The warlock is a character class in Dungeons & Dragons. Warlocks possess innate dark magic acquired through pacts with powerful beings.

Abilities[edit | edit source]

Note: The exact abilities of character classes vary by rules edition.

Power source[edit | edit source]

The warlock draws on a pact made with a powerful extraplanar being—perhaps an archdevil, an elder evil, or some faerie lord—to unleash deadly magical attacks and terrible curses.

Each warlock's relationship with their patron is unique. Some pledge their eternal and unwavering devotion as a cleric or paladin to their deity; some see themselves as more of an apprentice to their dark master; others stumble into a pact with an enigmatic being by accident, and only barely comprehend that the nature of their new patron or the connection they now share.[1]

In some cases, a warlock did not voluntarily enter into a pact, but inherited the curse from an ancestor. Others did not choose to be a conduit for their otherworldly patron, but were chosen as their emissary.[2] Some warlocks communicate with their patron through their familiar; some by meetings with the being's minions, others only by reading omens in nature or interpreting prophetic visions or dreams.[1]

Unlike a cleric, who relies on his deity's favor to continue receiving his spells, a warlock does not require obedience to retain the gifts given them by their patron. Warlocks have been known to defect from their patron and turn the power taken from their dark lord against them.[2]

Eldritch blast[edit | edit source]

Most warlocks are known for an ability known as eldritch blast, a dangerous beam of crackling energy. It is one of the first abilities acquired by a warlock. Unlike a wizard's spells, which are typically limited in their daily use, a warlock's capacity to employ their eldritch blast is seemingly unlimited.[1]

Invocations[edit | edit source]

Warlocks master a unique form of dark magic known as invocations. These ancient and forgotten secrets change the warlock's being, empowering them with innate and superhuman abilities.

Eldritch invocations are as numerous and unique as the individual warlocks who use them. They include the ability to detect magic by sight and see through darkness, to compel a person with their voice alone or speak the language of wild animals, to read all writing even in ancient and forgotten languages, and to curse a creature by touch.[1]

Spells[edit | edit source]

A warlock who studies in arcane lore may learn arcane spells, although not to the same extent as the wizard who dedicates themself singly to that art.[1]

Other[edit | edit source]

A warlock may receive other rewards from their patron. They may possess a familiar, even an unusual creature such as an imp or pseudodragon. They may learn to conjure a weapon, or acquire a grimoire known as a Book of Shadows in which to hold their arcane lore. Such pact boons reflect the warlock's relationship with their patron.[1]

The warlock's studies of arcane lore may allow them to become talented at the use and creation of magic items. They may gain resilience to injury.[2]

Appearance and personality[edit | edit source]

Many warlocks are evil, and even those who are not are widely mistrusted and misunderstood. Evil warlocks in the service of archdevils and demon princes lead cults to worship those dark beings, who do not normally attract clerics as gods do.[2]

Still, even the most righteous of warlocks have an overwhelming desire for power, and warlocks are ardent seekers of forgotten knowledge. Some first sought out their pact as a shortcut to attaining forbidden knowledge, and may resent the fealty demanded by their patron.

A once-evil warlock turned to the side of good is fearless in the face of the evil they know all too well. Good or evil, a warlock is often chaotic in alignment, rejected by the society they abandoned in their search for forbidden lore.[2]

Cursed tieflings and ambitious humans are the most likely to become warlocks, as are half-orcs, often rejected in both human and orc society. Warlocks of other races are known, but rare.[2]

Warlocks typically wear light armor, such as leather, and do not train with martial weapons or shields as a fighter would, dedicating themselves instead to the study of lore and acquisition of wealth and power.

Notable warlocks[edit | edit source]

For a list of all warlocks, see.

Publication history[edit | edit source]

Earlier editions[edit | edit source]

Prior to the publication of D&D 3.5 sourcebook Complete Arcane in November 2004, "warlock" was commonly used as a synonym for wizard rather than representing a distinct character class.

"Warlock" was first used in this way in the Original D&D Men & Magic (1974), p.17, as a level title for an 8th-level magic-user. Specific NPCs referred to as a "warlock" include wizard/thief Saeryk the Warlock (Warlock of the Stonecrowns (1995)) and Polhemus the Warlock (College of Wizardry (1998))

The D&D 3.5 Monster Manual, p.127, described that githyanki wizards are called warlocks.

AD&D 2nd edition[edit | edit source]

The warlock as understood today first appeared as a wizard variant in the AD&D Player's Option: Spells & Magic (1996), p.83-85, intended for campaign settings where magic is dangerous and can only be attained by communing with evil extraplanar entities. They use a flexible spell points system, but casting spells risks furthering their pact with their patron, which eventually turns the warlock into a mindless slave.

D&D 3rd edition[edit | edit source]

The warlock as a standalone character class first appeared in the D&D 3.5 supplement Complete Arcane (2004).[2] This book was written by Richard Baker, who previously wrote Player's Option: Spells & Magic.

Warlocks in this edition possess numerous innate powers. This includes an at-will ray attack called eldritch blast, which can be used freely, unlike a wizard or sorcerer whose spells can be used only be used a limited number of times per day. They gain powers called invocations as they level up, as well as various defensive abilities, miscellaneous item-related abilities, and improvements to their eldritch blast. They do not gain spells.

They use the d6 hit dice, similar to the rogue and second-weakest in this edition after the sorcerer/wizard's d4. They have average base attack and good Will saves as a cleric, and light armor proficiency. Charisma powers their class abilities, most of which can be used an unlimited number of times per day, unlike most spellcasters in this edition.

D&D 4th edition[edit | edit source]

The warlock is one of eight character classes appearing in the Player's Handbook (4e) (2008), appearing on pages 129-142.. In this edition of the game, the warlock is an arcane striker, a role dedicated to dealing large amounts of damage to individual foes.

Warlocks are described as drawing their power from primordial beings and ancient lore, and tieflings are particularly drawn to the class. As presented in the Player's Handbook, the warlock chooses one of three pacts: Fey Pact, who draw their power from animist beings of the feywild; Infernal Pact, whose study lore crafted by devils who once opposed Asmodeus; and Star Pact, who draw maddening power from the Far Realm.

A warlock's powers are known as spells, and Charisma benefits their ability.

The warlock's inclusion as a core race is speculated to be influenced by the popularity of World of Warcraft, which included a warlock class.

D&D 5th edition[edit | edit source]

The warlock is one of twelve character classes appearing in the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014), and the only one which did not also appear in the third edition Player's Handbook.

Warlocks draw their power from a pact with an otherworldly patron, gaining unique abilities depending on patron. The Player's Handbook presents three possible patrons: an Archfey, a powerful faerie creature; the Fiend, an evil extraplanar being such as a demon lord or archdevil; or a Great Old One, a Far Realm creature or elder evil such as Cthulhu or Tharizdun. Xanathar's Guide to Everything (2017), p.54-57 also introduces the Celestial and the Hexblade, the latter being an entity from the Shadowfell.

Warlocks gain various cantrips, spells, and invocations. They may take eldritch blast as a cantrip which can be cast at will, but unlike in earlier editions this ability is optional. At third level they gain either a familiar, a special pact weapon, or a Book of Shadows which affords the warlock three extra cantrips to use at will.

Creative origins[edit | edit source]

The AD&D 2nd edition sourcebook Player's Option: Spells & Magic (1996), p.83-85 describes the warlock's inspiration in European folklore beliefs of witchcraft, in which women were accused of using magic and consorting with demons or making a pact with the Devil.

Renaissance-era belief in witchcraft was infleunced by Malleus Maleficarum (published 1487). It was believed that men could also become witches, although less commonly; the word warlock often referred to male witches. Accusations of witchcraft were often used by the nobility for political gain or to discredit powerful women.

The etymology of warlock is thought to derive from Old English wǣrloga, meaning truce-breaker or, ironically, pact-breaker. In Old Norse myth, breaking one's word is considered highly shameful and unmanly, suggesting that this name was highly insulting. There is some speculation that warlock derives from varðlokkur, Old Norse for spirit-caller, but this etymology is disputed.

Development[edit | edit source]

The Warlock's most radical mechanic is that 90% of his spell effects have no daily limit, a major departure from the traditional Vancian magic system. According to designer Rich Baker:[3]

"The warlock's biggest advantage is no real limit on the number of times per day he can use his powers. ... The thinking here is that in most D&D games, your characters are probably going to be in only 15 to 20 rounds of combat between rests and spell recoveries. So after your spellcaster has a total daily spell allocation of 20 spells or more (say, around 5th level), his real limit is the number of actions he gets per day -- the number of specific opportunities he has to cast a spell. So the warlock is still bound to the same ultimate limit that any moderate-level wizard deals with."

References[edit | edit source]

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