D&D 5E Balancing Warlocks on a 1-2 combat per day workload.

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
Early on, you still have to shepherd your resources (only getting 6 spells per day.) At high levels, you have a solid baseline, possibly even a slight buff to damage, which is honestly fine, Warlock could use the boost. Since you can't use this feature and cast a regular spell in the same round, at high level you would need to be burning through several spells every round to be able to use up all 6 uses of this feature in just 2 combats.
I'd limit that by "take the attack action" too, to avoid a blade warlock smiting every round.
 

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TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Just have them recharge one spell slot every 10 minutes, no rest required. That way they aren't using more than 2-3 spells per any particular encounter, but there's always ready to go for any particular encounter without the complication of planning a short rest.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Maybe. So long as they're not doing the 10+ round combats one poster was suggesting!
I'm always amazed at the wonderful variability of how different tables play. Like, how must your encounters be set up that they often hit 10 rounds? I've only hit that in strange "hide-and-seek" type encounters where invisible and stealthy enemies played a major role.
 


NotAYakk

Legend
I would just shift to gritty rests (1 week long rest, overnight short) and adjust encounter difficulty to match.

A day's adventure then becomes 2-4 CR 2-4 monsters. And a plot chain is 6-12 CR 2-6 encounters, after which the PCs get downtime.
 

I'd limit that by "take the attack action" too, to avoid a blade warlock smiting every round.
Ah, good point, I forgot about Eldritch Smite. Probably just modify it to, "If you have not expended a spell slot this round (whether by casting a spell other than a cantrip or using another feature, such as Eldritch Smite, which expends spell slots) nor used any of your Mystic Arcana, you may instead use Arcane Suffusion as a bonus action. You may not expend a spell slot nor use any Mystic Arcana for the remainder of the round in which you use Arcane Suffusion as a bonus action." (Calling it "Arcane Suffusion" to give it a name so I'm not circumlocuting every time.)

That way it also covers Paladin/Warlock and Sorcerer/Warlock combos, and forbids the big fat spells as well as the baseline ones.

Also, to be clear (though I think this was understood), this action would entirely replace the short-rest dependency. No getting these spells and getting short rest spells!
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
I would think a Warlock would do great in a 1 to 2 combat encounters per day workload as written?
And that was my first suggestion to the OP. Just play them as written and then if you find them struggling, do something to balance them out.

After all, if the 6-8 encounter layout is:

2 encounters
short rest
2 encounters
short rest
2 encounter
long rest

with maybe 1 encounter thrown in here or there between rest, then the warlock functions perfectly:

2 encounters and then rest is what they are design (as is) for.

Maybe. So long as they're not doing the 10+ round combats one poster was suggesting!
True! The vast majority of encounters do tend in the 3-5 range IME, sometimes just 1 or 2, other times a bit longer. But, I've certainly had more than my share of running slugfests lasting 10-20 rounds or much longer.

IIRC I think my current record for 5E was something like 83 or 87 rounds... but that was more of a wave after wave string of battles as the PCs assaulted the Fire Giant King's lair and the battle never ended from one wave to the next as often there were more enemies entering the fray before the current ones were defeated. Not surprisingly, it took us over 8 hours to play the whole thing out--it was pretty much the entire session. Needless to say, it was exhausting to run. :)
 

HammerMan

Legend
As a DM, if you knew you were going to play a homebrew campaign with a maximum one or maybe occasionally two combat encounters in each whole day, how could you help balance the warlock?


  • Proficiency bonus spell slots per initiative?
  • One more slot per short rest then presently allocated
  • Charisma bonus slots per short rest
  • When an enemy fails its first spell save DC against your spell, the slot is not used…
  • Other?


Obviously you couldn’t match the slots of other full casters as you already cast at highest level and you also have those wonderful invocations. But the flavourful background of the warlock is a roleplaying dream. How may one incentivise? What to do? What to do.

I would ask the party to form around one power level and rest schedule. So wizards that nova 2 3rd level and a 4th level slot compairtd to the warlock only have 2 4th level slots the whole “day” would be an issue
 

Clint_L

Hero
I more or less do run my campaigns with 1-2 combat encounters in an adventuring day, and warlocks seem to do just fine, so this might be a solution in search of a problem.

However, it is true that classes like monk and warlock really excel the more the party relies on short rests, since their recharge mechanism is optimal for frequent, short encounters. When I have run encounter heavy games, like a dungeon crawl, those classes have really been clutch as the adventure progressed. Which is fair enough - it's their time to shine.

So I don't feel that rebalancing is needed for my tabletop. YVMV.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
As a DM, if you knew you were going to play a homebrew campaign with a maximum one or maybe occasionally two combat encounters in each whole day, how could you help balance the warlock?

...

Obviously you couldn’t match the slots of other full casters as you already cast at highest level and you also have those wonderful invocations. But the flavourful background of the warlock is a roleplaying dream. How may one incentivise? What to do? What to do.
Easy - I'd cut down the full caster's slots to 1/4 of what they have.

Only 1-2 combats a day greatly affects the other classes as well. It's just not as obvious. A casters highest few levels of spells are better than an at-will Action. Just like your average at-will character does more than cantrips. If you aren't running full casters down so much that they are using cantrips and low level slots, they are doing a lot more than the at-will characters as well.

So the fix isn't to buff the Warlock, since a bunch of classes are affected. It's to nerf the long-rest-recovery model classes (including the hybrid ones, like paladins and barbarian rages).
 

So the fix isn't to buff[....] It's to nerf
And your players would simply accept this without complaint?

Because that's one of the big reasons why nerfing isn't "the fix." Particularly for regular full casters like Wizards, who get all up in arms over the smallest nerfs, and outright torches-and-pitchforks for serious nerfs. (TBF, sometimes they riot over the smallest buffs even to other full casters, but that's neither here nor there...)
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
And your players would simply accept this without complaint?

Because that's one of the big reasons why nerfing isn't "the fix." Particularly for regular full casters like Wizards, who get all up in arms over the smallest nerfs, and outright torches-and-pitchforks for serious nerfs. (TBF, sometimes they riot over the smallest buffs even to other full casters, but that's neither here nor there...)
Hmm, I've run with the Gritty Rest variant from the DMG before, which nerfed all of the long-rest recovery classes*. So yes, nerfing can work. I wouldn't quarter spell slots mid-campaign, but if I approached players during session 0 I don't see a problem - I do see a lot more players picking of other classes.

Frankly, a great DM I play with never gives short rests during "the action" - he feels like it robs tension and immediacy. We've played multiple campaigns with him, we know his play style nerfs short-rest-recovery classes, and we plan accordingly.

(* Gritty Rest on the other hand throws a lot more short rests per long rest than the mechanics are designed around.)
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
And your players would simply accept this without complaint?

Because that's one of the big reasons why nerfing isn't "the fix." Particularly for regular full casters like Wizards, who get all up in arms over the smallest nerfs, and outright torches-and-pitchforks for serious nerfs. (TBF, sometimes they riot over the smallest buffs even to other full casters, but that's neither here nor there...)
Just do it by changing how often rests occur.
 


ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
...and your players won't notice? This seems to just push the question back one layer of abstraction.
Well, I’d tell them before we started, of course, but yes. I think that sr/lr resources assume a number of encounters between long rests that just doesn’t happen - but I can, if we stop assuming a real long rest can happen every night for one reason or the other. Not quite gritty realism, but close.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I would not agree. They will feel strapped for resources alongside long rest casters without their short rests, particularly on one encounter days, and especially if those encounters go on to ten rounds or more.
Let's say I have a 7th levell full spellcaster. They have 4 first level spells, 3 2nd level spells, 3 3rd level spells and 1 4th level spells - and usually they have additional abilities beyond that that require actions. That is 11 spells plus additional things.

In a 2 combat day, some of them will get to use a feature like Arcane recovery to be able to cast two 4th level spells. That matches the spell casting of the Warlock - assuming the warlock has not items that offer an additional slot (like Pearl of Power, Rod of Pact Keeper, etc...) and can't short rest between combats.

That means we're balancing the 3rd, 2nd and 1st level spell slots (plus additional abilities) against the Warlock other abilities like Invocations, Pact Benefits, Class Features, etc...

As an initial point, how many of those remaining 10 slots can meaningfully be used in those 2 combats? 4 or 5? Maybe 6? You just don't have time to meaningfully cast all of those slots within 1 or 2 combats.

So that means we're looking about half of those slots (plus calss abilities) versus the Warlock's remaining abilities. And if some of those used spell slots are 1st level spells, let's remember that Eldritch Blast is often outperforming a 1st level slot once you hit 5th level. Would you rather do an automatic 3d4+3 (10.5) or rolling for 2d10+8 split between two attacks?

So, really - at this point we're balancing a few 2nd and 3rd level spells against 2 or 3 of the invocations of a warlock. And when you do that, it is pretty clear we're on pretty even terms.

Honestly - having played a few Clerics, Bards, Druids, Wizards, Sorcerers and Warlocks in 5E: They're all just fine. Yes, you 'feel' the restricted slots of the Warlock - but that is the point of a restriction. You're supposed to feel the constraint. If you didn't feel constrained, it would be a problem.

If you want a 'fix', my suggestion is to grab a couple levels of sorcerer, or grab the Shadow/Fey feats that grant a couple spells.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
As an initial point, how many of those remaining 10 slots can meaningfully be used in those 2 combats? 4 or 5? Maybe 6? You just don't have time to meaningfully cast all of those slots within 1 or 2 combats.

Are they never casting spells for utility out of combat? That's the main area where warlocks lack; and no - invocations don't make up for it very well until maybe tier 3. Meanwhile, in combat If you wish to use spells like shield, hellish rebuke, or misty step you are sorely lacking in slots as a warlock, and bonus action and reaction spells are part of a caster's full toolkit.

Plus, in those later tiers casters like Wizards can use arcane recovery to get their top spell slot back (levels 6-9), something a Warlock cannot ever do.

Classes built around short rest resources meant to be played alongside classes built around long rest resources are a bad design, and probably one of the greatest flaws in 5e.
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Classes built around short rest resources meant to be played alongside classes built around long rest resources are a bad design, and probably one of the greatest flaws in 5e.
personally i can't say that i think simultaneously using short and long rest classes is a bad idea in and of itself, but the way that those two class designs combine with the rest mechanics themselves considering every night a long rest as well as the unrealistic expectations of 6-8 encounters per long rest it all throws the balance way out of whack.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
personally i can't say that i think simultaneously using short and long rest classes is a bad idea in and of itself, but the way that those two class designs combine with the rest mechanics themselves considering every night a long rest as well as the unrealistic expectations of 6-8 encounters per long rest it all throws the balance way out of whack.
Fair point, the rest schedule could have had more guidelines on how to keep things better balanced, along with sidebars about how certain sorts of adventuring days advantage certain classes more than others.

Leaving it up to the DM (and assuming the DM can manage it) is a design mistake, though, as it is complicated for new DMs and not really present in previous editions (even 4e had a better distribution of these resources across classes).
 

Frankie1969

Adventurer
Really, short-rest resource classes just don't fit well into a 1-2 big fight per day game. It takes some DM awareness about this, though, which I think is a flaw in the system much more than a DM fault.

... which is exactly why WotC is replacing "1 per SR" abilities with "PB per LR", so classes remain balanced across different play styles.

But the math for Warlock might not fit that rule, probably too powerful. IMO doubling their SR slot count should be about right.
 

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