Friday, April 26, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: W is for Witch

 Of course, I was going to do this.

I talk a lot about witches here. I mean a crazy amount. It is by far my most commonly used post-label. I am obsessed, and I don't apologize for it.

Witch Books

"What is it with you and Witches?"
- My mom, some years back.

I think if I have to point to something in my childhood it was the Wicked Witch of the West. My parents said I was frightened of her when I first saw The Wizard of Oz. I was likely 3-4 at the time. But I don't think scared was the right word. Fascinated. Enthralled. Spellbound. Those are the words I would use. 

We had an old "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" book back when I was a kid. I was younger than five. I know this because we had moved into a larger house and these memories are in the older house. Yes...I know memories are fluid, but I am 99.98% confident of this one. I remember looking at pictures of the WWotW in this book and those are the ones I loved the most.  

I remember Witchie-Poo from "HR Puffinstuff," but I never really liked her. Any time a witch appeared on a TV show, I was excited.

Then there was Angelique Bouchard of "Dark Shadows."  Played by Lara Parker in the original series she was blonde, sexy, and wonderfully evil. I loved her.  She would be played by Lysette Anthony in the 1991 reboot, and by Eva Green in the otherwise awful 2012 movie. 

This began a love affair that has lasted my entire life. I can't explain it, and honestly, I don't feel the need to. 

So, how does this relate to Dungeons & Dragons? Glad you asked!

Witches in Dungeons & Dragons

My history with D&D is a long one, and it began in 1979, when I first read the AD&D Monster Manual. Soon after I was able to get my hands on a poorly Xeroxed copy of the Holmes Basic book. And what treats did I find?

Holmes Witch in AD&D

A witch class? A proper Witch?

Of course, by the time I saw this in late 1979/early 1980, the AD&D Player's Handbook was already out, and there was no witch class. All those others were there, but no witch. 

That was fine; I had so much to do that I didn't even notice its absence. However, I did notice something. Around age 11 (1981 or so) I began making characters that had a decidedly "witch" cast to them. A Pagan cleric, an alluring Illusionist, and then I made "Marissia" (yes, that is how I spelled it).

I have called Marissia my "First Witch."  She wasn't, but she is the first one I committed to paper as a witch. Her name comes from me mishearing the Jerry Reed version of "Pretty Mary Sunlight."  I thought he was saying "Pretty Marissa mine."  Hey, I was young and I am certain I had heard it from The New Scooby-Doo Movies.  In fact, a lot of my early ideas about witches came from Scooby-Doo. It is also very, very likely I based her and her name also on Millissa Wilcox, The Ghost Witch of Salem, from the Scooby-Doo episode "To Switch a Witch." An interesting episode since it featured a gravestone for the witch with a Leviathan Cross on it.   I mean seriously, a goddamn Leviathan Cross in 1978? That was a ballsy move on the eve of the Satanic Panic.

Millissa Wilcox, The Ghost Witch of Salem, from the Scooby-Doo episode "To Switch a Witch."

Eventually, all of this would take me to 1986 the year I made my first witch class for AD&D. I have documented this time and again here, but it corresponds to my first proper witch character, Larina.  She is the character I also use for my own witch experiments in other games.

I first rolled her up in July of 1986. At first, she was a "magic-user," and I would play her like a witch. She had a few adventures that year, but that was also when my then DM was heading out of town, and I was getting ready for my senior year at high school. 

Then Dragon Magazine #114 came out in October, and it had its own Witch class. 

I read it all over and wondered how or if I should convert her. The answer became obvious to me right away. She was a witch, only pretending to be a wizard so she could go to Glantri's School of Magic. I kept her magic-user levels and then went on to advance her as a Dragon #114 witch. In the game, I said she ran out of money to keep going, so instead, she got a job at the library in hopes of paying her tuition. 

I updated her sheet and declared her birthday was October 25, but she tells everyone it was October 31st.

I have since used witches more and more in my games and I even wrote all these books about how to play witches in D&D, each one looking at a different sort of witch. In my mind, each of these different types was called a Tradition, and each Tradition was reigned over by a Witch Queen.

This has also led to my use of various Witch Queens and my campaign The War of the Witch Queens.

Honestly, there is too much to say in one post on this subject. But if witches are your thing then you have come to the right place.

Tomorrow is X Day, and I am going with something that is new to me as well! The crime lord Xanathar.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.


Srivalli Rekha said...

Ohh, witches! Love them. :D

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Me too!

Chrys Fey said...

I love witches. There are so many great witch characters out there.

Martha said...

Such an interesting post! I always remember when Dorothy in the Wizard of Ox asked, are you a good witch or bad witch? LOL

Jeanine Byers said...

How amazing that you've written all those books! So am I understanding correctly that they are a kind of character study that helps people who will be role-playing the character? And you are adding new witch characters to the canon or standard ones? That's really cool!

Timothy S. Brannan said...

@Jeannine Byers. Close! Each one is a "class" book, that describes a type of witch and what powers and spells she has access too. The player then makes their own character based on those options. I have them set up so you can mix and match from all the books.

Idea-ist said...

I kind of liked Dark Shadows the movie, but i've never seen the original tv show to compare it to...Theres so many great witches out there that Eva Green witch didn't make the top ten, although i quite liked her in Ms Peregrines School for Peculiars, but technically not a witch shes a ymbrine... Nancy the goth girl in The Craft is on the list though, talk about your teen angst.

Kristi said...

I don't really know anything about witches (or D&D, for that matter), but I am a descendant of one of the women convicted of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. It sounds like you've certainly done a lot of research into witches, though!

Jennifer Jones said...

I enjoyed reading your witch post. Your books do sound amazing.

Gonz said...

What? YOU? Writing about witches! Never could have guessed!

Lady In Read said...

loved this post and about your books as well.. sounds so very fascinating to me for i love both books and witches!!

JB said...

Ah, old Scooby-Doo: foundational mythology for so many of us.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Witches are cool -- whether Willow and Tara in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or the more comical kind in "Scooby Doo".

Ronel visiting for W: My Languishing TBR: W