skip to main content
I'm working on a new version of RPGBOT.net. Find out more on the new blog and read this page on the new site.
RPGOT Logo RPGBOT

DnD 3.5 - The Warlock Handbook

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which tend to be more consistent than 3.5 handbooks. Because so little of 3.5 is available on the SRD, I will attempt to tag items with a superscript indicating their book of origin. For help identifying sourcebook abbreviations, see my Sourcebook Abbreviations Guide.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

It's important to note that I generally omit campaign-setting specific content. I am of the opinion that those options are intended to be limited to campaigns run in those settings, and as such they don't really apply to a generic campaign. Those options also tend to be wildly unbalanced and rarely recieve errata. I also omit the use of "Flaws" since they allow a massive increase in power with essentially no cost to the character.

Introduction

The Warlock is almost exclusively a Striker. Their invocations can allow them to fill some other roles, but their skill list is very limited, and doing anything but Eldritch Blast requires considerably investment. Because they are primarily arcane, the Warlock typically takes the place of a Wizard in the party. Depending on their choice of invocations, the Warlock may be able to function as a Face or a Scout, but they can't fully fill either role because they lack Diplomacy and Trapfinding.

Eldritch Glaive allows the Warlock to step into melee, but that option is niche enough that I will not cover it in depth in this guide.

Warlock Class Features

Hit Points: d6 hp is better than sorcerers and wizards, and with light armor the Warlock is considerably more durable. However, if you choose to step into melee you will have some problems.

Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB is good for a spellcaster, and it will give you a decent bonus with Eldritch Blast.

Saves: Will is the Warlock's only good save, so be sure to invest in Dexterity and Constitution to boost your bad saves. Dark One's blessing lets you add Charisma to one of your saves, and the bonus can be very nice if you have room in your build.

Proficiencies: Simple weapons is a nice touch, but completely useless. The ability to use light armor without messing up invocations gives you a nice boost to AC.

Skills: 2+ skill ranks, and a really frustrating skill list. With Bluff, Intimidate, and Sense Motive you can almost be a Face. With Knowledge (Arcana), (Religion), and (The Planes) you can almost be a Librarian. The Warlock can do quite a bit with UMD, so it's essentially required, leaving you with only one or two skill points to throw around.

Invocations: They're not quite as good as spells, but Warlock Invocations can do a lot of very cool things. For help selecting invocations, see my Warlock Invocations Breakdown.

Eldritch Blast (Sp): The Warlock's go-to option, the vast majority of your turns will involve using Eldritch Blast. Make sure to pick up at least one Essence invocatin and some Shape invocations to improve Eldritch blast's versatility.

Detect Magic (Sp): Arguably the best cantrip, and you can use it at will.

Damage Reduction (Su): Not particularly useful on a ranged character, but nice to have.

Deceive Item (Ex): Makes you considerably more effective with UMD, and allows you to stop investing ranks after you hit a +24 bonus.

Fiendish Resilience (Su): At 8th level, this is essentially two charges from a wand of Lesser Vigor, amounting to roughly 15gp a day. At 15th level the fast healing improves to 2 (30gp worth of wand per day), and at 18th level it improves to 5 (75gp worth of wand per day). This is basically worthless. You might be tempted to use this in combat, but wasting a Standard action on this would be a huge mistake.

Energy Resistance (Su): Energy resistance is always nice. Pick Fire and Cold, as those are the two most common types of energy damage, and resistance to them makes you immune to the effects of hot/cold temperatures.

Imbue Item (Su): Amusing, but you still need to spend feats to craft items.

Alternate Class Features

  • Fiendish FlamewreathPHB2: Fiendish Resilience is mediocre at best, but it's guaranteed free healing. This is situational, but because it's a free action it's easy to use without cutting into your action economy. For melee warlocks, this is a fantastic option.
  • Venomous BloodDotU: The +5 bonus to saves against poison is nice at high levels when poison becomes common. Applying poison when you are bitten or swallowed is situational. The high level ability to apply a poison to your Eldritch Blast as a move action is very cool.

Abilities

The Warlock's abilities are fairly easy. Even at low point buy, you can get plenty in all of the Warlock's essential abilities to be effective.

Str: Unless you're building for Eldritch Glaive, dump this.

Dex: Reflex saves, AC, and touch attacks with Eldritch Blast.

Con: Hit points and Fortitude saves.

Int: Only important for skill points.

Wis: Helpful for Will saves, but you don't need much.

Cha: Sets DCs for your invocations, and adds to UMD. If you don't need UMD and don't plan to use invocations which directly target enemies, you may not need any Charisma at all.

Races

Because Fell Flight depends on your base land speed, races with 20 foot speed can be troublesome. Small size is nice for the AC and attack bonuses, but typically comes with 20 foot speed.

Dwarf: The penalty to Charisma is limiting, but Dwarves get a lot of very useful bonuses.

Elf: The Dexterity bonus is nice for Eldritch Blast, but Warlocks really can't make use of the Elf's other abilities.

Gnome: Small size, and a constitution bonus, but the Gnome's other abilities are largely wasted..

Half-Elf: Worthless.

Half-Orc: Nothing good for the Warlock.

Halfling: Small size and a dexterity bonus.

Human: A bonus feat is always welcome, and the bonus skill ranks are great to help compensate for the Warlock's poor skill points.

Non-Core Races

Because Warlocks depend so heavily on their class level for invocations and Eldritch Blast damage, be very careful to avoid races with level adjustments unless your DM allows you to use the level adjustment buyoff rules.

SpellscaleRotD: One of very few races with a Charisma bonus. The draconic rituals can get you some interesting bonuses, too.

Strongheart Halfling: All of the best parts of the Halfling, but a bonus feat instead of the racial bonus to all saves.

Skills

  • Bluff (Cha): Essential if you plan to play a Face.
  • Concentration (Con): You can concentrate to cast a spell-like ability defensively, just as you do with a spell, but it's generally a much better idea to move out of reach. There are a handful of invocations which require concentration (and could therefore be interrupted), but they're terrible.
  • Disguise (Cha): Buy a Hat of Disguise.
  • Intimidate (Cha): Essential if you plan to play a Face.
  • Jump (Str): You can fly.
  • Knowledge (arcana) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
  • Knowledge (the planes) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
  • Knowledge (religion) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
  • Sense Motive (Wis): Helpful if you plan to play a Face.
  • Spellcraft (Int): Essential for identifying spells and magic items.
  • Use Magic Device (Cha): Arguably the most powerful skill in the game. Allows you to do all sorts of crazy things with wands.

Feats

  • ApprenticeDMG2: Depending on your choice of Mentor, you can gain some extra class skills to improve the Warlock's viability as a Face or a Librarian.
  • Arcane MasteryCAr: Spell Resistance can really shut down a Warlock, so the ability to reliable overcome spell resistance can be very helpful. Typically enemies will have spell resistance somewhere around 8+CR, which means that Arcane Mastery allows you to constantly overcome the SR of any enemy up to 2 CR's above your level.
  • Battle CasterCAr: Upgrading to a Breastplate is essentially a +1 to AC. You can do considerably better with a feat.
  • Empower Spell-Like AbilityCAr: Maximize Spell-Like Ability is a much better return on investment.
  • Extra InvocationCAr: Warlocks get a total of 12 invocations over 20 levels, which is not nearly enough to get all of the good options. Be sure to compare the cost of a feat to the cost of a Rod of Eldritch Power for whatever invocation you plan to take.
  • Infernal AdeptWeb: High level Warlocks can get least and lesser Dragonfire Adept invocations. Many of the options are duplicates, and most aren't great, but there are a few gems. For help selecting invocations, see my Warlock Invocations Breakdown, which includes information on available Dragonfire Adept Invocations.
  • Improved CriticalPHB: It only increases your threat range by 1, but a critical hit with Eldritch Blast is a very scary prospect.
  • Improved InitiativePHB: Not quite as important for Warlocks as it is for normal spellcasters, but going first can let you drop area control invocations to influence the battlefield or disable key enemies.
  • Maximize Spell-Like AbilityCAr: Maximize your Eldritch Blast damage 3/day.
  • MortalbaneBoVD: Add +2d6 damage to a spell-like ability (like Eldritch Blast) 5/day. Surprisingly does not require you to be evil.
  • Nymph's KissBoED: Bonus skill points, +1 on saves against spells and spell-like abilities, and a +2 bonus on all Charisma-related checks. This includes skill checks and ability checks, but the definition of "check" in the PHB specifically mentions that attacks and saving throws are not checks. Requires you to be good-aligned.
  • Plunging ShotRotW: +1d6 damage if you're above your target. If you have fell flight, it's very easy to always be above your targets.
  • Psionic FocusEPH: Become psionically focuses as a move action so that you can use Psionic Blast.
  • Obtain FamiliarCAr: Familiars are fantastic, and can do a lot. For help with familiars, see my Practical Guide to Familiars.
    • Improved FamiliarVarious: With 2/3 BAB the Warlock can have a decent combat familiar, but a familiar which can use magic items is likely more effective. Many Improved Familiar options are absolutely fantastic. For help with familiars, see my Practical Guide to Familiars
  • Quicken Spell-like AbilityMM: An unmodified Eldritch Blast is a 1st-level spell-like ability, so you can quicken it at level 10. 3 extra rays per day as swift actions is a nice bit of extra damage.
  • Point-Blank ShotPHB: +1 to attack and damage won't amount to much.
    • Precise ShotPHB: Ranged touch attacks are reliable enough that you can typically live with the -4 penalty to fire into melee.
      • Improved Precise ShotPHB: Cover won't matter much, but the ability to ignore concealment is nice. Of course, you can just use Eldritch Cone/Line and skip the attack roll altogether.
    • Psionic ShotEPH: Requires expending your psionic focus (see Psionic Meditation), but adds 2d6 damage to your Elritch Blast. Won't work with the AOE shape effects because those aren't attacks.
      • Greater Psionic ShotEPH: Improve Pisonic SHot from 2d6 to 4d6 bonus damage.
  • Spell PenetrationPHB: Spell resistance becomes very common at high levels, but Arcane Mastery is more reliable.
    • Spell PenetrationPHB: Arcane Master and Spell Penetration should allow you to always overcome the SR of any enemy you could expect to encounter.

Weapons

A warlock never needs a weapon. At range Warlocks use Eldritch Blast. The rare melee Warlock uses Eldritch Glaive, which provides a weapon.

Armor

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.

  • Studded Leather: Starting armor.
  • Chain Shirt: Your long-term armor.
  • Mithral Buckler: A fantastic boost to your AC, and no ACP or spell failure. For 1015gp, it's one of the cheapest bonuses in the game.

Magic Items

Rings

  • ProtectionDMG: Helpful for boosting your AC, but less important once you can make yourself invisible.

Rings

  • Rod of Eldritch PowerCM: This grants use of one invocation 5/day. Fantastic for invocations which you only need occasionally, and 2000gp for least invocations is cheap enough that you can get all of the cool least invocations. The better invocations cost considerably more, so you probably only want to buy a handful of the better rods.
  • Warlock’s ScepterCAr: The profane bonus to ranged touch attacks is tempting, but by the time you can afford this your attack bonus is good enough that you will basically never miss. The function as a +2 light mace is totally wasted on the warlock, and charges for bonus damage don't do enough to matter.

Wondrous Items

  • Bracers of the Blast BarrierMIC: A nice area control effect which you can use with Eldritch Blast.
  • Bracers of the Entangling BlastMIC: Entangling enemies with Eldritch Blast can be a nice crowd control effect.
  • Artificer's MonacleMIC: For 1500 gp, this completely replaces the Identify spell. Every party needs one, and with the ability to use Detect Magic at will, the Warlock is a good person to carry it.
  • Broom of FlyingDMG: 17,000 gp is expensive, but it's better speed than Fell Flight (and it's not dependent on your base land speed), and it opens up an invocation slot.
  • (Greater) Chasuble of Fell PowerMIC: Absolutely essential. A flat, permanent bonus to your Eldritch Blast damage.
  • Cloak of CharismaDMG: Essential if you use invocations which directly target enemies, but you can skip it if you don't.
  • Cloak of ResistanceDMG: Vest of Resistance is identical and takes up a much less useful slot.
  • Gloves of DexterityDMG: Dexterity adds to AC, saves, and attack bonus with Eldritch blast.
  • Ioun Stone (Orange)DMG: Assuming caster level works the same way it does with prestige classes, this means Warlocks advance their Eldrith Blast by one level, and their invocations work as if the Warlock were on level higher, thereby increasing durations. While this isn't as profound an effect as it is for normal spellcasters, it's still a nice bonus.
  • Vest of ResistanceMIC: Same cost as a cloak, and takes up the largely useless "torso" slot.

Permanent Spells

  • Reduce PersonPHB: Reducing your size gets you a total of +2 to AC, +1 to Reflex saves, and +1 to attacks. You never needed Strength for anything, so the penalty is irrelevant. For 2960gp (450 for Permanency, 10 for Reduce Person, 2500 for the xp cost to cast Permanency), you get quite a bit.

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

Make sure to read the "Warlocks and Prestige Classes" section of the class description. This allows Warlocks to capitalize on many prestige classes generally not intended for Warlocks.

  • Enlightened SpiritCM: A cool concept, but the Enlightened Spirit robs the Warlock of the versatility allowed by invocations. You could remain a vanilla Warlock and select invocations of the same type at the same rate, and be considerably more effective.
  • Hellfire WarlockFC2: Hellfire Blast provides a huge boost to Eldritch Blast damage, but at the cost of Constitution damage. Be very careful when using this, and make sure to pick up an eternal Rod of Bodily RestorationMIC to offset some of the constant ability damage you will be inflicting on yourself.
  • Spellwarp SniperCS: 4 levels of Spellwarp Sniper gets you +2d6 of what is essentially sneak attack damage, and your Eldrith Blast continues to scale.