The Complete Artificer 5E Handbook | Artificer 5E Guide

artificer 5E

The artificer is a fitting addition to the Eberron setting. In a game dominated by swords and spellslingers, it only makes sense that the steampunk setting has a class that mixes magic and technology. The artificer is not new to D&D, but it is the newest class available in the 5th Edition. To learn more about it, check out our Artificer 5E Guide!

Artificer 5E Guide

In Eberron, the artificer has taken the wizard’s pursuit of arcane power through study and harnessed it into the form of scientific advancement. While artificers are spellcasters, their magical ability is focused on infusing items with arcane power.

It is the drive to learn and innovate that pushes artificers into adventuring. They seek yet-undiscovered powers and new frontiers. This class offers a lot of options, and is not pigeonholed into a single party role.

Class Features

Each artificer has the following class features:

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per artificer level
HP at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
HP at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per artificer level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor, medium armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, hand crossbows, heavy crossbows
Tools: Thieves’ tools, tinker’s tools, one type of artisan’s tools of your choice
Saving Throws: Constitution, Intelligence
Skills: Choose two from Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Sleight of Hand

Equipment

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • any two simple weapons
  • a light crossbow and 20 bolts
  • (a) studded leather armor or (b) scale mail
  • thieves’ tools and a dungeoneer’s pack

Most of the time, the hand crossbow is going to be the artificer’s best friend. Battlesmiths are the exception as they can wield shields and focus on melee combat with the right build.

Optional Rule: Firearm Proficiency

If your Dungeon Master uses the rules on firearms in chapter 9 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide and your artificer has been exposed to the operations of such weapons, your artificer is proficient with them. If you adopt the optional firearms rules, these will play a huge part in most artificer builds.

Magical Tinkering (Level 1)

Magical tinkering is one of the many aspects of the artificer that sets it apart. This feature lets you infuse mundane objects with sparks of magic. When using tinker’s tools, you can use an action to give a mundane object one of the following magical properties:

  • The object sheds bright light in a 5-foot radius and dim light for an additional 5 feet.
  • Whenever tapped by a creature, the object emits a recorded message that can be heard up to 10 feet away. You utter the message when you bestow this property on the object, and the recording can be no more than 6 seconds long.
  • The object continuously emits your choice of an odor or a nonverbal sound (wind, waves, chirping, or the like). The chosen phenomenon is perceivable up to 10 feet away.
  • A static visual effect appears on one of the object’s surfaces. This effect can be a picture, up to 25 words of text, lines and shapes, or a mixture of these elements, as you like.

This effect lasts forever, or until you decide to remove it. You can maintain magical tinkering on multiple devices at once, but that object may only have one property at a time. The maximum number of magical items you can maintain is capped at your intelligence modifier.

For creative players, the sky is the limit with this feature. Warn allies of traps, leave messages behind for NPCs, or convince gullible merchants that an item is much valuable than it seems are only some of the options available.

Spellcasting (Level 1)

At level 1, you gain the ability to cast spells. At this level you gain two artificer cantrips and two artificer spells. You will pick up more of each as you level up. We discuss the spellcasting mechanics of the artificer below.

Infuse Item (Level 2)

See Our Complete Guide to Artificer Infusions

Infusions are another central part of the Artificer class. These infusions are more powerful than the tinkered items you can create at Level 1, but are generally less powerful than fully enchanted magical items. At Level two, you can pick four artificer infusion to learn from the 10 options available. These infusions include:

  • Boots of the Winding Path: Creates boots that allow teleporting up to 15 feet.
  • Enhance Arcane Focus: Gives arcane focus +1 to spell attack rolls and ignores half cover.
  • Enhanced Defense: Creates a suit of armor or shield with +1 AC bonus.
  • Enhanced Weapon: Creates a simple or martial weapon with +1 to attack and damage rolls.
  • Homonculus Servant: Creates a Homonculus that serves as your companion.
  • Radiant Weapon: Creates a weapon with bonuses to attack and damage, plus can give off blinding light.
  • Replicate Magic Item: You can use this infusion to learn how to recreate a specific magical item. At higher levels you get access to more powerful items.
  • Repulsion Shield: You can enchant a shield that gains +1 AC and that can push attacks 15 feet away.
  • Resistant Armor: Infuses armor that gains resistance to your choice of acid, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, poison, psychic, radiant, or thunder.
  • Returning Weapon: Infuse a weapon with the Thrown property to return to the wielder’s hand after it is thrown. Also gains+1 to attack and damage rolls.
The Act of Infusing

Each time you finish a long rest you can touch an item and infuse it, turning it into a magical item. Each infusion has limitations on the items you may use for it. These items must be attuned to be used, and stay magical until shortly after your death or when you decide to end the infusion. You can have multiple infused items going at once depending on your level, but you can only use a specific infusion once at a time.

Artificer Specialist (Level 3)

The Artificer Specialist is the subclass option for the artificer. We discuss these subclasses in detail in a separate section below. Or, you can visit our Artificer Subclasses rankings here.

The Right Tool for the Job (Level 3)

Right Tool for the Job allows you to create any form of artisan’s tools using only your set of tinker tools. This is pretty situational, although it can save you a decent amount of gold in the early game if you plan on using tools a lot. Other than thief’s tools, your mileage will vary on how helpful this is.

Tool Expertise (Level 6)

You become an expert with the tools you have proficiency with. In other words, you double your proficiency bonus for any ability check using your proficiency with a tool. Again, how often tool checks occur in your campaign will determine how helpful this is.

Flash of Genius (Level 7)

At Level 7, Flash of Genius lets you add your Intelligence modifier to the roll for an ability check or a saving throw. This can be your roll or any creature you see within 30 feet of you. This can be used the number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier and is replenished after a long rest. The ability to tip the scales on up to five rolls per day is pretty powerful.

Magic Item Adept (Level 10)

Magic Item Adept gives you two buffs; one will come in handy more than the other. The highlight here is your ability to attune to four magic items at once. This is obviously useful in many ways. The second use is that crafting a common or uncommon magical item takes a quarter of the time and half the gold to do so. Most campaigns are light on crafting magical items to begin with, so your mileage may vary.

Spell-Storing Item (Level 11)

Spell-Strong Item, as the name implies, allows you to store spells in items or weapons. You may use any simple weapon, martial weapon, or spellcasting focus. Within this item you may store one spell from the Artificer’s spell list that is 1st or 2nd level. You do not have to have this spell prepared. Any creature can use this item, and doing so gives them your spellcasting ability modifier if a roll is necessary. The item can be used a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier before it becomes mundane again. That said, you can store spells in the same item again and again.

Magic Item Savant (Level 14)

This gives you another attuned magical item, which is nice. In addition to your fifth attuned magical item, you can ignore all class, race, spell, and level requirements attached to using or attuning a magical item. There aren’t a lot of items with these requirements, but they are often powerful.

Magic Item Master (Level 18)

Magic Item Master brings the total number of magical items you can attune at once to six.

Soul of Artifice (Level 20)

By level 20, you have the ability to attune to 6 magical items and you should be taking advantage of it. Soul of Artifice stacks bonuses based on the number of attuned items. It gives you +1 bonus to all saving throws per magical item you have attuned. This stacks with Flash of Genius, giving you serious boosts for most of your saves.

Additionally, Soul of Artifice can save you from facing death saving throws. When you hit zero HP you can end one of your infusions, which then boosts you to 1 HP. It’s always nice to have a way to avoid incapacitation, right?

Spellcasting

Like with the wizard, the artificer’s arcane ability stems from their study of magic. However, this study primarily focuses on how magic flows through specific magical items. Also like the wizard, an artificer uses Intelligence as their spellcasting ability.

Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier

Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier

Artificers start with two cantrips which they can select from the artificer cantrips list. At level 1, they also get two artificer spells. Artificer spell slots max out at Level 5.

Preparing and Casting Spells

The artificer’s approach to casting spells is similar to the wizard’s, in that you must prepare a list of spells each day. the total number of spells you can have prepared is equal to your intelligence modifier plus half your artificer level, rounded up. This list can include any spell on the artificer’s list that you have at least one spell slot for. Casting a spell does not remove it from your prepared spell list. You can rearrange this list after a long rest.

Required Tools

For most casters, a spellcasting focus is a nice option that lets you avoid the need for a component pouch. For artificers, a spellcasting focus is mandatory to cast spells. This focus must be some form of tools – frequently tinker’s tools. After level 2, an artificer may instead use an infused item as their focus.

Ritual Spells

Artificers can also ritual spells. Certain artificer spells have the Ritual tag, which means you can cast them even if you do not have them prepared. You can learn more about ritual casting with our guide to Ritual Spells.

Artificer Specialist – Subclasses

Sitting at three subclass options, the artificer by far has the fewest archetype options of any other class in 5E. Given that it is the most recent addition to 5E, it is not hard to understand why. Thankfully, all three subclasses are nice options with interesting themes.

Alchemist

See Our Complete Alchemist 5E Guide

The alchemist is the closest an artificer can get to serving as the party’s healer. The archetype can’t match a cleric’s healing abilities, but it is still a strong option that maintains some offensive prowess.

  • Tool Proficiency (Level 3). At level 3 you gain proficiency with alchemist’s supplies. You can pick an alternative proficiency if you already have it.
  • Artificer Spells (Level 3). The good news is that you get access to many spells that are not on the artificer list. You get some nice healing spells, particularly Healing Word and Mass Healing Ward. The options only get better at higher levels with Blight, Death Ward, and Gaseous Form.
  • Experimental Elixer (Level 3). The system for creating elixirs is central to the Alchemist subclass. You can create an experimental elixir by touching an empty flask following a long rest. This elixir lasts until it is used or until the end of the next long rest. At level 6, you can create two elixirs and at level 15 you can create three. You can also expend spell slots to create more. See our Alchemist guide fo a breakdown of these elixirs.
  • Alchemical Savant (Level 5). Using your alchemist supplies as a spellcasting focus gives you bonus to a spell roll equal to your intelligence modifier. This roll must either be to restore HP or cause acid or poison damage.
  • Restorative Agents (Level 9). You can cast Lesser Restoration without expending a slot using your alchemist’s supplies. Your elixirs also give temporary HP.
  • Chemical Mastery (Level 15). You gain resistance to acid or poison damage. You also are immune to the poisoned condition. Finally, you can also cast Greater Restoration or Heal without expending a spell slot a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier.

Artillerist

See Our Artillerist 5E Guide

The artillerist excels in hurling explosives and energy projectiles in a fight. For obvious reasons, this is a fun subclass.

  • Tool Proficiency (Level 3). You gain proficiency with woodcarver’s tools. Not the most useful proficiency normally, but you need these tools to make the most of this subclass.
  • Artillerist Spells (Level 3). This spell list is excellent, and includes some strong offensive spells not available to artificers in general. These include great options like Fireball, Ice Storm, and Scorching Ray. Strong spell list overall.
  • Eldritch Cannon (Level 3). The focal point of the artillerist is the ability to create an Eldritch Cannon. There are multiple options for this cannon, which we cover in our Artillerist guide. These cannons are more than a weapon as they can move and even tank for you.
  • Arcane Firearm (Level 5). Another highlight of this subclass is the ability to turn a wand, staff, or rod into a magical firearm. When casting an artificer spell using the firearm that damages a target, you add 1d8 bonus damage from the firearm.
  • Explosive Cannon (Level 9). This boosts your cannon damage by 1d8 and even allows you to destroy your cannon, dealing AOE damage within 20 feet.
  • Fortified Position (Level 15). At Level 15, you and any allies gain half cover when within 10 feet of your eldritch cannon. You can also have two cannons active at once. The half cover alone is an excellent buff.

Battle Smith

See Our Battle Smith 5E Guide

The Battle Smith is an interesting option akin to the beast master ranger in some ways. While the Steel Defender is an important part of the archetype, there are other interesting aspects at play for the battle smith.

  • Tool Proficiency (Level 3). You gain proficiency with smith’s supplies. These tools come into play for the battle smith’s other abilities.
  • Battle Smith Spells (Level 3). Battle smith has access to some nice spells primarily drawn from the Paladin spell list. In addition to useful smites, you also pick some healing and defense options.
  • Steel Defender (Level 3). At the core of the battle smith is the Steel Defender. This magical construct can take any medium-sized shape you like and can have two or four legs. The Defender is useful in combat or as a scout, and the cost of repairing or replacing it is minimal.
  • Extra Attack (Level 5). At level 5 you get two attacks when you take your attack action.
  • Arcane Jolt (Level 9). Each time you land a blow with a magic weapon or your Steel Defender, you can deal extra damage or even heal an ally. You can do this once per turn, up to a maximum equal to your Intelligence modifier. While extra damage is nice, 2d6 healing is usually harder to come by.
  • Improved Defender (Level 15). Your Steel Defender gets a buff! The defender gets +2 AC and deals more damage when it deflects an attack. Your Arcane Jolt bonus also doubles. Not a huge boost for a level 15 feature, but not bad.

Artificer 5E Optimizing Tips

The value of optimizing your artificer is entirely up to you. If you are focused on roleplaying, this section might not be of interest to you. If you like a well-optimized character, though, this guide has what you need.

Ability Selection

Just like with the wizard, the artificer lives and dies based on their intelligence. That does not mean every other stat can be dumped. Constitution is always important, and many artificers excel with some dexterity as well. Most builds do not need the other three skills, which allows for some powerful combinations.

Strength

Largely a dump stat. While there are theoretical builds that rely on strength melee and heavy armor, you can generally just dump this and rely on infusions.

Dexterity

Dexterity should be your third priority, but you don’t need to dump a ton here. For the most part you need enough to boost your AC and handle dexterity saves.

Constitution

Easily your second priority. This is essential given your d8 hit points per level.

Intelligence

Get this to 20 as fast as possible. This powers your spells, which in turn impacts virtually all aspects of your character.

Wisdom

Largely a dump stat, but you can boost it some for wisdom saving throws or skill checks. Your call.

Charisma

Dump stat.

Best Races for Artificer 5E

Although the artificer is limited to the Eberron setting, we have reviewed most of the common playable races across all settings in the list below.

Strong Options

  • Gnome. Intelligence and Gnome Cunning are a great fit here. The Rock Gnome is an especially strong fit thematically.
  • Hobgoblin. One of the best options, as you get excellent ability boosts. Free martial weapons and Saving Face is also great.
  • Human. The variant human is a perfect fit and can net you one of the many useful feats for an artificer.
  • Warforged. You have the option to boost intelligence, and your durability goes a long way for a caster.
  • Yuan-Ti Pureblood. Not only do you get an intelligence boost and Darkvision, you also nab innate spellcasting. Magic resistance and poison immunity seals the deal.

Decent Options

  • Elf (High Elf). Most elven subclasses are a poor fit, but the High Elf gets a free cantrip and an intelligence boost.
  • Half-Elf. Half-elves are generally good at everything, and they work here. There are better options, though.
  • Tiefling. While many of these options have bad ability point spreads, you get a lot of value for an Asmodeus or Mephistopheles variant.

Limited Value

  • Aarakocra
  • Aasimar
  • Bugbear
  • Changeling
  • Dragonborn
  • Dwarf
  • Genasi
  • Gith
  • Goblin
  • Goliath
  • Halfling
  • Kenku
  • Kobold
  • Kalasthar
  • Lizardfolk
  • Orc
  • Shifter
  • Tabaxi
  • Tortle
  • Triton
  • Verdan

Best Backgrounds

Backgrounds are more important to some classes than others. the right background can be great for characters that like to stack up skills or serve as the face of the party. the artificer doesn’t really need to be either of those. You will start with most proficiencies you really need, and you’re unlikely to be a great party face. Your choice of background is probably optimized by either netting some new languages or filling out intelligence skill proficiencies you don’t have.

  • Clan Crafter. One language is nice and you also get history. A free set of artisan’s tools is also handy.
  • Cloistered Scholar. Two new languages, plus proficiency in history and another intelligence skill? Not bad at all.
  • Sage. Basically the cloistered scholar with fewer intelligence skill options. You do start with a letter from a dead colleague, which is something I guess?

Suggested Feats for Artificers

There aren’t must-have feats for the artificer. There are, however, some good options depending on what you have in mind for your build. The following are some stronger options.

  • Healer. If you are playing an alchemist and your party does not have a true healer, this feat can boost your ability to fill that role.
  • Magic Initiate. This is a nice option for a casting-heavy artificer. Picking two cantrips and a level one spell from the wizard spell list can round out the amount of damage you can deal, especially early on.
  • War Caster. This isn’t necessary if you plan on staying at range, but any Battle Smiths that plan on wading into melee might want this one.

Multiclassing Options

There are only a few good options for multiclassing when it comes to the artificer. The need for high intelligence cancels out a lot of options, especially for spellcasting classes.

Good Multiclassing Options for Artificer

Fighter

Fighter can be a useful option for a few reasons. First, gaining a proficiency with heavy armor can let you ignore dexterity entirely and bulk up constitution instead. Two levels can get you the defensive fighting style, action surge, and second wind which are all good fits.

Wizard

My favorite multiclassing option is the wizard. While a level of wizard won’t open a lot of doors to spells you don’t already have, two levels gets all of the great benefits that come with a wizard school.

Bad Options

  • Barbarian. Raging without armor isn’t a great fit for an artificer.
  • Bard. Stat spread makes this multiclass a bad fit.
  • Cleric. Although this is a way to get some armor, wisdom-based spells make this a bad option.
  • Druid. Bad stat spread.
  • Monk. Bad stat spread.
  • Paladin. You can get smites as a battle master, so why bother?
  • Ranger. Nothing about this is worth a dip.
  • Rogue. Not the best fit, but getting the Thief archetype for Fast Hands is interesting.
  • Sorcerer. Not a good fit.
  • Warlock.Not a good fit.

Concluding Our Artificer 5E Handbook

The Artificer is a fun option that has been floating around prior versions of D&D for years. Despite that, it is a somewhat new addition to the world of 5E. While it has its quirks, it is a nice fit thematically for Eberron and can be expanded to many other settings as well.

Travis Scoundrel
About Travis Scoundrel 474 Articles
A life long gamer, Travis spends his time writing about and playing games when he's not suing people or hanging out with his family.

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