Artificers are the newest kids on the D&D block. Using technology to create magic, they are capable of all sorts of wondrous things. Here’s how to play an Artificer.
In a world of fantasy, Artificers add a splash of technology, a dash of ingenuity, and a whole lotta MacGyver references. It’s little wonder that the first new class to be added to D&D would be the Artificer, an archetype that fits a very specific niche in fantasy–the person who gets super into magic and explains it to the point where it’s indistinguishable from technology. Sure you’re casting Lightning Bolt, but you’re using a voltaic coupler to draw power from an elemental shard, focused through a prismatic lens to do it.
They’re the scientists of a magical universe, which makes them absolutely a blast to play. They fit an interesting niche in terms of game mechanics, because Artificers can do a lot, but they don’t necessarily go about it in a way that resembles other classes. We’re going to look at how to play an Artificer. Let’s get started.
Spells Spells Spells
At the end of the day, you’re a spellcaster. At the start of the day too. That’s the most important thing to remember about how to play an Artificer. Sure, you’ve got some pretty fancy class features that will help you share the magical benefits with your friends and party members, but when it all comes down to it, you’ll be casting spells to do what you want most of the time.
So all the usual spellcasting caveats apply. Artificers have a fairly broad list to pick from, so you can decide to focus on combat spells, utility spells, spells that let you create cool effects or items in the world–but your subclass helps determine in what situations you’ll be casting spells.
Are you casting them in melee combat? Are you casting them to support the group? To make yourself an unstoppable combat monster? All of these things are possible, you just need the right tools for the right job.
And sometimes, that tool is the rest of your party.
Infusions are the other big piece of the Artificer kit. These are abilities that let you turn a nonmagical item into a magic item which you can then give to whomever. So if you want to give your Fighter a suit of magical powered armor, you can. Or if you want to use these Infusions to power yourself up, you can do that too. It all depends on the kind of subclass you decide. Let’s take a look.
You’ll gain a number of extra options depending on your subclass–so let’s take a look at those.
Alchemists are artificers who focus on creating potions and chemical concoctions to accomplish many different effects. As an alchemist, you’ll be able to heal your friends, as well as create some decent battle-field domination spells, but the big feature is your Experimental Elixir, which lets you create a random buff on your party that you’ll get to know ahead of time. They can be healing potions, speed potions, or the like–but you’ll always have something on hand to help out you or the party.
Armorers decided to focus on making a suit of powered armor, like some kind of fantasy Iron Man. It’s a fantastic spin on the class, and if you want to live out the fantasy of being in a magitech suit of armor that can fire off magic missiles, create lightning bolts and fire shields, this is the way to go. You design a suit of Arcane Armor that makes you a melee combat monster or that turns you into a stealthy rogue-like ranged attacker. It’s very fun, but you’ll still rely on your spells in a pinch.
Artillerists manufacture a magical turret that either blasts your enemies with fire or force, or that provides temporary hit points. It’s a great way to boost a party’s damage numbers because the turret will attack as a bonus action leaving you free to cast spells like Fireball or Cone of Cold. You also turn an arcane focus into an arcane firearm, which adds bonus damage to any spell you cast through it.
Battle Smiths, in addition to being the only artificer subclass that doesn’t start with an A, are all about getting into a melee and mixing it up. They’re a bit like a paladin, in that they have powerful party buffs, including aura spells and the smite spells, but they also can create a special combat pet called a Steel Defender, which gets you something that can attack as a bonus action, or use a special reaction to protect you or another creature nearby.
Creating one can be a little bit of a challenge, as is learning how to play an Artificer. But they are one of the most rewarding classes to play when you can get a handle on what special items your party needs.