Let's talk about hex


Witch Playtest


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A discussion of the playtest hexes.

Spell Level 1 Hexes

Beguile: It's the Make an Impression diplomacy skill usage, but two actions instead of one minute, and you can't use it in a crowd of NPCs without raising some questions. Not useful in combat, but maybe an acceptable pick for a witch who wants social ability without investing in charisma or the skill.

Evil Eye: The standard debuff, it's quite decent in the PF2 milieu, only suffering in comparison to the PF1 days that aren't coming back. Don't compare it to PF1 Evil Eye, compare it to PF2 demoralize action (less effect, 1 action, no duration, different stat/proficiency), Horrific Visage focus spell (same two actions, less effect, higher level, AOE, no duration), etc.

Life Boost: One "free" heal per day out of combat for every party member. It doesn't really make any sense in combat for the actions you'd need to cast and sustain it, and it doesn't compete well with medicine skill outside of combat. Tied with the next one as the weakest option at this level.

Minor Ward: This is the Forbidding Ward cantrip, which is not a great cantrip and already available to occult witches, with the difference that it protects the target against all enemies of a named type instead of just one enemy and costs you a focus point and a better hex option. Ugh. It also compares unfavorably in many situations to the Wizard focus spell Protective Ward, which only costs one action to initially cast and has AOE protection for nearby allies against all enemies, but doesn't give a save bonus.

Nudge Fate: This is the Wizard focus power Diviner's Sight, but better. Most importantly, it can apply to attack rolls, letting you grant the effects of True Strike to an ally. It can be sustained if your ally wants skill or save boost but isn't sure when. And it can be used as a debuff attempt to set up an ally's follow up attack targeting an enemy save if you've used up all your party buffs for the day. The only downside vs Diviner's Sight is two actions to cast and the limit of one benefit per person per day. Which still makes it pretty great at this level.

Personal Blizzard: Very minor no save cold damage per round (so great against weakness, trivial against everyone else), you're mostly here for the concealment debuff and the minor speed decrease. If you and your party have a way to not care about the concealment it also grants the target it's pretty decent, and cold weakness isn't that rare. Combos well with Elemental Betrayal later.

Shroud of Night: This is potentially quite strong if your party all has darkvision and you pick targets without, but a critical failure perversely is still going to make things difficult for you, and it has the same potential difficulty both ways that Personal Blizzard does. If your party lacks much low-light/darkvision I'd say Personal Blizzard is at least more reliable.

I think Evil Eye and Nudge Fate are the standouts, Personal Blizzard and Shroud of Night are fine, Beguile is ok for its niche, and Life Boost and Minor Ward are dogs.


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Spell Level 3 Hexes

Discern Secrets: A +2 perception/sense motive bonus that lasts 1 minute and doesn't require sustaining. Yay? I can certainly imagine times this would be useful in some social situations or combat "find the invisible guy" scenarios, but I'm not sure it's often enough to justify taking this.

Malicious Shadow: This is Hand of the Apprentice but two actions, doesn't require (or allow) investment in a weapon for both good and ill (mostly the former), and can keep running every round of the fight. Over the course of a combat it's much more action efficient than a cantrip but slightly less damaging. But Malicious Shadow sustained plus a cantrip is a decent infinite/replenishable resource attack combo that you can use as a bread and butter option when spells are low.

Elemental Betrayal: This is a great debuff if your party can standardize on a rarely resisted energy type for runes on your weapons. If every martial strike is doing acid or electricity there are a lot of monsters who can have a bad day when they fail a save against this early in a fight. Also combos well with Personal Blizzard if you go for cold.

Veil of Dreams: This is...kind of terrible compared to Evil Eye? Evil Eye inflicts a bigger or more wide ranging penalty on all save results. The only benefits of Veil are the flat check on concentrate actions if they fail the save and the slow 1 on a critical fail. I think I'd rather have the -2/-3 from Evil Eye in the vast majority of situations. This needs a buff in the final product.

Malicious Shadow or Elemental Betrayal are your obvious combat options depending on your style and party preferences. Veil of Dreams is very hard to justify. Discern Secrets is niche but certainly not useless.


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Spell Level 6 Hexes

Curse of Death: Against a heavily debuffed target with a weak fortitude save this can kill them in a few rounds, especially with 1-2 crit fails along the way. But is that very likely or valuable compared to other options against such foes? You're probably only going to inflict some minor damage and a weak debuff that once again doesn't compare favorably to Evil Eye (but at least isn't mental). I'd need to play this one a few times to see where it really falls, but I'm not expecting much.

Draw Boundary: Ward a given creature type (the outsider subtypes, undead, aberrations) from crossing a line unless they make a will save. But they can (1) shoot or cast across it, (2) make a save attempt for every move action or melee strike across it they care to attempt, (3) or have an ally of another type take it down with a single interact action. Not great, Bob! Did I mention it takes three actions to set up this speed bump as well as the usual focus point and future actions to sustain?

Ice Tomb: This is Flesh to Stone, but also inflicts some cold damage along the way, with the downside that allies of the target can break him out when he's "permanently" encased in ice. The language on freeing yourself is confusing, but I think it probably means the target keeps making saves inside the ice tomb after fully imprisoned, and if you reach a slow 0 state you're freed without taking any damage (and presumably can't take any actions even at slow 1/2 once imprisoned). This is pretty good! You get a full normal 6th level spell equivalent that is enhanced in some ways (cold damage) and you don't have to sustain it for once.

Restorative Moment: Automatically reduce drained and doomed conditions by 1, which is great when you need it, and allow a single extra saving throw against ongoing afflictions, which is potentially risky. But how often are you hitting these conditions that you want this as a reusable ability?

Ice Tomb all the way, with Curse of Death as an honorable mention (and because it gives you Raise Dead as a spell known). Draw Boundary could be good with some serious rewriting but is trash for now, setting your actions on fire with little hope that it accomplishes much. Restorative Moment might fit in a primal or occult witch build who likes healing a lot even if it's not combat optimal.


Good run down, I agree with most everything except Nudge Fate which is definitely not very good. Evil Eye could also be adjusted to be a cantrip it is the iconic ability, other than that looks fine. Nice list Boss.


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Atalius wrote:
Good run down, I agree with most everything except Nudge Fate which is definitely not very good. Evil Eye could also be adjusted to be a cantrip it is the iconic ability, other than that looks fine. Nice list Boss.

I disagree, Nudge seems extremely good and flexible to me.

Disadvantage on a Save is a massive debuff, certainly worth a focus point.

True strike on an ally, or Advantage on a save, is pretty good as well.

Plus, it really doesn't need to be sustained to work.

The Exchange

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This is a great assessment. One thing I'd like to bring up is something you mentioned pretty consistently with the Witch's action cost compared to other casters.

All of the Witch focus spells cost 2+ actions and a focus point on top of carrying the 1/day clause that doesn't really kick in till level 4 when you can get another focus spell. Comparatively, other casters get one action cantrips or focus spells and in some cases the even get reaction focus spells.

I feel like their readjusting needs to take that into account. They're also all sustained compared to some focus spells that have minute long durations.

I also think this would've been the perfect time to use the Incapacitation trait on Evil Eye, Curse of Death, and Ice Tomb.


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I'm still not sure on Nudge Fate as a debuff (mainly because Evil Eye feels like it hurts more), though it's not awful as a buff. Mainly it feels like it falls off as you level since it doesn't ever really get better than a 1st level spell.

I think Personal Blizzard could be given better heightening safely - make it +2 instead of +3 and it becomes significantly better. One thing to note is that because it causes difficult terrain instead of a speed penalty it prevents most enemies from using Step to avoid reactions. It's viable as is, I just think Heightened+3 is a joke (2d4 coming online at 7 is a bit slow).

Otherwise yeah, I think you're on point with what needs help. Given how strong hexes are in 1e I don't think it's a surprise they erred on the side of caution here.


I agree that Nudge Fate is a poor gamble as a debuff, but I’d like it just fine without that, and I can imagine sometimes wanting the debuff option.


Dubious Scholar wrote:

I'm still not sure on Nudge Fate as a debuff (mainly because Evil Eye feels like it hurts more), though it's not awful as a buff. Mainly it feels like it falls off as you level since it doesn't ever really get better than a 1st level spell.

I think Personal Blizzard could be given better heightening safely - make it +2 instead of +3 and it becomes significantly better. One thing to note is that because it causes difficult terrain instead of a speed penalty it prevents most enemies from using Step to avoid reactions. It's viable as is, I just think Heightened+3 is a joke (2d4 coming online at 7 is a bit slow).

Otherwise yeah, I think you're on point with what needs help. Given how strong hexes are in 1e I don't think it's a surprise they erred on the side of caution here.

In the words of Nate Diaz "that's what I'm saaaaayin"


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Hmm. True Strike holds up at later levels in part because the opportunity cost of using it decreases. This isn't as true of hexes.

Should Nudge Fate get something like Heightened (+3) increase the rolls affected by 1?

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