Art From the New Player’s Handbook and a Peek at the Warlock Class

So, I saw this yesterday.

I think the art looks good but – and maybe I’m biased or blinded by nostalgia – I just don’t think it’s great. Alright, the dragon one is pretty boss, but I’m not really wowed by the other samples. For now I will say that the artwork looks “decent,” and I’ll reserve final judgement until I get to actually flip through the players handbook. I don’t know how much artwork factors into someone’s decision to purchase this sort of thing, but it’s extremely doubtful that what I’ve seen thus far would put anyone off when it comes to buying the new books.

More interesting than the sample artwork, however, is the teaser page for the Warlock class. I think everyone knew that this class was going to make the jump from being an optional class to being a core class in this edition. Of course, you can argue – and Wizards of the Coast has said – that the “core” classes are those presented in the Basic PDF and that other classes presented in the Player’s Handbook are “optional.”  Personally, and I don’t think I’m alone here, I feel like if it’s in the Player’s Handbook as an option then it’s a core class. I guess that’s all semantics, and neither here nor there. So let’s just talk about the warlock.

First, I just want to say that I’m not a fan of the warlock as a player character class. I don’t like it because even though there is some lip-service paid to how the patron could be a fey, or some other neutral or benign entity, the undertones and connotations of the class suggest a more malevolent entity. The class lends itself most readily to evil and corruption, and in my experience those elements in a character lend themselves to a shitty tabletop experience. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I like the characters in my game to be the “good guys.” Evil characters just aren’t as fun to have around, in my experience. Being an adventurer is tough enough without having to worry about whether the guy you’ve been travelling with is going to slit your throat and take your shit just because he can. Sure there could be some rich roleplaying to be had exploring that struggle with temptation, and where the line between good and evil really is, but I think in most cases you’ll probably just end up with some asshole that worships a demon and does asshole things to PCs and NPCs alike. Again, that’s just my personal take. On the other hand, I feel like these guys have a great place as villains, particularly if they are the sort of character that starts out as a genuinely good person who gets corrupted by the insidious influence of a malevolent patron.

I’m sure I’ll let someone play one of these guys at some point, and I’ll have high hopes for the character being conflicted and dynamic, struggling to find balance as he walks the line between light and dark, like Raistlin Majere or Inquisitor Eisenhorn, and I’m sure I’ll be disappointed by the outcome. He’ll probably wind up just stabbing an innkeeper for loose change. That’s often how these things go.

Personal opinions about the nature of the class aside, there is a lot going on here mechanically as well. Like previous iterations of the warlock, this class is a sort of narrowly defined fighter/mage, with the ability to wield magic and wear armor, and with a hit die that should give the warlock a hit point total slightly higher than a wizard and slightly lower than a fighter. We’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see what invocations look like and what they do to the balance between the warlock and other spell casting classes, so I don’t want to speculate on that now. Instead, let’s take a look at the cantrips and spell slots the warlock has.

The warlock stays one step behind the wizard when it comes to cantrips known, starting at two and maxing out at four, compared to three and five for the wizard. Far more interesting than that, however are the spells known/spell slots/slot level columns for the warlock class. It’s peculiar that the warlock’s number of spell slots rise as he gains levels, but he apparently never has more slots per spell level than the highest level spell he casts. So if a warlock wants to cast a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level spell at level eight, he has no choice but to expend a 4th level spell slot, one of only two that he has. That’s a very limited spell casting ability. At twentieth level, the warlock can cast one more spell per day than a second level wizard. I’m very interested to see how these invocations work, and what mystic arcanum is. These would have to be some pretty cool class abilities to make playing a warlock more desirable than a multi-classed wizard. I guess I’ll know on or shortly after August 19, since I’ve already decided to pre-order the Player’s Handbook.

So there it is, folks, I guess I’m committed to riding this 5th edition train to wherever it takes me. Like Hunter Thompson once said: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

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6 thoughts on “Art From the New Player’s Handbook and a Peek at the Warlock Class

  1. Had a PC run a warlock in a previous campaign. Hated it. He played it as a chaotic neutral whackjob to the extreme. What I should have ruled was that a person of such boundless and pervasive stupidity could have never mastered control of magical powers.

    1. That’s unfortunate, and unfortunately it doesn’t surprise me. Like I said, there is some potential in classes like this, but it’s almost never realized. Rather, it just becomes the vehicle for some inane banality that your game could do without.

      I haven’t had your particular problem with a warlock, but I’ve seen it several times with Chaotic Neutral. It’s an alignment that gets abused a lot. I’ve noticed that certain people play it because they say it lets them “do whatever they want,” but all they ever want to do with it is be foolish and disruptive.

  2. One of my warlock characters in other games took on power from a patron to avenge an evil. Now he struggles between being good and doing the things his patron demands he do. Sort of like the Marvel Comic Ghost Rider.

    1. This is exactly the sort of character you hope comes out of the Warlock character class! I suppose I don’t have a problem with the class in principal, but I do think it requires some extra effort and a particular touch from the player and the dungeon master in order to get the most out of it. I feel like far too often you get a character more like mdcampbell described and less like the one you described, Mr. Brannan. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  3. I’ve both run and played parties with mixed alignments. It’s tricky, but with the right group it can be fun. It helps if you give the party a reason not to kill each other, like having them hunted by a bigger bad group.

    But it doesn’t work if the evil player is just being Chaotic Jerkish.

  4. I agree that if you’re going to go with a mix of good and evil characters it’s necessary to have a good reason why they would be working together, but unless it’s a very good reason I find that it often feels forced. The “alliance of convenience” plot only works for so long, and most other scenarios involve good characters doing the right thing because it’s the right thing and evil characters attempting to manipulate the situation or other characters so as to achieve an outcome the other characters wouldn’t want. If the situation doesn’t eventually devolve into a character vs. character fight involving ideals then people probably aren’t playing their alignments realistically, and they are probably doing that just to accommodate the fact that they are all sitting around the table trying to play the same game. I prefer to avoid that song and dance.

    At the end of the day, being evil means that you don’t care about the well-being of others and I’m not interested in learning what the selfish and the self-serving do when faced with challenge and adversity. I want to see what heroes will do when faced with challenge and adversity. That’s why I play.

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