As a warlock fan in D&D 5e, I wanted to see if it is possible to play something like that in Pathfinder. I looked into a little bit, and it feels like the witch is the one. Is it correct to say that Pathfinder witches are the equivalent of the warlock in D&D 5e?
Not totally equivalent
Witch hexes are similar to warlock invocations: permanent or infinitely-usable magics. You even get a similar number of them. And like warlocks, witches pair their unlimited magic with more traditional, limited, spells. Finally, of course, witches and warlocks have similar fluff, being associated with patrons and having somewhat “darker” powers.
But the similarities end there. Witches use Intelligence while warlocks use Charisma. Witch spellcasting is basically the same as a wizard’s, just with the familiar storing spells instead of a book, and of course a somewhat different spell list. That means preparing spells—more onerous in Pathfinder than 5e—and recovering them on a “long rest,” which is the only rest Pathfinder has. It means you have more spell slots to worry about, and they come at different levels.
Also, the various Pacts—Blade, Chain, Tome—don’t really have analogues for the witch. You could take feats or other options to play up martial skills, your familiar, or spellcasting options, but the basic witch doesn’t provide you with an option like that. Considering her superior—albeit more complicated—spellcasting, it might help to think of all PF witches as being “Pact of the Tome,” sorta.
But probably the best match Pathfinder has
As mentioned, Pathfinder doesn’t have short rests, or much in the way of equivalent mechanics that one could leverage to produce anything similar to 5e Pact Magic. Further, Paizo was extremely—unreasonably, in my opinion—leery of “at-will” magic, so witch hexes are pretty unique; there aren’t really other classes with similar mechanics that you could use. And of course the patron thing is close, ish.
So there just isn’t really any other class we could point you to that would work better. I mean, shamans also have hexes—since they’re a “hybrid class” of oracle and witch—and for that matter, oracles might hit upon some similar thematic notes. A magus could maybe make a case for Pact of the Blade specifically. You could make arguments, probably, for a few other classes. But really witch is going to be the best you can get.
And we can make the witch a little closer.
Remember how I said that Pathfinder witches don’t have analogues for the various Pacts? That wasn’t quite true—the warlock Pacts, like bard College or druid Circle, are what are generically referred to as “subclasses” in 5e. That is, they are variant versions of some main class that you pick in the first couple of levels, and change your version of the class relative to someone who chose one of the other options.
Pathfinder has a much, much more complicated system for handling stuff like that: archetypes. Archetypes aren’t built into the class, the way 5e subclasses are, and you can easily play a class without any archetypes. Instead, archetypes are extra options that say stuff like “instead of getting X at nth level, you get Y,” where X and Y can basically be anything at all. There are tons and tons of these options for basically every class, and there are even rules for using more than one of them at a time.
In the case of the witch, the ley-line guardian witch gets spontaneous spellcasting, à la the sorcerer, which is marginally more similar to the warlock’s. It’s still Intelligence-based, however.
On the other hand, the seducer witch uses Charisma for everything, including spellcasting, which is more similar to the warlock. As the name implies, the seducer has some very particular thematics going on which may not be that appropriate for all characters, but ultimately that “just” affects your choice of patron, and everything else you can do can be independent.
The two aren’t compatible with one another—the rules I mentioned for using multiple archetypes wouldn’t allow them to both be used on the same witch, because the seducer gets particular (super-charged) hexes at 1st and 8th level, while the ley-line guardian gets a special “surge” ability instead of their hexes at 1st and 8th. But I think most GMs wouldn’t mind overly much if you wanted to combine them, and just replace seducer’s kiss and garden of delight with conduit surge (or replace conduit surge with seducer’s kiss and garden of delight). Doing that even reduces how “seductive” your character has to be, which is a plus for at least some warlocks.
There’s also a 3rd-party archetype, feytouched channeler, that gets both sorcerous spellcasting and being Charisma-based, all in one archetype. It’s not official, but I’d guess most GMs wouldn’t have any objection to it; it’s fairly simple and benign.
Finally, there was a previous question asking whether there was any “hex-only” version of the witch, ditching the spellcasting altogether. The answer there was no, as I exhaustively described in one answer, but I also wrote another answer, in which I wrote up my own hex-focused witch archetype. It wasn’t in at all inspired by the 5e warlock, but it might be worthy of consideration for your interests. As I said in that answer, I haven’t tested that archetype specifically (still, to my chagrin), but I have pretty good reasons to be confident in its balance.
The two are thematically very similar.
The witch in Pathfinder 1st edition is an arcane spellcaster who gains power by communing with an otherworldly power.
This is fundamentally very similar to the D&D 5e warlock, an arcane spellcaster who draws their power from a pact with an otherworldly power.
There are a few differences. For example, the Pathfinder witch communes via a familiar, and does not necessarily know the identity of their patron.
Thematically yes, mostly.
If you’re just going off of thematics, a Pathfinder 1e Witch is an almost direct equivalent to the D&D 5e Warlock with the Pact of the Chain option. There are three key differences here:
- The Witch’s patron does not inherently involve a pact or contract like is the case for a Warlock in 5e, and may not even know any specifics about their patron.
- The Witch’s familiar is an inherent part of her magical ability. It’s essentially her link to her patron.
- Witches have fewer passive benefits from their patron, but in exchange they get more magic (I’ll touch on this a bit more in a moment).
This is where things get a bit interesting. Before diving into this, I think it’s important to point out that both the Pathfinder 1e Witch and the D&D 5e Warlock evolved out of the Warlock class from D&D 3.5e, who was rather different from both (I’ll touch on this some below). Most of the big differences between them derive from the different evolutions of the two systems. Pathfinder 1e is a derivative of the OGL content from D&D 3.5e that was created in response to a large number of people not being happy with D&D 4e, so they tried to be distinctly different.
The biggest differences mechanically are:
- Witches use Intelligence for casting, compared to Charisma for both the 5e and 3.5e Warlock.
- The Witch’s spellcasting works mechanically like a Wizard, with the familiar serving as her spellbook (you can literally feed it scrolls to add to your list of known spells), while the 5e Warlock’s is rather mechanically distinctive. Both are unlike the 3.5e Warlock, who did not use spells at all (see the next point about hexes and invocations).
- A Witch’s hexes are pretty much all activated abilities used in a manner similar to spells, while a 5e Warlock’s invocations are mostly either passive abilities or ‘extra spells’. The Witch is much more similar to the 3.5e Warlock in this respect, whose invocations worked almost the same as the Witch’s hexes.
- A Witch usually gains little benefit from her patron other than adding some extra spells to her spell list (mechanically, this is similar to the domain spells for a 5e Cleric), while a 5e Warlock gets a handful of extra class abilities from their patron. There are a couple of patron options for Witches that gain special bonuses in addition to the spells, but they also always have some downside. 3.5e Warlocks had no concept of a patron (they were more akin to 5e Fiendish Bloodline Sorcerers in terms of the source of their power).
But what to play?
This comes down to what aspects of the 5e Warlock you want. If you just care about the thematics, the Witch is the answer for certain. There is no real thematic equivalent elsewhere, except maybe an Shaman (who is a blend of an Oracle and a Witch). If it’s mechanics you care about though, that gets tricky. If it’s just the spellcasting you want, there is no equivalent. Pathfinder very specifically does not have at-will magical abilities (other than cantrips/osirions), so you won’t find anything similar there. If, however, your goal is to play something that’s mechanically similar to a particular type of Warlock, there are other options:
- Pact of the Blade can’t be exactly replicated, but the Inquisitor, Magus, Bloodrager, Hunter, and Warpriest can all be played in a mechanically similar manner.
- Pact of the Tome is most closely replicated with the Witch, Wizard, or Magus.
- Pact of the Chain is closest to the Witch (if you want a mechanically similar familiar), Hunter (if you want to tag-team with your partner animal), or Summoner (if you just wat to swamp the enemy with extra allies).
- Pact of the Talisman has no real equivalents, but if you just want a magic tank, an Inquisitor, Magus, or possibly Skald is likely your best bet.