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5E Let's talk about Witches

What defines a Witch? Can you make a really good Witch using current classes (and multiclassing?) If it were a multi-class, which base class is it? Or do we need a new base class? If so, what else goes under that class?

Here are the Witch features that I see already covered by existing classes, mostly Wizard
- Divination spells
- Enchantment spells
- Familiars
- Polymorph
- Gaseous Form?
- Curses & Hexes: (Ray of Enfeeblement, Bane, Ray of Sickness)

But there are some features not covered:
- Crafting of potions and charms
- More & better curses and hexes

Still, could probably make do with Wizard. However, I see two "flavor" problems:
1) All the existing Wizard sub-classes correlate to schools of magic. Will we ever see Wizard subclasses that don't fit that pattern. (If the answer is "no" it means we'll never see new subclasses.)
2) Witches just don't strike me as the sort who learn their craft through study and research.

Sorcerer doesn't quite fit, either, because I see Witches as having a broad range of abilities, not just a handful of spells.

Is it possible that Witch, Shaman, and Witch-Doctor are all sub-classes of a spirit-based caster class? Or am I off in the weeds with that one?

It's tempting to want to make Witch the base class, and "Wicked Witch" and "Good Witch" the sub-classes...
 

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I think "witch" is a pretty generic term that can be applied to any of the arcane classes and possibly even the divine ones.

For me, the three iconic witches etched into my brain from my childhood are Snow White's unnamed Evil Queen, Maleficent, and the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Evil Queen goes down into her dungeon, pulls down a book of magical disguise spells from her shelf, and performs an elaborate ritual to cast the spell transforming her into a peddler women. You don't get much more D&D-wizard than that.

Maleficent is something not entirely human (a wicked fairy in the original tale) who calls on "the powers of Hell". Pretty obvious warlock. (Also her Charisma is through the roof.)

The Wicked Witch of the West doesn't conform quite so easily to a D&D class (and there's no reason why she has to), but her magic seems vaguely ritualistic and she extensively uses and covets magical items, which gives me a wizardly vibe again.

In pop culture, "witch" really just means "evil female magician". And you can scratch the "evil" part in a lot of newer stuff like Harry Potter. There's no real consistency on the source of the magic or its technique, which are what would define the archetype as a new or existing class in D&D. The closest you get is with the "witch' of Early Modern European lore, which is exactly what the D&D warlock is supposed to model, and the, shall we say, alternative interpretation of the modern Wiccans, which is very much a D&D druid.
 


MechaPilot

Explorer
What defines a Witch? Can you make a really good Witch using current classes (and multiclassing?) If it were a multi-class, which base class is it? Or do we need a new base class? If so, what else goes under that class?
I think it would be helpful to spell out what you want the witch to be before going on. I saw the list of class features you're thinking of, which is nice and a little helpful, but I need to know more about the in-world theme. Is the witch you are trying to create more of the villainous witch of Christian Europe, who is sort of akin to a hag? Or, are you aiming for the pagan religious caster with an often extensive knowledge of natural and herbal healing techniques? Or, are you aiming for something that can encompass both of those concepts?
 



Greg K

Adventurer
What defines a Witch? Can you make a really good Witch using current classes (and multiclassing?) If it were a multi-class, which base class is it? Or do we need a new base class? If so, what else goes under that class?
In my opinion, relying on multi-classing for a fantasy archetype for the witch is a failure. Multi-classing is optional and not welcome in all groups, but many groups that don't use MC might use a base class

Here are the Witch features that I see already covered by existing classes, mostly Wizard
- Divination spells
- Enchantment spells
- Familiars
- Polymorph
- Gaseous Form?
- Curses & Hexes: (Ray of Enfeeblement, Bane, Ray of Sickness)
Spells affecting animals, plants, and weather
Spells that Bless, remove curse, healing (short of raising the dead)


But there are some features not covered:
- Crafting of potions and charms
- More & better curses and hexes
A spell of deep slumber (i.e., Briar Rose, Snow White, etc.)
A spell of steal youth
Good with herbs
Candles
Covens

.
Is it possible that Witch, Shaman, and Witch-Doctor are all sub-classes of a spirit-based caster class? Or am I off in the weeds with that one?
Personally, I would make two classes: The Witch and the Shaman.

The shaman would a religious leader that deals with controlling, persuading, intimidating spirits (non-corporeal undead, non-corporeal outsiders, fey, totem spirits, ancestral spirits, familiar spirits, etc. ) to get them to intervene on behalf of the community unlike clerics whom serve their deity. The Shaman would be able to turn/rebuke noncorporeal undead and outsiders, and fey, but not animated undead. They would also see and speak with spirits. The would have a totem spirit or ancestral spirit guide and be good would be good with herbs and healing. Spells would involve blessing, cursing and removing curses, healing, divination, dealing with spirits ( detecting spirits, binding spirits, summon spirits, using spirits to inflict damage), entering the spirit world, and spells dealing animal, plants. weather. Evil shamans would also have spells for inflicting diseases


It's tempting to want to make Witch the base class, and "Wicked Witch" and "Good Witch" the sub-classes...
If that is what you want, you might want to look at @bcdaniels witch class under homebrew.
 
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The latter would a religious leader that deals with controlling, persuading, intimidating spirits (non-corporeal undead, non-corporeal outsiders, fey, totem spirits, ancestral spirits, familiar spirits, etc. ) to get them to intervene on behalf of the community (unlike clerics that serve their deity).
I've been toying with the idea of an "occultism" alternate magic system that would use some sort of robust diplomacy mechanic to dicker with supernatural entities. In addition to a shaman class, the system would also be really good for the traditional Faustian demonologist -- 3E's binder.
 

hecetv

First Post
I liked 2e witches, and warlock is pretty damn close so I really think a girl warlock in 5e is for all intents and purposes a witch.

That said the word witch isnt something that has one definition, so I could see an argument made for pretty much any caster class. Hell it wouldn't even need to be an argument, if someone said my character is a witch, and its X class I'd just be like okay.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Here are the Witch features that I see already covered by existing classes, mostly Wizard
- Divination spells
- Enchantment spells
- Familiars
- Polymorph
- Gaseous Form?
- Curses & Hexes: (Ray of Enfeeblement, Bane, Ray of Sickness)

But there are some features not covered:
- Crafting of potions and charms
- More & better curses and hexes
Thematically the Warlock is the closest to a Witch in the sense of gaining powers from a powerful entity through a pact.

Functionally, does the Warlock spells list include the above options, or at least something reasonably similar? If that's the case then Warlock is already what you are looking for.

As for the "broad range", that depends on whether you want a broad range immediately or can wait for a higher level. Clearly the Warlock has a lot smaller range than a Wizard, but whether this is too little in absolute terms, is not the same thing. It could be simply that a low-level Witch has to cope with a limited range until higher level.

Crafting potions and charms is at the moment practically missing from the game for everyone.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Being a witch is a state of mind.
Which to a hardcore D&D fan probably translates into "multiclass into this and that, pick this (variant) background, subrace from supplement book #21, become fallen then atone after a specific number of levels, combine these feats with spells with magic items... complain with the DM that still doesn't satisfy you enough to truly capture your witch character concept". ;)
 

What defines a Witch?
Well, in "Slip of the Keyboard" and also "Folklore of Discworld", Pratchett suggests that the term 'witch' was actually a label used to denigrate female use of magic - while male practitioners were Wizards (wise men), or Alchemists, or Astrologers, or what-have-you, female practitioners were labelled 'witch' as a sign of their being somehow lesser.

You may well not agree. But I'd suggest it's at least worth a read.

Can you make a really good Witch using current classes (and multiclassing?) If it were a multi-class, which base class is it?
I'd suggest going with Wizard or Sorcerer or Warlock or Druid, whichever is closest to your particular conception of the Witch character. I generally wouldn't suggest multi-classing spellcasters, but that's probably just a legacy of my 3e days. :)

Or do we need a new base class?

It's tempting to want to make Witch the base class, and "Wicked Witch" and "Good Witch" the sub-classes...
I'd be inclined to say we don't need a new base class, but I'm not particularly averse to one. I would avoid "Wicked Witch" and "Good Witch" subclasses, though, as those are really a bit heavy-handed. Instead I'd suggest different traditions - local lore, divination/prophecy, headology, potions, ironic punishments...
 

hecetv

First Post
As for the "broad range", that depends on whether you want a broad range immediately or can wait for a higher level. Clearly the Warlock has a lot smaller range than a Wizard, but whether this is too little in absolute terms, is not the same thing. It could be simply that a low-level Witch has to cope with a limited range until higher level.
I think this is a good argument for bard as witch (in one case, but not always), since bards have basically a large mix of wizard, cleric, and druid spells. And are not lore bards some kind of living in the woods and researching witches? Sometimes?
 

EzekielRaiden

Explorer
Well, if you're looking for a class with enchantments, curses, and a less-formal, more-intuitive understanding of magic, I think the Warlock already goes a long way toward getting what you want. The Great Old One patron is more similar to the "mental influence/headology" type of Witch, with a talent for mind-affecting and enchanting magic. The Fey patron, on the other hand, is more like the "spiritualist" type.

Perhaps you could create a new Warlock Pact and Patron? Instead of getting ritual access (like Tome) or a suped-up pet (Chain), you could have a Pact of the Cauldron, which provides Alchemy as its Boon--the ability to work with poisons and poultices, maybe even to blend potions together or perform "metmagic"-like modifications of potion effects. There are already some great Invocations for witch-y behavior (at-will Disguise Self, anyone?), and you could add some more that could extend the powers of Alchemy. If you really wanted, you could then also create a new Patron ("Spirits" maybe?) that would grant the Find Familiar spell, focus on Divination, Illusion, and Enchantment magic, and give various Patron effects that make a clever, wily, tricksy kind of character better, rather than contributing overtly to combat. It could maybe even give minor access to the Druid's Wild Shape--perhaps only one use per short rest, coming in at medium-high levels, and none of the combat forms--since shape-changing, usually for espionage or travel rather than combat, is a classically "witchy" thing.

Edit:
It's also quite easy to change the Warlock's caster stat--it can be a "Spirit Patron" effect, e.g. "The spellcasting ability for the Spirit Patron is Wisdom instead of Charisma; for any spell where your spellcasting ability is referenced, use Wisdom."
 
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Awesome feedback. I think I'm going to try to hack up some sub-classes (Wizard and Warlock are most likely candidates) and see what I can can come up with.

The main limitation with subclasses is spell lists. There are a bunch of spells that don't feel very Witch-like (Fireball, anyone?), and while avoiding those spells could be player choice, I'd rather take them off the list and compensate with other spells that do feel Witchy. And removing class features in a sub-class doesn't have any precedent.

What's the best primary stat for a Witch? I could actually see it being Charisma, as long as Charisma isn't mistaken to always mean 'charming' or 'attractive'. A menacing half-orc can have high charisma.

P.S. I was being tongue-in-cheek about "Good Witch" and "Wicked Witch". That said, I could see one sub-class that had an emphasis on charms and buffs, and another one that had an emphasis on curses and hexes.
 
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What defines a Witch?
There's competing definitions and perceptions: there's a neo-pagan-revival religious movement who call themselves 'Witches,' there's the old-timey crone with the pointy hat and broomstick and whatnot, there's the even-older-timier sold-her-soul-to-Satan version, and, there's the goofy pop-culture witch who's a pretty young lady with hereditary psychic or reality-shifting powers.

Can you make a really good Witch using current classes (and multiclassing?)
The Warlock works perfectly for the ol' pact with the Devil and is OK for a fairytale witch.
The Sorcerer or forthcoming Mystic could work for the hereditary/psychic pop-culture witch. (The reality-altering pop-culture witch essentially casts Wish at-will, I'm guessing that's off the table.)
Druid could work for the religious version. While witches are associated with the Moon, they're not known for turning into bears, though.

But there are some features not covered:
- Crafting of potions and charms
Nod. Right now, it's easy to make a Healing potion, and that's about it. The idea of the Artificer was to help allies via infusions and enchantments that it empowered on the spot, rather than making full-on consumable or permanent items. Something like that could work.

- More & better curses and hexes
Are you thinking long-term curse that need to be removed. Might not be that defining for a PC, since there's this terrible tendency for the enemies to die very soon after meeting them...

Still, could probably make do with Wizard. However, I see two "flavor" problems:
1) All the existing Wizard sub-classes correlate to schools of magic. Will we ever see Wizard subclasses that don't fit that pattern. (If the answer is "no" it means we'll never see new subclasses.)
(unless we see new schools, I suppose) I feel like a 'Mage' sub-class, a non-specialized Wizard, is 'missing' atm. An artificer wizard sub-class didn't go over well.

2) Witches just don't strike me as the sort who learn their craft through study and research.
Maybe not research, but it's traditional for a witch to have a book of secret spells, charms and potion, like a supernatural cookbook, sometimes called a "Book of Shadows." In that one detail, they're closer to D&D wizards than most magic-using characters you see in genre. Even so, while they might have a book full of such things, they tend to be really specific and not the kinds of things adventurers tend to prepare.

Sorcerer doesn't quite fit, either, because I see Witches as having a broad range of abilities, not just a handful of spells.
Most witches you'd see in any source only have a very few adventuring-useful or combat abilities to call upon. As a whole, they could still have a broad range of abilities, individuals would just tent to have have only a few tricks they do well enough to kill monsters and take their treasure.


There's one more concept of the Witch, too. The D&D Witch, which was appeared as a dramatically overpowered "NPC Class" in early editions of The Dragon for 0D&D and 1e AD&D. IIRC, it was also used as an example of class creation in the DMG. I believe those did emphasize potions and curses, as well as dropping expanding boulders on people and conjuring up volcanoes among other things. (I'm guessing they were conceived as possible whole-party-challenging villain NPCs.) The Witch also finally appeared as a PC class - wizard sub-class - post-Essentials, Heroes of the Feywild, where it was a fey-themed, ancient arcane tradition that had some of the responsibilities and privileges of a priestly caste in the cultures that still followed it, but had nothing to do with gods are primal spirits - it also introduced the two-bit-Sith-lightning Witch Bolt spell that made it into 5e. (Witch Bolt, Healing Word, and Thunderwave appeared in the very first playtest survey, in a long, long list of D&D spells, from which we were invited to pick 'most iconic spells.' Apparently they got some votes.)

Is it possible that Witch, Shaman, and Witch-Doctor are all subclasses of a spirit-based caster class? Or am I off in the weeds with that one?
Sure, a primal or spirit-based class or classes would be possibility, the Totem Barbarian hints at that already. Amusingly, 'sorcerer' which actually implies dealing with spirits has already been used for something else, but that's D&D: class names are ultimately just game-rules jargon. Shaman would be a good, reasonably politically-correct, name for such a class. In classic D&D a shaman was just a humanoid tribal spellcaster, generally inferior to PC casters, like a 3e Adept. In 3.5, there was a Spirit Shaman that was essentially a neo-Vancian caster. There was a Shaman class in the 4e PH2, where it was a leader that had some significant action-granting abilities that involved it's spirit companion possessing an ally, as well as the usual healing and some other abilities, also involving the spirit companion, which he could conjure at a distance and use as an origin point for some invocations. I never saw it, but there was also a Shaman sub-class of Cleric in late 2e.

It's tempting to want to make Witch the base class, and "Wicked Witch" and "Good Witch" the sub-classes...
Paladins have alignment-based oaths, there's your precedent.
 
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Well, in "Slip of the Keyboard" and also "Folklore of Discworld", Pratchett suggests that the term 'witch' was actually a label used to denigrate female use of magic - while male practitioners were Wizards (wise men), or Alchemists, or Astrologers, or what-have-you, female practitioners were labelled 'witch' as a sign of their being somehow lesser.
It's worth noting that Pratchett's tongue-in-cheek etymology of "wizard" from "wise-arse" was actually not far off the mark. While the wiz- part does mean 'wise', the -ard suffix is derogatory. Think "bastard", "drunkard", and "coward".

Also, going back to Old English, wicce and wicca are, respectively, the feminine and masculine forms of the same word, what I'd translate as "witch" and "warlock". (Yes, Dianic Wiccans, sorry, a wicca is a man. Also, you're pronouncing it wrong.) Our linguistic forbears do not seem to have been discriminatory in their disdain for black magicians.
 

Remathilis

Legend
A Feylock is close, but a new warlock pact (Haglock?) might work to capture all the "witchy" powers.

Hmmm... I smell a homebrew coming...
 


A Feylock is close, but a new warlock pact (Haglock?) might work to capture all the "witchy" powers.
Hags aren't that powerful, though. Sort of stretches disbelief to make a pact with a CR 5 monster, especially when you get higher than level 5.

Actually, that concern does eventually come up with all warlocks. Make a pact with Orcus? Theoretically, you may be powerful enough to challenge him some day. How is that supposed to work?
 

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