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Custom Class: Essentials Artificer, Heroic Tier

May 16, 2011

To me, the Essentials style of building classes is the best style, and should be used for all of 4th Edition’s classes. Why? Because Dungeons and Dragons doesn’t need a single, unwavering class structure; it needs different class structures for each class, in order to make each class feel unique. A fighter should feel like a fighter, rather than a wizard with knives. In the near future, I hope to be starting an Eberron Campaign Setting 4E Essentials game, and to that end, I have Essential-fied the Artificer. I dub him, the Infuser.

You can skip my post by hitting the link: [Link]

Designing a class is hard. Since I don’t want to have just a blank post with a PDF link, I’m going to describe just how hard. When you’re designing a 4E class, it’s best to base your work off of a second class. In this case, I chose a mix of the rogue, the fighter, the druid, the wizard… you can see how complicated the power structure of this might get, especially since Essentials uses those coveted ‘uneven class structures’.

But when I designed this artificer, I decided I needed a gimmick. Anyone who’s played a 3.5 Artificer knows that they are amongst the more unique classes in that edition. Casting times of several minutes, if not more, skill-oriented, and absolutely no talent with weapons outside what they make for themselves with feats and magic items. In the end, I decided if I wanted to make the 4E Artificer as enjoyable and memorable as the 3.5 Artificer, I should just mimic that set of design decisions.

However, drawing on other 4E sources for balance purposes was critical. I don’t want this class to be terribly overpowered or underpowered, in the right hands at least. That was the second concession I made: I was going to design a class which could be horrible in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to play it, but clever and brilliant in the hands of a master. Somehow, that decision was appropriate for a house ruled, or ‘advanced’ class.

In order to draw on different 4E sources and make it not feel like a clone of another class, I mentally segmented its power structure into a few pieces: at-wills, encounters, dailies, base statistics, and doodads. “Doodads” is the category of things which are more or less useless in combat or outside, but grant a class flavor.

At-wills, I took from fighters; the Artificer Infusion system is essentially a cloned Stance system, except that it could be applied to other people. However, I knew that I wanted a homunculus for the artificer, and initially it followed the ever-complicated Familiar rules from Arcane Power, but eventually I realized that the best thing (if not the most original thing) would be to replace one at-will with the druid’s “ranged at-will”, the animal companion. For a while, the infuser had an at-will and a homunculus, but this was far too restrictive; eventually, I just made the artificer have two at-wills and a homunculus. Three at-wills doesn’t seem so bad, the wizard does it.

Encounters, I decided to keep simple: the Artificer is all about a few simple spells used to dramatic effect, at least in 3.5 he was–so, now he is in 4E, no wide selection of encounters for him. Thus, the encounter power is also from fighters/rogues, at least in power level and base design. I realized after a little bit of mental playtesting that the Artificer would need some kind of Daily power, since the alternative was random bursts to damage output that didn’t make sense (on second thought, maybe I could have had a weird “your basic attacks with weapons deal 5 fire damage” or something like that, it would’ve felt cool, but it’s a little late now). And besides, all casters have dailies, and artificers are as much casters as wizards. Thus, I used the standard caster daily structure, and simply converted over daily powers from the old artificer (and one cleric spell, actually)

Doodads, which is to say cantrips, obviously came from wizards; and I believe the base statistics come from the druid, tweaked for a more infuser-like flavor. The other doodad was the ability to use rituals, which like the cleric and druid, were converted to powers and inserted into various levels as daily powers.

When you compartmentalize your power structure like this, it allows you to do a side-by-side comparison with other classes. Comparing to the druid, for instance, you see that both have similar doodads (cantrips to wilderness knacks, rituals to rituals), both have comparable at-wills (the druid has the animal companion at-will attack and his own one at-will attack; artificers have one more than that, but I don’t consider it too awful that they have the extra at-will), both have comparable dailies. I think that I added a skill but reduced the overall strength of the infuser’s base statistics, to make up for his potentially higher versatility. One weakness he has is no particular attacks of his own, he must work through others.

I spent a long time tweaking the powers to work together. Developed the Infusion keyword, and did a lot of mental debate to how far it should spread, whether encounter powers should count as infusions, or dailies, or what; eventually, I went with the system of having them all be infusions, but at-wills have a couple unique restrictions and benefits to set them apart.

Blah Blah, Tell Me How to Play Him

The infuser is a Boy Scout. He can craft items out of nothingness, he can summon creatures, he can enchant your gear on the spot, he can give you a magical rock that will heal you when he snaps his fingers… which means that overall, he’s extremely versatile, but only so long as he stays prepared.

The ability to give an ally an explosively powerful magic weapon that will set fire to a wide swath of foes is not terribly useful when you have no way to touch that ally’s weapon mid-combat, except for sending your homunculus or yourself to wade into the battle. Your one consolation with the healing infusion power is that you can heal anyone at any range. I recommend making healing rocks and using a sling to hurl them at your ally’s head.

Being an infuser means paying attention. It means making knowledge checks to identify weaknesses, and weave some magic to penetrate them. Being an artificer means you have to be well-versed not only in your powers, but the powers of your allies, in order to make best use of your ally-dependent attacks.

Being an artificer means self-sacrifice. You can’t have both your weapon be enchanted and your ally’s at the same time; you have to choose who gets to be awesome, you or them, and that might just mean being weaker when the ogre sets his eyes on you.

Of course, you could be a jerk; why not just enchant your own weapons, and the teeth of your homunculus, wear some heavy armor, grab a crossbow and mace, heal only yourself, and be a one man magic fighting machine? To be honest, there’s no reason you can’t. The infuser wasn’t designed to be a pure support class; much like the artificer in 3.5, he was designed to have his tactics be entirely dependent on the player.

If you want to wear heavy armor and be melee, there’s nothing stopping you. If you want to carry a crossbow and be ranged, there’s nothing stopping you. If you want to act like a striker and not share your powers, you can do that. If you want to be a leader and be frail, but supportive, you can do that.

Link?

So here’s the infuser link. It’s only the heroic tier of powers. I want to get some sort of input on it before I work on the paragon and epic tiers. Such an experimental class style as this requires lots of refinement before pressing onward. Hopefully, people don’t have too big of a problem with it, and I can press forward. [Link]

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