General Prestige Class : Dread Witch

"Fear cuts more deeply than any sword, consumes more completely than any spell. It rages like a conflagration, burning away the flesh of the weak, burning the weakness out of the strong. Fear is power, and that power is mine." -Illyra Zorren, dread witch, to her first apprentice

The dread witch is a spellcaster who manipulates fear as readily and effectively as other casters manipulate magic itself. Drawing power from her own fear, she can cause even the brave to run screaming into the night or drop to their knees and beg for mercy. A dread witch is at her most dangerous when cornered and overpowered; at high levels dread witches are among the most terrifying of opponents - literally.

The path of the bard or sorcerer is the most efficient way to become a dread witch. Most dread witches are innate spellcasters, and their various abilities based on force of personality (that is, Charisma) make such spellcasters more efficient. Wizards can become dread witches as well, with the proper course of study, but it doesn't come to them quite as easily. Charisma is the primary requirement, in order to make the most efficient use of her class features. Intelligence is useful for skill points (and for spells, if she is a wizard). As always, Constitution grants hit points, the better to survive frightening circumstances.


To qualify to become a Dread Witch, a character must fulfill all the following criteria:

Class Skills

The dread witch's class skills are Bluff, Concentration, Craft, Intimidate, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (the planes), Profession, and Spellcraft.

Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Class Features

Dread witches sacrifice a level of spellcasting advancement in order to gain immense power over fear itself - both their own and that of others.

Spellcasting: At every dread witch level except 1st, you gain new spells per day and an increase in caster level (and spells known, if applicable) as if you had also gained a level in a spellcasting class you belonged to before you added the prestige class. You do not, however, gain any other class benefit a character of that class would have gained. If you had more than one spellcasting class before becoming a dread witch, you must decide to which class to add each level for the purpose of determining spells per day.

Master of Terror (Ex): Your fear-based spells become more potent. The save DC of any spell you cast with the fear descriptor increases by 1. This bonus stacks with Spell Focus. Furthermore, add the spells bane and doom to your arcane spellcaster list as 2nd-level spells.

In addition, you become adept at making people uneasy with the right word, expression, or gesture. You gain a bonus to all Intimidate skill checks equal to +2 per class level.

Unnatural Will (Ex): You gain Unnatural Will as a bonus feat, even if you do not meet the prerequisites.

Absorb Fear (Su): Starting at 2nd level, you can turn your own fear, whether natural or mystical in origin, into extra power for your spells. (See Dread on page 59 for more on nonmagical fear.) Any time you are exposed to a condition that could make you shaken, all your spells function at +1 caster level; if the condition could make you frightened, they function at +2 caster level; if panicked, they function at +3 caster level. These bonuses last for the duration of the fear effect, or for a number of rounds equal to your Charisma modifier, whichever is less. (Of course, if you fail your saving throw against the condition, you might nor be in a position to use the bonuses, but you do have them.) These bonuses are treated in all ways as though you had failed the save. In other words, if you are subject to a spell that causes panic on a failed save but only frightens those who make the save, you gain the bonus from being panicked even if you make the save.

You can, instead of gaining these bonuses, choose to cast a single extra spell; this casting does not use up a spell slot. You must make this choice the instant you are subject to the fear effect, and once you have made your choice you must cast the spell within a number of rounds equal to your Charisma modifier. You can cast an additional cantrip if shaken, an additional 1st-level spell if frightened, or an additional 2nd-level spell if panicked.

If you are subject to a second fear effect while still enjoying the effects of the first - either the granted benefits or holding the extra spell - you must decide whether to keep the original effect or replace it with the new one; you cannot benefit from more than one fear effect at a time.

Fearful Empowerment (Su): Starting at 3rd level, once per day you can add the fear descriptor to any spell you cast that has some sort of visual manifestation. For example, you could apply it to a fireball, to a summon monster spell, or to any visual illusion, but not to charm person, since that spell does not directly create any visual effect. Creatures targeted by a spell modified by fearful empowerment must make a Will save (DC equal to 10 + your class level + your Cha modifier) or become shaken for 1d4 rounds; this is in addition to any other effects the spell might have. Your save DC bonuses from master of terror apply to this spell.

At 5th level, you can invoke this power twice per day.

Delay Fear (Su): Starting at 4th level, you can choose to delay the onset of any fear effect you impose on someone else, such as by casting a cause fear spell. You can delay the onset up to a number of minutes equal to your Charisma modifier. You must determine the onset time when casting the spell, and you cannot later change your mind.

Similarly, you can delay fear effects affecting you. If you fail your save against a fear effect, you can delay its onset for a number of rounds equal to your Charisma modifier. You still gain the advantages granted by the absorb fear class feature, even though you are delaying the negative effects. You can invoke this version of delay fear twice per day.

Greater Master of Terror (Ex): Beginning at 4th level, the increased difficulty of all save DCs against all spells you cast with the fear description increases from +1 to +2. In addition, your fear spells are now so potent that they can even affect individuals normally immune to fear, such as paladins, although the subject still gains a saving throw to resist the spell's effect. Only a target whose HD exceed your caster level by 4 or more is immune to your mastery of terror. For instance, if you are a sorcerer 7/dread witch 4 (overall caster level 10), a paladin of 14th level or higher is immune to your fear spells.

Horrific Aura (Su): At 5th level, you radiate an aura of terror. Creatures with 6 or fewer HD must succeed in a Will save (DC equal to 10 + your class level + your Cha modifier) or remain shaken as long as they are within 10 feet of you. A creature who successfully saves is immune to your horrific aura for 24 hours. Creatures of greater than 6 HD are unaffected.

Once per day per point of Charisma modifier, you can channel this aura into a potent touch attack. Creatures struck by this horrific touch attack who fail their Will save (see above) are panicked for 1d4+1 rounds; creatures who succeed on their save are shaken for 1 round. This touch attack, unlike the standard aura, functions against creatures of any HD and can even affect individuals normally immune to fear.

Reflective Fear (Su): At 5th level, any fear effect against which you successfully save is immediately targeted back at the source. You still gain the benefits of absorb fear. If the source of the fear effect fails its save, everyone else who might have been subject to the fear effect (such as your companions) immediately gains a second saving throw to shake off the effects, as they observe the object of their fear itself grow terrified.

Dread WitchHit Die: d4
1st+0+0+0+2Master of terror, Unnatural Will-
2nd+1+0+0+3Absorb fear+1 level of existing spellcasting class
3rd+1+1+1+3Fearful empowerment 1/day+1 level of existing spellcasting class
4th+2+1+1+4Delay fear, greater master of terror+1 level of existing spellcasting class
5th+2+1+1+4Fearful empowerment 2/day, horrific aura, reflective fear+1 level of existing spellcasting class

Dread Witch Lore

Characters with Knowledge (arcana) can research dread witches to learn more about them.

Alternatively, similar information might be learned through bardic knowledge checks, or Gather Information checks made in wizards guilds or high-magic communities.

Source: Heroes of Horror

General Prestige Classes