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I have a player that uses their Warlock spell slots a lot. While this is not necessarily a bad thing (they are there to be used), they are effectively expending all of their spell slots on the first encounter after each rest. It is having a detrimental effect on gameplay for the entire party, who are all at level 4. The minion fights are handled with ease, but the boss fights are a real struggle.

We have spoken with the player, explaining the issue, but they don't seem to be making much of a change in their tactics. They say that they enjoy the "struggle" of the boss battles, even though it's effectively whaling on the boss with a stick, but the rest of the party are not quite so keen on the boss grind. I have effectively had to nerf the major bosses to ensure that the party is not completely outclassed due to reckless spending.

The Warlock does still have Cantrips, but they are focused on less combat-oriented spells like Mage Hand and Minor Illusion. The warlock does have Eldritch Blast, which they use in the boss fights. Not ineffective, just repetitive and bland.


As one solution, I have thought of applying a "Limit Curse", to try and stop the player at least spending their resources so recklessly, in hopes of showing them what a difference it makes in the boss fights and maybe convincing them to change. However, I'm not sure about how this will affect the gameplay or the player.

To explain the Curse itself, the mechanic is just going to be "if you spend (X) many spell slots per day, you incur disadvantages".


How do I resolve this situation?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have the other players in the group complained at all about the warlock? What do they say? How is this playstyle detrimental to anybody else's enjoyment of the game? \$\endgroup\$ – Adam May 16 '17 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you elaborate on what spells the player is using that seems to be making your minion combats trivial? \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical May 16 '17 at 15:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Two other things. Can you elaborate on how you're nerfing boss fights and how many people are in the party? \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical May 16 '17 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ A 4th Level Warlock should only know 5 spells with 2 spell slots. Which 5 spells does he know? What are the other party member classes? \$\endgroup\$ – KumosAgosta May 16 '17 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ If they win the easy fights, and they win the hard fights, what difference would it make for him to change his playstyle? Slightly easier bossfights but harder trashfights? \$\endgroup\$ – Pieter B May 17 '17 at 14:36
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Don't apply a Limit Curse

I know this isn't the sort of answer you were looking for...but slapping restrictions on a player character because you don't like the way they are playing is not cool. The strength of a Warlock is that they get their spell slots back on a short rest. The weakness is that they only have a few. And the overriding weakness of spellcaster classes is that they have a limited number of times they can throw down heavy power. This is by design.

If the player decides he wants to waste all his spell slots on 'trash mobs,' then that's his call. It is not your responsibility to force him to be conservative with his spell slots. Nor is it your responsibility to save him from the fallout of his decisions.

That said, I will give you a few options.

  1. He dug his hole, let him lie in it. Stop nerfing the bosses. You are saving him from his own decisions by doing this. If you don't want PC deaths, you can still generally try to keep them alive, but stop compensating for his poor decision making. Play the monsters fairly. Honestly, he seems to want a tougher game than what you're giving him, he'll probably be happy if you hit him hard like that.
  2. That said, Warlocks have the best damage cantrip in the game. Even just spamming Eldritch Blast, they are quite functional. If they grab Agonizing Blast, they hit about as hard as your typical melee combatant does.
  3. If you really want to show them the difference if the Lock has all his spell slots, then don't force him to conserve spell slots. Simply engineer a situation where they get a Short Rest right before a boss fight, so he can see the difference without you having to shove it down his throat.

    But, ultimately, it sounds like he is playing his character the way he wants to and is having fun. So the final advice I would give is this...

  4. Make sure he understands that the other players are not having fun (if they truly are not). If he likes 'the struggle' then perhaps give him other things to have to struggle rather than the one he is engineering for himself. Talk to him...see what he wants...make sure you guys are all on the same page.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain I think it does answer the question. The question being "how should I handle the curse?" The answer being "don't handle it at all because using it is inappropriate" Also the question in the body of the original post is: "What should I consider with this situation, if there is anything I missed?" This answer lists numerous things to consider: that it isn't the DM's place to decide how players ought to use their resources, that the warlock is fully capable of fighting without slots, and that there are other ways to allow the warlock to enter a boss fight with more spell slots. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam May 16 '17 at 15:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll confirm that "don't do that thing at all" is a valid answer. It's a risky one that will frequently backfire, so we recommend that frame challenges are done as part of an otherwise complete and valid answer, but sometimes "don't do it" is the right answer. It's a judgement call for the writer and the voters to handle. (Consider that we'd regularly reply "don't do it" for social situations where someone's asking about a really, really terrible course of action.) I'm going to update that meta answer. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 16 '17 at 15:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ "He dug his hole, let him lie in it. Stop nerfing the bosses. You are saving him from his own decisions by doing this." - Exactly this. Want him to stop making bad decisions? Then stop sheltering him from the consequences of those decisions. \$\endgroup\$ – aroth May 17 '17 at 6:43
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Are you sure the Warlock is the problem?

Warlocks get few slots, but remember that they recharge on short rest. If the party isn't getting any short rests at logical times, then either the party is short changing the Warlock, or if you're actively discouraging short rests before boss battles then you're short changing the Warlock.

If it is Really is the Warlock's Issue

Imposing a penalty because "Eldritch Blast" is "boring" is like imposing a penalty because "all the ranger does is shoot arrows" or "all the barbarian does is rage." EB is the Warlock's default attack. As far as being boring or bland all depends on how the the player and/or DM describe the attack. Just like an attack with a sword can either be described as "I hit it with my sword" or as "I grip the hilt of my sword, I stare into the cold eyes of the creature before me, trembling I slash out at it and .... 7."

If the player chose to spend all the slots early, that is their choice. The other characters are free to talk to their party member about what they think is a better strategy, but ultimately when to use resources is the player's choice that is part of the game. Taking away that choice is basically taking the controller out of their hand.

Don't Nerf the Bosses and Teachable Moments

Nerfing the bosses, and pulling punches because the players' are low on resources is also unfair to the players. Part of the challenge in life and in RPGs is how to use what you have left when you have nothing left to give. Defeat is an option. Failure is a better learning experience than all the DM-player talks you will ever have. Defeat doesn't mean you have to kill a character, it could mean capture of the party or escape of the boss. Death, however, is also an option and very powerful plot point. There is nothing more powerful than knowing that spending that spell slot so early is the reason why your character's or your friend's character is now a corpse on the floor of the lair of big bad guy. The player left thinking, "If only I had...."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer -- especially the "teachable moments" section. It's not always possible for the party to take a short rest before a boss battle (such as in a stereotypical dungeon crawl... you're not just gonna make camp deep in a tomb crawling with undead and chat for an hour). I can understand the 'lock and/or rest of party being bored with EB-EB-EB-EB attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – Doktor J May 16 '17 at 20:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi @DoktorJ, and welcome to the site! Comments are intended for clarifying/improving the post to which they're attached. Yours reads more like its own answer, and I hope you post it as such. For the meantime I've deleted it. See also should users refrain from answers (or partial answers) in comments and why are site comments being deleted? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 May 17 '17 at 1:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DoktorJ I wasn't implying it is always possible to rest before each battle. It is typically possible to rest after a battle, if the party wishes. Even in a dungeon (especially something huge like the underdark), you need to stop to eat, tend to wounds, forage for food, or the like... Now, obviously, you can't stop for an hour rest every five minutes either... But what I was pointing out is that a lot of tables I've seen tables (players pressing on, or DMs that simply forbid it) that don't let the party take any short rests during a whole day, and that isn't realistic either. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich May 17 '17 at 17:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure; I was just elaborating so the DM can make sure the party doesn't become the "rest between every battle" sort. I ran a game way back when, where the party would actually try to take a full 8-hour rest between every encounter! I do agree that, especially in a prolonged crawl, they might want to carve out a "safe" space -- perhaps in a dead-end room they've found that they can shut themselves in -- and get that short rest. \$\endgroup\$ – Doktor J May 17 '17 at 19:12
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Having a sub-optimal strategy isn't the same as not being an effective party member

I do not think that creating mechanics to change a player's style is the right way to go. The issue has deeper roots - and understanding them is how you will solve the problem at your table.

The problem here is that one player has a character design that the other party members aren't happy with. They are looking for their warlock to bring more to a major encounter than their standard attack (eldritch blast) option.

Ultimately, this comes down to the table discussing the issue - and as others have said, you as the DM should be trying to act as the mediator to make sure everyone (including you!) are having fun. This can even happen both in-game and Out of Character (OoC).

In-Game

Have the players confront their Warlock with their concern. Let them talk it out and try and understand WHY the character feels the need to do this. Maybe this is part of their flaws and can be fleshed out to create a storyline.

Out of Character

The table should also discuss if there is a larger problem. Is it a character issue? Is it a playstyle issue? Is there a way for everyone to get along and feel that the encounters are teamwork-based and all having fun?

Parting Thoughts (warlocks are different)

Just as a reminder - the Warlock is a short rest dependent class. They don't have many slots, especially at low level, and the opportunity for them to do more than just throw cantrips is limited.

The player may not want to wait for the boss fight - which may or may nor occur that day. They want to still feel they are contributing throughout the day and not just for the Boss. This may mean expending slots for Roleplay rather than combat, it may mean dropping a slot when they feel it's really important, but it doesn't turnout to be so. Build your days to accommodate for the Warlock's mechanics, but not everyday.

Spamming EB is a big part of what a Warlock can do. Just like a Fighter/BattleMaster spams his weapon attacks and only occasionally uses a maneuver. With only 2 spell slots, his actions are MUCH more likely to be Eldritch Blasting in combat as that is his no-cost, high-value capability.

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I will add a slightly different approach from the other great answers.

Let the party deal with it

Tell the players to hammer it out between themselves. It may be that his fun and the rest of the party is not compatible and it is time for the party to kick that character to the curb (not the player). Just as much as the GM and the players have a social contract between them, the party makes one between themselves. This could be a My Guy issue and getting rid of the character.

As GM, your aim is play moderator and make sure everyone gets their say and that it does not become a gang-up. This is something for them to resolve among themselves.

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Engineer a situation where you show that dealing with mooks using only cantrips and saving the slots for bosses is a viable strategy. You can do that by reversing the order of the fights.

Basically you can make the party stumble upon the boss of the day first and then clear out the encampment of loyal mooks after he spent all his slots on the boss.

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I think the most interesting solution would be to work out the role playing aspect of the situation.

Here you have a Warlock that cannot control his tempo, he blows through his powers very quickly, and has nothing left when the time comes to save himself or his allies.

Warlocks are not who they are because of years of study, or practice. They purchased their power, one way or another. It makes sense that a Warlock would have no control over themselves, and be forced to confront the poor choices he has made for power... Or make even darker bargains to keep going.

In this case, play up the annoyance your Warlock's character is feeling. Full of hubris he has to hide and excuse away the fact that he was not able to be the hero he is always boasting about. He has convinced his allies he is SO powerful by using these incredible powers on petty creatures. How do the party react when this 'omnipotent' Warlock has nothing more than a Eldritch Blast as an answer to some grave threat. What do they do when someone dies?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Some warlocks are gifted their power instead of bargaining explicitly for it -- this can be seen as akin to the innate power of a Sorceror. (Also, EB is a bread-and-butter damage dealer for 'Locks, so it is just as likely to be the Warlock's answer to a grave threat as anything else in their arsenal) \$\endgroup\$ – Shalvenay May 17 '17 at 4:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Reward or purchase a transaction has been made. I think it is important to highlight the difference between the Warlock and the Sorcerer simply because otherwise why have two classes at all? \$\endgroup\$ – Ashterothi May 17 '17 at 4:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the DM is playing the characters, he should save everyone some time and go write his novel directly. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin - free Monica May 21 '17 at 17:28
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If you are to use a Limit Curse, also use it as a way to engage the players

Many games involve the use of curses or cursed items, and usually, such a curse goes to only one person or member of the party. When such a curse is implemented, the DM also usually has in mind an adventure planned out on how to remove the curse. It is not given to someone as a way to nerf them permanently or to teach them a lesson, but as a way to enhance the narrative.

If you are to go with your idea of a Limit Curse, then be very careful to impose it not only as a means to teach the player a lesson or new way of playing, but also have an adventure in mind such that the entire party -- including the warlock -- can benefit from the use of this curse.

So I recommend to you, if you are going to go with this plan, to do it in the following way:

  • Create a valid narrative reason for why the warlock gets the curse in particular

    • Is he perhaps the greediest and always the first to loot? Then introduce it as a cursed magic item. Now you are doubling this curse as a lesson against avarice

    • Is he the weakest? The one who always stays in the back no matter what? Then introduce the curse after the BBEG has nearly killed everyone in the party but him. The BBEG will let the party survive so they can tell the tale of what happens when someone crosses the BBEG, and leave a curse on the last one standing as living proof of it

    • I assure you that for any given reason, you can find a way to introduce a relevant narrative hook that leads to this warlock receiving this curse

  • After cursing the warlock, provide a means to remove it

    • Allowing the curse to be removed is proof that you do not intend to nerf this player over a simple disagreement

    • I recommend you create an adventure for the party that will last for a certain number of sessions (ending with the removal of the curse), and over this time, demonstrate to the warlock how much better the party does if he conserves his spell slots

    • Finally, assuring the warlock that there is a means to remove the curse allows you to actually impose a serious penalty on him while he is under the curse, because the severity of the curse doubles as a motivation for him to go on this quest. After all, a light headache after each casting of the spell is not a guarantee to motivate someone to pursue a dangerous quest

Now, that said, here are some curses you can use on your warlock.

Impose a Wild Magic Surge Penalty

There is nothing I have seen that frightens players more than having a Wild Magic Sorcerer trigger a surge in the middle of combat. Bestow upon your player the Curse of Wild Magic, and now any time the warlock expends a spell slot, you may force a Wild Surge to trigger (or you may roll for it).

This is actually a net positive curse for the player because there are more positive things on the Wild Magic table than there are negative or neutral things. But the risk of casting a 5th level fireball centered on the caster is enough to make anyone think twice before using a spell slot.

I have personally played Wild Magic Sorcerers, and my experience of it is, knowing I can surge at any time (we house-ruled and increased the probability of a surge according to expended spell slot level) makes me want to use my cantrips more than my spell slots, and when I do use my spell slots, I do so conservatively. I am talking about casting a spell only when I've found an opportunity to end the encounter with it.

On the other hand, my party mates are always afraid when I actually cast a spell and surge, even when nothing bad happens as a result of the surge. The moment of tension lies with the fact they have to be there to withstand it, and maybe it might go bad. Now, I think that this will encourage your other players to stop the warlock from spamming his spell slots because of this very feat. But it is not a guarantee that they will.

I think involving Wild Magic in your game is in itself going to make the warlock hesitant to spam his spells on minions. But in case you disagree, you can do another curse...

Impose Constitution Checks for use of spell slots

A relatively safe curse you can bestow involves Constitution checks, which is described in the PHB as:

A Constitution check can model your attempt to push beyond normal limits, however.

So your curse can be the Curse of No Magic, such that the "normal limit" of the player becomes to not expend spell slots at all. Now you may ask for a Constitution check any time they expend a spell slot.

On a failure, I recommend that they simply get the Poisoned condition. This is benign enough because it can be removed by Lay on Hands, Lesser Restoration, or perhaps an Anti-Toxin. It is annoying enough, though, because it consumes resources to cure it, and not curing it means disadvantage to attack rolls and ability checks.

In a game I DM, I have my players roll Con saves or be Poisoned due to environmental factors. However, instead of focusing on the mechanical downsides, I remind them that they are feeling sick and have headaches, and they RP that way afterwards. I believe this can actually provide a good motivation for your warlock to also seek out the cure to the curse because who wants to feel sick all the time?

However, with all that said, there is one thing I will strongly suggest to you to do instead.

Frame Challenge: Don't change anything, you are babying your players

You have nerfed your boss fights due to one player's play style. You are actually encouraging your problem player to continue because he knows you will adjust your style for him. So do not do this, and start presenting a real level-appropriate encounter for the party.

If someone dies, that is on them. Really, do not baby your player characters. Do not nerf your bosses or pull your punches. They have to learn to play smart, or you will learn that they are more creative than you might think at first, even when you cannot think of a way they can possibly survive this encounter.

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