s we compile the last of the feedback from the D&D Next public playtest, we're also working on a couple of classes. This week, I wanted to talk a bit about the warlock.
Since its first appearance in 3rd Edition's Complete Arcane, the warlock has evolved in terms of both its background and its magical abilities. The original warlock stood out for its ability to use magic at will. A warlock could unleash an eldritch blast again and again, climb walls like a spider, or see through invisibility or magical darkness without running out of spells for the day. In terms of its background, the class was similar to the sorcerer, gaining power through a distant ancestor. But where sorcerers were tied to dragons, warlocks could trace the origin of their power back to planar fiends.
With 4th Edition, the class evolved to make its background more distinct, gaining elements of the binder character class from Tome of Magic. Rather than drawing from a bloodline, the warlock gained arcane power by entering into a pact with a planar or otherworldly patron. Eventually, new warlock options came to incorporate elements of the hexblade character class from Complete Warrior. This allowed a warlock to create a mystical weapon used to deliver powerful melee attacks fueled by arcane magic.
For D&D Next, we've gone back and fully integrated these approaches into the core class. A warlock chooses a patron—a powerful being from the outer planes or beyond—that supplies the character with arcane secrets. In return, the warlock grants something in trade or acts as the patron's agent in the world.
The nature of the warlock's pact shapes the class's magic. A warlock might enter into a pact based on the blade, the book, or the chain. The pact of the blade allows a warlock to forge a weapon of pure arcane power. Drawing inspiration from the hexblade, a blade pact warlock can serve as a ferocious warrior in close combat.
The pact of the book unlocks ancient secrets and mystic knowledge. A warlock that has this pact calls upon arcane magic and shapes it into a variety of effects, based on the character's patron. The pact of the book focuses more on spells than the other pacts.
The pact of the chain deals with summoning and binding a planar creature to serve as the warlock's minion. This creature is a powerful ally capable of wading into battle at a warlock's command or serving as a conduit for the character's magic.
In addition, the warlock is notable for its ability to channel spells again and again. A warlock masters the secrets of spells to use them repeatedly, though compared to a wizard, a warlock has a much smaller spell list.
The overall approach to the warlock for D&D Next aims to cover the bases of what we've done before, while also adding some new wrinkles. As the class design firms up, we'll have more details on its progress.
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.