Skinchanger (Witch)

Round 2: Design an archetype

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 aka Wolfwaker

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Skinchanger (Witch)
In remote wild regions such as the Narlmarches, it is whispered that there are witches able to inhabit both the minds and bodies of beasts. At home among the birds and beasts, they shun the companionship of their own kind. These are skinchangers, witches with a close link to the animal world. Some befriend animals while others wrest them to their will. Some are even said to adapt so well to life as an animal that they forget their original form.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The skinchanger may wear the skin of an animal she has slain as a hide shirt. She is proficient with this armor and it does not interfere with her spellcasting.
Diminished Spellcasting: Skinchangers cast one fewer spell of each level than normal. If this reduces the number to 0, she may cast spells of that level only if her intelligence allows bonus spells of that level.
Patron: A skinchanger replaces some of her patron spells with the following:
2nd—charm animals, 4th—speak with animals, 6th—dominate animal
Hexes: A skinchanger can select the following additional hex:
Beastly Gaze (Su): The witch may use hexes while in animal form.
A skinchanger may choose Beast Eye as a normal hex rather than a major hex beginning at 4th level.
The following hexes complement the skinchanger archetype: beast of ill-omen, feral speech.
Skintaker (Su): The skinchanger may preserve the skin of a slain medium or small animal. By performing a ritual, she bonds a portion of the animal’s life essence to the skin. This ritual lasts for one hour and must occur within 24 hours of the animal’s death. Thereafter, when she wears the skin, she may transform into that creature. She may use this ability once per day for each taken skin, for up to one hour. This ability otherwise works like a 4th level druid's wild shape. This ability replaces the witch’s 4th-level hex.
Major Hex: The skinchanger may choose the following additional hex:
Control Animal (Sp): The witch may inhabit an animal's body with her mind and take complete control of its actions. This takes a standard action to initiate. A will save negates this effect. While she is doing this, her own body remains in a trance and does not move.
Run Free (Su): At 16th level, a skinchanger can transform as a free action while wearing a taken skin, and remain in animal form for an unlimited amount of time. This replaces the hex gained at 16th level.

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Clay, congrats on making it to the Top 32, and good choice on the witch, a class with relatively few archetypes in this round.

The theme and flavor of this archetypes are pretty great, and I think giving witches shapechanging into animal form makes for some interesting option. At the same time, there's already the Beast-Bonded Witch in UM, so this needs to differentiate itself from that archetype.

New patron spells: check.
Making Beast Eye a normal rather than major hex: interesting, and a nice move design-wise.
The animal forms: Yep, it's wildshape but limited to small and medium animals the witch has slain and preserved. That's quite a limitation, especially at higher levels.
New hexes: I like these hexes, but possibly not allowed by the rules. Over to Sean the Paizo crew on that.

Interesting premise, reasonable design, but I'm not sure that the inclusion of new hexes is fair to the other witch archetypes submitted.

Not recommended to advance.

Designer, RPG Superstar Judge

Beastly Gaze: This shoud say that the beastly gaze hex is from Ultimate Magic.

Skintaker: Sizes like Medium and Small should be capitalized. I like this ability and I think it's on par with wild shape (it's a good ability at 4th, but it doesn't scale up with the witch's level so it's not completely robbing the druid class. However, it should be X/day, not X/day for each skin taken, as you could have 24 wolfskins in a bag of holding and change shape as much as you wanted each day.

This doesn't have a strong tie to the RK, but it is suitable.

I'm a fan of shapechangers, and I think you hit the mechanics fine on this, but I think it's lacking some pizazz (perhaps another ability, perhaps more flavor).

I DO recommend this archetype for advancement.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

I think this is an excellent submission and shows big idea thinking and some finessed design decisions. I'd like a better tie to the River Kingdoms, but this archetype certainly fits there. This submission would get some development notes, but nothing significant enough to say no to it. In fact, as a developer I'd be impressed with this content. I don't expect perfection in round 2--you arent all superstars yet you are just contestants. But you brought Superstar mojo here.

I DO Recommend this archetype for advancement.

I love the idea (which was quite obvious, I was surprised I haven't sen anything like that yet - and my witch player was baffled by the lack of beast shape spells on the regular witch list in the first place) but I am feeling it a bit clunky in execution. Small plus sign next to it.

Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

I'm not a fan of witches (as a class), but I do like what this archetype does with witches. It's perhaps a bit too good - the skinchanger is not really intended to be a combatant, that much should be clear; and that plays in with the typical witch build as well.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

You immediately grabbed my attention when you said the skinchanger can use the skin of a slain animal as hide armor. Neat tie-in to the class. I like the mechanics and flavor of this one.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

Theme, theme, theme! You brought the theme and stuck to it. It is a bit grisly but I actually like this one. Grisly without being gross.

I'm not overly familiar with witches so I can't comment too much about this archetype.

I really like how you tie your abilities back into the theme.

Small mechanical questions, but I don't see anything killing your entry.

I DO recommend for advancement.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Awesome theme with tight execution. As mention above, the skinchanger ability needs work, but I liked the class. I didn't recall the Narlmarches containing any shapeshifters, but you persuaded me.

Check mark added to the box.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Locke1520

I'm not a particular fan of the witch class but I do like shape-changers reasonably well so that evens out. For the most part your mechanics are pretty good...The abuse-ability of skin taker not withstanding. This is on my short list.

Congrats on making the Top 32 and good luck with the archetype round.

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

I will give general impressions, but with 3 areas of particular focus that suit my personal interests. Archetype and feat names: do they show flare? How closely tied to the River Kingdom is the archetype? And last but certainly not least, do I want to play this archetype?

Archetype and feat names: Average. Mostly descriptive Archetype name, doesn't bowl anyone over.

River Kingdom tie: Average. Suitable for the sorts of wilderness you might find in the RK, but certainly not limited to that region.

Desire to play: Slightly above average. I see some potential in this, though I'm maybe lacking the imagination to see huge amounts of fun. It seems a lot of this would be flavor dependent. If you're a real role-player, there's some potential for playing some alien-ness here. I do appreciate the tight design.

Star Voter Season 6

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I'm not a fan. You give up a lot for not that much. Flavor is grabbed from Bran in Game of Thrones, which is kinda cool, but like him, the cost does not outweigh the benefit.

1 spell of every level is a huge drawback, and in exchange you get 1 spell (Beast Shape 1) at enhanced duration, but have to wait 4 levels.

The Beastly Gaze hex - waste 1 of your hexes so you can use the others when shapechanged. Ok, so how many hexes will you be able to use, and when will you take this?
At level 1 you wont grab it because you have no other hex to use.
At level 2 you wont grab it, since you have no shapechanging.
At level 4 you give up hex for the ability to shapechange.
At level 6 you probably want to grab the early Beast Eye (why you get the ability to grab this at 4 and then don't get a hex at 4 I don't understand). If you don't, you get it only 2 levels early, which isn't impressive.
So you probably wont be grabbing Beastly Gaze until level 8 at the earliest, and you will only have 3 hexes to use then, and one of those hexes will be an out of combat utility ability. This should have been combined as a bennefit of the class by allowing them to use hexes with Natual Spell, instead of introducing a second tax.

Shapechanging - Your a 1/2 BAB class, so shapechanging for combat is much weaker than the druid. Going into melee is a bad idea, so really what you get out of this is early long durration flight on a caster and some stealth abilities. It doesn't scale, so that is all you will ever get out of it. Combine this with a GM who doesn't throw small flying animals at you, and you are looking at a dead witch if she attempts to use. :(

The only new ability this archtype gets is the major hex Control Animals. In the Beastiary 1, there is 1 CR10 or higher animal, and it is only a 10. So this ability will never get you a combat capable enemy unless you are fighting a druid and possess the animal companion. Since you probably already have the Beast Eye hex, this doesn't actually add that much to your tool set except controlling the creature you are already able to scry through. It also doesn't answer questions like: "at what range?" or "can you cast spells through it?" - I would have to give it serious thought as a GM before letting it be used. Not a good thing.

Hey I've been wanting more classes that shapechange and this does that well. I kind of feel a bit of advancement on the wildshaping wouldn't be a bad thing but it doesn't hurt my feelings that it isn't happening. I like this one.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

Good: Straight up cool idea should already exist but you made it happen!
Bad: hate losing a spell, still considering that gtame balance wise
Ugly: my jealousy at your brilliance
OVerall: straight up absolutely getting my vote this and Green Knight are my Fav 2 thus far.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

The flavor of this class is really good. I love the idea of a witch catching birds, turning them into outfits and then using them as the ability to shapechange.

your rules mojo, however, is lacking a little. Caineach brings up a very important point above (and not one I'd have noticed), but I'd also like to point out that you gain the ability to shapechange for an hour at 4th level, which is then upgraded to unlimited at 16th level. No middle ground.

So, it's interesting, but I don't know if it's great, or worth a vote.

Good luck in this, and future rounds.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

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I thought this was okay, but isn't really adding anything too exciting to the game. Sure, it gives a wild shape lite to witches, but it's really just a variant of the druid wild shape, so the archetype is esentially just a witch/druid hybrid, and not too exciting (you could just play a creepy druid for the most part for a similar feel.)

Also, can witches not normally use hexes when polymorphed? Hexes are generally (Su) abilities, and therefore not reliant on what shape you're in (they don't need V, S, or M components that an animal wouldn't be able to use), so this power doesn't really do anything at all.

I can't figure out why you gave the archetype Diminished Spellcasting - the abilities you grant are all reasonable for what's swapped out, I think the only one that's a bonus is being able to beast eye as a standard hex at 4th level instead of 10th level as a major hex - and that's not a huge deal in exchange for 1 less spell per spell level for all 9 levels of spells if you wind up at 17th level or higher.

Combine all of that with a fairly weak tie to the river kingdoms (sure it could be in the river kingdoms, but it could be just about anywhere, and I'd actually expect it more frequently in places like the Mwangi Expanse).

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8 aka nate lange

template and writing: some small issues- skinchanger, while evocative, had me thinking of something totally different before i read it (though it makes sense in retrospect); what is a "hide shirt"? is that the same as hide armor? or is to hide armor what a chain shirt is to chainmail (perhaps drawing from the piecemeal armor rules in UC)? if its hide armor call it that, if not tell us what its stats are or where to find them.

game balance: you've got issues, but they've pretty much all been pointed out already- you need to limit skintaker to uses/day (since, as sean pointed out, you could just carry around 40+ skins) plus the time limit is meaningless right now for that same reason. your two next hexes need work too- based on the polymorph rules the only hexes you'd lose while changed would be claws and prehensile hair (and arguably the cauldron one, depending on the opposable thumb situation), which makes it a pretty useless hex; pet stealing (i forget what you called, but this is what it will be used for) definitely needs a duration ('oh, i'm sorry mr 14 th level druid- you're super-tiger just failed a will save so now i'm gonna be him long enough to kill you- then, since i took natural spell i'm gonna get an ally to shove my body, with a ring of sustenance and a bottle of air, into a bag of holding and just be a super-tiger forever!')

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6 aka Evil Paul

I'm confused as to why people think this doesn't add much. The witch can use hexes while in animal form. That's a huge change. A good one though.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

Evil Paul wrote:

I'm confused as to why people think this doesn't add much. The witch can use hexes while in animal form. That's a huge change. A good one though.

Because a witch already can use hexes in animal form. Hexes are supernatural abilities, and there's nothing stopping a witch in animal form from using them.

Dedicated Voter Season 7

Am I being a dunce for wondering about the particulars of the major hex, control animal? It feels like this ability is missing some "this functions like the spell XXX" line to explain the details of its execution.

What Joel Flank said, also they could do so as beast bonded witches too -- I just like this archetype a bit better because of the availability of more shapes.

In retrospect though the diminished casting is the wrong way to go in my opinion -- the witch already has the lowest number of spells per day among the full casters, dropping her more simply isn't a good idea.

@ Marco -- maybe but I think it says what it does simply and concisely enough to go with as is. Might need a line like, "This is a mind affect, compulsion effect, and can be blocked by spells that block such" or something.

Marathon Voter Season 6

Joel Flank wrote:
Evil Paul wrote:

I'm confused as to why people think this doesn't add much. The witch can use hexes while in animal form. That's a huge change. A good one though.

Because a witch already can use hexes in animal form. Hexes are supernatural abilities, and there's nothing stopping a witch in animal form from using them.

Aye. You only lose (Su) abilities that depend on your previous form. That said, there are a few hexes where this is probably the case. The main one I think you could make a case for this is Flight, and the main reason I think that is due to a clarification the dev team made that that one is due to the witch getting lighter.

This one started out as a Yes, since I love the flavor. By the time I finished reading all the questions, it was a Maybe. (I still have a lot of archetypes to read through.) My biggest question actually starts at the beginning: Why "skinchanger"? I've never heard that term before, and you repeatedly reference Native American myths that I know as "skinwalker". I only have a passing acquaintance with them, but still. Seems like you should use the term that people know.

I didn't expect to be impressed by this one, but you overcame my reservations. The name of the archetype and abilities are uninspired, the idea has been done to death, the river kingdoms tie in is weak... yet of all the countless variations on shapeshifting I've ever seen in an RPG, this one might be my favorite. The feral witch with a literal connection to the shapes she takes blows the sissy druid out of the water, and your deft hand in laying out clean, useful mechanics won me over despite my foolish desire for more ridiculous ideas.

You have one of my 6 votes.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 aka Wolfwaker

I had not really thought about the term skinwalker. I imagined the witch "changing" into another body sort of like the selkies of folkore who are seals that take human form but they leave their seal skin somewhere.

After the contest started I thought I should have made her Charisma based...using her force of personality to dominate the animals seems to fit with that.

Thanks for your votes and your comments. I was tweaking this one right up to the end.

Charisma wouldn't have worked for me. Think about it: wizards specializing in the enchantment school are still Int-based, and clerics with the Charm domain are still Wis-based. Cha-based magic is for spontaneous casters and the raw, unmediated use of power, such as a cleric's Channel Energy. However! I've long believed that the witch should use Wisdom for her casting stat (while remaining an arcane prepared caster).

After all, she's getting her power from a patron via her familiar, not studying complex concepts from obscure tomes. And, your skinchanger is even more primitive and naturalistic than the base class, using actual physical animal skins to shapechange. I'll agree that you could've changed the casting stat with your archetype -- but I think that you missed the perfect opportunity to make a Wis-based witch.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 aka Wolfwaker

Hmmm, I can see that. Wisdom as intuitition, awareness, etc.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Steven T. Helt

Clay, congratulations on making it to the round of 16.

I think you cost the witch a lot by reducing its casting - that's the best class feature the witch has. They're a full-time arcane caster. In return they get hexes, beast shape and a minor form of wild shape. These are cool abilities and blend the witch with the creepy druid (I actually considered a poison-themed druid and a druid that casts hexes, so I think the relationship is very compelling), but she gives up a ton for abilities that remain fairly limited.

In the end, I think the idea has strong cinema and mojo and the voters rewarded you for tackling a class that's tough to build archetypes for. Good job.

Star Voter Season 7

Starfinder Superscriber

I voted on this one, I really enjoy the flavor. However, not a fan of the once per day per skin. I would think that'd be better as a 3+1/2 witch levels times per day. Or just use the druids number of times per day.

Did you find your inspiration from Native American, in this case I believe it is the Dine, mythology?

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 aka Wolfwaker

I am not familiar with the Dine. My original flavor was Native American based with a totem spirit guide sort of familiar that was incorporeal, but I was not sure about the game balance and afraid of a lot of rules questions so I ended up taking that out. The skinchanging was inspired from several sources including the selkie legend, Beorn, and Game of Thrones. Come to think of it I used to have a coffee mug showing an American Indian shaman wearing a bear skin and transforming into a bear so maybe that was in the back of my mind.

In retrospect I don't think I should have reduced the casting and the suggestion of limiting the times per day is a good one.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions.

In response to Edward (way above), Hide shirt is a type of light armor in the SRD. I should have noted that it was from Varisia: Birthplace of Legends.

Star Voter Season 9

So I just found out about this how do you vote?


And a question if your inspiration was native Americans why did you not make this with the shaman class?

Edit 2

Lol I just realized I'm a year too late ^_^

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