Warlock (Dungeons & Dragons)

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A Dungeons & Dragons character class
Publication history
First appearanceComplete Arcane
Editions3.5, 4th, 5th
(as a standard class)4th, 5th
(as an alternate class)3.5
Mythological originsWarlock

The warlock is a character class in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. It was introduced as a non-core base class in the supplemental book Complete Arcane for the 3.5 edition of Dungeons & Dragons. In 4th and 5th edition, the warlock is a core class.

Publication history[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition[edit]

Warlocks in 3rd edition receive their abilities through the influence of some unearthly being such as a Demon or Fey. They are either born with these powers or receive them through a fell pact, which turns their soul into a dark font of eldritch powers. Warlocks do not cast spells, but instead use spell-like abilities called "invocations", which represent the tapping of the power granted to the warlock. The most important of these abilities is the "eldritch blast" which is the warlock's main offensive ability, firing a blast of magical energy at the target.

The major difference that warlocks have from all other D&D 3rd edition magic users is their ability to use their invocations "at will," without a limit on the number of times an invocation can be cast. In contrast, a wizard or sorcerer can cast a set number of spells every day from a wider selection of spells than a warlock.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition[edit]

In 4th edition, the warlock's powers are known as spells, and use the standard power system. The warlock has many different unique abilities, though a warlock's trademark ability is still Eldritch Blast. They can also deliver various effects through Warlock's Curse. The Warlock's other class features make them more accurate at ranged attacks when no ally is closer to their target and allow them to gain concealment whenever they move a sufficient distance. Almost all of the warlock's attack powers depend on charisma or constitution for accuracy and damage, with some powers gaining bonuses from intelligence.

The specific source of the warlock's power is defined as a Pact (with a non-divine supernatural entity or power), which affects at-will power options and makes certain powers more effective and provides a pact boon, an effect which is triggered whenever a cursed enemy is killed or incapacitated. There are six Pacts:

  • The Star Pact is made with an entity from the Far Realm or a star located near it, which grants powers of grand revelations from the stars that madden foes. Star Pact warlocks can use either Constitution or Charisma for their attacks. There are also Star Pact spells which use Intelligence for attack rolls.[1]
  • The Fey Pact, forged with an amoral power of the Feywild, giving the user access to both wondrous and dangerous spells of the Faerie realm. Fey Pact warlocks use Charisma for their attacks.
  • The Infernal Pact represents an agreement with a devil of the Nine Hells, giving one powers of hellish and demonic proportions. Infernal Pact warlocks use Constitution for their attacks.
  • The Dark Pact is made with powerful residents of the Underdark and the Abyss, which grants spells of plagues, illness and disease. This was presented in the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide.[2] Dark Pact warlocks use Charisma for their attacks.
  • The Vestige Pact, presented in the Arcane Power supplement, represents an agreement with vestiges, arcane "echoes" of once-great individuals and powers, allowing the Warlock to act as a spirit medium through which entities manifest their powers.
  • The Sorcerer-King Pact is included in the Dark Sun Campaign Setting. This pact is made with a Sorcerer-King of Athas, giving access to abilities that destroy and defile. Sorcerer-King Pact warlocks can use either Constitution or Charisma for their attacks.
  • The Gloom Pact is made with creatures of the Shadowfell, which gives the ability to connect with the shadows and use them to bind foes to them.
  • The Elemental Pact which allows Warlocks to draw their power from ancient Primordials in the Elemental Chaos, which in turn gives them chaotic elemental powers.

Tieflings and gnomes have racial bonuses to both intelligence and charisma (two key warlock attributes). In 4th edition a warlock's role is striker, meaning they are designed to deal heavy damage while avoiding retaliation. Warlocks also have many exotic powers that have bonus effects; such as Eyebite which makes the warlock invisible for one turn if it hits. Many of the Warlock's powers allow them to move as part of an attack or to move in an unusual manner, such as flight or teleportation.

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials[edit]

The Essentials rulebook Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms presented an alternate version of the Warlock, known as the Hexblade. The later rulebook Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow introduced another Warlock variant, the Binder. Both of these variants were adaptations of classes introduced in the 3.5 edition of the game.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition[edit]

The warlock was included as a character class in the 5th edition Player's Handbook.[3] It is a magic-using class with a combination of spells and invocations granted by the warlock's patron.[4]

The warlock has three options for its patron in the Player's Handbook: The Archfey, the Fiend, and the Great Old One. Warlocks with a patron of the Archfey make pacts with powerful lords of Faerie, wild incarnations of the forces of nature, to gain their power; those with the Fiend patron make deals and bargains with infernal powers such as Demon Lords and Princes of Hell for magic; and those with the Great Old One patron draw their magical power from the Far Realm, strange, dark gods of entropy such as Tharizdun, or even eldritch alien beings, and are often on the verge of insanity.[4] The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide adds a fourth possible patron, the Undying, drawing their powers from pacts with powerful immortals like Iuz the dread or the lich-queen Vol. In Xanathar's Guide to Everything, two more patron options were added: The Celestial, where a pact is forged with a being connected to the Upper Planes such as a unicorn or solar, and the Hexblade, whose patron is a mysterious force from the Shadowfell (possibly the Raven Queen) that creates sentient magic weapons. It also added 14 new Eldritch Invocation options, with a focus on higher level play and building off of other class features.

Three options for its type of pact are presented. Pact of the Chain allows the warlock to summon a familiar, Pact of the Tome grants the warlock a Book of Shadows containing additional spells, and Pact of the Blade allows the warlock to conjure a magical weapon for combat.[4]

The warlock uses charisma as its spellcasting ability. It is structured so that its spell slots and spells known are limited, but the slots renew after every short rest (unlike most other magic-using classes, which require a long rest), and all spells are always cast at the highest slot level to which the warlock has access. These spells are supplemented with invocations that provide additional abilities.[4]

Other media[edit]

Warlocks (3.5 edition) are featured in the Neverwinter Nights 2 video game from Obsidian Entertainment.

The Warlock class is offered in the MMO computer game Dungeons & Dragons Online.[5]


Screen Rant rated the warlock class as the 7th most powerful class of the base 12 character classes in the 5th edition.[6]

The Gamer rated the 5th edition warlock subclass Celestial Patron as the 7th most awesome subclass out of the 32 new character options in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.[7]

Gus Wezerek, for FiveThirtyEight, reported that of the 5th edition "class and race combinations per 100,000 characters that players created on D&D Beyond from" August 15 to September 15, 2017, warlocks were the 8th most created at 8,711 total. Tiefling (2,188) was the most common racial combination followed by human (1,714) and then half-elf (1,401). Wezerek wrote "when I started playing 'Dungeons & Dragons' five years ago, I never would have chosen the game’s most popular match: the human fighter. There are already enough human fighters in movies, TV and books — my first character was an albino dragonborn sorcerer. But these days I can get behind the combo’s simplicity".[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cordell, Bruce (August 2008). "Wish Upon A Star" (PDF). Dragon Magazine. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
  2. ^ Bart Carroll. "Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Article (August and Beyond)". Wizards.com. Retrieved 2014-01-06.
  3. ^ "Keeping it Classy | Dungeons & Dragons". 2014-07-28. Retrieved 2014-09-21.
  4. ^ a b c d Mearls, Mike; Crawford, Jeremy; et al. (2014). Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook 5th Edition. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 9780786965601.
  5. ^ "Classes". Dungeons & Dragons Online. Turbine. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  6. ^ "Dungeons And Dragons: Ranking All Of The Base Classes, From Least To Most Powerful". ScreenRant. 2019-02-14. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  7. ^ "10 Awesome Subclasses From Xanathar's Guide To Everything (D&D Expansion)". TheGamer. 2019-08-07. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  8. ^ Wezerek, Gus (2017-10-12). "Is Your D&D Character Rare?". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved 2019-11-26.