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The Artificer is one of the playable classes available in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. It’s an Intelligence-based spellcasting classes that specializes in the creation of magic items.
This article gives you the basics on how to play an Artificer in 5e including the themes of the class, a general idea of their features, and a brief rundown of each subclass.
Let’s start with the basic themes and ideas behind playing 5e’s Artificer class.
Basics of the Artificer in D&D 5e
The idea of the Artificer in D&D 5e revolves around the creation and usage of magical items. They create and imbue items with magical properties to help them in exploration and combat. While the form changes depending on your subclass, this idea is central to how to play an Artificer.
The first thing you’ll need to do to play an Artificer in D&D 5e is to pick up either the Eberron: Rising from the Last War, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, or use the free Unearthed Arcana: Artificer. Personally, I recommend the version found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything since it includes the Armorer subclass (which we’ll get to later).
With that out of the way, the Artificer is the newest base class available in D&D 5e. It’s also the newest spellcasting class and the second one that uses Intelligence for its spells.
As its name suggest, the Artificer specializes in either creating magical items or imbuing mundane ones with magic. So, playing this class involves understanding the magic item mechanics of D&D 5e fairly well. That said, you don’t need to know them so well that this class becomes overly complicated.
The important thing to understand is the Artificer is a class built around magical items.
Since their abilities revolve around the use and creation of magical items, Artificers stand as a more mentally-focused class. As such, they prioritize Intelligence as their primary stat.
Artificer Ability Scores
The primary Ability Score for an Artificer is Intelligence. That said, their secondary stat is Constitution or Dexterity. Prioritizing these two Ability Scores is a good idea when playing an Artificer in 5e.
Thematically, playing an Artificer means playing an inventor, a tinkerer, or some other sort of magical craftsperson. So, it only make sense that they use Intelligence as their main Ability Score. They need an understanding of not only the physical aspects of their creations but also the knowledge for imbuing mundane objects with magical energy.
Also, Artificers use Intelligence as their Spellcasting Ability. But, we’ll get to spellcasting in a bit.
The secondary recommended stat for Artificers is Constitution. Which seems a bit strange at first.
Artificers are magic-users, right? Furthermore, they’re more akin to the book-learned Wizard and, say, the Sorcerer and their natural magical abilities. At least the latter have something of an excuse to have Constitution as their secondary stat.
This all said, it kind of makes sense from a thematic stand point.
Unlike Wizards (the other Intelligence-based casting class), Artificers physically involve themselves in their magical endeavors. An Alchemist exposes themself to potentiall harmful or corrosive substances, an Armorer augments their physical prowess with their armor, and a Battle Smith actively enters battle alongside their Steel Defender. So, of course Artificers are a bit more hardy in nature compared with some of the other classes.
The other recommended option is to prioritize Dexterity as the secondary Ability Score when playing an Artificer.
Dexterity is an all-around great Ability Score for any class. This is no less true for Artificers. It improves their attacks with ranged and certain melee weapons. Also, it boosts their Armor Class (usually) and Initiative scores.
Either way, those are the Ability Scores that work best when playing an Artificer in D&D 5e. Intelligence is the most important one as you’ll use it for your Artificer Features and spellcasting.
The class features of the Artificer further cement their position as experts in the development of magical items. Their main features include Magical Tinkering, Spellcasting, and Infuse Item.
Like other magic using classes, the Artificer gains the Spellcasting feature. What sets them apart is their usage of magical tools and equipment indicative of their crafting-based theming.
At 1st-level, Artificers get Magical Tinkering which lets them imbue a number of mundane objects with minor magical effects. So, right away, you get a feeling that Artificers should utilize their abilities in creating minor magic items to the fullest extent possible.
As they level up, Artificers get more and more features that further emphasize their connection with creating things. From improved rolls with various artisan’s tools to becoming able to attune to more than three magical items, playing an Artificer is to play a character with a deep connection to various items and equipment.
This all said, arguably the keystone feature when playing an Artificer is Infuse Item.
Artificers in 5e eventually get a class feature called Infuse Item where they gain access to a variety of Artificer Infusion. These Infusions allow you to customize your character so you can play them the way you want to.
Artificer Infusions are a way to customize how you play your Artificer.
If you’re familiar with the Warlock’s Eldritch Invocations they’re very similar. Over the course of play, your Artificer gains access to a variety of possible Infusions that confer benefits for your or other characters.
Most Artificer Infusions involve imbuing a mundane object with some sort of magical effect. For example, granting a weapon with the ammunition property +1 to attack and damage rolls and also ignores the loading property if it has it. It also does a little bit extra, but since it’s not a part of the SRD, I can’t really go into too much detail.
A couple Infusions let you create magic items depending on your level. This is fun for getting an extra hand or for obtaining an item (from a limited pool of options) you think will help in your character’s adventures.
Basically, utilizing Artificer Infusions is the main way for playing an Artificer in 5e effectively.
Artificers count themselves as one of the spellcasting classes available in 5e. They use Intelligence as their Spellcasting Ability as they need an understanding of how magic interacts with physical objects.
Now, while Artificers can use spells starting at 1st-level, they’re actually considered One-Third Casters because they get fewer spells than other magic using classes. By the time they reach 20th-level, they have roughly one-third the spell slots of a Full Caster like the Sorcerer or Wizard. This actually puts them on a level with Paladins and Rangers in terms of spellcasting.
This means Artificers are actually kind of weak as far as spellcasters go.
Since they don’t have that much in the way of Spell Slots, playing an Artificer in 5e means utilizing your Infusions to the fullest of their ability. Kind of like how a Warlock heavily depends on their Eldritch Invocations to make up for their lack of spell slots. Luckily, much like the Warlock, Artificers have a variety of Infusions available to help players play their character the way they want to.
Playing an Artificer also means relying on your subclass features a bit more than some other classes. Each one makes up for the Artificer class’ lack of spellcasting power in some way.
Artificer Specialists (Subclasses)
The Artificer in D&D 5e has four subclasses called Specialists; Alchemist, Armorer, Artillerist, and Battle Smith.
As with any other class in D&D 5e, playing an Artificer eventually grants you access to your choice from the available subclasses. For Artificers, these subclasses are called "Specialists" as each one specializes in a particular form of creating and interacting with magical tools, equipment, weapons, and other implements.
Each Artificer Specialist also gives your character a specific list of spells that don’t count towards your prepared spells. While they don’t grant additional uses of these spells, they’re still a lot of fun and fit the theme of the Specialist you choose to play as.
Here’s a brief rundown of each Artificer Specialist you can play as in D&D 5e.
- The Alchemist focuses on the development of different magical potions. This Artificer Specialist gives you the ability to create potions with semi-randomized effects (all beneficial, don’t worry, you won’t "accidentally" poison an ally) that any creature may consume.
- The Armorer specializes in engaging in combat and exploring the world while wearing an enchanted suit of armor. Whether you want to play as a tankier character or as a stealth-focused one, this Artificer Specialist lets you customize your character so you can play how you want.
- The Artillerist prioritizes engaging in combat at a distance using their magic and manifested objects. Playing as this Artificer Specialist involves summoning a magical implement to channel your spells and perform unique actions like shooting a gout of fire or projecting a protective barrier.
- Battle Smith
- The Battle Smith is a defender-based subclass that involves constructing a mechanical companion called a Steel Defender. This Artificer Specialist heavily focuses on the use of the Steel Defender and is a much more martially-focused subclass compared with the others.
Playing an Artificer in Your 5e Game
Playing an Artificer is a unique experience. Your character qualifies as a spellcaster, but you typically end up relying on clever uses of their various creations.
Artificers offer a unique opportunity for role playing.
They’re thinkers and crafters. Meaning they could potentially view the world from a stance of ideation and creation. Magic is often a tool for them to utilize in their latest creation and how they wield it depends on many factors.
Where did they learn their craft? Why do they pursue it? How do they weave their magic into their creations?
While you should always consider your character’s place in the game, playing an Artificer often brings a unique element to the table. This becomes especially true for typical fantasy campaigns. Artificers may be rare or feared for their creations. Or, maybe they hold a place in a magical-technological revolution. It all depends on your game.
One thing I recommend if you’re playing an Artificer is consider how different your spells appear.
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything touches on customizing the appearance of your spells to match your character. But, I would argue that that idea is even more prevalent for Artificers. While your spells aren’t fundamentally different than any other spellcasters, an Artificer’s theming warrants consideration about the source of their magics.
As an Alchemist, maybe your spells come from various bottles, vials, and pouches or a spell fires off from a compartment of an Armorer’s suit of armor. The requirements and effects don’t change, but how you play your character is open to your imagination.
This all said, playing an Artificer in 5e doesn’t need to be complicated. Just understand how to play your character to their strengths and you’ll be fine.
5e Artificer FAQs
What is an Artificer in D&D?
Artificer is one of the playable classes in D&D 5e. It’s a spellcasting class that specializes in creating magic items.
Is Artificer Official in 5e?
As of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, yes, the Artificer class is official in D&D 5e. Before, when it was released in Eberron: Rising from the Last War, the Artificer was semi-official as while yes, it was released in an official book, it wasn’t allowed in Adventurer’s League due to being restricted to a setting-specific source.
Do Artificers Get Feats?
If your table plays with D&D 5e’s optional Feats rule, then yes, Artificer’s can get Feats. They’ll gain the option to choose a Feat instead of improving their stats when they gain the Ability Score Improvement feature at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19.
Conclusion on How to Play a 5e Artificer
That about covers how to play an Artificer in D&D 5e.
First and foremost, you need to get a supplement that includes the new class. There is an early, test version available, but the fullest version comes from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Playing an Artificer means playing a creator of magical items, either through making them on your own or imbuing mundane objects with magic. The Artificer is a spellcasting class, but they qualify as a one-third caster. So, they end up with far fewer spell slots than full casters like the Wizard or Sorcerer. That said, playing an Artificer usually means relying less on spells and more on the Artificer Infusions you choose to customize your character.
Have you played as an Artificer in 5e yet? Do you have any tips for someone considering playing one for the first time? Leave a comment below to help your fellow players out.
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