A rough draft. Comments welcome.

Modern arcane magic has its roots in older, simpler magical traditions - the magic of the witch.

Prime Requisite: CHA.
Requirements: None.
Hit Dice: 1d4.
Maximum Level: 14.
XP: 2,500 to reach 2nd level.

At first level, witches hit an unarmored foe (AC 0) with an attack throw of 10+. They advance in attack throws and saving throws only two points every six levels of experience (i.e., half as fast as fighters). They may only fight with clubs, daggers, darts, and slings. They are unable to use shields, fight with two weapons or two-handed weapons, or wear any kind of armor.

In exchange for these weaknesses, witches can learn and cast many powerful arcane spells. The number and levels of spells the witch can use in a single day are the same as a mage. The witch’s repertoire can include a number of spells up to the amount listed for the witch’s class level, increased by CHA bonus. For instance, Rawn, a third-level witch, is able to cast two level-1 spells and one level-2 spell per day. With a CHA 16 (+2 modifier), she can have a repertoire of up to four level-1 spells and three level-2 spells.

At first level, the witch gains a Familiar (as the proficiency).

Witches cannot use arcane magic items intended exclusively for mages (such as many wands and staffs); cannot read scrolls; and do not benefit in magical research throws from the presence of a library.

At third level, the witch gains the ability to brew herbals. Herbals can be identified as if they were potions (alchemists cannot assist in making them, however). Herbals produce a one-use spell effect, and cost 250 gold per spell level, and take one day per spell level to craft. Once crafted, they last for one month.

At fifth level, the witch gains the ability to research new spells. The witch’s spell design multipliers are different from the mages: blast x1.5, death x1.5, detect x1, enchantment x1 (affecting undead x1.5, affecting animals x0.66), healing x1.5, illusion x1, movement x1 (teleport x1.5), protection x1, summoning x0.66, transmogrification x0.66, wall x1.

Also at fifth level, the witch gains a +1 to surprise rolls when in the wilderness.

At seventh level, the witch gains the ability to bind spells into the familiar. This is functionally similar to a scroll (the witch may “read out” the bound spell from the familiar in order to cast it), but only costs 250 gold per spell level, and takes only one day per spell level to bind. A familiar with bound spells can only be used in this way by the familiar’s own witch (as a Class proficiency, a familiar may gain the ability to make a proficiency throw of 3+ to use a spell bound into itself; failure uses up the bound spell anyway and backfires in some way).

At ninth level, the witch is able to create more powerful magic items.

Also at ninth level, the witch can build a sanctum, which must be in a borderlands or wilderness region. Upon construction, the adventurer attracts 1d6 apprentices of level 1–3, plus 2d6 normal men seeking to become witches. Apprentices work exactly as for mage sanctums. Once a witch stronghold is established, all ordinary animals within five miles of the sanctum become kind and helpful.

At 11th level, a witch may learn and cast ritual arcane spells of great power (7th, 8th, and 9th level), bind elementals, and create permanent curses.

Binding Elementals
Witches who reach 11th level may bind elementals into service. The elemental may not have more hit dice than the witch’s class level, and may not have more special abilities than the witch’s CHA bonus, plus one.

It requires 2,000 gold per hit die, plus 5,000 gold per special ability, to bind an elemental, and the process takes one day per 1,000 gold.

Binding an elemental requires a magic research throw. The throw is increased by +2 per 5,000 gold of value in the elemental. A witch gains no benefit from precious materials.

By default, the elemental is bound for 33 days; the magic research throw can be increased by +2 to bind the elemental for 101 days; +4 for one year; +6 for three years; +8 for ten years; +10 for 33 years; and +12 for 101 years.

Summoning and binding an elemental also requires a ceremonial space at least equal in cost to the elemental it will be used to bind. For each 10,000 gold value above this amount, the ceremonial space grants a +1 on the magic research throw.

On a success, an elemental is summoned and bound. A bound elemental must obey the witch (or whomever the witch commands it to obey) for the period stated. Some elementals will be happy to serve the witch; others will interpret the letter of their commands as awfully as they can - make a reaction roll upon completing the binding to determine the elemental’s attitude about its service.

Permanent Curses
A permanent curse is a special type of ritual spell. It has the following effects and modifiers. All effects last only for the duration of the curse (see duration) or until the curse is broken.

Remove curse can only remove a permanent curse if the curse-caster is of lower level than the remover; and even then, there is a 5% chance per level of the curse-caster that the removal will fail. If it fails, it cannot be attempted again by that remover for one year or until another level is gained, whichever comes first.

Permanent curses never allow saving throws.

Target is blinded (10), helpless (15), feebleminded (30), or held (36).

Target becomes a statue (15), a small (½ HD or less) normal animal (30), or a small normal animal with the animal’s mind (60).

Target suffers a –1 to AC (10), is always AC 0 (30), or cannot be missed (60). Halve the cost if this is only against missiles or only against melee.

Target suffers mummy rot (20) or weakness (STR drops to 3) (40).

The target suffers one of the effects of bestow curse (20).

The target cannot gain experience (50).

One creature (×1.2)
One creature and anyone who touches that creature (×2)
One creature and all who directly owe fealty to the creature (henchmen) (×2)
One creature and two layers of fealty (henchmen and their companions) (×3)
For each additional step of fealty (×+1)
One creature and all domains under the creature’s rule (×8)
One creature and any children of the creature (×2)
One creature, its children, and any grandchildren (×3)
For each additional generation (×+1)
One creature and all descendants forever (×8)

The subject must be present for the entire ritual casting (×0.5)
The spell is bound into an object and targeted against a particular subject; if the subject holds the object, the curse binds to them (×1)
The spell is bound into an object with no particular target; the next person to pick up the object suffers the curse (×2)
The spell must be cast within the subject’s domain, stronghold, or home, or with the subject within 500 feet for the entire ritual casting (×2)

Until the witch who cast the ritual is dead (×0.66)
Until the main target is dead (×2)
Until all affected targets are dead (×3)
Until the ruler of the land is no longer the main target (×1)
Until the ruler of the land is no longer any of the targets (×2)
Until some possible but unlikely event occurs (×2)
One century (×2)

A start on spells to establish flavor:

Level 1

  1. bone shatter
  2. burning gaze, lesser
  3. charm person
  4. chilling touch
  5. detect magic
  6. magic mouth
  7. protection from evil*
  8. read languages
  9. shield
  10. sleep
  11. summon bear
  12. summon beast, lesser
  13. ventriloquism

bone shatter. Death. Target suffers mortal wound (60), one creature (×1), range 30’ (×0.6), requires an attack throw (×0.35), instantaneous (×1), save to negate (×0.5), witch (×1.5). Base 9 points.

burning gaze, lesser. Blast. 1d4 per level (20), max 1d (×0.1), elemental fire (×1), one creature (×1), range 90’ (×0.8), lasts one round per level (×4), no save (×1), witch (×1.5). Base 10 points.

chilling touch. Blast. 1d10 per level (44), no maximum (×1), elemental cold (×1), one creature (×1), range touch (×0.4), requires an attack throw (×0.35), instantaneous (×1), no save (×1), witch (×1.5). Base 9 points.

summon bear. Summoning. Summons one bear (65×0.7) of up to 4 HD (×0.4), thin air (×1), within 30’ (×1.1), for one turn (×0.5), dismiss at will (×1.1), no save (×1), witch (×0.66). Base 10 points.

summon beast, lesser. Summoning. Summons 1d4 animals (150×1) of up to 2 HD (×0.25), thin air (×1), within 30’ (×1.1), for one turn (×0.5), dismiss at will (×1.1), no save (×1), witch (×0.66). Base 10 points.

Added first level spells to establish flavor.

Making spells is hard.

Would it make more sense to have witches binding devils rather than elementals?

If I meant witch in the same sense as the Puritans meant it*, yes.

This witch is a primitive arcane caster, however, not a Chaotic one—tied to the wilderness, making friends with animals, and connecting to and binding the primal elements. What you might find in an old fairy tale**.

  • And for a more modern take on the word, I would build it as a priestess focused on healing, detection, and protection spells, with no active binding at all.

** Of course, Baba Yaga ate children … but even she had friendly animal (rather than demonic) servants, helped heroes who were sufficiently polite to her, and commanded the elements (not elementals as such, because the slavic tradition doesn’t have much in the way of elementals as entities).