Become one of D&D’s tinkerers and magical inventor with this unique half-caster class
So you fancy yourself as some kind of tinkering inventor with a mind capable of not only dreaming up big, bombastic gadgets, but also one capable of building them as well. Artificers are the first and only new class to D&D 5e. Originally introduced in Eberron: Rising from the Last War and later “tinkered” with and given a couple of extra subclasses in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, they represent something new and exciting for players of D&D 5e.
Of all the classes and subclasses in D&D 5e, the artificer is the most varied and unique. Fortunately, our guide will take you through how an artificer works, how to create a character that gets the most out of an artificer, what to watch out for when playing this class and each of the 4 subclasses available.
What is an artificer?
Artificers are the technomancers of the D&D universe. They dabble in both magic and technology, to often, incredible results. Because an artificer is only limited by their intellect and imagination, they are capable of pushing technology to its limits (especially with the ability to infuse magic into their creations).
One artificer might create powerful potions, another might create firearms and cannons while others might even create robot-like constructs. Even their abilities allow the player to run wild with their imagination on exactly how some of their creations might manifest (within certain carefully prescribed rules of course).
To get a flavour for an artificer, there are many analogies in popular culture. Iron-Man is the epitome of an armorer (in fact, many of the armorer’s abilities seem to have been inspired directly by Tony Stark). Batman could be an artificer with his gadgets and some heavy multiclassing in fighter. Rocket Racoon fits the mould of an artillerist (and with many anthropomorphised races out there, there’s a way you could create a similar artificer). Kvothe from the Kingkiller Chronicles fits a Battle Smith nicely with his focus on melee combat alongside his magic and gadgets.
How does an artificer work?
Artificers are a little more complex than other classes with quite a few things to remain aware of while playing them and some serious variety in subclasses. Generally, we wouldn’t recommend playing an artificer for your first time playing D&D 5e due to their complexity and unusual mechanics.
An artificer’s abilities are derived from their ability to use technology and to create effects that are seen as magical (and often are magical) but can be technological in nature as well. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is fairly loose in its description of how artificer abilities manifest leaving a lot up to the circumstances of the player to determine how much magic and technology is involved (or to simply leave it a mystery). It’s a good catch all and you’ll often find artificers “infusing” items with various powers and abilities.
To enable artificers to fill different roles in a party (such as a tank or warrior), some subclasses (like the battle smith and armorer) use intelligence as their weapon attack modifier rather than strength of dexterity. This allows them to remain capable spellcasters and combatants without having to split ability scores points across too many abilities. Their proficiency with medium armor and shields helps here too, allowing them to be less reliant on dexterity than other spellcasters.
Artificer class features
|Party Role||Utility, Support Caster, Control|
|Saving Throws||Constitution, Intelligence|
|Hit Dice||1d8 + Consitution modifier per level|
|HP at 1st Level||8 + Constitution Modifier|
|Spell Casting Ability||Intelligence|
|Armour Proficiency||Light armour, medium armour, shields|
|Weapon Proficiency||Simple weapons, firearms (if agreed by your Dungeon Master)|
An artificer receives 1d8 hit die which is better than some of the squishier, pure spellcasters (like wizards) and puts them on the same footing as rogues and bards. It means that an artificer can end up being relatively tough and capable of front-line combat if needed (especially if you choose certain subclasses which you’ll see later on). On top of this, you get proficiency for constitution and intelligence saving throws and proficiency with light and medium armour as well as shields making them even hardier. Constitution proficiency is particularly important as you’ll want to avoid losing concentration on spells, especially as you may be in for a bit of a battering.
As masters of technology and magic, artificers do have proficiency in a few more tool types than most other classes. As standard, they have proficiency with thieves tools and tinkerer’s tools plus a type of artisan’s tools of the player’s choice. This means that they can make great backup thieves, especially as they have an option for proficiency in sleight of hand too.
|Level||Proficiency Bonus||Features||Infusions Known||Infused Items||Cantrips Known||Spells Known||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||5th|
|1st||+2||Magical Tinkering, Spellcasting||–||–||2||4||2||–||–||–||–|
|3rd||+2||Artificer Specialist, The Right Tool for the Job||4||2||2||6||3||–||–||–||–|
|4th||+2||Ability Score Improvement||4||2||2||7||3||–||–||–||–|
|5th||+3||Artificer Specialist Feature||4||2||2||8||4||2||–||–||–|
|7th||+3||Flash of Genius||6||3||2||10||4||3||–||–||–|
|8th||+3||Ability Score Improvement||6||3||2||11||4||3||–||–||–|
|9th||+4||Artificer Specialist Feature||6||3||2||12||4||3||2||–||–|
|10th||+4||Magic Item Adept||8||4||3||14||4||3||2||–||–|
|12th||+4||Ability Score Improvement||8||4||3||15||4||3||3||–||–|
|14th||+5||Magic Item Savant||10||5||4||18||4||3||3||1||–|
|15th||+5||Artificer Specialist Feature||10||5||4||19||4||3||3||2||–|
|16th||+5||Ability Score Improvement||10||5||4||19||4||3||3||2||–|
|18th||+6||Magic Item Master||12||6||4||22||4||3||3||3||1|
|19th||+6||Ability Score Improvement||12||6||4||22||4||3||3||3||2|
|20th||+6||Soul of Artifice||12||6||4||22||4||3||3||3||2|
Artificers have access to a range of spells but are not full spellcasters like wizards and clerics, operating more as half-casters like rangers and paladins. For starters, artificers max out at 5th level spells meaning none of the meaty spells a full spellcaster might get in the later levels. On top of this, even 5th level spells are locked out of reach until the lofty heights of level 17. If you’re hoping for a spellcaster that can lay waste to enemies with terrifying spells, an artificer probably isn’t the class you’re looking for.
Instead, artificers make great utility characters providing support in a huge number of ways and while they can only memorise 2-4 cantrips at a time, their other abilities more than make up for this as support casters. Some of the more useful artificer spells include:
Best artificer spells
|Spell Level||Best artificer spells|
|Cantrip||Firebolt, Guidance, Mage Hand, Magic Stone, Mending, Prestidigitation, Sword Burst, Thorn Whip|
|1st Level||Cure Wounds, Detect Magic, Faerie Fire, Feather Fall, Sanctuary, Tasha’s Caustic Brew|
|2nd Level||Aid, Continual Flame, Darkvision, Enhance Ability, Invisibility, Lesser Restoration, Levitate, See Invisibility, Spider Climb, Vortex Warp, Web|
|3rd Level||Haste, Intellect Fortress, Revivify, Tiny Servant|
|4th Level||Arcane Eye, Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere, Stone Shape|
|5th Level||Bigby’s Hand, Creation, Greater Restoration, Skill Empowerment, Wall of Stone|
|Level||Proficiency Bonus||Infusions Known||Infused Items||Features|
|1st||+2||–||–||Magical Tinkering, Spellcasting|
|3rd||+2||4||2||Artificer Specialist, The Right Tools for the Job|
|4th||+2||4||2||Ability Score Improvement|
|5th||+3||4||2||Artificer Specialist Feature|
|7th||+3||6||3||Flash of Genius|
|8th||+3||6||3||Ability Score Improvement|
|9th||+4||6||3||Artificer Specialist Feature|
|10th||+4||8||4||Magic Item Adept|
|11th||+4||8||4||Spell Storing Item|
|12th||+4||8||4||Ability Score Improvement|
|14th||+5||10||5||Magic Item Savant|
|15th||+5||10||5||Artificer Specialist Feature|
|16th||+5||10||5||Ability Score Improvement|
|18th||+6||12||6||Magic Item Master|
|19th||+6||12||6||Ability Score Improvement|
|20th||+6||12||6||Soul of Artifice|
As you gain levels, you’ll gain access to a bunch of different abilities. Some of these will be more useful than others. Below we’ve outlined the standard artificer abilities and how they can be used:
- Magical Tinkerer (1st) – At 1st level, you’ll start out as a humble tinkerer. Your inventions may lack the clout of more advanced artificers, but they can be used for a variety of purposes. The magical tinkerer ability will allow you to create some minor effects such as creating recorded noises, static visual effects or bright lights, similar to basic household technology in the real world. You’re unlikely to get much out of this ability in combat, but it is a hugely flexibile ability for out of combat situations.
- Infusions (2nd) – This is where we get the major differentiator between artificers and other half-casters. And nothing exemplifies this more than the artificer’s 2nd level ability to infuse items. This ability allows artificers to infuse items with certain magical abilities and enhancements turning a mundane object into a magical one. These enhancements can be as simple as adding a bonus to your armour class or attack rolls or as wild as propulsion armour (iron man anyone) or a weapon that returns to your hand when thrown (Thor, Is that you?). There are some great infusions and though many are locked behind level restrictions, you gain access to more infusions and the ability to infuse more items as you level up. You know 4 infusions and can have 2 infused items at level 2 and by level 18, know 12 infusions and can infuse 6 items.
- The Right Tools for the Job (3rd) – A very minor ability that allows you to create a set of artisan’s tools. One of the less useful artificer abilities.
- Tool Expertise (6th) – Double proficiency bonus when using tools you’re proficient with making you the ultimate handyman.
- Flash of Genius (7th) – Use your reaction to add your intelligence modifier to yours or an ally’s roll. Great ability, you’ll just want to make sure you max out your intelligence (which you should do anyway).
- Magic Item Adept (10th) – At 10th level, you can attune up to 4 magic items at once and craft magic items in less time and using less gold.
- Spell-Storing Item (11th) – At 11th level, you can place 1st or 2nd level spells in items to use later (saving you precious spell slots).
- Magic Item Savant (14th) – At 14th level, you can attune another magic item and can use any magic item regardless of class, race, spell or level requirements.
- Magic Item Master (18th) – At 18th level you can attune 1 more magic item.
- Soul of Artifice (20th) – At level 20, you gain +1 to all saving throws for every magic item you’re attuned to and can use your reaction to end an infusion and drop to 1 hit point instead of 0 if your HP is being knocked down to 0.
Artificer subclasses D&D 5e
This is where the artificer starts to get meaty. Choosing an artificer subclass can be tricky as there’s quite a few juicy sounding options to choose from but it’s worth taking a deeper dive to make sure you’ll be getting the most out of your artificer. There are 4 subclasses available (less than most classes but a decent number for a fairly new class). They are:
|Bard Subclass||Role||Subclass Abilities||Source Book||Description|
|Alchemist||Support||Experimental Elixir, Alchemical Savant, Restorative Reagents, Chemical Mastery||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Eberron: Rising from the Last War||A support subclass and a healer. While not as proficient a healer as a cleric, it’s still capable of doing the job.|
|Armorer||Tank||Tools of the Trade, Arcane Armor, Armor Model, Extra Attack, Armor Modifications, Perfected Armor||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything||A tank subclass that can get into the thick of battle without high strength or dexterity with the armour compensating for these stats.|
|Artillerist||Projectile, Support||Tool Proficiency, Eldritch Cannon, Arcane Firearm, Explosive Cannon, Fortified Position||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Eberron: Rising from the Last War||A projectile support character that loves to put out gun turrets and fight from range.|
|Battle Smith||Combat||Tool Proficiency, Battle Ready, Steel Defender, Extra Attack, Arcane Jolt, Improved Defender||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Eberron: Rising from the Last War||An artificer capable of outputting decent damage and getting their hands dirty in the thick of melee without needing high strength or dexterity.|
Best artificer subclasses
So which subclass is the best? To an extent, it depends on the kind of character you’re wanting to build, but of course, some subclasses are going to be more effective than others and we’re here to help you work that out.
Artificer subclasses in some ways are not directly comparable as certain subclasses are better at melee combat, others at ranged combat, others at defense and others at healing. With that in mind, our comparison is focused on things like effectiveness in combat, effectiveness outside of combat (such as roleplaying), quality of spells and the fun you can have with the character.
At the bottom of our list is the alchemist. It’s not a bad subclass as such, but as a subclass who’s biggest benefit is their ability to heal, alchemists do pale a little too much in comparison to full healers like clerics.
|Artificer Level||Alchemist Spells|
|3rd||Healing Word, Ray of Sickness|
|5th||Flaming Sphere, Melf’s Acid Arrow|
|9th||Gaseous Form, Mass Healing Word|
|13th||Blight, Death Ward|
|17th||Cloudkill, Raise Dead|
Along this vein, their best spells are their healing spells, though as a half-caster, these come later in the game than they do for clerics. At 3rd level, alchemists get healing word and at 9th level, mass healing word which are both very useful. Alchemists also gets a great buff spell in the form of death ward while gaseous form can be very useful. The alchemist does luck out on offensive spells though with some decent options like melf’s acid arrow, flaming sphere and cloudkill, but other subclasses fair better for spells.
|Artificer Level||Alchemist Abilities|
Experimental Elixir: One of the alchemist’s best abilities is their experimental elixir which allows them to create a random potion that can do things like heal, increase speed or make the drinker fly. The only problem is that the potion made is random so while the effects are often useful, they sometimes won’t be what you need, but maybe it’s more fun that way…
Alchemical Savant: Increases the effectiveness of certain spells by adding your intelligence modifier (make sure you have high intelligence for this subclass, or any artificer really).
Restorative Reagents: Buffs your potions with temporary hit points (always useful) and gives you access to free uses of lesser restoration.
Chemical Mastery: Kicks in at level 15 and gives you 2 damage resistances and the ability to cast 2 healing spells for free so a great ability (though it’s worth pointing out that the alchemist’s ability to heal, even with this ability, is still subpar to that of a cleric).
Overall, the alchemist isn’t a bad subclass, but their abilities are often making up for their lack of spellcasting prowess and without the combat abilities (or even the combat spells) of the other artificer subclasses, that places the artificer at the bottom of the barrel.
The armorer may sit at 3rd, but it remains a great option for an artificer with the ability to become a tank and do some interesting things in combat. There are some great flavour available for the subclass too with such a heavy focus on the artificer’s armor, turning it into a power suit.
|Artificer Level||Armorer Spells|
|3rd||Magic Missile, Thunderwave|
|5th||Mirror Image, Shatter|
|9th||Hypnotic Pattern, Lightning Bolt|
|13th||Fire Shield, Greater Invisibility|
|17th||Pass Wall, Wall of Force|
Spellcasting wise, the armorer goes from alright to excellent for their subclass specific spells. Their starting spells of thunderwave and magic missile are decent, but the additions of hypnotic pattern (great for managing larger groups of enemies), greater invisibility, passwall and wall of force are all great options for controlling the battlefield and maintaining your own personal safety.
|Artificer Level||Armorer Abilities|
|3rd||Tools of the Trade, Arcane Armor, Armor Model|
The armorer’s primary ability is their arcane armor (think of it as the iron man armor that you can gradually upgrade). Some of the biggest immediate benefits of your armor are the fact that there’s no longer a strength requirement for wearing heavy armor (so you can get a high AC while focusing points away from strength and dexterity and into other ability scores, especially intelligence and constitution). You can also add infusions to your armor to make it more powerful as it’s not considered a magic item.
Because the armor is a full body suit, it does cover the whole body meaning that at first, you won’t be able to wear other magical items like boots and gloves. This is rectified at level 9 but it’s a long time to wait. You will also have to buy the armor and full-plate costs 1,500gp (more than most level 3 characters will have).
You can choose from a couple of different armour types (and a long rest will let you switch between them). You can either use the guardian model (the tank melee option) or the infiltrator model (for a stealthier, ranged approach). The guardian model is definitely the stronger but both have their uses.
If you’re using the guardian model, you’ll get a pair of thunder gauntlets that give you 1d8+int for thunder damage (so not much will resist them). On top of this, you can still hold a shield or another weapon while wearing them allowing you to get even tankier. You can also create a defensive field using your bonus action to gain temporary hit points which is always handy.
The infiltrator armour will give you advantage on stealth rolls, increase your walk speed by 5 feet, and you’ll get a lightning launcher gem attached to your chest that you can fire long range at enemies. One attack per turn will cause 2d6+int lightning damage with any other attacks just getting the 1d6 lightning damage. It’s a good weapon with a long range and, importantly for artificers, you get to use your intelligence modifier on your attack rolls.
The other abilities for an armourer help them to get the most out of their arcane armour, these include:
Extra Attack: As you progress to level 5, you’ll receive an extra attack which will really help you keep up with the other combat focused classes, especially as your attacks are now more powerful than your cantrips.
Armour Modifications: At level 9, you’ll be able to use armour modifications that let you use more infusions.
Perfected Armour: At level 15, you perfect your armour gaining a useful ability for each armour model. The guardian armour will allow you to pull enemies to you from up to 30 feet towards you and still be able to attack them (if you pull them next to you) as this ability is a reaction. You can even safely pull them through area of effect spells. The infiltrator armour will light people hit by your lightning launcher giving the enemy disadvantage if hit, advantage on the next attack against them and an extra 1d6 lightning damage.
Overall, the armourer is a strong subclass that allows artificer’s to combine their techno-magical prowess and turn them into proper damage dealers without relying on spells (for which there are better classes) and even tank up. Combined with the artificer’s standard infusions allows you to make some interesting builds with your fancy suit of armour.
While the armorer is a tank option with decent damage dealing, the artillerist is more about greater damage from range with the bonus of the shield spell which gives your artificer a good chunk of the protection the armorer receives (admittedly at the cost of a spell slot and in more limited supply).
|Artificer Level||Artillerist Spells|
|5th||Scorching Ray, Shatter|
|9th||Fireball, Wind Wall|
|13th||Ice Storm, Wall of Fire|
|17th||Cone of Cold, Wall of Force|
The artillerist starts with a couple of great spell options. Shield is always useful no matter your level, helping to give your probably slightly squishy artificer, a lot more toughness. You also get thunderwave off the bat which can be useful if you happen to get caught up in melee combat and need a bit of breathing room. On top of this, the artillerist gets one of the best offensive spells in the game in fireball along with other area of effect spells like shatter, cone of cold and wall of fire. Wall of force is also a really useful battle management spell. The artillerist definitely has the best offensive spells of all the artificer subclasses.
|Artificer Level||Artillerist Abilities|
Eldritch Cannon: The artillerist’s signature ability is their eldritch cannon. It’s a versatile gun that can move a small amount on its own with legs, or can be made small enough to be carried easily (and shoot using its own action) or be large enough to create cover for party members, especially in tight situations. On top of this, there are 3 different cannon types you can use depending on your situation; flamethrower, force ballista and protector. The flamethrower is great in close quarters and cramped situations (but you may need to make yourself vulnerable to use it effectively). The force ballista does good damage to one enemy at a time while the protector will dole out temporary hit points to multiple nearby allies each turn which can be very helpful in the midst of combat.
Arcane Firearm: At level 5, the artillerist is able to make all their offensive spells more powerful adding a d8 to their damage (4.5 on average). This is done by enhancing a wand, staff or rod as a focus for their destructive spells. This is particularly devastating for the multiple area of effect spells the artificer is packing.
Explosive Cannon: At level 9, your eldritch cannon’s all gain an extra d8 to damage, plus they can go for broke by blowing themselves up causing increased damage to those around them.
Fortified Position: At 15th level, you can not only create 2 eldritch cannons at once (which now have the extra d8 of damage), but they also give half cover to allies within 10 feet of them.
The artillerist is a powerful subclass for the artificer with the ability to deal out high damage at a distance and with lots of area of effect spell options on hand. They can also provide regular healing effects with minimal action usage which also makes them a potential team player too.
1st: Battle Smith
The battle Smith is a very fun and interesting subclass with great options to turn them into a proper front line fighter. Where the alchemist feels like a poor man’s cleric, the battle smith doesn’t pale in comparison to their melee-focused compatriots. Instead, battle smiths offer a different set of tools that complement the artificer class well and add nice flavour to what you’re doing.
Battle Smith Spells
|Artificer Level||Battle Smith Spells|
|5th||Branding Smite, Warding Bond|
|9th||Aura of Vitality, Conjure Barrage|
|13th||Aura of Purity, Fire Shield|
|17th||Banishing Smite, Mass Cure Wounds|
The battle smith picks up a bunch of paladin spells which suits a melee-focused half-caster well. You’ll start with shield and heroism, shield being hugely beneficial in the thick of battle and heroism being a good buff that adds temporary hit points and immunity to fear. Smite is also an excellent option for the extra damage you gain for your hits (plus it’s a bonus action so your action is preserved). You’ll also get some decent buff spells, especially aura of purity and fire shield which are particularly good in the thick of battle.
Battle Smith Abilities
|Artificer Level||Battle Smith Abilities|
|3rd||Battle Ready, Steel Defender|
Battle Ready: At level 3, the battle smith is ready to go toe to toe on the front-lines with the other melee specialists. They gain proficiency with martial weapons and can use their intelligence modifier for attack and damage rolls meaning you don’t need to worry about beefing out on strength and dexterity (though you might want high dexterity for the AC benefits).
Steel Defender: You also get a steel defender at level 3, a robotic assistant that can deal out small amounts of damage, but more importantly, uses its reaction to deflect attacks, imposing disadvantage on an attack each turn. It also has decent, scalable hit points making it a useful companion. As a squishier melee subclass, you’ll definitely want the benefit of the steel defender in the thick of battle.
Extra Attack: At 5th level, you get an extra attack which is obviously beneficial for a front-line fighter.
Arcane Jolt: Arcane jolt is a great, 9th level ability that costs no extra actions, but allows you to both add extra damage to a hit and heal an ally simultaneously making it an excellent ability.
Improved Defender: At 15th level, some of your current abilities will get more powerful with arcane jolt getting stronger and the steel defender increasing its armour class and its deflect reaction adding some damage when it’s used.
While the artificer does get 3 excellent subclasses and one average subclass, the battle smith feels the most consistently fun and interesting option with some great abilities that allow them to get into the front-lines with the other fighters. Even more interesting is when they merge these abilities with their infusions to great effect. You can get access to all the class and subclass information for Artificer’s from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Optimising an artificer
So now you know how an artificer works, it’s time to think about how you can make your artificer the ultimate tinkering machine. Below we’ve gone into detail about how you can make a well-optimised artificer, this doesn’t mean this is the only way to play an artificer. You might want to go for a flavour build or have a particular setup in mind. This is of course fine and there can be many ways to optimise a character. It’s also worth noting that with artificers in particular, their subclasses are very varied so we’ll try and accommodate for that below.
Best artificer ability scores
For artificers, your spellcasting ability is intelligence so you’ll want to make sure this is enhanced as much as possible. On top of this, a lot of an artificer’s abilities are tied to their intelligence, so for example, a battle smith makes attacks using their intelligence modifier for attack and damage rolls. This is also the case when an armorer uses the special weapons that come with their armor model.
Dexterity is also useful for artificers for the increased AC. You’re proficient with medium armor so max out the benefits of AC at 14 but will likely be using dexterity for weapon attacks (if you’re an artillerist or alchemist) so a higher dexterity isn’t necessarily wasted (unless you’re a battle smith or armorer). The armorer also gets access to heavy armor making dexterity less important for them. Constitution is always a good option for artificers as extra hit points are always useful especially for melee artificers that only get d8 hit dice.
On the other hand, strength is an obvious ability score to dump as you’ll get very little use out of it. Charisma has little purpose unless you intend to be the face of the party (and for the odd saving throw). Wisdom also has little purpose for an artificer though many saving throws are linked to it and so are a bunch of important skills.
We’d prioritise ability scores for an artificer roughly in this order:
Best artificer races
Typically, you’ll want to make sure you take a race that adds to your intelligence ability score with dexterity and constitution as a secondary option. With the customised origins rules outlined in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, you can technically take any race and choose how the ability scores are distributed. Also, many more recently released races, particularly those released in Monsters of the Multiverse, have these rules already baked into them.
With this in mind though, we’ll take into consideration the rules as they’re presented in their most recent release for each race and consider features that complement an artificer well. These are the best races to use for an artificer:
- Aasimar – Temporary flight for the duration of most combats that adds extra damage to attacks and spells is great for an artificer trying to stay out of the way of the melee (and there are no restrictions on armor). Healing hands is great for a utility caster and resistance to necrotic and radiant damage is handy too.
- Astral Elf – Teleport as a bonus action is great for artificers who often need to avoid danger. Proficiency in perception is useful and sacred flame ensures you always have a damage dealing cantrip.
- Autognome – 2 extra tool proficiencies, easy healing outside of combat, resistance to poison, immunity to disease, advantage against paralyzed and built for success stacks nicely with flash of genius. Autognomes feel almost built for artificers (literally) and their abilities work nicely together.
- Eladrin – Fey step is very handy for teleporting away from danger while trance gives you a couple of extra proficiencies which you can change according to the needs of the party, all very handy for an artificer.
- High Elf – +2 to dexterity and +1 to intelligence suit an artificer quite nicely. Proficiency in perception is always useful and a free cantrip from the wizard’s spell list is very useful as you get minimal spell options.
- Goblin – Nimble escape is great for keeping an artificer safe with disengage or hide as a bonus action. Fury of the small is also great as you get extra damnage on attacks or spells when attacking something of a size larger than yourself (which most creatures are).
- Goliath – The main appeal here is stone’s endurance as you can reduce damage you receive as a reaction by d12 + your constitution modifier. Goliath’s are a particularly strong option for front-line artificers like the battle smith and some armorers as you only get d8 hit points.
- Shadar-Kai – Blessing of the Raven Queen lets you teleport out of trouble and gives you resistance to all damage for a turn. Great for getting out of trouble and even better for getting into trouble (if you’re a battle smith). Proficiency in perception and a different weapon or tool proficiency each day are handy too.
- Shifter – A great one for battle smiths and armorers. Choose Beasthide for your shifting form and get lots of extra temporary hit points and an increase to your AC which will be very helpful to complement your low hit points for a melee class.
- Warforged – +1 AC is very helpful for battle smiths and armorers (but still good for all artificers). You also get a free skill and tool proficiency and a few nice resistances. +2 to constitution and +1 to any ability score (which you’ll want to chuck at intelligence) are great for an artificer too.
- Yuan-Ti Pureblood – Magic resistance is always excellent, as is poison resilience for making you tougher. A couple of decent innate spells in poison spray and suggestion too.
Best artificer backgrounds
Backgrounds are great for adding a bit of flavour to a character and providing some small skill perks, gear and minor abilities. Generally for an artificer, you’ll want to focus on intelligence based skills and extra tool proficiencies (as the tool king). With that in mind, below are some of the better background options for an artificer:
- Acolyte – Decent skill proficiencies in insights and religion, 2 languages and perks at temples (like free healing).
- Clan Crafter – History and insight are good skill options for an artificer. You’ll also get proficiency in a type of artisan’s tools and you get an extra language. Plus it’s very thematically appropriate.
- Faction Agent – Insight and the choice of another skill make a great choice of proficiencies. You also get 2 languages and affiliation with a powerful organisation.
- Far Traveler – Insight, perception and a language are decent for an artificer, though you’ll likely rarely use persuasion as artificers are rarely the best option for a party spokesman. You get proficiency in an instrument too for what it’s worth.
- Sage – Arcana and history are good skill proficiencies for an artificer and you get 2 languages too.
Best artificer feats
When taking an ability score increase or using a variant Human, you can gain access to feats, taking one instead of the ability score increase. Some DMs will also give you a feat when you create your character for added flavour. Just check with your DM that they allow feats.
Feats can add powerful options to a character, but it’s important you pick feats that will complement an artificer’s skillset nicely. We’ve pulled out some of the best options below:
- Chef – Gain 1 constitution, get some healing powers and temporary hit points. Pretty good for a utility class.
- Elemental Adept – A little more power for some of your spells (just make sure you theme some of your spells around the element you choose, plus it cancels out resistance to this element so fire and acid are good options (lots of creatures have resistance to these elements and lots of spells use them too).
- Fey Touched – Increase your intelligence by +1 and get misty step and another 1st level spell with a free use every long rest. Misty step is a great spell for artificers to get out of danger (and isn’t on the artificer spell list).
- Fighting Initiate – Gain a fighting style to add to your weapon capabilities. Works nicely for melee and ranged artificers that aren’t relying so much on spells for their damage output.
- Healer – Stabilise creatures and give them 1 hit point lets them get back into action without using a healing spell, plus you can sometimes heal them with more hit points too.
- Lucky – Making 3 rerolls a day is powerful for any class!
- Magic Initiate – Get 2 cantrips and a 1st level spell from any spell list. Great for getting top cantrips from other classes like eldritch blast or booming blade.
- Metamagic Adept – Enhance your spells with the metamagic ability from the sorceror class.
- Medium Armor Master – +1 AC if you have at least 16 dexterity (when wearing medium armor) and no disadvantage on stealth checks when in medium armor. A great option for a class that relies heavily on medium armor to make sure they’re not too vulnerable.
- Skill Expert – Better at even more skills is great.
- Skilled – 3 more skills to be proficient in is also great.
- Spell Sniper – Double spell range for attack spells, can ignore cover when casting attack spells and an extra cantrip. All very handy for an artificer that might rely on spells for damage dealing and wants to stay out of danger.
- War Caster – Use spells for attacks of opportunity and get advantage on concentration checks. You also get a cantrip from any spell list. Great for melee artificers.
Best artificer skills
Artificers tend to focus on intelligence, and with only wizards occupying the dedicated intelligence space, it means artificers are capable of being very good at some skills almost everyone else isn’t good at. There are a few fairly important intelligence skills in arcana and investigation too that you’ll want to make sure your party is pretty capable at.
We’d recommend the following as a rough order of importance for the most important artificer skills. As always though, you’ll want to make sure your party has a complementary set of skills available to them:
- Investigation – Really important intelligence based skill that you’ll likely use often.
- Arcana – Another really important intelligence based skill that comes up often.
- Nature – Not quite as common, but nature skill checks are common and work well for high intelligence characters.
- Perception – Important for everyone, though your wisdom likely won’t be that high, but proficiency will help compensate a little for that.
- Stealth – Stealth is always important and you’ll likely want decent dexterity. Only issue is you may be wearing medium armor. The medium armor master feat will compensate for that. You could also go with the infiltrator armor that armorers have access to.
- History – The importance of history will likely depend on your DM, but if anyone is going to be good at history, it’s probably going to be an artificer.
- Acrobatics – It’s worth having decent acrobatics or athletics and as you’re likely decent at dexterity, acrobatics is the one to go for.
Best artificer weapons
While artificers are spellcasters, and may get decent mileage out of their cantrips, they do still need weapons available too, especially if you plan on being a battle smith. We’d recommend the following weapons for a standard artificer:
- Hand Crossbow – Great if you use the repeating shot infusion which will allow you to wield a shield and a hand crossbow (as you won’t need to reload so have a hand spare). Great for ranged combat with extra AC.
- Light Crossbow – Up until 5th level, this will do more damage than your cantrips so if you want to go heavy on damage, this is a strong ranged option but you will need to make sure you have strong dexterity.
- Dagger – Can be used for ranged and melee attacks giving you attacks of opportunity but only does d4 damage.
- Musket – If your DM allows firearms, this is your most powerful option. d12 is a lot of damage for a ranged weapon (the best damage actually) but it does need loading so if you have an extra attack, you may want the repeating shot infusion.
- Pistol – If you want to go more defensively minded, you can have a pistol, a shield and use the repeating shot infusion. At d10 damage, pistols still pack a punch and are probably your best option for an artificer if firearms are allowed by your DM.
Battle smiths may want to consider slightly different weapons than those of most artificers. If you’re running into melee combat, then you’ll definitely want to take a shield as your hit points aren’t particularly high. You can take a longsword with it for d8 damage. Otherwise, a longbow is probably your best option for ranged combat (other than firearms).
Best artificer armor
As you have proficiency in medium armor, and you won’t want to invest so heavily in dexterity that light armor is worthwhile, you’ll probably want to start with scale mail and upgrade to half plate once you’re able to. Artificers don’t have that many hit points, but can often get stuck in the fray so having a shield (even if it occupies one of your hands) is often worthwhile at the sacrifice of a little damage output. Of course, if you’re an armorer, you may want to go all the way with some full plate.
Best artificer multiclass options
Multiclassing can be a powerful way of getting extra abilities from another class and when used right, can really optimise a character. Getting it wrong though, can leave you with abilities that don’t complement each other well.
The main thing to think about is your ability scores. Typically, as an artificer, you’ll have high intelligence and solid dexterity and constitution so you’ll want to learn into classes that utilise these ability scores (though it is possible to be competent in other ability scores too and this may change which multiclass options are best for you). We’ll focus on a typical artificer build though, like the type we’ve described so far.
With that in mind, some classes just don’t work well for an artificer. For example, Spellcasters using wisdom or charisma tend not to work so well like bards, sorcerors, warlocks, paladins, clerics and druids as you’ll likely dump these ability scores (though there is a case for at least decent wisdom on an artificer), even if they do grant access to some better spells. Barbarians also offer a poor choice as rage is difficult to recommend on a class that will be casting spells (and rage is the main reason to multiclass in barbarian).
However, there are some great classes for artificers to multiclass into which include:
- Fighter – Fighter will give you proficiency in heavy armor, removing the need to worry about dexterity. It also means that you can get some fighting styles and magical subclasses at level 3 like the psi warrior and rune knight add great additional benefits in combat. The psi warrior also uses intelligence for their casting which works well for the artificer. Fighter is a great option for the battle Smith and Armourer that want to get stuck into combat.
- Rogue – Rogue gives you a load of skills which is decent plus sneak attack will add a bit more punch to some of your attacks. The main thing to consider with rogue though is at 3rd level, you can become a thief and get fast hands allowing you to more easily use loads of different objects. A little fiddly to make work completely, but ideal for an artificer.
- Wizard – Wizards are intelligence based which works in your favour as an intelligence based characters. The main thing you’ll want from a wizard is their subclass options at level 2. War magic and blade singing are great for martial artificers while divination wizard is great for any artificer.