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

Remathilis

Legend
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'm glad to see my analysis from the warlock poll confirmed. :)
 

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I've been thinking about this further and come up with a proposal (in addition to the observation that 2 first level spells at level 1 is too much for the half-casters and they should get only one).

Warlock recharge other than on a long rest should only kick in at third level and be a feature of the subclass. This also allows you to actually transform the warlock's magic and have them give up pact magic for more orthodox casting while keeping the character entirely coherent even if the class looks a little odd; the character never actually gives up anything. And as can be seen from the above this (other than the first level slot) keeps the warlock in the sweet spot.

Suggested styles:

"Default" one slot proficiency times per day on a minute long ritual - example: Fiend Patron. This is intended to be a "middle of the road" warlock who's sacrificed for power. The Infernal Warlock has a ritual that takes a minute, and takes having either had Dark One's Blessing trigger since the last time you did this, sacrificing a tiny animal, or sacrificing 1d6 hit points to recover a spell slot. (The cost is meant to be trivial but thematic).

No slot recharge, but extra invocation-style magic - example: Great Old One Patron. This is for the warlock that wants to go all in to the invocations. They do weird things - for example an At Will Arms of Hadar (that scales). Your patron allows you to channel a bit of the Far Realms, and it's only the really big bits that take slots.

1-2 Full Recharges - example: Celestial Patron. You need more meditation - for example five minutes for a full recharge and your recharge takes concentration (purposely to interfere with Hex). It's a contrast to the Fiend and gives you less granular casting, for the old school but may be unnecessary.

Additional partial casting - example: Genie patron. You're a magical cheat who gets by with your sugar daddy's help. You don't actually do the foundations but throw your credit card at problems so you've the big stuff but are shaky with the little stuff, and you don't get a recharge. You get your low level slots on the Arcane Trickster progression (which flows naturally when you hit level 3, moving from 2 first level to 2 second level and 2 first). This can get pretty close to the 3.5 Warlock where just about everything was invocations and Eldritch Blast.

Transformative Full Casting - example: Archfey patron. What you traded for was knowledge and a teacher. You could never have found a wizard in the mortal realm to teach you, but you were able to take a risk and decipher enough of a ritual to have one of the Archfey to teach you (probably with the help of your Pact Boon). Your pact magic and arcane casting get rolled into your new full caster progression, and your other abilities from your pact boons are notably weak because full casting plus Invocations and Eldritch Blast is a really effective combination.

Transformative Partial Casting - example: Hexblade. You didn't want to become a caster. You wanted to become a Gish. You wanted your body empowered and the sweet magic weapons or blasts. This again doesn't feel disjoint because at level 3 you move from 2 first level spells to 3 first level spells. It basically puts you somewhere near the current playtest warlock but you can then work in more buffs so it gets either to a ranger level baseline and/or the spikes it needs (I'd suggest starting with shields and two handed weapons). And possibly a minor tweak to Mystic Arcana.

So everyone gets something of everything. I'd be excited to play the Fiend and Great Old One in this model. I'm not sure both Genie and Archfey are needed; whether the thematic difference I'm creating here feels meaningful enough. It also feels as if the old Vestige warlock can return under this model.

Also re: Mystic Arcanum as an invocation I don't hate it if and only if the warlock gets four more high level invocations to compensate. As it stands this is a savage nerf to the high level warlock and spell-locked Mystic Arcana slots aren't a match for the flexibility of high level casting. (And I would be more than fine with the Archfey having to spend four invocations to unlock their 6th-9th slots).
 

Tessarael

Explorer
If I was redesigning the Vancian spellcasting system, I'd go with an either/or option for the DM:
  1. All spell casters get spell points, which refresh on a short rest or long rest. (Two short rests per long rest, ~6 encounters.)
    • Spell points for full casters follow that for Warlocks in A5E:
      • 2 at level 1 (1x 1st level spell), 4 at level 2 (2x 1st level spell), 6 at level 3 (2x 2nd level spell, or 3x 1st level spell), etc.
    • Half-casters get half the progression of a full caster, determined by level/2.
    • 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th level spell slots fresh only on a long rest. Spell points cannot be used to cast spells of this level.
  2. All spell casters get spell slots with the standard 5E D&D progression, including Warlock which gets full spellcasting progression, and spell slots refresh on a long rest as normal.
    • A variant Warlock or gish could have half spellcaster progression, but then they need martial capabilities to replace the spellcasting, not the crappy version proposed in One D&D.
For multi-classing, all spellcasting levels stack, half-casters get level/2, Arcane Trickster and Eldritch Knight get level/3, etc.

The key point is that Warlock works like other spellcasters. So multi-classing works properly. DM determines whether he wants the mechanic of spellcasting points/slots refreshing on a short/long rest.

Option 2 is simpler and best for players new to the game. Option 1 provides significantly more flexibility to spellcasters, at the cost of being resource-limited between short rests - for example, you've only got two spells that you can cast before a short rest until level 4, whereas standard spellcaster slots permit you to burn through all your spell slots at the cost of not refreshing until a long rest. In that sense, option 2 has the problem/benefit of allowing spellcasters to nova but then be out of spellcasting other than cantrips.

I'd also like to see at high levels the option of being able to cast 1st or later 2nd level spells without (easily) running out of spell slots. Spell points handles this nicely, spell slots does too in the sense that you could just cast them at higher level ... And you really shouldn't run out of spell slots at high levels anyway, but you can run out of spell points if you use them to cast say four 5th level spells - that may be a good thing, if you still want spell resources to matter late in the campaign, with short rest refresh such that it is not too painful.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I've been thinking about this further and come up with a proposal (in addition to the observation that 2 first level spells at level 1 is too much for the half-casters and they should get only one).

Warlock recharge other than on a long rest should only kick in at third level and be a feature of the subclass. This also allows you to actually transform the warlock's magic and have them give up pact magic for more orthodox casting while keeping the character entirely coherent even if the class looks a little odd; the character never actually gives up anything. And as can be seen from the above this (other than the first level slot) keeps the warlock in the sweet spot.

Suggested styles:

"Default" one slot proficiency times per day on a minute long ritual - example: Fiend Patron. This is intended to be a "middle of the road" warlock who's sacrificed for power. The Infernal Warlock has a ritual that takes a minute, and takes having either had Dark One's Blessing trigger since the last time you did this, sacrificing a tiny animal, or sacrificing 1d6 hit points to recover a spell slot. (The cost is meant to be trivial but thematic).

No slot recharge, but extra invocation-style magic - example: Great Old One Patron. This is for the warlock that wants to go all in to the invocations. They do weird things - for example an At Will Arms of Hadar (that scales). Your patron allows you to channel a bit of the Far Realms, and it's only the really big bits that take slots.

1-2 Full Recharges - example: Celestial Patron. You need more meditation - for example five minutes for a full recharge and your recharge takes concentration (purposely to interfere with Hex). It's a contrast to the Fiend and gives you less granular casting, for the old school but may be unnecessary.

Additional partial casting - example: Genie patron. You're a magical cheat who gets by with your sugar daddy's help. You don't actually do the foundations but throw your credit card at problems so you've the big stuff but are shaky with the little stuff, and you don't get a recharge. You get your low level slots on the Arcane Trickster progression (which flows naturally when you hit level 3, moving from 2 first level to 2 second level and 2 first). This can get pretty close to the 3.5 Warlock where just about everything was invocations and Eldritch Blast.

Transformative Full Casting - example: Archfey patron. What you traded for was knowledge and a teacher. You could never have found a wizard in the mortal realm to teach you, but you were able to take a risk and decipher enough of a ritual to have one of the Archfey to teach you (probably with the help of your Pact Boon). Your pact magic and arcane casting get rolled into your new full caster progression, and your other abilities from your pact boons are notably weak because full casting plus Invocations and Eldritch Blast is a really effective combination.

Transformative Partial Casting - example: Hexblade. You didn't want to become a caster. You wanted to become a Gish. You wanted your body empowered and the sweet magic weapons or blasts. This again doesn't feel disjoint because at level 3 you move from 2 first level spells to 3 first level spells. It basically puts you somewhere near the current playtest warlock but you can then work in more buffs so it gets either to a ranger level baseline and/or the spikes it needs (I'd suggest starting with shields and two handed weapons). And possibly a minor tweak to Mystic Arcana.

So everyone gets something of everything. I'd be excited to play the Fiend and Great Old One in this model. I'm not sure both Genie and Archfey are needed; whether the thematic difference I'm creating here feels meaningful enough. It also feels as if the old Vestige warlock can return under this model.

Also re: Mystic Arcanum as an invocation I don't hate it if and only if the warlock gets four more high level invocations to compensate. As it stands this is a savage nerf to the high level warlock and spell-locked Mystic Arcana slots aren't a match for the flexibility of high level casting. (And I would be more than fine with the Archfey having to spend four invocations to unlock their 6th-9th slots).
I’d accept the method of casting being based on subclass, but not if subclass is still based on patron. I should be able to play a Warlock with an Archfey patron without having to go full Vancian if I want to.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I've been thinking about this further and come up with a proposal (in addition to the observation that 2 first level spells at level 1 is too much for the half-casters and they should get only one).

Warlock recharge other than on a long rest should only kick in at third level and be a feature of the subclass. This also allows you to actually transform the warlock's magic and have them give up pact magic for more orthodox casting while keeping the character entirely coherent even if the class looks a little odd; the character never actually gives up anything. And as can be seen from the above this (other than the first level slot) keeps the warlock in the sweet spot.

Suggested styles:

"Default" one slot proficiency times per day on a minute long ritual - example: Fiend Patron. This is intended to be a "middle of the road" warlock who's sacrificed for power. The Infernal Warlock has a ritual that takes a minute, and takes having either had Dark One's Blessing trigger since the last time you did this, sacrificing a tiny animal, or sacrificing 1d6 hit points to recover a spell slot. (The cost is meant to be trivial but thematic).

No slot recharge, but extra invocation-style magic - example: Great Old One Patron. This is for the warlock that wants to go all in to the invocations. They do weird things - for example an At Will Arms of Hadar (that scales). Your patron allows you to channel a bit of the Far Realms, and it's only the really big bits that take slots.

1-2 Full Recharges - example: Celestial Patron. You need more meditation - for example five minutes for a full recharge and your recharge takes concentration (purposely to interfere with Hex). It's a contrast to the Fiend and gives you less granular casting, for the old school but may be unnecessary.

Additional partial casting - example: Genie patron. You're a magical cheat who gets by with your sugar daddy's help. You don't actually do the foundations but throw your credit card at problems so you've the big stuff but are shaky with the little stuff, and you don't get a recharge. You get your low level slots on the Arcane Trickster progression (which flows naturally when you hit level 3, moving from 2 first level to 2 second level and 2 first). This can get pretty close to the 3.5 Warlock where just about everything was invocations and Eldritch Blast.

Transformative Full Casting - example: Archfey patron. What you traded for was knowledge and a teacher. You could never have found a wizard in the mortal realm to teach you, but you were able to take a risk and decipher enough of a ritual to have one of the Archfey to teach you (probably with the help of your Pact Boon). Your pact magic and arcane casting get rolled into your new full caster progression, and your other abilities from your pact boons are notably weak because full casting plus Invocations and Eldritch Blast is a really effective combination.

Transformative Partial Casting - example: Hexblade. You didn't want to become a caster. You wanted to become a Gish. You wanted your body empowered and the sweet magic weapons or blasts. This again doesn't feel disjoint because at level 3 you move from 2 first level spells to 3 first level spells. It basically puts you somewhere near the current playtest warlock but you can then work in more buffs so it gets either to a ranger level baseline and/or the spikes it needs (I'd suggest starting with shields and two handed weapons). And possibly a minor tweak to Mystic Arcana.

So everyone gets something of everything. I'd be excited to play the Fiend and Great Old One in this model. I'm not sure both Genie and Archfey are needed; whether the thematic difference I'm creating here feels meaningful enough. It also feels as if the old Vestige warlock can return under this model.

Also re: Mystic Arcanum as an invocation I don't hate it if and only if the warlock gets four more high level invocations to compensate. As it stands this is a savage nerf to the high level warlock and spell-locked Mystic Arcana slots aren't a match for the flexibility of high level casting. (And I would be more than fine with the Archfey having to spend four invocations to unlock their 6th-9th slots).

Please do not tie this to subclass.

Mostly because I don't want to limit my patron choice to the recharge method I like or dislike. I may have a cool idea for a fiend patron warlock, but I want full casting rather than recharge, so I'm stuck choosing either a patron I don't want to a casting method I don't want. (Think of it like this: imagine if a fiend warlock could only choose a chain, fey only choose a sword, and GOO only choose a tome pact. Same idea.)
 

I’d accept the method of casting being based on subclass, but not if subclass is still based on patron. I should be able to play a Warlock with an Archfey patron without having to go full Vancian if I want to.
Please do not tie this to subclass.

Mostly because I don't want to limit my patron choice to the recharge method I like or dislike. I may have a cool idea for a fiend patron warlock, but I want full casting rather than recharge, so I'm stuck choosing either a patron I don't want to a casting method I don't want. (Think of it like this: imagine if a fiend warlock could only choose a chain, fey only choose a sword, and GOO only choose a tome pact. Same idea.)
Hmm... I don't think my idea is wrong - but I can see that it will be unpopular.

The only other place to fit in a division of spellcasting is at second level; at first you get (and need) the Pact Boon, and at third you get the actual subclass. And who your patron is is absolutely an important enough part of your character to be a subclass. So what we need to do is lean on the Invocations system hard.

The first thing to do if we're starting casting at second is start casting at second level. You get no spell slots at first level but instead get an Invocation. (Power level difference: It's near enough).

This of course enables us to have multiple tiers of casting that seem to be roughly equidistant in terms of spell points
  • Caster level zero: Now open. No pact magic, just Invocations and you can never gain a spell slot.
  • Caster level one: Non-recharge pact magic. Roughly equivalent to: Eldritch Knight, Arcane Trickster
  • Caster level two: Paladin/Ranger Casting. Or Playtest Warlock Casting. Or Single Refill Pact Magic
  • Caster level 2.5: Prof Slot Recharge. Note: Although I'm convinced this is technically the best solution for single recharge model it's clunky in the middle of this range.
  • Caster level 3: Full casting or two full recharges (probably bringing down the third slot to level 9
So how do we balance this? Simple. You gain or lose invocations. More accurately the Just Invocations option gives you some specific anti-magic bonus (I'm thinking Advantage on all saving throws and a reaction to hit any spellcaster that casts a spell in your range). You gain a free invocation if you choose no recharges. Your second recharge costs an invocation as do your third and fourth slots.

Going half-caster is cost-neutral (like single recharge) L 1-10. But you're two invocations ahead by level 20. So unlocking level 3 and 5 spells costs an invocation. It's worth noting that you don't have to spend these invocations before level 10. Or you might have gone Mystic Arcanum for a level 3 slot then trade it out for the unlock.

Going full caster costs you your second level invocation to unlock and again costs one invocation to unlock your third level slot and one for your fifth. And you need to spend the Invocation you get for Mystic Arcanum to unlock spells into each spell level 6+ (You can still use these slots for upcasting even without spending the Invocation).
 

Horwath

Legend
Or, keep them as half casters,

Add 1 eldritch invocation per warlock level, add Mystic arcanum invocations from 1st level. Make them give one spell of specific level and one spell slot of that level. Open spell slots can be used by all warlock spells known for that warlock and gives option of upcasting your spells if selected spell for Arcanum does not fit the situation.

I.E. 5th level warlock can take Arcanum of 3rd level, pick Fireball, but can use that 3rd level slot on any spells known, upcasted to 3rd level(if possible for upcast)

That way you can somewhat keep full caster progression at a cost, or leave casting at half casting level and spend invocations on something else.
 

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