more likely to use it ("I should only cast it once a day or there's a 25% chance it's a random reading").

Being uncertain about how augury works as a character, including the "woe" results, is very different. In Bruno's case, the entire village turned against him because they interpreted his auguries of woe as cursing the village rather than warning it.

It's like a cleric who rolls for healing once and then the party from then on believes that cleric's faith is shaky and their healing weak (I feel like this is Vox Machina's excuse for running out of spell slots, but I'm not as familiar with Critical Role). Once PCs know the mechanics of a spell, it's much harder to role-play superstition about how it actually works.
 


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