Is the Putrefactor Witch more powerful than we thought?


Rules Questions

Dark Archive

The Putrefactor Witch archetype has several abilities that seem to interconnect in interesting ways. It's an archetype that strongly benefits being in melee while only having a caster chassis.

How effective this archetype can be seems to be dependent on how the rules are interpreted.

Here is the first ability,

Infestation of Entropy:

Infestation of Entropy: A putrefactor’s body hosts various pests—insects, rats, or other scavengers—as part of her connection with her patron. She treats the infestation as her familiar, and she communes with the infestation to prepare spells. She still selects a familiar, which must be a house centipede, rat, scarlet spider, or toad; the familiar crawls within her among the other vermin. A putrefactor must be of chaotic alignment and must choose one of the following patrons: Animals, Death, Plague, or Rot.

seems to allow you to count your infestation as your familiar....and also gives you an actual standard familiar. This appears to be for targeting purposes and certain other mechanics.

Do you have two effective familiars? When something references your familiar, which is it referencing or can you choose either? Both?

The second ability is

Disgorge Familiar:
As a standard action, a putrefactor can cough up her familiar, allowing it to act as a separate entity. She can also devour it again as a standard action when the familiar is within reach. While within her, the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action, but effects affecting it persist, and their duration continues until the next time she disgorges it.

This ability seems to suggest a couple of things that are important. First it is stating that the familiar is not a separate entity until it has been disgorged and second it keeps the effects (poisons, buffs, spell effects, etc) applied to it until it has been disgorged giving them effectively infinite duration which can be very good or very bad. But if it is only a separate entity when it has been disgorged, does this mean that it counts as you/part of you when you have devoured it? What happens if you cast Call of the Void or Frosty Aura (x2) on the familiar and devoured it? Do you take damage eat round or does the effect work as though the familiar is a part of you once consumed like the ability suggests?

The verminous blood ability states that the swarm (your familiar- see above) has started to replace your blood. If you cast a blood modification spell on your familiar like say, Caustic Blood, Adhesive Blood, etc, and then consumed it would you get the spell effect or would it be moot assuming the familiar is counted as part of you once devoured? The same query for spells like Fungal Blisters.

The end result seems to be an archetype focused on entering melee and establishing control with a multitude of permanent buffs and debuffs while being afforded some protections to make it survivable while doing those things. If that is true, than the archetype doesn't strike me as bad at all and, in fact, appears to be quite powerful. It's not your standard witch, and it replaces one of the most devastating weapons in their arsenal, but infinite hex use for infinite self-buffs is actually a quality trade.

Assuming the above works, certain spells are questionable like Archon's Aura which is a 20' radius centered on you. Is that a spell effect that you/the familiar are under assuming you finagled a way to cast the spell as or onto the familiar?

Lots of questions, lots of potential.


I think the infestation of entropy is saying that your familiar for spellbook purposes is separated from the standard familiar. You only have one scorpion or whatever that can go out and sting things, but all the creepy-crawlies on/in you are your spellbook.

The text of disgorge doesn't seem to answer your questions. I'd run it as spell effects on the familiar are suspended and have no effect while it's devoured.

Dark Archive

But it does say that the effects affecting the familiar persist while it is inside of the witch. Stating that they persist means that they don't cease to function once you eat your familiar. So I am wondering where the limit is or what is a balanced reading. I think that there is definitely some room for GM interpretation with regard to things like the blood spells and who gets affected and I also think that there are some balance areas a GM should consider on that same vein, such as not allowing a player to cast ANY buff spell on the familiar and then swallow it to get the effects permanently. That may be a bit more powerful than infinite hexes as the issue compounds with level. It's probably a poorly worded ability that should have called out the benefit specifically (rather than leaving you to figure it out) and then given a reasonable restriction like a limit on buffs based on int mod (or to be more in line with the theme, con mod) plus 1/3 or 1/2 caster levels or something. I know it's a house rule and this is a rules section but I am throwing it out there because nothing in the abilities seems to prevent lots of permanent buffs, although specific types of buffs seem to be difficult to immediately adjudicate.

Either way, as the title states, the archetype seems to be far stronger (as written) than people have given credit for.


The wording of Disgorge is undefined.

Disgorge Familiar wrote:
While within her, the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action, but effects affecting it persist, and their duration continues until the next time she disgorges it.

"their duration continues" has no meaning. If it said the effects are suspended, then we know what that means. Continues? Do poisons continue to do damage to a swallowed familiar? If your familiar has Shield Other and Infernal Healing do they continue running until you disgorge it? if an effect runs out of duration, does it stop? Does a burning familiar continue to burn? Does the burning familiar do damage to the host? What if the familiar is swallowed for longer than the duration? Does it end immediately when disgorged or do we treat it as if the effect was suspended?

The safest way to judge such a thing is to just let the effect and duration continue to run while the familiar is swallowed after the player's turn until the duration runs out. I don't feel that runs counter to the intent, or wording. Especially since the wording is meaningless.

Or you could choose to make it an actual advantage and suspend the effects when swallowed and have them resume when the familiar is disgorged. That would let you get the most out of effects with a short duration.

And one of the few things we can say for certain is that there is no line of effect or sight from the familiar when swallowed. As such effects that have a radius would only affect the host and familiar. Since the familiar doesn't get actions, it also can't make decisions.


i think it's missing a "," in there like so:

"While within her, the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action, but effects affecting it persist, and their duration continues "," until the next time she disgorges it."

the later part of "until the next time she disgorges it" revert back to the part talking about " the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action" not the duration.
-as in: the familiar can't be targeted or take action until it's thrown up but any duration of effect on it still work while it is in the witch.


zza ni wrote:

i think it's missing a "," in there like so:

"While within her, the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action, but effects affecting it persist, and their duration continues "," until the next time she disgorges it."

the later part of "until the next time she disgorges it" revert back to the part talking about " the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action" not the duration.
-as in: the familiar can't be targeted or take action until it's thrown up but any duration of effect on it still work while it is in the witch.

Not so much a missing comma as a misplaced comma... since that comma between “persist” and “and” shouldn’t actually be there since it’s not actually listing three or more things. It’s an interjected statement, the details about existing effects should have been fully wrapped in commas... this is entirely just a case of poor editing and grammar...

Dark Archive

I am just trying to get a grip on the rules for it as written. I don't think there is ambiguity on durations affecting the familiar persisting until it is disgorged. Saying that the phrase is meaningless doesn't sound accurate. My first reading of that ability suggested that if I cast enlarge person on my familiar and ate it, it would just be enlarged until I spit it back out. Would it continue to burn or be poisoned? Unless I am reading it incorrectly then as the entry states, whatever effect is on it at the time of consumption remains while it is within you. Furthermore, each of those effects end the moment you disgorge the familiar based on a strict reading of the entry. So you couldn't swallow it to suspend a poison on it, nor could you pre-buff the familiar, then swallow it and count the buffs as suspended (as it doesn't say anything to that effect) then regurgitate the beast at the start of the next fight and have it fully ready to rumble (which would be a neat trick).

And the part about it not being able to be targeted by effects or taking any actions seems to reinforce that it is, in fact, a part of you once you eat it based on the earlier part of the entry stating that it can act as a separate entity only once you have vomited the thing up.

@Chell
I agree that this thing is poorly worded, even if the rules and intent match what the author was trying to convey, there are too many questions about how the ability functions that matter quite a bit in determining what the archetype actually does. I don't think the problem is all on grammar and editing but more on being thorough (as well as some grammar and editing). As it stands now, I don't want to make an NPC that functions wildly differently than what the rules state, but I want to avoid making it far out of line with the rules. Either way, this thing is a mess.


Dark Immortal wrote:
I don't think there is ambiguity on durations affecting the familiar persisting until it is disgorged.

What you're ignoring is that "duration" is a game term.

"A spell’s duration entry tells you how long the magical energy of the spell lasts.
Timed Durations: Many durations are measured in rounds, minutes, hours, or other increments. When the time is up, the magic goes away and the spell ends." CRB pg. 215f

This is what the Disgorge Familiar description refers to, the phrase "their duration continues" means that this rules continues to be in effect. For the spell's effect to persist indefinitely until the familiar is disgorged, it would have to either suspend the duration, or override it with a permanent (until disgorged) duration.

Dark Archive

To persist means to be extended or continue beyond the normal duration, expectation, limit, or point of failure. And when it said that 'durations continue until the next time she disgorges it' rather than 'durations continue as normal' or 'durations continue', that made me understand it as any effect on the familiar once swallowed would remain until it was disgorged. So if a poison had a duration of 1/round for 6 rounds, the 6 rounds would become irrelevant once the familiar was eaten and it would just continue indefinitely until the condition was met to cease the continuation (the disgorge action).

Derklord said wrote:
For the spell's effect to persist indefinitely until the familiar is disgorged, it would have to either suspend the duration, or override it with a permanent (until disgorged) duration.
Disgorge Familiar says wrote:
Disgorge Familiar (Ex): As a standard action, a putrefactor can cough up her familiar, allowing it to act as a separate entity. She can also devour it again as a standard action when the familiar is within reach. While within her, the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action, but effects affecting it persist, and their duration continues until the next time she disgorges it.

Bolded text is mine.

It's still referencing the spell effects on it, your previous post agreed with that. So if I am in agreement with it, don't the bolded parts literally meet the requirement that you stated for making the durations last indefinitely? I am not sure what else they mean if not that. It doesn't say the durations continue while eaten until disgorged or that they run their course while inside the host until disgorged or they naturally expire, whichever comes first. Instead it states that the durations (spell durations and other effects) continue until the familiar has been disgorged.

But that was just my interpretation of it. I had hoped to use that via environment or battle against the pc who wants to take this archetype by having his npc psuedo clone use a non-lethal poison or afflict the familiar with a disease and assuming the player doesn't know these effects are on the familiar and eats it while they are up (maybe via dealing some threatening damage to it) then the player might later on disgorge it only to find his familiar at a truly problematic penalty. But if what you are saying is true and none of the definitions I used are accurate or my reading is wrong, then I am left wondering what the archetype actually does that is meaningful or advantageous. The interpretation you gave seems to make this witch worse for having the ability (which might be true based on many previous examples from paizo in the past, aka trap options- I just don't think that this is one of them by my understanding of the rules).


While I don't think this is a great archetype, the ability is useful. This witch has a disposable familiar. If someone kills it, well you have to pay gold to replace it but other than that...you don't lose access to your spellbook. You aren't screwed like a normal witch.

You can also put your familiar into an absolutely safe space, for free. Not a great ability, but it is nice. Depending on how a GM feels about familiars its either no advantage because a GM will never target a familiar, or it could be an extreme advantage because you have a GM that feels trampling on a character weakness is somehow good for a game.

and I stick by my saying that "and their duration continues until the next time she disgorges it." is meaningless. That entire line needs more explanation to be useful. The line itself is too vague. 'Continues' doesn't have any defined meaning in Pathfinder, it is not a key word like 'duration'.

Likewise 'duration continues until disgorged' is vague. Does that mean the time inside the witch is counted against the duration? Does it mean that effects are instantly dispelled when disgorged? Can we break curses by swallowing and then immediately disgorging the familiar? All of this is counter intuitive to how the game and flavor of the archetype have been presented. Trying to make this into some way to keep an effect permanently on a familiar until you want to dismiss it seems like trying to push an ambiguity to an inappropriate extreme.


This is why I pointed out that there is a very noticeable grammatical error, and that correcting said error would bring about a reading that isn’t nonsensical.

Quote:
Disgorge Familiar (Ex): As a standard action, a putrefactor can cough up her familiar, allowing it to act as a separate entity. She can also devour it again as a standard action when the familiar is within reach. While within her, the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action, but effects affecting it persist, and their duration continues until the next time she disgorges it.

“While within her, the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action” is a full complete thought. “but effects affecting it persist, and their duration continues“ is an interjection. The comma in the middle of that interjection doesn’t belong. You don’t put commas before “and” unless in a list or unless “and” starts an interjection. So it should read “but effects affecting it persist and their duration continues.” The most troubling part though is the ending, “until the next time she disgorges it.” This either needs a comma before it making it a part of the initial statement, or the word ”continues” needs to be replaced with “persists”.

I am convinced it should read entirely as follows:

“ While within her, the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action, but effects affecting it persist and their duration continues, until the next time she disgorges it.”

The location of that comma makes a huge difference in how it is read and the clarity of the rule.


Dark Immortal wrote:
To persist means to be extended or continue beyond the normal duration, expectation, limit, or point of failure.

You mean like beyond the creature ceasing to exist?

Dark Immortal wrote:
So if I am in agreement with it, don't the bolded parts literally meet the requirement that you stated for making the durations last indefinitely?

The way Pathfinder works, if you have a rule for something, it is in effect unless you have a different rule overriding it. This ability uses the word "continues", i.e. 'remains in existence', when it talks about the duration rules. The word "continues" does not indicate doing something different.

Don't get me wrong, I totally see where you're coming from - the ability is not written in proper english. But I'm with Chell Raighn here, the "until the next time she disgorges it" part refers to the "the familiar cannot be targeted for effects or take any action" part.

Dark Archive

Ok, I see what you guys are saying. Thank you for taking the time to clarify (and re-clarify) your points. However, it isn't technically what the ability says and I am partial to using the rules as written and modifying it if absolutely necessary (which I think it may be). Not that casters of any sort need more power. However, changing which part of the sentence applies to which does make the archetype fairly close to mechanically pointless and I think there is room to argue that the other abilities gained would suggest that the author intended the archetype to be placed into melee and that the familiar carrying buffs and auras while part of its master fits this idea behind the other archetype abilities and the author simply did not understand the implications of how he was writing that option. Then again I could be wrong and I don't have a clear way to know.

Punctuation really matters and it is probable that the sentence was not put together the way the author intended. I guess I'll have to figure out a balanced solution that sticks closely to what is written but allows it to be playable while not overbearing.

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