When is a Barbarian not a Barbarian: Artificer

For our D&D focus this month, we’re looking at the Barbarian Tribes of ICEWIND DALE.  I’ve been running a campaign since the middle of 2021 and look forward to getting out of TEN TOWNS and making our way into the wilderness inhabited by rough and tumble barbarians.

For more, check my homebrew character reference, an NPC Artificer to the Barbarians: THE MAKER.

Now, for this IN A DIFFERENT CLASS, we’re going to be looking at some different options to trick out your character of barbarian descent.  During this study, please remember that I am NOT talking about the class BARBARIAN at all!  I mean, the easy pick for a former or current member of one of the tribes is the raging class. But there’s more to the Reghed or any barbarian tribes than their warrior class.  The structure of any and all civilizations thrive on the variety of knowledge bases and skill sets. As so too does the barbarians.  And we at the Magic Tavern say since Wizards of the Coast has supplied us with so many class options, why not look into some out of the box ideas.

The first class we will look at to give your barbarian is one of those “road less taken”: Artificer.

Now, I can hear you saying, ‘But BDC, those of the barbarian tribes aren’t smart enough to artifice!”  And, in the traditional sense of what we’re used to thinking of as Artificing, you may be right.  But don’t count the nomadic tribes short.   There’s need for the shamans as well as the warriors, the artisans as well as the hunters.  And the need to enhance objects and weapons for their tribe is paramount in this eat or be eaten setting.

Character Pitch: You were sick as child and never developed into a strong warrior.  In some clans that would mean banishment; possibly as a child.  But your tribe had a small band of Artificers of which your father made sure you became a part of at a young age.  Learning from the masters, you became well versed in your trade, but, before you could advance in what you had learned, your clan was wiped out by either, starvation, clan wars, the monsters of the glacier or Auril’s cruel winter.  You’re only hope was to make it to one of the Ten Towns where you were brought in and nursed to health.  Now as one of them and, yet not one of them, you have become a blacksmith apprentice, but your training and what you were taught comes calling to you again.

Using the downtime activities in Xanathar’s, an Artificer could make some good gold making common and uncommon items.  Taking one or two weeks in Icewind Dale to craft, say, a +1 Weapon, and spending only 50-200 gold, you could probably net double or triple the price easily.  The Ten Towns being a low magic setting opens up a real opportunity for those that know how to craft such items.

Now, for the barbarian clans of Icewind Dale, a lot of the subclasses probably don’t make much sense.  Since they’re not prone to wear armor, the Armorer subclass is out.  And, although you could make a case for the Artillerist, I’m going to also call that one out.  But the remaining subclasses, Alchemist and Battle Smith, Battle Smith makes the most sense.  (Alchemy could be easily explained among the barbarian tribes and could definitely find its niche.)


If you wanted to build a character with strong support abilities for your Frostmaiden adventure, the Battlesmith is perfect.  A great combination of frontliner and supporting ally, your character can develop quite a repertoire of magical items and weapons while being able to craft better weapons for your team. 

As you level up, you will be able to craft items to hold extra spells and infusions with the Spell Storage and Infusions features.  By the time you reach your last levels, you are blinged out with six attuned items, you have added help with saves equal to them and can get up from 0 hp six times.  Although they’re taken from your total infusions, you may aid your team by enhancing their weapons.

Support starts with you Steel Defender and its deflect attack.  It can also be used to flank an opponent to aid all allies attacking especially the rogues.  It also has an attack which makes it more helpful than a mere familiar.  If you go down, you basically take over the Defender, otherwise, your character must take a bonus action to command it.

The Battle Ready Feature allows the Artificer to use his or her brains in place of strength and dexterity for attacks and damage.  Later it receives an extra attack which is usually reserved for the more martial classes.  And finally with Arcane Jolt, it adds damage or healing whichever is needed.  The final feature makes your Defender stronger and increases the damage even further for you Arcane Jolt.

This is the subclass I chose for an NPC for my ICEWIND DALE game.  For more information, check out my Character Reference on THE MAKER.

You can get creative with your STEEL DEFENDER.  It won’t affect its numbers, but cool is cool.  Below are some suggestions.  For Icewind Dale, a mechanical axe beak would be less of a disturbance, but any mechanical creature walking around the Ten Towns will cause a stir.  And, the good new is the Steel Defender can carry over 200 lbs.

You can also get creative with the use of your DEFENDER.  Leave us a message here on the blog or hit us up on Facebook (themagictavernlgs) about what cool things you created for your character.  We do nothing in a vacuum here and love to hear from you.  Next week, we will be talking about the barbarian caste SORCERER (or shaman if you wish).  Can’t wait to share what we’ve come up with!

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