Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Inventing a magic item for Artificer class

In the latest book from WotC, Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, the artificer class is added to Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. Well, the class was already part of the Eberron campaign setting, but as I never played that one, the artificer class is new to me and my group. And as we are starting a new campaign this weekend, I had one player who really wanted to play a gnome artificer. The artificer at level 1 isn't really totally defined in his role, that role is more defined by the subclass he is taking at level 3. But he is a caster with fewer spell, and both his magic and other abilities are supposed to be about tinkering. So the artificer is a sort of magical engineer.

Now one of the things I do at the start of a campaign is to already prepare a few magical items that would be of specific interests to the characters my players created. This is to avoid the situation where you hand out the magical sword, like foreseen in the adventure, and then realize that nobody in your group actually uses swords. Or the situation where you hand out magic items randomly by rolling dice on a table over the course of the adventure, and one of the players plays a class for which none of the items you roll are useful. In my previous campaign I had a somewhat underpowered druid, and by handing out an item usable only by a druid, I made sure that player wasn't left behind on the power curve.

So, small problem: With the artificer class being new, none of the previous rulebooks contain magic items for artificers. Of course they can use the kind of magic items everybody can use, but even Tasha's only has a kind of Dr. Who sonic screwdriver as specific artificer item. So I decided to make up my own. That is a bit of a tricky exercise, because you want the item to be interesting without being too powerful. But then I had an idea: I could basically take any regular magic item and turn it into a blueprint that only an artificer can build and then use.

So I created the Book of Tinkering: <Insert Magic Item Name Here>. Let's say you want your artificer to have a magical weapon, for example a light crossbow +1. So he finds a Book of Tinkering: Light Crossbow +1. This book allows an artificer to use one of his Magical Tinkering uses and their tinker tools to modify a regular light crossbow with the latest gadgets and technology (player can provide description), including a self-loading mechanism. That turns it into effectively a light crossbow +1 without the loading property. However it makes the weapon so complicated to use, that only the artificer himself can wield it.

I like the idea because it fits the theme of the artificer very well. I mean, of course an artificer wielding a light crossbow would want to tinker with it to improve it! It leaves room for the player to describe how *his* tinkered light crossbow looks and works, but doesn't allow the player to "invent" something overpowered. By linking it to the Magical Tinkering artificer feature, and making the tinkered item only usable by artificers, you prevent the player from creating a magic item factory. Alternatively I could create books of tinkering that let the artificer produce some common magic item, let's say a pole of collapsing, but a non-artificer would need to make an intelligence check to use it. The limited uses of Magical Tinkering would still prevent mass production.


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