Thursday, April 3, 2014

A to Z of Witches. C

C is for Coven and Circe

There have been a number of witches and witch-like classes to appear in the pages of various RPGs.  But the one thing that they all almost always forget to detail are covens.
Sure we have seen plenty of witches in movies, tv and books that don't have covens. But for me these are always the exception, not the rule.

Look back to what Tom Moldvay, author of the Basic D&D rules, says on witches.  He gave a list of 6 things a witch needs to have or be.  I added Covens and Ritual Magic to his list.

Some images are just hard to loose.  The Three Witches in Macbeth are maybe the most famous example of a coven of witches, but are by no means the only one.  Covens, and their reputed practices, are often found in the pages of witch hunter manuals though not always by that name.
The generally accepted first use of the word comes to us from Margaret Murray and her The Witch Cult in Western Europe.  Since then the name and the idea has stuck.

In RPGs this gives us plenty role-playing opportunity.  A coven sets the witch apart from your garden variety wizard or magic-user.  In many ways a coven can be more of a driving force behind the witches actions than alignment or even her patron/god.  For witches without a coven this is also a source of role-playing. How does the witch feel about her status as a solitary? Does she wish for a coven, does she fear other covened witches?

I played one witch a while back who had been part of a family tradition so all the witches in her coven were members of her family.  While she was starting her adventuring career a fire destroyed her home and killed her family, and coven.  She was forced into being a solitary witch. I wanted to roleplay that loneliness with her. The idea was that she would one day rise in power and recreate her own coven.  I was able to do that and the effects were very satisfying.

So one of the ways I judge any RPG witch book or class is whether or not covens are part of the class features.

I spent my childhood reading the myths of ancient Greece.  One of my favorite characters was Circe.
So when I got my first copy of Deities & Demigods I went first to the Greek Mythos.
I was not overly thrilled with how they depicted Circe, a Chaotic Evil "Black Sorceress", but I also was not surprised.
In college I reread the Odyssey and I felt Circe was much more of a complex character than most people gave credit.  Yes, she is not good and certainly selfish.  But I like to think there is more to her than that.

Here she is for Pathfinder.
She is a half-Celestial to reflect her demigod status.

Female Half-Celestial Human Witch 10
CN Medium outsider (humanoid, human, native)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +10


AC 14, touch 13, flat-footed 11 (+3 Dex, +1 natural)
hp 76 (10d6+40)
Fort +7 (+4 bonus vs. poison effects), Ref +6, Will +12
DR 5/magic; Immune disease; Resist acid 10, cold 10, electricity 10; SR 22


Speed 30 ft., fly 60 ft. (good)
Special Attacks smite law*
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 10th; concentration +14)
   3/day—protection from law
   1/day—aid, bless, cure serious wounds, detect evil, dispel law*, holy smite, neutralize poison, remove disease
Witch Spells Prepared (CL 10th; concentration +16):
5th—animal growth (DC 21), baleful polymorph (DC 21), major creation
4th—charm monster (DC 20), divination, lesser geas (DC 20), locate creature
3rd—dominate animal (DC 19), locate object, lover's vengeance, nature's exile (DC 19)
2nd—alter self, enthrall (DC 18), gentle repose (DC 18), hold person (DC 18), speak with animals, summon monster ii
1st—beguiling gift (DC 17), cause fear (DC 17), charm animal (DC 17), hypnotism (DC 17), summon monster i, unseen servant
0 (at will)—daze (DC 16), detect magic, detect poison, read magic


Str 12, Dex 16, Con 18, Int 22, Wis 16, Cha 18
Base Atk +5; CMB +6; CMD 19
Feats Alertness, Animal Affinity, Brew Potion, Craft Rod, Craft Wand, Iron Will, Maximize Spell
Traits charming, classically schooled
Skills Acrobatics +4, Appraise +7, Bluff +10 (+11 vs. characters who could be attracted to you), Craft (alchemy) +20, Craft (cloth) +15, Diplomacy +5 (+6 vs. characters who could be attracted to you), Disguise +5, Escape Artist +5, Fly +11, Handle Animal +15, Heal +10, Intimidate +15, Knowledge (history) +15, Knowledge (local) +10, Knowledge (nature) +15, Perception +10, Ride +5, Sense Motive +5, Spellcraft +20, Stealth +5, Survival +10, Swim +5, Use Magic Device +16
Languages Abyssal, Celestial, Common, Daemonic, Draconic, Giant, Infernal
SQ +4 to fortitude saves vs poison, hexes (cackle, cauldron, charm, fortune, slumber, tongues), patron spells (animals)
Other Gear 150 gp

Special Abilities

+4 to Fortitude saves vs Poison You get +4 to Fortitude saves against Poison effects.
Aid (1/day) (Sp) Granted by Half-Celestial heritage. +1 on attack rolls and saves against fear, 1d8 temporary hp +1/level (max +10).
Arcane Familiar Nearby You gain the Alertness feat while your familiar is within arm's reach.
Bless (1/day) (Sp) Granted by Half-Celestial heritage. Allies gain +1 on attack rolls and +1 on saves against fear.
Cackle (Su) As a move action, extend the duration of other hexes by 1 rd.
Charm +2 (6 round(s)) (DC 21) (Su) Improve attitude of humanoid or animal in 30 ft by 2 step(s).
Charming +1 Bluff/Diplomacy/save DC for a language-dependent spell vs. targets who could be sexually attracted to you.
Cure Serious Wounds (1/day) (Sp) Granted by Half-Celestial heritage. Cures 3d8 damage +1/level (max +15).
Damage Reduction (5/magic) You have Damage Reduction against all except Magic attacks.
Darkvision (60 feet) You can see in the dark (black and white vision only).
Deliver Touch Spells Through Familiar (Su) Your familiar can deliver touch spells for you.
Detect Evil (1/day) (Sp) Granted by Half-Celestial heritage. Reveals creatures, spells, or objects of selected alignment.
Dispel Evil (1/day) (Sp) Granted by Half-Celestial heritage. +4 bonus against attacks by evil creatures.
Empathic Link with Familiar (Su) You have an empathic link with your Arcane Familiar.
Energy Resistance, Acid (10) You have the specified Energy Resistance against Acid attacks.
Energy Resistance, Cold (10) You have the specified Energy Resistance against Cold attacks.
Energy Resistance, Electricity (10) You have the specified Energy Resistance against Electricity attacks.
Flight (60 feet, Good) You can fly!
Fortune (2 round(s)) (Su) Ally in 30 ft can roll 2d20 for an attack, save, ability, or skill check (and take higher) once/rd.
Holy Smite (1/day) (Sp) Granted by Half-Celestial heritage. Damages and blinds evil creatures.
Immunity to Disease You are immune to diseases.
Maximize Spell All variable effects of a spell are maximized. +3 Levels.
Neutralize Poison (1/day) (Sp) Granted by Half-Celestial heritage. Immunizes subject against poison, detoxifies venom in or on subject.
Protection From Evil (3/day) (Sp) Granted by Half-Celestial heritage. +2 to AC and saves, counter mind control, hedge out elementals and outsiders.
Remove Disease (1/day) (Sp) Granted by Half-Celestial heritage. Cures all diseases affecting subject.
Share Spells with Familiar Can cast spells with a target of "You" on the familiar with a range of touch.
Slumber (10 rds) (DC 21) (Su) Foe in 30 ft falls asleep for duration, or until damaged or roused by ally (Will neg).
Smite Evil (1/day) (Su) +4 to hit, +10 to damage, +4 deflection bonus to AC when used.
Speak with Animals (Ex) Your familiar can communicate with animals similar to itself.
Speak With Familiar (Ex) You can communicate verbally with your familiar.
Spell Resistance (22) You have Spell Resistance.
Tongues (10 minutes/day) (Su) Understand spoken and speak any language, as tongues.

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Interestingly enough Circe has no coven.

Supernatural AtoZ


Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

There are many witches that get a bad rep just because they are witches. I always recognised the name Circe, but don't ever actually remember much about her. I'm terrible like that where names don't match up with trivia in my head.
Tasha's Thinkings

Anything and Everything Paranormal Blog said...

I didn't realize it, but there are very few of witch stories or games that mention coven. It funny how we don't even realize when we over look the obvious, like witches being linked to covens. Nice post.

Sophie Duncan said...

I suppose you could say a coven is a gestalt, making a collection of witches more than the sum of their parts. Interesting experiment to look at how losing that community affects a character - someone used to working in communion with others suddenly finds themselves alone. Quite a tragic circumstance really.
Great post.
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L.G. Keltner said...

Reading this post made my mind float back to this past season of American Horror Story. A coven is not something to be trifled with.

Unknown said...

I never put much thought into it before, but when witches are mentioned, there usually aren't references to covens.

Unknown said...

I have your blog bookmarked. So much cool information here!

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

We fought Circe once in a Scion campaign. She was tough to kill! We barely got away with out hides. No pun intended.

@TarkabarkaHolgy from
Multicolored Diary - Tales of Colors
MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians...

Anonymous said...

Great post! I agree, coven is one important part. It is the closed circle of the coven, the hierarchy also that gives them power and a sense of belonging in a world where they are not considered or even feared. Food for thought :)
With great respect! A.

Melody said...

You know, I've never had the opportunity to participate in an RPG, but think it would be really cool to do so. I might be moving to the DC area around January, so maybe I'll look up a group there.

Sunday Visitor said...

Nice post! I agree covens are not given that much importance in books.

Mina Burrows said...

The detail of the witches in the these games are amazing. I really does lend itself to some great writing. Great post.

Unknown said...

Wow - I checked out your post on the items a witch must have, including on covens and ritual magic. I will be adding these details to the book I'm working on. It's not ABOUT witches, per se, but they certainly do play a role in how things play out. Your notes will lend more authenticity to the plot. You're certainly giving me lots to think about in my writing!

I'm participating in AtoZ, too.
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