Dragonmarks: The Artificer

A staff serves as a channel for destructive powers. A scroll holds words that can alter reality when read allowed. A potion is imbued with energies that can transform whoever drinks it. These treasures don’t simply appear in dungeons. In Eberron, magic is a form of science. Magic items are technology, and artificers are the engineers who work with these tools.

For the last two months I’ve been writing about the Dark Six. I’m tied up with multiple deadlines, and I will finish the Dark Six series as soon as I can. However, Wizards of the Coast just released a new version of the Artificer and I want to share my thoughts on it right away. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters, who keep this website going!

This latest version of the artificer was designed with Eberron in mind, however the goal wasn’t to precisely replicate either the third or fourth edition versions of the artificer. An artificer is an arcane engineer who channels magic through tools, and who expresses creativity in a number of ways. Bear in mind that Unearthed Arcana is playtest material and that it specifically calls out that the next month’s UA article may contain additional content for the artificer. So the subclasses and content presented aren’t intended to be comprehensive or final. With that in mind, let’s explore a few things.

Artificers and Spells

Some people are disappointed that the artificer casts spells, and wish that it had a unique system of its own. A few things to bear in mind…

  • Scrolls and wands are examples of the technology artificers work with. What’s a scroll? A tool that casts a spell. The idea that the artificer produces spell effects through using tools is the logical extension of this. If an artificer created chemical explosives or firearms, it would make sense for them to use some other system. But they create items that produce spell effects, so it makes sense that the class can produce those effects.
  • The third edition artificer also cast spells. They were called “infusions” and had to be placed in objects, but aside from a few cosmetic aspects, they were spells. Now, the artificer had access to some unique effects, and we’ve already introduced one of these; arcane weapon is a variation of personal weapon augmentation. And there could be additional unique artificer spells in the future. But there’s no need to create an entirely separate system of mechanics for an artificer to heal when cure wounds is a simple, functional option. I’ll note that the artificer Lei in my novels frequently heals people; in 3E terms she’s using spell-storing item to create a cure wounds item, but the end result was that she was using a tool to cast cure wounds.

The critical point here is about flavor. From a STORY perspective, an artificer isn’t “casting a spell” like a wizard or cleric does—they are using tools to produce magical effects. As the Magic of Artifice sidebar calls out, while this follows the tried and true rules of spellcasting, from a story perspective it’s quite different. An artificer has to use a tool to perform magic, and the question is what that looks like. MECHANICALLY, an artificer gains no benefits and suffers no penalties from the fact that they are performing magic in a different way. But as long as you don’t demand something that should change the rules, this is an opportunity for you to add flavor to your particular artificer.

The Tools of Magic

Most artisans’ tools aren’t a single object. You’re not proficient with “a hammer”; you’re proficient with smith’s tools. So when you use a tool to cast a spell, it’s not that you just have a single magic hammer that you wave. Which elements of your tool are you using? What are you producing that creates the effect? Consider a few ideas…

  • Tinker’s Tools. This is a general catchall, as you can justify almost any sort of odd gadget with tinker’s tools. When using tinker’s tools, the idea isn’t that you’re producing your effect with the tools themselves (unless you’re casting mending or something similar), but rather that you’ve tinkered together some sort of prototype item. For example, my tinker artificer might use a dragon-shaped sidearm to produce fire bolt, or use a modified gauntlet to deliver shocking grasp. The point is that these things are unstable prototypes that can’t be used by anyone else and that I have to constantly tinker with to maintain. So I have to possess my tinker’s tools; I have to have a tool in hand to produce the spell effect; but that “tool” can be a dragon-gun as opposed to a pair of pliers. Regardless of what it LOOKS like, bear in mind that it is inherently magical. I might cast cure wounds using a tiny metal spider I’ve tinkered. But while it may LOOK like a clockwork construct, it’s magic that allows it to move and think. Mundane engineering may be a part of a tinker’s creations, but magic is what makes them work.
  • Alchemist’s Supplies. Alchemy blends chemical reaction with magic. This is the underlying principle behind most potions; the challenge of creating a potions is to suspend the mystical reaction so it can be consumed at a later date. It’s much easier to trigger an instant effect, and that’s what you’re doing when you use alchemist’s supplies to cast your spells. Your firebolt could be a thrown flask or some sort of dragon-gun like the tinker; in your case, it’s activating and spitting your flaming concoction. Poison spray is easily justified as flinging foul substances. Cure woundsfalse life, water breathing could all be potions you mix and serve on the spot: disguise self or alter self could be mystically charged cosmetics.
  • Calligrapher’s Supplies. Sigilry channels arcane power through symbols and sound, using special inks and techniques. As alchemy is to potions, sigilry is to scrolls; it’s much easier to produce an instant effect than to suspend and sustain it as a scroll. When you cast fire bolt, it could be that you use your quill to trace the name of fire in the air before you; or if could be that you have the sigil written down, and all you have to do is read it to produce the effect. Whether you draw sigils onto things or craft simple scrolls and read them, your pen is mightier than most swords.
  • Cartographer’s Supplies. This is a twist on the sigilist. On the one hand, you could just use your tools in the same way, drawing sigils. But if you want to be more exotic about it, you could specialize in calculating ley lines and the relationships between the planes. Essentially, the world is filled with mico-manifest zones waiting to be triggered; you’re using your tools to calculate the proper alignments to channel the energies you need.
  • Painter’s Supplies. If you want to be fanciful about it, you could paint what you need into reality. When you cure wounds, you’re literally painting over the injury; when you cast fire bolt, you paint the flame in the air and it flies towards your opponent. This is a variation of sigilry, but the same underlying principles apply. You might even create scrolls that are images rather than words!
  • Thieves’ Tools. All artificers are proficient with both thieves’ tools and tinker’s tools, and the point is that you largely use them in the same way. Thieves’ tools are picks and other fine manipulators. It’s not that you cast a fire bolt by pointing a lockpick at someone; it’s that you can use the lockpick to clear out that problematic valve on your dragon-pistol. Of course, if you WANT to come up with some lock-based form of artifice you can.
  • Woodcarver’s Tools. Wands, staffs, and rods are one of the most basic forms of arcane focus. As with tinker’s tools, if you perform magic with woodcarver’s tools, you aren’t actually blasting someone with a saw. Instead, you are using experimental, exotic, or otherwise temporary wands or rods. Again, the effect is that you have to have a tool in your hand and you have to possess woodcarver’s tools to perform your magic, but the exact nature of the tool in your hand is up to you. It could appear to be a traditional wand, or you could have come up with some new revolutionary form of wand/staff/rod.

Use your imagination, and remember that while you need a tool, you don’t have to work your magic with the tool itself; it’s that it enables you to use whatever you actually have in your hand to produce the effect. You don’t fling your alchemist’s tools at your enemy; you throw a temporary potion created using your alchemist’s tools. But you still have to have alchemist’s tools and a free hand to do this.

Spell Preparation and Infusions

During a long rest, an artificer prepares a number of spells equal to their Intelligence modifier + half their artificer level. They can also swap out one of their cantrips. But this isn’t a wizard reading a book. When an artificer prepares spells, it’s about putting together the specialized supplies and tools you need for the things you want to do. You can’t create a scroll with just ANY ink; a sigilist has to mix entirely different inks based on the type of effects they’re going to produce. Likewise for an alchemist, who prepares special reagents that they’ll combine to produce spell effects. If you’re a tinker, you’re creating and fine tuning your gadgets. The same is true of your cantrip; if you switch light for fire bolt, you’re apparently weaponizing your torch. All of this also explains the idea of spell SLOTS. The reagents you’ve prepared are tricky to produce and don’t last forever. You’re preparing as much as you can, but once you go through all your mystic inks you can’t produce another scroll effect until you have a few hours to work on it. Effectively, your spells use temporary magic items that only you can use—and you prepare those during your long rest.

Meanwhile, infusions allow you to create longer-lasting tools that your friends CAN use. This is a compromise with the generally low-magic approach of 5E and the idea that artificers should be able to create magic items. You CAN create items, but you can’t flood the party with them; it’s up to you what you do with this limited resource.

Turrets and Homunculi

We’ve said before that Eberron is a world where the weapons of war are magical. I’ve talked about siege staffs, tree-trunk sized staffs that can produce evocation effects far beyond the typical fireball or lightning bolt. First of all, you can assume that the artillerist is capable of maintaining and operating siege staffs.

Then we come to the turret. A turret is “a magical object that occupies a space and has crablike legs.” This base design reflects the apparatus of Kwalish and the arcane ballista seen in some previous designs. The main point is that it is fundmantally magical. It may have crablike legs, but it’s magic that animates them.

Beyond this, though, you and your DM can work out the exact form of YOUR turret. The main point is that it can produce the effects described and that it has a walking speed of 15 feet. Your force ballista could look like a mundane ballista that fires bolts of energy instead of physical projectiles. But it could also be a metal dragon that spits energy bolts. it should reflect YOUR personal style of artifice. Likewise, the Alchemical Homunculus of the alchemist is a tiny construct that can fly and that produces alchemical salves or splashes of acid. It could be a metal dragonfly that secretes salves, or it could be a tiny floating cauldron! Whatever it is, it’s a construct designed to deliver alchemical substances.

Styles of Artificer

As with any other class, there’s many ways to interpret the artificer and many different stories you can tell. Here’s a few ideas.

  • Wage Mage (Guild Artisan). You learned your trade from House Cannith, whether as an heir or in one of their trade schools. You put in your time in a house enclave or factory, and you’ve still got contacts in the business. Your artifice is functional and by the book, using the latest principles of accepted arcane science… unless, of course, your were thrown out of your job because you tried to push beyond the envelope.
  • Siege Engineer (Soldier). You operated and maintained the engines of war. Which nation did you serve? Are you haunted by the memory of blasted battlefields, or are you proud of your deeds? The Military Rank of the soldier background implies that you served with distinction, but you could be a Folk Hero who deserted during the war, or a mercenary veteran.
  • Innovator (Sage). You don’t do well with authority, and you never got along with House Cannith. As far as you’re concerned, the standard techniques of the magewrights and guild artisans are antiquated. You do things your way… though it’s up to you to say that the difference is! You could be a devotee of the Traveler, working on ideas that could shatter the current industrial paradigm. Or you could just be working with unusual materials or techniques.
  • Tool of War (Warforged Envoy). As a warforged, you were built to maintain other magical systems. Are you an experimental prototype, or a maintenance worker whose abilities outshone any expectations? Are you just doing a job, or do you hope you can use your skills to help all warforged? As an envoy, your Integrated Tool allows you to have your spellcasting focus embedded in your body, but bear in mind that you still have to devote a hand to using that tool; this doesn’t allow you to perform magic hands-free.
  • Thelanian Tinker (Entertainer or Outlander). In your youth you slipped through a manifest zone to Thelanis, and during your time there you learned unusual fey techniques. Like any other artificer, you use tools to produce magical effects and you can create temporary magic items. But your techniques are entirely UNscientific. You may sing to your tools, or talk to them as if they were alive; you replicate boots of flying by CONVINCING your boots that they are actually birds. Your turret or homunculus may be animated by a minor fey—perhaps a friend from your childhood.

Conclusions

This latest iteration of the artificer is just that—an iteration. It will surely continue to evolve, and your feedback could be part of that. But in use it as it stands, the key point to me is to recognize the creativity inherent in the class. Whether you’re swapping a cantrip or preparing entirely new spells, it reflects your character’s creative nature. You use the same basic rules for spellcasting as other classes, but from a story perspective it’s about you producing those effects with innovative techniques and tools. And while the ability to create permanent magic items is limited—a necessity given the basic assumptions of 5E—infusions allow you to create and modify your own unique items.

Q&A

Currently, the rules state “You must have a spellcasting focus—specifically thieves’ tools or some kind of artisan’s tool—in hand when you cast any spell with this Spellcasting feature.” Do you think it’s fair to amend that to say “Or an item crafted by your artisans’ tools?”

I think that the wording should be clarified, yes; again, it’s a playtest. However, my point is that tools are inherently abstract objects. “Tinker’s tools” weigh ten pounds. That’s not a single solid ten pound tool; it’s a tool KIT that has a lot of separate components. My argument is that when the text says “You have to have an artisan’s tool in hand” it doesn’t mean that you have to be holding your entire toolbox; you have to have the kit in your possession, and you have to have a hand free to make use of that tool. If you accept that, then I’m saying that the dragon pistol or alchemical salve is PART of the tinker’s tools or alchemist’s supplies.

Essentially, you have to have the tool in your possession and you have to have a hand dedicated to using that tool. If these conditions are met, what does it matter what the thing in your hand actually looks like? But with that said, I agree that it should be clarified if this is the desired outcome.

Post your thoughts and questions about this latest version of the artificer below!

67 thoughts on “Dragonmarks: The Artificer

  1. So would you say, in your opinion, that this new version of the UA artificer does a much better job of fitting into the Eberron setting than the old UA artificer?

    • It’s much better than the last version, yes. The previous UA artificer did a few things well but had no real sense of flexibility; just being able to swap out spells and cantrips helps significantly in that direction. I also definitely prefer the Infusion approach to the random “When I reach level X I can create a specific magic item, and if I lose it, oh well.” I’ve seen people complain that the alchemist doesn’t feel like he’s an alchemist because he can’t fling acid at people… but that’s just a matter of coloring cantrips, as I describe.

      It’s not a perfect match to the original 3.5 artificer. I’d like to see more subclasses; at the moment, neither of these are a good match for Lei or Drix from my novels. But I definitely think it’s better than the last version.

      • I’m in the middle of reading your Dreaming Dark series and Lei is definitely an incredible character. I enjoy how you’ve flavored her infusions.

      • I have been working on a Machinist variant where rather than turrets it focuses on constructs like golems but without necessarily the permanence of actual golems. I envision this might replicate the early Cannith endeavors to create the war forged. I have never specifically appreciated the “turret” option. I also feel wand creation should be a general artificer ability rather than just the artillerist.

  2. Overall, what are your personal impressions on how this version of the artificer turned out? Are you satisfied by the direction they’re taking this design?

    • I think it’s a work in progress. I think it’s far better for Eberron than the previous Gunsmith artificer. I think that infusions are a reasonable way to give the sense of creating magic items without opening floodgates that would throw off the basic assumptions of 5E. And I like the flexibility that comes from the cantrip swap and the spell preparation. I’d like to see more subclasses and potentially more unique artificer spells, such as Arcane Weapon. But I think it’s a step in the right direction, for sure.

  3. It seems like I’m triggering a spam filter? appologies if just delayed & this duplicates.

    There are plenty of discussions about rounding out the mechanical rough edges in them, but a flavorish and mechanical rough edge is the archtype split not happening till third level instead of first combined with the half caster. Shifting the split to first level would help with some of those rough edges & add more room for flavor that starts to underscore how different the artificer from other casters with mechanical results right out of the gate.

    • I definitely see the point in terms of flavor—that it’s harder to say “I worked with siege engines” when you don’t become an artillerist until third level. This may be a concert with front-loading too much for multiclassing, but I definitely see it from a flavor perspective.

      • Not only the point you bring up, but there is nothing especially artificery at level 1 & 2. 2 cantrips & 1-4 first level spells prepped(int mod+.5 *artificer level) with that first level dip. (magical tinkering is pretty much a very poor light source or stripped down) minor illusion/prestidigitation so hardly a balance concern there. Artificer 2 gives some very limited infusion options, but you are still basically variant human with a slightly better version of the magic initiate feat & d8 hit dice.

        Assuming that the infusions don’t suddenly leap to be on a similar value as warlock invocations or sorc1 dragon bloodline +ac +etc third level is when artificer gets something not replicated by an AL-GM reward or lucky early find (+1 $whatever/some ultra minor magic items). Most classes have some obvious multiclass combos that are multiplicative or nicely additive early on, but aside from the questionable “I want my wizard to have light/med armor/shield & some tool proficiencies, but don’t have 13 in either str fighter, wis cleric, or char paladin” and that’s not exactly a synergistic combo.

        They might be trying to avoid multiplicative& worse multiclass dip combos, but the current version does not even seem to bring an additive combo those first two levels

  4. What do you think about both the subclasses being “pet” characters? I was surprised to see the new iteration of the Artificer double down on this aspect since many didn’t like the mandatory 6th level Mechanical Servant feature of the original Unearthed Arcana from a couple of years ago.

    • Once the class is truly finished, I expect there to be additional subclasses, and I don’t expect all of those subclasses to have pets.

      Neither of the artificers in my novels (Lei and Drix) have pets, so I’d like to see a subclass that doesn’t use pets. .

  5. Reading this an image popped in my mind: a mockery-themed artificer that uses pieces of skin and blood.
    The mockery misses the connection with innovation and arcane magic to justify that, but the image is cool.

    Btw: my players are now in Thelanis and I will definitely make them meet an artifice whistler 🙂

  6. I was looking at the “XP to Level 3” version of the artificer and I like their approach. Their approach forgoes subclasses in favor of having categories of inventions (alchemy, construct (pet), augmentation (bodily enhancement), firearms) that the artificer can create. It gives them invention points that they can invest in those inventions. Each invention also has upgrade options that one could also invest invention points into making existing inventions better (a specialist), or they can create multiple inventions and be versatile.

    • A goblin sourcebook is in my top four things I’d like to write when I have time, so it’s certainly possible.

  7. I’ve used the homebrew Revised Artificer (https://www.gmbinder.com/share/-LAEn6ZdC6lYUKhQ67Qk) in my last Eberron setting game. It has a Cannonsmith, but has directions for refluffing it to an Elemental Stave. Worked really well for my Artificer. Think I still like it better than the new UA one, at least till gets the UA one gets a LOT more subclass and infusion options.

  8. Out of curiosity, how do you see exactly wizards counterspelling artificer? Fluffing them basically using magic to distract Artificer from doing precise work, or just getting rid of the energies that get generated from their actions?

    • Getting rid of the energies generated by their actions. An artificer uses a different method to produce a fireball than a wizard does, but the fireball itself is a similar arcane construct.

      • Can the pets be dispelled, as they are powered by magic.. I would assume not as that would feel a bit rubbish and they have no given level.

  9. I always appreciate you taking time out of your schedule, here or on twitter, to answer our questions and give feedback, Keith!

    Because I’m a stickler for RAW (or, more accurately, I’m terrified of RAW DM’s and want to always have my phrasing correct) but I love your flavor in this post. Currently, the rules state “You must have a spellcasting focus—specifically thieves’ tools or some kind of artisan’s tool—in hand when you cast any spell with this Spellcasting feature.” Do you think it’s fair to amend that to say “Or an item crafted by your artisans’ tools?”

    If so, I want my Scorching Ray to be a bowl of chili made by my artificer with chef’s implements and he just chucks a hot bowl of soup at people.

    • It’s a good question, and I’ve added my answer to the end of the article. Essentially, my argument is that a tool is an abstract object that includes multiple subcomponents; the flask of acid is a subcomponent of alchemist’s supplies. So I might be wearing my alchemist’s supplies as a satchel, but I have to possess the tool and have a hand free to use it in order to perform magic.

      • I absolutely agree and I can’t wait for WotC to open the feedback document for the class.

        I think I mentioned to you on twitter how I was worried that RAW I would just have to swing a toolbox around performing somatic components (and this is coming from a guy who had his bard do just that with his lute to cast spells, El Kabong style).

  10. i like the look and feel of the new artificer… but bring the thundercannon back. D&D as usual is “against” ranged fights without lots of tinkering, while the gunsmith did indeed have a very quick damage progression, the current artillerist is no substitute. It can be a different subclass. But i need a ranged person who can deal decent ranged damage from level 1 and do so consistently without needing long rests. Flyers are *very* common in my setting but according to D&D i should just avoid flying enemies or put flying enemies who are at the very leas half as good as any land enemy. It can be done via other classes. But the gunsmith was the very first class that could do a decent job out of the box without much game knowledge. The fact that the gun itself could never make a second attack, due to the weird way it was reloaded also made it perfect for having a character stick to being an artificer and not “mix and mash” classes at random which was the main reason i hated 3rd edition.

    This is just a standard half caster that uses spell slots “to do stuff” it gets “them bombs and guns” at level 3 when they are already outmatched and are basically useless since the group has been pelted for 3 levels already and would by now have decent armament and it uses spell slots which recharge with long rest to do so and does not apply intelligence/dexterity or whatever anymore, which means it’s no more useful than your average mage at doing so… technically a bit less since this is an half caster and thus it’s got even less spells, any wizard can cast “witch bolt” and pelt opponents for untold damage amount of damage with just 1 spell slot, that an artificer is just slightly more powerful with his turret… but only starting from level 3… and cannot move anymore (unless somebody forgot to write that the turret can be moved)… is underwhelming.

    As a side note, i also liked (personally) how the previous artificer started out without spells and would gain actual spellcasting only later. I only changed (as an house rule) that it would start as a ritual caster from level one before actually having spell slots to complement the cantrips it had. It was an interesting and flavourful approach to magic.

    • No offence intendes, but this seems like a problem with your setting rather than the class. Remember, this is written for everyone’s campaigns, so not being a perfect fit for one person’s setting is perfectly fine. Nothing’s stopping you from not using the thunder cannon artificer UA, after all…

  11. Now I really want to play a thief that somehow leare ned how to open cracks and fissures in reality and uses it to finetune the locks

  12. Great to hear your thoughts about this Artificer, Mr. Baker, and I agree, it’s definitely an improvement and step in the right direction compared with the last one. I’d also think it can definitely be improved upon, and what I’d personally like to see if with a future update:
    1. Bring back the “Magic Item Analysis” ability from the first UA Artificer. After all, the ability to identify magic items was an ability of your original artificer from Eberron and, as a magical tinkerer/engineer, it totally fits.
    2. Give a little more options to the “Magical Tinkering” ability besides those four. Perhaps allow for magic based smoke bombs or flashbangs. Otherwise, it’s got nice flavor.
    3. Definitely more Infusions than just eight–make it 12 or 16–as this is clearly the Artificer’s bread-and-butter.
    4. “Arcane Armament” should be scrapped and be replaced with lvl 10’s “The Right Cantrip for the Job.” After all, aren’t Artificers a support class, not a martial class? Attacking twice but only if you have a magic weapon seems like a clumsy mechanic. Besides, the ability to swap cantrips per short or long rest is too good an ability to wait for level 10.
    5. The “Spell-Storing Item” feature should also come earlier, although be slightly tweaked. Perhaps have it come in at 9th level, but the objects with the spell only have charges equal to your INT modifier. Then, at level 13, in addition to 1st and 2nd level spells, you can place 3rd level spells and spells from your Artificer Specialist subclass into objects. Then at 17th level, it can allow an item infused with those spells (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and subclass spells) be twice your INT modifier.
    6. Have it’s own version of the Bard’s “Magical Secrets” called “Reverse Engineering.” Basically, once per day, it would allow the Artificer to disassemble a magic item and either put it back together or turn it into a different magic item. If the magic item contains a spell they don’t already know, they learn that spell. Have it scale to twice a day, then three times a day when you level up.
    7. Have the Arcane Weapon spell also double it’s damage at higher levels, i.e. 2d6 when using a spell slot 3rd level or higher.
    8. Allow for Alchemist Fire in the Alchemist subclass, including dealing fire damage with a bonus equal to INT modifier, and fire resistance.
    9. Have a Homunculus Speciality class, where you can build the Alchemical Homunculus and other constructs as options.
    10. Have the Artillerist be more of a martial-based build, which would include proficiency in martial weapons.

    Just stuff I can think of off the top of my head.

      • I’ve not interacted with Unearthed Arcana before the Artificer release. I couldn’t find any information about a survey. Is there a certain place I’m overlooking? I’d like to provide feedback in regards to a desire to have a subclass that’s doesn’t use pets, and I’d really like a subclass that had the ability to self-modify. For the self modifying subclass maybe it’s the ability to effectively “graft” (could be done through tattoos, war paint, ritual scarring, tinkering with one’s parts if war or Ed, etc.) feats onto the artificer, with some means of swapping out the grafted feat. I don’t know what the right balance would be, but it seems giving up pets might be worth the ability to add on a feat or two as needed. Or maybe that can be another type of infusion.

  13. I appreciate that you took the time to outline your thoughts on the design behind the latest iteration of the Artificer.

    For me, I feel like there’s not enough mechanically to distinguish the Artificer in the early levels of the class. I appreciate that as part of a tabletop game, there’s a large onus on the players to use the power of imagination, but right now I feel like rather than having pepper in the dish, I’m being told to imagine that there’s pepper in the dish; it’s just not quite enough.

    I think one thing that can be done to add flavor, and could potentially help people envision the spellcasting side of the class a bit more, would be to change the spellcasting focus from artisan’s tools to, let’s call it an “Arcane Apparatus”; it could be written like thus:

    “You use your artisan’s tools to create an Arcane Apparatus, which you can use as a spellcasting focus for you Artificer spells. The exact form of your Arcane Apparatus is up to your discretion, be it a case containing magical scrolls, a satchel filled with chemicals and reagents, a mechanical device that cycles through different settings, or something else entirely. Only you are able to use your Arcane Apparatus, and if it is lost or destroyed you can use your artisan’s tools to construct a new one for 10 gp.”

    I have other thoughts on what I think could be done to improve the flavor of the class, but I think I’ll save those for the survey when it comes out. As far as the subclasses go…I like the idea behind the Artillerist with the turret, but I think it conflicts thematically with the abilities regarding wands at levels 3 and 6; I think it would be prudent to switch those out in favor of ones more to do with the turrets and save them for a subclass more specialized around wandslinging. As for the Alchemist subclass, I’m afraid I don’t have much of anything nice to say about it, especially in regards to the Homunculus (which I particularly dislike) and hope it gets redesigned entirely.

    Anyway, sorry for burdening you with my dissertation here, lol. I just wanted to add my two cents. And actually, there is one other thing I will add: I think something that might go a long way to establishing the Artificer as a distinct class would be to give it more spells/cantrips that are exclusive to it, rather than relying on spells already available to every other class. As I said, these are only my opinions, and thank you for taking the time to read them.

    • Thanks for sharing! As you say, these are certainly thoughts that should be shared on the survey. I personally prefer this version to the previous UA version, but there’s certainly room for improvement.

  14. A point to stress on flavor is that scrolls don’t necessarily have to be scrolls. If an artificer creates something that behaves like a scroll, enough that you can come up with some hand-waving explanation for why another caster could figure out how to use it too, that may be worth considering working with as well.

    When Pteryx and I were discussing 3.5 house rules around artificer, and we were unhappy with some of the strange implications in the rules around artificer-crafted scrolls, we invented the concept of the ‘spellbead’, an enchanted bead that functioned as a spell completion item. It has the same creation cost as a scroll, is single use, but is slightly wand-like in being usable by either divine or arcane casters and not being readable for the purposes of copying into a spellbook. This entailed an actual rules change for our purposes, but there’s no reason someone couldn’t adopt the general idea as flavor without mucking with the rules.

  15. Given the limitations of 5e and of D&D generally, I’m not sure how much closer to my own idea of the bullseye we can really get than this new version. Some of the limitations that have to be worked with or around are that 5e doesn’t have a detailed and extensive crafting system baked in (though I fully admit how deeply flawed 3.5’s was), that it doesn’t like magical items or lasting effects in general, and that D&D player characters are required to have means of contributing to combat regularly and directly through their own nontransferable power.

    The main thing that bothers me about the whole idea of just flavoring the same old spellcasting rules as devices is that it doesn’t seem like it would transfer very well to casual tables (as opposed to story-heavy ones). I can’t see the kinds of tables where “I attack” rules the day not just having the artificer’s player just say “I cast Cure Wounds” and be done with it — losing the flavor due to their being zero mechanical weight to it at all. Putting the entire weight of the flavor on the player might work at more heavily story-oriented tables like ours, albeit at some risk of falling flat, but more casual tables might not really feel the artifice of this artificer.

    Ironically enough, the flavor of miniature devices or concoctions being used to “cast spells” seems like it would better fit the old-school spell prep model than the decoupled prep 5e uses. Then it would be easy to imagine that each “prepared spell” represents one device put together that morning, as long as one is willing to either ignore or handwave away the corner-case contradictions. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem like it would play well with 5e’s multiclassing rules.

    As for a non-pet-based subclass, one obvious option to me is one that focuses on temporarily augmenting one’s own weapons and armor in order to be very much like a fighter except ON FIRE (or electricity, etc.). Builds like that did exist in 3.5, the general concept doesn’t seem to have any class or subclass dedicated entirely to it yet, and I’ve always been a big fan of the imagery of using runes to magically energize one’s weapon or fortify one’s armor.

    • Honestly just making the artificer be able to “cast” all his spells at once creating a number of single-use items that can be passer around would be extremely useful. Sure the burden of the “casting” is then transferred to the person in need, but it makes sense to have somebody in the party that can daily create potions/trinkets that do one thing only and just until it’s time to rest again.

      The only gripe i have(which i already explained) is that they removed the “reliable fighting capabilities”, so what was a class able to create useful items and/or stuff like that *AND* provide support from afar artillery-style… is now forced to use very normal weapons and has a very limited non-easily-replenisheable amount of “big shots”.

      Honestly that goes somewhat against my idea of the artificer which is the guy that is reliably helping people around, can’t do very much, especially not alone, but is reliable. Here is now “just” your average mage but with trinkets and some form of pet.

      • What’s funny is that because I think of the 3.5 spell storing item as a hallmark of the artificer, I generally think of them as being UNreliable but very flexible; one of my problems with the previous UA artificer is that it did very few things but did them very reliably, while I see the artificer as flexible but potentially unreliable. This current version adds more flexibility, though it’s neither as flexible or unreliable as the 3.5 SSI allowed.

    • I agree: I’d like to see a melee-focused subclass. I played a melee artificer in 3.5. But I expect additional subclasses in the final class.

    • I can easily see the artificer’s preparation being creating a bunch of inert gizmos, and when they actually cast a spell they infuse the gizmo with magic energy that makes it actually do something.

      But I do miss the 3e version of Spell-storing Item something fierce.

      • Yeah I like the idea that he creates, spider-bots, and flying-vials and all kind of other things in his long-rest, and then all he is doing is pulling them out and using a tool to impart the magic to bring them to life when he needs them.

  16. Thank you for your time to clarify these elements Keith.

    How would you flavour infusions? Considering the infusions can fade from the item, they aren’t strictly speaking as good as the real items they are replicating (which is of course, fine). They are also free, but only a limited amount of them can be maintained at once.

    Would maintain be the correct word? As, if the Artificer dies, they fade. Presumably the need for constant maintenance by the creator would be obvious,
    and the creator would therefore not be able to fool a shopkeeper into buying his/her creation?

    • Yes, I’d have it be obvious that infusions are temporary prototypes. This seems like a great topic for a random roll table — “Infusion Quirks.”

    • sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing how to use the tools at hand to get theresults you want. Here is a technological version of what could easily be converted to arcane (both the tool, lock being defeated, & reason it works)

  17. If you are not already aware of KibblesTasty’s version of the artificer, then I recommend checking it out at his Patreon. The PDF is free to download. It’s gone through several revisions and been extremely receptive to crowd-sourced feedback. While his version of the class is extremely robust with options, I feel that it accurately represents the creativity of playing an artificer.

    https://www.patreon.com/KibblesTasty/overview

  18. I, too, generally like this version better than the last UA attempt, but have found some of the comments above fascinating. I have a mechanics question: Do the artificer versions of common spells have the same verbal, somatic and material requirements as the wizard/sorceror/cleric/etc. equivalents? All would seem to have the somatic requirement of having a tool in hand (however that ends up being defined.) But would every artificer device also require a word of command? Would material components be ncorporated in the preparation of the spell, or would they have to be used at the time of casting? Myself, I would be inclined to say that artificers only have to deal with the costly material components, and that they are incorporated at the time of preparation. Verbal components would be a matter of flavor only (i.e. none, unless you’re a sigilist reading a scroll, or a bardificer causing your instrument to unleash effects.) The somatic compennt is holding the tool.

    • By RAW, yes; an artificer has the same component requirements as any other spellcaster. Personally, I could support the idea that the artificer has to have a tool and a hand to use it, but that this replaces the verbal or somatic components normally associated with the spell.

      With that said, I can see a justification for verbal components as being part of the process the artificer uses to activate the mystical energy of the spell; even if I’m throwing a flask, it could be that Speaking a word of power is like pulling a pin on a grenade.

  19. Really see a ton of potential in this version. Very much looking forward to seeing a couple more subclass options, though. A lot of versatility here to make this a great all-purpose backup.

    A minor nitpick. The last word of the second sentence in the article should probably be aloud, rather than allowed.

    • A minor nitpick. The last word of the second sentence in the article should probably be aloud, rather than allowed.

      But is it allowed to be allowed? No, you’re quite right, it should have been aloud.

  20. Do you imagine that if they continue the trend of Pets for subclasses that we’ll see that as the vehicle by which the Iron Defender returns?

    Should there be Warforged Specific Infusions or Warforged Components added to the Replicate Magic Item Infusions?

    If they were to bring back the Gunsmith, for other settings when using this class, rather than making a full subclass do you think the Thundercannon would be better suited to being an infusion? One that could easily he reflavored as a Blast Rod or Blasting Chime?

    • Do you imagine that if they continue the trend of Pets for subclasses that we’ll see that as the vehicle by which the Iron Defender returns?

      It’s possible; the original iron defender was a form of homunculus.

      Should there be Warforged Specific Infusions or Warforged Components added to the Replicate Magic Item Infusions?

      I played a warforged artificer in a 3.5 Eberron campaign, so I definitely support warforged artificers. With that said, it probably depends if the warforged themselves are revised. In 3.5, an artificer could enchant the body of a warofrged as if it was a suit of armor. On the other hand, the values of Integrated Protection are balanced against the idea that a warforged can’t be enchanted; adding Proficiency to AC reflects the inherent enchantment of the warforged improving over time. But yes, I’d like to see some thought given to warforged artificers.

      If they were to bring back the Gunsmith, for other settings when using this class, rather than making a full subclass do you think the Thundercannon would be better suited to being an infusion?

      That depends on the statistics associated with it. But it’s certainly an option.

  21. Looks good. The one part that the rules lawyer in me sees as a big issue is Alchemical Homunculus.

    You make one after a long rest. Next day make another. First one dies. But then you can bring it instantly back with a level 1 slot. Next day I do the same (note it says the first one dies not all previously made ones dies). After time I have an army of them. Sure I can only command one at a time, but that TONS of temp hp, advantage to skill checks and (slow) flight.

    I mean I’d go for it as a player but as a DM…

    • The intent of the class is that you can only ever have a single homunculus from the feature. The wording on “revive” needs to be clarified.

  22. I think Magic Tinkering and Spell Storing could be rolled together (and tuned down) to simplify the class. Instead of giving specific effects, Magic Tinkering could be used to temporarily store cantrips, and later spells.

    What are your thoughts on the inclusion of Extra Attack and the Cantrip buffs both sub-classes received? The effects are mutually exclusive in terms of action economy.

    Thanks!

    • What are your thoughts on the inclusion of Extra Attack and the Cantrip buffs both sub-classes received? The effects are mutually exclusive in terms of action economy.

      If there’s a subclass that’s specifically focused on weapon combat (again, I expect more subclasses in a final class) I could see the extra attack feature being moved into that subclass. As is, I believe it’s an intentional choice to make both approaches plausible as opposed to focusing entirely on either weapons or cantrips.

      • TBH I would drop the extra attack or at least reword it as at the moment it doesn’t make the most sense. But removing it would allow you to move the swapping cantrips forward as it feels so late in the class.

        The other thing I would be tempted to do is spread the attunement slots out, over the later levels. It was one of the stand out bits of the last version, but it doesn’t make a great capstone.

        • On the Dragon+ Stream the other day, Jeremy Crawford said the additional attunement slots did not test well in the last survey, so it’s extremely unlikely they’ll be back as a main class feature.

          • So they didn’t test well, so they made them the capstone? I like them a lot, and it feels like spreading them across the levels would get rid of a lot of issues I’m reading that people have which is you suddenly need 3 more attunements the moment you hit 20.

  23. I have to say I love your take on it and I love the new artificer there are so many support options you can take with it! Ranged support and healing if you don’t have a proper healer or no one builds a cleric. I think the damage and temp HP with the turrets could scale a little maybe? I also feel like the spell storing item is coming a little late in the game. Back in 3.5 it was a level 1 infusion that allowed a spell of 1 to 4 from any spell list to be stored, so for me, I think that one is lacking for level 18 really but having a lot of free uses of the spell is awesome!

  24. I have a question for you, if you are wanting to see more sub-classes what kind would you like to see? Also, do you think it would be better for the soul of artifice and the spell storing item to have a little more work? Artificer was my first ever class I played all I can say is that it was an epic character for being a gnome too!

  25. I would make the artillerist turret scale better for higher levels (level 11+) or require a bonus action to create+fire in the same turn, rather than an action. For an offensive subclass feature, requiring you to spend an entire turn setting it up is not very efficient. Given that it only lasts 10 minutes, I’m not likely going to be having it active outside of combat very often.

    At higher levels, you might as well just cast Arcane Weapon and make 2 attacks. You can also pick up proficiency with polearms (via feat or race) and use Polearm Master as an alternative bonus action that’s actually stronger and more efficient. Or you could use Crossbow Expert.

    Either way, the fact that the turret is so easily outclassed by the very magic weapons you can create means that it needs some kind of improvement at later levels. Using a second action to summon a second one is not an improvement.

    • for me the flamethrower is a little underwhelming but the force turret is great 2d8 force damage and pushes the creature there are so many tactical ways to make that work! force damage is the one type that hardly anything has resistance to plus if you push a creature away from an ally that is an attack of opportunity I believe.

      • The moving creature only triggers opportunity attacks if they use an action, bonus action, or reaction to move. So the turret won’t trigger it, and nor would something like Thunderwave. Dissonant Whispers does trigger opportunity attacks, because the target uses a reaction to move under their own power rather than being moved by something else.

  26. I found the class feature underwhelming, maybe the turret would be better of just being a spell?

    I haven’t run the numbers, but would it roughly compare to a 2nd level spell?
    You get it at 3rd level in the class, which is when Wizards can start rolling around Flaming Sphere.
    Maybe it needs an expensive Material Component(little wind up toy that you enlarge with your magic. Doesn’t get consumed by the spell, but breaks if the tower goes to 0hp?).

    • If it’s a spell, it can become available to others via various shenanigans (e.g. bards and their magical secrets). It would also force the artificer to spend spell slots to use it, whereas you get a free use of it in its current state.

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