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There is a lot of material about magic in the PHB.
I'm wondering about how the concept of a witch intersects with the various magic domains.

From what I understand:
A warlock is granted magic from another sentient agent.
A wizard learns magic academically.
A sorcerer harnesses innate magic.
A druid harnesses the power of nature.
A cleric is granted magic by their god.

What about a witch?

Popularly a witch practices witchcraft which is a kind of malevolent magic that uses lots of spell components.
They brew potions, cast spells & curses, they recruit familiars and some can shapeshift. They can speak with the dead and cause uncanny misfortune at a distance. Maybe they can divine future events as well, often meddling in the affairs of others.

A good answer would indicate how a witch character is constructed within the existing class archetypes, i.e. not homebrew or house-ruled.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You are going to have to really thoroughly define the word “witch” for this question to work—and I suspect that by doing that, you’ll answer the question. Ultimately, “witch” as an English word only means “magic-user, probably female,” and that’s just not enough information. (Many, many settings treat “witch” and “warlock” as just the female and male words for the same thing, even.) You could maybe ask about the history of how “witch” has been used in Dungeons & Dragons, though I suspect that the answer won’t be super-helpful because I’m pretty sure it’s not very consistent. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 1 at 23:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ A witch isn't an official class, so I'm not sure how you foresee them working. Assuming you're talking about something homebrew/house-ruled, this seems to be completely opinion-based. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Feb 1 at 23:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I’ve voted to close for “needs details”, though “needs more focus” works too. You haven’t specified what sort of magic user you’re actually referring to, can you give an example of an NPC from published material? Additionally, “how do I build a witch character” is just an entirely different question. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 2 at 0:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ The quality of the answer indicates this was a good question, for the following reasons. 1. Did not take very long to receive a substantive answer. 2. The answer is well supported by source material. 3. It did not attract a variety of subjective opinions. 4. The answer was of quality to receive upvotes and to be accepted by the question poser. Thusly limited criticisms are now either addressed, cautious but ultimately unsubstantiated. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I'd prefer to have been pointed to this question through better means, I think I'm landing with AW here. While this question has a chance to be answered by "Witches are X" opinions, it can (as shown by the existing answer) be answered acceptably. I think with the removal of the survey question in the first paragraph I'd be happy for this to open until it shows itself a problem. Sound fair? \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Feb 3 at 19:44

1 Answer 1

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Witches from different literary and real world sources would fit in different categories

The term witch has come to mean many things across history and in various literary works. To simplify my demonstration, I will provide a historic/literary example of each 5th edition spellcaster that fits best with a particular witch:

  1. Warlock - The "witches" from The Crucible are accused of getting their magic from the Christian Devil
  2. Wizard - Morgan le Fay from Arthurian legends learned all of her spells from Merlin, an acclaimed wizard
  3. Sorcerer - The various witches from The Wizard of Oz have innate magic
  4. Druid - Baba Yaga from Slavic folklore used magic that is derived from herbs, potions, and nature
  5. Cleric - Any witch that channeled Hecate from Greek Mythology, their magic would come from a deity: the Goddess of Witchcraft

Witches from Adventure Modules are Split Between Warlocks and Wizards

Unfortunately in terms of offical sources, there are only three NPCs referred to as witches in official D&D adventure modules and campaign settings, and they have a variety of spellcasting classes:

  1. Blood Witches from Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica are warlocks of Rakdos
  2. Barovian Witches from Curse of Strahd are wizards
  3. Iggwilv the Witch Queen from The Wild Beyond the Witchlight is a wizard

D&D Historically

KRyan pointed out in the comments that the witch has appeared in some form as a class option in 2e, 3.5e, and 4e. In those editions:

  1. 2e - The witch was a wizard kit
  2. 3.5e - The witch was a unique class most similar to a sorcerer
  3. 4e - The witch was a wizard subclass

Take from all of this what you will, but I think you are better off treating a witch character as whatever class her source of magic is most similar to.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @AmethystWizard Overlooked is a strong stance to take, I think. Even in older editions like 2nd where classes could be locked out by racial choice, with the exception of certain setting and faith based prestige classes, classes don't come in the form of gender exclusivity; 'wizards' aren't all men, and neither are sorcerers or warlocks; these words carry no inherent gender connotation beyond the reader's own personal perception. "Witch," as a D&D term, without a homebrew class, would likely be a term fearful/uneducated/reverent noncasters would use to refer to any female caster. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 2 at 0:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AmethystWizard Most editions of D&D have had a “witch” (off the top of my head, 2e, 3.5e, and 4e all did), and yet 5e, which doesn’t, is the one which has—by far—the most female players. Your conjecture contradicts observation. I don’t think this is broadly important to female players at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 2 at 0:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ For what it’s worth, David, the 2e witch was a wizard “kit,” the 3.5e witch was the DMG’s example of a custom class and was based on the sorcerer, and the 4e witch was a wizard sub-class. In case you wanted to expand on your list. Faerûn also has the “Witches of Rashemen,” which is a political position (but the witches are usually powerful clerics, sorcerers, and/or wizards). \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 2 at 2:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan - I feel that there might be another reason for the relative lack of prominence of the word "witch" in D&D, and that is of course the Satanic Panic. People were already convinced that D&D was teaching people how to be witches, so a core class by that name was probably out of the question. After all, they changed "devil" and "demon" to "baatezu" and "tanar'ri" respectively. \$\endgroup\$
    – Obie 2.0
    Feb 3 at 8:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ But really, the witchcraft influences on the wizard class are just as strong as the Gandalfian or Merlinian ones. The familiar has been a central element of the wizard class for a long time, material spell components are much more in line with folkloric witchcraft than with Gandalf, and it has spells like bestow curse and scrying that are absolutely based on abilities attributed to European and American witches. \$\endgroup\$
    – Obie 2.0
    Feb 3 at 8:07

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