Over on the Nerdarchy YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted explore the idea of an all warlock party for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. We had a lot of fun thinking about an all bard party and a bunch of people asked to see more like this so here we are. In 5E D&D warlocks are a very customizable class. Combinations of patrons and pacts, spells and invocations create a lot of options for players to put together. Warlocks choose their subclass at 1st level, represented by the Otherworldly Patron providing their power through a supernatural pact. Once characters reach 3rd level, they choose their Pact Boon — Blade, Chain or Tome. In the video they discuss D&D party composition and the different roles warlocks can play in a party. But I’m sticking with the scenario I imagined in the All Bard Party post here on the site. So let’s get into it and see what an all warlock party composition for 5E D&D could look like.
How I would run an all warlock party for 5E D&D
The all bard party became cohorts at Bard College, and the analogy continues for the all warlock party except these young adventurers attend Otherworldly Patrons, an independent private school funded by…we’ll say special interests. For a new campaign I would gather players together for session zero and propose the idea for an all warlock party. And just like Bard College, the backdrop for the campaign comes straight out of the fifth edition Player’s Handbook.
“The beings that serve as patrons for warlocks are mighty inhabitants of other planes of existence — not gods, but almost godlike in their power. Various patrons give their warlocks access to different powers and invocations, and expect significant favors in return.”
Otherworldly Patrons directly, but veiled in secrecy, pull the strings at the private school where the 1st level characters arrive for the start of classes. With a party composition of all warlocks it’s safe to say the Dungeon Master and players can go all in on the relationship between them and their patrons. Setting up a 5E D&D campaign like this removes awkward obstacles you might encounter in a traditional campaign. A diverse group of warlocks, each with a different patron could get a bit clunky at times, but at Otherworldly Patrons students are expected to choose a patron right away and the entire student body serves one powerful entity or another.
The roleplaying opportunities with a party composition like this are astounding. It’s not hard to imagine cliques of like-patroned warlocks sticking together, so any characters in the party have their own distinct social interactions to navigate. What happens when the Fiend warlock clique begin questioning their colleague in the party about why they spend so much time with those other lame warlocks? Because the warlock class options are so varied and unique, warlock students might connect in other ways than their patrons too. Pact Boon and Eldritch Invocation enthusiast clubs wouldn’t be unusual.
The sorts of adventures this all warlock party of students from Otherworldly Patrons gets embroiled in is easy. Warlock patrons expect significant favors in return — it’s exactly what it says on the tin. Warlock students have classes to attend and homework to complete, but when the patron comes calling nothing else matters. Because patrons are so mysterious with far-reaching sometimes incomprehensible plans, these favors might not mean anything for a thousand years, so a DM can guide players through any kind of adventure they want and present it as a favor to their patron.
In a lot of ways, thinking about an all warlock party reminds me of the Academy of Unseen Arts from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
School is in for 5E D&D
On CAOS, the Academy of Unseen Arts is a boarding school for witches and warlocks, built according to the principles of sacred geometry where each room is a perfectly proportioned pentagon that locks with the one next to it. The Sanctum is the library for advanced students and the foyer has a statue of the Dark Lord in the center of the room. Change the foyer statue to one representative of all the Otherworldly Patrons and you’re good to go.
Like the Netflix show, the all warlock party tends to get away with more shenanigans because of who they are, which would be a fun theme to collaborate on with the players. Otherworldly Patrons is a very exclusive school, so what makes their characters special? Do they have a strong family legacy at the school, or are they looked at as an outsider, even to their other warlock classmates?
Low level adventures in and around the school can test the things they’ve learned, and I like the idea of the party’s patrons tasking them with favors that put them in direct conflict with other students or teachers. I also like the notion of characters leaning into different aspects of the class and those cliques mentioned earlier, taking advantage of those relationships to discover clever solutions to their problems.
A fun bit of flavor to add to this campaign is Otherworldly Patrons’ strong advocacy for nap times and breaks. The school day, classes, extracurricular activities and even adventures are designed to provide regular one hour rests.
With the all bard party, their low level adventures culminated in a test involving an appropriate monster. Maybe Otherworldly Patrons is built above ancient ruins. For their first big test, the all warlock party’s patrons task them to retrieve something from below — a blade, a chain or a tome — and return to the school. Reaching their destination involves crossing a tributary of the River Styx, and to do that means dealing with a merrenoloth. If they’re successful, you guessed it, they level up to 3rd level and created a memorable experience out of choosing their Pact Boon.
I’m really enjoying these single party class discussions! By the time we get through all of them, I feel like we’ll have a solid foundation for an entire 5E D&D campaign setting in a world of academia. For a running recap, here’s the list of 5E D&D class-related institutions. I’m looking forward to exploring the next one along with the video from the YouTube channel.
- Bard College carries on a fine tradition of arts and arcane education
- Primal Paths sounds like a private school
- Domains is a seminary
- Circles is a new age school
- Martial Archetypes is a either a military school or a certified training program
- Monastic Traditions maybe a charter school
- Sacred Oaths is definitely a private school
- Ranger Conclaves is a series of correspondence courses (I know they’re called Ranger Archetypes but I think Conclaves sounds cool)
- Roguish Archetypes a trade school for sure. I learned how to pick pockets and now I’m doing great. Thanks, Roguish Archetypes!
- Sorcerous Origins get to attend Arcane Traditions U on a full-ride scholarship
- Otherworldly Patrons is 100% charter school
Like the Bard College campaign idea I really want to play or run a campaign with these elements. 5E D&D party composition is more about overcoming challenges in your group’s own unique way than about filling the classic fighter, wizard, cleric and rogue roles. An all warlock party certainly has the means to cover their bases though, but it will be especially important for players to discuss their character choices together. Your job as the DM seems like it would be much easier too, with patrons so involved in the lives of their warlocks and requesting favors on the regular.
What do you think? Does an all warlock party campaign sound like fun? Do you like the idea of a 5E D&D campaign set within academia? What sort of favors would the characters’ Otherworldly Patrons request? Let me know in the comments!