Last week, Wizards of the Coast unveiled the Artificer class for Unearthed Arcana (click here for PDF) which was honestly a huge shocker to the community. There plenty of discussions and questions tossed over Reddit, Twitter, and some on Facebook as well. I even wrote a review on the abilities, features, and design of the new Artificer class in our Death By Review segment (click here). There have even been homebrew ideas tossed through various forums, the new Artificer class has been largely regarded as a true spiritual successor to the original Artificer from D&D 3.5 with some nods to 4th Edition as well. I thought back to a fun playstyle I use to enjoy when I played an Artificer years ago, it also sort of fits with my friend’s favorite strategy in Diablo 2 and 3, which was minions, tons of minions. One of the reasons why Necromancers are fun to design is partly due to the amount of minions they can generate. Granted in 5th Edition, its quite difficult to create a small army of minions without some heavy amounts of workarounds or essentially exploiting your DM. Any sane DM would normally not allow a party to possess a virtual army of minions by mechanics alone, but what we could find a way to get a little taste of that without breaking the sanity bank?
Mechanic “Hordeficer” (a Artificer Specialization)
Master Mechanic. When you choose this specialization at 1st level, you gain proficiency with artisan’s (tinker’s) tools, and you learn the mending cantrip. Additionally, you added double your proficiency bonus whenever you make an Intelligence (Investigation) check to analyze a mechanical or technological device (such as a lock or mechanical trap), or discern its condition (if its a construct creature, you can determine its hit points).
Mechanical Familiar. At 1st level, you gain a minor mechanical companion that obeys your commands, it is a construct and functions to serve you. Though magic fuels its creation, the servant is not magical itself. You are assumed to have been working on the servant for quite some time. You choose a form from the find familiar spell. The familiar has the statistics of the chosen form except it is a construct, it can’t be charmed, it is immune to poison damage and the poisoned condition. It has darkvision with a range of 60 feet if it doesn’t already. It understands the languages you speak when you create but cannot speak. In combat, it rolls its own initiative and acts on its own turn. It doesn’t attack but it can take other actions as normal. If the servant is killed, it can be returned to life via normal means, such as with the revivify spell. In addition, over the course of a long rest, you can repair a slain servant if you have access to its body. It returns to life with 1 hit point at the end of the rest. If the servant is beyond recovery, you can build a new one with one week of work (eight hours each day) and 1,000 gp of raw materials.
Reinforced Creations. Starting at 3rd level, you learn to create more sturdy mechanical creations. Any construct you make through your Mechanical Familiar, Mechanical Servant, and Master Grade Servant features gain additional hit points equal to our Artificer level.
Infused Minion. Starting at 9th level, you can can infuse your Mechanical Familiar with an Artificer spell with a range of touch. The familiar can activate the infusion as if it had cast the spell by using its action during its turn.
Life to the Lifeless. Starting at 14th level, your techniques with magic and your craftsmanship have allowed you to temporarily infuse some magical into nommagical objects and use them to fight for you in combat though you do not have the arcane reserves of a skilled spellcaster, you make due with ingenuity and quick modifications. As an action, you can select a number of nonmagical objects and animate them to life as if you cast the animate objects spell. Once you use this feature, you cannot use it again until you finish a long rest.
Master Grade Servant. Starting at 17th level, whenever you build a new Mechanical Servant, you can select a Large or larger beast with a challenge rating equal to a third of your Artificer level. The normal rules and conditions still apply to a Mechanical servant.
Author’s Notes: I wanted to go for the “minions matter” approach without seemingly breaking the combat math. Initially I wanted to give the Hordeficer (original term for an Artificer with a horde of minions) the ability to have a small army. But combat is already difficult when you include more allies with their initiative scores and stats, which I felt was too much bookkeeping to enjoy the class for both the player the DM. So I opted for improving the initial Mechanical Servant as opposed to more servants, but I did give a Mechanical Familiar in order to give that minion master feel. The Life to the Lifeless feature is actually something borrowed from the Team BAJA campaign, as I wanted the Artificer to still have the opportunity for a small horde of minions even if its only temporarily like say in the middle of combat. This Specialization has plenty of utility outside of combat when you think about the various beasts that a Mechanical Servant can take, and the Familiar acts as a great scout though I did not include the ability for the Artificer to see whatever the Mechanical Familiar sees, I may amend it in the future. Everything you see above is mostly a draft of ideas I had ruminating after reviewing the Artificer previously. Look over it, let me know how you feel about it in the comments section below. Thanks!
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