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D&D: Shadow Sorcerers, Celestial Warlocks, & Life Events In Xanathar’s Guide

4 Minute Read
Oct 6 2017

Warlocks get new Patrons, Sorcerers gain Dark Power, and check out a new life path system featured in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

Continuing the line of previews for Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, we’ve got the Sorcerer and the Warlock getting some time in the spotlight today. Sorcerers will be getting the Shadow Sorcerer subclass for their sorcerous origins, while Warlocks will be able to bargain with majestic unicorns for power, because the Celestial Patron is the best patron and now it’s officially going to be a part of Dungeons and Dragons. Let’s take a look.

The Shadow Sorcerer first appeared alongside the Underdark Unearthed Arcana and introduced an interesting dark wrinkle to the Sorcerer. Possessed with preternatural powers of darkness, the Shadow sorcerer stands with one foot in the grave. A slightly macabre character, brimming with a unique sort of vitality all to them. The eerie and the strange are all about them, they have quirks like “Your heart beats once per minute. This event sometimes surprises you.” Or “You blinked. Once. Last week.” It sort of summarizes them, they’re creepily charming (much like the character Mike Mearls mentions from Phantasm).

And their powers are fairly strong as well. At 1st level, they get a Zombie’s saving throw ability (make a DC 5 + damage taken) whenever you are dropped to 0 hit points, and instead you’re just at 1 hit point. Similarly they can see through the darkness spell they cast with their sorcery points, are accompanied by a shadowy hound, and have all manner of shadowy powers that permeate the class. It sounds like the class has had a couple of tweaks to it, but that by and large it retains the original essence of the subclass. So if you want to play a creepy gravedigger or some other character who’d be at home in one of the early Tim Burton movies, this is the class for you.

But then on top of that we also get the Celestial Patron’d Warlock. I’ve written about how I think the Celestial patron is the best, and, funnily enough–the Celestial patron originally appeared alongside the Shadow Sorcerer, though it was The Undying Light and was just this generic positive energy kind of light or something. Not bad, but kind of bland. They revamped it for a later Unearthed Arcana, and brought back the idea of a good-aligned patron in the form of the Celestial Patron.


Just to reiterate, you can pick a powerful being like an Empyreal, a Solar, a Ki-Rin, or the like, but then in the very same sentence they immediately and permanently negate the other choices by saying that your patron can ALSO be a beautiful, majestic Unicorn.

Yeah I don’t know why you’d pick anything else either. This is especially hilarious to me as Unicorns aren’t particularly powerful–they’re Challenge 5. I like to imagine the conversation around the old Warlock water cooler goes a little something like this.

Fiend Pact Warlock: Listen well Horn-Boy! You don’t want to tempt my wrath–my patron is a powerful lord of the Abyss–I have a fraction of that power at my command, though it may have cost my soul, it is still more than enough to–

Celestial Pact Warlock: Wait, you what? Man–my patron is that Unicorn. Right over there. Like, all I have to do to get power is get out the brush and leave some oats in the morning. You need better friends.

But then also the class mechanics are pretty good too. They let you dish out healing and radiant/fire damage in equal measure, while also being able to keep fighting even when you should be making death saving throws. Pretty sweet and you also get to be friends with a Unicorn. So. Best Patron in the game–at any rate, this Patron has seen some serious revisions already, so I don’t imagine it’ll be too different when the final version is released.

And we have one more peek into Xanathar’s Guide to help kick off your weekend. There’s a chart of “Life Events” you can roll on to see what’s happened to your characters as they were growing up. They are a good writing prompt for coming up with interesting backstory details or maybe having a little extra bonus when you start the game. Things like “you found some treasure,” or “you drank a potion” or “you kidnapped someone.” And as I’ve talked about before, I’m a big fan of letting random generators give you a start, and finding the story that emerges from connecting the disparate details. Imagine a Paladin rolling up a life event and getting “You committed a Crime maybe” in his background.


I kinda want to know how that turns out. Playing a Paladin who is also wanted for like Counterfeiting could be incredible. Especially since Paladins are notoriously bad at things like Disguise. “Why are you wearing that comical moustache, Sir Carol?” “No reason. Shut up!” And then hijinks ensue. But you named your Paladin Sir Carol, so that’s probably a good sign to begin with.

Check out Life Paths in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

As always, stay tuned for more news from Xanathar’s Guide (and more RPG stuff too) as it happens!

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