Prestige Class Spotlight 5: Winter Witch
A while back, we did the winter witch archetype, and I casually brought up how there was also a prestige class by the same name, and even pointed out how you could take both to maximize on the theme. What I did NOT know, however, is that you actually need to have taken that archetype to even start taking levels in its prestige class counterpart.
Indeed, it would seem that the prestige class is meant to be a refinement of the primary witch class with that archetype. I explain this as a sort of “Completion of training” theme, the archetype being part of the initial connection to the power of winter, while the prestige class version represents the secrets granted to truly masterful adepts. It is entirely possible to opt out of this final training, or to be considered not worthy, and persist as an ordinary winter witch.
With that in mind, I feel like today’s prestige class illustrates the emphasis on cultural traditions in the way that prestige classes operate. Unlike ordinary classes and multiclassing, taking a prestige class often means traveling to a region where they are prolific and learning directly from the masters of the art, rather than spontaneously manifesting new powers or training on their own time.
As a refinement and continuation of their witch training, it is only natural that they continue to learn magic from their patrons as they learn this art, which also includes hexes. However, they do gain access to new spell training not seen by other witches, able to conjure walls of ice, encase foes in the same, or generage spheres of compressed cold as expolosive, freezing projectiles.
Though generating large amounts of heat is inimical to the winter witch tradition, they can subtly alter the temperature of water and ice around them, thawing ice and snow or freezing water at an accelerated, though still slow enough to avoid, rate.
There is something truly unnatural and/or intense about the cold these mystics unleash, for even creatures resistant to such cold find it piercing that very defense to some degree, making them feel the cold like no other can.
Just as they can create ice by freezing water, so too can they shape snow and ice, either in crude ways, or in a more complex manner that requires knowledge of craftsmanship to perfect. Regardless, the ice used in these creations is supernaturally hard, but melts just like any other.
The relevance of icy power means that as soon as they are able, these witches learn several cold-based hexes, including a new one that allows them to imbue their icy spells with a chill that leaves the bodies of their victims numb and clumsy.
Blizzards both magical and mundane can make it difficult to pinpoint locations, so as a boon, these mages are gifted with the ability to see through such things as if they were not there.
Later on, the icy magic of these witches becomes truly unearthly, harming foes so integrally that even those totally immune to cold are at least partially affected, and further limiting how effective resistance to cold is against them.
Just as earth elementals glide through earth and stone with ease, so too can this witches with ice, phasing through it like water. However, since ice is water, their ability to move through it does have a unique weakness, as magic meant to manipulate water can be used to violently force them out.
Finally, the most powerful winter witches simply become better at casting icy spells, their magic becoming more intense and even harder to resist and dispel.
Looking for an even more specialized way to play your winter witch? This archetype is certainly the right direction. As you can probably guess, there’s relatively few builds that work with this prestige class since literally only one class and archetype can access it to begin with. I recommend going whole hog into it, building for a combination of damage and control with ice spells, with of course the rime spell metamagic. Don’t be afraid to branch out, however, learning other spells to diversify, though fire spells will forever be beyond you.
Much of what I said about the archetype winter witches remains true here, but I will say that these more prestigious members of their path are likely even further indoctrinated into their mystical order, which might just mean that they are naïve to the way of the world, or in the case of Golarion, believing fully that their icy magical power gives them mystical mandate to rule over the people of Irrisin. Of course, in your setting, the winter witches may be less sinister, perhaps a secluded order devoted to a particularly prolific patron entity?
The Razor Fields is so named for the unmalting icy spikes that form thicket of crystalline pillars around the tower of Queen Madriga. Many, however, are stained red from the bodies impaled on them, their blood permanently frozen to them just as their icy bodies resist decay, a testimate to those she has made examples of.
The Council of Seasons governs much of magical affairs, Each leading tribunal selected by the previous season from among the next season every one hundred years. However, this year many herb witches of spring have been murdered by icy means, almost as if the current winter tribunal is eliminating powerful and influential members of their replacements, but is this truly the case?
Lonely Tobalt lives alone on the outskirts of town, the old man only venturing the town every now and again to sell his crops, but he is left to his own business, that is, until the first snow of winter, when he joins the rest of the town, providing wards against the cold or monster attacks, and even unleashing his fearsome icy power on interlopers.