The basics of the artificer class are actually pretty great and I think I have given off the wrong impression when I say I was disappointed in it, so I wanted to put my money where my mouth is and offer a handful of improvements to the class for your consideration. These address a few key areas that I feel are pretty lacking as written and although they are mainly small changes, I feel that they go a long way to making the class exciting. Having said that, I will not be doing something that I would very much like to do and that is separating alchemy out into a separate class. In my mind, artificers are meant to be tinkers and craftsmen, not chemists, so they really shouldn't be lumped together, but that is a whole other can of worms I don't feel like opening right now. Having said that, I do have some half-baked thoughts on ways to replace some of those features. Anyway, here is a summary of my proposed changes:
- Rework the schematic book slightly so that isn't subject to the whims of the GM.
- Some minor tweaks for clarity.
- Replace the capstone ability.
Spell inventionsInstead of weighing one pound per spell level, they all just weigh one pound each. For one, it seems incredibly arbitrary, to me, to tie spell level to weight. That really comes to bear when you consider that you can prepare a 1st-level spell invention but still cast it at 2nd level. Should it suddenly become heavier for the duration of the casting? Should it be more likely to break than a properly-prepared 2nd-level spell invention if the idea is that you need the extra reinforcement when using more magical power? On top of that, if you are playing a small creature with low strength, your carrying capacity becomes a real concern when preparing spells. All of that just seems unnecessary to me, so for the sake of simplicity, they should all just weigh about one pound.
SchematicsThis is a bit of a bigger change. In addition to the rules provided, you may also add one new schematic to your book every level for free. Initially, you may only choose from the common magic items in the game; at 5th level, you may choose uncommon magic items; at 10th level, you may choose rare magic items; and at 15th level, you may choose very rare magic items. I'm not entirely sure whether or not that rarity scaling makes sense, so someone please chime in if you have better ideas there, but I do think the idea of scaling it makes sense. The primary motivator here is that as originally written, there is nothing to stop an obnoxious GM from just never giving you any opportunities to add any schematics to your book. Not only does that ruin the schematics feature of the class, it also nullifies your ability to infuse anything since those need to come from your schematic book. It's great if you can trust your GM not to do that, but not everyone can and no GM should just be allowed to remove entire parts of your class because they feel like it. This way, it works a bit more like the wizard's spell book.
9th levelAt 9th level, in addition to advanced tactical chemistry, you are also able to attune to up to 4 magic items at once. I don't particularly like the idea that you just jump from 3 to 5 at 14th level, so this makes it more gradual.
Trinket masterAs a matter of clarity, you may only craft one such item per long rest. I assume this is the original intent, but it's not specified.
Reliable spell inventionsWhen another creature casts a spell using one of your spell inventions, the spell uses your spellcasting stats (not the creature's). Again, I assume this was the original intent, but it isn't specified.
Infusion rechargeYou may either use an unused infusion slot or give up an infusion on an item currently infused, in which case it becomes mundane again. Once again, I believe this is the intent, but it isn't specified.
Magical automatonThis is the probably the biggest change. I would remove this feature completely and replace it with something akin to what O5e did by combining both the 18th- and 20th-level features. As far as I know, the automaton was never even playtested, at least not broadly, and it is worse in almost every way than the steel defender given to the Battle Smith in O5e. Not only that, but it takes up a spell invention and two infusion slots whereas the Battle Smith gets their steel defender for free. This brings us to:
Soul of artificeStealing from O5e here, so maybe I need to change the name or tweak the feature a bit to be legally distinct, but: At 20th level, you may attune to up to 6 magic items at once. In addition, you gain a +1 bonus to all saving throws for each magic item you are currently attuned to. Finally, if you are reduced to 0 hit points, you may use your reaction to give up an infusion slot (either an unused one or an item currently infused) to drop to 1 HP instead. I have always thought this was a pretty great capstone and it is, in my opinion, much better than the automaton.
Modern comfortsAgain a matter of clarity, but when you repurpose your spell invention, it no longer functions as a spell invention until you prepare it again. This can be done at the end of the long rest.
Some final thoughtsIn my opinion, there should be a separate alchemist class instead of trying to lump it together with the artificer, but that is a lot of work and I am not a game designer. Instead, I have some simple thoughts on how to simply remove alchemy from this class. Someone else may have better ideas about what to replace the now-missing features with, but this is what I have come up with so far.
- First, both tactical chemistry features need to be removed. Instead, at 1st level you gain an expertise die on all tool checks using tools you are proficient with. At 9th level, you just keep the additional attunement I provided above (but nothing else new).
- Second, remove the alchemical prodigy field discovery. Since it's only the one thing being removed, I'm not really convinced there needs to be anything to replace it.
- Finally, the bombardier archetype goes away, ideally to be integrated into a future alchemist class instead.