This is the first of several sample builds we are working on for Warlocks. Over time we hope to create sample builds for for all the major classes as well guides on how to use them. This build is an example of how to create a role play heavy warlock.
A quick note on these builds: These are not optimal builds. We are not trying to make the most powerful warlock. That being said, we would like to focus on flavor and theme when creating these builds. There are plenty of examples out there for the ‘strongest’ or ‘best’ builds. These are not that. They are aimed at giving you an example of one way you can create a warlock with a some depth and flavor. So without further ado…
Role Play Heavy Warlocks
This build is focused on role play heavy, combat light warlocks. The character described in this build, complete with backstory, is designed to talk, sneak, persuade, and support. While they can be a capable fighter, they are far better suited to research and mystery settings.
Our warlock in question, Orland Reganax, started his life as a researcher of magic. Often finding himself deep in books and lore about wizards of times passed, Orland was familiar with tales of dangerous magic. In his years of studying, he had taken a position at a prestigious library and worked with a close-knit group of archivists. These now are some of Orland’s fondest memories, though now distant and faded.
Tragedy struck the library one day when Orland stumbled upon one of his fellow librarians dead among the stacks, her face pale and twisted, as if she died seeing something of true abject horror. Orland knew this person quite well, though her name seemed to have been erased from his mind. What was it, and why couldn’t he remember? The library was closed for a time, but her death haunted Orland.
Later, once peace had returned to the library, he entered with questions. What was she doing there? Why couldn’t anyone remember her name? They all knew her so well, but details seemed just out of reach for them. Unlike the others, Orland felt this nagging feeling in the back of his mind and picked up her work where she had left off. Searching for a clue, he dug deeper into her work to try to uncover a scrap of truth.
He learned she had been working late to sort and archive a new set of tomes that had come in. They were written in an old dialect, and had scrawling in the margins in many languages. Orland began pulling the books. One at a time, he collected them into his study. What was he hoping to find? The books seemed to be ravings from a mad man, a nameless wizard who’d seen too much.
His notes didn’t make any sense, though Orland was not the first to try to decipher them. The writing in the margins soon proved to be exceptionally useful. The writings made reference to The Gate and The Eye. These came up in the margins time and time again and Orland felt he was closer to figuring out exactly what these books were hiding.
He began staying later and later into the night, spending more and more time in his office. Until one night he found something: a page that was dog-eared. This was it, the book that was with her when she died. He found it! Turning the pages quickly, he poured over the book and found what he was looking for: a single piece of knowledge that rang true to him with great clarity.
At the moment he discovered this, his minds eye turned inward and he saw It. The creature beyond the Black Gate. Its horrible Eye staring back at him across unfathomable amounts of space and time. Secrets of the universe began to pour into Orland’s mind and seemed to draw him ever closer to the beast beyond the Gate.
The name came back to him… Abigail. Her name was Abigail. And she had suffered the same fate Orland was about to. With the all the strength he had left, he turned himself away from the creature and awoke face down on his desk. His skin had grown paler and his eyes glinted with a knowledge no man should have.
Though he knew he had broken his gaze from the creature beyond the outer planes, he was certain it would never look away from him. The Pact was forged. Though unwittingly, Orland had traded far more for the secrets he gained than he ever knew he had possessed. Thankful to escape with his life, he gathered the books and set out to find away to free himself from this terrible burden of knowledge and shield himself from the watchful Eye of the horror beyond the Gate.
Traits and Basic Stats
Orland’s basic features and traits are as follows:
- Race: Human
- Background: Sage (Researcher)
- Skills: Arcana, History, Investigation, Nature
- Stat priority: Charisma > Intelligence > Constitution > Dexterity > Wisdom > Strength
- Equipment: A bottle of black ink, a quill, a small knife, Abigail’s notes, a set of common clothes, and a pouch containing 10 gp
- Goals and Ambitions: Uncover more about his Patron and find a way to break it’s gaze.
Orland’s patron is a Great Old One, a creature of unfathomable scale that peers into our reality from beyond the Black Gate. Orland must commune with this creature to learn more about it and grow his otherworldly powers, but at the same time is loath to do so. Each advancement carries with it a risk that he will loose himself in the horrific knowledge that comes from gazing into the beyond.
The patron’s theme is centered around sight, reality, and visualization. Because of this, Orland’s spell choices will follow suit and match this theme. Orland’s patron grants him the Awakened Mind feature at first level. Upon taking a pact, Orland will take Pact of the Tome.
The spells provided below outline a selection of spells that fit thematically with the patron and the role play heavy build. The spell choices are listed up until 6th level, which is as far as we will be taking any of these builds. After 6th level, your spell choices should be more heavily influenced by the story of your campaign.
- 1st Level
- Cantrips: Prestidigitation, Minor Illusion
- 1st: Illusory Script, Witch Bolt
- 2nd Level
- 1st: Comprehend Languages
- 3rd Level
- 2nd: Suggestion
- Pact Boon Spells (3 Cantrips):
- Spare the Dying
- 4th Level
- Cantrips: Mage Hand
- 2nd: Darkness
- 5th Level
- 3rd: Dispel Magic
- 6th Level
- 3rd: Magic Circle
These spells echo the patron theme that we discussed earlier. The spells related to vision are central to the character’s patron while still being useful for role play specific interactions.
The Eldritch Invocation options that you take as a warlock are crucial to developing both your character’s functionality and theme. Choosing invocations based solely on their power or their aesthetic can be problematic when trying to make a warlock that makes sense. Since we are going for a role play heavy build, we will be choosing thematic invocations that aid in role play scenarios. Again, we will only cover the first three invocations as the build stops at level 6.
At 2nd level we will pick the following two invocations:
- Eldritch Sight – This allows us to cast detect magic at will and works well with the visual motif we’ve established.
- Eyes of the Rune Keeper – This allows us to read all text, again fitting with the theme, but also allowing for strong role play potential fitting the sage background and our backstory.
At 5th level we will pick the following additional invocation:
- Devil’s Sight – This allows us to see in darkness, both magical and non-magical, at a range of 120 ft. This also pairs well with the Darkness spell we picked up on our 4th level.
These invocations are all flavorful. As the character grows in power he learns more about how reality is perceived. The character can constantly see magic, read all text, and see in the dark. From a role play perspective, the progression shows the character becoming more aware of his pact and all of these abilities are things that other players in the party can pick up on after awhile.
While the options picked lack any sort of offensive punch, they do offer utility. Depending on the campaign this character is in, the build could easily deviate and instead choose Gaze of Two Minds over Devil’s sight. This invocation still fits perfectly with the theme, but is much more situational when you don’t have Pact of the Chain for a familiar. The choice would essentially depend on what kind of sessions you run. Devil’s Sight works better in exploration settings while Gaze of Two Minds allows for more espionage and intrigue utility.
Playing This Build
How would Orland act? This is the critical question for this build. Orland is warlock who is seeking answers. Whatever group he aligns himself with likely is in a position to help him to this end. While I wouldn’t necessarily define Orland as selfish, based on his backstory he clearly is driven towards his own goals.
When in a party, Orland knows he’s not a fighter. His role is more suited for communications and research. This is a character who investigates everything. He’ll want to look at books, check histories, and hear news from people he interacts with.
Orland likely is also a lore collector. You’d expect him to be looking for references to his patron any chance he gets. A good DM would see this as an opportunity to tie a character’s backstory into some of the plot. Orland’s drive to find answers could work to drive the group in directions the DM wanted without much prodding or railroading.
Role Play and Acting
This character is well educated, intelligent, and inquisitive. He may be soft spoken and proper, but he is also direct and will talk to anyone he thinks he can learn something from. While he is fine with talking to people, he likely prefers the company of books to rowdy social gatherings.
His communications with others may make him seem genuinely likeable, because he really is interested in learning whatever he can from the people he talks to. His goals will drive him to ask more questions, perhaps even to a fault. There could be clues about his patron anywhere and he is good at looking for them in everyday things.
In addition to what we know about Orland’s social skills, we can also see that he would be more inclined to take risks for things he values. While he’s not taking the same kind of risks a fighter or barbarian would, he certainly is willing to put his life on the line for secret knowledge and hints about his patron.
Furthermore, as a flaw, Orland is not the kind of person who can let things go. Once a question is in his mind, he has to answer it. This may be a point of growth for the character. Either it pushes him forward and strengthens his resolve, or it erodes over time as he learns his overt persistence is what got him into the mess he’s in currently.
When combat situations look like they may arise, Orland always prefers stealth or diplomacy first. If combat does happen, Orland also is first to wave the white flag or extend an olive branch if he thinks it will turn out better. This is not to say that Orland is a coward; his resolve is strong. But when put in a situation where combat is unnecessary, he will never choose to fight first.
All this being said, Orland is also a capable fighter when he needs to be. Witch Bolt is a brutal spell and will suit him well in most combat situations. Often he would be angry that combat occurs at all and would put that anger into his fighting. After all, he did leave plenty of options for his opponent to do things the easy way.
A standard combat encounter for Orland will be concerned with two things: positioning and utility. At first level Witch Bolt is really his only damage option. As he progresses in level, Orland would use his spells to avoid or escape combat.
Getting to the point where he has Darkness can help his party flee or put the enemy in a very dangerous situation. He would position himself to aid the most powerful party members by default. Whether this is blocking escape routes, providing flanking, or cleaning up stragglers, Orland knows to rely on his team’s strengths just as he expects them to rely on his outside of combat.
Interpersonal Role Play
When it comes to his relationship with the group, Orland is not shy. He may not reveal his life story at the drop of a hat, but he would trust and work with the people around him. Coming from a place with a close knit community of friends and co-workers makes Orland a more social person than many expect. He values those who help him and understands the bond he shares with his companions.
The downfall to this is his ever present quest for answers. When pushed he may not prioritize his party over everything else, but he would actively avoid situations where he had to make those kinds of choices.
A Character Build Ready To Go
If you like this character and the build, feel free to play it in your next campaign. We want these quick builds to be accessible and easy for people to pick up. We’re designing these as resources for our community and hope that these, at the very least, give you ideas for your next game. As always, thank you for reading and Happy DMing!