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When a warlock dies, if they have a Pact Boon item from their Pact Boon class feature (e.g. a Book of Shadows from Pact of the Tome; or a talisman from Pact of the Talisman), it crumbles to ash. Similarly, if they have a pact weapon (from the Pact of the Blade), it disappears when they die. I presume that, narratively, that's the patron's doing.

Interestingly, a familiar (from Pact of the Chain) does not vanish upon the warlock's death.

The description of the 3rd-level spell Feign Death says (PHB, p. 240):

For the spell’s duration, or until you use an action to touch the target and dismiss the spell, the target appears dead to all outward inspection and to spells used to determine the target’s status.

Mechanically, when Feign Death is cast on the warlock, is the fate of these Pact Boon items the same as if the warlock had died? Or does the spell make it look like that Pact Boon crumbles/vanishes?

Importantly, do the mechanics of the spell change depending on whether the patron is fooled by the spell as well?


On the one side, it's going to be a pain to spend an hour re-summoning the book/talisman etc. just because Feign Death is cast on your warlock. On the other, it's going to make it quite obvious that the death has been faked if it doesn't cause those items to disappear or turn to ash.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for you to actually use Feign Death in play. That one takes ingenuity to get something useful out. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2022 at 17:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking as if the patron is in front of the warlock or if the patron, wherever they may be, can know? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Feb 21, 2022 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I'm asking about the rules interaction, with the later of your two as a possible factor to consider \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2022 at 22:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've made some edits to try and clarify what you're asking. Please check to make sure I've maintained your intent. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Feb 22, 2022 at 17:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I am mostly interested in the items, but I figured the patron (at least narratively) would be coupled with that. I'll look at the improvements V2 made and integrate what makes sense to me. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 23, 2022 at 11:52

4 Answers 4

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Whether a patron is fooled by the Feign Death spell or not is irrelevant. I would suspect not since we're talking about a low-level spell vs a god-like entity, but that's more in the realm of the DM's prerogative.

The important point to note is that the Feign Death spell says that the target only appears to be dead. They aren't actually dead, of course.

And even though this appearance can even 'trick' spells, it has no effect on the warlock's class features such as the book or talisman.

Both of these features state that they crumble when the warlock is dead: The warlock isn't dead. Hence by RAW they don't crumble.

So if someone knew that the target was a warlock, and knew that a warlock's special Book of Shadows or Talisman vanished upon death, then they would know that they weren't really dead, circumventing the purpose of the spell.

How common it is for someone to have this kind of knowledge would, again, be up to the DM. In my opinion it wouldn't be that common, and would assume that anyone wanting to know this also knows the character was a warlock in the first place ("class" is a meta-property, not in in-universe mechanism).

The warlock could, of course, take pains to hide their book or talisman before feigning death!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, I love it \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2022 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ "So if someone knew that the target was a warlock, and knew that a warlock's special Book of Shadows or Talisman vanished upon death..." and knew that a particular book in the possession of the warlock was the Book of Shadows and not some other book that could not be expected to disappear. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Feb 21, 2022 at 18:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt I mean, a known Pact of the Tome warlock is carrying a large grimoire, it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s their Book of Shadows. It’s an even safer bet that most observers with that information would assume it was. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 21, 2022 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan If it is in their pack, or one of multiple books in their pack, it could easily go unnoticed. If it holds ritual spells, it can be brought out to cast the ritual and then put away. Considering the inconvenience of losing it, having it damaged, or being limited by objects-in-hand for casting, I don't think it likely that most warlocks would have it in hand in any situation in which they might die, any more than a Wizard would have their spellbook in hand in combat. Rather, they would have it 'on their person', which is all that is required to access the cantrips from it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Feb 21, 2022 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Before casting the spell, I'd imagine a clever warlock would hide their real book, replacing it in their pack with a pile of ashes. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2022 at 1:13
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The Pact Boon items are items. They do no perform "outward inspection" nor "use a spell" to determine if they should crumble to dust, so that section of Feign Death spell description does not apply. Also the spell does not say anything about items in general, so it has no effect on items or anybody inspecting items. Items are items.

Related example: If the warlock is put into a thick lead box in an antimagic field, blocking all outward inspection and spells, and then they then die, there's nothing which hints that the Pact Boon items would be somehow "unaware" of this and not crumble.

The warlock is not dead, so Pact Boon items do not crumble to dust for that reason. Anybody who knows enough can quickly do 1+1 and guess that a Feign Death or similar spell is being used, when they inspect a seemingly dead warlock body, which is still hugging their Book of Shadows in their cold fingers.

Any warlock patron worth their salt should be both intelligent enough and know enough of their warlock and their gifts and spells to see what is going on in above situation. Maybe do Arcana roll for them, probably advantage, if you want to give the patron a chance to be fooled anyway.

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The items will remain

Feign death is just an illusion of death - not actually death. For the items to disappear, you must first cross the "DEATH" gate. As you have not and are only feigning, the items will remain.

As for tricking the patron, it's going to be up to the DM/Patron

With such a wide range of possible patrons, it is impossible to answer this with a straight Yes or No. The abilities of a patron may come in to play, but more importantly, the functioning of the world and how the DM runs it will also play a major role.

A character may have made a pact with a creature that is able to know - due to abilities or something else, but just as easily the patron may not have such an ability. It will come down to a case-by-case basis.

But really, it's about a story.

As a DM, I'd consider why and for what purpose either knowing or not knowing would have on the character. For major impactful decisions like these, they really should be part of something beyond pure mechanics and fall into the territory of narrative and table fun. Yes, you should generally use what mechanically is 'correct' so that the players' expectations are met, but ultimately going with the choice that creates the better story that everyone enjoys is the right decision.

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Patrons have other sources of information, but we can also ask if they can just see through feign death

I completely agree with PJRZ’s answer, but it is a bit of a frame-challenge so I wanted to attempt to provide more of a straight answer. That is, we know a patron most likely won’t be “fooled” because various external factors (e.g. a book, a talisman, possibly a bond forged by the pact itself) give away the lie, but the question can still be asked, “Does the patron rely on these things? Or are they also able to see through the spell itself?”

No explicit statements about this kind of thing

This is a difficult question to answer because warlock patrons are defined rather vaguely. Archfey, celestial, fathomless, fiend, genie, great old one, hexblade, undead, and undying, are each fairly broad categories, and many of those categories are very vaguely defined in and of themselves. For instance, the great old ones and fathomless are largely defined by being unknown. And those that are better-defined are rather broad—the lowest fiends are definitely not capable of seeing through a magic disguise; they’re not even capable of independent thought (but then, those are near-certainly not capable of being a warlock patron, either).

Evidence that being a patron does not automatically mean you can see through feign death, even of your own warlock

But I would offer a suggestion that there is some evidence that patrons do not, as a general class, have the ability to automatically pierce mortal illusions, transformations, and the like. This wouldn’t normally matter as they are certainly very powerful, and likely to easily make any saving throw a mortal forces them to make, but feign death does not allow for a saving throw. So in order to see through feign death, they need some kind of ability that overcomes transformations, like truesight.¹ Some patrons have something that does that—and I don’t mean, say, archfeys can but fiends cannot. I mean some archfeys can, and some archfeys cannot; some fiends can, and some fiends cannot. Same for all of the others (though, again, great old ones and fathomless are so little-defined it’s hard to be sure there).

The closest we get to an explicit statement is to look at the stats of the creatures that are described as potential patrons.² For instance, the fiend patron lists balors and pit fiends, which both have truesight. On the other hand, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything includes a unicorn as a possible celestial patron, and that doesn’t have any special senses that could plausibly see through feign death. Most patrons, however, are not statted, and even those that are, are suggested to be more powerful than the normal stats for a creature of their kind would suggest (fiend patrons might be “pit fiends and balors that are especially mighty,” genie patrons are “noble genies [who] wield power that rivals that of a lesser deity,” etc.). The unicorn isn’t described in such a manner, but it’s possible to see that as implied by the very suggestion it could serve as a patron.

For that matter, though the fiend patron is described in the Player’s Handbook as some of the most powerful possible fiends, if a unicorn can do it, I would expect that a succubus can, and again, no truesight for them. Succubi are considerably more powerful than unicorns, and are very much geared for this exact kind of thing. Certainly, 20 years ago, a succubus was the example “fiend of corruption” depicted in the official art,³ which might be the last time that D&D has actually given mechanical rules to the fiend’s side of the process of granting a mortal power in order to corrupt them.

So I don’t really think it’s necessarily the case that all patrons could see through feign death, that they are all powerful enough that truesight or similar can be assumed.

My basis for this is that, generally speaking, warlock patrons are something not quite as powerful as a god, at least in terms of ability to give out magic power. There can be some overlap—the most powerful celestials, fiends, and genies can “rival lesser deities” as Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything puts it—but even though the high-end patrons can be comparable to low-end gods, there are still lesser patrons in each category who certainly aren’t.

Generally speaking, gods produce clerics, and warlocks are largely the province of those for whom clerics aren’t an option. Some of the most powerful patrons may have both—at least one being³ is both a fiend and a god, for that matter—but generally speaking, it seems that clerics are easier for a god to produce, and do a better job of feeding power into a god, than warlocks are for patrons. Clerics are largely required to put in the effort for their own training, usually provided by other clerics, and they are both strong sources of faith and prayer, and also tend to bring others to the faith and thus generate yet more prayer. Gods are powered by faith. Warlocks, by contrast, expect “something for nothing,” and the patron has to personally reach out and empower them, and for the most part patrons are not gods and so are not inherently rewarded for their warlock’s pact—the warlock has to go out and do something to be worthwhile to their patron.

And I bring that up because if patrons are generally sub-god-tier, if only the most powerful patrons in each category reach those heights, then they probably don’t, as a class, have an ability that gods lack. And it does seem that gods lack inherent truesight. The case here is murky—gods haven’t been statted in D&D in nearly 20 years.⁵ But at least then, clearsight, which was a “salient divine ability” that gave permanent truesight, was a specific ability that some gods had, not an automatic part of the package. There are also numerous occasions within D&D history wherein a mortal has fooled a god, even their own god.⁶

  1. Jeremy Crawford states that feign death cannot be seen through via truesight, pointing out that feign death is not an illusion. However, feign death does magically transform a creature into an apparent corpse, and a creature with truesight “perceives the original form of […] a creature that is transformed by magic.” I think Jeremy focused too much on the illusion aspect of things and forgot truesight can do more than that.

  2. The only “this individual actually is a patron” that we have stats for is Zybilna, an archfey. She has truesight out to 60 feet.

  3. Fiend of corruption was a “prestige class,” a class that could only be taken by multiclassing after meeting certain requirements. In this case, fiend of corruption required one be a fiend and have charm person or charm monster abilities—at the time, there were both playable fiends and monsters with class levels. Anyway, it was printed in Fiend Folio, April 2003, a year and a half before Complete Arcane was published with the original incarnation of the modern D&D warlock. So of course fiend of corruption didn’t use the terms “warlock” or “patron,” or provide abilities that were identical to those a warlock got. Still, extremely similar idea. Ironically, after Complete Arcane, the warlock became one of the best ways to qualify to become a fiend of corruption—but then, that seems fitting to me.

  4. Lolth is a demon prince as well as a goddess—she came to that position because she was an elven goddess (then known as Araushnee), was kicked out of the pantheon and lost her divinity (for her betrayal of Corellon Larethian), became a demon prince, and then recovered her divinity. In most cases, celestials and fiends are mutually exclusive with divinity, though the most powerful of these blur the lines, and several books—especially recent ones—don’t make firm distinctions. Asmodeus is often called a god, but at least in my opinion, this is an abbreviated statement that doesn’t get into the full details of what Asmodeus is—most likely, he does not have (and does not want) a proper divine portfolio. He has deity-tier power, but without the strings attached that divinity would entail: why would he choose to bind himself?

  5. Deities & Demigods, April 2002. While it’s a convenient source for the idea that not all deities have truesight, it shouldn’t really be relied upon for anything—statting the gods was a mistake then, and they haven’t done it since for good reason. Wizards basically never considered it truly canon—deities in D&D have always been exactly as powerful as the adventure called for, no matter how powerful other books have claimed they are, and discrepancies were just waived off as one or the other (or, more often, both) being an avatar or similar. If I knew such an example off-hand, I would far prefer to cite some novel or something where a deity was fooled by a mortal illusion or transformation, instead, because Deities & Demigods is not a great book.

  6. It didn’t involve illusion or transformation, but Andromalius, the Repentant Rogue, is a vestige from Tome of Magic whose entire story revolves around the grand trick he pulled on his own deity, Olidammara.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this frame challenge, but one thing to note is that Feign Death is not an illusion, so true sight can't see through it... perhaps a version from a previous edition was an illusion though? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2022 at 16:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage I would define this answer as not a frame challenge—it seems to me that PJRZ’s answer is much more so. That said, you’re right—I missed that it was a necromancy effect. I would argue, though, that the general remit of truesight is broad enough to include it—it “perceives the original form of […] a creature that is transformed by magic,” after all, and that sounds to me like it would include feign death. Jeremy Crawford disagrees, but he’s focusing too much on the “illusion” aspect of things—then again, so am I, since I missed that it wasn’t. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 21, 2022 at 16:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, even if a bit of a wall of text. In the case of a unicorn, there's no reason a patron has to be the statted unicorn in the book, as you note, that unicorn is kinda wimpy. Perhaps it is an ur-unicorn, as alike the book-unicorn as a dragon in Fizban's is to a baby red. So aren't you just saying, it depends on the patron? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Feb 21, 2022 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack Yes, I am saying it depends on the patron—and possibly even how they have chosen to array themselves. Some patrons may be spellcasters capable of casting true seeing on themselves, but not otherwise innately imbued with truesight, so it will depend on whether or not they’ve cast true seeing on themselves recently enough. All I’m really saying here is, nothing about being a patron inherently means you’re definitely capable of seeing through feign death. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 21, 2022 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Surely not, I thought you might like to have an actual statted example. This does not detract from your point at all. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2022 at 19:38

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