Useful crafting in D&D

Some characters enjoy using their downtime to craft mundane items. Repairing your armor, making some new arrows, concoct a potion of healing or whipping up a tanglefoot bag.

D&D is notorious for making the crafting rules complex or unusable for adventurers. I am talking about crafting mundane items, not magical ones. Let’s take a look at the rules for D&D 3.5 and 5th edition, and my suggestions for changing them.

Crafting rules as written

3.5 edition D&D

To craft mundane items, your character needs to have ranks in the right Craft skill. You determine the market value in silver pieces, buy raw materials equal to 1/3 of the market value. The you determine the craft DC according to a table in de PHB (page 71). Finally, roll a Craft check.

If the Craft check misses the DC by 5 or more, you destroy half the raw materials, which you have to replace to continue the work.

If the Craft check exceeds the DC, multiply the result by the DC. That is the amount of progress you have made in a week, in silver pieces. Sadly a week is undefined and could be any number of days. To keep it easy, I assume 7 days. You finish the item when your progress equals the item’s market value.

As an example, let’s look at a scale mail worth 50 gold pieces (500 silver pieces). The crafting DC table tells us that the Craft DC is 10+AC bonus, so 14. When we make our Craft check and succeed, our progress per week is a minimum of 196 silver pieces (14×14).

If you succeed all 3 Craft checks barely, the armor will be finished in just over 2,5 weeks (18 days) with an investment of about 17 gold pieces of raw materials.

5th edition D&D

To craft mundane items, your character needs to have proficiency with the right tools. You determine the market value in gold pieces. Then you buy raw materials equal to 1/2 of the market value.

You automatically make progress worth 5 gold pieces per day you work on the item. You finish the item when your progress equals the item’s market value.

Crafting the same scale mail worth 50 gold pieces, we finish the item in 10 days with an investment of 25 gold pieces of raw materials.

Anything wrong with that?

Is that wrong? It kinda depends on what you want to accomplish in your game. I like game mechanics to actually be usable, and I think the 3.5 edition rules are not. It is obvious that the designers for 5th edition reduced the amount of time crafting takes, for which I am grateful!

I think that 10 days of hard work is a fair calculation for a suit of scale mail. For other items I disagree, especially items that can easily be crafted ‘in the field’. Since I do not see adventurers bringing a forge into a dungeon to craft an armor in off-hours, I’m not worried about the scale mail.

I like that in 5th edition there is no chance of failure and the amount of time something takes is fixed. That makes alterations to the rules easy, and why would you want the added complexity?

My house rules for crafting

First off, even in 3.5 or other editions, I would use the 5th edition rules for crafting. They are less tedious and easier to maintain. Then there are a few alterations I made:

1. Half the time

A character finishes a product when he/she spends days worth 5 gold pieces, equal to the difference between the raw material cost and the market value.

This means that the 50 gold piece scale mail now only takes 25 gold for raw materials and 5 days to craft. This alteration is not really linked to the next ones, so can easily be ignored if you don’t like the reduced crafting time.

2. More or better materials reduce time

It makes sense that if you spend more money on the raw materials, the process of creating a complete product takes less time. In case of the splint mail: if you spend money on pre-made pieces of metal, it reduces your work significantly.

So spending 35 gold on raw materials instead of 25 gold, your crafting time is reduced by 2 days.

3. Find quality materials on adventures

I allow my characters to look for, and find raw materials for their crafting. Perhaps some raw metal or even some plate mail parts. Or a poison gland for the toxin they want to craft. There could even be an adventure linked to finding some specific materials.

Sometimes a relevant check determines the quality (and in effect the price) of the materials. To extract a poison gland, the character needs to make a Nature or Medicine check. The higher the result, the more the poison is worth with regards to crafting.

4. Days to hours

I rule that one day of work equals 8 hours. A modern interpretation, I know… Any character can make progress on an item when he/she spends at least 2 hours working on it. Two hours is enough to set up your crafting supplies and get some stuff done. Progress is progress, even if it is only a few hours’ worth.

This means that characters can finish items by working on them in short rests or in camp, without having to slow down the adventure.

The result

Depending on the investment, luck in finding or skills when harvesting raw materials, crafting something useful can be done without hampering the flow of the adventure.

Even if you dislike suggestion 1 and don’t use it, the other suggestions can still be useful. Better materials can still reduce the time spent crafting by the same amount, etc.

I’m interested in hearing your views on crafting in various RPG systems, so leave me a comment below!

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