Under the Hill

so tired…

Witches and Warlocks in my campaign

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I love the simplicity of the Labyrinth Lord rules, and by extension those of the D&D rulesets they are based on. So it might be kind of a bad habit that I already have all those nice ideas how to improve on it without the campaign having even started yet. During the last few days I was thinking about the basics of that campaign. I want my players to come up with some stuff in play, so I really want to keep it at some very basic level. One thing I wanted to have though is a society/group of witches and warlocks.
So I was about halfway through thinking about that society when I noticed that I was starting to think of them as a distinct class. Something not quite magic-user and not quite cleric. Which is, I guess, one of the first ideas anybody ever comes up with when creating new characters. And for some reason none of the classes people came up with the last thirty years actually stuck. Even though people for sure tried. The Witch was even the main example given in the 3rd Edition Dungeon Masters Guide on how to create a new class.  A rather playable witch, for sure, but did anybody ever, well, use that class? Or even think about it after reading through the guide for the first, or second, or even 20th time?
That got me thinking: what exactly is it that makes a witch and warlock something completely different than the magic-user? Not that much actually. For some reason the character we most often come up with when thinking about the magic-user seems to be the Gandalf archetype. Some old mage with a hat and a staff.(And yes, I know that Gandalf basically didn’t really do that much magic, he still is the archetype though!)

Even the rulebooks seem to go for that most of the time. If it’s not Gandalf it’s either the enchantress (think Circe), the young and dynamic mage (think Dr. Strange), or even the fat and clumsy Discworld mage (Pratchett might be a parodist, but the archetypes he uses ring tabsolutely true).
On the other hand we  should really be thinking of the classes in the game as something more basic I guess. A wizard is a magic-user. But so is a summoner, an enchanter, a necromancer. And a witch.
These specialists were of course detailed in later editions, all of them specialists with maybe a limited set of spells, but more power in what they were good in. That’s one way to do it I guess. But I’m not sure that I really want to give up the catch-all magic-user for that.
On the other hand, what is it exactly that I want from such a class? I mostly would like to give it a certain flavor with some of it’s spells. I would like to make my campaign’s witches and warlocks something sinister and occult and downright scary, so I would give them a combination of mostly necromancy and nature spells. Both areas actually kind of fit together if one thinks about it. Death always is part of nature.

And I would like them to be able to curse somebody.
That is atually an idea which I, again, kind if gleamed from DSA: “cursing in hot blood”. Now I don’t know exactly how that was solved in the earlier editions of good old DSA, I really was only using the very most basic starter rules of 1st and 3rd edition, and then later the arcane complete ruleset that was 4th edition.

The basic idea is that if a witch is enraged enough (her blood is boiling so to speak) she can, with less effort than usual, put a curse on somebody. Think about this: a witch gets driven out of a village by the local populace, she is furios as hell and curses the town. So all the crops around her start to wither and die. Or the local watersource gets spoiled.
That basically is the idea I had, and I guess it’s actually pretty easy to do if one takes into account that old rule about clerics: They can drop a spell they prayed for and replace it with a healing spell if they need it. Now let’s see…

Cursing in hot blood: If enraged enough by something/someone the magic-user can drop any spell he learned for the day and replace it with one from the list of curses. The curse must be of the same or lower level.

A special list of curses would have to be written for that sort of thing. A list of spells to use  in case of cursing.

It might be a bit overpowered though.

Actually no, it for sure would be overpowered. Especially in mid-level range the ability to just drop and replace spells might be a complete gamebreaker.
So how to concile this one special ability with the magic-user without totally debasing it from the coherent class system?
The solution I came up with so far would be even more in tone with the class: a corruption table. One does not wield wild magic like that without the magic doing something to one’s self. Maybe some madness?  Maybe some physical corruption?

I’m not really happy with it so far. I don’t really want to drag out the Mutant Future mutation table. That would be overdoing it a bit. But I would like my witches to have that ability to curse someone.

Written by G. Neuner

2. March 2010 at 4:39 pm

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