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[4E] The essential nature of a 4E crafting system?

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
I've been wondering this for some time, and I see it is now getting discussed tangentially in some of the related crafting topics. So, this is about what a crafting system for 4E--designed to fit in the 4E paradigm and add something signicant to it, would need to do or not do, be or not be.

We'll take it as a given that the answer might be: "Nothing crafting can fit 4E that well. Use narration or skill challenges or some such." But we don't know that unless we explore. ;) Also, feel free to use any examples you want, or take advantage (or not) of any existing 4E mechanics. The scope is up for debate.

If you think something is useful, but not essential, don't hesitate to throw that in as well.

I''ll post a few ideas shortly.

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
Variable Flavor of Crafting -- 4E needs to be able to support action/adventure, which at times can include everything from Weird SCIENCE! to singing magic into strong but otherwise mundane equipment to a sword and sorcery world where crafting is almost all mundane. And a bunch of other things. A good 4E crafting system has to take this into account, by allowing all of it, but also allowing a particular group to exclude some of it.

So the system can't assume a process for creation that automatically assumes or excludes the mad scientist.

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
The system has to either:

A. Not be that complicated--nor more mechanically involved than rituals and/or skill challenges, or:

B. Have the interest and choices of the 4E combat system.

I strongly lean towards the former as being more useful, but an optional system that met the requirements of the latter would be a valid answer.

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
All Players Involved - the system has to involve every player at the table, at least as well as a decently run skill challenge. In particular, see DMG 2 advice about involving players in skill challenges.

How it goes about doing this is pretty wide open. It doesn't necessarily need to be that every player makes a skill check. But they have to be involved some way.

Alvin Frewer

Classical Rebel
Crafting is already there for magic items, which I think is the essential nature, or part of it. Oh, and also alchemy and potions for single use. You can use alchemy to fill in a large gap.

The missing component I would like to see is a system for, or guidance on, making rituals (I suspect/hope that might be a PHB3 or DMG3 thing). Making permanent objects (magic items), one use objects (alchemy), and reusable systems (rituals) seems to encompass all the types of variety possible.

Crazy Jerome

Retired User
Cost/Benefit Balancing - if the system can produce something highly useful, whether directly of a benefit in the action/adventure, or ways to bypass the action/adventure--then there must be real consequences for failure, and this failure must also be action/adventure related. Sheer loss of wealth and time is not enough of a cost. Getting on the bad side of some demon, is. :)

Optionally, the system can be isolated from the action/adventure, then this requirement isn't necessary, and perhaps even wealth and time requirements don't need to be that strict. I'm not sure how this would work, but it is worth mentioning, since the only reason the real consequences for failure need to be there is the action/adventure tie.


4e is all about emulating fantasy adventures, not simulating a medieval world. Therefor, we do not need a crafting subsystem that is focused on how many widgets a peasant or character can crank out in X amount of time for X amount of raw materials. Instead, we need a subsystem that is focused on the important parts of building something and how the characters interact with it.

We have such a subsystem, Skill Challenges. Now it's just a matter of fitting this square peg into a round hole.

Difficulty is first up. I propose it be based on the level of the item being crafted. Mundane items would be level 1. Additionally, some structure for raising the difficulty based on more complex mundane items needs to devised, such that making horseshoes and astrolabes are not automatically the same difficulty. I do not think should be based on price, as that is not a good indicator of complexity. The catagory of difficulty should be Moderate for common items or items the characters knows how to make/has made before. Unique items or rare items are Hard difficulty.

Next up is the Complexity. This is tied to how much the characters will be spending in raw materials. We run into a minor snag here as the RAW suggests selling items for 1/5th their value. If we base raw materials off the selling price it makes buying/selling economic sense but it lets characters make out like bandits by crafting their own stuff. This is flat out unacceptable. It's better to cast our eye towards the fact the 1/5th value is often based upon the item being hard to resell or used. We can assume that typical merchants are buying and selling at different then the 1/5th rate which is just a shorthand number for DM's to use when players need to unload their loot. Thus the materials should be based upon the full sale cost of the item. Something like complexity 1 = 90%, complexity 2 = 80%, complexity 3 = 70%, complexity 4 = 60%, complexity 5 = 50%.

Now we run face first into one of the often lamented "No crafting skills!" problem. Psha! We shall not let that stop us! D&D characters are multi-talented supermen who bring a wide variety of skills to the table. If the skill challenge is viewed as a montage of building something then they can bring a wide variety of skills to bare to help them reach their goal outside of one piddly little 'craft horseshoe' skill. In fact, that one skill is less important in the grand montage then how they do bring their unique talents to fore during the sequence.

Each item will have 1 key skill that at least 1 success per Complexity must come from. I propose Endurance for generic manual labor projects, Arcana for magical items, Religion for any religious paraphernalia, Nature for items that involve nature, Perception for finely crafted items with intense detail, History for recreations, and Thievery for items that are small and delicate or have delicate parts.

Additional suggested skills: any from the above list that would also apply in the creation of the item. Also, Streetwise and Diplomacy to help locate cheaper raw materials, and Heal to help with those inevitable accidents. If a player can figure out how to use Acrobatics or Insight, more power to 'em.

Each round of checks should represent about 1 days (8 hours) worth of work. Yes, this means that a group of PC's could crank out a sword in 1 day at 90% of the cost. But look! They're all involved and doing things together in the most awesome of A-Team montages. This is a feature, not a bug. Optionally, the GM may extend the time each check takes for difficult items.

For powers that last an encounter, consider the entire crafting process 1 encounter for these purposes even if it's broken up over multiple days or has other things happen in between each round of checks.

Earning XP for crafting items should not be the default. Cheaper items are their own reward, but if it's a plot point in a game then it could well be acceptable. Apparently, unique ingredients are suggested in the DMG2. Each unique ingredient used in an item counts as an automatic success.

Oh, almost forgot! Failing the skill challenge means that something has gone wrong. The item is completed but... It is defective in some way; it looks horrible, it has a penalty to use or lower then normal values by 1 or 2, it only functions for a short time before falling apart, ect. Or it remains incomplete, but the process can be continued at the next lower difficulty (min 1) and at no additional cost. Or the item is completed but costs the full amount as if it had been purchased.
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Cool McCool

Eh, just make rulings.

Is the PC a weaponsmith? Then he shouldn't have a problem making weapons. The same goes for other crafts.

If the success of the PC's craft is called into question, make a check. The check in question depends on how the player describes his efforts. Dwarves who labour over the forge for endless days and nights might use Endurance, while someone who considers the act of creation an art and puts his own personality into it might use Charisma.

Time? Just use what's appropriate. If time is important (ie. it must be done this night), then make a check to see if it's finished in time, if it is indeed possible to finish it in the time allotted.

The DCs should be the level of the item created. Most normal gear (a backpack, a frying pan) should be level 1. Simple weapons are probably level 3. Military weapons level 5. etc.
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