You want to make a warlock. But, you don’t want to go with the classic Cthulhu or Oberon or Asmodeus. You want something fresh and new.
So, why not make your own homebrew warlock patron?
Making your own patron can be a lot of fun. But, it’s important to remember that you need to work with your Dungeon Master throughout the process (unless you’re the DM, then just go nuts). And, I have a few tips to help you during the design process.
- Your Patron’s Subclass
- About Your Patron
- Your Character & Your Patron
- How Does Your Patron Fit Into the Plot
This might seem like not all that much. But, we’re gonna get granular here. So, bare with me.
And honestly, this is all pretty system agnostic. Meaning, while I’m doing this from a frame of mind around Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, you can use these tips for any sort of otherworldly entity in your TTRPG system of choice.
Anyway, let’s get started with the most basic step; choose your warlock subclass type.
Step 1: Choose Your Patron’s Corresponding Subclass
First things first, before making your own homebrew warlock patron, you need to know which subclass it falls under.
So, you’ll need to know what the DnD 5e warlock patrons are and the different mechanics they offer.
This is important since each subclass has its own strengths and features. And, you’ll get a better feel for who and what your custom patron is.
For example, an Archfey patron should behave differently from, say, a Hexblade. Or, a Genie’s pact should differ from an Undying entity’s. Each hold a certain context and convey contrasting concepts and behaviors.
I’ll be honest, this is probably the easiest step.
Chances are, if you’re looking to create a custom warlock patron, you already have an idea of who that patron is. And, from there, you can determine the best subclass that fits them.
Looking for an elder being? Choose Great Old One. Want to follow an enigmatic creature of the deep? Go with the Fathomless. Yearning to serve a lich? Pick the Undying pact.
For the most part, the warlock subclass you choose affects how your patron looks, too.
Now, there’s a lot of wiggle room here. Not every Archfey looks vaguely elf-like. Not every Great Old One is a giant tentacle monster. Not every devil looks like Rowan Atkinson.
But, there are similar themes you can use based on the pact type for your patron. Whether that’s natural for Archfey, rotting for Undying, monstrous for Celestial, or any other of nearly infinite design motifs.
Go thematic, but go wild with it (if you want, that is, there’s nothing wrong with going traditional).
Then, flesh out your patron as a character.
Step 2: Develop Your Custom Patron as a Character
This is the bulk of creating a homebrew warlock patron.
Mechanics aside (that comes from the step above), this is how you make your 5e patron unique. Now is the time to figure out exactly who and what your patron is.
It’s…a lot. I’m not gonna lie. And, you need to work with your Dungeon Master on the finer details. You are, after all, injecting a powerful entity into their game and story.
Developing your custom patron should be a collaborative effort between player and DM.
With that being said, here are a few things to consider when making your own warlock patron.
What is Your Patron’s Name/Title?
Who is your patron? What do they go by? Do they even have a name or do they go by a title? Are they nameless?
The most basic thing you can do when creating a homebrew patron is give them a name.
A good name can evoke a number of reactions or emotions.
Jumble up the alphabet and randomize a name for your Great Old One. Find an obscure fairy tale for your Archfey. Pledge allegiance to the almighty undead lord Steve Lichman.
The name you come up with helps establish the first impression your patron has on everyone else if/when they learn of them.
Where Does Your Patron Reside?
Next up; choose your patron’s domain.
Do they live in a demi-plane of their own design? Have they claimed a nearly unreachable part of the world as their own? Do they exist far past the Outer Planes in the infinite expanse? Are they a high level devil in the Nine Hells?
Your patron’s domain adds a deeper level to who they are.
Often, where your homebrew patron lives helps demonstrate their power. If they have built their own fortress or other sort of domain, that establishes them as ambitious or as having sway over others. Or, if they merely reside in a space, that can show their indifference towards existence or that they are above petty needs for shelter. Maybe your patron is sealed away for whatever reason.
Where your custom patron resides adds to their character. So, make sure you put them in a good spot.
What is Your Patron’s Personality Like?
Let’s get a little deeper.
Establish your patron’s general attitude.
Are the angry? Amiable? Annoyed? Alone? Amenable?
That last one’s about the same as the second. Leave me alone.
Anyway, give your patron a personality. Too often I feel like players play a warlock and…sort of forget they’re on the receiving end of a powerline. Their patron is simply a means to an end and that’s all there is to say on the matter.
But, you’re drawing power through another entity.
Sure, your Great Old One patron might be indifferent and an all-consuming mass of hatred with big “no thought, head empty” energy. But, the Archfey should have a personality. The Fiend should have character. The Celestial should have a voice (maybe not in the literal sense, but you get the idea).
This adds a new level of interaction between warlock and patron.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has a fun table of options for Patron Attitudes. They encourage interaction (however seldom that might be) between the player and DM in-character. And, this interaction becomes deeper when you establish your custom patron’s personality and identity.
With that in mind, think about how your custom patron fits into your DM’s world.
What is Your Patron’s Place in the World?
The next thing to consider is how your patron fits into the cosmology of your game.
You need to work with your DM (if you’re a player) on this part. You can’t just go adding an uber-powerful entity to the setting without clearing it first.
But, if you’re the DM, go nuts.
What goes into this?
Well, I’d say figure out how well known is your patron first.
Is your patron a relatively well-known entity or is it obscure knowledge locked away in secure libraries? Are there other pact holders wandering the world or is your character one-of-a-kind? Is your patron worshipped by those aware of it or do the knowledgeable live in fear of it?
And, to top it all off; why?
Why is your homebrew patron obscure to the general populace? Why are you the only one granted power through them? Why are the few who know of its existence afraid of it?
Many of these questions interconnect with other aspects of building out your custom patron. So, understanding those answers helps plant it into the world and add a new element of role-playing possibilities.
If you develop your patron’s relationship with the setting, you have the potential to run into NPCs who know of them. Maybe they’ll treat you favorably. Or, they’ll run away in fear of you and your connection to an unknowable, unfathomable horror.
Either way, it’s sure to be a good time.
Why Does Your Patron Make Pacts?
Now, you probably know why your character made a pact with this awe-inspiring entity.
They wanted power for revenge, power to protect their loved ones, power for the sake of power. Blah, blah, blah.
But, why does your patron make pacts with mortals?
Think about it.
Supposedly, your patron is powerful enough to grant a portion of their strength to you. They might reside in a realm made of pure chaos, pure order, or pure magic. They’re able to communicate their own power across planes of existence.
Why bother giving a slice of their power pie to a lowly mortal?
The answer; something prevents them from achieving their goal themselves.
We’ll get to why your patron needs a goal in a second. So, just sit tight (or skip ahead to the next section).
Personally, I think there are five basic reasons why your homebrew patron makes pacts:
- They’re stuck in their domain or sealed away
- They’re not stuck per se, but they can’t leave their plane of existence
- It’s a reciprocal relationship; your custom patron only has power if mortals believe in/worship them and in turn grants devotees a portion of their power
- They think it’s fun or entertaining (looking at you, Archfey)
- They don’t know or don’t care and your character sucks the little power they get like a parasite
Now, what your custom patron’s goal is also plays a part in why they make pacts. So, let’s get to that.
What is Your Patron’s Goal?
Every good or semi-important NPC should have a goal. Even if it’s minor like "I need to go into town to buy bread."
Your homebrew patron should have a goal of their own. And, your warlock’s pact should play into that goal.
When you introduce cosmic entities on a level with those capable of making pacts with mortals, they probably need a reason as to why they’re doing that.
Even going with the "they think it’s funny" or "they’re unaware of their pact" options and lead to interesting consequences.
What if the Archfey that makes pacts for fun is suddenly found to have violated fey law and is detained by the Summer Court? What if the Great Old One you’re leeching off of finds out you’ve been using them for power without their permission?
Suddenly your warlock needs to fulfill the goals of escape from a fairy prison and…maybe start doing unspeakable things to appease the horrific monstrosity at the edge of existence. Respectively, of course.
The goals of these powerful beings can stay enigmatic. But, they should have them none the less.
Establish your custom patron’s goal (or leave it up to your DM for extra fun). And, figure out why they’re having a hard time obtaining it.
I like using How to Be a Great Game Master’s sentence. It boils down to this:
"Somebody wants something/wants to achieve something by a certain time. But, they’re having difficulty getting it/doing it because of some sort of obstacle."
I use this for villains and ally NPCs (heck, even for one-off characters if I like them enough). And, it’ll help your make your custom warlock patron more real. It means your warlock might need to take a side quest to fulfill their patron’s wishes if they want to keep them happy.
Step 3: Your Character’s Deal with Your Patron
Now that you’ve developed your homebrew patron’s personality, time to figure out your character’s interaction with them.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has a good couple of sections on warlocks with the Pact Terms and Binding Marks. So, we’ll start there.
What Are the Terms of Your Character’s Pact?
This plays pretty heavily into the reason your custom patron makes pacts in the first place. But, you can get granular into what that means for your character.
Why did your character make their pact? What conditions did they agree to? What are the repercussions of breaking your pact?
XGtE has a fun little table for Special Terms to help inspire this. They’re small things like abstaining from alcohol, performing a daily ritual, or speaking your patron’s name when you use an invocation. But, a little bit of flavor is all you really need.
Even better, you can use this table to inspire the pact terms for your custom patron.
What does your patron ask of you in return for their gifts? What makes their terms unique to them or to you? Do their terms differ between your character and other warlocks of their’s?
Also, what happens if you break those terms?
Usually, breaking a pact means losing your warlock powers and abilities. But, you could add more to make your patron stand out. Maybe you’re plagued by nightmares and need to roll a Constitution or Wisdom saving throw to prevent levels of exhaustion. Or, maybe the power granted by your patron is sucked out so forcefully that you have disadvantage on saving throws and ability checks that rely on Strength, Dexterity, and/or Constitution.
Now, these are a bit extreme. And, if you’re a DM, you need to make sure your player understands the consequences of breaking their pact. But, they can add a new level of roleplaying or even start a side story of the character regaining or finding new power.
Or, maybe they retire.
Establish what the terms of your homebrew patron’s warlock pacts. It adds options to your character’s roleplaying.
What Marks Does Your Patron Leave?
Another section from XGtE is the Binding Marks.
Basically, drawing power from a powerful entity leaves some magical mark on your character’s body. Now, this mark could be a side effect of their body handling the magic or it could be a brand of sorts your patron leaves to mark you as theirs.
some examples in Xanathar’s are things like one of your eyes is the same color as your patron’s, you appear sick but don’t suffer any symptoms, or your nose glows in the dark.
Maybe your custom patron gives you tiny antlers. Or, maybe you gain an airy tattoo that subtly moves like a mist in the breeze. Or, maybe you gain an extra toe on each foot.
I dunno. That’s up for you and your DM to decide.
The thing is; your mark can be anything you can think of so long as it doesn’t benefit your mechanically.
Binding Marks are supposed to add flavor to your character and homebrew patron. So, they shouldn’t confer any bonuses to ability scores, grant you advantage on certain rolls, or give you additional features. They’re there for fun.
Also, consider, if your patron makes pacts with other warlocks, do you all share the same mark or are they all different?
Maybe yours is different from the others. What if you share one with the others and someone else has a different mark? Think of the roleplaying possibilities and interactions your character can have.
Step 4: How Does Your Custom Patron Fit Into the Story?
Finally, and this is mostly for the DMs out there, you need to consider how your homebrew patron works into the campaign.
If you can, work your homebrew patron into your campaign’s story somehow. Is there a faction that interferes with the party’s goals? Is your custom patron the villain (or a villain along the way)? Or, are they not involved at all?
Even if your homebrew warlock patron isn’t a part of your campaign’s main story, you might still have a side quest around them.
But, it’s important to know how interconnected they are. As a DM, it means you’ll know when and where to drop hints for your players. Your players probably shouldn’t know what’s coming. But, you need to prepare ahead of time if you plan on incorporating the warlock’s patron into the story.
However you do that depends on the plot.
That about covers the basics for how to make a homebrew warlock 5e patron.
Basically, it breaks down into four steps:
- Choose which warlock pact (or subclass) you want to make a patron for
- Flesh out your custom patron’s personality and other character traits
- Figure out your character’s relationship with their patron through their pact terms and binding marks
- Establish how the entity fits into the campaign’s story
These are the basics I’ve come up with. But, you might have more to add or decide some aspects aren’t that important.
As with any homebrewing, your imagination is the limit…and the rules. But, only mechanically…unless you’re making a warlock pact from scratch. But, that’s an entirely different kind of homebrew.
Have you used a homebrew warlock patron for your character? Do you have any other tips for making fun patrons? Leave a comment below to share your ideas.