Allow me to welcome you to Patron Week here at Necromancers of the Northwest. I’m sure you don’t need your familiar to tell you that this week is all about witches, and, more specifically, the mysterious and otherworldly beings with whom they make pacts for their power. Assuming that this isn’t your first trip around the cauldron, you’re probably also guessing that this somehow ties into our latest book, and you would be right: Otherworldly Invocations: Advanced Witch Patrons hits metaphorical shelves today, and is focused on revolutionizing the way that you think about witch patrons.
“But what is there to revolutionize,” you ask? After all, witch patrons are little more than a vague theme like “moon” or “wisdom” that’s associated with a list of bonus spells, right? Boring! Why buy a book about that? The short answer is because it’s not about that at all. Otherworldly Invocations brings witch patrons to life and makes them both mechanically relevant and flavorfully inspiring in ways that no other book has before.
Well, actually, that’s not quite true. It’s mostly true, and perhaps even technically true, due to some refinements in the way that the patrons are presented, but actually this new style of witch patrons was pioneered in Advanced Arcana III, which presented five such patrons. At the time, we were so excited that we even made an extra one which appeared on this very website. So, if you want to know what all the fuss is about, and are too lazy to scroll down and check out my preview from Otherworldly Invocations, click here to see Elindra, Lady of the New Forest.
Anyway, the point I’m getting at here is that these patrons are a lot more than the ones that you’re used to, both mechanically, and flavorfully. With this book, a witch’s choice of patron can have a huge impact on how she plays the game…as well as providing her with in-character goals, obstacles, taboos, and rewards. In essence, the idea is to take the patron—supposedly the source of the witch’s power—and turn it from something you barely remember exists into a really big deal. But, at the end of the day, it’d probably be better to just show you, so why don’t you take a look at one of my favorite new patrons from Otherworldly Invocations: Tesherazz, Weaver of Words.
Tesherazz, Weaver of Words
A word spoken, never forgotten. A promise forged, never rotten. Perhaps the greatest power never recognized is that of speech. The difference between a rebel and a hero is but a word. The difference between a cruel despot and a wise leader is but semantics. That which is named can become more powerful from its name, or the name itself can strip away the majesty and mystery. These are but a few examples of the power of mortal words. I offer access to words beyond those of mere men, words which resonate with the very fabric of reality. With a simple phrase, you could level a mountain or stop a man’s heart.
Tesherazz is usually found clad in vibrant emerald green, and lounging across the arms of a throne carved from black stone. There are hundreds of mouths set into the throne, each one depicting a silent scream. His skin is a dull and dusty red, his hair as dark as night, shut short and carefully oiled until it gleams, as does his similarly-manicured goatee. His eyes glow with a deep and verdant green, and sparkle with an inner, eldritch fire. His legs are cover in brown hair, and end in a pair of cloven hooves, while a pair of curved horns emerge from his brow and bend backwards, parallel to the top of his head.
Tesherazz is a powerful devil that that creates verbal contracts with outsiders and mortals alike. Trading knowledge, he specializes in rare languages, including a supernatural “first language,” called Wydnish, which is supposedly comprised of the will of the multiverse made into words. Tesherazz uses this eldritch language to imprint his will upon reality. He is happy to teach this language to others, granting them magical power by doing so, and in exchange these disciples act as his agents, and he gains a certain measure of control over them, in the form of a unique name, in Wydnish, which he bestows upon them.
Like many devils, Tesherazz began with far more ambition than actual power or even ability. He toiled for millennia as a scribe in one of the many infernal pits where contracts were produced en masse, laboriously writing out incredibly lengthy agreements by hand and in advance, with which to arm the devils that did the actual tempting and corrupting. Though he was far from the only devil in that situation to be filled with a burning desire to rise above his station, he was more driven than most to actually act on such feelings.
Through treachery, deceit, and cunning, Tesherazz rose through the chain of command by tricking, enslaving, or otherwise removing each of his immediate superiors. Eventually he rose to a status that afforded him a bit more freedom about what to do with his time, and he began accumulating personal power. Always preferring to resolve conflicts through words (and contracts) than through violence, he invested centuries into research, and it was in so doing that he discovered rumors of a tome which contained the knowledge of a language which, supposedly, could be used to rewrite reality itself.
Tesherazz immediately sought out this tome, and, using his infernal status and minions, eventually procured it. He learned the secrets of this powerful language, which he called Wydnish, and then burned the book, so that no others could gain its secrets. The language was not able to simply rewrite all of reality, as he had hoped, and his plans to erase Asmodeus with a single word were not fulfilled, but the language was still a potent tool. He transformed himself with the words, ascending beyond his status as a mere devil and becoming something greater—though no less malevolent.
His connection with words and his mastery of Wydnish have caused Tesherazz to specialize in the power of the spoken word, and his seemingly perfect memory for spoken words and conversations, as well as his ongoing rivalry with another entity known as Name Eater, who draws power from the written word, have caused him to eschew writing of all kinds, drawing information from books and then burning them, and forming all his agreements verbally.
A failed coup attempt by Tesherazz against the infernal lord Geryon caused Tesherazz to be driven out of the infernal hierarchy, and he now acts as a lone agent, gathering souls and consolidating power for his own inscrutable ends, and preparing for the day when he can return to the nine hells in glorious triumph. In order to aid in these ends, Tesherazz recruits mortals hungry for power, offering them magic and a taste of his powerful Wydnish language in exchange for serving his interests in the material plane.
Above all else, Tesherazz seeks power. He is currently amassing large quantities of souls in his palace, which he ripped from the hells with the power of Wydnish when he was forced to flee Geryon’s wrath. As the number of witches in his service grows, and Tesherazz continues to attract a growing number of demonic and mortal mercenaries, many find themselves wondering exactly who the enigmatic ex-devil is marshaling his forces against, precisely. While many believe it to be Geryon, the devil who drove Tesherazz out, others think he may be preparing to slay Name Eater, his enigmatic rival, and perhaps claim her mastery over the written word, while others wonder if perhaps he might be reckless enough to attempt a coup against Asmodeus himself.
Additionally, Tesherazz has recently begun to doubt whether or not he has truly mastered all that Wydnish has to offer, and has become all but convinced of the existence of a second tome, which, if he were able to find it, would allow him to re-write the entire multiverse, and put himself at the center, in the ultimate place of power. As yet, his search has been in vain, but that does not mean that he has given up hope.
Finally, Tesherazz has recently become enamored of a lillend by the name of Rusellia, who is supposed to have an indescribably beautiful voice, and supposedly her song can make even mighty demon princes weep or laugh with joy. Tesherazz is determined to have this beautiful voice for himself, but his agents have so far been unable to capture Rusellia, who is always accompanied by a trio of angelic bodyguards. Tesherazz has made it well-known that he will handsomely reward anyone who helps him capture the lillend.
The familiars that Tesherazz grants are created whole-cloth by word alone, as Tesherazz simply speaks in his secret language of Wydnish, and the familiar springs into existence, as though it had always been. This does not make the ex-devil’s familiars any less real, but it does mean that each of them is undeniably shaped by Tesherazz’s own personality, and in a way, each of his familiars is a part of his very essence.
The familiars that Tesherazz grants appear to be animals in most regards, but many have traits that are fiendish in nature. Some breathe out smoke, while others have glowing red eyes. Many of them smell faintly of sulphur and brimstone, and some have tails that end in a typical devilish point, even though animals of that sort do not have such tails. The one physical factor that is unique to all of Tesherazz’s familiars though is their mouth, as each familiar grants has a mouth full of undeniably human teeth. This is most noticeable on familiars like frogs and hawks that normally lack teeth altogether, but is no less disturbing when it is applied to cats and dogs.
This change seems to have been made to allow all of Tesherazz’s familiars to speak, and, indeed, any familiar granted by Tesherazz is able to speak Common, in addition to its normal abilities. In fact, Tesherazz’s familiars are quite fond of talking, and witches in Tesherazz’s service either go to great lengths to get their companions to be silent, or else learn to live with the constant babble. The change in teeth also changes the familiar’s diet, and Tesherazz’s familiars universally adapt a human-like, omnivorous diet.
Their propensity for talking is not limited to idle banter, and most of Tesherazz’s familiars absolutely love making deals and bargains of every sort. This seems almost as much a love of haggling and the process of making a deal as it is about trying to “get ahead,” and often these familiars will manufacture situations to create pacts and reach agreements, even when they stand to benefit very little from doing so. This can occasionally lead them to expend great amounts of energy pursuing small matters, such as haggling for an hour over an extra dinner ration in exchange for a warm blanket, for example.
Much like Tesherazz himself, his followers tend to place great value on verbal communication and the spoken word. Overall, they tend to be talkative, and are more easily made uncomfortable by silence than others. Some simply make small talk, others express their love of words through endless lectures, constantly instructing others on some point of minutiae or other, and still others prefer to constantly sing, hum, or even recite poetry as they pass the time. Like Tesherazz, his followers tend to avoid the written word, which is not to say that they will not read, but rather that they will not write their knowledge down, preferring to trust it to memory and communicate it through spoken words, instead. Because of their respect for words, and their mystical understanding of the power that the magical words of Wydnish have on the world around them, followers of Tesherazz are reluctant to lie outright, though this does not prevent them from phrasing things in such a way so as to deceive while technically telling the truth.
This is partially due to a longstanding feud between Tesherazz and an entity known as The Silent One, which has great influence over writing, and has been known to spy on the words that Tesherazz’s followers write, or else completely strike them from existence in a form of petty revenge. In return, Tesherazz encourages his followers to compose nonsense writings and lies (or hire scribes to do so on their behalf) in order to misinform and diminish The Silent One.
Part of the process of coming into Tesherazz’s service involves accepting a name that he bestows upon the witch, in Wydnish. This “true name” is said to encapsulate the very essence of the witch’s soul, and in doing so give her strength, and in a way this is true, but there is a slightly darker twists that Tesherazz does not bother to inform prospective candidates about: the name he bestows can do more than simply reaffirm the witch’s existing nature, but can actually alter it, albeit only slightly. A witch who is proud might become arrogant, while another witch might remain the same…except for a few moral or ethical codes that suddenly seem less important. In general, any changes that Tesherazz enacts when bestowing this “true name” must not change the core of the witch’s personality, or else the name will fail to “stick.” Further, the name does not prevent the character from changing or growing over time, though it can provide a certain amount of supernatural resistance to attempts to do so. Even still, the amount of control that Tesherazz can enact with these names is enough to give witches who learn about it pause.
In exchange for their power, Tesherazz expects his witches to act as his agents in the material plane, and is chiefly concerned with their ability to bring him souls through various pseudo-infernal contracts (these are always verbal contracts, never written ones, for reasons outlined above). The witches’ power of Wydnish allows them to make these contracts magically binding, much to the dismay of those who try to cheat them, thinking that a verbal contract cannot be enforced.
Tesherazz has relatively few mortal followers who are not witches. Like any powerful fiend, Tesherazz attracts his share of potential cultists, but because he finds his arrangement as a witch patron so successful, he often grants magical power to prominent members of these cults, and they become witches in their own right. One growing cult devoted to Tesherazz, known as the Order of the Profound Word, specializes in discovering new Wydnish phrases from obscure sources. The cult is advertised as a path to spiritual enlightenment, but, in fact, nearly all members of the organization have their souls claimed as part of a pact cleverly disguised as a prayer. Tesherazz keeps a close eye on this cult, as his desire to unlock more power through forgotten words of Wydnish is tempered only by his growing concern that the cultists may discover some part of Wydnish that he is deliberately keeping to himself, and may grow more powerful than they are useful.
Rite of Cleansing
Whenever followers of Tesherazz find a source of written knowledge that they wish to gift to Tesherazz and deny to The Silent One, they carry out this ritual. First, they create a special ink substance by mixing regular ink with their own blood and the ashes from a burnt piece of paper. They mix this all with sand, water, and wine and let it ferment for several hours after burying it in the ground. After this is done, the witch ritually purifies herself, using incense and singing to mentally prepare herself for the ritual. After that is done, she reads the book aloud, committing it to her master’s memory. When she has finished the book, the witch drowns the book in the mixture of ink, preventing anyone from reading it.
Rite of Declaration
This ritual is used every morning, to reaffirm the witch’s “true name,” bestowed upon her by Tesherazz. The witch faces the rising sun, extending her hands towards it and speaks her “true name” three times. Each time that she speaks it, she must ring a small, silver bell. This rite usually bestows a sense of calm and certainty upon the witch, but if she has undergone dramatic change since receiving her “true name,” it will fill her with unease, instead. This usually prompts the witch to confer with Tesherazz on the subject, allowing him to keep tabs on his agents who “go astray.” In some cases, he will bestow a new “true name” upon the witch, and, in this way, can gradually change the witch’s personality one name at a time in a way more profound than he can do with a single name. If the witch is moving away from his designs, however, he may threaten or cajole her, or simply end the relationship and mark her for death.
Festival of the Spoken Word
On the day of the spring solstice, followers of Tesherazz recommit themselves to her and her cause by gathering together. For three days, they eat, drink and share stories orally. Many bards come to such events, as they know they will hear stories here that can’t be heard anywhere else. These three days are a flurry of song and sound. The rites can usually be heard for miles around, as all the witches’ voices coalesce into a great, supernaturally-powerful din. There are usually bonfires made from books that have already been read aloud. Often, the people in the surrounding areas flee until the festival is over, as the sounds they do not understand unnerve and terrify them.
Tesherazz as a Patron
In addition to learning spells, a witch who selects Tesherazz as a patron gains a number of additional abilities as she increases in level, though she also suffers from a number of penalties as a result of her connection to Tesherazz, as well.
Spells: 2nd—ventriloquism, 4th—steal voice, 6th—suggestion, 8th—shout, 10th—commune, 12th—legend lore, 14th—power word blind, 16th—power word stun, 18th—power word kill.
By taking Tesherazz as her patron, a witch gains a number of special boons, specific to Tesherazz. As she gains levels in the witch class, and her association with Tesherazz becomes stronger, she is granted additional boons, as outlined below.
Word Magic (Su): Witches who serve Tesherazz gain Eschew Materials and Still Spell as bonus feats at 1st level. Additionally, once per day, the witch can apply Still Spell to a spell she casts without using up a higher-level spell slot or increasing the casting time. At 6th level, and every six levels thereafter, the number of times she can use this ability each day increases by one (to a maximum of four times per day at 18th level).
Universal Language (Su): Beginning at 6th level, witches who serve Tesherazz are able to communicate with any creature that has a language. Whenever the witch speaks, all listeners hear what she says as though it had been said in their native tongue, and the witch hears all languages as though they were in her own tongue. In this way, it is impossible for the witch to identify what language a character is speaking, but she always knows exactly what is being said, and vice-versa.
Binding Contract (Su): Beginning at 12th level, witches who serve Tesherazz are able to form magically-binding verbal contracts. In order to use this ability, the witch must make a verbal agreement with another creature, or be present when two other characters make a verbal agreement. Characters to be affected by this ability need not be aware that their verbal agreement will be made magically binding, but must willingly make the agreement, and agreements made under the influence of charm or compulsion effects, or even under mundane duress, cannot be enforced by this ability.
Activating this ability is primarily an act of will, though the witch must “close” the agreement with a statement declaring the contract complete. Most witches typically develop a common phrase that they use for this purpose, such as “so mote it be,” or “before the world, so it be known,” but others prefer to be more subtle. The witch can enforce any verbal agreement made with her in this way (as long as it is not compelled), but cannot make a verbal agreement between two other characters binding in this way unless at least one of the two characters is willing for her to do so. Any character involved in the bargain that is not willing to have it magically enforced may make a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the witch’s class level + the witch’s Intelligence modifier) in order to avoid being affected. If any character involved succeeds on this Will save, the entire effect fails. Creatures that fail their saves are not aware that anything supernatural has occurred, though those that succeed on their saves feel a faint tingling sensation.
Characters that have made a pact or deal that has been reinforced in this way are magically bound to fulfill the exact letter of their obligations, as laid out in the terms spoken when the deal was made. Characters can deliberately avoid fulfilling the spirit of those obligations, as long as they fulfill the letter of them. Any character that fails to meet the letter of the agreement (as interpreted by the GM) suffers a -1 penalty to each of his ability scores after 24 hours of being in breach of the contract. Each day, this penalty increases by an additional -1, to a maximum amount equal to the witch’s class level. No ability score can be reduced to less than 1 by this effect. This is not ability damage or ability drain, and cannot be healed, but the penalties vanish immediately as soon as the character fulfills his end of the contract. Note that the witch herself is also bound in this way, and can suffer the same penalties, if she breaches such a contract herself. Only a wish or miracle spell can free a character from the effects of this ability.
Tesherazz’s power does not come without its consequences, and in serving him, a witch must make certain sacrifices, as outline below.
Speech Dependent (Su): Witches who serve Tesherazz must use verbal components in order to cast their spells. They cannot apply the Silent Spell feat, or any other ability that would allow them to avoid using verbal components when casting their spells. Additionally, the witch treats all spells as having verbal components, even if it normally does not have them.
Honest (Su): Because of their close connection to language, witches who serve Tesherazz suffer mystical backlash if they speak things that are not true. Beginning at 6th level, any time that the witch speaks an outright lie or falsehood, she suffers a -2 penalty to each of her ability scores. This penalty cannot be removed by any means, and lasts for a number of days equal to 1/2 the witch’s class level (rounded up). The witch can still deliberately mislead others, but must be careful to do so through clever word choice, implications, and phrases that are technically true but misleading. The GM is the final arbiter of what is and is not considered to be a lie, though a witch who spends a moment considering what she is about to say can always determine in advance if it will trigger this effect.
Named (Su): Beginning at 12th level, the “true name” that Tesherazz imposes on his witches can also be used to better target them magically. Any creature that speaks a witch’s “true name” as part of casting a spell can attune the spell to her, causing her to suffer a -8 penalty on saving throws made to resist the spell. This also makes the spell easier to resist for others, however, and any targets other than the named witch gain a +2 bonus on their saving throws to resist the spell. If the caster uses the wrong name, his target will still gain the +2 bonus (and won’t suffer the -8 penalty).