Minecraft Mod Examination: Witchery
Despite very little traditional magic appearing in vanilla Minecraft, it is one of those things that seems to fit perfectly into the game's world. There have been a lot of attempts at adding in magical systems and themes to Minecraft since release, and quite a few of them have come out quite well. Ars Magica covers the stereotypical wizard theme effectively, with its in-depth spell creation system allowing aspiring mages to cause all kinds of neat and powerful effects. Thaumcraft is another popular mod, one that gives the player a slower, more mystical-feeling progression system, with research and exploration a key part of its experience. Those looking for a darker type of wizardry might install Blood Magic, a mod in which you sacrifice your own blood and that of other creatures to summon demons, perform rituals, and many other kinds of nasty things. But my favorite out of all of the types of magic mods available for Minecraft is Witchery, a somewhat dark mod based around witchcraft, demons, and many other superstitions from the Middle Ages.
Starting out in Witchery is a little complex, but easy enough that most players could figure it out without needing anything beyond NEI and an occasional peek at some of the extensive in-game documentation. There are around eight main books explaining several of the core features of Witchery, as well as a handful of books made for very specific subjects, and most of these can be either made by hand of found in one of the new village structures, the book shoppe. The information within these books is usually clear and well written unless intended to be otherwise, and while they lack the cool interface of Thaumcraft's Thaumonomicon or Ars Magica's Arcane Compendium, the more simplistic approach fits in well with Witchery's rustic style. Some of the books also have neat features about them, such as one neat book that comes in a sort of quest-like format, requiring you to collect all of the missing pages to understand the full ritual it speaks of and all of the dangers involved. And if anything is still confusing or not explained as well as you would like you can always use the information on the mod's main site, which is very well written and easy to navigate, though certain aspects of the mod are left intentionally vague.
Regardless of whether you learn from the mod's site or from a book, you will likely start your experience by cooking various saplings in a new, upgradeable device known as the Witches' Oven. This device is a furnace-like machine that cooks most burnable materials such as wood or food, but only shows its real power when it cooks saplings. These it turns into wood ash, and if you have placed clay jars in with the saplings it will also collect special fumes, the type of which is dependent on the wood used. These fumes are one of the more important starting pieces of Witchery, and nearly all of the various branches of magic will require them to very early on.
However, that is only the first of three steps you will need to perform before you can access the more impressive parts of Witchery. You will also need to start growing some of the new magical plants added by the mod, such as Mandrakes and Belladonna. These plants' seeds can be found throughout the wilderness, and you will need to grind up one of each seed type to make anointing paste, which is required to create the special cauldron that most of your brews and several of your rituals will require. But those plants also have some interesting effects when allowed to grow. For instance, the Wolfsbane flower allows you to reveal if a villager is a werewolf well before the full moon approaches. The Snowbell plant naturally creates snowballs, letting herbalists gather snow without any need to find the colder regions of Minecraft, as well as the Icy Needles that are used when exploring the Spirit World, a dreamland accessible by anyone with the proper tools. But the most useful and amusing part of your garden will likely be the Mandrake, a rather maddening plant that can sometimes get up and start running around screaming its head off when you try to farm it. However, once the Mandrake's roots are harvested they can be used in the making of several important brews, including that of a unique little bit of dust known as Mutandis.
Mutandis, and its more potent, useful, and difficult to produce form Mutandis Extremis, is a type of dust that when used on a sapling or a clump of grass will mutate it into another, randomly selected, plant. This can be used to collect rare saplings from rarer types of trees like jungle or acacia saplings without ever needing to leave your backyard, but the primary reason one would use Mutandis is to create one of six types of magical plants that do not occur naturally. This allows the player to create Glintweed, a glowing plant that can rapidly spread long distances, Ember Moss, which burns anything that steps on it, Spanish Moss, a vine that grows quite quickly and is used in the making of poppets, and three types of magical trees that can spawn angry Ents when damaged. All of these plants, the tree saplings, and the wood are used in various brews and rituals, and so whatever you wish to study you will likely need to create them. While all of the above is indeed a pain to do, once you unlock all of these plants and devices Witchery's progression path opens up almost completely, and the really impressive parts of the mod start to appear.
But while you no longer require Mutandis to get started with the mod, that does not mean that you are even near being done with it or the practice of mutation. There is an evolved form of it known as Mutandis Extremis that has a handful of new uses, such as turning grass into Mycelium and underwater dirt into clay, or you could mix it together with various fumes and magical plants to create a living guardian known as a Treefyd. But the best thing to do with Extremis is to combine it with a twig salvaged from an Ent to produce a Mutating Sprig. These branches allow you to begin mutation rituals that will give you a number of useful plant-like objects, such as chests that draw blood from those who open them, an explosive version of the Mandrake that will charge at enemies of the player, plants that hold creatures or items for the player, reeds that teleport any being that walks into them to a random location within a very large area, and several more. This is also the way that you create some of the new animals added by Witchery, including owls, frogs, and winged monkeys, all of which have powerful uses. While many of the mutations are not required by the other branches of Witchcraft, there are a few that are needed for some of the higher level forms of Necromancy and Circle Magic, and that feeling of co-dependence between the branches of magic will continue throughout the mod.
Speaking of Circle Magic, it is one of the coolest and most powerful of the features added in by Witchery. Circle Magic is the process of drawing large magical circles in a certain pattern and color that, when the correct set of items or creatures are sacrificed in the middle, will cause powerful special effects. You will usually need to create a Witch's Altar near the circle's location, and supply that altar with nearby plant life or power-amplifying items to give whatever energy it requires for the ritual you are attempting to perform. Then you will need to create the appropriate circle on flat land and place the required items in the middle, and select the middle rune to perform your ritual. And these rituals are often quite cool, giving the player the ability to produce flying islands, summon volcanoes, teleport between marked locations, summon a form of the player that has all of their items from the last time they died, conjure demons to fight or trade with, and a great deal more.
But as impressive as these are, they are actually all part weaker type of Circle Magic. For the more powerful rituals one will need to befriend other witches and form a Coven. Coven Witches can be found in towns or in the wilderness, and will snub their noses at the idea of working with anyone who has not proven themselves capable enough to bind a familiar to them. But if such a familiar is produced, the witch will be intrigued enough to ask for a favor from the player, and after completing their task they will be willing to join the player's Coven. This means that they will appear anytime the player calls them with a special item known as a Seer's Stone, and will also randomly show up in the area around the player whenever they feel like a visit. Once enough members of a Coven are recruited the player can start using some of the more advanced forms of Circle Magic, such as changing forests into deserts, causing exploding toads to fall from the sky, and quite a lot more. And even if a ritual does not actually need a Coven to perform it, it can often be enhanced by the other witches, usually adding either more range or power to the spell.
The player might also look into making Poppets, special dolls that can be enchanted to effect the user, or perhaps a friend or enemy of theirs, in various positive and very negative ways. The simplest of these are the various protection Poppets that will sacrifice themselves to protect the player from a specific type of damage, such as received when falling off a cliff or drowned in a lake. There are also Poppets that heal the player at the point of death regardless of what type of damage they take, and several can be bound to a player at once, but such items are very expensive to make. If one has a more vicious bent one might instead steal a bit of blood or hair from another player and apply it to a Vampiric Poppet, and then link that player to yourself, causing any damage you take to be sent to the target instead. You can even make Voodoo dolls that you can stab with needles, fling about, or throw into lava, all of which will affect the targeted player in quite painful ways.
And this is not even close to all that Witchery can do. The Cauldron built as one of the starting items will prove quite useful to any witch, as it is used as part of Witchery's customizable potion system. Brewing is a rather complex procedure, but the basics are that the witch can create potions that are designed to either be thrown, ingested, or coated on an object to make the effect trigger when that object is touched. There are a ridiculous amount of possible potions to be made, with some of the highlights being the ability to shrink effected beings, cause the target to burn in the sun, reincarnate a being as another creature when slain, or cause all of the target's clothes to suddenly fall off. The thrown types can be made to spread over an area like water, turn into gas, or explode instantly, the duration can be increased as desired, the brew's power can be enhanced, and even the color of the potion can be changed as the player desires. And the Cauldron can be used for special rituals as well, or to cause a potion effect to spread to a targeted area, both of which can be enhanced by a player's Coven.
There is also another type of brewing possible, one that makes especially powerful, but non-customizable, potions. These require a kettle to produce, and are often involved in some way with the more powerful effects of Witchery. This includes the brews required for some of the old witchcraft staples like crystal balls and flying broomsticks, but the greatest brews are all related to personal infusion magic. This requires combining the acts of brewing a potion in the kettle, performing a ritual to infuse the player, and utilizing a Death Protection Poppet to survive the infusion; but once performed will give the player various personal magic such as the ability to use magic wands with dozens of effects, create forcefields and bridges out of nothing, teleport the player and any targeted entities, or enslave monsters with a single gesture.
For those of you who hate getting out of bed in the morning, there is a type of magic related to a world of dreams. This dreamworld will require a certain brew to enter for the first time, and once there you will experience either a dream; a peaceful world that is forever sunny, or a nightmare; in which you will be chased throughout the land by a horrible and essentially immortal entity. Whichever you end up in you will find new types of cotton almost anywhere you look, and the bits of string you pull from those cotton plants are kept when you wake either through death, or by stabbing yourself with an icy needle. That cotton can then be used to build Dream Catchers, special wall-hanging objects that when placed near a bed will give the player various bonuses for most of a day. There are also ways to enter the waking world as your dream-self, allowing you to attack others or interact with the waking world without being in any danger or leaving your bed. It is even possible to make traps in the spirit world that effect the living world without being in danger from that end, allowing for all kinds of nasty pranks or base defenses.
Those traps are generally focused around the art of conjuration and the use of another device, the Brazier. This is a special pedestal that, when the correct items are place in it and burned, will cause a lot of unique effects, primarily centered around death, mist, and summoning and controlling the undead. Spirits who are summoned through this manor are quite powerful, and usually aggressive at first, but can be bound through a ritual to a fetish, such as a Witch's Ladder or Scarecrow. Once bound to a fetish that object can be placed to defend an area with it's captured ghosts, give a warning if anything passes through, allow a dreamer who has crossed into the normal world to stay there for as long as they wish, and a lot more, all of which can effect the normal world from the dream world and vice versa. The Brazier can also be used to cover the area in mist, strengthen any nearby creatures, or even drain the life from an area, slowly turning it into a wasteland while healing any nearby undead.
And the undead are not your only potential servants, if you want you can also build and control an entire community of Hobgoblins. Hobgoblins are short creatures that you will often find wandering the wilderness, or in small huts. They all desire a home, hopefully one with other Hobgoblins, and so will move into any house they can find whether or not it already has people living there. Once they are in a home they will start offering trades, usually involving a special type of material known as Koboldite that only Hobgoblins are able to mine. But there is a way for players to gain access to that material without trading: put the Hobgoblins on a leash and hand them a pickaxe, and they will start mining any dirt or stone-like blocks close to them. Every block they mine has a small chance to drop koboldite as well as the block itself, and this chance and dig speed can be increased by giving them a pickaxe made of the mineral. But the greatest power of the Hobgoblins is one only usable by a powerful witch, one who has started performing infusion magic. Those witches can build a Statue of a Hobgoblin Patron that the Hobgoblins will worship instead of their own gods, giving the witch even more energy for their infusions and increasing their skill with wand magic at the risk of angering the Hobgoblins true gods.
You might also gain a strange little servant by enslaving a demon and forcing its soul into a Magical Mirror. This nifty little object normally just hangs on your wall, and if you speak to it, it will tell you who is the fairest one of all. This may be you, but it could also be an NPC, at which point you will be given directions on where to find them, and once you find them you can then rip out their Heart of Gold, a very rare potion ingredient. But rather than using this feature, you might also want to enter the mirror and slay the demonic doppelganger inside. If you can manage this you will gain access to a large empty space that is different for different mirrors and can be carried with you, great for either a portable base or for building a massive chest room that takes up only a few blocks of space in your home. You might also place two empty mirrors horizontal or vertical to each other, which will form a link between them that you can walk through, instantly appearing outside of the other mirror. This item is the newest addition to Witchery as of this writing, and is in some ways the most generally useful bit of magic added by the mod.
But while magic is the focus of Witchery, those who desire more physical than magical power have their own paths in either Lycanthropy or Vampirism. These are both time-consuming to initiate, as they both require performing certain deeds through either summoning a special demon or building and worshiping a powerful altar, but when completed the change will take hold and the player will turn into the respective beast. That monster can then complete special quests to grow through up to ten levels of strength, with a new power unlocked for every level. These powers range from extreme speed, to the ability to control villagers, the power to change into wolves or swarms of bats, and at the highest level both types can spread their disease to others. However, both creatures suffer from their traditional illnesses: vampires cannot stand the sun and fear garlic, while werewolves must fear silver and at first will only change on the night of a full moon.
And there is a good reason why these beasts should feel fear. All werewolves, vampires, and witches that practice curses need to fear hunters, who will start appearing after the first transformation or horrible deed is done. These hunters come equipped with specialized weapons that weaken magical effects and deal extra damage to supernatural beasts, and are a major threat to an unprepared player. That specialized equipment can be made by human players as well, allowing for non-evil player to have one powerful way to fight back. Silver can be distilled from gold deposits with the use of a special set of furnace upgrades, and then used to enhance armor and weapons with its abilities to harm Lycanthropes. Garlic can also be used to guard houses, crafted into anti-vampiric potions, or placed on armor to protect from vampires. And there are other nifty devices like quartz orbs that collect sunlight, or crossbows with special bolts that harm werewolves or weaken witches.
While the hunters are worriesome, the greatest danger a Witchery user will encounter are the mod's vicious bosses. Witchery comes with multiple boss fights, and unlike some mods all of these come with unique triggers. Some bosses do require special summoning rituals, but others can be triggered by just doing something that angers the boss, such as building a statue to yourself or binding too many undead into your service. These bosses include other witches, vicious demons, powerful goblins, and even Death himself, and all of them will slaughter the unprepared player. There is generally one type of boss per type of magic, and while all of them are avoidable, you will need to fight them to access the strongest items in each field.
This is all great, and Witchery is indeed an amazing mod, but it does have its reasons a player might not want to use it. First among these is that it is one of the slowest-paced mods in Minecraft. While there is a lot to do, the requirements in both time and resources can make it take a very long time to reach whatever goal you have decided to set, and the start-up process with Mutandis is randomly generated, making it easily the most frustrating part of the mod. Witchery is also balanced around normal Minecraft, and most other modifications really are not, so while it rarely conflicts with anything, it can easily be outshone by the more "overpowered" mods such as Ars Magica or one of the various tech mods. There are also some problems with its village changes, which can have some very buggy world-generation issues, and can cause weird effects when combined with other village mods like Minecraft Comes Alive. While none of these can actually be considered serious problems, they should be taken into account when deciding whether to include Witchery in your mod folder or not.
So if you want a unique type of magic in your Minecraft world, Witchery is certainly worth a look. It is a little slow to start, and does not have as powerful a set of tools as some other mods, but it adds an immense amount of content to the game as well as many nifty effects that are often hard to find elsewhere. What is listed in this examination is not even close to all that is in Witchery, but many of the dangers and powers of Witchcraft are best discovered personally. It works quite well with less overpowered mods like the Lord of the Rings Mod, and rarely conflicts with anything, so you can safely place it in nearly any mod-pack. The ways of magic in Minecraft are many, and all of them are impressive, but nothing has the same feeling of discovery or danger that Witchery provides.