Artificer Rogue Multiclass for DND 5e
Table of Contents:
A 5e Dungeons & Dragons Guide to Gadgets and Espionage
Artificers are masters of magical crafts, tinkerers and inventors capable of producing wonders out of scraps. Not to mention they're the only WotC original class to be added since the beginning. Rogues are infiltrators and cutthroats, skilled in the ways of subterfuge and murder. Put them together and what do we get? Gadget laden spies with robot buddies of course! Grab your screwdriver and your dagger as we go through everything you need to know.
Why Play an Artificer Rogue Multiclass?
The artificer class has a lot of fun combat buffs and support options but have serious combat limitations, even the artillerist is just halfway decent at it. The rogue dnd class is one of the best offensive options in the game and is the archetypal sneaky character, but wouldn't it be nice if they had some gadgets? In an odd way both classes make use of and gain bonuses towards their thieves' tools and while they don't seem like they'd mesh as multiclass options it actually works.
Your first instinct may be to take the artillerist for the eldritch cannon, but no matter how I tried the math artificer rogue multiclassing always left me with simply less damage when using the arcane cannon. Instead, we're going to focus more on the features of rogues augmented and enhanced by the utility features and additional damage options of the artificer.
You end up with a bit more than a sneaky artificer or a rogue with additional spellcasting options and when multiclassed right you'll end up as a rogue flush with all sorts of utility spells with tons of useful gadgets for their stealth missions and a robot pal to provide sneak attacks for combat. The slow level progression on sneak attack hurts, but we can offset it. You get to be Q and James Bond all in one!
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What are the Downsides?
Multi-classing an artificer and rogue isn't the smoothest combination. A rogue's sneak attack is determined by their rogue levels not their character levels, this means we're taking a big attack damage hit with any levels not taken in rogue. Artificer multi-classes have a similar issue as a partial spellcaster, and any levels not taken as artificer levels will hurt the already wimpy artificer spell progression and spellcasting abilities. We'll also be pretty low on hit points compared to other martial characters since even single class rogues aren't all that beefy. This also means that you'll need to meet the artificer multiclass requirements and the rogue multiclass requirements.
Thankfully we can combine the archetypes in ways to alleviate most of this but ultimately in any multiclass build we're sacrificing the late level capstone features and specializations of a single-class character for more options and utility. Thankfully the high-level artificer abilities aren't that amazing, so we don't lose out on much.
When Does an Artificer / Rogue "Kick In"?
This dual-class option kicks in at 4th level once we gain our 3rd level of artificer and 1st level of rogue. There are later features we hope to synergize with as well, but the core concept will function with just a 4th level build. Ultimately, we're looking at a final build of 6th level artificer/14th level rogue.
What Class Features Do We Care About?
The many features of rogues and artificers mesh in some interesting ways as multiclassed characters. To get our spy's pockets filled with gadgets we have a few class features that we care about from both classes.
Significant Artificer Features
- Magical Tinkering. Gained at with just a single level of artificer and typically underutilized, this lets you make a number of handy devices with limited utility equal to your Intelligence modifier. They're versatile utility options that can emit light, record and replay sounds, emit noises or odors, or relay messages. For most artificers these features fall by the wayside, but for a rogue playstyle? Having little on-demand noisemakers that can mimic any sound while I sneak past the guards has infinite possibilities.
- Armor and Shield Proficiency. Even when multiclassing into it we get armor proficiencies both light and medium and shield proficiencies when we take an artificer level. Medium armor means we don't need nearly as much Dexterity for our AC, and we were already only wielding a rapier so that empty hand can easily keep us safe with a shield. While it's not heavy armor proficiency, it can still make you pretty tanky.
- Spellcasting. Artificer spellcasting works a bit like an Intelligence-based cleric, you get to prepare any artificer spells you'd like each day but are limited by your spell slots. The artificer's spells aren't integral to our build, but more magical abilities are always welcome. Note that unlike the wizard spell list, access to spells from the artificer list means access to healing spells, which is great even if it isn't massive healing.
- Infuse Item. Starting at 2nd level the artificer gets to essentially "make" magic items that only last for a while. This however opens all sorts of magic item possibilities from simple stuff like magic rapiers to on-demand magic ropes and gloves of thievery. Note that what gadgets you can make depends on your artificer level, so we'll need to get up to 6 artificer levels to get most of the good stuff. Tons of utility features and combat potential here.
- Tool Expertise. Gained at 6th level, artificers get double their proficiency on any ability check that uses "tools". This includes thieves' tools so depending on how you progress you can use your rogue expertise selections and pick up the thieves' tools expertise here.
- Battle Smith. While there are other artificer subclasses that could potentially work, we're focusing on the battle smith archetype which provides all of the following extra features:
- Battle Ready. Gained at 3rd level with the archetype, battle ready gives us martial weapon proficiency and lets us use our Intelligence modifier for attack and damage rolls so long as we use a magic weapon (which we can easily make happen with infusions). We plan on focusing more on our Intelligence than Dexterity, so this feature lets us get the best of both worlds without the speed bump of stretched ability scores.
- Steel Defender. Also at 3rd level with battle smith, you get your very own robot buddy. You can use your bonus action to make attacks with it but the part we care about is really just that it's an ally we can control with movement speeds of 40 feet. By positioning your iron defender wherever you need a friend you can basically guarantee you can always make a sneak attack.
- Extra Attack. We can't perform multiple sneak attacks in a turn but extra attack means more chances of getting that sneak attack off. Gained at 5th level just like a fighter thanks to battle smith, we get just as much martial prowess as most other melee combat classes.
Significant Rogue Features
- Skill Proficiencies. Rogues gain the most skill proficiencies at first level in the game and that's amazingly valuable for any build looking for a lot of utility. An additional skill proficiency is worth starting as Rogue rather than artificer. It's important to remember here that your proficiency bonus is based on your overall level, not your level in a particular class.
- Sneak Attack. One of the best offensive options in the game, sneak attack adds a massive boost of raw damage on one attack roll per turn on the condition that you either have advantage, or your ally is within 5 feet of the target, and the weapon must either have finesse or be ranged. Our plan is to grab a rapier, and then improve it using our infuse item ability.
- Cunning Action. Cunning action gives us our pick of martial options at the cost of a bonus action. Starting at our 2nd rogue level we get the bonus action options to dash, disengage, or hide. This rogue mechanic lets us position ourselves easily in combat and helps to make sure we stay out of harm's way but land those sneak attacks when we need to.
- Arcane Trickster. There are technically other ways to run this build but taking the Intelligence-based spellcasting archetype just makes sense when multiclassing with an Intelligence-based spellcasting class. This also gets us additional spells and additional spellcasting options by granting access to the wizard spell list in addition to the artificer spell list. Which helps even if most of our spell levels will be comparatively low.
- Uncanny Dodge. Rogues gain some nifty benefits even at early levels. The ability to halve damage from a nasty hit is worth considering and may be a juicy upside if you're just trying to maximize sneak attack anyway.
Artificer / Rogue Ability Scores
Normally in Dungeons & Dragons anything with levels of rogue can focus mostly on Dexterity. But thanks to our battle ready feature from the battle smith archetype we not only get medium armor and shields, but we also get to use our Intelligence for attack and damage rolls. This means we can focus on our Intelligence and make it as high as possible. We still want some Dexterity though for medium armor and typically roguish skills like Stealth and picking locks. So, we should try and get our Dexterity and our Constitution up to 14 or so.
Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma are all dump stats for us.
Artificer / Rogue Lineages
Gone are the times of Dungeons & Dragons where your starting ASI is determined by your race. Now in dnd 5e with lineages you're free to pick your perfect ASIs which means we're really only concerned with each lineage's features.
We're still mostly a rogue and the ability to cast disguise self and non-detection on ourselves along with darkvision sure make this an attractive choice for scouting ahead and sneaking around. Also, just like other gnomes the deep gnomes get magic resistance which makes them an especially tempting option.
The newest version of kenku mimicry uses Charisma but it's still incredibly powerful when we're making a character that can make what are essentially voice recorders. Imagine listening to a guard captain, then perfectly mimicking it and having a little widget with their voice on it. The possibilities are endless and it's a great option for anything with levels in rogue, let alone the shenanigans we'll be getting up to.
Shadow elves get a ton of free teleports along with darkvision which once again fits perfectly for the rogue playstyle that often needs a lot of combat mobility. Their special teleport also grants damage resistance so consider this strangely one of the tankier options.
Putting the Gadget Spy Build Together
We want to start in our primary class and take our 1st class level as rogue, followed by 3 levels of artificer to get the battle smith archetype. From there you'll want to get up to 3 levels of rogue to pick up among other things the arcane trickster archetype. Then swap back until you reach 6 artificer levels to pick up extra attack and upgrade all your infused item options. The build then finishes off with continued rogue levels for a final split of 6 artificer levels and 14 rogue levels. We're not picking up anything amazing at the 14th level of Rogue so don't worry if you want to mix it up but we should try to treat rogue as our primary class rather than trying to be an artificer specialist. Also keep in mind like with other multi - classes our ability score increases come at every 4th level in a class, not our character level overall so consider rounding to those 4th and 8th levels sooner rather than later.
We want to be wearing medium armor and wielding a shield and importantly a finesse weapon that we've infused with magic using our infuse item feature. So long as we use an infused finesse weapon, we get to use our Intelligence for all the attacks and damage rolls and because it's an infused item we can use it as a spellcasting focus to cast both our artificer and our arcane trickster spells. Getting to use all of our spellcasting abilities while wielding a sword and shield just feels amazing every time you make a spell attack with your rapier.
With 14 Dex, a breastplate, and a shield, our AC should be 18 which is mighty respectable. And since we can make our melee attacks and cast spells while fully armed. You might consider forgoing the shield for a second weapon and that sweet bonus action attack. Just remember that you'll never get additional sneak attack damage, just higher odds that you'll land it when you've got 3-4 attacks. It's a judgement call and we do get strong defensive abilities from our spells but personally I like the flatly higher AC here.
The next part of our plan is the steel defender. It sadly moves right after us rather than before but with a bit of maneuvering your steel defender can essentially always guarantee sneak attack by being your "ally" in close combat. Just stick your robot pal nearby and stab away with the steel defender's deflect attack reaction at the ready for a defensive boost if there's any serious retaliation.
So, what does this dual-class option actually play like? Well, it's a strange one, but you've got the sneaking capacity and all the mischievous toys you could want. Your combat playstyle feels a bit like a better eldritch knight with your arcane weapon, alongside a ton of combat buffs. You're not limited to light armor like a pure rogue, and you'll feel as beefy and capable as other martial classes even with all the spellcasting. Just your baseline magical tinkering feature gives you incredible scouting options. Make a toy that sounds like footsteps or taunting and toss it past the guards. Make a "brimstone smell emitter" so the devils think you're from hell. I find these features are often wasted on pure artificers, but rogues can get a lot of mileage out of these.
Infuse item is very similar but stronger, giving you a wide range of toys to put together whenever you need them. You'll want to keep one on your sword constantly, but you're free to get creative with the rest of your infusions. For spy gadgets I particularly recommend the cloak of elvenkind for some serious buffs to your sneaking ability, and gloves of thievery for a +5 bonus to all your lockpicking endeavors. Boots of the winding path also gives us access to a bonus action 15-foot teleport, which can be absolutely invaluable to any aspiring spy!
Where it gets extra interesting is when we add in the arcane trickster's mage hand legerdemain feature. Think of all the fun you can have mage handing a noisemaker (or odor maker) into someone's pocket. Not to mention you can use your thieves' tools at range using your mage hand, never get caught in a trap again!
I think what makes this build appealing for me beyond the creative outlets is that I don't have to skimp too much on my combat prowess to make all of it happen. The dip into artificer hits the sneak attack progression for sure, but in exchange we get essentially guaranteed sneak attacks, an extra attack, high AC, and magically enhanced weapons. All of our melee attacks get to use our Intelligence, which is also our spellcasting ability, the low stress on our ability scores makes the build work.
The battle smiths spell list also comes in handy here, giving us powerful combat spells like shield and burning smite. Intelligence is our casting stat for both our artificer and our arcane trickster spells, AND we can even use the arcane trickster spells to revive our steel defender since it only requires a spell slot and doesn't specify that it must be an artificer spell slot.
More than just the sum of each original class, this build gets martial options, utility options, offensive options, and scouting options. Every D&D player's style is different but if you're looking into multi-classing an artificer this is surprisingly one of the better options. Take your sneaky artificer, build some handy devices and a robot pal, get creative and make as many James Bond jokes as possible as you construct new gadgets to help you sneak around and circumvent every encounter.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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