A couple of weeks ago I made an attempt at a Planescape inspired subclass for the Warlock.

Since then I have been able to incorporate feedback offered by the community as well as play test with the player who asked me to make this character possible for her. For a little context our campaign has become a sort of planar power rangers adventure. We have a Evocation Wizard, a Horizon Walker Ranger, and now the LoP Warlock. We started the campaign at 5th level and have since progressed to 9th. The initial goal of the subclass was to provide another front-liner option other than the Hexblade that is more defensive where the Hexblade is offensive.

To that end we have streamlined the central feature, Serenity's Shadow, to offer the same AC bonus while swapping out the ability to make creatures vulnerable to damage for a few castings of Hellish Rebuke.

I am still concerned with the actual wording of certain features for consistency with published materials as well as the overall balance of the Subclass at higher levels.

The Lady of Pain Patron

You have quietly made a Pact with the Lady of Pain and her Cage. As a shadow of Her Serenity, you have been charged with maintaining balance among the planes while preserving the Lady’s privacy. As part of this pact, you have the following restrictions & benefits:

  • You must never divulge the nature of your pact, even under pain of death.
  • You must protect the Dabu and the city of Sigil, and never bring either harm.
  • Alcohol and other intoxicants have no diminishing effect on the pain you feel. Conversely, your tolerance for pain has increased by twice that of most mortal creatures.
  • You can understand the strange visual language of the Dabu, but cannot communicate using it.

Expanded Spell List

  • 1st: Shield, inflict wounds
  • 2nd: Cloud of daggers, silence
  • 3rd: Blink, life transference
  • 4th: Stoneskin, death ward
  • 5th: Planar binding, geas


Serenity’s Shadow

Starting at 1st level, you can as an action cast an ominous shadow obscuring your form from enemies in a 10-foot radius centered on you for 8 hours that provides you with several benefits:

  • You gain a bonus to your AC equal to half your Charisma modifier, rounded down (minimum of +1) while your shadow is active.

  • As a reaction to being struck by a creature within your aura, you can cast a version of the hellish rebuke spell. The level of the spell is equivalent to the number of Serenity’s Shadow’s charges that you spend. This spell cannot exceed 5th level (6d10), and you must have the capability of casting the spell at the appropriate corresponding level. The damage for this reaction is considered magical slashing damage, and uses your spell save DC.

  • You can spend 1 charge of Serenity’s Shadow to take the Hide or Disengage action as a bonus action.

  • While the Shadow is active you can add your proficiency bonus to Dexterity (Stealth checks).

Serenity’s Shadow has a number of charges equal to your warlock level +1. Once the Shadow’s Duration ends, you end it early as an action, or you use all charges of Serenity's Shadow, you must finish a long rest to use the Shadow again.

At 10th level, the shadow’s aura grants bonus AC to allies within range equal to half your Charisma modifier rounded down (minimum of +1). The radius of Serenity's Shadow expands to 30 feet.

At 14th level, the shadow’s aura grants double the proficiency bonus for Dexterity (Stealth) checks, and allows allies in its radius to take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action.


By 6th level, your body has adapted to recovering from gruesome injuries. You have advantage on death saving throws. Also, if you have hit points less than or equal to half of your hit point maximum, you can use a bonus action to roll one Hit Die to regain hit points; the amount of hit points regained is equal to the die roll plus your Charisma modifier.

Planar Doorman

At 14th level, you can cast the plane shift spell once without using a spell slot or material components, so long as you are headed to Sigil. You can use this feature to travel elsewhere if you possess the material component cost and spell slot to do so normally. As an reaction to the plane shift spell being cast by another creature, you can counter that spell immediately by using a 7th-level spell slot. Once you use this feature, you must finish a long rest before using it again.

Lady of Pain Patron Eldritch Invocations


Prerequisites: Lady of Pain patron

The radius of your Serenity’s Shadow feature expands by 30 feet. Additionally, while the shadow is active, you can cast the darkness spell by spending 3 charges of Serenity’s Shadow.

Berk’s Bain

Prerequisites: Level 5, Lady of Pain patron

You are becoming crueler to your foes as you now score a critical hit on an attack roll of 19 or 20 while your Serenity's Shadow feature is active. Additionally, you become proficient in the Intimidation Skill if you are not already proficient.


Prerequisites: Level 10, Lady of Pain patron, Pact of the Blade

You have learned to foster an abnormal and persistent fear of pain in your enemies. Once per turn, you can deal an extra 5d6 psychic damage to one creature you hit with an attack if you have advantage on the attack roll. The attack must use your Pact Weapon.

You don't need advantage on the attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn't incapacitated, and you don't have disadvantage on the attack roll.

I thought you were a deader for sure!

Prerequisites: Level 12, Lady of Pain Patron

Injuries are a daily occurrence in your line of work, granting you further insight into anatomy and medicine. You gain proficiency in the Medicine skill. Additionally, when you use the Severance feature, you now can add double your Charisma modifier to the die roll, and can reattach a severed limb by holding a severed body part (other than your head) to where it fell off.

Once you use this feature to reattach a limb, you can't use it again in this way until you finish a long rest.

The Lady's Maze

Prerequisites: Level 18, Lady of Pain patron

You gain mastery of the specific pocket dimensions wherein the Lady of Pain stuffs Berks who displease her. You can cast the maze spell once without using a spell slot. The maze appears to be a circular series of platforms, paths, and portals. The maze can also be cast on willing group of creatures equal to your Charisma modifier. Items and inanimate objects left in the maze will remain there. If the maze is used in this way, you must succeed on a DC 20 Intelligence check to end the spell early.

Once this invocation has been used for either function, you must take a long rest to gain access to the maze again.

Is this Lady of Patron warlock patron balanced against the official options?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You say you've playtested, but you haven't provided feedback on how it went. What features worked, what didn't - and why do you think that was? Why are you making changes and what did you change? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 8, 2019 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ This also might be a prime example to answer the question yourself. Why do you think it is or isn't balanced since you've now played it. \$\endgroup\$ May 8, 2019 at 13:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you propose the character gets a 7th level spell slot to use with the counterspell function of Planar Doorman? Warlock spell slots cap at 5th. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Jan 8, 2020 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ A couple of quick questions: does the Hellish Rebuke spell also cost spell slots? And if not, can it be cast when you are out of spell slots (since it says you "must have the capability of casting the spell at the appropriate corresponding level"). Also, if you already are proficient in Stealth, does the fourth bullet point of Serenity's Shadow do nothing, or did you intend for it to let you add your Proficiency bonus twice? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 24, 2021 at 18:51

2 Answers 2


Serenity’s Shadow - AC bonus

My main concern here is the AC bonus.

As part of the bounded accuracy setup of D&D 5.0, AC bonuses are few and far between because bonuses can be stacked on top of each other to reach improbable numbers.

I see two avenues of exploiting this bonus:

  1. A dip. The duration of the feature is always 8 hours, so a single-level dip grants anyone a +1 AC for 8 hours per day, and grants characters with 18+ Charisma a +2 AC for the same duration. A Bard of Valor could very well consider this a splendid trade.
  2. Allies. Starting at level 10, this extends to close allies. Well, as an ally, I'd play a Bear Totem Barbarian or Full Plate Fighter with the Great Weapon Mastery and Sentinel feats. High AC makes me hard to attack in melee, and Sentinel + GWM punishes anyone who avoids attacking me. Lose-lose.

To cut down on dipping abuses, I would suggest:

  • Change the AC computation rather than add a bonus. For example, let the Warlock use +Cha (vs +Dex) in AC formulas whilst the feature is active. This immediately cuts down on infinite stacking, and requires +Cha > +Dex to be worthwhile.

Still a potentially good dip for Bard of Valor; however they cannot max Dex and get +2 on top now, so they will be stuck at +5 from abilities like everyone else.

To cut down on allies abuses, I would suggest:

  • Do not grant AC bonus to allies; grant Advantage on Stealth checks instead.
  • Or, alternatively, only grant the AC bonus to allies in short bursts. You already have charges: 1 charge grants the benefit to 1 ally for 1 min. or until they leave the aura, whichever happens first.

I'd lean toward the former. Granting Proficiency is another possibility, but it doesn't help characters who already have Proficiency and once again bonuses are annoying. Advantage, though, is lovely: everybody, no matter their bonus, benefits from Advantage, and in this case it nicely negates the Disadvantage imposed by Heavy Armor (or some Medium Armors) so that even the Full Plate Fighter can sneak alongside you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you're absolutely right about changing bonus AC to a new AC formula. A third option was made by the player: offering physical damage resistance which passes onto allies at 10th level and potentially reducing the duration of the shadow to 1 hour to balance. Do you think these are balanced options? \$\endgroup\$
    – user53882
    May 8, 2019 at 23:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user53882: A raging Barbarian gains Resistance to Bludgeoning/Piercing/Slashing for the duration of their rage, which is only 4 times per day at level 9. Having all allies getting Resistance may be a bit much. It makes all characters suddenly super tough, so encounters with no/little magic will suddenly be trivial. The 1h duration helps counter-balancing, but still if the "final" boss of the day is an Ogre or something without magic, then its attack power is reduced by half. \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2019 at 7:03

Playtesting Notes:

Out of six sessions the Warlock seems to be performing very well as a pact of the blade rogue-like melee combatant. I did not allow multi-classing for the character but can see how powerful a fighter or a paladin could make the kit with even a few points of dip. The character made use of a rapier with off-hand free for somatic casting. with the exception of Thirsting blade (a must for any blade pact) the character used only the custom invocations associated with the pact.

This character eats dirt a lot. Even with a Dex bonus of +4 and a maxed CHA, this character is not proficient in armor and thus sits at AC 16, AC 19 with the mage armor invocation. This is only kind of addressed with the Severance feature which the character used at every opportunity. Near the end of an encounter the player had almost no hit die left for short rests.

I do feel punished as the enemies for attacking the warlock which works out as an interesting interaction, these bandits getting negative reinforcement to hit the Warlock like dogs getting zapped with electric collars, "oh lets save this chick for last". All that was really cool, the player liked the image of her Warlock's shadow reaching out and slashing the dudes attacking her. The extra castings of Hellish Rebuke fix the problem of a Warlock in long encounters, its so easy to just blow your load in just a few rounds, this at least gave the player options to save their spells for utility and spend most encounters in the action.

For the RP I think the kit really excels

For survivability I still think there are some options that the player is railroaded into, namely dipping into a class that gives them armor or taking the mage armor invocation. All this is being tested in a healerless party so maybe this is fine in another group.

For damage, I feel like this kit is pretty bursty on some rounds but all around pretty limited which I like, its better than Eldritch blasting every round and just looking edgy.

If there are any directed questions that I could address about seeing this thing live I'd love to see them.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ AC of 16/19 seems pretty on par for a warlock. Do you feel like their eating dirt was because of the build or because the player wasn't using the build optimally? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 8, 2019 at 18:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch They have had similar problems in the past, yes. They usually play some sort of damage oriented front-liner. The feature allowing disengage came in clutch when things got kinda hairy to give them time to switch off with the ranger. I think the survivability is probably fine, just want to get a sense of balance when compared to Hexblade or other similar spell-sword kinds of set ups. \$\endgroup\$
    – user53882
    May 8, 2019 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess i'm confused because you had a build, you playtested it, and it worked. Why does it need another iteration? Your one concern around durability we just kind of dismissed, so I'm not sure what you think needs tweaking anymore. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 8, 2019 at 18:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think what I'm most terrified of is a player starting with fighter or paladin (2) and slapping a +2 to AC on top of plate armor along with the ability to disengage and self heal. wondering if this alone is reason to tweak some things or if this is all comparable to other subclasses. \$\endgroup\$
    – user53882
    May 8, 2019 at 19:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ You said "his character is not proficient in armor", but warlocks get proficiency in light armor. Does this subclass take that away, or did the player just never think to equip armor? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 30, 2019 at 13:02

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