Game: Power Classes: Artificer
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 27th, February 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Mongoose’s Power Classes are, I think, one of last year’s surprise hits. The books are tiny, too small really to be called books and I’m surprised they’re allowed to claim an ISBN. They’re booklets, 16 thin pages between a card stock cover and stapled together. They’re actually rather robust. The idea behind the power class is value for money. US$2.95 gets you a single new core class, a little crunch dressing in the form of new feats or equipment and nothing else. In other words, just what you need to use the class.
The Artificer is the sixth book in the power class series and the second book in the second batch. The illustration of the Artificer on the booklet’s cover is quite subtle. I think you’ll notice the blonde hair and the crossbow first. Look again at the elbow joint in the armour; it’s specially hinged. Look at the Artificer’s foot; it looks almost robotic.
The main problem with the Artificer as a new core class is that it doesn’t make a good player character class. Artificers aren’t up to much unless they have access to their workshop and the tools of their trade. I think it is unlikely that these masters of creation will want to leave their workshops for very long just to go around destroying things. The other problem with the Artificer that hits me is the common XP drain in d20. In order to try and keep core classes balanced the Artificer must pay XP points whenever he builds one of his enhanced creations. The Artificer who locks himself in a workshop and never builds a single device will be a more experienced Artificer than one who looks himself in a workshop and builds a vast collection of weird and wonderful creations.
I wasn’t put off by those two problems. The Druid doesn’t make a good adventuring class and this XP spending requirement strikes in many places. It’s easy to shrug off these problems in the face of such an evocative character class. The Artificer is something different. The blending of magic and machinery is ideal for steampunk and still perfectly suited to fantasy. The Mechanomagical class abilities invite inspiration. Mechanomagical weapons are built by taking a non-magical weapon and having it enhanced and modified by the Aritificer. The mechanomagical weapon can now deal extra damage but the extra weight makes it harder to wield. Similar enhancements can be worked into Mechanomagical armour. Mundane weapons can also be infused with elemental force. At higher levels the Artificer can invent and construct increasingly fantastic machines, artificial limbs that can be spliced into flesh and even put real life into an unliving shell.
The meat, or should I say steel, of the Artificer’s abilities is the way in which he can infuse spells into equipment. You just use the standard Wiz/Sor spell list for the Artificer and if he knows the spell then he can build it into a construct as a special ability. The Artificer is, perhaps uniquely, suited to both high and low fantasy. If you want to reel back d20 core plethora of magic and yet not have to redesign the whole system then the Artificer lets you do this. On the other hand, if you’re already in a high fantasy setting in which mechanic contraptions defending themselves with fireballs would be suited then you can turn to the Artificer.
The extra pages in the booklet offer up some example mechanomagical equipment. I hadn’t quite released from reading the class abilities that machines of sort of style presented was possible. It is good to see that they area, but I think the GM will have a lot of tough calls to make as to the complexity of different devices. There is the new mechanomagical skill and a pair of new feats too. In all, this power class booklet gets the thumbs up.