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In the new release of Eberron, the Steel Defender is the Battle Smith version of the Eldritch Cannon. From how I am reading the rules for the Cannon from lvl3 you can have multiple cannons, one each day from the long rest and any additional by spending spell slots (even though they are only allowed to command one at a time until lvl15 with the Fortified Position). I was under the assumption that the same rule applies to the Battle Smith for Steel Defenders. That you get one free one a day after a long rest and then you can make another with a spell slot (but can only control one at a time in combat with your bonus action since there's nothing like Fortified Position for the Battle Smith). Am I correct in this or can a Battle Smith only have one Steel Defender at a time?

Edit: I am asking if my character can have two Steel Defenders simultaneously active but only be able to command one at a time with my bonus action.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jan 3 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ To clarify, are you asking if the Battle Smith can have two Steel Defenders simultaneously? Or are you asking if the Battle Smith can have 2 Steel Defenders at different times throughout the day? You can edit your question. \$\endgroup\$ – Ruse Jan 3 at 16:45
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Yes, if you exploit a cheesy RAW loophole

By RAW, yes - I can see an obvious loophole which would allow the battle smith to actually accumulate at least as many steel defenders as they have spell slots at once, depending on exactly how you weasel the wording. The critical part is that:

If it has died within the last hour, you can use your smith’s tools as an action to revive it, provided you are within 5 feet of it and you expend a spell slot of 1st level or higher. The steel defender returns to life after 1 minute with all its hit points restored.

At the end of a long rest, you can create a new steel defender if you have your smith’s tools with you. If you already have a steel defender from this feature, the first one immediately perishes.

You can only create a steel defender at the end of a long rest, and if you choose to do so the first one you already have immediately perishes - a.k.a it dies. But nothing in the rules prohibits you from immediately using your action to revive the steel defender which just died (within the last hour), and that does not stipulate that any other steel defender you have dies. Now you have two steel defenders. There is no rule that says you can't have two at once, or that you can only have one at a time - only the rule that specifies the first one dies when you create a new one.

You can then take a long rest and create a new steel defender. Depending on how you read the ability, now either only your first steel defender dies, in which case you currently have two, you can revive the first and now have three, and you can continue making new steel defenders with long rests in this manner to accumulate as many as you like - or, if you interpret it to mean that all your pre-existing steel defenders die, you can revive as many of them as you have spell slots, which would ultimately allow you to have up to your total spell slots plus one defenders.

Of course, this is very obviously not how this feature is meant to work. The clear intention is that you are only meant to be able to have one defender at any one time, and no reasonable DM should let you abuse the imperfect wording used in the feature to accumulate more than one steel defender (unless, of course, your group enjoys this kind of system-breaking and are happy playing that game!) Since the game does not expect that you should have multiple steel defenders in play at once, the rules don't specifically clarify how many individual defenders you could command with a single bonus action, but by a strict reading I'd say you could only command one at a time.

Aside, you do appear to have misread the Artillerist's Eldritch Cannon. I cannot see anyway you could justify having more than one cannon off the bat, since in that feature's wording you explicitly can only have one at a time and can't make a new one if your previous one still exists:

You can have only one cannon at a time and can’t create one while your cannon is present.

And they disappear after an hour anyway, so you can't stack them up with long rests even if you could make more than one. Only the Fortified Position feature allows you to have more than one cannon at a time, and even then that still explicitly limits you to two.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh...I don't think a sane DM in the world would let that pass, but by a strictly RAW reading, I guess you're right. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jan 3 at 17:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty yeah, I went into this expecting to answer a clear no but then realised the loophole when I reread the ability. Strongly agree no DM should allow it unless you're playing one of those games where the point is to abuse the rules as much as possible, in which case have fun! \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Jan 3 at 17:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I kinda disagre with this answner. Even looking at the RAW, the word used when you create a new one is "perish", meaning that it ceases to exists, which is different from "dying", and therefore could not be ressurected by expending a spell slot. \$\endgroup\$ – Makrau Jan 3 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Makrau perish isn't clearly defined as a game term, and in normal english usage means to suddenly die, be destroyed, or decay. None of that implies that the defender utterly ceases to exist or that the remains are unsalvageable - that would be a quite reaching interpretation of "perish". (Of course, it's a valid ruling to make if necessary to put the kibosh on an exploitative player.) \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Jan 3 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Makrau: "Perish" means to die (especially by accident or being killed). Although, as Carcer says, its use of the phrase in the feature is clearly an unintended loophole. \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Jan 3 at 17:36

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