D&D 5E D&D Next Q&A: Warlock Pacts, Patrons, and Iniate Feats

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
I am the /last/ person to suggest players should always play optimally. Optimization is creative death. That does not mean that subclasses of a specific class should not be defined by a common playstyle. I'm not trying to pigeonhole warlock players, here, I just don't understand what makes warrior-warlock and pet-warlock the same class.
[emphasis mine]
Don't you just answer your own question here:
The two clerics you describe are still closer to the archetypal cleric than they are any other class, and the two fighters you describe are still closer to the archetypal fighter than to any other class.
Are not the "warrior-warlock" and "pet warlock" [and, presumably the "bookish warlock"] not closer to the "archetypal" warlock than than any other class?

The cleric is predominantly defined by its divine spell list; the fighter by its superior capacity for combat. Those two core concepts have substantial impact on the play of their respective classes. How would you conceptualize warlock play, given the descriptions of the three pacts we currently know about?

"The [warlock] is predominantly defined by its [gaining/receiving power through its pact with its patron]."
 

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DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
[emphasis mine]
Don't you just answer your own question here:

Are not the "warrior-warlock" and "pet warlock" [and, presumably the "bookish warlock"] not closer to the "archetypal" warlock than than any other class?

"The [warlock] is predominantly defined by its [gaining/receiving power through its pact with its patron]."

No, because "gaining power through its pact with its patron" does not define a playstyle. A spell list defines a playstyle. Combat abilities define a playstyle. Summoning a pet defines a playstyle. I can reskin any D&D class from any edition so that it "gains power through its pact with its patron." That's just fluff.

Fluff is important, and it should be unique to each class, but if the only thing that differentiates a class its its fluff, I ask why bother having redundant fluff and an unnecessary class.

Right now I don't see an archetypal warlock. I see a fighter subclass, a wizard subclass, and something that resembles the Pathfinder summoner.
 

Manabarbs

Explorer
I think that in any edition where an archer fighter is a real thing, an archer fighter and an archer ranger have a lot more in common than an archer fighter and a melee fighter. "Superior Combat Ability" applies to any number of classes, and isn't remotely specific to the fighter in any edition. At least in 3.5, knowing whether or not a fighter is a capable part of a front line or is highly effective at taking out targets at range makes a MUCH bigger difference in terms of both playstyle and party composition than knowing whether a front line character is getting a small damage edge through extra combat feats, extra pre-assigned combat feats, or one of a few uses-per-day toggle or activated abilities. Similarly, 3.5 Wizards are unified in their mechanics and spell lists, but can be built to have essentially no capabilities or roles in common with each other; clerics are similar (although intrinsically more flexible).
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
I disagree. The two clerics you describe are still closer to the archetypal cleric than they are any other class, and the two fighters you describe are still closer to the archetypal fighter than to any other class.

So the dude with the rapier and the bow and the light armor is more of a Fighter than a Rogue? The robed priest of magic and stars is more of a Cleric than a Wizard?

I don't really understand your strong distinction, here.

The cleric is predominantly defined by its divine spell list;

...which included plenty of archetypal wizard spells as far back as 2e. The dude hurling fireballs and magic missiles might be a cleric, too (or even a fighter with the right magic items).

the fighter by its superior capacity for combat.

So the dexterous, sneak-attack-style stabby rogue isn't a superior combatant? Or the invisible, fireball-blasting, flying wizard or cleric?

Those two core concepts have substantial impact on the play of their respective classes. How would you conceptualize warlock play, given the descriptions of the three pacts we currently know about?

Don't mistake one particular thing about the class that it may have as monolithic and definitional. Any class can be superior at combat (CoDzilla!) or use a certain list of effects (priest of fire and fire wizard and fire psionicist and warrior in fire gear kind of hit the same notes). The more this is true about 5e, the more versatile and flexible and modular the game will be (ie: having a fighter in your party when you go into combat might not provide you any significant advantage over properly specced druid). In a game where classes are subject to redefinition and customization, it's the best way to go, so that you can release as many new classes as you want without invalidating the old ones.

So how does a warlock play? Well, with a blade pact she might play like a combat machine. With a book pact, maybe more problem-solving and effects-based. With a chain pact, maybe they'll be good at manipulating and dominating interaction scenes. Or maybe something totally different. No class is monolithic, no class has a niche that another class cannot acquire, no class is vital for any particular game task. Maybe your fighter is the best at combat, maybe your warlock is, maybe your rogue is. Classes in D&D are not just one thing. They are not even one kind of play experience. Given the varied play experiences many of the classes have carried in various iterations throughout the editions, WotC would be kind of crazy to tell everyone to play a class in a given way.

They'll have an "auto-pilot" mode. The fighter on auto-pilot will probably be a very good combatant. The cleric on auto-pilot probably will have a very particular spell list. The warlock on auto-pilot is likely to be a bit of a bard with extra Wizard cherries on top. But this isn't really definitional. Fighters can make mediocre combatants (2e halfling fighters!). Clerics can make crappy healers (OD&D "anti-clerics" with their inflict wounds spells!). Wizards can be melee machines (4e's bladesinger!). The basic version delivers on the basic story, but it's not the whole story of what a class is for the entire game (though it may be at your table). Warlocks don't need to be any one thing, they can be diverse and complex just as wizards and fighters and clerics and rogues can be.
 

variant

Adventurer
I am glad the patron has the most effect on the warlock. I hope there are more options than the three patron types listed. There could be shadow, elemental, deity and artifact patrons.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
A blade warlock uses his warlock spells to increase his combat prowess with a weapon. Sounds to me like several wizards spell builds way-back-when. A chain warlock uses his warlock spells to summon monsters to fight and defend for him. Sounds to me like another several wizard spell builds from way-back-when. A book warlock uses his warlock spells to blast the ever living crap out of his enemies. Funny... that also sounds like several wizard spell builds from way-back-when.

Other than the warlock getting his magic from someone, rather than just the arcane aether... the warlock sounds more like the wizard than we probably first thought. ;)
 

the Jester

Legend
I find the idea that your class ought to define your playstyle to be pretty antithetical to my own playstyle.

I prefer it when two rogues, fighters, priests, etc. can play very differently- I don't like shoehorning players into a specific role and style of play because of their class. I want some clerics to be melee guys and some to be zap clerics and some to be "I like to talk it out" clerics. I like some fighters to be "AARGH ATTACK!!", some to be "search for tactical edge, choose the right moment, plan the attack" and some to be "fight only as last resort" types.

Frankly, I see nothing positive in forcing a given class' playstyle into some preconceived mold.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
A blade warlock uses his warlock spells to increase his combat prowess with a weapon. Sounds to me like several wizards spell builds way-back-when. A chain warlock uses his warlock spells to summon monsters to fight and defend for him. Sounds to me like another several wizard spell builds from way-back-when. A book warlock uses his warlock spells to blast the ever living crap out of his enemies. Funny... that also sounds like several wizard spell builds from way-back-when.

Other than the warlock getting his magic from someone, rather than just the arcane aether... the warlock sounds more like the wizard than we probably first thought. ;)

I think it's key to keep in mind that classes (and builds and kits and whatnot) over time in D&D have become much more specific, and they'll probably continue that trend. What was once all wizarding (including getting your powers from some specific patron -- think of Mystara in the Forgotten Realms, or the Sha'ir in Al-Quadim, if not old-school representations of witches and whatnot!) is now different classes. The wizard should probably also encompass this, still. And so can the Warlock. There's a million different ways to play some dude who's pledged his soul to Satan for magic, and that is as it should be.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I would think Chain would lead more to a summoner angle, although a permanent companion also makes sense.

IIRC the Warlock character in World of Warcraft is based on having a permanent infernal companion? This might be what they have in mind in D&D also.

I wish they would do the same thing for rangers. I would prefer favored enemy to be a separate choice from fighting style.

The fact is, the current Ranger's Favored Enemy is not really a favored enemy. It really is a fighting style. In fact, all references with actual creatures have been removed from all features granted by Favoured Enemy. All features work all the time against all creatures. You might still need to have more than one creature in melee to take the benefit of some of the features, and this is more likely to happen with smaller creatures (hordebreaker favored enemy) than with large creatures (colossus slayer favored enemy), but that's it. All references to actual creatures is in the fluff.

My objection to this iteration of the warlock is simple: it sounds like the three pacts will play fundamentally differently. A player tells their DM, "I'm playing a warlock," and the DM ought to be able to take that to the bank, just like if the player says "cleric," or "fighter." It ought to mean something. These three pacts sound like three completely different classes.

You know what they say, "it's not a bug, it's a feature".

It's the same idea they've followed for other classes: use subclasses to shift the focus to different functionality of the class. That's why we have a Druid subclass that supports fighting in wildshape while the base class doesn't, and another subclass that focuses on spellcasting, or why we have a Monk subclass that shifts to the supernatural while the other stays within martial arts, etc.

This is generally also a result of gamers arguing too much about "what should class X really be". We would argue if a Warlock should be this or that or something else, WotC is just trying make classes that are as many things as possible.
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
I think that in any edition where an archer fighter is a real thing, an archer fighter and an archer ranger have a lot more in common than an archer fighter and a melee fighter.

If this is true, then the edition in question is doing both the fighter and the ranger a great disservice.

"Superior Combat Ability" applies to any number of classes, and isn't remotely specific to the fighter in any edition.

Which is a mistake. If the fighter is not "the fighting class" in the same way that the wizard is "the spellcasting class," then the fighter is built wrong. Generations of D&D players have complained that the fighter doesn't bring anything to the table. I don't agree on the whole, but I do agree that few editions have really driven the fighter's expertise home.

So the dude with the rapier and the bow and the light armor is more of a Fighter than a Rogue? The robed priest of magic and stars is more of a Cleric than a Wizard?

Can the rapier fighter disarm traps or backstab? Can the wizard heal? It's clear as day to me.

...which included plenty of archetypal wizard spells as far back as 2e. The dude hurling fireballs and magic missiles might be a cleric, too (or even a fighter with the right magic items).

And this is admittedly where my position falls a little flat. The cleric always has had a lot in common with the wizard, which is pretty unfair to the wizard when you consider everything he has to give up for his spell list while the cleric gets heavy armor and an actual weapon list in addition to his spells. The cleric's always gotten more special abilities, too.

I think the cleric spell list has too many blaster options -- it always has. The divine spell list ought to focus on buffing (or debuffing, if you prefer a darker take). So no, I don't have a really strong argument on this particular point, because it's a deeply, deeply ingrained design flaw in D&D.

The more this is true about 5e, the more versatile and flexible and modular the game will be (ie: having a fighter in your party when you go into combat might not provide you any significant advantage over properly specced druid).

And the less a class-based system it will be.

Frankly, I see nothing positive in forcing a given class' playstyle into some preconceived mold.

I see nothing positive in ill-defined classes that overlap each other to a substantial degree. Agree to disagree, I suppose.

WotC is just trying make classes that are as many things as possible.

Then why bother at all?
 

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