D&D Party Composition — Playing an All Artificer Party
Over on the Nerdarchy YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted battle with the idea of an all artificer party for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Exploring this popular video series here on the website and sharing my take on the concept of single party composition remains my favorite writing gig. Artificers in 5E D&D cover a lot of bases with a wide variety of skills and magic, also holding the distinction of being the only official character class from outside the Player’s Handbook. Artificers appear in Eberron: Rising from the Last War with three subclasses to form a foundation in our D&D campaign setting of academia for each particular character class. Students at Artificer Specialists hone their craft at invention with the top minds in the field. So let’s get into it.
How I would run an all artificer party for 5E D&D
Artificers underwent many iterations through Unearthed Arcana until arriving at the final version in E:RftLW and wow they bring a lot to the table. Magic — including creating magic items and spellcasting, tons of skills and tool proficiencies and decent martial combat capabilities make artificers perhaps the most well rounded character class in 5E D&D.
Artificer Specialists confers certificates and degrees to aspiring inventors who arrive on campus with ideas in their heads, hope in their hearts and plenty of tools in their backpack. The description of Artificer Specialists (and frankly the term for their subclasses in general) is pretty lackluster compared to the other classes but they make up for it with tremendous options. Here’s how they’re described in E:RftLW for 5E D&D.
“Artificers pursue many disciplines. Here are specialist options you can choose from at 3rd level.”
Artificers study magic as a means to understand and replicate effects through technology through arcane science. Beyond straight up creating magic items with their class features artificers are encouraged to imagine their spells and other abilities as device driven so a cure wounds spell becomes a stim pack for example. Nothing changes mechanically, only through imaginative description from the player. Characters who become artificers are inventors at least to some degree and keeping this in mind some fun group activities can make these characters come alive and develop distinct personas. This is especially useful for our D&D academia series because there’s only three Artificer Specialists for players to choose from in this all artificer party composition.
First up I’ll recommend adding This Is Your Life material from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything for group character creation. Choosing or randomly determining any or all of these elements deepens characters and gives DMs tons of useful information to help players tell the story of their characters in a richer fashion. The class description itself includes similar material, encouraging players to consider who their artificer’s mentor and potential rivals might be. One last thing I suggest is for each player to choose an artificer class feature only attainable at higher levels and make this their character’s personal invention goal.
I’m going to assume those steps take place with an all artificer party and each character’s special goal is the very reason they earned admittance at Artificer Specialists. In addition to their normal studies each student receives individual workspace and a faculty contact to guide this pursuit. But the characters must keep up with their goal and turn in quarterly reports on progress.
Incoming new students begin orientation day with their first application of artificer abilities — Magical Tinkering. Everyone earned their place in the student body and now its time to prove they’ve got what it takes. For the DM I recommend creating or finding a list of random objects to give each character for this exercise. The trinkets in the Player’s Handbook makes a fine resource. I like the idea of each character having an unusual focus for their Magical Tinkering and maybe not the cool thing they imagined. A pair of old socks to invest with a spark of magic sounds memorable to me.
When it comes time to choose their Artificer Specialist I like the idea of playing out the process in the context of academia. Alchemists craft their first Experimental Elixir, Artillerists carve their Eldritch Cannons and Battle Smiths fashion their Steel Defenders. These activities take place in a grand workshop and it’s another opportunity to offer flavor without altering mechanics. Perhaps by the time the Battle Smith gets to the bin with Steel Defender parts there’s only slim pickings left of weird odds and ends for example. The dangerous construct winds up looking silly because everyone else snatched up the cool looking components first.
Adventures for an all artificer party come in the form of contracts. As highly skilled professionals I imagine folks coming to Artificer Specialists with specific needs and there would be postings all over campus for work. This way you can seed your campaign with all sorts of adventure hooks and let players decide to pursue the ones that interest them. At the same time being an artificer is all about practical application so I suspect plenty of roleplaying and fun awaits players who hang around campus for the most part too. With all the arcane technological research going on it’s not difficult to imagine dangers arising from experiments gone awry and what do you know, the party happens to be the only ones around to deal with them.
One very important thing to keep in mind for Dungeon Masters and players alike is the importance of tool proficiencies for artificers. A campaign could take an all artificer party from 1st to 20th level without actually using their tools as intended beyond focusing magical power but any campaign is enriched through deeper involvement with tools. You might consider the mundane use of tools as characters’ elective courses. Over here at Nerdarchy we love tool proficiencies in 5E D&D and if you’re looking for extra inspiration check out Taking Chances, which not only has new tool sets but new ways to use all of them including minigames and a short adventure for tool experts to shine. If you sign up for Nerdarchy the Newsletter you can get a special coupon for $9.99 and add this to your digital collection free so take a look here.
D&D academia course catalog
We’re almost done going through all 13 5E D&D character classes imagined as academia! Unless another new class emerges in a new book Eberron: Rising from the Last War is the only one outside the PHB and maybe when we’re all done we’ll come up with a location for all these institutes of learning. I’m leaning towards this D&D academia hub being extraplanar in nature. But you could just as easily place all the educational organizations we’re imagining in a major metropolitan city like Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms or Eberron’s Sharn or even smoosh them all together into a single university. Perhaps Morgrave University offers these new programs to characters in Eberron or the bards of New Olamn open their doors to the rest of the character classes with a large expansion to the Waterdeep campus.
The all artificer party intrigues me particularly because of the importance of tools, the academic nature of the class to begin with and the idea of each character pursuing a long term invention goal. Hanging around Artificer Specialists campus sounds like a lot of fun for players and DMs alike, and taking on side gigs relevant to a character’s personal goals could be a really neat structure for a campaign.
When we finish up this series we’ll have ourselves a solid foundation for an entire 5E D&D campaign setting in a world of academia. For a running recap, here’s the list of 5E D&D class-related institutions. I’m looking forward to exploring the next one along with the video from the YouTube channel.
- Bard College carries on a fine tradition of arts and arcane education
- Primal Paths sounds like a private school
- Domains is a seminary
- Circles is a new age school
- Martial Archetypes is a either a military school or a certified training program
- Monastic Traditions maybe a charter school
- Sacred Oaths is definitely a private school
- Ranger Conclaves is a series of correspondence courses (I know they’re called Ranger Archetypes but I think Conclaves sounds cool)
- Roguish Archetypes a trade school for sure. I learned how to pick pockets and now I’m doing great. Thanks, Roguish Archetypes!
- Sorcerous Origins get to attend Arcane Traditions U on a full-ride scholarship
- Otherworldly Patrons is 100% charter school
- Arcane Traditions clearly is the premiere institute for arcane study
- Artificer Specialists is a for profit university that confers certificates and degrees
Any of these individual campaign ideas really makes me want to play or run a campaign with these elements. 5E D&D party composition with all the characters of the same class is more about your group discussing their character choices together than about filling traditional roles. An all artificer party’s versatility means even a smaller party of say three characters (one for each subclass) can manage lots of different scenarios. Planning the party together and making choices to benefit the group isn’t quite as important as other single party composition groups because the core class covers so much like combat, magic, skills and tools. Developing unique quirks and personal flavor for features and abilities feels like it would get a lot more mileage than sussing out who takes what mechanical component for their character.
What do you think? Are you ready to stoke the fires of invention and matriculate to Artificer Specialists for an all artificer party in your next 5E D&D campaign? Which single party composition video or post interests you the most? Let me know in the comments!