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Warlock Update
Mike Mearls

L 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
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.
I am completely down with all of this. I heart 3e Warlocks— I was dubious but when a friend told me I’d like it the best of all, I played one and liked it best of all (or at least tied with the Scout)— and I heart 4e Warlocks. I heart Binders. I heart at-will spellcasting and I heart ritual casting. I heart magic swords and I heart improved familiars and I heart a cleric-like attack bonus progression and wearing elven chain. This looks really promising.
Posted By: mordicai (3/9/2014 1:37:38 PM)


Word of advice:

Take the fluff from 2nd edition (including planescape), the basic rules from 3rd and you have me back as a customer.

Posted By: Aliusexalio (3/8/2014 4:13:59 PM)


Been gone a while. Started poking around again and it seems like they've abandoned the whole getting back to basics thing?

Why do I keep reading "inspiration from 3rd and 4th editions" all over the place!?!?!

3.5 is now call Pathfinder. 4th was a financial disaster, otherwise there would be no "Next".

It seemed we'd be getting something more in line with 1st/ and 2nd editions with the ability to tack on more, crunch, to appeal to the 3rd/4th players. Now it just sounds like they're taking 4th, making it more of a mess and calling it "Next".

Words of advice, 4th didn't work and it's far too late to return to 3rd. Get back to basics, update it to allow for growth of the system, and let's get back to it already. Too many cooks in the kitchen, for sure!
Posted By: Sanford (3/7/2014 10:19:51 AM)


Thanks for dropping in. Let me share my impressions from following the playtest for a year-and-a-half. Fifth Edition, which the devs are short-sightedly thinking of calling "just" D & D, can't compete on an equal footing with all the retroclones spawned by Third Edition's System Reference Documents. While hearkening for the bygone simplicity of concept (you can't use the word "traditional" on this website without being misunderstood by somebody, and besides, who are we, Devo?), they want to broaden the game's appeal by providing at least 2 independent ways to customize one's character, particularly as the standardization of features in Fourth drove 3E feat-wranglers wholesale to Pathfinder (trying to eat Paizo's lunch wasn't such a hot idea, either). Mike's mentions of 3E & 4E are as much an assurance that classes introduced in those versions are being supported as anything. The classes familiar to players of earlier editions are seen as simpler choices... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (3/11/2014 10:27:45 AM)


So... I have a question. Besides historicity, what makes a Warlock an Arcane spellcaster specifically? Some patrons fall under that category, and others probably have an excuse, but it seems to me you could argue that a Warlock as an Arcane spellcaster and a Warlock as a creature bound to another, more powerful entity for power through a pact of some kind are two different concepts. A Warlock bound to a Fey and another bound to a Demon are both Arcane, and a Cleric worshipping a Fey and another worshipping a demon are both Divine. Fair enough. But why should the alternative "pact" spellcasting system only be available to variations on the Wizard and not a variation of the Cleric? Why is this pact system Arcane and not Divine or Primal or Psionic, etc.? It might make just as much sense to tie the type to the nature of the patron, or let more than just Arcane classes have at pact spellcasting.

I might just be missing something about DnD cosmology or thinking in more ... (see all)
Posted By: Kwizzy (3/4/2014 8:27:08 PM)


In Earth's history, the difference between a cleric and a warlock or sorcerer was the difference between a cleric of "our god" and a cleric of "some heathen god", who may also be "the Devil in disguise".

In DnD, being granted favors by an entity and following some rules or losing your powers is indeed the same. There are 2 ways this could differ:

1. The Warlock has some leverage over the thing with which they make pacts, and the pacts may be temporary, so a warlock isn't the other's servant if they can help it.

2. Each divine spell cast is actually an individual request being granted by the entity's intervention, while a warlock is actually granted their powers to use as they choose within the terms of the pact. A cleric couldn't use their patron's own power against them, but a warlock, in theory, could.

That this explanation would be needed may say something troubling about the granularity of this distinction, e... (see all)
Posted By: Dreamstryder (3/5/2014 12:35:46 AM)
Rating: is the place for questions. Keep in mind that a warlock is a dude witch–of course consorting with spirits is a form of animism, so your point about divination is well taken–and most dictionaries will define them both as sorcerors. Your portmanteau of history and authenticity probably refers to older (and older editions') players' entrenched preferences–but that, and the designers' sensible attention to keeping basic game mechanics consistent, are what make divine and arcane casters seem to have much more in common than, conceptually, they really do.

There are no power sources in DnDNext, so the spells are "arcane," not the pact or the patron. You seem to be suggesting that something like a "multiclass feat" allow any character to gain this type of power at the behest of a supernatural entity, which is a pretty cool idea. My own take on pact and patron is that the interaction of these two independent build axes with other customi... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (3/5/2014 12:53:11 AM)


I realize that "historicity" might have been misinterpreted. I meant DnD tradition seems to demand the Warlock is like a Wizard. Folklore is not a unified belief system that can be easily parsed, and the equipment section alone is a dazzling joyride in anachronism and just plain no.

I understand that power sources like they were in 4e are not codified in Next, but I still find myself thinking that way. I don't know that they've said much about the nature of spells in-cosmology. It makes sense to me that a Cleric's "spells" are not just a shortcut to a Wizard's spells. That would make Wizards, who can cast spells without divine insight, not just bookworms but essentially god-like. Though it can be argued it's the same "deeper understanding of the universe" that makes either possible. I just personally disdain the idea of serious gods as essentially super-duper-high level characters and nothing more. But, I can see the appeal. When I say, "di... (see all)
Posted By: Kwizzy (3/6/2014 2:05:42 PM)


Here's a suggestion. Think of the origin of the warlock's powers as h/h power source. So instead of primal you have fey, perhaps celestial for divine, definitely infernal and aberrant (the so-called Star Pact) rather than arcane or martial. Probably all the elemental axes as well but if you don't get where I'm going we're on different pages anyway. A request, Kwizzy? If we continue this conversation let's go higher up on your original comment, it's getting a little busy.

I don't think you can fairly talk about the incipient sorceror and warlock as simple alternatives to a wizard. Mike should have given a link to his article Warlock Design,, instead of assuming we would remember what he meant by patron and pact 4 months later. I don't think anyone's going to be able to keep them straight, which is why I propose merging them above (probably calling the subclass a Pact, and referring to what I call the power source h... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (3/6/2014 11:33:05 PM)


I can see the 'triumvirate' working. The Warlock seems more evocative than the sorcerer in feel to me, but I'd still prefer the wizard.
Posted By: TripHipHop (3/3/2014 11:43:30 PM)


The take on the warlock wasn't really doing much for me until I got to the part about the Pact of the Blade, Chain and Tome. That mechanic sounds ridiculously awesome! I love the idea and it allows all sorts of different kinds of Warlocks within the same class. That's just neat!
Posted By: Grimcleaver (3/3/2014 7:45:17 PM)


Sounds like it will be a delicate balancing act, to make the three classes equal in power, but good work!
Posted By: SirAntoine (3/3/2014 3:56:14 PM)


I think the root misunderstanding that is fueling the design of these shabby sorcerers, warlocks, etc is the notion that for the game to be understandable / simple for new players, all magic must work the same. That new players will be confused if there are multiple magic systems for different classes. That each class has to be dumbed down so new players can comprehend them all.

A new player isn't going to be weighing the mechanicals of each class against each other and isn't going to mulling over how multiple classes with variants of the same spell system tackle the same spell list. A new player is going to choose a class based primarily on flavor. They aren't going to read and memorize the entire PHB, all the different classes, and all the different magical systems... They're going to read the stuff associated with THEIR class. Each class, spellcaster or not, can have a lot of depth to it, a lot of stuff they can gain and do, and that will be fine for a new player. That pl... (see all)
Posted By: Fuzzypaws (3/3/2014 3:32:26 PM)


By all means, streamline the class mechanics and magic mechanics for each system and get to the point, but you really don't need to worry so much. Your players are smart and can handle complexity! The player of a divine spellcaster or a warlock can handle having a magic system that works differently from that of a wizard. The player of a martial character can handle having special abilities for each weapon class, or being able to perform 'special moves' based on the skills they're trained in... The weapons and skills are their 'spells.'

You can do all this while remaining true to the 'flavor' of DnD, but advancing the actual play of the game to make it clear you've actually learned from the lessons of the past instead of simply doing a retread because that's what you're familiar with.
Posted By: Fuzzypaws (3/3/2014 3:32:53 PM)


My beef with these updates isn't so much what new players can or cannot handle at a real table in real life, but that WotC itself said new players need simplicity and now they're creating an increasingly complex game.

Below I was reminded about the "Basic game." We'll see. We'll see if we actually get a basic game and what it's like. - John
Posted By: Seanchai (3/4/2014 11:15:31 AM)


Not a fan of the new dungeons and dragons to come...
Posted By: Wrathrin (3/3/2014 2:43:29 PM)


I was actually excited about the way the warlocks were going with the blade, chain and book builds. That was the most interesting part of Next for me. Now we just have wizard part 3. Looking less and less likely I'll bother with the next edition. Just stick with 2e and 4e. So disappointing.
Posted By: Brandolwyn (3/3/2014 2:08:36 PM)


Actually on second reading it looks like I was wrong and they are keeping that mechanic. That is what happens when you start talking to someone while reading. A little more excited.
Posted By: Brandolwyn (3/4/2014 8:06:38 AM)


I was hoping to see something more fresh and new for the warlock and the sorcerer but they do seem to be just reskinned wizards.
Posted By: Chimpy20 (3/3/2014 1:58:54 PM)


Gotta say I'm not too thrilled about all these spellcasting classes. Do we really need three (at least) variations on the same theme?
Posted By: greyhawk_grognard (3/3/2014 12:55:31 PM)


Ugh, more boring wizard spell list reuse? No thanks.
Posted By: ShadowWhispers (3/3/2014 12:44:45 PM)


Posted By: Deius1022 (3/3/2014 12:31:34 PM)


I get the feeling that, of all the 3 arcane spellcasters, the warlock intentionally leans towards the same roles of rogues and clerics.
Posted By: Aavarius (3/3/2014 11:53:17 AM)


As usual I like the fluff. But it really tells me very little about the class without seeing how it's implemented.
Posted By: FitzTheRuke (3/3/2014 11:30:41 AM)


Really pleased with that, hope to see how the pact affects the powers the warlock gains, still.
Posted By: Marendithas_the_Necro (3/3/2014 11:22:44 AM)


That sounds like to me, but what happened to Next being simple - specifically, simple for new players? Each of the last two classes you've highlighted - sorcerer and now the warlock - have not only "specialty mechanics," but work differently than the basic class. - John
Posted By: Seanchai (3/3/2014 10:44:04 AM)


I think they are trying to maintain as much simplicity as possible, while allowing classes other than the "Core 4" to contain more complexity. The basic game is only going to have the core 4, and each class will only come with a single sub-class, baked right in, so when it comes to class design in the Standard game (which is where we'll see warlock), they're going to try to make sure they really capture what they class is about, even it if complicates mechanics a bit.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (3/3/2014 11:30:03 AM)


This sounds really exciting. I am excited to see the mechanics of this class. I like hoe each of the arcane casters has their own unique approach to spell casting. You are making it really hard to decide what type of arcane spell caster to play. :) i can't wait to get my hands on the new edition.
Posted By: Azzibeel (3/3/2014 9:47:44 AM)


I'm still not sure I see the need for a warlock class. Not only is it mechanically something that could probably fall under the "mage" class, but it's actually getting really tough to distinguish how mechanically different/better a warlock is from either a cleric or a rogue - or just a sub-par fighter. That was one of the problems with the class design in 3.x and 4e: warlocks didn't do anything well that another class couldn't do better (and with more varied options). Any niche they tried to fill was better filled with a more defined class. Sure the flavor was interesting, but there's exactly zero reason you can't have a rogue who struck a deal with a devil, or a cleric worshiping a fey that gets exactly the same flavor as well. I'm sad to see the mistakes of the past being repeated, especially as it seems to be hinted that this is thanks to the playtest data. (I feel like the designers were burnt so bad by the reaction to 4e that they are listening too much to the pla... (see all)
Posted By: nukunuku (3/3/2014 8:53:47 AM)


It all sounds pretty cool to me. I loved the 4th edition Warlock, so I'm glad to hear they'll be somewhat similar. My only three questions/nitpicks/concerns are:

1. Patrons: Previously, you mentioned that your choice of Patron would have a profound effect on your Warlock, more than even your pact. Is that still true? I still hope Patron choice has a major effect on your abilities. It makes sense that gaining Infernal power would give you vastly different powers than a fey one. It was what made the 4e warlock so cool. I'm fine with pact being the more important choice, but I hope your choice of "patron" is a really big deal.

2. Pact of Chain: I REALLY love the sound of the pact of the chain. Having a bound creature to serve you is a fantastic idea, and really screams warlock to me. However, in the examples you used the Pseudodragon and the Quasit. Those sound a little more like familiars. I assumed (probably incorrectly) that you could get something more ... (see all)
Posted By: Claymore65 (3/3/2014 8:33:10 AM)


sounds great !
good work dndnext team!
Posted By: sjap (3/3/2014 7:06:29 AM)


The Warlock sounds so interesting to me... this could be a class that creates a character like the Mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred the Lovecraft character and alleged writer of the Necronomicon. Binding spirits, wearing leather, using simple weapons... fits so well. Love what you guys are doing!
Posted By: Sands666 (3/3/2014 5:47:15 AM)


Seriously? It was exactly the choice of Sword, Tome or Chain that was the problem with the last version of the Warlock. It removes the focus from the 'Power' that the warlock is making its pact with, and places it on a contrived method of introducing separate class concepts.

Who, or What, a Warlock makes their Pact with should have as much, or more, emphasis as a Cleric's choice of Deity. Fey, Infernal, Demonic, Elemental, Outsider, etc. These are the distinguishing characteristics of one Warlock from another, not some lame attempt to force the Hexblade, Warlock and Binder into the same class.

Again, what's with the lazy and sub-par work being done by the Devs?! This edition is no where near ready for launch!
Posted By: LupusRegalis (3/3/2014 5:41:16 AM)


IMO I think it is better to have the warlock choose from a few basic "mechanical" options and then let the player run with their idea of who/what their pact is with, rather than tie specific pacts to specific patrons. It allows for a lot more creativity on the part of the player to decide the "flavor" of their pact, and it also seems to open up choices that would be unavailable if specific "mechanical" pacts where tied to specific "flavor" patrons. Again IMO, I think it should be up to the player to define the flavor of their pact, what their pact is with, and how important it is to them, as opposed to having it tied to any specific mechanic.
Posted By: Ashby_Albion (3/3/2014 7:12:09 AM)


I think this pact categorization by general function is better than aesthetic classification (because aesthetics are more varied and people demand different things from them), but I would like some attention paid to how to one can make pacts feel like pacts, and ways one differentiate a chain pact made with an archfey from a chain pact made with a devil beyond just re-skinning effects. There's juicy interaction-pillar potential to this class.
Posted By: Dreamstryder (3/3/2014 10:45:33 PM)


This is something we tend to houserule anyway and I heartily agree.

Divorcing mechanics from flavor to allow both speaks to a wider audience.
Posted By: RC-0775 (3/3/2014 9:40:37 AM)


This is something I would house rule as well. Different campaigns and custom campaigns would hold different cosmologies, different gods and different forces holding sway over a warlock and their pact. Thus all the devs need to do is create us a baseline to create our own content and unique powers the fit our homebrew campaigns. Great job
Posted By: Darkwon (3/3/2014 10:33:57 AM)


"Again, what's with the lazy and sub-par work being done by the Devs?! This edition is no where near ready for launch!"

Seriously? Whatever is going on in development, this is a pretty ridiculous statement. I think that the RnD team have proved time and again that they loves the game and they are working hard on it.

If you don't like a concept, fine, we welcome your opinion as long as it doesn't come with abuse.
Posted By: RC-0775 (3/3/2014 9:36:55 AM)


Wondering if those 3 pact types change in flavor with the sort of patron. Do the patrons ask a favor if the warlock in exchange? I also love the concept of attaching flavorful caveats to the pact a la 3e Binder, and wonder if there'll be DM advice or rules for it:

Fire power but while drenched you lose most abilities, or lightning power but can't save well against lightning either, or, while in this pact, demons and devils hate you and will try to take their powers back from you, or you cannot remember names while in this pact, or you cannot lie while in this pact.
Posted By: Dreamstryder (3/3/2014 4:59:58 AM)


I hope the pact feels like a pact and isn't just a way of choosing a temporary subclass.
Posted By: Dreamstryder (3/3/2014 5:02:29 AM)


Various articles in the 4th Edition of the Dragon, as well as the 4th Edition Player's Handbook and the 4th Edition Arcane Power, left very little doubt in my mind that a warlock's otherworldly / extra-planar patron often did not enter into a pact with a mere mortal out of the alleged 'kindness' of the patron's heart, but rather because the patron had a specific agenda and the warlock was specifically selected as the tool to be used (and often times ABUSED!) in the fulfillment of that agenda. Various of the fantasy novels that were set in Faerun of the 4th Edition were rather explicit at demonstrating that the warlock was quite often abused by his/her patron.

Yes, the warlock can plop a rather nasty curse on an opponent because the warlock himself/herself is under an even nastier curse from his/her patron!
Posted By: arnvid2008 (3/3/2014 4:58:57 AM)


Not totally sure how I feel about the fewer spells per day but even more powerful aspect, but I absolutely love the variety of hexblade, pet-user, and blaster versions of the warlock they mention. Enjoyed the 4e warlock and hexblade, but always thought a "chain up an entity and make it fight" type was kind of left out. Also hoping they can be edged a bit more into "forbidden lore" territory instead of just another arcana skill class.
Posted By: viper5 (3/3/2014 4:07:57 AM)


It sounds great!
I'm very curious about the spells growing in potency, and about the invocations- sounds cool to play.
Posted By: Ashtoret (3/3/2014 3:18:19 AM)


KoboldAvenger, he could have been implying that they are on par with Clerics and Rogues as a whole. Clerics having more Hit Points usually, and Rogues dealing more damage. As if they fit somewhere in the middle between offense and defense in combat on that tier, below fighters, but above wizards.
Posted By: PinkRose (3/3/2014 2:48:27 AM)


Mike, thanks for the clarification on these three arcane classes (wizard, sorcerer and warlock).

I'm very pleased to hear how the warlock design has evolved. Compared to my dislike of the sorcerer's update last week, I now believe the sorcerer has its place among the arcane classes; and from what I hear about the wizard, I believe the wizard does as well.

I'm hoping to hear more about the fighter gish class mentioned in the most recent Q and A column.
Posted By: tsf (3/3/2014 12:26:24 AM)


and I'm hoping that the mentioning "warlocks are on a par with clerics and rogues in combat" and "supporting their spellcasting with unique tricks" means that the warlock is moving from the mage group to the trickster group.
Posted By: tsf (3/3/2014 1:11:56 AM)


Equal in ‘combat’ doesnt necessarily mean equal in hit dice, but I hope it does.

Flavorwise, I see the ‘warlock’ archetype as weirdly - supernaturally - tough.
Posted By: Haldrik (3/3/2014 12:21:39 AM)


So that's also a confirmation that Rogues get D8 for hit die now. Something I've always felt they should have gotten, much like Rogues in Pathfinder.
Posted By: KoboldAvenger (3/3/2014 12:15:01 AM)


What I like is the focus on invocations and the variety of options there appears to be.

I'm really hoping that the warlock in the livestream, who had more of a philosophical system (or something) as his pact patron is an example of flexibility in defining a patron. I'd hate to have it limited to, "choose from amongst these 6 beings," or even a requirement that a pact be with a creature at all. The ability to be flexible with exactly what the source (patron) of your power is is a minor point of fluff that can open up major flexibility for players and DMs, without having to houserule or override official fluff at all.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (3/3/2014 12:12:42 AM)


Perhaps, rather than "6 beings," it could be something like "6 forces."
Posted By: tsf (3/3/2014 12:32:02 AM)


My guess is it will be similar to how the cleric currently works. The domains specify the type and flavor of the cleric but don't tie it to a specific deity. You'll have a "demonic" pact, a "fey" pact, a "star" pact, etc... but the specific patron will probably be up to the player.
Posted By: WCU_Scout (3/3/2014 10:47:52 AM)