Artificer Player's Guide (3.5e Optimized Character Build)
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The Unofficial Artificer Player's Guide 2.0
This is a copy of the The Unofficial Artificer Player's Guide 2.0 from the WotC Board (as soon as I have the time). Permission from the original author (Endymion) was received by private message.
At the most basic level, the Artificer is a 20 level base class that focuses on the ability to craft magical items, and gains a number of abilities and features that make it easier to craft these items. It does this, primarily, through the Use Magic Device skill. The Artificer does not have a spell list, meaning it is capable of casting spells but learns them from other class lists, also it has the unique ability to make Use Magic Device checks in place of casting spell prereqs when crafting, meaning they can "fake" any spell in the books, in order to make any non-artifact level magic item in the game.
Their high Use Magic Device (UMD) check also means that the Artificer excels at using scrolls, wands, and even items with racial/alignment/class restrictions. Thanks to this extreme magical flexibility, combined with several other class features, the Artificer makes the ultimate stand-in character. Artificers aren't great fighters, rogues, wizards, or clerics, but with the right magical items, they can sure fake it!
One of the first questions to be asked after someone decides to play an Artificer is what race to make them. Which races make good Artificers? The answer is, they all do. Well, most of them do anyway.
The PHB Races
The humans have three major factors in their favor when it comes to being an Artificer. First is their bonus feat. There are more good feats for an Artificer to take than a single character can take, so the bonus feat goes a long way. Second, the skillpoints. Depending on what kind of Artificer you want to be, you are going to need ranks in many different skills, and the human skillpoint bonus can be the difference between picking which skills you like more, and picking between which must-have skills you can afford to pick. Last, but not least, is the fact that humans can be marked members of House Cannith. Not only does the Mark of Making synergize with the class very nicely, but House Cannith is THE source of all things crafting in Eberron, magic and mundane. While any race can potentially join the house, only humans can be blood members with the Mark of Making, and hence only humans can really reach the heights of the organization.
Gnomes make excellent Artificers for three major reasons. One, their keen sense of smell grants them a +2 to checks relating to alchemy, which is an area Artificers do quite well in. Second, they are Small size, which grants them bonuses to attacks, their AC, Hide checks, and actually makes them stronger in comparison. While they half their carrying load, properly scaled items only weight 1/4 normal. Meaning they actually gain the ability to carry 25% more gear than the Medium sized Artificers, as long as everything they carry is sized for Small characters. The other is that, in Eberron, the Gnomes hold a near monopoly on the ability to bind elementals into weapons, armors, and vehicles. If you plan on making elementally bound items, you can avoid a lot of hassles by choosing to be a gnome.
While half-elves do not have any racial bonuses to skills or abilities that benefit an Artificer, they do have the ability to manifest the Mark of Storm, and to be a member of House Lyrandar. House Lyrandar runs most of the airships in Eberron, and have a very easy time controlling those airships with their dragonmark. If you know there will be airships involved in your game, or you want to eventually have your own airship, a half-elf is the way to go, and there are definite attractions for the Artificer in having and running his or her own airship.
Elves have Favored Class: Wizard, meaning they can dip into Wizard without penalty in order to gain a spell list. They also gain a bonus to Dexterity, and come with proficiency in the bow. Where the default Artificer will rely greatly on their crossbow, the elven Artificer will rely on the bow, the superior of the two choices. The elves of Areneal also have an almost total monopoly on the special material soarwood, which is a primary material in the construction of airships. An Areneal Artificer could potentially have an easier time getting ahold of this rare wood than the other races.
The halflings share the Dexterity bonus of the Elves, making them better at hitting with their ranged attacks. They also gain the bonus to saves, and their Small size gives them the same advantages as the Gnomes gain. You trade the Gnome's skill at Alchemy and potential ease of gaining Bind Elemental, and in return become better at hitting your targets and are less likely to spend precious Action Points on making a Save thanks to your racial bonuses. If you're going to be a Small sized Artificer, Halfling is a good way to go, especially if you don't want to get tied up in the schemes of the gnomes.
Dwarves face an initial roadblock in being an Artificer because of the -2 to Charisma they suffer. With so much of the class revolving around Use Magic Device, a Charisma based skill, the Dwarves are handicapped from the start. However, their +2 to Constitution helps up the Artificer's rather weak d6 hitdice. There is also the racial +2 bonus to Craft checks involving metal or stone, which covers the bulk of weapons, armor, and many constructs. In addition, Dwarves in Eberron hold the monopoly on the banking system. As such, there would be an implied level of trust when dealing with Dwarves, which means if your Artificer wanted to set up a shop and sell their magical goods, you've got a long tradition of Dwarves being trustworthy with your money to help back you up.
Half-Orcs suffer a hit to both Intelligence and Charisma, the two key abilities for the Artificer class, which makes them rather poor choices for your traditional Artificer build. However, the Artificer has some abilities, namely certain Infusions (we'll get to that later) that allow it to do some particularly nasty damage in combat. Combined with the class's proficiency in Medium armor, there is definite potential to make some brutal melee builds using the Artificer, which would make great use of the half-orc's Strength bonus. If you want a more traditional buffing/crafting/ranged combat Artificer though, you might want to stay away from this one.
The Eberron Races
At first glance, the Warforged are poor choices for an Artificer, but look twice, they have definite advantages that can make the WF a powerhouse Artificer. Warforged cannot fully benefit from healing magic, but a WF Artificer is capable of using his Repair infusions on himself, bypassing this weakness entirely. Or, barring that, the skills used to repair Warforged are also class skills for the Artificer that would allow the WF to repair himself without wasting Infusions. The Artificer also gains several infusions that work only on Constructs, which the WF Artificer can use on himself. And perhaps best of all, there is a Warforged only item called the Wand Sheath that stored a wand inside of the forearm, with some great benefits. The Artificer, especially in the middle levels, relies heavily on wands, giving the Warforged Artificer a definite advantage here.
Like the Kalashtar, the Changlings are middle ground Artificers without bringing in some extra material. However, if your DM allows material from Races of Eberron (and most do), there is a feat that allows the Changling to actually count as the subtype of what they change into. This means that the Changling with this feat would actually count as an Elf while in the form of an Elf, and would not have to make UMD checks to use racially restricted Elf-Only magical items, for example. Essentially, with the right feat, the Changlings can throw an entire section of UMD checks out the window, which means they can use those racially restricted items much more reliably than your default Artificer.
Shifters suffer from hits to both Intelligence and Charisma, and are generally presented as being less inclined to build magical items on their own, making them poor choices for Artificers. However, their multiple shifter traits can add a new level of versatility for Artificers. Bottom line here, though, is that there is very little reason to be a Shifter Artificer other than for roleplaying reasons. Of all the races, mechanically speaking, Shifters make the worst Artificers.
III. Ability Scores
After race, the ability scores is the next most crucial aspect for an Artificer. However, it must be noted that the ECS entry for Artificer is flat out wrong when it comes to the Artificer’s primary stat. Charisma, while important, is NOT the most important stat for an Artificer, Intelligence is. This will be explained below.
For the traditional Artificer build, you could call Strength your dump stat. You will be relying much more on Dexterity for your attacks and damage than you will Strength, and later on you will be able to make Haversacks and Bags of Holding to carry most of your gear, so Strength isn’t particularly important. However, you will be carrying a lot of stuff before you get Bags of Holding, your wands and weapons won’t do you any good in your pack, and with you potentially wearing Medium armor, you don’t want to skimp too much on Strength. You will be perfectly fine with a Strength score of 10, but I wouldn’t let it go below an 8. Obviously if you want a melee focused Artificer, you will want to up this stat considerably. No less than a 14 if you plan on entering melee regularly.
For your traditional Artificer, Con is almost as much of a dump stat as Strength. You should not be on the front lines, so you should not be getting hit very often. However, you have the second lowest hitdice in the game with the d6, so extra hitpoints can be a blessing. Also, if you are being pressed into service as a replacement Rogue opening up locked chests, you run the risk of poison needles, so the higher Fortitude save helps too. I suggest a 12 here, but no higher than a 14. Again, if you are going for a melee based Artificer, you want to bump this one up as well.
Welcome to the most important physical stat for the Artificer. You cannot use Heavy armor without spending a feat, and you still suffer from Arcane Spell Failure when casting from arcane scrolls, which means you will most likely be in Light armor, or Mithral Medium armor. Either way, you are going to need a good Dexterity to up your Armor Class. Also, a majority of your offensive capabilities come in the form of ranged attacks, both mundane and magical, which means you will need to be able to hit the broad side of the proverbial barn, meaning you will need a good Dex score. And while you are not on the front line, you are vulnerable to enemy spells like Fireball, which means your Reflex save is important as well. A 14 will serve you well here, but never let this go negative, as it will hurt you far too much.
Unlike what the ECS says, this is your primary stat as an Artificer, not Charisma. You will be making many Craft checks, all of which are Int based. Search, Disable Traps, and Knowledge Arcana will all get used frequently, and are Int based. Your bonus Infusions per day are also tied to your Intelligence. In short, everything about being an Artificer, other than Use Magic Device, is tied to your Intelligence score. You cannot get this score too high. I suggest a 16 here, and the sky is the limit for the cap.
The least important mental stat for an Artificer, Wisdom can potentially be used as a dump stat. However, your Will saves are tied to it, as are the always useful Spot and Listen checks. It justifies having a 10 in, but I would not recommend putting more than a 12 in it. One reason to go higher though is that you can prevent having to make extra UMD checks to replicate a high Wisdom score when faking Divine spells. If you plan on doing a lot of Divine magic (like if you are the party’s substitute healer), then you might want to put a 14 here.
While the ECS says this is a vitally important stat, it really isn’t that important. The only thing it does is give you a bonus to your UMD checks, and that’s it. And, if you are familiar with using other classes that get a lot of skillpoints, the actual ability modifier to the roll quickly becomes less important than your number of skill ranks. I wouldn’t suggest putting more than a 14 into this stat. However, just because it is not the most important stat doesn’t make it a dump stat either. Under no circumstances should you drop this below a 10.
What feats you take for your Artificer are going to depend largely on what kind of Artificer you want to play. But, here is a brief list of the most important/useful feats for you to consider.
Point Blank Shot
For a traditional Artificer, I would HIGHLY recommend you take this feat at first level. You will spend a lot of time with your trusty crossbow, and after that, ranged attack spell wands. Seeing as you will most often be within 30’ of an opponent anyway, this is a free +1 to hit, and with the general lack of good first level feats means you really can’t go wrong here.
Typically, you are not going to be on the front lines, but in the back row with your ranged attacks. Which means the party tank will be in melee with the bad guys. Which means you are firing into melee, and taking a -4 to hit in the process. If you’ve got Point Blank Shot, you should seriously consider taking Precise Shot as well. A human Artificer can take both at level 1, making him quite good at ranged attacks.
Unless you multiclass or take a proficiency feat for a better ranged weapon, you’re likely going to be using a crossbow as your primary weapon. While this is fine at lower levels, at higher levels you’re going to be limited by not being able to make full attacks with your crossbow. This feat removes that hinderance, and ensures that your crossbow remains a lethal weapon for all 20 levels.
This is really going to depend on what kind of Artificer you want to play. A melee build will have practically no use at all for Metamagic, while a “normal” Artificer will have only a passing need for it. The kind of Artificer that benefits the most from Metamagic is the “Blastificer”, aka an Artificer that focuses on using attack wands to do maximum damage per round. If you go this route, you will want Metamagic that makes you as flexible as possible, such as Energy Substitution/Admixture, and Metamagic that lets you pump out as much raw damage as possible, such as Empower, Maximize, and Twin Spell. The Blastificer outputs this damage via the Metamagic Trigger ability (more on that later). Instead of increasing the level of the spell being cast, the Blastificer instead pours more charges into each wand activation for the various Metamagic effects. As long as you don’t mind pouring through expensive wands like water, you can get some impressive damage this way. Just don’t expect to have enough money left over for other things. Like shoes.
Skill Focus (Use Magic Device)
This one is very controversial, and you need to think long and hard before you take this one. It grants you +3 to your UMD checks, which makes you better at activating magic items and crafting your own. However, by the higher levels, it becomes a large drawback in that you are a feat short, which means there are less feats left over for the much more useful things. If you know that you will be playing a low level only game, then yes, Skill Focus (UMD) is a VERY useful feat, and is one you should definitely take. If you are playing a high level game, stay away from this feat like the plague. If you are starting at lvl 1 and plan on going all the way up to lvl 20, you need to stop and ask yourself this. Do you want more power and survivability at the low levels, or do you want to be more powerful at high levels? It’s a lot like a Wizard taking Toughness. It helps you survive the low levels, but you’ll regret ever taking it later on when you’ve got lots of hitpoints and you’re hurting for feats. If in this situation you should ask your DM if he will be allowing feat retraining. If he says yes you can simply replace the feat to one that is more useful once you reach the point this feat is less useful than the slot it occupies. Alternatively if not, and you have a wizard or cleric within your ranks that is capable of casting certain 8th level spells (one of which is chaotic), for a process that cost the spell caster a total of 500 xp. He can cast embrace the dark chaos, replacing a feat of yours feat, with an Abyssal Heritor Feat. Then casting Shun the Dark Chaos, will let you replace said Abyssal Heritor feat with any feat you qualify for.
If you are patient, the Artificer will get vitually all of the creation feats for free as class abilities. However, there are at least three big ones that you don’t get that you might want to consider. Craft Construct is very useful if you want to make golems and other construct defenders, beyond your homunculi. Such creatures can provide invaluable physical offense and defense, and give the party another flanking companion. Bind Elemental is incredibly powerful, if hard to come by. This may be particularly valuable if you are a Gnome. The Etch Schema feat, on the other hand, will allow you to create scroll-like items that cast a spell once per day, as opposed to once ever. A few schema covering your more commonly applied spells will help decrease your operating costs, while a few utility schema can help bypass unusual obstacles or provide versatility.
Heroic Spirit vs. Action Boost
If you come down to having to choose between having more Action Points, and having more powerful Action Points, the Artificer is better off having more AP. Many infusions are slow to cast, but can be sped up by burning an Action Point. So, if you get caught by surprise and want to be fighting at full power, you’re going to be burning at least one AP per combat just to get started. That’s above and beyond what everybody else is using for skill checks and saves. If anybody is going to run out of AP in a given level, it’s the Artificer.
Obviously the Mark of Making is the best of the Dragonmarks for an Artificer. However, the Mark of Finding will grant you a free Identify spell per day, which is always useful, and the Mark of Healing will let you be a much more effective healer for the party. Other than these, Dragonmarks are more for flavor and won’t really help you become a better Artificer.
The Artisan Feats
First things first, please be sure you know that the errata fixed these and no longer allows them to stack with themselves. You can’t take one four times and make items for free. That out of the way, you should seriously consider at least one of these feats. Most useful would be Extraordinary Artisan, which grants you a 25% reduction in the gp cost of making items. This will be a big help for your entire career, especially at higher levels where a 25% discount can equal tens of thousands of gp. Next up is Legendary Artisan for the 25% reduction in the xp cost. This will stretch your Craft Reserve (more on this later) even farther, meaning you can make more magical items without having to spend any of your own xp. The only one you shouldn’t really take is Exceptional Artisan, which grants you only a 25% reduction in crafting time. If time is that essential in your game, you would be far better served by constructing a Dedicated Wright and letting it work on your items while you are out adventuring.
That is, unless you plan on taking your character into higher levels, when 1000gp/day means it takes months to craft. At 20th level, it normally takes 200 days to go through your 5000 free xp pool, and that's without breaking down vendor trash for free xp. Ask your DM if there will be a lot of down time in your campaign. Additionally, this is a prerequisite for epic feats.
Attune Magic Weapon
This one is practically a no-brainer, as long as you have the spare feats for it. As an Artificer, you are virtually the ONLY person in the party that is guaranteed to have a magical weapon. With this feat, you get a +1 to hit and a +1 to damage using an attuned weapon. Its effectively a free +1 to every magic weapon you have (although it won’t help you get past Epic damage reduction). Its everything that Weapon Focus is, applies to any kind of weapon, and even throws in half of Weapon Specialization, for any weapon. The only reason you would want to take Weapon Focus when Attune Magic Weapon is available is because they stack with each other.
This is a strong feat. Very strong. So strong it will cost any other character two EPIC level feats (Extra Slot) to duplicate. It lets you benefit from four magic rings at one time instead of just two. Especially since you will have the ability to craft your own rings, this feat is invaluable.
Good for Blastificers in particular, but good for any Artificer that's going to rely a lot on wands. Ups the save DC and effective caster level of wands you use by 2. Means its harder for your opponent to make a save against them, and it means you get more damage out of each shot. As in, if your wand is crafted as a 5th level Fireball wand, this feat will make the wand do damage as if it were a 7th level Fireball wand. Given how expensive it is to up the caster level on wands, this one can go a long way.
Magic of Eberron feats
Cull Wand Essence
Lets you turn any wand into an attack wand. You’re going to be carrying a lot of wands on you anyway, this feat lets you get double duty out of utility wands. Blastificers won’t get much use out of this one, but your generic Artificer that doesn’t want to have to pack a million and one wands, this one comes in handy. Not a must have, but definitely something to keep in mind if you just need a feat to take.
If you plan on making good use of your Homunculi, like a pack of Iron Defenders, this is an important feat to have. You can upgrade the movement options of your homunculus (like giving your iron defender the ability to fly), letting them deliver Sneak Attacks, or any number of other VERY useful abilities. You can skip this one if you aren’t using your homunculi for much, but if you like the little guys, you definitely want this feat.
This one is a must have feat. Lets you speed up infusions as if you had spent an action point without actually spending one. Sure, its limited to once a day, but it will drastically cut down on your reliance on AP just to stay in the fight. Once you meet the prereqs, there’s really no reason not to take this one.
A must have feat for Blastificers. Burning AP instead of wand charges means you can pimp those wands for all they’re worth without making as huge of a dent in your wallet while you’re at it.
Not exactly a must have feat for anyone, but a good feat for everyone at the same time. It lets you craft Minor Schema, which are essentially like Eternal Scrolls. Schema are very important in Eberron, so its nice to be able to make and use them. Very flavorful. But, perhaps more importantly, Minor Schema count as magical items, and get a +2 to activating any magical device you know how to make, and you get a +2 for having activated the item before. So you’re looking at +4 to your UMD checks to activate these things (after the first time), and it really streamlines your item creation for commonly made items. Plus, anyone with the spell stored in the schema can use the schema, so its actually an infinite scroll that the other spellcasters in your party can use without fuss or muss.
As an artificer, your main job is to make things, which means you’re going to need crafting skills. Sure, you could pay full price for a base item, but why bother when you can make it yourself for less, and you get to customize how it looks? Plus the fact that you can actually enchant something as you build it, you come out on top in terms of both money and time. And you’ve got plenty of skillpoints from your class and your high Intelligence score, so you gotta spend them on something!
Weapon and Armor smithing
Figure out what kind of weapons and armor you and your party is going to be using. Figure out which is the most difficult to make, and invest enough skillpoints in Weapon/Armorsmithing until you can Take 10 and pass the check to craft them. You won't need more than that. Armorsmithing may or may not be a skill you want to keep maxxed out, see below.
Note, Masterwork components have a craft DC of 20, which is higher than required for any standard armor or weapon.
Armorsmithing, Blacksmithing, Gemcutting, and Sculpting
These are the skills that allow you to repair a Warforged character. If you’ve got a Warforged in the party, or you are a WF yourself, then you will almost assuredly want to keep one of these maxxed out. In addition to repairing a WF, armorsmithing lets you make armor for yourself and your party, and there is a useful homunculus that requires Sculpting, so you should keep that in mind. And, depending on what you make, your DM may ask for a Blacksmithing check for making metal objects like amulets and rings, if you want to make your own instead of buying them. Maxxing out armorsmithing is likey the best idea of these, although a few ranks in Blacksmithing and Sculpting wouldn’t hurt.
Eberron is a world filled with ancient magic and powerful schemas, along with all sorts of lost magic, so this skill will serve you well. Its important, but not something you need to keep maxxed out.
If you have the time, Spellcraft checks can help you identify the functions of magical items just by looking and playing with them. It will help you identify magical effects and find weaknesses in those effects that your other skills and powers can exploit. This one you should keep maxxed out, or at least keep it higher than you do Knowledge (Arcana).
Search, Disable Device, and Open Lock
These are conditional. Do you have a Rogue in the party? Is he going to be doing this sort of thing? If so, you can skip these completely, let the Rogue do it. However, if you don’t have anyone else in the party that can use these skills, then you should keep them maxxed out, because you are the replacement Rogue.
Craft Skills in General
The Homunculi all require various craft checks to create their bodies, but the DCs for these checks are relatively low. Figure out which Homunculi you want to make, and put just enough ranks in the appropriate crafting skills that you can succeed automatically by Taking 10. With your high Int score, you can get away with just having 2-3 ranks in these skills. Or, you can get just one rank in them if you’re willing to burn action points to hit the DCs. Or skip them entirely if you plan on paying somebody else to build the bodies for you.
While not exactly a critical skill, its good for roleplaying. Typically, you are going to be working with magic items, and you've got Identify for figuring out the details of any magic items you run across. However, Appraise checks can be quite helpful for when you are scanning a room. Identify can be expensive, especially at low levels, however an Appraise check is free, and can at least help you narrow down the field of things that need checking. If you're going to be a master of all things trinket, you should at least be able to tell if said trinket is pure gold, or a dime a dozen
A mark of a truly advanced Artificer player is one that knows how to work their skill points to the fullest, via skill synergies. Important synergies for the Artificer are listed below:
5 or more ranks in Spellcraft gives +2 on UMD for scrolls. 5 or more ranks in Decipher Script gives +2 UMD on scrolls. 5 or more ranks in UMD gives +2 to Spellcraft to decipher spells on scrolls. You get +2 on UMD checks if you've activated the device previously. Artificers get +2 on UMD if they have the appropriate item creation feat. 5 or more ranks in Knowledge Architecture/Engineering gives +2 on search skills for secret doors and compartments.
So, by spreading your skill points around a bit, you can get not only the benefits of the skill itself, but get an added bonus to other checks as well.
VI. Class Abilities
Class abilities are what sets one class apart from another. Obviously the Artificer gets most of the Craft feats for free as class abilities, but they have other useful abilities as well.
While its true that Artificers are not spellcasters, and that they do not have spell lists, they do have Infusions, and those infusions act very much like spells. The main differences between spells and infusions is that an infusion can ONLY be placed on an item or a construct. Infusions never affect living beings directly (although you could infuse a buff into an item, and then give the item to another character to wear, and let them benefit that way). The only exception is the Warforged, who fall under the Construct category, which can be infused directly.
The downside of infusions is that they often have long casting times, measure in minutes instead of actions or rounds (although the Artificer can spend an Action Point to turn those minute long infusions into full round actions). Even when sped up, it takes the Artificer a while to get into full swing. However, when they have time to prepare, the Artificer can be particularly deadly. Most effective, especially at low levels, is Personal Weapon Augmentation. This allows you to put Bane on any weapon, even ordinary non-magic weapons, making them act as if they were +2 better and deal an extra 2d6 damage to specified types of creatures.
You can basically think of Infusions as a kind of temporary magic item. And while these may sound powerful, infusions are much more likely to have costly (very costly!) material components. Giving someone else’s weapon a temporary +1 ability is going to cost the Artificer 50gp worth of oils and ungents every time it gets cast, for example, and there’s no way around it. Which generally means you are going to rely on only a select few infusions with no costly components, and leave the expensive ones for emergency situations, or for later levels when you can actually afford them. On the up side though, Infusions are not arcane spells, so they aren’t affected by Arcane Spell Failure. You can infuse all day long wearing your medium armor without fear of messing up.
Something that has to be remember though is that infusions NEVER count as prereqs for crafting normal magic items. It does not matter that the Artificer has an infusion that duplicates the light spell, they still must make a UMD check to fake casting light.
On top of this, it is also important to remember that infusions are not spells. They cannot be researched by any known means. There are only so many Infusions that exist in the world, and an Artificer can’t just make up a new one whenever he wants. Learning a new infusion that isn’t in one of the books is a very special thing, and requires a special adventure, like wrestling the secrets of the Infusion out of the hands of a secret society or out of the heart of Xen’Drik. Learning new Infusions should never be allowed to be something that is done casually.
This is what really makes the Artificer stand out as being the best item creation expert in the game. Normally, the crafter must spend his or her hard earned xp when making a magical item. The Artificer, however, has their Craft Reserve, a set amount of points that can be used in the place of xp when crafting. Which means the Artificer can craft to their heart’s content without fearing about falling behind on xp.
Something important to remember with your Craft Reserve though is that it is not additive. You get a set amount of craft points per level, and if you do not use them, you lose any unused points when you level up. You do not carry them over to add to the new total for that level. However, you can opt to simply not level up until after you have used all of your Craft Reserve. But, depending on your game, you may end up not getting full use of your Reserve if you are spending a lot of time in the field with no downtime to craft in.
A lot like Bardic Knowledge, an Artificer can make a special check with a bonus of his Artificer level + his Int mod (see, I told you Intelligence was important! ) to tell if something is magical or not. Its DC 15, which means it isn’t hard to make. Use an Appraise or Spellcraft check to see if you think something might be magical, then make an Artificer Knowledge check to find out for sure. Then you can use Identify without the risk of wasting that pearl on something non-magical.
An Artificer gets a +2 circumstance bonus to any UMD check he makes if he also has the appropriate crafting feat. For example, if the Artificer has Craft Wand, he gets a +2 bonus to all UMD checks to activate a wand. Its not much, but its still 2/3rds of the Skill Focus feat for free.
Its just like the Rogue ability. Lets you disable traps with a DC higher than 20. Useful for when you are replacing a Rogue.
The bread and butter of the Artificer class is the ability to make any magic item in the game via UMD checks. The exact details are on page 32 of the ECS, but I’ll hit the high points here.
The Artificer can make items just like anybody else, except that instead of casting the prereq spells, they may make a Use Magic Device check (DC 20 + Caster Level). In other words, if you want to make a Wand of Fireball, you would craft normally, then make a DC 25 UMD check (because the lowest level anyone can cast Fireball at is lvl 5). And to make it even easier on the Artificer, they can make the check multiple times. They’re allowed one check every day that they work on it, and another last ditch chance at the end of creation. That’s a minimum of 2 chances to make the check for any item, and dozens of tries to make the expensive stuff, virtually guaranteeing that you succeed, since you only have to make the check once for it to count. And since you only need to fake a caster level of 17 in order to make 9th level spell items, that’s only a DC 37 check. Its one reason why you don’t really need things like Skill Focus (UMD), because most of your checks have a hard cap of how high they go, and anything above that cap is usually just wasted skill points.
The other important thing to remember is that the Artificer, through the virtue of being an Artificer, can create items 2 levels sooner than everyone else. For example, an Artificer can make a Scroll of Fireball at 4th level, when a Wizard has to wait until 6th because of the caster level. The Artificer would still count as being 4th level for determining how much damage that fireball would do, but he can still make the scroll 2 levels sooner than anyone else can.
One odd restriction though. Any scroll that the Artificer makes counts as an Artificer Scroll, not an Arcane Scroll, not a Divine Scroll. As such, it can ONLY be activated with a UMD check, but is not subject to Arcane Spell Failure. The reason behind this odd rule is that, by the rules, the Artificer can make a scroll of any spell he can make the UMD check for. The Wizard can learn any spell he can get his hands on a scroll of. Hence, an Artificer and a Wizard could team up and literally put every arcane spell in the game into the Wizard’s spellbooks. To prevent that abuse, the higher ups put in this rule, meaning that the Wizard cannot scribe them over.
Here is an example of how to price wands made by an Artificer:
Here is the corrected and revised pricing for wands.
The proper formula for calculating the values are:
750 x Caster Level x Effective Spell Level (including any built in metamagic levels!) = Base/Market Price.
1/2 of Base/Market Price is YOUR COST. 1/25 of Base Market Price is YOUR XP COST. Yes, that 200k Item really does take 8000 xp to make! 1/1000 is the TIME IN DAYS to make the item. Yes, a 200K item does take 7 months!
Revised, Edited, and Updated (Now with Improved GP/Charge!)
Lastly, WATCH YOUR ARTISAN FEATS.
These suckers DO NOT play off one another! They operate only on the base price of the wand, and they DO NOT STACK.
Consider a Wand of Doodle. Base/Market Cost is 10k.
To Make the Wand would cost 1/2 the base cost (5000 gp), 1/25th of the base cost in xp (400xp) and 10 days (1 day/1000 gp of base cost).
The Artisan feats knock 25% of the BASE numbers.
So, your cost would be 1/2 of 75% of 10000 gp, or 3750.
Your XP cost would be 75% of 400 xp, or 300 xp. No, you don't get to refigure xp based on the 'new' 7500 price, and take 75% of that.
Your new time is 75% of 10 days, or 7.5 days, rounded up to 8. No, you don't get to take 75% of the 'new' price of 7500 and churn this sucker out in 56.25% of the normal time.
These feats all work off the base pricing, they do not work off of each other.
Cost of the Wands
Wands are cost-priced at 375 gp x Caster level x spell Level. Market (or base cost!) is 750 gp x Caster level x Spell Level.
Artificers with CWA get huge breaks on pricing because they get the effect boost of +5 Wand Mastery.
Scorching Rays top out at caster level 11 for damage. Fireballs and Lightning Bolts top out at 10th. Force Orbs top out at 10th.
Forceballs and Elemental Orbs top out at 15.
So, for the 2nd level spell Scorching Ray, we basically want a Wand casting at 6th level, which lets us hit 11th level with our +5 bonus for the damage cap.
750 gp x 2nd level x CL6. 9000 base price, 4500 cost, 9 days, 360 xp. Charge Cost: 90 gp
(Multiply the numbers bolded by .75 if you have the appropriate Artisan feats.)
EMPOWERED Scorching Ray. 750 x 4th level x CL 7th. 21,000 base price. Cost 10,500, xp 840, 21 days to make. (EDITED TO 7th Caster Level) Charge Cost: 210 gp
Fireballs/Lightning bolts are in the SRD/DMG. You only want a level 5 wand, since with +5 you top out with a 10d6 fireball/bolt. 750 x 5 x 3 = 11,250 to buy. 5,625 gp, 11.25 days, 450 xp. Charge Cost: 112.5 gp
Force Orb: You only want a CL 7 Wand, since it tops out at 10d6. 750 x cl7 x 4th level spell = 21,000 gp. 11,500 to make, 21 days, and 840 xp. (Edited to 7th CL per Cost minimums). Charge Cost: 230 gp.
Elemental Orb/Forceball: These are your heavy hitters, one for direct dmg with no save and no SR, and the other for Mook clearage, saves and SR. 750 x CL10 x 4th level = 30000 price. Cost, 15,000. 30 days, and 1200 xp. Charge Cost: 300 gp.
BUT...at level 10 you are spending a charge to shoot out a 15th level effect. You can Empower this, Maximize this, Quicken this...and if you want to get silly, you can Dual Wield this for desperate measures.
The Artificer’s answer to the Familiar. Normally crafting a homunculus requires the Craft Construct feat, but the Artificer gets the ability for free, and they can come in very handy, should you choose to use them. When making an Artificer, you should look through the various Homunculi and see which craft skills are required to make them, and take enough ranks in those skills that you can make them without difficulty.
And while its not actually in the rules in any way, Small sized Artificers like Halflings and Gnomes should go easy on how many homunculi they make in a row, as it requires a pint of the creator’s blood. So, making three or four in a row isn’t exactly a good idea, what with the blood loss and all.
Which homunculus you make, and when you make it depends a lot on personal preference. My recommendation for your first Homunculi, should you choose to build them, is the Expeditious Messenger. Its cheap and easy to build, can fly, and has a perfect telepathic link to it's master. The writeup in the book discusses using them essentially as a radio to send messages back and forth. However, as a flyer, and with an instantaneous telepathic link, they make for EXCELLENT flying scouts/spy satellites. Let them fly up and ahead to scout the area, and keep you informed as to whats there. Being of size Tiny also means they get a huge bonus to Hide checks, which means they can hide in a room and relate back to you everything that is said in it, great for spying.
Next on the list, overall, is the Dedicated Wright. The job of the Artificer is to build things. However, its no fun to always be stuck in your laboratory spending a month to craft that magic sword while everybody else is either out having fun, or sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for you. Enter the Dedicated Wright. You come in, make the initial checks, and you can leave to do whatever you want while this homunculus does the tedious day to day crafting. Set him to work, go adventuring, and have your new magical item finished for you when you get back.
The next one is a matter of personal taste. The Iron Defender makes a great little bodyguard for your Artificer, especially when you up it's HD. Perfect for more martially oriented Artificers, or those that tend to get picked on by the monsters for all the Scorching Rays you're firing off from your wands. If you take the Improved Homunculus feat however, you can get a lot of options to make the Iron Defender a much more powerful choice. You can up its hitpoints, give it the ability to make Sneak Attacks, up its strength, and even give its claws a free magical +1 equivalent enchantment like Flaming or Bane. It can turn a mediocre pet at higher levels into something to be feared, which is a good thing for the Artificer.
The other, the Ethereal Filcher, is for those with a more sneaky/larcenous bent. With its ability to sneak around and steal things, nothing is outside of your grasp. BBEG has a cool wand on his belt? Send your Filcher out to to literally climb his leg and take it away from him. Chances are, he'll never notice it was gone. And although it lacks the real time intelligence gathering ability of the Messenger, its much better at hiding and creeping around, so its a good choice for spying as well.
Magic of Eberron introduces several new homunculi as well. The Arbalester, despite its picture, is a crossbow. It's good for ranged support, and with its high Balance check, it can usually sit on your shoulder and plunk away at the enemy. Give it the natural weapon upgrade, and you’ve got free flaming arrows (or whatever) whenever you need ‘em! The Persistent Harrier is good for making Sneak Attacks for you, however it is made obsolete the instant you have Improved Homunculus as you can give that same ability to your Iron Defender. The Packmate is a walking treasure chest homunculus, but one earns its keep in a way none of the others do. Not only can it throw grenade like weapons (like alchemist’s fire or acid) on its own, but it can carry a healing potion, walk over to a downed ally, and pour the potion down their throat for them. If you’re getting made into the party healer because you can make all of those healing potions, the Packmate is a great way to keep your buddies alive without taking yourself out of combat at the same time.
This lets the Artificer essentially deconstruct any magic item and suck the XP used to create it out and put into their craft reserve. While you may still prefer to sell those excess magic items off for gold, the Artificer gets the option to suck them dry so that he can create more magical items than he normally could. Or another way to look at it, if you find a suit of armor with an enchantment you want, you can Retain Essence on it, then enchant the armor you already have with that xp, essentially transferring the enchantment. Only catch is that you have to be able to craft the item normally before you can use Retain Essence on it (as in, you cannot Retain Essence on a magic ring until you actually get Forge Ring).
An interesting side point to this that most people don’t think of is that magical traps use the Craft Wonderous Item feat to make. Which means if you run into a trap that you can’t disarm, and that won’t go off while you mess with it, you can actually use Retain Essence on it to destroy it, and get some free Craft Reserve points in the process. However, it does require you to sit there for 24 hours, in which time who knows what could attack you. But, if you manage to bypass traps on the way in, you win the big fight, and have lots of time to kill on the way out, you might as well stop and Retain those traps you bypassed earlier.
Metamagic Spell Trigger/Completion
These are the core abilities of the Blastificer build. They let you apply any metamagic feat you know to spell trigger and spell completion items (aka wands and scrolls). With it, you can pick up a normal wand, and by burning more charges per shot, pile on metamagic such as Empower, Twin Spell, or Energy Admixture to whats already there. You can potentially pump out hundreds of points of damage this way, although it typically drains the entire wand into one massive blast to do it. Talk with your DM before you try this though, as a lot of them won’t like you doing 300 points of damage in a single round, even if you did burn an entire 50,000 gp wand to do it. Its easily the most abusable ability the Artificer has.
You finally get the ability to Take 10 on your UMD checks. By the time you get this, you should be able to activate just about every magic item you own, every time, without fail due to your massive UMD bonus.
As an Artificer, you can essentially make any item in the game that you might need, but its still worth mentioning a few important things that will make your life easier.
For your traditional Artificer, the crossbow is your best friend. It will be your main weapon for most of the lower levels, tearing through foes thanks to the Bane infusion you should be using on it every chance you get, and still remaining quite lethal even at higher levels. You should still carry backup weapons though. A pair of daggers are mandatory for any character, and a mace is quite useful for undead. Especially when you are able to enchant it up into a Disrupting Mace. Other than those, the spear is very powerful for a Simple melee weapon, although it means giving up on using a shield.
None of your class skills are affected in any way by armor check penalties, so you should try to wear the heaviest armor you can find. However, it will slow you down to wear Medium armor, so you should probably stick to Light armor at the low levels, like a Chain Shirt, and then move up to a Mithral Breastplate the first chance you get. When you have the money and skill to make your own magical armor, my personal suggestion is Tessellated Armor from the Arms & Equipment Guide. It wears like Mithral Full Plate, so it counts as Medium (so you can wear it without penalty), and best of all, you can equip it and dismiss it as a standard action. So you can walk around without your armor up normally, with no penalties to things like Move Silent and Hide, and then when combat begins, you simply activate your armor and suddenly become a tank.
To put this mildly, the only reason you should not be using the best shield you can find is if you are wielding a two handed weapon like a spear. Otherwise, you need that AC, and you’re not really affected by the penalties of it. If you’re relying on your crossbow, you should always be wearing a buckler. If you’re relying more on a one handed weapon, go straight to a large shield. Again, as long as you have a free arm, there is no reason at all not to use the biggest, baddest shield you can find.
Assorted Magical Gear
You are going to be carrying a LOT of stuff around as an Artificer. From wands and schema to the vials of oils for your infusion material components, to all that loot and crafting supplies. As such, one of the first things you should make for yourself is Heward’s Handy Haversack. Its really a no brainer, get one as soon as you can, by hook or by crook.
Another must have item for a ranged combat artificer is Bracers of Archery. That'll net you free proficiency with a longbow, which should immediantly replace your crossbow. No need to get feats like Rapid Reload for a crossbow, or for Martial Weapon Prof when you can build yourself a core item and get it essentially for free.
Other than that, you are going to want to get an item that boosts your Use Magic Device check. Check with your DM to see if he allows you to make non-standard magical items (those that are not expressly listed in the DMG, using the item creation pricing tables). If he does, the second thing you need to make is a UMD boosting item. A +5 item is pretty inexpensive to make, is a big help, and puts the final nail in the Skill Focus coffin. Make one ASAP, and upgrade it whenever you find those UMD are getting difficult to make again. If the DM doesn’t allow custom items, there is the Circlet of Persuasion which grants +3 to all Charisma based checks, including UMD, which still makes Skill Focus (UMD) a complete waste of a feat.
At later levels, you should also look into making a Portable Hole. A Dedicated Wright doesn’t need to breath, and there’s plenty of room in one to put a full magical laboratory. Set one up in your portable hole, toss your Dedicated Wright in it, and then fold it up and stick it in your pocket. That way, you can carry the Wright around with you while you adventure, and it can be making your magic items for you the whole time, and you don’t have to go back home to get them. You could even be cute about it. Give it a little Alarm item it can activate to make the hole ding like a microwave. *ding!* Oh good, my +3 sword is done!
Other than those, you are an artificer. If you find that you need something, then simply make it.
Multiclassing is a question that comes up a lot with Artificers, and for good reason. The Artificer is a good class, and it makes you think twice before multiclassing or taking a PrC, much like the Rogue does.
Mechanically speaking, there is only one reason a primary Artificer (as in, a character that is mostly artificer that is just going to dip for a couple of levels into something else) to multiclass. To obtain spell lists, and utility magic. Dipping into Sorcerer gives you the entire Arcane spell list (meaning no more UMD checks to activate arcane wands), and would give you spontaneous casting of good utility magic. Take spells like Prestidigitation, Mage Hand, Dancing Lights, True Strike, and other spells that have a set effect that does not depend on caster level. Dipping into Cleric gives you basic healing capabilities, better armor choices, and some other neat abilities. If you want to get really cheesy, take a single level in Cleric devoted to the Sovereign Host in general and pick the War and Magic domains. The War domain gets you pretty much any weapon proficiency you want (that is used by any of the sovereign host gods), but the Magic domain is what is key. Not only do you get access to the Divine spell list, but the Magic domain also gives you access to the entire Arcane spell list as well. You can use any wand in the game without a UMD check. This one is a good idea for Blastificers that don’t want to deal with the failure chance on activating their wands. If you can convince your DM to let you do something this cheesy, that is.
But as a secondary class, the Artificer can add some oomph to almost any class. It’ll take several levels to be of full use, but just enough to get to Craft Wonderous Item is a great boon to everybody. Rogues mix with Artificer exceptionally well, as both classes have Use Magic Device as class skills. The rogue essentially trades sneak attack for magic item creation, and the artificer trades creation feats for more skillpoints and some sneak attack.
Even though we now have some PrC made specifically for the Artificer, I would like to step out of guide mode here long enough to say that the Artificer is a wonderful class that remains exceedingly good for the whole 20 level run (and the thought of an Epic level Artificer should make you tingle all over). One big reason not to take a PrC is that the Craft Reserve only refills when you level up in Artificer, not any of the PrC out there. Which means you have to use Retain Essence a lot, use actual XP to craft with, or stagger your progression in the PrC by going back and forth between Artificer and PrC to keep refilling that Craft Reserve.
Back into guide mode, there are 3 good PrCs for Artificers out there now:
Cannith Wand Adept
If you’re a Blastificer, you want into this PrC ASAP. Its in the Sharn: City of Towers expansion book, and is a 3 level PrC focusing on, obviously, wand use. The main draw here, besides only being 3 levels, is that it lets you activate two wands at the same time, meaning double the pain per round for the Blastificer. On top of that, they can suck charges out of wands and use them as if they were action points. However, it has some stiff prereqs, including needing the Mark of Making, meaning it’s a Human-Only PrC.
From Magic of Eberron, its good for Gnomes with their bonus to alchemy checks. It’s a 5 level PrC that lets you make alchemical items and potions extremely quickly (three potions a day instead of 1, and alchemical items are made in hours, not days, and days instead of weeks). The biggest draw for this one is that it’s capstone ability is the ability to make vanilla potions. A potion that is blank, that you can cast spells or infusions in later, and then have the potion work normally. It is the only way to make an item out of an infusion, and when you can start cranking out Potions of Iron Construct and Weapon Augmentation, that’s some sweet stuff.
Also from Magic of Eberron, this one is a transitive class that slowly turns the character into a Warforged. You gain a free battlefist (which you can infuse normally, and which also gains magical plusses for free), damage reduction, and all around slowly become a Warforged. You gain the ability to use embedded and attached items, and at the final level of this 10 lvl PrC, you take on the Living Construct type, and get a bonus WF feat, which can include body feats like Mithral Body.
Other than these, the Artificer also qualifies for any normal PrC however, but he has some special considerations. Any PrC that requires a spellcasting level is fair game, but not ones that require specifically arcane or divine spellcasting. If the PrC grants “+1 Spellcasting Level”, it increases the Artificer’s caster level and grants new Infusions known/per day, but none of the other Artificer abilities (aka no Craft Reserve refill), just like it does for increasing a cleric’s spells known/per day, but not things like Turn Undead. If the PrC grants +1 Arcane/Divine Spellcasting level, the Artificer does not benefit from those, as his infusions are neither Arcane nor Divine.
The Artificer is still restricted from taking PrC that require having a certain spell on their spell list, or the ability to cast a specific spell, as they are not actually spellcasters, do not have spell lists, and cannot actually cast any spell on their own. However, all of this is rather restrictive, so you could always talk to your DM and see if (s)he would houserule that you can qualify for other PrC. If so, PrC like the Effigy Master become very good choices for an Artificer indeed.
IX. Good Houserules and Variants
With the Artificers being so new, its hard to make them work well with other things that have been printed. If you see it here, its because it is a good houserule to help the Artificer run more smoothly. If you are a Player, make sure to ask your DM if its okay to use any of these before you try to do it.
As per the errata, artificer scrolls are neither arcane nor divine, so no other class can learn spells from them.
Allow the Artificer to meet spellcasting prereqs for PrC as long as he can replicate that spell, and is the same level as a normal spellcaster is supposed to be. As in, if the PrC requires the ability to cast Lightning Bolt, that the Artificer be allowed in after lvl 5, when the wizard would first be able to cast the spell.
Magic Item Crafting
Let the bloody Artificer make custom items! There are so many wonderful things he can do, its unfair to limit the entire class to only what a handful of designers print on a few pages. You still need to keep a close eye on what they make, and realize that the pricing guidelines do not work for everything, but in the hands of a good Artificer player, you'll get a lot more benefit out of letting them make custom items than you will headache.
The Psionic Artificer
This one is not a houserule (although it began life as one). Magic of Eberron officially set down the rules for the Psionic Artificer. It is a variant of the Artificer, meaning you cannot mix levels of Psionic Artificer with normal Artificer levels, and it essentially only changes which crafting feat you get from magical items to their equivalent Psionic counterpart. For example, you would get Craft Psicrown instead of Craft Staff, or Encode Powerstone instead of Scribe Scroll. BUT this class is insanely cheesy IF you are playing with the Erudite's Spell to Power conversion, allowing a Psionic Artificer to craft Magical and Psionic items.
I’ll admit, I didn’t go through every last page of the old thread to pick out every little thing that was there. If I missed something that you think is important to be in this guide, then by all means, either type it back out for me, or link me to the posts that talk about it, and I’ll see about getting it included. I think the artificer is a great class to play.