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One of my players asked me to play this subclass.

It is an artificer subclass which allow the character to control puppets and willing creatures.
It seems that the puppets have reasonable stats (at level 9 you can have 2 of them), but I fear that they will give beast and low-intelligence creatures a big "meat shield" to demolish before reaching the players.

Arcane Puppeteer

Strings

Some of your subclass features require you to use a set of strings – threads of magical force used for controlling your puppets and other creatures. A set of strings comprises of five threads, attached from each of your fingers on one hand to the limbs and head of a target puppet or creature. You must have an empty hand to use one set of strings: thus if you have two empty hands you can control two sets of strings. Strings are intangible and invisible and cannot be severed.

At 3rd level the length of your strings is 60 feet. You lose control of the subject of the strings if you are separated from it by a distance longer than the length of the strings. You can dismiss one or both sets of strings on your turn: this does not require an action. The strings also disappear if you fall unconscious.

If you can make your strings become visible. They look like thin spectral blue strings.

Arcane Puppeteer

At 3rd level, you gain proficiency in Carpenter’s Tools.

Also at 3rd level, you craft a puppet using a combination of magic, knowledge carpentry, lots of wood and hours of effort.

At 9th level, you craft another puppet, you can choose any type.

Arcane Puppet

At 3rd level, you must choose a type of puppet: (i) fighter; (ii) creature or (iii) beast. The puppet uses your Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma status. The puppet’s other status, actions and features will be similar to a creature from Monster’s Manual. Also, your puppet appearance, status and features change according to your artificer level. It’s HP raises as described below. You cannot equip it with other weapons or armors. Puppets are usually medium size constructs.

  • Manipulating Puppet: You control your puppet using a set of strings. While you are controlling it, you can sense what it senses. You can use your action to have the puppet take an Attack or Disengage action on your turn, or your reaction to have the marionette take a reaction. It moves along with you, but you can use your bonus action to use it’s movement speed. Their features are cumulative.

    • Attacking: puppet’s attacks are similar to common attacks, you roll the attack dice, add str. or dex. modifier and you proficiency bonus, if it hits, then you roll the damage dice and add str. or dex. modifier. The only difference is that, if the a puppet’s attack is based on strength, it uses it’s own str. mod., if it’s based on dexterity, then it uses your’s dex. mod.
  • Repairing: puppets that have less than their maximum hit points but greater than 0 hit points can be repaired. This can be done during a long or short rest, and requires your carpenter's tools. During a short rest, you can repair twice your artificer's lvl in hit points of the puppet. During a long rest you can repair all your marionettes back to their maximum hit points. A destroyed marionette can only be repaired after a long rest for a price equal to your artificer’s level x10 in Gold pieces. If your puppet has lost no more then 1/10 of it's HP, you can use the cantrip "Mending" to fix it.

  • Stand By: when you are not using your puppets you can use an action to fold then so they look like a backpack, except the beast type puppet after you’re on the 17th level, in which case it folds like a chest. You can carry your puppet(s) as if they were light. To unfold it, you must spend an action.

  • Fighter: this puppet looks like an humanoid. It’s base HP is 13 (+5+Con. Mod. per level)

    • 3rd LVL – AC 13, Str.10 (0), Con. 10 (0), Mvt. Spd. 30. It wears pieces of leather and metal as armor, also, it has a short sword and bow. It has 20 arrows. Attacks: (i) Short Sword or (ii) Short Bow. Feature: it gives you darkvision for 60 feet and resistance to poison damage.
    • 5th LVL – AC 14, Str. 14 (+2), Con. 12 (+1), Mvt. Spd. 30. It has a short sword, bow and a club. Attacks: (i) Short Sword, (ii) Short Bow or (iii) Club. Feature: when you use your action to attack with the puppet, it can attack twice, one with the Club and other with the Short Sword, or two with it’s short bow.
    • 9th LVL – AC 14, Str. 16 (+3), Con. 14 (+2), Mvt. Spd. 50.
    • 14th LVL – AC 16, Str. 16 (+3), Con. 14 (+2), Mvt. Spd 50. It now has a long sword, bow and greatclub. Attacks: (i) Long Sword, (ii) Long Bow or (iii) Greatclub. Feature: when you use your action to attack with the puppet, it can attack three times.
    • 17th LVL – AC 18, Str. 18 (+4), Con. 18 (+4), Mvt. Spd 50. It now has a long sword, bow, greatclub, a spear and greataxe. Attacks (i) Long Sword, (ii) Long Bow, (iii) Greatclub, (iv) Spear or (v) Greataxe. Battle Cry (1/long rest): your puppet start brandishing it’s weapons, every ally in 30-foot radius have advantage on it’s attacks and damage rolls for the next 3 turns.
  • Creature: this puppet looks like a Aarakocra. It’s base HP is 11 (+4+Con. Mod. per level)

    • 3rd LVL – AC 12, Str. 10 (0), Con. 10 (0), Mvt. Spd. 20 on foot, 50 flying. It wears some pieces of leather and cloth as armor and uses a Javelin and it’s fists to attack, also, it has wings, so when you use your bonus action to move it, it flies. Attacks: (i) Javelin or (ii) Fists: 1d4.
    • 5th LVL – AC 12, Str. 12 (+1), Con. 12 (+1), Mvt. Spd. 20/50. Attacks: (i) Javelin or (ii) Claws: 2d4. Feature: when you use your action to attack with the puppet, it can attack twice, one with the Javelin and one with it’s claws.
    • 9th LVL – AC 13, Str. 12 (+1), Con. 12 (+1), Mvt. Spd. 20/50. It has a tail now. Attacks: (i) Javelin, (ii) Claws: 2d4 or (iii) Tail: 1d10. Feature: when you use your action to attack with the puppet, it can attack twice, one with the Javelin and one with it’s claws or tail.
    • 14th LVL – AC 14, Str. 13 (+1), Con. 14 (+2), Mvt. Spd. 30/60. Attacks: (i) Javelin, (ii) Claws: 2d4 or (iii) Tail: 1d12. Fire Breath (recharge 5-6): you can use your action to expel a breath of fire, in cone 15 feet, dealing 4d6 of fire damage. Feature: you and your puppet are resistant to fire damage.
    • 17th LVL – AC 15, Str. 15 (+2), Con. 16 (+2), Mvt. Spd. 30/60. It looks like a humanoid dragon and has a spear now. Attacks: (i) Javelin, (ii) Spear, (iii) Claws: 2d6 or (iv) Tail: 2d8. Fire Breath (recharge 3-6): 7d6. Feature: you and your puppet are immune to fire.
  • Beast: this puppet looks like a Wolf. It’s base HP is 15 (+5+Con.Mod. per level)

    • 3rd LVL – AC 13, Str. 12 (+1), Con. 12 (+1), Mvt. Spd. 40. Attacks: (i) Bite: 2d4. Feature: it gives you advantage on rolls related to perception.
    • 5th LVL – AC 14, Str. 14 (+2), Con. 14 (+2), Mvt. Spd. 50. Attacks: (i) Bite: 2d6. Feature: ir raises your passive perception by 1.
    • 9th LVL – AC 16, Str. 16 (+3), Con. 14 (+2), Mvt. Spd. 50. It has claws now. Attacks: (i) Bite: 2d6 or (ii) Claws: 2d6. Feature: when you use your action to attack with the puppet, it can attack twice, one bite and one with it’s claws.
    • 14th LVL – AC 18, Str. 16 (+3), Con. 16 (+3), Mvt. Spd. 50. It has horns now. Attacks: (i) Bite: 2d6, (ii) Claws: 2d6 or (iii) Horn Attack: 2d8. Charging Attack: if you move your puppet at least 9 feet in line to a target and hit it with Horn Attack, you deal 2d8 damage and you push it 9 ft away, if it fails a constitution test (DC 16). Feature: you can ride in your puppet, it has the same traveling statistics as a common horse.
    • 17th LVL – AC 18, Str. 20 (+5), Con. 17 (+3), Mvt. Spd. 50. It’s size becomes huge now. Attacks: (i) Bite: 2d6, (ii) Claws: 2d6 or (iii) Horn Attack: 2d8. Overwhelming Charging Attack: it deals 3d8 damage and push the target 15 feet away (DC 19), also, you can use your bonus action to improve this attack and try to knock the target prone, the target must make a Acrobatics test (DC 17), if it fails, the target is knocked prone. Feature: up to five medium humanoids can travel using your puppet now, two inside, and three on it’s back.

Obs.: If you cover a Fighter puppet, it looks like an ordinary human.

Willing Puppet

When you reach 6th level, you can attach a set of strings to a willing creature within 30 feet. The creature can still move freely and still has it's own turn. While using the strings on the target:

  • You can use your reaction or a bonus action, if it's your turn, to stand the target up immediately if it's knocked prone.
  • You can use your reaction or a bonus action, if it's your turn, to move the target, up to their movement speed, between the limits of your strings. If the target is engaged and you move it more then 5 feet from the creature he's engaged, he may provoke an opportunity attack.
  • You can use your action to make the target attack with advantage, disengage or dodge, even if it's paralyzed or stunned. If the action is related to dexterity, you can choose to use your modifier instead of the creature's modifier, unless it's paralyzed or stunned, in that case, you must use your modifier.

This feature requires concentration as described on the spells section of the Player's Handbook

Puppet Armor

At 9th level, you can use an action to use your puppet as an armor. You can use this feature once per long rest and it lasts until you dismiss it with an action. You gain the following benefits:

  • Your strength, constitution and AC raises by +2.
  • You gain 1/3 of it’s hit points as temporary HP.

You can use Puppet Armor on another creature, but you need to use Willing Puppet on that creature. If you get unconscious or stop using your strings for any reason, the puppet stops moving and the creature inside must succeed on a strength check (DC 18) in order to get out of it. The creature can repeat the check at the beginning of it’s own turn.

Puppet Fusion

At 14th level, if you are in control of two puppets, you can use your bonus action to combine then as one. They become a large construct (unless you use the beast type puppet at 17th level, in this case, the combined puppet is huge). Combined puppets are treated as one, but they require two sets of string to control it. Its statistics are the following

  • Two different types of puppet:
    • It’s HP is equal to the total amount of both puppets HP.
    • It’s Str. and Con. are equal to the highest + 2.
    • It’s AC is equal to the highest + 2.
    • It can make up to three attacks.
    • It has all the special features of both puppets, except the ones that raise the number of attacks.
  • Two puppets of the same type:
    • It’s HP is equal to the total amount of both puppets HP.
    • It’s Str. and Con. raise by +2
    • It’s AC raise by +3
    • It can make up to four attacks.
    • It gains the one of the bonus, according to the type:
      • Fighter – your combined puppet gains a reaction, Parry (recharge 3-6): when your puppet is attacked by a melee attack, it can try to parry the attack. It must be holding a weapon and must be able to see the attack. It raises it’s AC by +3 for that attack.
      • Creature – your combined puppet gains an extra attack, Fire Beam: your puppet shoots a blast of fire, line 30 feet, 3d6 fire damage.
      • Beast – your combined puppet gains more damage on it’s attacks, (i) Bite: 3d6, (ii) Claws: 3d6 or (iii) Horn Attack: 4d6.

This feature can’t be used with “Mechanical Servant” (artificer 6th level feature). You can’t use Puppet Armor while using Puppet Fusion.

Puppeteer Master

At 17th level, you become a master of the arcane puppeteer arts. Your strings now have the extent of 120 feet. Also, your puppets become resistant to your choice of physical or magical damage.

You can write dozens of arcane symbols on a scroll to contain one of your puppets or your mechanical servant. You can spend an action to seal your puppet or servant inside. When your puppet is sealed inside the scroll, a large symbol appear will appear at the center for as long as the puppet is inside. By using an action, you can make your puppet appear. If the scroll is destroyed, the puppet will appear as close to the destroyed scroll as it can, at half of the hit points it had when.

Moreover, twice per long rest, you can use your reaction to switch places with your puppet.

It is written there that it has not been playtested, so I am a bit scared to allow him to play that class.
Do you know if it is safe to play? Or more in general, do you have any tip to identify the strength of a class before playing it?

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It is unbelievably broken, will be a nightmare to DM, and will almost certainly create unnecessary conflict with the other players at your table.

Let's start by examining the worst offender in the balance department: Puppet Armor. Puppet armor is an outrageously broken ability:

At 9th level, you can use an action to use your puppet as an armor. You can use this feature once per long rest and it lasts until you dismiss it with an action. You gain the following benefits:

  • Your strength, constitution and AC raises by +2.
  • You gain 1/3 of it’s hit points as temporary HP.

First, this is an always on ability. The only end condition is that you end it yourself. So as soon as you hit level 9, your Strength and Constitution go up by 2. That's the equivalent of 2 ASIs. It's already overwhelmingly powerful. On top of this, it also increases your AC by 2. What's another way to increase you AC by 2? Increase your Dexterity by 4. The completely overwhelming power of this ability cannot be overstated. No other class or subclass gets anything like this, with the only near exception being the barbarians 20th level feature.

Keeping track of things will be a nightmare for the DM.

In combat, the created puppet and the artificer will essentially function as two separate characters. By 9th level, the artificer can have two puppets. If they aren't using one of the puppets for super broken power armor, then this one character is really three characters that all act on the same initiative (maybe?). That said, this subclass is so poorly written, I'm not sure what half of it even means. Here are a few examples of text that you are going to have to figure out and adjudicate, with my own annotations in brackets and bold:

  • While you are controlling it, you can sense what it senses [the puppet was never given any senses]. You can use your action to have the puppet take an Attack or Disengage action on your turn, or your reaction to have the marionette take a reaction. It moves along with you [what does this mean], but you can use your bonus action to use it’s [sic] movement speed [what does this even mean]. Their features are cumulative [what does this even mean].
  • Attacking: puppet’s attacks are similar to common attacks, you roll the attack dice, add str. or dex. modifier and you proficiency bonus, if it hits, then you roll the damage dice and add str. or dex. modifier. The only difference is that, if the a puppet’s attack is based on strength, it uses it’s own str. mod., if it’s based on dexterity, then it uses your’s dex. mod [you have to remember to keep track of which modifier you're using because it changes depending on which type of pupper and which type of attack. Why? Nobody knows.].
  • Battle Cry (1/long rest): your puppet start brandishing it’s weapons, every ally in 30-foot radius have advantage on it’s attacks and damage rolls [Congrats, your allies now have advantage on damage rolls. Whatever that means.] for the next 3 turns.

These are just some of the most obvious examples of terrible writing you're going to have to figure out if you allow this at your table. Or just don't allow it at your table.

The rest of your players won't like being puppets.

You read that right. The 6th level ability, Willing Puppet, just lets the puppeteer play other characters on his turn. This ability violates one of the core principles of role playing games - player agency. It allows the puppeteer to take control of another player character and do with them as they wish during combat. Though, it does say the target must be a willing creature. They won't be. They won't be willing, and the artificer will be upset that they can't use their cool ability. It will create conflict. Just don't.

It makes the artificer not an artificer.

Note the rules for commanding your puppets:

You must have an empty hand to use one set of strings: thus if you have two empty hands you can control two sets of strings.

If you're controlling two puppets, you have no free hands. If you have no free hands, you cannot cast any spells:

You produce your artificer spell effects through your tools. You must have a spellcasting focus—specifically thieves’ tools or some kind of artisan’s tool—in hand when you cast any spell with this Spellcasting feature.

You cannot cast your artificer spells unless you are holding your focus. If you're commanding two puppets, you're not holding your focus.

Please don't allow this at your table. It is so bad.

I don't know what half this stuff even means, and the stuff I can understand is either overwhelmingly broken or violates the core design principles of Dungeons & Dragons.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your feedback! I think you have been exhaustingly clear :) \$\endgroup\$ – Riccardo Sep 12 at 23:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's even more broken than 2 ASIs: notice that those +2 increases are not capped at 20. Slap that power-armor on your fighter, paladin, barbarian, etc. buddy and they can have STR and CON 22. (It does count as armor so it interferes with barbarian Unarmored Defense, so the con itself can't be part of boosting a barbarian's AC to ridiculous levels, they need to wear a breastplate under it. But simply having STR 22 is very very strong.) \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Sep 13 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that the level 6 ability doesn't seem fundamentally different than commander's strike or Maneuvering Attack, in terms of basic design purpose at least. I wouldn't say it interacts with player agency since it doesn't interact with their own turn it only gives them useful bonuses and can be used to get them out of sticky situations otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ – OganM Sep 21 at 6:52

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