So I've been running my group through a published campaign, and the latest encounter called for a set of three witches to ambush the party as they were setting down to rest.
The setting is a swamp that is mostly shallow and deep bog in this area, and travel is via a boat with paddles/poles.
The party stops for the night at a spot that has a little dry land to make camp on (a couple 30 to 50' diameter bits of land with a fallen tree bridging them).
The adventure had the three Witches as three tieflings: a cleric, a wizard, and a druid/barbarian multiclass.
To cleave to their tactics, I'd have to make sure they had the following:
- Healing capability on at least one character.
- Animal detection/control.
- Save-or-suck series of spells, especially mental control (one character had spell focus feats in enchantment).
- One of them had to be melee focused.
To my surprise and delight, the Witch class covered nearly the whole gamut of requirements, lacking only the physically melee focus capability.
However, an Advanced Green Hag (CR 6) fit the theme and the physical stats very well (high AC once buffed, and very high hitpoints and attacking).
The idea behind the witches were that they were cannibals that also used the blood of their victims to make certain potions. Their tactics were to control their victims until they can incapacitate them, and then kill them ritualistically (so little actual killing in the encounter).
The Muscle (Advanced Green Hag)
With the +4 to stats across the board and the Heroism/Rage spells, the Hag's AC and hitpoints were very respectable as a solo melee. Her attack roll and DCs were great.
Stats are otherwise exactly as in the bestiary.
Tactics: She carried with her a held item that allowed normal movement in wind, water, and mud (story item), and so wasn't bothered by most of the environmental shut down effects. This allowed her to get close to nearly anyone and lay on the full strength damage attacks (2d4). The goal is to incapacitate people and drag them onto the boat to take back to their lair/camp.
The Healer (Witch level 6)
Built with standard NPC with a character class stat array, with points put into Int primarily, but then otherwise focused on Str and Con so that she can melee if necessary.
I picked the following Hexes:
- Coven: Of course...
- Slumber: For added backup control if her spells were exhausted.
- Healing: To have that extra bit of healing oomph.
- Ward: To boost the Green Hag's survivability.
With a Lizard familiar, she got dominate animal to control at least one animal companion if the group had any.
Then, a series of enchantment spells: Enthrall (as the encounter opener), hideous laughter, hold person, and multiple commands.
Obscuring Mist (to have up in combination with the Enthrall effect to confuse the party and let them get close without the party preparing).
With the extra feat from being Pathfinder, I picked Arcane Armor Training. With a Mithral Chain Shirt, she was casting spells with no chance of failure, and still had an AC of 16 before buff spells.
Tactics: She would cast Heroism at the start, followed by a Ward on the Hag. She also would drink a potion of Shield Other, with the Hag having the other focus ring. Then she'd put up the Obscuring Mist and Enthrall as they approached the party's island.
If things got bad (too many spells foiled or one of the witches goes down), she'd put up a Rage spell and go into melee.
The Caster (Witch level 6)
This build was intended for pure caster build (utility and non-mental control spells). With no real intention of being in physical combat, she had the stat array built towards high Int, and then Dex and Cha.
- Coven: Again, of course..
- Cauldron: For having access to making potions that were outside of her known magic (taking the +5 DC to ignore spell requirements).
- Flight: To keep away from combat as much as possible.
- Ward: To boost "the Healer" for if she needed to go into combat.
Her spells were mostly utility: clairaudience/clairvoyance, spectral hand + touch of idiocy or chill touch attacks, scare (for any cohorts under 6HD). Web and stinking cloud for those strong against mental attacks, and enlarge person for either the hag or the healer if they needed to kill.
Feats she had (other than Brew Potion), were Craft Wondrous Item, Magical Aptitude and Scribe Scroll. This allowed me to give her Use Magic Device, as well as an item with a +5 bonus to the check (a six-fingered glove, heh). The encounter was originally written with the Slow spell, so I gave her a wand with a couple charges and a UMD high enough to auto-succeed at using it.
Tactics: I picked the Toad familiar, both because of the thematically appropriate location, and because of the massive Stealth bonus it had.
The plan? To have the toad sneak into camp, and the Witch (now familiar with the area due to the empathy ability), casting clairvoyance to look over the party and determine the biggest spellcasting threat (the one who'd likely have dispel magic spells).
Also, the witches now know how many are in the party, and roughly what they are.
Finally, when the target threat is laying down to go to sleep.. the toad touches it and sets off the Deep Slumber. You need a conscious target, however the timing make it subtle, so no one is tipped off and this one target won't wake when combat starts.
In combat, the Caster would play crowd cotnrol (scare and web), with the occasional attack (chill touch with str drain, or touch of idiocy).
If things got bad enough and they needed to escape, she'd pull out stinking cloud.
So the PC I targeted with the Deep Slumber rolled a 4 and failed his save. He had just picked up the Greater Iron Will feat though, and his reroll ended up being a 20. /sigh
The Obscuring Mist + Enthrall really threw the group for a loop. Half of them (one PC and all the NPC cohorts) failed, and so were totally okay with the singing and mist... while the others spent time trying to snap them out of it, so no preperation was really made while the witches approached.
Also, prior to approaching, they had cast a Coven spell (Command Undead in this case), to get the one undead cohort to try and grapple someone ("Please stop them from fighting us, we don't mean harm!").
After docking, the Enthrall was dropped along with the mist to reveal the Hag charging the group. I ran her using full strength damage instead of claw attacks, doing 2d4 damage.
After a few rounds of fear, domination (the animal companion was dominated most of the fight), and strength draining, the Hag had taken a large hit from an inflict serious wounds spell (lucky crit dealing 48 damage).
So all three witches downed a potion of invisibility and backed away from combat for a round before casting another Coven spell.
I gave the party the chance to locate and interupt them, using listen checks to pinpoint, or a survival check to track footprints on the one witch that was leaving them. They failed, so the spell got off...
... which was Transmute Rock to Mud, making the only bit of dry land in the area a 10' deep muck pit. I let the players try and get into boats to get out of the mud and try to fight back better.
The witches spent a round healing, and then shifted into lethal mode, but the players got a couple more lucky hits in (Manyshot changes are pretty dang nice now).
Getting fed up with the situation, the party used a scroll of Fireball on the group. This killed the hag outright, and dropped the healer... so the caster let loose the Stinking Cloud in retaliation, with the intention of getting the healer onto the boat and escaping (to make a later encounter tougher).
The archer of the group got lucky though... he proceeded to do the following:
- Made a successful Perception (listen) check to pinpoint the location of the witch.
- Succeeded the 50% miss chance.
- Hit the AC of the target witch (who had partial cover from being in the boat and mage armor on, so it wasn't shabby.. something like 20 or 22).
- Rolled high enough damage, and with Manyshot's extra arrow, killed her outright as well.
All while standing hip-deep in mud. Basically, the impossible shot.
One of those classic moments that will be remembered... dangit. Heh.
Overall, the encounter ran great. The Hag substitute gave enough muscle, and still kept Coven spells in the mix.
The enchantment and general shut down spells made the encounter feel like a scene from a horror movie. Coven spells gave me the chance to tailor some extra boosted magic into the mix, and the utility magic let me set up some very wild strategies (Toad delivering the Deep Slumber spell, etc).
It was nice that it took very little extra help (shield other potion and wand of slow) to make the class fit the intended encounter. Even then, I could have probably gotten away without those and used a slightly different tactic.
I'm quite impressed with the Witch class' versatility, and enjoyed building and running them for this encounter. I think the next time I make a PC, I'll try out the Witch from the player's perspective.
I'd imagine that having multiple witches in a party would actually work well between the versatility and synergy of their spells and abilities.
I didn't run into any real hitches with the class while running the encounter.
When setting up the encounter though, there were a couple wrinkles that I ran into.
- I decided against using Cackle (although I did have them cackling throughout combat, heh). The only reason I did so though was because I had no idea how it applied to the Ward Hex... it just didn't really make sense.
So instead of making a DM call that might have been off the mark, I avoided the ability.
This could use some clarification.
- How the Evil Eye Hex would interact with the undead cohort threw me off a little. It didn't seem like it should, but I couldn't find anything saying either way.
- The witch that had spent feats on being focused on enchantments felt weird having her Slumber Hex not being boosted by that. So if she cast sleep spells, they were GREAT DCs... but the class ability sleep effect was kind of weak.
I understand strict rules wording and balance/intention, etc. It felt strange is all...
- The lack of detect animals or plants seemed a little odd. I bent the rules a bit and swapped it out instead of charm animal on the Lizard familiar list for this one encounter.
Not a big deal, and it was more about fitting the encounter (and it ultimately wasn't needed due to the use of clairvoyance).
- When thinking about Coven spells... I ended up using two spells that weren't on the Green Hag Coven spell entry. Now, granted, it says the DM can add whatever spells he finds would be fitting.
When thinking about it from a player perspective, this might need to be addressed so that the player knows what limitations she has with her Coven ability.
As a DM, if I had a set of three players wanting to use Coven, I'd probably come up with a list of spells, or play it on a case by case basis (players ask, I say yes or no).
It just seems like putting a bit of a balancing act in the hands of the DM. Can't think of another class that might do this to this extent.
Not a big list of problems, and only the two Hexes were kind of glaring. I think the class otherwise runs very well.