So you want to play a Warlock

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So you want to play a Warlock

Postby Murdling » Tue Oct 01, 2013 4:52 pm

(Yes I got the itch to do this because of Bex, though I don't think I can quite churn out the length she has for it.)

I don't blame you; I love this class. It gets flak about things and frankly a lot of the criticism is genuinely true but that doesn't make it non-viable. It sits in a tier of effectiveness somewhere alongside Rogues, Rangers, and Barbarians in that it does the one thing it does pretty well but you aren't going to break reality with one.

So where do you start: You're either coming here for the class features or for the rp opportunities. Or both, it could be both, in fact I like it when it's both. I'll start with the rp part though because reasons.

As 'duh' a this may seem I tend to start at the beginning. The origin of the Warlock's power. Traditionally it's represented as some kind of power taking up a roost in the soul of the character and providing them a set of simple inexhaustible powers, and stems from power that is Evil and/or Chaotic in nature. This could be something your character entered into willingly, or was coerced into, or had forced upon them. The fact is though that it always comes from an outside trigger and I like to define what the trigger was. There's a few categories of creature from the first Monster Manual (and most have added members in other supplements) that make good candidates.

Eladrin: Chaotic Good outsiders that might sponser a similarly Chaotic Good Warlock. Perhaps they need to incite a champion of freedom into being and find a sympathetic soul to do so with.

Fey: Chaotic Neutral and very fond of meddling with people's lives for the hell of it. It's not even remotely out of consideration for them to go sparking off a fount of magic in someone either as a lark or purely by accident.

Slaad: Now this is almost assuredly going to be accidental or forced, and probably just accidental. Someone who was cured of a Slaad implantation or disease might develop chaos born powers though.

Devil: Lawful Evil's mainstay, and the most likely source for a deliberate infusion of power. Commonly in the form of a Faustian bargain for something from the character. Excellent opportunities to come up with what they paid for their power.

Yugoloth: The obscure and little seen Neutral Evil cousins of the other Fiends. They might offer power for any of the reasons their contemporaries do.

Demon: Chaos and Evil both at once. This could be an agreement from the Demon for power in exchange for a soul later, but the hitch here is the Demon could always decide to Welsh on the deal. Or demand more for it later.

Now those are the most common options, but anything that makes sense could be posited really. I like to pick fittingly themed Invocations for them and include subtle shifts in appearance based on a SPECIFIC monster from which ever of those categories I picked as the source. Also it's worth mentioning that your PC's alignment doesn't have to exactly match the source they used. While the class requirements of either Chaotic or Evil or both still apply you could probably shift yourself one or so degree off without too much difficulty. (A Chaotic Good pc who got their mojo from an encounter with the Fey for example.)

In-Depth RP Options

Consider your Patron: Is the source of your Warlock's power in their life still in any fashion? Maybe that Fey just refuses to stop dropping in to visit and trying to charm you to go out into mushroom circles for an evening or two. Or that Devil stops in every so often to check on their investment. Are they a powerful member of their race, or did you get your incredible reservoirs of magic from the meddling of a Quasit who threatens that if you don't protect him your power will vanish? The huge depth of options here is amazing, it's limited only by your PC and how their relationship with their patron goes. It's also totally valid that they just never see the other party again, if it's not your thing.

What does your Eldritch Blast look like?: This is a nice one. The artwork usually plays it up as a generic purple-ish energy blast but what reason is there to not get creative here? I've gone on record using hot pink for it myself. Why not? Make it a signature of yours, tweak it when you use Essences or Shapes or Rods.

What does your PC think of their own powers?: This ties in a lot to the origins question from earlier. Did they get them intentionally? If they did so, did they embrace it or do they regret the decision? If they were an unwilling recipient; same questions. They can go an unbelievable number of places and none of them are wrong. There's even a PrC for Warlocks who feel tainted and want to atone in C-Mage called Enlightened Soul.

That's all I have to say for that part so far. I don't want to go pigeonholing anyone's ideas you see, if you get a great thought I say explore it. The fluff is pretty good about supporting anything Chaotic and/or Evil here. So onto the mechanics.
Last edited by Murdling on Sat Oct 12, 2013 5:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: So you want to play a Warlock

Postby Murdling » Tue Oct 01, 2013 6:14 pm

Addendum to the last post: Here are some other possible species that might be responsible for a Warlock and could be fun to play with having your magic tied to;

Rakshasa (Lawful Evil)
Angels (Any Good - Obviously you'd want Chaotic here)

Mechanics now! Heh. Warlocks are a miasma of class features, really. Some of them are nifty as hell, some are not. Some are a great reason to dip 1-4 levels into the class, some require you to stick with it for 12 levels or more. I'll go over them in order you get them and cover the magnitude increases of each one. Invocations is a more in-depth discussion so I'll put it in last, or give it it's own dedicated post.

Hit points: You get a d6 here, not the best. Not the worst either but you aren't a lot ahead of it. It's a good idea to get at least 12 con to add to this, and a great idea to get 14 if you can afford it.

Armor / Weapon Proficiencies: Light Armor and Simple Weapons; not the best but you can stretch them further than you'd think. I highly recommend a chain shirt to start with for armor. You can make it mithril later, or do a mithril breastplate, and tack on a mithril buckler too. (Buckler you aren't proficient with but the non proficient penalty is meaningless on a buckler which has a 0 skill check adjustment.) All of these are relatively inexpensive. As far as weapons go: Spears if you do early melee. Longspear for reach with Hideous Blow might not actually be awful, though it'll be less accurate than just blasting.

Eldritch Blast: The backbone of your offense.. ostensibly. In reality the damage it does is pretty low. It'll start out okay with 1d6 mostly because of the fact that ranged touch attacks are extremely easy to hit with and at low levels accuracy is king. Everything dies in 2-3 hits but nobody can hit the broad side of a barn.. except you. It has a lot of options for expanding it's effectiveness, but not a ton for expanding it's raw damage, and there's a lot to be said about that point. Your base Eldritch Blast damage will tend to stay about on par with a Rogue's Sneak Attack, but it eventually lags one die behind, and the items to increase it are expensive to get even 1 or 2 more dice added to the total. To compare down the other route while primary casters tend to advance 1 die / 1 caster level yours is more like 1 die / 2 caster levels, and that Rogue can multiply his dice by hitting more than once in a round. You will have a considerably harder time doing so than the Rogue did. (Harder, not impossible. Chain can hit multiple targets but it cannot hit the same target more than once. More on melee options later.)

Shapes to apply to Eldritch Blast: It's worth it to get ahold of Eldritch Spear (for long range combat) and Eldritch Chain (the most sensible way to hit more than one target a round, but it quickly dwindles in dice per target - there are tricks to do with this I will cover in the PrCs and Builds section when I write it). You can acquire them either as an Invocation choice, or (my preference) as Rods of Eldritch Power for 4k and 16k gold respectively. Those allow 5/day use of the power without you spending one of your precious Invocation slots on them. The other Shapes are largely lackluster in that they allow for Reflex saves for half damage, which you don't do enough of anyway.

Essences to apply to Eldritch Blast: You can pretty much ignore anything in the Least and Lesser section here. Beshadowed Blast to inflict 1 round of Blindness might be okay for a while but 1 round just isn't enough to spend an Invocation on, or to spend 16k on for that matter. The Dark ones frankly aren't a lot better as by the time you get them (level 16) trying to give things negative levels is a fool's errand at best and stunning is also blocked by immunities a lot. No, Greater is where this shines. And boy howdy does it ever shine. Vitriolic Blast: Amazing, the best additional damage you'll get and it ignores Spell Resistance. The only one I can recommend with no caveats whatsoever as being worth spending an Invo slot on. Noxious Blast: Targets the Fort save, which sucks. However Nauseated for 1 minute means you just took that critter out of the fight, period. If you chain this and land even one or two per round you are holding your own. Repelling Blast: I mention this mostly for the hilarity you can induce with it by sending folks flying 1d6 squares backward if they fail a Reflex save. Hindering Blast: Slow is a decent status effect and this targets the much more vulnerable Will save. Could serve you well.

Detect Magic: Having this at-will is pretty damn nice. Now it's worth noting that if you haven't got ranks sunk into Spellcraft there's a limit to how much you can divine with it, but being able to spot a spell at all is worth-while. It's a great way to check for illusions or alarm spells for example.

Damage Reduction: Starts out at 1/cold iron and eventually gets to 5/cold iron in about four level intervals between increase. Can mean a lot at level 3 when you get it, whereas you probably forget you have it by level 19 when it maxes out. However if you stack other sources this might get more meaningful. The Fey Skin feat in C-Mage might be a good source, and certain Templates / PrCs might provide more too if it's your thing. Adamantine armor adds some flat DR/- as well.

Deceive Item: The last feature you might dip for. It gives you something you can't really get anywhere else, the capacity to take 10 on Use Magic Device checks any time you want. The most simplistic use for this is that a Warlock with say 7 ranks in the skill at 16 CHA could fire off wands with no roll in the middle of combat. Wands suck though, so perhaps it's more effective to consider it with Scrolls. (There's another trick I'm going to talk about later that involves this.)

Fiendish Resilience: This is a nifty idea, that you get about five or six levels later than you wanted it to make it truly useful. Initially it lets you heal 20 hp, 1 per round for 20 rounds, once per day. Whee. This upgrades to 40 hp at 13th level and 100 hp at 18th level. Meaning it is generally about as useful as a slow acting potion.

Energy Resistance: Not extremely awesome but there's never anything BAD about having energy resistance. You can pick any two of the five primary types to get Resist 5 to (I recommend Acid being one of them) and eventually you upgrade them to 10 each if you actually stick with Warlock all the way to 20.

Imbue Item: The single most crazy thing Warlocks get, if you stick with the class for an entire 12 levels and want to get into some serious shenanigans with crafting. I mentioned up by Deceive Item that I had a trick I was going to talk about; well here it is. Yes you can use this to make any item that requires an Arcane or Divine spell provided you make a UMD check for it (good reason to keep that skill maxed out kiddies).. and yes, it works with Scribe Scroll. You can either take a Feat for that, or just dip Wizard 1 for the thing.

Invocations: Now.. there's not a metric shit-ton of these like there are spells for Wizards / Sorcs and the like, but there are enough that going over them one at a time is something I will not do. I have the following things to say though. Never take one you won't use all the time; you only have 12 barring blowing feats on Additional Invocation and that is just not enough to squander them. Take ones you'll use all the time, even when not in combat if you can. If you can find an item that duplicates the effect of your Invocation (whether via Rod of Eldritch Might or just some other item that does the same kind of thing) get the item and trade the Invocation in on your next level up for something new. You only get 12 powers, you have to stretch them. A lot.
Last edited by Murdling on Thu Apr 17, 2014 9:31 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: So you want to play a Warlock

Postby Murdling » Tue Oct 01, 2013 6:44 pm

Advanced Build Tactics

1: The Armored Warlock - You can already wear Light Armor, but let's say you want more. The simplest way to do this is get Mithril made Medium Armor (which counts as light) but you can go further. If you for instance get yourself Medium Armor Proficiency and then take the Battle Caster feat you can troll around in Medium Armor with no penalties, and that includes Mithril Full Plate kiddies.

2: The Hybrid PrCs - There's two of these worth mentioning: Eldritch Disciple and Eldritch Theurge.

Disciple is basically Cleric/Warlock and notable in that while it takes 3 levels of Cleric to get in it only takes 1 of Warlock, and it advances 9/10 in Cleric and 10/10 in Warlock powers, while giving you some unique uses of your Turn Undead charges.

Theurge is Warlock/Arcanist and needs Warlock 3 and Wizard 3 / Sorcerer 4 or, if you feel saucy, Bard 4 to get off the ground. It advances 10/10 of both classes and gives you some capacity to attach spells to Eldritch Blasts and to attach Essences to spells. It's good, but oddly enough I like the Bard version most because it means you get both Invocations AND a unique spell list, as well as keeping it all Charisma focused.

Advanced Advanced Addendum 1: There's some support to the idea that if you're an Ur-Priest who serves an Arch-Fiend (via the Feats for it in, I believe, Champions of Ruin) you can get into Disciple with that and get Ur-Priest spell list progression out of it, which is insanely powerful and also about as evil as evil gets.

Advanced Advanced Addendum 2: You could theoretically use Practiced Spellcaster to meet the requirements of 2d6 Eldritch Blast for Theurge with Warlock 1, but this is pretty cheesed if you're doing it with Wiz/Sorc and the only class it's even tentatively approved for doing that alongside is Bard.

3: Some melee Hints and Tricks - Hideous Blow sucks a lot due to being limited to one attack per round, but you can mix it with a lot of alternate attack modes that also take one standard action (or more). Examples: You can attach it to a Sunder, Charge, possibly Trip or Disarm.

Advanced Advanced Addendum 3: If you really want melee Eldritch Blast damage and aren't satisfied with one attack per go (and who would be) you'll want to look into one of these tricks. Researching Eldritch Glaive (costs gold but it's a very solid attack basis doing EB damage as melee touch attacks), researching Eldritch Claws (acts like two Natural Attacks doing EB damage, you are gonna have to do some reading on how Natural Attacks work to make this effective but it can be done and there are guides on how to do a Claw Lock specifically on the internet.), or finally researching Eldritch Grapple (this one just does the damage in a grapple action, which is.. it could be okay, I guess, I have looked into this the least out of the options).

Last Note on Melee Locks: You may be able to get a weapon that functions akin to Rod of Eldritch Might for the Hideous Blow Invocation that functions as a bludgeoning instrument as well. You'd have to either pay out the ass (if you're even allowed to) or pursue both Craft Rod and Craft Magic Arms & Armor to make this happen though, and it would still probably be at most a heavy mace (and probably a light mace really).

4: Familiars: Warlocks do not get one to begin with, but they qualify easily to take the Obtain Familiar feat, and subsequently Improved Familiar. The reason this is noteworthy is that a Familiar gets all of it's master's skill access and Warlock levels of social skills and UMD can be powerful things to have on a second set of actions for you. There are a LOT of Improved Familiar lists out there, and I mean a whole freaking lot. Even Complete Warrior has a list of some. Hit up the internet for deeper info on which ones make good choices and why.

5: Eldritch Chain Tricks: Eldritch Chain has the distinction of being one of the few easy ways to do ranged sneak attack damage multiple times in one round. As long as all the targets are sneak-able and within 30 of you or 30 of each-other (we could maybe use clarification on that) they ARE valid targets for it because each chaining attack requires a new attack roll (but loses none of it's accuracy). This also works with Sudden Strike and Skirmish.
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Re: So you want to play a Warlock

Postby Ian » Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:31 pm

Regarding familiars, this thread will pretty much tell you all you need to know about them. Improved Familiars are super-handy; I'm not positive they're two-feats handy except in some very specific cases, but that's for y'all to decide for yourselves.

On Eldritch Chain + Sneak Attack, all chained targets must be within 30 feet of you (not just within 30 feet of the previous link in the chain) for you to get Sneak damage against them. The point of origin of the attack is the next person in the chain, but you're still the one directing the beam, which means you specifically need to be in range to pick out the target.
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