Legendary Villains: Wicked Witches
This installment of the NPC/villain-centric toolkits of options clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin this supplement with 3 new witch archetypes, the first of which would be the consort of fiends: This archetype, obviously, is in league with entities from the lower planes, and as such, is locked into conspiracy, death, decadence, plague, nightmares or revenge as far as patrons go. The archetype gets a “devil’s mark” of sort, which may be identified by knowledgeable characters, and she radiates evil as a cleric of her level, regardless of actual alignment. Instead of the 6th level hex, the archetype gets a potent familiar chosen from a list, with, at the GM’s discretion, CR 3 or below fiends qualifying. 10th level adds +4 to Str and Con of creatures called via conjuration (calling) or (summoning) spells, and nets the consort an untyped +4 bonus to Charisma checks to procure the services of summoned creatures, with costs being halved. This ability also nets planar ally et al. as additions to the spell list, with 13th and 16th level unlocking new spells as spell known. The ability replaces the hex usually gained at that level. At 18th level, instead of the hex, the archetype learns to cast Wish 3/week…but at a cumulative 30% chance to have the wish twisted horribly. As an aside, I tend to do that for all non-codified uses of wish anyway, because I roll old-school when it comes to that kind of spell, and I know many folks that do the same, but that is not the archetype’s fault.
The second archetype is the curio collector, who may gain information on magic items by studying them for a minute, gaining the information that would usually be yielded by detect magic and a successful Spellcraft check. This ability’s information also includes one tidbit of potential historic significance, if any…and finally, the witch gets some idea about the last handler of the item – a brief vision, an emotional state and the like, somewhat akin to psychometry. Amazing one! Flavorful, useful in investigations, yet not broken or problematic. This replaces the 2nd level hex. Two thumbs up! Instead of 6th level’s hex, we get the curse expert ability, which improves her class level for the purpose of this object reading trick, and she may dispense of cursed items without a hitch. The witch also gets +2 to saves to resist curses. This replaces the 6th level hex. 10th level replaces the hex with the ability to craft cheap items with horrible drawbacks –curses. Needful things, anyone? 14th level allows the curio collector to forge a special bond with items touched as a move action. She knows the general position of the target, and the owner of the item suffers a bad debuff to saves against her “…resist scrying, nightmare, or similar spells cast by the curio collector…“ – this is NOT rules-language. What constitutes a “similar spell”? No idea.
Archetype number 3 is the shadow sister, who is locked into the shadow patron. The archetype gets darkvision (or increases it), and 8th level improves that to work in magical darkness and even allow for color distinction. Again, this replaces the 2nd level hex. 10th level nets a shadow minion, minus incorporeal touch and spawn creation, which can cast mage hand at will. This shadow minion is her own shadow, and while she does not have it, her spell and hex save DC is slightly reduced. 14th level improves the shadow’s stats to greater shadow. 18th level nets the ability to possess targets via the shadow. As before, the appropriate hexes are exchanged for these new abilities. All in all, not exactly the most impressive shadow-themed archetype.
The pdf also provides a complex 10-level PrC, the Hag Matron. The witch must be evil to qualify, have a +5 BAB, the coven hex and be capable of casting 3rd level spells. Additionally, a specific rite with a hag or hag-matron must be performed to qualify. Subheaders here are, in a weird layout glitch, cut in half. The PrC gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and no new proficiencies, 7/10 spellcasting progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter yield a new hex. Cool: The PrC nets dual identity at first level, yielding a comely form and a hag form – somewhat akin to the vigilante ability. Fits perfectly! The forms bestow a bonus/penalty to social skills depending on the form, which improves further at 8th level versus targets attracted to the matron. Such targets also take a minor penalty to saves. 10th level makes the transformation potentially cause targets to be shaken. Transition is, fyi, a standard action.
The first level also means she has to choose her hag blood (erroneously referred to as hag power, the subset ability of hag’s blood, in the table). There are 5 such hag blood types provided: They yield an ability at 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th level, and cover annis, green, night, winter and sea hag as types. Annis focuses on Strength and the enhancement of claws, which are btw. granted at second level by the PrC, regardless of blood type chosen, and which scale with existing claws etc. The annis blood type gets rend and size category growth.
The green blood type gets sound mimicry, whispering wind, strength sapping and pass without trace in swamps, as well as striding there. The capstone nets Str-damage, but in a big kudos, the damage per target caps, preventing ridiculous dragon-slaying without invalidating the ability. Kudos. Night blood type nets resistances, a lesser form of heartstone, dream haunting, and the ability to cause souls trapped in the heartstone to be consumed to enhance magical might. This ability, alas, is cheesable: While you can only trap 1 soul per day, the HD has no bearing on the benefit of soul consumption, which means you’ll be slowly storing cute kitten souls to burn…blergh.
The sea blood type makes the PrC amphibious, nets 3/day a staggering gaze that improves at 10th level, as well as horrific appearance, which can cause Strength damage on a failed save. Winter, finally, nets pass without a trace in ice and snow and striding, as well as spider climb on ice. The blood type also nets a 3/day cold breath weapon with blinding added, a DIY icy quarterstaff that nets you a 1/day SP cone of cold and a cold apotheosis at 10th level. The blood types also govern the coven the class gets.
4th level nets undetectable alignment, 5th level 10 + hag matron or 10 + ½ HD , whichever is higher, SR at 5th level. 6th level nets darkvision 60 ft., and 8th level nets two hags, governed by hag blood type, for the coven. This gets interaction with Leadership right and improves at 10th level.
Now, the next section is one I kinda expected for the base class – we get patron specific oaths. Such an oath may be entered at any time as a 10-minute ceremony, but violation has the usual oathbreaking consequences, with atonement etc. required to renounce an oath made. 20 such oaths are included, each associated with a prerequisite patron. I really like this further differentiation between patrons. These oaths are interesting: witches of the Transformation patron may, for example, swear the oath of change, which makes them agents of change, for good or ill, and prevents preparing more than one instance of a given spell (metamagic does count), but also grants more flexibility when using polymorph spells and increase their save DCs. Entropy witches are forced to destroy objects or kill, with the sole object of fulfilling the oath, which means that kitten will die, as the ability has no caveat to prevent the murder of fluffy animals to fulfill it. The oath nets you a bonus to saves versus death effects, and +1 to the DC of death spells and those that destroy objects. The oath of frost makes you emanate cold, but also makes you vulnerable to fire and heat, but enhances the associated spells and buffs Dex and Con by 2 in cold environments. You get the idea of these. The oaths, per se, are a cool idea, but their benefits and restrictions vary wildly, without a discerning pattern. The oath of grace requires a Dex-check at the end of the day, after a training exercise. Three consecutive failures break the oath. That is just sucky. If the check was at least a skill, sure…but this way? A straight ability check? And yes, mathematically, it’s not likely, but we *all* know that the player taking this oath WILL fail it sooner or later. Rules are also not always clear: The oath of madness nets you an insanity of your choice, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Okay, got it. Curing the insanity violates the oath, but verbiage doesn’t make clear whether a violation consists of curing ALL insanities, or whether curing 1 already qualifies. The nightmare oath can potentially kill you with untyped damage while you sleep – the save to negate the scaling damage if 10 + 1/2 your witch level + your Int-modifier. You get the idea – the oaths are good concept, but benefits are not necessarily exciting enough for the at times very serious violation penalties.
The pdf also includes 7 new hexes: Animate objects is a limited form of object animation that reminded me of Disney’s famous musical Fantasia. Abuse is prevented by the limitations and Strength of the object. Buoyancy makes the witch hard to drown, nets better holding of breath and later, limited swim speed as well as limited water walk. Haruspex does what it says on the tin and improves over the levels. Skull Sentinel nets a macabre alarm that later upgrades to selective and scales regarding radius covered. Spectral deliverance is broken for low levels: The witch can target a creature of which she has a possession of with hexes, regardless of distance. Long range takes longer, and the target has a vision of the witch, but still – that should have a high minimum level, in spite of limited daily uses. Witch cake is cool: Cursed targets are involved in the creation, and once the cake is consumed, the cursing creatures take damage based on the respective spell level. Spell-less curses are taken into account. Since the creation takes 8 hours, you can’t abuse this to at-range kill off cursing targets, at least not effectively. Witch’s Milk boost the familiar and nets an SP from the spells known for the familiar.
The book also provides 7 magical items, with two weaponized brooms, a storage hat, a hat with special eyes that enhances perception and has 1/day abilities based on it, but also prevents from averting eyes, and 3 different, nice cauldrons. If you get the pdf, though, it will be for the last section of it: Lesser familiars. What’s that? Well, know how many folks prefer the magical creatures granted by Improved Familiar, but don’t want to wait and/or don’t have the feat to spare in the build? This section remedies that by providing less potent variants of the most popular familiar choices for evil (or at least, morally challenged) witches, cut down to CR 1/2 . Included are tripurasura, cacodemon, quasit, imp, doru, shadow drake, nuglub gremlins, isitoqs, augur kytons, spirit one, cythnigots, raktavarna, ratling and esipil shakling. This section somewhat remedies the book in my book, and is super helpful.
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level, though not as tight as usual for Legendary Games. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the Reign of Winter plug-ins, and the pdf sports some nice full-color artworks, though fans of LG will be familiar with most of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
The legendary villains series is a bit of a tough cookie for me as a reviewer. I am never 100% sure whether the options are intended for NPCs only, as is the case sometimes, or for evil PCs as well. As far as power-levels are concerned, this book should, for the most part, not break the game and feels very much like a player-supplement. I will thus rate it as such.
Sooo…I was a bit disappointed by this pdf. The archetypes are okay, but don’t do anything new – I’ve seen all of them done, theme-wise, before…and, alas, better. The PrC has a cool angle with the two forms, but never truly embraces its two modes. Having dual abilities based on hag type would have been really cool and emphasized the unique nature of the PrC – it’s a nice chassis, but the PrC doesn’t do much with it. The patron oaths are a great concept, though their execution is less awe-inspiring than I hoped, mainly opting for an escalation of numbers. The hexes are a bit ofa mixed bag, and the items are solid. The lesser familiars are the one chapter within this book that made me smile, but as a whole, Alex Riggs’ take on witches felt like it had great ideas and lost interest at one point; the actual execution, compared to most crunch-books by legendary games, is simply less exciting. It’s not *bad* in any shape, way or form, mind you, but it also falls short of the coolness the concepts herein deserved. Ultimately, this one left me a bit disappointed. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, and I can’t bring myself to round up.
You can get this supplement here on OBS!