Artificer is the most common term used in fantasy games for a character archetype or class focused on the creation and use of gadgets and devices. Whether a pulp gadgeteer, a mad scientist, or even outright called an artficer, they're somebody defined by the way in which they can either use artifacts to fight or else their skill at making stuff.
Dungeons & Dragons
This archetype actually goes back a long way in Dungeons & Dragons, all the way to the Skygnomes of Mystara. The most "classical" D&D example, unfortunately, are the incredibly irritating Tinker Gnomes of Dragonlance - gnomes cursed by Reorx to constantly experiment with science, but never to actually achieve anything.
It was a convoluted mess of a class, with the typical overly detailed ruleset of the edition. Which, admittedly, supported the flavor of minoi being inept bunglers who make nothing useful, but didn't entice people to play it.
Attempting to be an improvement on the Krynnish Gnome Tinker class from 1st edition (which isn't exactly a high bar to surmount), the Artificer appeared as a wizard specialist in the splatbook "Player's Option: Spells & Magic". Here, it's categorized as a "Thaumaturgical Specialist", a wizard who practices an unusual means of invoking and channeling magical energy; in this, it thusly shares its nature with the Alchemist, Geometer, Song Mage and Wild Mage.
The "School of Artifice" is composed of spells that store or channel magical energy through items. Basically, artificers are experts at creating one-shot versions of enchanted items, allowing themselves to use more spells at once by storing "pre-charged" spells in various tokens and talismans. This also increases their aptitude for crafting permanent magical items as well. Like the Alchemist and Geometer, they emphasize the need for a wizard to spend a lot of time in preparation, but this expanded arsenal can make them really nasty if they've got the time they need to stockpile gear. The splatbook even warns that artificers can potentially break the game if they're allowed to reach a high enough level, and specifically warns about the potential dangers of letting them craft magic items with the Absorption and Negation traits.
This specialization has the following mechanical traits:
- Allowed Races: Human, Gnome
- Ability Prerequisites: Intelligence 12, Constitution 15
- Prohibited Schools: Necromancy and Enchantment
- An artificer may memorize one additional School of Artifice spell per spell level each day.
- An artificer gains a +15% bonus to learn spells checks made to learn spells from the School of Artifice, and suffers a -15% penalty to learn spells checks made to learn spells from other schools.
- When an artificer gains a new level, they automatically learn one School of Artifice spell.
- When attempting to research a spell from the School of Artifice, an artificer treats that spell's level as being one level lower.
- Laboratory: An artificer, like an alchemist, requires a well-equipped laboratory to perform their distinctive take on magic. They begin play with a suitable laboratory, which requires 50 gold pieces per character level in monthly maintenance and supplies. If they need to build a new laboratory, it costs 1,000 gold pieces per character level. If denied access to their lab, an artificer loses access to their bonus spells, and cannot conduct research, make magical items, or add new spells to their spell book.
- Artifice Studies: By spending one full turn examining a magical item, an artificer has a chance (20% + 5% per level after first) to identify the item's general purpose and function.
- Master Magical Crafter: An artificer gains a +10% to their chance to successfully enchant items using the "create enchanted items" rules and the "Enchant an Item" spell. Additionally, if an artificer uses these methods to create a "true" version of an item that they have produced at least one temporary version of, then research time and expense is reduced to its minimum value.
- Store Spell: This ability is gained at 4th level. By spending an uninterrupted week to prepare an item as a magical vessel, which requires an item of the finest workmanship (minimum cost 100 gold pieces), an artificer can then bind a spell of their choice into the item, which requires a day of casting and 500 gold pieces per level of the spell. Once enchanted, the item's stored spell can be activated by the artificer alone, which casts the spell as normal except with a casting time of 1. A single item can only hold a single spell at a time; it can be "recharged" after its spell is expended, but re-enchanting it before using the spell merely swaps out the spell inside. An artificer may only store spell levels equal to their character level at once.
- Create Temporary Magical Item: This ability is gained at 7th level. Artificers can create temporary versions of any magic item not specifically restricted to non-wizards, which only function for them. To be able to create such an item, the artificer must first research the process; this takes 1 week per 500 XP value of the item and costs 100 GP per week. This time is halved if the artificer can either study a copy of the true magical item, or uses a research spell like Contact Other Plane or Legend Lore. At the end of the time, the artificer must succeed on a learn spells check to successfully understand the enchantment ritual. Once the ritual is researched, the artificer can use it whenever they like, but they can only memorize so many of them; an artificer's maximum number of spells per level is the same limit for their item-building rituals. Crafting an item requires half the research time, and funding in the form of the item's normal cost, plus 2d6*100 gold pieces, followed by success on a learn spells check. Once an item has been temporarily enchanted, it remains functional for 1d6 days, +1 day per level of the artificer. Temporary versions of charged items are created with one charge per artificer level. Items that were temporarily enchanted can be re-enchanted after their magical energies expire; renewing this enchantment requires a single week's work, 2d6*100 gold pieces, and a successful learn spells check.
School of Artifice Spells
- Chromatic Orb (1st)
- Divining Rod (1st)
- Mending (1st)
- Bind (2nd)
- Ice Knife (2nd)
- Leomund's Trap (2nd)
- Moon Rune (2nd)
- Bone Club (3rd)
- Explosive Runes (3rd)
- Flame Arrow (3rd)
- Item (3rd)
- Melf's Minute Meteors (3rd)
- Snapping Teeth (3rd)
- Enchanted Weapon (4th)
- Magic Mirror (4th)
- Thunder Staff (4th)
- Magic Staff (5th)
- Arrow of Bone (6th)
- Dimensional Blade (6th)
- Steal Enchantment (7th)
- Analyze Dweomer (8th)
- Antipathy-sympathy (8th)
- Shape Change (9th)
The archetype came into its own with the Artificer class in Eberron: as Eberron was built to explore the logical conclusions of D&Disms, magical engineers were a natural result, and this gave rise to the Artificer class. It was more or less an arcane buffer with a few extra things for making stuff (fabricate, wall of stone), using a complex ruleset called "Infusions" to temporarily enchant items and augment constructs, as well as being better at making magical items and creating construct sidekicks. While all this may seem a little ho-hum, the buffs could rack up some amazing bonuses for both the artificer themselves and their party, and their item creation abilities basically breaks the Wealth By Level standards of the game completely in half.
This latter point is the big deal here: 3rd edition artificers get a Craft Reserve pool of "free XP" for making items, and even better they can (starting at 5th level) "melt" existing magic items down to add their creation XP to the pool. So next time you go on an adventure where the DM has you finding a bunch of otherwise useless items, you don't sell them for half-value, you melt those fuckers down into more XP to use on making customized items for you and your party.
It doesn't take a clever person to see how to cheese the everloving shit out of this class in 3.5 in various ways. Not only can you get customized magic items you don't have to hope a DM rolled randomly on some table (that is, items you can actually fucking use well), you can also start relying a LOT more on consumable items like potions, scrolls, wands, staves, etc. There are several kinds of constructs, namely homunculi (from the MM and several Eberron books) and effigies (from Complete Arcane), that are cheap enough to somewhat mass-produce for tireless and loyal guards/sentries as well as a cheap source of labor. In fact, your very first homunculus should be a Dedicated Wright from the Eberron Campaign Setting book, because it can do all your item creation literally while you are doing anything else. And because you can throw on all kinds of buff effects for weapons and armor, your party wizard and cleric can save their precious slots for things like more battlefield control, debuffs, healing, etc.
If Leadership is available to you, basically the super-powered option is you take an artificer cohort (effectively doubling your WBL), and make your higher-level followers experts who manufacture stuff (masterwork items, tools, clothes, vehicles, possibly even your stronghold). Set them up in a nice, safe stronghold built to be a workshop with sleeping quarters, then put them to work between adventures. Just have your party turn over all items for XP reclamation, divvy up the money equally, and just put in requests for which items they want made for them, and let the boys go to work. Smart groups manufacture ways to really maximize the amount of loot they send back home for being sold or scrapped, such as portable holes (which have only volume capacity with unlimited weight tolerance) and (planar) ring gates (which, because the portable hole is basically just a piece of cloth weighing a few ounces, allows you to ship a virtually unlimited amount of stuff back and forth as needed).
So... yeah. Artificer can be pretty broken. It's even possible that, in the long term, they are as broken as full spellcasters are; they actually can get access to things like gate and time stop (via items), and while those items are usually one-shot things like scrolls, it only takes getting one off before the other guy casts a spell to seal their fate. That doesn't mean DMs should necessarily ban the class, though: a CoDzilla or God-wizard still destroy balance past a certain level. And truth be told, playing artificer effectively still takes some planning and smarts; clerics and wizards can just whistle up cheese on command at certain levels, right out of the PHB.
Oh, also there's something fun you can do. If your DM is fond of having you encounter Evil-oriented magic items that are of limited use to your party, and was silly enough to let you have an artificer, you can melt those items for XP and use that XP for making Good-oriented items. There is absolutely no indication or even any mere suggestion that the XP you recover is in any way "tainted" or otherwise aligned based on the item's original purpose or background. So yeah, you can absolutely melt down that black robe of the archmagi and just turn around and use the XP to make a white robe of the archmagi. Just be aware, bad DMs will react badly to this little turn of events in their campaign if they weren't prepared for players to figure this shit out, so do this at your own risk...
In Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition, it came into its own as the Arcane Leader; embracing its status as the Wizardly equivalent to the Cleric, it specialized in healing spells and temporarily buffing armor & weapons, from giving your guys flaming swords to dispatch trolls to making your armor electrocute anybody trying to stab your ass. Unfortunately, due to coming out after the Bard, which shares its source/role combo, the artificer lost out on a chance to appear in Arcane Power. Thanks to the disaster that was Essentials, which meant no Arcane Power 2, Artificers never got any official expansions, though they did get a new subclass and some new spells in Dragon Magazine.
Mechanically, the 4e artificer has the following traits. It first debuted in Dragon #365, one issue after the debut of the Warforged, so it was actually available to players pretty early.
- Role: Leader
- Power Source: Arcane
- Key Abilities: Intelligence, Constitution, Wisdom
- Armor Proficiencies: Cloth, Leather
- Weapon Proficiencies: Simple Melee, Simple Ranged
- Implements: Rods, Staffs, Wands
- Bonus to Defense: +1 Fortitude, +1 Will
- Hit Points at 1st Level: 12 + Constitution score
- Hit Points per Level Gained: 5
- Healing Surges per Day: 6 + Constitution modifier
- Class Skills: Arcana, plus 4 from the following list: Diplomacy, Dungeoneering, Heal, History, Perception, Thievery
- Class Features: Arcane Empowerment, Arcane Rejuvenation, Healing Infusion Ritual Casting
Arcane Empowerment enables you to tinker with a magic item as part of a short rest, applying one of two effects - an item can only be subjected to a specific effect once per day. You can tinker with one magic item per day, but each milestone you reach allows you to tinker with one extra magic item per day. The effects you can apply are Impart Energy (recharge a depleted item Daily power) and Augment Energy (imbue a weapon or an artifact with a single-use +2 attack roll bonus that can be triggered as a free action).
Arcane Rejuvenation means that when an artificer's ally uses a magic item's daily power, that ally gains temporary hit points equal to (1/2 artificer's level + artificer's Intelligence modifier).
Healing Infusion is the artificer's "leader class power"; an Encounter power that can be used twice per encounter (thrice per encounter from level 16 on), but with each use replenished only if you spend a healing surge as part of your short rest, the Healing Infusion can be "cast" as either of two effects, with you choosing which effect applies when you use the power:
- Curative Admixture - Close Burst 5 per tier, targets the artificer or 1 ally in burst, target regains hit points equal to their healing surge value + the artificer's Wisdom modifier (plus an extra +2 HP per 5 levels the artificer has after 1st)
- Resistive Formula - Close Burst 5 per tier, targets the artificer or 1 ally in burst, target gains +1 AC until the end of the encounter, target can end the AC bonus as a free action to gain temporary HP equal to their healing surge value + the artificer's Constitution modifier (twice Con modifier at Paragon tier, thrice Con modifier at Epic tier).
Ritual Casting means the artificer starts play with the Ritual Caster feat and a ritual book containing Brew Potion, Disenchant Magic Item, Enchant Magic Item, and Make Whole. They don't need components to perform the Disenchant Magic Item ritual.
Dragon #374 featured the Punishing Eye 1st level Daily spell for Artificers.
Dragon #381 featured the Warrior Forge Artificer article, containing a new Healing Infusion option that replaces Resistive Formula (Shielding Elixir: Close Burst 5 per tier, targets the artificer or 1 ally in burst, target gains Resist 5/tier to one element from the list of Cold, Fire, Force, Lightning, Necrotic, Poison, Radiant or Thunder, resistance lasts until encounter's end, can end this resistance as a free action to become Immune to that element until the end of their next turn), a huge array of new spells, new feats for all three tiers, and two new Paragon Paths; the Arcane Armorer and the Spell Commander.
Dragon #387 featured the Class Acts: Artificer article, containing a bunch of different feats for artificers of specific races.
Dragon #390 featured a new background and some new feats for Eladrin artificers in its Winning Races: Eladrin article, as well as a new Artificer spell (level 3 Encounter Attack: Phantasmal Henchman) in its Winning Races: Gnomes article.
In Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, initially, the Artificer was released as a new subclass for the Wizard in the "Eberron Update" official booklet. It was a source of much skub, not only from the perceived downgrade, but because it simply wasn't very good. Then, to everybody's amazement, it got re-released as a new Int-based 1/3rd caster class in the January 9 2017 issue of Unearthed Arcane. In this case, it also doubles as an alchemist or a gunslinger, with a variety of other wacky powers, like a clockwork animal friend and additional slots with which to attune to magic items.
In Deadlands Classic, the Mad Scientist Arcane Background is essentially a magitek artificer, using inspiration secretly provided by demons and super-fuel compressed from damned souls to engineer all manner of impossible devices. If that's not impressive enough, you can also take the Huckster Arcane Background at the same time, effectively multiclassing to become the casters referred to as "Metal Mages". In Hell on Earth, you got Junkers, who are essentially a post-apocalyptic counterpart to the Mad Scientists. And in Lost Colony, the Mutes use arcane-fueled mentally-controlled nanobot swarms to achieve the same result.
The guild of Hermetic magicians known as House Verditius in Ars Magica doesn't use formulaic spells like the rest of the gang; instead, they craft items that will express their spells, and these items can even be used by non-wizards, although they do not last long enough to make true wizards obsolete. Sometimes the rules of the game describe House Verditius as alchemists, expressing their spells with potions, vapours and ointments instead. Their heraldic sign is a hand with a ring on each finger.
Mage: The Ascension
In Mage: The Ascension, this is essentially the archetype tapped by the Sons of Ether and the entirety of the Technocracy, all of whom channel magick through pseudo-technological props and mediums.
Besides using "artificer" to mean "a truly skilled craftsman" (artificer gear is very valuable and much more effective than normal), the Ork Mekboyz are a classic example, as their technological creations are mostly held together by the psionic energies of other orks.
|Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Classes|
|Player's Handbook 1:||Cleric - Fighter - Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Warlock - Warlord - Wizard|
|Player's Handbook 2:||Avenger - Barbarian - Bard - Druid - Invoker - Shaman - Sorcerer - Warden|
|Player's Handbook 3:||Ardent - Battlemind - Monk - Psion - Runepriest - Seeker|
|Heroes of X:|| Blackguard - Bladesinger - Binder - Cavalier - Elementalist - Hexblade - Hunter|
Mage - Knight - Protector - Scout - Sentinel - Skald - Slayer - Sha'ir - Thief
Vampire - Warpriest - Witch
|Settings Book:||Artificer - Swordmage|
|Others:||Paragon Path - Epic Destiny|
|Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Classes|
| Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Warlock - Wizard
|Artificer - Mystic|
|The Classes of Pathfinder|
|Core Classes:|| Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
| Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator |
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
| Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier |
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
| Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist |
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
|Ultimate X:||Gunslinger - Magus - Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante|
| Aegis - Cryptic - Dread - Marksman - Psion |
Psychic Warrior - Soulknife - Tactician - Vitalist - Wilder
|Path of War:||Harbinger - Mystic - Stalker - Warder - Warlord - Zealot|