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Warlocks in Dungeons & Dragons are defined by their patrons, which are typically otherworldly beings or nebulous demigods. But what if the relationship between a patron and its warlock was something more intimate? Metal Weave Games’ Caretaker Warlock, a revision of the class for D&D Fifth Edition, fills this niche, showcasing a spellcaster whose might comes from raising a magical creature.
Let’s explore the nuances of this class through a sample character, Kaimana Tiderush. (All terms and concepts important to the Caretaker Warlock rules will be bolded the first time they appear.) Kaimana’s a member of an archipelago-dwelling dwarven clan, and is meant to defy the stereotype that dwarves are all mountain folk who live underground. The Tiderush clan in particular is renowned for birthing seamen, pearl divers and mages who derive their strength from aquatic beings.
With this character concept, it makes sense that Kaimana’s patron should be a water-dweller. The Caretaker Warlock offers four possible creatures for patrons, selected due to their prominence in mythologies around the world. These include the couatl, the phoenix, the dragon turtle and the dragon.
The dragon turtle is the best fit, and now it’s time to decide whether this patron should start as an egg or a hatchling. Let’s assume that dragon turtles are endangered species, with pirates and poachers hunting them and searching for their treasure hoards. The Tiderush clan protects the species, frequently rescuing smuggled eggs and safeguarding them until the hatchlings are old enough to fend for themselves. Kaimana, in other words, will begin her caretaking mission as the protector of an egg.
The Caretaker Warlock rules offer different names for characters depending on which patron they’ve selected, and Kaimana’s choice of a dragon turtle classifies her as a Deep Scale Guardian. Kaimana names her dragon turtle Azure, after the beautiful blue sheen of its egg.
She starts with the Shared Health ability, which intertwines her life with Azure’s. Any damage that the turtle takes will also be inflicted upon Kaimana, and if she dies, Azure dies as well. (On that note, potential caretakers should also be aware that the patron is an independent being with simplified stats controlled by the Game Master, and isn’t a pet to order around in combat. For those who want a creature they can directly control, check out the Beast Companion.)
The Armored Body ability is bestowed upon Kaimana at level 1. Her connection to Azure is still quite weak, but even in its unhatched form this aquatic giant’s power radiates through her body, hardening her skin. While not wearing armor, Kaimana’s Armor Class equals 10 + her Dexterity modifier + her Charisma modifier.
Kaimana gains access to magic as well. The spellcasting rules for Caretaker Warlocks are largely unchanged from standard Fifth Edition rules, though expanded spell lists are available depending on the patron. In Kaimana’s case, at level 1 she can access the Fog Cloud and Speak With Animals spells.
At second level, Kaimana obtains two Bestowed Invocations, which follow the same basic rules as the standard warlock’s Eldritch Invocations, but include new and reflavored options designed to exemplify the bond between warlock and patron.
In Kaimana’s case, she’ll take two invocations that require a dragon turtle patron - Aquatic Affinity, which gives her the Shape Water cantrip along with the ability to breath underwater, and Resilient Shell, which makes the Blade Ward cantrip last an additional round.
The sigil of warding that Kaimana draws in the air when she casts Blade Ward is an ornamental design created by the Tiderush clan that’s vaguely reminiscent of a turtle shell.
Kaimana gains an Entrusted Boon from her connection with Azure. These are reflavored versions of the standard warlock’s Pact Boons, and Kaimana will go with Entrusted Blade, which follows the same rules as the Pact of the Blade.
To reward the Tiderush clan for preserving the sanctity of the ocean, dragon turtles have occasionally gifted the dwarves with pieces of their shells, which are then used to build incredible weapons. When Kaimana summons her magic blade, it’ll appear as a carapace sword.
As per Fifth Edition rules, Kaimana can receive an Ability Score Improvement at level 4 or take a feat.
While it’s up to players and Game Masters to determine when they want their patron to hatch, now seems like a great time to have Azure begin wiggling its shell!
As Kaimana’s hit points, proficiency bonus and spell repertoire increases, she’ll also receive another Bestowed Invocation - Imparted Aggression, which lets her attack with her Entrusted Blade twice.
This is also a great level to have Azure hatch from its shell. The Caretaker Warlock rules offer suggestions for how the patron might look and behave as it begins this stage of life, and dragon turtles are described as already the size of a dog when they emerge from their eggs. Rolling on the Patron Quirk table reveals that Azure takes great pleasure in stomping around each morning to stretch its legs and fins, and allows friends to participate in this activity provided that they mimic the same movements. Commence the humorous roleplaying segment where Kaimana and her newly hatched patron perform yoga and jumping jacks on the beach!
Those yoga sessions with Azure are super effective, because at level 6, Kaimana gets Defensive Play. If she and up to five friendly companions spend 10 minutes during a short or long rest playing with Azure (perhaps forming a conga line behind the dragon turtle as it does its morning exercises), they can choose between resistance to bludgeoning, piercing or slashing damage for the next 2 hours.
By this time, Kaimana is developing into a hardy warlock who doesn’t mind getting up close and personal with her carapace sword. In order to keep herself in the thick of combat, she’ll take Sharp Shell as her next Bestowed Invocation. This continues to build on the Blade Ward cantrip, allowing Kaimana to reflect damage that the cantrip ignores back at an attacker.
At level 8, Kaimana gets another Ability Score Improvement or a feat. She decides to focus on bumping up her Charisma and Constitution scores in order to keep her warlock spell damage high while remaining as tough as a turtle.
Kaimana’s connection with Azure continues growing, and by now the pair have embarked on many adventures along the coast. Sometimes Azure even lets Kaimana ride atop its shell, which by now is the length of a large horse. Observing Azure’s rock-hard shell during these trips inspires Kaimana to choose Reactive Shell as her next Bestowed Invocation. This buffs her Blade Ward cantrip one final time, letting her cast it as an immediate reaction prior to taking damage once per long rest.
Now a year old, Azure has begun exhibiting a dragon turtle’s trademark breath weapon, and Kaimana can use Steam Breath as well! Summoning the ocean’s fury in her gullet, Kaimana can blast forth a 30-foot cone of scalding stream that will force enemies to make a Constitution save, suffering 5d10 fire damage on a failure and half that on a success. Kaimana can only perform this incredible maneuver once per long rest, a limitation that Azure occasionally teases her about.
Upon hitting level 11, Azure bestows Kaimana with a Mystic Arcanum 6th-level warlock spell. Since dragon turtles, like all draconic beings, are known to attract other magical creatures, Kaimana learns Conjure Fey. As she rides Azure in the water, she can call upon aquatic fey spirits to assist in combat by taking on the forms of giant octopi, sharks and killer whales!
Kaimana can gain another Ability Score Improvement or feat at this level, along with a sixth Bestowed Invocation. She picks Searing Wounds, which lets her deal extra damage with her Entrusted Blade equal to her Charisma modifier.
For her next Mystic Arcanum, Kaimana obtains a 7th-level warlock spell. Legend has it that dragon turtles know secret passageways to the elemental plane of water, and it’s there that they hide the most precious items in their hordes. Kaimana’s connection with Azure is finally strong enough for her patron to reveal to her that these legends are true, and she gains the Planeshift spell, easily letting her teleport to and from the watery realm.
Azure has been a patron for approximately a year and a half, and some of the beast’s longevity has rubbed off on Kaimana. She gains an Eternal Form, and while she’s unlikely to notice its effects until decades from now, when she does grow old, she will not suffer from the fragility that many elderly face. She also can’t be aged magically and becomes immune to the first five levels of the exhaustion condition.
Kaimana gains Patron’s Armor as her next Bestowed Invocation. Now, she can cast Mage Armor on herself at will, and the armor plates will appear as turtle shells, of course!
She also acquires an 8th-level warlock spell for her third Mystic Arcanum, and chooses Power Word Stun. Both of these skills continue to evolve Kaimana into a tanky warlock who’s not about to let any foes get the drop on either her or her patron.
At level 16, Kaimana can obtain her second-to-last Ability Score Improvement, but she decides to take a feat instead, choosing Tough for a nice hit point increase equal to twice her level, or 32. At this point, she’s all about making herself as resilient as Azure.
Kaimana’s final Mystic Arcanum is a 9th-level sorcerer spell, and she chooses Foresight, filling her mind with the wisdom of the dragon turtle and gaining advantage on attack rolls, ability checks and saving throws for an 8 hour period. There’s no stopping her now!
For her final Bestowed Invocation, Kaimana picks Bolster Vitality, which lets her cast False Life on herself at will as a 1st level spell. She already received a significant hit point boost with the Tough feat, but temporary HP can always come in handy too.
This is Kaimana’s last chance for an Ability Score Improvement or a feat, and she decides to take Lucky. Dragon turtles have long been regarded as auspicious creatures, after all, and with Azure nearly two years old and about to set off on its own, Kaimana finds herself hoping that she’ll still be able to make do even when her patron isn’t always at her side.
Finally, Kaimana hits level 20. After two years of rearing Azure and guiding the young dragon turtle towards a bright future, she receives her ultimate award - a Parting Gift. Calling upon the animal gods that govern the world, Azure grants Kaimana Bear’s Endurance, giving her advantage on Constitution checks and an extra 25 hit points.
Once per month, Kaimana can also call upon Azure to aid her, similarly to a cleric’s Divine Intervention but as an automatic success with no roll required.
With this final present, Azure - now the size of a house - will swim off into the ocean after bidding Kaimana adieu. It’s a tearful parting, but Kaimana knows that the once-little dragon turtle that she hatched from a blue egg is now strong enough to survive any marauders on the high seas. She has done her role in ensuring the survival of this proud, awe-inspiring species, and the tremendous magic she acquired in the process will serve her well as she seeks to train other Tiderush Deep Scale Guardians.
The story of Kaimana Tiderush and Azure the dragon turtle is but one example of the monumental characters that can be devised with the Caretaker Warlock rules. If you’ve ever dreamed of flipping the warlock class on its head and accumulating arcane energy by rearing a majestic creature, then look no further. The magic that emanates from a kindred animal spirit awaits you.
Jeremy Blum (@PixelGrotto) is a journalist, gaming blogger, comic book aficionado, and fan of all forms of storytelling who rolled his first polyhedral dice while living in Hong Kong in 2017. Since then, he's never looked back and loves roleplaying games for the chance to tell the tales that have been swirling in his head since childhood.