Runequest Thursday #103 - Witchcraft!

Clint Staples

Runequest is largely a game that focuses around cults and cult activity, meaning that religion is central to much of life. Thus most Runequest characters belong to a cult that tells them what is best in life (which may even be to crush your enemies, etc), how to worship, who your friends and enemies are (or at least who your god's friends and enemies are), and how to behave. 

But what if you have a player who doesn't want to play a religious character? Well, you could play a sorcerer. But maybe you want something different.

So, I came up with the Witch or Warlock.

Witches gain their magical abilities not through continued devotion to a single god like a cultist, or constant study and practice in a sorcery cabal  but through temporary Pacts with supernatural entities. These are limited to the type of magic a particular entity has available, so are unlikely to learn necromancy from the Great Oak of the Deepwood, for example. They also tend not to stay in a single pact for a long time, preferring to move along to new spells and new entities. An experienced witch might have had five or more pacts, learning a spell or two, or some other magical knowledge, from each one, and may not even have a pact active at a particular time.

(Incidentally, a great example of a Pact-worthy entity is the Storm Tiger, Jagrun Khan, who is expanded on here, and here, and here.)

Witchcraft is a great style of magic for a player who likes to change things up. It is also great for introducing new eldritch entities into a game, and for a constant source of quests. A pact could easily require a witch to undertake and complete a certain quest for the entity in question.

Witchcraft also can give others an idea about the witch's past, or at least their previous pacts. After all, a witch that has learned the spells Curse of Brittle Bones and Unravelling, probably gain them from the spirit of a famous healing well.

Witchcraft as presented below is incomplete. At present, there are only a handful of spells, I will add more over time, But the system works,a dn there are enough spells to get you going. Heck, make some up yourself and post them in the comments, If I like them, I will add them to the Witchcraft spell list.

One last thing: This version of Witchcraft is for a game, Runequest, and has no basis in Wicca or any other real world spiritual, religious or magical tradition. If me calling it Witchcraft offends you, I apologize, no offense was intended. Feel free to change it in your own games if you like.



Witchcraft is magic gleaned from one or more supernatural sources through the offering of POWer and service in the form of a Pact. A pact must comprise at least 1 Permanent POW, and include a service to be rendered in exchange for magical instruction.  Spirit Lords, Magical Beasts, Dragons, powerful elemental beings, even demons, are potential tutors of Witchcraft.

            At first glance, Witchcraft may seem to be simply a flavour of Sorcery. But the two magical aptitudes are quite distinct. The main difference between Witchcraft and Sorcery is one of skill vs. devotion. Sorcerers study the arcane principles that bind the world together, and how to manipulate them. Witches devote their energy, in the form of Personal POWer, to various magically potent entities, and gain magical knowledge in the form of spells and rituals.


The Pact:

            Most witches or warlocks refuse long-term service, instead making Pacts that allow them freedom and eldritch instruction. However, any witch is able to make whatever pact she can manage. High CHArisma is essential to a successful witch, and Bargaining or Influence skills are particularly useful in striking Pacts that do not cost the witch too much.

            Witches’ Pacts are generally for a specific amount of time or until a particular exchange has been completed. Once they are done, the pact is over. If a witch chooses to approach an entity that she has had a previous pact with, it may or may not be favorable to her depending on their previous interaction, but she must negotiate a new pact if she wants further instruction.

            The exact exchange in a Pact may be whatever the witch can negotiate and the entity provide. Generally, the minimum cost of a Pact will be Characteristic POW equal to the number of ranks of spells learned. However, spell knowledge is not the only thing a Pact can offer. A witch might require special information in the form of a ritual, an enemies weakness, even the likes and dislike of another entity the witch hopes to conclude a pact with. Exactly what is available is intended to be open-ended for the GM, and this is a great way to introduce new elements into a game.


The Skill – Witchcraft (POW + CHA):

The main skill of this magical style is called Witchcraft. It may be used in the following ways

  • As a knowledge skill, to determine the whereabouts of potent magical entities, the sort of magic such an entity might possess and what the entity might find tempting in a bargain.
  • To appeal to an eldritch entity such that it responds to the call. Witches do not summon and bind such entities, they entreat them to visit, often with appropriately tempting gifts. These might include riches, but are just as likely to be magically and thematically significant to the particular entity being called. On a successful Witchcraft roll, the entity has heard and will respond to the call in a neutral or favorable mood.  The better the roll, and the more appropriate the ritual and gifts, the more favorable the mood will generally will be.
  • Allow the witch to perceive magical power, emanations, and eldritch beings. The degree of success determines how much information the witch perceives.
  • Cast spells (See Spellcasting)



Spells are learned in Ranks. Sometimes these are variable spells and may be cast at less than full power. Other spells have a total casting cost and cannot be cast variably. Spellcasting percentage is equal to the Witchcraft skill, but is limited to no higher than CHAx5%. The Witchcraft skill may be at a higher percentage than that witch’s CHArisma, bur for casting a witchcraft spell, it is never higher than CHA x5%. If a Witch’s CHArisma goes up, her Witchcraft does not automatically increase, although her casting ability would if the skill were higher than the new maximum. She can, however, benefit from experience rolls to improve it.


Manipulation Limit:

A witch can never learn a spell at a higher rank that her Manipulation Limit (which is CHA divided by 3, rounding up).


Anra Devadorus is an accomplished witch with CHA 17. Her Witchcraft skill is at 94%. Anra can sense magical emanations, guess as to the location, likes and dislikes of various supernatural entities, even sense them as she nears, at her full percentage of 94%.

However, when casting witchcraft spells, her chance is limited to 85% (CHA x5). If Anra’s CHA goes up, her spellcasting would rise, possibly as high as 94% if she had a CHA of 19 or higher. If her CHA goes down, her chance to cast spells also drops to the new CHA x5, though her Witchcraft skill is not affected.



Unless otherwise listed, your spells have a duration equal to Your POW in Rounds.

Duration may be manipulated upward on the Duration Track by dedicating Magic Points to doing so. Start at the increment listed in the spell, and devote a rank per increment until you get to the increment you want. You cannot cast a spell with more total POW than your Manipulation limit. A Witch does not need to know ranks of the spell sufficient to Manipulate duration, only have enough in her manipulation Limit to allow the extension.


Anra, with Manipulation Limit of 6, could cast a 4 point spell and pay 2 additional Magic Points to extend the duration by two increments. However, if she wishes to add 2 Magic Points to a Rank 2 spell, to help overcome an enemy’s Countermagic, she only has 2 points left under her Manipulation limit to extend the spell.

Instant spells are not subject to Duration manipulation.


Duration Track: Each Magic Point added increases by one increment

1 Round > POW in Rounds > 15 minutes > 1 Hour  > 2 Hours  > 4 Hours  > double each further increment.




Range: Touch             Resisted: No               Duration: POW x Weeks (Special)

This spell forms a bond of trust between the caster and one animal of his or her choice. The animal quickly learns simple commands concerning places it visits with the caster, and the people that they meet together. The animal must be present at the casting.

            A witch may have only one animal friend at a time. So long as they are together, and the animal well treated, it will stay loyal forever. If apart, the bond between them will begin to fade after POW x Weeks. The witch may, by spending a round and making a Witchcraft check, perceive through the animal friend’s senses, and communicated mentally with it. This may be done so long as the animal friend is within CHA miles. If the animal is beyond this range, both witch and friend become increasingly uneasy and irritable as the time apart lengthens. In crowds, each unerringly finds the other. A witch may cast healing upon her friend up to the same distance.

            This spell endures so long as good will and good treatment endures, until the spell is cast on another animal, or until death severs the relationship.


HURL FIRE 2 - Variable       

Range – POW x5 Yards                    POW Check – No       Duration – Instantaneous

This spell immediately creates a magical blast of fire doing 1d6 fire damage to a target. Each rank of the spell adds another 1d6 of damage, which may be used to increase the damage of one attack, or to create another separate attack at another creature within your POW in yards from the first target. Roll the spell chance once, regardless of the number of missiles. A success is a hit. Targets may try to Evade. They may instead try to block with a shield, but the shield takes any damage done. For each level of effect, the target takes 1D6 damage to its total Hit Points. Armor in the location will absorb the damage. A Protection, Countermagic or Resistance to fire will affect Hurl Fire.



Range: 30 Yards        Resisted: Yes              Duration: POW x Rounds

This spell affects the bones of any creature, reducing the number of Hits the creature has in each Hit location by the Number of Ranks. The spell cannot affect a single creature more than once at a time, but it can be extended. When the spell expires the bones strengthen unless the creature is dead or undead. In the case of undead, the lost HP may return if the type of undead can do so (vampires, for instance), but normal undead will not heal this damage.


UNRAVELING 2 – Variable

Range: 10 Yards        Resisted: Yes              Duration: Instant

This potent spell has the capacity to undo anything that has been tied, attached, formed or constructed (including spells, magic Items). Roll 1d6 per rank in the spell, doing damage to a target item’s Hit Points. If the item is normal and unattended, it does not Resist. If the item is in the possession of someone, that person can resist the spell. If the item is magical, it resists with the original caster’s POW, or a generated POW of 10+ 1d6 per Rank of Enchantment.

            If the damage done equals the HP of the item. The item is destroyed: a lock is broken, a door reduced to dust, etc.

            If the target of Unraveling was a spell, The caster of Unravel must overcome the spellcaster’s POW on the resistance table. Each side of the contest gains a bonus to their POW equal to the ranks of the spells involved. Rune magic Ranks count as 3 normal ranks.


“BEAST” SHAPE – 3 MP +1 Per 10 SIZ the creature is larger or smaller

Range: Self/ Touch   Resisted: No               Duration: POW X Rounds


This spell allows the witch or a willing subject to take the shape of the beast associated with this spell. There are many variations of the “Beast” Shape spell (Wolf Shape, Bear shape, Owl Shape, etc.) and each must be learned separately. The witch’s beast shape retains her total HP and CON, but uses the STR, SIZ and DEX of the new shape, along with the Witches intellectual attributes. The witch does not gain any skills associated with the new form, instead using her own skills in the new form. She does gain any enhanced senses, and attack routines (these use the witch’s Unarmed skill).


Art for this post is "Magic Circle", by John Williams Waterhouse.

Stay tuned for more spells!