An Introduction to the Warlock Class for Players New to Dungeons and Dragons 5e
Not everybody has the patience or work ethic to become a wizard in Dungeons and Dragons. It takes years of studying and dedication, and quite frankly that sounds boring. Unless you’ve been privileged enough to be born with a gift like sorcerers there aren’t many other options if you want to wield powerful magic.
That is, unless you’re willing to make a deal…
Side note: This guide assumes you have the Player’s Handbook for more detailed information, and is more intended to give you an idea of what this class can do. If you also need help with the process of creating your first character, click here first for my character rolling guide for new players.
Overview: The Devil is in the Details
Warlocks are spell-casters who have not come by their magic honestly. They have struck a deal with some Otherworldly Patron (chosen at first level) to gain their powers, which means they will also be beholden to whatever terms that entity lays out so you better be sure to read the fine print before you sign.
Let’s be honest, though, if you’re the kind of person that becomes a warlock you don’t have time for all that fine print nonsense. You want me to get to the good stuff – what kind of power are we talking about here?
Warlocks gain access to a unique spell list that is slightly more limited than the Wizard, and they have less spell slots than other spell casting classes. The advantage of a warlock’s magic is that they always cast their spells at their highest available spell level and they regain their limited spell slots after only a short rest. While other classes may need to be careful with their spell use, as a Warlock you are almost encouraged to be trying to blow your spell slots in every encounter!
Role in the Party
Much like the other primary spell-casters, warlocks could fill a few different roles depending on your spell and subclass selection.
The most obvious choice is damage dealer. Warlocks lack the ability to cast as many spells as other spell-casting classes, but they more than make up for it with their powerful Eldritch Blast cantrip. Eldritch Blast deals force damage, a type you are unlikely to see resistances for in your enemies, meaning this is a reliable damage source. It can also be powered up through your Invocation choices, granting bonuses such as the ability to add your charisma bonus to your Eldritch Blast damage.
You are not limited to damage dealing exclusively, of course. You can take on a more control focused role if you prefer, using your spells and abilities to stack the combat in your party’s favor. This is a more difficult play-style, but every bit as viable.
Warlocks can also fill the role of party face, taking advantage of their high charisma score. There are Invocations that supplement this play-style such as Mask of Many Faces (cast Disguise Self at will) or Beguiling Influence (gain proficiency in Deception and Persuasion).
Looking Ahead: High Level Warlocks
At higher levels, Warlocks receive more powerful spells and Invocations. These Invocations become what really define what kind of Warlock you are, giving a wide range of customization options. Just to list a few possibilities, your warlock can take invocations allowing you to: breathe underwater, read all writing, see through even magical darkness, or cast a spell such as Mage Armor at will.
Your choice of Otherworldly Patron at first level serves as your subclass, granting unique features at higher levels. If you choose to gain your magic from a deal with a literal devil through The Fiend Patron, expect to see abilities with a strong fire-related flavoring that help you deal damage while making you more resilient. The Archfey patron offers good alternatives for the more subtle Warlock, with abilities that help you control the battlefield and make you more slippery. The Great Old One is great for Warlocks who want to dominate the minds of others on and off the battlefield.
Finally, you will further customize your Warlock when you hit level three with your choice of Pact Boon. Pact of the Chain will grant you an enhanced familiar companion to do your bidding. Pact of the Blade creates a supernatural bond with a weapon of your choice, allowing you to summon it to your hand at will. Pact of the Tome grants to access to additional cantrip choices from any class’s spell list.
So if you like the idea of playing a spell-casting class with extensive customization options, or if you like taking shortcuts to success – Warlock is the class for you! For your own sake, though, make sure you read the fine print before signing any real contracts with devils. If you learn nothing else from me, that lesson is a start.