D&D: Artificer 5E class guide – master inventor

Our D&D Artificer 5E guide will have you mastering infusions, golems, explosives, and more

Many of the most storied heroes are, at the end of the day, merely scavengers. They must pick at the corpses of their foes in the hope of finding something approximating the tools they need to survive. But as an Artificer, you can rise above! Gone are the days of hopelessly rummaging around for a weapon You can decide exactly what you want, and forge the perfect version for yourself.

Although hallmarked by their penchant for handiwork and powerful magical infusions, don’t be fooled into thinking the Artificer is a narrow class to play. Their choice of subclasses and variety of spells lets them hold their own, and makes them a fitting addition to any party.

Here’s our comprehensive D&D Artificer 5E guide. We’ll take you through everything you need to know to play this nimble class. Get ready for the lowdown on character creation, races, Artificer subclasses, and a spread of solid beginner builds to get you started. If you’re after an overview of all D&D’s classes, try our D&D classes guide for a beginner tour of the many options.

Here’s how to play an Artificer in D&D 5E:

DnD Artificer 5E Alchemist a goblin pouring a potion

Artificer stats 5E

Hit Dice D8
Primary Ability Intelligence (or Strength or Dexterity)
Armour Proficiency Light, Medium, Shields
Weapon Proficiency Simple, Firearms
Tool proficiency Thieves, Tinkers, Any Artisan
Saving throws Intelligence and Constitution
Skills Two of Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception and Sleight of Hand

With average HP, supported by their proficiency in medium armour and shields, Artificers have moderate staying power, equivalent to a Cleric. Your subclass can improve this further, such as by granting you access to heavy armour. Unlike a Cleric, however, you can also enchant your own magic weapons and armour, and cast the Shield spell, allowing you to dance the steel tango with frontline Fighters.

Intelligence is the key attribute for an Artificer. It affects your spells, and the two subclasses tailored for martial builds let you use INT for weapon attacks. However, Strength and Dexterity still come in handy for making regular attacks, so you could equally focus on one of these as your primary stat.

Bloodlines: Read our comprehensive D&D Sorcerer 5E guide

After selecting a primary ability score, you should bulk up your Artificer’s Constitution (decent armour proficiencies can only take you so far). Characters that don’t use DEX as their primary stat will still often want it to increase it to 14, because this is the most that you can take advantage of while using your medium armour proficiency.

Wisdom is easy to drop with most Artificer builds; characters with endless supplies of explosives are much more fun to play when they’ve also got the temperament and wisdom of a squirrel on speed.

DnD Artificer 5E a Planeswalker wielding lightning gauntlet

Artificer class features

Feature level
Magical Tinkering 1
Spellcasting 1-20
Infuse Item 2, 6, 10, 14, 18
Artificer Specialist 3, 5, 9, 15
The Right Tool for the Job 3
Ability Score Improvement 4, 8, 12, 16, 20
Tool Expertise 6
Flash of Genius 7
Magic Item Adept/Savant/Master 10, 14, 18
Spell-storing Item 11
Soul of Artifice 20

Magical Tinkering lets you make as many permanent magic items as you want, just as long as you don’t mind the old ones fading away as soon as you construct a new one, nor picking from an extremely limited pool of powers. More often than not, they’re a way to flavour your character’s creations and look cool doing mundane things. But every now and again, you’ll solve a problem with one.

Spellcasting starts out as important, but fades as you level. At first level, you’ll have two first-level spells and be the arcane equal of the party Wizard. By twentieth level, you’ll only have access to fifth-level spells, which will be overshadowed by the Wishes and Meteor Swarms the rest of the party are throwing about.

Infuse Item is your core class feature. It allows you to create a selection of magic items and change them every long rest. The items that you can make starts out strong, and only gets better as you level. There are three popular schools of thought on how to use this feature, and they’re all valid:

  • It’s your feature and you got it instead in lieu of other powers , so you should use all of the items yourself to make you the best at what you do.
  • Your role is to make the whole party as powerful as possible, so you should throw items onto specialists to make them even better at their specialities, ensuring the whole team kicks ass.
  • Handing out items is a roleplaying choice and should be based on petty grudges, romantic entanglements, and other in-character motivations irrespective of considerations of power.

The Right Tool for the Job has a cool name and is a contender for the single most underwhelming power in 5e. Are you ready? It allows you to acquire a set of artisan’s tools so that you can use your tool proficiencies. The tools aren’t any better than the ones you could’ve bought for a trivial amount of gold, so it is useless if your equipment hasn’t been taken away. However, it only works if you have a different set of tools to hand, so it’s also useless if your equipment has been taken away. Also, creating the tool takes an hour.

DnD Artificer 5E an Alchemist's lair

Tool expertise doubles your proficiency bonus while using tools. This ranges from fantastic to useless depending almost entirely on the nature of the campaign and your GM.

Flash of Genius lets you use your reaction to add your INT modifier to someone’s saving throw if they’re near enough to hear your words of wisdom. This is a handy little bonus that can be used to overcome ’save or have no fun’ situations if your GM is using paralysis and other abilities that prevent one player participating in the game for the next half hour (Shame! Shame!). It can also be a fun one to roleplay by shouting what advice you’re actually giving, or explaining how you intervene to avoid the danger.

Magic Item Adept/Savant/Master are a chain of abilities that increase the number of magic items you can attune to. This means that your infusions ability never becomes redundant as a result of the filling everyone’s attunement slots. The adept level also lets you craft magic items more cheaply, if you’re using the magic item crafting rules. The savant level allows you to ignore class, race, spell, and level requirements on magic items.

Big muscles, big sword: Check out our D&D Fighter 5E guide

Spell-storing Item is slightly unhelpfully named. It doesn’t create an item that works like a Ring of Spell Storing, but lets you select an Artificer spell (which your character need not know or have prepared) and create an item that can cast that spell a number of times equal to twice your INT modifier. This has approximately a million uses: healing battery; letting a non-caster maintain a concentration buff; letting a familiar kick out attacks; granting the party Rogue ten invisibilities a day; letting the whole party use Alter Self to make them disguised as the enemy – the list is endless.

There’s an odd rules interaction, though, in that casting a spell as a bonus action prevents you from casting a spell as your main action. But you’re not prevented from activating an item (which just so happens to cast a spell) as your main action. Expect some side-eye if you try this, though.

Soul of Artifice is your top-end power, letting you add the number of items you are attuned to (probably six thanks to magic item master) to all saving throws. It also lets you avoid dropping to zero HP by de-enchanting one of your infused items. Usually, stopping enemy effects appears dull in comparison to taking actions yourself, but if you’re the last character standing in a tough situation, being able to take six hits of any size might make you the hero of the party.

DnD Artificer 5E a skyship flying through the air

Artificer tools 5E

More so than any other class, Artificers get a lot of tool proficiencies. You start with three, and can add another two or three from your class and race choices . As you develop through the class, you’ll get an extra tool proficiency from your  subclass, before doubling your proficiency bonus for all tools. It’s worth taking a minute to consider some of your options.

In 5E all vehicles are considered tools. An Artificer can be better at driving a wagon, sailing a boat, or piloting an airship than most other characters. If you know that you’re going to be playing a pirate-themed campaign, this could be the time to roll up  a scourge of the high seas!

Thieves Tools are built into the class and offer a lot of utility in disarming traps and picking locks. An often overlooked aspect of  thieves tools is that they allow you to use them to set traps. Combine that with your  magical tinkering feature to enchant traps, making them hum the Thranish national anthem until someone comes to investigate it.

Secret pact: Our detailed D&D Warlock 5E guide

The Poison Kit is often used to get a bit of extra oomph in tough situations. The rules governing its use are vague but most DMs will allow you to extract a dose or two of poison from anything that tried to poison you. Having a few poison-tipped daggers to hand can be handy in a tight spot.

Finally, there are also some options for roleplaying your way into, or out of, trouble. Dice and cards are considered tools, so in the right setting you can extract a round of drinks at most bars. Musical instruments are also tools, so while Artificers tend not to be master manipulators you can be a world class performer, or at least justify an aid action for whatever the pary Bard is up to this time.

DnD Artificer 5E two heroes battle a swarm of enemies with lightning gauntlets

Artificer Infusions

Your infusions are the temporary magic items you make. They are your defining feature as an Artificer, so make them stand out! Is your +1 sword a fine Elven blade with barely visible runes that glow under moonlight? Or have you strapped a battery to blade so it buzzes with lightning, licking whoever holds its barely insulated hand guard? These details make your items feel special, bring the game to life, and, if you must look at it from a pure power-gaming perspective, give people description hooks if they’re fishing for inspiration.

When you first gain this feature, you choose four items that you can build. Though you may only have two built and working at once. Each time the feature upgrades at levels six, ten, 14, and 18, you’ll add another two items to your construction roster, and can make an extra one each day. With such a limited number available, we thought we’d highlight some stand out choices:

Returning Weapon gives a weapon +1 to hit and damage, and makes it return to your hand when thrown. Since throwing weapons are a rare chance to add STR to a ranged attack roll they can be useful, but most warriors are reluctant to throw their only weapon away or to figure out how to get through doors while carrying 50 spears.

Alchemy Jug allows you to concoct a range of useful liquids . Acid is the alchemist’s skeleton key. Half an ounce of poison before a battle can tilt things in your favour. Two gallons of mayonnaise can… well when all you’ve got is two gallons of mayonnaise everything looks like an overly dry sandwich.

Mind Sharpener allows a caster to succeed at four concentration checks where they’d otherwise fail. This is tremendous when your favourite primary caster has just hit their new spellcasting level and wants to make sure that their top-level spell gets to last all combat. Cut a deal with someone who knows polymorph and they can keep you in dinosaur form for the full hour.

DnD Artificer 5E a dwarf sits on a throne clutching a dagger

Repulsion Shield requires you to hit sixth level but gives the wielder the option to push their attacker as a reaction. Not every class has a way to use reactions helpfully, so it’s essentially an extra action a few times a day. Granted pushing someone 15 feet doesn’t always do something useful, but when it does, it tends to be spectacular.

When you hit tenth level you can make Gauntlets of Ogre Power, making the wearers STR equal to 19. It doesn’t matter what it was before, it’s 19 now. If you’re an intelligence-based Artificer you can go from ’doesn’t know which end of the spear is the pointy one’ to ‘a terror in close combat’ at a stroke. At higher levels, there’s an upgrade that takes your STR up to 21.

At fourteenth level you gain access to the excellent Cloak of the Bat. Advantage on all stealth checks is tremendous if you’re a DEX-based Artificer, and turning into a bat has brilliant spying and scouting potential. The real joy is the infinite 40-feet fly speed which can be used to get out of, and into, a host of trouble. Just remember that the flight stops working immediately if someone shines a bright light on you, even if you’re in mid-air.

Green energy: Here’s our D&D Druid 5E guide

At fourteenth level you also have the rare opportunity to enjoy the Horn of Blasting, an item that has a 20% chance to explode every time it’s used. Usually, it’s best to sell or trade, but you’re an Artificer, so if yours explodes you can just make another one. A 30-foot cone of 5d6 damage that can be used by anyone is nothing to sniff at, but think carefully about giving it to a familiar since it’ll likely take the poor thing to death saves if it explodes.

We also feel obliged to point out that the Ring of Protection offers a helpful +1 to AC and saves, while stacking with other buffs. It’s useful to most of the party, but is skewed more towards  ‘mundane efficiency’ than ‘flashy items that might fail spectacularly at critical moments’.

DnD Artificer 5E a halfling holding up a vial of liquid

Artificer subclasses

Artificer subclasses are called ‘Specialists’. More so than any other class, your choice of subclass will greatly determine your role in the party. Whether you pick one that enhances your spellcasting or melee abilities will have a considerable impact on how the class feels to play.

Fiction is full of famous Artificers from Hephaestus to Frankenstein, but they have radically different approaches to their creation. An Artificer’s choice of Specialist lets you define whether you’re adept at creating terrifying biological experiments, firearms built from scraps, or even stompy mech suits.


Level Subclass abilities
3 Tool Proficiency, Alchemist Spells, Elemental Elixir
5 Alchemical Savant
9 Restorative Reagents
15 Chemical Mastery

The Alchemist is all about bubbling potions. Their bonus spells grant them access to the ever-useful Healing Word, allowing them to get dying allies back into the fight without taking their whole turn to do it. At high levels they gain Raise Dead, putting them into the valuable category of ’If this one survives, we all survive’.

Experimental Elixir gives an extra potion (or more at higher levels and/or by spending spell slots). Some of these can be really helpful, such as adding a d4 bonus to every roll for a minute. Sadly, you don’t get to choose which potions you’re given, and must roll randomly on a d6 table.

Dastardly devilish: Read our D&D Rogue 5E guide

Alchemical Savant is the bread and butter of the class, adding INT to your healing rolls and damage rolls for acid, fire, necrotic, and poison damage.  There’s a little flexibility here. A lot of  subclasses  for spellcasting classes buff either damage or healing, but rarely both , so although you may not be a primary caster, your cantrips will benefit nicely .

The higher-level abilities aim to increase your healing powers, but they’re not spectacular. Several bonus castings of Lesser Restoration – gained six levels after the Cleric added it to their list – and one bonus casting of Heal are a welcome addition to your abilities, but still leave you overshadowed in your specialist area.

DnD Artificer 5E Artillerist a man standing underneath a lightning machine


Level Subclass abilities
3 Tools, Artillerist Spells, Eldritch Cannon
5 Arcane Firearm
9 Explosive Cannon
15 Fortified Position

The Artillerist is here to give you a big gun with which to hide your inadequacies. They gain an arcane firearm that boosts the damage output of all of their spells by a d8, though only on one damage roll. It also adds an array of attack spells to use it with, including classics such as Fireball. The extra spells also include the Shield, which can apply a +5 AC after you’ve seen what the enemy has rolled to hit you.

The most serious addition to your firepower is the Eldritch Cannon. This thing has its own AC, HP, and attacks, takes the place of your bonus action when used . There’s a choice to be made in whether it’s handheld, or occupies its own space.

You can choose from three forms of Eldritch Cannon, and can switch between them each time it’s summoned:

  • Flamethrower Cannons produce a 15-feet cone of fire, dealing 2d8 damage.
  • Force Ballistae boast a 120-feet range, and deal 2d8 damage and a 5-feetpush if they hit.
  • Protectors use their action to grant all friendlies within a 10-feet radius d8 temporary HP.

At ninth level, the cannon deal extra damage, and you can detonate them to send some hot shrapnel over to the enemy. Fortified Position is one of the most powerful fifteenth-level abilities that Artificers get, allowing you to summon two cannons at a time and activate them both for the same bonus action.

DnD Artificer 5E Armorer an armoured Elf running through a dark street


Level Subclass abilities
3 Tools of the Trade, Armour Spells, Arcane Armour, Armour Model
5 Extra attack
9 Armour modifications
15 Perfected armour

The class has a lot to offer, starting with heavy armour proficiency. Combined with the option to use magically-infuse your armour and shields with magical buffs, you can have an AC above 20 by second level, remaining the party’s toughest member for most of the campaign.

Extra Attack cements this as a fighting subclass. You’re still stuck with simple weapon proficiency, but that doesn’t matter because your armour now has built in magical weapons that you’re automatically proficient with.

The spells aren’t wonderful, but Shatter is a welcome addition to the Artificer spell list, which is short on direct damage spells. While you’ll never be the greatest caster, Shatter is a useful option for the Spell-storing Item, allowing any hireling or familiar to deal significant damage.

Arcane power: Check out our D&D Wizard 5E guide

The real strength of the class comes through your armour. At third level, you can choose between Guardian and Infiltrator Armour, which provide different strengths:

Guardian Armour lets you deal a magical punch to an enemy, saddling them with Disadvantage on attacks against all targets other than you. It also lets you gain temporary HP as a bonus action . At fifteenth level, it’s upgraded, allowing you to pull a nearby enemy into an space adjacent and take a free swing  with your fist.

Infiltrator Armour gives you an extra move, Advantage on stealth checks, and a Lightning Launcher. It’s got decent range, never runs out of ammo, and while its base damage is only on par with a short bow the first target you hit each round takes an extra d6 damage. At fifteenth level, the Lightning Launcher also highlights any target it hits, giving Advantage to the next ally that strikes it.

DnD Artificer 5E Battle Smith a Gnome with a metal dragon companion

Battle Smith

Level Subclass abilities
3 Tool Proficiency, Battle Smith Spells, Battle Ready, Steel Defender
5 Extra Attack
9 Arcane Jolt
15 Improved Defender

The Battle Smith is here for a fight and its spell list reflects that. It gains a number of Paladin spells that are potent for their level. Battle Ready gives you martial weapon proficiency and allows you to use INT to attack and deal damage. Extra Attack lets you bring the pain, and Arcane Jolt lets you deliver an extra 2d6 damage (or heal a nearby ally for the same amount). Taken together, these form the core of a fighting character that’s able to hold their own.

But the Battle Smith isn’t just about bruising, it also builds a golem to do the same. Your Steel Defender is a creature with its own stat block that functions like a Ranger’s Animal Companion. It will move and dodge on its own, but you must use your bonus action if it’s to attack. It can still take an attack of opportunity, though And it also has a special reaction allowing it to impose disadvantage on attacks against nearby allies.

Ultimately, this subclass makes you akin to a Beastmaster Ranger with slightly more spells, a noticeably better companion, many more magic items, and the certainty that you’d be dead within a week if you had to survive in the wild.

DnD Artificer 5E two D&D characters with magic weapons

Best race for Artificer 5E

Any race in D&D 5E can roll up their sleeves to learn the joys of craftwork, but some pair better with the Artificer class than others. We’ve picked out some of the best.

Variant Human

Found in: Player’s Handbook

The best race for an Artificer is Variant Human. Taking a feat at level one.  they started out stronger than most races, can replicate the proficiencies of half of them. Plus, Variant Humans have only become as more feats have been released in additional sourcebooks. The extra skill and tool proficiencies are just cherries on the cake.

DnD Artificer 5E a Kobold with a sling


Found in: Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Kobolds gain +2 DEX, so are suited to finesse or ranged builds, particularly for the Armorer or Battle Smith subclasses. Their spells won’t hit as often or as well as a race with an INT bonus, but Kobolds have access to the incredible Pack Tactics race feature, which provides Advantage on every attack if you have a nearby ally. This is usually not too hard to trigger, especially in a class that can use an infusion to make any ally that moves to wherever you order.

There’s also a lot of fun to be had in roleplaying a Kobold Artificer. There’s only so many ways to say ’My fine Elven runes glow and the item works exactly as intended’, but plenty more ways to describe scrapheap concoctions . Don’t forget that since your spells are delivered via tools, all of your healing can be described as horrific bodge jobs.

Rock Gnome

Found in: Players Handbook

Rock Gnomes’ +2 INT makes them a conventional choice. It provides a boost to the Artificer’s primary casting stat, as well as a bonus to the attack roles of some subclasses. . Their additional tool proficiency opens up a host of options discussed in the above tools section.

They also get the opportunity to have a few gadgets, which aren’t up to much in a strictly mechanistic sense, but let you feel more like an Artificer by having a gizmo for everything. Creatively you might find a way to solve problems with them, or just hand a firestarter to your homunculus to give it a more interesting action at some opportune moment.

DnD Artificer 5E a Warforged soldier standing in a canyon


Found in: Eberron: Rising from the Last War

Warforged suffer a bit from only having a +1 to INT with their big +2 going to CON, but some of the subclasses offer a tanky base that the Warforged can capitalise on. Their extra HP is backed up by large AC and a few handy immunities. You even have a free tool proficiency, which pairs nicely  with the Artificer’s bonus.

The real reason to pick a Warforged Artificer is for the story options, though. The creation of Warforged has an important place in Eberron’s history and the difficulty (and illegality) of making more are a big part of the setting. Since Warforged integrate any armour they wear into their bodies, and Artificers can infuse armour with extra abilities, a Warforged who’s big into self-modification has plenty of opportunities for engaging descriptions and a variety of interesting story hooks.


Found in: Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica

Another race that’s thematically connected to artifice, the Vadalken offer an INT bonus to boost all of your most important skills. Where they really shine is in their tool proficiency– the Artificer class doubles your proficiency and Vedalken adds another d4 on top, letting you hit skill check results that most characters can only dream of.

The best place to make use of this depends a lot on your campaign. In conventional dungeon-crawling campaigns, thieves’ tools are likely the way to go, as easily picking locks and disarming traps will do a lot of good. Other campaigns may favour different approaches; access to ship might be just the thing you need in a naval adventure.

DnD Artificer 5E the wizard Mordenkainen

Artificer spells 5E

The Artificer spell list is somewhat limited, as they’re only secondary casters. But there are still a few options that can go a long way. Here’s a pick of the best to give you a taste of what an Artificer can achieve.

Mending (cantrip) If you’re going to be building things it pays to be able to fix them, for free, forever. This gets a special shout out for Battle Smiths who can use it to heal their steel defender to full HP after every encounter.

Booming Blade (cantrip) A situational choice, but a potentially powerful one, this cantrip enhances a weapon attack with thunder damage and some additional damage if the target voluntarily moves. Both packets of damage gain an extra d8 every five levels so it can become a real powerhouse. With the Repulsion Shield infusion or the Artillerist’s cannon, you can reliably push enemies out of contact, forcing them to choose between absorbing the extra damage or wasting their turn.

Enraged: Our comprehensive D&D Barbarian 5E guide

Cure Light Wounds (first level) Artificers sound very arcane so it’s easy to forget that they can be competent healers at low levels. Don’t forget that your spells are all cast using tools, letting you give medical descriptions of the spell to breathe a little more life into a post-battle mop up.

Absorb Elements (first level) An odd spell that uses your reaction to take half damage from an elemental attack, before adding a little elemental damage to the next attack you dish out. It’s potent because the reaction is the part of the turn you’re most likely not going to use, so it always feels like getting something for nothing.

Enhance Ability (second level) This can be used to gain Advantage with a tool. It can also be used to gain Advantage on grapple or other combat checks if you’re building a STR-based Artificer, or want to help the party Barbarian swing one enemy into another.

DnD Artificer 5E a wizard casting a fire spell

Heat Metal (second level) You may think of Heat Metal as that spell that hurts someone via an object they’re holding, but it can be more than that. . As a Battle Smith Artificer, you can order your Steel Defender to grapple an enemy, before making it a very uncomfortable embrace!

Revivify (third level) Once someone in the party can raise dead the only way for your party to lose is for everyone to go down. You’re an excellent candidate to be the one that doesn’t go down, given Artificer’s combine medium armour, shields, access to the Shield spell (for some subclasses), and dependency on few enough stats to be able to afford some CON. Just make sure that the rest of the group pays for their diamonds in advance.

Lone wolf: Read our D&D Ranger 5E guide

Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere (fourth level) By the time Artificers get fourth-level spells, most enemies are sufficiently powerful that they’ll laugh off conventional attack spells. Resilient Sphere, however, isn’t about harming enemies, but removing them from the fight on a failed saving throw. Unlike most effects of this nature, it permits only one save rather than a save every round. You can’t damage the enemy while they’re in it, so it’s not much use against a single opponent, but is great for isolating a boss while you take out their minions.

Creation (fifth level) The option to build things out of pseudo-material you’ve pulled from the Plane of Shadow is a must-have for any Artificer. This is also a spell that can be powerful if your DM is generous (a 1500gp dose of Midnight Tears poison is /technically/ non-living vegetable, so you should be able to create it). Since Artificers don’t get their fifth-level spell slot until seventeenth level, the full casters in your party are will be throwing around Wish by the time you get this spell, so don’t feel bad about pushing it to its limits.

DnD Artificer 5E a hero riding a dragon

Artificer Builds 5E

Playing an Artificer involves considering a truly staggering amount of information, so hopefully we can solidify your understanding of the class by suggesting a few builds. These aim to combine mechanical advantages with a few roleplaying hooks, forming characters that are both powerful and fun to play.

The Dragon Knight

A Kobold who dreams of being a dragon rider and builds their own dragon has a lot of roleplaying hooks. There are a thousand ways to describe the bizarre and unlikely contraptions they use to bring their dreams to life. Mechanically it’s pretty powerful, since a Kobold riding its Steel Defender will often have advantage using their Pack Tactics race trait in combination with their mount.

Basic build

Race: Kobold
Subclass: Battle Smith
Ability scores: Str 10, Dex 17, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 10
Spell selection: Anything that makes your dragon more dragon. Levitate and Fly can get it airborne, while Fireball can give it a breath weapon.

Level Abilities
4 Piecer feat, or +1 DEX
8 +2 DEX
11 Warding Bond spell for your steel Defender
12 Sentinel feat
16 Mounted Combatant feat
19 Lucky feat


For your infusions mechanically enchanting any weapons and armour you can get is  probably the way to go. You might also consider Pipes of Haunting to give your dragon the fear aura it so richly deserves. Once you hit tenth level, you can use the Headband of Intellect to kick your INT up to 19 if you fancy taking a break from weapon attacks from time to time.

Initially you are a fairly solid finesse fighter, making attacks with a decent bonus. At third level you gain a ’dragon’ to ride, which has the same stats as any other Steel Defender, but is also an excuse to make dragon noises. By the time you hit fifth level, you have a second attack each round and a third using a bonus action for the defender, as well a guaranteed magic weapon of your preferred type and a useful feat to boost the damage of your attack.

Devout and durable: Read our D&D Paladin 5E guide

In later levels you become something of a nightmare to attack. If something attacks you it needs to contend with your high AC, which is produced by your high DEX as well as the ability to infuse both your armour and shield with magical bonuses. Your mount can use its reaction to impose Disadvantage on any melee attack directed at you . With Warding Bond, it can increase your AC further while absorbing half your damage You can also use a reaction to cast Shield for another +5 AC if something looks like it’ll penetrate your defences.

Of course, the enemy might decide to attack your dragon instead. In this case, you get a free attack against them using the Sentinel feat, and force them to attack you instead with Mounted Combatant, leaving them in the same situation but with a bloodier nose.

DnD Artificer 5E a Warforged holding a sword and shield

A Self-Made Entity

Level Abilities
4 Piecer feat, or +1 DEX
8 +2 DEX
11 Warding Bond spell for your steel Defender
12 Sentinel feat
16 Mounted Combatant feat
19 Lucky feat

Armorer is a fun archetype that opens the door to a whole pile of extra infusions.  Playing as a Warforged, meanwhile, lets you integrate  your armour with yourself. This is the path to the maximum number of infusions, which are unlikely to be disarmed even under extreme circumstances.

Basic Build

Race: Warforged
Subclass: Armorer
Ability scores: Str 11, Dex 10, Con 16, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 10
Spell selection: Spells to cast before or after combat, such as Cure Wounds and Mirror Image.

Level Abilities
4 +2 INT
8 +2 INT
11 Spell-store Shatter and give it to your homunculus
12 Fighting Initiate feat
16  Mage Slayer feat
19 Savage Attacker feat


The Homunculus Servant Infusion gives you a use for your bonus action, which this archetype otherwise lacks. After that it’s all about making your special armour as cool as possible, so start infusion Armour of Magical Strength, Enhanced Defence Radiant Weapon, Winged Boots, and so on. The best options change depending on your level and whether you have the class feature allowing the armour to be enchanted multiple times.

If you’re starting from first level, the first two levels will be a challenge. Until you can add INT to attacks, you’re going to have a hard time. Once you get there, however, the ability to wear heavy armour negates your low DEX, and using INT for your Thunder Gauntlets makes your STR irrelevant. From there on out, every level is about modifying your body. Start off jumping high, end up flying. Start off with a magic punch, end up with an exploding magic punch.

The feat selection here is somewhat arbitrary. The subclass locks you in to specific weapons (the Thunder Gauntlets or the Lightning Cannon) but outside of that you’re free to develop in any way you see fit. Since you only need one stat, you have three choices of feat allowing you to pick all of those really interesting combat-oriented feats that are hard to squeeze into other builds.

DnD Artificer 5E a Dwarf wearing gold armour and holding a gold-topped axe

The Immovable Object

This is a supportive build for players that don’t like to make combat all about themselves; an Artificer that makes the rest of their party practically invincible and hands out their infusions rather than keeping each one for themselves. It’s also something that might interest a tactician at the higher levels as the placement and movement of your twin turrets provides some intriguing dynamics.

Basic build

Race: Dwarf (Mark of Warding)
Subclass: Artillerist
Ability scores: Str 10, Dex 14, Con 17, Int 16, Wis 8, Cha 8
Spell selection: You have two potent defensive options in Shield (which can be cast as a reaction when needed) and Armour of Agayths (which has a built-in counterattack, and scales extremely well if using a slot above first level). Your basic action will likely be a cantrip, such as Fire Bolt or Thunderclap. Starting at fifth level, you add one d8 to a single damage roll, letting you get more value out of area-of-effect spells, such as Thunderwave and Fireball.

Level Abilities
4 +2 INT
8 +2 INT
11 Spell-store Invisibility and give to your party’s Rogue
12 +2 CON
16 Dwarven Fortitude feat
19 Toughness feat


You’ll be handing out your infusions to other party members, so the best choices depend on their classes and builds. Early on, Enhanced Defence and Enhanced Weapon are welcome everywhere. Later in the game, when your party has found magic items to add to their key actions, you can provide more exotic action options, such as Pipes of the Sewers or the Ring of the Ram.

We couldn’t get to the end of an article on Artificers without including at least one Dwarf! This build excels at constructing defences, being able to summon a turret, and also being excellent at creating mundane traps with thieves’. While the shooting turrets are powerful the defensive option plays into our theme by providing all allies within a radius with a small pile of temporary HP each round, keeping the fight going for longer.

War Priest: Here’s our D&D Cleric 5E guide

Since a lot of your contributions will come from slinging boosted cantrips while your turret keeps the party alive, and you have a lot of HP and decent AC to keep you going, you don’t need that many items. This frees up your infusions to hand out to the rest of the party if you prefer to shine the spotlight on others (or perhaps if you’re an experienced player in a new group).

It can be helpful to write the infusion items on cue cards so you can pass them around easily, rather than writing them on character sheets and forcing people to make changes if you decide to hand out a different combination of items after the next long rest.

DnD Artificer 5E a halfling crouching beside a guard, holding a device

Roleplaying an Artificer

Deciding how your Artificer builds things is the key to making their abilities sound interesting. While an Alchemist, Artillerist, Armorer, and Battle Smith can all cast Cure Wounds, they may do so very differently. The Alchemist may prepare a potion, the Artillerist might have a second nozzle on their turret spraying a healing fog, the Armorer may be able to set their lightning gun to ‘cauterise’, while a Battle Smith might make a crude sling and tell you to stop whining. The combination of your character’s ace, subclass, and attitude can inform the description of your abilities.

Remember to keep descriptions short. Plenty of players enjoy the game being more than “I cast the same spell you’ve seen before and roll dice”, but they still want it to get around to their turn in a reasonable amount of time. A couple of words of cool flavour adds much more than a longwinded speech.

Spiritual balance: Check out our D&D Monk 5E guide

Of course, a character is more than your abilities. You can round out an Artificer by thinking a little more about how they learned their craft and what they hope to gain from it. Were they taught by someone from another tradition that’s left a mark on what they do? Are they learning alchemy because they want to become a techno-Lich? Did they see something terrible happen with wild magic and are trying to make conventional magic redundant?

Having a few strong attitudes gives you something to work with when you’re chatting with other characters or bouncing off NPCs. It’s hard for your DM to interact with all players all the time, so cut them a break once in a while by saying something controversial to another PC if they need to run a scene that you’re not in. Who knows, maybe they’ll agree to let you saw off their arm and replace it with superior metal after all.

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