An adventurer in an inventor's power suit.

Whenever I’m writing an article about Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, I do my best to stick to the rules as written.* This is because I want my articles to be as useful to as many people as possible, and the further I step outside of RAW, the more likely a reader will be unable to use any of it.

However, in my own games I use a massive amount of custom content.* This includes creations of my own design such as a ranger rework and an encounter abstraction system. Alongside my own work, I’m always on the lookout for other creators’ designs that I consider good enough to put in front of my players, and today I’d like to cover one such addition: the inventor by KibblesTasty.

I’ve been following this particular project for a number of years, first coming across it when it was still called the artificer.* Even in its early state, I fell in love with this combination of magic and technology. Fast forward five years and the newly dubbed inventor is even more intriguing.

When I look at custom content, I want something that explores a different design space from what’s available in official content. I’m not looking to make just another hand-crossbow sharpshooter; I want to strike down my enemies with dual wielded greatswords, and the inventor certainly delivers. So today, let’s do what I do best and fire up the spreadsheets on four different inventor builds.

A quick summary for any GM being shown this by players hoping to use the inventor: I wouldn’t consider anything in this class more powerful than what you can already do in 5E. All of these builds do decent damage with good defenses, but I’ve made builds better at both using the official rules. My recommendation is to allow this class at your table in its entirety.

1. Grasping Vine

A creature of vines.
Gatecreeper Vine by Trevor Claxton

This first build focuses on the Cursesmith subclass to make a powerful ranged grappler. The Cursesmith inventor, as the name suggests, deals in cursed items that grant powerful boons at a price. This build takes things a step further by consuming cursed items and integrating the magical power directly into their own body. The default motif for this subclass is spooky shadows, but I found this character could be easily themed as a vengeful avatar of nature, calling upon the roots of the forest to bind and crush their enemies.

How do we accomplish this? Well, as I spoiled in the last paragraph, grappling is key to this build’s strategy. The Cursesmith receives a unique weapon that can be upgraded to not just allow grapple attempts as a bonus-action attack rider, but also grapple multiple targets at once at the cost of damage dice. Once we have them grappled, there are multiple inventor upgrades that deal damage to grappled targets, massively increasing our damage output.

It’s that last point that drew me to this build and makes it easily my favorite of the four we’re looking at today. Normally, optimized grapple strategies use the condition as a means to an end, turning movement into damage by dragging grappled enemies through damaging terrain. That’s fun in its own way, but I’ve always wanted a build that uses grapple for its own merits, dealing great damage without the need for spells like Spike Growth.

Build Summary

Ancestry

Bugbear: I’m always happy when a build doesn’t use one of the feat ancestries, and this one fits the bill. The main reason we want bugbear is for their Long-Limbed feature, adding an additional 5 feet of reach on our attacks. Grappling a melee opponent 10 feet away when they only have 5 foot ranged attacks means that they’ll be doing zero damage while we slowly choke them out.

It is important to note that this build order assumes the bugbear’s increased reach allows them to make and maintain grapples from a range of 10 feet. If this is not the case in your game, then swap the bugbear out for custom lineage and speed up your feat acquisition. This custom-lineage version of the build should also take the Twisting Reach upgrade at 1st level instead of Necrotic Rot.

Starting Stats

  • Str – 17: Although the Cursesmith can use their intelligence to grapple, that costs an upgrade we can’t afford. This makes strength our key stat.
  • Dex – 8: Dump stat.
  • Con – 14: I wish we could have started with 16 constitution, but 14 is the highest we could manage.
  • Int – 14: This build needs at least a 13 intelligence for multiclassing, so we bump it up to 14 since we have the points.
  • Wis – 13: Needed for multiclassing, and we will eventually raise wisdom to 14.
  • Cha – 8: Dump stat.

Level Split

  • Inventor 5 – Cursesmith: Inventor levels will make up the vast majority of levels in all these builds. Since this subclass gets Extra Attack at 5th level, we want to reach that point as quickly as possible.
  • Cleric 1 Twilight: This build isn’t looking for the Lifeberry combo,* so Twilight it is. If you feel Twilight is too broken, any subclass that grants heavy armor proficiency will work.
  • Inventor 14 – Cursesmith: Now we have heavy armor, so the rest of our levels can go back into inventor.

ASI

  • Level 4 – Skill Expert +1 strength/athletics: Bumps our strength to 18 and makes us even better at grappling.
  • Level 9 Mental Adaptability – Crushing Grip: This is a special inventor feat that allows us to grab an upgrade from a different subclass. Crushing Grip is from the body-modding Fleshsmith and adds some free damage on targets we are grappling.
  • Level 13 – Resilient – Wisdom: Increases wisdom to 14 and shores up the ever-important wisdom saves.
  • Level 17 – Warcaster: The inventor casts spells and even a half-caster’s concentration is important. This feat helps us maintain it.
  • Level 20 – Grappler: This is a nice accuracy increase against targets we have grappled. This build has another way to generate advantage and generally likes to attack targets it hasn’t yet grappled, which is why this feat comes online so late.

Magic Items

While not needed for any of my builds, these are a few magical items that help more than most. This is especially true for the inventor, as one of its features grants an additional attunement slot. I am not including any of these items in my damage calculations.

  • +X Weapon/Armor: Improving our AC and damage is always useful. The inventor is able to break down weapons to improve those provided by class features, so they don’t lose out the way other special-weapon subclasses do.
  • Amulet of Health: This build does its best to stay out of harm’s way by holding enemies too far away for them to make attacks, but increasing constitution to 19 is still great.
  • Headband of Intellect: Intelligence is supposed to be a key stat for the inventor. This build mostly circumvents that, but there are still some damage features that key off intelligence. Increasing ours to 19 means more damage, which is always good.
  • Necklace of Prayer Beads: This is an excellent item that bolsters the cleric spells we can cast, with entries like Greater Restoration and Planar Ally.

Level Breakdown

These level breakdowns are a bit different from ones I’ve used previously. For my calculations, I assume each adventuring day includes eight four-round encounters with one short rest. This totals 34 rounds of combat. I also use a target AC that a character who raised their combat stat as soon as possible would hit 60% of the time. I am also comparing this build’s damage to a baseline of a warlock using Eldritch Blast with Agonizing Blast and Hex. This method still has gaps, but I believe it is a fairer metric than the more nebulous ones I’ve used in the past.

You can check out the more detailed math behind the build here.

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 1
– 1 Inventor
 – Features
– Cursesmith
– Magic Item Analysis
– Cursesmith’s Proficiency
– Forbidden Artifact
– Grasping Form
– Necrotic Rot
– Soul Investiture
– AC
– Scale: 14
– Dex 8: -1
– Total: 13
– HP
– Hit Dice d8: +8
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 10
– Saves
– Str 17: +3
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +2
– Total: +4
– Int
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +2
– Total: +4
– Wis 13: +1
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 14
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 7.28
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 2.19
– Total Damage
– DPR: 9.462500
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 5.85
– % Above Baseline
– 61.75%
– Level 2
– 2 Inventor
 – Features
– Spellcasting
– Arcane Retrofit
– Tool Expertise
– Spells
– 1st
– Arcane Infusion
– Cure Wounds
– Expeditious Retreat
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 10
– Hit Dice d8:
+5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 17
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 14
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 7.28
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 2.19
– Total Damage
– DPR: 9.462500
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 7.65
– % Above Baseline
– 23.69%

Depending on when you want to multiclass, this build’s early levels can be wildly different. We always want to start as an inventor for the save proficiencies, but after that it’s a question of how much we value defense versus an extra attack. Taking a level of cleric will drastically increase our defenses at the cost of delaying Extra Attack and downgrading our weapon damage from the greatsword to a one-handed weapon if we want to wield a shield.

I like to do damage, so I have condemned this build to a piddling 13 AC until 6th level. In a real party, my decision would be dependent on the rest of the characters. If there is a frontline character for me to hide behind with my 10 foot reach, then I’d ditch the armor. If we needed a frontline warrior, I’d take my cleric dip at 2nd level.

As far as damage dealt, this build is in a pretty good place, outpacing the baseline I’ve set by a good margin. This is done using a greatsword as our Forbidden Artifact and pairing it with a pseudo-Great Weapon Master effect of Soul Investiture. On top of that, we have some minor damage coming from the stacking damage effect of Necrotic Rot. While our spell save DC is low enough it’s unlikely that Rot will apply more than once per swing, any damage is good. We also have the reach to outmaneuver any monster with a reach of 5 feet.

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 3
– 3 Inventor
 – Features
– Curse Eater
– Damned Affinity
– Upgrade
– Abhorrent Split
– Spells
– 1st
– Feather Fall
– Inflict Wound
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 17
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 24
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 14
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 7.55
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 2.19
– Total Damage
– DPR: 9.737500
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 7.65
– % Above Baseline
– 27.29%
– Level 4
– 4 Inventor
 – Features
– ASI
– Skill Expert
– Str +1
– Athletics
Expertise
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 24
– Hit Dice d8:
+5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 31
– Saves
– Str 18: +4
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 15
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 8.05
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 2.09
– Total Damage
– DPR: 10.143750
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 8.25
– % Above Baseline
– 22.95%
– Level 5
– 5 Inventor
 – Features
– Extra Attack
– Upgrade
– Shadowed Shades
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 31
– Hit Dice d8:
+5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 38
– Saves
– Str 18: +4
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +3
– Total: +5
– Int
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +3
– Total: +5
– Wis 13: +1
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 16
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 17.98
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 5.19
– Total Damage
– DPR: 23.170352
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 16.50
– % Above Baseline
– 40.43%

Levels 3–5 are where we acquire this build’s identity. At 3rd level, we eat our Forbidden Artifact, turning it from a greatsword into a 1d8 natural weapon. This drop in damage is offset by freeing up our hands for an eventual shield and more grappling, plus the Abhorrent Split upgrade that allows our weapon to grapple multiple targets at the cost of damage dice.

At 5th level, we pick up this subclass’s version of Devil’s Sight, meaning now we can acquire one-sided obscurement via the Darkness spell. I envision this darkness taking the form of plants gathering around our character so thickly that enemies can no longer see them, as roots continue to strike out and bind our foes. This obscurement is an increase to both our attack and defense, giving us advantage and enemies disadvantage when making attacks. Our AC is so bad that disadvantage probably won’t matter, but that’s about to change.

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 6
– 1 Cleric
 – Features
– Twilight Domain
– Domain Spells
– Bonus Proficiencies
– Eyes of Night
– Vigilant Blessing
– Spells
– Cantrip
– Guidance
– Mending
– Resistance
– 1st
– Bless
– Healing Word
– Shield of Faith
– AC
– Plate: 18
– Shield: +2
– Total: 20
– HP
– Previous: 38
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 45
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged

Thanks to a quick dip of Twilight cleric, our pitiful 13 AC jumps up to 20 via full plate and a shield. We also pick up some decent cantrips, spells, and Twilight’s improved initiative.

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 7
– 6 Inventor
 – Features
– Arcane Reconstruction
– Cross-Disciplinary Knowledge
– Mechanical Arm
– Spells
– 2nd
– Replace Cure Wounds
– Aid
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 45
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 52
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 16
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 18.92
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 5.48
– Total Damage
– DPR: 24.400840
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 16.50
– % Above Baseline
– 47.88%
– Level 8
– 7 Inventor
– Features
– Wondrous Item Proficiency
– Upgrade
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– Spells
– 1st
– 1st: Cure Wounds
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 52
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 59
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 17
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 17.39
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 4.67
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– DPR: 3.14
– Damage lost from
grapple
– 3.71
– Total Damage
– DPR: 21.489375
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 17.70
– % Above Baseline
– 21.41%
– Level 9
– 8 Inventor
– Features
– ASI
– Mental Adaptability
– Crushing Grip
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 59
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 66
– Saves
– Str 18: +4
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +4
– Total: +6
– Int
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +4
– Total: +6
– Wis 13: +1
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 18
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 19.25
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 5.13
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– DPR: 3.49
– Crushing Grip
– DPR: 3.99
– Damage lost from
grapple
– 4.09
– Total Damage
– DPR: 27.775794
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 17.70
– % Above Baseline
– 56.93%
– Level 10
– 9 Inventor
 – Features
– Upgrade
– Aspect of the Damned
– Hungering Soul
– Physical Mutation
– Massive Mutation
– Spells
– 3rd
– Replace Enlarge/Reduce
– Dispel Magic
– Mutate
– Prismatic Weapon
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 66
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 73
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 18
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 19.25
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 5.13
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– DPR: 3.49
– Crushing Grip
– DPR: 3.99
– Hungering Soul
– DPR: 4.49
– Damage lost from
grapple
– 4.09
– Total Damage
– DPR: 32.267919
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 17.70
– % Above Baseline
– 82.30%

Levels 7–10 are where we acquire more tools to help us grapple more targets for more damage. At 7th level, we acquire a mechanical arm that increases the total of targets we can grapple by one. At 8th level we get Skeletal Gauntlets, which adds 1d6 damage per round to something that we grapple. Finally, we pick up Crushing Grip at 9th level. Not only does this add our strength modifier as additional damage to grappled targets but also makes it harder for targets to escape our vines.

We round these grapple bonuses out with a large* boost granted by the Aspect of the Damned. Not only does this add an additional 1d8 per round to targets we have grappled, but it also gives a non-concentration way to grow our size to ensure we can grapple larger foes. This is thanks to stealing the Massive Mutation upgrade from the Fleshsmith, another inventor subclass. We can only spend four rounds in this larger form per rest,* but given how good we are at grappling, that should be more than enough time to secure any huge enemies.

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 11
– 10 Inventor
– Features
– Improved Magical Crafting
– Wondrous Item Recharges
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 73
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 80
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 18
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 20.18
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 5.40
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– DPR: 3.67
– Crushing Grip
– DPR: 4.20
– Hungering Soul
– DPR: 4.72
– Damage lost from
grapple
– 4.13
– Total Damage
– DPR: 34.037215
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 25.37%
– Level 12
– 11 Inventor
– Features
– Study of Magic
– Consuming Power
– Spells
– 3rd
– Glyph of Warding
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 80
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 87
– Saves
– Str 20: +5
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +4
– Total: +6
– Int
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +4
– Total: +6
– Wis 13: +1
– Cha 7: -2
– Target AC: 18
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 23.12
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 5.84
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– DPR: 3.97
– Crushing Grip
– DPR: 5.68
– Hungering Soul
– DPR: 5.11
– Damage lost from
grapple
– 4.44
– Total Damage
– DPR: 39.283716
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 44.69%
– Level 13
– 12 Inventor
– Features
– ASI
– Resilient
– Wisdom
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 87
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 94
– Saves
– Str 20: +5
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +5
– Total: +7
– Int
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +5
– Total: +7
– Wis
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +5
– Total: +7
– Cha 7: -2
– Target AC: 19
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 24.13
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 5.98
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– DPR: 4.16
– Crushing Grip
– DPR: 5.94
– Hungering Soul
– DPR: 5.34
– Damage lost from
grapple
– 4.72
– Total Damage
– DPR: 40.823419
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 50.36%
– Level 14
– 13 Inventor
– Features
– Upgrade
– Weapon Apotheosis
– Spells
– 4th
– Death Ward
– Ichorous Blood
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 94
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 101
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 19
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 29.52
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 5.98
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– DPR: 4.16
– Crushing Grip
– DPR: 5.94
– Hungering Soul
– DPR: 5.34
– Damage lost from
grapple
– 4.72
– Total Damage
– DPR: 46.210794
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 70.21%
– Level 15
– 14 Inventor
– Features
– Unlimited Power
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 101
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 108
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 19
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 30.74
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 6.24
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– DPR: 4.34
– Crushing Grip
– DPR: 6.20
– Hungering Soul
– DPR: 5.58
– Damage lost from
grapple
– 5.01
– Total Damage
– DPR: 48.086265
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 77.11%

Levels 11–15 see a series of incremental damage boosts, mostly in the form of more spell slots to cast Darkness with. Consuming Power at 12th level lets us convert our charisma to strength, bumping us to 20 in our combat stat. The largest damage increase shows up at 14th level, where the extra 1d6 of Weapon Apotheosis combined with more darkness puts us a sizable chunk above the baseline.

Level/Features/Spells DefenseOffense
– Level 16
– 15 Inventor
– Features
– Upgrade
– True Artifact
– Spells
– 4th
– Greater Invisibility
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 108
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 115
– Saves
– Str 24: +7
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +5
– Total: +7
– Int
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +5
– Total: +7
– Wis
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +5
– Total: +7
– Cha 3: -4
– Target AC: 19
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 47.41
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 7.80
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– DPR: 5.42
– Crushing Grip
– DPR: 10.83
– Hungering Soul
– DPR: 6.96
– Damage lost from
grapple
– 6.18
– Total Damage
– DPR: 72.251970
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 166.12%
– Level 17
– 16 Inventor
– Features
– ASI
– Warcaster
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 115
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 122
– Saves
– Str 24: +7
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +6
– Total: +8
– Int
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +6
– Total: +8
– Wis
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +6
– Total: +8
– Cha 3: -4
– Target AC: 20
– Forbidden Artifact Attack
– DPR: 47.41
– Necrotic Rot
– DPR: 7.65
– Skeletal Gauntlets
– DPR: 5.42
– Crushing Grip
– DPR: 10.83
– Hungering Soul
– DPR: 6.96
– Damage lost from
grapple
– 6.18
– Total Damage
– DPR: 72.100718
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 35.40
– % Above Baseline
– 103.67%
– Level 18
– 17 Inventor
– Features
– Upgrade
– Undying Creature
– Spells
– 5th
– Devouring Darkness
– Vorpal Weapon
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 122
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 129
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 19
– 18 Inventor
– Features
– Wondrous Item Mastery
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 129
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 136
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 20
– 19 Inventor
– Features
– ASI
– Grappler
– Upgrade
– Twisting Reach
– Spells
– 5th
– Wall of Stone
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 136
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 143
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged

Levels 16–20 are where this build reaches its damage maximum and wraps up by expanding defense and utility. Gaining True Artifact at 15th level is a massive increase to damage, giving our weapon +3 to attack and damage rolls, making us immune to charm and fear, and increasing our strength to 24 with the help of Consume power.* After that, we spend our last 3 levels increasing our temporary hit points with Undying Creature and increasing our reach with Twisting Reach.

I love this build, from the motif of a vengeful forest protector to the mechanics of crushing my enemies while holding them too far away to strike back. This is exactly the type of build I like to play, and it would not be possible using official material.

2. Titan’s Grip

An armored golem emerging from a crater.
Meteor Golem by Lake Hurwitz

Remember when I mentioned dual wielding greatswords? Well, I wasn’t joking. The Warsmith subclass lets us use two-handed weapons with a single hand. On top of that awesome imagery, we get to be fantasy Ironman. This subclass was one the initial offerings that first got me interested in this project. I’m a big fan of mixing magic with tech, and the official artificer doesn’t do it for me.

The Warsmith is everything I wished the Armorer artificer was. Your suit of arcane armor is your subclass. All your upgrades go into customizing the armor to fit your needs. This build goes for the heaviest options on offer, looking to pound their opponents into the ground with the biggest weapon they can find.

Build Summary

Ancestry

Kobold: Whenever I’m building a martial character, especially one that reduces its own accuracy, finding a way to gain reliable advantage is key. Kobolds gain a feature called Pack Tactics, granting advantage against an enemy that is next to an ally of yours. Normally, I don’t care for the kobold because this incredibly powerful ability is matched by Sunlight Sensitivity, giving you disadvantage on just about anything while in direct sunlight. Lucky for us, this subclass has a way around this.

Starting Stats

  • Str – 17: Technically our strength is 8, but the Warsmith has a feature that lets us trade intelligence for strength, so I am writing up this build using the converted stats.
  • Dex – 8: Dump stat.
  • Con – 15: Hit points are good and we raise this to 16 eventually.
  • Int – 8: Although it’s dumped into strength in my writeup, it’s important to note that whenever an intelligence check is needed we can revert the change and have 17 intelligence.
  • Wis – 15: A good save we round out later.
  • Cha – 8: Dump stat.

Level Split

  • Inventor 7 – Warsmith: Inventor levels will make up the vast majority of levels in all these builds. Since this subclass gets Extra Attack at 5th level, we want to reach that point as quickly as possible.
  • Wizard 2 War: Find Familiar is a great spell, and it’s even better when you can use it to trigger your Pack Tactics. On top of that, we have Arcane Deflection and Shield for defense, plus a nice initiative bonus if we haven’t dumped our intelligence.
  • Inventor 11 – Warsmith: With our defenses shored up, we continue on with inventor levels.

ASI

  • Level 4 – Int + 1 Con +1: I rarely use the “increase two stats by one” option of ASIs, but sometimes there aren’t any half feats you want and you have two key stats with odd scores.
  • Level 10 Resilient – Wisdom: Increases wisdom to 16 and shores up the ever important wisdom saves.
  • Level 14 Dual Wielder: We need this so we can dual wield greatswords later.
  • Level 18 – Great Weapon Master: It might come online late, but now our greatswords hit hard enough to use.

Magic Items

While not needed for any of my builds, these are a few magical items that help more than most. This is especially true for the inventor, as one of its features grants an additional attunement slot. I am not including any of these items in my damage calculations.

  • +X Weapon/Armor: Improving our AC and damage is always useful. The inventor is able to break down weapons to improve those provided by class features, so they don’t lose out the way other special-weapon subclasses do.
  • Flame Tongue Greatswords: This build is very accurate for a melee character, so the Flame Tongue’s extra damage is worth the cost in accuracy.

Level Breakdown

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 1
– 1 Inventor
 – Features
– Warsmith
– Magic Item Analysis
– Warsmith’s Proficiency
– Warplate Gauntlet
– Artificial Strength
– Power Fist
– AC
– Scale: 16
– Total: 16
– HP
– Hit Dice d8: +8
– Con 15: +2
– Total: 10
– Saves
– Str 17: +3
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 15: +2
– Prof: +2
– Total: +4
– Int
– Stat 8: -1
– Prof: +2
– Total: +1
– Wis 15: +2
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 14
– Power Fist
– DPR: 5.98
– Off-hand Shortsword
– DPR: 2.28
– Total Damage
– DPR: 8.25
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 5.85
– % Above Baseline
– 41.03%
– Level 2
– 2 Inventor
 – Features
– Spellcasting
– Arcane Retrofit
– Tool Expertise
– Spells
– 1st
– Arcane Infusion
– Cure Wounds
– Expeditious Retreat
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 10
– Hit Dice d8:
+5
– Con 15: +2
– Total: 17
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 14
– Power Fist
– DPR: 5.98
– Off-hand Shortsword
– DPR: 2.28
– Total Damage
– DPR: 8.25
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 7.65
– % Above Baseline
– 7.84%

Sadly, we don’t get to start out with a greatsword in each hand, but we do get an excellent light, one-handed weapon in the form of the power fist.* With this punching glove in one hand and a shortsword in the other, we have a solid start to the build. For my calculations, I’m currently assuming no advantage due to Sunlight Sensitivity. Thankfully, we deal with that soon.

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 3
– 3 Inventor
 – Features
– Warsmith’s Armor
– Warplate
– Upgrade
– Arcane Visor
– Spells
– 1st
– Feather Fall
– AC
– Warplate: 18
– Total: 18
– HP
– Previous: 17
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 15: +2
– Total: 24
– Saves
– Str 19: +4
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 15: +2
– Prof: +2
– Total: +4
– Int
– Stat 8: -1
– Prof: +2
– Total: +1
– Wis 15: +2
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 14
– Power Fist
– DPR: 10.20
– Off-hand Shortsword
– DPR: 2.97
– Total Damage
– DPR: 13.1680
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 7.65
– % Above Baseline
– 72.13%
– Level 4
– 4 Inventor
 – Features
– ASI
– Con +1
– Int +1
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 24
– Hit Dice d8:
+5
– Con 16: +3
– Con increase: +3
– Total: 35
– Saves
– Str 20: +5
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +2
– Total: +5
– Int
– Stat 8: -1
– Prof: +2
– Total: +1
– Wis 15: +2
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 15
– Power Fist
– DPR: 11.00
– Off-hand Shortsword
– DPR: 2.97
– Total Damage
– DPR: 13.9660
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 8.25
– % Above Baseline
– 69.28%
– Level 5
– 5 Inventor
 – Features
– Extra Attack
– Upgrade
– Power Fist 2x
– Spells
– 2nd
– Blur
– Replace Expeditious
Retreat
– Aid
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 35
– Hit Dice d8:
+5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 43
– Saves
– Str 20: +5
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +3
– Total: +6
– Int
– Stat 8: -1
– Prof: +3
– Total: +2
– Wis 15: +2
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 16
– Power Fist
– DPR: 23.73
– Off-hand Power Fist
– DPR: 8.11
– Total Damage
– DPR: 31.8415
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 16.50
– % Above Baseline
– 92.98%

Much like the Grasping Vine, this build starts to function properly at levels 3-5. Thanks to our 3rd-level Arcane Visor upgrade, we can ignore Sunlight Sensitivity, meaning our Pack Tactics starts to shine. We also acquire our warplate, bumping AC to 18 and strength to 20 when combined with the ASI at 4th level, and size to medium for the eventual heavy greatswords. At 5th level, we pick up Extra Attack and a second power fist so now we can use our pseudo-Great Weapon Master on all our attacks.

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 6
– 6 inventor
– Features
– Arcane Reconstruction
– Cross-Disciplinary Knowledge
– Mechanical Arm
– Spells
– 1st
– Longstrider
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 43
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 51
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 7
– 7 Inventor
– Features
– Wondrous Item Proficiency
– Upgrade
– Sentient Armor
– Spells
– 2nd
– Enlarge/Reduce
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 51
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 59
– Saves
– Str 22: +6
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +3
– Total: +6
– Int
– Stat 8: -1
– Prof: +3
– Total: +2
– Wis 15: +2
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 16
– Power Fist
– DPR: 26.78
– Off-hand Power Fist
– DPR: 8.60
– Total Damage
– DPR: 35.3880
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 16.50
– % Above Baseline
– 114.47%

From levels 6 to 7, we pick up increases to both offense and defense. At 6th level we gain an extra hand so now we can wield a shield while using our two-weapon fighting (once we gain shield proficiency). Meanwhile, at 7th level our intelligence increases by 2 thanks to the Sentient Armor upgrade, which for our purposes means our strength is now 22.

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 8
– 1 Wizard
– Features
– Arcane Recovery
– Spellcasting
– Spells
– Cantrip
– Mage Hand
– Mending
– Message
– 1st
– Absorb Elements
– Comprehend Language
– Find Familiar
– Shield
– Silvery Barbs
– Tenser’s Floating Disk
– AC
– Warplate: 18
– Shield Spell: +5
– Total
– Min: 18
– Max: 23
– HP
– Previous: 59
– Hit Dice d6: +4
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 66
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 17
– Power Fist
– DPR: 25.23
– Off-hand Power Fist
– DPR: 8.11
– Total Damage
– DPR: 33.3435
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 17.70
– % Above Baseline
– 88.38%
– Level 9
– 2 Wizard
– Features
– Arcane Deflection
– Tactical Wit
– Spells
– 1st
– Protection from Evil and Good
– Unseen Servant
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 66
– Hit Dice d6: +4
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 73
– Saves
– Tactical Wit: +4
– Str 22: +6
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +4
– Total: +7
– Int
– Stat 8: -1
– Prof: +4
– Total: +3
– Wis 15: +2
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 18
– Power Fist
– DPR: 26.28
– Off-hand Power Fist
– DPR: 8.95
– Total Damage
– DPR: 35.2260
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 17.70
– % Above Baseline
– 99.02%

More spell slots and some amazing spells to use them for, these 2 wizard levels make sure that this build will stay alive long enough to deliver its damage. But it’s not just defense; our familiar is a perfect method for activating Pack Tactics. The War Mage subclass grants us a powerful boost against one attack or saving throw per round, or as much as we want out of combat. Since this build mostly attacks with weapons, the downside of Arcane Deflection doesn’t really hurt us. Our intelligence is too low to work with Tactical Wit for now, but that will eventually change.

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 10
– 8 Inventor
– Features
– ASI
– Resilient
– Wisdom
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 73
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 81
– Saves
– Tactical Wit: +4
– Str 22: +6
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +4
– Total: +7
– Int
– Stat 8: -1
– Prof: +4
– Total: +3
– Wis
– Stat 16 +3
– Prof: +4
– Total: +7
– Cha 8: -1
Unchanged
– Level 11
– 9 Inventor
– Features
– Upgrade
– Shield Proficiency
– Spells
– 3rd: Replace Enlarge/Reduce
– Dispel Magic
– Prismatic Weapon
– AC
– Warplate: 18
– Shield: +2
– Shield Spell: +5
– Total
– Min: 20
– Max: 25
– HP
– Previous: 81
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 89
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 18
– Power Fist
– DPR: 26.28
– Off-hand Power Fist
– DPR: 8.95
– Total Damage
– DPR: 35.2260
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 29.75%
– Level 12
– 10 Inventor
– Features
– Improved Magical Crafting
– Wondrous Item Recharge
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 89
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 97
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 13
– 11 Inventor
– Features
– Study of Magic
– Upgrade
– Iron Muscle
– Spells
– 3rd
– Glyph of Warding
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 97
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 105
– Saves
– Tactical Wit: +4
– Str 24: +7
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +5
– Total: +8
– Int
– Stat 8: -1
– Prof: +5
– Total: +4
– Wis
– Stat 16 +3
– Prof: +5
– Total: +8
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 19
– Power Fist
– DPR: 30.46
– Off-hand Power Fist
– DPR: 10.35
– Total Damage
– DPR: 40.8100
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 50.31%
– Level 14
– 12 Inventor
– Features
– Ability Score Improvement
– Dual Wielder
– AC
– Warplate: 18
– Shield: +2
– Dual Wielder: +1
– Shield Spell: +5
– Total
– Min: 21
– Max: 26
– HP
– Previous: 105
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 113
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 15
– 13 Inventor
– Features
– Upgrade
– Flight
– Spells
– 4th
– Death Ward
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 113
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 121
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 16
– 14 Inventor
– Features
– Fully Customized Gear
– Brute Force Style
– Two Weapon Fighting
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 121
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 129
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 19
– Power Fist
– DPR: 30.46
– Off-hand Power Fist
– DPR: 15.23
– Total Damage
– DPR: 45.6960
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 68.31%
– Level 17
– 15 Inventor
– Features
– Upgrade
– Iron Grip
– Spells
– 4th
– Greater Invisibility
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 129
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 137
– Saves
– Tactical Wit: +4
– Str 24: +7
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +6
– Total: +9
– Int
– Stat 8: -1
– Prof: +6
– Total: +5
– Wis
– Stat 16 +3
– Prof: +6
– Total: +9
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 20
– Power Fist
– DPR: 30.48
– Off-hand Power Fist
– DPR: 15.24
– Total Damage
– DPR: 45.7245
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 35.40
– % Above Baseline
– 29.17%

Levels 10–17 are mostly incremental enhancements to offense and defense, with one standout movement improvement. We grab proficiency in wisdom saves at 10th level, shield proficiency at 11th, and Dual Wielder’s AC boost at 14th. On offense, we bump our strength to 24 with Iron Muscle at 13th level, and we get the Two-Weapon Fighting Style at 16th level. As for movement, we gain flight at 11th level to make sure we can reach any opponents we face.

Level/Features/SpellsDefenseOffense
– Level 18
– 16 Inventor
– Features
– Ability Score Improvement
– Great Weapon Master
– Replace Power Fist
– Martial Grip
– Replace Power fist 2x
– Reinforced Armor
– AC
– Warplate: 18
– Shield: +2
– Dual Wielder: +1
– Reinforced Armor: +1
– Shield Spell: +5
– Total
– Min: 22
– Max: 27
– HP
– Previous: 137
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 145
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 20
– Greatsword
– DPR: 34.20
– Off-hand Greatsword
– DPR: 17.10
– Total Damage
– DPR: 51.3060
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 35.40
– % Above Baseline
– 44.93%
– Level 19
– 17 Inventor
– Features
– Upgrade,
– Virtual Interface
– Replace Reinforced Armor
– Heads Up Display
– Spells
– 5th
– Vorpal Weapon
– Replace Glyph of Warding
– Wall of Stone
– AC
– Warplate: 18
– Shield: +2
– Dual Wielder: +1
– Shield Spell: +5
– Total
– Min: 21
– Max: 26
– HP
– Previous: 145
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 153
– Saves
– Tactical Wit: +4
– Str 24: +7
– Dex
– Use Int Save: +10
– Con
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +6
– Total: +9
– Int
– Stat 18: +4
– Prof: +6
– Total: +10
– Wis
– Stat 16 +3
– Prof: +6
– Total: +9
– Cha 8: -1
Unchanged
– Level 20
– 18 Inventor
– Features
– Wondrous Item Mastery
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 153
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 16: +3
– Total: 161
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged

Finally, we realize the dual greatsword-wielding dream. It is important to note that this route increases damage over sticking with the power fists, but it requires two feats and at least 15th level. Many builds will be better served by spending those feats on increasing a stat or grabbing something like Lucky. However, I want one-handed greatswords and one-handed greatswords I shall have.

Aside from more damage, these final levels see our saving throws receive some massive increases. Thanks to Virtual Interface at 19th level, we can now maintain our intelligence while buffing our strength, effectively increasing our 8 to an 18. We combine this with the Heads Up Display upgrade that lets us substitute intelligence for dexterity saves. Not only does this build hit hard, but it has 21 AC and at least a +9 in every save that matters.

This type of build was the first I explored when I discovered the inventor, and it remains a well-balanced martial option that can deal significant damage without sacrificing defense. If you ever felt that the Armorer didn’t quite stick the landing for fantasy Ironman, I encourage you to give the Warsmith a try.

3. Steel Bulwark

A steel warrior with multiple limbs.
Steel Overseer by Chris Rhan

From fantasy Ironman to piloting a magical tank, we move on to the Golemsmith. Where the other builds on this list prioritize damage or control, this build is all about defense, sharing that defense, and dealing enough damage that it can’t be ignored.

We accomplish this through the use of a highly specialized golem companion. Fifth Edition has gotten better at handling pets in recent years, but I still find the inventor’s golem a cut above any official content. Instead of dealing with the complications of when the golem takes its turn, it simply shares its turn with the inventor, allowing us to fully coordinate between character and pet.

Build Summary

Ancestry

Variant human: It was only a matter of time before one of the feat ancestries showed up. On the last two builds, the ancestries I chose have very strong features that couldn’t be replicated by a feat, but there are no features like that for this build.

Starting Stats

  • Str – 16: Our main combat stat.
  • Dex – 8: Dump stat.
  • Con – 14: As high as we can manage.
  • Int – 14: Need at least a 13 for multiclassing and had the point to bump it up to 14.
  • Wis – 13: Important save we later raise to 14.
  • Cha – 8: Dump stat.

Level Split

  • Fighter 1: This build needs the ability to use shields and heavy armor; a level of fighter is the easiest way to achieve that.
  • Inventor 8 Golemsmith: Now that our proficiencies are handled, we take the inventor levels we need to acquire the build’s core features.
  • Wizard 1: Any build looking to play defensive should try to pick up the Shield spell. On top of the improved defenses, Find Familiar lets us make one attack with advantage per turn.
  • Inventor 10 Golemsmith: Finish out the build with inventor levels to get all those fun, high-level bells and whistles.

ASI

  • Level 1 (ancestry) – Dual Wielder: This build uses the best weapon of all, the lance, making this feat a must-have.
  • Level 5 – Resilient (wisdom): Increases wisdom to 14 and shores up the ever-important wisdom saves.
  • Level 9 Mounted Combatant: As good as our golem is for providing defensive buffs, it remains vulnerable to attacks. Now we can make enemies target our inventor’s AC, which the golem improves.
  • Level 14 – Str +2: Improves our main combat stat.
  • Level 18 – Str +2: Improves our main combat stat.

Magic Items

While not needed for any of my builds, these are a few magical items that help more than most. This is especially true for the inventor, as one of its features grants an additional attunement slot. I am not including any of these items in my damage calculations.

  • +X Weapon/Armor: Improving our AC and damage is always useful.
  • Spellguard Shield: This build has such a high AC that it can afford to give up the +x shield to get advantage on almost every save in the game.
  • Mantle of Spell Resistance: Weaker than the Spellguard Shield as it doesn’t cover “magical effects,” this has the advantage that it doesn’t take up our shield slot.
  • Saddle of the Cavalier: This build is all about being mounted, and making sure you don’t fall off your mount is very important.

Level Breakdown

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
– Level 1
– 1 fighter
– Features
– Feat
– Dual Wielder
– Fighting Style
– Dual Wielding
– Second Wind
– AC
– Chain: 16
– Dual Wielding: +1
– Total: 17
– HP
– Hit Dice d10: +10
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 12
– Saves
– Str
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +2
– Total: +5
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +2
– Total: +4
– Int 14: +2
– Wis 15: +2
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 14
– Longsword
– DPR: 4.73
– Off-hand Longsword
– DPR: 4.73
– Total Damage
– DPR: 9.4500
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 5.85
– % Above Baseline
– 61.54%

This 1st level fighter dip is the most efficient way for this build to grab the armor and shield proficiencies it wants without sacrificing the powerful constitution saving throw proficiency. This level also gives us the Two Weapon Fighting Style that adds some much needed damage.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
– Level 2
– 1 inventor
– Features
– Golemsmith
– Magic Item Analysis
– Golemsmith’s Proficiency
– Mechanical Golem
– Quadrupedal
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 12
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 19
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 14
– Longsword
– DPR: 4.73
– Off-hand Longsword
– DPR: 4.73
– Total Damage
– DPR: 9.4500
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 7.65
– % Above Baseline
– 23.53%
– Level 3
– 2 inventor
– Features
– Spellcasting
– Arcane Retrofit
– Tool Expertise
– Spells
– 1st
– Arcane Infusion
– Cure Wounds
– Expeditious Retreat
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 19
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 26
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 4
– 3 inventor
– Features
– Intelligent Oversight
– Upgrade
– Structural Constitution
– Spells
– 1st
– Feather Fall
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 26
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 33
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 15
– Longsword
– DPR: 4.35
– Off-hand Longsword
– DPR: 4.35
– Total Damage
– DPR: 8.7000
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 8.25
– % Above Baseline
– 5.45%
– Level 5
– 4 inventor
– Features
– ASI
– Resilient
– Wisdom
– AC
– Plate: 18
– Dual Wielding: +1
– Total: 19
– HP
– Previous: 33
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 40
– Saves
– Str
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +3
– Total: +6
– Dex 8: -1
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +3
– Total: +5
– Int 14: +2
– Wis
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +3
– Total: +6
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 16
– Longsword
– DPR: 4.35
– Off-hand Longsword
– DPR: 4.35
– Total Damage
– DPR: 8.7000
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 16.50
– % Below Baseline
– 47.27%

This is a bit of a low point for the build, since we can’t use our golem as a mount yet and commanding it to attack still costs an action. This all changes at 6th level, but for now this build plays like a dual-wielding fighter that traded some hit points for a few spell slots.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
– Level 6
– 5 inventor
– Features
– Autonomous Action
– Magical Nature
– Upgrade
– Expanded Frame
– Spells
– 2nd
– Blur
– Replace Expeditious Retreat
– Aid
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 40
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 47
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 16
– Lance
– DPR: 7.32
– Off-hand Lance
– DPR: 7.32
– Golem
– DPR: 7.06
– Total Damage
– DPR: 21.6920
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 16.50
– % Above Baseline
– 31.47%
– Level 7
– 6 inventor
– Features
– Arcane Reconstruction
– Cross-Disciplinary Knowledge
– Mechanical Arm
– Spells
– 1st
– Longstrider
– AC
– Plate: 18
– Shield: +2
– Dual Wielding: +1
– Total: 21
– HP
– Previous: 47
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 54
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 8
– 7 inventor
– Features
– Wondrous Item Proficiency
– Upgrade
– Iron Fortress
– Spells
– 2nd
– Enlarge/Reduce
– AC
– Plate: 18
– Shield: +2
– Dual Wielding: +1
– Iron Fortress: +5
– Total: 26
– HP
– Previous: 54
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 61
– Saves
– Str
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +3
– Total: +6
– Dex
– Stat 8: -1
– Iron Fortress: +5
– Total: +4
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +3
– Total: +5
– Int 14: +2
– Wis
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +3
– Total: +6
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 17
– Lance
– DPR: 6.86
– Off-hand Lance
– DPR: 6.86
– Golem
– DPR: 6.66
– Total Damage
– DPR: 20.3853
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 17.70
– % Above Baseline
– 15.17%
– Level 9
– 8 inventor
– Features
– Ability Score Improvement
– Mounted Combatant
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 61
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 68
– Saves
– Str
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +4
– Total: +7
– Dex
– Stat 8: -1
– Iron Fortress: +5
– Total: +4
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +4
– Total: +6
– Int 14: +2
– Wis
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +4
– Total: +7
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 18
– Lance
– DPR: 6.86
– Off-hand Lance
– DPR: 6.86
– Golem
– DPR: 6.66
– Total Damage
– DPR: 20.3853
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 17.70
– % Above Baseline
– 15.17%

This is where the build comes alive. At 6th level, our golem’s attack no longer costs us anything to activate and it can serve as a mount. This lets us exchange our longswords for the much cooler dual lances. Levels 7 and 8 grant us an extra hand for wielding a shield and the Iron Fortress upgrade respectively.

Iron Fortress grants our golem’s rider and anyone within five feet of the golem three-quarters cover. That’s a whopping +5 to AC and dexterity saves for us and our party if they can keep our golem between them and the enemy. We also snag Mounted Combatant, so now enemies have to try and get through our AC of 26 if they want to hurt our golem, and we get advantage against targets smaller than the robot.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
– Level 10
– Wizard 1
– Features
– Arcane Recovery
– Spellcasting
– Spells
– Cantrip
– Mage Hand
– Mending
– Message
-1st
– Absorb Elements
– Comprehend Language
– Find Familiar
– Shield
– Silvery Barbs
– Unseen Servant
– AC
– Plate: 18
– Shield: +2
– Dual Wielding: +1
– Iron Fortress: +5
– Shield Spell: +5
– Min: 26
– Max: 31
– HP
– Previous: 68
– Hit Dice d6: +4
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 74
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged

At 10th level we have the core of the build, so now we can dip into wizard to pick up the defensive Absorb Elements and Shield spells. We also gain Find Familiar to help our golem land more of its attacks.

Level/Features/Spells DefenseOffense
– Level 11
– Inventor 9
– Features
– Upgrade
– Systematic Strength
– Spells
– 3rd
– Replace Enlarge/Reduce
– Dispel Magic
– Prismatic Weapon
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 74
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 81
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 18
– Lance
– DPR: 6.86
– Off-hand Lance
– DPR: 6.86
– Golem
– DPR: 7.86
– Total Damage
– DPR: 21.5828
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Below Baseline
– 20.51%
– Level 12
– Inventor 10
– Features
– Improved Magical Crafting
– Wondrous Item Recharge
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 81
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 88
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 13
– Inventor 11
– Features
– Study of Magic
– Upgrade
– Multiattack Protocol
– Spells
– 3rd
– Glyph of Warding
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 88
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 95
– Saves
– Str
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +5
– Total: +8
– Dex
– Stat 8: -1
– Iron Fortress: +5
– Total: +4
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +5
– Total: +7
– Int 14: +2
– Wis
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +5
– Total: +8
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 19
– Lance
– DPR: 6.86
– Off-hand Lance
– DPR: 6.86
– Golem
– DPR: 13.36
– Total Damage
– DPR: 27.0828
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Below Baseline
– 0.25%
– Level 14
– Inventor 12
– Features
– ASI
– Str +2
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 95
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 102
– Saves
– Str
– Stat 18: +4
– Prof: +5
– Total: +9
– Dex
– Stat 8: -1
– Iron Fortress: +5
– Total: +4
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +5
– Total: +7
– Int 14: +2
– Wis
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +5
– Total: +8
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 19
– Lance
– DPR: 8.05
– Off-hand Lance
– DPR: 8.05
– Golem
– DPR: 13.36
– Total Damage
– DPR: 29.4620
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 8.52%
– Level 15
– Inventor 13
– Features
– Upgrade
– Airborne Propulsion
– Spells
– 4th
– Death Ward
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 102
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 109
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 16
– Inventor 14
– Features
– Perfected Design
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 109
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 116
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 19
– Lance
– DPR: 8.05
– Off-hand Lance
– DPR: 8.05
– Golem
– DPR: 18.11
– Total Damage
– DPR: 34.2165
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 26.03%
– Level 17
– Inventor 15
– Features
– Upgrade
– Brutal Armaments
– Spells
– 4th
– Greater Invisibility
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 116
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 123
– Saves
– Str
– Stat 18: +4
– Prof: +6
– Total: +10
– Dex
– Stat 8: -1
– Iron Fortress: +5
– Total: +4
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +6
– Total: +8
– Int 14: +2
– Wis
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +6
– Total: +9
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 20
– Lance
– DPR: 8.05
– Off-hand Lance
– DPR: 8.05
– Golem
– DPR: 22.31
– Total Damage
– DPR: 38.4170
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 35.40
– % Above Baseline
– 8.52%
– Level 18
– Inventor 16
– Features
– ASI
– Str +2
– Spells
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 123
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 130
– Saves
– Str
– Stat 20: +5
– Prof: +6
– Total: +11
– Dex
– Stat 8: -1
– Iron Fortress: +5
– Total: +4
– Con
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +6
– Total: +8
– Int 14: +2
– Wis
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +6
– Total: +9
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 20
– Lance
– DPR: 9.30
– Off-hand Lance
– DPR: 9.30
– Golem
– DPR: 22.31
– Total Damage
– DPR: 40.9010
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 35.40
– % Above Baseline
– 15.54%
– Level 19
– Inventor 17
– Features
– Upgrade
– Titan Slayer
– Spells
– 5th
– Vorpal Weapon
– Replace Glyph of Warding
– Wall of Stone
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 130
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 137
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 20
– Lance
– DPR: 9.30
– Off-hand Lance
– DPR: 9.30
– Golem
– DPR: 25.75
– Total Damage
– DPR: 44.3440
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 35.40
– % Above Baseline
– 25.27%
– Level 20
– Inventor 18
– Features
– Wondrous Item Mastery
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 137
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 14: +2
– Total: 144
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged

The rest of our levels are spent incrementally increasing our own damage and our golem’s, along with a flight speed. Unlike the last two builds, the Steel Bulwark is “complete” at 10th level; everything else is icing on our tank-cake.

Focusing on defense is always difficult when damage numbers are the main language used to communicate a Fifth Edition build’s strength. This build does less damage than the previous two we’ve covered, but it’s also the only one that can reach 31 AC with no magic items and extend massive AC and dexterity save boosts to their entire party.

4. Iron Brawler

A man raising a high tech gauntlet.
Voltaic Brawler by Raymond Swanland

As weak as dual wielding usually is, unarmed takes the cake as the weakest damage method in Fifth Edition. Out of all the classes in 5E, only the monk tries to make use of unarmed combat, and that ends up being one of the class’s major issues. There simply isn’t enough support in official content to allow unarmed combatants to be competitive. Thankfully, the Runesmith is here to try and even the field.

This build uses rune magic to augment both its unarmed offense and unarmored defense. While the stated damage numbers in this guide are the lowest in this list, the Runesmith has a lot of added combat options granted by its runes that are hard to quantify in a writeup like this. Even if we take this build purely on the numbers I cover here, it does a much better job of realizing the fantasy of an unarmed/unarmored combatant than official content allows.

Build Summary

Ancestry

Elf (Mark of Shadow): This build needed a way to gain easy advantage, and the Mark of Shadow Elf provides us with the Darkness spell to do just that. Combine this ancestry with the Eldritch Adept feat for Devil’s Sight and you get the one-sided obscurement every build loves.

Starting Stats

  • Str – 8: Dump stat.
  • Dex – 14: Needed for multiclassing and early damage.
  • Con – 12: As high as we can manage.
  • Int – 16: Our main damage stat.
  • Wis – 13: Needed for multiclassing and the good save.
  • Cha – 8: Dump stat.

Level Split

  • Inventor 5 Runesmith: We need to bring our subclass and extra attack online as quickly as possible.
  • Monk 1: Sadly, monks are the only way to gain a bonus action unarmed attack, so we need a one-level dip.
  • Inventor 14 Runesmith: Finish out the build with inventor levels.

ASI

  • Level 4 – Great Weapon Master: This build adds the heavy property to our unarmed strikes so we can take advantage of this feat.
  • Level 9 Eldritch Adept: Devil’s Sight: Now we can see through that Darkness spell our ancestry lets us cast.
  • Level 13 – Resilience (Wisdom): Increases wisdom to 14 and shores up the ever-important wisdom saves.
  • Level 17 – Int +2: Improves our main combat stat.
  • Level 20 – Int +2: Improves our main combat stat.

Magic Items

While not needed for any of my builds, these are a few magical items that help more than most. This is especially true for the inventor, as one of its features grants an additional attunement slot. I am not including any of these items in my damage calculations.

  • Insignia of Claws: The only item that lets us punch better.
  • Bracers of Defense: We’re not wearing armor or a shield, so this is a very nice AC boost.
  • Headband of Intellect: Not having to worry about our intelligence score would help hugely with this build. It would free up two ASIs and we could revamp our starting stats to dump int as much as possible in favor of constitution and wisdom.

Level Breakdown

Level/Features/Spells DefenseOffense
– Level 1
– Inventor 1
– Features
– Runesmith
– Magic Item Analysis
– Runesmith Proficiency
– Runic Marks
– Runes
– Fire (weapon)
– Warding (armor)
– AC
– Scale: 14
– Dex 14: +2
– Total: 16
– HP
– Hit Dice d8: +8
– Con 12: +1
– Total: 9
– Saves
– Str 8: -1
– Dex 14: +2
– Con
– Stat 12: +1
– Prof: +2
– Total: +3
– Int
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +2
– Total: +5
– Wis 13: +1
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 14
– Heavy Crossbow
– DPR: 4.95
– Runes
– DPR: 1.50
– Total Damage
– DPR: 6.4500
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 5.85
– % Above Baseline
– 10.26%
– Level 2
– Inventor 2
– Features
– Spellcasting
– Arcane Retrofit
– Tool Expertise
– Spells
– 1st
– Arcane Infusion
– Cure Wounds
– Expeditious Retreat
– Disguise self
– Silent Image
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 9
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Total: 15
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 14
– Heavy Crossbow
– DPR: 4.95
– Runes
– DPR: 1.50
– Total Damage
– DPR: 6.4500
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 7.65
– % Below Baseline
– 15.69%

Levels 1 and 2 are tough for this build. We can’t use our intelligence as an attack stat yet, and since our strength is 8, that means no punching. Instead, we’re stuck with our 14 dexterity and a heavy crossbow. Thankfully, our fire rune adds a bit of damage, but we drop below the damage baseline at 2nd level. Thankfully, it gets better from here.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
– Level 3
– Inventor 3
– Features
– Runic Flare
– Runic Path
– Runic Mystic
– Upgrade
– Animate Inscription
– Runes
– Fire
– Lightning
– Power
– Spells
– 1st
– Feather Fall
– AC
– Natural Armor: 10
– Int 16: +3
– Power Rune: +3
– Total: 16
– HP
– Previous: 15
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Total: 21
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 14
– Unarmed
– DPR: 6.48
– Runes
– DPR: 4.45
– Runic Flare
– DPR: 0.81
– Total Damage
– DPR: 11.7344
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 7.65
– % Above Baseline
– 53.39%
– Level 4
– Inventor 4
– Features
– ASI
– Great Weapon Master
– Spells
– 1st
– Feather Fall
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 21
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Total: 27
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 15
– Unarmed
– DPR: 6.16
– Runes
– DPR: 4.24
– Runic Flare
– DPR: 0.77
– Total Damage
– DPR: 11.1700
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 8.25
– % Above Baseline
– 35.39%
– Level 5
– Inventor 5
– Features
– Extra Attack
– Magical Nature
– Upgrade
– Gravity
– Runes
– Fire
– Lightning
– Gravity
– Power
– Spells
– 2nd
– Blur
– Replace Expeditious Retreat
– Aid
– Darkness
– Pass Without Trace
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 27
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Total: 33
– Saves
– Str 8: -1
– Dex 14: +2
– Con
– Stat 12: +1
– Prof: +3
– Total: +4
– Int
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +3
– Total: +6
– Wis 13: +1
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 16
– Unarmed
– DPR: 14.53
– Runes
– DPR: 3.54
– Runic Flare
– DPR: 1.71
– Total Damage
– DPR: 19.7663
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 16.50
– % Above Baseline
– 19.80%

Now our build can do the thing it was designed for. At 3rd level, the Runic Mystic feature turns intelligence into our unarmed combat stat and our runes register both their weapon and armor effects while we scribe them on ourselves. There are a few runes involved, but the most important are the Power and Gravity runes.

Power turns our unarmed strikes into 1d6 + 1 weapons. This is a requirement if we want to deal any damage with our fists. Gravity adds the heavy property to our “weapon,” allowing our fists to qualify for Great Weapon Master* Now that we’ve acquired our mighty punches, we need to get more of them.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
– Level 6
– Monk 1
– Features
– Unarmored Defense
– Martial Arts
– AC
– Natural Armor: 10
– Int 16: +3
– Wis 13: +1
– Power Rune: +3
– Total: 17
– HP
– Previous: 33
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Total: 39
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 16
– Unarmed
– DPR: 14.53
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 5.43
– Runes
– DPR: 4.05
– Total Damage
– DPR: 23.9995
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 16.50
– % Above Baseline
– 45.45%

I have scoured the internet, and sadly, monk is the only way I’ve found to gain a bonus action unarmed attack that doesn’t cost a resource. This dip is the source of the build’s stat problems, but a free third attack is too good to ignore. The good news is that Unarmored Defense works with the Runesmith’s defensive features for an AC of 17. That’s not amazing, but for a build without armor or a shield, it’s not bad.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
– Level 7
– Inventor 6
– Features
– Arcane Reconstruction
– Cross-Disciplinary Knowledge
– Element Eater
– Spells
– 1st
– Longstrider
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 39
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Total: 45
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 8
– Inventor 7
– Features
– Wondrous Item Proficiency
– Upgrade
– Mark of Shielding
– Spells
– 2nd
– Enlarge/Reduce
– AC
– Natural Armor: 10
– Int 16: +3
– Wis 13: +1
– Power Rune: +3
– Shield Spell: +5
– Min: 17
– Max: 22
– HP
– Previous: 45
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Total: 51
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 17
– Unarmed
– DPR: 12.37
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 4.55
– Runes
– DPR: 3.67
– Total Damage
– DPR: 20.5890
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 17.70
– % Above Baseline
– 16.32%
– Level 9
– Inventor 8
– Features
– ASI
– Eldritch Adept
– Devil’s Sight
– AC
– Natural Armor: 10
– Int 16: +3
– Wis 13: +1
– Power Rune: +3
– Shield Spell: +5
– Min: 17
– Max: 22
– HP
– Previous: 51
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Total: 57
– Saves
– Str 8: -1
– Dex 14: +2
– Con
– Stat 12: +1
– Prof: +4
– Total: +5
– Int
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +4
– Total: +7
– Wis 13: +1
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 18
– Unarmed
– DPR: 13.60
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 5.78
– Runes
– DPR: 4.06
– Total Damage
– DPR: 23.4384
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 17.70
– % Above Baseline
– 32.42%
– Level 10
– Inventor 9
– Features
– Upgrade:
– Efficient Language
– Runes
– Fire
– Lightning
– Gravity
– Power
– Warding
– Spells
– 3rd
– Replace Enlarge/Reduce
– Dispel Magic
– Prismatic Weapon
– Clairvoyance
– Major Image
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 57
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 63(4)
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 18
– Unarmed
– DPR: 14.42
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 6.60
– Runes
– DPR: 4.36
– Total Damage
– DPR: 25.3716
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 17.70
– % Above Baseline
– 43.34%

Now that we’ve sorted out the number and strength of our punches, it’s time to work on making sure they hit and sticking around long enough to dish them out. At 8th level we gain Mark of Shielding, which allows us to cast Shield for whomever the mark is on.* As for accuracy, we grab Devil’s Sight via the Eldritch Adept feat. When combined with the Darkness spell, this grants us one-sided obscurement for a boost to both offense and defense.

Level/Features/Spells Defense Offense
– Level 11
– Inventor 10
– Features
– Improved Magical Crafting
– Wondrous Item Recharge
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 63
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 69(4)
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 18
– Unarmed
– DPR: 14.42
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 6.60
– Runes
– DPR: 4.36
– Total Damage
– DPR: 25.3716
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Below Baseline
– 6.55%
– Level 12
– Inventor 11
– Features
– Study of Magic
– Upgrade
– Primal Emphasis
– Spells
– 3rd
– Glyph of Warding
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 69
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 75(4)
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 18
– Unarmed
– DPR: 14.83
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 7.00
– Runes
– DPR: 6.10
– Total Damage
– DPR: 27.9332
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 2.88%
– Level 13
– Inventor 12
– Features
– ASI
– Resilience (Wisdom)
– AC
– Natural Armor: 10
– Int 16: +3
– Wis 14: +2
– Power Rune: +3
– Shield Spell: +5
– Min: 18
– Max: 23
– HP
– Previous: 75
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 81(4)
– Saves
– Str 8: -1
– Dex 14: +2
– Con
– Stat 12: +1
– Prof: +5
– Total: +6
– Int
– Stat 16: +3
– Prof: +5
– Total: +8
– Wis
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +5
– Total: +7
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 19
– Unarmed
– DPR: 14.83
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 7.00
– Runes
– DPR: 6.10
– Total Damage
– DPR: 27.9332
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 2.88%
– Level 14
– Inventor 13
– Features
– Upgrade
– Mystic Flare
– Spells
– 4th
– Death Ward
– Greater Invisibility
– Hallucinatory Terrain
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 81
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 87(4)
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 19
– Unarmed
– DPR: 15.24
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 7.41
– Runes
– DPR: 6.10
– Runic Flare
– DPR: 2.44
– Total Damage
– DPR: 31.1958
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 14.90%
– Level 15
– Inventor 14
– Features
– Twin Flares
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 87
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 93(4)
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 19
– Unarmed
– DPR: 15.24
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 7.41
– Runes
– DPR: 6.10
– Runic Flare
– DPR: 2.44
-Twin Flare
– DPR: 2.00
– Total Damage
– DPR: 33.1920
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 22.25%
– Level 16
– Inventor 15
– Features
– Upgrade
– Reckless Flare
– Replace Animate Inscription
– Rune of Blood
– Runes
– Blood
– Fire
– Lightning
– Gravity
– Power
– Warding
– Spells
– 4th
– Greater Invisibility
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 93
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 99(4)
– Saves
– Unchanged
– Target AC: 19
– Unarmed
– DPR: 15.65
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 7.82
– Runes
– DPR: 6.65
– Runic Flare
– DPR: 2.44
-Twin Flare
– DPR: 2.18
– Total Damage
– DPR: 34.7370
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 27.15
– % Above Baseline
– 27.94%
– Level 17
– Inventor 16
– Features
– ASI
– Int +2
– AC
– Natural Armor: 10
– Int 18: +4
– Wis 14: +2
– Power Rune: +3
– Shield Spell: +5
– Min: 19
– Max: 24
– HP
– Previous: 99
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 105(4)
– Saves
– Str 8: -1
– Dex 14: +2
– Con
– Stat 12: +1
– Prof: +6
– Total: +7
– Int
– Stat 18: +4
– Prof: +6
– Total: +10
– Wis
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +6
– Total: +8
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 20
– Unarmed
– DPR: 19.22
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 9.61
– Runes
– DPR: 6.95
– Runic Flare
– DPR: 3.60
-Twin Flare
– DPR: 3.09
– Total Damage
– DPR: 42.4678
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 35.40
– % Above Baseline
– 19.97%
– Level 18
– Inventor 17
– Features
– Upgrade
– Glyph of Force
– Spells
– 5th
– Vorpal Weapon
– Replace Glyph of Warding
– Wall of Stone
– Mislead
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 105
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 111(4)
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 19
– Inventor 18
– Features
– Wondrous Item Mastery
– AC
– Unchanged
– HP
– Previous: 111
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 117(4)
– Saves
– Unchanged
Unchanged
– Level 20
– Inventor 19
– Features
– ASI
– Int +2
– Upgrade
– Painted Bulwark
– Spells
– 5th
– Passwall
– AC
– Natural Armor: 10
– Int 20: +5
– Wis 14: +2
– Power Rune: +3
– Shield Spell: +5
– Min: 20
– Max: 25
– HP
– Previous: 117
– Hit Dice d8: +5
– Con 12: +1
– Painted Bulwark: +12
– Temp HP: +4
– Total: 135(12)
– Saves
– Str 8: -1
– Dex 14: +2
– Con
– Stat 12: +1
– Prof: +6
– Total: +7
– Int
– Stat 20: +5
– Prof: +6
– Total: +11
– Wis
– Stat 14: +2
– Prof: +6
– Total: +8
– Cha 8: -1
– Target AC: 20
– Unarmed
– DPR: 22.81
– Unarmed Off Hand
– DPR: 11.41
– Runes
– DPR: 7.12
– Runic Flare
– DPR: 4.28
-Twin Flare
– DPR: 3.53
– Total Damage
– DPR: 49.1543
– Baseline Damage
– DPR: 35.40
– % Above Baseline
– 38.85%

The last 10 levels of this build are made up of small boosts to damage and defense. We dip below the baseline at 11th level but quickly recover, ending at 20th level almost 40% above that benchmark. The standout abilities for this level range are the Glyph of Force and Reckless Flair. As the name suggests, Glyph of Force lets us cast the ever-useful Wall of Force. Reckless Flair, on the other hand, lets us trigger all our runes at once, generating a burst of offensive and defensive effects. No one glyph is very strong, but when put together, their effects are potent.

Of the four builds I’ve covered, this is the weakest by a decent margin. As cool as I find the concept of a runic brawler, unarmed combat is still too restricted and the Runesmith doesn’t bring enough to the table to offset that. Is this build cool and usable? Yes, I think it is. However, if I had this subclass at my table, I would allow the same rune to stack multiple times.

Given the relative weakness of the Runesmith, I don’t think this would imbalance anything, and it would open a ton of different options for how you build your character. As is, I ended up taking every rune because there was nothing else I really wanted. If I could pile up Fire Runes for big damage or Power Runes for more defense, I would be much happier.

That brings us to the end of this list. I hope you enjoyed this look at one of my favorite pieces of homebrew. There are changes I’d make had I been the designer, but that’s the case for just about any work I’ve looked at, definitely including official 5E material. KibblesTasty has done an amazing job here, and I encourage you to check out all the free material they’ve created.

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