Thursday, August 16, 2012

Witch Books, Part 4. The New Old

The New Old.  
These are new products to play old school style witches. Generally speaking these are all throwbacks to the Basic or First Edition days for games like Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC or any OSR game.

Classic Fantasy Review: Volume 1, Issue 2
This might be one of the first Old-School style witches that I purchased. In this supplement for OSRIC we get the Diabolical Witch.  A witch that gains her powers and spells from the various demon and devil lords.  Its a cross between a cleric and wizard, maybe with more emphasis on the cleric side of things.  The level progression is closer to the cleric than the wizard to be honest.  There are new spells, just a redistribution of current OSRIC spells.  They get a number of special powers, some make sense (clerical turning and shapeshift) others not as much (limited thief abilities).   A nice feature is how witches of different demon lords, devils get different powers.

Darker Paths 2: The Witch
I am always a bit hesitant to review other peoples work on witch-related classes since I have products of my own out there. I fear of being too critical or too lax, each to out weigh the other. In the end I think I just need to review the product as is. Like DP1: The Necromancer this product is for the "Adventures Dark and Deep" RPG, OR any other near-clone of AD&D. Also like the first Darker Path book this presents the witch as an evil character class; not the Earth loving priestess of old faiths or even the spiritual seeking witches of modern tales. This must be recalled when reading the rest of this book. These witches are more Baba Yaga and not Circe for example. There is the obligatory disclaimer on Contemporary Witches and how this game is not that. (As an aside, as someone that has written these myself this one does seem more of a disclaimer of "don't email me" rather than a "I am not trying to offend", but that could just be me. EDITED: I did get an email clarification on this and the author was very much in the "I am not trying to offend, but these are different things" camp, which is cool by me.)
Witches in this game are all evil and their main ability is Wisdom. Their Charisma must start high, but it degrades as the witch rises in level. Interesting. I am not sure I like that since it seems here that Charisma is used as an "Appearance" proxy and not as a "Force of Personality" one. It would make it hard to make a character like Circe, who was evil, attractive and had a lot of force of personality, as a witch in these rules. That is fine, she would have to be something else, but I do want to point it out.
Witches advance to 13th level; so reminiscent of the druid. She has a nice variety of spells to choose from (more on this) and there are rules for her brewing potions and poisons. Like other witches of folklore, this witch can also have multiple familiars. A nice touch in my mind.
The spells are the real gem of this book. Nearly 50 new spells there are a lot of classics here. There are spells on Candle Magic (and done differently than my own) and nearly every base is covered (curses, storm summoning, afflicting others).
Like with DP1, the art is a mix of new and public domain art, but all of it is appropriate to the feel of the book. In the end this is a very good evil witch class. It does make me wonder how the author might do a good witch.

ACKS Player's Companion: The Witch
This one is not out yet for the public, but I have seen the witch for it.  It was actually based on some OGC I produced a while back with some significant changes.  I didn't write it, but it has it's DNA in stuff I did write. So I have recuse from a proper review, but I will say this:  I like it a lot. It is compatible with my two other "OSR" witches but still covers new ground on it's own. At the same time is still new and fresh.

The Complete B/X Adventurer: The Witch
I have talked about the the TCBXA before, but I want to focus on the Witch class from it.
For starters the class works best if you also own the B/X Companion.

I have to play special attention to the witch.  Not just because it is a witch class, but because it is different than the other spell using classes.  For starters the witch can cast in groups to cast higher level spells. That is a nice feature really and something very much in tune with the archetypal witch.  The witch is the class in the book that is stated up all the way to 36th level AND built to gain powers to that point, also something I rather like.  Why?  Because a 36th level witch is the only class that can cast 10th level spells.  Yup.  This one goes to 10!

Crafting spells.  The witch does not memorize a spell, but she does have a limit on how many she knows.  The witch needs both a high intelligence (to know the spell) and a high wisdom (to learn and scribe it down in the first place).  So a first level witch with a high Intelligence knows 1+Int mod 1st level spells.  She can also scribe spells of 1st level + how ever many extra levels equal to her Wisdom mod.  I like it.  It is a nice quick way to know what can be done.  In fact I would like to use that for clerics since gods should know ahead of time what spells their flock need and then they just give them to the cleric at that time.

For the witch though I would reverse it.  Intelligence to write or scribe the spell and Widsom to know how many they can cast.  Witches are often called the "Craft of the Wise" afterall.   But all in all I like it.
10th level witch spells are nothing at all to sneeze at.  This is a powerful witch class.

The 10th level spells are a nice solution to the "Coven spells"/"Powerful magic" vs independent witches.  I can't see too many witch covens in groups.  Maybe two or three at a time.  With what JB has done here is given us a way to have powerful magics in groups at lower levels and keep those same magics out of the hands of solitary witches till much later.  This then does not make them a more attractive solution over Wizards/Magic Users.

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