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Fiends and Archfey could be killed by a rival trying to usurp their power.

If this is not covered in the 5e RAW, is there a good resource from another edition that could be helpful in determining how the death of the being with whom a Warlock has a pact with affects a Warlock?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question is fine. If the answer is that there's no RAW about this and it's up to the DM, that's a reason to answer, not to close as unclear. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 21 '15 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Can a patron revoke a warlock's powers? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 9 '19 at 20:46
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There is no RAW answer, so it's up to the DM.

The way I would rule is that if there is no Patron there is no power. I would do this with the divine classes as well. I don't do it to be mean to the player, but for the cool story options it provides.

From a story perspective, there is a really cool way you can handle this (I've done it but used a Cleric and their deity):

Steps:

  1. Talk to the player, make sure he is okay with losing his powers for an entire session.
  2. Talk to the party, make sure they're okay playing an entire session about the Warlock.
  3. Have the Warlock loses his Patron (and power) and then run an entire session about him getting it back. Take the party to wherever Archfiends/Archfey reside in your world and let the Warlock find a new patron. There are lots of ways for the Warlock to get a new patron: maybe the party defeats an Archfiend/fey and demands that it enter the pact with the Warlock, if the patron is a devil maybe the party goes to a higher devil and demands recompense which should work because they're lawful (but have a price because they're evil), maybe the Warlock begs.

There are lots of options for a Warlock to get a new Patron which could provide a fun and interesting adventure for your group.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As a DM, I would have so much fun with this. To go even further, the type of patron might have an effect. In folklore, Fey creatures are bound by promises (if you've read the Dresden Files, this will be familiar) so if your patron is fey, then the obligation might fall to their heir, or even to whoever killed them, if they're a fey as well. For a fiend, it might be that their killer has the chance to take on the patron's former wealth, including vassals like warlocks, so there's a power play there. For Great Old Ones... who knows? Perhaps a quest to meet a strange and ancient being? \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Jul 22 '15 at 12:54
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Short version:

Due to lack of RAW information on warlock's power, the outcome of such event should be determined by DM. Plausible outcomes are determined by nature of warlock's power (which is determined by dm). If the power comes directly from entity, it would mean power loss, and if it comes from some other place and "pacted entity" simply made that connection, then it is possible that power will remain.

For the purpose of the story DM may decide, for example, that another entity will inherit pacts of original archfiend/archfey, which may make sense depending on circumstances.

Long version:

To my knowledge, 5e description of warlocks amounts to half of page of text, which gives very little insight on warlock's relationship with pacted entity, and zero information how the pact was made or how warlock's powers function.

Source books from 3.5 (complete arcane and complete mage) speak of warlocks, and there's there's additional mention of them in Fiendish Codex II. However none of this books actually bother to explain warlock powers, which means it is mostly left for DM to decide.

Now, putting aside that killing some fiends was quite hard and you needed to do that on their home plane (otherwise they would reform later - whether it is true or not in 5e remains to be seen), there's pretty much two ways for warlock power to function:

  1. Warlock gains powers directly from its "master". This is similar to relationship between cleric and deity.
  2. Their "master" enables them to gain power from somewhere else. Performs a ritual and creates a conduit with greater power source. Like "essence of nine hells", "chaos of abyss" and such.

The obvious consequences are that in scenario #1 if "master" is slain, warlock will lose all powers or most of them. In scenario #2 if "master" is killed, warlock retains all powers, unless connection with actual power source has been severed. If pacted entity is archfiend, it is reasonable to expect that there's some safety mechanism that terminates pacts once archfiend is dead.

The main difference between 3.5 and 5e warlock (aside from warlocks having spellslots now) is that in 5e warlock is in service and "master" checks on the warlock periodically. That is much closer relationship than what 3.5 warlocks had and is somewhat similar to cleric. Which means that complete power loss upon death of "pacted entity" is more plausible in 5e than it was in 3.5e (where infinitely recastable spells suggested connection to some infinite power pool).

From the perspective of the story, another fun thing a DM could do is to make some other entity inherit all the pacts of slain entity. It makes sense if archfiend you pacted with was slain by another archfiend. It makes less sense if it was slain by someone else. I saw this kind of plot in action, it was a big shock for warlock character to discover that the entity he planned to kill was already slain by someone else and that NEW fiend holds warlock's pact.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm surprised you didn't put more focus into "another entity will inherit pacts of original archfiend/archfey" as part of your answer. These entities are essentially demigods, and in the D&D universe the accepted standard is anyone or anything that slays a god/demigod immediately inherits the portfolio of the dead god/demigod. I would assume that includes pacts with Warlocks. \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Jul 22 '15 at 2:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Uh, you should probably restore all those articles. This is not grammatical English and is substantially harder to read now. Articles are not optional in any variety of English. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 22 '15 at 3:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ As SevenSidedDie says, articles are kind of important in English; a native English speaker, this abuse of the language offends my eyes, and makes the answer less clear. -1. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jul 22 '15 at 4:57

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