Welcome once again to the weekly Nerdarchy Newsletter. This week we’ve been inspired by the Unearthed Arcana release of the Artificer Revised. With that it was an easy topic for a weekly live chat this past Saturday as well as a great topic for the newsletter. But before we get into discussing artifice, the artificer, and it’s place in a D&D game, it’s Monday which means we had a video go up today- D&D Death From Real World Threats. You can watch it here.
“Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.” — probably an artificer somewhere [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
Oay, this can be a prickly subject for a fantasy Dungeons & Dragons game, especially for old school gamers. Some folks just don’t like technology in their D&D. I will point out the original Eberron artificer was more arcana punk than steampunk in nature. Artifice in Eberron was more like widespread magic than it was about adding technology to the world and D&D game. That being said, you add enough magic and it will begin to mimic technology.
Maybe you are a Dungeon Master who decided you aren’t allowing artificers into your game, but that doesn’t mean the latest Unearthed Arcana isn’t of use to you. Many D&D worlds are built on previous and lost civilization. Using the lore from the Artificer Revised PDF could add story elements for your campaign setting, adventure arc, or even just a single dungeon.
Aside from that we have the actual class itself. You could make it an NPC-only class or base an NPC off the class. The other thing we get from the character class is new mechanics. There is nothing to keep you from pulling the mechanics apart and recycling them for your D&D game.
Magical Tinkering — these simple common magic items could be introduced as treasure or minor magical rewards
Infuse Item/Infusions — many can just be turned into magic items or properties to add to existing magic items from the Dungeon Master’s Guide
Alchemical Homunculus — literally a creature/monster to drop right in your game with very little tweaking
Arcane Turret — I’d use these as traps or magical hazards to assist my villains and spice up encounters
From Ted’s Head
When looking at the artificer and technological inventions it begs the question, “What type of world are you looking to roleplay in?”
Playing a game in Forgotten Realms or Eberron are two very different worlds. Things like the artificer have the ability to significantly alter a world in major ways depending on how widespread they and their ideas are. Wizards have changed the world with the possibility of teleportation circles, magic items and other magic at their disposal. Clerics have just as big of an impact with magical healing, including the removal of diseases, and the ability to bring life back to those who have died. All of these abilities tend to exist in all the worlds of D&D. But in the world of Eberron the artificers and magic they use have the ability to make magic part of everyday life for even the common folk.
With Unearthed Arcana — Artificer Revisited, it looks like Wizards of the Coast is making a push to make an official version of the artificer class for 5E D&D. With this eventuality, what impact will it have on the gaming worlds we like to play in? For a long time our games have been very pure to only include traditional fantasy elements. As the years of gaming have gone by I have been opened up to other games and gaming worlds and styles. Now the thought of taking my home world that we play in: Chimes of Discordia into something closer to steampunk or more Eberron feel I am a little excited at the prospects.
So when you are playing or designing your world, ask how this new option will effect your game, if you are going to allow it anyway.
From the Nerditor’s Desk
For some, the concept of artifice in Dungeons & Dragons is a bridge too far on its own. For everyone else, the nuance lies in how artifice and artificers fit into a campaign setting.
I really struggled with this topic. After several attempts to find what I had to say, I was ready to throw in the towel. My perspective lay more in the former camp — artificers didn’t fit my concept of a D&D fantasy setting.
The bulk of my experience with the artificer in D&D comes through the still-vibrant Dungeons & Dragons Online MMO. When the class was released there, it checked all the boxes of what I wanted in a character class. It was a pet class, a controller, a ranged combatant, a spellcaster, and could do rogue stuff like pick locks and disarm traps. It was perfect for a frequent solo player like me.
Then I remembered another recent Unearthed Arcana — Sidekicks. And suddenly the artificer found the perfect niche to occupy in my D&D mindscape. Combined with sidekicks, an artificer makes the perfect character for a one-player campaign.
As an artificer, you’ll get either a homunculus or mobile turret, to get your adventuring career as a minion master started. With all their skills and tool proficiencies, magic and ingenuity, an artificer with their specialized creation has a wide variety of resources at their disposal. This is the perfect loadout for a delve into ruins seeking knowledge of the ancients.
Along the way, the solo artificer player can gain companions in the form of sidekicks. They might use this network of operatives like Lamont Cranston (aka The Shadow) or Batman, keeping tabs on the area they protect. Or the artificer character can take customized squads or away teams into the field for whatever quests the Dungeon Master cooks up for them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, imagine an entire party of artificers. A strike team of magical explorers with alchemical and mechanical constructs challenging the unknown. Sounds pretty cool to me.
There are several things in the most recent Unearthed Arcana — Artificer I didn’t like in particular. One of the top ones is the spells on their list that create extradimensional effects. Mordenkainen’s private sanctum, Bigby’s hand, and Leomund’s secret chest come to mind. But while writing this, I turned the corner on the idea and now it seems really neat. Powerful, highly intelligent artificers cross the threshold where science appears as magic. If the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards were D&D-ized, he’d be an artificer.
So that’s my journey from not really digging the artificer (a discussion that would have zero value add for your D&D games) to discovering a fresh appreciation of D&D’s gonzo gizmo gadgeteer character class. A helping of Unearthed Arcana — Artificer with a side order of Sidekicks has all the ingredients for anything from a great solo campaign to a dimension-hopping exploration quest.
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