D&D 5e: Firbolg Artificer Guide

Male firbolg artificer holding a brewed potion.

D&D 5e: Firbolg Artificer Guide

Nature and technology. Diametrically opposed, yet intrinsically entwined. Artificers live at the forefront of society, fusing magic with cutting-edge science and cold, lifeless metal. So how does that tie into a racial background which is all about primal life and solitude?

Surprisingly well, it turns out. This quick-start primer breaks down how we would build and play a Firbolg Artificer, including gearing, subclasses, and RP tips.  

How to Make a Firbolg Artificer

Like many spellcasters, the primary build consideration for Artificers is investing in their casting stat; in this case Intelligence. Despite half of the subclasses on offer turning the class into a martial warrior, each comes with a way to use Int on attack rolls, so start with your Int as high as possible and always max it first.  

Unlike many casters, the Artificer is more than comfortable getting their hands dirty and taking a few hits. With that in mind, secondary stats should be the usual Dex and Con, to raise AC, HP, and Concentration Saves, as high as possible. 

Also unlike many (most?) caster classes, gear is vitally important to an Artificer. In contrast to a lot of spellcasters, many Artificers find themselves requiring their equipment to be effective in combat, and certain subclasses offer full proficiencies in every type of armor and weapon. As you level, you’re probably going to want to Infuse your gear as well, adding another layer of importance to your gear selection. 

In general, the heaviest armor you’re proficient in, a melee weapon, a ranged weapon, and probably a shield are sufficient for starting gear. Once you know how your party plays, you can begin to specialize. 

Every Artificer is also going to want to pack at least one tool kit, probably more. The class gains automatic proficiency in at least 4 types of tool kits, with automatic Expertise in all of them from level 6, and casts spells using their tools as a spellcasting focus. 

Remember that this list includes Thieves Tools too, meaning you’re as good at lockpicking and trap-disarming as a Rogue. But tool kits can be surprisingly weighty and cost a lot of gold. You gain one tool for free at character generation, but multiple might cost more than a starting character can afford. 

In terms of skills, Artificers have access to a decent spread and have good stats for knowledge and subterfuge. Stealth, Investigation, any Know skill, as well as the all-important Perception, are good choices here. 

Possibly the most useful thing your racial origin brings is innate spellcasting; Firbolg Magic. One cast of Detect Magic and Disguise Self per rest is normally more than enough, and both of these are excellent utility spells that are great to have on hand without eating into your limited number of artificer spells known. 

Hidden Step, a one-turn bonus action invisibility button, is also nice, especially if you’ve picked up Stealth proficiency from your background. It’s likely to see the most use in combat, where one turn of disadvantage against attack rolls and immunity to spells that require seeing the target is awesome. 

Firbolg can also talk to animals, with Advantage on the check. For many classes, this is fantastic. However, for Artificers, who are likely to dump Charisma and not have the required skill proficiencies, it’s much less so. There’s niche utility here, but you’d have to specifically build toward it.  

A male firbolg artificer opens a small chest full of potions.

How to Play a Firbolg Artificer

A big part of how your Artificer will play relies on the subclass chosen at level 3. Each one drastically shifts the focus of the class:

  • Alchemist: The utility and healing subclass. Alchemists gain a generalist list of spells, as well as a bonus to cantrip damage, making your basic options much more reliable, and an unpredictable potion that draws from a small list of buffs. All of this is useful, and the subclass is definitely powerful but does suffer slightly from a lack of specialization. 
  • Armorer: Become a tanky brawler. Defensive and damage spells, Heavy Armor proficiency, and the ability to super-boost your armor with magical effects, becoming either a stealth suit with a laser cannon, or a walking juggernaut that’s the perfect vector for all your buffs. 
  • Artillerist: The ranged damage dealer. A fantastic list of bonus spells, most of which deal damage, and a pet gun. (No, seriously, it’s a little cannon that follows your commands and walks after you on tiny legs.) Fun and flavorful, the Artillerist is an excellent backline blaster and DPS machine.
  • Battle Smith: The generalist warrior. A Battle Smith’s bonus spells are a decent mix of buffs and healing, but the main draw here is the Steel Defender, a tough pet that’s easy to repair and revive, deals solid damage, and can also force Disadvantage on enemies. Pair that with free healing and attacking using your Int bonus for a class that’s always useful no matter the party composition.   

Reading through the list, it quickly becomes obvious that Artificers can do almost anything if they build toward it. That’s the first piece of advice. Pick a theme and a party role, and aim to fill it first. 5e rewards characters who get very good at one or two things, and punishes generalist builds. 

So your first big choice is whether you plan to be a frontline warrior or backline caster/DPS. As mentioned, your subclass dictates a lot of this, but so do your gear, spell choices, and Infusions. 

Infusions are an Artificer-specific class ability that allows the character to essentially create their magic items, choosing upgrades from a long list of buffs at the start of the day. The list is surprisingly comprehensive and includes copies of actual magic items the party might otherwise receive as loot. On top of this, items can be freely handed out to other party members, providing bonuses to the person who most benefits.  

So an Armorer built for the front lines will probably want to play selfish, layering spells and Infusions on their equipment to push their AC as high as possible, before wading into enemy lines and laying the foe low with weapons. 

But the class is equally as comfortable guarding the rear, using cantrips or an augmented crossbow to deal damage while casting buffing spells and keeping their teammates topped up with HP. Either of the pet subclasses (Artillerist and Battle Smith) can even use their pet to contribute to the fight while providing consistent turn-by-turn support.  

As possibly the most complicated class in 5e, the full depths of the Artificer are beyond this quick-start guide.

For a more comprehensive dive into spells and infusions, you can read our full guide here.   

How to Roleplay as a Firbolg Artificer

The artificer as a class lends itself towards images of reclusive geniuses, working towards arcane and sometimes inscrutable goals, tinkering with bubbling potions or incomprehensible machinery. 

So it’s convenient that Firbolg also tend towards the solitary, keeping to small groups of close friends and family, looking after nature, and pursuing their own goals. 

Archetypes that might appeal include the mad scientist, relentlessly chasing after the great secrets of life; the green-thumbed alchemist who seeks to grow the perfect garden, and the wise and zen keeper of knowledge, akin to a tribal shaman… or stoner pseudophilosopher. 

Also remember that Firbolg are fae, which means whimsical and tricksy. While you probably won’t have a lot of Charisma, your character is going to be smarter than 99% of people they meet, and knows it, so wordplay and riddles are easy things to play with. 

Finally, while you might not be able to sweet talk them in the same way other Firbolg could, you can still freely speak to animals. It might not come up often, but animals are everywhere. Even a city jam-packed with people is also full of rats, cats, dogs, and birds, all of which are potential sources of knowledge. Plus, the image of the absent-minded professor chasing after a pigeon, overstuffed backpack rattling, screaming for it to tell him what it knows about the grand conspiracy of the city council, is too good to miss.  

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *