One of our players does not enjoy the metagame of spell memorization / resource management that comes with spellcasting. Our GM has allowed us to retcon her archetype to replace or scale back the spellcasting aspect of a Witch so that she can focus more on Hexes and possibly countermagic. Our characters are currently 5th level and I don't think she's cast anything other than Cure Light Wounds once or twice. Neither of us is exceptionally familiar with Pathfinder and haven't been able to find any options on our own. According to our GM homebrews that are well balanced might be acceptable.

Some additional info about the character: L5 Gnome Jinx-Eater Witch with a Goat Familiar (Black Philip) and the Decadence patron.

What the player would love: For her Goat to be more powerful or hearty so that it can play a bigger role in our adventures.


5 Answers 5


This is a witch archetype that I have invented in response to your question. I have not been able to test it, but I am confident in its balance for two reasons:

  1. Full spellcasting is preposterously powerful. Nothing I do is going to keep up with the power available with those spells. The witch here has to understand and accept that this archetype is necessarily a massive loss of power and flexibility, but as a consequence it would be very hard for me to break the game here.

  2. I have a lot of experience with this kind of thing, including in a professional capacity.

That said, I am not familiar with the Rise of the Runelords adventure path, so this is not tailored to that campaign in particular.


Some witches ignore all but the most basic of traditional spellcasting, favoring the reliability of their hexes. Such witches are known as hexenmaesters—hex masters.

Extra Hexes: The hexenmaester gains an additional hex at every odd level, so that she starts with two at 1st, and gains one every level thereafter (even levels from regular witch class features, odd levels from this feature). This ability replaces the spells ability.

Familiar Patronage: A hexenmaester chooses a patron, just as any other witch does, but it does not empower her familiar to teach her additional spells. Instead, the hexenmaester’s familiar also counts as an animal companion, with an effective druid level equal to the hexenmaester’s level, in addition to being a familiar. However, the familiar gains only the Multiattack feature of the animal companion special features, and does not gain bonus tricks (as an intelligent creature, the familiar does not do tricks). The natural armor bonus improvements gained for being a familiar and for being an animal companion do not stack.

However, the familiar also does not gain the share spells, store spells, or deliver touch spells special abilities of a regular familiar. Instead, it gains a series of features depending on the hexenmaester’s patron at 4th, 14th, and 20th level.

Decadence Familiar Patronage

Beguiling Conversation (Su): At 4th, the hexenmaester can cause one creature she is talking with to forget how valuable an item it carries is. To do this, the hexenmaester must be speaking with the target (or part of a group conversation that includes the target), and the hexenmaester’s familiar must be within 30 feet of the target. The hexenmaester must express her interest in the item in question. After a minute meeting these conditions, the familiar uses demand offering on the target, but the object can be any item the target has on its person. The hexenmaester must specify a unique item the target carries; if she describes an item the target doesn’t have, or if her description matches more than one thing the target has, the target automatically makes its save. A character who has been the target of a beguiling conversation is immune to any more beguiling conversations by the hexenmaester for 24 hours, but the magic of decadence prevents the target from knowing it was the target of any hostile magic even if it makes its saving throw.

Uneven Trade (Su): At 14th level, if a target succeeds on a save against beguiling conversation, the hexemaester can offer an item—not necessarily one of any particular value—in trade for the desired item. After another minute of making this offer, the familiar uses beguiling gift on the target except that the target specifically hands over the desired item in exchange for the gift. The duration of the beguiling gift effect, which makes the target think of the gift as valuable and compels the target to wear or use it, is 24 hours.

On top of trading a valuable item for a worthless item, the hexenmaester can imbue the item she offers with any hex she knows: for as long as the target willingly carries the item, it is subjected to the effects of that hex.

Like beguiling conversation, a character who has been the target of an uneven trade is immune to any more uneven trades by the hexenmaester for 24 hours, but the magic of decadence prevents the target from knowing it was the target of any hostile magic even if it makes its saving throw.

Envious Aura (Su): At 20th level, the familiar can exude an aura of strife. The aura extends 10 feet, and can be turned on and off as a free action (the familiar can even turn it on and then off, making it more of a pulse, if it wishes). Creatures other than the hexenmaester and the familiar within the aura are affected by envious urge for 1 round.

For your convenience, the following table indicates what the familiar’s stats are at each level as a result of its animal companion and familiar progressions:

HD¹ BAB¹ Fort¹ Ref¹ Will¹ Str/Dex
Int² Skills¹ Feats¹ Natural
1st 2 +1 +3 +3 +0 +0 6 2 1 +1
2nd 3 +2 +3 +3 +1 +0 6 3 2 +1
3rd 3 +2 +3 +3 +1 +1 7 3 2 +2
4th 4 +3 +4 +4 +1 +1 7 4 2 +2
5th 5 +3 +4 +4 +1 +1 8 5 3 +3
6th 6 +4 +5 +5 +2 +2 8 6 3 +4
7th 6 +4 +5 +5 +2 +2 9 6 3 +4
8th 7 +5 +5 +5 +2 +2 9 7 4 +4
9th 8 +6 +6 +6 +2 +3 10 8 4 +6
10th 9 +6 +6 +6 +3 +3 10 9 5 +6
11th 9 +6 +6 +6 +3 +3 11 9 5 +6
12th 10 +7 +7 +7 +3 +4 11 10 5 +8
13th 11 +8 +7 +7 +3 +4 12 11 6 +8
14th 12 +9 +8 +8 +4 +4 12 12 6 +8
15th 12 +9 +8 +8 +4 +5 13 12 6 +10
16th 13 +9 +8 +8 +4 +5 13 13 7 +10
17th 14 +10 +9 +9 +4 +5 14 14 7 +10
18th 15 +11 +9 +9 +5 +6 14 15 8 +12
19th 15 +11 +9 +9 +5 +6 15 15 8 +12
20th 16 +12 +10 +10 +5 +6 15 16 8 +12

The familiar also gains (at 1st level) Alertness,\$^2\$ empathic link,\$^2\$ improved evasion,\$^2\$ (5th) speak with master,\$^2\$ (7th) speak with animals of its kind,\$^2\$ (9th) Multiattack,\$^1\$ (11th) spell resistance,\$^2\$ and (13th) scry on familiar abilities.\$^2\$

  1. As per the animal companion features.

  2. As per the familiar features.

  3. As per the natural armor bonuses of both familiar and animal companion, taking the highest bonus at each level.

This ability replaces the patron spells ability.

Major Hex: The hexenmaester first gains the ability to take major hexes at 8th level. The nightmares, speak in dream, and weather control major hexes cannot be selected before 10th even by a hexenmaester, however. This ability alters major hex.

Dual Hex: At 10th level, a hexenmaester may use two hexes that each require a standard action, as a single standard action. She may not do this with major or grand hexes.

Grand Hex: The hexenmaester first gains the ability to take grand hexes at 15th level. The death curse, eternal slumber, forced reincarnation, life giver, and natural disaster hexes cannot be selected before 18th level even by a hexenmaester, however. When taken before 18th, the summon spirit hex limits the spirit’s HD to the hexenmaester’s level, or 18th, whichever is lower. This ability alters grand hex.

Tri Hex (Su): At 18th level, a hexenmaester may use three hexes that each require a standard action, as a single standard action. She may not do this with major or grand hexes.

Quad Hex (Su): At 20th level, a hexenmaester may use four hexes that each require a standard action, as a single standard action. She may not do this with major or grand hexes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Sep 18, 2017 at 16:08

New Material: Spell-less Hexer, but not a Witch

The sylvan trickster rogue archetype can take hexes instead of rogue talents. Since the sylvan trickster is a rogue, they don’t otherwise have spells. So this is a way to run a spell-less hexer, but you can’t do it as a witch. Rerolling an existing witch character as a rogue might be... difficult. And I don’t believe there is any way for a rogue to get a familiar, though I’d have to double-check that and it would make for a fine separate question.

Thanks to willuwontu for bringing the sylvan trickster to my attention.

At the time the question was asked: No hexes without spells

Aside from the sylvan trickster, which didn’t exist at the time the question was asked, the short answer was no, there is no class in the game that gains the ability to use hexes in general that doesn’t also have spellcasting. The Blood Hex feat exists, but doesn’t offer the same things as witch hexing.

Published Witch Archetypes

None remove spellcasting from the witch. The ley line guardian witch has altered spellcasting, but that’s it. Even delving into third-party options, the feytouched hexer by Flaming Crab Games “replaces” the witch’s spellcasting, but with a different sort of spellcasting.

Published Shaman Archetypes

Shaman is a hybrid class, specifically of oracle and witch. As such, it gains some hexes. It also has spellcasting, however, and none of the published archetypes for it touch its spellcasting for any reason.

Published Non-witch Hexing Archetypes

There are archetypes for non-witch classes to grant those classes hexes. However, all but one of these archetypes are for spellcasting classes, and that one, the serial killer vigilante, just gets a single hex (charm), not the general ability to use hexes. Of the remainder, some have (third-party) archetypes that remove spellcasting, but basically none of these are compatible with the hexing archetype, so you can’t get hexes and lose spells. One possible exception, though: the “archetype package” concept by Super Genius Games would allow a hoaxer bard to trade away his spellcasting, though I’m dubious of the entire concept. For completeness however:

  • Divine scourge cleric gains divine hexes instead of channel energy.

    • The third-party enthusiast cleric and weapon-sworn cleric, both by Kobold Press, actually ditch spellcasting (!), but neither is compatible with divine scourge.

    • All other cleric archetypes, including third-party material on PFSRD, leaves cleric spellcasting extant, though several “diminish” it.

  • Dreamstalker mesmerist gains the slumber hex, but just that.

    • No mesmerist archetype is entirely without spellcasting.
  • Hexcrafter magus can take hexes instead of arcana.

    • No Paizo-published magus archetype ditches its spellcasting.

    • The third-party rune knight magus by Ascension Games ditches spellcasting in favor of rune magic, which are maybe easier to manage than spells (each rune script has a set number of uses per day that are only for that script, not pooled for all scripts), but still definitely involves resource management. Doesn’t matter anyway since it’s not compatible with hexcrafter.

    • Third-party sibyl magus by Radiance House replaces magus spellcasting with Radiance House’s port of the pact magic from the 3.5e supplement Tome of Magic. Pact magic doesn’t usually entail daily limits, so that’s actually a step in the right direction, but it’s not compatible with hexcrafter, and really it has to be mentioned that some of the subject material in Radiance House publications has distressingly and (IMO) offensively depicted sexual violence as part of the visions associated with binding spirits.

    • Third-party tovenaar magus replaces spellcasting with inquisitions (read: spell-less cleric domains), which would be perfect if, ya know, it was compatible with hexcrafter.

  • Hoaxer bard curses items with hexes and tries to convince others to accept them.

    • No Paizo-published archetype ditches bard spellcasting.

    • Super Genius Games considers the bard’s cantrips and spells to be one of its “archetype packages,” namely the spellslinger package. They offer class-agnostic archetype packages that are supposed to be drop-in replacements for any class’s existing archetype package(s). This is interesting since hoaxer doesn’t touch those features, making that replacement compatible with hoaxer. I have serious doubts about the balance or functionality of this entire concept, however. Anyway, the packages listed as options on the PFSRD are blacksnake, cloakfighter, harrier, physical exemplar, spellhammer, weapon champion, and youxia.

      • Frustratingly, the witch only gets one package, hexen, which includes all of her hexes. The rest of her class features, I guess, don’t amount to a package? (Or, more realistically, 9th-level spellcasting is far better than any package.) You might be able to argue that being a package, other classes could replace one of their own packages with hexen, but uh... I don’t think that’s a good idea at all. I don’t think Super Genius Games is entirely right about this system, and this isn’t even a thing that they recommend.
  • Involutionist spiritualist get a phantom more akin to the shaman spirit, and thus some hexing.

    • No archetype that removes the spiritualist’s spellcasting can be compatible with involutionist, because involutionist alters the spiritualist’s spellcasting.
  • Serial killer vigilante gains the charm hex, and only that, but hey, no spellcasting!

  • Spirit guide oracle has a shaman spirit, including some hexes, instead of some of his revelations.

    • No archetype on PFSRD removes an oracle’s spellcasting.
  • Spirit whisperer wizard gains hexes through a shaman spirit.

    • Unsurprisingly, no wizard archetype removes the wizard’s spellcasting.

The following archetypes are third-party:

  • Hex kineticist by Purple Duck Games (in Kineticists of Porphyra II, which is not yet available on PFSRD) gains a hex at 2nd, 6th, 10th, 14th, and 18th, instead of utility wild talents. The kineticist is notable for not having spellcasting, and supposedly being “at will,” but the miserable burn mechanic gives the lie to that claim—everything a kineticist does “burns” them and results in unhealable nonlethal damage, and you are limited in how much burn you can take in a day. So you end up having to manage burn instead of spell slots, and you get little and less in return for the privilege. Seriously, kineticist is a really bad class.

  • Strega sorcerer by Rogue Genius Games gains hexes that use spell slots.

    • Again, no spellcasting-less sorcerer archetypes out there. Shocking.
  • Weird musician bard by Flaming Crab Games gets some hexes instead of a number of bardic performances.

    • Amusingly, weird musician is compatible with hoaxer (see above), so you could get hexing while you hex. Still has spellcasting though, unless you use the “archetype package” rules to drop that.
  • Witchknight inquisitor by Flaming Crab Games gains hexes instead of solo tactics and teamwork feats.

    • Inquisitor has only one archetype, the third-party rune binder inquisitor by Ascension Games, that loses spellcasting, again for rune magic. See rune knight magus for more details on that, but know that rune binder isn’t compatible with witchknight anyway.

    • Like bard, Super Genius Games classifies part of inquisitor as an “archetype package” that you can replace with one of their class-agnostic packages. See my discussion of this concept under bard for more details. The magister package is the one you want to replace here.

Hexing Feats

Anyone of any class can take Blood Hex to get a little hexing as a non-witch, but blood hexes are different from regular hexes.

Variant Multiclassing

There is a concept in Pathfinder known as variant multiclassing, or VMC, where you can take half your feats and light them on fire in exchange for almost nothing from a class. Seriously, VMCs are 100% trap, 100% of the time, and you should never use one.

However, it does bear mentioning because 1. it exists, and 2. it can grant a little bit of hexing to a non-witch. Namely, three hexes, and barred from taking Extra Hex. Also comes with cantrips, which technically is spellcasting—but since they’re at will, those are management-free at at least.

Pure Homebrew

I wrote up a homebrew hexenmaester witch archetype tailored to this question: more hexes, no spells, beefed up familiar. It is untested and hasn’t been published by anyone, so I’m afraid you’ll have to use it at your own risk (though I do personally stand by it).


No witch goes without spellcasting. In fact, looking at first-party content, we actually see that no archetype ever completely trades away 9th-level spellcasting. This is a rather telling point: 9th-level spellcasting is so powerful that it basically cannot be traded fairly for anything. Both my own witch archetype, and Kobold Press’s spell-less cleric archetypes, are strict downgrades in power and versatility. Pathfinder is simply dominated by magic, and the statement that “the more and higher-level spells you have, the stronger you are” remains factually true no matter what classes we are talking about. So trading away spells altogether is just not something that an archetype should really do, if they are going to be balanced.

Which is why it’s unsurprising that, even now, at the end of PF 1e’s life, the only way to achieve this isn’t to ditch witch spellcasting, but to give a rogue her hexes.


It is a good idea for your Witch to actually learn some spellcasting

The real problem: the Witch player underestimates spellcasting

From your comments I have understood that your Witch player doesn't believe in Witch's spells actually being strong, thus doesn't consider investing time and effort in learning to use them. However, Witch is considered a Tier 1 spellcaster, perfectly fitting the definition of Tier 1: she is, just like Wizard and Cleric, a prepared spellcaster, which means that while it takes time to learn the class, with right application of her abilities she can literally win the game alone.

Once your Witch player learns to utilize the class spells, even a bit, it will be fun and the feeling of having a wasted (unused) feature will go away -- just as the feeling of wasting time on learning something weak.

Witch is actually hard to learn

Just as other T1 spellcasters, the Witch is a lot of content to discover, and it will be really hard for your Witch player to do it all on her own experience.

Pathfinder RPG is full of "traps" -- crap options that sound cool but actually aren't cool, and vice versa, and of unexpected synergies of some seemingly unrelated abilities. Witch has a lot of useless spells, but also a lot of powerful ones, and for a newbie it may be kind of hard to distinguish one from another.

You say that the Witch was MVP just on her Hexes: it means that your group doesn't use any crazy optimization schemes. It turns out to be both an advantage (not much to learn to feel the spells being more useful) and a disadvantage (game is too forgiving, which makes building own experience harder).

What is much more important: it can be very easy for the Witch player to overdo and become too strong for your current group. She will just overshadow everyone and other players will have nothing to do.

Witch handbooks: her way to learn the right spell usage

Handbooks are fan-made comprehensive guides to a class. They are written by Pathfinder veterans with a lot of experience and proofread by a huge playerbase of other veterans, so knowledge from handbooks is actually very useful.

You need one of the Witch Handbooks, for example, this one. I do not say that it is good or bad (I didn't read it myself), but seems to be pretty popular, and also has links to other guides: all of them refer to each other and say that all contain useful info.

In this guide your friend can get some basic advice regarding Witch spells, how do they function, when is it a good idea to use a spell and when is it better to do something else. If she doesn't have (doesn't find) time to use them during combat, she can prepare some spells for non-combat usage (aforementioned healing the group by CLW). The handbook will give her the understanding which spells are OP, which are good, and which are crap to be better avoided. Just prepare something useful everyday and don't forget to experiment: the Witch is a prepared spellcaster, which allows some daily flexibility in choosing spells.

After some time of "cooking by the book", if she actually tries it, she will start to understand things herself and likely find spellcasting fun. For example, if after every combat she looks at her list of prepared spells and asks herself "What could I use now", even if she wastes some spell slots, her experience will already come fast, she will see the spells she can use and spells she can't use yet.

You can help her too

If she is too lazy to read the handbook, you can read it for her: by the sole fact that you came here to ask a question and cooperated with me to find the real problem I assume that you have the required patience and energy to read a bit. If you have other spellcasters in your group, they can possibly attempt to share some experience too. Just don't make it to a level when she doesn't feel like playing her char herself anymore... Don't teach her during your sessions -- unless you all want to do it in-character and ready for that kind of RP.

Beware of her power!

Again... Be ready, though, that if she starts to use her spells while already being MVP, other members of your group would probably have to also adjust their optimization level a bit. Or more than a bit.

Note that given your low general optimization level, she wouldn't have to learn too much to unintendedly make some players feel useless.

I wish you all good luck in your adventures.

Appendix: useful links

Here you can find all interesting pages about the Witch class that I found.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I didn’t get the impression that the player thought the feature was wasted because she thought it was bad, but rather that it was wasted because she didn’t want to be bothered to use it, which this answer... doesn’t really address. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 31, 2017 at 22:08
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan OP confirmed that the Witch player doesn't bother because they don't expect much from Witch's spells. But still regrets that the feature is wasted, not used. My answer: learn the true potential, learn to use the spells, have fun. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 31, 2017 at 22:29
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Also nice as a reference for effective Witching: rpgbot.net/pathfinder/characters/classes and then under Witch. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Aug 1, 2017 at 11:33

Update: A couple of months after this question was asked, the Sylvan Trickser was released in Ultimate Wilderness. This rogue archetype can choose hexes instead of rogue talents. From the perspective of a witch, you're essentially giving up spellcasting for a rogue chassis and sneak attack, and the option to choose a rogue talent in place of a hex.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great find! Yeah, that would have worked pretty nicely too. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 28, 2021 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep, if we ever go back to that campaign I think she'd love it! \$\endgroup\$
    – Gavin42
    Mar 1, 2021 at 18:14

No, there isn't.

The witch's spellcasting is a main feature. Replacing it would be like have a 3/4 BAB Fighter or a Barbarian without a rage ability.

You have two solution: homebrew such an archetype (good luck to balance it!), make you player change his mind about witch spells (can be easy or not depending on your player), or do both...

You are thinking that witch's spells are not a powerful feature, well... The main problem with Witch's spells is that there is a lot of garbage in it, way more than in other spell lists. It doesn't mean that the remaining spells are less good, just that if you pick your spells randomly you will come up with garbage.

As it seems your player don't have the patience to read through all the spells to find the good ones he can look at a guide on the Internet (back in time I used Rolling On The Floor Cackling which seems not to be available anymore. I will put a link if I find one) and take all the options that are considered best. These guides aren't always perfect but usually they are good to get a quick overview on what are the good spells.

If he still find it bothering to keep track of spells, you can help him with a bit of homebrew. You can easily convert the prepared spellcaster into a spontaneous one: just replace the spell progression by the one of the sorcerer, remove the possibility to learn spells from scrolls, and that's it. Spontaneous spells are considered as less powerful than prepared ones, but as this character is already the MVP it shouldn't be a problem. It has the big advantage that you have less spells to memorize as a player and you won't regret having useless spells prepared in the end of the day.

As a bonus, some nice spells to make the goat useful:

  • everything that needs to be delivered by contact (the goat can deliver it). It includes healing spells, supportive spells like heroism or offensive touch spells like touch of idiocy.

  • personal range buffs. The goat will got them through the share spells familiar ability. eg: mage armor, long arm, alter self...

  • \$\begingroup\$ The goat has far too few HP to be viable in combat (1/2 the Witch's max HP, and could be one-shot on a crit) and poor combat stats regardless. Additionally, the cost to replace a Witch's familiar is nearly insurmountable (2500 gp + she loses all of her learned spells). \$\endgroup\$
    – Gavin42
    Aug 1, 2017 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are right about the goat being fragile and hard to replace if lost but note that you actually keep a part of your spells (two per level). Anyway if you go for the spontaneous witch you can even rule that the spells are usable again once the familiar is replaced. If he wants to take no risk he can stick with the goat buffing his allies by delivering touches: a well placed dispel magic or remove curse can completely change the outcome of the fight, and a healing spell on a dying friend while you are on the other side of the battlefield will make everyone love the goat. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 1, 2017 at 14:08

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