We’re back again with Staying in Character, where we mix, match, and mash our beloved pop culture icons into our favorite tabletop role-playing game systems. It’s a lot like making sausage in that you don’t want to know how it’s made, but the final product is delicious.
Now that we’ve all been letting the The Witcher Netflix series stew for a bit, it’s a good time to add to our stable of characters set in the Witcher universe. In case you missed our Geralt of Rivia build, be sure to check that out.
While that build was focused mainly on efficient swordplay with a touch of the arcane, this one’s tilting heavy towards magic. That’s right, we’re building Yennefer of Vengerberg!
She’s been through a lot to unlock her magical potential, and she’s bound to be a force to be reckoned with at your table. And maybe we can even sneak in a few surprises to keep the GM guessing!
Onto the Yennefer build!
Step 1: Create a Character Concept
For those of you that have watched The Witcher Netflix series, read the books, or played the games, you already know a lot about Yennefer. Her tumultuous rise to power makes her an intriguing character that would be a great addition to any adventuring party.
Here are the big three points of emphasis for the character that we want to convey in our build:
- Powerful Sorceress: Yennefer is a serious force. She pushes the limits of her magical aptitude, always trying to break through the glass ceilings of her power.
- Driver of Change: As someone who used to be ‘nothing’, Yennefer uses her position as an adviser to influence those around her. Usually secretive about her true motives, she’s playing 3D chess in a 2D world.
- Resilient: Yennefer has experienced relatable hardships and setbacks. At the end of the day, she works hard to overcome those challenges and gets back on her feet.
Step 2: Choose a Race
Yennefer of Vengerberg is a Human. Granted, her appearance was magically changed, but at her core she is still a human. That’s more than her fellow ascendant-hopefuls can say, at least.
Getting really technical, she’s a quarter elf. Staying true to the lore, you could make the argument for her being a Half-Elf (rounding up).
If you’re itching for something unique, you could also consider making Yennefer a Yuan-ti Pureblood. This would be a nice, subtle nod to the eel incident from the show. I’m proceeding with the Human designation, but that might be an avenue for you to consider.
Just like we did with Geralt, the Variant Human designation gives us more versatility with the build. This gives us some Ability Score boosts, a Feat, and a skill proficiency. Magic means utility, and Yennefer has that in droves.
Again, it bears repeating that Dungeon Masters (DMs) may have to give approval on feats, so check with your DM before going this route.
Let’s give Yennefer a boost to Charisma and Intelligence. For the build I have in mind, these two abilities are going to be very important. We can also give her skill proficiency in Investigation, and the Deep Speech language. Use whichever language might be most pertinent to your campaign.
We can capture her resiliency with a very specific Feat: Human Determination. This boosts any Ability score by 1, and also grants an ability to get advantage on an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check once between rests.
Step 3: Choose a Class
Let’s move on to the meat and potatoes: Yennefer’s class. This isn’t an easy one, and you could persuade me in a number of different ways. Let’s narrow it down to two: Wild Magic Sorcerer or an Evocation-based Wizard.
Yennefer’s powers have always been a part of her. She didn’t start reading a bunch of books and gradually learn magic over time. It’s almost like her experiences unlocked the magic within.
At the same time, we don’t always have to go exactly by the book. A lot of the magic that we’ve seen comes from elemental sources. There’s even a specific scene in the show where Yennefer makes a metric boatload of fire. That’s what Evocation is all about.
I’m a purist, so I’m going with the Sorcerer route. The reason Wild Magic works so well as an origin is that it plays well to Yennefer’s emotions. She tends to let her emotions get the best of her on several occasions.
Not to mention that Wild Magic is focused on controlling chaos. By definition, chaos is inevitable, and it is a constant theme in the Witcher series. Yennefer is constantly wrestling with herself, trying to control the chaos within and around her.
For Proficiencies, I’m choosing Deception and Persuasion. She is, after all, advising nobles to make decisions. If she isn’t persuasive, she’s not going to be very good at her job. That being said, she also needs to lie on occasion, to further her personal interests.
Spells are open-ended, but I’m sticking with the evocation/elemental theme. Fire Bolt and Burning Hands are exceptional choices, along with Frostbite to keep your enemies on their frost-bitten toes. Mage Armor is a must for survivability, and we’ve established that Yennefer is resilient. Throw in Light and Minor Illusion for some extra flair, and we’re all set.
Step 4: Determine Ability Scores
If your table rolls for ability scores, it’s time to break out those dice. I tend to favor the Point Buy system, but if you roll for scores, you could consider lining them up from highest to lowest to match up with my choices. High Charisma and Intelligence, followed by Wisdom.
ADD IN ONE FROM HUMAN DETERMINATION FEAT
- Strength: 10 = 10 (Base). Not much use for strength when you can incinerate your enemies.
- Dexterity: 12 = 10 (Base) + 1 (Pool) + 1 (Feat). Yennefer is nimble and quick, just don’t call her ‘Jack’.
- Constitution: 10 = 10 (Base). She has a relatively average constitution.
- Intelligence: 14 = 10 (Base) + 3 (Pool) + 1 (Race).
- Wisdom: 12 = 10 (Base) + 2 (Pool). When you’re trying to be independent, you pick up a few tricks of the trade.
- Charisma: 16= 10 (Base) + 1 (Race) + 5 (Pool). She literally changed her entire appearance, is respected on the noble scene, and doesn’t take no for an answer.
Step 5: Describe Your Character
We discussed the character concept in the first step, which is slightly out of order if you’re following along in the Core Rulebook. However, we still have some miscellaneous choices to make here regarding Alignment, Ideals, Bonds, Flaws, and Background.
- Alignment: Chaotic Neutral. Chaotic Neutral is a difficult alignment to work with. You could make the argument for ‘Good’, but Yennefer seems to trend towards self-preservation and the end justifying the means.
- Ideals: Yennefer is driven by the pursuit of power and control, so that she can remain independent and self-sufficient.
- Bonds: When she became a powerful sorceress, Yennefer gave up a future of being a mother. She wants the best of both worlds – power and family.
- Flaws: She has trouble controlling her emotions.
- Background: Sage. Yennefer craves knowledge and power, and also serves as an adviser in noble courts.
Step 6: Choose Equipment
Obviously, this build is going to shine more at higher levels. Most builds don’t even start to hit their stride until Level 3 anyways. Since Yennefer is a Sorcerer, she isn’t reliant on crazy-awesome weapons or stunning armor (cue flashbacks to The Mandalorian). Her power comes from within.
If you want to have some early-game utility from range, pick up a Light Crossbow and some bolts. It’s standard fare for squishy magic users at low-level. A Dagger is nice if combat gets too close for comfort, and anybody can use one. The damage is low, but it’s better than fists.
Really, you don’t need much else to get started. Pick up an Explorer’s Pack and that’ll give you the essentials for adventuring. Any other items are coming out of your paycheck.
Step 7: Beyond 1st Level
Your Level 1 Yennefer of Vengerberg is basically complete. Congratulations! But where is this character going as she begins to accumulate mass amounts of experience points? The sky is the limit, but here’s a potential path to go down.
At Level 3, we unlock Metamagic. These are essentially modifiers that you can apply to a spell to give it extra effects. Select Empowered Spell and Quickened Spell, which will increase your damage output and allow you to cast a spell as a bonus action, respectively.
Future options to consider for Metamagic are the Extended Spell, Heightened Spell, and Twinned Spell. Metamagic is awesome; it gives you an entirely new dimension for spellcasting.
Once we reach Level 6, we finally get the Wild Magic Sorcerous Origin. It can create some bizarre effects at the table, but that’s exactly the feeling we want to convey. Magic is chaotic, just like Yennefer.
Certain Feats speak well to Sorcerers. We took Human Determination as a flavor feat right away, but there are a lot of other useful Feats that fit Yennefer well. Spell Sniper is an option to start with, which expands your cantrip catalog and increases your range.
I’d also recommend Inspiring Leader. This feat works really well to help parties that may be lacking in the healing department. With Yennefer’s high Charisma, this would be a huge boost in that regard.
In the future, your repertoire of spells will continue to grow. In keeping with Yennefer’s fiery personality, here are a couple options to consider:
- Charm Person (1st)
- Color Spray (1st)
- Thunderwave (1st)
- Detect Thoughts (2nd)
- Hold Person (2nd)
- Scorching Ray (2nd)
- Blink (3rd)
- Lightning Bolt (3rd)
- Fireball (3rd)
- Polymorph (4th)
Each of these offer their own bit of utility or damage output. Really, I just want to get to Polymorph to start turning people into eels. I can’t emphasize enough to you how much I want to do that.
As I mentioned earlier, an Evocation Wizard is another potential route for you to go down. If you choose to multi-class, be aware that you’ll still be under the Wild Magic rules for Sorcerer spells. There’s distinction between the Sorcerer and Wizard spells for the sake of the Wild Magic Surge table.
The Witcher Meets D&D 5E
I’ve attached a Character Sheet that reflects the choices we made in this build. I considered doing this on the D&D Beyond platform, but I don’t have all of the source material purchased. Besides, paper character sheets are great!
This series will feature builds in Starfinder, Pathfinder, and D&D 5E. Keep your eyes peeled for future installments. Reach out to us on Twitter if there’s something you really want to see.
Until then, remember what Yennefer said: “Nobody smart plays fair.”