Posted by : David Guyll March 05, 2014

Apparently people were disappointed with 5th Edition's first stab at the warlock...because it did not have stronger ties to previous incarnations?

3rd Edition's warlock "boasted" the whole rigid class features that you had to write down in whatever arbitrary order the designer decided upon method, allowing a measure of customization in the form of 12 magical abilities over the 20-level run. 4th Edition let you choose a pact, each with a unique benefit, as well as all of your spells (many of which received benefits if you had a certain pact).

5th Edition's original draft retained the pact, expanding its impact to not only include physical "signs" that could betray your allegiance, but also became more obvious over time. The magical abilities required you to spend boons, which you regained after each short rest, meaning that for a brief period of time 5th Edition had a spellcaster that sensibly had encounter-based resources. Really it sounds like it was pretty much caught in the middle of the past two editions, so what was it missing, exactly? Was whatever it was missing even the best thing for the class?

Of course we all know that what was "missing" was the utterly boring, uninspired, nonsense magic system that has plagued Dungeons & Dragons throughout the editions. Forget designing a magic system that actually conveys how the warlock gains and uses magic (and, for that matter, every other spellcasting class); just slap on 5th Edition's even more absurd spin on pseudo-Vancian magic, where you get some spells that are for some reason limited on a per-day basis, some that can be used whenever you want, and some that can be used whenever you want if you have enough time.

I am assuming that the type of pact—blade, chain, or tome—will basically amount to a restrictive sub-class, where you choose one early on to unnecessarily lock in five class features down the road, because it is not like class features could be divided into categories that characters could pick from as they level up, potentially choosing things in a different order. Granted I could be wrong, but this article is all tell and no show (so, nothing new), and it is not like we have seen much of anything from 5th Edition that fosters meaningful decision making or reflects on innovation.

Is there an actual reason that the warlock has less flexibility for any reason besides, "We had to find a way to make them different from the wizard and sorcerer, and writing rules to support the flavor is too hard"? These guys are granted magic from something powerful enough to even be able to dole it out (something that, say, epic wizards cannot even do); I would expect the warlock to be able to get in touch with her patron to call in a favor, or get a more useful spell (not that I would saddle a warlock with wizard-type spells in the first place: that is just lazy), especially if the warlock is doing something relevant to her patron's interests.

Like the sorcerer, the warlock's first draft had a lot more promise. The boons better reflected that the warlock had to communicate with something to regain her borrowed magic, and I would have loved to see it expanded on to allow the warlock to make sacrifices or attain certain goals to gain additional power (maybe even just for a short period of time). But, no, instead we get a class that is shoehorned into a mechanical niche, because throttling the spell list is way easier than designing interesting mechanics.

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