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D&D 5E Adapting the Warlock Chassis for other Classes


Note: This says 5E on the tin, but I include all 5E variants in that -- so ToV, A5E and whatever else.

I have been mentioning and thinking about this for a while: the warlock chassis, that is the basic mechanical structure of the class, seems to me to be the best overall structure in 5E. More importantly, I think it is a highly malleable design and think that it could be used to create lots of different classes on that same chassis, including both martial and caster classes.

So what I would like this thread to be is a discussion about how to best do that. The ultimate goal for me in this thread will be to build a better fighter using the warlock chassis, but I want to hear what folks think (or have done, design wise) with the warlock chassis otherwise.

We are here to kick around ideas, so being critical is fine (even helpful) but make sure your criticism is constructive. If something sounds bad or broken or unfun to you, express why and give potential fixes.

So let's look at the warlock as presented in the 5.1 SRD, from a purely structural standpoint.

The Warlock is defined by a Patron and a Pact, which set the tone of the class fantasy. Mechanically, the Patron defines the broad nature of the class and the Pact narrows it down. Warlocks have limited access to a couple cantrips and a few spells, as well their invocations. In total, this means that the warlock benefits from both a focused theme as well as a reasonable amount of versatility in the moment.

Translating this chassis into a different sort of class suggests the following to me:
Patron becomes high level archetype or subclass information, telling you which suites of abilities you have access to throughout character generation and development.
Pact represents a style focus, ensuring the character looks and feels a certain way.
Spells are the working tools of the chassis, and can represent anything from fighting maneuvers to manifestations of rage or arcane lore. Design in this manner would probably look a lot like 4E power design.
Invocations are really just talent tree abilities that work kind of like feats and kind of like class abilities.

With all that laid how, how would you go about building a usable naked chassis that classes can be laid on? Or would you pick a class in specific and reverse engineer it onto the warlock chassis? i am inclined to the latter, but am curious what others would do.

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Where is that Singe?
So, from your OP, I am reading it along these lines (please correct me if I am misunderstanding):

Fighter in the Warlock chassis
  • Archetype ("Patron") would currently follow the subclasses, such as Champion, EK, or Samurai, etc.
  • Aspect ("Pact") might be your focus and work with Fighting Styles? Sword/board, Tank, TWF, etc.
  • Knacks ("Cantrips") are simple at-will abilities you can utilize based on your Archetype.
  • Maneuvers (?) ("Spells Known") are expendable, rechargable abilities also based on Archtype.
  • Talents ("Invocations") would be commonly available abilities indpendent of Archetype with possible prerequisites of levels or certain knacks (which would probably overlap a bit between Aechetype).


"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
For fighters, Patron would be Origin (Samurai, Gladiator, Rune Knight, etc.) 1st level. Not very different from the overall power level of current fighter subclasses. Fighter would default to Str/Dex as main stats, but some Origins would give a new secondary or even primary stat.

Pact Boon becomes Fighting Style. Some adjustments, but roughly the same power level as what we have currently have. Some invocations will have dependencies on certain Fighting Styles (like for current warlocks with pact boons). Possible that some origins or higher-level invocations give a 2nd fighting style.

Pact Magic isn't magic. It's now the ability to use action surge or a scaling Second Wing feature twice per SR, scaling to 3 and 4 times at higher levels. As the value of a fighter's action scales up with more invocations and subclass features, this gives a natural scaling to the value of the action surge. Additionally, many invocations and some subclass features are ONLY usable during an action granted by action surge. (This is where the bulk of design work would need to go.)

Invocations would need a new name to something more fighter-like. Most invocations would be subclass or fighting style specific, since fighter has most of its flavor baked into subclass and fighting style.


Does anyone have a link to someone who has already done this with some class/archetype or another? I would be curious what they came up with, especially if it is for a martial character.


Does anyone have a link to someone who has already done this with some class/archetype or another? I would be curious what they came up with, especially if it is for a martial character.
Unfortunately it's not a martial example, but you are definitely correct that the Warlock is a highly adaptable mechanical design. The example I'm thinking of is the Dungeon Dudes' Apothecary class contained in Sebastian Crowe's Guide to Drakkenheim. It's available in pdf from Ghostfire Games. The dudes have several videos where they discuss their design work on the class and how they adapted the Warlock. Hope that helps. Would definitely be interested in anything you come up with that you want to share.


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I think the Warlock is a decent chassis. I think the Warlock broken up for parts is an excellent foundation.

In the recent "what do you wish the 2024 update was" thread, I mentions that I'd love to rip spells out of ranger, install the invocation system. And a bunch of invocations would be at-will and completely based on "I am the master of this", and some would have varied usage (per long rest, per short rest, etc.) and be more "nature magic". Such that from the same class, before even hitting subclasses, you can make a magical or non-magical ranger just fine.

And the ability to do that, without also requiring spellcaster, especially spellcasting that advances at a rate similar to full casters during most commonly played levels (1-11) by WotC survey so there is design space to be good at other things, like the ranger is known for, would be great.

But hanging full caster equivalent on every class, which as an opportunity cost doesn't leave design space for the other classes to have their specialties, misses much of what is good.

The warlock's casting, adjusted to half or third caster, might be a better fit for the Eldritch Knight subclass, to align with the short-rest-recharge of other parts of the fighter class.

The invocation system would fit Monk subclasses like Way of the Four Elements.

I guess what I'm getting at is that there are excellent bones in the Warlock chassis, but to mix-n-match as opposed to always use in the same configuration as the Warlock.

As said, Ranger excels here.

Patron - Conclave (the original faction they join and receive their tutelage and secrets from)

Pact - Favored Foe (each creature type gives GENERIC abilities, and you can also share these abilities with your party)

Cantrip - Ranger's Tricks (special reactions the ranger can do)

Spells Known -- Prepared Spells, sorry but I like it on Rangers

Invocations -- Primal Lessons (special abilities that interface with the many different ranger identities, allowing things like Beast Master or Ritual Casting or special types of movement)

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