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Rogue Genius Games created the neat Pathfinder class Witch Hunter. At level 1 a witch hunter gains the extraordinary ability Witch Sense:

After a witch hunter spends time in a terrain, wilderness area, or community, he can determine if a witch has been in the same area recently. A witch hunter must be in a specific terrain, wilderness area, village, town, or city for 24 hours in order to use witch sense. After that time, the witch hunter makes a Perception check with a DC of 30 – (level or hit dice of the highest level witch present in the area within 24 hours) – (number of witches in the area currently). On a successful check, the witch hunter is aware that one or more witches have been present during the past day. The witch hunter does not learn any further information about the witch or witches other than the certainty of their recent presence.

The witch hunter may use witch sense twice per day.

The witch hunter's player thinks the special ability Witch Sense is slow to the point of being nearly impossible to use. He's correct that compared to other detection spells and abilities (e.g. detect alignment, detect magic)—which take minutes at most—this ability is far slower. Indeed, in our campaign, the PCs are constantly on the move, rarely spending even 12 hours in the same place.

But, on the other hand, it's a level 1 ability, so it shouldn't be too powerful.

Obviously a GM can just change the rules, but what are the implications of a change that speeds up Witch Sense significantly? Will the Witch Hunter class be unbalanced if I reduce the time required to use it from 24 hours to 1 hour? 10 min.? 1 round?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I assume you've already house ruled that even though witch hunters themselves are "[c]haracters with one or more levels in a class (including prestige classes) with 'witch' in the title" that a witch hunter doesn't detect himself with his witch sense, correct? (Absent such a house rule, wherever a witch hunter is, there's a witch!) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 11 '16 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan: That assumption is correct. (Honestly, that ought to be a clarification to the rules as written.) \$\endgroup\$ – jvriesem Nov 11 '16 at 19:45
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As I'm reading this, it isn't the detection sense that takes time, it's getting the feel of the terrain, town, populace, etc. Once the witch hunter has been in place for 24 hours, he can sense witches twice a day, after all, which implies that the actual sensing isn't terribly slow -- but there needs to be a "normal" against which to sense the presence and influence of a witch or witches.

What you have seems to me a play style mismatch -- a witch hunter's witch sense isn't a very suitable ability for a group that's constantly flitting about, never alighting long enough to become familiar with people or places. It appears the witch hunter was designed to defend a home place, more or less, rather than travel continually, and your party doesn't really have a "home place".

In my opinion, shortening the "residence" requirement to use witch sense would make it more powerful than a first level ability ought to be -- instead of having to get to know a place, at least a bit, in order to find if there are witches there, the witch hunter could just walk into town, woods, marsh, etc. and know there are or aren't witches present. Don't forget that, unlike the various detect abilities, this covers a fairly broad area rather than checking a single, specific target.

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The ability uses 24 hours as a baseline time, which is clearly "1 day and 1 night". The intention behind this is, that the Witch Hunter - as an Inquisitor-like archetype (remember, besides the 3rd Party Fighter Witch Hunter you have, there is the Witch Hunter Inquisitor and Witch Hunter Rage Power and Witch Killer Slayer Archetype) - looks for hints and clues that tell him that a witch was there. These are tiny signs, like making tiny protective gestures or using an evasive speech on some topics. To get these, the inquisitor has to spend time in the community or area.

Shortening the time drastically changes the style how this should be handled:

1 day

The Inquisitor picks up the signs as he goes, not really spending too much attention on them but at times spending a moment to reconsider all the things he has seen in the last day to conclude if there are witches (by using the ability). 8 of those 24 hours he will sleep anyway, so spotting something to get those conclusions in 16 hours seems guaranteed. Doing the check to draw a conclusion is the result then.

12 hours

This still is more or less in tune with the full day, but might be better for the balancing a bit, at least if he spends not most of this time asleep (8 hours of night's sleep make this 4 active hours!) - he should have a chance to actually see those tiny signs! I wouldn't consider it a game breaker though, as I deem 4 active hours fair game too.

6 hours

Now, this gets more troublesome. 6 hours is not terribly long, not terribly short - a night's sleep is longer. So those should be spent awake. 6 hours awake is like arriving at 6 PM, going to bed at 9 PM, awaking at 5 AM and leaving at 8 AM after breakfast and some talk with the early risers. That is (all in all) a 14 hour stay with night's rest in the mid. It sounds pretty reasonable to familiarize yourself enough with a town in 6 active hours.

4 hours

4 hours awake are easy to get in a community and allow a decent amount of interaction with the people - arrive at 7PM, go to bed at 10, rise at 6 AM and leave at 7 AM - a 12 hours stay in an inn becomes a perfect opportunity to look for the signs of witchcraft and check for it! With 4 hours of active time, you might manage to become familiar enough, just barely.

1 hour

Now, here it starts to become unhinging the fluff from the mechanics too much - that is, unless you up the DC. Think about it: go to a different town and try to spot if something there is odd or differently handled from your hometown within the first hour. Clearly, too short how familiar do you become with the people in a bar in one hour? not very.

10 minutes

Now, the ability is described in a way, that implies to me it bases on interaction with people and the place to familiarize yourself with them. How many people can you interact with in 10 minutes? At very best 10, unless you assemble them all in one place and hold a speech, and even then you are not really familiar with any of them.

1 round

1 round are 6 seconds. Now you clearly overdo it: Witchhunter arrives in town, takes a look upon the houses and yells "There's a witch in town!" might sound cool, but it is not really fitting the investigative character.

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