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I would like to know whether a warlock can directly confront his patron without risking to lose his powers. And generally in which case the patron is allowed can take his "gift" back. I've tries searching for relevant lore but couldn't find anything. I'm playing the 5th edition.

The backstory:

I'm going to introduce a warlock into a campaign that is already running. During previous events the party has accidentally released a devil into the mortal plane and now is on a quest to kick him back. We've decided with DM that it would be interesting if that devil were my character's patron. It makes the new character a good lead to find the devil and the party wouldn't know whether to trust the new member, making things even more interesting.

However, I can't have a character that is directly allied with the party's enemy. I have a backstory that would support antagonistic relationship between my warlock and his patron so that his interests are aligned with party's. But at the same time the warlock wouldn't risk losing his powers, hence my question – can a patron take back the powers given to a warlock?

In my case I want to follow the 5th edition handbook so that the character mades a pact/contract with the devil himself.

As @Theik mentioned in the comments, in previous editions warlocks were able to inherit the power from some ancestor who made the pact, and I bet our DM would allow it. But I'd prefer to not to take this path as the character making the pact himself works better for the rest of the background I made for him.


In the end we went with the inherited powers that the devil cannot revoke.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It seems like you are mostly interested in the story side of the warlock class and not the rule side, right? If that is the case, a proper answer is going to require you to explain how they got their powers in the first place, as warlocks can either barter their souls away for warlock powers (at which point betrayal seems a -really- bad idea), or inherit their powers genetically from somebody who did such that, at which point it might be a lot less risky. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Feb 27 '15 at 12:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Add it to the question or put it in an answer guys. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 27 '15 at 20:23
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Primary Consideration

Due to the controversial nature that this specific problem represents, it takes a mature player and a mature DM to handle this specific scenario well. Ensure that the player and DM have a conversation about something of the magnitude of power revocation BEFORE it is implemented in play...

If you are the DM and this is established as part of your world, ensure that players know this up front if they are considering playing a warlock (or any other class likely to have powers revoked for any reason).

If you are a player and you want this to either be highly probable, talk with your DM. It can create an intriguing story.

Already covered

RAW, there isn't any explicit text that covers a warlock's powers being stripped. Also, there is no class that has rules text covering a loss of powers, save the Paladin whose powers change form when he becomes an Oathbreaker. (DMG p. 97)

Lore from stories associated with various pact-style magic demonstrates and sets precedent that it could be a good story hook, allowing for a very interesting story line that leads to all the things that were mentioned in the original question.

Also Consider

The power belongs to the entity to dole out. If they granted it, it is likely true that they could take it away. This is more of a reference to old literature, to what makes sense, and to what would be fun with the game you and your DM seem to be trying to build.

The rules do not state the specific pact, this is the part that cannot be stressed enough. The power that they currently have should mostly be considered as payment for services rendered. If they are not completely paid for (ongoing payment, for example), then try to avoid stripping a lot of their power from them. Make it minimal, but noticeable. Lower spell slot levels by one levels as that part hasn't been paid in full, if that helps the story line, but do not completely cripple the character.

As for the specific scenario posted in the question:

The devil is highly unlikely to strip power from someone if it is part of a contract. To do so is highly unorthodox for a devil, and would be looked at even more poorly than an upstart servant that the devil couldn't control. The devils live by their contracts, and although adding loop-holes may be favored, rescinding an agreement is not. If a devil were to rescind the power of one of their warlocks, it is likely that another entity would try to mock them by taking the contract instead. This is even more true of a relatively powerful warlock. That said, a devil is also very likely to add a hidden clause that prevents the warlock from using their powers against the devil, with revocation of powers being either temporary or permanent, depending on the devil, the warlock, and the devil's disposition at the time.

They will follow the letter of the contract completely, but don't care about the spirit of the contract. If the devil is powerful enough to grant powers as a patron, they are likely intelligent enough to be more careful about the contract, though a particularly savvy and/or intelligent character could manipulate them in to a contract that is written to the benefit of the character more than the patron (protecting themselves from abandoning the patron, for example).

If you really want to do it

The best way to add the possibility of power revocation for story-line purposes is to ensure that it is an active part of the party's story (as opposed to a passive one). Allow the party to try to stop the powers from getting revoked, or have another patron (possibly a more sinister one) inform the warlock that they are going to lose their powers and offer to be a surrogate patron.

Do something that directly involves the warlock in whether they lose or retain their powers.

In short

Is it possible? Rules don't state that it is, but this is something a DM could easily say yes to with good justification to back it up based on game world.

Should the DM take this path? Probably not, or at least not seriously. If he does, then he should offer a work-around. Don't strip power from a character/player without offering a way of obtaining it again. Don't make the game less fun.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Added references to your comment, @DaleM . So thank you anaximander, detly, and Dale M for their assistance in improving my answer further. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Mar 21 '16 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems to be written from the position that a patron is always an evil devil, which is not the case. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. May 8 '17 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. The OP was specifically asking about a devil. It is intended to reference the devils that the OP asked about and at the same time, focus on the Lawful nature of devils. I could add a few comments to show where the example portion is to separate it from the overall answer, but all but two paragraphs apply pretty well regardless of patron. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose May 9 '17 at 0:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not completely sure why I have been getting down votes on this today, but figured I would improve my answer by adding the first section. Hopefully that will satisfy one of the things that I felt could be stated more plainly. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Sep 21 '17 at 22:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Thanks for those specific edits. That does look better and fits with my intent. \$\endgroup\$ – Aviose Sep 22 '17 at 15:04
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From a purely RAW perspective, this is a pretty clear "no," as there isn't a rule saying that a warlock can lose their powers this way. It's even supported somewhat in the class description, where it says that warlocks who go around fighting against their patrons' influence in the world are good heroic concepts.

But there's still a lot of leeway the DM has there. Maybe a patron can remove these gifts but they generally don't because individual warlocks are beneath their notice, even when they're generally running around being heroic. Maybe the patron does what it can to lead the warlock to think it can remove the gift, even if it can't.

I will say that 5th edition lacks a rules precedent that, like 2nd edition had about broadly losing class-based abilities based on behavior, so if you were going to make this a thing, you'd want to think about how to make that consequence valid without completely screwing the character.

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It depends on the pact. Theik1 is right about the patron / warlock relationship being part of the story / background of the warlock as opposed to a hard and fast game mechanic. The designers did include an implied setting along with several options.

The section on Sworn and Beholden reveals that the warlock's abilities is based on a pact: a formal agreement between two parties. As it is an agreement, the exact ramifications of a confrontation with a patron depends on the nature of the pact itself.

SWORN AND BEHOLDEN A warlock is defined by a pact with an otherworldly being. Sometimes the relationship between warlock and patron is like that of a cleric and a deity, though the beings that serve as patrons for warlocks are not gods. A warlock might lead a cult dedicated to a demon prince, an archdevil, or an utterly alien entity - beings not typically served by clerics. More often, though, the arrangement is similar to that between a master and an apprentice. The warlock learns and grows in power, at the cost of occasional services performed on the patron's behalf.

In the 5e rules we have three types of patrons: The Archfey, The Fiend, and The Great Old One.

Of these three, the Archfey and the Fiend depend on a pact with beings whose mythological origins have a tradition of retribution to those who break their word to them. So in these two cases, a warlock confronting an Archfey or Fiend patron will likely lose much if not all of their powers.

The Great Old One is different. The mythological origin of these beings are found in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard. While specifics vary, they are invariably more like forces of nature rather than people you interact with. This is supported by this text in the PHB (P. 190):

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.

I would interpret this as meaning that confronting a Great Old One would have little to no consequences on the abilities of the Warlock -assuming that his brain or soul doesn't become shredded in the process of confront such a being. But if it is, for example, cultists then I would not impose any consequences on the warlock's powers.

In the case of the Great Old One the warlock's powers are a result of study and dedication. In the case of the Fiend and the Archfey, they are more granted abilities with strings attached.

Alternatives include;

It it's all study, what a Warlock learns up to the point of confrontation with the patron is his to keep. The only consequence of a confrontation on his power is that he is unable to advance until he find another similar patron or chooses to multi-class.

If partly study and party granted abilities, there are no consequences on the abilities common to all warlocks. However the abilities granted by the Archfey and Fiend are lost.


1 It seems like you are mostly interested in the story side of the warlock class and not the rule side, right? If that is the case, a proper answer is going to require you to explain how they got their powers in the first place, as warlocks can either barter their souls away for warlock powers (at which point betrayal seems a -really- bad idea), or inherit their powers genetically from somebody who did such that, at which point it might be a lot less risky. – @THeik

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Did some editing to clean up syntax. This is a very good answer, which I cited in a related question. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 22 '17 at 0:52
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The Patron can certainly do so-- by killing the character. The patron has no explicit extra supernatural ability to do so within the rules and (even in a soul trade, if that's what happened) devils typically ask for things later (i.e. at the time of your death or contingent on some specific other thing the purchaser expects never to allow to happen). The patron cannot revoke the pact within the rules, as written, and I would suggest not adding an ability to do so, as killing the bargainer themselves (typically indirectly) is a common theme in mythology. Were the patron a archfey rather than a devil, I would make the consequences of betrayal different, but the warlock would still not lose their powers. Likely solutions would include being turned into a rabbit or some form of mind rape.

c.f. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
Never Bet the Devil Your Head, by E. A. Poe
Thoephilus of Adana, Servant of Two Masters, by Hroswitha of Gandersheim
The Devil went Down to Georgia, The Charlie Daniels Band
The Devil and Daniel Webster, by Stephen Vincent Benét

Deal with the Devil, Wikipedia Page
Deal with the Devil, Tv Tropes Page

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