Slightly threadomantic, but I would like to offer my opinion here
I have had some fun with Hedge Magic recently, preparing some characters to test their possibilities and potential. So, I took a rather munchkinistic approach to character creation here, be warned. I have not cracked the elementalists, since they did not please my taste when I read the rules, so I can't offer my impression on them. Now, the others.
NIGHTWALKERS: not real magic practitioners but still cool. Can make for extremely useful/powerful companions without breaking the game, and can also add a lot of potential to the other hedge magic tratiotions. For 4 virtue points (nightwalker & versatile phantasticum) you have a lot of potential. Half taltos for your companions also boosts them quite a bit vs incorporeal entities.
VITKI: If you do not plan to use hermetics, those guys will be the top dogs of mythic europe. Quite powerful dudes, even if much more centered in a few abilities than your average hermetic. They need to specialize in order to be truly good in their areas, miuch more than hermetics do. They can be really good there. IMO Merlin can be created as a vitki easily and keeping the full flavor.
Those guys can be really cool. Spoecially good at transforming themselves and those near them. They curse their enemies granting them virtues and flaws. Their formulaic magic is extremely good, being flexible and really low level. My designed character can transform to a giant between size +1 and +6 easily, for example, simply changing one parameter of the spell he uses. They are not that good at affecting their surroundings: even their Vision spells deal with them on a personal basis more than changing their environs.
Those guys can rake up a lot of combat potential if they are mindful about that, and can travel fast between locales using shapeshifting spells to transform to birds or sea animals. Their powetic justice touch is extremely cool and can rake some nice SG fiat to achieve an appropiate flow of the story: it is the first time I have seen tjhis "SG fiat" introduced as a rule, and I found it done brilliantly. It was a creation of the robertsons in the old lion of the north tribunal book, but it is still extra cool IMO. When reading about them I found a little bit sad that they mention the diednes kicking them during the davnalleus war, while it is not mentioned that Pralix had any diednes in his army. Thus has biugged me for 3 editions now, so no biggie, though. From a rules POV they are solid and can be very powerful as champions: they do much worse in a mass or boundary target point of view since their magic is strictly personal.
their evolution will not move much beyond this approach, even with massivce ammounts of study. They are limited to what they can do in the lab. Being unable to create items is a pity, but hey.
Wohoo!! Those are my favourite ones by far. They are eminently a lab rat bunch. Their abilities can be divided in field abilities and lab abilities as follows.
- Flight. Not much to be said there. Your average flying broom stuff. A reason to have a cat familiar is that it can fly with you in the broom
- Second Sight. See stuff. Useful
- Dowsing. Find stuff. Noice to get the lost child, find some buried stuff, or get you some vis. Useful ability to gain some extra resources, specially vis
- Animal Ken. Talk to animals. Useful if you have the Gentle Gift. Otherwise they will be spooked and likely to bite your ass. Unless you are a non gifted witch, but I have yet to design one of those.
- Shapeshift. Treansform into a few things. Not a big secret here. Nice, specially if you want some combat power, since witches suck in that sense. A witch has no combat magic to talk about. If you want some of those, go to ROP:M or ROP:I for some trinkets.
- Cursing. This is THE ability. Much more than Healing. This is what I imagine a witch doing and what makes for an extra cool character. They can do it in a cauldron as well, so you can get curses than cause diseases, misscarriages or aging crises, but also "curses" that are love potions and paralization venoms.
- Healing. This can be used as a field abilkity, but it is at its top in the lab, creating potions. With Puissant Hedge Witch Magic Theory and Concentrated Potions (MTx4 in vis use) you can rake up LOADS of health potions in the lab. The starting character I designed (24 years old) has a lab total for health potions of around +17 in a level 3 aura. That means that she can create 8 incapacitating-healing potions in one season, at the cost of 6+8=14 pawns of vis. She can manage that. IN fact she can manage that even without the concentrated potions virtue. How's that for a nice healing poition brewer? The main problem with this ability is that: it is extremely vis-expensive. The rest of a witch's activities are much lower in vis cost, but healing is extremely expensive.
A witch excels if she can prepare. Healing and cursing require pre-planning. If she has time to prepare to kick you in the posterior she can achieve pretty nice effects. The problem is that penetration will not be very high, but in a world without the OoH the other human beings are easy targets.
Witches will never be combat monsters though. If you want one, you'd better be looking at gruagachan and some specialized vitkir
DISCLAIMER: I have not mafde one of those yet, so I might be wrong with my assumptions
I still fail to see why anyone would like to play a guy that mediocre. Way less powerful than the witches IMO. They are much better fighters, if they can get some preplanning time to work on chartae to improve their luck and hinder that of their opponents. Their abilities are limited and their casting totals for sponts are quite laughable. They can create short term magical items, but have no capacity to create long standing items, even low level ones. That is a pity IMO, but it is how they were designed. Their use of vis is negligible so work well in a low vis setting. They can work perfectly well in the dominion (but witches can as well since their casting totals are low).
Those are the guys that can play around with luck AND MAGIC RESISTANCE. The rest are quite powerless when it comes to MR, but these guys can make some inroads in that field better than most hedgies.
For most traditions the danger of death is age rather than twilight. Their longevity lab totals tend to be way lower, so they will die of old age. The notable exception are the gruagachan and their troll transformation.
Most traditions will also have low penetration totals, since their abilities are only in part acelerated, so their casting/lab totals are much lower.
All traditions would gain enourmously from the implementation of the rules for minor magic items in City & Gild. Otherwise magic items will be almost nonexistent in Mythic Europe: no tradition (except the vitkir) can create real magic items. as written. That is a pity IMO, but hey.
Hope that helps.