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Somewhat related to this question but in reverse. I want to know if a warlock's patron actually has to be aware of their warlock. Could the warlock be, for example, siphoning power from their patron without them even noticing? The only one that specifically mentions this one way or the other is the GOO patron.

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.

So is is possible for a warlock to know who his patron is but not vice versa? If it varies on a case-by-case basis the patron type I'm most interested in is The Undying.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I assume you're interested in answers drawing from fifth edition documents and lore? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 6 '19 at 17:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ You seem to have answered your own question with that citation of the GOO. Do you mean to ask this about All Other Patrons? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 6 '19 at 17:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I'm primarily interested in 5e documents and lore but will accept answers from older editions if there is none for 5e. And as stated in the last line I am interested in the general case or if there's no general case then The Undying. \$\endgroup\$ – Himitsu_no_Yami Dec 6 '19 at 18:28
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The language in the warlock section is filled with "pacts" and "bestowing gifts" and such - all very much implying the patron is not only aware of their warlocks but actively acting upon them. I would submit on this language alone that a patron must be aware they have warlocks.

The sections for the most patron types seem to follow this assumption pretty strongly. The exception to this comes in the sentence you cite, and it seems directly contradictory to what I just said. I say a patron must be aware they have warlocks. The book says the Great Old One may be unaware of your existence.

I would argue the two are not mutually exclusive, especially if you read that last sentence with a great emphasis on the word "your". The Great Old One might be unaware of your existence. Like a curator of an ant farm isn't aware of any one particular ant's existence. He knows he has ants. They are his ants. He occasionally might feed them. He might siphon off a baby queen to start another colony. He might ignore them for weeks at a time. He is aware, always at some level, that he has an ant farm. But he may not always know the exact state of it, much less know anything that could distinguish one ant from the next.

The analogy isn't a perfect one because warlocks choose to become warlocks where ants don't get much of a say in being in an ant farm, but the relationship dynamic can still be similar. Warlocks are but ants to their patrons, left alone to mill about and grow and thrive on their own, with an occasional injection of food or water into the equation by the patron.

The ants get everything they think there is to life.

And the patron gets an army of ants.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that a Great Old One is a Lovecraftian type of entity, it's entirely within norms for it to not know you. You perform the correct rituals, incantations, and so on, and you get the correct metaphysical output from them. It's the "universe as slot machine" magic type. In the case of a warlock, they have performed these and now have instant access to the results. The entity responsible for producing these results does not need to be aware. Cthulhu lays dreaming/dead in R'lyeh yet cultists are able to do rituals in its name. There is also Azatoth - it's best not to draw its attention. \$\endgroup\$ – VLAZ Dec 9 '19 at 11:38
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Depends on the patron, depends on the campaign

In my campaign, fiends run an entire market in mortal contracts with the result that a warlock’s patron might suddenly change as their pact is bought and sold. However, in this situation, it’s the warlock who doesn’t know who their patron is - the patron does; in the same way Apple or General Electric know who their shareholders are. Of course, if your contract gets acquired by an imp making their first investment after a million years of scrimping and saving, you might suddenly get a very personal management style.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If only those shares in GE would give me the Eldritch Blast cantrip, I'd be a happier shareholder. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 6 '19 at 20:37
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It is possible for a patron not to know their warlock

As you quote in your question:

The Great Old One might be unaware of your existence

And, as I assume you are aware based on your use of that quote:

Otherworldly Patron

At 1st level, you have struck a bargain with an otherworldly being of your choice: the Archfey, the Fiend, or the Great Old One

Ergo you explicitly can have a patron who is unaware of your character's existence.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty sure you are, but are you saying that the specific call out for GOOs is generally applicable to all? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 6 '19 at 18:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a case of "the exception that proves the rule". Because GOO specifically says that they "might be unaware of your existence", it can be read that the other Patrons do not have this 'feature', and will be aware of their pet warlocks. \$\endgroup\$ – Black Spike Dec 6 '19 at 18:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Oh, no, the question is whether it is possible that a patron doesn't know their warlock. By showing that there exists at least one such possible case we have answered the question by counter-example. I do not treat the question of whether any patron can not know they have a warlock, just if a patron can not know they have a warlock. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Dec 6 '19 at 19:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough, maybe OP just needs to clarify. But given they quoted the GOO, it seems like they want to know if this is possible for other patrons. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 6 '19 at 19:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Himitsu_no_Yami I suggest you revise that last bit and make it a stand alone statement in the question. It's not particularly clear as asked when one reads the title and all that precedes that last bit you tagged onto the end. A little more clarity never hurts, and often helps. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 6 '19 at 20:17
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No, not necessarily

I can think of several ways that a patron may not know their warlock. A lot of this is DM dependant and may depend on the setting, so your milage may vary.

Prometheus

The relationship between your Warlock and their Patron may be akin to the story of Prometheus - the man who stole fire from the gods. However, unlike Prometheus, you are stealing from a Patron, not a god, and your Patron has not caught you... yet.

The Patron might know that someone has stolen some of their power, but not know who or they might be unaware of the theft and thusly unaware of the warlock’s very existence. It could lead to an interesting story if the Patron starts to seek out the cause of their waning power and discovers someone is stealing it from them.

The existence of the patrons is unclear

In settings such as Eberron or Dark Sun, the existence of gods is unclear, to the point that some people believe they might not exist at all. Yes, clerics and paladins exist and the rituals they perform do produce magical effects, yet there is no direct evidence that a deity is granting them this power. It may just be that clerics and paladins are tapping into the same power as everyone else but their way of doing that is different - and they associate this way of tapping into magic with deities and religion. Rather than seeing these rituals as magical, they view them as being divine.

Patrons in your campaign world might be the same. Yes you make a pact and perform a certain ritual to get power, but there is no evidence that the patron exists. People may just have associated the power that certain rituals grant you with different figures, such as The Fiend or The Undying or The Archfey - but these icons are just representations, they are not real entities. So, if Patrons in your campaign setting work this way, they can not possibly know of your existence as they are not real.

The patron chose you without knowing your identity

One Fiend may have dared another to give some of their power to a random mortal. You may of met your archfey at a masquerade ball, or they were too intoxicated to remember your name the next day. The Undying may have assumed you to be dead but instead granted you some of their power, like The Boy Who Lived. Or they may of been trying to create chaos by granting their power to individuals at random.

Alternatively, you may have been hidden from them using some form of anti-divination spell or effect which prevented them from learning your identity. Or you may have used a false identity when creating your pact with your patron. Whilst this may not work on a fiend, it might work on an Undying patron who was once mortal. This way, the patron would either not know you or only know your false identity.

You inherited the power from your family or another warlock

A patron might not know you as they didn’t make a pact with you, they made it with one of your family members. This person may be long dead now but the magic has spread through your bloodline, now manifesting in you. The patron doesn’t know you, the only know your great-great-grandfather with whom they made the pact.

Alternatively a warlock may have passed their power onto you, wanting to be done with their patron or believing it to be a curse. (They might even be sub-letting their power to you without the patron’s knowledge). Whatever the reason, the warlock has given you access to the patron’s power without the patron knowing who you are.

The patron has forgotten the warlock’s identity

Whilst much of the PHB implies that a warlock has an active pact with their patron and is in semi-regular contact with them, their exists the possibility that the pact has already been fulfilled. The warlock may have already fulfilled the terms of the contract before the campaign has started and has been rewarded with a power that will grow over time. This means that, because the pact is finished and the patron may not see that warlock again, it is possible for them to forget the warlock’s identity.

Alternatively the patron may be affected by some kind of spell which has caused them to forget. Or they may even have so many warlocks that they can’t remember who is who.

Sold to the highest bidder

Perhaps pacts are commonly exchanged between patrons, buying and selling them in something akin to an auction or even a stock exchange. You may have made a pact with one patron, who would know your identity, who then sold your pact to another patron who then sold it to another. The buyer of your pact might not know you nor care to learn your identity, all they may know is how much you are worth to a buyer.


This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of ways that a patron may not know their warlock’s identity. What this list of ideas is meant tondo though is give you some inspiration as to how your patron might not know your warlock.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Prometheus - the man who stole fire from the gods" minor correction, Prometheus was not a man. He was a titan and is the one who created mankind. At least the current iteration of it. He was the patron of mankind and it's his love and devotion of his creation that drove him to get the fire. \$\endgroup\$ – VLAZ Dec 9 '19 at 11:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VLAZ I know but I said man for the sake of simplicity. Plus, he was man (in the sense that he was male), just not a /hu/man :P \$\endgroup\$ – Liam Morris Dec 9 '19 at 16:58

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