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!

Dungeons and Dragons: TSW Homebrew Release

It’s taken me longer than I expected, but I have now cleaned up my notes for homebrew adapting the setting of The Secret World to fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons enough for a public release. Included in this are a core rulebook with everything you need to create characters and play in the setting, a short campaign of four “issues” (adventures), and a bestiary with stats for all the monsters in the campaign.

The Black Pharoah Akhenaten in The Secret WorldYou can download the files from my Google Drive.

Features include:

  • New death mechanics reflecting the immortality of Gaia’s chosen.
  • A sanity mechanic.
  • Racial choices replaced by five playable factions: The Illuminati, the Dragon, the Templars, the Brotherhood of Phoenician Sailors, and the Council of Venice, each with unique perks and abilities.
  • New feats, skills, and backgrounds (I’m especially proud of the Conspiracy Theorist background).
  • New subclasses for all playable classes (some classes are disallowed because I feel they clash with the setting). Some of these are direct adaptations of abilities and builds from the original MMO — leech heal with the Reaper archetype for rangers, or regen like Wolverine as a Predator rogue — while others are entirely new ability sets inspired by the lore of the setting. Pacify your enemies with the Sleepless Lullaby as a College of Binding bard, or follow in the footsteps of Theodore Wicker by choosing the Hellraiser origin for your sorcerer.
  • Rules for driving cars.
  • New and reflavoured items and equipment.

I tried to design this to be equally playable by both hardcore TSW fans and people with no prior experience in the setting (a difficult tightrope to walk). None of my friends played the MMO, and I do want this to be a tool to help introduce more people to the awesomeness of TSW. The core rulebook includes a lore primer to help people who don’t know TSW; however, you can ignore it if you already know the setting.

Some caveats:

  • This is an adaptation of the mechanics of the original version of The Secret World, not Legends. I don’t wish to rehash any debates, but I feel the original TSW was a superior game and a better expression of the setting.
  • The bestiary only includes monsters that were used in the campaign I wrote. If you want to create new stories, you’ll likely have to build your own monsters, or repurpose existing D&D creatures.
  • I fully expect some people to disagree with my interpretations of the setting (I expect my list of what classes are and are not playable to especially controversial). That’s okay. I encourage everyone to tweak things as they see fit. I’ll be surprised if anyone ends up playing this with exactly the rules I wrote.
  • I am not a professional game designer, and this hasn’t been rigorously play-tested. I tried to balance out the most broken stuff (my original draft for Backer warlock was horrifying), but there are still bound to be many balance issues. As much as possible, I tried to err on the side of making players too powerful rather than too weak.
  • More than anything else, I want to stress that I see this as a starting point for adapting D&D to tabletop, not a total conversion. Manage your expectations accordingly.

That’s about all there is to say. If anyone does end up playing using my homebrew, please let me know! I’d love to hear your feedback, and any war stories on how it went.