FrankenFourth: Craft Skills

I've been combing through various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, seeing how they handle crafting because it's something I'd ideally like to include in FrankenFourth, without making it something that requires a bunch of investment with minimal if any payoff.

In 2nd Edition, the use of nonweapon proficiencies (ie, skills) was, depending on the difficulty of the task and/or the nonweapon proficiency's usefulness, either automatically successful or required a roll: the nonweapon proficiency would generally tell you if this was the case.

Among the list were a variety of "crafting" nonweapon proficiencies, such as leatherworking, blacksmithing, armorer, and weaponsmithing: armorer was specifically mentioned as requiring a roll, which could result in inferior armor that could be further damaged in combat (something I might lift for armor rules in general), while weaponsmithing seems to just require time and materials.

There were some other inconsistencies: gemcutting required a check, which could result in the gem being far more valuable than normal, leatheworking let you make leather armor (and other things) without a check (so no chance of getting crappy leather armor), while all weapons made via weaponsmithing were of typical quality (no chance to get either a crappy or exceptional weapon).

3rd Edition changed it so that everything required a check, and your check determined how many silver pieces of the item's value you completed in a week; once your progress equaled or exceeded the item's cost, so long as you kept meeting or beating the item's DC it was done. If you wanted to make a masterwork item, you had to actively "craft" the "masterwork component" separately from the base item.

My problem with 3rd Edition's method was that it was incredibly easy for any character to max out ranks in one or more Craft skills, and rapidly eclipse the skill of an actual, dedicated craftsman (since NPCs had to follow the same rules that characters did), despite having never actually crafted anything at all.

4th Edition didn't include Craft (or Profession) skills, because despite desperate claims from its detractors these skills were virtually never used: in all my time playing 3rd Edition (8ish years), we used I guess Craft (make-a-raft) untrained once, and I think I might have used Craft (alchemy), though I might have also attempted it untrained since with my character's high Intelligence I could pull it off by simply taking 10.

Basically, in both cases the situation could have been satisfactorily handled by the DM just saying, "It takes you x hours to make y".

(As a side note, there was also a Paizo adventure in which you could use Profession (butcher) to find a "key clue", which strikes me as fucking absurd since you can't make Profession checks untrained and you have to buy each Profession skill individually: you'd think that Paizo would have tried pandering to the 3rd Edition crowd by at least making it a Profession skill that someone might have actually taken.)

I don't recall someone bothering to try crafting anything in our 4th Edition days, but if I were to run the game now I'd just let them make whatever so long as they had the tools, time, materials, and I suppose it made sense for them to be able to craft it. That, or have them find a NPC that knows how to make what they want, since they're frankly spending most of their time actually adventuring and not weaving baskets or whatever.

This is at least partially how 5th Edition does it: you just gotta be proficient with tools and you can make 5 gp worth of things each day. While this is much faster than 3rd Edition, where a 1st-level character with max ranks in a Craft skill and Skill Focus will typically make 17ish sp of items in a week (depending on Intelligence modifier), I can't imagine anyone taking 300 days off to make plate armor (especially since in 300 days of adventuring they're likely to find or pry magical plate armor off of someone/thing's corpse).

So, with all that in mind, here's how I'm thinking of handling crafting in FrankenFourth:

  • There will be craft skills, and as in 2nd/3rd Edition you'll need to have a specific craft skill in order to make something. Might let characters start with a free craft skill to represent their pre-adventuring days, but I dunno.
  • Unlike 3rd Edition, you won't have to spend character resources like skill points and talents to acquire them. Instead, you'll need to apprentice under a craftsman and spend time and money to learn them. There's no theoretical limit to how many skills you can learn, so long as you have the time and money (and at higher ranks, finding someone sufficiently skilled to instruct you: think weapon mastery from Rules Cyclopedia).
  • Craft ranks will determine what you can make, and all it takes to make something is time and materials: there's no roll required. Higher ranks let you make things faster (probably use a table, as per 2nd Edition's weaponsmithing), and in some cases better (ie, "masterwork" effects such as armor that has a higher armor rating and/or a lessened Dexterity penalty, weapons with +1 damage and/or armor piercing, etc).

As with equipment in A Sundered World, there's going to be a list of materials, both to craft with and/or customize gear: in addition to the usual stuff like silvered weapons, you could make leather armor out of hellhound hide for a bonus against fire, or scale armor out of cold iron for a bonus against magic.

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print.

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World<


  1. Loving your blog. How do I get on the preorder list for a copy of Frankenfourth?

    1. @mbeacom: I'm having people look at the alpha doc before I make it public: if you wanna scope it out, email me ( or hit me up on G+ or Facebook so I can send you a link!

    2. A house rule I used for crafts in the d20 era was to give everyone a rank in a mundane profession that represents that you were in fact a butcher before realizing that it was far more lucrative to use your meathook in a sneak attack/a pig asked you to stop and turned you into a druid/your dragon blood awoke and allowed you to fire off Sleep six times a day/whatever. If there was a relevant craft skill, I would roll that in as well. Profession (Hunter) could come with Craft (Boyer, Fletcher, or Trapmaker). Dedicated crafting never actually came up (as I imagine it doesn't in most games that are not either number-crunching power level pissing contests or a bunch of poeple who just want to actually play Minecraft), but I would say the apprenticeship would be the best way to handle someone who wants to become REALLY good at making bows. I'd still prefer the +4 flaming burst bow of snake slaying to be a weird artifact that players can't powergame their way into making either way. Otherwise, having the skill is enough to strap together a raft or make something to wipe with that isn't poisonous.


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