A Sample of Witch Familiars

Inspired by this post and this one.

1. A raven who acts as a mouthpiece for any dead body it perches on.
2. A sheep which starts as a lamb in the morning, and dies at night as a shaggy, ancient ram, only to be born anew the next morning.
3. A snake which can turn into a silent, old crone at will.
4. A demon lord powerlessly bound in the body of a fetus.
5. A small imp who can recite lore about any dead creature it eats.
6.  A mummified hand which tries to strangle those who sleep near it.
7. The spirit of a deceased ascetic, reincarnated into the body of a frog.
8. A fox who can smell any child within a day's travel.
9. An ancient bronze tablet which displays secrets from beyond the stars during new moons.
10. A cat who burrows himself into dead children to control them like puppets.


A Wooded and Noble Class Pt. 2: The E6 Gaelic Witch

Continuing the series on the classes of my E6 psuedo-Gaelic campaign. Read more about it here.

Gaelic Witch
The witch is the worker of magics that are subtle, deceitful, and weird. A blindness/deafness cast by a saint might blind the target with a bright, searing shaft of light from the sky, or deafen them with fanfare of angelic trumpets. The same spell cast by a witch, however, might blind someone by turning their eyelids into long, droopy flesh-curtains, or deafen someone with the constant whispers of the dead.

A witch gets her powers from a Hellcrown. All the Hellcrowns (one for each witch patron) are malignant, fickle, and abstruse. To enter into a pact with a Hellcrown, a witch must either be an active and devout worshiper of her Hellcrown, or make a deal with one (which means repaying the debt at some point. And Hellcrowns take debts very seriously.) Each night the witch's familiar disappears and travels to the witch's patron Hellcrown; in the morning, the familiar returns with spells for the witch. A displeased Hellcrown will never refuse to give a witch spells for the day, but would gleefully twist the spells into warped versions with undesirable consequences.

Custom Witchery
These changes to the witch are mostly non-mechanical. To make up for it, have some witch spells--one of each level.

Door Speak
School divination
Level witch 1
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components Verbal
Range personal
Target touch
Duration 1 min./level
Door speak allows you to speak with doors. You can use this ability to persuade, trick, or bully doors into doing things for you (such as unlocking or locking, slamming in someone’s face, or sharing information about what’s on the other side). When you do so, roll your Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate (whichever is appropriate) plus your witch level against the Disable Device DC of the door (unlocked doors have a DC of 10, unlocked but stuck doors have a DC of 15). 

A door’s personality may effect what you can get from it. Newly constructed doors may be flighty, while a door in an ancient tomb is likely to be stubborn. Illusionary doors are often deceitful, and trapdoors are likely to pompous or submissive (depending on their physical relation to you).

School abjuration
Level witch 2
Casting Time 10 minutes
Components Verbal, Somatic, Focus (two bracelets of hair)
Range touch
Duration 1 week/level
Saving Throw Will (see text); Spell Resistance no
You take a length of hair from two willing target creatures, and weave them into two bracelets. After the spell is cast, you give each target one of the bracelets. If a target wearing one of the bracelets attempts to do harm (physical, mental, or social; directly or indirectly) to the other, they must make a Will save. If they succeed on the Will save, they are unable to complete the harmful action. If they fail the Will save, the harm that the action would have caused instead happens to the doer of the action. For example, if one of the targets attempted to stab the other and succeeded on their save, they would move to stab them, but be unable to follow through with the blow. If they failed the save, they would instead stab themself.
Only the wearer of a hair-trust-bond bracelet can remove it. If another tries, it immediately regrows on the wearer’s wrist. Removing a bracelet allows the target without a bracelet to be harmed by the other target, but not vice versa.

Dance of the Dead
School necromancy
Level witch 3
Casting Time 10 minutes
Components Verbal, Somatic, Material (a fiddle worth 500 gp and a communion wafer soaked in blood)
Range touch
Target dead creature touched
Duration instantaneous
Dance of the dead brings a semblance of life back to a dead body. During the casting of this spell, you play the fiddle and dance about the body of the deceased. At the completion of the spell, you jump over the body three times; after the third jump, the creature returns to life.

A creature raised with this spell is only a shell of its old self. Each of its mental scores are dropped to 2. It cannot speak. The creature acts upon base instincts (hunger, thirst, lust) and simplified versions of its old habits in life (a hero-warrior might attempt to fight anything that moves, while a drunk might down any liquid in sight).


Stags and Witches

Two really cool things happened in our game group last week. These things involve spoilers for two Pathfinder Adventure Paths, namely Kingmaker and Reign of Winter. So, be aware of that.

Down with the Stag

My players finished the first book of the six book Kingmaker adventure path, Stolen Land. It's one of my favorite adventures. I love the cast of eclectic outcast NPCs, and I dig the openness of it all.

That's ol' Staggy right there.

Anyways, last session my players took down the Stag Lord, the enigmatic, masked BBEG of the first book. The Stag Lord is all holed-up in his fort of bandits. It's a fight I've always liked (I've ran the adventure twice now, and played it once). The adventure provides you with a bunch of ways to take out the Stag Lord (including one suggestion in the book that the players pose as bandits, bring Staggy some booze, then assassinate him in his sleep). My players ended up going with a pincer movement, with the party's barbarian sneaking over the front gate while the rest of the group drew the bandits to the other side. One player died (RIP Stone the half-orc witch), but they handled it pretty well.

Witches Get Stitches
My proudest accomplishment of the last week (whole summer probably) is the completion of Paizo's Baba Yaga adventure path, Reign of Winter. After five months of playing, we finished the last book this week.

Our party at the final fight. Not pictured: human Irish Catholic gunslinging paladin (possible in this Path) and dwarf-turned-goblin fighter.

It was epic. It was fun. The path over all had some cool Russian folklore flavor, mixed with historical fiction and planetary romance. There are some really fun NPCs (like a gentleman troll, a poker-playing demon, and a winter wolf looking for a mate). It gets overly railroaded at points (as many paths do), but there are some moments that give the players some awesome choices--namely, the entire 5th book, which takes place in a sandbox-Russian-prison-camp-dungeon.

Did I mention it takes place in 1918 Russia? Cause it totally does. My witch made it out with a Mosin Nagant sniper rifle.

My witch got some cool boons from Baba Yaga in the end, like the aforementioned gentleman troll, the throne of a nation, and eternal life (NBD). The campaign (and the GM) obviously did something right, because it felt like a major fucking accomplisment.


A Wooded and Noble Class Pt. 1: The E6 Gaelic Barbarian

About two months ago I started a new weekly Pathfinder gaming group to accommodate some players with a more casual nature than my regular group. I had been inspired by a recent trip to Ireland, so I set about making a campaign set in my interpretation of a mythical version of the island. Interpretation is pretty key here--I didn't want any of the players--particularly me--to have to feel like they needed a degree in Celtic folklore to play. I'm also a sucker for E6, low-magic games, so I threw that into the mix. One of the first things on my prep list was to edit the class list. Some classes (monk, wizard, alchemist, etc.) didn't quite fit into the lore, while others (like the beloved barbarian) presented the chance to reinforce the setting via redesigned mechanics.

My final class list ended up being: barbarian, druid, fighter, knight (a cavalier in all but name), ranger, rogue, saint (a redesigned cleric), and witch. Most of the classes were redesigned in some manner. After two months of play time, I feel confident enough in the classes to share my changes. So may I present: the Gaelic barbarian.

Gaelic Barbarian
I already knew what I wanted to do with this class before I even had the campaign in mind. In my mind, Conan isn't the iconic fantasy barbarian, the hero Cú Chulainn of the Ulster Cycle is. Part of this stems from my lack of knowledge of Conan (Robert E. who?) and my love of Cú from the Táin Bó Cúailnge. However, I'm also of the opinion that turning into a twisted, deformed monster on the battlefield is hands down way cooler than getting really ticked. 

With the Hound of Ulster as our poster boy, the rage class ability could become nothing but his iconic warp-spasm. It functions in all ways as the rage ability, but in addition to the bonuses from raging, also applies a -4 penalty to Charisma while in the rage. The barbarian is becoming a nasty monstrosity, and in doing so becomes ugly (one of Cú's eyes hung by only the nerve and his joints flipped around, after all) and loses some of her sense of self.

This change is relatively minor. After all, the barbarian can't really use any Charisma-based skills while raging anyways. It does make her more vulnerable to Charisma damage and drain, but in E6 Pathfinder, those effects are few and far between. Where this saw major impact was in rage powers, which became warp powers (creative name, I know).

I focused on reskinning rage powers that could be represented by a physical deformity, and that weren't stupidly powerful (superstition and greater beast totem, I'm looking at you). I also tried to combine or enhance some of the weaker ones, in an attempt to make them all tempting choices.

Bandy-Legged (Su) The barbarian's legs become long and bowed. The barbarian can move up to double her normal speed as an immediate action but she can only use this ability when an adjacent foe uses a withdraw action to move away from her. She must end her movement adjacent to the enemy that used the withdraw action. The barbarian provokes attacks of opportunity as normal during this movement. This power can be used once per warp-spasm.

Beast Leg (Su) One of the barbarian's legs grows to Large size. The barbarian gains a 10-foot enhancement bonus to her speed. This increase is always active while the barbarian is raging. This power can be selected up to three times. Its effects stack. The second time it is taken, the barbarian's other leg increases in size. After taking it a third time, the barbarian grows another massive leg while in a spasm.

Bestial Senses (Su) The barbarian's eyes become animalistic and she gains a long snout, giving her the low-light visions and scent abilities.

Bull-Built (Su)  The barbarian's muscles bulge and seem to squirm of their own accord. The barbarian can add her barbarian level on one Strength check or combat maneuver check, or to her combat maneuver defense. This power is used as an immediate action and can be used once per spasm.

Talons (Su) The barbarian's hands grow long talons and she gains two claw attacks. These attacks are considered primary attacks and are made at the barbarian's full base attack bonus. The claws deal 1d6 points of slashing damage plus the barbarian's Strength modifier.

Horrific Appearance (Su) The barbarian's form is particularly monstrous. She ignores the penalty to Charisma from being in a spasm when making an Intimidate skill check and instead treats it as a bonus.

Maw (Su) The barbarian's jaw grows large and distended, giving her a bite attack. If used as part of a full-attack action, the bite attack is made at the barbarian's full base attack bonus -5. If the bite hits, it deals 1d4 points of damage plus half the barbarian's Strength modifier. A barbarian can make a bite attack as part of the action to maintain or break free from a grapple. This attack is resolved before the grapple check is made. If the bite attack hits, and grapple checks made by the barbarian against the target this round are at a +2 bonus.

Natural Armor (Su) The barbarian grows scales or a thick coat of fur. She gains a +1 natural armor bonus. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels the barbarian has attained. 

Warp Climber (Su) The barbarian's arms lengthen so that her hands rest below her knees. The barbarian gains a climb speed of 20 ft. and a bonus on Climb checks equal to her level.

Warp Swimmer (Su) The barbarian grows fins. She gains a swim speed of 20 ft. and a bonus on Swim checks equal to her level.

Chariot Chump
I never understood why barbarians get trap sense. Rogues, I can see. Barbarians? Is that a Conan thing? (Robert E. huh?) I always think of the scene from Your Highness where they befriend the gigantic barbarian, only to have him impaled in a trap not minutes later.

That spike is going right through his abdomen; no trap sense here!

Anyways, I needed an ability to remove to make room for Cú and other mythic Irish heroes' love of chariots. So trap sense got the boot, and chariot champion came in. Chariot champion gives the barbarian her own beloved charioteer, and some bonuses to fighting on a chariot. Like (why?) trap sense, it scales 6th level.

Chariot Champion (Ex) At 3rd level, a barbarian can attract the service of a loyal charioteer. The character is generally an NPC with total NPC class levels one lower than the barbarian. This charioteer is equipped with equipment appropriate for his level and is of the same alignment as the barbarian. The charioteer gains Skilled Driver as a bonus feat.

Because of the bond with her charioteer, the barbarian gains a +1 morale bonus on attack rolls and a +1 dodge bonus to her AC when fighting from a chariot piloted by her charioteer. At sixth level, this bonus increases to +2.

Should the charioteer die, the barbarian must spend a week in mourning before finding a replacement. The barbarian then loses her bonus to attack rolls and AC from this ability until she gains a new level, or has spent a month fighting alongside the new charioteer.

Why No Gáe Bulg?
The Celts Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D  presented the Gáe Bulg not as a weapon, but a technique that could be learned by any character. I thought about including it as a capstone ability for my barbarians, I really did. Were I not designing for E6, I would have. Ultimately, I decided that it would be better served as a mythic weapon, that then requires special training (probably involving a quest) in order to be able to use. I mean, you do have to throw the thing from the fork of your fucking toes. 


 I've put the E6 Cú-inspired barbarian up here, in case you want the whole thing in it's ready-to-play format.