Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is patrons, which we discussed in our exclusive Patreon live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST with Patreon supporters and talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy, by signing up here.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
This week we’ve got Patrons on our brains. The warlock character class is one of the most popular classes in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. It’s also one of the most customizable of the classes in 5E D&D. At 1st level you pick your Otherworldy Patron and then at 3rd level you get to choose a Pact Boon. This creates a lot of different combinations and this is without getting into Eldritch Invocations and spells.
You gain Otherworldly Patron features at 1st, 6th, 10th and 14th level. You also get an Expanded Spell List depending upon your patron choice. We currently have 6 official options and 2 Unearthed Arcana options.
When it comes to warlock patrons I feel like anything that might have a cult could reasonably be a patron. In order to create a new patron you need to come up with 4 abilities and 10 spells.
Let’s make up our own brand new warlock patron to drop in your game. I’m going to reach back through the earlier editions of D&D to create a new patron.
Let’s make one of the animal lords, in this case the Cat Lord Otherworldly Patron.
Animal Lord (Cat Lord)
Expanded Spell List
Spell Level: Spells
1st: Animal friendship, feather fall
2nd: Darkvision, pass without trace
3rd: Conjure animals, haste
4th: Dominate beast, freedom of movement
5th: Commune with nature, mislead
Starting at 1st level, your patron bestows upon you the nimbleness of a feline. You gain proficiency in acrobatics.
When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a long rest.
At 10th level, you can use your Nine Lives feature after a short or long rest.
Cat Like Reflexes
Starting at 6th level you gain gain a climb speed of 30 ft. and standing up from the prone position only cost 5 ft. of movement.
In addition, you have advantage on Dexterity saving throws as long as you are aware of the source of danger.
Curiosity Killed the Cat, But Satisfaction Brought it Back
At 10th level when you use your Nine Lives feature you can immediately use your reaction to take an additional turn (action, bonus action, and movement). You can now use your Nine Lives feature after a short or long rest.
Cat Lord’s Blessing
Starting at 14th level, as a bonus action you can let the spirit of Cat Lord fill you with feline ferocity, sharpening your senses, heightening your reflexes and increasing your speed. For 1 minute you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks, your walking and climb speed increase by +10 ft. and the first time you hit a target with an attack on your turn you deal an additional 2d6 force damage.
Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.
From Ted’s Head
With the release of 5E D&D the term patron seems to go hand and hand with the warlock but we all know the term has much broader uses both in definition and use in D&Ds as well as other roleplaying games.
There are several useful answers on Dictionary.com:
“A person whose support or protection is solicited or acknowledged by the dedication of a book or other work.”
“Roman History. the protector of a dependent or client, often the former master of a freedman still retaining certain rights over him.”
So we look to Roman history for use knowing a patron can be one attached to a group or individual who helps the group through financial means or through the use of rare knowledge or both. Perhaps they are merely a quest giver funding the research or expeditions the adventuring party goes on.
It need not be a super powerful being that can bestow magical abilities, but it could be. Typically the beings powerful enough to offer the kinds of abilities warlocks get have quite a large amount of power themselves.
So as a fun little trick to play on your players is what if the benefactor and quest giver for a campaign were also the patron of the warlock in the group, just in a disguise? You could get some serious heart to heart roleplaying in by having the patron try to talk the character out of being a warlock. It would also allow the patron to see in conversation exactly how the character is feeling about the things they are asked to do.
You could take the same scenario and try to convince other members of the party to join the warlock in seeking power from this external source. Perhaps the ultimate goal for the patron would be to get everyone to gain power from them. Make this goal secret. You can even extend the messages to things that happen away from the gaming table. Maybe they happen when characters are asleep. Maybe during downtime. Or maybe when the character happens to be alone with the patron. The patron could in fact require each character to get their share of pay separately and individually. This would allow the setup of individual reports and make it normal.
These after action reports, if you will, could be where you as the Dungeon Master get to have the one on one time with each player and deal with any concerns they may have in and out of game. But at the same time this is also where you can have the patron see if a character is interested in getting extra power.
Those willing to take power but out of game are not interested in warlock levels could gain power via feats and or magical stat bumps. Try to be fair that the offer should go to everyone. Ritualist and Magic Initiate are great examples as well as any others related to spells.
The kinds of missions a powerful patron might want to send adventurers on are the kinds of long winded quests that make up campaigns. These quests uncover hidden things as well as hidden knowledge the patron wants out in the world. Maybe it is the destruction of a rival. Maybe the dilution of a type of magic that grows weaker the more people using it. Perhaps it’s something small now but its discovery will set things in motion generations from now that the patron is getting moving because it will benefit them later.
Ancient dragons, ones who have been around a very long time and are beyond the stat blocks in the Monster Manual would be great at doing this kind of thing. They would be old enough to have the experience necessary for the long term planning as well as have the funds to set up whatever kind of life and alternate persona to handle even intense scrutiny.
This is just one way of having a lot more fun if you have a warlock in the party and you feel like spicing things up a little bit.
From the Nerditor’s desk
Dave and Ted both wrote about the Otherworld Patrons of warlocks in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons so I’m in my own territory here specifically not talking about those kinds of patrons. Instead I’m here to advocate D&D adventuring parties getting a patron posthaste. In fact Dungeon Masters — start your campaigns off with some sort of party patron right from the get go. Looking back at my own DM experiences and thinking about this topic I realize this is my modus operandi. In some form or another just about every campaign, adventure or one shot I run includes some version of a patron for the adventurers.
In my Spelljammer campaign it was a retired knight who tended their wounds after a disastrous wartime skirmish. Adventurers of Adventure was the name of a campaign and the adventurer guild sponsoring the new party. Mandalorian Bounty Hunter campaign: bounty hunter guild. Monthly Patreon one shot: Company of the NAG. See what I mean?
Providing a party patron gives characters a point of contact into the campaign world. They’re not omniscient and they have their own perspectives and agendas and the players can interact with them in a relatively realistic way. The patron patronizes them for some reason, and keeping this motivation in mind is a guide to how they are willing to help.
Setting up a new campaign with a party patron also provides some structure and context. A patron can telegraph some of the ways players can engage with the setting, and set a tone for what adventures and experiences might lean towards.
When the group discussed the bounty hunter campaign I made it clear this was part of the package. They would be members of a guild so they could find contracts there, and the guild armorer was capable of forging a special material into customizable items for them.
In the Spelljammer game…well the party took off in a vipership literally minutes after discovering such things existed and never returned to the planet where what they thought would be a traditional D&D campaign began. But along the way they got a new patron in Chazzeldazzel, a lounge singing beholder nightclub owner. Ol’ Chazzie often screwed the party over financially but the swanky aberration ultimately had the same interests as the party and in fact manipulated them into doing more for the greater good of the universe than they would have on their own.
Our topic for next week’s newsletter is Media, and I’ve got a few ideas for that missive from the Nerditor’s desk that cross over with patrons. We only touched on it very briefly at the end of our live chat so I’m excited for the extra opportunity to share those ideas elsewhere.
Until then, stay nerdy!