When building an artificer artillerist in DnD 5e, consider the following:
- Try a forest gnome or hobgoblin.
- Consider first artificer abilities: Infused Items, Magical Tinkering, firearms.
- Choose artificer spells for elemental damage and repair: mending, ray of frost, Tasha’s caustic brew…
- Use artillerist abilities and Eldritch Cannon for ranged firepower.
- Consider bonus artillerist spells: shield, thunderwave, scorching ray…
- Remember higher-level artificer abilities: Tool Expertise, Flash of Genius…
Artificer Artillerists in Dungeons and Dragons 5e are tinkerers who master the art of explosive magic and unique firearms. Gaining an Eldritch Cannon that can potentially walk on its own, I have multiple ways to fire spells, gunshots and canon blasts. Of course, I’ll still gain other Infused Items, artificer spells and tinkering ability to aid my party on adventures.
Try a forest gnome or hobgoblin.
For this build, I want a race that fits the vibe of the character and offers a bonus to my Intelligence score.
Forest Gnomes gain a +2 Intelligence/+1 Dexterity ability score increase, with natural stealth and inherent magic. Gnome Cunning grants me advantage on Wisdom, Intelligence and Charisma saving throws. Plus, I gain the minor illusion cantrip with Natural Illusionist and the ability to Speak with Small Beasts. This cunning forest variant of the gnome race works well with an Eldritch Cannon that walks on its own—coordinating attacks from different spots on the field.
The warlike hobgoblins gain a +2 Constitution/+1 Intelligence and may carry their Eldritch Cannon like a heavy weapon. Martial Training grants me proficiency with 2 martial weapons of my choice, giving me a descent melee option to go with my guns. Saving Face grants a bonus to attack rolls or saving throws equal to the number of allies in sight. I love this aspect of the scary, warlike race—they’re afraid of embarrassment.
Consider first artificer abilities: Infused Items, Magical Tinkering, firearms.
Beginning at level 1, I’ll want to set this gunslinger up for adventure. I’ll choose to forgo the classic starting items to buy a firearm. Of course, I’ll still keep my thieves’ tools handy, and purchase tinkerers’ tools and smith’s tools to finish my set. Also, I’ll choose proficiency in Arcana and Perception and to go along with my theme.
At level 1, I’ll gain my first artificer spells and Magic Tinkering. Now, I’ll have a few tricks up my sleeve and the ability to manipulate objects in magical ways. Magic Tinkering grants me the following abilities:
- The object sheds bright light for 5 feet and dim light another 5 feet.
- Whenever tapped by a creature, the object emits a message up to 10 feet away.
- The object emits a sound or smell of my choice up to 10 feet away. Let the giggles commence.
- A static image appears on the surface of the object.
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Then, level 2 gives me my first 2 Infused Items—magic items I create and customize. For the artillerist, I’ll choose Enhanced Arcane Focus and Repeating Shot. The Enhanced Arcane Focus gives me a +1 bonus to spell attack rolls and ignore half cover. My artillerist spell list will grant me plenty to work with for this focus. Plus, I’ll choose Repeating Shot to grant me a +1 bonus to ranged attacks and immediately reloading my firearm.
The Right Tool for the Job gives me the ability to craft any tool set I need with 1 hour of work. The toolset is magical, so it goes away after another use of this ability. However, the tools themselves have no magical attribute.
Choose artificer spells for elemental damage and repair: mending, ray of frost, Tasha’s caustic brew…
Artificers have a strange relationship with magic—not inherently magical but learned to concoct magical effects. Therefore, my list of spells is on the low side when it comes to basic artificer magic. I’ll have to make them count with necessities, trickery and unique elemental blasts.
- Mending: I can fix small breaks, tears and cracks with magic fusion. Also, I can use this spell to repair my Eldritch Cannon for 2d6 HP.
- Ray of Frost: A cold, blue beam deals 1d8 cold damage and slows the target by 10 feet. I mainly want this option for the movement restriction, but 1d8 damage isn’t bad for a cantrip.
Level 1 Spells
- Tasha’s Caustic Brew: I send a 30-foot line of acid in a direction of my choice, causing every creature in the line to make a Dexterity saving throw or be covered in acid. The creature must take its turn washing the acid off itself or another. Creatures who start their turn covered in acid take 2d4 acid damage.
- Snare: Create an invisible rope trap that takes an Investigation check to uncover. Otherwise, the snare captures any creature Small or larger who passes through it. Creatures caught in the snare are restrained and held upside down 3 feet in the air. A successful Dexterity save with disadvantage will free them.
- Cure Wounds: Heal 1d8 + Intelligence modifier damage on touch.
- Faerie Fire: Each object in a 20-foot cube is illuminated with blue or green light. Creatures must make a Dexterity save to avoid this affect. Otherwise, they shed dim light for 10 feet and my allies have advantage on attacks against them. Plus, this is cube exposes magically invisible enemies.
Level 2 Spells
- Web: Generate a 20-foot cube of web matter that creates difficult terrain. Each creature that touches the web must make a Dexterity saving throw or be restrained by the webs. This is straight-up Spiderman action, and I’m here for it.
- Enlarge/Reduce: I can cause an object or creature to grow or shrink by 1 size. Creatures and objects who grow gain advantage on Strength saving throws and checks. Plus, they gain a +1d4 to damage rolls. I plan on beefing up my Eldritch Canon with this spell. When I reduce a target, the spell has the opposite effect—disadvantage on Strength checks and -1d4 damage.
Use artillerist abilities and Eldritch Canon for ranged firepower.
Level 3 grants me my artillerist archetype, along with my first set of artillerist spells, a bonus proficiency and an Eldritch Canon.
As a Bonus Proficiency, I gain access to woodcarver’s tools. This is mostly for building my Eldritch Canon, but access to more toolkits never hurts. There’s always creativity.
The Eldritch Cannon is the major feature of this subclass, granting me a Small or Tiny weapon that can walk on its own if I choose. Depending on my play style and size, I’ll carry the weapon or build a small robot. The cockatrice example given in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is fantastic, or perhaps a rooster variant. Plus, this canon comes in 1 of 3 forms:
- Flamethrower: A 15-foot cone of fire deals 2d8 damage on a failed Dexterity save.
- Force Ballista: Make a ranged spell attack and 2d8 force damage. Creatures hit are pushed 5 feet away.
- Protector: a burst of positive energy gives creatures within 10 feet of my canon temporary HP that equals 1d8 + Intelligence modifier. Obviously, this one is for me and allies.
My Eldritch Cannon has an 18 AC and HP equal to 5 X my level. Therefore, I expect my creation to hold up well in combat. My favorite choice out of the three is the Force Ballista, as it dishes out focused damage output.
Arcane Firearm, Explosive Cannon, Fortified Position
At level 5, Arcane Firearm grants me a wand, staff or rod as a spell focus that enhances my destructive magic with an extra 1d8 damage. Using my woodcarver’s tools, I’ll carve sigils into this item to create my focus. I’ll consider this a magical sidearm. Keeping count, this means I have a firearm, boom stick and an Eldritch Canon in my arsenal.
Then, Explosive Cannon (level 9) enhances my Eldritch Canon’s damage output and overall volatility. Now, my canon deals an extra 1d8 damage and detonates on command. That’s right, I get to blow it up and deal 3d8 force damage to each creature within 20 feet of it. Of course, they’ll have to make a Dexterity save to avoid the full brunt of the damage.
Finally, level 15 gives me Fortified Position, which increases my number of canons to 2 and enhances my cover behind them. My allies and I now have half cover when we are within 10 feet of the canon as it projects a magical screen. Plus, I can activate both canons with the same bonus action.
Consider bonus artillerist spells: shield, thunderwave, scorching ray…
The artillerist has a special collection of explosive, defensive and elemental spells they pull from at certain levels, which more than makes up for the short artificer list. These spells are always prepared and don’t count against the spells I’ve already chosen from my base class.
- Shield: Until the start of my next turn, I gain +5 to AC. Plus, I take no damage from magic missile.
- Thunderwave: Creatures within a 15-foot cube must make a Constitution saving throw or take 2d8 thunder damage and be pushed 10 feet away.
- Scorching Ray: I blast 3 heat rays at 1 target or multiple, dealing 2d6 damage per ray.
- Shatter: A 10-foot radius sonic sphere deals 3d8 thunder damage when creatures in range fail a Constitution saving throw.
- Fireball: A fireball explodes and each creature in a 20-foot radius must make a Dexterity saving throw. Otherwise, they take 8d6 fire damage.
- Wind wall: Create a 50-foot, long, 15-foot high, 1-foot-thick wall of wind. Each creature in its area must make a Strength saving throw or take 3d8 bludgeoning damage. This wind affects gas, smoke, flying creatures and projectiles.
- Ice storm: Drop a 20-foot radius, 40-foot-high cylinder of ice on the ground. Each creature in the area makes a Dexterity save or takes 2d8 bludgeoning and 4d6 cold damage.
- Wall of Fire: Create a wall 60 feet long, 20 feet high and 1 foot thick. Each creature in the area must make a Dexterity save or take 5d8 fire damage. Then creatures within 10 feet of the wall (on a side I choose) take the same damage.
- Cone of Cold: A 60-foot cone of arctic air blasts enemies who fail a Constitution saving throw, dealing 8d8 cold damage. For a little extra flavor, a creature killed by this spell remains a frozen statue until they thaw.
- Wall of Force: Construct an unbreachable wall of force in a multitude of shapes. It can only be destroyed by the disintegrate spell.
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Remember higher-level artificer abilities: Tool Expertise, Flash of Genius…
Artificers continue to gain helpful abilities as they level that I can use in conjunction with my explosive weaponry.
Tool Expertise (level 6) doubles my proficiency with tools I’m proficient in.
Flash of Genius comes next at level 7, granting me or an ally my Intelligence bonus to a saving throw or ability check. I can use the ability an amount of times equal to my Intelligence modifier.
Magic Item Adept comes at level 10, giving me the ability to attune up to 4 magic items. Plus, any item I craft that is common or uncommon takes a quarter of the time and half the gold to make.
Then, I gain Spell-Storing Item at level 11, which grants me the power to infuse weapons and other items with a spell. The owner of the item can activate the spell as an action, using my Intelligence modifier for the spell’s damage.
Magic Item Savant (level 14) further increases my ability with magic items. Now, I can attune up to 5 magic item and ignore any race, spell and level requirements to use it. This magic item ability keeps increasing at level 18, making me a Magic Item Master and attuning up to 6 magic items at once.
My final and ultimate ability is Soul of Artifice, which grants me a couple of epic abilities. First, I can add +1 to a saving throw per magic item I’m currently attuned to. That means up to +6 at this level. Plus, I can choose to end one of my infusions if I drop to 0 HP, bringing me back to life with 1 HP instead. However, I can’t come back if I’m killed outright.