New: D&D Blood Pact Warlock
Welcome back to the Zurn blog! Today we are looking at a new warlock subclass, keeping with the theme of blood magic as we saw with the barbarian and the druid earlier in this series. Today, we are dealing with the concept of a pact made in blood with an entity from another plane of existence, and I must say, I got really excited by this idea as I built it.
Pact of Blood: Theme and Inspiration
Perhaps the most well known example of this from literature is Dr. Faust making a pact with Mephistopheles, signing away his soul for his greatest desires. To some extent we also see pacts made in blood in Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid, with the pact made by both the mermaid and her sisters with the sea witch. But the concept is pretty straightforward: in exchange for some ability, desire, or power, a mortal makes a pact with a powerful being that comes with a trade-off or exchange of some kind.
We also know that the powerful being that enters into the pact is protective of their "investment": they will do many things to insure that they are not cheated from their prize, as the agreement is typically pretty "frontloaded" toward the mortal. So we integrated this into the subclass to maintain the theme.
We also decided to tinker around with this idea of sacrificing blood to your patron, which we didn't have in the case of the Blood Oath Barbarian or the Circle of Blood Druid. I grew fascinated by the idea of pouring out your blood to your patron to feed your power, protect you from damage, and thereby preserve more of your blood for the patron, and the result is a versatile subclass that can handle more punishment than your average warlock, playing off of (and due to) your patron's greed.
Now, it is worth noting that you could take this as a pact, much like the Pact of the Chain, Pact of the Blade, or Pact of the Tome. If you did, I'd word it this way:
Pact of Blood: You may spend your reaction and a hit die whenever you are hit by an attack: you gain temporary hit points equal to the value on the hit die. This is resolved before the damage is resolved from the attack. In addition, you may spend a hit die as a bonus action to remove a poison, disease, or curse affecting you. If you do this, you also gain resistance to poison damage for 1 hour.
You also gain access to the following Eldritch Invocation:
Blood Curse (Prerequisite: Pact of Blood feature): When you deal magical damage to a target, you may spend a hit die to increase the damage of the attack by the value on the hit die + your Constitution modifier (minimum of 1).
We present it here as a subclass (and went back and forth on whether to make it a pact or a full subclass) because frankly it throws off the game balance quite a bit for the various subclasses. An Archfey Warlock with this pact would be really hard to touch, if not impossible to wound. A Hexblade might still look at Pact of the Blade for its strong synergies, but it would go from being one of the best warlock subclasses to the bar none best if it could also give itself temporary hit points every turn until it ran out of hit die, not to mention added damage, psychic damage, and a temporary Blindness effect when he/she strikes people near it.
So we present it here as a subclass for game balance purposes, but you could use it as a pact instead if you wish (perhaps if you have a Level 2 Warlock in the party who is reaching Level 3 and doesn't want to switch to a different subclass but likes the ideas here, for example).
Pact of Blood: Mechanics
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired thanks to the team at Homebrewery. The subclass begins with access to spells that deal with blood in various ways, feigning death, enfeebling foes through sickness, and then branching out into how your patron might enhance your abilities (or smite your foes) due to your pouring out of blood.
You also gain the Blood Ward ability, the first and primary ability of the subclass to use your hit dice. Whenever you suffer damage, you can spend your reaction and one of your hit die: you gain temporary hit points equal to the amount before the damage is resolved. So as you cut yourself and shed your blood to your patron, your patron rewards you by protecting you from harm, saving more of your blood for themselves.
As you reach 6th level your patron aids you in smiting your foes as you shed your blood, allowing you to spend a hit die to add damage to a spell attack you perform. Note that this does not apply to weapon attacks, but since you can't be a Hexblade and a Blood Pact Warlock at the same time, it's not that big of an issue as you're probably using attack cantrips for your attacks.
By 10th level you invite your patron to purge you of harmful effects - poisons, curses, or diseases - through the practice of bloodletting. You also retain a portion of this power in your bloodstream after the patron has done its work, making it harder for you to suffer poison damage as it courses through your body.
And to cap off the sublcass at 14th level, your patron seeks to preserve more of your blood to encourage you to make more offerings to him/her. You gain resistance to non-magical damage, and your hit dice become more effective when spent using the subclass abilities above, as you get to add your Constitution modifier to the roll.
This is a far more resilient warlock build than most of the others, as other warlock subclasses tend to rely on evasion and resistances, whereas this one relies on temporary hit points. This means that those huge attacks are still going to be huge, so there's a good reason to take an Archfey Warlock, for example, but if you fill the role of damage dealer and off-tank for smaller "grunts" this is quite a survivable subclass, able to shrug off a lot of attacks if you are good with not taking Attacks of Opportunity (which most warlocks don't do particularly well anyway).
It's no Hexblade or Fiend Warlock, but it's a very evocative, thematic subclass, and if you are looking for a new way to play as a warlock, consider the Blood Pact.
In our next post we will be looking at the War Seer Warlock, the second in our set of three new warlock subclasses, and examine a heavily control-centric warlock.
Until next time,