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Playtest (A5E) Level Up Playtest Document #14: Warlock

Welcome to the 14th Level Up playtest document. This playtest contains a candidate for the first 10 levels of the game’s warlock class.

warlock_-_Guilherme_Sommermeyer.jpg



And when you're ready, please take the playtest survey to give us feedback!

 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


This really does nothing for me, really. Instead of costing a cantrip, Eldritch Blast is now a class feature and you only get one cantrip. Fine. But extra blast is featured as a level gain, when it is just the natural scaling of the cantrip. Why? Makes the level seem empty (though there are other small gains).
At the same time, the mandatory invocation to add Stat modifier to damage is not a class feature. Why? Seems inconsistent and just half thought through.
I feel the use of spell points is just there to be different, without really adding anything. The warlock's spellcasting was already different from other casters. Why not just keep that, if the only difference is spell points?

Overall, this has been the least impressive offering so far from Level Up, IMO.
 


TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Slightly deeper dive:

1) Spell points feel good, and are a meaningful buff to the class.
2) Eldritch Ray feels a little better than the other 2 choices, particularly Spasm. I saw the invocations which have the different types of Eldritch Blast, but they didn't seem to provide a lot of meaningful differentiation.
3) Moving a lot of the utility invocations to Knacks is very clever. I'd like to see a few more knacks at the cost of invocations, maybe 4 invocations, 3 knacks instead of 5/2.
4) I'm assuming that "any" invocation means that [Court] and [Eldritch] invocations are fair game? I see the difference between the types of invocations thematically, but I'm not quite sure why they need to be siloed.
5) Pacts are fine, I think. Looks like Lifedrinker moved down in level, which helps Pact of the Blade keep up in damage. I'd like to see a higher level invocation that lets me replace Eldritch Blast attacks with Pact Blade attacks, rather than just granting Extra Attack. Maybe limit to 2 Pact Blade attacks, so it isn't stepping on Fighter's turf.
6) I'm not a fan of the spell-granting invocations being long rest limited (not a fan of it in O5E either). I'd rather see them grant a spell known, OR just be a 1/long rest free casting.
7) The new invocations all look nice. I wouldn't mind seeing some more utility invocations in the vein of Misty Visions and Mask of Many Faces, at-will spells are fun.
 

I really like the shift in the class' flavortext writeup in how it evokes the character taking action & pushes the player to consider relevant details beyond o5e "I'm a warlock because eldritch blast".
  • I noticed in the equipment suggestions "arcane focus (grimoire)" oooOOoooOOooo clues.
  • Otherworldly Patron: The flavortext shift moving the patrons away from feeling like an office worker that takes whoever fills out the form for a warlock in o5e to something that may or may not be so clearcut or even understandable.
  • Spellpoints: I like the shift but not sure about something. in spellpoints on page 5 it says "The maximum spell level you can cast is shown in the Spell Level column of the Warlock table." but the only place I see that is in the pg5 table where it shows spell slot spellpoint costs... Does that mean a 5th level warlock with 7 spellpoints can cast a5th level burning hands & then take a short rest to do it again?
  • What level spells can they learn by level? The only place I see that suggests what level spells a warlock can pick is on page 5 where it says you could learn a first or second level spell at third level.
  • int/wis/cha: Having this flip to picking one given the lore fluff & how the archetypes spread across the spectrum feels fitting for warlocks & opens up the option of a dark bargain the gm doesn't need to completely homebrew onto non-warlock classes for casters other than charisma based ones so I like this.
  • Eldritch blast: I love having this going to a class feature scaling with character level over a cantrip scaling with character level. The eldritch ray seems objectively better than the other two like @TwoSix mentioned I was initially confused but eldritch breath/ingot/severance/etc being linked to specific choices makes the differences obvious & just "ohh... wooow...."* I can't wait to see my players whip these out"
  • Court/eldritch tag based build your class features as a concept. This is neat on a conceptual level. It feels like they will add an interesting layer of depth to warlocks and viscerally differentiate from eldritch blast turret 42 from turret 402 in play much better than the o5e grab bag that feels kinda like a rough draft of that still munchkiny homebrew the player found somewhere.
  • The pacts look pretty similar & I didn't notice anything that made me say "hmm that's new/different from o5e" but with the eldritch blast scythe I'm even more confused after reading blade pact & not seeing changes
  • [eldritch] invocations. I was going to go through & give thoughts on each eldritch/court ability but... wow.. I love these

*I actually said it when it clicked 😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈😈 I'm really impressed & feel like going feature by feature wouldn't do it justice as the focus on awesome eldritch blast & flexible class building from invocations+court/eldritch trio has a lot more depth than the o5e "pick the best ones as soon a possible" design
 

JonM

Explorer
Minor goof: There is no indication, on the chart, as to spell level access. I assume it's as per most full spellcasting classes.

Aside from that obvious problem... To be honest, I'm feeling kind of on the fence about this one. I mean, it's not bad, but I didn't see anything that really excites me, as compared to the normal class.

I'm not sure about giving up a cantrip to get Eldritch Blast, automatically. Yes, most warlocks do that, in 5e, but it isn't normally mandatory. Now, it is. I thought Level Up was supposed to be adding choices, not taking them away...?

The spell points seem a bit off, around 5th - 6th level. Traditionally, a warlock can cast two 3rd level spells at 5th, i.e. 10 spell points. But they get only 7 at 5th and 8 at 6th - much weaker. I get that their spell points tend to be a bit lower, to make up for the versatility, but the difference is less extreme at every other level. It also makes for a sudden leap between 6th and 7th. In every way, wouldn't it make more sense to get around 8 at 5th and 9 or 10 at 6th?

In general, I'm a bit unsure about the whole spell point thing. I don't hate it, but, combined with the fact that their spells are no longer automatically boosted to the maximum for their caster level (kind of a signature feature, in stock 5e), it makes them feel a bit too much like sorcerers who just have less spell points but get them back faster. Versatility at the cost of flavor and uniqueness.

Speaking of flavor, none of this addresses something I had hoped Level Up would look at, i.e. the fact that, in stock 5e, the two-way nature of the pact is just meaningless (and often ignored) fluff, with no mechanical teeth.

So, I don't know... I hate to say it, but: meh.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Lots of faff in the article. Someone on the team really wants every warlock PC to be a deeply edgy edgelord from Edgetown. Do, I began reading the mechanics with somewhat low expectations for what has been one of my top 3 classes in all three editions it's been in.

That aside, lets get into it.

Eldritch Blast - Okay, fine, EB as a class feature. It may seem nitpicky, but don't rename the proper blast into something else. Make that what Eldritch Blast is, and then then let the player pick from 3 upgrades.
  • Eldritch Spear increases range, replacing Ray
  • Eldritch Scythe is fine I guess, but 100% not what I want from a melee EB
  • Eldritch Spasm is fine for Warlocks who are going down the body horror path, I guess? It's mechanically boring, though.
  • Edritch Chain could be a reach melee attack with forced movement
  • Eldritch Blade could be a single target strike. Simple. It's EB, but melee.
Pact of The Blade is redundant with Eldritch Scythe. Rather than allowing you to do what you can already do, let it instead upgrade melee attacks in some way.

Pact of The Chain is great.

Pact of The Tome is perhaps even better than it is in the PHB, since you can't choose not to have EB in this version of the Warlock. (yes, people choose not to use EB. It's a thing that happens) How good it really is will depend on invocations, of course.

Invocations... This is perhaps the weak point of the document. So many of these are unnecessarily restricted and silo'd. Scythe should just be able to be used any time you could do a melee weapon attack. There shouldn't need to be an invocation for that. At most, make that part of the pact of the blade. But making it an invocation that you can only choose at, what, a single level? Wildly over-restricted.
Thirsting Blade is incredibly bad. It's literally just worse than just using Eldritch Scythe.

Knacks are the only siloing in this class that makes sense and make the class more fun. COmpletely lose the Court and Eldritch tags on invocations, make Scythe and Blade Pact actually work together, with both being worth taking on their own, and you've got an improvement on the phb warlock.

As it is, overall, I'd rather just use the PHB warlock.


Also, the spell points are less interesting than pact magic. Include a way to regain a slot between short rests, or something, or IDK what, but ditching pact magic is a hard pass for me.
 


JonM

Explorer
Ooops! I just noticed another minor goof. Wish I'd noticed this just a few minutes sooner, before you re-uploaded.

"At 2nd level, you gain an eldritch
invocation of your choice."

Actually, you don't. The 2nd level choice is an "Any". An "Eldritch" specific choice doesn't show up until later, on the chart.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Pact of The Blade is redundant with Eldritch Scythe. Rather than allowing you to do what you can already do, let it instead upgrade melee attacks in some way.
I don't think I'd say that. Being able to use magic weapons or weapon-specific feats (assuming those are in A5E) with your spellcasting stat is a meaningful upgrade over Eldritch Scythe. Plus, using your weapon with combat maneuvers or anything else that requires an Attack action over a melee spell attack.

Just looking at Tier 1, a Pact Blade user with Lifedrinker will be doing 2d6+3+3, 13 avg, an Eldritch Scythe attack will be doing 1.5x(1d8+3), avg 11.3, assuming 2 enemies in range. And the Pact Blade can switch to a Heavy Crossbow as an action; the Eldritch Scythe user needs to take an invocation to gain access to Eldritch Ray for ranged attacks.

This isn't to say I don't have issues with Pact Blade as written in this playtest. I don't like that its progression is completely orthogonal to Eldritch Blast progression, since EB progression is major part of the design. My personal solution would be an invocation that allows you to mix in attacks with the Pact Blade with uses of Eldritch Blast, 1 attack at level 5 and 2 attacks at level 11. I think Tasha's Bladesinger showed there's a lot of room to mix together attacks and spells in the action economy for gishes.

Also, the spell points are less interesting than pact magic. Include a way to regain a slot between short rests, or something, or IDK what, but ditching pact magic is a hard pass for me.
This is one of those aesthetic things that's going to come down to surveys. I like the spell points, personally, although the auto-scaling spell slots have their charms. If they go back to spell slots, I definitely think the "grant one spell" invocations should be a 1/LR free cast to allow for more caster-heavy warlocks (a house rule I've used in my own games that works great).
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Ooops! I just noticed another minor goof. Wish I'd noticed this just a few minutes sooner, before you re-uploaded.

"At 2nd level, you gain an eldritch
invocation of your choice."

Actually, you don't. The 2nd level choice is an "Any". An "Eldritch" specific choice doesn't show up until later, on the chart.
Yea, I noticed that one too. I think the writer meant to use eldritch as a flavor adjective, rather than the [Eldritch] keyword. But since Eldritch is a keyword, it shouldn't be used in any rules text as flavor.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Yay! Warlocks! You know, it's weird. As much as I like warlocks, I've only played one once, and I'm still only at second level. Oh well. Let's read:

First off: "Inconspicuous Civilian Kit." 🤣

Eldritch Blast: I see that you're making Eldritch Blast into a class ability, which, good. However, it's now more annoying because you still lose a cantrip to it. Maybe give warlocks a choice of Prestidigitation, Druidcraft, or Thaumaturgy for free as well.

Suggestion 1: Scythe can do 1d10 damage to one person or 1d6 to two people.

Suggestion 2: how about an Eldritch Whip, low-ish damage but with an grapple and pull-closer/move around ability?

Also: Eldritch Spasm? Neat.

Spell Points: So you're not required to cast spells at their highest level anymore? That was one of the warlock's things. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of spell points in general--too much math (I'm lazy). I'm not entirely sure how I feel about these changes yet. I don't hate them; I'm just not sure.

OTOH, It does make pact magic quite a bit different from regular magic, which helps to differentiate the classes well.

Spellcasting Ability: We aren't locked into Charisma anymore! Yes! Approve.

Pact of the Chain: A suggestion: instead of saying that you can pick from those options, create a standard creature statblock with a few different abilities and let the warlock make their own. Maybe like the new Summon spells from Tasha. If your familiar is fey, it has ability A or B. If your familiar is a fiend, it has ability C or D. If your familiar is an aberration, it has ability E or F. And so on.

I may make up a statblock like that anyway for my games.

Invocations: So far, I'm liking the new invocations quite a bit. I'm eager to see those patron tokens, and Spellbinding Contract fills me with evil glee. But I'd like to make a suggestion: an invocation that lets you change the damage type of your EBs to something else, or lets you switch it between force and something else at will.

Basically, one of the biggest beefs with EB I've seen is that you get locked into doing the same thing each round. At least a fighter can change weapons! But if you could instead use the same ability to create a fiery/freezing/corrosive/etc. ability, that would give a lot of freedom, even if it's mechanically the same (and even though force is technically better because very little resists it).

Knacks: Not entirely sure I like that some of the knacks were once invocations. That doesn't feel very exploration-y to me.

Whiff of the Beyond: This seems awfully powerful. Other classes that have had similar abilities have limited it (IIRC) to one of those types and let you take the knack repeatedly for other types. You might want to tone it down. As it is, it's more useful than detect evil and good.

Which, by the way, does this now only detect Evil- and Good-tagged creatures and places? Is there a detect law and chaos now as well?

So far, pretty good. I'll make up a character or two and do the survey.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
The spell points seem a bit off, around 5th - 6th level. Traditionally, a warlock can cast two 3rd level spells at 5th, i.e. 10 spell points. But they get only 7 at 5th and 8 at 6th - much weaker. I get that their spell points tend to be a bit lower, to make up for the versatility, but the difference is less extreme at every other level. It also makes for a sudden leap between 6th and 7th. In every way, wouldn't it make more sense to get around 8 at 5th and 9 or 10 at 6th?
Yea, I agree here. The general pattern at the other levels is to have enough spell points to cast a max level and max level -1 spell at odd levels, and 2 max level spells at even levels. That would mean a 5th level warlock should have 8 sp, and 10 for a 6th level warlock.

Now, I can see why you wouldn't want to do that; 5th level already gives EB scaling, 3rd level spell access AND a new invocation. But I think keeping the progression nice and even warrants the slight power increase.
 

Eldritch Blast: I see that you're making Eldritch Blast into a class ability, which, good. However, it's now more annoying because you still lose a cantrip to it. Maybe give warlocks a choice of Prestidigitation, Druidcraft, or Thaumaturgy for free as well.

I'd go with light/dancing lights or similar with some spooky fluff shading, you don't notice the scratchings of a madman in the margins are actually a ritual to gain power quickly in a well lit room or under the purifying warm glow of a candle
 

Faolyn

Hero
Now, I can see why you wouldn't want to do that; 5th level already gives EB scaling, 3rd level spell access AND a new invocation. But I think keeping the progression nice and even warrants the slight power increase.
Warlocks already got those things in 05e at 5th, so that shouldn't be an issue to give them an extra spell point or two.
 

maceochaid

Explorer
Love all of this! Brilliant. However, there seems to be some confusion around the new tagged invocations. So I'm wondering if for clarity the "Eldritch invocations" and "Court Invocations" could be shunted to the class features:

6th level Improved Eldritch Blast: (Eldritch Blast Invocations as options)
4th level Patron's Court Secrets (Court Invocations as class feature options, receive an additional option at 10th)

Then there could be these invocations

Eldritch adept: choose an improved Eldritch blast option you don't currently possess even if you have not received this feature yet, must meet other requirements for the Eldritch blast option.
Patron's Inner Circle: Choose a patron's court secret option you don't currently possess, even if you have not received this feature yet, you must meet other requirements in the feature's text.

Maybe that is just as confusing. Just an option.
 


RSIxidor

Adventurer
This is the least happy I've been with the playtests so far. There's good ideas in there but the EB stuff feels clunky to me. Moving some Invos to knacks is nice. Spell points feel wrong. On EB as you've got it, I'd give some range to Scythe beyond melee reach, 20-30', maybe. The way I'm reading it, it's not like physically wielding a weapon, it's like forming a blast of energy nearby and slamming it into someone. I don't really think I like the half-damage for someone else but not sure how I'd differentiate this version other than by doing that. Also don't like losing the cantrip because of it, leads to less choice diversity. Maybe 1 cantrip without restriction + 1 cantrip that can't deal damage? That way player choice is still there. Honestly myself, I'd just let them pick two cantrips of their choice. EB is still a solid damage thing, so what if the player decides to take two more damage cantrips at least one of which they'll basically never use?

Also just noticed that as is, EB doesn't specify if you need to use your voice or your hands, etc, to use it. As read, seems you could do this while bound and gagged and blindfolded (except spasm, which actually does say you have to be able to see them). I imagine I'm missing something there but yeah.
 

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