New: D&D Artificer Stitchling
Welcome back to the Zurn blog! We interrupt the Let's Play series with a short jaunt through some new subclasses for D&D, resuming our homebrew series. Last year when we started this series we mentioned that we were going to wait to release subclasses for the Artificer because we didn't have very many at the time, and with the release of Tasha's Cauldron of Everything and getting to see artificers in action in some recent campaigns I've been a part of, ideas started coming for two new subclasses, which we wanted to share with you this week and next week.
We will start, as we always do, by talking about the theme and inspiration for the subclass, and then go into the mechanics for how the concept works itself out practically at the table.
Stitchling: Theme and Inspiration
Artificers are by nature tinkerers with magical items and mechanical constructs, using magic and technology to bolster the mundane items around them. But some tinkerers like to experiment with organic material, and the stitchling is the result. An artificer that starts with bones and sinew and then makes up the rest with a mix of magic and technology, the stitchling's art fashions a body that will serve the will of the master, and this body - called a "cadaver" - can fill various roles and needs.
While the necromancy wizard animates the dead and causes false life to spring into the flesh of others, the stitchling is more of a scientist, dabbling and experimenting with how to make the remains he/she finds into something better. There's a natural augmentation process that you don't see in a necromancy wizard, as the stitchling gains knowledge and discovers new properties through his/her work.
The stitchling also differs from the Bone Guardian Alpha in scope and purpose. The alpha forms a family of sorts with the dead, embracing the remains of the past to make something new and beautiful in the future. The stitchling seeks knowledge that will push him/her into the future from the remains of the past, but there is no great love or devotion to these remains; new bones, flesh, and augmenting parts can be found elsewhere, and a cadaver is a tool and an experiment, not a family member.
So like the Battle Smith Artificer with his steel defender, we have the stitchling: a man or woman who brings bodies to life to aid the party. Welcome to the freak show.
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired thanks to the team at Homebrewery. The subclass starts at 3rd level, and at each level the artificer gains a bonus, and the cadaver gains a bonus. You start out by gaining the ability to create cadavers upon finishing a long rest or during a short rest, and you can command it using a bonus action. It will then continue performing the task until you command it again, or until it is done.
You also get four choices for your cadaver, with each form changing what it offers you. The limb cadaver is a hand (maybe it has an arm, maybe it doesn't), foot (maybe it has a leg, maybe it doesn't), tentacle - whatever you have on-hand (get it? On hand? Hehe, okay), and it is small, subtle, and sneaky. With the ability to inflict the Poisoned condition on enemies and blindsight out to 60ft (not to mention the ability to telepathically communicate with you, as it has no mouth), the limb is not a great damage dealer, but it offers unique stealth and inhibiting statuses on enemies.
The corpse cadaver is slow and ponderous, but hearty and capable of holding down enemies. Since the artificer is not a naturally resilient class (relying on subclasses like the Armorer to reach higher levels of defense), having a handy "speedbump" for enemies is a boon, and this corpse will gladly serve as a punching bag for you. With the ability to grapple enemies (very well), immunity to poisoning, and Undead Fortitude to stick around even after it should be reduced to 0 hit points, the corpse gives a firm "anvil" base upon which you may flatten your enemies.
The skeleton cadaver is flimsy compared to the corpse and sticks out like a bleached bone compared to the limb, but it offers two very unique abilities: the ability to wield weapons (so you get a ranged option as well as reliable melee options), and access to a small selection of wizard spells. So when I say this is the "utility option," I really mean it - it gives you access to bows, spells - what's not to like?
Now it's worth noting that you need to actually carry around weapons, armor, etc. for your cadaver, so keep that in mind.
And finally, you have the abomination: a massive (aka, Large size) cadaver that is too stupid to grapple people, but far better at crushing people in close combat. It cannot use weapons like the skeleton, but when your shoulders are that large, do you need them? Probably not. And with the ability to bard the abomination with armor, you can have a very durable platform for reliable damage, all at the expense of a bonus action (albeit with a hefty price point).
At 5th, 9th, and 15th level you gain additional bonuses for yourself and your cadaver forms. The 5th level bonuses are defensive, granting resistances to your limb and abomination cadavers, adding some useful defensive spells to your skeleton, and improving the Undead Fortitude of your corpse. You also gain resistance to mundane weapon damage, and become immune to disease (thanks to your work with corpses).
At 9th level we get a power boost, with the skeleton getting access to 3rd level spells, your work with limbs allowing you to control up to two limbs at a time, your corpse growing faster and more dangerous in melee combat by adding necrotic damage, and your abomination learning how to stun a target when it slams it. You meanwhile learn to use the senses of your cadaver, enhancing the scouting and recon abilities of all of your cadaver forms. You also free up your bonus action each turn, as you may now command your cadaver(s) as a free action each turn.
And at 15th level you've reached a new height of knowledge about the body and its workings, both to aid yourself and your cadavers and to weaken enemies. All of you gain immunity to necrotic damage, you may now command up to four limbs at a time, your corpse learns how to debilitate the enemy with its necrotic damage, and your skeleton gains access to 4th level spells. Your abomination grows to giant levels of strength, increasing his base damage of 1d8+Strength to 3d8+Strength, making his platform for damage even more reliable.
So all in all, a very unique and flavorful way to play an artificer. It's built to really dig deep into the experimental "mad scientist" side of the artificer, much like Alchemist, but with a strong component of the macabre pervading it. I don't think it's as strong as the Armorer or Battle Smith, but as a subclass I think it presents not only a new and unique take on the subclass, but also presents a mechanically competitive build for use in your party. If you like it or have ideas on how to improve it to pursue that theme, let us know!
Until next time,