Thursday, June 5, 2014

Questions About Class: the Witch

Image by Ines-Ka

Welcome back readers! Here is another entry in our Questions about Class series, this time focusing on the witch. As you may (or may not) know, Flying Pincushion Games is releasing the next book, Into the Breach: The Witch so we thought it was a good time that I, Kiel Howell, sit down with fellow Pincushioneer Taylor Hubler to talk about the class.

KH: First of all, thank you for taking the time to sit down and answer these questions!

TH: You are welcome kind sir!

KH: Can you give the readers a little about yourself and your role at The Flying Pincushion?

TH: I was raised on tabletop games of all kinds and started playing tabletop RPGs nearly fifteen years ago. Because I was too poor and there wasn’t a dedicated game store in my area I ended up writing all of my own material until I ran Pathfinder’s adventure path “Kingmaker.” Even then I did considerable amounts of customization to it and shared it online. Frank saw it, liked it, and we have been collaborating off and on since. When he started up Flying Pincushion I slaughtered my way into the copyeditor position and I recently took charge of some of the format, templates, and styles used by FP.

KH: Ok, the witch. I have to admit, I’m a fan of the witch but I don’t actually understand exactly what they are and what their role is. Are they some sort of half-druid and half-sorcerer?

TH: No, that wouldn’t be a fair assessment. Witches are like the anti-bard, but are full casters with a narrow spell list. They focus mostly on enchantment and necromancy, but have bits of other spell schools as well. They are the best debuffing class you can play, which really plays well with their role in literature as well.

KH: What’s the deal with their familiar?

TH: Well, the familiar is pretty much like a wizard’s but also doubles as the spell library. In myth and folklore this was the case as well. It used to be thought that the familiar, such as a black cat, would be possessed by a devil and whisper dark secrets to the witch. Paizo did pretty well with capturing the witch from folklore by having something similar.

KH: Is a male still a witch or are they a warlock?

TH: You still write witch under the class section of the character sheet. However my real life witch friends would say that males are supposed to be called warlocks. I honestly don’t care and treat nearly all class names as flavor more than mechanics and have played male witch characters that referred to themselves as tricksters.

KH: Does it matter what kind of familiar you choose? Are there benefits or detriments to certain types?

TH: Totally. Opinions do vary but most people will say that you want to pick either a familiar that gives a boost to initiative or one that can use magic items like a wand or potion. They are living spellbooks, so you should keep that in mind as well. A familiar that you can keep out of danger is a good idea. Other than that, they are just like a wizard’s familiar and carry all the same benefits and drawbacks.

KH: When I think of a witch, the first thing that comes to mind are stories like Hansel and Gretel. Pathfinder’s witch class is more than that though?

TH: Totally, because when Paizo designed the class they wanted to cover a broader scope of literature and folklore. For example, you can see sixteenth century folklore of the Salem witch trials, witches from Grimm’s tales, and a bit of asian folklore witch as well. In fact, most cultures around the world have a form of witch that follow similar themes. Typically a female but can also be male, listens to spirits or devils that could be good or evil, has the power to curse or bless, and usually knows secrets that scare other people. There is also a great deal of cannibalism when it comes to evil witches in folklore.

KH: Let’s talk about hexes for a moment. What are they and why do they seem so powerful?

TH: Hexes are supernatural powers that set the witch apart from other classes. They allow the witch to do all those cool things witches do in folklore. Smell children, make gingerbread men from people, put people to sleep, make them feel weak, and mostly just make someone have a really, really bad day. What sets them apart from spells is that you don’t have to prepare them and most of them are once per target. There is some argument that a few of them, like slumber, are too overpowered because there isn’t a level limit and most creatures or NPCs are going to be susceptible to it. However, most claims are made without looking at the whole picture and often use best case scenarios.

KH: Let’s switch gears for a second and talk about Patrons. So these are...what?

TH: In folklore, the devil or the spirits were patrons to the witch. A witch had to learn their powers from a patron of some sort, be it a devil or a possessed animal. In the game patrons are left very, very open. They can be any being that is capable of granting power. Sadly, the mechanical benefits are just a list of bonus spells, and I would have loved to have seen more done with this piece of legend. You can totally play without having to flesh out who your patron is. I had a character with an illusion goddess as a patron. A friend of mine had a devil. My wife’s witch never had one fleshed out.

KH: Back to Hexes, what are the Major and Grand Hexes? Are they potentially overpowered, kind of like the concerns with the slumber hex but on a bigger scale?

TH: Major and Grand hexes are just hexes you gain at higher levels. I haven’t come across anything that suggests that they might be overpowered but Ice Tomb needs some serious errata and there are a few that could be considered underpowered for the level you take them. The Summon Spirit grand hex certainly is potentially powerful, but you get it at level 18 and the wish machine strategies that use it are either going to be laughed at by a GM or made really expensive.

KH: What is your favorite witch you’ve made, seen played, or want to make out of the stuff presented in Into the Breach: The Witch?

TH: Favorite played was my ratfolk witch Cosimo. He really messed people up and the party really loved having him around when he wasn’t being stupid dodgy and creepy. I really wanted to be able to play a scarred witchdoctor with barbarian levels, and that is the reason behind my own prestige class in the new witch book we have done. Something that allows for a bit more frontline presence but is still a witch at heart.

KH: Have you ever had to ban or have you seen the class banned at a table?

TH: Nope. And I think it is silly to do so unless you can prove that the class, or any ability it has, is outshining the rest of the table. I don’t think anyone who looks at the big picture can do so. Slumber is something people often point at and cry foul. However, if you really understand it and you play your game smart it is actually one of the weaker witch abilities. I almost never used it in higher levels, for example, because there were so many other options that were just better. For example, hold person or hold monster have similar save DCs and can’t be stopped from a minion kicking the target. Also, there were plenty of times where I could have used it because the enemy was severely debuffed but I switched targets because my party members were going to kill the target in that round anyway. Sometimes overkill on one target means you are behind in defeating another.

KH: What is your advice for building a successful witch?

TH: Read lots of guides. I wrote one called “A Witch's Guide to Shutting Down Enemies.” There are lots of others that have great advice as well.

KH: Thank you for taking the time to have this chat Taylor!

TH: Thank you as well!

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