Table of Contents:
A 5e Guide to Being Truly Metal
Artificers are technological innovators and inventors, capable of making magic with mere bolts and screws and. Bards are maestros, musicians capable of conducting symphonic magic through their instruments. Both classes tend to focus on buffing up their allies. And together they can create sweet, sweet high-tech music together. If the idea of becoming a magical rockstar and living out countless songs from 80’s music videos in your campaigns sounds good to you, then just grab your guitar and a metal dragon to ride as we go through everything you need to know.
Why Play an Artificer Bard Multiclass?
When push comes to shove, do these classes synergize at all? Eh, not really, but we’re going for aesthetics and a cool theme here rather than a min/maxed combat build. There are a few fun synergies in that artificers get double their proficiency on checks made with tools, and technically musical instruments count as tools in 5e. It may not be the most statistically efficient build at this time, but if you want a fucking vibe as you play a metal bard with a robot roadie and a flying magical guitar then this lovely character build is for you!
What are the Downsides?
As with any multiclass combination, you give up on late game class features and the progression on some of your other features will be a lot slower.
In this case especially, we’re going for two spellcasting classes that don’t even use the same spellcasting ability. We’re going to be tight for stats, and we’re giving up a lot of late game spellcasting power in favor of spellcasting versatility.
And ultimately, we end up with a character about on par with a regular bard with extra steps and a thing or two extra it can do.
When Does an Artificer / Bard “Kick In”?
There isn’t a specific synergy we’re building for, so there isn’t much to “kick in”. However, the flavor of the build is really complete once we get the archetype features of both classes, so I’d say the point it kicks in as an optimal form of the build is at 6th level.
What's the Best Level Split?
I recommend going for Artificer 13 / Bard 7, which gets us the best of our bard subclass and makes our steel defender a beefier tank. I also strongly recommend making artificer your 1st level, as it gives us Constitution as a saving throw proficiency which will be instrumental in helping us maintain concentration on spells.
What Class Features Do We Care About?
To get our steampunk rock band on the road, there are a few key features we really need from each of our classes.
Significant Artificer Features
- Infuse Item. One of the artificer’s most powerful abilities is to temporarily “make” magic items so long as you have access to an item of the same “base type”. So, you can turn a normal sword into a +1 magic sword for example, if only for a while. Talk to your DM as well about how they want to do permanent item creation for both mundane and magic items.
- Tool Expertise. Gained at 6th level, artificers get double their proficiency on any ability check that uses “tools”. Interestingly, since instruments are tools and a Performance skill check uses them, this will essentially give you double your proficiency bonus on your Performance checks.
- Flash of Genius. Gained at 7th level, this feature lets you use your reaction to add your Intelligence bonus to an ally’s ability check or saving throw. This can be a huge life saver and really rounds us out as a powerful support character.
- Battle Smith. The battle smith archetype is really important for the build and is honestly the only reason it works because it provides the next few features.
- Battle Ready. Gained at 3rd level with the archetype, this gives us martial weapon proficiency and very importantly 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). This is vital, because it lets us ignore our Strength and Dexterity scores to focus on our Intelligence and Charisma scores.
- Steel Defender. This is where we get the robot roadie (or however else you want to flavor him). This beefy robot will help keep us safe in combat and can deal a surprising amount of damage while tanking in return.
- Extra Attack. We plan on swinging our “axe” around and this helps push us towards actual combat effectiveness.
- Arcane Jolt. We won’t get this until LATE in the build at our 9th artificer level, but it will help keep our attacks and healing relevant in the late game by adding 2d6 damage or healing whenever we need it most.
Significant Bard Features
- Bardic Inspiration. The core unique feature of the bard class requires a high Charisma (for number of uses) and will be a useful buff from the first level all the way to level 20. Music from bards has power, and like our spell casting we'll need an instrument to make it happen.
- Font of Inspiration. Gained at 5th level, this lets our bardic inspirations recharge on a short rest rather than a long rest. It turns bardic inspiration from an occasional buff to something you can use regularly every combat and it’s worth pushing this far into bard to get.
- College of Creation. This is honestly where we’re going to get most of our flavor, and it has most of the features we really want.
- Mote of Creation. Mechanically this adds additional effects to all our bardic performances. In FLAVOR though it turns our bardic inspirations into literal music notes that fly magically around a person's head (or whatever other flavor you want to add). The music video's epic-ness is strong with this one.
- Performance of Creation. This is one of the few places where the classes synergize. You gain this feature when you first take the archetype at 3rd level, and it lets you create objects with the power of magic! They don’t last very long, but one of the issues with artificer infusions is that you need the base items to infuse. With the performance of creation, you can whip up literally anything you need and make your magic item out of it, just make sure it's something you only need for a few hours.
- Animating Performance. This is where we get the magic flying guitar that you can El-Kabong people with. You gain it as the 6th level feature of the archetype, and it lets you animate any item large or smaller into a surprisingly tanky ally.
Artificer / Bard Ability Scores
This build is rough on ability scores, but because we’re able to use Intelligence for our attacks we can't be a dum dum and since we need Charisma for our bardic spells inspiration, we can't afford to be tone deaf. We only really care about our Intelligence and Charisma scores, with our second consideration for our Constitution score. We can't be a fully Int-based bard since bardic performances rely on Cha, but our multiclassed artificer can forego the physical scores. We want Int and Cha to be 16 or 18 as soon as possible, and I’d recommend at least a 12 in Con.
All the other scores we can ignore as dump stats. For armor we can rely on medium armors if we don't mind a middling AC.
Artificer / Bard Races
There aren’t any “wrong” race options but if we want our rock god to shred on stage, we want our Intelligence and Charisma scores to be as high as possible. As such the following races that provide a bonus to both Int and Cha are statistically some of the best options:
Half elves get a +2 bonus in Charisma, with a +1 bonus in two other stats of their choice which we can make Intelligence and Constitution. They also pick up another 2 skill proficiencies which further helps us literally be good at everything as a jack of all trades.
Humans get +1 to every stat making them as versatile as they come. It’s a bit bland for our song god, but statistically a bog-standard human is still one of the best options.
Tieflings gain +2 Charisma and +1 Intelligence making them ideal options for our build. They get darkvision and some really nice extra spells as well, including hellish rebuke and darkness.
Putting the Rock Star Build Together
So, we’ve talked about a lot of stuff, but how does the build work? What we get is a support character that brings their own party around to support while slinging spells and hit songs as they swing their mighty axe guitar around.
Bards require a musical instrument as their spellcasting focus, while artificers require an “artisan’s tool” as their spellcasting focus. Now if your DM is really nice, they can let your instrument count as that sort of tool. If they don’t you can be a bit cheeky and simply use a wrench or similar “tool” as the pick for your epic guitar in your other hand.
Now that we have both “spellcasting focuses” in our hands, we need to be able to swing it around. We can infuse our guitar making it into a +1 magic weapon, and since we’re a battle smith, our “axe” is now also a spellcasting focus for our artificer spells.
Congrats, we’re now casting both artificer and bard spells through the power of rock and a +1 enchanted guitar. Now what?
Now we take the band on the road. Our steel defender sticks with us, and we can animate another guitar, amp, or whatever else we fabricated (and feel like for flavor) as our “dancing item”. Sadly, both of these friends require our bonus action to attack, but thankfully the dancing item provides a passive effect and we can simply fly it into our enemies to slow them down by 10 feet, keeping them off us. We can then rely on our steel defender roadie’s reaction to swat down the attacks that get close to us. And if our party members aren’t around, we have two excellent targets for our bardic performance notes that will physically fly around looking absolutely epic.
This end result is a full-on mob of characters and heavy metal goodness (or whatever other musical stylings appease your viewing pleasure). Your wizard of the strings will fill a buff/debuff and utility role for the other players, with a magic axe to bring down in melee if the crowd gets restless. Both the artificer and bard spell lists are full of excellent buff spells and protection spells, giving you plenty of options to help your traveling band out. Our entire spell list will be massive, and between all the artificer knowledge, divination spells, and high skill checks, we'll be an excellent source of utility for the party.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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