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arcane gastonomy

Selling Your Soul — 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Warlock Build

Psionics and Psychic Warrior in 5E D&D Part 8 -- Psychic Well and Drams
Psionics and Psychic Warrior in 5E D&D Part 9 —Spell List for Psionics

Hello readers and Nerdarchists. Today I want to walk you through a D&D warlock build for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. As I do more of these character builds I want to focus on a combination of fluff and crunch. These builds won’t always be the most optimized, but what I consider fun and/or interesting to play. That being said it doesn’t mean I am completely looking to forgo mechanics. I still want a character build that can be effective during play. I was invited to play in two different games on the same day for two different campaigns at two different levels — 5th and 8th. So my initial idea was to build one character at those two levels.

arcane gastonomy

Warlock build with a fighter multiclass

I love the 5E D&D warlock. It’s just so thematic and easily stacks with any class. In this case I’m going with a warrior who has served his required two years to the kingdom and has returned home to work the family smithy. After working in the family business for however long there is an accident. An explosion leaves the warrior helpless and dying. In frustration he cries out as fire begins to consume him and something answers. Thus a pact is formed. With the knowledge a fiend now has a hold on his very soul he leaves his home in search of away to break his bargain with his fiendish patron.

Warlock concept beyond backstory

I envision Hengun Oathbound as I’m calling him to be an engine of destruction on the battle field, slinging spells while cutting down enemies with his long sword. As an Eldritch Knight he can call his weapons to hand at will. He’s got access to cantrips even at the lowest of levels. As he gains in levels and power he’s got even more magical might to bring to bear. His spell choices are mainly meant to confound his enemies and strengthen his defenses. He’s got cantrips that blast, pull, slow and trick his enemies in combat.

warlock build

Constructing our warlock build

First off I’ll start as a 1st level fighter. I am choosing variant human for a specific reason — starting with a feat. I want my character to feel like a warlock and a fighter right from 1st level. To do this I’ll take the feat Magic Initiate feat, choosing warlock. Also two cantrips and a daily spell won’t hurt. The reason to go fighter first was in order to gain access to heavy armor proficiency.

One of the things 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons has added to the game is backgrounds. I wanted to do something fun with this. So I chose something that wasn’t specific to either of my classes, guild artisan.

I’ll do a point buy for my stats. Here is how we look at 1st level:

Race

Human

Class

Fighter

Ability Scores

STR 15 DEX 8 CON 14 INT 10 WIS 10 CHA 16

Weapon Proficiencies

Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons

Armor Proficiencies

Light, Medium, Heavy, and Shields

Tool Proficiencies

Smith’s tools

Saving Throw Proficiencies

Strength, Constitution

Skill Proficiencies

Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, Persuasion

Languages

Common, Dwarven, Infernal

Feat

Magic Initiate (warlock)

That’s our bare bones D&D warlock build at 1st level. From human we get a +1 to both Strength and Charisma, the feat, the Perception skill and the Infernal language. Fighter gives all of our armor, weapon and saving throw proficiencies as well as the skill proficiencies Athletics and Intimidation. The guild artisan gives the skills Insight and Persuasion, proficiency with smith’s tools and the ability to speak Dwarvish. Next, 2nd-5th level will all be in warlock. This will give me three big character build choices to make.

  1. Otherworldly Patron
  2. Pact Boon
  3. Ability Score Improvement (or feat)

When I take my next level I become a 1st level warlock and choose The Fiend for my Otherworldly Patreon. Next level as a 2nd level warlock I get to pick Eldritch Invocations and go with Agonizing Blast and Devil’s Sight. For 3rd level warlock I choose Pact of the Tome. This really beefs up my spellcasting ability and I love the fact I can choose three cantrips from any class. I raided the druid for thornwhip and produce flame. Wizard got me ray of frost. I plan on taking Book of Ancient Secrets as an Eldritch Invocation later for ritual casting. Finally at 5th level I grab a feat instead of increasing ability scores. I’ve had my eye on Heavy Armor Master from the beginning. This will bump the 15 Strength to a 16 and give even more durability.

Now we look at 6th-8th level plus the one I got at the end of session 1 with my warlock build. These levels we will rush fighter in order to get another feat plus we’ll grab some other goodies along the way. We’ve got two major choices to make from those fighter levels.

  1. Martial Archetype
  2. Ability Score Improvement or Feat

Continuing with the concept of this fighting character being highly magical I went with Eldritch Knight. This gives more spell slots and some cantrips to play with. Spell selection is a little tricky because of low Intelligence, but still manageable in my opinion. I’ll choose spells that aren’t dependent on saving throws for the most part. Here is the last feat to complete this phase of the build, War Caster.

I like War Caster for my melee combat oriented characters. I don’t have to concern myself with having a hand free for spellcasting when wielding weapons or a shield. And advantage on Concentration checks isn’t a bad thing. Being able to substitute an attack spell for attacks of opportunity is also pretty sweet.

After the session I gained a level. Now the tough part do I go warlock or fighter with that level? Fighter means Extra Attack — very useful. On the other hand warlock is another Eldritch Invocation — one more spell known, and 3rd level spell slots. So I’m gonna call it a no brainer. Warlock will allow me to pick up the coveted Book of Ancient Secrets, making my warlock the ultimate ritual caster. Well, up to 3rd level spells anyway. Book of Ancient Secrets gives a warlock two ritual spells from any spell list and the ability to add any spell with the ritual tag from any list into their Book of Shadows.

5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Warlock Video

Building a 5E D&D warlock past 9th level

Now the decisions get tougher and tougher. Multiclass characters aren’t going to have as powerful class features as a single classed character. Their strength will have to come from their diversity. So the choice will be more arcane might or martial prowess. I haven’t decided which level between 7th and 12th to stop at for fighter.

I do know the next two levels will be fighter. At 5th level you get for Extra Attack and ability an score increase or feat at 6th level. I know I want the War Magic class feature. I also know the more levels I take in fighter the more I’m going to get diminishing returns on the spellcasting from Eldritch Knight due to the low Intelligence.

So why consider going past 7th level? If I want to optimize my ability score increase or feat options I’ve gotta respect leveling in fours. Then there is the increased extra attacks at 12th level. The Eldritch Knight ability at 10th level isn’t anything to sneeze at either.

Where do you guys think I should go with my 5E D&D warlock from here? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time, stay nerdy.

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david friant

My name is Dave Friant I've been gaming off and on for over 27 years. But here is the thing it's always been a part of my life I've kept secret and hidden away. I've always been ashamed of the stigma that gaming and my other nerdy and geeky pursuits summon forth. Recently I decided screw it! This is who I am the world be damned. From now on I'm gonna be a geek, nerd, or however folks want to judge me and just enjoy life. Currently one of my greatest joys is introducing my 13 yr old son to table top RPG's.

5 Comments

  • JD Brink
    March 6, 2015 at 4:28 am

    Dave, Cool way to go about it! And I also can't wait until my son (now 4) is old enough to corrupt with all the great games I grew up on (none of which will be video in nature).
    Unfortunately I don't have anyone to play 5th ed with, but I like to keep up with nerdly topics and I really like this latest edition of the game. I have taken it upon myself (when time permits) to make a character of each class, just for fun. I hope you don't mind me referencing my own warlock for you to check out. 🙂
    http://brinkschaostheory.blogspot.jp/2014/11/5th-edition-d-cthulhu-warlock.html
    Live nerd and proud, sir!

  • Kevin Heinz
    May 22, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Hey Dave,
    I'm working on a Ranger/Warlock based on the Ezekiel Stone character from "Brimstone". Essentially he is a former Lawman/Bounty Hunter who has been reluctantly duped into a fiend pact. Like the Brimstone character he has Infernal tatoo's that bear the names of infernal demon/fiends he is tasked to hunt for his patron. In the Series he was tasked with returning to hell 113 fiends, I'm thinking more along the lines of 13 or 69 fiends to remove from the prime material plane to regain his immortal soul. He is actually helping his patron who was already banished from the prime, to undermine his rivals plans and underlings actively operating in the world.
    In his mind while he is helping a Fiend he is also sending immediate concerns back to the abyss.
    So far I'm thinking Variant Human, Starting with Ranger for the Hunter archetype (Abyssal/Devils favored enemy), Pact of the Fiend Warlock (Hexblade). Looking for spells and abilities that help to catch/defeat fiends/Abyssal. the Ranger Hunter ability at 6th level allows him to sens etra-planar creatures in his sensing area (6mi. favored terrain, 1 mi otherwize).
    I think this sounds very thematic and roleplay wise offers a lot for DM to character interaction.
    I'm kinda stuck on stats though (13,13,13,12,12,12) is where I'm leaning. Do you have different thoughts? I like the two weapon fighting, but really liked how you used MAgic Initiate as bonus Feat at Level 1 (making me think that is good choice, but I also like Observant for the perception and investigate plusses for tracking).

    Have any thoughts for me?

  • Kevin Heinz
    May 29, 2015 at 3:10 am

    Dave,
    I've built the Ranger/Warlock as described above.
    Wrote something in google docs here:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MiUeAUxhxnivmWwFXu58cOrC31y1KSl0bGulb5cYTFM/edit?usp=sharing

    I did a little power gaming and added a level of sorcerer (storm) instead of the Magic initiate feat (I felt I get more for a level dip as apposed to a feat here.

    Let me know what you think and if you would enjoy DM'ing such a character in your campaign.

    Thank you and your collegues for the site, I am really enjoying it.

    Kevin

  • Jesse No Bata
    June 17, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    If anyone likes a bit more Elder overlords added to their game, check out this PC option: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_73NA7vK-0OYV9HZFJHbk9PbGs/view

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