Witch Archetypes


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


The witch is a fascinating class, brimming with roleplaying potential. I've noticed that a lot of people in my gaming community tend to focus on the tradition interpretation of the witch: an old crone who lives alone in the woods, sometimes benevelont, other times malign, but always mysterious. I haven't really seen any others.

I thought it would be fun to start a thread based on different interpretations of the witch. I'll start with one I thought up a week ago.

The Church-going witch: rather than having a mysterious patron whose designs are largely unknown, this witch is an established member of a religious organization, such as Sarenrae. His familiar is actually a celestial being who uses the common animal form as a vessel, allowing it to tutor the witch without drawing too much attention to itself.
This witch is a religions answer to arcane magic.


I briefly played a Varisian witch who mentored under both a sorcerer and a druid, and adopted a self-taught tradition of magic that blended elements of both of them. He borrowed heavily on the theme of a "white witch," and he was heavily concerned with balance in the world, and in acquiring a metaphysical understanding of the nature of places and creatures. He was also a diplomat, and before he began adventuring he worked as a mediator between various Varisian, Shoanti, and goblin tribes to encourage at least cool relations between them.

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A 'good witch' living in a community, doing midwifery and blessing crops and the like, being one part hedge wizard and one part lay priestess of Erastil, could be neat.

Gyronna and Mestama seem like natural fits as Witch patrons, with Asmodeus, Calistria, Desna, Gozreh, Lamashtu, Nethys, Norgorber, Pharasma and Urgathoa also fitting nicely.


There is a cool take on game-specific witchcraft in the Pathfinder novel "Prince of Wolves", surrounding the character Azra; check it out. (good stuff!)

I like the benign practitioner of family-traditional witchcraft who operates in secret, despite a public life as a young and bewitching noble woman with political influence ala Katrina Van Tussel. (see Christina Ricci in Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow".)

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My wife has wanted to play a witch after reading the Last Apprentice series (also known as the Wardstone Chronicles,) by Joseph Delaney.

Specifically she wanted to play a witch assassin that used bone magic and had large scissors as a weapon named Grim Malkin. That was way back before I played Pathfinder, and I was at a loss as to how to make the character work with 3.5 while still preserving the original character.

I have to say the witch class is a huge help, and she loves playing her character in our weekly Pathfinder game.

In the Wardstone Chronicles, and plenty of other stories, the witches can gain power through means other then familiars. Blood magic, bone magic, and pact magic are all great alternatives to a familiar.

Bone magic witches use ritual to turn the bones into a source of power. In some sources the bones become a place for spirits to inhabit, giving the witches power in exchange for the place to dwell. In other sources the power comes from the bones themselves and the witches feed on that power. Evil witches would take the bones of their victims, preferably young and vibrant victims. Good witches would use animal bones, but the animal wouldn't be slain just for the bones and all parts would be used.

Blood magic witches drink blood. To be honest, this would be an evil witch only thing. Blood is a flowing life force, and by drinking the blood the witch is stealing that life force to fuel her power.

Pact magic is pretty close to the familiar witch, but the witch swears herself to a specific powerful being and is loaned the power in that pact. These witches could have a familiar, while the other two that I mentioned would normally not bother with one. A pact magic witch has a close relationship with their patron though, and they know who they owe for their power.


I play my witch as a very young one, who got an animal friend when children started harassing her. And that friend gave her powers to defend herself. Now she's very revengeful but otherwise afraid of weapons (doesn't enter melee). She has no problem manipulating people (charm), because she knows that they would do it too, if they could.

That's my take on the witch, also a bit of a classic. (compare with Kiki from the ghibli movie)

Something I look forward to to play is a witchhunter ... witch. But I need to wait for an archetype of a witch that doesn't have a mysterious friend. A witch has the right features to play a witchhunter, but she lacks the fluff, obviously.

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CalebTGordan wrote:
The problem is, familiars are huge. Not only are they like normal familiars, they are spell-books. A bone magic witch could scribe the bones with her spells, but what about a blood magic witch or a pact magic witch?

Having your familiar die and losing your 'spellbook' is a pretty huge drawback for a witch, so I'd try to make the drawbacks for the other two similar.

A blood witch would brew special blood elixirs of each spell and drink them, adding the knowledge of these spells to her own blood. If she ever suffered a bleed effect, she'd not only lose hit points, but spells prepared as well, until she gets the wounds bound, and if she suffers actual blood drain (such as from a stirge or vampire), she might not just lose prepared spells, but spells 'scribed' in her blood permanently, and have to replace them by brewing up another 'potion' and making another roll to learn the spell. If she dies and is brought back via raise dead, reincarnate or resurrection, the blood witch is forced to relearn all of her spells, in addition to the normal penalties of being resurrected, as her spells are stored in her blood, and even if her body is restored to health, the complex chemical formula she uses to store spell knowledge in her blood is not restored with her flesh. (The momentary death and rebirth of a breath of life spell, or the total resurrection of a true resurrection spell do not result in this loss of all spells known.)

A pact witch would likely have many taboos, perhaps one for each level of spells she can prepare, and if she breaks a taboo, she loses access to the spells of her highest level for 24 hours. If she breaks another taboo before she 'paid her debt,' she loses *knowledge* of all the spells of her highest level, and must spend money on ritual offerings to her pact patron to relearn those spells as if rescribing the individual spells. Taboos should relate to her Patron (cannot attack an animal unless attacked first, cannot eat meat, etc. for an Animal Patron Witch, must keep her body and face hooded from the sun, cannot light a mundane fire, such as a candle, lantern, torch, campire, etc. for a Shadow Patron Witch).


I've put together a halfling witch with the halfling jinx racial trait and Malicious Eye feat, both from Halflings of Golarion. Since people around him tend to have seriously bad luck, he has earned gainful employment as a cooler in a gambling den. When not on duty he spends his time playing cards with his familiar, an unruly monkey with a taste for mead. Be careful, the little bugger cheats.


The following is a draft of what my RPGST 2011 would have looked like:

Ghul Witch

In the most desolate reaches of Golarion, one must not only endure the harsh climate; Frightful spirits of the land may also seek to corrupt one’s soul - some bestowing terrible boons. Victims of these pervasive spirits become ghuls.
A ghuls power comes at a price, as their very flesh succumbs to the spirits’ corruption and unnatural hunger.
Ghul’s are shunned by civilized society because of their taint, thus many live in seclusion or become adept at disguising their true nature while they walk the streets of cities.
Class Skills: Remove Heal, Knowledge (history), Knowledge (planes) from the list of class skills and replace them with Bluff, Disguise, Knowledge (religion) and Survival.
Required Patron: Deception, Elements, or Plague.
Replacement Powers: The following powers replace the witch’s Hex at 1st, 4th and 8th level.
Monstrous Appearance (Ex): A ghul is changed by its patron’s taint. Their appearance becomes obviously deformed or bestial, imposing a -2 penalty on Disguise skill checks and a -4 penalty on Bluff, Diplomacy and Handle Animal skill check against animals and humanoids.
Ghuls are barred from the Charm and Disguise hexes.
Endurance: A ghul gains Endurance as a bonus feat.
Bite (Ex): At 1st level a ghul’s mouth can grow grotesquely toothed as a free action. This is a primary natural weapon and allows the ghul to make an attack dealing 1d6 points of damage plus Strength modifier (1d4 if Small). At 5th level, the bite is considered a magical weapon for purposes of overcoming DR. At 7th level the damage increases to 1d8 points of damage (1d6 if Small). At 11th level the damage increases one step further to 2d6 points of damage (1d8 if Small). You can use this attack a number of rounds per day equal to 3 + your Intelligence modifier.
Unsavory Appetite (Ex): At 4th level a ghul’s appetite is not sated by normal food. They crave strange roots, live vermin, carrion or even the flesh of sentient beings.
This diet sustains the corrupting spirit and thereby the ghul. Your need for food and sleep is reduced as by a ring of sustenance.
Face of Horror (Su): At 8th level the ghul can make its unsettling appearance turn horrific. Whenever the ghul uses its bite attack all opponents within 30 feet must make a Will save DC 10 + ½ the ghul’s level + Intelligence modifier. Those that fail the save are frightened while those that make the save are shaken for a number of rounds equal to the ghul’s level. The Cackle hex can extend the duration of this power. Creatures cannot be targeted by this power again for 1 day.

The flavor is purely middle-eastern, but the archetype is widely applicable; this could easily be used for a Baba-Yaga type witch.

Sovereign Court

The witch I created for PFS is based on an Ancient Egyptian 'priest' archetype (Boris Karloff before the mummification). The hexes fit perfectly with the idea of the curses of the Pharos. My familiar is a fox, but I've re-skinned it to be a young jackal.

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There is nothing to prevent a witch from using a raise dead, resurrection, or even reincarnate on their familiar. This is one way to create a human, orc, or even bugbear familiar.

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Set wrote:
CalebTGordan wrote:
The problem is, familiars are huge. Not only are they like normal familiars, they are spell-books. A bone magic witch could scribe the bones with her spells, but what about a blood magic witch or a pact magic witch?

Having your familiar die and losing your 'spellbook' is a pretty huge drawback for a witch, so I'd try to make the drawbacks for the other two similar.

Wow, I didn't think anyone caught that comment before I edited what I said. I sort of thought the topic was the game archetypes, not literary archetypes, when I first commented. I edited my comments to reflect the main topic more closely.

Awesome ideas though. I love the "bleed and loose spells" idea.

Liberty's Edge

Succubus. Start with tiefling and just pick the right hexes. The witch fits the role far better than any other class.

Liberty's Edge

Succubus. Start with tiefling and just pick the right hexes. The witch fits the role far better than any other class.

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BobChuck wrote:
Succubus. Start with tiefling and just pick the right hexes. The witch fits the role far better than any other class.

Pfft we are better than any witch, though some take witch levels but more take levels in... well something that sounds like witch. :)


Dark_Mistress wrote:
BobChuck wrote:
Succubus. Start with tiefling and just pick the right hexes. The witch fits the role far better than any other class.
Pfft we are better than any witch, though some take witch levels but more take levels in... well something that sounds like witch. :)

~laughter~

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CalebTGordan wrote:

Wow, I didn't think anyone caught that comment before I edited what I said. I sort of thought the topic was the game archetypes, not literary archetypes, when I first commented. I edited my comments to reflect the main topic more closely.

Awesome ideas though. I love the "bleed and loose spells" idea.

Thanks, I liked the idea, and tried to think up restrictions that would be more or less equivalent to the drawback of losing your familiar and all of the spells it contained.


Nebelwerfer41 wrote:
The witch I created for PFS is based on an Ancient Egyptian 'priest' archetype (Boris Karloff before the mummification). The hexes fit perfectly with the idea of the curses of the Pharos. My familiar is a fox, but I've re-skinned it to be a young jackal.

That's a pretty cool take on the class! And if you chose Plague, you could eventually make mummies out of your enemies.

It kind of reminds me of King Ramses as portrayed in Courage the Cowardly Dog.


Cajun voodoo priest witch... All black magic and creepiness. Lots of bloody rituals. Hexes are executed through voodoo magic (e.g. attack penalty bonuses can be from pins sticking in voodoo doll joints)

The word "voodoo" itself means "mysterious spirit" so the voodoo priest witch's patron is a "voodoo". Their familiar is a conduit to the voodoo spirit.

I am playing a "voodoo" witch in an upcoming Pathfinder session, and I intend to play it to the hilt.


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In my homebrewed setting, arcane magic is the lifeblood of the world, functioning in many ways as the Life Stream from FFVII. While wizards use complex mathemagical formulae to manipulate the flow of the Arcane River to generate magical effects (and sorcerers do something similar, but are just naturals at it), the witch is more in tune with the natural flow of the Arcane River. This is why they have a familiar that's also their spellbook - they are imbuing the magic directly into the natural world, creating pools and eddies of arcane magic in the form of an animal that allows them to manipulate the energy without forcing it to do their bidding.

While high elves are often wizards, wood elves are much more likely to be witches. They both still love arcane magic, but one lives more in tune with nature, and therefore uses it more readily as such. It's the druid to the wizard's cleric, in some ways.


brassbaboon wrote:

Cajun voodoo priest witch... All black magic and creepiness. Lots of bloody rituals. Hexes are executed through voodoo magic (e.g. attack penalty bonuses can be from pins sticking in voodoo doll joints)

The word "voodoo" itself means "mysterious spirit" so the voodoo priest witch's patron is a "voodoo". Their familiar is a conduit to the voodoo spirit.

I am playing a "voodoo" witch in an upcoming Pathfinder session, and I intend to play it to the hilt.

I did something similar in the Legacy of Fire AP; Mchawi the Binder was a Voodoo priest from the Mwangi Expanse. The base class was cleric, but I spiced it up with some 3.5 spells. Mchawi gleefully cursed his opponents, animated the dead, and made all sorts of sacrifices to the Loa spirits, of which he included Sarenrae.

I made frequent use of the preserve oragn orison from the Book of Vile darkness; Mchawi had a fondess for collecting eyes, not to mention Sarenrae would have been displeased with him if he offered her a rotting heart!

Believe it or not, he wasn't evil aligned. The DM had a ball roleplaying distraught clerics of Sarenrae.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Set wrote:

A 'good witch' living in a community, doing midwifery and blessing crops and the like, being one part hedge wizard and one part lay priestess of Erastil, could be neat.

Gyronna and Mestama seem like natural fits as Witch patrons, with Asmodeus, Calistria, Desna, Gozreh, Lamashtu, Nethys, Norgorber, Pharasma and Urgathoa also fitting nicely.

You can do this very well within the standard witch package.

There actually isn't much of a need for Archetypes with this class... Your patron, spell selection, and selection of hexes can very much give the effect of multiple archetypes right out of the box.

For example a witch who emphasies curing spells, cauldron hex, and healing hexes is the base for your midwife/healer while still leaving some room for customisation.

On the other hand you can have a very urbanite suave well dressed nobleman who uses charm spells, the coven hex to build up a power base and you have a successfuly manipulative figure modeled much on the Order of the Golden Dawn who might call himself a Magi (old classic meaning of the word.)

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LazarX wrote:

For example a witch who emphasies curing spells, cauldron hex, and healing hexes is the base for your midwife/healer while still leaving some room for customisation.

On the other hand you can have a very urbanite suave well dressed nobleman who uses charm spells, the coven hex to build up a power base and you have a successfuly manipulative figure modeled much on the Order of the Golden Dawn who might call himself a Magi (old classic meaning of the word.)

For those two concepts, a Wisdom or Charisma based Witch (respectively), would rock. Intelligence, to me, feels like it was chosen purely so that the game could have two Int-based casters (since it already had two Wis based full casters in the cleric and druid, and two Cha based full casters with the sorcerer and oracle).

Even the option of using a Feat to swap over to Wis or Cha based casting seems like a 'concept tax' to play something that actually feels like a Witch, and not a Wizard-with-Hexes.

And then there's the 'good old days,' when a 'Witch' had magic item like Mountain Seeds and the Hornet Cape, and cast spells like Ring of Lava. :)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Set wrote:
LazarX wrote:

For example a witch who emphasies curing spells, cauldron hex, and healing hexes is the base for your midwife/healer while still leaving some room for customisation.

On the other hand you can have a very urbanite suave well dressed nobleman who uses charm spells, the coven hex to build up a power base and you have a successfuly manipulative figure modeled much on the Order of the Golden Dawn who might call himself a Magi (old classic meaning of the word.)

For those two concepts, a Wisdom or Charisma based Witch (respectively), would rock. Intelligence, to me, feels like it was chosen purely so that the game could have two Int-based casters (since it already had two Wis based full casters in the cleric and druid, and two Cha based full casters with the sorcerer and oracle).

Even the option of using a Feat to swap over to Wis or Cha based casting seems like a 'concept tax' to play something that actually feels like a Witch, and not a Wizard-with-Hexes.

And then there's the 'good old days,' when a 'Witch' had magic item like Mountain Seeds and the Hornet Cape, and cast spells like Ring of Lava. :)

I disagree in that both of these characters "rock" just as well as Intelligence based characters. Witches are not clerics, druids, they are learned casters as opposed to inspired ones. so Intelligence is the appropriate stat for these personality types. Witches also tend to be schemers who think things through so Intelligence is very much the appropriate core stat.


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jakebacon wrote:
I've put together a halfling witch with the halfling jinx racial trait and Malicious Eye feat, both from Halflings of Golarion. Since people around him tend to have seriously bad luck, he has earned gainful employment as a cooler in a gambling den. When not on duty he spends his time playing cards with his familiar, an unruly monkey with a taste for mead. Be careful, the little bugger cheats.

I just picked up Halflings of Galorian. Those jinx features fit well with the witch. Kudos to you for blending the two. I may have to try that whenever I get around to playing a witch.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Set wrote:

A 'good witch' living in a community, doing midwifery and blessing crops and the like, being one part hedge wizard and one part lay priestess of Erastil, could be neat.

Gyronna and Mestama seem like natural fits as Witch patrons, with Asmodeus, Calistria, Desna, Gozreh, Lamashtu, Nethys, Norgorber, Pharasma and Urgathoa also fitting nicely.

Sivanah would also work


I enjoy Terry Pratchett's description of the various witches in the Discworld, as he does his best to cheerfully subvert expectations of fantasy tropes. It's not always sophisticated, but Discworld does explore various incarnations of the Witch as Crones, Matron/Midwives, "Maidens", Fairy Godmothers, Gypsies and Fortuner Tellers, Wise Women, New Agers and others.


I play my witch as a well-dressed elf wanderer, actively seeking to fight the stereotypes that all witches are crinkle-nosed, pointy-hatted crones. His cauldron is an old soup pot that he carries around with him, and he could easily be mistaken for a commoner, save for the bad things that tend to happen to people he's unhappy with.

The Deception and Trickery patrons are very fun for playing secret witches. One of my friends played a witch-hunting witch that would use his spells to make it appear like fellow witches were burning, while secretly shepherding them away to safety.


I feel like a Gravewalker came here....

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