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    Default RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    PART 1: WARLOCK
    Written by Don Crowe

    AUTHOR’S NOTE
    In a nutshell, these texts are an effort on my part to “fix” classes. However, I want to do so much more than that. Through these articles, I hope that I can inspire some creativity in my readers, and perhaps help you develop some skill in design as well. I do not claim that my “fixes” are perfect. In fact, rather they are just my interpretation of how I envision these classes working. At the bottom of the article, you’ll find a summary of changes I have suggested, so that you may utilize my ideas if you like.

    Please note that I do not take credit for the creation of a class. Ultimately, what I am offering up is nothing more than a variant of sorts. I sincerely hope that you enjoy these articles as much as I do writing them.


    One of my favorite classes from the D&D supplements published is the warlock. The flavor of the class combined with a customizable nature is just something a mechanic-loving nut like me enjoys. That said I do find the execution of the warlock a bit troubling. More than a few folks online and around the local gaming table will attest to an uneven power curve (strong at low levels, weakens at higher levels) and a lack of true individual flavor. Many of the warlock’s functions can be performed or mimicked by other classes, even if those classes lack the endurance the warlock has.

    In my review of the class, I decided to plot out the purposes of the warlock class. Afterwards, I reviewed those purposes and tried to gauge how well that purpose was served by the class. I ended up listing four functions of the class…

    Blaster: With the ability to conjure up a stream of pure eldritch energy at will, the warlock is designed to simply beat opponents down with wave after wave of destructive force. The fact that a large part of warlock invocations alter the effect of his eldritch blast only adds to this purpose.
    Magic Item Manipulation: The warlock gains the rare ability to take 10 on Use Magic Device checks early on in its advancement. This sets the class up to utilize almost any magic item it comes across, even if alignment or race would dictate otherwise. In the mid-levels, a warlock gains the ability to create magical gear, assuming it has some item creation feats.
    Endurance: A warlock is a bit tougher than other arcane classes. With a d6 hit die, the ability to wear some armor, and damage reduction, it can handle bodily threats much more easily than wizard or sorcerer could. Incidentally, this was the only function of the class that I had no problems with.
    Unlimited Magic: A warlock can utilize its small collection of powers at any time, as many times as it feels is necessary.

    The warlock has a lot of functionality, since all of its powers are very customizable. However, it still lacks a purpose that either belongs to it alone or that it handles in a truly unique way. Luckily, warlock's have a wide variety of interesting invocations to work with, especially with the release of supplements, so that gives us something to look at and see if we can implement in our variant.

    After reviewing the class, I decided that I had no problems with the basic function of eldritch blast. While increasing the damage potential would help solidify its role as an effective blaster, experience has taught me that unlimited arcane force can give PCs and NPCs a bit too much damage to work with, even if its short-term effects are comparably small to what other’s could do. However, I was still disappointed in how few ways there were to increase a warlock’s damage potential without gaining levels or using rare items. Considering how much a warlock’s invocations are dependant on Charisma, I decided that allowing the Charisma modifier to be added to a warlock’s eldritch blast damage roll would be a perfect way to boost the damage without relying on lucky rolls or a few items. However, since unlimited ranged damage with several d6s and a modifier seems a bit powerful at low levels, I decided that this ability should be “unlocked” a bit later in the class’s advancement. Eventually, I decided that 10th level, the extra boost to damage would help keep the class’s main offensive power effective towards the mid and late game.

    One large critique of the warlock class is the small scope of powers they receive. In the course of twenty levels, a warlock barely masters twelve invocations (excluding eldritch blast). From a design standpoint, the decision to construct the class like seems to originate from a fear of what a PC or NPC might be able to accomplish with unlimited uses of the right invocations. Sadly this does not appear to be practical when compared to the expectations of what “daily encounters” should present. D&D is designed with the expectation of three to four encounters per day, assuming that the party is engaged with a challenge appropriate to their level. If a class (in PC hands) is only expecting three to four encounters per day, what difference does it make if a class feature can be used an unlimited times per day? Ergo, my first challenge was to find an alternative to the “unlimited use” rule, while still giving warlocks the tools they would need to be effective.

    After some playtesting, I was inspired by the “Spell-like Ability” feats from the Monster Manuals. These feats, useful to beings with many spell-like abilities, grant metamagic-like effects that can be applied three times per day. It occurred to me that since a warlock can reasonable expect around three good encounters per day (perhaps more, if the encounters are a bit weak), why not simply reduce the use of invocations down to three times per day as well? By doing this, I could give the warlock class more versatility by giving them more invocations known. After looking at my notes, I decided that gaining a new invocation every level worked perfectly with this system. In addition, I made the decision that a warlock could opt to learn the same invocation more than once, giving him three more uses of that invocation per day. This option would come in very handy for those warlocks who prefer to utilize a particular essence or shape invocation often. Afterwards, I delayed the point when a warlock could learn a new grade of invocation by one level, so that they did not accumulate too many higher level powers too quickly.

    With that completed, I turned my attention to the warlock art of manipulating magic items. I had no problems with the Deceive Item ability that warlocks receive. It was simple, elegant, and unique to only warlocks and artificers. Rather, I was disappointed in the Imbue Item class feature. True, it gives a warlock the potential to create virtually any item in the game, given enough time and the proper training. However, there are two flaws in its design. First, warlocks do not receive this ability till mid-levels. That is a very long time to wait and begin constructing magic items. The second and larger problem is that warlocks, if they ever want to use that class feature, need to start earning item creation feats as they level. Unless a warlock uses a late-game feat, this class feature is useless.

    I decided that the ability to create magic items alone was not a sufficiently powerful ability that it had to be earned late game. Granted, with the proper rolls a warlock can make any item in the game. However, they still have to make those rolls, which require dedicating a lot of skill points in Use Magic Device, and they still need the proper resources. After some thought, I decided that Imbue Item should be gained three levels earlier and should come coupled with an Item Creation feat. I considered giving the warlock another Item Creation feat at higher levels, but decided that one feat was plenty to begin setting up a workshop. If a warlock wanted to craft more than one type of magic item, he now had more opportunities to pick up the appropriate feat.

    With the changes I have made to the warlock class, I believe I have given them greater versatility without taking away from their ability to meaningfully contribute to combat and other encounters. Even more importantly, they now have a well-defined role in the creation and use of magical gear, and the means to utilize those talents. I will not claim that the class is perfect, but I am satisfied that it is now a class that can keep up with other base classes even in the late game.

    SUMMARY OF CHANGES
    Eldritch Blast: At 10th level, a warlock begins adding his Charisma modifier to damage rolls.
    Invocations: Invocations no longer have unlimited uses, but instead can only be used three times per day (with the exception of eldritch blast). However, a warlock now learns an invocation every level. In addition, a warlock can choose to learn a given invocation more than once, in order to gain three additional uses of it per day. The limits to what grade of invocations a warlock may learn are now at delayed to 7th (lesser), 12th (greater), and 17th (dark).
    Imbue Item: A warlock gains the Imbue Item ability at 9th level and an item creation feat of his choice. The warlock must still meet all prerequisites for the feat.

    Please feel free to leave commentary and opinions. I'd love to hear what you think.
    Last edited by Everyman; 2007-07-26 at 05:42 PM.
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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    Isn't it the ability to use all your invocations all the time, especially outside of combat, what made many players play a warlock in the first place?
    Taking this ability away from him and at the same time adding versatality, doesn't that just make him a wizard lite? I feel that this unlimited uses thing is an essential part of the warlock. Well, at least for some invocations, like spiderclimb, devil's eyes and so on.
    But that's just how I see it.
    Last edited by Flawless; 2007-07-26 at 08:58 PM.
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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    I'd strongly agree with Flawless. The only real appeal in playing a warlock is being able to play around with the non-combat invocations to get some really interesting combinations of strategy that other characters wouldn't be able to pull off. Limiting how often you can use invocations, spider climb being the one that immediately comes to mind, would ruin the class in my eyes.
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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    Really? Perhaps its just me, but most of the invocations seem to be combat oriented. Those invocations that aren't already last all day anyway, so I didn't think reducing the number of uses was that important.

    Perhaps its a matter of play style and what opportunites the DM introduces to the game...
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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    Another point is: you get 20*3, so 60 uses of your invocations at lvl 20. This is slightly less than a lvl 20 sorceror has spell slots. But a sorceror still has a lot more versitality AND flexibiltiy. Especially with meta-magic feats and a nice PrC. Armour, d6 hp and DR aren't enough to compensate the warlock for his weaker casting ability.
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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    But doesn't the spider climb invocation last 24 hours anyway?
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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarkahn View Post
    Really? Perhaps its just me, but most of the invocations seem to be combat oriented. Those invocations that aren't already last all day anyway, so I didn't think reducing the number of uses was that important.

    Perhaps its a matter of play style and what opportunites the DM introduces to the game...
    Well, if those invocations still last 24h, it's a bit different. I don't know right now, which invocations last that long, but with that in mind your trade-off might be worth it.
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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarkahn View Post
    Really? Perhaps its just me, but most of the invocations seem to be combat oriented.
    That's exactly the point. As a Warlock, you're free to use your magic for everything without worrying about spell slots. I've seen Warlocks that refuse to walk on the floor while inside. I've seen Warlocks that shatter doors instead of opening them. As soon as you give them per day abilities, you wreak havoc on the sense of style and fun that comes with playing a Warlock.

    Shifting to per-day abilities ruins the Warlock pretty much across the board in my book, from both sides of the screen.
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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarkahn View Post
    Really? Perhaps its just me, but most of the invocations seem to be combat oriented. Those invocations that aren't already last all day anyway, so I didn't think reducing the number of uses was that important.

    Perhaps its a matter of play style and what opportunites the DM introduces to the game...
    It's a psychological thing, but that doesn't make it any less real. The appeal of being a warlock is that you can do something magical all day long. In practice that's not very powerful, but it doesn't matter. Just the thought of, "I don't have to worry or conserve uses," is what makes people want to play warlocks.

    That's why they're one of the most popular classes from the Complete books.

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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    Rather than per-day you could go with per 5-rounds or some such. It keeps the durability, while placing a limiter on frequency. It is the same way many of the Binder's abilities work. I think that warlocks are sorely in need of an invocation overhaul. They need invocations that do something other people cannot or do things easier than other people.

    For example:
    A new blast essence could make an opponent who is hit by an eldritch blast face a trip attempt, with the warlock using its Charisma rather than its strength or dexterity. Paired with certain blast shapes this could be brutal on the battle field.

    Another example:
    Another new blast essence could substitute the damage type of the eldritch blast, but it then requires a full-round action to cast. This could help against creatures with energy vulnerability, but would be fairly situational.

    I completely agree with granting a new invocation at each level. I do not agree with increasing the level at which these are gained. By adding new invocations you can ensure no warlock has all the invocations. Another idea is to make invocations have prerequisites, similar to ToB maneuvers.

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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    Another idea is to make invocations have prerequisites, similar to ToB maneuvers.
    That's an interesting idea. What if you put a limit on the number of of continuously active invocations (like 5 or 6) usable at the same time and made invocations have to be refreshed between uses, like manuevers?

    As far as new invocations, I'd like to see an invocation that nullifies antimagic shell and null/wild magic effects or enviroments. then if a DM wanted to make a Warlock especially useful, introduce a lot of antimagic.

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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Tokiko Mima View Post
    That's an interesting idea. What if you put a limit on the number of of continuously active invocations (like 5 or 6) usable at the same time and made invocations have to be refreshed between uses, like manuevers?
    While refreshing them could be alright, I like the Tome of Magic approach more for magical types. That is mostly just personal preference though and I feel either works equally as well. I don't like the idea of a maximum number of continuously active invocations. It is more book-keeping and there aren't as many buffs/debuffs to begin with for warlocks.

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    Default Re: RESTRUCTURING WITH CLASS: Warlock

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarkahn View Post
    SUMMARY OF CHANGES
    Eldritch Blast: At 10th level, a warlock begins adding his Charisma modifier to damage rolls.
    This isn't really going to add much to the damage capacity, perhaps the equivalent of an extra die or two on the damage for a significant investment of resources. If you estimate that they do almost enough damage as is, this will work, but I'm pretty sure archer builds will still trump it for damage. I'm not going to work out all the math for it though. Their real problem is the inability to full attack, and perhaps a type of "flurry" of eldrich blasts, and treating them like ranged attacks rather than ranged touch attacks, and allowing iterative attacks from base attack based on that. In my opinion though, that's STILL too weak at high levels, and kind of strong when you first get iterative attacks. They at least need to be comparable to rogues in terms of damage capacity if you want to call them blaster types or even back up damage/round.
    Invocations: Invocations no longer have unlimited uses, but instead can only be used three times per day (with the exception of eldritch blast). However, a warlock now learns an invocation every level. In addition, a warlock can choose to learn a given invocation more than once, in order to gain three additional uses of it per day. The limits to what grade of invocations a warlock may learn are now at delayed to 7th (lesser), 12th (greater), and 17th (dark).
    This seems to be making them weaker. Delaying the levels they get better abilities over balances the fact that they get more of them, since limited actions are more... limiting than limited options, making them weaker even for one level can be significant. Limiting their uses/day, even to a number like three, is pretty weak as well. And if that applies to Eldrich blast essence/shaping invocations, wowie, what a nerf. Even if it doesn't, it's significant because you're taking away the only thing Warlocks do, and replacing it with something everyone else already does better. IF however, you were to come up with a longer list of invocations, with more unique abilities on it and more abilities mimicking better spells, the added versatility would be a significant boon. With the invocation list in the book it seems like you don't need many more than 12, because those are most of the good ones anyway.
    Imbue Item: A warlock gains the Imbue Item ability at 9th level and an item creation feat of his choice. The warlock must still meet all prerequisites for the feat.

    Please feel free to leave commentary and opinions. I'd love to hear what you think.
    This I'm entirely in accordance with, I've always thought Warlock would be neat as a sort of bolstering his role by providing item creation services for the party. Lowering the level he can start is definitely a good thing.

    The problem with invocations is that they don't raise as fast as spells do. First level invocations are like 1st-2nd level spells, and the warlock is awesome, and really fun and useful. The invocations you get at 6th are like 3rd level spells. At this point, the Warlock seems to be at the top of his game. Then you start getting powers at 11th level that are like 4th level spells... and not the really amazing 4th level spells... but the decent ones. Then when you've got the 16th level powers it's a joke. You're shooting good 4th/ decent 5th level spells when your buddy is impervious to harm and executing instant disabling combos against dragons within a round. Even bards probably laugh at the Warlock's raw capability for magic at 20. There need to be better Greater and Dark invocations to stay effective later if you ask me.

    When modifying a class that's viewed as underperforming, don't always give a positive with a negative, because I think in bolstering the warlock's versitility here, I think you've actually further nerfed it in more ways than you made it more dangerous. That's just me though, and I'm only really familiar with Warlocks in the levels 1-7 range, where they're still quite good.
    Last edited by Jerthanis; 2007-07-27 at 12:32 AM.
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