The Ultimate D&D Warlock 5e Guide: How to Play a Warlock

Sworn to an ancient and powerful force, the Warlock draws their power from a strange master or mistress. Driven by a thirst for knowledge and power, Warlocks are a truly unique spellcasting class in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. If you’re intrigued by the Warlock’s mystical force, eldritch connections, and eerie charisma, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about playing Warlocks in D&D 5e. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What are Warlocks in 5e?
  • How to create a Warlock
  • What is the Warlock’s Otherworldly Patron?
  • What are the Warlock Pacts?
  • What are the Warlock’s Eldritch Invocations?
  • What are the Warlock spells in 5e?
  • Frequently Asked Questions

What are Warlocks in 5e?

Warlock

Described in the Player’s Handbook as “seekers of the knowledge that lies hidden in the fabric of the multiverse”, Warlocks are a spellcasting class in D&D 5e that draw their power from ancient knowledge, arcane secrets, and a relationship with otherworldly entities.

All Warlocks have a pact with an otherworldly entity, described as the Warlock’s patron. This could be a deity, similar to the relationship a Cleric has with their deity, but Warlocks do not gods. Warlocks might be dedicated to beings not typically associated with Clerics, such as a demon, devil, or fey being. The relationship between the Warlock and their patron is like that between a master and apprentice. The Warlock learns from their patron, draws power from them, but occasionally has to perform tasks for them too.

Warlocks first appeared in the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons, since then they have been a popular class for D&D players who want to play a powerful spellcaster with an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

How to create a Warlock

Warlock level 1

When creating a Warlock character for D&D 5e, you will need to think carefully about your patron and the pact you will make with them. I’ll dive into Warlock pacts and patrons below, but for now, here are the basics of creating a Warlock.

Warlock statistics

The Warlock’s primary statistic in D&D 5e is Charisma. If you want to play a Warlock, Charisma should be your highest stat. It also helps if Constitution is your second-highest stat.

Warlock characteristics

  • How many hit points do Warlocks get?
    At 1st level, Warlocks get 8 hit points plus their Constitution modifier. After 1st level, Warlocks get an additional 1d8 hit points.
  • What armor can Warlocks wear?
    Warlocks can wear any armor but they have proficiency in light armor.
  • What weapons can Warlocks use?
    Warlocks can use any weapons but they have proficiency in simple weapons.
  • What saving throws are Warlocks proficient in?
    Wisdom and Charisma. This means that if your DM asks you to make a saving throw, you add your Wisdom or Charisma modifier to the result.
  • What skills do Warlocks have?
    When you create a Warlock, you can choose two skills from the following: Arcana, Deception, History, Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, and Religion.
  • What equipment do Warlocks start with?
    All characters in D&D 5e have starting equipment. Warlocks start with a light crossbow and 20 bolts OR any simple weapon; a component pouch OR an arcane focus; a scholar’s pack OR a dungeoneer’s pack; and Leather armour, any simple weapon, and two daggers.

What is the Warlock’s Otherworldly Patron?

At 1st level, Warlocks choose an Otherworldly Patron to strike a bargain with. This gives them special abilities at the 1st, 6th, 10th, and 14th levels. The Otherworldly Patrons and the features they grant are listed below.

The Archfey

The Archfey

Warlocks who choose the Archfey as their Otherworldly Patron are sworn to a lord or lady of the fey. Fey beings often have inscrutable or whimsical motives and hold long-forgotten secrets of ancient ages. Typical Archfey patrons are the Prince of Frost; the Queen of Air and Darkness, ruler of the Gloaming Court; Titania of the Summer Court; her consort Oberon, the Green Lord; Hyrsam, the Prince of Fools; and ancient hags.

Archfey Spells

If your Warlock makes a pact with an Archfey, they gain access to the following additional spells:

  • 1st level: faerie fire, sleep
  • 2nd level: calm emotions, phantasmal force
  • 3rd level: blink, plant growth
  • 4th level: dominate beast, greater invisibility
  • 5th level: dominant person, seeming

Archfey Features

Warlocks who choose an Archfey as their Otherwordly Patron gain the following special abilities:

  • 1st level: Fey Presence – You have the ability to project the beguiling or fearsome presence of the fey. Using this, you can force creatures with 10ft of you to make a Wisdom saving throw against your spell save DC (difficulty class). Creatures who fail are either charmed or frightened until the end of your next turn. This feature can be used once in between short or long rests.
  • 6th level: Misty Escape – Once in between short or long rests, when you take damage you can use your reaction to turn invisible and teleport up to 60ft. You remain invisible until you attack, cast a spell, or until the start of your next turn.
  • 10th level: Beguiling Defenses – You are immune to being charmed and if a creature attempts to charm you, you can use your reaction to turn the charm against the creature instead. The creature must pass a Wisdom saving throw against your spell save DC, otherwise, they will be charmed for 1 minute or until they take damage.
  • 14th level: Dark Delirium – Once in between short or long rests, you can choose a creature with 60ft of you to make a Wisdom saving throw against your spell save DC. If they fail, they are charmed or frightened by you for 1 minute or until your concentration breaks. Whilst affected, the creature can only see a misty realm, itself, and you.

The Fiend

The Fiend

The Fiend is an evil devil from the lower planes of existence whose aims are evil – even if yours are not. These patrons desire destruction and corruption of all things – including you. Typical Fiends that you might make a pact with are: demon lords such as Demogorgon, Orcus, Fraz’Urb-luu, and Baphomet; archdevils such as Asmodeus, Dispater, Mephistopheles, and Belial; pit fiends and balors that are especially mighty; and ultroloths and other lords of the yugoloths.

Fiend Spells

If your Warlock makes a pact with a Fiend, they gain access to the following additional spells:

  • 1st level: burning hands, command
  • 2nd level: blindness/deafness, scorching ray
  • 3rd level: fireball, stinking cloud
  • 4th level: fire shield, wall of fire
  • 5th level: flame strike, hallow

Fiend Features

Warlocks who choose the Fiend as their Otherwordly Patron gain the following special abilities:

  • 1st level: Dark One’s Blessing – Whenever you reduce a hostile creature to 0 hit points, you gain temporary hit points equal to your Charisma modifier plus your level.
  • 6th level: Dark One’s Own Luck – Once in between short and long rests, you can use this feature to add a d10 to an ability check or saving throw. This can be done after seeing the result of the initial roll.
  • 10th level: Fiendish Resilience – Whenever you finish a short or long rest, you can choose a damage type and gain resistance to that damage. Magical and silver weapons, however, ignore this resistance.
  • 14th level: Hurl Through Hell – Once in between short or long rests, if you hit a creature with an attack you can transport them through the lower planes. The target reappears from the lower planes at the end of your next turn and, if it is not a fiend, takes 10d10 psychic damage.

The Great Old One

The Great Old One

The Great Old One is an ancient power that is distant from reality, often a being from the Far Realm or one of the elder gods of legend. This being has immense knowledge and incomprehensible motives. Typical patrons for Warlocks who choose the Great Old One are: Ghaunadar, called That Which Lurks; Tharizdun, the Chained God; Dendar, the Night Serpent; Zargon, the Returner; Great Cthulhu; and other unfathomable beings.

Great Old One Spells

If your Warlock makes a pact with a Great Old One, they gain access to the following additional spells:

  • 1st level: dissonant whispers, Tasha’s hideous laughter
  • 2nd level: detect thoughts, phantasmal force
  • 3rd level: clairvoyance, sending
  • 4th level: dominate beast, Evard’s black tentacles
  • 5th level: dominate person, telekinesis

Great Old One Features

Warlocks who choose a Great Old One as their Otherwordly Patron gain the following special abilities:

  • 1st level: Awakened Mind – You can communicate telepathically with any creature that you can see within 30ft of you. The creature does not need to share a language with you, but it must be able to understand at least one language.
  • 6th level: Entropic Ward – Once in between short and long rests, when a creature makes an attack roll against you you can use your reaction to give that creature disadvantage on their roll. If the attack misses, you can make an attack roll with advantage against it so long as it is made before the end of your next turn.
  • 10th level: Thought Shield – Your thoughts cannot be read and you have resistance to pyschic damage. If a creature attacks you with psychic damage, that creature takes the same amount of psychic damage as you do.
  • 14th level: Create Thrall – You can touch an incapacitated humanoid and charm them and communicate telepathically with them. This charm can only be removed with a remove curse spell, when you remove the charm condition, or if you use the feature again on someone else.

What are the Warlock Pacts?

At the 3rd level, the Warlock’s Otherworldly Patron bestows a gift on them. Warlocks can choose one of the following Pact magic features.

Pact of the Chain

You learn the find a familiar spells and can cast it as a ritual. This spell doesn’t count against the number of
spells you know. When you cast the spell, you can choose one of the normal forms for your familiar, often a bat, cat, frog (toad), spider, or owl, or one of the following special forms: imp, pseudodragon, quasit, or sprite. When you take the Attack action, you can forgo one of your own attacks to allow your familiar to make one attack of its own.

Pact of the Blade

You can use an action to create a Pact weapon in your empty hand. This is a melee weapon of your choice and you are automatically proficient in it. The Pact weapon counts as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage. The Pact weapon disappears if it is more than 5ft away from you for 1 minute or more.

Pact of the Tome

Your patron gives you a tome called a Book of Shadows. You can choose three cantrips from any class’s spell list. While the book is on your person, you can cast those cantrips at will. They don’t count against your number of cantrips known.

What are the Warlock’s Eldritch Invocations?

Warlock in 5e

Eldritch invocations are pieces of forbidden knowledge that Warlocks can use to gain magical abilities and strengthen their spells. At 2nd level, Warlocks can choose two eldritch invocations and gain more as they level up. Some eldritch invocations have prerequisites such as a certain level or Pact choice. The eldritch invocations listed in the Player’s Handbook are:

  • Agonizing Blast – Your Charisma modifier is added to the damage from the eldritch blast spell. Prerequisite: eldritch blast cantrip.
  • Armor of Shadows – You can cast mage armor on yourself at will.
  • Ascendant Step – You can cast levitate on yourself at will. Prerequisite: 9th level.
  • Beast Speech – You can cast speak with animals at will.
  • Beguiling Influence – You gain proficiency in Deception and Persuasion.
  • Bewitching Whispers – You can cast compulsion once in between long rests using a spell slot. Prerequisite: 7th level.
  • Book of Ancient Secrets – You can inscribe ritual spells into your Book of Shadows that do not count against your known spells. Prerequisite: Pact of the Tome feature. 
  • Chains of Caracei – You can cast hold monster at will, but only once on any given type of creature in between long rests. Prerequisite: 15th level, Pact of the Chain feature.
  • Devil’s Sight – You can see normally in both magical and non-magical darkness up to 120ft.
  • Dreadful Word – Once in between long rests, you can cast confusion using a spell slot. Prerequisite: 7th level.
  • Eldritch Sight – You can cast detect magic at will.
  • Eldritch Spear – When you cast eldritch blast, its range is 300ft. Prerequisite: eldritch blast cantrip.
  • Eyes of the Rune Keeper – You can read all writing.
  • Fiendish Vigor – You can cast false life as a 1st-level spell on yourself at will.
  • The Gaze of Two Minds – You can use your action to touch a willing humanoid and perceive through its senses until the end of your next turn.
  • Lifedrinker – When you hit a creature with your Pact weapon, the creature takes additional necrotic damage equal to your Charisma modifier. Prerequisite: 12th level, Pact of the Blade feature.
  • Mask of Many Faces – You can cast disguise yourself at will.
  • Master of Myriad Forms – You can cast alter self at will. Prerequisite: 15th level.
  • Minions of Chaos – Once in between long rests, you can cast conjure elemental using a spell slot. Prerequisite: 9th level.
  • Mire the Mind – Once in between long rests, you can cast slow using a spell slot. Prerequisite: 5th level.
  • Misty Visions – You can cast a silent image at will.
  • One with Shadows – If you’re in an area of dim light or darkness, you can use your action to become invisible until you move or take an action. Prerequisite: 5th level.
  • Otherworldly Leap – You can cast jump on yourself at will. Prerequisite: 9th level.
  • Repelling Blast – If you hit a creature with an eldritch blast, you can choose to push them 10ft away from you. Prerequisite: eldritch blast cantrip.
  • Sculptor of Flesh – Once in between long rests, you can cast polymorph using a spell slot. Prerequisite: 7th level.
  • Sign of Ill Omen – Once in between long rests, you can cast bestow curse using a spell slot. Prerequisite: 5th level.
  • Thief of Five Fates – Once in between long rests, you can cast bane using a spell slot.
  • Thirsting Blade – Whenever you take an attack action using your Pact weapon, you can attack twice rather than once. Prerequisite: 5th level, Pact of the Blade. 
  • Visions of Distant Realms – You can cast an arcane eye at will. Prerequisite: 15th level.
  • Voice of the Chain Master – You can communicate telepathically with your familiar, perceive through their senses, and speak through them in your own voice. Prerequisite: Pact of the Chain. 
  • Whispers of the Grave – You can cast speak with the dead at will. Prerequisite: 9th level.
  • Witch Sight – You can see the true form of a shapechanger or any creature concealed with an illusion or transmutation that you can see within 30ft. Prerequisite: 15th level.

What are the Warlock spells in 5e?

In addition to the spells that Warlocks gain through their patrons and eldritch invocations, there are some base spells and cantrips that Warlocks can learn as they level up. The full list of Warlock spells and cantrips can be found in the Player’s Handbook, but here is a list of the best Warlock spells in 5e:

  • Eldritch blast (cantrip) – Make a ranged spell attack against the target with 120ft. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 force damage.
  • Hex (1st level) – You place a curse on a creature that you can see within range. Until the spell ends, you deal an additional 1d6 necrotic damage to the target whenever you hit it with an attack. Additionally, choose one ability when you cast the spell. The target has a disadvantage on ability checks made with the chosen ability.
  • Invisibility (2nd level) – You or a creature you touch becomes invisible until the spell ends (1 hour or when you or the creature attacks or casts a spell). Anything the target is wearing or carrying is invisible as long as it is on the target’s person.
  • Counterspell (3rd level reaction) – You attempt to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell. If the creature is casting a spell of 3rd level or lower, its spell fails and has no effect. If it is casting a spell of 4th level or higher, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a success, the creature’s spell fails and has no effect.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What race should I choose for a Warlock?

Answer: Any race that gets a Charisma bonus makes a great Warlock. These include half-elves, tieflings, and aasimar. Humans also make good Warlocks.

Question: What background should I choose for a Warlock?

Answer: Suitable backgrounds for Warlocks include: Charlatan, Hermit, Noble, and Sage.

Question: Are Warlocks good at in 5e?

Answer: Many D&D players claim that Warlocks are underpowered compared to Wizards and Sorcerers. This is partly because they have far fewer spell slots – just one at 1st level. Unlike Wizards and Sorcerers, however, Warlocks gain their spell slots back after a short or long rest, rather than just a long rest. Warlocks are also more powerful in combat than Sorcerers and Wizards, especially if you build them around their eldritch blast cantrip, hex spell, and Agonizing Blast invocation.

Final Thoughts on Warlocks in 5e

Warlocks are one of the best classes for roleplaying in D&D 5e, as their otherworldly pact gives them an automatically interesting backstory and leaves lots of potential for future events. That said, they aren’t as interested in combat, despite being relatively powerful, compared to other spellcasters as their spells are limited. If you’re committed to playing a Warlock in 5e, be sure to pick up the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook for a full breakdown of their spells, Pacts, and patrons.

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