CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Double, Double Toil and Trouble

Witches and You

Illustration by Luis Perez
One of the hallmarks of Halloween is the witch. Usually seen with a pointed hat, cat, and broom, these images were crafted to demonize pagan religions by the Catholic Church. Witches have been used as villains through much of literature and film. Although we also do see occasions of good witches such as Glinda in the Wizard of Oz and Granny Weatherwax from the Terry Pratchet’s Discworld Series. So how do we use witches in our own campaigns?

For D&D and Pathfinder at least, we have to separate witches into three categories: witches as monsters, witches as a class, and witches as a job description. Sometimes these concepts of witch can get mixed up, and sometimes they are even intertwined. Other systems like Mage and Ars Magica deal with witches and witchcraft quite differently.

The witch as monster in D&D has been around for a while and found its way into Pathfinder as a matter of form. The hag was designed to be the archetypal witch. The green skin, the long nose, mystical abilities, and even the covens are all hallmarks of the quintessential witch, and thus written into the hag monster. D&D started with one hag and later added a handful more; Pathfinder has added even more subtypes of Hag.

Paizo’s Golarion setting even has a number of deities who hags, and in some cases witches, worship. Alazhra who I’ve written about before is considered the mother of Night Hags who steal souls for trade on the black market. Mestama is the demon lord of all hags, and evil witches.  Cults of either of these divine beings can make great villains for your horror themed game.

Witch as a class is something Pathfinder added when they went their own way. Other games can also have witches as characters but that falls more into the witch as job description, than witch as class. Pathfinder’s witch classes allows for a more thematic way to make a practitioner of the arts. Whether you use a witch as a villain or aide to the players, using a witch instead of a cleric or a sorcerer can add to the experience.

The hex feature which includes the evil eye, a terrifying cackle, and the traditional witch’s cauldron lend heavily to the thematics of the archetypal witch. The witch class also gets a familiar, much like the wizard. For the witch however these familiars area link to their spells much like a wizard’s spellbook. Like the classic witch archetype, cat is a common choice. The last major option for the witch is a patron, left intentionally vague giving your character a lot of options on where their powers come from.

This brings us to the idea of witch as a job description or cultural role. In many cultures any person who can cast magic is a witch. As I note in other articles, your characteris not your class. Any of the casting classes could be considered a witch by certain people. Some witches have been known to change shape, making druids or transmuting wizards and sorcerers a possibility. Although in many stories witches are linked to cats; bats, snakes, and wolves also have a connection to witches. Nature worship and potion making are two other things often connect to witchcraft that you can use to make a witch character of any class.

How have you used hags in your game? Does the witch class represent all that you want out of a witch character? Have you played any other classes and called yourself a witch? Or maybe been called a witch by others?

As we throw an eye of newt and a tongue of frog into our cauldron and brew up some fun with witches. If the CRB has sparked a little magic for your next game please consider becoming a contributor to my Patreon. You can also find the CRB on social media including Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Twitter.

The opening illustration was created by a fine artist Luis Perez. You can find him on Twitter and on Instagram at luisperezart.

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