Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Class Struggles: Mara Witch Tradition

Witch by ivangod
Today's Class Struggles is going to be a total cheat.  After two weeks of psychic classes, I have read a bunch of psychic and occult material which, of course, gets me thinking about witches.  Since I spent a lot of time yesterday with Wee Jas and to a much smaller degree Hecate, I wanted to talk about the witches of Wee Jas as influenced by the witches of Hecate I have used in the past.

The Mara Witch Tradition

The Mara is a witch tradition that is very, very old.  They share more than just a little relationship with Night Hags, which some scholars believe may have been some of the first Mara Witches.
The Mara understand, maybe more so than most, the life is a constant struggle not against death, but towards it.  This struggle of competing forces is what the Mara seek out. Life and Death in a constant struggle to the inevitable end.

Role: These witches most often serve gods or goddesses of Death, Transition, Change or even Destruction.  There tend to be two basic archetypes of Mara detailed below, the chaotic Mara and the lawful Mara.

Joining this Tradition: To join this tradition the witch must realize that life if nothing but a transitory period between oblivions.  Even if there is life after death in the form of reincarnation the witch is not aware of it on this plane now.So the witch chooses not to be apart of this charade anymore and embrace the death in all of us.

Leaving this Tradition: Typically the witch has such conviction that the only way out is her death.

Occult Powers: The occult powers of the Mara are derived by the struggle of life and death.  There is magic in both life and in death.  There is magic and power in the transition.  While evil Mara are often accused (and rightly so) of killing newborn babies, good Mara also are there to wish children pleasant dreams and act as guardians.

Least, 1st Level: Familiar. The Mara witch gains a familiar.  The familiar is often a floating skull, a ghost or some other omen of death made real (a banshee, a barghest, a black dog). The witch can communicate with this familiar regardless of the form it takes.

Lesser, 7th Level: Dream Invasion. Once per day, the Mara Witch can invade the dreams, the so-called deaths of every day, of others.  She can use this invasion to gather information, learn about various targets or even drain the victim's on life force for herself.  She can drain a total of 1 point of Constitution per night for three nights (3 points total).  This draining she can add to her own pool of hitpoints. Each point of Constitution grants her 3 hp over and above what she normally has.  After the third day, she forfeits her ill-gained health and her victim will recover at the rate of 1 con point per week.

Minor, 13th Level: Nightmare Shape. Once per day, the Mara witch can polymorph herself into any type of undead creature and back. The creature in question must be of comparable size. The witch gains the powers of the creature and retains her ability to cast spells, but she also suffers from that creature’s associated weaknesses. She retains her own hit points and level.  If she is "turned" by a cleric then she is forced back into her "human" form and can not switch back till the next new moon.

Once the mara witch reaches this level, she gains the undead's intolerance of silver. Any silvered weapon will do an additional 1d6 points of damage to the witch if touched, similar in the way Holy Water damages undead. Unless a weapon is specifically listed as being silvered iron, then assume it is not.  The witch is vulnerable to silver in any form she takes.

Greater, 19th Level: Witch’s Curse. The witch can place a powerful Curse on one creature once per day. The curse can be of any sort, but will usually bestow a -4 to all to hit rolls and -2 to any saving throw rolls. Witch curses are quite powerful and require the use of two (2) remove curse spells to be fully removed.

Major, 25th Level: Dead Zone Mind. The mara witch has become so accustomed to turning into a nearly undead creature and moving closer and closer to death herself that her mind is no longer that of a living breathing person.  She becomes immune to charm and hold spells. Her mind can't not be probed or read via telepathy, ESP or similar powers.

Superior, 31th Level: Kiss of Death. The witch gains a Kiss of Death. When the witch wishes, she
can give a target a Kiss of Death. If the person has 9 or fewer hit die he dies, if he is over 9 hit die he must save vs. death or die. This may not be used in battle, only in a non-combat situations.

Special Benefits and Restrictions: Mara witches can use spells normally reserved for necromancers.  They are though barred from using any spell that could return a person back to life such as Raise Dead, Resurrection or Reincarnate.

Equipment:  Nothing special.

Preferred/Barred Covens: Typically evil covens.  There are usually a Night Hag or two present in their covens as well.

Relationship to the Patron: For chaotic Mara the Patron is usually the Bringer of Death. This is usually a bloodthirsty god or goddess that revels in death and destruction.  Lawful Mara have a Patron that is the Protector or Steward of the Dead.
The greatest Patron of the Mara is an ancient Hag named  Marzanna (in Polish), Morė (in Lithuanian), Morana (in Czech and Slovene), or Morena (in Slovak and Russian). She is an ancient creature associated with Winter and Death, but also the rebirth of the seasons.  Other Mara patrons include Hecate, Lilith, and Wee Jas.  The Aztec Goddess of vice, Tlazolteol, also has many Mara followers.

Source/Views of Magic: Magic comes from the struggle of Life against Death. People live and they die and this creates powerful magic in the world.  While the chaotic Mara might focus on just the death magic, the lawful Mara also know there is magic in life and in the celebration of life.  Especially the celebration of life in the face of certain death.

Archetypes: There are two basic archetypes of Mara.  The "evil" Chaotic Mara. These witches revel in death and destruction.  The more death they are around, whether they cause it or not, grants them power.  The Lawful Mara could be considered "good", but in truth they also see the need for death.  Everything must die to allow new things to live and grow which in turn must die. Neutral Mara, generally speaking, do not exist as there is no middle ground between life and death.

Thanatos and Eros, The Shadow by Stephanie van Rijn

The Mara for Other Witches

For Adventurer Conquer King's Player Companion from +Alexander Macris and +Tavis Allison the witch is limited to 14th level.  The 6 occult powers can be spread out over these levels.  I would remove the Witch's Curse and then evenly spread out the remaining five.

Similar plan for +Jeff Talanian's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's witch.  Though in this case I would also remove the option for "Lawful" Mara.  Mara in this world setting are nothing but evil.

For +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep, The Witch the BEST thing is adding spells from his Necromancer class.  Spread out the powers, replacing the ones listed for the Witch.

+Jonathan Becker's Complete B/X Adventurer also has a witch class. His witch lacks outright powers, but has plenty of spells.   So if you want to convert ANY of my witches to one of his make the Occult Powers into Witch Spells only that kind of witch can use.  Here is a quick anf dirty guide.

Basic Witch Occult Power B/X Witch Spell Level
Least, 1st Level 1st level Witch Spell, 1st level witch
Lesser, 7th Level 3rd level Witch Spell, 6th level witch
Minor, 13th Level 5th level Witch Spell, 12th level witch
Greater, 19th Level 7th level Witch Spell, 21st level witch
Major, 25th Level 8th level Witch Spell, 25th level witch
Superior, 31th Level 9th level Witch Spell, 30th level witch

For his 10th level spells you would have to come up with something appropriately cool.
Heck I might grab his 10th level spells for my own witch games!

Becker also spends some time with a Holmes-style witch, but I am not sure these sorts of powers would work for that.

So now regardless of what OSR Witch you use noe you can unleash the Mara on your players!

1 comment:

Theresa Milstein said...

I had no idea it was this complicated to be a witch! ; )

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