D&D 5E 5e witches, your preferred implementation?

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
DnD 5e as a whole is absolutely awful at dealing with those concepts which are too much for a subclass, but redundant as a main class. Swordmage, witch, shaman, psion, and numerous others all fit into this weird place there if you the to make them a subclass it's an unsatisfying mess, while if you try to make them a full class they heavily overlap with something which is already there.

I think I'd love a 5e book that ignored the overlap issue. Think of the new classes like PF did for archetypes (substitute out as many or fewer powers as you want) or hybrid classes (combine two classes) and then do something new and present them as new classes (like PF did for hybrid). And if the problem is multi-classing, then just say they can't multiclass with the classes they're too close to.
 

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And if the problem is multi-classing, then just say they can't multiclass with the classes they're too close to.

I have done something like that before where two divine classes or two arcane classes cannot be multiclassed together. And since so many classes in 5E can end up with magic, that cuts down on overlap and cheese.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I just wish D&D had started with a "theory of magic" and then filled in with appropriate classes, instead of just throwing into the pot anything that sounds cool and then trying to rationalize it.
I was going to say I wish they had gone with "theories" so DMs could pick the one that fit best fit the campaign, along with the classes that came with it. But I'm pretty sure we'd get multi-class Witch-Conjurer-Gish-Thaumaturge optimizations or whatnot.
 


MGibster

Legend
I just wish D&D had started with a "theory of magic" and then filled in with appropriate classes, instead of just throwing into the pot anything that sounds cool and then trying to rationalize it.
Oh, man. I think the rules back then were opaque enough as they were. Adding different theories of magic would have just made it all that much more difficult. Even today, I tend to think it's better to just accept D&D for what it is rather than attempt to fit every specific concept into its class system.
 

Remathilis

Legend
This is the fundamental problem that exists at the core of many of these discussions. D&D's core classes are a combination of really broad concepts and really narrow ones when ideally they would all be broad. Druid is really too specific a concept to apply to entire class IMO, and druids should have been carved out of a broader animist-theme class which would include other primal caster types like witches and shamans. WotC really should have put more effort into rethinking and re-concepting certain classes in 5e instead of just copy/pasting all of the legacy classes the way they did.

The same problem exists with several other classes, even including clerics, which push too hard into a "crusader" theme when they should be more generic to allow for a broader range of priestly/devoted concepts to fit inside it.
In honesty, their were only ever they broad concept classes: fighting-man and magic-user. Even the OD&D cleric was a fairly narrow archetype (Christian crusader and vampire hunter) and the Thief clearly so. Everything else (druid, paladin, ranger, bard, illusionist, assassin, barbarian, monk, cavalier, etc.) were just specialization of specialization.

Flash forward 50 years and the archetypes both don't have a lot of give to them and a lot of history, so I can't imagine them removing the druid and making it a section of a new animist class with again m shaman, witch and whatever.

I kinda wish they'd rip the band-aid off and just add some new classes and subclasses to the game that touch on requested archetypes like witch, psion or shaman. My general thought though is even with a disclaimer and playtest, they got too much negative feedback over the samurai and cavalier, so they have moved towards design that is more fantastical than archetypal. People are less likely to complain about a rune knight or scribe wizard than they are a samurai or witch.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
The set up: So, I'm working on a homebrew that may never get finished. But the power sources are:

1) Divine - Gods or whatnot from the outer or elemental planes (the characters are never visiting) - think Clerics

2) Spirit - Something in the neighboring spirit realm where the fae, hags, djinn, and demon-like creatures that might ever visit the prime material plane live - think 5e Warlocks, PF Shaman; PF Summoners, Sorcerous bloodlines would come through here

3) Attunement - Being really attuned with the actual world and things in it (not mediated by spirits or gods) - a version of druids and bards

4) Wizardry - Having the ability to learn and cast spells using the usual tropes - think Wizards, Alchemists, and Artificers

5) Rage/Panache/Grit/Qi - Being supernaturally able to draw upon oneself - think Barbarian, A5E Adept, PF Gunslinger, PF Swashbuckler


The questions:

If you had to pick where a witch comes from is it (2)?

If so, which feels most right:
(a) a pact like the 5e Warlock?
(b) a familiar from their that teaches the magic like the PF Witch
(c) an ability to call upon the spirit world to do "magic" without needing a familiar or patron (but might have one)

Or, do those seem off?
 

The thing is when you look back over the history of what has been considered a witch, whether 500 years ago or 2000 years ago or 50 years ago, you can make a Witch class using any of the first 4 points, especially when you get into Neo-Paganism. A Witch class could be the proto-class that all the other spellcasters evolved out of. And I still think that making a proper Witch class would require the elimination of the Warlock class, or making it a non-Good subclass of Witch. Going by just our modern view of what a Witch is, and going from a lot of the Pagan/Wiccan books I have read, the majority of those who call themselves witches, look at things a lot like the old Druids with Nature worship. And the second closest are those that think they inherited their "abilities" from their bloodline, which in game terms could tie into Aasimar and Tielfing backgrounds, which would add another option to your list.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
The thing is when you look back over the history of what has been considered a witch, whether 500 years ago or 2000 years ago or 50 years ago, you can make a Witch class using any of the first 4 points, especially when you get into Neo-Paganism. A Witch class could be the proto-class that all the other spellcasters evolved out of. And I still think that making a proper Witch class would require the elimination of the Warlock class, or making it a non-Good subclass of Witch. Going by just our modern view of what a Witch is, and going from a lot of the Pagan/Wiccan books I have read, the majority of those who call themselves witches, look at things a lot like the old Druids with Nature worship. And the second closest are those that think they inherited their "abilities" from their bloodline, which in game terms could tie into Aasimar and Tielfing backgrounds, which would add another option to your list.

I am not wedded to the idea of the 5e Warlock, and am just using it as a placeholder for something that gets its powers directly from a patron as described in 5e. It felt narrow for a Witch class.

In one of these threads on what folks wanted in a witch class, one of the big asks was that there actually be one that wasn't a sub-class. To do that it feels like I need to give it it's own niche. The alternate would be to make a witch sub-class for each of (1)-(4).

When I today, rolling nearest the top of my brain is a class whose unifying idea was a connection to the powers of the spirit world that didn't rely on spirits as mediators. It could then have a lot of sub-options (patron, bloodline, familiar, picked up wizardy spells a bit too, or something about a god; I imagine most of the classes would have sub-classes with a splash of flavor from the others to let folks narrow in on the concept they wanted).

Another thought is one that broke some/all of the boundaries of (1)-(4). That might make for a class that's a bit of an outcast from the more defined roles, and I can imagine it working for combining two things, say. But it feels like combining all 4 just ends up a mish-mash. If you had to rate (1) to (4), in terms of feeling right for a class, how would you rank them? I had vague thoughts of something that combined (2) and (3).
 

I would think maybe more a combination of 3 and 4. Witches have spellbook, Book of Shadows, and they are big on ritual spellcasting, but they also do a lot just in the name of Nature/Mother Earth/Gaia, rather than a specific entity. I think more a combination of Druid and Sorcerer.
 

jgsugden

Legend
In my setting there are 5 types of magic: Supernatural, Divine, Arcane, Nature, Psionic.

There is a weave that ties all things together. It begins at the heart of the Positive Energy Plane and ends in the heart of the Negative Energy plane.

Nature Magic travels from the heart of these two planes along this weave to reach those that use it. Druids, rangers and most fey and shadow creatures use this 'Nature Magic'.

Arcane and Divine magic also use the weave, but they're capitalizing upon it, rather than working in unison with it. Arcane spellcasters pull background magic from the weave and use it for their own ends. Divine spellcasters gain their benefits from the powers that deliver it to them via the weave.

Psionic spellcasters generate their own power.

Supernatural spellcasters have magic independent of the weave. They collect and store their magic by converting things into magic. It might be souls, or potential energy (physics), or chemical energy (explosives) that they're converting. It is the catch all of my world.

Witches could refer to divine, arcane, nature or psionic spellcasters. It is just a label in that case ... but the core concept of the witch living in isolation that uses magics for curses and other myserious things are actually Hags. In my setting, Hags are primarily supernatural magic users that also dabble in other forms of magic. They tend to specialize in converting soul energy into power for their curses, hexes, and transmutations. That soul energy is ripest when people experience powerful emotions, so they specialize in making someone feel incredible joy, and then turning it into utter despair, then giving them hope, and then turning that into regret, and then twisting that regret into anger, etc... This allows them to feed off of the target of their magics like a generator and allows them to create more chaos which creates more power, etc...
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
The set up: So, I'm working on a homebrew that may never get finished. But the power sources are:

1) Divine - Gods or whatnot from the outer or elemental planes (the characters are never visiting) - think Clerics

2) Spirit - Something in the neighboring spirit realm where the fae, hags, djinn, and demon-like creatures that might ever visit the prime material plane live - think 5e Warlocks, PF Shaman; PF Summoners, Sorcerous bloodlines would come through here

3) Attunement - Being really attuned with the actual world and things in it (not mediated by spirits or gods) - a version of druids and bards

4) Wizardry - Having the ability to learn and cast spells using the usual tropes - think Wizards, Alchemists, and Artificers

5) Rage/Panache/Grit/Qi - Being supernaturally able to draw upon oneself - think Barbarian, A5E Adept, PF Gunslinger, PF Swashbuckler


The questions:

If you had to pick where a witch comes from is it (2)?

If so, which feels most right:
(a) a pact like the 5e Warlock?
(b) a familiar from their that teaches the magic like the PF Witch
(c) an ability to call upon the spirit world to do "magic" without needing a familiar or patron (but might have one)

Or, do those seem off?
I think, for my tastes and your purposes, you want a Witch class that sits somewhere between Attunement and Wizardry.

So, not #2 at all...though their use of magic could certainly access/work into that area..or a subclass of them could/can.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
My thought would be something like Spirit, where the Spirit is part their own and part an outside source. A hybrid of sorcerer and warlock, perhaps: my go-to idea for witches is half Discworld and half the witches/clerics of Hala (Ravenloft). Like, you need to have enough strength of will to use the magic, but some of your magic comes from the supernatural beings you bargain with or outright control (as opposed to getting powers from, like the warlock does).

OTOH, this shouldn't be a binder-type class. Perhaps it should have summoning abilities--either as spells or class features--where the summoned entities don't fight but instead perform tasks.

Edit: I suddenly realized this is kinda similar to the 2e Al Qidam sha'ir class, where they had gens who fetched spells for them.
 
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RealAlHazred

Frumious Flumph
The set up: So, I'm working on a homebrew that may never get finished. But the power sources are:

1) Divine - Gods or whatnot from the outer or elemental planes (the characters are never visiting) - think Clerics

2) Spirit - Something in the neighboring spirit realm where the fae, hags, djinn, and demon-like creatures that might ever visit the prime material plane live - think 5e Warlocks, PF Shaman; PF Summoners, Sorcerous bloodlines would come through here

3) Attunement - Being really attuned with the actual world and things in it (not mediated by spirits or gods) - a version of druids and bards

4) Wizardry - Having the ability to learn and cast spells using the usual tropes - think Wizards, Alchemists, and Artificers

5) Rage/Panache/Grit/Qi - Being supernaturally able to draw upon oneself - think Barbarian, A5E Adept, PF Gunslinger, PF Swashbuckler


The questions:

If you had to pick where a witch comes from is it (2)?

If so, which feels most right:
(a) a pact like the 5e Warlock?
(b) a familiar from their that teaches the magic like the PF Witch
(c) an ability to call upon the spirit world to do "magic" without needing a familiar or patron (but might have one)

Or, do those seem off?
I've seen all of these approaches.
  1. Divine: mechanically, for 5E, the Cleric domain of Witchcraft. If your conception of witches in your setting is as devotees of forgotten or forbidden gods (due to some religious upheaval or whatever), then this is a way to represent it.
  2. Spirit: mechanically, for 5E, the Occultist class by KibblesTasty, or the binder-style Witch class by Zarieth. If the witches deal with subdivine powers, or if it is a setting where there was a war between real gods, then perhaps the "losers" were reduced in power instead of being slain (how can a true god be slain?) In that case, something like this works. Also appropriate, the Vestige binder from 3.5E, or the Vestige Pact warlock from 4E.
  3. Attunement: a closer tie to nature was the old 4E power source called "Primal." Mechanically, this can be represented in 5E as the Druid circle of the Coven, or the circle of Witchcraft. To my mind, this is closer to the power source for what I would call an Occultist class, were I to create one.
  4. Wizardry: for 5E, the Wizard school of Witchcraft. In 4E, where they actually had an official Witch subclass, it was a Wizard subclass that got rid of the spellbook. The advantage in D&D for this approach is that it allows wizards to learn witch spells and vice versa. Appropriate if manipulating the stuff of reality is done through practice and training in mental disciplines.
  5. Rage/Panache/Grit/Qi: Interestingly, way back in the OD&D era, this was the basis for the first witch class intended for players to use, in an issue of Judges Guild Journal. It used the psionics rules, which had just come out in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement.
So, if you're trying to make a folkloric witch, all three of your last points have to be reflected.

a. Witches were said to have sworn pacts. 5E has made this inherently a warlock thing, but I would do it in a D&D clone as something like a feat. Everyone should be able to take a "shortcut" to power, and defer the true costs to later on down the line.
b. Witches didn't usually have any written objects, and were said to be taught their spells by their familiar. In my OSE games, the familiar becomes the spellbook, and no other rules need to change.
c. Witches weren't always clearly calling on a specific spirit to do their magic. They could, but some witches were thought to have powers (usually the "evil eye") which seemed to be innate abilities as opposed to spells or the actions of demons.

Ultimately, you have to figure out what kind of witch you want in a setting. A storybook, fairy-tale witch? A wise woman or cunning man from Medieval European history? A spiritualist like the witches from the Gaslight era revival? A name you use for some out-group in your game, to instinctively make players be distrustful but ultimately allow individuals to be uniquely "good" or "bad"?
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I would think maybe more a combination of 3 and 4. Witches have spellbook, Book of Shadows, and they are big on ritual spellcasting, but they also do a lot just in the name of Nature/Mother Earth/Gaia, rather than a specific entity. I think more a combination of Druid and Sorcerer.

I think, for my tastes and your purposes, you want a Witch class that sits somewhere between Attunement and Wizardry.

So, not #2 at all...though their use of magic could certainly access/work into that area..or a subclass of them could/can.

I can certainly see something between attunement (nature) and wizardry (book magic) working for getting one of the big witch archetypes.

That leaves off the tropes related to getting the powers from outside sources (demons, fae, their familiar), whatnot. To you, how would it be to have that picked up by a Warlock that combined the spirit realm connection and wizardry (following the 5e set-up and the idea of warlocks practicing dark magic or whatnot) ? Or would having one called Warlock and one called witch be strange?

If it wasn't too weird it would open something like...

Spirit=Summoner
Attunement=Druid*
Wizardry=Wizard

Attune/Wizardry=Witch
Spirt/Attunement=Shaman*
Spirit/Wizardry=Warlock (pact) or Sorcerer (born with it)

*Shaman and Druid are the other ones it feels like I should think about most.
 
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steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
To you, how would it be to have that picked up by a Warlock that combined the spirit realm connection and wizardry (following the 5e set-up and the idea of warlocks practicing dark magic or whatnot) ?

Isn't that...already what a Warlock is now? A Warlock, as written, only exists because of a Pact with an otherworldly (but not godly) Patron. So the warlock is already the Spirit Connected/dependent one.
Or would having one called Warlock and one called witch be strange?
I don't think so. If you define/fluff their magic sourcing as completely different. Different mechanics to run the features. Different names and archetypes of magic-using persons. I don't think it's weird at all.

I don't have/use a Warlock or Sorcerer class in my homebrew setting. But I do have a Witch, and Mages (what 3-5e D&D folks call "Wizards"), and a limited selection of specialist mages (Illusionists, Conjurers, et al.), and Psychics, and Thaumaturgists (what most D&D folks would consider a "Mystic Theurge"), and a Swordmagey/Fighter-Mage class. They all count as "Wizard" classes in my system and, generally speaking, in-world.

(Then, of course, there are the clerics, and druids, and bards, and paladins [templars], and shamans, etc... who are the "drawing/granted power from external sources classes"...the "Invoking" casters versus the "Incanting" casters. An imprecise distinction as, obviously, clerics/druids/etc... "cast spells," i.e. using incantations, in addition to or as a result of their invoked power. But still, were I to incorporate a D&D style "Warlock" it would go among these casters rather than "wizardy" types.)
If it wasn't too weird it would open something like...

Spirit=Summoner
Attunement=Druid*
Wizardry=Wizard

Attune/Wizardry=Wizard
Spirt/Attunement=Shaman*
Spirit/Wizardry=Warlock (pact) or Sorcerer (born with it)

*Shaman and Druid are the other ones it feels like I should think about most.
I assume that first one in the second triad is supposed to be "Attune/Wizardry = Witch."

In which case, yes, I think that's all great/fine/makes sense and it should be simple to formulate separate classes for each.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I assume that first one in the second triad is supposed to be "Attune/Wizardry = Witch."

In which case, yes, I think that's all great/fine/makes sense and it should be simple to formulate separate classes for each.

Yes, that was a typo, and should have been Witch. Thanks for the feedback!
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
RE: Druids and Shamans

For me/my setting and system, they are easily distinguishable for a few reasons. Some is setting fluff that isn't really relevant for your purposes.

But the definitional fluff and mechanical distinctions would probably be helpful/translatable for you. If nothing else, maybe they will give you some jumping off point or elements to consider for your own classes.

As I mention above, both Druids and Shamans exist in a category of those magic-workers who rely on an energies draw from or directly granted by an external power source. Casters who "invoke" their power, a large degree through "Channeling" that external power. For my game, after a great many years of cataloging them as "Priests," I changed the group name to "Mystics" (again, as opposed to "Wizards") and it has made classes fit more obviously and feel more different from the Wizardly (predominantly Arcane) magic-workers.

Druids are Nature Magic users. They have always, for me, occured in a space between and combining the Cleric (they get some armor, some weapons, channel as a primary feature) and the Mage (advanced knowledge and spell use).

They gain abilities from channeling the forces and power of Nature, itself, rather than any personification of elements of nature (deities) or any other spirits (fae, elementals, etc...) attached to or born from it.

Most of the class features we (D&D/PF/fantasy RPGers) think of as "Druidic" powers: shapeshifting, avoiding enchantments of sylvan creatures, enhanced protection from elemental (fire, cold, electricity) energies, including some traditional spells like Pass Without Trace; are actually "Channel Nature" abilities for my Druid class.

They also, clearly, have a spells/a casting slots progression chosen from a "Nature Magic" spell list, as typical/one might expect. Your Obscuring Mist and Faerie Fire, Call Lightning, Summon Nature (Allies), Tree Stride...all the greatest hits. Their spellcraft is "cast" as any Mage would do: incanting special words/phrases and gestures of specific formulae in a secret/sacred/forgotten/unknown ("Druidic") tongue.

Fundamentally, the Mystic spell lists are shorter and more narrowly defined than the Wizard spell lists. Mystics get armor and weapons and other features that Wizard classes just don't. Their (wizards) whole shtick is the magic-use. Mystics use/have a good amount of magic...but they aren't helpless without it.

ANYwho, so, Shamans are also often thought of as "Nature Magic" users. However, what is more accurate is that they use "Animism" which sits -again for my/my setting- in the Vin diagram between Nature and Divine magic. The nexus of which allows greater/simpler access to "The Spirit World" than either "way out from the outer planes Divine Magic" or "actually accessed right here from the Material or neighboring energetic and elemental infused planes Nature Magic."

SO a Shamans primary feature is the Channeling of "Spirit(s)" (rather than the Divinity of Clerics or Nature of Drudis). This permits them features that may duplicate either Clerical or Druidic channelling features (Effect Undead, Shapeshift, etc...) and some things that are their own, such as Summon[ing] Spirit [Entities] for various purposes.

Their spell casting functions through the contacting and contracting with -specifically, "entreating"- various spirit entities. This gives them a spell list that can incorporate spells that appear on Divine Magic lists (entreating with positive energy and higher plane beings for blessings, healings defense, etc...), Nature Magic lists (entreating with elementals, fae, spirit animals, etc... for Communing with Nature, controlling animals, conjuring the weather, etc...), and Arcane Magic lists (entreating with just about anything, including darker forces/lower plane types for charms [fae or devils], levitation/flight [air elementals], necromancies [shadow spirits, demons], etc...).

Their spell list is as short as any other Mystic -as far as spells per spell level is concerned. But they have a broader diversity than others....perhaps even moreso than bards (which are considered a Mystic class in my setting/system).

So, while a great many people conflate the shaman and druid or presume one to be a subset of the other, both animists, and so on...which may be entirely defensible and even [potentially] historically accurate... I differentiate them that way.

Druids are Mystics of Nature. Shamans are Mystics of the Spirit World.

Do/can their magic overlap or do similar, if not the same, things? Yes.

Are they the same/identical? No.

Do they enact their magic in the same processes/ways? Yes -as both channel, and No -channeling different sources, casting by incantation vs. entreating external entities, having different spell lists, etc...

SO, yeah...there's a longwinded, largely unasked for, post 'bout that. I need some lunch! lol.

Good luck and look forward to where you go with it.
 

Serious question for the mods (or anyone who has been here a while and knows this place well): this keeps coming up.

Is it worth putting into a sticky somewhere? Composing a digest with links to all the prior threads? A big Table of Witch Classes? Discussion is fun but I feel like we keep reinventing the wheel.
 

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