So you’ve made a pact with an otherworldly entity in exchange for power beyond your wildest dreams? No matter which extra-planar being has your name on the dotted line there are certain things all Otherworldly Patrons, and the contracts they sign, have in common and in this article we’ll be taking a look at the ways these things affect your character. We’ll also touch on each of the published Patrons for Dungeons and Dragons 5e (updated with new releases) and offer example answers to the questions posed in the article. Are you ready to make a deal?

Table of Contents

What is a Patron, and why should you care?

Patrons, in the context of 5e D&D, are defined in the Player’s Handbook as “mighty inhabitants of other planes of existence—not gods, but almost godlike in their power” (D&D Beyond, Dec 2022). In other words they are looking for people to become instruments of their will in the mortal world and have little to no interest in a fair and equal partnership with you. However, they are very interested in making deals with mortals, usually to benefit themselves in some way (which may not become clear until years later, if at all), and they are looking to recruit worthy,  desperate, or gullible individuals into their service to accomplish tasks they cannot complete alone. 

Herein lies the central relationship paradigm of the Warlock and Patron: the mutually beneficial relationship. Now that’s not to say the Warlock is on equal footing with their Patron, (that would be absurd), but the Patron usually needs them for something and is willing to offer a fraction of their own power to do so (if they are aware of the pact at all. More on that later).

This is a great place to start when creating your Warlock: What problem can they solve for their Patron? Perhaps your Warlock has access to a library warded against extraplanar intruders and the Patron needs something inside, or maybe your character has royal lineage and everyone in your family pledges themselves to this Patron to carry out their will across the land as a mortal vassal? This is wonderfully fertile ground to get creative and develop your character beyond their abilities and stats!

What do they want?

Any binding agreement has terms both parties must abide by to uphold their end of the bargain. What does the Patron ask of your character in exchange for a sliver of their power? This is where Patron’s differ most significantly from one another (The goals of an Archfey are likely different to those of an unknowable cyclopean entity from beyond the stars) and it’s worth taking some time to jot down some ideas of the terms of your deal. This doesn’t need to be complicated, so don’t worry about drafting a legal contract in triplicate, just a few bullet points will suffice, and you’ll have a much clearer idea of the demands your Patron places upon you. This is great for adventure hooks, roleplay and character development.

Now let’s dive a little deeper into the nuances of each flavor of Otherworldly Patrons currently published in Official D&D and how they might affect our character.

Otherworldly Patrons

The Archfey

“Your patron is a lord or lady of the fey, a creature of legend who holds secrets that were forgotten before the mortal races were born. This being’s motivations are often inscrutable, and sometimes whimsical, and might involve a striving for greater magical power or the settling of age-old grudges. Beings of this sort include the Prince of Frost; the Queen of Air and Darkness, ruler of the Gloaming Court; Titania of the Summer Court; her consort Oberon, the Green Lord; Hyrsam, the Prince of Fools; and ancient hags.”

Who or What are they?

The Archfey is a being of such incredible, ancient power that they predate the mortal realm. Often appearing in folklore throughout the land, examples of Archfey in our own world include mysterious figures like Jack Frost, The Green Man, and Baba Yaga to name a few. Whoever they are, the important thing to bear in mind with this patron is that they are beyond the concerns of mortals, and often view them as play-things or at least a means to an end. 

How and Why did you make this pact?

So why did you bargain with this duplicitous figure? What drove you to bind yourself to the capricious Archfey you now serve? Perhaps you begged for their help to win the heart of your beloved, or to save your family’s ailing farm? Maybe you got hopelessly lost and a kind stranger offered to show you the way home for a seemingly innocuous price, “Would you give me your name? I’ll take you home if you would but give me your name”. Whatever it was, they took a shine to you, and now you belong to them. Think about how your character feels about their decision: are they full of regret despite their newfound powers, or do they relish their connection to the Hidden Lands?

What do they want?

Here’s the tricky part. What do these notoriously chaotic beings actually want from you? The good news is you can get very creative here and think up some really out of the box ideas! Perhaps your Patron requires you to perform sinister deeds to increase their power, like leading potential warlocks deep into the enchanted forest so they can ensnare them…like they did with you. Another way to go is to focus on chaotic mischief rather than fairytale horror, perhaps you are required to play practical jokes on others for your patron’s amusement, or steal food to distribute to the poor. It could even be as simple as being forced to dance every time your patron plays music in your head! The Fey can be difficult to encapsulate, but if you choose this patron (and you answer these questions) you’re sure to be in for a wild ride!

The Celestial

“Your patron is a powerful being of the Upper Planes. You have bound yourself to an ancient empyrean, solar, ki-rin, unicorn, or other entity that resides in the planes of everlasting bliss. Your pact with that being allows you to experience the barest touch of the holy light that illuminates the multiverse.”

Who or What are they?

The polar opposite of the Fiend, the Celestial is good and pure in every aspect of their being. Seeking only to bring more joy and light to the planes, these champions of light make pacts with individuals who exemplify the virtues they hold dear. Truth, justice, and benevolence. 

But who is your Celestial Patron? Are they a righteous angel of vengeance burning away corruption with holy fire, or are you beholden to a tranquil unicorn who spends their days frolicking through eternal forests? Take some time to consider the type of Celestial being you serve.

How and Why did you make this pact?

Where did you first encounter your benevolent benefactor and what is your relationship with them? Do you follow their teachings and joyously spread love, light, and hope wherever you go? Or are you a begrudging servant bound against your will by a familial oath sworn centuries ago? Answering these formative questions gives you (and your DM) much more to work with when developing your character throughout their journey.

What do they want?

Where the Fiend seeks destruction and despair, the Celestial longs to share their light with those in need, healing and uplifting the downtrodden and destitute. How do you fit into their plan? What is it your divine patron requires of you to play your part in the cosmos? Perhaps it’s something mundane and benevolent like “Donate 25% of your earnings to the local temple every month” or “Volunteer to help those less fortunate”. However, maybe your patron is more about righteous might than benevolent charity and they require more classically heroic deeds such as “Destroy the evil Lich Arkanolos the Vile”, or “Eradicate the Cult of the Black Flame”. The goals of your patron can be a fantastic space to get creative and make your character unique whilst tying them to the world (plus your Dm loves a good plot hook).

The Fiend

Who or what are they?

“You have made a pact with a fiend from the lower planes of existence, a being whose aims are evil, even if you strive against those aims. Such beings desire the corruption or destruction of all things, ultimately including you.”

The first port of call for many, The Fiend compliments the cackling, lightning flinging, maniacal vision of a Warlock portrayed by fantasy for decades. Empowered by unholy magic this Warlock is beholden to a truly evil master–whether they wanted to be or not. Now the first thing to point out here is that your Warlock does not need to be evil to serve a Fiendish Patron (it probably helps though). Take some time to think about the type of Fiend you serve as it will shape the flavor of your pact. A maniacal Pit Fiend intent on world domination through subversive cults is going to have very different demands to a ravenous Demon Lord with a taste for virtuous souls. 

How and why did you make this pact?

Take some time to consider the circumstances that led to your deal with this vile creature. Chances are you were pretty desperate for their help at the time! Perhaps they offered aid to you or a loved one when all hope seemed lost, or they may have tempted you with whispers of power and legendary deeds if you would make the deal. Deciding how your character feels about their contract (and Patron) is an important foundation for the next step: the deal itself.

What do they want?

To corrupt and destroy. Fiends despise beauty and joy but revel in pain, suffering, and despair, But how do you translate that to the table? Think about things your character takes joy from and imagine how a particularly manipulative, malevolent being might try to use that love against your character. If they love nature and wildlife perhaps they are required to poison a sight of natural beauty once every year to fulfill the terms of their contract. Do they love food? Every month they have to fast for a week. Simple but effective! 

The point is The Fiend is a nasty piece of work and they get a kick out of making their Warlocks dance to whatever tune they see fit in order to further their own ends and they’ll use every dirty trick, loophole, and cruel punishment they can concoct to get their way. Worst. Boss. Ever.

The Great Old One

“Your patron is a mysterious entity whose nature is utterly foreign to the fabric of reality. It might come from the Far Realm, the space beyond reality, or it could be one of the elder gods known only in legends. Its motives are incomprehensible to mortals, and its knowledge so immense and ancient that even the greatest libraries pale in comparison to the vast secrets it holds. The Great Old One might be unaware of your existence or entirely indifferent to you, but the secrets you have learned allow you to draw your magic from it.”

Who or What are they?

Well, no one really knows. These beings are so alien to mortal minds that they are quite simply unfathomable in scale and scope. The good news is, that means they can be anything you want them to be! Are they a sun devouring serpent, a tentacled cyclopean monstrosity, or a giant brain drifting through the desolate reaches of deep space? Ask your DM what eldritch entities lurk in the outer reaches of the multiverse in your game and discuss the nature of these titanically powerful creatures with them to get a good grounding before we proceed. 

How and Why did you make this pact?

The Great Old Ones are unique in their pacts because they are often unaware of their warlocks in the first place. In the same way a maple tree yields sap to those who tap it correctly, the power of the GOO (pun intended) can be siphoned off, albeit in miniscule amounts, by those who conduct the proper rites and rituals to do so. Perhaps you read an ancient, maddening tome and your eyes were opened to the vast nature of the cosmos, or maybe you conducted a long forgotten ritual and made contact with something from beyond the stars. Whatever it was, you’re unlikely to have had direct contact with your patron (your head would probably explode if you did!). However, that doesn’t mean you get off scot free.

What do they want?

They may not be aware of you, but you still have to hold up your end of the bargain to keep accessing those interdimensional goods. That being said these Otherworldly Patrons are truly alien and beyond the scope of mortal minds so that can mean anything you want! Perhaps you need to collect secrets to keep accessing the powers of your patron, or maybe you need to maintain a connection to the sea at all times. Pickled octopus tentacle anyone? 

Get creative and chat with your DM about the things you need to do to maintain your eldritch pact, I’m sure they’ll relish the opportunity to create some weird, outlandish eldritch nonsense with you!