D&D (2024) Warlocks, Pact Magic, and a Proposal (now updated)

Edit: I've made a more detailed and interesting proposal later in the thread - short version: Recharge and even casting are subclass dependent and only kick in at level 3 at all.

If recent discussions of the Warlock have made one thing clear, it's that a lot of people have a lot of very different experiences of the warlock. And that is largely due to the fact that the Warlock's spellcasting is so incredibly dependent on short rests. Using the standard "spell point equivalence" below (suggested in the DMG and used in sorcerers converting metamagic to slots) we can see just how much warlock experience is going to vary by whether the warlock is getting zero, one, two, or even more short rests per day. With no short rests the Pact Magic is worth about as much as an Eldritch Knight's casting, with one it's equivalent to a ranger or paladin, and with two it's pretty close to a full caster (ignoring other class features)

I've been what is, in hindsight, lucky when I've been a player. Long exploration areas and adventuring days where a single short rest represents a lunch break; I'm used to a consistent one and occasional two which is I think the sweet spot. But it is ridiculous to design a class where depending on circumstance their spellcasting power varies between that of an Eldritch Knight and that of a Sorcerer or possibly even higher. I've excluded the level 6+ slots from the casters for multiple reasons including that classic warlocks get Mystic Arcana, which does not remotely provide the flexibility but does the power and aren't using Pact Magic for those slots.

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(The level 1 Paladin/Ranger Spellcasting is highlighted in red because this is the OneD&D value, not the classic value. In Classic 5e the Paladin gets no spell slots at first level, in One D&D they get as many as a first level wizard; I consider this an overcorrection but either 4 points or 0 is an appropriate value).

I believe that the intended power level of the warlock's casting is somewhere between that of a half caster and that of a full caster. I mean warlocks aren't exactly able to beat up paladins in melee and the ranger in my experience out-shoots the warlock when not casting thanks to things like fighting styles, feats, and magic weapons. But the warlock has a fair amount going on beyond straight spells so if they can outcast the primary casters that's going too far.

I'm therefore proposing a change. Instead of refilling their entire pact magic on a short rest an unlimited number of times per day a Warlock has a short ritual (somewhere between one minute and ten) that they can use to recharge a single pact magic slot a number of times per day equal to their proficiency modifier. (Use it twice to recharge both slots). This massively eases back the swinginess of the warlock, keeps them with only a single level of spell to worry about so they remain easier to use in play, and means that primary casters can out-burst them, while their total magic remains roughly half way between "half casters" and primary casters at all levels except 1, 2, and 17 - and at 1 and 2 the problem appears to be the primary casters not being strong enough (L1 they can't outcast a paladin).

The other changes the Warlock of course needs are overhauling the defensive invocations (Mage Armour at will is useless if you wear armour, False Life at will is great at low level but 5 temp hp are worth a lot less at level 10 than 2 so this ability needs a slight rewrite to scale), dumping all the "trap invocations" (turning them all into Mystic Arcana did that), Pact of the Blade (almost right in One D&D but still vulnerable to paladin dips), and a suggested list of "Warlock-friendly" spells from levels 1-3 that actually do scale decently with spell level to be printed in a sidebar in the PHB.
 
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Reef

Hero
Very thorough! I actually suggested something similar in another thread. Push back was due to it being 2-rest warlocks coming up short, and the issues with Prof bonus and multi-classing.

But speaking for myself, I'd be happy with something like this.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Why refill one slot prof times per day instead of all slots twice per day? The latter would stay closer to the Warlock’s power level under the “expected” two short rests per day. Plus the sidebar on the change to Channel makes it clear that they’re considering moving away from tying class features to prof bonus, since that’s abusable with multiclassing.
 
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Reef

Hero
Why refill one slot prof times per day instead of all slots twice per day? The latter would stay closer to the Warlock’s power level under the “expected” two short rests per day. Plus the sidebar on the change to Channel makes it clear that they’re considering moving away from tying class features to prof bonus, since that’s abusable with multiclassing.
I'm not the OP, but if I had to make a guess, it's because the Prof version smooths out the progression. With twice a day (equivalent to 2 rests), the Warlock is behind full casters in the mid-levels, and ahead of full casters at the end (if I'm reading the chart correctly).

But really, either way (Prof to slot/ or twice Short Rest equivalent) would be an improvement from my experiences, and I'd be fine if either make it.
 

Why refill one slot prof times per day instead of all slots twice per day? The latter would stay closer to the Warlock’s power level under the “expected” two short tests per day. Plus the sidebar on the change to Channel makes it clear that they’re considering moving away from tying class features to prof bonus, since that’s abusable with multiclassing.
All slots twice per day is, as illustrated, far too close to primary caster for my comfort and actively ahead from levels 1-5. I'm trying to get somewhere between the two and not have the "I have to dump this last slot" problem.

And on thinking about it the warlock starting level 1 with two spell slots but only getting to refil their slots at level 3 would both sort out the problems at levels 1-2 and mean that someone needed to dip three levels to get the prof times per long rest ability, which would make it much harder to abuse.

Edit @Reef and that was another part of it.
 

So, before I begin, let me state that I like Half-Caster Warlock with Mystic Arcana as invocations. I think it provides the sweet spot between half-caster and full-caster, but lets people who want more non-spell powers have things to do, making the Warlock the most customizable class of the 11 we've seen so far.

That being said, I think the proposed idea @Charlaquin has is a comparably elegant alternative. Basically, keeping pact magic slots, but letting there be a 1-minute ritual you do to regain your pact magic slots and having it doable twice per day. However, my issue with this is that I now have to keep up with another feature, so I have two resources gatekeeping my spells: my limited spell slots + the limit to how many times I can regain them. It isn't that much, but it is another decision point, and it isn't a decision point I find particularly valuable. Keep in mind I say this with Warlock being my absolutely favorite class from 2014 that I have played many, many, many times in many different games.

With the half-caster, you get less combat power but a decent amount of bonus utility from the Pact Boon Cantrips + the increased number of spell slots. You aren't casting fireball at 5th level (without an invocation), but you can cast a bunch of 1st and 2nd level spells a lot more.

The new model allows the warlock to achieve a broader range of character fantasies as well. Instead of having limited but potent magical powers, I have a range of weaker but more diverse powers that I can use to better fulfill my character's fantasy. You can then choose to have even more ever-usable magic tricks via invocations, or use Mystic Arcana to be capable of occasional hyper-potent effects, manifestations of your Patron's power, etc etc.

Keep in mind you can also fuel the warlock subclass capstone with your new spell slots. That's super naughty word rad. Being able to Hurl Through Hell more than once by spending a 4th level slot isn't really possible in the old model. The new model would allow for that, but small #'s of spell slots have a curious psychological effect on me, they are more precious, meaning spending them on non-spell things doesn't feel good.

TLDR; The half-caster model feels better to me, but Charlaquin's model is a decent compromise if one has to be made.
 

Reef

Hero
Funny, I was just about to post that the added decision point was actually a big plus for me. I like the active nature of it, versus the passiveness of a Rest. Choosing to regain the slots. The narrative just feels right for me.

"I'm a warlock. I wasn't born with the power. I didn't lock myself in a school for years begging for scraps. I went out and found it myself. And damned if I'm going to sit around and nap when I need more. I will focus, and once again, I will claim it!"

(Heh....Forgive me...an author I ain't...)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
That being said, I think the proposed idea @Charlaquin has is a comparably elegant alternative. Basically, keeping pact magic slots, but letting there be a 1-minute ritual you do to regain your pact magic slots and having it doable twice per day. However, my issue with this is that I now have to keep up with another feature, so I have two resources gatekeeping my spells: my limited spell slots + the limit to how many times I can regain them. It isn't that much, but it is another decision point, and it isn't a decision point I find particularly valuable. Keep in mind I say this with Warlock being my absolutely favorite class from 2014 that I have played many, many, many times in many different games.
It’s no different from Arcane Recovery really
 

Remathilis

Legend
It’s no different from Arcane Recovery really
I know it doesn't fix the high-level spell slot problem, but has anyone tried half-caster + arcane recovery?

A 7th level warlock knows 4 first level and 3 second (17 SP). plus 4 spell levels worth of recovery with AR (6-8 additional points, let's be conservative and say 6). 17+ 6 = 23, which points them far closer to PM+1rest. At 20th, they have 64 points + and additional 10 levels (best case 14) for 64 + 14 = 78 points (almost akin to PM+2).

I actually think giving warlocks Arcane Recovery 1/day on an SR would even out the gap a bit more. I can't verify until I run some numbers on it, but it interestingly makes the warlock run opposite (very wide bottom, but not as much on top).
 

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