The Ultimate DnD 5E Warlock Guide To Playing

In Dungeons & Dragons, a Warlock is someone that has made a pact with an otherworldly being in exchange for power and arcane knowledge. They are primarily spellcasters that feature a whole host of spells and abilities that depend on their chosen patron starting at the 1st level.

Class Features

When building your character, keep in mind that the Warlock class contains the following features:

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per warlock level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per warlock level after 1st

Starting Proficiencies and Equipment

Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: Choose two skills from Arcana, Deception, History, Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, and Religion
Equipment:

  • a light crossbow and 20 bolts or any simple weapon
  • a component pouch or an arcane focus
  • a scholar’s pack or a dungeoneer’s pack
  • Leather armor, any simple weapon, and two daggers

Remember that equipment is in addition to any equipment gained from choosing a Background for your character.

Otherworldly Patron

The supernatural being that you decide to enter a pact with is the core element of a Warlock, and opens up huge potential for roleplaying, and will determine which additional spells you gain access to throughout the campaign. There are many things to take into account with these choices, so make sure you compare your options before swearing your soul to the service of an eldritch creature. The following is a list of potential patrons with links to detailed information on the spells they provide:

Don’t forget that patron features are only gained at the 1st, 6th, 10th, and 14th level. For a detailed breakdown on abilities gained per level, please refer to the following table.

Pact Magic

This is simply the spells that you gain as a Warlock. A detailed listing of the Warlock spellbook can be found here. If you’re unfamiliar with the basic rules of spellcasting, that information can be found here as well.

Cantrips

Starting out, you can choose two known cantrips from the warlock spell list. Additional cantrips are learned at higher levels.

Spell Slots

This is the number of spells you can prepare and expend before you have to rest to restore them. As you gain levels, you gain more spell slots and increase the strength of the spells you can utilize. Warlocks don’t need to prepare spells and can use any they have memorized. The number of knowable spells per level are listed in the table above. All non-cantrip Warlock spells are cast at the maximum level.

Spellcasting

For the Warlock, Charisma is used for spellcasting abilities. You also use the Charisma modifier when setting a spell saving throw DC (difficulty class) and spell attack rolls.

  • Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
  • Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier

Eldritch Invocations

Starting at 2nd level, you gain two invocations of your choice. You gain additional ones as you continue to level through the campaign. Some invocations require a prerequisite to be met before you can learn it, however. For a detailed list of Eldritch Invocations and their prerequisites, check here. Over the course of 20 Warlock levels, you will learn a total of 8 invocations.

Pact Boon

At 3rd level, your chosen patron grants you a boon in exchange for your loyalty and service. Each boon grants unique bonuses to your character.

Pact of the Blade

  • You can use your Action to create a pact weapon in your empty hand. You can choose a new melee form each time you create it and you are proficient while wielding it. It will count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to non-magical attacks and damage.
  • The pact weapon will disappear if it is more than 5 feet away from you for 1 minute or longer. It will also disappear if you use this feature again, dismiss it (no action required), or die.
  • If you are holding a magic weapon, you can perform a special ritual to transform it into your pact weapon. This ritual can be performed over the course of 1 hour, which can be done during a short rest. It can then be dismissed by shunting it into an extradimensional space. It will appear each time you create your pact weapon thereafter. However, you can’t affect an artifact or a sentient weapon this way.
  • The weapon ceases being your pact weapon if you die, if you perform the 1-hour ritual on a different weapon, or if you use a 1-hour ritual to break your bond to it. The weapon appears at your feet if it is in the extradimensional space when the bond breaks.

Pact of the Chain

  • This grants you the find familiar spell but doesn’t count against your known spells. It can be cast as a ritual spell.
  • In addition to the regular familiar options, you can also choose one of the following special forms: imp, pseudodragon, quasit, or sprite.
  • When you take the Attack action, you will also have the choice to forego your own attack in favor of allowing your familiar to make one with its reaction.

Pact of the Tome

  • Your patron gives you a grimoire called a Book of Shadows, which grants you three additional cantrips to be chosen from any class’s spell list. While the book is on your person, you may cast those cantrips at will. They are considered Warlock spells and don’t count against your number of known cantrips.
  • If you lose your Book of Shadows, you can perform a 1-hour ceremony to receive a replacement from your patron. It can be performed during a short or long rest and will destroy the previous book. The book will turn to ash upon your death.

Pact of the Talisman (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything)

  • Your patron gives you an amulet, a talisman to aid the wearer when they are in great need. When the wearer fails an ability check, they can add a d4 to the roll, potentially turning the roll into a success. This benefit can be used a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and all expended uses are restored upon finishing a long rest.
  • If you lose the talisman, you can perform a 1-hour ceremony to receive a replacement from your patron. This ceremony can be performed during a short or long rest and will destroy the previous amulet. The talisman will turn to ash upon your death.

Ability Score Improvement

At 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can choose to increase one ability score by 2 or two ability scores by 1, up to a maximum of 20 per ability score. As an alternative, you could forgo this feature in favor of taking an optional Feat.

Mystic Arcanum

At 11th, 13th, 15th, and 17th level, your patron grants you additional Warlock spells. At 11th level you may choose a 6th-level spell, at 13th level you choose a 7th-level spell, at 15th level an 8th-level spell, and 17th level a 9th-level spell. These spells may be cast once without expending a spell slot and they will be regained once you finish a long rest.

Eldritch Master

At 20th level, you gain the ability to draw upon your inner reserve of mystical power while entreating your patron to regain expended spell slots from your Pact Magic feature. This ceremony takes 1 minute, and you must finish a long rest before you can use this feature again.

Why Should You Play As A Warlock?

Out of all the available spellcasters, the Warlock is arguably one of the easiest to play. They have limited spell slots and you never have to juggle multiple spell levels. They have a set list of known spells and you don’t need to worry about changing them daily. Even better, they get access to one of the most powerful damage cantrips in the game.

Warlocks are a solid option to fill the Sorcerer-equivalent role of a party. The only downside is that they aren’t great for utility spell options; however, this can be mitigated with Pact of the Tome and a few Invocation choices.

If you’re stuck deciding on how to build your Warlock, check out this guide to building one of my favorite subclasses, the Hexblade. Otherwise, build your Warlock however you want and just have fun playing the game. Warlocks are arguably one of the most customizable classes in the entire game! Don’t forget to run all build choices past your DM to ensure it’s okay with the campaign and party. Happy Gaming!

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