New: D&D Warlock Forest Spirit Pact
Welcome back to the Zurn blog! While the last two warlock subclasses were patron agnostic (you can swear a pact in blood to anyone, and you can receive visions and dreams of the future from anyone), this pact is made with a specific type of patron, a patron that, I'm surprised to say, has not been created yet in the canon. This is the forest spirit (or other spirit of the material plane): not an archfey from the Feywild or a celestial spirit like a unicorn, but an actual spirit of the Material Plane.
These spirits include dryads, nereids, leshy, and ancient treants to list a few. This is a "nature warlock," reminiscent of a druid, ranger, or Nature Domain Cleric, but with a distinctly warlock flavor. And as someone who enjoys playing characters tied to nature, I really enjoyed creating this subclass.
Pact of the Forest Spirit: Theme and Inspiration
It first behooves us to note the difference between the ranger, the druid, the Nature Domain Cleric, and the Forest Spirit Warlock, as they have similar spells. Rangers, as I understand it, are people who are attuned to nature through years of wandering it, and thus they care for it through their natural empathy for nature. Druids care for nature, preserving it from threats both domestic and foreign to the Material Plane. Nature Domain Clerics steward nature, tending to it as an act of devotion to a deity that loves the natural world and its creatures.
The Forest Spirit Warlock is a warlock who makes a pact with an entity that is tied heavily in its essence to nature. It is not fully separate from nature like a god is, and thus this is not a clerical act of faith. Forest spirits are also not nature itself, so this is not just a druidic circle practicing the tenets of their sect. This is also not merely an empathetic act due to a forged bond as is true of the ranger: this is a contracted agreement to preserve and foster the flourishing of nature, made with a sentient being that desires its woods, grasslands, desert, stream, etc. to be protected, and that is what the Forest Spirit Warlock does.
This makes for a very interesting warlock: it is heavily control-oriented (as that is what nature spells do well) with limited damage beyond what the warlock class comes with out of the box. But what you get in exchange is the ability to lock down a host of foes, and provide a powerful complement to a druid, Nature Domain Cleric, or ranger in the party.
Pact of the Forest Spirit: 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. At 1st level we get a "reskin" of the warlock to make it fit the theme better: you get a Druid cantrip for free (that counts as a Warlock cantrip, uses Charisma, and its effects apply to Charisma instead of Wisdom as appropriate), you lose proficiency with axes (as dryads, leshy, treants, etc. don't like axes that much), but you gain proficiency with all clubs, staves, bows, spears, and wooden shields.
This gives you a wider range of options for weapon choices, not to mention access to shields, so yay for higher Armor Classes! If you like the idea of using a shield, you can give yourself a shield and a staff, take Shillelagh, and you have a good alternative to Eldritch Blast in case an enemy comes into melee range. If you don't want a shield, you can go with a two-handed weapon like a Greatclub or (still better) a pike with the Reach property, and then maybe take a cantrip like Druidcraft or Thorn Whip to round out your character abilities.
But of course perhaps the biggest coup of all is that you can take a longbow, making you the first real dedicated ranged warlock in the game. So while most warlocks, for good reason, want to take Eldritch Blast, you can actually do decently without it if you take this subclass.
Speaking of spells, you gain a suite of nature-themed spells from the Ranger and Druid lists, but mostly Druid spells. While most of them don't scale with the spell slot level (which is a shame), they do provide reliable benefits including reduced movement, loss of movement speed, and the ability to hold/pull creatures, pairing nicely with several eldritch invocations.
At 6th level your connection with the natural elements around you improves thanks to the blessing of your patron. You gain the ability to sense movements near you so long as you are touching the element through they move (ground, water, etc.), and you gain the ability to give yourself resistance to many damage types once every short or long rest, increasing your resilience.
At 10th level your ability to naturally camouflage with the world around you is improved by your patron, granting you proficiency with the Stealth skill, and the ability to take advantage of added cover bonuses when in specific terrains. Again, this is a more niche ability, but since you have the ability to make an area overgrown with plants, for example, you can trigger its effects more often than you'd think.
And at 14th level, after you have proven your loyalty to your patron, they grant you greater control over the natural elements around you. You gain the ability to use the rocks, trees, thorns, etc. around you to damage your foes, dealing low-end (but wide area of effect) damage to targets you select, potentially restraining them, and it grants a bonus to your ranged damage against these targets, be that with a bow or a magical ranged spell attack. So lots of options here.
This is not a "huntsman," though it has some of the same features if you like that style of character. This is not a "blaster mage," though it can blast for longer than other warlocks (or heck, sorcerers and wizards) because of its heavy control spell suite, slowing down opponents en masse to buy you time. This is not a "druid" as it lacks both the shapeshifting abilities and the healing orientation of the druid.
This is a unique style of "half caster," giving you access to spells that will provide battlefield control and pinning to aid your allies, while also augmenting your martial prowess with good weapon (including some martial weapon) proficiencies. And that is unique.
In our next post we will be looking at a wizard concept taken straight from the Legends of Zurn series: a wizard initiate, who practices magic only from one school of magic. This will dramatically change your playstyle as a wizard, as you will soon see...
Until next time,