Sunday, February 7, 2010

I, WitchFigureOuter

...or, Figuring Out Which New Character Classes Might Actually Be Worth Writing Up for This Campaign

So while thinking about new classes, I ended up dividing all my ideas into a few categories...

-Classes Which Have Evocative Names That Might Inspire Players Who Are New To The Game But In Reality Are Pretty Well-Covered Under The Core Rules Since They Don't Necessarily Have Any Unique Abilities That Would Aid In Adventuring, They Just Specialize In Abilities That Some Class Already Has Under The Rules We're Using


(Tempted to leave these classes out entirely. However, some people will perk up at the thought of being a "necromancer" while it won't occur to them that they could just be a wizard or cleric--or both--and choose all necromantic spells. When dealing with new players, it's good not to ignore the rhetorical power of class names. I think I won't write up any of these classes though, I'll just remember to frame them as options for players who might want them.)

Classes That Perhaps DO Imply Unique Abilities That Would Aid In Adventuring But These Abilities Are Not Necessarily Broadly Applicable In The Campaign I'm Running So That PC Will, In Effect, Function Just Like Some Other Class Most Of The Time


(I'd like to leave these out, too. but again, during character generation, I should remind people--if you wanna say your rogue is a pirate--Ok. Or a princess? No problem.)

Inherently Magical/Fantastic Classes That Imply Unique Abilities But Which Each Fill Such A Narrow And Specialized PsychoLiterary Niche That Having Too Many Of Them Around At Once Would Fundamentally Alter The Character Of The Game So It'd Become A Sort Of Medieval Superhero Game

Magic-Doll Controlling-Type Person
Steampunk Weapon-Instead-Of-Limb Cyborg/Inventor
Guy Who Can Walk Through Your Dreams

(I feel like the fundamental idea in the best picaresque is that a relatively ordinary person explores a CRAZY world. Some of the girls sure do like their crazy, though--could be a pip. Maybe at high levels we can do this. It's nice when the PCs have to earn crazy,.)

Classes That Have Unique Abilites Broadly Useful In Adventuring That I Should Probably Write Up Quick And Dirty Right Now Before I Forget What I Was Going To Do



The Alchemist

An alchemist has pretty much everything (hit points, saves, etc.) exactly as a wizard or magic-user, except...


Instead of spells, the alchemist has potions. Potions mimic the effect of spells except the effect is engaged by either skin contact, ingestion, or merely pulling the stopper out (player chooses if common sense doesn't automatically tell you which). Level of mimicked spells matches the ordinary wizard spell-level-available progression chart.

Instead of spells per day, the alchemist starts an adventure with (Intelligence divided by 3 rounded down + 1 per level) potions.

Potions can also mimic multiple spell effects at once, but such a potion still costs two potion "slots".

This stock of potions can only ordinarily be replenished by spending an uninterrupted week working in a special Alchemist's Lab. The PC is assumed to have their own lab at the beginning of the game. The lab contains all the materials required to make the potions appropriate to the PC's level. It wil be jealously guarded blah blah blah.

Replenishing the stock of potions without this lab costs 100 gp of materials per level of potion being made. A Sleep potion would thus cost 100 g.p. A Sleep and a Charm would cost 200 g.p. etc.

(Potions mimicking multiple effects cost as if two separate potions were being made.)

Rushing Potions

Once per day, an alchemist may attempt to hastily throw together a potion in one hour using only available materials. (Like, for example, if the alchemist is stuck in a dungeon and out of potions.) Success requires rolling a 19 or 20 on a d20. The Alchemist gets +1 per level up to a maximum of +14.

Exotic Materials And Higher-Level Potions

If the Alchemist discovers an unusual substance on an adventure (dragon sperm, volcanic rock from a lava golem, etc.-GM's discretion as to what's unusual. It must be something not ordinarily buyable at home.), s/he may roll on this chart to see if s/he can find a use for it.

+2% per level, +1% per point of intelligence over 12

1-70 Nope
71-80 Allows alchemist to prepare a potion one level higher than the alchemist is ordinarily able to prepare (GM's choice what potion)
81-85 Allows alchemist to prepare a potion one level higher than the alchemist is ordinarily able to prepare (player's choice what potion)
86-89 Allows alchemist to prepare a potion ordinarily available to him/her--and also allows the alchemist to do it in one hour using only available materials by succeeding on a (roll-under) intelligence check. (GM's choice which potion.)
90-91 Allows alchemist to prepare a potion two levels higher than the alchemist is ordinarily able to prepare (GM's choice)
92-93 Allows alchemist to prepare a potion two levels higher than the alchemist is ordinarily able to prepare (player's choice)
94-95 Allows alchemist to prepare a potion three levels higher than the alchemist is ordinarily able to prepare (GM's choice)
96-97 Allows alchemist to prepare a potion three levels higher than the alchemist is ordinarily able to prepare (player's choice)
98-100 Roll again twice

A given alchemist can only roll on this table once per substance (unless s/he rolls a 98-100 of ocurse). Obviously, once a substance is established to be an ingredient in a given potion, it is forever an ingredient in that potion (though it may have other uses as well.)

If an alchemist attempts to rush a potion that is a higher level than s/he is ordinarily able to prepare, chance of success is -1 per level above the ordinary.

Copying Potions

An alchemist may attempt to copy any potion s/he finds by either:

A) Studying a full dose for one week, or...
B) Drinking that potion a number of times = (12 - the alchemist's level) (to a minimum of one).

Chance of successfully copying a potion is the same as for rushing a potion, though there are no penalties for trying to copy a potion of a higher level than the alchemist is ordinarily able to prepare.

Potion Failure

Success or failure of potions should be rolled secretly by the DM. The DM should be extremely creative in determining the effects of failed potions. Or use a funny chart.


I've never seen the Dragon Magazine alchemist class, so I have no idea how close or far from that this class is.


How I'd Like To Run The Witch Class

Witches are like wizards or magic-users except...

Certain weapons are not allowed--no bows, crossbows, pole arms (other than spears). "Primitive" weapons only.

No armor.

Witches can choose spells from the druid, cleric and wizard/magic-user list. (Any witch worth her salt should be able to talk to animals, curse you AND shrink you.)

Unlike ordinary spells, witch spells can only take effect in one of these ways, player's choice for each spell:

-Always on--the spell represents an aura or touch of the witch and therefore cannot be turned off. Obviously which spells this can apply to has to be carefully examined the DM--it should only apply to spells wherein it might be a disaadvantage to have them on all the time--like Chill Touch.

-Chanting--the spell takes at least two rounds to cast and involves a verbal component no matter what the spell description says.

-Intermediary object--the spell is cast on an object--an apple, a dagger, a potion, a door, etc.--and then is "transferred" to the intended target by touch. Enchanting the object takes one round. Enchanting a knife and then stabbing someone with it is totally acceptable.

-Intermediary phrase--A phrase can be enchanted so that speaking it (in a given language) initiates the effect.

-Gazed-upon area--an area equal to 10" x 10" times the witch's level can be enchanted so that looking at it causes an effect to occur.

Considering adding to the total number of spells available per level and/or making certain spells like Shield, Mage Armor, and/or Find Familiar into automatic bonus spells.

How I'm Actually Going To Run Witches For The Time Being

Back when I was trying to keep things simple for my new players, a bunch of players who basically want to play witches picked the nearest equivalents they could find in the published rules--one illusionist, one sorceress, one tiefling cleric and one dark elf cleric.

These players are not bored of their spell lists. Even though they have only access to one of three spell lists, since they're relatively new to the game, they've already got more magic than they know what to do with. The idea of trading in the ability to basically fire spells at will and use whatever weapons they've become used to in exchange for a host of spells it hadn't even occurred to them to want yet is not necessarily appealing.

So, until further notice: any female spell-caster that wants to be called a witch is one.


  1. I have yet to play 4e... but when I do, there is part of me that wants to play a female warlock just so I can call her a witch.

  2. If you think the class names are compelling to players, you could revert to using class level names. e.g. Wouldn't KK's half elf Barbarian like to be known as a Savage Brute ( or somesuch) at 4th level (or whatever)?

  3. I have been toying around with a 4e witch for sometime. But I have not put fingers to keyboard for it yet. I do have witches for nearly every other version of D&D though. I sort of fudge now with playing a fey-pact Warlock and multiclass into wizard.

    But I have loved witches for a long time.

  4. I liked 3es Warlock for the reason you give under witch: always on powers.


  5. Inherently Magical/Fantastic Classes That Imply Unique Abilities But Which Each Fill Such A Narrow And Specialized PsychoLiterary Niche That Having Too Many Of Them Around At Once Would Fundamentally Alter The Character Of The Game So It'd Become A Sort Of Medieval Superhero Game

    unless there was a lot of upkeep that had to go with each class. Steampunk Mickey would need to be near a river or lug around 20 gallons of water everywhere, have someone to work a pump-following around else the character is just lugging around a 110 weight lump on one arm. the more champion these new classes could be, the more vulnerable they might be end up. i could cite examples, but i'm sure your imagination can run with this if you're inclined.

    reading a book called Lost Languages talking about the vulnerability of early culture (sand religion written into soft muck) and the magic written on clay tablets. they had to make carbon copies. these magic words are fragile hardened mud for fuk's sake. they might be power juju, but if you drop em, youre screwed.

  6. Stuart--
    nice idea, but you can't help a confused new player pick a class by listing off the 15 different names s/he'll have as the game progresses. "you could be an acolyte then an adept then a priest then a curate then a prefect then a canon then a lama then a..."

  7. Re: Alchemist.

    YAY! Stinking Cloud finally really CAN be "A Fart In A Bottle!"

  8. Oh, you're trying to HELP them.....

  9. Check out the Hexblade the whole cursing thing is in there and you can add a little dash of Bard because we all know witches and fairies can whip up a song or verse on the spot.

    They should also have an animal companion instead of a familiar (or if you are using that system combine both bonuses).

    Other than that i like the concept.

  10. "Alter The Character Of The Game So It'd Become A Sort Of Medieval Superhero Game"

    Yes please. :) That's what I run.

    I basically run a AD&D 1st Edition game with a very comic book, Anime/Manga feel. It features the inclusion of a 'talent' system I first developed long ago and have adjusted to my liking over the years.

    Characters can have Major, Medium and Minor talents. Spellcasting, for example, is a Major Talent of the Wizard Class. Turning Undead is a Major Talent of the Cleric Class. Weapon Expertise (very different in my game) is a Major Talent of the Fighter Class, etc.

    The talents are half way between a special ability, a feat and a power as seen in superhero rpgs. Player Characters can gain the Major Talents of classes other then their own as Medium or Minor talents. A Fighter, for example, can never have Spellcasting as a Major Talent but I certainly have Spellcasting Fighters. As time went on in the campaign, combinations have arisen such as...

    My ex-wife's Fighter/Magic User who can track like a Ranger (though not as good as our Ranger PCs).

    My buddy's pirate Bard who has the talent 'Swashbuckling' (as long as he does things in a flamboyant and overly dramatic fashion he recieves bonuses for the activity).

    Another friend's War Priest (what he calls his being a Fighter/Cleric) who focuses his Soul and Spiritual energy into his sword a la the 'Sword Saints' of Japanese myth, folklore and anime.

    Generally I am not a fan of classes for Fantasy gaming. Give me either a list of skills and abilities I can pick and choose to make my character or class-like packages I can adjust and customize. Again, stuff you find more often in supers games.

  11. Cool.
    Really, for some people - including myself - it's more fun to be a Duellist than just be a Fighter who tends to insult people and then kill them in a (relatively) fair fight. Names are powerful.

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  13. re: ALCHEMIST

    not sure if you are familiar with it, but forgotten realms 3e has a master alchemist (obviously based on a spellcaster w/ brew potion) which allows access to higher-level-than-otherwise-legal potions, and rapid brew (up to 4 potions a day). Found in "Magic of Faerun" not sure if it works with your system but my players love it.