It’s Gothic Week here at Necromancers of the Northwest, a week celebrating Gothic horror and fantasy. To me, Gothic literature and themes represent the truest form of artistic horror and the purest of grim fantasies. Many of our classic ideas of what’s scary hail from the pages of these stories. The popular images of our most cherished and classical monster (vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and zombies) come in large part from these tales. They also feature dire curses, evil witches, and all manner of wanderers coming into the lives of ordinary people to inflict some malady upon them. This week’s Best in Class proudly celebrates the tradition of gypsy merchants, vile swamp-dwelling witches, and the voodoo practitioners that deal in monkey’s paws, brand pentagrams onto the hands of those cursed by moonlight, and return the dead to life to ride through the streets. Allow me to present to you the wandering witch, and take care, for she brings with her both adventure and terrible misfortune.
New Witch Archetype
Wandering witches are witches who have visited far reaches of the world and practice foreign lore, blending traditions to accomplish things most would believe impossible. The wandering witch appears without warning and acts subtly to accomplish her aims. For good or ill, her powers lay curses upon those who fail to heed her warnings and pay proper respect to the forces she serves. Steeped in occult lore and able to curse objects, men, and even the very land itself, the wandering witch is to be feared and respected.
Occult Lore (Ex): A wandering witch is practiced in various forms of occult lore and practice. At 1st level, a wandering witch gains access to all occult skill unlocks for skills in which she is trained, exactly as though she were a psychic spellcaster. At 2nd level, and every 4 levels thereafter, she can use a given occult skill unlock an additional time per day if the occult skill unlock can be used once per day or an additional time per week if the occult skill unlock could normally be used once per week.
This ability replaces the hex gained at 1st level.
Curse of Objects: At 6th level, a wandering witch learns to place powerful curses on objects, staining them with occult magic. Placing dire curses on an object allows her to exert her influence over the object. The forms of curses she can produce vary and can take several different forms.
When she initially curses an item, she decides on one of two general curses to place upon the item, regardless of the type of item being cursed. The general curses she can place on the object are misfortune or inescapability. If the item is cursed with misfortune, the current owner of the object suffers a –1 luck penalty on all saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks so long as the item is within his possession. In addition to this effect, minor accidents and other unfortunate events tend to take place around the owner of the cursed object. If the inescapable curse is chosen, then any character (other than the wandering witch) that comes to possess the item is unable to get rid of it by any means, and the item always reappears in the user’s possession, usually hidden among his other possessions, within 24 hours of disposing of the item. At 10th level, whenever the wandering witch curses an item, both general curses may be placed upon the same item.
In addition to general curses, which can be placed upon any item, the wandering witch can place a specific curse on any magic item she curses. The types of curses are specific to various types of magical items, as described below.
Armor, shields, and weapons: Whenever the wandering witch places a curse on a suit of armor, shield, or weapon, she may curse it with ruin, causing the item to impose a penalty rather than a bonus to AC (in the case of armor or shields) or attack and damage (in the case of weapons). This penalty is equal to the normal enhancement bonus of the item.
Potions, scrolls, staves, and wands: Whenever the wandering witch curses a potion, scroll, staff or wand, she may alter the spell effect replicated by the item to instead produce any other spell effect of equal or lower level. For example, she could change a potion of cure light wounds into a potion of inflict light wounds. In the case of a staff that can cast multiple spells, only one spell may be changed. The new effect is triggered whenever the original effect would be triggered, and there is no way to identify that the spell effect has been changed.
Rings and wondrous items: When the wandering witch places a curse upon a ring or wondrous item, if the item is worn, it cannot be removed, and in addition to its normal effects, reduces the target’s ability scores by 2. If the item is not worn, it has only a 50% chance of functioning normally.
Rods: When the wandering witch places a curse upon a rod, it has a 50% chance to function normally and a 50% chance to instead produce a random magical effect as though it were a rod of wonder. A rod that functions as a weapon may be cursed as a rod or as a weapon.
A wandering witch can curse a number of objects equal to her Intelligence modifier. If she wishes to curse another item, she must first release a previously cursed item in order to curse the new one. A wandering witch can use the scrying spell to scry on any item she has cursed as though it were a person. In order to end this curse, a successful remove curse spell must be cast upon the item, and the caster must succeed on a caster level check with a DC equal to 11 + the wandering witch’s level.
This ability replaces the hex gained at 6th level.
Curse of Monsters: At 14th level, a wandering witch can curse a living creature in order to turn him into a bloodthirsty monster. As a full-round action, the wandering witch can touch a living creature in order to attempt to curse him with a curse of monsters. The target may attempt a Will save (DC = 10 + 1/2 the wandering witch’s level + the wandering witch’s Intelligence modifier) to negate the effect. If the target fails his saving throw, he is affected by the curse. This curse can take one of several forms, described below. The form the curse takes is decided when the curse is initially laid, and cannot be changed. The wandering witch can curse only a number of living creatures equal to her Intelligence modifier (undead creatures created as a result of this curse count against this total). If she wishes to curse another creature, she must first release a previously cursed creature as a standard action in order to curse the new one.
Ghosts: The target is cursed so that upon his death, he reanimates as an undead creature to serve the wandering witch. When the target dies, he is automatically reanimated as though by the spell create undead, with a caster level equal to the wandering witch’s level. The created undead serves the wandering witch without need of a control undead spell or similar ability.
Living Doll: When the target falls under this curse, he become petrified as his body is transformed into porcelain. The target can be animated to serve the witch as with an animate object spell for a number of hours each day equal to the wandering witch’s Intelligence modifier. A stone to flesh spell cast on the target immediately ends this curse.
Lycanthropy: The target becomes infected with lycanthropy (werewolf) as an afflicted lycanthrope. When the target transforms into a wolf or assumes hybrid form, he falls under the wandering witch’s control, as though charmed with the spell charm monster, until he returns to his normal form. Whenever he would shift back from his animal or hybrid form to his natural form, he falls unconscious for 1d6 rounds. A character afflicted with this curse is physically marked with a symbol of the wandering witch’s patron.
With the exception of the living doll version of this curse, a successful break enchantment spell or more powerful magic is required to break the curse.
This ability replaces the hex gained at 14th level.
Curse the Land (Su): At 20th level, the wandering witch learns how to curse the very world around her, blighting the land and suffusing it with eldritch power. By spending 24 hours completing a ritual that involves speaking secret rhymes, the wandering witch can curse an area of land 1 mile in radius with dark power. She can curse a total amount of land equal to 1 mile radius per point of Intelligence modifier, which need not be contiguous. If she wishes to curse land beyond this amount, she must first release some previously cursed land as a full-round action. The curse placed on the land replicates an unhollow or hollow effect, and additionally carries one of the following curses, at the wandering witch’s discretion.
Blight: The land is devoid of life, and wounds and rot persist in the wasteland. Plants grow at a reduced rate, producing only 50% of their normal yield in a year. Additionally, any creature born in the area suffers a -2 penalty to its Constitution score. Finally, creatures in the area recover only 1/2 the normal amount of hit points from both magical and nonmagical healing.
Dread: The land is filled with a tangible sense of fear, which makes living creatures in the area shaken for as long as they remain within the area, unless they succeed on a Will save (DC = 10 + 1/2 the wandering witch’s level + the wandering witch’s Intelligence modifier). A character that succeeds on this saving throw is immune for 24 hours. Creatures with an Intelligence score of less than 3 that fail their save are panicked, instead.
Null Magic: No magic easily takes hold in the witch’s domain, save her own. Non-witches in the area suffer a –2 penalty to their caster level and must roll all concentration checks twice and take the worse result.
A wish or miracle spell is required to end one of these curses.
This ability replaces the hex gained at 20th level.