The Artificer class released as Unearthed Arcana has the same spellcasting progression (meaning number of spell slots at certain levels) as Eldritch Knights (PHB pg. 75) and Arcane Tricksters (PHB pg. 98), even with regards to gaining the spellcasting ability at 3rd level as opposed to 1st or 2nd level like all other spellcasters. I have a player (I'm the DM) who wants to make one and we'll be starting at level 3 (they'll be going the Gunsmith route, in case that's relevant).

However, whereas the two aforementioned archetypes get access to the whole Wizard spell list (albeit with spell school restrictions for most of their spell choices), Artificers instead gain what appears to be a completely arbitrary list of spells, mostly based on the Wizard's list as far as I can tell, but with many omissions and a few additions, such as cure wounds, which is not usually available to arcane casters (outside of Bards and certain archetypes such as Celestial Warlocks and Divine Soul Sorcerers).

I have no idea why these spells were chosen, but my question is not "why did they choose these spells?"; they chose them for whatever reasons, and I don't like their choices.

So I was going to instead ignore the Artificer spell list completely and simply allow my player who will be playing an Artificer to pick from the entire Wizard spell list, similar to Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters; this makes sense to me since Intelligence is their spellcasting stat. I was also going to allow them to have a couple of cantrips (where previously they couldn't) in line with Eldritch Knights (two at first, an extra one at 10th level).

My question is: what impact will this have on the balance of this class?

For example, this class would have able to cast cure wounds, and now will not be able to (so could not serve as the "party healer", for example; note that there is no party of which to speak of yet, so don't ask "what will the rest of the party be" because I don't know that yet). And of course, access to "at will" cantrips and, at higher levels, spells like fireball. I don't think there are going to be any major impacts (I believe this class is balanced well enough, unlike the Mystic), but are there any impacts I'm overlooking?


Note: I have no prior knowledge of Artificers in previous editions of D&D, nor any knowledge of the Eberron world (since this came up in comments and is related to Slagmoth's answer). Hence my impression of the class from a flavour/lore perspective is entirely as gleamed from that UA article.

up vote 12 down vote accepted

In terms of the Balance of the class, I'd say you don't have a ton to worry about. Artificers only gain access to spells up to spell-level 4, and even then they only gain access to those spells around level 19 anyways, so regardless of which lists they can pull spells from, they're not going to get tremendously powerful magicks irrespective of their level.

There is one important consideration though: by vanilla, Artificers don't gain access to Evocation Spells. The only two evocation spells they get are Cure Wounds, a healing spell, and Continual Flame, a non-damaging spell. In fact, if you iterate over their list of spells, you'll see that there isn't a single spell they can cast that directly deals damage to anything. The closest is Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound, which summons a spectral dog which can attack enemies.

Meanwhile, Artificers do get spells like Haste, a very powerful spell that greatly improves a creature's damage potential, but which doesn't itself directly deal damage. All of the spells they get are utility in nature: healing, ability improvements, invisibility, flight, etc. Now, I can't speak to designer intent, but my sense is that this is a deliberate choice, that Artificers aren't meant to be Offensive Spellcasters.

Your change, which would effectively be allowing Artificers to gain access to offensive spells, would have pretty significant implications on the balance of the class. I hesitate to suggest it would make them overpowered at all, because A) they'd get a lot of the really powerful low-level spells way after their prime, and long after they'd be tide-turning, and B) Artificers are generally regarded as being underpowered in the first place.

But it would change how they play, and how they treat their spellcasting abilities. My general advice, then, is that you shouldn't change their spell list.

I do like the ability of giving them some cantrips, though I'd advise you continue the practice established by their spell list, and only allow them to pick non-damaging cantrips. Note that stuff like True Strike would probably be permitted, since it doesn't directly deal damage, and fits the theme of spells like Haste, which is already in the Artificer Spell List.

  • 2
    Agree with this answer re: balance. Plus (in addition to my comment on Artificer lore above), I still think its worth thinking about flavour and treading on the toes of other classes (which can devalue those classes somewhat, though in this case the limited spell progression limits that problem). – PJRZ Jul 2 at 14:28
  • That is a very interesting observation; no damaging spells. This is certainly making me rethink my plan of action... +1 – NathanS Jul 2 at 14:29

Changing the spell list may or may not affect balance.

I say this because it will definitely depend to which spells you will grant them access. If you give them full access to the Wizard's list without restrictions there is a question as to why would I play anything else, particularly if you play in the levels that would make that choice more desirable (e.g. if your Wizard will never get level 5+ spells.

Some options might be focusing schools as do the Arcane Trickster and Eldritch Knight. Conjuration and Enchantment might be decent choices.

Understand its history.

I realize that you are playing in your own world, I do that as well as I disclaim the notion that all fantasy worlds are as cosmopolotan as they seemingly are in published works. However, when I read about a new class/path/race etc. I make it a point to research what it is as much as what it does. I avoid looking at a new class (or in this case a redesigned one for the current edition) as "Hey, this is a cool bag of stats" but instead go into reading it as "Hey, this is a cool idea, now how can I make it fit my world".

The idea of a thing largely governs what it is supposed to do. This may be why I have so much issue with word choices and some of the class descriptions in 5E (although I have tweaked them to better fit my world).

If you choose to not look into its history then you will need to take it upon yourself to define what the class is as well as what it does. Doing one of those two things is somewhat of a challenge let alone both.

Bottom Line. I feel history is important for these re-released classes.

If you choose to go this route there are guidelines in the DMG and MM that go into changing spell lists. You will need to decide what fits and then test it with ongoing skepticism as to whether it needs changing on the fly or in subsequent adventures. You will also have to decide what being an Artificer means in your world which can be a tad trickier. Are they support (which was there origin for the most part, thus the lack of most direct damage spells) or are they front line, damage, healing? These are things that determine a spell list. Originally they worked with items almost exclusively so that when they cast a spell it usually manifested on an item like the fighter's armor or the plate on which they created food etc.

Keep in mind that the name Artificer is derived from Artifice.

clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others.

If you change spell lists taking this definition into account might help as it lends itself to its origins and lore. All or most of their spells depended on some item of theirs or their allies or even their enemies if I recall (don't have my Eberron book handy).

Spell choice is really only applicable in the cost of opportunity in my experience. A Wizard for example is very versatile in their choice but therein lies the weakness. If they misidentify an enemy in their research, let's say misidentifying an albino red dragon as a white dragon (an idea presented in an old Dragon Magazine) then he likely won't prepare cold spells and instead focus on fire.

Unlikely, but you might make it redundant or even weaker

When I first looked at the class, I had the impression that their combat contribution was similar in style to a Rogue's with single target burst damage, but they also had a few options to do AoE damage using different elements. From my second review, I still concur with my initial assessment.

By changing things from the set spell list to the Wizard's list, the class will gain and lose a lot of utility at the same time. I don't think this will necessarily unbalance the class, but it could actually leave them underpowered. You gave them access to Lightning Bolt, but they still have to wait until 13th level to use it; but at 14th level they'll pretty much get to do a weaker version of that all the time, so the gain of that spell is less impressive.

I think you're also missing one of the key boons to the class, which is the ability to infuse their spells for use by others. This permits a lot of their spells to affect targets they normally couldn't (Disguise Self) and to bypass concentration limitations (now everyone can be Sanctuaried). A lot of these spells aren't found on the Wizard's list, so swapping the list for the simpler one may do more of a nerf than a buff to the player.

I've yet to play one, but I envision this class as starting their adventuring day by using half their slots to do infusions and passing those out to the party. Using their thunder cannon throughout the day or more esoteric attack measures when enemies are resistant to their attacks. Then outputting more infusions based on the nature of what they've encountered thus far (or expect to). In general, I don't see artificers as being actual combat casters except in more dire circumstances.

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