ast week, we rolled out some information on the sorcerer. This week, we talk about the warlock in D&D Next.
As with the sorcerer, our initial playtest feedback on the warlock showed that players liked some parts of the class's presentation but were disappointed that it didn't have stronger ties to its previous incarnations. We thus went back to the two earlier versions of the warlock, along with the binder from 3rd Edition's Tome of Magic, for the design of this class. In its final incarnation, the warlock blends some of the concepts of the 4th Edition and 3rd Edition warlock. It also incorporates concepts from the binder that influenced the warlock's 4e design.
A warlock forges a pact with an otherworldly patron. That patron grants the warlock magical power in the form of a limited number of spells—far fewer than either the sorcerer or the wizard. However, a warlock also gains a number of innate magical abilities called eldritch invocations. These invocations allow a warlock to cast spells as rituals, to gain unique magical powers, and to use specific spells at will. Invocations are the warlock's signature magical ability. You can think of them as cantrips or feats on steroids—powerful abilities that a warlock can use again and again.
A warlock uses spells in a slightly different manner than other arcane casters. The warlock gains a small number of spells per day, but all those spells are cast at a spell slot level determined by the warlock's level. A high-level warlock casts fewer spells than a wizard of the same level, but each of those spells is cast at a heightened level of potency. Warlocks select spells from the class's spell list, in addition to gaining bonus spells based on the entity with which they forge a pact.
A warlock chooses to forge one of three pacts with an otherworldly patron, granting the character a unique set of abilities. The pact of the blade allows a warlock to create a weapon of pure magic to wield in battle. The pact of the chain pledges a creature such as a quasit or a pseudodragon to the warlock's service. The pact of the tome grants the warlock access to deeper arcane power. A warlock can choose to match any of these three pacts to any type of patron. Some eldritch invocations augment a warlock's pact abilities.
More durable than sorcerers and wizards, warlocks are on a par with clerics and rogues in combat. As loners and outcasts, many warlocks have learned to survive without the overt use of magic, and they have access to light armor and simple weapons.
When looking at D&D's three arcane casters—the wizard, the warlock, and the sorcerer—you can see a trend emerge. As students of magic, wizards have the most flexibility in how they employ that magic. They master more spells and can prepare a wider range of spells. When faced with a specific situation, a wizard has the best chance of having the right spell for the job.
Sorcerers are specialists who master fewer spells, but who can shape and amplify those spells to make them even more effective. When faced with a specific situation or challenge, a sorcerer twists spells to suit that challenge.
Though warlocks have less flexibility in their spellcasting than wizards or sorcerers, their capacity for supporting their spellcasting with unique tricks and focus gives them an edge. A warlock faced with a specific situation doesn't worry about having the right spell at hand, but instead uses the class's unique features and advanced spellcasting power to overcome any challenge.
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.