The “Pious” Warlock, Part One 8

A tweet by @jorphdan about adapting the Piety system from Mythic Odysseys of Theros into the Forgotten Realms sparked the idea of using the Piety system to reward warlocks for their loyalty to their Patrons. One of my narrative issues with the warlock class is that there aren’t any mechanical hooks – like at all – that touch on honoring the pact that gets you your powers. They’re your patron but that doesn’t mean anything more than you decide to let it mean. There are good reasons for this, don’t get me wrong, but I think there’s still room to explore rewards above and beyond the warlock subclass features.

I also plan to create an anti-Piety model, representing some of the ways you can have an antagonistic relationship with your patron and extract more powers from them. I’m not sure where that’s going yet, so I’m writing to find out.

Summer Court Archfey: Positive Relationship

Mortal servants of the Summer Court Archfey are dedicated to ideals of beauty, romance, valor, glory, righteous wrath, and joy, and inspiring those things in others. Many mortals let themselves become enthralled with the glamour of the fey and the privilege of serving them. Those who turn a blind eye to the ruthless courtly intrigues of the Summer Court, though, are most often taken in and destroyed by them.

Summer Court Favor

How did you enter your pact or relationship with an Archfey of the Summer Court?

d6         Circumstance
1            You tried to burgle the house that is only there on the three days around Midsummer. When you got caught, accepting this pact seemed a lot better than the punishment for theft.
2            You saw an Archfey from afar, and you were so overwhelmed by their glamour that you threw yourself at their feet in devotion.
3            Your artistic creations so impressed a fey listener that their liege-lord offered you a life filled with inspiration.
4            A bitterly unhappy home life led you to wish for something more, and an Archfey granted you that… in exchange for service.
5            You pursued a unicorn or silvery stag into the greenwood. When you had a chance to slay it with an arrow, you chose to miss, and it became an Archfey who offered you prestige and power.
6            An Archfey took you from your family in your infancy, and you lived at their court in the Feywild for an immeasurable time. The Archfey is an emotionally distant parent to you; you’re like a favorite exotic animal to them.

Devotion to the Summer Court

As you dedicate yourself to the Summer Court’s service, consider replacing or adding one of the following to your Ideals.

Summer Court Ideals

d6         Ideal
1            Beauty. Beauty is truth, truth beauty,–that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. (Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”)
2            Valor. If we are marked to die, we are enow to do our country loss; if to live, the fewer men, the greater share of honor. (Henry V, Act IV Scene 3)
3            Romance. What true love has joined together, no force of light or darkness may sunder.
4            Joy. Let us banish the cares of the world with joy and surprise.
5            Hospitality. The bond between guest and host is the most ancient and powerful of oaths.
6            Delirium. We deny this cold and cruel world of mortals and imagine it as something better.

Earning and Losing Piety (Favor)

You increase your Piety score with the Summer Court when you honor ideals of beauty, glory, and joy through deeds such as the following.

  • Inspiring or enjoying a new artistic creation or performance
  • Taking great or foolhardy risks to inspire valor in others
  • Making sacrifices the sake of your own love, or the bond of love between others
  • Encouraging romantic love to blossom
  • Building shrines dedicated to your Patron, and destroying shrines dedicated to the Gloaming Court Archfey

Your Piety score decreases if you show greater loyalty to other powers – the Summer Queen and all of her Court are jealous – and through the actions like the following.

  • Breaking an oath, especially the bond of safety between guest and host
  • Interfering in romantic relationships, unless it’s really funny or you’re setting them up with someone else
  • Carelessly destroying something beautiful

Summer Court Page

Piety 3+ Summer Court

The paths of the Feywild are open to you. You can cast misty step with this trait. You can do so once, and regain the use of this trait when you finish a long rest or gain two points of Piety from your deeds. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

Summer Court Squire

Piety 10+ Summer Court

When you spend Inspiration or Bardic Inspiration on a Charisma ability check and the result is a success, one creature you interact with is charmed by you for 1 minute. When you spend Inspiration or Bardic Inspiration on a Charisma ability check and the result is a failure, you retain that Inspiration or Bardic Inspiration.

Summer Court Knight

Piety 25+ Summer Court

You gain an additional Eldritch Invocation or supernatural gift that is appropriate to your Patron.

Summer Court Noble

Piety 50+ Summer Court

You can increase your Dexterity or Charisma score by 2 and also increase your maximum for that score by 2.

Summer Court Iconoclast

If your relationship with your Summer Court Archfey patron is antagonistic, you’re probably taking direct steps against them. You might do this for any number of reasons, but I’m saving some of the more overtly horrific content for Fiend and Great Old One patrons. This probably also works well for Archfey who aren’t part of the Courts.

Unlike the Iconoclasts of Mythic Odysseys of Theros, this system really depends on actions in game – I think it’s a substantial violation of theme and concept if all you have to do for this is gain levels. Instead, I’m suggesting a progression of four goals, one per tier of play. At some point during or after each tier of play, you complete one of the quest goals listed for that tier. Completing multiple goals within a single tier may advance the narrative, but it doesn’t grant an additional supernatural gift.

Tier 1, 1st to 4th level

Quest goal:

  • Use a weapon made of cold iron to kill a fey servant of your Patron
  • Find a map of the Feywild that reveals the location of your Patron’s demesne
  • Create a popular song or other piece of art ridiculing your Patron
  • Escape from a group of NPCs sent by your Patron to capture or kill you

Reward: You can cast counterspell when a creature you can see casts a spell that would teleport them any distance. You can use this trait once, and regain use of it when you finish a long rest. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

Tier 2, 5th to 10th level

Quest goal:

  • Slay a warlock who serves (rather than opposes) your Patron
  • Convince a warlock who serves your Patron to break their pact
  • Destroy a shrine dedicated to your Patron
  • Defeat a group of NPCs sent by your Patron to capture or kill you

Reward: You can cast bestow curse or remove curse with this trait. Once you cast one of these, you can’t use this trait again until you finish a long rest. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

 Tier 3, 11th-16th level

Quest goal:

  • Engage your Patron in a contest of wills; if you lose, escape from the psychic prison
  • Reveal a humiliating secret about your Patron to the Summer or Gloaming Courts
  • Steal the token that signifies your bond with your Patron

Reward: You can cast dispel evil and good with this trait, requiring no material components. Once you do so, you can’t cast it in this way again until you finish a long rest.

When you cast counterspell with your Tier 1 trait, you cast it as a 5th-level spell.

Tier 4, 17th-20th level

Quest goal:

  • Slay or banish your Patron
  • Arrange for your Patron to be exiled from the Summer Court

Reward: You can increase your Wisdom or Charisma score by 2 and also increase your maximum for that score by 2.

Design Notes

I’m hoping this represents a model I could comfortably use across each type of officially released Patron, for both positive and antagonistic relationships. I’ll have get a lot more creative when it comes to positive relationships with the Great Old Ones, won’t I?

My main doubt in these features is the top-end ability score bump. It works in Theros, but I think it might be out of place for general use. Thinking about replacing it with extra Spells Known or an extra Mystic Arcanum slot or the like.

Let me know what you think. I’m interested in turning this into a DM’s Guild product.

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8 thoughts on “The “Pious” Warlock, Part One

  • Craig W Cormier

    This is a really cool idea. The Piety mechanic is Theros is by far the most interesting part of that book and seeing the basic template expanded to cover other relationships is just great.

    I agree that the ability score bump for the top tier of Piety is a little much for this type of relationship and frankly I think additional spells known, invocations, or Mystic Arcanum would be both more interesting and more useful.

    The “contest of wills” and “psychic prison” mentioned in the Tier 3 Iconoclast rules might require some basic explanation of your intent.

    Does slaying or banishing your patron negatively impact your warlock abilities? Cause it seems like it would. Maybe it’s outside the scope of this idea, but that sounds like something that requires additional explanation and handling, or at least some advice to a DM. I personally think I’d add a line about slaying your patron also lets you steal their power, effectively becoming your own patron.

    I am looking forward to the Great Old One and Fiend (and really all the patrons that are generally evil). Are you considering doing a variant of the Archfey for each of the Archfey templates you described in your earlier series on the topic?

    • Brandes Stoddard Post author

      The contest of wills and psychic prison thing are intended as broad suggestions of how your antagonistic relationship might develop, but if this got to a completed manuscript, my editor would probably beat me about the head and shoulders until I wrote a whole challenge for it.

      My thought is that slaying your patron converts them into something like a Vestige, or you’re now cool enough to steal their power and self-sustain. Banishment… well, being on a different plane from your patron never mattered BEFORE, so why start now?

      For the Archfey, I’m thinking of splitting them into just Summer Court and Gloaming Court. Fiends might get split into Diabolic and Demonic, and we’ll see if I have enough gas in the tank to make Daemonic different. If I’m feeling REALLY saucy, Great Old Ones might get split into Outer Dark and Chthonic. The rest of the Patrons are pretty unlikely to get split.

      • Craig W Cormier

        I’d be very interested to see the differences you come up with for different versions of the same patrons. Demons and Devils are actually more different conceptually to me than Summer/Gloaming fey. The kinds of pacts that Asmodeus makes seem like they would be polar opposites to those that Yeenoghu or Baphomet makes.

        I also feel like Celestial and Genie would be really interesting pacts to explore in greater detail.

        • Brandes Stoddard Post author

          It’s… something of an open question in my own mind how many patrons and variations I’ll cover in the final, but I’m excited to find out.

    • Brandes Stoddard Post author

      Let’s see what happens when I write the tanar’ri Piety/Iconoclast entry? Supporting Elric’s relationship with Arioch is a worthy goal, but I haven’t read any Elric stories in… decades, maybe… so there may be a bit of back-and-forth to get there.