The Quintessential Witch
The Quintessential Witch Capsule Review by Jeremy Reaban on 27/10/02
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
Looking for a witch class for d20/D&D? Look no further.
Product: The Quintessential Witch
Author: Robert J. Schwalb
Company/Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Page count: 128
Year published: 2002
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Jeremy Reaban on 27/10/02
Genre tags: Fantasy
The Quintessential Witch is a 128 page softcover book priced at $19.95 for the d20 system. Basically, it introduces a new class to the d20 system (or more specifically, D&D), the Witch. Witches have been around in D&D since almost the begining, though typically in an unofficial capacity, either as a write up in Dragon magazine (3 different versions, I believe) or in an unauthorized supplement (Mayfair's Witches). And this is not the first Witch class for D&D 3E - there was an outline of one in the DMG (just a spell list), and Mystic Eye's setting book for Gothos has a witch class in it as well. It does appear to be the best and first fully fleshed out witch class.
The core witch class has in d20 terms, the worst base attack bonus progression (like that of a wizard), great save for willpower and poor for reflexes and fortitude, and 2 skill points per level (like that of a Wizard, Sorcerer or Cleric), a d6 for hit points per level. The spells it casts are a mixture of the Wizard, Druid, and Cleric, and are considered 'Divine', not arcane. Spells are basically prepared like that of a Wizard, and the number of spells per day is almost like that of a Bard (maximum of 4 per level per day), only going up to level 9. The attribute used for spell casting is Charisma. The witch also has a number of powers, though nothing overwhelming.
All in all, it's pretty solid class. The only thing that irks me a bit, is the witch can cast a fireball. I typically don't think of them casting something like that.
The book itself is pretty much packed with material. The outer margins are about 1 1/3" (using a Mage Knight ruler, so I have to guess the fraction), with the font size about average. There's a lot of art, about one small picture a page, though the quality tends to be poor to awful (there's no cover art, either). Almost all of the artwork depicts female witches (including a couple topless ones), though in the text witches are generally called 'he'.
The class is pretty much just described in the first chapter or so of the book, about 10 pages. (There are no actual chapters, at least numbered ones.)
After that, there is a section on character concepts. This is basically like 2nd edition AD&D's kits. Ways of slightly modifying a class to make it somewhat different from the base class. The concepts here cover most of the popular conceptions of witches, with the exception of TV Sit-com.
Next is a chapter on the Prestige Witch. There are basically 12 different prestige classes, mostly just for witches. If you're playing a non-epic game, it probably doesn't pay for the witch to take a prestige class - the ability they get at 20th level is longevity. The variety of classes is pretty good, though they are all 5 level classes, which I tend to dislike.
The following chapter is a brief one, on skills for witches. Also is a brief overview on how tarot cards work. Then a few pages of new feats, mostly suitable for witches.
After that is a fairly long chapter on witch equipment, including lots and lots of herbs/plants. The latter if fairly well done. Each plant has a base difficulty class (DC) to find it, plus one to three DCs on how to prepare various uses for it. The plants are also all illustrated.
That is followed by a chapter on witch magic, specifically new spells and how witches cast them. Then comes a small chapter on Witch rites, which are cast by a coven of witches. (I would also probably use the ritual rules from Relics & Rituals).
Then there is a few pages of new witch related magic items, then some info on magical places (including ley lines). That latter is about 10 pages, and is very very interesting and detailed. Then there's a bit on seasonal magic, then some final info on a witch's coven. (Well, not quite final, the last page is designer's notes and then an index plus some reference material).
All in all, this is an excellent product. I've never been much of a fan of Mongoose's, having bought their book on Demonology and finding it was 95% filler. But since I really like witches (well, the fantasy versions, I find the real ones to be annoying, like pagan Ned Flanderses), I picked this up at my local-ish game store, and was quite impressed - it's almost entirely useful material, and almost entirely well done (I did notice 2 editing problems).
It's also relatively easy to integrate the witch into an existing campaign, since they tend to be fairly mysterious. So while it's perhaps not a must buy book if you're a d20 fan, it's quite good if you like the idea of adding witches to your game.
This is also just about the first witch class for D&D that I really like. The first one for D&D in Dragon magazine was okay, but the rules were completely out of line with any other class. The witch classes later on were more like regular classes, but not as good. The Witches book from Mayfair was just awful, I thought. And while the witch class in Mystic Eye Games campaign setting wasn't bad, it broke several d20 standards. I'll be looking at the Green Ronin witch book, and the other one from a company whose name I can't remember, but for now, I'm very satisfied with this one.