Class Acts: Witches
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Abandoned Artsis 4 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving 2 pages of content for 3 new witch archetypes, so let’s check them out!
The first new archetype has me fearing it would be one of these boring environment-based ones: The Desert Witch. And at first, she seems likely to fall into the trap, limiting the selection of available familiars, patrons etc. and granting only an improved [fire]-descriptor spell DC and a constant endure elements as well as improving fire resistance that turns to immunity at 14th level. So far, so bland. However, the archetype also gains access to two rather interesting hexes that save the archetype from mediocrity: The first not only grants a modified version of the goodberry-spell, but also enables the witch to brew a potion from this berry and at higher levels, expend all her uses for the equivalent of a hero’s feast. The second hex lets her find water in the desert, but omits e.g. corrupted or tainted water – quite a vital power in the desert. While still not the apex of ingenuity, this archetype serves its niche thanks to these two hexes.
The second archetype is the grisly fetishist, who gains the Knowledge (Religion) and Stealth class-skills as well as proficiency with picks and the scythe. This type of witch replaces the familiar with an inanimate corpse poppet made from a deceased tiny being or from some sort of humanoid remains – rather creepily, this witch’s poppet also communicates exclusively with the witch. It’s rather interesting to note that, while the text refers to an evil will communicating with the witch, no alignment-restriction is provided, meaning that essentially, it could be easily reskined as some form of semi-benevolent, albeit creepy ancestral worship. Witches of this archetype may also add their class level as bonuses to attacks, intimidate and sense motive checks against foes suffering from some kind of fear-based condition and can demoralize foes without sight contact. They may also get these bonuses at 4th level against flat-footed opponents. This archetype feels, at least to me, somewhat akin to a twist on the voodoo priest introduced in an earlier class act, just with slightly less panache – the poppet per se as a concept is cool, but the archetype does not really provide a sufficient benefit for losing the familiar’s mobility and abilities. Fluff-wise nice, but crunch-wise a tad bit too weak for my tastes.
The final archetype in this pdf would then be the Maleficium, who eliminates all (healing)-spells from her spell-list, but casts her inflict and harm spells at +1 caster level. The Maleficium is essentially a negative energy-based blaster, they gain a scaling supernatural ability called “Wracking Blight”, which deals painful non-lethal damage to foes and, if applicable, could turn non-lethal, pre-existing damage into lethal one. Unfortunately, the ability is called a hex in the text, but does not follow standard hex-formatting, making me wonder which of the two it’s supposed to be. Furthermore, it does not specify what action it requires to use and how often it can be used per day. Even cooler, at 8th level, she may add this ability as a free action to a creature that has failed to save against a hex of the witch. At 16th level, the Maleficarium can add a harm effect to a creature that is affected by one of her hexes -OUCH! This probably is the most powerful of the three archetypes and apart from the ambiguity in the wording of the ability, it is also the one I’d personally would like to play. Wracking Blight is just a cool ability with nice mechanics to back it up.
Editing and formatting are good, though the formatting/wording inconsistency in the Maleficium is a painful blunder that hopefully will be rectified soon. Layout adheres to a 2-column, no-frills standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. All right, I’ll come right out and say it: The first archetype is not too exciting to me and while the hexes are nice, they can’t really save it. Scavenge the hexes, ignore the rest would be my approach. The second one has a cool fluff, but the crunch backing it up is rather weak – I wish we had got more content and abilities to make the archetype feel more distinct. The final one is a nice, cool archetype, though the ambiguity/formatting glitch here is a major bummer and the lack of information regarding what action it takes to activate makes this unusable as written, which costs this pdf massive points on my scale. Since at the moment only two of the archetypes are functional, my final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2. As soon as the Maleficium has been cleaned up, I’ll happily add +1 or +1.5 stars to the verdict.
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