A wood elf, wearing a wooden mask and brown robes, holds an orb with a swirling, blue fire inside. As she grasps it, she holds her hand in front of her and sets the tribe of goblins ablaze with a vibrant, blue inferno.
A dwarf with golden hair, clad in brown, leather armor, digs his hands into the soil as the undead creatures surround him. As he does so, red tendrils impale the evil creatures, removing their heads from their bodies.
As he holds his hands to the sky, yellow lightning strikes his open palm. As the human holds the energy in his palm, he releases it towards the unkillable lizard and scars its brown scales.
Arcanists are known for being hard to predict in battle and using everything around them to their advantage. Each with their own flair, every Archanist is known for their unique magic and spells. Using the power drawn from, what they call, the Backdoor of the magical weave that spreads through every plane of existence, they are often compared in power to that of a wizard. Luckily, they don’t have to write everything in a book.
Studies of Arcane Power
As students of the mystic arts, arcanists have studied nearly every type of spell. Committing every detailed description to memory in order to use magic as they do. Though many seem to think that building a spell, piece by piece, is a waste of time, arcanists believe that it’s better than having to look through a book.
Arcanist study for a large portion of their lives before they even think of exposing themselves to the potent magic that permeates the cosmos. Most are impatient and open the Backdoor too early in their studies and end up face to face with large, toothy mawed creatures in the space between the planes with the Backdoor closed behind them.
A Backdoor to the Weave
Arcanists don’t have a normal connection to the magic weave that surrounds them. They have instead found, what they call, “The Backdoor” to this weave. Granting them access to more potent, unwieldy, ways of casting their runes.
The Backdoor is a space in reality that, somehow, grants the arcanists access to the Ethereal and Astral planes at once. Also granting the arcanists access to the planes that the Ethereal and Astral planes are connected too. This means that, instead of drawing on that magic weave from a single plane, arcanists draw power from the magical weave of every plane of existence at once. Because of this, they are not able to focus that magic power into a spell written in a book. The limit of every rune that an arcanist can use is their will and imagination.
Creating an Arcanist
Your arcanist character’s backstory can vary by a large margin compared to others. How did you discover magic? How did you discover the Backdoor? Was it a natural connection to the Backdoor or did you gain access through intense study? How did they learn to control your powers? How did you learn of arcanists? Why did you want to be an arcanist?
Why did you choose to study as an arcanist? Were you interested in the inner machinations of the arcane arts? Did you simply want more power? Were you invited as an arcanist to a school or did you attempt to study from home? Maybe you're curious about where your power comes from. Or, to put it simply, you want to test yourself in the world as a master of your own imagination.
Your runes also manifest in whatever way you’d like, as in green fire, purple lightning, red ice, or anything else you can dream of. Same goes for your appearance when a rune is cast, your eyes could begin to smoke, your hair could light aflame, have your skin begin to glow. Half the battle is won with presentation, make sure you win.
You can make an arcanist quickly by following these suggestions. First, Intelligence should be your highest ability score. Then, make Constitution or Dexterity as your second highest ability score. Lastly, choose the sage background.
As an arcanist, you gain the following features.
Hit Dice: 1d8 per arcanist level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution bonus
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per arcanist level after 1st
Weapons: Daggers, Darts, Light Crossbows, Quarterstaffs
Saving Throws: Intelligence, Wisdom
Skills: Pick two from Arcana, History, Religion, Medicine, Perception
(a) a dagger or (b) a light crossbow and 20 bolts
(a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
As you have begun to master controlling the power flowing from the Backdoor, you begin to learn ways to cast runes. Though the way you cast runes is different from other casters, the way the runes work is close to the same. See chapter 10 in the Player’s Handbook for the general rules of spellcasting. Keep in mind, you don’t rely on spells, cantrips, spell slots, spell components, or the use of components.
Depending on the Arcanist, your spellcasting modifier can either be Intelligence, for if you learned how to gain power from the Backdoor through study, or Wisdom, for if you naturally or accidentally found access to the Backdoor. Your spellcasting modifier will be used in certain aspects of your runes, such as attacking targets.
Spell attack modifier: Your proficiency bonus + your spellcasting modifier
Spell save DC: 8 + your proficiency bonus + your spellcasting modifier
When casting runes, you’re able to control how strong the rune will be, though power may vary from rune to rune. Once a rune is cast, the amount of dice used depends on how many mana points are spent. You are capable of using up to 5 mana on a rune unless the rune’s description states otherwise. For example, if you were to cast the lightning rune, you could use up to 5 mana to do 5d8 damage. Manifests do not affect this number or any number that determines certain parameters of a rune.
You rely on a pool of mana to cast runes. Be wary of how much you spend, there’s only so much you have in your possession. Your pool of mana starts at 100 points and increases by 50 mana points at 5th, and again at 9th, 13th, and 17th level. You regain mana points by taking a short or long rest.
At 2nd level, you are able to enchant an object that is no larger than 5 feet in any dimension with a mystic glow. This glow sheds bright light in a 5-foot radius and dim light for an additional 5 feet for 0 mana points. This can be increased by five feet per mana point spent to a maximum of 30 feet of bright light and an additional 30 feet of dim light for 5 mana points.
At 9th level, you are able to instinctively throw up a shield when an enemy attacks. When an enemy successfully hits you, as a reaction, you can add +1 to your AC per mana point spent to a maximum of 5. This shield lasts until the start of your next turn.
At 10th level, you are able to use the life power from within yourself to cast a few more runes in your final moments. As a bonus action, you can activate this ability and treat your hitpoints as mana for 1 hour. You can only do so if you have run out of mana points. You cannot use this ability again until you’ve taken a long rest.
At 15th level, you gain the ability to see the magic in every object for a time. As an action, you can spend up to 5 mana to see magical objects in a range of 5 feet per 1 mana spent. This allows you to see any magical item within that radius. This effect lasts for 1 hour and can be used again after a short rest.
Ability Score Improvement
When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score by 2, or you can increase two ability scores by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.
At 20th level, your connection to the Backdoors strengthens. If you don’t use your mana pool for 1 hour, you regain 10 points of mana every 1 hour until your mana is full or until you use your mana again, in which the process starts over.
Master of the Arcane
At 20th level, your control of the mystic weave that flows throughout every plane of existence is magnified. As a bonus action, you can activate this ability. For 1 hour, the cost for runes and manifests is halved, rounded up. Once this ability is used once, it can’t be used again until you take a long rest.
All runes are known to take a shape when cast, creating balls of fire, rays of frost, chains of lightning, touches of death, hands made from rock and stone, and many others. These manifestations, or manifests, have helped many people in many different ways. Now, you can control each and every incantation that flies from your palms. There are 7 different manifests, each useful in their own right. At 1st level, you gain access to 2 manifests of your choosing. You are able to learn new manifests at 3rd, 6th, 9th, 13th and 17th level. In order to learn a manifest, you must find a scroll that has a spell, that’s at least 1st level and takes the relating form. If a scroll is read in this way, the scroll is consumed and is no longer usable.
Blast: This manifest costs 3 mana. This manifest affects everything within a 20-foot radius. If the rune does damage, every target in the affected area must make a Dexterity saving throw. A target takes full damage on a failure, and half as much on a success.
Cone: This manifest costs 3 mana. This manifest affects everything in a 30-foot cone. If the rune does damage, every creature in the affected area must make a Dexterity saving throw. A target takes full damage on a failure, and half as much on a success.
Ray: This manifest costs 3 mana. This manifest affects everything in a straight line that’s as long as the range of the rune. If the rune does damage, every creature in the affected area must make a Dexterity saving throw. A target takes full damage on a failure, and half as much on a success.
Wall: This manifest costs 5 mana. When this manifest is used, you make a wall up to 30 feet long, 10 feet high, and 1 foot thick within the range of the rune. The rune affects all creatures that walk into the wall. The wall requires concentration and lasts for 10 minutes. The wall vanishes when the rune ends.
Touch: This manifest costs 3 mana. When this manifest is used, you touch a target within reach. If the target is unwilling, you make an attack roll against the target and add your spell attack modifier. On a hit, the mana is spent and the target is affected by the rune. On a failure, you regain the mana spent on the rune.
Projectile: This manifest costs 1 mana per projectile, to a maximum of 10. The projectiles strike and affect the chosen targets. If the target is unwilling, make an attack roll and add your spell attack modifier. On a hit, the rune successfully affects the target. On a failure, you miss and the mana is not regained.
Construct: This manifest costs 5 mana. When this manifest is used, the appendage has an AC equal to 8 + your spellcasting modifier + your proficiency bonus, 50 HP. It has a Strength equal to your Intelligence ability score and a Dexterity of 10 (+0). This rune requires concentration and lasts for 1 minute.
There are many different types of runic circles, or runes, you can use. From burning your enemies with balls of fire to encasing them in tendrils of pure magical energy to showing them their worst fear, the options are near endless when working with the right state of mind. There are 5 different circles of runes to choose from, each with their own individual uses. At 1st level, you are able to choose 1 rune circle and 1 spell from that circle. When a group is chosen, in order to learn those runes you must find a scroll with a similar spell, that’s at least 1st level. For example, if you haven’t learned the “Fire” rune, you must find a scroll with a spell that solely deals fire damage and read it before you can use the spell. If a scroll is read in this way, the scroll is consumed and is no longer usable. You are granted access to additional rune circles at levels 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th. The runes are categorized in the following groups.
One of the most physically destructive circle of runes, you’re able to throw balls of fire, chains of lightning, and streams of acid at your enemies. When chosen, you are able to learn the following runes.
Fire: This rune deals d12 fire damage and has a range of 60 feet. The rune sheds bright light in a 5-foot radius and an additional 5 feet of dim light.
Lightning: This rune deals d8 lightning damage and has a range of 80 feet. The rune does double damage to targets wearing metal armor.
Frost: This rune deals d8 ice damage and has a range of 30 feet. When affected by the Blast, Ray or Cone manifests, the affected areas are considered difficult terrain, and all creatures you walk through the affected area must make a DC 10 Acrobatics check or fall prone. If affected by the Wall manifest, the wall is solid and has to be traversed around or broken through. The wall has HP equal to 10 * your spellcasting modifier and is vulnerable to bludgeoning damage.
Acid: This rune deals d8 acid damage and has a range of 60 feet. When a target is hit by this rune, they must make a Constitution save or be Poisoned for 1 minute.
Thunder: This rune deals d10 thunder damage and has a range of 40 feet. When this rune is cast, it can be heard from 100 feet away.
Force: This rune deals d6 force damage and has a range of 60 feet. This rune can be affected by 2 manifests at once without having to spend mana points, the effects of which are determined by your DM. The State manifest, however, costs the same. When the Wall manifest is used with this rune, you can also choose for the wall to do damage or make the wall solid with HP equal to 5 * your spellcasting modifier.
Though one of the less physically destructive, this rune circle can best be used when dealing with a large number of enemies at a time. Making you able to change the battlefield and lean the odds in your favor if it’s used correctly.
Gravity: The most physical rune in this group, this rune costs 5 mana and has a range of 60 feet. When you cast this rune, you can choose if it pushes every target 15 feet away or if it pulls every target 15 feet closer to the affected area. In both cases, every creature in the affected area must make a Strength saving throw to successfully stay in place. You can choose if the rune stays in effect for as many rounds equal to your spellcasting modifier. If you choose to do so, the rune requires concentration. If affected by the Projectile or Touch manifests, you can choose for the rune to increase or decrease the gravity for an object that is no larger than 10 feet in any dimension. Increasing gravity doubles the weight of objects and halves the movement speed of an affected target. Decreasing gravity will half the weight of objects and affect the target, which also doubles the target’s jump height.
Mindstate: The rune used most for altering the mind of your enemies, it costs 5 mana, deals d4 psychic damage, and has a range of 100 feet. This rune cannot be cast without a manifest. This rune cannot be affected by the Blast, Ray, Cone, or Wall manifests. When a target is affected by this rune, they must make a Wisdom saving throw or be afflicted by one of the following conditions of your choice.
Rage: The affected target attacks the nearest creature. They use movement if needed but can take no other actions for the duration.
Confusion: the affected target walks in a random direction. To determine the direction, roll 1d4 and assign a direction to each dice face. They can take no other actions for the duration.
Fear: The affected target sees you as their greatest fear. They must use all of their movement to get away from you as long as you are visible to the target. They can take no other actions for the duration.
Calm: The target is now calm and holsters their weapons as their action and becomes passive towards as many creatures of your choice equal to the amount of dice used. They are free to take actions as long as it doesn’t directly damage the chosen creatures.
When this rune is cast, it requires concentration and lasts the number of rounds equal to the amount of dice used, where the effect of the rune wears off. The target is able to make another saving throw at the end of each of its turns or when it is damaged by another creature. This rune cannot be affected by the State manifest.
Hinder: You slow down an attacking enemy to crawl. As a reaction, you choose one target within 30 feet of you. They are slowed exponentially and their action doesn’t take place till the start of their next turn, where they return to their normal speed. After the effect has worn off, the target is not able to use their full action that turn but are able to use their other actions. To slow a target, you spend mana points equal to 10 + the target’s height rounded up.
Stasis: This rune costs 1 mana per object frozen. You freeze all objects within the affected area of the rune that are no larger than 5 feet in any dimension.The objects are now held in place for up to 1 minute and you are concentrating on the rune. All creatures that attempt to move the object while the rune is active must make a Strength check with disadvantage against your spell save DC. On a successful check, you break concentration on the rune.
Though this rune circle doesn’t do damage and can’t take a manifest, it can be useful in almost every situation. From making a horde of goblins fight an untouchable dragon to making a merchant think you have an extra 10 gold, this rune circle can be used in a plethora of situations.
Image: When this rune is cast, you are able to make an illusion within a space equal to 5 feet * the number of mana spent. The illusion is able to make sounds if you choose. If a creature makes an Investigation check against your spell save DC or attempts to make a melee attack against the illusion, they are able to discern it’s an illusion. This rune requires concentration and lasts as many minutes equal to 2 * your spellcasting modifier.
Mirage: When this rune is cast, a single target must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the target sees an image of your choosing that fits in a space equal to 5 feet * the amount of mana spent. The target will convince themselves the image is real unless they successfully pass an Investigation check against your spell save DC. This rune requires concentration and lasts as many minutes equal to your spellcasting modifier.
Used best when trying to move things from place to place. This rune circle could be very useful to a party of adventurers trying to cross the map or by moving a horde of undead to a place of your liking. This rune circle cannot be affected by manifests.
Teleportation Rune: You draw a single, large rune on a surface that lights with an ethereal glow. A rune takes 10 minutes to draw and costs 10 mana. Once the rune is drawn, it can only be removed by the caster who put it there or by a Dispel Magic spell.In order to travel through a rune, a second, identical, rune must be drawn in a separate location at least 300 feet away from the original, or the runes won’t activate. In order to activate the runes, you must spend mana points equal to 10 + the number of creatures traveling through the rune. These runes are able to work across planes of existence if a rune is written in both planes. A rune can only be disrupted if the surface the rune was drawn on is destroyed, in which the opposing rune will not activate.
Flash: You focus your energy on 2 different points in space and move between the gaps in reality. As a bonus action, you can teleport to a space within a range equal to 10 feet * the amount of mana used. If the space is occupied, you take d10 force damage equal to the number of mana points spent on the rune.
Used to support others when they are in times of need. You can heal wounds, protect your comrades from certain doom. This kind of magic has saved many people, now it’s your turn.
Heal: Used to heal your allies, this rune can use up to 20 mana points to heal 1 hitpoint per mana point spent on the rune. It also has a range of 60 feet. When affected by a manifest that requires concentration, the rune heals affected targets at the start of their turn. When affected by a manifest that affects an area, you are able to choose targets equal to your Intelligence modifier.
Ward: The best way to protect your allies from harm, you are able to summon a shield within 30 feet of you. This shield’s health is equal to 20 * the amount of mana spent. This rune cannot be affected by the Construct, Arrow, Ray, Cone, or State manifests.
Regeneration: You grant a gift of pure, healing, energy. You touch one creature and give them the ability to heal HP equal to double the amount of mana used at the start of every turn. When the rune is in effect, it requires concentration. This effect lasts for minutes equal to your Intelligence modifier.
Rekindle: You bring back someone on the brink of death. You touch one creature and spend 10 mana per minute the body has been dead at a maximum of 10 minutes. The creature is then stabilized and considered unconscious.