Class ColorsTLDR Warlocks, Clerics, and classic Paladins imply requirements, either obeissance to an entity, or piety towards a diety, or some other connection. What would it look like if every class had such a requirement?
Normally I try to flesh out my thoughts to, at minimum, some degree (dubious though those thoughts might be) before posting. However, as part of NaNoWriMo, I’m trying to belt out one post for every day in the month, or try until I start missing death saves, so I just won’t have time to follow my normal process. Instead, I’m going to embrace just letting some thoughts loose as they come to me. We’ll see how it goes.
Fifth edition warlock patrons are wonderful color for characters. They each add unique flavor to the class and set it apart from other spellcasters, specifically, and other characters in general. If there’s a problem, it’s that the patrons are so colorful that GMs just can’t help themselves and often want to insert them as key components of their campaigns.
That can be a problem insofar as the patron is then often set at odds to the character or the party as a whole to the point that the destruction or banishment or depowering of the patron becomes a plot point. But what happens to the Warlock if they have to either turn against their patron or their party or, worse yet, sever the very links that grant them their abilities? And why do they have to carry this unique burden?
There’s a bit of a history to this. In prior editions, this burden mainly fell to paladins or clerics: they both relied on their connections to their gods and paladins also had strict alignment requirements and codes of conduct. As with the warlock, there was a temptation to not only acknowledge these connections but to use them, often to the temporary, but sometimes permanent, disadvantage of those characters as campaign fodder. Just as with the warlock, it could seem unfair. Paladins, in particular, long suffered from this tendancy to hold their characters under a stuntifying magnifying glass. Over time, the definition of paladinhood was expanded to blunt a lot of this attention. The warlock may be picking up the slack.
The most obvious response to this issue is just to avoid the temptation to drag these entities into the campaign and put a undue burden on the characters connected to those entities. There’s plenty of fiends in the abyss, you don’t have pick their fiend. Done and done. Too easy. But what if we went the other direction? What if we decided to inject some of that color, that delicious warlock patron flavor, into every class?
Powers and Responsibilities
Fourth edition had this concept of class power sources. Every class drew their abilities from a source. It wasn’t always super defined but it was there. Fighters had the martial power source. I don’t really know what they meant by that but it was there and, having defined it as a thing, of some sort, they could leverage it in interesting ways. Let’s bring them back.
|Fighter, Ranger, Rogue||Martial|
|Bard, Sorceror, Warlock, Wizard||Arcane|
So now that we have these in hand, what do we actually do with them? Well, I don’t really know. As I said, I haven’t had a chance to think this thing completely through but here’s a possibility.
The Gods Must Be Crazy
Although just about every fantasy campaign contains a pantheon of gods are that are, objectively, real, very few of them do anything with these gods beyond either putting them outside of contact with the campaign world (locked in their own planes, imprisoned or the like) or placing them in jeopardy (death of the old gods, ascension of the new gods, etc.). Either way, their impact on the characters in the campaign is often ssentially nothing. We can change that.
The Illiad and The Odyssey, for example, are filled with descriptions of sacrifices to the gods. And it’s not just lip-service. They knew that the gods were not only there but actively watching and, at times, participating. Angry gods could not only withhold their favors from you but actively work against you! Keeping in the gods’s good graces was a necessity of life. Let’s channel some of that.
Here are the major members of the Ancient Greek pantheon (domains shamefully copied from here):
|Aphrodite||goddess of beauty, lust, and love||Chaos, Charm, Envy, Good, Lust, Passion||Arcane|
|Apollo||god of the sun, archery, athleticism, prophecy, the arts, and good health; twin brother to Artemis||Celerity, Competition, Destiny, Fate, Good, Healing, Oracle, Sun||Divine, Martial|
|Ares||god of war, combat, and arms||Chaos, Courage, Destruction, Glory, Madness, Pride, Strength, War, Wrath||Martial|
|Artemis||goddess of the moon, archery, hunting, independence, and virginity; twin sister to Apollo||Animal, Chaos, Glory, Liberation, Moon, Passion, Planning, Pride||Martial|
|Athena||goddess of wisdom, reason, handiwork, and strategy in battle||Artifice, Balance, City, Knowledge, Law, Meditation, Mentalism, Mind, Planning, War||Arcane, Divine, Martial, Psionic|
|Dionysus||god of wine, parties, and general good times||Chaos, Charm, Community, Gluttony, Good, Sloth||Divine, Primal|
|Demeter||goddess of agriculture and soil||Cavern, Creation, Earth, Feast, Gluttony, Good, Plant||Divine|
|Hades||god of the underworld, death, the undead, and forbidden riches||Darkness, Death, Decay, Greed, Law, Necromancy, Pestilence, Shadow, Undeath||Divine|
|Hecate||goddess of witchcraft and evil||Chaos, Decay, Domination, Evil, Hatred, Madness, Magic, Pestilence, Spell, Suffering, Wrath||Arcane|
|Hephaestus||god of masonry, blacksmithing, and fire||Artifice, City, Craft, Creation, Fire, Metal||Arcane|
|Hera||goddess of family, marriage, and children; queen of the gods||Charm, Community, Envy, Family, Healing, Law, Nobility, Protection||Arcane, Martial|
|Hermes||god of travel, mischief, thieves, commerce, and language; messenger of the gods||Air, Celerity, Chaos, Commerce, Greed, Luck, Rune, Trade, Travel, Trickery, Wealth||Arcane|
|Hestia||goddess of the hearth and home||Community, Feast, Fire, Gluttony, Good, Pact, Protection||Martial|
|Janus||god of doorways, beginnings and ends, and decisions||Balance, Destiny, Fate, Portal, Travel||Divine, Arcane|
|Morpheus||god of sleep and dreams||Darkness, Dream, Illusion, Meditation, Shadow||Arcane, Psionic|
|Pan||god of nature and wild beasts||Animal, Chaos, Good, Liberation, Plant, Scalykind, Spider||Primal|
|Poseidon||god of the sea, natural disasters, and horses||Destruction, Earth, Ocean, Storm, Water, Windstorm||Arcane, Martial|
|Zeus||god of the sky, weather, order, and lightning; king of the gods||Air, Balance, Charm, Glory, Law, Nobility, Pride, Sky, Strength, Weather||Divine|
As you can see, I’ve penciled in power sources for each one. What I mean by those is that characters whose abilities (we could easily just call them powers since, next to “ordinary” folk, they are certainly supernormal) draw from a power source should attach themselves to one or more deities with whom those power sources align. So a fighter might choose to be a worsphipper of Ares or Athena or one of the other martial gods. It would be from this god that the character draws his ability to operate above the level of a normal man and elevates him as a hero.
Once these relationships are established (in whatever manner and detail that suits), they can be actively incorporated in large and small ways into your campaign world. In essence, we’ve created a living mythos of which all the characters take part equally, not just a particular subset. Why should warlocks have all the fun?
Let me know on Twitter if you find this useful (or not) or if you have any suggestions or ideas.