Sign a deal with a patron, and by your blood you swear to do their bidding by using the powers that they gift you. But who is it? Are they from the hellish planes? Celestial heavens? Or somewhere enigmatic? Somewhere between the realms? Or somewhere beyond comprehension? From which realm does your magic have a pact to gift you?
D&D 5E has many sub-classes to choose from, spanning several core books. Here are some quick summaries of each subclass, which will give a bit of insight to the theme, generalized game mechanics, and the likely play style to expect. This list isn’t the way you are expected to play the subclass, but our own interpretation of what the subclass archetype is trying to be. Your interpretation may differ, and if it does, please share how!
What’s the historical differences between Warlocks, Wizards, Witches, and Sorcerers?
Theme: Hailing from the mesmerizing mysterious beyond, this warlock has connected to the enigmatic realms where things are just as difficult to fathom as they are to pronounce.
Game Mechanics: Abilities focus on being able to charm, counter-charm, or evade combat by turning invisible.
Play-style: You like to be beautiful and beguiling, making both your allies and enemies awe at your presence. If it comes to combat, you’d rather use someone else as a weapon, or evade your enemies, leaving them in a confused stupor.
Fiend (SRD, PHB)
Theme: Dealing with the devil, the fiend warlock is the one holding a hellish pact. Always carrying a dark shadow from their past, it grants them their strength and their angst.
Game Mechanics: Varying abilities grant you health from defeating enemies, getting lucky on saving throws, resistance to types of damage, and to hurl your enemies through the hell that is your past. Additional spells have a focus on dealing fire damage.
Play-style: You like to play the character that wields the fires of hell to their favour. Anyone trifling with you is likely to be met with the strength you have drawn from your agonizing past.
Great Old One (PHB)
Theme: P̜̮͉h͠ͅ’̠͓̝͎͓̥͇͜n̩͚g̖͇̱̳̙͔͞l̼̻̼͚̭̟u̯̫͇ḭ̹̺͕̱ ͖̳̼̳̣m̞̰̥͍̮͜g͉̖͖̞̹l̖̖̼̟̮̀w̨͕̳’̜̦̰̖̗n̟a̯̦̫̻͟ͅf̦̺͈h̻̭̰ ̰͖͇C̸͓̹͚̣̲ͅt͈͍͕̰̖̥͡h̘͠u͉̹̭l̯h͕̥̺̦͉̟u̧̯̗̼̩̼ ̣̟̩͡R’̟̳͟l̟͕̩͈̞̦͖y̷e̪͟h̯̮̥͈͎͇͝ ̤̟͇w͉g̝̫̝͇̭͘ḁ̡͕̻͍͔̺h̴’̴̩̳͚̲̬n҉̪̦͚̘̞ͅa̵̫͈̰͉g̹̲ḻ̭̠̻̩ ̨̩̯̯͓̫̥f̴͔h̫̺͓̹̬̹͘t͙̯͇͕̠̠̣a̠̪̘̬̝̲gn͔!̘̠͕̠̱̝͟ ̻
Game Mechanics: Starts off with telepathy, gaining abilities at later levels to impose disadvantage on attacks, protect your mind from psychic damage, and later enthralling your foes to do your bidding.
Play-style: People joke about being “weird” but they do not know of you, and you are truly weird. You probably admire Lovecraft mythos.
Theme: Death is a weapon and tool. It is not something to fear or worship; it is something to understand and use as your ally.
Game Mechanics: The dead and undead have difficulty attacking you, or killing your allies, because your abilities allow you to easily keep allies alive. Helping people avoid death gives you health boosts. As you level, you’ll never exhaust and you’ll be able to reattach severed limbs!
Play-style: You love the idea of having zombies for pets because why should your aunt Em stop being such a good host just because they are dead? You also like to tear off the parts of toys and attach them to other toys.
Theme: Life is wrought with malevolence and this warlock shows resistance through perseverance. It’s as though these warlocks show their defiance by choosing to heal and support others.
Game Mechanics: Immediately gains additional cantrips and ability to heal. Later levels bolster your ability to deal fire damage, gain hit points, and blind your enemies.
Play-style: You like the Paladin, but don’t like the goody goody feeling of their oaths. You want to be able to heal, but also have a wealth of spells available to use in combat.
Theme: The hexblade warlock infuses their magical strength and power into their weapon, which they can choose to be able to summon. The mark of a curse from a hexblade is a death knell.
Game Mechanics: Enhanced curse gives you the ability to bolster your melee attacks with additional damage, more frequent critical strikes, and gain health from kills. Gains more weapon and armor proficiency. At later levels, the hexblade can summon a cursed soul from those that they have just killed, and can enhance your curse with reactive abilities to make enemies miss you.
Play-style: You want to find the balance between melee fighting and magical attacks. You love to have a weapon in one hand and magic in the other. “Gish” is either a term you frequently use, or are about to google and awaken a new love.
Theme: Living in the space between dead and living, the undead Warlock thrives not on death, but the fear of death.
Game Mechanics: You immediately gain the ability to transform into a horrifying visage of your patron, giving you extra hit points, immunity to fear, and the ability to frighten your targets on every hit you make. Later, you no longer need to eat, drink, or breathe. Your transformation also improves, letting you replace any damage you deal with necrotic damage, and being able to re-roll a damage roll. At mid level, you gain resistance to necrotic damage and, when you hit 0 hit point, you can use your reaction to go to 1 hit point instead, which also causes an explosion of necrotic damage. At your highest level, you can separate your spirit from your body, creating a clone-like version of yourself, with resistances, ability to fly, easier spellcasting, and able to heal yourself when dealing necrotic damage in your transformation.
Play-style: You love the idea of scaring your enemies more than killing them, because if they’re dead they cannot fear you anymore. You probably love the idea of becoming a lich.