Thursday, February 26, 2009

Playing with Witches

Here's a new character class for my Moldvay/Cook/Labyrinth Lord hack. It grew from some stuff that came out of a long-running one-on-one game that recently went on indefinite hiatus, work I've been doing on the campaign background for my Thursday game, and inspiration I've been picking up from various parts of the web.

Clerics have always felt like an odd fit in D&D. As proto-Christians, they work ok, but that opens up a whole nasty can of worms about how the Christian pantheon operates and where the powers come from and so on and so forth. I'm rarely comfortable tackling that sort of thing. Plus, Christianity fits poorly into my games, and would really throw my Iron Age Thursday game out of whack. 2e clerics kinda sorta got close. They, at least, acknowledged that clerics of Poseidon probably shouldn't wield the same powers as a cleric of Thor. But that threatened the cleric's role as healer in the party, and it was very easy for the inexperienced to create gimped clerics.

For my Thursday game, I embraced the D&D cleric because I really, really didn't want to try to create an entirely new class, nor did I want to fold the cleric spells under the magic-user's domain. I was tempted my Mr. Maliszewski's idea that clerical magic sprang from the same source as magic-user magic, only approached from a different angle. However, since I wanted my gods to be walking the world and rubbing elbows with mere mortals, I took another tack. I decided that clerical magic was a byproduct of the existence of the titans and the gods, and their relationship with mortals. It's the odd and complex magical nature of these relationships that dictate the no-edged-weapons rule and the nature of the powers that clerics get.

The Eldest, however, are different from the titans and gods. They really are separated from mortal existence. They are emanations of creation itself, and while they have physical manifestations in the the plane the campaign started in, their existence also manifests on every plane and reality (though not always in recognizable forms).

The source of all of this, and everything else for that matter, is the Mother. Among mortals, there are those who attempt to commune with Her, to make the most of being a part of Her, and to see creation from Her perspective. They attempt to see beyond the dichotomized world to a universal truth beyond, the central truth that unifies all of existence. There are many names for these folk, but most call them witches.

Central to learning the ways of the witch is a union with the Mother, the universal feminine. Because of this, nearly all witches are women. Any man who wishes to become a witch must abandon his masculinity. These males must either be magically transformed into women or castrated. Regardless of the process, they then adopt the clothing, behavior, and rituals of women in their culture.

Witches seek to recognize the Mother in all things and all people. They search for the interconnectedness in all things, and then seek to teach this knowledge to others. Most witches live within a community where they serve as natural philosophers, teachers, advisers, herbalists, healers, and midwives.

The prime requisites for a witch are Wisdom and Charisma. If a witch has a score of 13 or greater in both stats, the character will gain a 5% bonus on earned experience points. If a witch's Wisdom is 13 or greater and her Charisma at least 16, she gains a 10% bonus on earned experience.

RESTRICTIONS: Witches use six-sided dice (d6) to determine their hit points and use the cleric's saving throws. They must be Neutral in alignment. They may use any weapons or armour, but may not use any that are made of iron. Yes, bronze is fine and yes, this probably means I need to better define the drawbacks of bronze. Witches use the same attack tables as clerics. They have their own spell list which they draw spells from, and they may use any magic item normally reserved for magic-users and clerics, including scrolls.

HERBALISM & HEALING: In seeking the interconnectedness of all things, most witches begin by studying the natural world. A witch may use her skills as an herbalist and healer to aid others. Those under the care of a witch regain hit points through rest and other natural means at twice the normal rate. Those convalescing or suffering from a disease recover at twice the normal rate.

Any character inflicted with a poison or a disease who does not die outright can be aided by a witch. The witch will need at least one uninterrupted round to treat the inflicted character (which means both will have to be standing still without someone trying to hit them with weapons or malicious spells). The character then gets to make a second saving throw, adding the witch's Wisdom-based saving throw adjustment to the roll. If this roll also fails, the witch may try again, but only after she has an uninterrupted minute to work on the inflicted. (Keep in mind that rounds in my game last only 10 seconds.) A third saving throw is rolled, again adjusted by the witch's Wisdom. Success on any of these saving throws means the inflicted no longer suffers from the effects of the disease or poison, though any lost hit points or modified stats must be recovered in the normal ways.

If the witch knows exactly what sort of poison or disease might be threatening a character, she may attempt to inoculate them ahead of time. This requires the witch to work uninterrupted for at least one hour to prepare her potions, but allows the character to add the witch's Wisdom-based saving throw bonus to saving throws against this particular poison or disease over the next 24 hours. Only one such inoculation per character is allowed in any 24 hour period.

In order for a witch to do any of these things, she needs access to a supply of herbs and minerals, water, and some common cooking tools (fire, pot, knives, etc.). It can be assumed that a witch in the wilderness is constantly resupplying her stash of herbs and minerals. However, DMs may rule that this is impossible in especially barren or alien environments.

FAMILIAR: A witch may summon a familiar if she doesn't already have one. This requires a full 24 hours of preparation and ritual. Any non-sentient creature possessing fewer hit dice than the witch may be summoned. The type of creature who answers the summons should be determined randomly by the DM. The witch and her familiar share a powerful mental bond. The witch can experience the world through the familiar's senses if the familiar is within one mile per level of the witch. The familiar will obey any command it is mentally given by the witch, even self-destructive commands. However, should a witch's familiar die, the witch will lose one level or, if the witch is first level, she must save vs. Poison or die herself.

SPELLS: A witch gains spells in the same manner as a cleric, automatically gaining access to all spells at each level. While she can cast spells if her hands are full, such as when holding weapons or a shield, she may not cast if her hands are bound or if she cannot speak. Witches draw their spells from the following list:

1.Detect Magic
3.Pass Without Trace
4. Predict Weather
5. Purify Water
6. Speak with Animals

1.Charm Person or Mammal
2.Create Water
3.Cure Light Wounds
4. Feign Death
5. Locate Animals and Plants
6. Obscurement

3rd Level
1.Cure Disease
2.Neutralize Poison
3.Plant Growth
4. Protection from Fire
5. Stone Shape
6. Water Breathing

4th Level
1.Animal Summoning I
2.Cure Serious Wounds
3.Dispel Magic
4. Protection from Lightning
5. Repel Insects
6. Speak with Plants

5th Level
1.Animal Growth
2.Animal Summoning II
3.Commune with Nature
4. Control Winds
5. Insect Plague
6. Transmute Rock to Mud

6th Level
1.Animal Summoning III
3.Conjure Elemental
4. Control Weather
5. Cure Serious Wounds
6. Wall of Thorns

(Those of you with really good memories or active 1e campaigns may recognize the above spells as coming from the 1e druid's list. They seemed a good match for what I was going for, and most won't require any serious tweaking.)


I'm fairly happy with the way this turned out. It's not quite the druid, and it's certainly not the cleric. Level advancement is a bit slower than the cleric, but I think the ability to use magic wands and staves and magic-user scrolls more than makes up for that.


Michael S/Chgowiz said...

Yea, I uhh.... stopped reading at this line: These males must either be magically transformed into women or castrated. (You knew that was coming.)

Funny, my captcha is "pingi" which would describe what would be left...

Cool class! Made me wince ;)

yoyorobbo said...

There are a few articles in Dragon issues from the early 80's (or so) that had some detailing on the "Witch" class. Most of them, if not all of them were Witches as NPCs, but there was some very nice info that I actually looked into when trying to make a "witchy" caster in DDO (the D&D online MMO). DDO is based on the 3.5 ruleset...mostly. Some differences like mana instead of spells per day, and many other diffs.

I actually ended up making a Bard and totally focused her on the Enchantment school. Tossing out charms person, charm monster, hold person, hold monster, suggestion, otto's dances, otto's dancing sphere (or whatever..."disco ball" as many DDO players call it, due to the graphic/audio of the spell).

BUT...the main reason I made her a Bard and not just a Wizard or Sorcerer, was for "Fascinate." The info that I found in old Dragon mags on Witches had fascinate as a main ability...which makes total sense. So I tossed around making her a 1Bard/15Sorc (16 level cap), but then just went all Bard with her instead, and focused on the enchantment spells.

As close as I could get with the game mechanics/rules for DDO.

Anyway, if I find those issues for Witch info (Dragon mags), I'll post it or send it your way. You might see something you like in TSR's take on it.

Good work on your part, regardless...very nice!

yoyorobbo said...

OK, I should have just looked a little before posting the last comment. Here are the Dragon issues I mentioned:

Dragon #20
Dragon #43
Dragon #114

I have a couple of these and at least on of the articles was in one of the "Best of Dragon" collections (IIRC) from the 80's too. I also have them on PDF, that I could snag the articles for ya, if ya want them.

Either way, I think you'd dig these articles, as they are (mostly) from the Moldvay/Cook era, so it should line up pretty nice.

Oh yeah, I also dabbled with a take on the "Dread Witch" idea from a 3.5 book (maybe Libris Morte or Complete Arcane...dunno) doing a kinda Wizzie/Cleric split with focus on Enchantment and Necro spells/schools.

Now where the hell did I put that "eye of newt" and "toenail of bullywog"?

trollsmyth said...

Chgowiz, yep, well, it's supposed to be more evocative of the setting, rather than generic, so... Glad you had a, er, strong reaction. ;D

Yoyorobbo, I actually have the cd archive, so I should be able to find them. Thanks for pointing those out.

Blotz said...

"Any man who wishes to become a witch must abandon his masculinity. These males must either be magically transformed into women or castrated."

Ummm... I'll choose column A plz... I mean if I gotta say goodbye to the "Bastard Sword" then I'd like some replacement equipment please...

trollsmyth said...

I mean if I gotta say goodbye to the "Bastard Sword" then I'd like some replacement equipment please...

Why do you think I give them the ability to use any rods, staves, or wands they find?

"Oh, a wizard's staff's got a knob on the end..." ;p

Piper said...

Nice work. The previously mentioned (by other comments) witch NPC treatments in "Dragon" magazine failed to impress me as a usable PC class. This, however, I think is workable idea.

trollsmyth said...


Thanks. I haven't had a chance to read those treatments yet, but I suspect we also had slightly different goals in mind. I'll hopefully get a chance to peruse them this weekend.

Mr Baron said...

The Witch in Dragon 43 is one of my favorites.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

I made one of these also. It can be found here.

Capcha: Suburus. I have a thought, but it will have to wait until the contest is over. said...

Thanks so much for this post, pretty helpful data.