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Making the warlock play well with others

If you are like me, the first time you picked up the 5th edition Player’s Handbook you were excited to see the rules about multiclassing and how spellcasting classes combined with one another instead of just stopping their progression. Also, if you are like me, you likely made the early mistake of thinking that the warlock fell into this pattern along with the rest of the primary casting classes. With the benefit of time and learning, we know that isn’t the case. While the other classes have a regular spell slot progression that combines with any other casting class, the warlock is left on it’s own like a kid who brought K’nex to a Lego party and can’t quite build along with the other children.

But what if they could build together?

I would like to start by saying that the multiclassing rules for spellcasters are similar in many ways to rules presented in 3rd edition in Unearthed Arcana, one of my all time favorite books. I mention this book not just for the throwback to similar rules, but because it provided me the key to finding a way for the warlock’s spell progression to mesh with other casters.

First, let’s define the problem. The standard casting classes learn spells up to 9th level depending on the class. They get a certain number of spell slots per day for each level of spell known. Regardless of which casting class you choose, they all work the same and can be combined with a little chart in the PHB showing how to count the levels of classes added together. What sets the warlock apart is that it doesn’t have a spell slot progression like the other classes. It doesn’t maintain a list of spells from lowest to highest that it can cast a certain number of times per day. All of their spells are cast at max level, and their uses of each spell reset on a short rest.

The warlock doesn’t have a set number of spells per day like other classes. That is the first hurdle to tackle. Since there is no set number of short rests per day, we have to do some estimating. The standard adventuring day for 5e seems to be built around a party having two short rests per day. This gives us a way to estimate spells per day for the warlock. We take the number of spells without a rest, and multiply by three. Once we do this we end up with the following chart.

This is a start. We know how many spells per day the warlock has, and we can look on their table to see what level those spells are. However this isn’t quite enough to combine it with the standard spell casting progression. To do that we need to take another step to bring these chart closer in line.

Again I turn back to 3rd edition Unearthed arcana for an answer. One of the alternative spell systems discussed in that book is the spell point system. This is a popular system, and is usually the way that psionics has been handled. For the purpose of this conversion we don’t need to go into all of the specifics of the spell point system, we just need to borrow enough of it to help us compare the warlock table with the standard spellcaster table.

Each level of spell is worth a certain number of spell points equal to twice the spell level minus 1. If we use this we can determine how many spell points a warlock has at each level. This allows us to sidestep the issue of what level each specific spell is. Converting each spell slot to points gives us this chart.

Now we need to do the same thing to the standard spell casting chart.

If we were running a game with spell points, this is all we would need. You would just add the number of spell points from casting classes together, and keep track of the highest level of spell you can cast. However, we are dealing with spell slots, so we need a way to work back from here again.

Comparing the warlock chart with the standard chart allows us to see at what levels the warlock points come close to the standard points. It isn’t a perfect match, but it allows us to make some general rules.

The warlock maxes out at 108 points for their last four levels. The closest match we have on the standard chart is 106 points at levels 15 and 16. If we assume that 20 levels of Warlock spellcasting is equal to 15 levels of regular spellcasting, we now have a way to combine them using the standard multiclassing rules. For every 4 levels of warlock you take, you count as having 3 levels of spellcasting for the purposes of multiclassing.

If you look at the chart, the Warlock comes out ahead on the spell points, slowly getting closer until the 108/106 point at level 15. You are giving up a few spell points worth of casting to multiclass, but you are gaining the flexibility of different spell slots. Overall it isn’t a bad trade.

You could also use these charts to go the other way. For every three levels of regular spellcasting you have, you would count as having 4 levels of warlock. This direction seems to be more open for power gaming, but that is up to the DM if they allow it.

As pointed out by a friend, 5e has it's own rules for spell points. They work a bit differently than the 3e ones, but the general idea is the same. Using the principles outlined above, I converted the warlock to 5e spell points and compared it to the regular casting classes.

As with the 3e one, there is no perfect comparison. It still falls into the same balance issues as the previous chart with warlocks starting out further ahead of standard casters and slowly lowing the lead. I would probably still go with warlock levels counting for 75% of standard spellcaster levels, with a minimum of 1 level for 1st level warlock.

So that is a quick and dirty way to make the warlock play with the rest of the spellcasting classes. What do you think? Would you have done it differently?

About the Author:

Stephen Mayo lives in Montana with his wife, daughter, corgi, and three cats.

You can keep in touch with him on Facebook and Twitter. Find more on his podcast A Side of Mayo. If you enjoyed reading this consider buying him a coffee or supporting him on Patreon.


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