January left us high and dry, and our friends at Wizards of the Coast waited until the last minute to deliver the revised Artificer class in February! Originally appearing in Unearthed Arcana over two years ago, hopefully these revisions mean that the Artificer is coming to official published material soon!
Rather than deep dive and provide a deep analysis into every aspect of the Artificer, I’m going to focus on what changed from the original (you can see it here) and how it affects the flavor and abilities of the Artificer (as well as my own two cents)! If you have ideas, insights, and comments that go beyond what I cover, be sure to leave them below or head over to our Discord and join the conversation!
Over two years of waiting has led to a new and improved version of the beloved Artificer. Not only was there a good amount of tinkering and tweaking, but also some overhauling. One thing that didn’t change too much is the overall flavor of the class- curious, arcane scientists looking for the next big breakthrough or discovery who know that a life of adventure will get them closer to achieving those. But with all the changes to the class, they way you play the class may have changed- let’s take a look!
Proficiencies & Spells
There were some minor changes, mostly additions to the Artificer proficienies. On the gain side, they are now able to use shields, heavy and hand crossbows, and are proficient with Perception. On the loss side, they are no longer proficient with Deception and Religion, and instead of two tools of their choice they are now proficient with Tinker’s tools and one other tools of their choice, which make sense to me. There were also some changes to their starting equipment and now have the option to take 5d4 x 10gp instead.
Optionally, if your game is using gunpowder weapons a la the Dungeon Master’s Guide or of your own design, Artificers are proficient with them as well so long as they have been exposed to them. This is a nice little touch for those who want to build a more gunslinger type character or those campaigns that use a little more advanced technology in their settings.
Additionally, Artificers now have access to cantrips (and start off knowing two) as well as having two 1st level spell slots at level one, upping their magical prowess off the bat. No spells appear to be taken away, though some have been added- including the ability to go up to level 5 spells now where previously they capped out at level 4 spells! And lastly, they gain the spell Arcane Weapon, which adds 1d6 extra damage of a type of your choice and makes your weapon count as magical.
I welcome these changes, although they are minor. The use of all crossbows makes sense for the class, especially in a campaign where guns don’t exist, and I don’t see why a hardy intellectual like an Artificer wouldn’t know how to properly use a shield. The loss of Deception and Religion don’t bother me as that’s not how I saw the class personally, and the exclusion of Perception the first time around seems like they’re making amends to the keen-eyed inventors out there. And the addition of magic and the improvements to make sense as well as this version of the class looks to make them a little more magical scientist and not a magic-obsessed scientist. Overall, so far so good.
Since your sub-class is what makes your character more than a fantasy archtype, let’s dive into these! First and foremost, you no longer get your specialty at first level, and now have to wait until third level to choose. And while Alchemist is still around (albeit changed), they have changed Gunsmith to the cooler sounding Artillerist. Let’s see how these have changed, for better or worse.
Previously, the Alchemist specialty gave the Artificer a satchel that would allow them to pull out the exact right ingredients to make a consumable magic item. Rather than spell slots or material cost, these items had a sort of cooldown- either in general or per creature depending on the item type.
The new Alchemist though, has a focus on improving their magic game. They get a boost to crafting, but unlike the last version, no cool items are specified to make other than to follow normal crafting rules with less needed resources for potions. Instead they get expanded spells at certain levels, can cast lesser and greater restoration without a spell slot later on, and some chemical protections.
Oh, yeah, and you can create your own HOMUNCULUS! Seriously, this thing is great, and since seeing the stat block back in the 3.0 Monster Manual I wanted to have one as a player. You have freedom over how yours looks, and you can use your bonus action for a small assortment of actions, from spitting acid to granting flying speed, advantage, or temporary hit points as directed. I love this little thing already- sign me up!
If you couldn’t tell, I really like the new Alchemist. It’s admittedly less what I would think of for an Alchemist (which I thought the previous version did fairly well), but the Homunculus and more magic focused class structure overall have me giving it a thumbs up!
Your other option, of course, is the Artillerist- which again is a cooler name than Gunsmith. The old Gunsmith lived up to its name- it made a gun and then upgraded said gun as the game progressed.
However, like the Alchemist, a lot was overhauled here but I think it retains both the flavor as well as gives more diversity to the subclass overall. Also like the alchemist is a boost to the crafting system, focusing on wands. They also get a bunch of bonus spells- all offensive focused of course. And before I get to the main attraction, I’ll point out that they can make cool, temporary cantrip wands that adds their intelligence modifier to the wand’s damage.
The main thing though that the Artillerist gets is the ability to place magical turrets. You can summon one for free every long rest, and can also expend spell slots to summon them as well, though you can’t have more than one until level 14 when you can have two at once. And while the turret is mostly an offensive force, don’t be too fooled; there are three types you can summon- Flamethrower, Force Ballista, and Defender. The Flamethrower and Force Ballista are hopefully self-explanatory, while the Defender emits energy that close by creatures of your choice temporary hit points. Place it up front and keep that Fighter alive!
I have to admit, if I was asked to design an Artillerist, I don’t know if this is what I would have come up with. That said, I am very pleasantly surprised to see this subclass takeover the old Gunsmith option, and would welcome this alongside the Alchemist at my table. Thumbs up again!
Tinkering, Inventions, and Infusions
Ok, so we’re going to cover a lot of the changes to the core class all at once since they together form how the Artificer, well, artifices. Previously, you would get to pick from a list of magic items at specified levels and make it; a reflection of time spent between adventures tinkering and experimenting. And that’s it. You could also infuse spells into items to effectively store them in there, but that was about as far as it goes.
Things are a little more dynamic now as far as I’m concerned. For starters, you begin with Magical Tinkering, which allows you to give Tiny nonmagical objects different cantrip-like properties. These include shedding light, recording a message, emitting sounds and smells, or a static visual effect- essentially prestidigitation that lasts indefinitely on an item until cancelled.
The core of artificing however now hangs around Infusions. Instead of being spell-storing, these can be thought of permanent enchantments that turn ordinary items into magic items. Like most things, these have prerequisites and allow a good number of items to be made or replicated, making for some tough decisions whenever a new Infusion slot is earned or able to be swapped. The item selection is nice, and I especially enjoy the Many-Handed Pouch as some serious shenanigans can be had with it! Just keep in mind that these infusions do fade away after the Artificer dies, so try to keep them alive!
Again, the new Infusions are way more dynamic than “Here’s your treat for hitting level 5!”. The ability to change it up, or replace old infusions with new ones is nice. This makes the class seems less inventor and more enchanter, but I’m cool with it as you can flavor it however you like. Thumbs up!
Here’s a quick list of everything else dropped and gained: For the dropped, no longer can you make a Mechanical Servant; seems like the Homunculus stole the spotlight. Also, the number of items you can attune to no longer steadily rises from 3 to 6; it just hops up to 6 at level 20.
For the gains, there’s a few. Arcane Armament allows you to attack twice with the Attack action so long as one of the attacks is with a magical weapon (nice of them to make the spell Arcane Weapon, huh?). Higher up, you can switch out a cantrip you know with another from the list after a short or long rest, giving some needed flexibility. And finally in the late game, to store a spell of 1st or second level that can be cast multiple times, freeing up some of your spell slots and multiplying some of your useful low-level spells (cough Cure Wounds cough). Should go without saying at this point, but thumbs up!
Overall I dig these changes and they’re in line with the more magical take on the Artificer, so I’m all in for these. Everything lost was reworked and, to be honest, made better in my opinion. I’m sure there are some cases where the new versions of abilities aren’t quite as well as the previous- let me know about them and let’s get some conversation going! But to answer the question, was it worth the wait? Yes, it definitely was!
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