Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What Do I Know About Reviews? Baby Bestiary Caretaker Warlock (5e OGL 3rd Party Product)

I really appreciate it when a supplement can take a concept, do something novel with it, but still manage to make it feel as if it is still hitting the same notes as the material it draws from. The way this is normally done with Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition products is to create a subclass that has a unique set of features running along a theme. The product we’re looking at today changes this formula slightly.

The Baby Bestiary Caretaker Warlock is a product that, instead of creating a new subclass of the warlock, creates an alternative version of the class. If it’s a new class, why is it a warlock? The core of the class still revolves around an agreement between an entity and the PC, but in this case, the agreement is a much more defined arrangement, as the caretaker warlock gains powers in exchange for protecting the egg, or the newborn form, of a powerful creature.

Revealed Form

The PDF of this product is 26 pages, including an ad for Metal Weave Game’s other products. In keeping with this being a Baby Bestiary affiliated product, there are many pictures of cute coatl, dragons, and phoenix, as well as their caretakers. There are various bold headers and tables throughout, as well as various sidebars explaining concepts or putting information in context.

Form and Function

While not split into specific chapters, the PDF is divided, generally, into the overall class abilities, a section on how you acquired your patron, and a separate section for each of the following types of patrons for the caretaker: Phoenix, Couatl, Dragon Turtle, and Dragon.

General Assumptions

The default assumption is that your patron is still in an egg, and that the egg doesn’t suffer damage unless the warlock has already been incapacitated. There is some discussion about how to handle running the companion with separate statistics, but they largely exist to be protected, so there isn’t much benefit to allowing them to have separate stats outside of the default assumption.

There is also some discussion on the differences between how the creature might function once hatched, but largely, this just means that patron is mobile, and the same option to keep them free of separate statistics is still an option, even if they are a hatchling instead of an egg.

Class Structure

The class is introduced with a discussion on the product’s assumption (that the creatures in the product are so cosmologically important as to be able to strike bargains with their caretakers), as well as a discussion on “homebrewed” game content and its inclusion in the game.

Despite being an alternative version of the warlock, the class abilities appear at the same place in the level progression that abilities appear for the standard warlock. Patron Insights replaces Otherworldly Patron, and Imparted Magic replaces Pact Magic--these function very similarly to the replaced options from the standard warlock, with the altered story elements revolving around the patron striking a deal with the essence of the creature they are protecting and receiving insight and abilities from the idealized form of the creature.

Entrusted Boon replaces Pact Boon, and is flavored as a gift that the creature being protected gives to their protector. The entrusted boons include the following options:
  • Entrusted Awareness
  • Entrusted Blade
  • Entrusted Servant
  • Entrusted Shield (this option is noted in the current PDF as still in development)
  • Entrusted Tome


If some of those options sound familiar, yes, most of them function very much like the similar option that standard warlocks receive. 

We don’t get into a lot of departure in the overall structure, but I can understand why the class was presented with the new terminology. While the concept of the bond with the patron is similar, the language of protecting a young creature that will grow into its power flavors how the class feels.

One of the biggest departures is the parting gift, the ability bestowed on the warlock when the creature is old enough to take care of itself and it moves on. The caretaker gains a special ability related to an ability score, and gains the ability to call on their patron, in their adult form, once per week, with the patron not staying more than 48 hours to help their former protector.

It’s potentially powerful, but it’s also the capstone 20th level ability. It feels more powerful than getting back all of your expended spell slots, but it’s also subject to how the DM wants to play the NPC (a patron dragon, for example, will want to help their old friend, but just because the PC wants them to level an army for them, they may not want to do so--they may just make sure the PC is safe from harm and give them some advice).

There are tables with various invocations listed, and the tables subdivide them into patron specific invocations, cantrip focused, and boon focused invocations. While the standard warlock list includes invocations depending on pact boons and cantrips, the patron specific boons presented are a nice thematic way to reinforce the logical abilities granted by the patrons presented in this product.

How Did You Acquire Your Patron and Patron Mishap Tables

While this section is comprised of tables, I wanted to call it out separately, because I really enjoy some of the details added on these lists. I like the idea of the origin story of the link between patron and warlock, and it gives you backstory bits like patron and warlock dying at the same time and returning to life linked, as an example.

The mishap table has lots of great entries about what kind of trouble your newly hatched patron might get into, but unlike the similar product that Metal Weave produced for companions, there isn’t really a trigger for when to use these mishaps. The mishaps also assume that at some point in the story you will opt to have the creature hatch, which isn’t spelled out as happening at any specific time in the campaign.

Guardian of Rebirth, Guardian of Sunset, Guardian of the Deep Scale, Guardian of the Scaled Skies

There are separate sections for phoenix, couatl, dragon turtle, and dragon patrons. The structure of each of these is similar, providing a quirk of the patron, some questions to ask to flesh out the patron, an expanded spell list, and some special abilities gained as the warlock levels up.

The phoenix special abilities revolve around fire and healing, the couatl abilities revolve around divinations and psychic bonds, the dragon turtle grants abilities that armor and protect the warlock, as well as providing a breath weapon, and the dragon grants abilities that revolve around command, bravery, draconic senses, and claws.

The Real Treasure Was The Friends We Made Along The Way

I love this concept. It still feels exactly like the concept of the warlock, but with an interesting twist that potentially uses the same elements to make a class that is less sinister or reckless than it is born of circumstance. The powers and abilities play into the theme of the specific patrons well, and overall, despite being an alternate version of the warlock, it still feels very much like the warlock.

Friendship Isn’t Always The Best Treasure

While I understand representing aspects of the class to flavor them in a more fitting manner, this does mean that there is a lot of material that is reprinted with a different title. Since the shared health feature is written into the class, I’m not sure it’s worth the time to discuss the alternate rules for creating separate stats for the patron. I wish it were a little more spelled out when to transition from egg to hatchling, instead of leaving everything variable, even if it’s just a default from which to deviate.

Qualified Recommendation--A product with lots of positive aspects, but buyers may want to understand the context of the product and what it contains before moving it ahead of other purchases.

This is a great product for doing something different with the warlock, but if you really like a warlock that is either sinister or dabbling with powers they shouldn’t dabble with, this shifts that feel dramatically. If you want something that hews a little closer to standard alternate pact features or patrons, it also pushes the boundaries a bit more. Additionally, there are still a few places in the product that are flagged as being under development, although the page on RPGNow has this boldly called out.

On the other hand, I think there are a lot of roleplaying opportunities created with this product. Having not long ago watched the Dragon Prince, I can’t help but see this as a way of adding some elements of that kind of story to your D&D game. It’s very imaginative, and worth a look if you do like the idea of pushing the boundaries of what a warlock is in your campaign.

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