Playing a Witch in PFS


Advice


When I first started PFS, I was most interested in the witch class, but for some reason or other, I never actually played on as I got sidetracked with various other classes. :)

Now with a number of scenarios under my belt, I'm keen to look at it again. However, I'm having difficulty figuring out the witch's actions in combat, what with hex and spells. I would imagine that a typical witch would open off with hexes to quickly debuff the enemies, but that would typically take two rounds - one for evil eye and one for misfortune, with cackling to extend it. With PFS combats typically lasting only a few rounds, there doesn't seem to be much combat time after that to get to spells, and other interesting hexes (like slumber!). Essentially, I feel that a class with hexes doesn't really depend much on spells anymore, but the witch is a full spellcasting class, so I would imagine ending a scenario with many spells unused.

On the other hand, it could be because I'm more used to spontaneous casters, rather than prepared ones. Any advice on my analysis? I really like the idea of hexing the enemies. :)

Silver Crusade

Spontaneous thoughts:
1. Yes, hexes are useful. But usually spells are more powerful. So you could start with one of those and throw your evil eye once the combat is in full swing. Also: If the combat is over quickly your hexes probably didn't make much of a difference, but when combat drags on they get more and more useful (because you just have to keep cackling to keep them going). Fought a rogue with misfortune for 6 or 7 rounds - poor bastard couldn't hit us at all.
2. Be very aware that there are scenarios with only or mostly undead. So any spells with Fort as a saving throw and mind-affecting spells are right out. So almost everything you bring to the table - be prepared for those occasions. (One scenario had humanoids which were immune to mind-affecting spells, vermin and undead - our witch had a pretty bad time, unfortunately).
3. You do have non-combat spells as a witch. If you decide that hexes are what you want to do in combat primarily,
4. Personal opinion: I hate slumber. Either it fails and the witch is grumpy or it's successfull and many combats are over in a heartbeat, considering you often fight only one or two enemies.


Thanks. Good points about when hexes come in. Perhaps I should think of a witch as a hexer with spells, but a spellcaster with hexes. Hmmm... But it also got me thinking if I wanted to do hexes primarily in combat, then patrons like healing would be good to supplement the scope of non-combat spells.

After the first few levels, would likely take up summon monsters, which I've found helps to keep casters versatile regardless of the enemies encountered. .

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I played a Witch to 12th. I agree with the sentiment that sometimes you'll feel completely useless. Undead and Constructs will be your bane. Have either some party buffs or direct damage spells as backup. And the Witch is the only primary caster (in my opinion) that absolutely needs their casting stat maxed. I ended up with a 30 Int, which meant DC 25 Hexes at 11th level, and opponents still often made their saves.

Nothing beats their creep factor, though. I still had fun playing the character. But Witches are a bit overrated in my opinion.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

kuey wrote:
I would imagine that a typical witch would open off with hexes to quickly debuff the enemies,

You should instead open with spells. Spells are more powerful than hexes; this is why you get limited spells and infinite hexes.


Kurald Galain wrote:
You should instead open with spells. Spells are more powerful than hexes; this is why you get limited spells and infinite hexes.

Thanks! That makes so much sense now. Hmm, now I'm wondering if a shaman would lead off with hexes instead, since its spells are primarily supporting instead. :)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I disagree with people saying spells are more powerful than hexes. Case and point Evil Eye, Fortune, Slumber, Icy Tomb. The four most powerful hexes in PFS.

It really depends on the party and the witch.

For example:
R1 Move into position, Evil Eye, Swift Action Cackle with Cackling Blouse
R2 Quicken Ill Omen/Familiar activates wand of Ill Omen, Icy Tomb

That combination will end most fights. With a really high save an Ill Omen Icy Tomb combo can also be a good Ace in the hole. (I saved a party by freezing a fire elemental once)

In a group that is high melee it is often better to open up with an Evil Eye for -4 AC.

In a group that has another full caster it is often better to open with a -4 to saving throws to help make their save or suck stick

In a fight against a monster generating a lot of attacks a -4 to attack rolls can end up saving a great deal of damage.

That is not to say that you shouldn't use spells, but you should pick your spells and hexes to do different things so that you have the correct tool for the situation. I found that picking spells that removed debuffs or had good utility, or let me deal with enemies that my hexes could not hurt worked really well.

Edit: Another point to consider is that the Witch spell list simply doesn't have the same power as the Wizard spell list. This is because hexes are very good and they don't need to depend entirely on super good spells. (Witches don't get Liberating Command or Haste by default)

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Mahtobedis wrote:

For example:

R1 Move into position, Evil Eye, Swift Action Cackle with Cackling Blouse
R2 Quicken Ill Omen/Familiar activates wand of Ill Omen, Icy Tomb

You know what will also end most fights, and faster?

R1 Quicken Ill Omen/Familiar activates wand of Ill Omen, Icy Tomb

People tend to miss that using Accursed Hex + Ice Tomb is a much better combo than Evil Eye + Ice Tomb. Same goes for Slumber. Now I'm not saying you should go around ending fights like that because it's rather boring.


If you have too many spells consider throwing some long term buffs on your party.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:
If you have too many spells consider throwing some long term buffs on your party.

A lot of the remove/delay stuff spells also grant bonuses if the spell is already up too.

@Kurald Galain, that requires you and your familiar to act on the same initiative (and is one of the main reasons at my table familiars and casters roll separate initiatives). R1, one of you is unfavorably delaying. It also depends some on how likely the monster is to make the save, but you are correct that it is a quick R1 incapacitate in most situations. I personally prefer the -4 to saves because it helps more party members and gives others a chance to have fun.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.

You have a choice to make as a witch.

By far the most powerful option is to take save or totally suck hexes (sleep, Icy Tomb, etc). These are, IMO, TOO powerful for PFS. Especially when combined with the usual shenaningans to make saves all but impossible for most characters. They basically shut down a bad guy as soon as your turn comes up. PFS just does not need that level of power (and yes, before you ask, I speak from experience).

The other choice is to take the gazillion flavourful and useful hexes. Flight, Prehensile Hair, Misfortune, etc etc.

When doing the latter, I found that my witch almost completely used just hexes in the normal fights. He kept his spells to either buff the party or as big guns when the situation warranted it. Which made for a character that contributed greatly to success but did NOT over shadow the rest of the party.

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Paul Jackson wrote:
They basically shut down a bad guy as soon as your turn comes up. PFS just does not need that level of power (and yes, before you ask, I speak from experience).

It is interesting that our experiences are polar opposites.

The capstone DC at level 11 is 25. The "poor save" of a CR 13 encounter is +12. That's a 50/50 shot of success.


Nefreet wrote:
Paul Jackson wrote:
They basically shut down a bad guy as soon as your turn comes up. PFS just does not need that level of power (and yes, before you ask, I speak from experience).

It is interesting that our experiences are polar opposites.

The capstone DC at level 11 is 25. The "poor save" of a CR 13 encounter is +12. That's a 50/50 shot of success.

a Familiar with a wand of "there's no save you have to roll twice" and its 75%.

Even without that if half of your encounters get shut down by something, that's what you're going to remember.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

BigNorseWolf wrote:
a Familiar with a wand of "there's no save you have to roll twice" and its 75%.

Yes, but in PFS you are highly unlikely to have a familiar that can use wands.

Quote:
Even without that if half of your encounters get shut down by something, that's what you're going to remember.

Going by Nefreet's numbers, IF this is the enemy's poor save AND it's not immune to mind effects AND it is alone, THEN you have a 50% chance of shutting down the encounter. Slumber is still a strong ability but hardly a showstopper; at level 11 numerous classes have easy access to area "save or lose" spells like Fear.

Mahtobedis wrote:
I personally prefer the -4 to saves because it helps more party members and gives others a chance to have fun.

Sure, but that doesn't make ee "one of the best hexes". Quite the opposite, really.


Kurald Galain wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
a Familiar with a wand of "there's no save you have to roll twice" and its 75%.
Yes, but in PFS you are highly unlikely to have a familiar that can use wands.

Actually, I'd wager it's more likely to have a wand-using familiar in PFS than in most campaigns. In a campaign, a GM can simply deny you access to them. In PFS, you can get an imp and no one can tell you you can't have one.

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The wand-using-Familiar trick isn't unique to Witches, either, so it can't be used as justification for Witches being overpowered.

That's more an argument for wand-using-Familiars being too overpowered.


Nefreet wrote:

The wand-using-Familiar trick isn't unique to Witches, either, so it can't be used as justification for Witches being overpowered.

That's more an argument for wand-using-Familiars being too overpowered.

Or that one spell, which effectively has no save.

The difference is that a wizard has 2-3 maxed out save or die spells and then has to use the bottom shelf stuff. Witches have 1 top level save or die spell per opponent (or 2 with the right hex) Slumber hex has some severe restrictions, ice tomb does not.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Nefreet wrote:

The wand-using-Familiar trick isn't unique to Witches, either, so it can't be used as justification for Witches being overpowered.

That's more an argument for wand-using-Familiars being too overpowered.

Or that one spell, which effectively has no save.

The difference is that a wizard has 2-3 maxed out save or die spells and then has to use the bottom shelf stuff. Witches have 1 top level save or die spell per opponent (or 2 with the right hex) Slumber hex has some severe restrictions, ice tomb does not.

Actually the Ice Tomb also has some restrictions. It does not work on things that are immune to fort saves or can negate the cold damage. So objects (aka constructs) and undead are immune to it to, because poor writing.

The wizard has 2-3 maxed out spells, but its spells list packs more a wallop than the witches. A witch doesn't have the same spell versatility but gets good, and in some cases really good, abilities it can spam.

Kurald Galain, if you do not understand why a -4 penalty is amazing then you probably need to spend more time playing classes oriented towards making the team stronger as a whole, rather than classes that try to be as self contained as possible.

Silver Crusade

Nefreet wrote:

The wand-using-Familiar trick isn't unique to Witches, either, so it can't be used as justification for Witches being overpowered.

That's more an argument for wand-using-Familiars being too overpowered.

I'm not claiming that witches are overpowered when compared to other full casting classes. I have exactly the same reservations with a Kitsune enchanter, well built control wizard, etc etc etc.

Basically, I think highly optimized full casters are too powerful for PFS play.

I also think that it is generally more fun for everybody around the table for the Witch to be helping the fighting sorts by Evil Eye, Misfortune etc rather than either taking out a bad guy OR wasting their turn pointlessly.

The Exchange

I will say you optimize your witch. Take slumber hex, ice tomb. However, don't use it on the table. Use it only when you need to pull out all the stops. Otherwise just evil eye, cackle and all that.

This is coming from a hexcrafter. In a certain mod, when faced with certain things that could potentially cause a TPK, I pulled out the restraints and threw out a slumber hex that trivialized the mini BBEG encounter.

Silver Crusade

Just a Mort wrote:

I will say you optimize your witch. Take slumber hex, ice tomb. However, don't use it on the table. Use it only when you need to pull out all the stops. Otherwise just evil eye, cackle and all that.

This is coming from a hexcrafter. In a certain mod, when faced with certain things that could potentially cause a TPK, I pulled out the restraints and threw out a slumber hex that trivialized the mini BBEG encounter.

I built my witch with the Slumber Hex, planning on only using it when absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately, there were just too many times when I thought it was absolutely necessary when it really wasn't.

Many GMs (myself included) consider a great encounter the encounter where the players THINK they're going to lose but manage to pull out a victory anyway. It is very, very easy to think you're in much more trouble than you really are since there is a very human tendency to concentrate on the negatives (Can't hit him, he just did something nasty as a free action, etc etc etc) without noticing that things aren't really THAT bad (we're not dead yet!)

I found that as soon as the encounter seemed deadly, I used the Slumber Hex. I eventually trained it out so as to avoid temptation.

Obviously, YMMV. Just giving one persons perspective here, NOT trying to denigrate others who take a different position on optimization.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

So what is this spell that everyone is discussing here?

Hmm


One of the very few witch only spells before Occult came out


As a note Dual Cursed Oracles also get it.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Paul Jackson wrote:


Basically, I think highly optimized full casters are too powerful for PFS play.

I also think that it is generally more fun for everybody around the table for the Witch to be helping the fighting sorts by Evil Eye, Misfortune etc rather than either taking out a bad guy OR wasting their turn pointlessly.

Yes, I agree.

PFS and heavy optimization don't mix well, and for full casters this tends to be worse.


Great! I really want to thank everyone for your thoughts. Now you've made me really want to play a witch! Haha. Yes, I agree with most of you. Think would build him primarily as a buff / debuff to support the party, and keep the save or suck abilities as last resort for close to TPK. Otherwise, it can be quite a buzzkill for the rest of the party. Most of my characters have primarily been active ones, and I want to look at trying out a primarily support character.

Patron-wise, I'm leaning towards Ancestors, as there are quite a number of good buffs there. Although it would be stepping on the party cleric's toes (if there's one).

The Exchange

Here's a totally weird witch I have, just for interest.

Zandu Karella is an Initiate of the Second Step. (Priest of Razmir)

While the witch spell list is arguably weaker than the wizard it's great for casting a weird set of spells, my favorite line when playing this character is "Of course I can cast that, Razmir grants all spells..."

I'm using Samsaran to get an increasingly weird (read bard) set of spells. Although there's plenty of interesting spells without Samsaran, especially with the variety of Patrons.

Zandu's hexes are charm and flight. He's a spontaneous caster via ley line guardian. He's got nice social skills, which combined with the charm hex is great for information gathering.

---

In other words there are a lot of ways to build a witch.


*de-lurks*

Add me to the list of people that now want to play a helpful, non-show stealing witch in PFS too. I've been playing one in a non-PFS PbP and I've had to get creative with hex/spell choices (mainly control and support options) since it's an undead-heavy game but it's been tons of fun so far :)

Thanks for making the thread kuey!

*re-lurks*


Biggest thing to remember on a witch is that a witch can go the library and borrow the wise old owl to teach their familiar spells just like a wizard can go to the library and borrow a spellbook.


I've been playing a Witch in PFS for a little while now, and she's level 10. Here are a few things I've noticed.

- Heal Hex and your familiar is surprisingly potent. For the first few levels, my raven familiar would delay his action, and come out of it to fly over to fallen comrades. I would then use him to deliver a touch range healing spell. This tactic has saved two people when they were one HP away from bleeding out.

- Witches are a fairly binary class. Try to think up some extra character fluff. Who they are, why they're a Pathfinder, and most of all, what kind of Patron they work with. My witch was fairly forgettable for the first few levels until I played up her Pharasma worship and the fact that she was a pirate.

- The usual Evil Eye/Cackle buildup is slow, but that's fine. Other players will feel less like they were 'robed' of a fight if you spend 3 turns withering the enemy's saves before dropping your big finisher. And on that note, take a nice look at the Witch list. There are some really neat spells. Even though mine has Slumber, my current favorite save-or-suck is Dominate Person.

- Improved Familiar is love. Improved Familiar is life. The options are flavorful, powerful, and most importantly, they're way better at keeping themselves alive. Give the list a looksee (and pay close attention to any chronicle sheets with interesting boons on them.)


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

If you are worried about the familiar biting the dust, look at the Nycar. RAW a +3 weapon wont kill it. Only an actual cold iron weapon.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

I played a witch to level 17 in Skull & Shackles. Pirate theme blended well, and I was the cook on board as well. Like others have stated, I wanted to play a utility over spamming slumber/misfortune witch as that is my personal style of play (I enjoy doing unique unforeseen actions vs what the min/max adepts tell you to do).

I avoided slumber, misfortune by taking things like "swamp's grasp" and took craft wonderous items to make featherstep slippers for the party. Enemy can't charge/take 5' steps yet my party can.

I concentrated on utilities with my hexes (water lung, prehensile hair, evil eye, cackle, scar on my party to heal, fortune, flight, cauldron, hag's eye, retribution, healing and major healing). And I swapped feats for hexes mostly. I managed to get a +1 conductive crossbow and inflicted retribution/evil eye on enemies at range after buffing/debuffing the party. I flew out of reach, dropped darkness spells and swamp's grasp with low level spells, and lightning bolts were my go-to damage. Spells became highly useful as the only arcane caster, and I supplemented spells with battlefield control.

The witch (like any class) can be fun/boring. It's up to you to be creative and understand your campaign. In a home brew world, you might just want to keep slumber if you are out alone picking poisoned mushrooms in the wild...

Grand Lodge

Invoker + Winter Witch (Occult Patron) 5/ Crossblooded Orc/Dragon Sorcerer 1/ Winter Witch PRC 5

Magical Knack is needed to keep CL at your HD.

But Rime Intensified Snowballs for 10d6+30. Seems fun to me.

Hex wise Evil Eye and Ice Tomb do good work. With the Occult Patron you don't lose to Undead Due to Command Undead. This Leave it to just Constructs that shut you down. ALL casters have issues with them and you have a team to hide behind. With Occult you do gt Black Tentacles However.


My witch likes the Vomit Swarm spell.

Just for the reactions it causes.

-j


@BigNorseWolf, haha! I'm just imagining this corner of the Absalom Library where a owl resides on a stand, with a line of witches waiting their turn. :)

@Rosc, for the heal hex, good idea. Am thinking of the hedge witch archetype so wouldn't need the heal hex though. Hmm, although as Bloodyraven pointed out, heal hex is good to combine with scar hex.

He is elf, the "shaman" of his tribe. The tribe resides in the Osirian desert (hence the scorpion). In him resides the memories of the past shamans (hence the ancestor patron), and also serves as the tribe healer (hence hedge witch archetype). Still trying to figure out why he left the tribe though to join the Pathfinder Society. Could always go with the whole tribe being masssacred, but that is so cliche...

@Jason Wu, oooo, vomiting a scorpion swarm!

@Rosc, hmm, which improved familiar? The azata lyrakien is quite interesting for roleplay, but so is the faerie dragon! Although would have to hunt down THAT scenario. :)

Silver Crusade

I only recently started playing a witch in PFS, up to level 3 now, though I've only played her twice. I tend to use GM credits to skip first level, especially on pure casters that usually suck at low levels.

I intentionally decided to play against type with this one, both on the fluff and the crunch. She's essentially a cheerleader. She's a pretty teenage girl who specializes in buffing the team first, debuffing the enemies second. I thought about calling her Sabrina and giving her a black cat familiar named Salem, but I decided that was too obvious. I still named her and based some of her personality on a character from fiction, but it's MUCH more obscure. And she has a "cute widdle bunny wabbit" (+4 init mod!) as her familiar.

I used her human bonus feat to take Additional Traits, so she uses her int score for both diplomacy and UMD, both of which are class for her. I didn't dump charisma even though she's not really using it, just for fluff reasons. I play her 10 cha as her being somewhat pretty, but a little socially awkward, and using her intelligence to make up for it. So her diplomacy tends to come from being helpfully informative and presenting logical arguments to convince people of things.

Her other early feats are all Extra Hex. I've already taken it at levels 1 and 3, and will definitely take it at 5 and maybe 7. There are a lot of hexes I want for her. So far, she has Scar (so she can use her other hexes on her allies from up to a mile away), Ward, Fortune, and Healing. Cackle is next to extend the Fortune, followed by Tongues and Flight at level 5, and then I'll start on some debuffs with Evil Eye and Misfortune. I'm planning to retrain out of Ward at level 5, since it doesn't stack with cloaks of resistance and rings of protection, which everyone has by then, and that's the level Tongues and Flight both get really good. I'll probably never do Slumber, unless I run out of other good options at high level.

For spells, she has the Ancestors patron for more buffs, and I made a point of spending prestige for a wand of Bless right after the wands of Mage Armor and Cure Light Wounds. But after that, her prepared spells tend to be mostly typical witch debuffing - Ear Piercing Scream, Ill Omen, Command, etc. I don't remember off the top of my head what I grabbed for 2nd level spells, but I made a point of buying some extras as soon as I hit level 3, so my rabbit has 7 or 8 spells at that level for me to choose from each day.


kuey wrote:

@Rosc, for the heal hex, good idea. Am thinking of the hedge witch archetype so wouldn't need the heal hex though. Hmm, although as Bloodyraven pointed out, heal hex is good to combine with scar hex.

@Rosc, hmm, which improved familiar? The azata lyrakien is quite interesting for roleplay, but so is the faerie dragon! Although would have to hunt down THAT scenario. :)

I'm toying with the idea of making a second witch, one with a spider motif and a focus on healing and buffing. Scar means she can put people in her "web" and boost them with all sorts of things.

Which one NOT to take? Due to her Pharasma worship, my pirate witch went with the Nosoi Psychopomp. And with a little DR, some spell like abilities, a sort of bardic fascinate that works on undead, and INVISIBILITY AT WILL, it's that funny moment when something thematic also happens to be tremendously powerful.

In general, anything that has a defensive ability (like invisibility, flight, etc) and hands that can hold a wand is automatically a pretty good pick, so you have a rather wide range. Just narrow it down based on character flavor and you're good.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder RPG / Advice / Playing a Witch in PFS All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.