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Morgan Boehringer & Christos Gurd on Witches (Strange Brew)

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Morgan Boehringer and Christos Gurd are set to write Strange Brew: War Witches and Hexmavens as a stretch goal for Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch and Warlock by Timothy Brannan, a Pathfinder and Castles & Crusades project that Misfit Christina launched.

Morgan Boehringer on Witches & Warlocks

When I talked with Christina about coming aboard with Tim Brannan’s massive Strange Brew: Ultimate Witches and Warlocks tome (now on kickstarter), I was already developing my own, albeit much smaller, witch book—taking my previously published witch concepts like the Bonewitch from Wayfinder #7 and the Gauntlet Witch from Kobold Quarterly #23, (that I followed up with a baker’s dozen racial variants on the KQ blog, all with a distinct Midgard flavor) and re-examining them with an eye toward streamlining and tweaking. I had a few more outré female-only witch concepts that I wanted to explore, and I also had the germ of an idea for an alternate witch class, the “witchsoldier” that would drop spellcasting altogether and focus on using hexes in a martial fashion.

Christos Gurd and I began to collaborate on a few of his archetypes, and I realized that with both of our class designs I had enough content for a book, tentatively titled Strange Brew. Then
Christina told me about Tim’s book, and I wanted to be a part of it (and she agreed to call Tim’s material Strange Brew). I’m looking forward to making some archetypes of Tim’s warlock, and I’m hard at work developing the full cast of Strange Brew: War Witches and Hexmavens.

In this blog piece I want to share with you all some of my influences and how I came to be so enamored of armored witches and warlocks….

As far back as I can remember, the darker aspects of mythology and magic attracted me—the trials and tribulations that weren’t so grand or holy or pure. Sometimes, you need a little shadow to make the light less glaring and more interesting—and always in the middle of this, for me, were the witches and warlocks. Having graduated from Meg and Mog as a small child, to Snow White’s apple-bearing queen, the Witches of Oz, and the plethora of popular culture witches in movies and comics (the seductress in the original Conan movie springs to mind…), in my mid to late teens I found myself drawn to more historical-fantasy resonant witches and battle harpies like Cuchulainn’s teacher Scatha and the war-aspect of Morrigan from Celtic myth. Mystical women who could enchant AND glamor, but who also might end you with a gae bolga. Add in a dose of Macbeth’s coven of witches, some serious Norn envy, and you get the idea…
Another big influence for me is C.J. Cherryh’s Chronicles of Morgaine, which, while not exceptionally witch or warlock flavored, did impress me with the dread atmosphere, and the notion of the titular character’s blade-carrying qujalur witch.

This love for the dark arts spilled over into my RPGs… Armored spell-dabblers seemed to fill many of my daydreams—and character sheets. I was never sold on the straight magic user, and I always wanted to meld the concept of magic with weapon and armor proficiency.

In preparing this blog piece, I looked over decades of old character sheets and homebrew classes and came across a couple of interesting things. First, my own homebrewed witch class. Created for AD&D, the witch was a sub-class of magic users that was “primarily concerned with enchantments and dweomer…” and could also employ “more powerful magics, such as the bestowal of curses, some conjurings and summonings.” They fought as thieves, saved as magic users and were, for some reason, more shamanistic and elemental than western witches. I can see now that being able to fight better than a magic user may have been just a young power-gamist yearning, but the seed that witches could wield more than athames (ritual knives) was there. My original accompanying picture is of the witch levitating and holding a three chained flail. Nice hat too. 

Other powers of my witch were a molecular healing ability (AD&D psionics, anyone?), a familiar gained at 4th level, and at 6th level, the creation of a fetish. “This symbolic craftware is imbued with elemental energy…” Again with the elements. Hmmm, maybe I’d been channeling book five of Dave Morris and Oliver Johnsons’ Dragon Warriors RPGThe Power of Darkness that detailed the elementalist class, though it was book six (Lands of Legend) that detailed the warlock—essentially fighter/mages. Russ Nicholson’s artwork of warlocks in the adventure in that book is still a favorite.

Secondly, I came across an old AD&D character sheet of mine that said under Class: “Warlock.” I remember now that this was my own shorthand for a type of AD&D illusionist that had a high strength and pretended to be a “warlock,” a mighty spell-using warrior, through illusion and subterfuge. This particular character also had an interesting piece of equipment: apart from the +2 padded leather armor, she had a +1 buckler. To which I had appended in pencil “arm/greave.”

Finding this was an amazing moment—like a time warp or message in a bottle to myself—in creating the gauntlet witch, I had forgotten completely about this character, but apparently I had sown the seed years before. Thanks to the opportunity to write this blog, I have encountered my own creative design path.

The recent release of the Direlock Base Class under my own publishing unit Forest Guardian Press was a natural progression from the gauntlet witch. The direlock, and most of my armored witch yearnings owe much to Russ Nicholson’s drawings, and to movies from the 80’s like The Sword and Sorceror.

As a stretch goal of the Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch and Warlock Kickstarter, Strange Brew: War Witches and Hexmavens will detail some previously seen archetypes, present some new ones, and also bring core and base class archetypes that mesh witch arts with their own tried-and-true mechanics. Maybe even a PrC or two. Some will be battle-ready, and others less physically aggressive, but all will bring that dark mystery that is the witch.

And here is an athame I carved for my niece’s 9th birthday, just to keep it real…


Christos Gurd on Witches

So I just wanted to share why I love witches, a lot of which comes the kind of stories I grew up with. My mother, coming from a big fat Greek family, decided to share some of our heritage using Greek mythology instead of traditional bedtime stories (children-friendly versions, of course). This brings me to the two witches I was familiar with growing up—Circe and Medea—before I ever saw Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and the like. The thing that stood out about Greek mythology witches was that they were serious stuff. Terrifying and powerful when made angry (or just plain crazy like Circe), or just the deus ex machina needed (Medea actually saved Heracles once)—these ladies didn’t just make an impact in their respected stories, they stole the show.

What always got me was the fact that while these ladies were sinister, they weren’t the pure evil entities that the northern European stories made witches out to be, and that definitely affected the way I looked at them growing up. The idea that not only are witches not required to be antagonists, but that they, in fact, aided the hero in their quest. These were mysterious servants of an even more enigmatic goddess who, for better or worse, became a fixture in every life the witches touched. Every time I write up a witch character, I think of these powerful, dynamic characters, and the shades of grey they encompass.

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