DMs, Unlock your Warlocks

Daggar here from The Brew Crew. Today we’ll talk a little bit about the fun you can create for everyone’s favorite magical sugar babies, warlocks.

Warlocks are among my favorite classes, so it’s no question that I’d sell my soul for a 1d10 cantrip, but I still eventually get tired of spamming Eldritch Blast. There are a slew of other options for the class, but sometimes players or dms aren’t well enough versed in the class’s potential to really make the magic happen. Here are some ways you can teach the Old Gods new tricks, and add some pizzazz to your warlocks’ playbooks.

Most dungeon masters know to include warlock patrons in their storylines, at least as a subplot. But try to plan those threads well in advanced, so they don’t feel crammed in at the last moment. If you know your game will feature a warlock, try to get some story ties and foreshadowing done early. Flesh out the details on who your warlock’s patron is, what they want, when they’ll make their demands, where they’ll send your players, and why they’re doing all this. Answering these basic questions can make the intense moments the player’s literal source of power is asking them to do something feel more important and natural. Don’t just have a command from their patron at level 1 without good reason, but make the patron’s demands important to your story’s midpoint or endgame.

Just as I had recommendations for homebrewing bard abilities, the warlock will love you for custom invocations, pacts, or patrons. Start with a patron to determine the most flavorful or appropriate pacts and invocations for your warlocks. A patron based on the magickal concept of a tulpa (basically a supercharged imaginary friend) could have an invocation that empowers your Mage Hand or Unseen Servant cantrips, increasing their duration or strength. A patron that is frozen in ice, or commands icy realms might have an invocation to allow your Eldritch Blast to extinguish flames and deal cold damage. The possibilities for pacts are just as varied, and a pact that manifests as a suit of ethereal armor, or knowledge of secret words of power can create a more flavorful and compelling warlock.

The DM is the ultimate warlock patron. If you’re a player, work with your DM! If you’re a DM, work with your players! Collaborative storytelling is the goal of tabletop gaming. Don’t be afraid to ask about what goals and expectations you’ve got for the campaign. Maybe your player wants to kill their patron and take the being’s power. If that’s appropriate for the campaign, you can build up to it. Maybe they specifically don’t want to work against their patron, but instead let their patron take over the multiverse. That can be a suitably epic ending for a campaign, if you plan for it. Maybe the world is cast in darkness, as Cthulhu reigns free. Save room for your other players’ goals, of course, but there’s always epilogue sessions, or post-game write-ups to clean up loose ends.

With all the possibilities inherent in warlocks, be sure to give them some care and attention. They can be a story-heavy class with tons of fun potential. Even if your game doesn’t have room for warlocks to steal the spotlight, give them some room to feel like they’re working for a cause. Their patrons are big figures, and any references to them from other characters or NPCs will delight your warlocks and keep them on the straight and narrow path of eldritch servitude.

Sound off in the comments about what else you can do to treat your warlocks to otherworldly rewards. Also remember Frontline Gaming sells DnD products in their webcart!

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3 Responses to “DMs, Unlock your Warlocks”

  1. Reecius
    Reecius September 17, 2020 8:31 am #

    Really fun article! One little trick I have used as a DM is to give the character a hidden goal that is known to only them and GW. This can create fun interactions between characters as they try and guess what’s going on and you can tease it out over several play sessions.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy September 17, 2020 8:41 am #

      Yeah personalized stuff, especially goals (whether secret or not) is one of the best ways to help get players invested in your game.

      • Reecius
        Reecius September 17, 2020 9:13 am #

        Yeah, totally. One of my favorite mechanisms is to just hand a player a note made in advance and not say anything so the other players are left wondering what’s up. On the note, it tells the recipient not to mention what it says to anyone else, it creates really fun interactions.

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