This is part 6 of 7 of the series: Crafting a Crafting System

Accounting for Magical Items

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The story so far: I embarked on a stupid quest to develop a magic item crafting system for tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. An actual good system people would want to use. And I decided to share the entire development process, one step at a time so that the entire Internet could express their opinions and ideas continuously. What can I say, I’m a frigging masochist.

And I summarized the project – at least the D&D 5E version of the project – thusly:

The players will acquire consumable raw materials incidentally during their adventures, in limited quantities outside of their adventures, or through the conversion of items or other raw materials. These raw materials can be converted into mundane or magical objects for use by the players. Such conversion normally takes place outside the game but can take place during the game in a limited fashion. Nothing in this system can distract from the core gameplay engagement of adventuring, though it can provide the occasional motivation for adventure. And this system cannot allow the players to unbalance the game by acquiring more magical items than they would be able to obtain under the core rules, nor to earn a profit.

In addition to that basic summary, I had decided that the raw materials would be classified in three ways. Each would have a rarity: Common, Uncommon, Rare, Very Rare, and Legendary. Those mirror the rarities of magic items established in the D&D 5E PHB and DMG for magical items. Each would also have a type: metal, precious metal, wood, herb, hide, bone, fluid, mineral, gem, and essence. Each would also possibly have an optional special trait pertaining to the specific type of magic it might possess fiery, for example, or lifegiving. Thus, any item could be defined in the form of [rarity] [trait] [type. As in common fiery gemstone or rare lifegiving herb. It is important to note that the lists of types and traits are entirely just a working list. The names and even the actual items on the list will change depending on any needs we discover. For example, we will likely combine mineral and gemstone at some point as a result of what we’re going to do today. It doesn’t matter.

I also briefly mentioned that I would be using GP as the basis for all conversions as it’s an easy way to set the values of things in D&D 5E. And I explained the difference between GP as a measure of absolute value and gp as an actual count of the number of coins PCs might end up carrying. Basically, a raw material might be worth 50 GP in terms of balancing it against the value of magic items or treasure, but it might only sell for 30 gp in the same way that a longsword is worth 15 GP but can only be sold by the players for 7.5 gp to some merchant. That’s important because of that last condition: the players cannot use the system to earn a profit.

Now we’re caught up. And thanks to our summary, I can see what, exactly, I need to tackle to move this project along. There’s basically just two major steps: acquiring raw materials and converting the raw materials into desired goods. There are a few other elements to the puzzle: like buying and selling raw materials and finished goods. But those can be worked out after the acquisition and the conversion steps are figured out.

But there’s a key element that bridges the gap between acquisition and conversion. It’s actually the thing that underlies the entire system. And it’s why I talked about that GP thing. Because we have to stay within the constraints of D&D. We can’t let the players use the crafting system to break the game. We have to stay within the expectations of the system. Within reason. That means two things. We have to understand what constraints already exist in the system. And we have to make room for our system, possibly by altering already existing systems. So, I’m going to spend a lot of time analyzing the rules that already exist to lay out the constraints on my system.

Looking for Limits in All the Wrong Places

Nobody is completely familiar with every rule in every system. Nobody even remembers everything in the three core rule books for a game like D&D. And D&D 5E is particularly garbled, poorly arranged, and lacking in transparency. And that can make things real freaking hard for you if you’re trying to add a complex subsystem to the game. And this subsystem is particularly complex. So, how do you hunt down the information you need across the three books?

Obviously, we COULD start by looking at the already existing crafting rules in the game. And there are three major, published sets of crafting rules for D&D. One is in the PHB, one is in the DMG, and one is in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Now, generally when hacking rules, I don’t like to consider optional supplements too much because you never know what supplement a given table is using – or even owns – so using information outside of the core might create an obstacle. When you hack something for general use, you always want to assume the minimum necessary ruleset. In D&D 5E, I know that absolutely everyone MUST be using the core rules. That’s the basic definition of the game. If they made their own modifications, fine and dandy, but they had to start with the core rules too. So, I want my systems to work within the core rules.

That said, looking at supplemental material as background research can help. So, let’s look at what D&D 5E offers for crafting already.

Basically, on PHB 144, it says that players with the appropriate proficiency can craft any mundane object. They have to pay at least half the cost of the item in raw materials and they have to spend a number of days equal to the cost of the item divided by 5. Now, that’s both interesting and uninteresting. See, the problem is the idea of downtime in D&D is almost meaningless. There’s no rules or guidelines or rigor involved in handing it out. Any given GM can just allow the players to have as much downtime as they want. Downtime is discussed on DMG 127. And basically, there’s no guidelines. Just give the players time to complete the projects they want.

So, for the cost of an appropriate proficiency and worthless downtime, players can covert GP to mundane items at a two to one conversion rate. And the reason for that rate is probably because that’s what PHB 144 says they can sell items for. Thus, they can’t sell items for profit.

What that really tells us is that the creators consider crafting any item in the PHB to be pretty trivial. Which makes sense. Most of the items in the PHB are cheap enough – except for armor – that the players should be able to acquire it after a few adventures if they can’t buy it with starting gold. It doesn’t matter. But what about magic items?

DMG 128-129 provides an optional magic item crafting system. Now, this is an optional system that the GM can allow if he wants to. But we have to assume it’s not a system that will unbalance the game. So, this gives us a hint at what the creators think is “safe” to allow. The system works like this, basically: every item has a rarity. That rarity determines the cost of the item for crafting purposes. That rarity also determines the minimum character level required to create the item.

Here’s the table:

To craft an item, the player must be of the minimum level. They must have a formula to create the item. They must be a spellcaster with spell slots. And they must be able to cast any spells that the item can replicate. They must pay the creation cost in gp. The creation time in days is equal to the creation cost divided by 25. If the item replicates spells, the creator must expend a spell slot each day for the casting of the said spell. And if the spell consumes costly material components, those must be expended during the creation process. They are consumed once for items that can replicate a spell once or consumed every day for a spell-replicating item that has no such limit.

But let’s break that down. What does all of that really mean? Mechanically, the formula is meaningless. Because, again, the GM is given no guidelines or instructions. The GM could hand out formulae in adventures, make adventures out of acquiring said formulae, allow the players to turn them up during research, or just freely fling them at players. It’s a limit that means only as much as any individual GM wants to make it mean. Which means the creators didn’t think it was important. They don’t even caution GMs not to hand them out freely. If the formula thing were meant to be a limit that would prevent the breaking of the game, they’d have more to say about it. But it isn’t.

The spellcaster restriction is the equivalent of a proficiency restriction. It allows for the differentiation of PCs into item crafters and non-item crafters and also puts a few limits around what they can and can’t craft. A cleric can’t make a necklace of fireballs because that’s not a cleric spell and the item replicates spells. A wizard, similarly, can’t make a wand of cure wounds. But there are many items that don’t replicate spells. And those don’t fall under those restrictions. So, again, it’s more a flavorful restriction. It’s not super important. But it does keep non-spellcasters from accessing the class abilities – e.g. the spells – of spellcasters.

The time requirement can get hefty for big items, but, again, the DMG doesn’t care about how much downtime the PCs get. It even notes – again on DMG 127 – that as players gain levels, they should be given more and more downtime for bigger and bigger projects. So, it’s a non-restriction.

The material component thing is there as a failsafe. Spells that actually consume costly material components are rare and powerful and you don’t want a spellcaster to circumvent those costs. And, honestly, that’s nice to know. In designing this system, I might have forgotten that some spells have costly material components. I will have to account for that.

The only really useful thing this table tells us is what the game designers think are good prices for magic items. And at what levels the items should be available. When you shave off all the other fluffy, non-specific, useless requirements, all you’re left with is the idea that it’s safe to allow the players to freely convert money into magical items at the rate of 100 gp per common item, 500 gp per uncommon item, 5,000 gp per rare item, 50,000 gp per very rare item, and 500,000 gp per legendary item. It also tells us that the players should be at least 3rd level to convert money to common and uncommon items, 6th level for rare items, 11th level for very rare items, and 17th level for very rare items.

Now, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything – XGE hereafter – offers an alternate take that brings together both the mundane and magical item crafting system. You can find it on XGE 128 – 130 if you want. But I’m not going to break it down too much. Partly because it’s supplement information and partly because it only offers a few bits of important new information. It changes the timeframe for downtime from days to workweeks and scales back the amount of time needed to do some of the heftier stuff. And it requires skill rolls and explains how to set the DC and offers complications, but we don’t want any of that crap. We’ve identified that crap as a problem. Our system is an away-from-the-table system primarily.

However, here’s two gems hidden in that system worth considering. First, it lifts the hard limits and instead imposes a limit based on ingredients. And it tells us what CRs of creatures should yield which ingredients by rarity. Common ingredients come at CR 1 to 3, Uncommon at 4 to 8, Rare at 9 to 12, Very Rare at 13 to 18, and Legendary to 19 or more. Now, if you’re clever, you might read that as redefining the level limits. After all, if the PCs need ingredients from a CR 9 to 12 creature to get make a Rare item, they would probably need to be level 9 to 12 at a minimum to face said monsters, right? If you’re more clever, you might notice that the table doesn’t actually change much.

See, based on the CR and Encounter Balance rules, a party can generally face a single creature whose CR is one or two points higher than their level. Or even three. Especially at higher levels. So, a 6th level party that wanted to make a Rare magic item could go and confront a CR 9 monster for the ingredients. And you’ll notice that the level minimums on DMG 129 are within two or three points of the CRs suggested on XGE 129. So, that doesn’t change much.

Except that XGE DOES allow 1st level characters to easily craft Common items. It doesn’t make them wait until 3rd level. That makes sense. It’s weird that DMG 129 imposed that limit.

XGE also changes the creation cost of all the magic items. Common items are now 50 gp, Uncommon are 200 gp, Rare are 2,000 gp, Very Rare are 20,000 gp, and Legendary are 100,000 gp. It’s interesting because those costs are actually half – or one fifth at the high end – of the costs offered in the DMG. XGE tells us that the creators thought their costs were off by a factor of 2 when they wrote the DMG. That is very good to know.

XGE also finally notes that consumable items are worth less than permanent items. Which should be obvious. You half the creation cost of consumable magical items. Even more interestingly, healing potions are a special case. They are even cheaper. They have their own special table of costs. The game wants them freely available.

What XGE actually does is revise the information the DMG gave us about the conversion rate between money and magical items. But let’s not assume the DMG was completely wrong and XGE was correcting it. Let’s assume instead that the prices were set based on different philosophies. Or different benchmarks. The DMG price was probably the worth of the most powerful items in that rarity. That is, when they wrote the DMG and decided to offer an optional crafting system, they went for a system based on a worst-case scenario. The XGE system – and if you read the text in XGE, especially the sidebars, this seems to be the case – was based on not being such a hardass. It was based more on the value of average items. Sure, the players MIGHT end up with a powerful item for its tier a little cheap, but that wouldn’t cause a disaster. So, instead of being the price of the most powerful item in its tier, it was the price of the average or the midrange item in its tier. On top of that, XGE also acknowledges that the game benefits from some magical items being freely available. Healing potions, for instance. Parties that need extra healing potions should be able to easily get a hold of them. That is good for the game. So, such items should have the smallest price.

Thus, we have a good range of values for the magic items in each tier. The “healing potion” cost is the lowest cost any magic item should have. It’s the cost of consumable items that should be freely available. Ubiquitous. Game improving items. The XGE price is the price for an average or baseline item in its tier. The DMG price is the price for a high-end item. Finally, consumable items should be priced below the XGE average, down to the XGE healing potion cost. Permanent items should be priced above the XGE average.

This actually gives us a solid idea of what the designers think magical items are worth. That is their GP value. IF a GM allows the players to buy or craft magical items – and that is totally optional – we have a safe set of values for all the items. At least, we have values the designers thought were safe.

And we might just run with that. We could certainly build a system around those values and CRs and levels and stuff and be done with it. But we’re actually missing a huge chunk of information. The information we have is useful. But it’s incomplete. To get the rest, we have to broaden our look at the rules. But first, let’s slap together a quick little list of the ranges and levels we’ve gotten so far:

By the way, there IS another table like this on DMG 135. It’s above an explanation about buying and selling magical items. And it’s in very much the same ballpark as the numbers that I summarized on my table based on DMG 128 – 129 and XGE 128 – 130. The big difference is that the lowest range of prices is much lower than the cheapest magical item to craft at higher tiers. And I suspect that’s a mistake. That would mean that, for the cheapest, least powerful items, it’s cheaper to buy them than to craft them. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. And it lends credence to the idea the DMG might have set the top level prices right, but beyond those cutoffs, it can’t be trusted. So, we’re ignoring that table.

Looking for Limits in the Right Places

Everything we looked at above is based on optional rules the designers offered up in case a GM wants to allow players to craft items. And by analyzing the system, we actually discovered it’s just a system by which you convert gp to magic items with some level limits thrown on. But that’s not the normal way that PCs acquire magical items. PCs actually find most of their magical items during their adventures. Specifically, either carried by their foes or in treasure hordes in their enemies’ lairs.

And that’s not all. That’s also how PCs make their money. So, in addition to finding a certain number of magic items during play, the party also turns up some cashy money. And cashy money equivalents. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to refer to coins, art objects, and gems as cashy money. Or just treasure. Because it all gets converted to gp.

Feel free to leave me a cashy money tip by clicking the tip jar

The thing is, that cashy money is the pool from which the players can draw to do that optional crap we analyzed above. That is, we know that the party can make a Rare magical item for somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 gp. But, let’s say an average party of four, 7th-level adventurers decided to pool all the money they had ever made adventuring and craft as many Rare magical items as they could. How many items could they craft? Do you have any idea how much money a 7th-level adventurer might have? I sure don’t.

On top of that, how many Rare magical items – or any magical items – does such a party have from their adventures. What does the game expect?

Well, you might be tempted to say it doesn’t expect anything. It doesn’t care. The DMG and XGE both have numerous sections and sidebars about how the party doesn’t need ANY magical items ever. The game’s balance does not take into account magical items at all. That’s the claim. Magical items always make the party more powerful. Fine and dandy.

But, it’s also bullshit. I mean, I’m sure they didn’t work magical item progressions into the math. I might even believe that was a design choice and not a matter of simply running out of time and not having worked out any system for magic items before the PHB and MM were sent to the printers. But I also know that magical items do have an impact on the game. And too many of them will make the game trivially easy. Now, there are all sorts of limits built into magical items themselves. Attunement is the big one. And so are the class restrictions that ride on the attunement system. And the rarity and consequently the level at which magical items should be available present another. So, yes, to some extent it is safe to allow the players to freely acquire however many magic items they want. The game does have failsafes built in. But there are breaking points.

And that’s why I want to know what the designers expect in a normal game. That is, how many magical items do they expect the party to discover over the course of their adventures. And how much treasure might they have available to convert to magical items? Even if I’m going to allow my crafting system to push beyond those limits, I want some sense of the baseline. If nothing else, it’ll help me sent constraints and values.

Consider this for example: raw materials are acquired during the course of an adventure. Either they can be extracted from foes or they will be found in adventure locations. During an adventure in the volcano lair of a red dragon, for example, the party might be able to extract red dragon hide and red dragon blood from the boss, some fire elemental essence from the dragons elemental guards, and they might find some magical metal ore in the volcano infused with fire magic and some magical heat resistant fungus that grows in the caves.

Well, at some point, to design this system, I have to decide how much of all that crap they should be able to find in an adventure. And how much of that crap is required to make a magical item? How many units of hide and fluid can the party extract from a dragon? How much ore and fungus are scattered around? And how many of those ingredients go into making one flaming longsword or suit of cold-resistant armor? I could set those values arbitrarily, but it’d be better to have some sort of logical starting point.

Beyond that, well, here’s the thing: I can see the writing on the wall. I know where this stupid project is going. Ultimately. I’m going to have to come up with an alternate scheme for doling out treasure. If I want to minimize the impact of this system, I’m going to have “make room” for it. That is to say, I’m going to have to assume that the average party under this system will FIND fewer magical items in their adventurers and will CRAFT or COMMISSION or BUY items to make up for that. In other words, instead of finding 5 magical items in a dungeon, they might find 3 magical items and enough materials to make 2 more. Or something like that. I don’t really want to change the total number of magical items any given party will have available through the course of the game. I just want them to have the option to pick some of them out themselves. Either by making them themselves or having them made or buying them with the money they make from selling the ingredients they find.

And that means I have to know what the system’s baseline is. That way, I know how much room I have to work.

So, how do players get magical items and treasure and how does the GM know how much to give. Well, this is covered in the DMG starting on page 133. And it’s entirely based on random tables. And there are two types of tables: individual treasures and treasure hordes. As the DMG explains, the individual treasure tables are used to decide how much treasure any single monster might be carrying. But it also notes that if the monster doesn’t carry treasure – say, it’s an animal – then it’s the treasure that could be found on the monster’s victims. Basically, its treasure lying around near the individual monster. Thus, it seems that the intent is for every monster to offer some amount of treasure.

On top of the treasure found on or around each individual monster, the party also finds a number of treasure hoards during their adventures. Hoards are big treasures amassed by groups of monsters or powerful creatures in their lairs. It might be a dragon hoard. It might be the contents of the cultist’s vault. It might be in the goblin king’s treasury. It’s adventure-level treasure. Win a big adventure, find a hoard of treasure.

While the DMG does note that you can hand out as much or as little treasure as you want, over a typical campaign, a party will find seven hoards from levels 1 to 4, eighteen hoards from levels 5 to 10, twelve hoards from levels 11 to 16, and eight hoards from level 17 on. That’s the expectation. And the interesting thing to note is that magical items are only contained in hoards.

Unfortunately, the number of magic items in a given hoard of a given level – and I’m paraphrasing all of DMG 133 – 139 here – unfortunately, the number and type and rarity of items is entirely generated at random. So, if I want to figure out the expected number of items of various rarities, I could come up with weighted averages of expected values and so on. Or I could just read XGE 135. Because they decided, suddenly, to be uncustomarily transparent about the rate of magical item acquisition there.

Basically, they spell out how many items of each rarity the average party is expected to find as a result of those treasure hoards at the different level tiers. Not only that, they reveal a hidden extra quality that magic items possess that isn’t spelled out in the DMG. There are, it turns out, two types of magic items. Minor and Major. So, within each rarity, there are big, powerful items and less potent items. And that quality is hidden in the magic item tables. So, when the treasure table tells you to roll on Table C, for example, it’s giving you a Rare Minor Magical Item, but if it tells you to roll on Table H, it’s giving you a Rare Major Magical Item. And isn’t THAT interesting.

XGE 135 is gold. It tells me everything I need to know about how many magical items a party would acquire during their adventures if the DM didn’t allow them to buy, sell, or craft items using those optional rules systems. It’s the baseline number of items parties will have at each level based on rarity and also based on that hidden Minor/Major split.

Great. But now, what if the GM DOES allow them to convert money to magical items? By using one of the crafting systems or by buying and selling? The GM can do that stuff. How much cashy money does the average party end up with over the course of their adventures?

Well, I am not going to run through a lot of math. The problem is, I couldn’t turn up anything to tell me what the expectation was. I just had the tables themselves. And I had to work it out. I quickly did some ROUGH AND READY weighted averages of the expected GP value of all coins, art, and gems for the individual and hoard treasure tables. The reason I am emphasizing that “rough and ready” thing is because I slapped them together pretty quickly to get in the ballpark. I know I have people out there who will run very detailed calculations or program a computer to run 10,000 simulated rolls and every table and come up with very price numbers. And I don’t give a crap. I like math and spreadsheets and even I have my limits. And this project doesn’t need that level of precision.

Next, I had to know how many treasure table rolls the party would actually make. I had the number of hoard rolls, but I wanted to do a breakdown by level, so I divided the hoard rolls by level. That is, the party is expected to roll seven times on the CR 0 – 4 hoard table, which means they are expected to roll seven times from levels 1 to 4, which means they are rolling 1.75 times per level for the first four levels.

As for how many rolls on the individual monster table. Well, I had to smash that together based on some assumptions. First, I had to know how many encounters a party would have at a given level. And then I had to decide how many monsters, on average, would appear in those encounters. Obviously, the first number is based on XP gain. And it assumes the GM doesn’t use any optional story awards or role-playing awards. All XP is gained from combat. The second number was based on the idea that a GM would generally design single-day adventures of six encounters per adventuring day with a normal structure of easy, moderate, and hard encounters with a varied number of monsters in each encounter. And based on my supposed adventure structure, I decided the average number of creatures in any given encounter in a normal adventure is 2.33.

Based on all of that, I was able to run out how many rolls on the individual monster treasure tables and hoard tables a party would get over 20 levels and multiply by the expected GP value of the cashy money and discover that, over the course of 20 levels, a party would make just about 2.5 million gold pieces. Here’s the spreadsheet I made. Other people might have different answers based on more precise math and different assumptions, but I like mine. They are good enough.

EDIT: Some of you who read this early might THINK I said the number is about 4 million gold pieces. But it sure isn’t. It’s 2.5 million. You probably slipped into an alternate dimension where I didn’t have a typo in my original spreadsheet so the XP to Level numbers were wrong because I had Excel subtracting the wrong numbers from each other. 2.5 million is correct. See? Here’s the spreadsheet. There was never any other version. No matter what you remember.

 

So, now I know how much cash treasure and how many magical items the average party at a normal, core rules only D&D 5E campaign should have. The baseline assumption. And that establishes a very basic, rough sort of idea of what should also be possible under my magical item crafting system. Of course, players will be converting some – maybe even all – of their cashy money to magical items as well. But that won’t be any different from what players could do if the GM allows any of the optional crafting, buying, and selling systems already spelled out. A party should have 100 magic items and up to 2,5 million gold pieces worth of other items. That’s a framework I can work around.

Next time, we’ll be using that framework to figure out some details about raw materials and mundane and magical item recipes. But, as a precursor to that, I’m going to throw up this other spreadsheet I made:

 

It summarizes the information from XGE about magical items by tier, rarity, and potency over the course of a 20-level campaign. And then it divides the number of items by the number of encounters for that tier and the number of creatures for that tier. So, the party finds 11 magical items over the course of the first four levels of play, which means that they found one-quarter of one magical item per encounter they won OR one-tenth of one magical item per monster they killed.

Now, why the hell would I ever want to figure that out?

EDIT: And, by the way, those numbers haven’t changed either. If you remember them wrong, perhaps you’re having memory problems.

56 thoughts on “Accounting for Magical Items

  1. I despise the blatant rules that exist to make it impossible to turn a profit from crafting. Instead of building off that bad rule, why not make it boring AF to turn a profit – like they should have done in the first place. For small valued (aka: mundane) items this is much easier since turning even a 5% profit on a few copper piece item is not worth it when it takes days in game and hours (or hell, minutes) out of game. Its not fun. Problem solved. No need for this asinine value extraction pricing scheme. If the process is long enough, a measly profit could be more significant but also not worth it. As long as a more fun avenue exists to increase wealth that is also faster/easier then who cares if players could make a profit. Its lazy design. To me, and a lot of players I’ve gamed with, this rule set breaks the immersion. Yes you can explain it away but it always feels like a stretch. No one likes getting pulled out of disbelief. If the players cannot make a profit then the NPCs cannot either, unless it is just an arbitrary rule, which it is. Players have way more resources then the NPCs and money makes money a lot easier then no money makes money. There has to be a compelling reason for players and their characters to continue adventuring and risking their lives instead of just using that castle worth of coins they got and setting themselves up for the easy life. Anyways, I don’t know where you’re taking this (and it seems frequent, like its important to you) basing your design off of a bad design makes it a lot harder to make a good design.

    • 1) Making a system boring is not a good way to limit it. Players will optimise the fun out of anything, so making the optimal choice boring just makes the game boring.

      2) Days in game are not a real thing. Years in game can pass in a real life second fairly easily. If you say to a player that making and selling items gets them a profit of 10% but costs them a month in game, they’ll just stay in a town and craft things for a year before continuing to adventure. If you tell players their character can press a button to make money, they’ll get annoyed when you then tell them they can’t press the button.

      3) D&D is not an economics simulator, physics simulator, politics simulator, war simulator etc. D&D is a role playing game. It is about two things: Pretending to be a character in a fantasy world and making choices from their perspective, and having fun by trying to win at whatever the current goal of the game is. The only reasons money exists in D&D is for your characters to be rewarded, both in an RP and G sense. Your characters want money, the players want rewards. The money is used to get more powerful. Whether or not the economy makes any kind of sense is entirely meaningless in a Game.

      4) You seem to be arguing against yourself here. The entire reason you can’t make money off crafting is so that money remains a motivation for adventuring (AKA playing the Game).

      Think about D&D as a game and consider your points again. Immersion is important to make sure players remain engaged, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Everything is a trade off, and this one is clearly worth it.

      • Indeed, purposefully putting boring elements into your high fantasy RPG to passively try and discourage players from interacting with those elements seems like the apex of bad game design. And if given the choice between lazy game design and bad game design I know which one I’m picking.

      • #3 is all you need. D&D is not an economics simulator. If you want to retire the character to make items, go for it. But I’m gonna need you to roll an *adventuter* so we can keep playing

      • I handled it by splitting the item market in 3;
        You have the ‘inexpensive, generally useful items’ like health potions, but they are cheap because there is real competition and the recipies have been highly optimized. Its just like any other skill for money downtime with different fluff. The pricy but still an elite market (+1 swords, cure wands) is cornered; the nobles get their new magic swords from one of a few shoppes, by tradition, the sect of exceptional healbots has a few vererated members who craft the wands etc. A pc might get into such a position, but the obligations would force them to retire. The stuff that is odd and atypical is going to be by commisson and infrequently (doesn’t that sound like a hook… )

    • I’d say by all means you could allow players to make money from crafting, as long as it cost them something.

      Using the idea of investing spell slots into items sounds like a good starting point to me. If players were tempted to keep spell slots until the end of the day to add to an item they’re crafting, this increases the challenge and is a reasonable way to allow them to make money.

    • That’s all well and good for the mundane items. But time doesn’t cost you anything in game. And frankly, it’d be boring for the dungeon master too if it did.

      As for the non mundane items? NPCs don’t sell them (at least not in my games). Why not? Well, they can’t turn a profit. Makes sense why no ones selling them when the PCs start realize what a waste it’d be.

      I agree it’d be neat if it was more realistic, though it’s hard to see a demand. Especially if the PCs are special snowflakes. But I also don’t see any of my players upset that they can’t turn a profit if I told them ahead of time they couldn’t.

      • Yeah, you make a magical legendary sword of dragonslaying because once upon a time a hero needed to slay a dragon, not because magical legendary swords of dragonslaying are in particular demand.

    • I’m wondering if the cheap items being more expensive to craft than to buy is a subtle implementation of economies of scale. Health potions may be a commodity with such narrow margins that you need a factory asseblyine if alchemists to turn a profit.

    • “I despise the…”

      So? Go make your own system that let’s players make profits. I stated my goals and my reasons. And I stand by them. As I said in the beginning, the design goals are not really up for discussion.

    • While you could apply a tedious system to it where you have to make and chart dozens of rolls to annoy the player, some player will want to do it anyway, then you’ll be wondering why you gave them that option in the first place as your game grinds to a halt and everyone is groaning. If you’re going to bother to put the effort in on making your own rules, NEVER give PCs an option you’re not okay with them doing as a GM.

      It’s fine if PCs can’t turn a profit on magic items, they’re designed to be adventurers and not item crafters. Item crafting should be a secondary thing PCs do in their spare time, and no they won’t be as efficient as a true item crafting business professional.

  2. I have been dungeommastering since 1985 and I have a simple rule set for creating magical items. 3 points to note.
    One-it costs a level, and a high power item requires a high level. If you try and create a plus-one dagger at twentieth level well it still sucks up a whole level what a waste and the spare energy creates some sort of random probably (definitely) cursed item at the same time (nb it’s not random I put time and wicked malicious thought into it)
    Two- creating an item is a quest and requires assorted hoops to be jumped through that are non-repeatable because of the alignment of the stars or whatever, and expect to sell out on specialist help from astronomers from the mages college and item-location fees from the thieves guild and whatnot.
    Three- the party always has enemies of some sort at any level, and they will actively try and foul the whole process. If the party screw up then they have to start again.
    OPTIONAL Four- all permanent magical items require a soul. Trapping evil entities gives item issues, and trapping non-willing good entities gives alignment issues. It’s funt to watch the party dither.
    All potions and non permanent items are made by witches and similar stroppy weird peasant types. Not hard to get but you have to be level zero and a specialist to make them so the party can’t. And murderhoboing about will quickly result in a shortage of craftspeople. Rarer potions have rarer crafter.
    It’s worked (mostly) for ummmm nearly 35 years (but don’t ask me about the bow that never misses it knackered a whole campaign)
    PS dropping levels does not mean that effective CRs drop either. Make too much flashy kit and you will get Liched to death and your stuff will turn up in the hands of lichey minions for your next character. And they won’t have looked after it!

    • You can totally have that as a plausible way of getting magical items, but that’s very far from the system presented here, and probably followed very different base goals of why you would want to have crafting, and how you want it to be a factor in your games.

    • Out of curiosity, why did you start this with “I have been dungeon mastering since 1985?” I can’t figure out what that has to do with anything to do with the ideas you presented. They’re neat ideas, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, but they have literally nothing to do with the design goals I stated when I started this project. That’s fine, of course. Do what you will and I’m glad you slapped something together that worked for you three decades ago. Hell, I was doing some of the same things three decades ago with my AD&D 2E players. Sending my heroes off on quests for the breath of the wind or the heart of an honest merchant and crap like that. I’m just not sure how any of that provides a systematic rules subsystem for D&D 5E, three editions later.

    • This all sounds more like you’re trying to trap or jack over your players than offer them a fun and engaging crafting experience. Forcing players to give up levels, imposing an extremely high chance of the item they sacrificed an entire character level for being cursed, ill-fortuned, or otherwise deficient/problematic, then actively punishing players by forcing them to fight battles you KNOW are too difficult for them because they traded a level you thought they should’ve kept for a magic item they wanted. That doesn’t sound like a fun game to me, that sounds like a total screw job.

      Honestly? Just tell your players “you aren’t allowed to craft magic items”. It’ll be so much easier for you. You can be the GM guy who awards magic items off random tables without a care and your players will know from the start that what they get is what they have, even if nine tenths of it is garbage they can’t use. If that works for you go for it, but the very first article in this series laid out exactly why Angry’s trying to do something better than that and why a system like yours is pretty much exactly the opposite of what he’s trying to do.

  3. Instead of altering the amount of magical items a party receives to compensate for this crafting system, couldn’t you just make the system require the use of pre-existing magic items? Like you deconstruct a magic item for X magic dust or essence or whatever, which always gives less GP value. So the PCs can choose to have less magic items but more useful ones, and wouldn’t risk obtaining an unhealthy amount of magic items. Only downside to this I see is that it doesn’t really scratch your masochist itch haha, but I’m curious what your thoughts are.

  4. I wrote a book including most of these calculations back in 2017. It was a tangled trip, and I’m glad to see that many of my conclusions (and opinions about lack of transparency) match up to yours.

    One useful thing to add; Dungeon Masters should dole out downtime days like treasure. Time is treasure (cashy money) in the standard system. Each day has a value between 0 and 5 gp, depending on how it is spent. You can craft your own items to save money or practice a profession. For some activities, if you don’t have downtime days, you can simply pay a hireling to do it for you. Saying time has no value is the same as saying gold has no value since each can be exchanged for the other.

    • You could have TOLD me you did this work. Then I wouldn’t have needed to do it. What’s the book? Post a link. Also, I rejected the idea of arbitrarily rewarding downtime as a resource at the start of this project for a number of reasons. There’s nothing wrong with treating it like a limited resource mechanically – as long as it has value – but the players should be able to freely choose how to spend their time, even to the point of ignoring quests to make more of it. Of course, they have to live with the consequences.

  5. Angry, thank you for the detailed analysis.
    Crafting things to win and become more powerful is an element that has been lost. I’m referring to Dragonslayer, Minecraft, every episode of The A-Team, and lots of action movies where the hero(es) prep for the big boss fight by crafting/nodding their gear to win. Predator anyone? This can be as basic as the oh s$&@ it’s trolls we need fire arrows moment.
    The resale for “half value” is a clumsy way to address a non issue in my opinion. The primary problem is that money has no value, as you previously spoke to. It used to be that followers and acolytes and students would show up expecting a high level PC to have a keep or temple or laboratory that required a huge investment of coins. Where did that go?

    • Until this system is finished, a good approximation of A-Team style crafting/modding in preparation for the next battle is Angry’s Herbalism system.

      It pursues completely different design goals than this new crafting system, but it does a good job for people who just want to use their crafting kits to give some kind of bonus without having planned much beforehand.

      If possible, I intend to use a combination of both systems. This full crafting system will be done mostly away-from-table to give powerful magic items, whereas the Herbalism system can be used to jury-rig something mid-session that won’t last very long and is mainly build to serve a more immediate function before falling apart.

      It’s possible that the two systems will share too much conflicting design space and cause confusion, in which case I will likely revise my plan, but I’m hopeful they can coexist by serving different enough functions.

  6. I always hated the way Magic Item Creation feats and other iterations put in place to structure crafting items magic or mundane. Then again, I’ve always run my game such that we were closer to Conan than say Narnia or any of the “wonderful” D&D movies. Gathering ingredients to make magic items is the stuff of adventure – such as acquiring the tears of a dragon to infuse into the ink.

    All that said, I like the “rarity” approach to ingredients and can appreciate what you are working towards – especially by working towards keeping it as something that is relegated to the background without the need for dice. Good luck! Look forward to your end result.

    • I used to LOVE the idea of crafting feats… before I actually starting playing.
      They seemed like such a cool idea in theory, but looking back they might have been a flawed concept from the start.

      Although I do really like the UA Tool Feats that give you useful perks on top of double proficiency.

  7. The zinger is in the stinger.

    “…they found one-quarter of one magical item per encounter they won OR one-tenth of one magical item per monster they killed.”

    Win four encounters? You can craft an item appropriate to your level if you can afford it.

    Loot the bodies? You can craft an item out of the things found in the last ten monsters you killed.

    And this assumes all XP from combat. Make it a body count situation, easy for players to track, easy conversion out of game, upper limits known by level, type of item told by GM based on bodies looted…

    Damn, it was all in the math all along. I think.

      • IMHO, the best past of “crafting” is the fact that the party gets something it wants, not what a random roll gives them.

        This is seriously cool. Like discovering pi or e. There exists a ratio in 5E of (combat)encounters to expected magic items discovered. Thus those items should be craft-able by a party who has “won” a certain number of fights.

        To finish, what more is needed beyond the parameters of rarity and type of the item the players may “craft”, and the GP required?

        • Nothing if that’s all you want. But if that’s all you want, then why even bother with the crafting? Just let players buy and sell magic items. The book already gives you that. So stop here and use it. Or just let the players have whatever items they want.

          Of course, there are reasons NOT to just stop there. And they have been spelled out or implied in the design goals I stated earlier. As well as in other articles I’ve written. But they come down to a dirty little truth: people don’t value what is effortless and what required no sacrifice. What had no opportunity cost. Even if they are prizes for winning. Heck, winning is the expectation and losing is usually death. So heaping more prizes on mere victory doesn’t do a whole lot.

          Put another way, choosing from a list of every possibility isn’t a meaningful choice. It’s just about choosing the best thing possible. And that comes down to either a math problem or utter and complete paralysis. People are actually happiest about their choices – this is documented – when they have chosen from a small number of options. And limitations of “what you can make,” especially when those limitations follow logically from game events, serve a very useful limiter of choices.

          Game designers spend a lot of time NOT giving players what they want because players want things that won’t actually make them happy. That’s why good game designers know a lot about psychology.

          • As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.
            Albus Dumbledore

            I never thought that particular wizard would be giving GMing advice!

            This idea of limiting choice is one I keep forgetting. There’s something awful about outlining what’s going on and asking the players what they do, only to be met with blank stares! This explains that, and should help.

          • “The small number of options” goal is what can be reached with a winnowed down the list of all magics by rarity and what materials of the types are needed to craft the magics. An attempted example based on my (mis)understanding so far.

            A party has completed four combat encounters. The foes yielded/party found 1 wood, 1 bone, and 2 metal (determined how?) in craftable resources. Given their (assumed low) level, they can craft a single common or uncommon item of low, medium, or high power chosen from a (to be created) table set that paginated by rarity, subcategorized by power level, with notes to what materials can be made. They pay gold based on the crafted items power level.

            Objectives met? A happy choice made, worthless gold used, resources expended, DM not really involved except to hand out table set.

            Hard to keep all of this straight with only one screen open..

          • One thing I’ve learned about Game Design is that literally anything can give useful advice or inspiration.

            One thing I’ve learned about GMing is that is involves every aspect of every form of Game Design to truly master.

            In regards to the “small number of options”, I believe this is precisely what some people are aiming for when they try to reduce the spell lists or set story-requirements on certain character options.
            That and saving something novel to hand out as rewards.

    • Other tweaks spring to mind: For example, assuming two in five magic items are crafted and not all ingredients found are immediately usable (that is, some selling and buying required), that math might call for doubling the ingredient quantity required.

      I can’t quite work out how the math breaks down by rarity yet, but the shape of the hulking beast moving beneath the waves is becoming clearer.

      • Not all ingredients found are immediately usable, but not all found magical items are (that) useful either. Trading the “cost” of the downtime requirement for choosing the item you get sounds ballparkable.

    • This is the most extroardinary revelation so far to me- the fact that proper guidelines about how many magic items to hand out, and what level of rarity, and roughly how many magic items a character/party should have at each level, was all in the book if you did the maths.

      I’m increasingly thinking I need to re-read the core books with a fine-toothed comb because I have been operating under the assumption that I was meant to just eyeball all of that.

  8. This system sounds amazing! I’ve wanted to use a system like this since 3.5 in high school. I played a lot of monster Hunter back then, and wanted my players to have the option of making things from the beasts they felled rather than just happening to find the relevant gear for their characters.

    I’m really looking forward to having this in my new campaign!!

    The idea of ‘uncommom fiery gemstone’ just sounds so cool. Also, imho, keeping mineral and gemstone’ separate sounds cooler, as they are used for two really different types of items, I imagine.

  9. This series has been rather surprising for me.

    When you started this series, I wasn’t interested in a crafting system. I only read the articles idly. However, the closer we get to the end, the more excited I am about the system. I actually really want to try this out when it’s finished!

  10. I have made a magic item crafting system that balances around enchanting the magic items. There are three components: materials, foci, and ingredients. Materials are things like steel, adamantium, and mithril that are found while adventuring and form the base of the magic item. These materials give the item some properties and have limits to how much they can be enchanted, and are found in treasure hoards. Foci are things like unicorn horns and dragon heartstrings that allow for cool specific enchantments, like fire breath or teleporting, and are found in treasure hoards or taken from more powerful slain enemies. And ingredients are things like ignan ash, a fiery powder harvested from all fire elementals, that have a bunch of consumable uses and can be used in enchantment. Ingredients are all worth 200gp and are about the same power, so its easy to deduct gp from an adventures treasure hoard and scatter other ingredients across an adventure in rocks, plants, traps, or whatever else. There’s a table of various enchantments, and a player can take something like a chunk of the material Greater Adamantium, spend 2 days of downtime forging it into a shield with 5 of the ingredient celestial feathers, giving the wielder advantage on saving throws against blindness, knowledge of when they hear a lie and a light source. They could then spend some downtime giving it a +2 AC enchantment. Or enchant it with 5 jugs of the ingredient Blue Dragon Blood to make it a shield of lightning resistance. Or take the focus Efreeti Gem and give the shield the ability to cast Dominate Monster on Fire Elementals. Foci and ingredients replace individual monster treasure, and items already in treasure hoards can be switched out with a material, allowing for easy rewarding and implementation.

    I know the Angry GM’s system isn’t complete (mine isn’t either), but limiting it to a short list based on creature type makes it easier to reward, because you only need the CR and type to figure out what harvest check to make or how much stuff the adventurers get. And the fact that you can’t make permanent magic items without materials means you can just replace the item with a material of the proper rarity and you haven’t affected the progression or game balance.

  11. [[ This comment has been removed. As I said in the original post in this series, I was interested in constructive design discussion and that did not include people who wanted to piss and moan about whether they felt crafting systems belong in D&D or whether they agreed with the design goals I stated. If you have something USEFUL to add to this project, add it. If you’re not interested in the project, you don’t have to read this series. And if you just want to tell me why what I’m doing is impossible or won’t be useful to anyway, well, I don’t have time to listen because I’m too busy doing it for the multitude of people who are already supporting this project. In short, either help or get the hell out of my way. And note, this does not require or warrant a response. – The Angry GM ]]

  12. To answer your question: So you can balance how many ingredients a monster gives and how many ingredients you need to craft a magic item. One encounter on average should yield enough ingredients to have one fourth of a magic item. If one creature always gives one ingredient, then your average item should require 10 ingredients.

  13. Interestingly enough, XGE treasures are not exactly accurate to what you would get from DMG tables. For example, at level 20 total number of each Major type item should be 1 higher. But 25% discrepancy is still good by 5e standards.

    What IS a major discrepancy though, is number of encounters per level you estimated, compared to what 5e seems to imply. On the second thought… I have absolutely no idea where numbers in “XP to Level” column even comes from, so high they are 😀

    Anyway, I’m talking about DMG p84, Adjusted Adventuring Day XP table. If we assume uniform number of monsters per single encounter across levels, this table should provide insight into relative levelling speed across levels. The results are: 1 fake day at levels 1 and 2; 1.4~1.7 fake days at levels 3 and 11-20; 2.1~2.3 fake days at levels 4-10. And this is very deliberate – for example, level 12 takes less experience than 11. This leads me to assume, designers thought their game works best at those levels (4-10), so they made them longest.

    This idea is also present when it comes to treasure – you get 3 treasures hoards per level at 5-10, and 2 treasure hoards per level at 11-20. I think designers wanted treasure hoards to come at same-ish intervals across all levels regardless of leveling speed.

    • I don’t know what you’re talking about. Perhaps you’re referring to a post that was put up in an alternate dimension that included a spreadsheet with a faulty reference that was subtracting the XP to Level wrong. But mine has always been correct in this universe. Go ahead. Scroll up. Look carefully. See? The XP to Level is the amount of XP a character at a given level needs to attain the next experience level. It’s based on subtracting the XP needed for the next level from the XP needed for the current level. And it’s based on the XP numbers that come directly from PHB 15.

      … but if you were still in that alternative universe, you’d deserve a cookie for noticing the error.

      As for the distribution of the treasure hordes and how many are received over what level tiers, the only firm information we have about the designers intentions is how often each of the four tables will be rolled on over the course of the campaign. I quoted that from DMG 133. And the distribution doesn’t matter very much. For simplicity, I just assumed that the players would always be of the same level as the CR of the hoard they were receiving. E.g.: if they find seven total hoards of CR 0 – 4, they found those when they were at levels 1 to 4, fighting monsters/encounters of CR 1 to 4. I just averaged everything out over the tiers. The level of granularity doesn’t matter beyond that. You’ll see.

      • Yes, that’s what I meant too – if we assume all hoards are taken from apropriate tier, it seems we are supposed to end up with similar frequency of treasures across levels. This is very well visible in this universe: aproximately 1 treasure hoard per 5 encounters.

        P.S: I’m sure that absolutely no one cares, but here is magic item frequency per encounter (assuming 1 hoard per 5 encounters, or in other words 1/5 of a treasure hoard) taken from treasure hoard tables instead of XGE expected values:

        1-4: 16.8% common minor, 7.5% uncommon minor, 5% rare minor, 6% uncommon Major, 0.6% rare Major, 75.6 GP;

        5-10: 11.2% common minor, 9.5% uncommon minor, 5.5% rare minor, 1.2% very rare minor, 7% uncommon Major, 2% rare Major, 0.4% very rare Major, 915.2 GP;

        11-16: 7% common minor, 9.8% uncommon minor, 14.7% rare minor, 8% very rare minor, 1.6% Legendary minor, 4% rare Major, 5% very rare Major, 1.6% Legendary Major, 7300 GP;

        17-20: 10.8% rare minor, 22.4% very rare minor, 15.4% Legendary minor, 2% rare Major, 4% very rare Major, 10% Legendary Major, 67275 GP;

  14. “The average party under this system will FIND fewer magical items”
    Isn’t this a little adversarial to the goal of optional engagement? Players not interested in crafting might be a little put off by this. Why not reduce the gold yield instead and let players sell of ingredients like art objects if they don’t want to craft? Then the system would be completely invisible to anyone that didn’t know it was there.

    • The idea is that the system is optional at the foundational/Game Start level. The GM doesn’t insert this system into their game under the player’s noses; they only use this system if their players are the sort who have actively asked for crafting or who indicated a desire for crafting in their Session Zero.

      As for the one or two players in a party who aren’t interested in crafting while the others are? That’s why you find ‘fewer’ magical items instead of ‘zero’ magical items – the players who aren’t crafty get first pick of the found loot, while the crafty ones obviously get the benefit of access to crafting ingredients. A GM can tailor the loot they have the party find to favor the non-crafty guys if it’s an issue, and frankly if you’re not tailoring and modifying your loot rolls to at least halfway accommodate the party you’ve got rather than relying entirely on randomization, then I’d have to question why you’re using The Angry Loot Filter at all.

      If NOBODY at your table is crafty, then you dump the system altogether and just do loot as normal. And cry a little when the players wonder why they can’t find exactly what they want to have when they want to have it.

    • The issue would be that if you give the normal amount of magic items and then extra stuff to make magic items you’re putting the adventure on a magic glut. You give a reduced number of magic items and have a selling/exchange system to dump unwanted ingredients and get random magic items. Basically you break down one or two items in each horde down into ingredients and spread those through an adventure for the players to collect and put together in different ways. Another idea is balancing the power/expense of the items around a list of core or focus ingredients and replacing magic items with those, and then scattering around lesser ingredients willy nilly so you don’t need to worry about them as much. The system should not interfere with the current rules, and interacting with the system shouldn’t be necessary to have a complete and fair game. Making magic items is likely to give a bit of an edge because you’re choosing items instead of relying on dice, but the difference shouldn’t be major.

  15. Gearing up to hopefully start running my first serious campaign as the GM in May, when Ghosts of Saltmarsh hits. I’m deeply appreciative of this particular effort, as one of the biggest brain caltrops for me in all of D&D was, and is, the ENTIRELY NONSENSICAL magical item tables, prices, and crafting/bartering system, wherein a set of Winged Boots (uncommon) is drastically easier to find/buy/make than a one-shot Potion of Flying (consumable/very rare), in spite of the fact that the boots are in every conceivable way immensely more useful and worthwhile.

    D&D in general handles the whole ‘magic item economy’ thing so poorly that I’ve been more than tempted to just throw the entire thing out and come up with my own systems and tables myself just to make some sense of it all (and encourage players to maybe actually spend some money on consumables to help prepare them for upcoming adventures, because that’s *cool* except nobody does it because consumables are disastrously expensive and never worth their cost). Even without the actual crafting part of this crafting series, just the work you’re doing on breaking down costs and average expected wealth alone is invaluable.

    Thanks for that, and thanks for the effort you’re sinking into this so I don’t have to.

  16. Looking back at the DMG section reminded me why I gave up on awarding treasure per monster – that much rolling would eat up too much time. That said, the methodology of this article gave me a different idea: why not just work out the average gold per monster (as you do here), and multiply it by the number of monsters killed at the end of the session (which you will know from working out XP anyway)? That way, the players are rewarded monetarily for every session played, even if they don’t happen to find a horde.

  17. I too am not a fan that your rules make it impossible to make a profit. Honestly, all you would need to prevent players from unbalancing the game by setting up a profitable potions shop or whatever is to hack time on the campaign level. I am aware of two options which I believe can cover any campaign:
    a) Run an event-based campaign. This option is obviously useful, as long as you tell your players that it is event-based. Otherwise you are just randomly screwing them with a red dragon. Problem is of course, that making an event-based campaign is a lot of work for a GM, and non-event-based campaigns are also really fun. The campaign I am currently planning is episodic, and just can’t benefit from events.
    b) Put a hard limit on how much in-game time can pass in a session. This is a quick and dirty solution, but honestly, it should work really well. I have not tested it yet though. For an episodic DnD campaign, I would probably allow one week per session. One week is pretty generous, considering how only a few days at most pass in most DnD sessions, but we can afford to be generous. As soon as time becomes a limited resource, your player’s perception of time (that it is precious and should not be wasted) will translate into their characters (as long as the Tension Pool and other mechanics make sure that time is precious on the adventure level).

    Sure, it is entirely possible that your players spend all but five minutes of your session’s real time adventuring, and then in the last five minutes tell you that they spend the rest of the week managing their potions shop. And honestly, that doesn’t break the game. You just need to make sure that the profit they make running a potions shop is much lower than adventuring, and that the amount of bookkeeping required to run it mechanically is small. And honestly, given how DnD loves giving players huge amounts of treasure for completing an adventure, it should not be an issue that they are making a little more money on the side. And setting up a small mechanic to find out how much of a profit they make shouldn’t prove difficult either. Since adventures are both more efficient and more fun, your players will spend as much of the session as possible on adventuring, which is exactly what you want.

    I hope this wasn’t off-topic. I’d welcome any criticism.

    • I don’t think it’s fundamentally bad to let players make some sort of economically profitable downtime activity. The problem seems to me that it isn’t worth the effort of it’s own system: just abstract it. For the same reason there is a table of lifestyle expense, you could make a table of business revenue, according with their sector of activity. You could even make your players roll a weekly skill check or tool proficiency check and apply a modifier to their profit. But I don’t think it deserve more than a die roll, any kind of tracking on a crafted item basis. Choosing which item to craft in order to maximize profit doesn’t seem like much fun decision making. As it was said before, don’t allow player to optimize the fun out of the game.

      So, some random tables or weekly skill checks to see how much money a player gain during downtime isn’t a bad idea. It adds to verisimilitude, and may give more usefulness to some tool’s proficiency. But it shouldn’t not involve more than a single decision (what do I do this week?), a single die roll and few minutes of table time at the end of a session.

      • If you stretch your interpretation of RAW, you could argue that if a downtime activity says “you earn enough to support a wealthy lifestyle”, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live at that lifestyle, and you could keep the difference as profit.

        I’m pretty sure the intent is that you cannot turn a profit from downtime, and that lifestyle upgrades are a decent alternative, but if you want to allow it anyway I could see it working.

        You would need to solve the issue of time being meaningless first, although you really need to solve that issue before using downtime anyway, since there’s already a downtime option to gain unlimited tool and language proficiencies.

        • Isn’t the natural limit to downtime being that adventure is happening NOW though?

          “Help us, heroes! The village children are all disappearing!”

          “But I only need 1 more week to learn lockpicking! Come back then?”

          1 week later, the village is burnt down by demon-possessed children.

          The GM decides when adventures happen. If players ignore the adventure, then the adventure is a failure & things get worse.

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