Meet the Hexblade Warlock in 'Xanathar's Guide to Everything'

Todd Kenreck: The Hexblade Warlock gets their power from the Shadowfell itself. I talked to Mike Mearls about one of his favorite subclasses appearing in Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

Why does this appeal so much to you personally?

Mike Mearls: The Hexblade ... I find the Hexblade interesting because I've always liked the idea ... Going back to basic D&D, when you played elf as a character class, that was your class was elf, and it meant you could cast spells like a magic user and fight like a fighter and it took you like 8,000 XP to hit second level and other characters it only took like 2,000, but I always liked the idea of the warrior mage and then characters like Elric, Michael Moorcock's series of novels. I always thought those were an interesting character and then when the Hexblade originally showed up, it was a character class in 3-5.

I always find the concept of it interesting. This sort of like shadow warrior type character. Sort of the mirror of the Paladin, not in a sense of like anti-Paladin or an evil Paladin, but just this idea of like a Paladin can take power from the Divine, the Hexblade can take power from the Shadowfell and I always liked that idea of this sort of sinister flavor to it.

Yeah, to me that's just fun being able to like sort of use magic to bridge the gap between what you are as a warlock and what you want to be as a warrior. I always like that idea and just ever since I was a kid, it appealed to me. I don't know how you can quite delve into like why that's something that I like being so much.

I think it's kind of the versatility. You get to play a mysterious, creepy spellcastery guy, but you also get to mix it up in close combat. I like that versatility and so a lot of the subclasses we built for the pact was this idea of keeping that idea of the shadow making it a bit sinister and then finding ways where you could think it was a player, this idea that you have this pact you made with this weapon, like Elric and his sword.

If you're not familiar with the stories and the Elric Saga, his weapon is an intelligent artifact and as it drains souls, it gives him more power and when it's not draining souls, he's actually physically very weak.

Now, we didn't go that far because we didn't want to completely just all ideas from other people, but I like that kind of idea of it's not necessarily the warrior that makes the blade. It's the blade that makes the warrior and we kind of captured the mechanics of the Hexblade with the pact, you can use charisma to make you attack and damage roles rather than strength. You could play a Hexblade, who's very physically weak, but with this weapon is very daunting, very powerful, and I always like that kind of character who sort of has this contradiction built in.

Then any class that can kill someone and rip out their soul and make them a specter that serves them, that's always fun. That's your 6th level ability and that was one, when we're developing, it started out as like this Hound of Ill Ailment kind of like shadow hound and the flavor just wasn't connecting. The play test and people who looked at it in Unearthed Arcana were just puzzled, like why does this guy have a shadow dog following him around?

So we wanted to make it something a bit more active and a bit more like no this is about overcoming people, defeating them, taking their souls, and forcing them into servitude with your dark magic for a short time and sinister characters are fun. I think role players in general ... If you play an evil character, you can play the evil character as just the mustache twirling, "I'm here just to make everyone else's life miserable," which is boring. Or you can say, "Look, this is a challenge. I have to figure out why is my character ... What's his redeeming feature," and I think that is an interesting role playing challenge. It makes you think of your character as more nuanced and more detailed.

It also, and this is something I've noticed watching like Critical Role and like streaming games that are fun. Games where the characters have just some innate tension or have like conflicts between them ... It's not like they're fighting, but there's just a they disagree or whatever or they have relationship history, that's a lot more fun to me to watch and to play because as a Dungeon Master, if he's a Dungeon Master, it's like not only am I as Dungeon Master throwing challenges at the party, the other players are throwing challenges at the party, but it's in a way that's fun and engaging that's growing into the story.

I think now that as we're talking through this I'm thinking that my be why I like the Hexblade because I also like playing evil characters, but I don't like playing characters who are evil just for the sake of being evil. I like playing the characters who are like, "Okay, this guy is helping us, but can we fully trust him," and like what's this person's back story and what's their deal. To me, that's always fun.

I played in a campaign a couple of years ago where the running question was, was my character actually the big bad guy of the campaign. It wasn't clear. Like he may have been. Maybe by the end of the campaign. Even when the campaign ended, it still wasn't quite clear. "Like was he ... Was Kel Kendeen the villain? We're not really sure. The ended, it's still ambiguous and huh? If we run this campaign again, it's not clear if he'll be the villain or another player character."

To me, that is what I think makes the Hexblade and characters like that interesting and fun.

Todd Kenreck: The Hexblade warlock appears in Xanathar's Guide to Everything. You can purchase that book on D&D by following the link in this video description and earn pre-order bonuses as well.

I'm Todd Kenreck. Thank you for watching.




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