Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Class Struggles: What Should a 5e Witch Be?

This post is an odd one for the Class Struggles series.  Instead of looking at different expressions of the same class or class-idea, I want to figure out what a 5e Witch class could be via the same sort of research and analysis.

Why do this?  Well the news came out yesterday that the 5e SRD is now released under the OGL.  While I had not really seriously contemplated the idea of a 5e witch.  I had been playing around with an idea I was calling The Coven for 5e.  Where I took established classes and tried to make them more "witch like" by working within the rules. I am still going to do that since it informs my own play and how the rules work for the various magic using classes.

I want to start by looking back to these posts, What Should an OSR Witch Do or Be? and Tom Moldvay on Witches.  Why? Well, this post represents my thought process when I was working on The Witch.  I like to walk through the same exercises for each version.  Start with the assumptions and then add in the game specific assumptions and see where that takes me.

Let me start by looking at the Moldvay Criteria again for 4e, Pathfinder and my Basic witch.  Why keep 4e? Well if WotC does their own witch it will be informed by the work they did in 4e.

Ability 4e Witch Pathfinder Witch Basic Witch
1. Ability to use Herbs skills skills ability check
2. The Power of Fascination powers spells spells
3. Clerical and Magic-User magic Yes Yes Yes
4. Sympathetic Magic limited to powers limited to spells new spell mechanic
5. Worshipers of forbidden religions yes yes yes
6. Powers based on natural cycles "Moon" builds no spells
7. Covens Yes only with hags Yes
8. Ritual Magic In PHB I only limited Yes

All 8 of these points must be met in order to create a new witch class.  Thankfully, this can be done in 5e.

So the ability to use herbs can be a Medicine or Nature check, depending on how it is used.
Fasicnation can be a power or spell or some combination (which also puts a vote in favor of Charisma as the prime stat).
Clerical & Magic-user magic. Not an issue.  I have a well-established list of spells.
Same with Sympathetic magic.
Covens, Powers based on the natural cycles, and worshippers of forbidden religions will need to be dealt with.
Ritual magic is well covered by D&D5.

Ok. So the framework is there and I have some ideas how to put the witch class on this framework. Time to start thinking about how 5e plays.

Covens as Builds/Archetypes
Each class has a "build" involved with it.  The Druids have Circles, the Sorcerers have their Origins, Warlocks have their Pacts and Wizards have Arcane Traditions.   Witches could have Covens.  In other books and games I have used "traditions" to cover this same basic idea.  But Wizards have that word now.   The Druid Circles struck me as being very coven like in truth.  Though the Warlock pacts could also be redone slightly to reflect some of the same ideas I have about covens and traditions.

Ability Scores
What ability score should I use?  I have, over the years, used Wisdom, Charisma and Intelligence.
The Witch uses Charisma.  Eldritch Witchery uses Wisdom and Inteliigence.  Pathfinder uses Intelligence and Charisma.  I used wisdom for both my 2nd and 3rd edition witches.  I can come up with reasons or justifications for any of them to be honest.  I prefer Charisma with Wisdom in a close second.  Trouble is D&D 5 already has two magic-users that use these abilities each.

I think I want to take a look at the 5 basic magic using classes in terms of how well they address the Moldvay Criteria.

Ability Cleric Druid Sor Warlock Wizard
0. Ability Score Wis Wis Cha Cha Int
1. Ability to use Herbs Med Med/Nat No Nat Med
2. The Power of Fascination spell spell spell spell spell
3. Clerical and Magic-User magic Clr Clr MU MU+Pact MU
4. Sympathetic Magic spell spell spell spell spell
5. Worshipers of forbidden religions no yes/no NA yes NA
6. Powers based on natural cycles no yes no no no
7. Covens no yes no yes no
8. Ritual Magic yes yes no yes (pact) yes

Looking at the list is seems that the best "witch" is either a druid or warlock.  This actually tracks with my playing of these two classes as wtiches.

In fact.  The Warlock is very much like what I would want for a witch, but only less "blasty".

Maybe a "Witch" is a warlock that has a "Goddess/God" Patron and instead of evocations there are spells.   I will have to experiment more to be honest. And certainly more time with the 5e Warlock.

I like the idea of of some powers (Occult Powers in previous editions) and spells.

I think IF I were to do a witch I would have to be very, very selective of her spells and make sure they balance out compared to the other classes. It is possible, even liekly that the Witch and the Warlock have similar lists, but who knows right now.

5e players. What do you think a 5e witch should do?


Morgan Champion said...

Actually I fell Pathfinder gave us a decent stab at the witch class. The major problems I have are as follows: too much emphasis on the classical evil version of the witch (including the hag requirement for all covens), excessively broken hexes (such as slumber and ice tomb) and the dependence on familiars. ( They could have at least included a Book of Shadows archetype).

Morgan Champion said...

Oops. That should be "felt" not "fell".

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I agree and have addressed those in my new Pathfinder book Strange Brew.