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A Necromancer's Grimoire: Secrets of the Witch (PFRPG) PDF

***½( ) (based on 3 ratings)

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Double, Double, Toil and Trouble!

A Necromancer’s Grimoire: Secrets of the Witch provides a wide variety of new content for anyone who likes witches, including new hexes, alternate familiar special abilities, and a number of new and interesting feats. Further, it provides a new 20-level base class for characters interested in playing as a green hag, which grants them all the powers of a normal green hag over the first eleven levels, and then grants new green hag-themed abilities for the remainder of the class.

The book isn’t just for witches, however, and its main focus is something any arcane spellcaster can appreciate: a wide array of feats and spells designed to allow spellcasters to form covens—groups of spellcasters who work together to collaboratively cast spells. Though casting as a coven requires some effort, it allows casters to master far more powerful spells than they would be able to on their own.

From the makers of Advanced Arcana Volume I and The Ebon Vault: Orbs of Power, A Necromancer’s Grimoire: Secrets of the Witch provides you with rules for playing a green hag character, everything you could want to customize and flesh out your witch, rules for casting spells as a coven, and 30 new spells designed to be cast collaboratively, and makes a fine addition to any mage’s library.

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Product Reviews (3)

Average product rating:

***½( ) (based on 3 ratings)

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Which witch? This one!

*****

The most flavorful class to come out of the Advanced Player’s Guide is, in my opinion, the witch. With hex powers and a familiar that’s more than window dressing, along with the rather spooky theme about their patron granting them power, the witch just oozes flavor. And yet, for all the APG offers in this regard, there are other aspects of the classical witch that are largely ignored. Very little is given, for example, to the idea of the witch coven, or how hags interact with that; what is given is brief and somewhat unsatisfying.

Who better to “raise” these issues than the Necromancers of the Northwest, in their witch-themed sourcebook A Necromancer’s Grimoire: Secrets of the Witch.

Secrets of the Witch aims squarely to round out the themes of the witch class that were overlooked in the APG, and in that regard it succeeds magnificently, focusing its attention on five key areas: hags as a PC class/race, coven abilities (as feats), new hexes, new abilities for familiars, and new spells designed to take advantage of covens.

Unfortunately, I can’t be quite so complimentary on the technical side of things. Now, the book does do most things right; it has a screen version and printer-friendly version, both of which contain full nested bookmarks. The screen version is also nicely illustrated, with the pages being set on a parchment-colored background, and every so often a full-color image (usually of a macabre nature) will appear. The problem comes with the copy-and-paste. While large sections of the book copy and paste just fine, there are some areas – areas where the text has a slight but noticeable blur – where the copy and paste won’t work cleanly, with some words being replaced with odd symbols and characters. It’s a persistent problem in Necromancers of the Northwest products, though it does seem somewhat diminished here.

Having said that, let’s examine the book’s content in further detail.

The first section of the book gives us the green hag racial class. For those not familiar with the concept, this is where a race is broken down into a series of class levels, basically combining class and race and spreading the latter’s powers out among the former. What’s different here (though if you’re a fan of the NotNW website, you’ll have seen this treatment for other races) is that while you can usually become a “full” – that is, Bestiary equivalent member of the normal race – green hag at 11th level, this class is extended all the way to 20th level, with new powers enhancing those commonly associated with these monsters.

And there’s little doubt that green hags are monsters. The book helpfully provides a large fluff section on green hags in the game world and green hag PCs, and the tone holds that green hags are monsters and everyone knows it. This is true, but I was surprised that they didn’t devote more time to those rare hags that weren’t stereotypical villains, since PC green hags will likely not be evil. As it is, the green hags as PCs section talks more about the mechanical balance of this class, which is helpful too.

The feats section of the book follows, and this is where covens are spotlighted. Characters that take the basic Coven Initiate feat – open to all arcane spellcasters (with a sidebar noting that certain creatures and classes may naturally have access to this feat) – are able to, when together, able to cast a select number of spells simply by virtue of being a coven. A generous helping of feats expand on this in a variety of ways. Beyond that, several other feats don’t require coven abilities, but instead focus on witch-like powers (my favorite here was witch-specific feat called Blessing of the Three, whose bonus changes depending on your age category in the vein of the Maiden/Mother/Crone trinity).

The hexes section is fairly slim (four new standard hexes, three new major hexes, and two new grand hexes) but again, the flavor of what’s here makes up for that. A hex to fly so long as the witch is riding a broom or similar object, for example. I won’t give any more away, but beware angering the witch with the Form of the Three hex!

Alternate familiar abilities are one of those ideas that seems so obvious it’s amazing no one’s thought of it before. These are like alternate class abilities in that you have a series of powers that replace one of the normal abilities you gain for your familiar as you level up. Instead of speaking with animals of its kind, for example, you familiar can learn how to vocalize a particular language. It’s simplicity itself, and is one of the most elegant ways to diversify familiars, since it requires neither precious feat slots nor temporary spells.

Lastly are the thirty new spells mentioned in the book’s product page. Given on the witch spell list (though many can be cast by other classes), almost all of these spells can be used by a single spellcaster…but that’s not where their real value lies. These spells also have the new ritual descriptor, which means that when cast with the aid of a coven, they have an enhanced effect depending on how many others are lending their power to the spell. For example, the Dread Calling spell calls an outsider (with no restrictions on it) of up to ½ the caster’s spellcaster level. However, if your coven ritual-casts this spell with you, that limit is lifted to ½ the total caster level of all those joining you in the casting.

Some of the best sourcebooks I’ve ever seen are those that serve a specific niche, but make sure to keep a wider applicability in doing so; Secrets of the Witch is one of those sourcebooks. Its material is tightly focused on the witch class, both in theme and mechanics, but almost all of the book can be used for other characters. Your green hag PC doesn’t have to be a witch, for example, and the alternate familiar abilities can be used by any character with a familiar. This book makes your witch more quintessential, or your other arcane spellcaster a little more witchy in presentation. Pick this book up and show the rest of your group just which witch is which.


Worth checking out for fans of witches.

***( )( )

A Necromancer's Grimoire: Secrets of the Witch by Necromancers of the Northwest

This product is 41 pages long. It starts with a cover and credits. (2 pages)

Introduction (3 pages)
It starts with a IC introduction followed by a forward by the author talking about the book.

Green Hag (9 pages)
A new racial class. D10, 4 skills, a new weird +18 max BaB, 2 good saves, high natural armor that goes up as they level, they get simple weapons but no armor. It has a bunch of abilities, stat bonuses, etc. Honestly it is just a to powerful class, that ignores the BaB of normal classes. So I will chalk this one up to nice idea, but needs work.

Feats (6 pages)
There is 19 new witch feats in this book. There is several feats that only help if your witch has a coven. A few of the ones that caught my eye.
Blessing of the Three – gives a different caster bonuses based on maiden, mother, crone.
Familiar Faces – You can change to look like your familiar.
Witches Companion – you add a second slightly weaker familiar.

Hexes (2 ½ pages)
There is 4 new hexes, 3 new major hexes, and 2 new grand hexes.
Expand Spellcraft – gain two new spells of level 3 or lower.
Foretell – works somewhat like contact other plane.
Incite – makes the target drop 2 levels on attitude chart against who ever the witch likes in range.
Strike Ill – long casting hex that makes the target become sick with a disease.
Broomstick – works like overland flight
Poison Object – can make any object they touch poisonous.
Zombie Servant – makes a smart zombie servant that obeys the witch
Curse of Forms – polymorphs the target into another forum. If they fail a second save they lose all special abilities and become charmed by the witch. The witch can then use them as a second familiar.
Form of Three – summons the other versions of the witch, maiden, mother and crone. The two the witch is not and allows the witch to act as if she has a coven.

Familiar Abilities (1 ½ pages)
This has 12 new alternate abilities a familiar can learn as the witch goes up level in place of their normal ones.

Spells (14 pages)
There is a section on casting spells as rituals and 29 new spells. Most of the new ritual spells take 10 mins to 1 hour to cast a few take less and a few take more even up to days. A few of the ones that caught my eye.
Curse of Toil – target becomes fatigued or worse.
Curse of Friendship – target is friendly and generous to all they meet.
Night Terror – nightmares keep a target from getting a good nights rest.
Cauldron Calling – Summons a outer planes creature.
Cauldron Birth – Restores a corpse to life in a new young body.
Curse of Puppets – targets obeys all commands of the witch even suicidal ones.
Black Blight – causes all life in a area to wither and die.

It ends with a OGL, ad, and back cover. (3 pages)

Closing thoughts. The art work is color and is mostly pretty good. Editing and layout was so so, there was a couple of errors and a couple of pages that where slanted looking like it was a scanned page look. I like witches I will just say that right off, I like new things for them. The hag sadly I think needs a lot of work. The rest of it though is pretty good. Most of the hexes, spells, feats and familiar abilities where pretty good. So what's my rating? Well with the editing and layout errors, along with the hag. I am going to give this a 3 star review. If you are just interested in the hexes, spells, feats, and familiar stuff then I would rate it a 3.5.

Trust me, I'm a Succubus.


Cool coven, bad hag-class

***( )( )

This pdf is 40 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 36 pages of content, so let’s check it out!

After an IC-introduction to the topic at hand along a nice little foreword, we’ll delve into the “witchy” themes of this pdf, starting, surprisingly, not with additional material for the APG-witch, but rather a new 20-level racial base class for the Green Hag. The class has 4+Int skills, 9/10 BAB as well as HD-progression, a ¾ natural AC progression and good Ref- and Will-saves as well as a selection of spell-like abilities, coven-feats (on which I’ll elaborate later), at 12th level an animal companion-sized familiar and e.g. the ability to reproduce voices. With regards to additional information, we also get sections on her role in the world, age & height tables and even a lore section and some advice for players and DMs alike. All right, I’ll come out and say it: I’m not impressed by the mechanical execution of this class. At all.
Several of the abilities of this class feature spell-like abilities that can be used at will, among others invisibility, at 8th level. Not gonna happen in my game. EVER.
While I have a personal dislike for player classes with any kind of unlimited magical prowess, I especially abhor the tendency to soften rules that are supposed to give monsters an edge against the PCs and give the latter access to the former’s toolkit. Hags also work with Str-damage. The potential added work for the DM (which is btw. In my opinion rather meager) is explained away in the discussion by stating that monsters and NPCs “tend not to survive the end of their first fight”. Well…that depends. I don’t think that a bit Str-damage calculation with regards to stats is hard, but that’s just a piece of advice that doesn’t really help.

What weighs heavier against the class, though, is that in contrast to all but the Jotunnar-race-classes by RiP, the Green Hag cannot freely multiclass until she has reached 11th level. While I can see the reasoning behind this, I nevertheless think it limits the appeal of the class. Another gripe I have with the hag is, that in contrast to e.g. NNW’s take on the werewolf and several other great base-classes by 3pps, the Green Hag does not feature much choices: The modularity and plethora of choices many recent additions to the class-roster feature is unfortunately quite absent from the Green Hag’s class, limiting an already limited appeal even further. While some of the Hag’s abilities are very cool and I especially love the Hag Familiar, I’m not convinced anyone really needs this class.
Next up are 20 new feats for the Hag and witch, several of which expand upon the concept of coven magic and cooperative spellcasting and shared power. You’ll also find feats to give witches an additional familiar at 10th level and some that enhance potions. I liked all of the feats, although I’m once again missing modularity – while the concept of coven casting is cool and while there are some feats to enhance it and expand the spell-list, I would have loved to see more feats to expand the concept. I also liked the Black Sabbath-feat (Surprise), in which the members of a coven can meet as incorporeal beings and act in concert once a month. Cool idea that can spark of great tactics and adventures.

The section on Hexes offers 4 new hexes, 3 new major hexes and 2 new grand hexes. From iconic broomstick-riding to inciting hatred among allies, they offer some nice roleplaying abilities. Form of Three, for example, summons and two different age-category-versions of the caster to use in e.g. coven casting. Familiars can choose from 12 alternate familiar traits that work pretty much like alternate racial trait and e.g. let you exchange your familiar’s spell resistance for DR, lets it speak with all kinds of humanoids etc. pp..

The final section of this pdf is taken up by 30 new spells, some of which have the [ritual]-descriptor, making them more powerful when cast by a coven. What struck me as kind of wasted potential was the lack of implementation of segmented spells from Advanced Arcana Vol I here – the excellent book and its cool innovation sorely need expansion and covens casting complex spells (perhaps faster?) would have made for a supreme addition to this chapter, but I digress – on to the spells per se. All in all, I was positively surprised by the spells – while I felt a significant lack of segmented spells, the spells per se are ingenious, cool and most importantly either feature iconic imagery or benefits beyond immediate combat: In fact, due to long casting times, benefits etc., long-term planning and intelligent strategies on part of the PCs and their antagonists are encouraged by the new spells. From the curses (which have to contend with RiP’s excellent curses and thus don’t come out on top in every instance) to spells that make one day in a certain area become night to a deadly spell that halts the flow of time for the caster for 24 hours and thus leaves spells intact to a spell that uses the moon’s power to hurt someone below its shine (and in range, of course) to a rather disturbing reincarnation from a cauldron (Baba Yaga, anyone?), I liked most of the spells and don’t have mechanic gripes with any of them – well done.

Conclusion:
Editing is very good, I only noticed a typo in one of the bookmarks. It should be noted that Secrets of the Witch comes in both a screen and a printer-friendly version, the former having a used-parchment look. Both are full-color and feature some CGI-artworks, which, while rather nice, are not exactly up my alley, but I won’t hold that against this pdf. The screen-version is extensively bookmarked, the printer-friendly version unfortunately isn’t. I’m not sure whether it’s a fault of the layout or the formatting, but several pieces of the text of the pdf, due to some quirk, feel half-blurred/lower resolution than the rest of the text, being a bit hard on the eyes when you’re tired. Something seems to have gone haywire there. Mechanically, I have already elaborated on my take on the Green Hag and why I consider the class rather bland/problematic.

I’d like to mention some additional points: Why don’t hags get some hexes? Seriously, the racial class practically screams: Give me HEXES and the poor hags don’t even get spellcasting (but those damn unlimited spell-like abilities PCs never should have), so why not grant them access to hexes? The ones from UM, after all, would make for fine ones for Green Hags… The new familiar traits are cool, though none really blew me away and we don’t get a lot of hexes, which I would have loved to see more of – after all, they are a defining feature of the Witch-class.

Mechanically, I liked most feats, hexes and spells, especially due to enhancing the aspect of the game that goes beyond kicking the door in and offering some great fodder for adventure plots. Coven Casting is a cool concept that is touched upon, but quite frankly, we don’t get enough spells and feats centered on the idea – it’s central, yeah, and duly so, being the one defining and awesome central concept and ALL the spells have information for coven casting, but this being a new concept, I think more would have been nice, both in cool feats like Black Sabbath and possibly even hexes – coven hexes would have been appreciated by yours truly.

Part II in the product discussion.





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