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


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steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
I've seen magico-religious practitioners divided into shamans, priests, healers, mediums, and witches.

Interestingly the scholarly wizard doesn't really have an analog in history. They're closer to a scientist really.

John Dee? Nostradamus? Edward Kelly? Isaac Newton? Both Taliesin and Merlin (if they were, in fact, separate people) were considered scholarly wizened figures. Hermes Trismegistus?

So, yeah, I kinda think the "scholarly wizard" definitely has an analog in history.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Interestingly the scholarly wizard doesn't really have an analog in history. They're closer to a scientist really.
😮!?
John Dee? Nostradamus? Edward Kelly? Isaac Newton? Both Taliesin and Merlin (if they were, in fact, separate people) were considered scholarly wizened figures. Hermes Trismegistus?

So, yeah, I kinda think the "scholarly wizard" definitely has an analog in history.
And many other alchemists and mystics besides. Not to mention more modern figures like Alistair Crowley and his associates.
 

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
John Dee? Nostradamus? Edward Kelly? Isaac Newton? Both Taliesin and Merlin (if they were, in fact, separate people) were considered scholarly wizened figures. Hermes Trismegistus?

So, yeah, I kinda think the "scholarly wizard" definitely has an analog in history.

I stand corrected.

Interesting these are mostly Early Modern, rather than medieval figures. ('Scientist' and 'occultist' really overlap in this era.) And Newton doesn't really count as 'not a scientist'. ;)
This guy just discovered phosphorus. Total wizard vibes.
 
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Slit518

Adventurer
D&D has had a history of doing different things to get a witch concept character, often creating specific casting classes and sometimes just using existing classes and flavoring.

Pathfinder 1e had a witch class that was an arcane full caster that made pacts with a mysterious themed patron, gained specific witchy powers, and used their familiars as spellbooks.

In using my homebrew mashup setting part of it includes the Pathfinder Golarion world with the land of Irrisen, a norse area conquered by Baba Yaga who set her daughters up to be witch tyrants for a century each then to be replaced by a new daughter, and the ruling class of the country are specifically winter witches, many of whom are descendants of Baba Yaga (the current ruler is winter witch very much in the form of Narnia's White Witch).

I could see doing 5e versions of the Pathfinder witches as 5e core classes (warlock, wizard, sorcerer, and even druid could fit well).

I expect there are a number of OGL or DMs Guild products that do specific new classes or subclasses or feat options to get a witch concept.

I also expect there are a number of NPC or monster stat block options that could be appropriate too.

What have you used to get a 5e witch feel and what are your preferred implementations?

In the way that it casts? I would say a blend between a Warlock and Sorcerer.

In what spells are available? A little bit from everybody, but not the full list. So a few cherry picked from the Bard; Cleric; Druid; Warlock; Wizard.

They could have sub-classes with how they handle their spells -- Learned like a Wizard; Innate like a Sorcerer; sacrifice something of themself for more power; from a cauldron.
 

RealAlHazred

Frumious Flumph (Your Grace/Your Eminence)
I've seen magico-religious practitioners divided into shamans, priests, healers, mediums, and witches.

Interestingly the scholarly wizard doesn't Gwen ferch Ellisreally have an analog in history. They're closer to a scientist really.
As a thought experiment, I decided to see if I could come up with historical personages who fit these archetypes. Keeping in mind that real people never fit archetypes or stereotypes perfectly, nevertheless I think these are pretty close to how people perceive these characters in games:
  • Shaman: My favorite example is Magankan, who caused the Tunguska Event of 1908.
  • Priest: I like to use as an example Roger Bacon. Nowadays people like to call him a prototype wizard, but he was a friar and it seems likely if he ever "cast a spell" in D&D form, he would have been classified as a cleric.
  • Healer: I remember reading something about Gwen ferch Ellis. The traditional Welsh healing methods involved salves and poppets, which led to her being hanged as a witch, sadly. See also, "Witch" below.
  • Medium: Probably the most famous historical medium was Edgar Cayce. Frankly, he belongs in every period RPG, IMO.
  • Witch: One famous witch trial was the Witches of Belvoir: Joan, Margaret, and Philippa Flowers. Frankly, there's a lot of bleedover in European folklore between "healers" and "witches".
  • Scholarly Wizard: John Dee has already been mentioned and is a pretty good example, but to an extent the same archetype fits Sir Isaac Newton. He codified the laws of gravity and formulated a theory of the color spectrum, sure, but he also was a practicing alchemist and did a bit of occultism.
EDIT: I see Newton was already mentioned, and is regarded as "too late in the period." What about Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)? He wrote a bit about the occult and yet was also the "father of the scientific method" without being a scientist.

EDIT 2: If we're being restricted to the Medieval Period (the Middle Ages, CE 476-1453 when the Turks sacked Constantinople), then I'm going to have to do more research for figures. Roger Bacon (1220-1292) is the only one who fits. Even Gwen ferch Ellis dates to just after this period.
 
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RealAlHazred

Frumious Flumph (Your Grace/Your Eminence)
Okay, Medieval Exemplars of the archetypes:
  • Shaman: This one is the trickiest. Shamans are usually archetypically defined as magic-workers who wield the power of ancient spirits. Medieval European writers didn't usually record those people; despite some shamanic practices (e.g. Finnic shamanism) having thousands of years of tradition behind them, I can't find a "famous" shaman as an example. However, I might use Egill Skallagrímsson (904-995) as an archetypical example. He was outlawed from Norway after killing the son of the King. He carved a rune onto a drinking-horn that contained mead; the mead had been poisoned so the drinking-horn shattered. He set a horse's head on a pole, and used it to curse the Kingdom of Norway. My favorite factoid about him is that, after the King of Norway captured him, he was sentenced to be killed the next morning. The following morning, his last words were a poem he composed overnight praising King Eiríkr; the poem was so good that the King decided to spare him. So, he might be a better representation of a bard.
  • Priest: St. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280). A Doctor of the Church, he had a wizardly reputation even while he was alive, but even in stories his thaumaturgical wonders are attributed to saintliness and an understanding of God's works. There is a large body of occult works attributed to him, but even just the works that can be definitively credited to him are extraordinary. My favorite factoid about him is that, three years after he died he was exhumed, and they found the body to be whole and not corrupted by time.
  • Healer: St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). A Doctor of the Church, abbess, polymath, medical writer, and mystic who received visions. She was devoted to the healing arts, which included healing by prayer. My favorite factoid about her is that she developed her own conlang, Lingua Ignota, and an alphabet to go along with it, Litterae Ignotae.
  • Medium: St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). Originally, I was going to put Hildegard here as she also had visions. However, Catherine is closer to a modern definition of a medium. She was the daughter of a wool dyer, who devoted herself to chastity in God from an early age. She later had a vision where she and Christ exchanged hearts, and later she had one where she displayed the stigmata. They made her a Doctor of the Church for her work. My favorite factoid about her is that she was so dead-set against marrying the man her parents wanted her to marry that she cut off her hair and began a hunger strike. After a long period of arguments, her parents caved in and let her have her way. The writers at the time thought this was remarkable, but parents nowadays would just say, "Teenagers, what are you gonna do?"
  • Witch: Sir Gilles de Rais (1405-1440). Knight, lord, witch, and serial killer -- if you're doing a game that reflects the medieval era, a copy of this guy needs to be in it! He fought alongside Joan of Arc and achieved high military honors in France, retired and blew his fortune, and then became an occultist and hosted Black Masses to try to get it back. He may have killed as many as 100 to 200 young children in his occult experiments, but it was only when he kidnapped a rival cleric that he was investigated and the whole business came out. My favorite factoid about him is that he lost his riches staging a impossible theatrical extravaganza, the Mystère du Siège d'Orléans, which featured 120 speaking roles in 20 different scenes, and 500 extras. “[In] order to recreate the [Mystère du Siège d'Orléans] in its present form, we would need ships, fortresses, tents, break-away towers, walls, a bridge with detachable parts, a river and an ocean, a means for hovering saints above the stage, cannons, and various dead bodies (one of which can lose its head at will).”
  • Scholarly Wizard: Michael Scot (1175-1232). Court astrologer to Emperor Frederick II, he was also wrote many books on divination and was considered the number one public intellectual of his day. My favorite factoid about him is when he hosted dinner parties, he would have spirits bring his friends dishes from the royal kitchens of France and Spain and other realms. He should be the patron saint of GrubHub.
Note: I have put "St." in front of the names of people who were widely considered saints in the Late Middle Ages. However, Hildegard of Bingen may never have been officially canonized; "it's complicated." She's only been given something called an "equivalent canonization," which I won't pretend to understand. Which is a shame, because depictions of her are badass!
Hildegard_von_Bingen.jpg


EDIT: More correctly, several of these are "Doctors of the Church," and Albertus Magnus is not officially a "Church Father." Mea culpa.
 
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Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
The guy who wrote about this seems to have been Michael James Winkelman, some of whose stuff you can find on the web, BTW. If you look you can even find the list of supernatural powers they're all supposed to have, perfect for a low-magic game...
 

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
Ah-hah! Open-access article of this guy's work!

 

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