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Let's say my multi-class Warlock 3 / Wizard 17 and his party have just killed his patron, fulfilling a life long dream to be free of an ancestral Pact with the evil fiend. He has zero interest in becoming 'sworn and beholden' to a new entity.

Now, according to this somewhat related question "What happens if the entity a warlock has a pact with is killed?", the accepted answer is basically "No patron, no power". That makes sense from the stand point of losing the ability to cast Pact Magic, as well as access to the various class abilities that were gained from the fiend patron.

However, there are still 3 character levels that it's unclear what to do with. These levels were gained through adventuring, so what happens to them? Does the experience gained just evaporate? Does it transfer to the Wizard levels?

Obviously, the easy way out is "It's up to the DM". What I'm actually looking for is if there has ever been a precedent set for what happens when a character basically loses access to a class. For instance, 5e Oathbreaker Paladin shows what happens to a paladin that breaks their oath.

I'm interested in finding any precedent set throughout the history of D&D that will help a DM decide how to handle this.

What is the precedent for what happens to a warlock's character levels if their patron dies?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This question has the lore tag, but appears to be specifically concerned with mechanics. Should answers include mechanical and story rationales, or is just the mechanical enough? \$\endgroup\$ – aherocalledFrog Mar 11 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since Warlock as a separate class didn't show up until 3.x, you may need to narrow the scope of this question a little bit. Warlock was originally the name of a level of Magic User (8th), Your opening "Warlock 3 / Wizard 17" points to a WoTC era game and I suspect that you are referring to the current edition given that you linked to a 5e question. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 11 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Reminder: Answer in answers, not in comments (including partial/speculative answers). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 13 at 3:16
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Nothing happens, at least in 5e. The Pact only initiates your power; you don't need the Patron after that.

The answer to the question you linked was wrong. Becoming a Warlock is a one-time infusion of power that gives you the ability to take the first Warlock level; any further powers you develop after that are the result of your own developing abilities. You don't need any ongoing relationship with your Patron after you take your first Warlock level.

From the section on warlocks in Xanathar's Guide to Everything (p. 53):

Warlocks are defined by two elements that work in concert to forge their path into this class. The first element is the event or circumstances that led to a warlock’s entering into a pact with a planar entity.

Note that it says that the pact is only necessary to "forge their path into this class". Additionally, unlike Paladins who can lose their class abilities for violating their Oaths, there are no mechanics regarding the loss of a Warlock's powers if their Patron were to die.

Finally, there are examples that show Warlocks don't receive their power directly from their patrons; this can be plainly seen the fact that a CR 2 Hag can be responsible for the initial empowerment of a level 20 Archfey-patron Warlock who is vastly more powerful than she is.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Arguably, some class features of the Warlock could not be acquired by level up after the patron's death, and one might be retroactively lost (barring a new pact being made). Level 3 Pact Boon and Level 11/13/15/17 Mystic Arcanum (along with Pact Magic from level 1) are described as being "bestow"ed by the patron (so leveling up after patron death couldn't get them); Eldritch Master involves "entreating your patron for aid" on each use, so that feature wouldn't be usable even if you earned it prior to patron death. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Mar 11 at 17:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you suggesting that a Monster-Manual-standard CR 2 hag can be a warlock patron? The Archfey patron is described as "a creature of legend who holds secrets that were forgotten before the mortal races were born", and the examples include "ancient hags" at the end of a list that also includes "Titania of the Summer Court". (For that matter, the Monster Manual hags have a range of power levels, from CR 2 up to CR 5.) \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Mar 11 at 20:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells IIRC the section on hags in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes says they can. Even if they can’t, though, unicorns are specifically mentioned as Celestial Pact patrons, and they’re CR 5. \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Mar 11 at 23:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger That seems like a solid start to a complete answer... \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Mar 12 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimothyAWiseman: Eh. The existing answers cover the actual question (what happens to the levels, where the answer is "nothing"). This is a comment on this answer's claim that Warlocks don't receive power from their patrons after the forging of the pact by RAW; RAW isn't clear (though from what I can remember of the fluff text, it's not an active, on-going power linkage the way divine powers are), but I agree with the conclusion "the levels aren't lost", and a level 3 Warlock would lose no powers. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Mar 12 at 16:55
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A warlock is defined by a pact with an otherworldly being.

Why would they think that killing the patron ends the pact? Sadly for your warlock, the obligation comes from the pact, not the patron. No doubt the dead patron has heirs and assignees who will explain this.

That’s assuming that the pact hasn’t already been restructured into several CPOs (Collateralized Pact Obligations) and on-sold on the infernal markets which have recovered well since the Multiverse Financial Crisis a few years back.

Just an alternate thought.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 THAT was funny! \$\endgroup\$ – aaron9eee Mar 11 at 10:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aaron9eee If that amuses you, check out the Dark Profit Saga books by J. Zachary Pike. \$\endgroup\$ – Mason Wheeler Mar 11 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you think demons make for horrific pact masters, you obviously haven't seen what a hedge fund will do to you. And heaven help you if they determine you are a distressed asset! \$\endgroup\$ – Michael W. Mar 12 at 18:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelW.: I shudder to imagine what sort of hedge fund managers would buy up CPOs from eldritch powers. \$\endgroup\$ – Codes with Hammer Mar 13 at 13:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dunny and the comment about the obligation being in the pact, not the pateon is very interesting. \$\endgroup\$ – 3C273 Mar 14 at 12:32
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There is no RAW answer, so it's up to the DM.

This is the same answer given on the question you referenced. It's the correct answer. I'm sorry there's not a better answer than that. There is no rule, the DM must make a ruling.

You will never find a correct answer for what happens, you will only find ideas for rulings.

Here are several dramatic ideas:

  • The strain of death leaks through the pact; the PC must make a Cha saving throw or die.
  • Some essence of godhood (or fey-hood, or whatever), now released from its vessel, leaks through the pact. The PC takes on some portion the mantle of their patron. Maybe they get a new racial feature, or become a fiend, or get the power to make warlocks.
  • The PC loses all warlock levels permanently and becomes a lower-level character.
  • The PC keeps all existing warlock levels but cannot gain more in the future.
  • Death is no escape from debt. Some other entity becomes the patron. Maybe the nature of the pact changes and all Fiend bonuses are swapped out for Archfey bonuses.
  • The patron cannot really be killed. They lost their power and their physical form, but their ghost will haunt the warlock as long as the Pact binds them together.
  • Nothing happens to the warlock. The Pact is eternal, the patron cannot dissolve it by dying any more than they can revoke it by choice.
  • The patron can revoke the pact, and does so as soon as it seems the warlock might succeed in their quest. The warlock must win the battle against the patron without their warlock levels, but they get the levels back if they win.

Maybe you and your DM have an idea of which options make the most sense in the cosmology of your world.

My favorite option is to compile a list of a bunch of options. Some are horrible like dying or losing player levels. Most are neutral. None are really good. Create a table and at the moment the patron dies, roll on that table. I like the drama of making the warlock decide to kill the patron without knowing the outcome for sure.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is really the only correct answer possible. The creators have stated their mechanical intent, but it does not mesh with lore from sources both before and after 5th edition's release. Since the question is tagged lore, the mechanical intent referenced in other answers is irrelevant. The top voted answer currently (Dale M's) is an interesting take, but it's just one take that would be better as a bullet point in this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Jim Cullen Mar 12 at 22:47
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There is precedent for someone taking on some of the power of another being.

In Faerûn lore, Bhaal, Bane and Myrkul ascended and took on the powers of Jergal after challenging him, and the power was divided between them.

If a mortal warlock manages to kill their own patron, then they might be able to take on a fraction of the patron's power to keep their warlock powers.

"If you manage to kill your patron, you will lose all your warlock powers unless you perform a ritual to be imbued with a fraction of your vanquished patron's power."

Of course, rituals like the above might go wrong. They might have only wanted a part, but they received the whole. Nothing ever bad came from being filled to overflowing with ancient eldritch powers. Nothing at all.

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