5th Edition – The Warlock: Are You Playing It Right?
One of the grumblings I sometimes hear or read about fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons concerns the warlock class. Almost always these center around the fact the warlock has so few spell slots, only one initially and then only two until 11th level, eventually ending with a maximum of four at 17th level. While it’s true the warlock does not have as many spell slots as other spellcasting classes, and it’s true the warlock does not have the diversity of spells available to many classes, the warlock has so many unique abilities I am left wondering if some players simply are not sure of how to play a warlock.
Warlocks in 5E D&D
Admittedly there is no real wrong way to play a character but it might be a boon to some players to consider the warlock’s advantages. The warlock does not easily fall into the traditional role of a magic user as artillery but the class can act as a backup to such a role if necessary. Besides, 5E D&D more than any other version of the game breaks away from these basic roles allowing players much more freedom in party creation and balance. Also, though it might not have the sheer magical might, the warlock is a more versatile class than wizard or sorcerer and in many ways might be the most versatile class in all the Player’s Handbook with the possible exception of bard.
First off with 1d8 hit points per level the warlock has a survivability advantage over most of the other magical classes. Combined with the Fiendish Vigor and Armor of Shadows Eldritch Invocations, and possibly decent Dexterity and Constitution scores, warlocks can potentially stand up against even fighters.
Speaking of Eldritch Invocations I believe these are often an overlooked strength of the warlock class. To my way of thinking Eldritch Invocations truly differentiate the warlock from other spellcasters, even more so than the Otherworldly Patrons and the Pact Boons. Yes, many of the Eldritch Invocations are just low level spells but they always come with some sort of bonus making them more powerful than the original spell, and the ability to cast those spells as often as the warlock wishes. Imagine the power a wizard or sorcerer would wield if he or she could cast some 1st level spells as often as cantrips. This is a power known only to the warlock.
About cantrips and spells, I feel the warlock also is underestimated. Again, they don’t have the wider variety of spells as other casters but warlocks have more than enough offensive and defensive spells to handle themselves in combat, and noncombat spells combined with Eldritch Invocations allow the warlock to fill other needs a party might have. For instance, if a warlock takes the Eldritch Spear Eldritch Invocation they suddenly have a range of 300 feet with eldritch blast, something no other class can accomplish even with the Spell Sniper feat. And a warlock with both Eldritch Spear and the Spell Sniper feat is throwing out eldritch blasts at 600 feet — extreme longbow range.
And don’t forget the warlock recovers spell slots after only a short rest, something few other classes can enjoy.
Getting to the meat of this class there are the Otherworldly Patrons, which provide some special abilities even at 1st level, something not common to most other classes, and some additional spell choices and other powers at higher levels. Then at 3rd level there are the Pact Boons, which give warlocks some nifty powers also not common to other classes. The Pact of the Blade can build a warlock with combat abilities only second to the fighting classes, the Pact of the Tome provides extra magical power and the Pact of the Chain allows for a unique companion in a familiar. All of these abilities are either not available to the other spellcasting classes or are not easily attained.
Then there is multiclassing. A warlock who also is another spellcasting class can swap spell slots quite easily. What other class offers this possibility?
All in all I would be glad to take my chances playing a warlock, and I have on occasion. For that matter I would be willing to take a warlock of my own build and have him or her face off against any other class of equal level. I’m not suggesting my warlock would always win, but they would stand a decent shot at it and at the least would be remembered as a worthy foe.