Making Your Own Artificer Specialist

You may decide that you want to create your own artificer subclass that best fits your campaign. Before embarking on this task, you want to be sure that no existing artificer subclass can meet your design goals. One of the greatest flexibilities offered in 5e class design is how open it is to reflavor the features. If there is a subclass that can meet your mechanical needs and stylistic vision, it is best to simply use that and save a lot of time in designing, writing, and playtesting.

If, however, you find that no existing subclass achieves the fantasy or has the mechanics to match your visions, this section will guide you toward making an artificer subclass that fits the 5e D&D model. The guidelines will help you create the features for your subclass and detail how you should balance the class to fit within the official options and those offered by Therin Creative and similar content creators.

Please note that despite the guidance offered herein, your subclass may need further tuning. Be certain to spend the time to playtest your subclass.

Class Chassis

The artificer is a half spellcaster with features that enable it to make its own magic items and build off that construct. It requires Intelligence for its spellcasting and class features, and benefits from Constitution. Other ability scores can be useful depending on how a player build their character.

With the artificer class, subclass has greater impact on how a character plays than other classes, and this can make some ability scores more useful or possibly unnecessary.

Hit Dice

The artificer has a d8 Hit Dice, and is reasonably sturdy. While the class can focus on ranged cantrip to augment its spellcasting abilities, it can also perform in melee.


The artificer has access to simple weapons, but also shields and light and medium armors. It can access a number of skill proficiencies and has additional tool proficiencies. These are further augmented with the subclass, so become familiar with the core options so you don’t create redundancies.

Ability Score Improvement

The artificer uses standard progression for the Ability Score Improvement (ASI) feature (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level) and shouldn’t deviate from this as the class works best when focused.


The artificer is a prepared spellcaster, but the artificer list is quite limited. The subclass will alleviate this issue, however. As a half spellcaster, its slots accrue slower, but they are a valuable resource to mine for power or fueling subclass features.

The Spell-Storing Item feature extends the class’s spell slots.


The core feature of the artificer class is its ability to infuse items to create temporary magic items with a range of options that include explicit items found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide alongside unique options for the class. This is bolstered by the artificer gaining additional attunement slots than other characters, and creates a strong support member by giving the infused items to fellow party members.

Specialist Features

Artificer specialists grant features at 3rd, 5th, 9th, and 15th level. This is deliberate, because the subclass molds the character into certain roles making it more of a caster or even more of a martial-oriented role.

Building an Artificer Specialist

Once you understand the class chassis, you’re one step closer to building a subclass. You’ll also want to review existing subclasses to get a feel for their design and balance. This section will aid you in understanding what your subclass features should accomplish.

Before starting on the formal work to build your subclass, devise its theme and role. What is your subclass’s purpose? What roles does it fill in an adventuring party? How are its mechanics interesting and unique? Why would a player choose your subclass?

Let’s start by looking at some existing artificer subclasses.

Alchemist. One of the most prevalent artificer fantasies, the Alchemist specialty works with creating potions and elixirs. The subclass leans into the spellcasting portion of the class, gaining a number of damaging and support spells, including free casts of powerful healing spells. It also gains a bonus on damage with common alchemical damage types. Players choose this specialist in order to create special elixirs to support their party members and back them up with the subclass’s spell list.

Battle Smith. The Battle Smith has two main facets: warrior and minion controller. While it lacks the heavy armor of the Armorer, it is effective with melee and ranged weapons, able to act as a mid-rank attacker or a flanker. Aiding it in these positions is its Steel Defender, a defensive minion. Its kit allows support in a range of means. Players choose this specialist because they want their own golem-like minion and the ability to support their party on a number of fronts.

Diabolist. Focused more on zone control, the Diabolist offers a form of game play that requires more foresight and planning. It offers substantial buff and debuff effects that makes position more important than other specialists. It also brings extra abjuration and conjuration spells to the table, adding versatility. Players choose this specialist because they like to manage position to support allies or hinder foes, as well as to have access to spells the artificer class lacks.

Each artificer subclass takes the class in a different direction, with a different role and kit, but at its core, each is a artificer, leveraging the class’s infusions and support spells.

Building the Subclass

This guide covers building an Artificer Specialist consistent with official published material. Each Artificer Specialist defines the scope of the subclass. While it still relies on the core artificer package, the subclass will feel quite distinct.

Subclass features are granted at 3rd, 5th, 9th, and 15th level. Except for 3rd level, each Artificer Specialist feature level should only grant one subclass feature. Consult the Artificer Subclass Features table for when you should grant features.

There are exceptions for the rule of only granting a single subclass feature:

  • Ribbon features are frequently weak on their own, so in certain cases you may grant a second, minor feature, which could be another ribbon feature.
  • The feature has some complex interactions that are much clearer when separated. Often this is indication that something should be cut, but in rare cases, it makes sense to split a feature for comprehension.
  • You are expanding an existing feature in a minor way. Sometimes it’s better to include the enhancement in the core feature, and at other times it could be a note in another feature.
Artificer Subclass Features
Artificer LevelFeature
3rdProficiency Feature, Spell Feature, Unique Feature
5thCore Enhancement Feature
9thUnique Enhancement Feature
15thDefense and Boost Feature

Proficiency Feature

3rd-level [Your Artificer Subclass] feature

The proficiency feature grants the artificer a subclass-themed tool. Don’t create a new tool if you plan to release your subclass as new proficiencies are hard to integrate into campaigns and won’t have any prewritten adventure support.

This feature can be expanded if the subclass needs expanded armor or weapon proficiencies. This feature can also include other proficiencies or quality of life adjustments.

Spell Feature

3rd-level [Your Artificer Subclass] feature

Each artificer specialist has a list of extra spells that they always have prepared. Each of the spells should tie into the subclass’s unique identify and flavor. You also want to ensure the spell picks are relevant for the average character of the subclass, such that a ranged-focused subclass isn’t loaded with melee reach spells.

Choose two spells for each spell level from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th level. The spell can come from any list, but you should avoid overlap with the artificer’s list in most cases.

If you include spells from sources other than the Player’s Handbook, you want to indicate those sources. If you are sharing the subclass, you can’t reprint content that is not provided by the publishing license you are using (i.e. don’t reprint a spell description from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything).

If you do include spells outside the Player’s Handbook, it is recommended that you offer alternative spells from it so groups without the referenced book can utilize your content without additional work on the DM’s part. If the spell is one you created for the subclass, include its description after the subclass (or an appropriate section for a compendium of content).

The Psi Forger from the Psychic and Spiritual Handbook gets psionic powers instead of spells. If you create an artificer that explores psychic or spiritual powers or a similar parallel magic source, it can be appropriate to draw on those lists instead of a spell list.

[Your Artificer Subclass] Spells
Artificer LevelSpell
3rd1st-level spell, 1st-level spell
5th2nd-level spell, 2nd-level spell
9th3rd-level spell, 3rd-level spell
13th4th-level spell, 4th-level spell
17th5th-level spell, 5th-level spell

Unique Feature

3rd-level [Your Artificer Subclass] feature

This feature adds a completely new tool to the artificer kit that makes it play and feel unique. This is the most important feature the subclass should have as it defines how the class is played and the likely roles it can fill. You will also expand on this feature with the 9th-level subclass feature.

This feature should define your archetype’s role and fantasy. It should be robust and the frame upon which you build the rest of the features upon, either directly or thematically.

In some cases you will want to split this feature in two, because the feature includes the defining feature and auxiliary functions to support that feature (as seen in Armorer and Battle Smith).

Core Enhancement Feature

5th-level [Your Artificer Subclass] feature

This feature should enhance the artificer’s core kit, such as granting it the Extra Attack feature or enhancing its cantrips. This feature should be offensive in nature, providing the subclass the standard 5th-level power boost common to all 5th edition classes.

The artificer class is designed to be able to diverge into a spellcasting specialist, such as the Alchemist and Artillerist, or as a martial specialist, such as the Armorer and Battle Smith. You should pick only one focus.

Unique Enhancement Feature

9th-level [Your Artificer Subclass] feature

This feature enhances the 3rd-level Unique feature in such a way that it makes that feature feel better. The Unique feature you created will determine how and how much this enhancement should be.

You will want to carefully weigh whether the enhancement is a passive effect or if it consumes its own resource. For instance, the Battle Smith subclass already has a powerful tool in the Steel Guardian, justifying the Arcane Jolt feature being limited in use. You should aim for no more than a 10% boost in damage across the adventuring day for a damage-focused subclass.

If this feature deals no damage, or is more limited or restrictive, you make consider adding an additional effect, such as a free casting of a low-level spell.

Defense and Boost Feature

15th-level [Your Artificer Subclass] feature

With the last feature, you want one that adds extra defense to the artificer and an extra damage boost. This is the final feature of the subclass and the last chance to affect the artificer’s damage directly, barring the 5th-level spells you chose earlier that are gained at 17th level.

Often the defensive portion should always be active, but when it is especially potent or adds damage, you should restrict how often it can be used.

The offensive boost should generally tie into the 3rd or 9th level subclass feature. This will automatically assign any restriction on how often it can be used. Aim for about a 25% boost if your 4th and 5th-level spell picks didn’t increase the subclass’s expected daily damage budget. Adjust downward if the spells do add power, such as with the cloudkill spell

The damage boost can also be replaced by free castings of a stronger spell or two, including spells normally out of reach of the artificer class. For instance, the Alchemist can cast the 6th-level heal spell once each day.