A Warlock discussion

The Warlock...a class that was introduced fairly recently and captured the heart of a lot of us.  What is the Warlock and what should it be within the mechanics of the game?  I loved it from the moment it was introduced...an arcane striker cannon that doesn't run out of ammo.  The Warlock also has a mixed bag of spell-like abilities useable each day.  How do you envision the 5e version of the Warlock?

Eldritch Blast-  every bit as iconic as sneak attack seems to be for rogues.  Yet, that point provides an interesting question...does the Warlock NEED this ability.  It should definately be an option.  However, might other options for a Warlock be viable as a powerful at-will mainstay in combat?  I would have to say certainly.  Could they have a reliable ability that reduces the effectiveness of a foe or foes within the area or something else powerful?  I would say certainly.  An at-will healing power might be a bit odd and too much.  Eldritch Blast seems every bit as iconic as sneak attack is to the rogue, despite the class only being in existance for a somewhat short time.

"Invocations"-  I am referring to the rest of the Warlock's utility powers.  A great variety of powers should be available based on the patron of the Warlock.  We have seen Demons, Fey, Elementals, and perhaps others as possible patrons.  How about chaotic celestials, though?  Regardless, I feel that having abilitys that are very different than Wizard spells is very important. 

What are your thoughts?
One of the things that I liked about the warlock concept was the pact for powers. While difficult to enforce, I would like to see that expanded upon, perhaps with more available powers that a warlock can make deals with for power. Perhaps higher level abilities require some form of "payment" to the power? (come up with your own concept of the payment; could be a drain of another type of power, a debt in action owed, whatever)

Either way, I kind of hope that a form of the warlock survives the change to 5e. 

Just roll some dice.

 

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I'd like to see Warlocks retain their whole Pact-element. As for Eldritch Blast, why can't they do something similiar to Expertise Die (and by that, I don't mean the same thing). Basically a point-based way for them to get Blast Invocations like we had in 3E. So Eldritch Blast deals 1d6 + Charisma but you can sacrifice the 1d6 (just dealing Cha-damage) to grant Disadvantage against a target until the beginning of the next round. Or you can sacrifice it to knock prone or blind or etc... by spending Xd6 Eldritch Blast die. 

As for the Invocations, I agree with you. They should, at some point, make it so that they follow the pact. They can be some-what similiar in effect (such as an Infernal-Pact walking through flame to teleport vs. a Dark-pact walking into a shadowy corner).  
Rs06 fairly recently? Its been over six years since the introduction of the warlock class
I like the Warlock class, but I see two issues with it at present.  One is the pact system.  As a big fan of the 3.5 Warlock, I find the pact mechanic to be a detriment to the class as a whole.  Warlocks are born, not made, and as such they rely on their own power and not on the power of foreign entity.  The other issue I have is with using Wizard Spells as Rituals.  While I like the Arcane At-Will Striker, I see no reason for their inherent abilities to manifest in ways that mirror non-inherent abilities.

Warlocks were at their best when they were their own beast, not beholden to pacts (not to mention ripping off the Binder's bag of tricks) or mimicking Wizard spells.  We seem to move farther and farther away from that core of the class as D&D "progresses".
Wait wait wait what?

Since when are warlocks born?

Warlocks are the guys who don't have the innate talent for normal magic and thus must either search out these dark secrets or make deals with dread beings of eldritch might.

The only way to be born a warlock is if one of your ancestors was either a collosal jerk or a truly epic moron and got your whole lineage bound up in their contract.
I wish I was related to one of those jerks.
The key is packages.

Of course have a versatile and flavorfull amount of invocations and then present a few packages of, let's say, Core Pacts that can be made but remind DM's that they can create their own invocation list. I imagine many of the invocations would be universal and your Pact only adds a few more choices into the mix. As more suppliments come out release more invocations to work with and a few more optional packages.

A fighter can make up a fighting style based on maneuvers, the other classes should be presented that option too. 
Wait wait wait what?

Since when are warlocks born?

Warlocks are the guys who don't have the innate talent for normal magic and thus must either search out these dark secrets or make deals with dread beings of eldritch might.

The only way to be born a warlock is if one of your ancestors was either a collosal jerk or a truly epic moron and got your whole lineage bound up in their contract.

We've already gone Rounds around this one.  "Warlocks are born, not made" is a direct quote from the Complete Arcane.  I humbly request you provide additional support for your side of the argument.  If you don't, I just won't re-engage you in a circular conversation we've already had.
The fact that they are constantly described as getting their powers from fiendish or other powers as part of grim bargains?

Even if you accept the 3.5 fluff as gospel on the subject all such bloodlines are initiated by a pact, and that pact is where the power comes from.

Furthermore what makes the 3.5 fluff any more legitimate than any other fluff? 
I think what that line means is that it takes a special kind of abandon and mild instanity to seek that kind of power out, and those traits are inherent, rather than trained.
I think what that line means is that it takes a special kind of abandon and mild instanity to seek that kind of power out, and those traits are inherent, rather than trained.

The first sentence of the Warlock section in Complete Arcane is "Born of a supernatural bloodline, a warlock seeks to master the perilous magic that suffuses his soul.".

The 3.5 Warlock is a different and in my opinion superior creature when compared to later versions of the class that share its name.
The text then goe son to describe where that power comes from and why it's there.

While the bloodline pact seems far more common in 3e than 4e, it is still magic gained from a pact. 
The text then goe son to describe where that power comes from and why it's there.

While the bloodline pact seems far more common in 3e than 4e, it is still magic gained from a pact. 



Which then takes you back to what I said earlier. It still takes a special kind of crazy that isn't really trainable, it's just there or it isn't. Either way, you're kind of born for it or you're not.
Are you kidding? Every kind of crazy is trainable.

Warlock is easy compared to Paladin or Cleric. 
Are you kidding? Every kind of crazy is trainable.

Warlock is easy compared to Paladin or Cleric. 



I can't tell if you're just being facetious, or if you really think as a general rule, that paladins and clerics are crazy.
Well pallies are pretty obviously nuts, shutting down fear centers strikes me as pretty looney.

Name one dnd deity that you can trust to look after your pet rock, and clerics worship these losers?
Warlocks are a special type of crazy as they don't even seek out the top tier with dieties. No, they scrum through the next tier down with devils, fey, and crazy people the deities like to pretend don't exist.

Even if an ancestor ot you cursed with it, you have to be even more nuts to still embrace it.

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The 3.5 Warlock concept was great, even with its lot of flaws.

It could be the legacy from a familiy curse or a pact made generations ago, or the responsability of the character, and the mechanics were okay for either of these profiles.

The warlock was also unique from the fact its powers were his own once gained, he was slowly corrupted and becoming a unique mortal magical creature, not a spellcaster.

What the 3.5 version missed (aside from more balanced mechanics) was a choice of pacts. Even if the description wasn't limiting warlocks to devil/demon or dark feys pacts, the only choice was Gothic Pact.

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Sorcerer is born with magic in his/her blood.
Warlock with powerful entities for her/his magic.

The 3.5 Warlock was good and brought forth some new concepts that have lasted through the years, the 4e pacts were an improvement on the concept. The various pacts offered various different fluffs on the "mage with frickin' lasers" as one of my friends described it, as opposed to cranky, nobody loves me, mages from 3.5.
With where they are going in Next the pacts will remain and I am very happy with that.  In fact, the best thing they can do with the pacts is help DMs and players come up with their own, probably by providing guidance blurbs. The thing that the Warlock and Sorcerer had going for it when they were out, a packet ago, was that you could have a Socerer decended from a Warlock or a Warlock who made a pact with a stupid-powerful, near immortal, ancient Sorcerer. 
OT: Yes, we need some variety on the Eldritch Blast concept. Not all powers that make pacts will grant "lasers" to their pawns. 

As a Pre 3.0 player when I first saw the warlock I was like WTF have these people been doing. But as time has gone on and I’ve had a chance to look over the current game structure a bit more the class has started to grow on me.


 I don’t like the pact with demonic being fluff; I would rather it be written as a user of magic who has gone beyond the safe and “understood” realms of magic into something dangerous, a source of magic that well trained mages would not use. That being said I don’t mind using some white out on my books, so I’m not too concerned with how they write the fluff.


 As for the mechanics; in EverQuest I play a shaman, which is a class that buffs allies, slows and debuffs enemies, damages enemies with poison and disease based damage over time spells, is a good back up healer, and can make potions.


 I don’t think this would be the perfect template for the Warlock, but there are some similarities. Magic powered by the spirit world with an insidious and carnal aspect to it. So I don’t see healing magic as out of the picture.


 As a striker is the warlock reliant on burst damage spells? Or would slower acting but ultimately more damaging spells that work over a few rounds be acceptable to the current community of warlocks?

A warlock isn't a pawn.  Somewhere back in his family history, somebody found a powerful entity and forced it give give up uits power or be destroyed.  His power isn't magic.  It's not some spell he momorizes.  It's the very power of the thing his ancestor tamed coursing through his veins.  He can't forget that spell because it's impossible to forget.  It's a part of him that never goes away.  Once he learns to tap that power for an effect, he can do it all day long, as many times as he wants.

That's what made a 3.5 Warlock so awesome, and that's what 4e crapped all over by forcing daily and encounter powers on them, and completely changing what it meant to be a Warlock.

I'm not a 4e hater.  There are a lot of things it did well.  3.5 was broken.  We needed change.  Some things in 4e were better, some things were worse.  The 4e Warlock was a complete travesty to the class.

I'd be fine with an ED based caster as the mechanics behind a Warlock.  As long as everything about it remains at will.  Let them shaope their blast into chains or cones or bursts through spell "maneuvers" and you'll be headed in the right direction.  If you want to have groupings of invocations based around thematic pacts, that's fine. As long as I can still pick my powers from any power on any list to make my own "pact"

The biggiest points to me are that my Warlock is not beholden to any outside entity.  That entitiy is beholden to me.  And my power is mine.  I can summon it all I want, all day long, at any time.  No rituals or components or milestones or any other outside factors.  A Warlock's power is his.  He (or his great grandfather) took it by force, and nothing can take it away.
A warlock isn't a pawn.  Somewhere back in his family history, somebody found a powerful entity and forced it give give up uits power or be destroyed.  His power isn't magic.  It's not some spell he momorizes.  It's the very power of the thing his ancestor tamed coursing through his veins.  He can't forget that spell because it's impossible to forget.  It's a part of him that never goes away.  Once he learns to tap that power for an effect, he can do it all day long, as many times as he wants.

That's what made a 3.5 Warlock so awesome, and that's what 4e crapped all over by forcing daily and encounter powers on them, and completely changing what it meant to be a Warlock.

I'm not a 4e hater.  There are a lot of things it did well.  3.5 was broken.  We needed change.  Some things in 4e were better, some things were worse.  The 4e Warlock was a complete travesty to the class.

I'd be fine with an ED based caster as the mechanics behind a Warlock.  As long as everything about it remains at will.  Let them shaope their blast into chains or cones or bursts through spell "maneuvers" and you'll be headed in the right direction.  If you want to have groupings of invocations based around thematic pacts, that's fine. As long as I can still pick my powers from any power on any list to make my own "pact"

The biggiest points to me are that my Warlock is not beholden to any outside entity.  That entitiy is beholden to me.  And my power is mine.  I can summon it all I want, all day long, at any time.  No rituals or components or milestones or any other outside factors.  A Warlock's power is his.  He (or his great grandfather) took it by force, and nothing can take it away.



OK!


Here's the fun fact: the actual HOW a warlock got their powers is fluff. That is where creativity needs to occur and you develop a backstory, IF YOU CARE. Not everyone cares to determine the how, and it isn't necessary to mechanize the class.

Now, in general, I think Warlock pacts should be modeled using a similar design as cleric domains. Some pacts may include martial training, while others may not. Some might be skill focused, others might be all about nuking your enemies with fire. That's the beauty of the warlock class: what you can do depends solely on what you got from the pact. IMO, warlocks are the wildcard for class features. The trick is to provide a set of rules such that a player can mix and match between different martial and magical elements to match the nature of the pact, and still keep a semblence of balance.

I view 5e warlocks to be built from the 3.5 binder class, with the much needed balance improvements.

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There seems to be a real dichotomy between the way you describe a warlock mechanically and the way you describe a warllock narratively.

Mechanical: A warlock has a basic at-will spell (eldritch blast, usually), which it can then manipulate and boost sporadically for increased powers and effects.
 
Narrative: A warlock has inherent power thanks to either his ancestor's dealings with powerful otherworldly entities or the pact he himself made with such entities.

The mechanical and narrative aspects of the warlock don't seem to match up at all.  There's nothing inherent about having a caster who has an at-will power that he can ocassionally boost, that requires it to be tied to a warlock's legacy/pact, and vice versa.  

Do people think it's the mechanical or the narrative aspects that better define the warlock? 

Do people think it's the mechanical or the narrative aspects that better define the warlock? 

 

Regarding the Warlock I'm someone on the outside looking in. My observations to this point are that people like the pact, the story around that aspect of the warlock. I think the idea that a character can move outside of normal and accepted societal boundaries and find there both power and success is poignant to many players of the class.


 The mechanics must support that vision. They must allow BamBam casting that isn’t all knotted up with ritual and components.


 The thing that I wonder about is whether the warlocks spells have to be direct damage. To me a more insidious mechanic would better represent the theme. But as I said at the beginning I havn’t actually played one or even played with one at the table.  So I’m very interested to hear what current warlocks think about that idea.





There seems to be a real dichotomy between the way you describe a warlock mechanically and the way you describe a warllock narratively.

Mechanical: A warlock has a basic at-will spell (eldritch blast, usually), which it can then manipulate and boost sporadically for increased powers and effects.
 
Narrative: A warlock has inherent power thanks to either his ancestor's dealings with powerful otherworldly entities or the pact he himself made with such entities.

The mechanical and narrative aspects of the warlock don't seem to match up at all.  There's nothing inherent about having a caster who has an at-will power that he can ocassionally boost, that requires it to be tied to a warlock's legacy/pact, and vice versa.  

Do people think it's the mechanical or the narrative aspects that better define the warlock? 

Quite simply... both.  To me "inherant" means at-will.  If something is inherant, it doesn't go away for a few mintues, and especially not all day.  When you get an inherant bonus to str, it is always there, forever.  And inherant ability is the same thing to me.  And I don't advocate "sporadic" boosting of the at-will.  Which is why I mentioned ED based.  Because that is every round, i.e. at-will.

But you are right, the fluff of how that inherant at-will ability (and the other utility at-will abilities that the 3.5 Warlock got) is gained is up for grabs.  Personally I don't like them being granted by an outside source, because that's a cleric's thing.  I don't want pacts to work like domains, but more like fighting styles where your "pact" comes with a suggested list of powers, but you're free to ignore that and pick and choose your own "pact" if you want.

I see no mis-match between the machanics and the flavor there.
Personally I don't like them being granted by an outside source, because that's a cleric's thing.  I don't want pacts to work like domains, but more like fighting styles where your "pact" comes with a suggested list of powers, but you're free to ignore that and pick and choose your own "pact" if you want.

What if I want the warlock pact to be more martial in nature, or more skill-based? Should warlocks be purely a caster-only class? I'd like to see if the warlock class could be flexible enough to support a variety of pacts.

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What if I want the warlock pact to be more martial in nature, or more skill-based? Should warlocks be purely a caster-only class? I'd like to see if the warlock class could be flexible enough to support a variety of pacts.




What are the drawbacks of a pact?

You mean, aside from that whole selling your soul thing?
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
You mean, aside from that whole selling your soul thing?




Soul Shmoul, there’s no combat bonus for having one anyway. No I mean what are the in-game mechanical consequences for having a pact? Does the warlock have to sacrifice some of her wealth to the “entity” or do they take a hit on charisma? Are entity powers worthless against certain opponents? Stuff like that.




I think there could be a "sold your soul for power" Background to cover that.

So not only do you compact with a devil for arcane power, you can compact with the devil "to be the greatest swordsman" or  "to have the ability to steal back your father's ring".

The Background would reflect your soul belongs to another power, giving you skill in Gather Rumors, Intimidate, Knowledge (Forbidden Lore), and Survival.  Its Trait could be "Pledged Soul -- Your soul belongs to another.  You gain advantage on any ability checks or saves to resist compulsion, magical or mundane.  However, once dead, you cannot be brought back to life.  Moreover, the entity to which your soul is pledged may ocassionally demand tasks of you, as the DM decides.  The tasks cannot necessarily require you to violate your ethics, though they often tempt you to do so."
Personally I don't like them being granted by an outside source, because that's a cleric's thing.  I don't want pacts to work like domains, but more like fighting styles where your "pact" comes with a suggested list of powers, but you're free to ignore that and pick and choose your own "pact" if you want.

What if I want the warlock pact to be more martial in nature, or more skill-based? Should warlocks be purely a caster-only class? I'd like to see if the warlock class could be flexible enough to support a variety of pacts.


Then you focus on picking powers that boost skills and martial abilities.  The powers (invocations) are not spells.  They don't have to be "caster" only.   Several of the powers in 3.5 were skill boost, granting bonuses to bluff, diplomacy, spot, jump, climb, etc.  There were two different powers that worked for melee, turning the "blast" into a rider on a melee weapon attack, or turning the blast itself into a weapon (like a lightsabr).  you could easily expand on those for a suite of martial based powers.  Invocations covered a large range of usefulness in 3.5 accross all three pillars.  The same could be done for a 5e Warlock allowing any kind of focus you desire.

Do people think it's the mechanical or the narrative aspects that better define the warlock? 

Quite simply... both.  To me "inherant" means at-will.  If something is inherant, it doesn't go away for a few mintues, and especially not all day.


Interesting.  How do you see the distinction between the sorcerer (whose narrative is also one of "inherent arcane power") and warlock?  Could the classes be melded?  Could the warlock be renamed sorcerer?
No, because "inherentness" is not sufficient to give either class an identity.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition

Do people think it's the mechanical or the narrative aspects that better define the warlock? 

Quite simply... both.  To me "inherant" means at-will.  If something is inherant, it doesn't go away for a few mintues, and especially not all day.


Interesting.  How do you see the distinction between the sorcerer (whose narrative is also one of "inherent arcane power") and warlock?  Could the classes be melded?  Could the warlock be renamed sorcerer?

In some ways yes, in others, no.  It depends on how you handle casting systems overall.  If they do wind up being completely swappable, then no the class name isn't as important... the difference is mainly thematic in that case.  Of course, in that case, you don't need a sorceror or warlock class.  Magic-User will suffice, and you provide archetype builds of the same class to fit the expected abilities of the class you want.

If, however, casting system is not swappable and a Sorcerer winds up with spell slots and per day usage, then no.  A Warlock is not a Sorcerer.  I know the distinction becomes harder to make at this point because of how I phrased "inherent" above, but I can justify that by saying that a Sorcerer's inherent ability is the power to cast normal spells without memorization.  In essence, his power is to be able to store bursts of Spell-appropriate power-level in his body to be used later.  He can only hold so many bursts of various sizes at a time, and he can use those bursts on any spell he knows, but he must rest to refill the bursts.  (Yes, this is totally justifying the mechanic with flavor, and I completely hate it.  But I hate any non-at-will casting, so I'm not really the person to defend it)

Warlock was the original at-will caster, and that is the biggest reason I love the class.  I like the fluff as well, and thematically the powers in 3.5 were really neat.  But you can expand that into different themes (pacts) than just infernal without damaging the mechanics.

Side note: I don't like the fluff of the being you have a pact with granting you power.  That's what cleric's get from their god/belief/tenants.  To me a Warlock doesn't beg his entity for power, he tricks and/or forces it out of them.  As for what he loses from the pact... nothing.  But if he want to train himself to gain more power from the pact, then he can't train in basic combat or standard spell-casting, or god-worship.  (ie advancing as a Warlock instead of a fighter/cleric/wizard)  The power he gains from advancing as a Warlock equates to the power gained from advancing in any other class (assuming a balanced system)  class-specific thematic drawbacks are unnecessary (but can totally be imposed by a DM for story reasons).

*edited for typos
@NightsLastHero:  Ironically, 6 years does qualify as "fairly recently"  for me.  I have been playing for some time...Smile

To elaborate further on my original point:

I'd like some spell-like abilities that can alter eldritch blast in such a way that it is radically different in 5e as well.  I also wonder if they should do something like this:

Eldritch Blast is standard to all Warlocks.

They also get one other at-will power that comes from a list of options.  Different patrons have different lists. 

Finally, they get invocations(that can be used a certain number of times a day) as they level that alter one, the other, or both...

Just throwing ideas out there... 


Mechanically, I really want a return of something like the Blast Shape / Eldritch Essence system that 3.5 Warlocks had.  I'm not all that concerned that it be actually warlocks who get it, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable style of caster and I'd like to see it return.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
@NightsLastHero:  Ironically, 6 years does qualify as "fairly recently"  for me.  I have been playing for some time...Smile

To elaborate further on my original point:

I'd like some spell-like abilities that can alter eldritch blast in such a way that it is radically different in 5e as well.  I also wonder if they should do something like this:

Eldritch Blast is standard to all Warlocks.

They also get one other at-will power that comes from a list of options.  Different patrons have different lists. 

Finally, they get invocations(that can be used a certain number of times a day) as they level that alter one, the other, or both...

Just throwing ideas out there... 



I was with right up until the "can be used a number of times per day"

I don't want the words "per day" anywhere in the Warlock class.

Let them pick a couple of invocations (class abilities) that are either permanently on, or usable at will.

I don't think Eldritch Blast even needs to be universal.  If you want to forgo blast in favor of a melee only weapon channeling or lightsaber, I'm fine with that.  Or you could go ahead and choose to only use normal weapons, but grab an extra utility power.  That's fine too.


The reason I lean towards ED caster for Warlock is that it can handle Blast Shape powers really well.  If you have 3d6 blast, you can spend one die to make a 2d6 blast that chains to a second target, or spend dice to make a 1d6 10ft. burst.

Or you could spend 2 dice to teleport 20ft and hide behind a rock.  And yes, I want that ability every round.  If you think it's too game breaking, make it 3 or 4 dice so that only a high level Warlock could do it (at the same time a Wizard can grab the whole party and teleport them across the world 1/day)

Do people think it's the mechanical or the narrative aspects that better define the warlock? 

Quite simply... both.  To me "inherant" means at-will.  If something is inherant, it doesn't go away for a few mintues, and especially not all day.


Interesting.  How do you see the distinction between the sorcerer (whose narrative is also one of "inherent arcane power") and warlock?  Could the classes be melded?  Could the warlock be renamed sorcerer?

The problem with the sorcerer as being natural spellcaster is that he generates formatted wizards spells.
Spells are not natural, they need complex verbal and somatic components. I don't think that saying that the arcane magic itself is channeled though the body instead of just taken from thin air like wizard is enough to make sorcerers feel natural.

The 3.5 warlock was using raw magical energy, giving it different shapes, and changing its nature when needed with its eldritch blast. He was also able to spam different effects that were enough adapted to the general fluff to not feel too formatted. And the warlock's nature was slowly changing into a magical being.

So, by giving to the sorcerer the bloodline concept, D&D shot itself a bullet in the foot.

In the end, I think that the 3.5 warlock should become the DDN bloodline sorcerer, and that the spellcaster knowing spells he didn't have to learn should become the warlock.

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@JihVed:  Fair point and one I'd agree with.  As long as its balanced...

@Mand12:  I liked that aspect of 3.5 as well.  Eldritch Blast "can be potentially substituted" if something equally as viable can be created as an alternative in 5e.  That's not to say that I didn't enjoy hexblade from 4e, but I did like a lot of 3.5's utility a bit more.  It would be nice if they could sneak in a little of what was good from 4e too, in some form.  I liked some of the fey shielding abilities like emerald shield and the damaging armor powers.