Hedge Witch, or Incantationist

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Jem
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Hedge Witch, or Incantationist

Incantations are amenable to several roles in a game world. The hedge witch, as described below, assumes that incantations are a rough form of magic mostly superseded by the standard forms of spells, but easier for someone to grasp who has little to no formal magical training. This makes them suitable for someone distant from normal teachers, bright enough to pick something up from a book but not having the money or the time away from other duties to pick up a full wizardly education. Incantations are known in the world, but anyone professional enough to make a serious study of them usually has magical prowess that supersedes the slow, difficult process that incantations represent.

The hedge witch, then, is a dabbler, and this is reflected in the shape of the class, which is basically a roguelike class with the fighter's string of bonus feats instead of the specific rogue abilities. This allows someone taking the class to adapt their feat progression to nearly any focus of talent. At odd levels, the witch picks up abilities that complement or improve her usage of incantations.

It is tempting to multiclass out of the witch class, since incantations are available to all classes with sufficiently high skills. The backlash components can be difficult to deal with at high levels, but this is entirely in keeping with the adaptability of the hedge witch. If a character does continue as a witch, a very high-level hedge witch attains a deep intuitive understanding of magic, allowing her to replace the usual research process (either the usual library research for an incantation that already exists, or 1000gp and 1 week per effective level of the incantation sought for a new effect) with the ability to adapt known incantations or spells to related purposes.

Hedge Witch, or Incantationist

The hedge witch is an outsider to the world-spanning network of wizardry. She is a dabbler, a curiosity-driven explorer. She may be too poor for a formal magical education, or too isolated, but she has managed to scrape together fragments of magical lore from tradition, superstition, and perhaps listening well to the older members of the community.

As an adventurer, her stock of incantations is less powerful than the deep lore of a wizard or the divinely empowered prayers of a cleric, but her magic is only one of a range of talents she employs. If her rote magic is not as adaptable, her skills and knowledge are broad, and she is constantly picking up new tricks. A young hedge witch will try to avoid a head-on fight as much as possible, but an experienced witch will have an arsenal of tactics to call on.

An unpleasantly large fraction of the tricks known to witches are either blatantly evil or are best turned to dark purposes. In some communities they are welcome as healers and helpers, getting a wound fixed or the cows calving, but in others they are shunned, furtively sought by those who want help with lust or vengeance. Hags of all types, and especially the night hags, have had their fingers sullying the witch lore for a long time, and many of them practice it themselves.

Hit die: d6
Class skills: Climb, Concentration, Craft (any), Decipher Script, Handle Animal, Heal, Hide, Knowledge (any), Listen, Move Silently, Profession (any), Ride, Search, Spellcraft, Spot, Survival, Swim, Use Magic Device, and Use Rope.
Skill points: 8 + Int

Special requirement: Being a hedge witch in a rural community is not usually a full-time job. A hedge witch must have at least one Craft or Profession skill with ranks equal to her witch levels + 3.

BAB: As rogue
Saves: Good Will saves

Class features:
1 Gramarye, summon familiar, fundamental casting, bonus feat
2 Bonus feat
3 Cauldron, Attribute substitution
4 Bonus feat
5 Familiar casting
6 Bonus feat
7 Bond item, Assume secondary caster
8 Bonus feat
9 Broom
10 Bonus feat, Backlash mitigation
11 Gewgaws
12 Bonus feat, Assume two secondary casters
13 Failsafe
14 Bonus feat
15 Quicken incantation
16 Bonus feat
17 Eliminate secondary casters
18 Bonus feat
19 Adaptation
20 Bonus feat

Weapon and armor proficiency: A hedge witch is familiar with rural types of weaponry -- the dagger, sickle, scythe, club, handaxe, throwing axe, quarterstaff, spear, sling, shortbow, and longbow. She is proficient with shields but not with any type of armor. Adventuring witches often take light armor proficiency early in their career. Arcane spell failure chances have no effect on incantations.

Gramarye: A hedge witch begins play with a book (or several) containing a hodgepodge of incantations: 4 each from levels 0 through 3, plus bonus incantations numbered as if for the bonus spells for high attribute, and the recipes for several potions and elixirs. Recording an incantation in a gramarye can be done with plain ink, and takes 10 minutes and 1/2 page per effective level of the incantation (0-level incantations counting as 1/2 level). Recording a brew takes 10 minutes and 1/2 pages per caster level, and these recipes are only useful to a spellcaster, or someone with the cauldron class feature. A typical gramarye for a rural spellcasting tradition might be:

0: defibrillate, preserve food, detect material, summon witch's familiar
1: entwine the heart, housecleaning, fertility, infertility
2: freeze/melt, recording, strike numb, diagnosis
3: rain/drought, scapedoll, antidote, cure specific disease

Potions and elixirs: cure minor wounds, cure light wounds, neutralize poison, elixir of love, elixir of hatred

The antidote and cure specific disease incantations are specialized for one natural venom and one disease common to the local region. Incantationists in Oriental-themed lands might replace diagnosis with consult the I Ching. Lands with serious undead infestations may replace detect material with zombie trap. The cure minor wounds potion can be brewed from natural ingredients taking two hours to gather with a successful DC 10 Knowledge (Nature) or Heal roll, or 10gp of herbs purchased in more civilized areas. The search DC may be increased in dry areas or areas with highly unusual vegetation. An elixir of hatred (CL 4) causes the imbiber to hate the first creature she sees after consuming the draft; Will 14 save, the effect wearing off in 1d3 hours.

Other gramaryes include higher-level incantations, more complex potion and elixir recipes, and information that serves to assist in skill checks, as for well-made equipment. Some of these, it is known, have been placed by hags, who are constantly found around the edges of the witchcraft tradition among humans.

Summon familiar: A hedge witch can bind a familiar in the same manner as a wizard or sorcerer.

Fundamental casting: Incantations work on broadly applicable basic principles of magic. Your witch levels stack with those of any other arcane class to determine your caster level for spells in those classes.

Bonus feat: At 1st level and every even level thereafter, a witch can take any feat for which she meets the prerequisites.

Cauldron: Beginning at 3rd level, a witch can brew potions and elixirs for which she meets the caster level prerequisite. She requires a specific cauldron, costing 100gp and a day's work to prepare; she may have more than one in different places. (The base item is an iron pot, as per the standard equipment list.) For each potion or elixir, she must either research her own recipe, or locate one known to other witches or magical sources.

Attribute substitution: You can choose to substitute either your Int modifier or your Wis modifier when calculating the save DC of your incantations. You need not do so.

Familiar casting: Beginning at 5th level, a witch's familiar is itself capable of casting a small number of spells. These are supernatural abilities that require no components. Directing a familiar to cast a spell requires any sort of communication, whether verbal or magical. The familiar will usually cast the spell on its next turn, although under unusual circumstances (such as knowing that the spell would harm its master) it may choose not to. It may also choose to cast a spell on its own, if it has the intelligence and personality to do so. The familiar knows 2 spells of each level from 0 to 9, and can cast 2 spells per day of each level up to half the witch's class levels. Spells with a range of "Personal" may target the familiar or the witch. Each familiar's list is different, and is usually suited to the witch's personality and the species of the familiar. A witch knows her familiar's spell list, and may even dismiss one familiar in hopes of obtaining a better. Witch's familiars improved by suitable feats often have a wider selection of known spells.

Bond item: A witch of 7th level or higher can spend 100gp and 8 hours bonding to a magical item, thereafter gaining +10 on Use Magic Device checks related to that item. Since few items exist for the particular use of witches, this can be a valuable investment.

Assume secondary caster: Beginning at 7th level, a witch can reduce the need for secondary casters. At level 7, her familiar can eliminate the need for one secondary caster. At level 12, she can merge parts to replace up to two secondary casters. At level 17, she can eliminate secondary casters unless the subject must be a secondary caster or the description of the incantation requires secondary casters to perform specific skill checks. Multiple casters with this ability can eliminate multiple secondary casters.

Broom: A witch of 9th level can spend 8 hours enchanting a common broom, which becomes a broom of flying that works only as long as she is riding it. (It will also not come when called.)

Backlash mitigation: Beginning at 10th level, a witch can ignore the backlash component of an incantation with effective level up to 1/2 her character level. She can shield herself from unexpected energies, hide her identity in negotiating with creatures, etc.

Gewgaws: A witch of 11th level can produce minor magical items: feather tokens, dusts, and hands. She must meet the caster level prerequisite to make these items.

Failsafe: At level 13, a witch can take 10 on skill checks for incantations.

Quicken incantation: At level 15, if an incantation takes 8 hours or less, you can divide its casting time by 10. If secondary casters are required, they must also have this ability in order to benefit from the reduced time.

Adaptation: At level 19, a witch's long study of incantations gels into an intuitive understanding of fundamental principles of magic. If she knows an incantation which is close to the effect she desires, or if she is very familiar with a true arcane spell which can produce a more powerful effect which includes the effect she desires, she can work out an incantation to produce the effect with 8 hours' work and a Spellcraft roll against DC 20 + the level of the intended effect. The GM is the sole arbiter of whether an incantation exists to produce a desired effect.

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Comments invited.

Also, we have a "Prestige Class" category but not a "base class" category. Might be useful, if rarely.

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(Posted by sciborg2)

Great stuff.

Love the flavor you have here. I think the witch would be perfect for a low level or low magic game/story. I like the ideas here, that a witch can turn to darker powers if she needs to save the village, but might normally be the kindly midwife.

Curious what an epic level witch could get up to though I've fallen so far behind on mechanics I couldn't help.

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An epic witch can probably go even further than adaptation, working with her intuition on the fly to come up with an incantation to produce the effect she desires. She can abort a failing incantation before it blows up on her. Her broom becomes capable of ethereal and astral journeys, with a nose for color pools and directions to the right border ethereals, for interplanar trips. She can create more complex magical items, and so on. Naturally, her familiar begins epic casting, and she can come up with effectively epic-level incantations.

Prestige classes for witches are probably the Good Witch and the Bad Witch, who learn certain secrets of aligned casting, develop an aura, gain access to a domain or two, and gain celestial or fiendish companions.

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(posted by sciborg2)

Great stuff! You know, it might also be interesting to have a witch work towards a greater monetary/production scale - An epic witch can create cures/innoculations for specific diseases, create her own herbs and control their effects, improve speed of crop harvest and production and nutrients in soil, mass produce birth control...

The area around an epic witch might, in fact, be among the first to undergo an economic/social revolution...

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(posted by kdavis)

A most thouthful and informative piece, thank you. I love the depth you achieved with this article and appreciate the stats etc pertaining to gaming. Incantations are as old as the imaginative world of Faerie and not to be dismissed lightly. I would never be foolish enough to underestimate anyone in the hedgewitch/hedgewizard class. Even a clueless knows enough to duck when someone starts chanting.
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(posted by sciborg2)

Would you mind if we put this in a quarterly PDF for Planewalker?
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Sure, feel free.

(Edited in repost to add: still feel free!)

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(posted by sciborg2)

Curious Jem, if you have a chance to reply, how do you see the Hedge Witch in the Wheel (or a planar campign in general)?

I see a lot of primeval powers being served by Hedge Witches, with lots of them in the Hinterlands and Beastlands. I can also specializations occurring depending on the plane but need to think on that some more.

thanks,

Sci

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I always pictured them as coming from the poorer classes. Their magic is an old, folk type, something that can be passed down in old rotes that can survive an off generation, waiting for the talent to pop up. They don't have the fancy theories of wizards or the blood power of sorcerors. They come from the mass of the commoners.

They're a good style for a Prime, especially one from a village background. They also fit the sort of rags-and-tatters magic that a street kid too poor for a proper education could pick up from the old crones in Sigil, if they have the right ears, or the odds and ends of magical tricks that might be floating around the planes for a canny planewalker to use even when he's not a spellslinger.

They're deliberately connected to the hags, whose dabblings in magic are of a different kind from the rest of the Wheel. Covens of hedge witches may be under night hag control even without knowing it, stigmatizing the whole study of incantations. Hedge witches who want to fight that have to recognize that their own lore may be tainted. They make nice villains for that reason, too, since greed or shortcuts to petty power are also good motivations for picking up this lore. As you say, other primeval powers, especially those that look fondly on druids, would probably find hedge witchery a proper pursuit.

A high-level hedge witch is almost a contradiction in terms; hedge witches keep up high skills outside of magic, and the class is deliberately tempting to multiclass out of. A hedge witch who stays in the class is someone powerful who has kept connected to her roots. She ends up in touch with some of the primal forces underlying magic in the planes. This could well inform her ideas on how belief becomes reality in Planescape. Several high-level incantations, such as reify and imagify, touch on this theme.

(Edited to add in repost: As Sci mentions, the Beastlands are certainly a plane of primitive lore where a Hedge Witch is a plausible addition. The Gray Waste and its night hags is also thematically related to witchery. The Outlands also work well as a home for hedge witches, especially in areas around the realms of nature gods. It's perhaps interesting that hedge witches seem to be naturally attracted to neutrality on the Law-Chaos axis.)

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(posted by atomicb)

Jem wrote:

I always pictured them as coming from the poorer classes. Their magic is an old, folk type, something that can be passed down in old rotes that can survive an off generation, waiting for the talent to pop up. They don't have the fancy theories of wizards or the blood power of sorcerors. They come from the mass of the commoners.

I remember seeing a video a few years ago of some Brazilian favela kids who, among things, worked as bookies - one of them was standing in a crowd of gamblers, doing mental arithmetic and calculating odds about as fast as he could say the answers. So many kids are out buying and selling and generally hustling that those communities have become little laboratories for studying "street math" - most kids aren't as terrifyingly fast as the example above but they get the job done, and often using confusingly peculiar and roundabout (though ultimately correct) mathematical reasoning. I like to imagine this is where hedge witches come from.

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Glad to see this over here on

Glad to see this over here on the new site!