In a previous blog, I offered up some suggestions on a obvious core profession that should have been included in Rolemaster: The Shaman. Today I thought I would dive deeper into another profession that could also be core to the system: The Witch.
For that follow other blogs and specifically The Other Side, Tim is an avid “witch guy”. (I think he actually designed the witch for some version of D&D). Anyway, Tim wrote about witches in early D&D and referenced some work by Tom Moldvay. You can read that blog HERE. The first take away is Tom’s summary of core witch abilities:
According to Moldvay a witch class should include the following:
1. The ability to use herbs for healing and magic.
2. The power of fascination, like a super-charm ability.
3. A combination of both Clerical and Magic-User abilities.
4. The ability to practice sympathetic magic.
5. Be worshipers, in secret, of a religion otherwise forbidden in a particular era.
6. Powers based on nature and the cycle of seasons, similar to Druidic* powers.
To me, those abilities draw from standard western tropes, and at the time helped form the basis of an alternate D&D profession. But let’s look at these in the context of Rolemaster.
#1 Healing & Magic Herbs. That one is a bulls-eye for Rolemaster that has a much more detailed and integrated system for magical and natural herbs. Additionally, this doesn’t even need to be a basis of magical spells, just herb lore and/or various similar skills. Or, a Witch could use Herb Mastery as a Base list.
#2 “Super-charm”. This touches on the witch trope of casting glamours, using love potions and charming unsuspecting targets. It would be easy to use Spirit Mastery as a Base list for the Witch profession.
#3 A combination of Clerical and M-U. Again, Rolemaster can easily define a witch as a Hybrid profession using Channeling and Essence.
#4 Sympathetic Magic. Tom is probably referring to curses, hexes, talismans that are common in Witch folklore. Here we could give the Witch a “Curses” or “Disease” list.
#5 Secret society. As a Channeler, a Witch should have a patron god. It doesn’t have to be a secret god, just that the witch doesn’t practice within an organized religion. Or, the witch could worship an ancient “dead” god or a minor god of indeterminate morality. That doesn’t suggest that witches must be evil or suspect! Why can’t you have “good” witches?
#6 Nature Magic. Giving a witch nature based spells could make sense. One or two Druid or Cleric Open/closed would round out the witches base lists and their witch-like abilities.
So for those wanting a traditional witch, it’s fairly easy to bolt together the profession using existing skills and spell lists. Of course, RM Companion offered up a variant with “Candle Magic”, “Familiars” and other tropey spells. But we can’t discuss professions in my blogs without deconstructing the topic!!!
While Tom Moldvay offers a traditional package for a witch, does that work in non-westerncentric fantasy settings? What is a witch really, using the broadest sense of the concept. A few thoughts that use Moldvay’s foundation, but might be more flexible for various types of settings.
- The ability to use “natural magic”. Whether that’s herbs, nature, familiars or something else, a Witch accesses fundamental powers rooted in the natural world. You could argue these are Arcane Powers.
- Well-rounded. A witch is mostly solitary or lacks a open organized society or group to work within. Therefore they have a broad skill set for both offense and defense. This does not just need to be subtle charms or passive aggressive curses. A witch could easily utilize fire magic or other elemental powers in certain settings.
- Power flexibility. Whether a hybrid or just has access to a variety of power types, a witch should be versatile but not formally trained.
- Secret Worship. A witch should have a patron god, but worships secretly and protects the god’s identity. A witch will be secretive and elusive about their powers. This provides them with a sense of mystery and solitary nature, even if they operate within an organized society. (see the 50 in 50 blog HERE). Witches don’t have to be hermit crones living deep in a swamp.
Once you dismiss the specific powers of potions, charms, cackling and glamours you have a versatile, unique and powerful professional template. Using these 4 basic criteria, a witch could be very adaptable to many settings without regressing back to fantasy norms.