Paragon Hags and Occult Covens
This supplement clocks in at a hefty 28 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Okay, let us do this from the ground up: The pdf starts off with a summary of coven-benefits: If at least two coven members participate in the same occult ritual, they get +2 to all skill checks, saves and concentration checks for the ritual; when casting spells on another coven member, CL is two higher, but multi-target spells only gain target number increases by CL if all targets are members of the coven – great catch! The pdf sports a variety of coven related feats: Coven training is the “tax”-feat that enables you to form/join covens. Bones of the Coven nets you temporary hit points equal to the spell-level of harmless spells cast by coven-mates that target you. Claws of the Coven nets you +1d6 bonus melee damage (non-multiplied on crits) when a coven-mate has damaged the target in the same round. Personally, I think this should specify the type as precision or as being the weapon’s damage type, but that’s me nitpicking. Coven Casting lets you sacrifice a spell as a standard action, granting a coven mate a bonus to concentration and to penetrate SR equal to the spell’s level. If they cast the spell you sacrificed, they add your CL to their own for determining its effects – which can be MEGA-STRONG, considering that some (arguably sloppy) spells lack a cap, but that’s not necessarily the feat’s fault. Still, not happy with that, particularly considering that this has no range and RAW doesn’t require line of sight or effect to pull off. Coven’s Curse builds on that and adds the bonus to Curse DCs as well, which can be brutal – but since it is niche and fits the theme, I’m, good with it. Coven Rites nets your Charisma bonus as a morale bonus to occult ritual skill checks if all members are part of your coven. Coven’s Focus lets you apply touch range spells to any member of the coven currently touching their bonded object, familiar or soul focus item. Sight of the Coven lets you concentrate to see through bonded objects, familiars, etc. Wisdom of the Coven improves aid another for Knowledge checks made to assist the coven. Word of the Coven is a teamwork feat lets the coven members bluff better, requiring two rolls of Sense Motive (worse result) to discern deceptions, and the feat allows for the potential fooling of magic as well. Nice!
All in all, these are flavorful and don’t sport serious issues, so that out of the way, let’s take a look at the hag race presented herein: The hag is a Medium monstrous humanoid with darkvision 60 ft. and gain +2 to Strength and Charisma, as well as a +2 racial bonus to Perception and Sense Motive. They also start play with the Coven Training feat, qualifying as eligible participants, and they are functionally immortal – they never die of old age. No favored class options are included.
The pdf also contains the paragon hag base class, which sports d8 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, good Fort- and Will-saves, 3/4 BAB-progression, proficiency with simple weapons, and armor interferes with their casting ability. They have a 6-level spellcasting progression, and cast spontaneously, drawing their spells from the witch list and using Charisma as governing spellcasting ability. As such, they also gain cantrips and begin play furthermore with a claw attack that starts at 1d6 and increases to 2d10 over the course of the class progression, with 2nd level making the claws magical, 6th silver. At 10th level, they get a threat-range upgrade to 19-20, at 18th level to 18-20. These explicitly stack with keen, which I am, no surprise, not keen on. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I’ll put a dime in the bad pun jar. Starting at 14th level, the claws are treated as ghost touch. The paragon hag class is open to all races, but for the purpose of abilities etc., the members of the class are treated as hags. Minor nitpick: It’d have been prudent to state how this works when being treated as the actual race would be detrimental and being treated as a hag as positive by the same effect.
The paragon hag sports a so-called occult coven – up to her Charisma modifier targets may be part of the coven in addition to any additional targets qualifying via e.g. Coven training. Problem: The ability fails to specify whether it’s an action to make a member join – the paragon hag can freely dismiss coven members, but introducing them is not covered. When a paragon hag’s coven member fails a skill check as part on an occult ritual, the paragon hag may spend a soul point to allow the creature to reroll the check; the target must use the reroll’s result. Once more, there is no action on part of the paragon hag noted.
What’s a soul point? Well, at 1st level, the class gains a soul object. This acts as a kind of bonded object, and it holds a number of soul points equal to the paragon hag’s Charisma modifier. These replenish when preparing spells, or depending on the hag family chosen. 1/day, the paragon hag may spend spell level soul points to cast a spell via soul points instead of expending the spellslot. This may be used an additional time at 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter. At 7th level, a soul point may be used to use bestow curse as a SP, with 17th level upgrading that to greater bestow curse. At 13th level, the paragon hag may use soul points of other paragon hags, provided they are part of her occult coven and willing. Non-paragon hag arcane casters can sacrifice a spell 1/day, granting a paragon hag in the coven that spell’s spell level as soul points. Excess points are lost.
At 5th level, the paragon hag gains a +2 competence bonus to all skill checks made as part of an occult ritual, increasing that by a further +2 every 5 levels thereafter. Additionally, they may choose to halve the casting time of a ritual, and if the paragon hag succeeds on every check, the ritual’s CL increases by 2. This does not increase, but the CL-increase does stack with other paragon hag’s abilities – thus, three paragon hags could theoretically boost the CL by +6. I am not that happy with these unlimited, stacking increases. At 19th level, skill checks and saving throws related to rituals may be rolled twice, taking the better result.
The paragon hag class is most defined by the hag family to which they belong – these can be likened best to bloodlines. 10 such families are provided. Structurally, the families provide a list of family spells – these are added to the spells known. Furthermore, at 5th level, the paragon hag gains an occult ritual determined by the family – ritual spells. The paragon hag needs to be the primary caster, and the rituals require at least 2 secondary casters that must be part of the coven. These rituals have a fixed amount of required checks, a 1d4 Charisma damage backlash, etc.. The list of these ritual spells (a new one is unlocked every two levels) is in so far interesting, as many spells and slight tweaks of spells that you wouldn’t expect, situated in the upper power echelons, may be found here. The feat Expanded Ritual Spells lets you designate additional spells to be cast as rituals.
1st, 4th and every 4 levels thereafter, also grant a family power – these are a linear power-progression, and the family chosen also determines the capstone ability of the class. The abilities themselves are often what you’d expect in their themes, but managed to positively surprise me in quite a few instances with nice twists. If you choose, for example, the winter hag family, you get, no surprise there, cold and fire resistance, courtesy of a sheet of rime. However, when you take fire damage in excess of this resistance, the rime melts and takes an hour to reform. It’s a small touch, but it’s tidbits like this that make the families stand out a bit more. The abilities also sometimes interact with the soul point engine – say, for example, we stick to the winter hag family – the 16th level ability lets you spend a soul point when casting a spell with the cold descriptor. If you do, the target is blinded for Charisma modifier (minimum 1) rounds. Storm hags can, with their 4th level ability, sue soul points for ranged trips or disarms, using class level and Charisma modifier instead of CMB. The sea hag family builds on the evil eye hex and can enhance that at higher levels – you get the idea. Armor while you have at least a soul point left, the option to fire beams of moon light – there are some cool ideas here. However, e.g. the aforementioned beam does not specify its damage type properly. Hearth hag family members can get Anchored Spell (a new metamagic feat at +3 spell levels that lets you anchor a spell to a location, making it last indefinitely; you can maintain Constitution modifier of these, and they manifest as a rune that may be disabled), or, if you have it, add Charisma modifier to the number of anchored spells you may maintain.
The pdf presents 4 brief archetypes: Cauldron hags are basically hag alchemists, including extract list, a mutagen that makes them look innocent and harder to hurt. Coven mothers have more soul points, but need to be adjacent to coven members to use them. Family abilities are replaced with coven or teamwork feats, and the capstone also represents the coven buffer-angle. Focused hags can’t use soul points to cast spells, and instead use them to duplicate base focus powers their object needs to be of the appropriate form. Their spellcasting also allows for occultist poaching. The Mother of Steel takes a weapon as a focus item, gaining proficiency and improvements for the item instead of the claw improvements.
The pdf also features some additional feats: Grandmother’s Teeth nets you a bite attack; Grandmother’s Nose nets you scent; Hag’s Familiar replaces the soul focus object with a familiar. Hag’s Hex lets you choose from a limited list of witch hexes. Improved Soul Focus nets you +2 soul points and increases the maximum you can hold by 2. Sympathetic Spell does what it says on the tin. The pdf also provides 6 occult rituals. Crone’s walk makes a venerable target a hag; Dream child and embrace changeling are rituals designed to make targets adopt changelings and transform them into proper hags. Exact price is my favorite – the ritual is designed to represent hags demanding a non-monetary price for services rendered and features effects for selling your shadow, your memory, etc.; Hide life lets the hag cheat death by hiding in the familiar or similar being. Seeing ooze costs an eye, and generates a hag’s eye ooze. Grisly! Spell-wise. We have hag’s ride, an improved nightmare, hag’s touch (and its greater) iteration, a curse that ages targets (particularly neat when used in conjunction with the aging rules from Everybody Games’ Childhood Adventures).
The pdf closes with 3 new hags: Bone hags (CR 3) have a negative energy focus and may channel negative energy; hearth hags (CR 5) may dispel magic with their broom attacks, and while LE, they actually think they save kids from neglect etc., making for an interesting angle if they, well, are right. They are evil monsters, but not monstrous. Like it! Finally, moon hags, at CR 8, get untyped damage lunar blasts that can cause lycanthropes to transform, polymorph under moonlight – and, in a really cool twist, they are immune to silver. That just BEGS to be inserted as a twist into a lycanthrope adventure.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – the pdf is precise and well-crafted. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with red headers, and artwork employed is thematically-fitting stock and public domain art. Annoying and puzzling: The pdf lacks any sort of bookmarks, making it a pain to navigate.
Landon Winkler’s take on paragon hags and occult covens was a pleasant surprise for me: While there are a few combos herein that can use a limitation/cap, said caps would most of the time be required due to other design components not found in this book not necessarily doing a good job. The exploding CLs that covens can generate are very brutal and need to be handled carefully by the GM. While they won’t cause issues in a low fantasy/dark fantasy game, a high fantasy nation of hags would be the equivalent of an arcane atomic bomb. The material herein is solid as a whole and often manages to touch upon novel and fun ideas in a topic that has been covered in many a publication for both RPGs and beyond. More importantly, the material often shows in these little flourishes that the author really cares about the pdf – it’s small touches that make the material feel fresh and interesting. Granted, not everything is perfect, but considering the super low price point and the good bang-for-buck ratio, I feel I can recommend this pdf. The lack of bookmarks is really jarring, though.
Ultimately, I certainly feel like I got my money’s worth. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.
You can get this inexpensive supplement for just $2.99 here on OBS!
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