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

Pact of the Blade Hexblade Warlock is my go-to 5e Gishy.
Sure, hexbalde is perfectly viable alternative. Though it rather awkward patch for non-functional blade pact. Ideally you wouldn't have hexblade, but an option to build a viable melee lock of any flavour (patron.) And you should also be able to be build a viable caster-lock that doesn't have eldritch blast. It is just weird that all warlocks from completely different patrons would have it, players should be able to choose attack cantrips that fit their theme better without being mechanically penalised for doing so.
 

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Yaarel

Legend
Witches should be Divine Casters.
Some witches are "psychics", Psionic. Especially Nordic witches.

Some witches are shamanic, Psionic, such as various animistic cultures, including shamans and witchdoctors and medicinefolk

Some witches are fay. Especially, Scot witches from the Renaissance and earlier, who interacted with the Elf queen and were often healers. Psionic or Primal or Arcane (In D&D the source for the Feywild is ambiguous.)

Some witches are theistic, Divine, such as Greek Hecate.

Some witches are devilish, Divine or Arcane, such as certain grimoire descriptions from continental Europe.

Some witches are protoscientific, Arcane or Primal, or Divine in the sense of cosmic force such as elementalism, such as Celtic traditions of Druid and Bard potion making, or Roman Period Hellenistic "magi" amuletic use of plants and gems.



Probably, the most important question is whether they themself is the power source internally, such as psychic or a family of psychics, or something else is the power source externally, such as harnessing the magical properties that are inherent in different kinds of plants and gems, or gaining the assistance of a spirit who does tasks.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I don't think is quite true. You grab agonising blast and hex and you're good to go. Sure, you could improve it further, but you don't really need to, with these you will be doing pretty horrid damage.
Sure, you can invest only a small amount into Eldritch Blasting if you want to. In that case, I don’t see how this interferes with your ability to make a witch. Is it not a witch if you have an effective attack spell?
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Dragon magazine witch classes, Role Aids Witches, 3.0 DMG witch sample new class, 3.0 Green Ronin's The Witch's Handbook, 2e Van Richten's Monster Hunting Compendium 3, Palladium FRPG, lots of options to go with for RPG inspiration.

Dug up my old notes on converting the Dragon 114 (etc) version of the witch. The basic premise is a caster who is recognizably part of a community of casters leaning toward the subtler magics, with features emphasizing "magical sight", a secret language, using/adapting familiarity rules (from scrying) as a broader class feature, and brewing potions. The spellcasting chassis is essentially the bard (with Spells Known & preparing spells), but the point of comparison I use for the spell list and overall layout of features is the druid.

Where I started first was defining what the Witch Spell List looks like, because "what magic can a witch do?" is contentious, or rather there's a lot of variety among various media representations of the archetype. I tried not to just do a rote conversion from Dragon 114, but to use my best judgment and creativity to adapt it, with some guiding principles:
  • New spell are italicized. Some new spells would need to be introduced but where possible I wanted to minimize how many new spells I drafted. I looked for comparable spells in 5e, places where multiple new spells could be condensed into one, and for interesting mechanical "openings" in the 5e rules.
  • The "loud" and more flashy a spell, the stronger justification it needs to be on the witch's spell list. Most spells should lean toward subtler effects or effects that are more easily narrated in a subtle way.
  • The witch is a second-line healer but not a primary healer.
Cantrips (16 vs. druid’s 18, and 2 class-exclusive vs. druid’s 4)
Blade Ward
Friends
Guidance
Light
Mage Hand
Mending
Message
Mind Sliver (TCoE)
Minor Illusion
Prestidigitation
*Produce Flame (formerly druid-only)
Resistance
*Spare the Dying (formerly cleric-only)
True Strike
*=Befuddle (target has no allies)
*=Reflected Image (display scene in a willing touched creature’s mind upon a reflective surface)

1st Level (21 vs. druid’s 21, and 1 class-exclusive vs. druid’s 1 entangle)
Beast Bond (XGtE)
Ceremony (XGtE)
Charm Person
Detect Evil and Good
Detect Magic
Detect Poison and Disease
Disguise Self
Faerie Fire
*Find Familiar (wizard-only)
Fog Cloud
Healing Word
*Hex (warlock-only)
Identify
Protection from Evil and Good
Purify Food and Drink
Sleep
Speak with Animals
Tasha’s Caustic Brew (TCoE)
Unseen Servant
Witch Bolt
*=Minor Geas (affects HP worth of opponents as per sleep who are sent on an imaginary errand away from the caster)

2nd Level (25 vs. druid’s 22, and 1 class-exclusive vs. druid’s 1 flame blade)
*Augury (cleric-only)
Calm Emotions
Crown of Madness
Darkness
Darkvision
Detect Thoughts
Enhance Ability
Enthrall
Hold Person
Invisibility
Lesser Restoration
Levitate
Locate Animals and Plants
Locate Object
Mirror Image
Misty Step
*Moonbeam (druid-only)
Phantasmal Force
Protection from Poison
Ray of Enfeeblement
See Invisibility
Suggestion
Summon Beast (TCoE)
Tasha’s Mind Whip (TCoE)
*=Hidden Missive (select targets hear something different than what you say)

3rd Level (26 vs. druid’s 18, and 1 class-exclusive vs. druid’s 1 call lightning)
Bestow Curse
Catnap (XGtE)
Clairvoyance
Conjure Animals
Counterspell
Dispel Magic
Enemies Abound (XGtE)
Fear
Fly
Gaseous Form
Hypnotic Pattern
Magic Circle
Major Image
*Mass Healing Word (cleric-only)
Protection from Energy
Remove Curse
Speak with Dead
Speak with Plants
Summon Lesser Demons (XGtE)
Summon Fey (TCoE)
Summon Shadowspawn (TCoE)
Tongues
Vampiric Touch
Water Breathing
Water Walk
*=Mystic Rope (conjure rope which moves of its own accord, can be commanded to grapple or attach)

4th Level (18 vs. druid’s 21, and 1 class-exclusive vs. druid’s 1 giant insect)
Banishment
Blight
Charm Monster (XGtE)
Confusion
Conjure Minor Elementals
Death Ward
Dimension Door
Dominate Beast
Freedom of Movement
Greater Invisibility
Hallucinatory Terrain
Locate Creature
*Phantasmal Killer (wizard-only)
Polymorph
Summon Elemental (TCoE)
Summon Greater Demon (XGtE)
*=Mystic Wall (hard to pass through for Medium or smaller creatures, distorted images/sounds prevent targeting through wall, creatures in wall take 3d6 force damage, caster and allies can pass through safely)


*=Lightning Shield (30’ burst of 2d8 lightning damage, then acts like fire shield vs. metal weapons within 30’ but deals 2d8 lightning) Druid, Sorcerer

5th Level (20 vs. druid’s 18, and 1 class-exclusive vs. druid’s 2 maelstrom & reincarnate)
Animate Objects
*Antilife Shell (druid-only)
Awaken
*Commune (cleric-only)
Conjure Elemental
Contact Other Plane
Contagion
Dawn (XGtE)
Dominate Person
Dream
Geas
Greater Restoration
Hold Monster
Insect Plague
Legend Lore
Modify Memory
Planar Binding
Scrying
Teleportation Circle
*=Spiritform (turn incorporeal, gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons & gain Incorporeal Movement, bypass resistances of creatures with Incorporeal Movement like banshees, shadow demons, ghosts, specters, and will-o’-wisps; but your attacks deal no damage to corporeal creatures)

6th Level (15 vs. druid’s 16, and 3 class-exclusive vs. druid’s 5 bones of the earth, druid grove, transport via plants, wall of thorns, wind walk)
Arcane Gate
Circle of Death
Conjure Fey
*Contingency (wizard-only)
Eyebite
Find the Path
Flesh to Stone
Guards and Wards
Heal
*Magic Jar (wizard-only)
Mass Suggestion
*Primordial Ward (XGtE) (druid-only)
True Seeing
*=Greater Bestow Curse (cancel life level/worship/love/sleep of ages)
*=Magic Mirror (see a creature and ask 3 questions about it from entity conjured into the mirror)

7th Level (9 vs. druid’s 6, and 1 class-exclusive vs. druid’s 0)
Etherealness
Finger of Death
Mirage Arcane
Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion
Plane Shift
Regenerate
*Sequester (wizard-only)
Summon Fiend (TCoE)
Symbol
*=Witch Queen’s Charm (control group of fey, goblinoids, lycanthropes, or undead of CR 3 or less)

8th Level (8 vs. druid’s 7, and 1 class-exclusive vs. druid’s 1)
*Animal Shapes (XGtE) (druid-only)
Antipathy/Sympathy
Dominate Monster
Feeblemind
*Maze (wizard-only)
Power Word Stun
Trap the Soul
*=Quickening (age control / wasting or youth)

9th Level (10 vs. druid’s 4, and 1 class-exclusive vs. druid’s 1)
Astral Projection
Foresight
Imprisonment
Mass Polymorph (XGtE)
Power Word Kill
Shapechange
True Polymorph
*Weird (wizard-only)
Wish
*=Spell Reflection (1 min. shimmering field, when targeted by spell can spend spell slot of that spell’s level to cause spell to rebound back at caster)

Overall Comparison to Druid:

Witch gets access to 168 spells vs. Druid’s 151 – this is tempered by the witch having Spells Known they must select, and may be further refined with some spells being moved to Coven sub-class based bonus spell lists

Witch has 12 class exclusive spells, whereas Druid has 18 class exclusive spells

Impact on Class Spell Lists Overall:
  • Witch gains 4 cleric-exclusive spells
  • Witch gains 5 druid-exclusive spells
  • Witch gains 1 warlock-exclusive spells
  • Witch gains 7 wizard-exclusive spells
  • Introduces 1 new spell for druids/sorcerers (lightning shield)
 

rgoodbb

Adventurer
Played two Witches

1st one was a land druid (swamp) that ticked most of the boxes for me

2nd was a lore bard and had everything I wanted from it. I liked all of the debuffs: VM, Cutting Words, Bane, Hold Person and Lore spell picks gave me extra flavour. I went halfling as well to add creepiness.

Any spellcaster could be re-fluffed though. It's about meeting your witch needs.
 

Sure, you can invest only a small amount into Eldritch Blasting if you want to. In that case, I don’t see how this interferes with your ability to make a witch. Is it not a witch if you have an effective attack spell?
Yeah, sure. It's just like I previously said, it is bizarre that basically all (non-hexblade) warlocks are tied to this one specific spell. I wish there was more freedom in choosing your attack cantrip, so that people could choose ones that are more thematically appropriate for their character. It's like if fighters got massive bonuses for using warhammer above all other weapons and as a result 95% of fighters used that weapon, regardless of whether they were champions or samurai.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Sure, you can invest only a small amount into Eldritch Blasting if you want to. In that case, I don’t see how this interferes with your ability to make a witch. Is it not a witch if you have an effective attack spell?
I mean, I know reskinning is a thing, but having a default option of blasting with a magic laser doesn't feel very witchy. I want a witch to be debuffing and spreading around illusions and such. Although I guess you could get some of that feel with some of the XgtE invocations.
 


I mean, I know reskinning is a thing, but having a default option of blasting with a magic laser doesn't feel very witchy. I want a witch to be debuffing and spreading around illusions and such. Although I guess you could get some of that feel with some of the XgtE invocations.
The way I put it to my wife was, "If a farmer knocks a witch down in a bar, he should go home to find his cows have dried up, or his eggs hatched with 2-headed chickens, or all of his friends start shunning him, or something like that. If a farmer knocks a warlock down in a bar, the warlock fires off 2-3 magic laser beams from his hands and vaporizes the farmer on the spot. That's not witchy to me."
 

I know that a lot of people have an impulse to create a new class for every slightly divergent concept, but I wouldn't want to see that. There are already too many classes, especially caster classes. Mechanics and lore gets diluted too much. I'd rather see a small number of relatively broad but coherent classes with a decent amount of customisation. To me shamans are druids, witches are warlocks and warlords are fighters. Just add more customisation options either via subclasses or in other ways to allow building these concepts better.
 

I know that a lot of people have an impulse to create a new class for every slightly divergent concept, but I wouldn't want to see that. There are already too many classes, especially caster classes. Mechanics and lore gets diluted too much. I'd rather see a small number of relatively broad but coherent classes with a decent amount of customisation. To me shamans are druids, witches are warlocks and warlords are fighters. Just add more customisation options either via subclasses or in other ways to allow building these concepts better.
I agree. In my homebrew setting which draws heavily on fairy tales, I have eliminated the warlock class and included the witch instead. I've been considering eliminating sorcerers as well, but they're a good fit for several "magical child" type stories.
 

MGibster

Legend
You really can't make a Witch class that's very good at fitting a lot of different conceptions of what a witch is in fiction and throughout history. It's not like we expect the Wizard or Sorcerer to conform to every fictional example we can find and the Druid, well, I don't even know where to start with the Druid. You just gotta pick one idea and say, "This is what a Witch is in D&D."

And then you've got to decide whether or not this Witch you want to create really brings anything to the table that isn't already there. I could take the Wizard and pretty much play a classic witch if I wanted to. I wouldn't have access to healing spells but I could create a Wizard with the Healing skill who was knowledgeable about herbs and whatnot. So what role are you trying to fill with a Witch class that isn't already there in D&D?
 

Dausuul

Legend
Sure, you can invest only a small amount into Eldritch Blasting if you want to. In that case, I don’t see how this interferes with your ability to make a witch. Is it not a witch if you have an effective attack spell?
When I said that a lot of the warlock's power is tied up in EB/AB, what I meant was that the class allocates a huge amount of its "power space" to that combination. The warlock chassis is built around a powerful at-will attack, a couple of spell slots, and a smattering of minor tricks.

You can replace the powerful at-will attack with a weaker one, but all you get in exchange is one more minor trick (the invocation that you didn't devote to Agonizing Blast). You can play a bladelock and have a different powerful at-will attack. But no matter how you slice it, you're playing a class whose primary function is smacking people for damage. All other warlock features are competing for the leftovers. Even hex, the warlock's signature "curse" spell, is mostly just a way for you personally to deal more damage. The skill debuff is occasionally useful, but as curses go, it's no great shakes.

And that's not a bad thing! Plenty of classes smack for damage as their main function. It's a perfectly fine way to design a class. But I don't think it's a good way to design a witch.

When I think of a witch, I imagine brewing potions that weaken your enemies and strengthen your allies. I imagine turning yourself and other people into animals, and calling upon animals and plants to aid you. I imagine laying curses to confound your enemies, bewildering them with illusions, or outright controlling their minds. What I don't imagine is "smack for damage," and that is why I see the warlock as a poor fit: Too much of the class is devoted to doing a non-witchy thing.

(Although in the course of writing this post, I have more than half convinced myself that the best chassis is bard rather than druid.)
 

I was typing up a post to ennumerate witch tropes, and @Dausuul had to go and do some of the heavy lifting for me.
When I think of a witch, I imagine brewing potions that weaken your enemies and strengthen your allies. I imagine turning yourself and other people into animals, and calling upon animals and plants to aid you. I imagine laying curses to confound your enemies, bewildering them with illusions, or outright controlling their minds.
Yeah, those, and the following trappings:
  • one or more familiars
  • brewing things in cauldrons (poisons, potions, storms, mischief -- this might have its origins in the Scottish play)
  • covens and ritual magic, with a possibility of group spellcasting for greater power
These would be a good start.
 

I was typing up a post to ennumerate witch tropes, and @Dausuul had to go and do some of the heavy lifting for me.

Yeah, those, and the following trappings:
  • one or more familiars
  • brewing things in cauldrons (poisons, potions, storms, mischief -- this might have its origins in the Scottish play)
  • covens and ritual magic, with a possibility of group spellcasting for greater power
These would be a good start.
Warlock with the Pact of the Tome casts Find Familiar and takes skill proficiency in Alchemy.

Tome allows you to do Rituals with your coven (Group spellcasting). Find familiar is obvious. And then Alchemy for some boiling toiling trouble.

Grab the Fey Pact for some Charming effects and glamours, invest in a Broom of Flying. Off you go!
 

Warlock with the Pact of the Tome casts Find Familiar and takes skill proficiency in Alchemy.

Tome allows you to do Rituals with your coven (Group spellcasting). Find familiar is obvious. And then Alchemy for some boiling toiling trouble.

Grab the Fey Pact for some Charming effects and glamours, invest in a Broom of Flying. Off you go!
I mean, why do you need a warlock at all? My fighter takes Magic Initiate to learn find familiar, and then takes proficiency with the Herbalism kit and Deception skill! Done!

EDIT: On reread, that was a little snippy. Of course you can reskin. You can use reskinning to justify excluding almost every class in the game beyond the Core Four. But the name of the thread was "Your preferred implementation," and I felt the need to chime in.

EDIT 2: On thinking about it more, you could probably use reskinning to justify removing all classes except for a Core Two: Fighter and Magic-User. Use multiclassing and reskinning to remove the Cleric, and use judicious Skill choice and reskinning to remove the Rogue. Hmmm... BRB, going to go write my 2-class D&D retroclone.
 
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I mean, why do you need a warlock at all? My fighter takes Magic Initiate to learn find familiar, and then takes proficiency with the Herbalism kit and Deception skill! Done!

EDIT: On reread, that was a little snippy. Of course you can reskin. You can use reskinning to justify excluding almost every class in the game beyond the Core Four. But the name of the thread was "Your preferred implementation," and I felt the need to chime in.
Oh, it's fine!

I just used Warlock 'cause it also had some limited spellcasting, the "Dark Master" angle, and the option of doing Fey/Nature stuff which is often attributed to witches when they're not being treated as Satan's Wives.

My own preferred implementation is actually the Warlock with a curse-focused pact and pact-boon. Something where you can continually put various minor curses on people, spend invocation slots to bring them harm, and so forth.

I really am sad that 5e just has Hex and Bestow Curse as their only core options. Guess they were really focused in hard on making sure there were enough "Fire" spells at every level.
 

Oh, it's fine!

I just used Warlock 'cause it also had some limited spellcasting, the "Dark Master" angle, and the option of doing Fey/Nature stuff which is often attributed to witches when they're not being treated as Satan's Wives.

My own preferred implementation is actually the Warlock with a curse-focused pact and pact-boon. Something where you can continually put various minor curses on people, spend invocation slots to bring them harm, and so forth.

I really am sad that 5e just has Hex and Bestow Curse as their only core options. Guess they were really focused in hard on making sure there were enough "Fire" spells at every level.
I like a lot of the stuff in 5E, but there's some head-scratching decisions made at various levels of development. Just as a minor example, there's a distinct lack of non-Fire elemental magic in the PHB and in the two supplements that added spells. There have been various homebrews that put more elemental spells in, but it's as if in playtest they had someone go, "Yep, I tested the elementalism aspect of gameplay with my Pyromancer, we're all good here! No need for more development on that!" Reskinning fireball to iceball can be done, but the lack of cold-related side effects leaves reskinned spells feeling a little flat. That's one reason I want to see a robust witch implementation; for those of us who want such a thing, we don't want it to feel flat and tacked-on.

For those who want a witchier-feeling warlock, there's a Pact of the Cauldron from Reddit that might work for you. And there's witchy subclass options Wizard, Cleric, Druid, and Sorcerer. But I want a full, flavorful class.

So, there's The Witch by Walrock Homebrew which adds jinxes as an interesting power type, The Complete Witch by Mage Hand Press which gives each witch a curse they suffer and a mechanical effect to cackling, and The Witch by EinarTheBlack where the witch binds spirits in addition to spellcasting. Of the 5E options I reviewed, those are the ones I liked the most.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
For those who want a witchier-feeling warlock, there's a Pact of the Cauldron from Reddit that might work for you. And there's witchy subclass options Wizard, Cleric, Druid, and Sorcerer. But I want a full, flavorful class.

So, there's The Witch by Walrock Homebrew which adds jinxes as an interesting power type, The Complete Witch by Mage Hand Press which gives each witch a curse they suffer and a mechanical effect to cackling, and The Witch by EinarTheBlack where the witch binds spirits in addition to spellcasting. Of the 5E options I reviewed, those are the ones I liked the most.
And the best part is, you can use any or all of those, AND also allow a character to reskin a warlock, a wizard, or a druid to be more witch-like. Having more tools in your toolbox to nail down an exact character concept is a good thing.
 

And the best part is, you can use any or all of those, AND also allow a character to reskin a warlock, a wizard, or a druid to be more witch-like. Having more tools in your toolbox to nail down an exact character concept is a good thing.
Perhaps in your home game, but officially published material needs to maintain some sort of archetype coherence or classes end up being meaningless mechanical messes and that's a deathblow to a class based system.
 

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