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Witch in Path of Exile

Crystal Nekranne van Riss

(Sample Path of Exile Witch)

The sevenfold witch kills with the dead


Path of Exile is an Action-Adventure Computer Role-Playing Game, like the Diablo series. It is chiefly aimed at hardcore gamers – while playing just means clicking on stuff, playing well is no small endeavour. The game has lots of complex depths.

One of the character types playable in Path of Exile is the Witch. Here’s a fleshed-out version of the Witch (with a made-up background) that presents various aspects of the setting, the magic spells, the opening storyline, the atmosphere, etc.

The illusive generic witch

Player Characters in Action-Adventure Computer Role-playing Games are usually more character classes than actual characters — but there’s something of a spectrum.

For instance the characters in Diablo II, such as the Amazon or the Assassin, are almost wholly classes. Those in the first Torchlight are even less fleshed out, but those in Borderlands, such as Lilith, are almost characters if one takes into account additional material such as comics.

The Path of Exile character classes are in the middle – they are classes, but they have distinctive lines and voice acting, a smidgen of background, a generally set appearance that includes a character portrait, a handful of reaction lines from Non-Player Characters, etc.

Thus, we’ll use the same approach as we used for Torchlight example characters (such as Shivangi, Ksenia and Rae) – use a common build for the class, include a recap of what little is known in-game, and add a lot of made-up details to present a possible fleshed-out version of this proto-character.

In Crystal’s case, this is a full-on summoner build with Firestorm (though I have since switched to Chain Lightning, which is quite superior), Temporal Chains and Enfeeble used as support for her army of the dead.


  • Real Name: Crystal Nekranne van Riss
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: None
  • Group Affiliation: None
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile across Wraeclast
  • Height: 5’4” Weight: 102 lbs Age: 15
  • Eyes: Grey (glowing blue) Hair: Brown

Powers & Abilities

Originally, the witch had some minor magical talents involving fire and the evil eye. Upon landing on Wraeclast, these became rapidly more powerful, but were overshadowed by her quickly-developing necromantic puissance.

The dead do not stay still on Wraeclast, and Crystal can control this process and dominate the undead whose rising she ordered.

Army of the dead

Crystal Nekranne is served by several types of undead soldiers :


Fresh corpse into which she focuses her necromantic energy, reanimating them within seconds. They tend to be strong and tough, especially since their mistress’ necromantic energy supercharges them.

Animated skeletons

These are not real skeletons but virtual creatures conjured out of thin air, or rather out of the necromantic energy permeating Wraeclast.

PoE witch surrounded by her zombies

In less death-aspected and/or lower-mana lands, the number of skeletons that can be conjured would be lower, if they can even be summoned.

These creatures look like dead husks since, well, they’re necromantic energy. They need to be conjured in pairs.


Spectres are extracted from fresh corpses. Though they look like a ghost version of the subject, they are material and have more or less the same capabilities as they had in life, albeit with a very diminished mind.

Crystal can maintain a single spectre for now, though these can last for several days before dispersing. Picking a good subject is thus important ; the witch prefers to pick ranged fighters such as archers since she already has zombies and skeletons to act as meat (or bone) shields.

Spells of devastation

Beyond her undead army, Crystal has developed three types of magic to combat-grade level. One is a rain of fire over a small area, appearing a few metres in the air and hitting with significant force and heat.

The second is an evil eye curse that slows time for opponents caught in its radius, making them significantly easier to fight.

The last is to surround herself with a semi-invisible energy shield that can soak incoming damage until it gets overloaded – but rebuilds capacity over time by absorbing energy from Wraeclast’s soil.

Van Riss also crafted some weird spider-like puppets made of felt, which surround the hands of whoever bears one with cutting, harmful cold.

She normally issues those to her zombies to make their attacks more damaging. She scrounged some old nails and a hammer to pin those to her undead troops.

Here is a short video to illustrate :

As she runs into some giant insects, she summons a small horde of skeletons to deal with these. As the skeletons fight then guard her, she extrudes zombies from the bodies of the slain insects (though all zombie animates in the game look like dead humans).

The skeletons start vanishing as serpent-like creatures come in and attack, but at this point she already has enough zombies to fight for her. Amidst the battle, Crystal extracts a spectre from an insect queen, then discard it to raise another from one of the snake corpses.


Crystal is a peasant wench from a random village in Oriath. Her young life has been a rotten one. Her mother died in childbirth with her second child, and her father just vanished one day, allegedly to dodge considerable gambling debts.

She was thus essentially the village’s kid beggar, being given meagre leftover food in exchange for performing whichever miserable chores the locals sought to avoid.

Trudging angrily through her bleak existence, the orphan came to wish that she were a witch, since witches live alone in magical arboreal huts and nobody bothers them because they are scary and cast spells. When she was about 12, she started pretending that she was a witch to intimidate adults.

That was a poor idea, and it became much worse when she actually manifested some minor magical abilities having to do with fire. The villagers wrecked her crude, tiny log cabin and a band of teenage boys drove her away in the woods as they attempted to lapidate her.

Summoner witch in chain mail with her animated skeletons

While the kid’s magic was almost negligible, her “evil eye” could transfix small creatures (such as hedgehogs) long enough to brain them with a stone, and her “magic flame” could reliably start a campfire. This considerably facilitated survival.

However, survival was no longer her goal. Beside herself with juvenile rage, she swore that she would make the entire village pay and made up a “magical rule” stating that any harm inflicted on her was to be paid back sevenfold using her “evil spells”.

Though that was fantasised bullshit, her fire magic developed over the following months and she came back to the village during the next, unusually dry summer.

Claiming that the drought was her curse, she set fire to much of the village at night. It was a disaster as the conflagration raged through the entire place, and nearly half the children in the village died from smoke inhalation, which also left many of the adults with permanent respiratory problems.

Exile to the fatherland

The survivors called for guards and a witchfinder from the capital, Theopolis. Crystal was found within a few days, and the guards prepared for a fight.

However, none of the kid’s spells could be used in a fight and she just charged them with a stick in incoherent anger, soon passing out from malnourishment and being too furious to breathe as the guards pinned her.

Unsure that the unbalanced teenager was the big bad witch that had been described to him, the witchfinder had two guards take her to a cell in Theopolis as he continued searching for another suspect.

Medieval woman in ragged clothing standing in the dust

After a week of not finding anybody else, the witchfinder gave up and declared that Crystal Nekranne van Riss was indeed the child-murdering witch he had been looking for.

Since there was a huge queue for executions that month, he got rid of the problem by having her put on the next boat and exiled – since a vessel was leaving in but two days.

The corrupt nobility of Oriath sends its exiles to the cursed isle of Wraeclast – and they exile hundreds per year, often for flimsy reasons. Wraeclast is the cradle of the Eternal Empire, of which the island Oriath used to be a colony.

However, the main Empire fell a long time ago, and there’s now little resembling civilisation on Wraeclast. What happened is unknown, but Wraeclast is now an evil place where none among the dead stays still, and where the very wind brings rage and insanity to the ruins of several great civilisations.

Ashore the good bad place

A freak storm sunk the boat Van Riss was on, and she only narrowly managed to reach the beach of Wraeclast. While she wasn’t the only survivor, the body of the drowned rose as they washed ashore, and attacked the living.

Fascinated by this phenomenon, Crystal armed herself with flotsam for defence against the undead.

A bare-footed Path of Exile witch

As it turned out, the girl was absorbing the evil magics of Wraeclast like a sponge. Every step in the sand of Wraeclast’s beach was making her a stronger necromancer, and even her evil eye and fire magic tricks soon became deadly assets.

By the time she reached a settlement, her eyes were glowing with the distinctive cold blue light called Witch’s Eyes, denoting genuine mystical puissance.

The young witch briefly established herself in the ramshackle coastal fortress of Lioneye’s Gate. A former stronghold of the Eternal Empire, the Gate had been conquered by the Kanui raiders (a Māori-like seagoing culture) during the rebellions that preceded the fall of the Empire.

The Kanui in turn had to flee when Wraeclast became a land of evil, leaving exiles from Oriath to occupy the old fort for protection against zombies.

The famished Exiles didn’t give a damn about Crystal’s glowing eyes – all that counted was that she could destroy zombies to make harvesting nearby flotsam, driftwood, comestible shells and the like much less dangerous.

As she inquired about necromancy, her fellow exiles barricaded within the fort all too happily pointed her toward nearby reanimators, ghost-haunted maritime graveyards, coastal caverns littered by the corpses of sailors eaten by sirens or the derelict prison where terrible experiments had taken place.

Crystal’s field study program had commenced.

Here is a very short setting video :

These are the ruins of Sarn, which used to be the capital of the Eternal Empire. The current non-monstrous inhabitants are a small community living at the edge of town to avoid the horrors therein. These are typical visuals for a community in Wraeclast.


A gaunt, very pale teenager with long tangled brown hair and ratty, somewhat malodorous clothing inexpertly sewed together from leftover hides.

Crystal has Witch’s Eyes – that is, they visibly glow with a cold blue energy denoting alignment with death magic.

Crystal Nekranne always goes barefoot – it’s supposed to be about contact with the earth to absorb mystical energy, but it’s actually that she’s too poor to have ever worn shoes in her life.

Since she’s usually wearing a skirt, her bare shins are full of minor bruises and cuts from running around in the wild.


An awkward, battered kid with little understanding of the world and a gigantic chip on her shoulder. Her security blanket is her spooky girl witch act – though it has ceased being an act some time back.

She is clearly fascinated by things associated with death – corpses, the undead (though on Wraeclast the two tend to be synonymous), necromancers, torture instruments and the like – and want to see all these things like some sort of unhinged but enthusiastic young tourist.

Crystal Nekranne is very big on her “sevenfold vengeance” thing, which she apparently sees as a rule of the universe that applies specifically to her. The grandiloquent declarations that all wrongs done to her will be visited back sevenfold upon the originator is just a rationalisation for her being a maniac, though.

What it actually means is that she’ll go apeshit upon anybody crossing her, wrecking everything until exhaustion catches up with her.

Since on Wraeclast most everything will try to kill you, she’s on a permanent maniacal revenge trip against it all. This means that people not wanting to kill her are quite safe, since she’s obsessing over endless lists of things that tried to hurt her and needs to be pounded into gore and eaten by zombies.

Every week she accumulates several months’ worth of revenge fantasies to carry out.


(Looking at a group of zombies coming from the sea to devour her) “Soon, the dead will rise for me, not against me.”

(Destroying a ghostly buccaneer) “This is how you die properly, sailor boy. No half-measures.”

(Touching the ground of Wraeclast) “The very sand shivers with malice. There is a power here that welcomes me.”

(After killing a bandit lord) “It’s quite disappointing, I usually like rats.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Crystal Nekranne van Riss

Dex: 02 Str: 02 Bod: 02 Motivation: Psychopath
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 04 Occupation: Survivor
Inf: 05 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 011 HP: 020

Animate dead: 06, Enchantment: 02, Flame project: 05, Flash: 06

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers are Mystic-Linked
  • Animate dead only reduces DEX by 01, and doesn’t augment BODY
  • Animate dead has a Special +14 Duration Bonus, but only allows for one animation at a time
  • Enchantment only on undead Pets and animations, but it has an Area of Effect (2 APs radius)
  • Flame Project is Indirect, and has a 1 AP Area of Effect. It is its own AV
  • Flash has a 1 AP Area of Effect
  • Flash is selectively slowing time, and is resisted by the same Powers than Time Slow rather than by Shade

Occultist: 06, Weaponry (Wands): 04

Familiarity (Forest survival), Pets (Six zombies, six skeletons – Misc. Limitation: the zombies require fresh corpses to be created, the skeletons require enough ambient necromantic energy)


Age (Young), Distinct Appearance, Exile, Mistrust, Serious Rage, SIA toward Sevenfold Vengeance, Socially Inept, Unluck


  • Magic wand [BODY 02, Energy blast (ML): 04]
  • FELT SPIDERS (x8) [BODY 01, Claws: 05, Note: the Killing Damage from the claws is cold damage and thus resisted by the likes of Cold Immunity rather than Skin Armour ; Claws can be Combined with unarmed and armed melee attacks]

Erect Energy Shield [Cold immunity: 02, Damage capacity: 06, Flame immunity: 01, Lightning immunity: 01, Casting time: 5 APs, Special conditions: the user must wear selected clothing with unique embroidering and magical treatments, Bonus: Damage Capacity automatically Recovers 3 APs of Current Condition at the end of any Phase when no RAPs have been scored against the user, Limitation: the Immunities have a Loss Vulnerability, as they cannot be higher than the Current Condition of Damage Capacity]

Evil dead

The bulk of Van Riss’ army is six zombies ; these can be quickly created from any fresh corpse using a Dice Action and an Automatic Action. She is thus capable of replacing casualties in the middle of combat if there are bodies around.

All zombies have DEX 02 STR 04 BODY 04 and Martial Artist (AV): 03, plus any effects from Enchantment and/or being equipped with a Felt Spider. Note that a corpse that was blasted to smithereens or has already been used to create a zombie is no longer fresh for animation purposes.

Additional troops are six skeletons, looking like typical animated human skeletons wielding a sword and shield. They will vanish after four Phases. Crystal can conjure a pair of skeletons by using a Dice Action and an Automatic Action. All skeletons have DEX 03 STR 03 BODY 03 plus any effects from Enchantment.

The spectre is a product of her Animate Dead power, and can thus have varied abilities depending upon what corpses are available.

Design notes

As usual with video game characters with a host of complex abilities and equipment, those have been boiled down and reimagined to fit stories that do not use video game logic.

This is the case in both our game stats, and the Powers & Abilities section. Our reasoning in these cases tends to be “okay, what if the story were instead told in a film, comic or novel ?”, to see how to tone down video game logic without betraying the concepts presented in the game.

The character described is, level-wise, in her 20s, before unlocking an extra spectre, running two auras, using dual curses, reaching further minion-centric passive skill wheels, unlocking the Immolation passive, etc. as per the common summoning build.

By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: Inspired by a Path of Exile player character. The witch class is voice-acted by Heidi O’Loughlin.

Writeup completed on the 23rd of November, 2013.

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