Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything Artificer Brings Arcanapunk to 5E D&D
Several iterations of the artificer have appeared in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. There’s been three Unearthed Arcana versions, Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, Eberron: Rising from the Last War and now Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The artificer was introduced during 3.5 D&D with the Eberron campaign setting. Eberron brought what we at Nerdarchy like to refer to as arcanapunk to the D&D game. If you are a fantasy purist the artificer and arcanapunk might not be for you. Maybe you are like me and have gotten kind of bored with vanilla fantasy and want to spice it up a bit.
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything Gives 5E D&D the artificer (again)
Back in my 3.5 D&D days Eberron and its infusion of arcanapunk hit at the right time for me. I had already started to get a wandering eye when came to traditional fantasy and had begun introducing some steampunk elements into my games. Zombie goblins in steam powered armor anyone? With the release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything everyone — even those not using the Eberron books — can add the artificer to their games and maybe a pinch of arcanapunk.
What is arcanapunk?
To be honest I’m not sure if we heard the term arcanapunk somewhere or made it up for ourselves. Think steampunk but with everything powered by magic instead of steam. The Eberron books I mentioned earlier plus the novels set in the world give you a great idea of how a world powered by magic might look. Essentially magic takes the place of technology, which brings about some interesting questions like would firearms ever be invented or would there just be a magical equivalent? In Eberron an artificer can harness the power of elementals by binding them into crystals used to power magical devices, which in turn power airships, watercraft and even a fantasy version of a train called a lightning rail. This is one way of doing it. In your 5E D&D arcanapunk world you might want to do something completely different and less unethical to garner the same effects.
The artificer character class for 5E D&D could be the lynchpin in playing an arcanapunk game. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduces four subclasses referred to as Artificer Specialists. They are Armorer, Alchemist, Artillerist and Battle Smith. The core artificer class has very utility but three of the four Arificer Specialists lean very heavily towards combat. The Alchemist dips into utility even more plus adds more healing into the mix.
Those are for the player characters. NPCs can afford to be far less combat oriented but very good at the other stuff an artificer does. You could always create an Artificer Specialist to fit and reflect your 5E D&D world. A broad breakdown of the specialist we have now and how we might use them.
This is the support option who can heal and buff even more than other artificer subclasses.
- Tool Proficiency. An Alchemist must surely be proficiency with alchemist’s supplies.
- Alchemist Spells. Concoctions escalate quickly in scope and power both beneficial and harmful.
- Experimental Elixir. Literally pour your magic into special drinks to grant a variety of fantastic buffs.
- Alchemical Savant. You’ve mastered the chemistry of magic and your gain a bonus to spell related dice rolls.
- Restorative Reagents. Your holistic care goes above and beyond.
- Chemical Mastery. You can heal and restore others through the power of alchemy alone.
These are like the special forces of the artificers rigged for stealth or infantry.
- Tools of the Trade. Armor and tool proficiencies always come in handy.
- Armorer Spells. Potent magic to enhance formidable defenses.
- Arcane Armor. Transform a suit of armor into a magical conduit and battlesuit.
- Armor Model. Further specialize your magical armor as a Guardian or Infiltrator.
- Extra Attack. ‘Nuff said.
- Armor Modifications. Incorporate your infusions into your magical armor.
- Perfected Armor. Incredible boosts of power based on Armor Model.
This one blasts stuff but oddly enough they can buff the party with temporary hit points.
- Tool Proficiency. You’ve got to make artillery out of something.
- Artillerist Spells. Would you be surprised to know there’s a lot of evocation?
- Eldritch Cannon. The artillery you’ve made with those nifty tools, with a good degree of flexibility.
- Arcane Firearm. Like a spellcasting focus but better through artifice.
- Explosive Cannon. The dangerous magical ordnance is now more dangerous.
- Fortified Position. Now you’re just showing off with two cannons and mobile cover.
This artificer works with their Steel Defender in combat and also has some healing features.
- Tool Proficiency. Sensing a theme yet?
- Battle Smith Spells. Excellent buffs for a frequent trips to the battlefield.
- Battle Ready. Become a warrior who uses their smarts for everything.
- Steel Defender. Create your own powerful construct companion.
- Extra Attack. ‘Nuff said.
- Arcane Jolt. The best gish characters straight up have features to make attacks do more damage and heal themselves or others easy peasy.
- Improved Defender. All the awesome stuff you can do gets more awesome.
Artificer, arcanapunk and your 5E D&D world
With the release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything artificer enters mainstream 5E D&D. Even if you never look at an Eberron book you are still adding elements of the arcanapunk in your game through this character class. Consider going fully go down this rabbit hole if your D&D group is into the concept. The artificer character class is all about magical inventions and innovations. You just have to ask yourself what happens in a world where magic contraptions abound.
Artificers can create Infusions that are basically magic items. One of these Infusions create a homunculus. You could have a whole messenger service around steel defenders and homunculi servants. Imagine a city where it’s common to see these creatures flying through the sky and roaming the city streets to deliver the mail essentially. Perhaps these magical innovations only took place in one or some of the regions in your campaign world. Other nations may compete by creating steam powered machines and black powder.
Competing nations powered by arcanapunk and steampunk could make for a great central tension in a 5E D&D campaign world. Exploring this complex relationship could be very intriguing. Are these regions at war and if not who works to keep the peace? Nations may maintain a friendly rivalry as they compete to outdo each other with their wonders, or perhaps they’re frenemies. If you want to incorporate even more arcanapunk style into your game you can pull from the Eberron books and also Mythic Odysseys of Theros, which introduces the Anvilwrought and turns pretty much anything into a construct for a little more of the arcanapunk feel. And if you absolutely can’t get enough of 5E D&D tools and tool proficiencies (or you simply run out of tools to be proficient with) check out Taking Chances, which includes several new tool sets along with minigames and mysteries to solve with tools and a whole bunch more right here.
*Featured image — The cover of Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron highlights some of the arcanapunk quality of the world like the lightning rail. [Illustration by Chippy]