About Tyler F.M. Edwards

Writer, gamer, and nerd of the highest order.

Dungeons and Dragons: Artificer Impressions

I’m starting to worry I might be flirting with D&D burnout, but for now, it’s still taking up a lot of my time. I stopped going to the AL games where I was playing my war cleric, but I have instead joined a new campaign run by one of my friends on weekends. It’s an episodic campaign with a somewhat fluctuating party composition.

The official logo for Dungeons and Dragons, fifth editionI had a hell of a time figuring out a class to play for this one. My first thought was to import my cleric or my druid, but there are already several paladins and druids in the party, so that seemed redundant. I considered a Sea Elf sorcerer/warlock, but then one of the other guys decided to be a sorcerer.

Then, serendipitously, Wizards went ahead and published the new Unearthed Arcana artificer class. I took one look at the class and instantly fell in love.

Off the bat, it has most everything I want from a character in D&D. It’s a caster, but it also has strong physical abilities, even going so far as to have Extra Attack (well, Arcane Arsenal technically, but it’s effectively the same ability). It has something to spend bonus actions on every turn, and it’s versatile: buffs, healing, damage, utility, and it can take a few hits.

I chose alchemist as my subclass. It gives me a permanent minion in the form of an “Alchemical Homunculus,” which is actually fairly strong. It can buff my allies and attack. Its attack is not super impressive, but considering it’s just a bonus action…

Having played up to level five now (our DM is generous with XP), I’m finding the class very fun, and possibly a little overpowered.

The artificer itself is not that over the top. It’s strong, but not crazy. It’s very much a “jack of all trades, master of none” class. It can do pretty much anything, but it doesn’t excel in any area. It can heal, but not as well as a cleric, druid, or paladin. It can take a few hits, but it’s not a true tank. It does decent damage, but it will never compete with a rogue or a pure caster on that front.

No, what makes the artificer OP is the crafting. Normally crafting in 5E is pretty weak, but artificers can craft items for a fraction of the cost, in a fraction of the time. As an alchemist, my specialty is brewing potions. My DM house-ruled that at my level I can only brew uncommon rarity potions, but even so that’s been a pretty huge power boost.

Where it gets crazy is that there is apparently no rule saying you can’t give a potion to a construct. So now I’m giving Fire Breath Potions to my Homunculus all the time. 4D6 fire damage as a bonus action for three turns per fight.

That’s where the overpowered part comes in.

I’m also really enjoying this character from a role-play perspective. She’s possibly my most creative one yet.

My artificer is a Deep Gnome named Sylvie Stonewalker. She was a twin, but her twin sister, Allie, was stillborn. The Stonewalker family mourned and moved on. Sylvie did not.

The bond between twins transcended death. As she grew up, Sylvie saw her sister’s spirit every day, and Allie became her best friend. While her family cautioned her to accept her sister’s loss, Sylvie refused. She began to study the sciences with the goal of bringing Allie back to life.

With no body left to resurrect, her only option was to build a new one from scratch. She set forth from the Underdark, taking on the life of an adventurer in the hopes of finding knowledge and supplies to aid her in her goal.

I RP the Homunculus as Sylvie’s first draft at a new body for her sister. It’s only a few inches tall, and some of the limbs don’t match, but it’s a start.

It’s fun because I get to RP two characters for the price of one. Allie can’t talk to anyone but her sister because Sylvie hasn’t gotten her vocal chords working yet, but she can still interact non-verbally.

While Sylvie is the serious one, Allie is the jokerster of the family. She taunts people and pulls pranks, and finds little ways to frollic. Last session as we walked through a field, I had Allie pick a dandelion and begin using it for a parasol.

So that’s my latest flavour of the month character. I really do have a problem. I have ideas for so many more characters, too. Right now I’m also considering a bladedancer/rogue, a Profane Soul blood hunter/druid, a Goliath paladin, and the aforementioned Sea Elf sorlock…

By the way, while I’m talking D&D, be sure to check out the super awesome sketch of my paladin my friend did!


Review: The Umbrella Academy, Season One

Literally everyone I know started watching The Umbrella Academy pretty much the moment the series appeared on Netflix. In fact, one of my friends who works in film even helped make the show (it was filmed in Toronto). Perhaps more importantly, everyone I talked to seemed to like it.

The logo for the Netflix series The Umbrella AcademyAlso, Ellen Page is one of my favourite human beings, so I’m always happy to support her work.

So it didn’t take me long to dive into Umbrella Academy despite knowing very little about it.

Based on a comic book, The Umbrella Academy is the story of a dysfunctional family of superheroes. There were seven adopted siblings in the “academy,” all of which but one (Number Seven/Vanya, played by the aforementioned Ellen Page) have fantastic powers. Their adoptive father trained them to be heroes who would save the world, but after Number Five disappeared and Number Six was killed,* the team broke apart, and the dream died.

*(Like way too many things on this show, what happened to Six is never explained.)

The story begins with the remaining members of the academy reuniting for the funeral of their father. As old family tensions flare, events take a new turn when Number Five suddenly reappears after being lost in time for decades.

Shenanigans ensue.

Basically, it’s one part X-Men, one part Hellboy, one part Sanctuary, and one part Arrested Development without the jokes.

There is a lot that I don’t like about The Umbrella Academy. For one thing, it takes itself a smidge too seriously. I do generally prefer my superhero stories hew towards the gritty and realistic, but that only works so well in a story about a bunch of squabbling siblings whose main parental figures are a super intelligent chimpanzee butler and a robotic 1950s housewife.

The Hargreeves siblings in The Umbrella AcademyAlso, as I said, this show doesn’t explain anything. I get that too much exposition can bog things down, but seriously, WHY DO THEY HAVE A TALKING CHIMP BUTLER.

It’s clearly a show that wants to be taken seriously, which is ironic when you realize Umbrella Academy is actually a very simple story with very few genuine surprises.

There’s pacing issues, too. The early episodes really drag, while the last few are almost rushed.

Despite all those complaints, though, this is still a series that I found more enjoyable than not, on balance. Mainly because it has two big things working in its favour.

The first is the cast. Pretty much all of the characters are compelling, and the acting is pretty excellent. I’m especially fond of Number Five, who is just such a delightful little curmudgeon. A show like this lives or dies by the strength of its characters, and that’s the one thing I can’t fault The Umbrella Academy on.

The other is that I’m a big fan of this kind of story. There’s a reason the X-Men have always been by far my favourite superheroes. Eclectic bands of weirdos trying to save the world despite their own flaws? That’s my jam.

And that, I think, is how I would define Umbrella Academy: It’s good if you’re a fan of this particular subgenre. It’s not the best example around, but if you like these kind of stories already, it’s good enough to satisfy. If you’re not already a fan of these tropes, I doubt Umbrella Academy would win you over.

Overall rating: 7.4/10