Cover post The Restless Souls

Warlock The Restless Souls

I want to share with you some tips on how to play my new Warlock The Restless Souls. I hope will make it easier to understand the subclass and allow you to use it’s full potential.

In this article you will find some useful information and ideas like:

  • idea behind the subclass
  • patron attitudes
  • biding marks
  • boons flavour
  • character building
  • tips for DM

Warlock The Restless Souls is available here to download.

The idea behind Warlock The Restless Souls

This new pact allows you to bind yourself with a powerful spirit or a group of spirits. In the subclass you can read

You have entered the pact with a powerful spirit or a group of restless souls. Previously mortal beings, now stuck in the realm of Material and Ethereal Planes, the spirits long to fulfill their destinies and be free at last. Now, they lend their power to anyone who is willing to release them from their bonds and lead to eternal peace. Most often the restless soul is a formerly resentful ancestor, heartbroken lovers or betrayed friends. Sometimes it might be a crowd of abandoned children or banished soldiers.

Warlock The Restless Souls

Inspiration and Influence

Initially I designed this subclass for one of my players, in preparation for a campaign in Ravnica. It was a time when MTG Ravnica Allegiance had it premier and the general vibe of this plane was very strong in our group. One of the Guilds in Ravnica is Orzhov Syndicate, a group of loan sharks who force everyone to pay their debts even after the death, by turning them into ghosts and spirits. If that’s not enough, their leaders is a powerful council of ghosts known as Obzedat, a group of entities who maintained their consciousness even after death.

Our idea for her character was a teenager Niko, who grew up on the streets of Ravnica. As an urchin, he was cunning and smart. However on top of that he possessed extraordinary magical abilities with unknown origins. Later on it was revealed that his powers came from a pact he made with spirits of the neglected, deceased children from the streets of Ravnica. It was an Oliver Twist with dark powers, proving himself among ruthless Orzhov agents. His goal – make people notice the suffering of innocent in the alleys of grant Ravnica.

A character design for Niko, Warlock The Restless Souls.
Designed by @MartynaGrzybek

Different Approach to The Patron

One of the things I wanted to explore with this warlock is a patron made of several entities. In oppose to a powerful archduke of hell (The Fiend) or unnamed horror from Far Realm (The Old One), the power comes from collaboration and multitude of lesser beings. I believe it can vastly change the dynamics between patron and the warlock and add up some tension within the patron realm itself.
I still consciously leave the option to enter the pact with one, powerful spirits so you have a choice to go either way.

Mechanics Behind Restless Souls

From mechanical perspective, this subclass has a lot to offer. In particular when it comes to warlocks I always make sure that their features enforce combat, role-playing and social encounters. With this in mind, skills like Mortal Dread can be as useful in the fighting scenerio, as outside of it. Maybe instead of persuading guards to make you pass you can scare them to death. Or make everyone run away from the part after the large painting started to speak.

In pop culture ghosts and spirits are aways connected to phenomenons like incorporeal bodies and possession. Both Grasp of Death and Spiritual Hijack capitalize on it, in order to relate well-established tropes with new game mechanics.

For the ultimate feature available on 14th level I wanted it to be something intense and vivid. I love The Fiend’s Hurl Through Hell, because it’s so evocative and straightforward in the same time. So in case of Restless Souls, the final feature had to be equally awe-inspiring. Here is where the warlock is not subtle anymore. Army of Spirits summons the souls and make them fight or protect the warlock in an instant.

Tip #1: Remember that the features and skill are not described too specifically so you can imagine it the way you want and flavor it the way you feel like it. It can sound, smell, look as weird and bizarre as you want, as long as it doesn't disrupt the mechanics too much. 

Restless Souls Attitudes

There are some great tips and tables to work on your character in Xanathar’s Guide To Everything. On page 53 you can find some inspiration on the patron attitude, special terms of the pact and binding marks, the visible representation of the pact itself. Given that, when designing, I always try to add some of my own. That way I’m sure the design has a visible unique qualities, but in the same time is also universal and approachable for different players.

Tip #2: In this case consider not only an attitude of the patron towards your character, but also an attitude it has towards itself as a group. Perhaps there is conflict between them, a hint of jealousy or maybe love and romance is dominating the restless souls. 
d6 Attitude
1Your patron is a group of your ancestors. They judge everything you do but in the time of trial, they stick on your side.
2You made a pact with thousands of souls. Each time you cast a spell, one of them is disappearing from the lot. You don’t know what happens to them.
3Your patron feels stuck and trapped in its predicament. It is constantly looking for a way out, giving you ideas how to release it from the spiritual form. It gets panic attacks from time to time.
4Your patron is a couple. They’re either madly in love or in a fierce conflict. You’re not only an audience but also a judge and confidant in this relationship.
5You made a pact with a group of innocent, who suffered a lot in their living days. Some of them want revenge, some peace, others just want a little bit more of life.
6Their promise was made but couldn’t be fulfilled in life. As a result you are bound to do it for them. Your patron doesn’t care how, they just need it to be done.

Restless Souls Binding Marks

Some patrons like to mark their heralds while other avoid recognition altogether. Sometimes the physical manifestation of the pact is an inevitable side-effect, beyond the control of a patron or a warlock. The binding marks can be more or less visible based on the attitude of the patron or their emotion state.

d6Mark
1When you close your eyes, for a split second you can see the vast grayness of Ethereal Plane.
2You unexpectedly lose the touch in one of your limbs as if it went to sleep. It comes back equally unexpected.
3You suffer from sleep paralysis. Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night but cannot move and feel like being choked or drowned.
4Every cat you meet either stares or hiss on you.
5Other ghosts and spirits see your pact as a visible thread between you and your patron. The watch you closely, but don’t change their initial attitude.
6From time to time a loose piece of thought slips into your mind and you say it at loud uncontrollably.

Boons Flavour

Here are some ideas of how Pact of Restless Souls can influence the boon a warlock has. It is purely a flavor, so feel free to use it as a base for your own concept or interpretation. Don’t limit yourself! Talk with your DM to work out something cool, so each time you use it, everyone at the table can feel the power of your pact. I also highly recommend to plan several levels of the visual representation, so each time you gain a new warlock feature or a higher proficiency level, the boon flavor changes slightly.

d4Pact of the Blade
1The voices of the spirits are audible each time you draw or summon the weapon.
2Each time you kill with the weapon, for a brief moment you can see the spirit leaving the body.
3When you enter the Ethereal Plane the weapon changes its vicinity into the colors of material plane.
4If you die and the weapon is present, it releases a loud howl and disappears in smoke like cloud.
d4Pact of the Tome
1You can scribe in the book using your voice and commands. You still need the components to transcribe the spells into it.
2The book has a list of names of all the spirits that are part of your patron.
3When you cast cantrips learned from the book, your mouth and hands become colorless for a moment.
4While summoning the new book, the spirits gather around you and tell their stories. Their words construct the book itself.
d4Pact of the Chain
1Your familiar is translucent and almost colorless.
2When you change the form of the familiar, a different spirit appears and change into it. It may be of different temper or mood.
3If the familiar is delivering your spell, you can see the spirits rushing towards the target and swirl around it. Only you can see it.
4When you forgo the ritual to summon the familiar, you must pick one of the spirits to turn into it.
d4 Pact of the Talisman [Unearthed Arcana]
1You hold your talisman but its not visible for anyone expect you and your patron.
2Your talisman is the most precious item of your patron.
3When you use your talisman to boost a skill check, you can see one of the spirit merging with you for a brief moment in order to help.
4While using the talisman, colors and smells around you loose intensity.

Character Building

Despite the fact this subclass deals with spirits, ghosts and restless souls, the backstory of the warlock doesn’t have to be sad or tragic. In fact this subclass has a lot of potential to build a positive, open-minded and kind character, who is willing to go a long way in order to help the patron.

Goals

This patron can give a very visible and tangible goal for the character. A specific quest or a favor that can lead the hero through the campaign. It can vary from something simple like:

Take my remains and bring them to my family's tomb. 

To something more elaborate:

We are the forgotten victims of currently ruling king. Take him off the throne. 

The fact that the restless souls in many cases are (ex)humanoid, their goals might be closer to those of the character and thus easier in role-playing. When connecting this goal and hero’s inner need (something the character need but doesn’t know about it) and desire (something the character wants but doesn’t really need), it can make an amazing character to play.

Theme of Death

Since warlock doesn’t learn nor is born with its powers, the pact can be made anytime in the lifespan of the individual. When creating Niko, we knew he would make the pact very early on in his life and keep it a secret. The theme of the Restless Souls is death, in its very physical, sudden and violent form. It was an interesting to see how a young boy would dealt with it.

In the subclass there is a short quote from Khanys, The Voice of Many. She is a fictional character, a middle-aged female dragonborn, who fulfills the will of the spirits without a question. A shaman-like figure, who believes the words spoken by the souls are sacred and should be respected no matter what. Given that, it is an amoral, lawful neutral character, who cleanse themselves from any desires of their own.

This is only a handful of ideas how the patron can be approached. Look into culture, myths and religions because they deal with this theme a lot.

Tip #3:  When creating your own character make sure to implement a conflict within. Your character may agree with the goal but reject the way to achieve it. Or perhaps the Restless Souls is so overwhelmed by emotions, that it cannot see the truth about its own fate. 

Tips for DM

There are a few things a DM can prepare to make Warlock the Restless Souls easy to role-play for a player and therefore more entertaining for everyone at the table. Here is a handful of them:

  • Make sure the key locations are mapped in Ethereal Border.
  • Think about NPC in terms of afterlife. Exaggerate one of their Personality Traits and Flaws to the extreme. Turn their Bond into their goal as a spirit.
  • When creating the patron with the player (do that in the first place!), add some features that the player isn’t aware of.
  • Connect the patron goals with campaign goals and put them into conflict in the breakthrough moments.
  • Let the player interact with the patron. Mimic the level of interaction into other elements of the game.
  • Don’t give the player a clear answer of what happens to the souls afterwards. The unknown will drive the drama.

Your Warlock Restless Souls

The subclass is available to download from DMsGuild here. If you enjoy it, please make sure to leave a review on the website.

Also, make sure to share you Warlock The Restless Souls with me and the community in the comment section below, on Twitter or Reddit.

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