Playing with DnD5 Characters – Sample 6th Level Warlock

A Warlock is a spellcasting class that derives its power from a pact with an otherworldly creature. Most of these builds scream “lawful evil at best” to me, but a few are possible without going full-on Belkar.

I mean, seriously: the patron choices are a Fiend, freakin’ Cthulhu, and an Archfae. 

Of the three, at least the archfae isn’t looking at a automatic “head straight to hell, or an alternate hell dimension” card. But all three could potentially be played with a great amount of roleplaying depth. 

In fact, since my games would tend to be “no PvP” style, the best that I’d allow would likely be something like the relationship Harry Dresden has with Leanansidhe, Mab, or even Lasciel – both are very powerful, but Harry (mostly) always struggles against the pull to selfishness and evil. 

Mostly.

In any case, the fiend seems to have the most overtly offensive bent to it, so we’ll go with that one.


Race, Class, and Background


Charisma is the power stat for the Warlock, and CON is the backup. The Warloc gets d8 HP, so punching high levels of CON isn’t super-critical, but it will be nonetheless useful. HP are always useful.

There’s no fighting style, and at least Pact of the Blade requires some melee ability, so STR perhaps shouldn’t be entirely neglected. But I could really use high AC, and if my pact weapon is a finesse weapon, I can focus on DEX with no penalty. I will choose to do so. Since I want CHA, CON, and DEX at my own choice, the obvious way to go here is half-elf.

Given the bonuses and stat advance at 4th level, I put the 16 in CHA (boosting it to 18 due to half-elf), the 15 to CON. The potential need for DEX is driven by the pact weapon and AC. WIS and INT are important for the many useful skills they drive, so my fourth level extra score is INT, simply due to the skills I want (more INT than WIS, for now).

In any case:

STR 11 (+0); DEX 16 (+3); CON 16 (+3); INT 14 (+2); WIS 13 (+1); CHA 18 (+4)

Saving throws are boosted for WIS (+4) and CHA (+7).

Skills


I went with an interesting background, perhaps. An outlander/outcast, “literally” raised by wolves, respectful and tied to nature, with premonitions of a looming disaster. That is likely what led him to make a pact with the fiend. Frankly, Archfey would be a better fit for this RPG background. I chose fiend simply because of the access to more destructive spells as a part of this exercise. The Fey would be more fun to play.

Skill boosts went to Arcana (+5), Athletics (+3), Deception (+7), Intimidation (+7), Nature (+5), and Survival (+4). The CHA-based skills not specifically selected are also at +4, and the remainder of INT and WIS driven are of course at +1 or +2, WIS-bases scores can easily rise to +2 by allocating the next stat boost there as +1, with STR to 12 to make all other stats even numbers. From there on out, either a Feat or +2 to a single score are the way to go.

Invocations


Spells and powers are at the central core of the Warlock, of course, but this one is different, as all of the somewhat limited spell slots for a Warlock recover every short rest, and those slots are always of the highest level. In this case, as a 6th level Warlock, there are but two spell slots, at 3rd level. You know seven spells of up to 3rd level, plus 3 invocations and another 3 cantrips.

Eldritch Invocations seem to be tricky beasts, but mostly they’re abilities rather than spells, as such.

Armor of Shadows allows Mage Armor at will, without expending a spell slot. Theoretically, then, one can have it on basically all the time. This makes the base AC 16, equal to many Rangers.

For the invocations, then, Agonzing Blast seems a given – +4 CHA to every eldritch blast is pretty cool. Armor of Shadows for the boost it gives to AC, and Thirsting Blade because two attacks are better than one, and with the Rapier as the pact weapon, that’s not awful.

Combat


We’ll get to spells proper in a moment. 

  • AC 16 due to Armor of Shadows and DEX 16. DEX 18 would make this AC 17 more or less all the time, which is respectable
  • HP 51 – equal to any other non front-line fighter that hits up d8 for hit dice and CON 16, which seems to be a thing with me in this exercise. Even a d10 fighter with CON 16 really gets only 7 HP more (+2 at 1st level for the d10 vs d8, and 5 more for the average +1 for the d10 hit die each level after the first). 
  • Attacks: two attacks given Thirsting Blade, with the Pact weapon. Each is 1d20+6 and will do 1d8+4 damage. That ranges from 10-24 per turn with a rapier. You can also create a Pact longbow, which will roll also at 1d20+6 and 1d8+4 damage, twice per turn, to reasonable distance. Not bad. You are proficient with whatever weapon you create with your pact, so I don’t think you are restricted to simple weapons here.

That’s the mundane version. If you find a magical weapon and wish to turn it into your pact weapon, you can do so – but I strongly suspect that the “you can make whatever weapon you like” feature goes away if you bind your pact to the magical weapon. At that point, your ability to use a longbow goes away, and if you want to do any ranged mundane work, you’re looking at shortbows, darts, etc.

Spells


You get seven spells and three cantrips. All spells are cast at 3rd level, and you get two per short rest.

Cantrips


  • Eldritch Blast – because of course. Two 1d10+4 beams, same target or different ones. Range 120′. With a spell this potent, you might even consider forgoing the Pact of the Blade and picking something more interesting. You don’t need to swing a sword twice when you can do 2d10+8 each turn to 120′ with a cantrip.
  • Blade Ward – Half damage vs. mundane types. Longevity is good, if you’re pressed. This burns your action, though – it’s strictly a delaying move and precludes an active offense. It might let you fend off an attack of opportunity as you run the heck away from a potent melee fighter.
  • Chill Touch – 2d8 necrotic to 120′; target can’t regenerate HP until next turn, which is useful vs. some monsters and fighters with Second Wind.

Spells

Remember that you get two per short rest, both at 3rd level. Seven spells may be known.

  • Fireball (3rd) – standard fiery boom. 8d6 in a 20′ radius.
  • Vampiric Touch (3rd) – take 3d6 HP from a target you can touch and give them to yourself.
  • Magic Circle (3rd) – Not offensive, but a key defense against the very beings you made your pact with. Might be handy.
  • Scorching Ray (2nd) – cast as a 3rd level spell, 4 beams of 2d6 each. A bit more precise than fireball if friendly fire (so to speak) is an issue.
  • Invisibility (2nd) – always good to pass unseen
  • Hellish Rebuke (1st) – 4d10 fire if a creature that hits you fails a DEX save, on a reaction. Half damage on a successful save, which is nice in either case.
  • Witch Bolt (1st) – 3d12 instant lightning damage if you hit with a ranged spell attack. You can continue to do 1d12 per turn without additional rolls to hit afterwards.
Pact Powers

The Dark One’s Blessing gives me 10HP (temporary) if I reduce a creature to 0 HP.
The Dark One’s Own Luck gives 1d10 to an ability check or saving throw, once per short rest
The Full Monte

RACE: Half-Elf
• +2 Charisma, +1 two other ability score of your choice
• Size: Medium
• Speed: 30ft
• Darkvision 60ft
• Fey Ancestry: advantage on saving throws against being
charmed, magic cannot put you to sleep
• Skill Versatility: gain proficiency in two skill of your
choice
• Languages: Common, Elvish, one additional language
BACKGROUND: Outlander
• Feature: Wanderer You have an excellent memory for maps
and geography, always recalling the general layout of terrain, settlements, and
other features around you. In addition, you can find food and fresh water for
yourself and up to five others each day, provided that the land offers berries,
small game, water, and so forth.
• Origin: Exile or outcast
• Skills: Athletics, Survival
• Tools: One type of musical instrument
• Languages: One of your choice
CLASS: Warlock
• Armor: Light armor
• Weapons: Simple weapons
• Tools: none
• Saves: Wisdom, Charisma
• Skills: Choose 2 from Arcana, Deception, History,
Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, and Religion
• Pact Magic When gaining a level in this class, you can
choose one of the warlock spells you know and replace it with another spell
from the warlock spell list, which must be of a level for which you have spell
slots
• Otherworldly Patron (Fiend)
• Expanded Spell List 1st (burning hands, command) 3rd
(blindness/deafness, scorching ray) 5th (fireball, stinking cloud)
• Otherworldly Patron Feature (Dark One’s Blessing) When you
reduce a hostile creature to 0 hit points, gain 10 temporary hit points
• Eldritch Invocations
   – Armor of Shadows
You can cast mage armor on yourself at will, without expending a spell slot or
material components
   – Agonizing Blast
When you cast eldritch blast, add your Charisma modifier to the damage it deals
on a hit.
    – Thirsting Blade You can attack with your pact
weapon twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn
• Pact Boon (Pact of the Blade) Use your action to create a
pact weapon in your empty hand, choose the form that this melee weapon takes
each time you create it and the weapon counts as magical for the purpose of
overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attack and damage. You are
proficient with it while you wield it and disappears if more than 5ft away for
1 minute or more, if you use this feature again, if you dismiss the weapon, or
if you die. You can transform one magic weapon into your pact weapon by
performing a 1 hr ritual while holding the weapon, which can be done during a
short rest. You can then dismiss the weapon, shunting it into an
extradimensional space, and it appears whenever you create your pact weapon
thereafter. You can’t affect an artifact or a sentient weapon in this way. The
weapon ceases being your pact weapon if you die, perform the 1-hour ritual on a
different weapon, or use a 1 hr ritual to break the bond. The weapon appears at
your feet if it is in the extradimensional space when the bond breaks
• Ability Score Improvement / Feat: Level 4
• Otherworldly Patron Feature (Dark One’s Own Luck) When
making an ability check or a saving throw add d10 to your roll. Do so after
seeing the initial roll but before any of the roll’s effects occur. Once you
use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest
ABILITY SCORE IMPROVEMENT & FEATS
• Ability Score Improvement – Level 4 – Increase one ability
score of your choice by 2, or increase two ability scores of your choice by 1

Parting Shot

The Warlock is a very, very interesting class. Not a huge spell list, but enough spells can be known to provide for versatility, especially if pure combat is not your goal. Good enough AC and HP that you’re not a pushover, though again, a front-line fighter like a champion or ranger you are not.
The spells you can cast are limited to a few per fight (only 4 even at high level) – and that’s “per fight” assuming you can get that short rest in. But as long as you can pace yourself, you get to really throw down some mojo, as all cast spells are at the highest level. 10-28 HP per turn with your cantrip isn’t bad, and is solid enough that the pact weapon is almost a sideshow (10-24 with a weapon). The Agonizing Blast will scale with level, though. At 17th level, you get 4 beams of 1d10+4 each, making it equal to four attacks worth of a two-handed longsword swung by a STR 18 fighter. That’s highly respectable.
Personally, I might eschew the all-in focus on combat for this class. There are a  lot of abilities that come along with other pact lists and patrons, and roleplaying opportunities abound with this one. Played straight, though, pacts with Old Ones or Fiends tie in pretty well and very poorly with the usual band of good adventurers, and it’ll be a fun characterization exercise to mix and match various alignments with the pact givers. I could easily see other pactholders – maybe ancient dragons or even angelic beings – being added in future supplements.

The Fey pact, fey ancestry, half-elf angle in particular is just fun. I might go down this route if I ever get tired of Marcus, my half-elven paladin in the current 5e game I play.

Further Reading


Check out this analysis and description of the 5e Warlock over on Tribality.

5 thoughts on “Playing with DnD5 Characters – Sample 6th Level Warlock

  1. Sounds as though it plays very similar to the 4e Warlock, even down to the melee combatant angle (the "hexhammer" builds were some of my favorite in 4e D&D). And I think they are, like Paladins, one of the more colorful classes to play at the table.

    1. I'll have to (eventually) see how it plays. Character design suggests you're correct, though this is one of the cases, much like the rogue and monk, where looking to make "the most effective combatant" is going to miss some of the true fun in the class. Despite it being the point of my own exercise, it's not the best way to approach all of the 5e classes.

  2. Small comment: pact of the blade is just melee weapons, so no longbow for you. Of course, who needs a longbow when you have eldritch blast? Unless you have a magic longbow when a Rakasha comes along it is less good than eldritch blast. There are just 3 monsters I know of who can handle the blast.

    I also fully agree that full offensive is not the best way to play a warlock, and I would suggest pact of the tome for more cantrips over pact of the blade.

    For alignment there is the Brimstone Angels saga showing how a lawful or neutral good creature can accept a pact with a fiend to get powers to do good. This can be a good and fun roleplay thing for an Avenger multiclassing into warlock (e.g. Paladin X/warlock 2 or 3).

  3. Small comment: pact of the blade is just melee weapons, so no longbow for you. Of course, who needs a longbow when you have eldritch blast? Unless you have a magic longbow when a Rakasha comes along it is less good than eldritch blast. There are just 3 monsters I know of who can handle the blast.

    I also fully agree that full offensive is not the best way to play a warlock, and I would suggest pact of the tome for more cantrips over pact of the blade.

    For alignment there is the Brimstone Angels saga showing how a lawful or neutral good creature can accept a pact with a fiend to get powers to do good. This can be a good and fun roleplay thing for an Avenger multiclassing into warlock (e.g. Paladin X/warlock 2 or 3).

  4. Small comment: pact of the blade is just melee weapons, so no longbow for you. Of course, who needs a longbow when you have eldritch blast? Unless you have a magic longbow when a Rakasha comes along it is less good than eldritch blast. There are just 3 monsters I know of who can handle the blast.

    I also fully agree that full offensive is not the best way to play a warlock, and I would suggest pact of the tome for more cantrips over pact of the blade.

    For alignment there is the Brimstone Angels saga showing how a lawful or neutral good creature can accept a pact with a fiend to get powers to do good. This can be a good and fun roleplay thing for an Avenger multiclassing into warlock (e.g. Paladin X/warlock 2 or 3).

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