D&D 5E Warlock Spell Selection: Does the PC or the *player* choose their spells?

I'd say it depends on the nature of the pact. An infernal pact may spell out in a written contract that the Patron will teach one (1) spell of the Warlock's choice when specific milestones are reached, while a Great Old One warlock may find that one morning he remembers a new spell that he didn't know last night.
 

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The character is the avatar through which the player engages with the game world. If the character is now eligible for a new spell and there is an eligible spell on their class spell list that they think their character would want, that’s squarely in the player’s purview. Otherwise, we tread into the territory of the DM telling the player “that’s not what you character would do.” Not typically a good place to go.

EDIT: more appropriate response at #25 (and no worries, @Ancalagon :))
 
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Northern Phoenix

Adventurer
The character is the avatar through which the player engages with the game world. If the character is now eligible for a new spell and there is an eligible spell on their class spell list that they think their character would want, that’s squarely in the player’s purview. Otherwise, we tread into the territory of the DM telling the player “that’s not what you character would do.” Not typically a good place to go.

That's not what this thread is about. The premise of the thread starts with the fact that mechanically, in the real world, the player chooses the spells. The discussion is whether, within the fiction, the player character or the patron character chooses the spells
 

The player chooses the spell, but I personally always spin it so that they ‘meet’ or otherwise have a close encounter of some sort (dream vision, constellations reforming above them for a period, face in the flames, whatever) with their patron and they ‘bequeath’ these spells in game to the character. Never felt the need to railroad (I know it’s a loaded term, not meaning anything pejorative by it) their choices. That said, if I as DM knew that the party would be headed into an adventure where a certain type of spell would be advantageous (eg Intellect Fortress if I know but they don’t yet that they’ll come across Mind Flayers etc), I can see the benefit of it, and potentially the player’s sense of “what? Why? Does this mean…oooh” that such a thing might provide.
 

That's not what this thread is about. The premise of the thread starts with the fact that mechanically, in the real world, the player chooses the spells. The discussion is whether, within the fiction, the player character or the patron character chooses the spells
Ah, my bad. Thanks for the clarification.

Along the theme of my initial response, it’s the player’s choice to determine what makes sense — and by that I mean the player creates the in-world story reason for what spell choice makes sense in the context of the campaign and in the context of the backstory relationship they’ve developed between their character and the patron. Could be the character making an ask of their patron, could be the patron imposing their whim, could be the patron understanding the character’s needs and providing a spell to meet those needs. It could be any of these at any given time when new spells are chosen. Spell choice can be (and I’d argue should be) as flexible as it needs to be to match the player’s warlock-patron evolving story.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
The character is the avatar through which the player engages with the game world. If the character is now eligible for a new spell and there is an eligible spell on their class spell list that they think their character would want, that’s squarely in the player’s purview. Otherwise, we tread into the territory of the DM telling the player “that’s not what you character would do.” Not typically a good place to go.
edit: I see you already were told this and corrected, sorry about that!
 

Lakesidefantasy

Adventurer
I'll build an example that might help get my point across, which I may not have explained sufficiently.

So imagine a character concept of an older "wizard" who is actually a scholar with not a whiff of magical talent, who "made a deal with the devil", gaining arcane power in the process. So tome fiend warlock.

The mechanical build is a blaster - EB+AB, fireball, that kind of stuff.

But here is where who chose the spell "in game" (the warlock or the patron) becomes important. If the scholar is the one choosing their spells and they are taking blasting spells, it shows that this is what the scholar wants - to have the power to blow stuff up (vs more finess/utility magic).

However, if the patron is the one who chose the spells, then perhaps the relationship between the scholar and their magical powers becomes fraught. The scholar is dismayed, even afraid, of their own powers. Perhaps the scholar wanted tongues and hypnotic patterns, but instead got fireball and summon shadowspawn.

I mean you could say that the patron and the scholar both want to blow stuff up, and in that case it doesn't matter who chose. But if the patron is the one making those choices, it opens up a different roleplaying direction.
I get it, and I've had a lot of fun playing a warlock. I don't even consider that particular warlock's spells to be spells. He casts everything through an arcane focus. When he lost that focus, I, as the Player, just stopped casting spells through that warlock until I got the focus back.

In contrast, if that character had been a wizard that lost his focus, I may have poked around the environment for spell components. Not that someone else, some other Player of a warlock, couldn't also do the same thing--that is poke around for spell components after losing their arcane focus. It was my decision, as the Player of that particular warlock.
 

guachi

Adventurer
How would you tell the difference?

I think it would come down entirely to how the PC roleplayed it. Personally, I'd get a kick out of a player of a warlock describing how all his spells are involuntary for the PC, even if the player actually picked them all.

I'll never play a warlock so I'd absolutely want to be a player in such a game where another player did this.
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
FWIW, might cause less confusion if you changed the title to:

Warlock Spell Selection: Does the PC or the patron choose their spells?​

Yes, I see that

BUT then people may think that this means that the GM makes the choice (since the Patron is an NPC) and that is really not what I am proposing either.
 

Yes, I see that

BUT then people may think that this means that the GM makes the choice (since the Patron is an NPC) and that is really not what I am proposing either.

Ah, I see what you are saying. I guess I'm coming from the perspective of being pretty hands off with Warlocks at my table. I don't think of the patron as an active NPC, really. At our table, the players get to tell the DM (within reason) what the relationship is between the patron and the warlock - which includes how the patron chooses to deliver spells, if that's a thing they want to explore.


How about something like:

Warlock Spell Selection: Does the PC or the player directed patron choose their spells?​

That might be a succinct way of letting people know what you are proposing (that is what you are proposing, right?) - plus it could be more attention grabbing, if not even controversial for some.

Anyway, not sure that is the right wording either - just a thought.
 

MarkB

Legend
For me, this is very much up to the individual player, and even for one player may vary from character to character. Heck, even for a single character it might change over the course of their career as their relationship with their patron develops and changes.
 



Davies

Legend

Warlock Spell Selection: Does the PC or the player directed patron choose their spells?​

That might be a succinct way of letting people know what you are proposing (that is what you are proposing, right?) - plus it could be more attention grabbing, if not even controversial for some.

Anyway, not sure that is the right wording either - just a thought.

"Assuming that both are player-controlled, does a warlock or their patron choose the character's spells?"
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Have the player make up the story of how and why the patron shared their power.

If you want an extra layer of cool, take a note from Colville's "Strongholds and Followers" and let the Warlock use his GPs to build a Warlock Fane and perhaps customize his spells into something unique and awesome.
 




Lakesidefantasy

Adventurer
Still up to the player, of course, the question as I see it though is, in the fiction does the patron choose.
Earlier there was some discussion about what to call this thread so as to avoid confusion as to what Ancalagon was truly asking of us. I thought Davies' statement was nice because it removed the Dungeon Master from the equation.
 

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