She’s Crafty – Part 1

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last month. Turns out, this was a beast to write and got the best of me for a while. I couldn’t move on until I worked this out.

I have been thinking a lot about crafting recently. Well, that’s something of a lie. I have been thinking about it off and on since 2010, in various forms. Back then, it was mostly about LARP systems, rather than tabletop systems, but that’s ok. The LARP I was involved with had several crafting systems. Some were as simple as needing a certain level of skill (it was a skill-based game as opposed to a class-based game), and the correct amount of money. If you didn’t have the correct level of skill, you could make progress on your item over time. Other systems required special materials, money, and skill. Some things were commonly known items, all of which did not require a formula or pattern to make, but rare, new, and special items required researching or acquiring a pattern to make the item. For the most part, we were able to predict 90% of what people would research, and the rest we made sure fit the confines of the system while adhering to the expressed goal when possible.

A Not-So-Brief Word on Forge Magic

The crafting system that received the highest praise was forge magic. Forge magic required a character to be a smith (the game differentiated between armor, weapons, and security – locks and traps), and the to learn the skill forge magic. Forge magic could be increased as you increased your skill in smithing. Importantly, forge magic was independent of types of smithing. That is, if you knew armorsmithing and learned forge magic, you didn’t learn forge magic – armorsmithing, you just learned forge magic. If you learned security smithing, you would immediately qualify for certain using security forge magic, once your security smithing was high enough to qualify for the levels you had previously purchased. You didn’t need to relearn forge magic, so to speak. Forge magic required three different quality grades of materials to perform, with each grade possessing five different materials. Forge magic patterns required the materials, coin, and certain levels of skill to perform.

In itself, this isn’t anything spectacular, but the part people really liked was how it functioned. There were three grades of enchantments that could be put on smithed items by forge mages – lesser, greater, and master. In order to have a greater enchantment, it must first have a lesser, and must possess both lesser and greater to obtain a master. To complicate things, forged items could also be Named by scribes performing a Naming rite. Named items required specific enchantments to be placed on the item, activating the Name of the item, giving it additional properties. Now, Naming items required the item to be used in performing great deeds in order for it to be worthy of a Name. You could Name an item before it had enchantments on it or before it was used in great deeds, but that was likely to lead to unintended consequences, Similarly, if you found an ancient item eligible to be Named, you probably wanted to research it to know what you were getting into by Naming it. Enchantments all had a number of charges, and once activated they lasted for the duration of the LARP event. Once expended, the enchantments needed to be reapplied. This was ideal for us as a constant source of resource expenditure, but might or might not fit a D&D game.

Each tier of enchantment was ostensibly balanced within the tier. For example, an enchantment that made your weapon indestructible competed against an enchantment that made your weapon deal extra fire damage for an extended period of time. In the case of the second enchantment, you would want to make the lesser enchantment make the weapon resist destruction or hope the Named property made it indestructible as part of it. Of course, a lot of different skill sets had ways to prevent items from being broken or destroyed, so this wasn’t exactly crucial for everyone.

The special materials were found in generally stereotypical ways – treasure from killing things, treasure found on adventures, merchant items, and social rewards. One of the other ways was for an alchemist to take existing special materials and transmute them to other materials or ennoble and exalt them to higher forms of the same material. It was fairly cheap and easy to acquire the least of the special materials, and increasingly expensive Again, hardly innovative, but good within the structure for cross-skill integration and our agency needs.

Back to D&D

4e was just enchanting from WoW, basically, and mostly revolved around wizards. 3.x had an xp and material system that revolved around spellcasters. Looking at 5e, there isn’t much of a crafting system in place. Crafting magic items is broken into two areas. The DMG outlines needing formulas to craft magic items, and how each formula is one degree of rarity higher than the item it creates. It also specifies how legendary items do not have formulas. It also states you must have spell slots to make magic items. If the item produces a spell, you must be able to cast it. If the item doesn’t require a specific spell, it simply requires you to be a specific level, identifies a cost to make it (which must be paid in 25g increments per day – a 100gp item takes 4 days), and mentions locations or special components can be included as desired. If an item requires a spell slot, then the spell slot must be spent each day of the creation process. Characters can work together to provide spells and contribute effort in 25g increments (four characters who meet the requirements could make he 100gp item in one day, for example).

I don’t like this approach, mainly due to the established fictional and mythological role of smithing. In many stories, smithing is synonymous with magic. I’m not simply talking Tolkien-lore here. Andvari created the Andvaranaut, one of the inspirations for Tolkien, who was big on the Norse. We also have Alberich and his cup, and his mail, for that matter, looking to the French. Looking to Greek myth, we have several examples, but let’s go with Daedalus. We have some who creates the Labyrinth, wings, and myriad other items. While not strictly a smith, much of the works considered fine smithing bear his name as daedala. Moving back to D&D, there’s the whole story of the dragonlances and the Silver Arm. Even Breunor smiths Wulfgar’s magic hammer. My point is, restricting magic item creation to just spell casters goes against established narratives and traditions. It’s just not something I have ever liked. Fëanor disapproves. The best elf of all time can’t be wrong…ok, it’s a tie between him and Fingolfin.

Artisans and Crafting

Mundane crafting is actually worse than magic item crafting. You make a 5gp item per day, or advance towards an item goal in 5gp increments per day. A suit of plate armor is 300 days of work, and costs 1500gp. The upside is that this is essentially an installment plan, assuming you can’t afford the lump sum. As is true with magic item creation, assuming characters all possess the same tool skill, they can contribute each day. A nice benefit is that while crafting, you are not expected to pay upkeep, and you maintain a modest lifestyle at no cost, or a comfortable lifestyle at half cost. You are spending money elsewhere, so I guess that’s sort of a discount if you look at it that way. You would normally be paying upkeep AND paying for the finished item. Of course, if you do not play with upkeep, this does not apply.

One of the more interesting wrinkles in the crafting process is the fact any character can be trained in a tool. Training takes 250 days and costs 1gp per day, provided you can find an instructor willing to teach you. After that point, you become proficient in the tool, arguably as skilled as any other similar craftsmen. I say arguably because unless you alter DCs or consider alternate advancement for lifetime craftsmen, a life-long adventurer would be better at crafting, thanks to stat advancement and proficiency scaling. Obviously, this is an easy fix, but it’s still something to think about.

Now, not everything would make sense to be done with smithing. Leatherworking would reasonably handle any leather good. The tools do a fairly good job of breaking it down, but there is some ambiguity there from a certain perspective. However, I would argue it is safe to say Celebrimbor was proficient in both jeweler’s tools and smith’s tools, and this is supported fairly well in 5e thanks to just taking time and money, rather than specific skill choices.

Meat and Potatoes

To be up front, this will be a lot more involved than forge magic, but mainly because it can be supported in a narrative way that is difficult to do well in a LARP without a lot of staffing resource expenditure. Crafting is a deeply personal, or at least very intimate, endeavor, in most cases. We often chose to give it a starring role, but this was not true for every craft every event. Mostly, it was slogging away on the back end and working on individual pieces for individual people. You can more readily apply personal attention in a tabletop game, which is one of the mediums strengths. Making crafting feel awesome is a big step to inclusion.

Part of making it awesome is making it exciting. The system in place is not. It’s a steady, predictable activity meant to occur during during downtime. However, it’s not like adding DC checks is really much of an interaction here. Sure, you can speed up, hinder, or alter the process this way, but it’s just a series of rolls before you go on an adventure. Beyond that, the adventuring component consists of finding formulas or patterns for the items you want to craft. That sense of discovery is great, but it’s tangential to the act of crafting.

The first thing is to tackle the stagnant progression. Keeping collaboration is important, but it shouldn’t be the only point of scaling. Experience should matter in these things. Let’s set aside the idea that crafting should or should not provide advancement…and the separate idea that adventuring should or shouldn’t make you good at everything. 5g/day and 25g/day limits don’t provide much in the way of progress. While not exactly revolutionary, the basic idea is as follows:

Mundane Items

  • You must be proficient in an appropriate crafting tool to make an item from scratch
  • You gain a pool of d4 crafting die equal to your proficiency bonus
  • When you craft a mundane item from scratch, roll your crafting die. You may spend up to the result in gold towards crafting the item. If multiple people are assisting, each rolls their own dice pool, and then adds the results together.
  • Using mundane loot as material fodder should be possible. This is a measure to get adventurers to care a reasonable amount about loot that isn’t magical. These should allow you to increase your crafting speed, and provide a small amount of resource relief.
    • The qualities would be slapdash, poor, good, fine, and artisan.  A slapdash item might provide 1 gold in materials, but not grant die, while a poor quality long sword could add 2 gold in materials, and allow you spend an additional die of gold in the session, for example. I would consider doubling the material cost granted, and scaling die linearly – good would grant 4 gold and two die, fine would grant 8 gold and three die, artisan would grant 16 gold and four die.
      • Any overage in materials can be saved to spend on future crafting of a similar type.
    • You can create different quality items by spending 25%, 50%, 100%, 125%, and 150% of the cost, respectively.
      • Higher quality items (fine/artisan) do not gain a bonus, but instead qualify for better magics to be placed upon them.
      • Anything below good quality loses 1 AC and deals -1 damage per tier (cannot be reduced below 1 damage). Hardness/hit points of other items is harder to determine, but I would use the above cost differences to determine them, mostly (slapdash has 25% of the stats of the base item, etc).

Magic Items

  • You must be proficient in an appropriate crafting tool to make an item from scratch
  • You gain a pool of d4 crafting die equal to your proficiency bonus
  • When you craft a magic item from scratch, roll your crafting die. You may spend up to five times the result in gold towards crafting the item. If multiple people are assisting, each rolls their own dice pool, and then adds the results together.
    • You may spend your Inspiration during this roll to double your total.
    • If you have Bardic Inspiration during the roll, you may spend it to add the result to your total.
  • Magic item cost is reduced by the base item cost if you create the magic item during the mundane creation process (neither is completed until both are completed)
  • There are three grades of enchantments.
    • They correspond to magic item quality: uncommon, rare, very rare
    • An item must have an uncommon enchantment to have a rare enchantment, and must have a rare enchantment to have a very rare enchantment.
    • Only average and better items may be enchanted
      • Average items may receive one uncommon enchantment
      • Fine items may receive one rare enchantment
      • Artisan items may receive one very rare enchantment
    • Enchantments require special materials, which go towards the item creation cost
    • Enchanting items at certain locations or while you possess and spend Inspiration can result in the item having a Name, granting a bonus ability
      • Doing both is the only way to craft a legendary item
      • An item must be prepared with an uncommon, rare, and very rare enchantment to become a legendary item
      • You may spend any amount of money toward the item you wish, if you have Inspiration and are at a place of power.
      • The item must be completed at the location to benefit from this.
  • A character may only ever create one artifact (or set of artifacts if it makes sense) without outside influence, such as a god, archfey, devil prince, or becoming more than mortal through various means.
    • Artifacts always require a unique component.
    • Artifacts always require special times and/or places to create them.
    • Artifacts can have unique effects, using the items presented in the DMG as templates for strength.


Obviously, I haven’t broken down items into enchantment categories, but this is a pretty good base, I feel. I don’t think this is actually all that complex, and lets all craftsmen be craftsmen. This is largely an expansion of the bare bones suggestions in the DMG, but with a more relaxed framework to allow more participation. It would also easily allow you to gate a campaign power level, as you can just make the patterns not available, while still allowing a lot of variation, as you desire. The full list of what enchantments are what will be coming in the near future, but it’s a lot of work, for sure.


























Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s