I recently wrote an article on the “Building the Perfect Shadow Caster,” and while the Warlock had the Hexblade with its influence from the Shadowfell, it wasn’t quite the best analog. The warlock’s ties felt underserved to the very beings and denizens that reside in dark places like the Shadowfell, or the planes of Hades, the Infinite Layers of the Abyss, the Windswept Depths of Pandemonium, even the Tarterian Depths of Carceri. Even the Far Realms may serve as great inspiration of a foreign darkness of unknown intent.
While the Hexblade provides a martial focused subclass type for the Warlock, I wanted something akin to the Shadow Magic Sorcerer but with all the of the utility that the Warlock class provides. For inspiration, I looked to creatures that stalk the shadows. There might be a fear mechanic, but honestly, it’s not required. Additionally, I looked into spells that related to Hadar in the Warlock spell list for flavor and guidance on where I might take the direction of the overall feeling.
Warlock Patron – The Shadow
Your patron is an entity that lurks in the very shadows or darkness of the vilest and dark realms. Often times, these creatures have great disdain for the light but possess ancient or forbidden knowledge since the dawn of creation. You are uncertain of the entity’s motivations, often filled with cryptic commands or riddles, they often seek to snuff out the light or preserve their brand of darkness. Beings of this sort may include high-ranking shadow demons, the former demon prince Tenebrous, the Dark Hunger known as Hadar, the Dark Powers, the Ghost King, or powerful shadow dragons.
Shadow Expanded Spells
|1st||dissonant whispers, false life|
|2nd||blindness/deafness, shadow blade|
|4th||greater invisibility, phantasmal killer|
Blessings of the Shadow: Starting at 1st level, you become blessed by the shadows to see and blend into it quickly. You gain darkvision out to 60 feet; if you already have this feature, it improves by another 60 feet.
At 3rd level, you can learn the darkness spell, which doesn’t count your number of warlock spells known. In addition, your darkness spell is harder to dispel by light. If a creature or object creatures an light effect to dispel your darkness spell, they must make a Charisma saving throw against your spell save DC. On a success, your darkness spell is dispelled.
Beacon of the Dark: Starting at 1st level, you learn to cloak the shadows around you. When you in dim light or darkness, as a bonus action, you can perform the Hide action. In addition, while in dim light or darkness, you are considered to be in half-cover.
Shadow Step: At 6th level, you gain the ability to step one shadow into another. When you are in dim light or darkness, as a bonus action, you can magically teleport up to 60 feet to an unoccupied space you can see that is also in dim light or darkness.
Dark Depths: At 10th level, you bring an unnatural chill and fear with your spells. When you cast a spell that creates magical darkness, creatures that start their turn inside of the area of the darkness are dealt cold damage equal to your Warlock level and must succeed a Wisdom saving throw against your spell save DC or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
Boundless Oblivion: At 14th level, the shadows you wield manifest to become a region of untold, unknown horrors. A 20-foot sphere of utter blackness and spine-chilling cold appears centered on a point with range and lasts for 1 minute. This bleak space is full of echoes, whispers, and other strange sounds. No light, magical or otherwise, can illuminate the area, and creatures (except you) are fully within the area are blinded.
The sphere displaces space-time, and the area is considered difficult terrain. Any creatures that start its turn inside the sphere take 6d8 cold damage. Any creature that ends its turn in the sphere must succeed a Wisdom saving throw against your spell save DC or take 6d8 psychic damage and become frightened for the duration.
Once you use this feature, you cannot use it again until you finish a long rest.
I mimicked some of the Shadow Magic Sorcerer’s original 1st level features but I did opt to give more boons without additional costs since Warlocks already have limited spell slots and using the Darkness spell required a regular spell slot expenditure. The tacked on a 3rd level feature to expand the concept of a Warlock that gained a benefit for using the Darkness spell plus adding resilience against spells like Daylight or Dawn is not only flavorful but functional.
I kept the Shadow Step similar to the Way of the Shadow Monk as Warlocks do not have a higher class feature past 14th level and felt to reward the character earlier for their choice made more sense for utility and survivability.
I decided that the 10th-level feature needed to focus on rewarding the casting of darkness based spells by added some damage elements along with a frightened condition. Whether or not it was wise to use Warlock level instead of Charisma for the cold damage remains to be seen, but I felt that the class level was empowering for the class build. Some playtesting will be required to determine which direction go, perhaps Charisma since there is a fear effect implemented as well.
The last feature, Boundless Oblivion, is directly inspired by the Hungar of Hadar spell. I like this idea that the Warlock works for a shadowy or dark entity with a boundless hunger or malice. Loved the idea of a spell that created a region of just absolute Lovecraftian levels of darkness and horrors, I upped the damage substantially which might be too good overall compared to things like Hurl Through Hell considering this feature has a duration attached to it compared to the semi-instantaneous nature of the latter. I may lower the damage amount to possibly 5d8 or 4d8 but no lower. It’s debatable since Hurl Through Hell has no saving throw while this feature does, so upping the damage might seem more reasonable in the long run. Some testing will be required to find that reasonable sweet spot.
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