(This is in the context of Neverwinter Nights 2 Persistent World)

Short version

I would like to know if there's a quote from source books that explicitly prove following:

  1. Not all warlocks' powers originate from pacts.
  2. For planetouched non-Aasumar warlock there is a possibility of being born with said power due to strong blood of ancestor.

Long version

I would like to know where people get idea that in D&D 3.5e, a warlock's powers always originate from a pact, and whether there is some source book I can smack them with to prove the opposite. The reason for that is that I bumped into NWN2 Persistent World which enforces providing pact details to the DM. The problem is that it is not how things work with warlocks, as far as I know, so the whole thing looks tad ridiculous to me (AFAIK the class that absolutely requires pact is the blackguard, not the warlock).

The main problem is that the warlock class description from Complete Arcane is somewhat vague and ambigous.

The book basically implies that many warlocks serve dark powers and their power originated from a pact. The thing is it says "many", and not "all", meaning there is a room for another option. Also there is that quote which says"

just as a sorcerer is not beholden to the magic-wielding ancestor that bequeathed his bloodline with arcane power, a warlock is not bound to follow the source that gifted him with magic.

Pact making is described in detail in fiendish codex II, and the rewards are not that great: for your soul you can get 1 or 2 point ability increase, if the devil was in a good mood and you were really persuasive. Meaning that being able to forge a pact that would turn you into warlock is a highly improbable event.

There is also an article on the Wizards of the Coast site that implies that planetouched are a somewhat special case and apparently outsider blood can manifest itself as warlock powers.

Setting details (in response for request for details):

D&D 3.5 rules, Forgotten Realms. I believe the same rules would apply to at least some other settings, such as Planescape.

I would obviously be most interested in references to source material that would apply to Forgotten Realms. I do not think it would be possible to use rules/quotes related to Grayhawk, Eberron, etc as argument.

I do not think this question is specific to the Neverwinter computer game, since it only addresses (warlock) lore.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the Role Playing Game stack exchange. Take a moment to review the help center for the specifics of this Stack Exchange. \$\endgroup\$ – Tritium21 Oct 29 '14 at 9:21

I don't think you need to search very far -
See these quotes from the warlock class description (Complete Arcane P. 5-6)


Born of a supernatural bloodline, a warlock seeks to master the perilous magic that suffuses his soul [...]
Adventures: Many warlocks are champions of dark and chaotic powers. Long ago, they (or in some cases, their ancestors) forged grim pacts with dangerous extraplanar powers, trading portions of their souls in exchange for supernatural power. While many warlocks have turned away from evil [...] they are still chained by the old packs through which they acquired their powers [...]
Background: Warlocks are born, not made. Some are descendants of people who trafficked with demons and devils long ago. Some seek out the dark powers as youths, [...] but a few blameless individuals are simply marked out by the supernatural forces as conduits and tools.
The exact nature of the warlock's origin is up to the player to decide;
In fact, many warlocks are created by nonevil powers - wild or fey forces that can be every bit as dangerous as demons or devils.

(All emphasis mine)

AFIK, This is the source for the definition of warlock class in D&D 3.5, with Complete Mage expanding on it, including providing rules for warlock of non-fiendish origin, among other things.
At any rate, three things are stated here which are relevant to your question:

Not all warlocks have actively made a pact with a supernatural power

The exact nature of the warlock's origin is up to the player to decide.

The description provides three alternatives:

  1. Your warlock made a pact with a "supernatural power" himself.
  2. Your warlock's ancestors made the pact.
  3. Your warlock is one of the "[few blameless individuals who] are simply marked out by the supernatural forces". He didn't choose it - they've chosen him...

So, if your warlock's is a "type 2" or "type 3" - he didn't make the pact himself.

Not all warlocks have a fiendish origin

In fact, many warlocks are created by nonevil powers - wild or fey forces that can be every bit as dangerous as demons or devils.

So, your warlock may have an elemental lord, powerful fey or even a slaadi or celestial as the source behind his power.

Every warlock owes his powers to some extraplanar or supernatural source creature

Even if your warlord didn't make a pact himself, and even if his source is not fiendish, there's no such thing as a "self empowered" warlock.

While many warlocks have turned away from evil [...] they are still chained by the old packs through which they acquired their powers.

While this have very little effect from a mechanical perspective, the warlock class is defined with this "built-in" narrative conflict or impediment - he has a would-be master - Some powerful extraplanar entity which have plans or invested interest in the warlock. Since this entity isn't as mighty as a deity, the warlock doesn't lose his powers if he deviates from his would-be master's plans, and he may even defy him outright. But, if you play a warlock, it comes as a given that you should expect some supernatural meddling in your affairs - maybe the warlock is merely observed, maybe he is not that important to that entity, and maybe it'll notice him only after he attracts its attention (by going with / against its interests or by simply becoming powerful enough to serve it as a useful tool).

So, while you are technically correct in that not all warlocks personally made a pact with a fiend, you should still work with your DM to define the source of your powers. At the very least, provide the type of that source(1), i.e. whether your warlock powers are fiendish / elemental / fey / celestial / etc in nature. But I'd recommend that you describe the source as an entity, with schemes and goals of its own(2) - you'll be missing out on role-play opportunities, plot-hooks and character depth if you settle on a generic "its in my bloodline" origin.


As a side note, you state in the question that this group has a certain way of doing things, so I wonder how constructive can "smacking them with a sourcebook" be. Clearly, a healthy gaming group should be open to debate regarding rules, and perhaps even settings and campaign world elements (to some degree), but in the end, the DM calls the shots, especially when it comes to the narrative setting. So unless you can convince your DM and group to go along with your interpretation, you may have to play with them on their terms, or leave that group - no matter how many sourcebooks and splatbooks are on your side...

(1) I don't know how much leeway a DM has when running NWN2, but at a tabletop game there could be a vast difference in the way an invocation is described, and how NPCs react to such manifestations, depending on the warlock's origin - for example, a good cleric may instinctively oppose anyone who displays demonic powers, while being indifferent to someone using the same powers flavored as fey or elemental.
(2) The specifics of these schemes probably could be left to the DM to use/abuse without sharing the details and ruining the surprise for you...

  • \$\begingroup\$ Upvoted. "define the source of your powers" I had impression that planetouched could draw power from home plane of outsider that originated bloodline. Kinda like the way sorcerers do. The power could be much more destructive, meanign a fire genasi would burn away his own soul. However, thinking about it, I am not sure where did I get that idea from. Regarding Nwn 2... \$\endgroup\$ – SigTerm Oct 29 '14 at 21:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nwn2-based PW is nothing like tabletop game sadly. Since there are more people involved, it is safe to assume that DM will be uncooperative, and that you won't be able to convince DM let you forge short sword +3 with fire damage and visual even if short sword +3 with cold damage and visual is available for sale in the shop. So while "smacking down with sourcebook" is not a suitable option for a tabletop group, it makes sense to know source to support your argument/idea, especially when new people keep arriving with same question, and DM is by default expected to be uncooperative. \$\endgroup\$ – SigTerm Oct 29 '14 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SigTerm Sounds to me that the narrative "fluff" has far less impact on the computerized version. Maybe try informing the DM that your fire planetouched had an ancient ancestor who made a pact with some efreet / noble salamandar / elemntal lord - and that the details (or even the whole notion of the pact) were lost some generations ago, so your PC is only aware of his powers, not the more sinister closes of the pact, or even with whom it was made. If the DM is unlikely to do anything with that fluff anyway, than it seems close enough to what you want without having any impact to your game... \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Oct 30 '14 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good answer! It might be worth citing some of the other known "canon" warlock power sources to improve your answer: archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/frcc/20070314 and archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/frcc/20070328 list a group of elves who got warlock powers from what amounts to magical radiation poisoning. There are also drow warlocks powered by a pseudo-divine-ish source in Eberron, detailed in Dragon #330. \$\endgroup\$ – Forrestfire Feb 10 '17 at 21:07

Yes, not all warlock powers originate from pacts. Warlock powers can also stem from magical heritages, and in fact, this seems to be common.

This is made explicit in Complete Mage, page 7.

Warlocks typically claim that [their] proficiency with magic comes from their bloodline - or, in some cases, from a pact made with powerful entities that permanently changes the individual's interactions with the supernatural. The common stereotype associated with warlocks is that they all derive their powers from a fiendish heritage. In truth, while they might be the most visible and well-known examples, fiendish warlocks make up only a thin majority of all those who use invocations. Some theorists even hold that the category of arcanists known as "warlocks" actually encompasses a wider range of power sources and mindsets than commonly believed, and that further study will reveal the multitude of archetypes hiding behind the label of warlock.

The entry then goes on to list alternate power sources for Warlocks, including Fey creatures and Celestials.


Actually, some warlocks get their powers from heritage - not just inheriting pacts (though it happens), but it's suggested from direct descent as well. Also consider some of the fluff offered by the Eldritch Theurge...

"Just as the warlock can come from something other than a fiendish origin, so too can the eldritch theurge. Perhaps warlocks gain their powers from draconic ancestors and simply manifest differently from sorcerers."

For the most part, the differences between Warlocks and Sorcerers is incredibly blurred when you consider sorcerers too can come from fiendish and extra-planar ancestry.


From the article you link:

"Tiefling warlocks are even more likely than others of their kind to exhibit obviously inhuman traits such as cloven hooves, a sulfurous reek, horns, a tail, or glowing red eyes. They tend to develop their powers at a young age, often encouraged by their ancestors to cultivate their horrible gifts. Other tieflings make pacts with evil outsiders to activate what they feel is dormant power within their souls."

The distinction between sorcerers and warlocks can be pretty blurry in these sorts of edge-cases, but the consistent focus with warlocks (at least in this article) seems to be that even if they inherit their "power" in some abstract sense, deliberate work is necessary to "cultivate"/"activate"/actually use it, with the implication that that work involves somehow serving the source of said power.


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