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D&D 5E Revising Artificer lore to be unmagical

My world has an empire of teknicians, a smog-punk semi-Victorian realm of ratchety noises, oil, hydrolix, airxips, etc.
These golbinoids should have a class, but the base rules only have a few elements that support this type of play -- tinker's tools, thieves tools, trapmaking, rock gnome abilities. That doesn't seem enough.

In play there was one character who played one of these goblins using a custom class found here on ENWorld, but that was before the Artificer existed. Also, I'm now more familiar with the 5e ruleset.

Currently I am considering whether to create a class with the various guilds of konstruction or to essentially just rework the Artificer lore to be 100% non-magical, in the ways that some consider Ranger spells more a thing they do, that aren't really spells.

If you were to play a smog-punk technician would you want a class fully customized or would your little gobbo be fine with Artificer mechanics and completely new lore. This class is purely for play at in-person table which will be resuming play this month.

For a bit on the lore of these peoples I've written something here
 

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MarkB

Legend
I like the idea. I recently played a low-level warforged druid in a short adventure, and I characterised all his magical abilities as being functions of his semi-living body - extruding his root structure for Grasping Vine, firing a blast of pheromones for Charm Person etc. It was fun to come up with alternate flavour for the mechanics
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
If you want to make Artificer spellcasting exist but not feel like 5e Spellcasting, I recommend going 2e Vancian.

Have your artificer prepare individual charges of the spells they know in advance as special "Items". Then allow them to change their remaining alotment around if they take a Short Rest. Literally taking devices apart and putting them together in new configurations, trading batteries between devices, whole nine yards.
 

If you want to make Artificer spellcasting exist but not feel like 5e Spellcasting
The desire is that there wouldn't be any magic involved. If I use the Artificer there would be many paragraphs describing the difference between a magical version of the Artificer as exists in 5e and the Teknician version as exists in my world.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
The desire is that there wouldn't be any magic involved. If I use the Artificer there would be many paragraphs describing the difference between a magical version of the Artificer as exists in 5e and the Teknician version as exists in my world.
Oh. If that's the problem, there's a much easier solution!

Just remove their spellcasting class feature and references to magic. Then pick one of the Artificer Subclasses you think should be "Baseline" and replace spellcasting with it's functions.

The Alchemist, for example. You could take away the spellcasting of the Artificer, cantrips included, and give them potion-making abilities that use the Alchemist subclass as a base but gain access to more of them.

Alternatively, do the Artillerist for the main thrust and nix the "Arcane Sidearm" or whatever in favor of just straight up giving them a gun.
 

Oh. If that's the problem, there's a much easier solution!

Just remove their spellcasting class feature and references to magic. Then pick one of the Artificer Subclasses you think should be "Baseline" and replace spellcasting with it's functions.

The Alchemist, for example. You could take away the spellcasting of the Artificer, cantrips included, and give them potion-making abilities that use the Alchemist subclass as a base but gain access to more of them.

Alternatively, do the Artillerist for the main thrust and nix the "Arcane Sidearm" or whatever in favor of just straight up giving them a gun.
Yeah, this is the massive reflavor option.

I'm curious as to what people would find preferential between a massive reflavor or a custom class
 

jgsugden

Legend
I think that you can do this with the existing artificer class. Tell players that they must tell you how their abilities work without magic before they can elect to use them. However, I think the reskinning will be evident unless the player is a very good storyteller.

In terms of pure realistic technology you run into a problem - mass production. If you make a gun, why not make 100? You don't really naturally end up with a Tony Stark when you have people that can create amazing technology. You end up with rich people that own the IP who enjoy their laurels and a lot of people giving away their money to use the IP. That is a less heroic tale.

I've approached this problem in a different way in my world. Rather than looking at technology as an alternative to magic, I use technology as an interpretation of magic.

There are five types of magic in my setting: Psionic, Arcane, Divine, Natural - and Elemental/Supernatural (unfortunate names that have been there a long time, but that cross over into other spaces in the game that do not directly relate) .

That last type operates distinctly differently than the other types as it does not power spells. Instead, it is the magic behind spirits, behind supernatural abilities - and behind science. When a bomb explodes, a scholar will tell you it is a product of the elemental magic that suffuses the universe being invokes through chemical reactions.

With this in mind, I have beings that use technology. There are even places with technology that exceeds early 21st century technology. However, their diction is suffused with magical terminology, and the limitations of my world make mass production of anything very technologically intricate very hard as the magical weave through which the arcane, divine, and natural magics flow tends to wreck havoc with chemical reactions and electrical operations. So, those that have developed societies based upon technology tend to be isolated in places with little to no access to 'traditional' magics.

I have a technologist class that has four subclasses: Engineer, Chemist, Physicist, and Biologist. It is an NPC class so far (one player expressed an interest but backed off when I explained the limitations) as it is not terribly combat oriented, but it fits into the lore of my world. Where they do have combat abilities, they use their forte to change the battlefield or alter their foes/allies. Engineers can cause controlled collapses of natural terrain, operate vehicles with weapons on them, etc.. Chemists can mix chemicals together to cause reactions that can do a variety of things. Physicists have skills at utilizing mass, velocity, etc... at lower level, but their higher level abilities are based upon theoretical physics ideas. Biologists get bonuses to damage that are based upon how much they hit by, as well as capabilities to generate or mimic natural compounds like poisons, acids, etc... They can also build apparatuses that mimic the natural capabilities of creatures (natural and fictional). None of them is going to win an award for their combat capabilities, but they've been able to adventure alongside PCs as NPCs without issue.
 

Other than making Detect Magic go "Ping!" and the odd verbal component, is there any reason you couldn't characterise all Artificer abilities as non-magical mechanisms?
Maybe swap around some of the damages, so Force damage is now Physical.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
My idea:

Strip spellcasting from them entirely.

Replace it by the Bomb making or Thunder cannon (or both, using the special attack from the Thunder cannon as recipes) from the second UA artificer. It gives them damage progression similar to the Rogue's sneak attack.

Features that requires spending spell slots (potions making, turrets etc) are now Prof. Bonus uses per day.
 

My idea:

Strip spellcasting from them entirely.

Replace it by the Bomb making or Thunder cannon (or both, using the special attack from the Thunder cannon as recipes) from the second UA artificer. It gives them damage progression similar to the Rogue's sneak attack.

Features that requires spending spell slots (potions making, turrets etc) are now Prof. Bonus uses per day.
At this level of mechanical fussing I would likely opt for an original class
 

The various guilds of teknicians are;
  • Clockwerks League
  • Ratxets Guild
  • Springwerks Union
  • Airmatics and Waterwerks Alliance
  • Alchems Sisterhood
  • Tarteks Federation
  • Airxip Syndicate
Everything is much dirtier, oily, raw. Think Jules Verne meets da Vinci meets Mad Max
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
At this level of mechanical fussing I would likely opt for an original class
Exact.

To answer your question: I'd favor a new class (noting that with my idea you have much of the work already done). 5e has already so many spellcasting left and right, having a class artificer using spells, even if you change the name and the fluff, it will still be lost in the sea of spellcasters.

But that's me. Refluffing can get you far enough; the ''tool's required'' feature of Artificer's spellcasting is already in place to help you toward it. You could just replace terminology:

Spell = Blueprint
Spell Slots = Reagents
Spell level = teknil level
Cast = Craft

So: to cast craft the spell blueprint Fireball (a spell blueprint of 3rd level) you must spend a spell slot reagent of the same level as the spell teknik level.
 



vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
@vincegetorix I'll blend concepts from either the Artificer or Warlock with the Rogue (the non-magical skill framework) if I go fully original.

Tek would last 1 minute (a combat), a short rest, a long rest, permanent-ish
Good idea:

Maybe use the rogue's chassis, replace sneak attack with the aforementioned UA artificer Alchemist's Satchel (since they have the same progression).

Expertise makes sense, maybe focus more on tool's and less on skills.
Evasion makes sense for someone working with explosives so that's good.
Replace Elusive/Uncanny dodge with Extra Attunements
Replace Stroke of Luck with Soul of Artifice
Replace Blindsight/Cunning Action with Infuse Item.

LevelFeatureInfusion
1Teknik Bag, Teknik Blueprints, Expertise-
2Infuse Item2
3Guild Archetype2
4ASI2
5Superior Attunement (1)2
6Expertise3
7Evasion, New Blueprint3
8ASI3
9Guild Feature3
10New Blueprint3

11Reliable Talent4
12ASI4
13Guild Feature4
14New Blueprint, Superior Attunement (2)4
15Slippery Mind4
16ASI5
17Guild Feature5
18Superior Attunement (3)5
19ASI5
20Soul of Artifice 6
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
If you or your players are concerned with balance, going with the reflavor could help ensure you won't be too far off. I for one would choose the reflavor, because it's less work.

Artificers don't really need a lot of reflavoring, just going the way the Alchemist subclass went.

They already have an experimental elixir feature and they can use spell slots to choose what they do. Keep all artificers as they are, but instead of preparing spells, they'll make draughts (up to the number of prepared spells) in the morning... Those are highly volatile and can't really be kept for long outside of lab conditions, explaining why they can't stockpile them and explaining why they don't have a definite allotment (since if they prepared, say, a cure wound bottle in the morning and cast Grease all day, they must explain in universe why there is no more cure wounds at the end of the day... Cantrips could be explained by mechanical device that can therefore be used at will, and maybe some experimental device (if you're uncomfortable with a potion to grow a patagium in a few seconds, you could have a single-use little device with a propeller expanding all its energy to let you fall not too fast and grappling you with its supertiny hands...)

Poring over the artificer list, there are very few spells I couldn't see easily reflavoring into potions you could ingest or pour over something to produce effect, mainly those with outlandish effect, like the Rope Trick one. Even Arcane Eye can be justified by taking hallucinogenic drugs giving an out of body experience... except it's really working.

The rules already encourage players to flavour their magic as mechanical... but doesn't harp on it. I'd totally explain the Arcane Jolt power of the Battlesmith as an experimental defibrillator drone (or, more thematically for a Victorian ambiance, a dingbot from the Heterodyne comic) , that can't be pushed too far out of fear of frying itself, but can help people in dire straits... or electrocute a foe) and so on.

If you want to link the story of your setting with character creation, you could use your factions as background for starting character and expand/modify the "spell list" based on each specialty, following the example set by Ravnica's guilds?
 
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Spell-less is a thing, but otherwise any construct that can walk, talk, fly or fight is magical.
Smog punk or steam punk is magical.
Grabing some component and brew them while you take a snack and then make a smoke bomb or a grenade is magical.
 


Other than making Detect Magic go "Ping!" and the odd verbal component, is there any reason you couldn't characterise all Artificer abilities as non-magical mechanisms?
Maybe swap around some of the damages, so Force damage is now Physical.
Being immune to counterspell and dispel magic would be a significant buff.
 

The desire is that there wouldn't be any magic involved. If I use the Artificer there would be many paragraphs describing the difference between a magical version of the Artificer as exists in 5e and the Teknician version as exists in my world.
It doesnt require anything special. Just rule that no Artificer spells or special abilitites are magical, even if they say they are.

It wont change much. They work in an AMF, are not subject to dispel or counters or magic resistance etc.
 

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