Pathfinder - The Witch Handbook
Last Updated: October 15, 2018
I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.
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.
The witch is, in many ways, very similar to a wizard. They're intelligence-based prepared arcane spellcasters with a potentially infinite pool of "known" spells. Their spell list is long and diverse, and they can make a spectacular save-or-suck caster. The Witch is distinguished from the wizard by a flavor and by their Hex abilities. Hexes provide non-spellcasting options for a class which is honestly good enough at spellcasting that they don't strictly need other abilities beyond their spellcasting.
Like the Wizard, the Witch can excel in a long list of roles in the party depending on your build and spell list. Unlike the Wizard, the Witch has healing spells on their spell list, and with the right patron a witch can even make a passable replacement for a divine spellcaster.
Witch Class Features
Hit Points: d6 hit points is bad, but standard for full casters.
Base Attack Bonus: 1/2 BAB, and nothing to complement it. Fortunately you should very rarely need to make attacks.
Saves: Will is the Witch's only good save, and the Witch has no dependence on other abilities. Fortunately the Witch is very SAD, so you have room to improve abilities which fuel your saves.
Proficiencies: Simple weapons, and no armor or shields. Fortunately you shouldn't really need any weapons, and Haramaki and a Mithral Buckler don't require proficiency.
Skills: 2+ skill ranks is very meager, but the Witch needs high Intelligence for spells, so you should get plenty of skill ranks. Unfortunately the Witch's skill list is very slim, and only has a few important options. 20 Intelligence will easily allow you to maximize all of the Witch's important skills.
Spells: Witch's get spells and spells per day at the same rate as a Wizard, and can learn new spells in much the same way. The biggest distinctions are the Witch's spell list and the fact that Witches store their spells in their Familiar instead of in a book.
Cantrips: Fantastic and versatile.
Hex: Hexes are fantastic supplements to the Witch's spells. For help selecting Hexes, see my Witch Hex Breakdown.
Witch's Familiar (Ex): Familiars are always fantastic, and their ability to store your spells is a cool part of the Witch's flavor.
Patron: Much like the Sorcerer's bloodline, the Witch's Patron provides bonus spells of each spell level one level after you gain access to that spell level. Many of these spells are no on the Witch's spell list, and it is often a good idea to build your Witch to complement your Patron spells. For help selecting a Witch Patron, see my Witch Patron Breakdown.
Major Hex: See Hex, above.
Grand Hex: See Hex, above.
The Witch's abilities are largely identical to the Wizard's.
In addition to normal ability considerations, Witches can also make excellent use of the aging rules. Being middle-aged gives you a -1 penalty to your physical abilities, but gets you a pleasant +1 to your mental ability scores. However, this can be a problem for your already low reflex and fortitude saves.
Str: Dump to 7 unless you're polymorphing.
Dex: Important for Reflex saves and the Witch's meager AC.
Con: Important for Fortitude saves and hit points.
Int: The Witch's spellcasting ability. As a full caster with no martial options, Intelligence is everything.
Wis: Helpful for Will saves, but not particularly important because Will si the Witch's only good save.
Cha: Dump to 7.
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Intelligence bonuses are crucial. Other racial abilities are nice, but can't compete with an Intelligence bonus.
Dwarf: Nothing useful for the Witch.
Elf: Bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence are fantastic, and the Elf's racial bonuses work well for any full caster. The Elf favored class bonus grants additional spells, but Witches' familiars can learn more spells from other familiars in much the same way that Wizards can add additional spells to their spellbooks.
Gnome: A decent choice if you want a small Witch or a Witch focused on illusions, and the Gnome favored class bonus grants additional Hexes.
Half-Elf: The flexible ability bonus is great, but the Half-Elf can't quite match the Elf. The Half-Elf has the same favored class bonus as the Elf, and it's still not great. Half-Elves can take the Human favored class bonus, but that's also the same as the Elf's.
Half-Orc: The same issues as the Half-Elf, but their favored class bonus adds skill ranks to your familiar. Familiars use their master's skill modifiers if their master's modifier is higher, so it makes more sense to add the skill ranks to yourself. Half-Orcs can take the Human favored class bonus, but it's not particularly good.
Halfling: Similar to the Gnome, but better for Stealth than for illusions. The Halfling favored class bonus adds a Caster Level bonus to your Patron spells which can be very powerful if your Patron's spells are strongly affected by caster level.
Human: A flexible ability modifier and a bonus feat are fantastic on any character. The bonus skill ranks are nice, but with 20 starting Intelligence you're probably already running out of useful class skills.
- Fly (Dex): One rank is plenty.
- Heal (Wis): A nice complement to magical healing, but characters with more Wisdom will be able to provide more healing.
- Intimidate (Cha): A Witch is not a Face.
- Knowledge (arcana) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills in the game.
- Knowledge (history) (Int): Situational, and very dependent on the campaign.
- Knowledge (nature) (Int): One of the more important Knowledge skills in the game, but not as important as Arcana or Planes.
- Knowledge (planes) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills in the game.
- Spellcraft (Int): Craft items and identify spells and magic effects. Max this every time.
- Use Magic Device (Cha): Witches get a huge spell list, and Charisma is a dump stat, so there is little reason to use UMD.
This section does not cover metamagic feats or item creation feats feats. For help with metamagic feats, see my Practical Guide to Metamagic.
- Accursed Hex: Many of the best Hexes can only affect a single target one time per day. Accursed Hex allows you to try again. This is particularly useful for save or suck hexes.
- Combat Casting: A +4 bonus to your concentration checks when casting defensively is tempting, but you should not be casting defensively often enough to justify spending a feat on it. Optimizing Concentration is very easy, and you can do it with traits and items instead of wasting a feat.
- Eschew Materials: Not a lot of spells have material components which are covered by this feat, and you can buy a spell component pouch for the rest.
- Extra Hex: Hexes are fantastic.
- Improved Familiar: You have a familiar, and getting a better one can get you access to some very cool choices.
- Improved Initiative: Go first, and get control of the combat early.
- Spell Hex: Only usable 3/day. Unless you plan to take Quick Spell-Like Ability, this is easily replaced by 3 1st-level pearls of power.
- Spell Penetration: At high level Spell Resistance can really shut you down, so Spell Resistance becomes extremely important.
- Greater Spell Penetration: See Spell Penetration.
- Split Hex: Many low level Hexes continue their usefulness into high levels, and this can double their efficiency.
- Split Major Hex: Split Hex, but with much better options.
- Light Crossbow: A decent backup weapon at low levels when you run low on spells, but you will be more reliable with cantrips because your attack rolls will be so low.
If you need AC, you're doing something wrong. Still, it doesn't hurt to get some cheap protection. Keep in mind that Mage Armor is generally your best bet when you need AC, but Mage Armor isn't always on.
- Haramaki: +1 AC, no arcane spell failure, and at 5 gp you can afford it at first level.
- Mithral Buckler: +1 AC, no arcane spell failure, and cheap to enhance.
- Silken Ceremonial: +1 AC, 4 pounds, no ACP or spell failure. Plus, it's a sweet ceremonial robe. Haramaki is strictly better, but it's not a super cool robe.
- Celestial Armor (22,400 gp): Unless you have heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most +5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from your armor is AC. For more, check out my Practical Guide to Celestial Armor.
- Rod of Abrupt Hexes: Expensive, but very powerful. Hit an enemy with Misfortune as a swift action then follow up with either Slumber or a save-or-suck spell.
- Rod of Grasping Hexes: Evil Eye, Misfortune, and Slumber all have limited ranges.
- Rod of Interminable Hexes: Use Cackle. Don't have Cackle? Get a Cackling Hag's Blouse. This would be useful if it applied to greater or advanced hexes, but limiting it to basic hexes renders it useless.
- Rod of Potent Hexes: There is exactly one Hex to which this applies: Healing. Do you really want to spend 54,000gp to double the effect of Cure Moderate Wounds?
- Rod of Voracious Hexes: Double your save-or-suck hexes.
It's difficult to recommend specific staffs without knowing your individual character, so instead I want to make a general endorsement of the concept of magic staffs in Pathfinder. If you are a 3.5 native, go read Pathfinder's rules for staffs because they have improved dramatically.
Staffs are a reliable, rechargeable source of extra spellcasting that can give spellcasters easy and reliable access to spells from their spell list which they might not want to learn, or which they might like to use so frequently that they can't prepare the spell enough times in a given day. On days when you're not adventuring (traveling, resting, etc.) you can easily recharge any staff even if you can only cast one of the spells which the staff contains.
- Cackling Hag's Blouse: Cackle is an amazing hex, but it's so good that it's almost boring to take it. This gets you access to Cackle, but doesn't consume one of your extremely limited Hex slots.
- Cloak of Resistance: Too crucial to forego.
Multiclassing and Prestige Classes
Don't, unless you have a specific concept in mind. If you must multiclass, try very hard to not give up spellcaster levels. Also keep in mind that classes which give you spellcasting do not allow you to learn spells for free when you gain levels.