Monday, December 14, 2009

The Dragon #5 part 2

Witchcraft Supplement for D&D: I love how the guys at TSR just published this thing even though they have no idea who wrote it. Truly, it was a different time, and there's absolutely no way Wizards of the Coast would be able to do this now.

This is a lengthy and thorough article on the subject of Witches. I know it is far from the last, but after this monstrosity I wonder just what is left to say. Anyway, the Witches presented here are all NPC monsters, part of an ancient order. The first thing the article does is to add them to the Wilderness encounter tables. No matter what terrain you are in, every roll of 5 or 7 now has a 50% chance to be a Witch instead of the monster shown on the chart. It's said that they favour woodlands and orchards, but that doesn't stop them showing up everywhere else.

About a third of Witches are Lawful, while the rest are Chaotic. There's no provision given for Good or Evil, so I guess the author was working from the old alignment system. Chaotic Witches are further subdivided into Low Order, High Order, and the forbidden Secret Order, which never mix with the other types

From there we get into Witch Magic, beginning with a note that Efreet, Djinn and all Clerics are completely immune to it. That last one is a big surprise to me, given that it's a positive boon to the PCs. I guess we can cross Gary off the list of potential authors...

Lawful or White Witches can cast 7 spells a day from a list that mostly consists of healing spells with a few other utilities like invisibility thrown in for good measure. A small percentage of White Witches are 'ancient', and once a week can cast a more powerful spell from a special list. There's some really powerful stuff there. Youth can remove 40 years from a character's age. Influence will automatically turn a character Lawful. Banish Any One Creature will instantly send one creature to Hell with no saving throw. Enchantment allows the Witch to create any magic ring, potion, weapon, or miscellaneous item in day at no expense. Lastly, Seek allows the Witch to find any object, place, or creature and visualise its surroundings. Yep, that's a nasty set of powers alright, and it makes me glad that they are strictly the purview of NPCs.

Chaotic or Black Witches have a more versatile spell list than their White counterparts, though they don't do healing at all. Low Order Witches cast 4 minor spells a day, while High Order cast 4 minor and two major spells.

There are a few new spells in the minor category. Pit opens a hole 15 feet deep in the ground. Fire Box creates a hollow cube of fire around a target. Diminish Plant/Animal/Men shrinks every creature in its area. Plant Entrapment causes plants to entangle creatures in the area.

The major spells are all new, though not as powerful as those for the White Witches. Paralyzing Pit is like the Pit ability above, but anyone in the pit must make a saving throw or be paralyzed. Undead Control lets the Witch command undead. Aging adds 20 years to the age of any living thing. Circle of Blindness seems to cause blindness and deafness to everyone within the range, as well as providing a refuge from all detection spells. Curse is an open-ended means by which the DM can hose players in any way he chooses, though it doesn't work on anyone enclosed in silver. Poison Touch grants the Witch a save or die attack, or lets her coat items in poison. Curtain Wall creates an extradimensional room in which the Witch can make her lair.

Secret Order Witches are extremely antisocial loners who never have help of any kind, but are extraordinarily powerful. Due to their long life, they become intimately familiar with their surroundings, and are impossible to surprise in their lairs. They are smart enough not to attack unless they feel threatened. Here a little bit of history about them:

"In forgotten ages past, in kingdoms unheralded and dead centuries of untold history, a fiery confrontation emerged between witch covens world-wide. The myriad witches of the woodlands and the fields formed an alliance which dominated all other covens. This group forcibly directed the studies of other witches, and great emphasis was placed on the magic of plants and animals, that they might grow stronger still in their respective domains. But there were those who sought darker and more Godly enchantments, pursuing powers of devastation and the very elements. They promised to teach what they learned, to enslave the world of men, and to shape raw power to the ends of witches everywhere. This the alliance would not permit, for power inspires fear, fear of those that have it. Those who allied with the new Secret Coven were cast out, and in time only the mountains offered refuge to the members of this radical coven."
These Witches can cast six 'Group A' spells a day, which are just the general run-of-the-mill Cleric and Magic-User spells. It's 'Group B' where the real doozies reside, and Secret Order Witches get 3 of those a day. Intensify greatly amplifies any natural phenomenon. Wither causes every living thing in the area to rapidly age and die. Weight Concentration/Dilution allows the Witch to control the weight of any creature or object. Quake causes earthquakes. Vaporize turns stone into fog for quick excavations. Solidify is the reverse, and good for trapping creatures too slow to escape. Volcanic Circle creates a ring of lava that flows outwards and burns anyone caught for 10d6 damage. And Reflections makes any spell targeted at the Witch bounce back at the caster.

The Secret Order also has a bunch of magical weapons. Only High Order witches, an 'ancient' White Witch, or a Wizard of 13th level or above can wield them. A Cleric who touches one will suffer instant death, 'for clerics are disciples of deities, and the secret witches recognize no power but their own as supreme'. The Skull of Death is a dragon skull helmet that can command undead and cast Finger of Death. Mountain Seeds become the size of a castle when thrown, and can be used to crush armies and such. Leech Dust forms a cloud that sucks the blood out of its victims. Assassin's Eyes are invisible eyes that fly around and cast Charm Person or Death Ray. Witch Wands can cast a bunch of the various witch spells per day. A Serpent Belt is like the snake belt but better. A Seed Satchel contains seeds that transform into stuff, like a wyvern or a wall of thorns. A Hornet Cape lets the wearer fly, command flying creatures, and fire stingers. Finally, a Potion Cauldron lets the Witch produce any potion in a single day.

From there we go to Lairs, and the treasures that Witches keep in them. Every Witch has a flying broomstick, of course, as well as a crystal ball. They also have familiars, which is the first mention of that concept in D&D. Lawful Witches have small birds or animals, while the Chaotic Witches get rad stuff like Basilisks, Wyverns, undead, or a Warlock. Chaotic Witches trap their lairs with curses, while the Lawful ones make do with manual traps (because a Curse is so much more evil than a crossbow bolt to the neck).

Lastly, we deal with the generic Witch items that might appear in any treasure hoard regardless of the Witch's alignment. Some are from older supplements, while most are new. The Snake Belt is a belt that turns into a snake strong enough to strangle a Wyvern. Ivy Bracelets bestow plant control and the ability to talk to plants, but are delicate and easily destroyed. Dart Rings fire poisonous thorns. The Locket of Satan is only found with evil Witches, and grants command of any three Chaotic creatures in range. Love Lockets are only found with good Witches, and any male humanoid who gets within range is instantly smitten and will do anything the wearer wants. Thorn Twine is a thorny vine that can do all sorts of rope tricks and also slash people with its thorns. A Guardian Egg can be turned into a Hill Giant, a Roc, or a Dragon Turtle. Hill Seeds expand greatly in size and mass whn thrown, acting like cannonballs. Luck Charms give bonuses to attack and defense, as well as wishes and the ability to find better treasure. A Mirror-Crystal protects against Charm Person, sleep spells, paralyzation, curses, and anything else that controls your mind. Amulets of Power let a spellcaster memorize more spells, and increases the power of those spells by 50%.

Phew. That's that. One tidbit to take away from here is the frequent mention of Satan. I'm more than willing to have Satan as one of my Dukes of Hell, so adding him to the campaign is no problem. Introducing the Witches all of a sudden will be more problematic, but I'm tempted just to put them in the encounter tables and be done with it. If I come up with an explanation later on I'll use it.

The Gnome Cache Chapter Five: In which Dunstan and Mellerd travel to Deepwell and join with a merchant heading north. Some observations:
  • The Upplands north of Crosshill Road are wild and desolate. Rabbits live there.
  • It takes a week by foot to travel from Huddlefoot to Deepwell.
  • Dolph is the liveryman in Deepwell. He can't read very well.
  • Evan the Trader is a dealer is rich furs from Nehron-land.
  • The town of Rheyton lies north of Deepwell, and further north are the forests of Nehron.
  • Not too far from Deepwell live the wild Kimbry, who are known to brand their horses.
  • Some coin types are named: plumbs, and gold scruples (or scrups).

Next: The Dragon #6. Sea Trade! Psionic Revamp! Morale! Looks like things are getting a bit more complicated...


  1. Mysterious article fun. That's a lotta info for something that never really made its way into AD&D. Maybe your witches could have a tie with the druids, an old enmity somehow recently exacerbated to justify their sudden appearance out of the blue.

  2. Aaaand that's why I'm running this as a blog. Consider your idea appropriated with many thanks.

  3. Who knew the random "beautiful witch" drawing from Men & Magic would eventually sorta make sense? Now, where are those amazons..?