Due to recent events that I won’t be touching on in this post, lots of people are trying out Pathfinder 2e for the first time right now. Which is great! If you’re one such person, welcome! I hope you enjoy your stay.
Pathfinder 2e has a truly enormous amount of options available to players. Not just compared to Pathfinder 1e or D&D 5e, but really compared to most games I’ve taken a look at. And the reason it has such tremendous variety is simple.
Just about everything in PF2e is a feat, letting you customize all aspects of your character from your ancestry abilities, special tricks you know with skills, and – most dramatically – your class abilities. One thing Pathfinder 2e doesn’t have an exact mirror of, unfortunately, is one of people’s 5e favorite classes: the Warlock. The good news is, every part of the class does exist in some way. You know how Warlock is so versatile? How you get to choose your abilities individually as you level up, especially with Invocations? Literally every character in PF2e is like that. Furthermore, the way class feats and multiclassing works, we can build a character that has any parts of Warlock that you want.
Before getting to the details: if you’d like an overview on how to create a character step by step, I do so in this post here where I make my favorite type of character, a jack-of-all-trades support bard. There are also lots of tools you can use to help you out, like page 21 in the Core Rulebook, the Pathbuilder app, and youtube channels like How It’s Played.
CHOOSE YOUR FLAVOR
A great thing about Warlock is the big differences between playstyles you can get from the same class. Invocations customize your exact loadout a whole bunch. Your patron gives you a certain theme of spells and abilities, and while that can make a big impact on a character, it’s more of a nudge in a certain direction rather than path changing. Your pact boon on the other hand changes what major functions you can perform. Just with the PHB, you can have three options. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Blade – Summon a special you-only weapon that you become proficient in. You can upgrade it to deal more damage, make it ranged, get special abilities, or make it act like a +1, +2, or +3 weapon.
- Chain – Get a familiar with extra options and extra combat capabilities. You can upgrade it to get bonus movement, offense, or defense options, and you can see, hear, and even speak through your familiar.
- Tome – Get extra cantrips, even from a different spell list. You can upgrade it to get bonus rituals and give certain benefits with your allies.
Just looking at these three, we have a decent spread of character types. What would be the Pathfinder versions then? Well, that’s the thing. Each part of the warlock can be emulated pretty well, but the best ways to do so – at least in my opinion – are spread across three classes: Witch, Magus, and Psychic.
PATRON OF THE ARTS
Witch is thematically the closest to Warlock, hands down. You make a pact with a patron that determines what spell tradition you cast and what starting ability you get. You also learn “Lessons” which add spells to your list, sometimes from different traditions like Tome Pact, and give you a unique focus spell. And just like Chain Pact, you get a super powered familiar. Pretty close, right?
Well, yes and no. Witch is Int based, not Cha. It’s a full spellcaster with little to no combat support, and while you can definitely change which type of spells you cast, you’ll always be primarily a spellcaster. Definitely close in some ways, but not in others.
SWORDPLAY IS MAGIC
Magus is a completely different beast. You get weapon and armor proficiency comparable to a ranger or barbarian. You’re a spellcaster, but like Warlock you only cast a few real spells each day – a system Pathfinder 2e calls ‘bounded magic’ – and thus you rely heavily on cantrips. Similar to a Pact Boon, Magus gets a Hybrid Study to focus how they combine magic and combat, like magically enhancing shields or using your magic’s force to move yourself around the battlefield. Most importantly, they have the kickass ability to deliver damage spells through their weapon with Spellstrike.
A clear winner, right? Well, again, we have some major differences. First, like Witch, Magus is Int based for casting. Second, you don’t get nearly as much variety in spells as you’re limited to the arcane list with no easy cheats to grab spells from other lists, and even then you get only a handful of spells each day. Lastly, you can’t do much other than Blade Pact. It does that very well, but other kinds of Warlock are harder to replicate here.
MIND OVER MATTER
Third option is the newest class on the list: the Psychic. They land in between Witch and Magus with spellcasting, getting full spell levels but fewer per day than average. It’s also the only spontaneous caster of the three (which is much closer to Warlock’s spellcasting). They can be Int or Cha casters, and their spells get big thematic changes based on their Conscious and Subconscious Mind features. Their biggest similarity with Warlock would be their focus on cantrips. Psychics have a special ability called “Amping” that gives bonus power to certain cantrips, leading to cantrips mattering more than regular spells a lot of times. A bunch of their class feats give new Amps that let you add small bonus effects to applicable spells, much like some of the invocations for Warlock. Lastly, Psychic gets one of the best named feats in the whole game: Cranial Detonation. It does exactly what you think it would.
Down side? Simply put, they don’t really have Pact Boon parallels. Psychic will feel either very similar or completely different depending on what you want. No built in options for familiars, weapon-casting, or stealing from other spell lists (other than one or two Conscious Minds). Being stuck with only Occult spells as options can still be super flavorful and thematically similar to Warlock, but mechanically the list is kind of off. It has a much smaller damage capacity than the arcane or primal traditions, which may or may not be a deal killer for your character idea. If you want to play like a spell-heavy utility/control warlock with fewer blast options and no strong tie to a Pact, this works just fine.
So that’s the breakdown in my perspective. Witch matches the story of Warlock pretty well and can do Chain and Tome. Magus is the best for Blade Warlocks and overall damage-heavy builds. Psychic augments cantrips to be super powerful and casts more closely to Warlock. Overall, if I had to pick just one, I think Magus probably plays the closest to Warlock overall, but that really wouldn’t do the other two classes justice. I’d recommend picking whichever matches the individual character you’re going for. Plus, another amazing thing about PF2e is the archetype system, which allows you to dabble in other classes without sacrificing your character’s for abilities. Witch Dedication gets you a slightly weaker familiar, while Magus Dedication gets you 1/minute Spellstrike. Or you can go with other classes altogether and get weapon proficiency from Fighter Dedication or extra spells from Wizard Dedication. All without nerfing your class features or reducing the amount of spells you get from your class!
Next post, I’ll share a quick build of each of these classes to show how they can work as a warlock substitute. If you have any specific questions, comments, or requests, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me via email or Twitter.
- Filling in the BlanksI went over a method you can use to “mathematically” categorize a character concept or class. However, the class pyramid isn’t limited to this use. It can be a very versatile tool if you know how to use it.
- Make Love, Not WarlockLast in our trio of pseudo-warlocks uses the Psychic class. While there’s no exact copy of eldritch blast, Psychics are the superstars of cantrips and adding bonus effects on your spells.
- I CAST SWORD!Magus is all about combining spells and martial prowess, perfect for a Blade Warlock. Their signature ability Spellstrike has you attack a foe with a weapon and unleash a spell against them all at once.
2 thoughts on “All’s Fair in Love and Warlock”