Pathfinder - Witch Archetypes Breakdown
I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
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Witch archetypes typically double-down on the Witch's Patron. Many Witches work just fine without taking an Archetype, but Archetypes can offer some assitional options.
The Witch is already very dependent on its familiar, and the Beast-Bonded archetype takes this dependency one step further. The abilities aren't particularly great, but you can improve them slightly by taking Improved Familiar and picking a suitably cool familiar.
Transfer Feats (Ex): You are a spellcaster. You cast spells. Your familiar is an amusing pet, but it's hardly capable of competing with you as a spellcaster. Giving it some feats won't change that.
Enhanced Familiar (Su): Wow. One level higher. Yay.
Familiar Form (Sp): This is a decent ability for one or two levels, assuming that you built your character intending to polymorph.
Twin Soul (Su): I would strongly consider killing my character intentionally just to be able to run around inside my pet cat or whatever.
Features Replaced: Hex (4th, 8th, 10th)
Valid Archetypes: Hex Channeler, Mountain Witch, Sea Witch
The Gravewalker is not your run of the mill master of the undead. Most undead-centric spellcasting archetypes are centered around having ever larger groups of undead minions. The Gravewalker can also create undead, but instead of pointing them at their foes, Gravewalkers inhabit the bodies of their undead minions. This can lead to horrific things like a Witch occupying the body of a shadow while she runs around murdering people. Because this archetype is dependent on having multiple undead minions, it can cause issues in a normal party. Consult your GM and your party before introducing mobs of skeletons to the party.
Spells: The Gravewalker's spells give the Witch all of the undead creation and control spells required to be a master of the undead.
- command undead: Totally redundant with your Bonethrall ability.
- animate dead: Time to build an army. If you create more undead than Animate Dead allows you to control, you can use Command Undead to control the ones that fall out of control.
- create undead: Create some scary undead. The spell is more expensive than Animate Dead, but the difference between a ghoul and a zombie is pretty huge.
- control undead: Unintelligent undead still get a save, and the duration is shorter than Command Undead.
- create greater undead: Create some very scary undead.
Spell Poppet: The flavor of this ability is fantastic, but losing the normal utility of a familiar is disappointing. Of course, the spell poppet gets some pretty fantastic powers as you level.
Deliver Touch Spells (Su): This makes melee touch attacks considerably safer to use.
Aura of Desecration (Su): The channel boost doesn't matter much, but the increased range for your Deliver Touch Spells ability is exellent.
Bonethrall (Su): Even if you need to create the undead yourself, an extra hit die of controlled undead per level is great. You can use this ability at will, so even if your pets manage to shake your control, you can just try again.
Possess Undead (Sp): Magic Jar is a complicated spell, and this slightly changes the way it works. Here's how it works, step by step:
- Activate ability as a standard action.
- Select on undead minion within your aura of despair: Your mind transfers into the body of your minion.
- Your minion's conciousness (or whatever serves as "conciousness") is transferred into your Spell Poppet.If your Spell Poppet is destroyed, the effect ends.
- Your body appears dead as far as anyone can tell.
- You occupy the body as specified in the Magic Jar spell description: If you are successful, your life force occupies the host body, and the host's life force is imprisoned in the magic jar. You keep your Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, level, class, base attack bonus, base save bonuses, alignment, and mental abilities. The body retains its Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, hit points, natural abilities, and automatic abilities. A body with extra limbs does not allow you to make more attacks (or more advantageous two-weapon attacks) than normal. You can't choose to activate the body's extraordinary or supernatural abilities. The creature's spells and spell-like abilities do not stay with the body.
- You may shift back to your Spell Poppet as a standard action, which ends the ability.
Features Replaced: Familiar, Hex (1st, 4th, 8th)
Valid Archetypes: Hex Channeler, Mountain Witch
The Healing patron provides a lot of spells to remove status effects, but very little actual healing. By combining the Hedge Witch and the Healing patron, you can nearly match the healing abilities of the Cleric. If your party lacks a healer, this is a great option.
Spontaneous Healing (Su): This saves you a lot of known spells, and allows you to heal your allies with no prior preperation.
Empathic Healing (Su): Very situational. Why would you take on someone's afflictions when you can cure them just as easily?
Features Replaced: Hex (4th, 8th)
Valid Archetypes: Hex Channeler, Mountain Witch, Sea Witch
If you want to channel energy, Clerics and Paladins both do it considerably better than the Hex Channeler. Hex Channeler also introduces a dependency on Charisma for which the Witch otherwise has no other use.
Channel Energy (Su): You only have to give up the Hex you gain at 2nd level, but if you want more channel damage, you have to keep giving up Hexes. Hexes are fantastic, and Channel Energy is passable if you put some effort into it. Why would you give up a list of fantastic abilities for one passable ability?
Features Replaced: Hex (2nd)
Valid Archetypes: Beast-Bonded, Gravewalker, Hedge Witch, Sea Witch
The Mountain Witch essentially takes the Shaman's Stone Spirit and uses it to partially replace the Witch's Patron. Unfortunately, the Stone Spirit options gained are poor.
Spells: Very few good spells.
- magic stone: Awful.
- stone call: Mediocre area control with a splash of damage.
- meld into stone: Very situational.
- stoneskin: Fantastic, but too expensive to use on a regular basis.
- wall of stone: Fantastic utility.
- stone tell: Very situational.
- statue: You can do some weird stuff to use this to protect yourself in combat, but it's fairly situational.
- repel metal or stone: Decent area control.
- clashing rocks: Good combination of damage and crowd control.
Stone Spirit Hex: The Stone Spirit's list of Hexes is mediocre.
Mountain Beast Empathy (Ex): Very situational, and it depends on Charisma, which is a dump stat for Witches.
Features Replaced: Hex (2nd), Patron Spells
Valid Archetypes: Beast-Bonded, Gravewalker, Hedge Witch
I hate aquatic themed archetypes. I hate them so much. Every class has at least one and they are all terrible. Some of them, including this one, are even terrible while you're in/on/around/under water.
Patron: Why do you even get to pick a patron? All of the patron spells are replaced by this archetype. Pick something weird just to mess with your GM.
- touch of sea: Very situational, and you still need Water Breathing.
- gust of wind: Situational.
- water breathing: Situational, but essential for aquatic archetypes.
- control water: Situational.
- cloudkill: It's very rare that you will be around groups of enemies weak enough to die to this spell.
- control winds: Allows you to prevent enemies from flying.
- control weather: Very situational.
- vortex: Very situational.
- tsunami: A bit of damage, and some excellent area control. Throw it at groups of enemies.
Know Direction (Sp): Situational and needlessly restrictive.
Sea Creature Empathy (Ex): Even more situational than Wild Empathy, which is already very situational.
Features Replaced: Hex (1st), Patron, Patron Spells
Valid Archetypes: Beast-Bonded, Hedge Witch, Hex Channeler