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In a campaign that I am running, we came upon an interesting question. Where is a warlock's soul? This came about when my players were trying to sneak into a restricted area.

In my world, there is a sort of disease that marks the soul. There are also what's known as seers, who can see the soul in order to combat it. There was a seer in this area, so I'm wondering whether the seer would be able see her soul, or whether they would just see a void.

If it matters, the patron is the Raven Queen, and the soul was sold to save the character's army unit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You say the soul was sold. Does this mean that the character currently has no soul? In most soul bargains, the soul is sold to be taken after the person dies (you can read more about that in Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus). If the Raven Queen took the soul immediately, is the character being controlled by an animating spirit instead? \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 8 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @David Coffron The specific terms were that the Raven Queen would give the character power to save her unit, but claim her soul for it. The specific word we were using was claim, so I didn't really think about this. I also have been avoiding reading Descent into Avernes I am running through it as a player in another campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – Wise Man Nov 8 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Where is any other character's soul? \$\endgroup\$ – detly Nov 9 at 20:31
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The rules don’t define this. The absence of anything saying your soul goes anywhere might indicate that it stays where it is, though—in fact, the concept of selling souls isn’t explicitly mentioned in the warlock description at all. The only use of the word “soul” in the Classes section of the Player’s Handbook is for the monk’s Diamond Soul. Actually, selling one’s soul at all is only mentioned as a possible Bond for the sage background—and it’s not given any details there, either, it just says “I sold my soul for knowledge. I hope to do great deeds and win it back.”

Anyway, since one can sell one’s soul, and the warlock description emphasizes the search for secret knowledge and everything, it seems entirely plausible that one’s soul could be one’s side of the bargain in a pact—certainly tons and tons of narrative precedent there. So we’ll say that’s what happened—so what does that mean?

Again, we have no details—it’s up to you. Traditionally, though, sold souls are collected on death, not before. For that matter, soulless characters are often not depicted as independent, sapient beings—which would make them not really viable as player characters. But as DM, you can make the warlock’s soul absent. Just be aware that this will have ramifications beyond whether this seer can see the warlock. For a fairly-obvious example, magic jar would presumably have no effect on the warlock. There will likely be others.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you want another reference, you can use magic jar which necessitates targets and casters with souls \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 8 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ One more reference of a removed soul: Deck of Many Things card The Void "Your soul is drawn from your body and contained in an object... While your soul is trapped in this way, your body is incapacitated." \$\endgroup\$ – Reginald Blue Nov 8 at 17:46
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Warlocks still have their souls within them

I know of no specific rules that say a Warlock's soul has been removed from their body or not, and D&D 5e has no secret rules. So off the bat the proper assumption should be that they have their souls.

But we can do better. There are various mechanics in the game that specify the removal of a soul, for which the Warlock has no matching description or exclusion from. And if they lacked a soul, it would make them immune to such effects. For example, the spell Magic Jar states:

Your body falls into a catatonic state as your soul leaves it and enters the container you used for the spell's material component. While your soul inhabits the container, you are aware of your surroundings as if you were in the container's space.

If a Warlock's soul were not in their body, then this spell would fail. Since the spell offers no stipulation for Warlocks or other creatures without souls in their body being immune, it stands as evidence against Warlocks not having their souls within them. Furthermore, both Magic Jar and Astral Projection suggest that true separation of the body and the soul leads to death (though this isn't necessarily true outside of the spells context, it does give us an idea for the designers intent on how souls relate to the body).

Certainly, as always, the DM can make exceptions. It is your world after all. But keep in mind that this isn't the game's interpretation of a Warlock's pact, and that there are ramifications to how you rule in regards to spells such as these.

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The rules don't make any statement about warlocks' souls or their disposition, but that's been covered by some other answers here. Still, it might be worthwhile to talk a little about what 'selling your soul' means in our own world's literature.

One of the most famous sold-your-soul stories is Doctor Faust, a German legend originating around from 16th century and distributed in chap-books, which were one of the first forms of literature printed for public consumption. In the legend, it's pretty clear that Faust's soul is still inside his body. He signs a contract with the devil to have earthly power and delights for some number of years, at the expiration of which, he will immediately die and his soul will be taken to hell. (In the original story, a variety of holy men and angelic beings try to get Faust to understand that the contract isn't really binding; he could have forgiveness and save his soul at any time if he just asked for it honestly and renounced the powers he was given.)

In the pre-modern era, that tends to be the way it goes -- you can't live without a soul, so losing one's soul is really only a claim to post-mortem ownership of the soul, or it's a trick and having the soul removed means a demon or some such thing moves in (in which case it isn't really the same person anymore).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that last part is 'Possession' \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 8 at 20:13

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