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This is part 21 of 22 of the series: Hacking New Rules

Crafting Disappointment

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Abstraction can be a great thing. When you’re trying to do something in a game, sometimes it helps to strip away all the fluffy bits that are supposed to represent a fantastic game world and focus purely on what, from a gameplay perspective, you’re actually trying to do. That’s how I reduced crafting and customizing equipment down to “trading resources for advancement and customization” and recognized that if “buying equipment” and “leveling your character” could somehow be personified into a male and a female and forced to make whoopie behind a game store, nine months later, one of them would squirt out a bouncing baby “crafting system.” Or the personification thereof.

But you can be too abstract. Just ask the designers behind Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition. As much as I respect them for their willingness to push the game in all sorts of different directions, they really should have multiplied that game by its complex conjugate before they released it. If you know what I’m saying. See, the problem with too much abstraction is that, at the end of the day, the mechanics of an RPG – the G part – has to be representative of the narrative – the RP part – and vicey versey. Otherwise, you end up with a list of rules that exist solely because they are the rules. And the poor GM ends up making up a lot of excuses for things that shouldn’t need excuses. Like “why can the fighter perform that particular maneuver with his sword only one time in every 24-hour period” and “why can you use your basic knowledge of first aid to help extinguish a friend who is on fire, but not extinguish yourself?”

See, abstraction can take you to some wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful places. But it’s important to bring the wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful back to the real world. Because the real world is where it has to function. The real world of the imaginary world of the fiction of the game. If you follow me.

The point is, there’s a time to abstract and there’s a time to get real.

And this is one of those times.

And speaking of that, let’s drag this Long, Rambling Introduction™ back to reality by saying I’m talking about crafting again. This is a follow-up to my previous discussion on a crafting system for D&D and Pathfinder. In the last article, I abstracted the hell out of a crafting system to ultimately decide what the system should broadly look like from the players’ side of the screen. And that led to figuring out how crafting was going to work: it was going to be about trading resources earned in game for game assets. But now, I want to look at it from the GM’s side of things. And that will help me figure out what those resources actually should look like.

And then I’m going to throw it all away because if I would just stop abstracting for two frigging minutes, I’d realize I already have the answer. Spoiler alert.

What a GM Wants

Last time, I made a lot of headway figuring out what a crafting system should look like – very, VERY broadly – by trying to figure out why a player would want a crafting system and what they’d get out of it and then looking for systems in the game that already provide those benefits. So, let’s see what we can figure out by asking what the GM would want to get out of a crafting system and seeing if there is anything in the game that provides those benefits.

And that’s where I hit my first big snag. GMs don’t want a damned crafting system. And why should they? It doesn’t do anything for them. That’s why every time I talk about crafting systems, there’s a lot of pissing and moaning about how they are useless and terrible and how I dislodge my head from my rectum as that is clearly where it’s lodged if I think a crafting system is a good idea. And, honestly, I get it. To a point.

See, the thing is, GMs can be some of the laziest asses you can imagine. GMs are forever pissing and moaning about having to give out experience points, for example. Yes, GMs are so lazy that the idea of adding up a column of five to ten numbers, all divisible by five or ten, with a calculator, once per game session, and announcing that number to the players is just too damned onerous. Hell, most published adventures give totals for each encounter, so you’re basically adding FOUR NUMBERS together.

And don’t get me started on handing out treasure. That was a huge-ass complaint back in the 4E day. GMs whining, “you mean I actually have to pick out treasures and magical items and place them in my adventures according to a list?!” And, again, the actual work involved amounted to picking one generic treasure from a list of ten – e.g.: one magical weapon – and pairing it with an encounter. Yes, you had to pick the weapon. And yes, you had to do that about five times per game session. Holy crap.

Look, GMing can be hard work. I understand that. I’ve been doing it for 30 years and I almost never run anything I haven’t written from scratch, so I know how much hard work it can be. But I also don’t have a lot of sympathy for complaining about handing out experience points – a remarkably easy task that takes all of five minutes – or for stocking your home-made adventure with treasure – I mean, you made the whole rest of the adventure, and that’s where you draw the line. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just part of the GMs job. And it’s an important part of the GMs job because XP and treasure are the rewards the players earn for doing a good job and winning. You know, the rewards the players earn for dealing with all the evil shit you threw in the adventure to torment them.

Isn’t it funny how GMs get lazy when it comes time to reward the players, but they have all the time in the world to build custom monsters and encounters and NPCs and stories and crap to make the players work for their victories? Yeah. Lazy AND selfish is a delightful combination.

If it seems like I’m on a tangent, well, shut up. This is my website and I can rant about whatever I want. But, in this case, this rant has a point. I’m focusing on treasure and XP because, in the last article, I concluded that crafting and customization were basically going to work like buying equipment and leveling up characters. Trading resources for game assets. Specifically, the players trading treasure and XP that they were awarded by the GM for equipment and character abilities.

You see where this is going.

See, there’s an issue with this whole crafting thing. From a player perspective, it’s a completely optional system. No one has to engage with the crafting system. Players who want to engage with it can engage with it. But the GM doesn’t have that luxury. If the crafting system is an option in the game – and sure, a GM can remove the option altogether, but let’s pretend they don’t – if the crafting system is an option in the game, it’s only optional for the players. The minute a player chooses to engage with it, the GM has to engage with it too.

Now, it’s all well and good to say that the system is something the players will do mostly away from the table – though I should note that doesn’t mean it can’t also be done AT THE TABLE, which is something my commenters seem to have failed to notice – it’s nice to say crafting is something that will be done away from the table without oversight from the GM, but the GM is still going to be involved. Because the resources that the players use to craft stuff have to come from somewhere. Just like XP and treasure have to come from somewhere.

So, it’s an apt comparison. Sort of. Because there’s a distinction here that very few people make. But I’m going to.

Not All GMs are Game Designers

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I noted that every GM is technically a game designer. While running a game, a GM was going to be called upon to make judgment calls. And the GM would have to make the best call for the game. And the call couldn’t just be about fairness or interpretation of the rules. The call had to take into account all sorts of things: fairness, consistency, balance, agency, engagement, and so on. Which is why a GM can’t boil decisions down to a simple aphorism like “rule of cool” or whatever.

Thus, in that respect, every GM would eventually have to make a game design decision. A decision that would change the way their game worked based on what would provide the best game experience.

But now that I’m making a completely different point in a completely different article, I can say this: there’s a difference between a GM and a game designer and not every GM is a game designer.

See, many GMs simply run published adventures. They do mostly what the adventure tells them, and they are perfectly happy to do that. And they don’t struggle with handing out XP and treasure because the adventure tells them exactly what to hand out. They don’t have to think twice about it.

But then, there’s the GMs who write their own adventures and campaigns and stuff. They are designing games. Not in a semantical way that makes a point about how it’s important for GMs to understand game design principles just to run games. They are designing games in the actual sense that they write the story and place the challenges and portion out the rewards and all of that crap.

Now, most RPG products don’t think twice about that distinction. They talk to all GMs as if they’re the same. And they don’t design different tools for those two different GMs. Or at least design the same tools differently depending on the type of GM using them. If they did, none of the GMs running published modules would have to buy Monster Manuals and GM Guides. And if I were writing an RPG, I’d acknowledge both kinds of GMs as completely different types of consumers when I was designing my product lines. But that’s just Crazy Uncle Angry talking crazy again. Ignore him.

Point is, there’s two types of GMs. There’s Game Runners and Game Builders. GRs and GBs. And the crazy thing is that you can be either or you can be both. You can just be a GR and run published games. You can be a GB and write adventures that you publish on the Internet for other people to run. And you can be a GR/GB. And maybe we should only call that last kind a GM.

The Problem with Hacks… That Isn’t a Problem

Now, why is this distinction important? It’s important because I’m making a hack. I’m adding a new system to an existing game. D&D doesn’t have a crafting system. Not a useful one anyway. Not one people want to use. Now, my system is going to add a certain level of complexity to the game. I know that. And, I’m trying to add the least amount of complexity possible. I’m especially trying to spare the GM any complexity because the GM doesn’t really get much benefit from the depth the system adds. Mostly, it’s the players who benefit from the system. The GM just gets more work.

But the fact that this is a hack and the fact that there’s two different types of GMs in the world screw up that whole equation. Why? Well, this is a very fine point, but it’s an important one nonetheless.

Imagine that WotC had recognized my genius and hired me to design a crafting system for D&D before they released the game. Imagine I was able to integrate my system fully into the game. And I came up with a resource that GMs could dole out as part of their players’ adventures that they could spend on crafting. What would happen? Well, every published adventure would include Crafting Points alongside the Experience Points and Treasure. And the DM’s Guide would include a table of Crafting Points by level. Or the Monster Manual would spell out how much each monster was worth in Crafting Points.

That would mean that the GRs – the Game Runners – wouldn’t have any more complexity than they already do. They would just hand out the CrPs with the XPs and the GPs. It’ll all be spelled out in the modules. Only the GBs – the Game Builders – would care. And they’d have those tools in the DMG to tell them how much CrPs to include in their adventures just like they have to include XPs and GPs. The GBs would pay the full complexity cost.

The problem is, I’m not doing that. I’m hacking the game. Which means, if any GM – be they a GR or GB – wants to use my system, they have to eat the complexity cost. If some GR wants to add my crafting system to Tomb of Annihilation, they have to go through and retrofit the adventure with my system. And if my judge the complexity of my system based on that, well, there’s no way to build a crafting system that is worth the complexity it adds.

BUT…

Now, normally, I’d say we’d have to find a way to balance the complexity cost so that everyone can enjoy the system I’m making. But, realistically, that’s just stupid. It’s probably impossible and it’s also kind of pointless. Most GRs aren’t inclined to add new rules and hacks into their games. They just want to run the module they paid for. The people inclined to add new rules are the people who already make the game their own by building their own content. And they are the ones who’d be eating the complexity of handing out a third resource alongside the GPs and XPs in their adventures. And calculating how much to hand out.

And so, we can narrow our focus. If we were writing this system as a core part of the game before it’s release, we would be worrying about the complexity we’d be dumping on module writers and DIY GMs, but we’d be ignoring the published module GMs because it wouldn’t really pass any complexity on to them. It’d just be one more number to read off to the players at the end of each play session to fill in a third blank in the sentence, “good job, everyone, you earned _________ XP, _________ GP, and _________ CrP.”

And so, when I try to figure out what a GM wants, I’m really trying to figure out what a module writer – a GB – wants.

What a GB Wants

So, what does a GB want? Well, the GB probably wants to not have to worry about adding a third pile of reward resources into to the game. Because it’s another bit of math they have to do and another table they have to consult. And XP and GP are already a pain. A MINOR pain; let’s be real. But still a pain.

That said, if all a GB had to do was also hand out a certain amount of crafting resources – let’s keep calling them CrP – if all a GB had to do was hand out some CrP at the end of each encounter or session or chapter or whatever, that wouldn’t be that hard. It’d certainly be a trivial addition given they are already doing the XP and GP thing. So, if we just assume that’s all CrP need to be, well, we’re pretty much done. Just hand out a certain number of CrP per encounter and let players who want to spend them use them to craft or customize equipment.

Done and done. Right?

Well, we could just stop there. We’d just slap a price in CrP on each piece of equipment and every magic item and then bang out some spreadsheets to figure out how much CrP to hand out. And maybe we’d even come up with a conversion from GP to CrP so players who don’t craft can turn the CrP into money. And we’d reduce the treasure per level by the same conversion factor so that the players couldn’t craft more with CrP than any other group of PCs would be able to just buy using their treasure outright. That way, the balance wouldn’t get broken. And man, that would be fun. I love spreadsheets and I love deconstructing progression.

But, here’s the problem. That system would also suck. And I know it would suck because, to some extent, we’ve already seen it in action. In a lot of ways, it’s basically the D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder system already. All they did was equate crafting with gold and then let you use gold to craft. Meanwhile, some organized play systems from 4E and 5E do something almost the same. But the resource they hand out is Downtime. You can use Downtime to craft OR you can use Downtime to earn money playing your mandolin or carousing or researching or whatever. And no one likes those systems.

Well, first, let’s look at what a good GB – a Game Building GM – does with XP and treasure. While both XP and treasure are basically just advancement resources, most GBs – heck, most GMs – are smart enough to recognize they can do more. Lots of GMs use XP to reward different kinds of behavior. XP can be used to push the players toward story goals or sidequests. To reward various “good” behaviors. And to penalize partial failures and setbacks. For example, consider a quest in which you have to escort six NPCs to a particular location. The GB who wrote the game would probably vary the amount of XP earned based on the number of NPCs who die. Or live. Whatever.

Smart GMs who aren’t too busy pissing and moaning about how much work it is to hand out treasure have many more creative options. GMs can use the treasure in an adventure to prepare the PCs for an upcoming challenge, for example. Or the treasure can be part of the story of an adventure. An idol to an evil god in a ruined shrine hints at the history of the place in addition to being a salable knickknack. Setbacks can cost the party treasure. The party can use their treasure to open new options, like paying bribes, for example. Treasure can create all sorts of decisions, from how the party should split group expenses to whether the party should save for an airship. From whether the party should hire mercenaries to fill missing roles to whether the party should pay to have a dead member revived.

Although both XP and treasure can be used in interesting ways, treasure is a far more interesting storytelling tool than XP. Why? Well, because treasure can be used in many different ways, but each use consumes it. So, every use of treasure is a tradeoff. Once you buy a potion of healing, you can’t use the same treasure to revive your friend or buy an airship or bribe a guard. Once you spend more on food and water to get across the desert than you will find in the lost pyramid, you’re better off staying at home. And so on. But treasure also exists in the game world. It’s a tangible thing. Which means it is also part of the story. XP is not part of the story. It’s just a consequence of the story.

It’s those two facets that make treasure so interesting as a storytelling tool: the fact that it’s a limited resource and the fact that it’s a real, tangible part of the game world. That is what makes the decision about how to spend treasure a meaningful choice. And, when a game comes along like D&D 5E that doesn’t have enough uses for treasure, that’s why it suddenly feels like it’s worth nothing. Because the meaningful choices are gone.

So, why not just equate CrP and GP? Well, because the CrP isn’t doing anything new that the treasure isn’t doing already. The CrP adds some extra work for the module writer, for the GB, so it adds complexity. But it isn’t adding any new depth to the game that pays off that complexity. And no matter what sort of conversion you run it through, CrP and GP won’t feel different if they are basically just two different denominations of the same currency.

That said, the CrP does have to be convertible to treasure. Otherwise, the players who aren’t crafting have no use for it. And also, because, when we get around to balancing things, we’re going to need to use the wealth tables and equipment prices to figure out what the game thinks should be available at various points.

But the CrP has to be fundamentally different from treasure. Somehow, in some way, it has to feel like you’re not just spending it to buy something. It has to feel like you’re using it to make stuff. It has to involve different choices than treasure involves. But it must involve choices and tradeoffs. And, it has to be something that is real. That exists in the world. That way, game builders and players can use it as a narrative tool. Players can go seeking a resource for a specific purpose. Or the GB can build an adventure or side quest around crafting a particular thing or obtaining the resources to do.

Get Real!

And this is where I come full circle. This is where I go back to where I started. Remember when I said there was a time to abstract and a time to get real and this was one of those times? Well, I meant it was time to get real. Because, see, the obvious answer as to what CrP should actually BE has nothing to do with all of the reasoning above. I mean, it does. It was all that crap above that led to the whole “getting real” thing. All that stuff about recognizing that the resource had to be something that had a tangible existence, that it had to involve tradeoffs and choices, that it had to be different from treasure, it was all of that that pointed me back to looking at the fictional world for an answer. And it’s actually a really obvious answer. Hell, it’s an answer that a lot of people and a lot of other games already hit on.

The right resource for crafting, the form that CrP should take? It’s materials. It’s ingredients. It’s stuff. And I don’t mean that in the abstract way of breaking down magical items into residuum powder and using that make to other items. That’s just a simple conversion. It’s basically just currency again. It can’t be that simple because that doesn’t get you anything interesting.

No, the stuff has to be real stuff. Iron ore. Butterfly wings. Dragon scales. Hydra blood. Elemental essences. Powdered skeleton bones. Monkshood. Wolfsbane. Juniper berries. Corundum ingots. Carbon. Sizzlefin trout. Hearty durians. Netherrack. Redstone. Thralls. Wild mountain flowers. All that sort of crap that you pick up in every video game that featured crafting ever. That stuff – ingredients, broadly speaking – is exactly what we’re looking for.

Think about it. Ingredients are real. They are tangible. They exist in the world. They are the sorts of things the players can just stumble across just the way they stumble across treasure. They are consumed when they are used, so there are tradeoffs built in. The players can seek specific ingredients for specific items. And GBs can build stories, adventures, and sidequests around them. And, obviously, they are restricted by their nature. That is, certain ingredients can only be used for certain things. So, they are more tightly restricted than currency. Which makes them different. And the act of gathering and combining certain ingredients into specific items inherently feels exactly like crafting should feel.

Yes. I know that sucks. Calm down.

Trust Me

Look: I know half of you are losing your freaking minds right now because this is probably the least interesting, least revelatory conclusion I’ve ever reached from 4,000 words of analysis. And I know the other half of you are losing your minds because this sort of crap is exactly what GMs – especially GBs – don’t need. Because I can’t talk about tradeoffs of complexity vs. depth and claim to be restraining myself and then say, “what the game really needs is a list of 3,000 ingredients for GMs to plant around the game.”

Before you leap down into the comment section to scream at me, let me say this: I know. I know this solution is both obvious and terrible. I know you’re scared and disappointed. I know you’re losing faith in Angry. And I don’t blame you.

Here’s the thing: “combine ingredients into stuff” is the most obvious, simplest, most straightforward, uncreative approach to crafting ever. No one is going to win The Nobel Prize for Original Uniqueness in Role-Playing Games with that crap. It is literally the first idea everyone has when they decide they are going to do crafting. And then they realize what a terrible idea it is. Because it leads to a bloated, overcomplicated mess of tables and charts that no GM wants to deal with and no player cares enough about.

And that’s WHY I went through all this abstraction rigamarole. Because I didn’t want to just jump at the “combine ingredients into stuff” plan. But… I kind of have to admit that there’s a reason why it’s obvious and why so many video games go with it. And, having gotten back to that conclusion from the other end, well, maybe it deserves more of a chance. Not because it’s “realistic” and “makes sense in the world,” but because it serves the needs of the game. That is, after looking at what the players and GMs need to get out of the system, it is a solid solution that fulfills all those needs.

BUT…

Such a system really can get out of hand. It can turn into pages and pages of charts and spreadsheets. It can turn into systems wherein the players are expected to grind out adamantium ore at resource nodes instead of having fun adventures. It can turn into complex treasure tables that ask the GM to load down treasure parcels with all sorts of crap ingredients.

Here’s the thing, though. There are actually some hooks that already exist in D&D that would allow a “combine ingredients into stuff” system to hang off of pretty well. If it was implemented the right way. At least, that’s what I think. And the implementation doesn’t have to get out of hand. It doesn’t have to be a hundred pages of charts. It doesn’t have to look like a Skyrim Alchemy and Enchanting GameFAQ. There is a way to keep it simple and usable. It comes down to taking a systemic approach, to striking a balance between the abstract and the concrete, and to beating back any mechanical kudzu with a machete.

The point is, I am not any happier with this conclusion than any of you are. “Combine ingredients into stuff” is not what I wanted. But, it’s where the design process has taken me. So, either I have to accept my thought process is completely wrong or I have to figure out how to make something good out of that crap.

Look at it this way: either you get a good crafting system OR you get to watch me crash and burn, refusing to admit all the way down that I was wrong. So, you win either way.

84 thoughts on “Crafting Disappointment

  1. Materials-based crafting makes perfect sense, but I hate how you always have a gigantic list of material names, then you have to look up combinations in a table, and the item you get usually has nothing to do with what you put in. I’d much rather have a system where each material has a property it confers, say nightshade always adds poison damage, and you’re composing properties together into the item you want. That to me seems much easier to manage both from the player side and from the DM side, because everyone has at least a rough idea of what kinds of items the players can make from the items they’ve been given.

    The obvious downside I can see is that with the giant lookup table, you know exactly what the players can get out of it. With the composing properties approach, there’s the possibility of min-maxy stuff like giving it 3 different damage types, unless you forbid that by giving weapons a single damage type slot. Composing properties also gives you a lot of similar items, and makes it difficult to generate anything like the more unique wondrous items. I don’t know if that’s a problem though, because you probably don’t want to procedurally generate anything too unique, you should talk to the GM about that stuff.

  2. Ive thought about how non-sandbox videogames handle crafting, and the ones I can remember off the top of my head handle crafting in a similar way: by using treasure as your ingredients to obtain unique items that can’t be bought elsewhere (or instead, just sell the treasure).

    Dragon Quest 8 uses a simple item + item = item^2 formula (which leads to a ton of hoarding to be honest). You could sell that iron sword, or combine it with a fire stone and make a fire sword.

    Skyrim’s smithing (which is simple crafting, as should be) can be useful. You slay a dragon and receive it’s scales. Now, you either sell them, or craft them into some badass, unique armor.

    I cant remember any other examples, but in general, this idea of “using FEW mundane items that I could just sell for a quick buck, to make unique gear” sounds like what crafting should be. No 10 items in absurd amounts to make X to make Y to make Z. Make it like legos. Snaps firm and quick. 1+1>2.

  3. Oh

    My previous comment didn’t went through because it was over the character limit. Lots of thoughts lost cuz I couldn’t copy what I wrote.

    That’s sad.

    Ah well. I am just gonna bullet point what I wrote

    >In sandbox, crafting can always be an adventure for specific parts

    >If not sandbox, then all adventure must be partially crafting adventure in their reward

    >General categories of items can be one type of crafting ingredient (monster parts used to attack = always good for weapons, monster parts used to protect (scales and such) = shields, gems = spells and spell effects (rubies = evocation, obsidian = necromancy)

    >combine category types to get items “claws (part of attacking) + ruby (evocation)” equals “weapon with evocation magic” -> Can be sword with extra fire damage

    >Balance for magnitude of effect would be the most difficult part once enough categories exist

  4. Very interesting article.

    In my games I tied ingredients to schools of magic and/or divine domains. Since magic items are already associated with schools / domains, finding out which ingredients are suitable to craft a certain item is quite intuitive.
    This allows to keep the system usable (no big spreadsheets needed), while having room to make each ingredient special and different (I allow an ingredient to be tied to more than one school / domain, so the possible combinations are a lot).

    • I’ve never implemented a crafting system, but reading this series I had a similar thought to BB.
      If you want to craft an item that duplicates a spell effect, you need an ingredient from a monster that can innately cast that spell. Want armor with fire resistance? You need an ingredient from a monster with fire resistance.
      That kind of thing.

  5. If this type of system is not kept somewhat abstract, it will be unmanageable. My proposition is that each creature type has its own abstract ingredient. Whenever you defeat a monster, you get 1 unit of that abstract ingredient (or alternatively, 1 unit for each CR the creature has). The DM, of course, reserves the right to remove this reward from any monster or add a trove of extra rewards.

    Then, assign each magic item or item a “formula.” For example, (these numbers probably aren’t right) 10 fiend + 4 construct + 2 humanoid = 1 demon armor. This would feel like crafting, be not much work to tack on once the formulas are determined, and is still tied to character advancement somewhat because character advancement is tied to defeating things.

    • My flinch is coming up with the ingredients lists for all items they players may want to craft.

      I like the idea of 1 CrP for each CR harvested. Raid a magic lab? Find 75CrP!

      But 1 CrP = what?

      Is it a discount on the purchase of magic items? If so, is it 1 GP worth of magic items using the very popular magic item price list? 10 GP?

      Or is it a grind?
      100CrP= 1 common magic
      1000CrP= 1 uncommon
      10000CrP= 1 rare
      etc

      • The points would be just “general dragon parts” or something like that. Do know that they would be distinct resources so “5 undead units and 8 dragon units” not “13 CrP.” I’m not sure how gold and time would factor in (in a minor way if any), but basically, the next time you are in town you spend your units to create specific items based on the formulas. How many units required in each formula would probably roughly be based on a comparison between magic items per level and xp per level. Regardless, the specific type of units must be met, not just a sum number you get from grinding. So, if you want the dragon sword, you need to find and kill dragons or dragon-types. The specificity of the formula requirements would somewhat substitute for number of units needed. This way, it is hard to meet a formula because you have to defeat the right things, not because you have to grind forever.

        • I quite like this. People have suggested damage types, magic schools, and divine domains, but if you’re willing to go more abstract then creature type seems like a great option.

      • The minor system I came up with uses them as filler.
        The character who wanted it is an alchemist, so it’s the various odds and end they need to finish stuff.
        So a buff potion will be pure water, [effect ingredient] and 1 cp to cover the processing and vial.
        An everburing torch would be some glowing magic rocks and 2 cp for the vessel.

        This is where you have to get real and decide where you want it to be in your world.

      • I’d be inclined to keep the formulas flexible.
        Crafting is inherently a player-driven system, so if the player finds a bunch of dragon scales or whatever and responds “Ooh, I try to craft some armour out of it!”, I’m not gonna say no.

        When a player first questions their crafting proficiency, I might provide a pre-made list of 3 or so special items that it can be used to make, along with common formulas that have been known to work for each item, but those aren’t the only combinations that will work, those are just the defaults if they can’t think of anything on their own. Even then, the ingredients listed in the recipe will probably be more vague than the actual materials looted (“hard shell” vs “ankheg carapace”, “strong poison” vs “giant cobra venom”), or could even just be a list of keywords (“fire”, “paralysis”).

        Then, if they come to me with a list of ingredients and an idea for a magic item, I will adjudicate whether or not that could work, and possibly ask for an Ability Check if it’s an item they’ve never made before (I firmly believe that crafting an item that they already know how to make – without serious time pressure – should not involve any random chance, for various reasons including not requiring GM oversight, but I also suspect that inventing a new recipe might warrant a failure chance, and also requires GM oversight anyway. Failure does not use up any materials).

        Incidentally, the combinations of ingredients are not unique to each item. The same ingredients could be used to make multiple different things by processing them in different ways, and you always know exactly what you’re making before you make it. I don’t want a system where you just mash ingredients together and see what you get.

        • If anyone’s interested, my current numbers looks something like:
          Common – 100gp worth of basic materials + 1 special material
          Uncommon – 500gp basic + 2 special
          Rare – 5,000gp basic + 3 special
          Very Rare – 50,000gp basic + 4 special
          Legendary (if allowed) – 500,000gp basic + 5 special
          Artifact (if allowed) – 5,000,000gp basic + 6 special
          Basic materials are things like iron or simple herbs, I might reduce the gp values or remove them altogether, but for some reason I like it this way. Also there should probably be some kind of discount for consumables, the DMG says 50% but I’m not sure if that’s enough.
          Special materials are things like “blue dragon scales” or “fire elemental heart”, and should be found once per session on average (so boss monsters can drop multiple but some sessions won’t have any).
          Crafting takes 1 week per special material (I like the idea of getting 1 week of downtime per session, so the campaign takes place roughly in real time).

          I also have an overhaul in the works of restructuring magic item values to scale by spell level, in which case I might decide that cantrip-level items cost 0 special materials.

          Finally, I had this amusing idea to explain why healing potions are the only magic item that’s common enough to buy from the equipment list:
          The special material to make healing potions is “the breath of a living being”; it sounds fancy enough to be a magic item ingredient, but it literally just requires breathing on the potion as you’re making it. 🙂

  6. With all your talk about abstracting and not abstracting, I see an interesting middle ground: partial abstraction. You have a small but non-one group of kinds of materials. Essences, plants, monster bits, ores, information… and different recipes require different sets of ingredients – with the possibility of requiring special ingredients for some recipes. “To craft a cloak of flying you need one essence, four monster bits, and a giant eagle feather”. Different encounter types can give different numbers of materials.

  7. I once cobbled together a randomized system of crafting that gave players the feeling of combining stuff, provided some decisions and tradeoffs, and had zero crafting recipes (because I dind’t want to actually come up with dozens of those).
    While it worked pretty well when discovering new ingredients and awarding players new stuff, it was unwieldy when players wanted to look for common ingredients that they were already familiar with.

    Care to take a look?

  8. Well, one thing you can do to limit ingredients is to burn some down to a single property, like in Zelda Breath of the Wild.

    It was several ingredients that do the same thing to what you’re crafting. Ie Using any fruit with the adjective “hearty” gives you a meal that fully heals you and adds temporary hit points (in BOTW). But somethings are use restricted by type. Ie Bugs can’t be cooked into meals only potions.

    So I mean you can scale down the number of resources down by combining an adjective with a classification. So technically BOTW’s hundred or so ingredients boil down to something like 10 properties and three restrictions (food, potion, material).

    Playing with those combinations you can get a less complex standard list where the GM can add flavor and flexibility without needing to grow the list.

  9. Coming up with a shortlist of ingredients (by creature type probably, as others have suggested already), is manageable enough. I’m really interested to see how you approach turning those ingredients into actual items though – categorizing 5e’s magic items according to anything except rarity and item category (wondrous, staff, potion, etc) is kindof hard to pin down, and those two categories don’t really suggest anything about the ingredients you should require. It’s one thing to say that a belt of giant strength needs a giant-related ingredient, but how to decide what ingredients you need for a Rope of Climbing or a Wand of Detect Magic seems arbitrary, and not easily systemized.

    • Well, when in doubt, humanoids can be a catchall category if we’re sorting by creature type. Especially for “magic-themed” items like a wand of detect magic, humanoids are mages, so you could use some of those. Or, i guess, also constructs because they have to be enchanted. For ring of jumping, I’d probably say mostly beast or elemental.

    • Each harvestable creature has different kinds of parts. Reagents are for magical and alchemical effects. (Dire tooth, venom sacs, zombie brains, Phoenix feather). Items are Pelts, scales and bones are for physical items like armor, weapons, and the stick of the wand (I don’t have a good category name for this). Potion Ingredients can be mixed in the field for minor effect or crafted into full potions with the right tools.

      The power of the item = monster CR. Red dragon is obviously fire, but dire wolf is just generally magical.

      You can tell the party they have Dragon reagents 5, magical beast items 3, and undead potion 2. Those items are easy for me to improvise so I would code each category, describe the item and tell the party the code. E g. Red dragon breath sac DrR5, dire wolf bones MI3, and corpse dust UP2.

      Recipes are broad, e.g. Reagent 4 + Item 1 = wand 2.

      From the GM perspective you don’t need to figure out how each item interacts with each other. You need a list of recipes and understanding of how the categories work.

      The creature the item came from affect
      the tem’s aesthetics, but only the categories affect the mechanics.

  10. I still see crafting ingredients boiling down to using treasure as crafting. Its not functionally different then the players wanting a special item from an NPC and agreeing to get them some random nik-nak on a quest in exchange for said item. That then boils down further to become no different then agreeing to a job to get the currency you need to buy the sword in the blacksmith’s window. This makes it no different from any other quest reward unless you spend a lot of narrative time on it to strap tits on that particular pig. Looking forward to being prove wrong.

    • Your reasoning is too general; your conclusion, reductive. With your logic GMs should not hand out magic items because they can be traded for gold. But we GMs hand out magic items, jewelry, gold, and GP. While we players delight in retrieving a +1 Dagger of Unhealing Damage or wearing the silver necklace with a unique, but severely flawed, purple diamond. (Some players do–others would sell their grandma’s dentures for a silver piece.). Why? Because that particular player finding that particular item on an adventure makes it unique.

      Crafting needs to have the same feeling of uniqueness and achievement to be useful, but It also can’t be too specific. We don’t want players hauling every carcass home for harvest…

      I like the idea of items in the environment, noticeable or not (how many players have overlooked the Broom of Flying and Lasers leaned up on the corner of the room as they ran for the Mimic?), which are useful for crafting.
      I like the idea of using Properties, which could be Type I, II, and III; Power, which could be 1, 2, and 3. The player finds a craftable dragon scale in a chest (Detect Craft? It was glowing?). The GM knows it is a C: I, 2. A collection of assorted items plus Time (and a crafting table) transfer a spell of a certain level (which a Mage has put onto a scroll) into an item.

      I hope Angry dovetails Downtime and Crafting.

      CrP points.

  11. What makes the complexity worthwhile for the players and the DM is fascinating detail and edge-of-the-seat dice rolls.

    A great crafting system would be a beautiful supplemental book. It would have amazing pictures of different plants and animal parts, along with mystical descriptions of where they grow and how they can be turned into magical/useful items.

    It would have tables organized by environment, by effect, and by power level (rarity), and the tables would specify for each item any other items required to make a set. GMs running a jungle adventure for 5th level characters would just need to search for cool effects they want to give their party, then drop those items.

    The key would be the dice rolls. They should be quick but tense.

    Harvesting should be roll one. Locating highest quality plants or harvesting body parts should have a DC, and the quality/quantity of what you get should depend on the roll. Player must track quality.

    The second roll is crafting. This determines the quality of the item. Quality of harvested ingredients should impact the roll. The roll should be meaningful and permanent

    This system would only be for GBs–crafting is not worth it for other GMs. GMs absolutely must see the system as adding rich content that is easy to drop into level appropriate environments, and all the detail must be tracked by the player.

    • I really like this, and I agree 100% about GBs vs others. You can probably tell your GM isn’t even worth broaching the subject over by how they describe the treasure you get. “You find 500 gp” vs. “You find 250 gp and another 250 gp in gems” vs. “You find piles and piles of copper pieces, bags of silver, and a small bag full of gold, along with that is a purple, orange, and green gems you can identify as rather expensive amethysts, topazes, and emeralds”.

      That last one is likely to positively salivate over the suplement book you propose. The second might begrudgingly allow the player to use it in his game (and roll his eyes and sigh when the player asks if there’re strambler crystals in amongst the gems), and the first will just ban the system outright.

  12. It is always going to be a currency or something like an item set that is useless unless you complete the set or put it through a process.

    Either this monster part has (Water Element 500 points), while collecting this water plant is (Water Element 2 points).

    Or a monster part is just a treasure item but has to go through a process of combining first to get the treasure.

    And then you have Dark Souls where a boss monster soul is either crafted into 1 of 2 items or converted into money/XP.

    There is nothing wrong with a treasure item that contains more choices within it, it makes it more interesting then normal loot. If you get Dragon Scales: do you want a piece of armor, a shield, a sword, a wand? Now that item contains history of the party and the choice they made with what to do with it.

    And since it isn’t a video game, you can let the party describe whatever they want to do with the item (Dragon Scale horse armor, fragmentation grenade, arrow tips, etc…). And then try to consider some type of balance.

  13. Well written, but I think you’re looking at it from the wrong angle. By and large, crafting relies heavily upon a specific set of skills, a complex array of tools useful only to one trained to use them, and quality materials and ingredients. Simplifying it in any way reduces it to mindless drudgery.

    Saying you can carry around a sack of ingredients and snap your fingers to turn them into a suit of armor or a cloak is like saying you want to roll on a table of results to see how well fought a battle was and what loot you found. It’s essentially just clicking ‘autocalculate’.

    Crafting should be the goal of an entire adventure. Sourcing materials, finding a place to do the work, and going through the process of creation are encounters with a wide array of implications for the story. Play it out as you would a quest, or high-stakes social encounter. Reward the party, not the individual.

    Play out the narrative, and only apply what abstractions you need in the moment based on the party’s choices.

    • You can step back away from anything far enough to say “essentially, you’re removing all the details and just rolling for a random result.” That’s an intellectual party trick. I mean, you can argue that literally any action in an RPG is basically just snapping your fingers and rolling a die to see how well things turned out. I mean, the players are just carrying around a sack full of “weapons” and then snapping their fingers to turn their enemies into corpses after rolling a die to see how well they did. It’s all just game constructs. You’re going to have to do better.

      Clearly you did not read the first part because I addressed precisely why the way you say it “should” work doesn’t on the basis of the motivations of the players involved. That’s where you have to start. And unless all of the players at the table have the same motivation, you can rely on the intrinsic reward of crafting to provide the impetus for a quest for the entire group. Unless, of course, you have an NPC tell them the question is about crafting a thing and offering them something extrinsically rewarding in return for crafting.

      But then, all you’ve done is boil crafting down to a series of tasks, each of which must be accomplished to earn a reward. It’s no different from any other adventure ever. You’re just saying it’s about crafting instead of finding a murderer or rescuing a princess.

    • As you said crafting should be a character skill. It should also be determined by location, meaning its availability of both resources(and cost of those resources) and equipment that can’t be carried if the desired crafted item requires it. Alchemist/potion maker should probably be able to make very basic items in the field if the area has a rich amount of diverse resources like a forest or jungle. But in a desert environment it would most likely not be possible. If that same character is in a town around a rich amount of resources more advanced potions should be possible with a fee to buy the needed ingredients from a local shop. Move that to a large city with active trade and the character can make all sorts of potions in bulk due to the large amount of processed ingredients found.

      Basically it boils down to target item complexity versus (character skill + resource availability + gold willing to pay) + die roll = x number of items produced in y amount of time.

      Rare crafts like you said should be basically an adventure unto themselves.

    • [[ I can defend myself and my own points. Thanks for the help. But if anyone has to be combative and defensive, it’ll be me. – The Angry GM ]]

    • I dont think that tying crafting to a skill is that good of a thing, for the same reason you don’t have a “Bartering” skill.

      It would turn into a (probably crippling) overspecialization, with only one player doing everyone’s “shopping” because “he has it the cheapest!”.

      And then there’s something about NPC crafters being pretty much always better than PCs, because they live by crafting. Reducing crafting to a select few only makes the guy who invested a bit in it useless compsred to someone who you can pay 50 gp to do whatever.

  14. I look forward to watching Angry battle mechanical kudzu with a machete. Sounds like an action movie involving nanobots devouring the world.

    • Yeah, I get the sense that this one published ten days after the last article because he *really* wanted there to be more in it and this was all he had. It’s frustrating, but I expect it’s frustrating for him, too.

  15. You could just use the ingredients like diablo used its gems; in tiers. so the soul of a red dragon is a perfect gem while the soul of a fire beetle is a chipped gem. and while a shock lizard’s soul is a topaz, the soul of a dracolich is a diamond. You give them “a vial of the red dragon’s blood and a handful of teeth” what they really get is “a great fire soul element” and 5 “minor physical elements”. it retains the utility of generic ingredients like “vacuum magical powder”, but you can rename the thing however it fits for the creature. and it is easy to convert in your head… like CR 8-12 monsters’ bits are always tier 3 ingredients… you can then assign the various kinds of essences to various effects … fire and death gives damage, earth and water protects. so to make a better armor, you go for earth, and so on.

  16. I quite like the idea of generic items the players would stumble across being useful, while higher powered items require rarer ingredients rather than just more mundane ones.

    For instance, my system requires holy water for potions (or unholy water depending on the effect), alongside parts of various plants that the players may encounter. Examples include 4-leaf clovers, blue lily petals, yellow fungal spores etc. These are common items the players would have previously overlooked in location descriptions.

    Finally, more complex potions include rarer ingredients that the party has to go out of it’s way for. Examples include the blood of an elder dragon, the black lotus from the mountain peak, or the tears of a repentant evildoer.

    The players occassionally find recipe’s lying around, and suddenly they’re much more excited to be climbing Mount Everfrost or walking through the grasslands of the Savanna, or even returning to previous locations where they recall seeing things.

  17. So, what if we had a smaller list of abstracted mechanical categories that the GM can them sprinkle favor on top of demand? Somewhat like how magic weapons and armor were often just a combination of different enhancements? E.g. a +2 Sword would need a Tier 2 Metal and a Tier 2 Magical Reagent, the system would have a sample list of what can pass for each of those materials but the GM could also just look at resources found on the world, say, dragon’s blood, and place it on the appropriate category and level.

    As a side note, I’ve noticed you haven’t mentioned characters having different crafting aptitudes. Is that because you want to establish a baseline before or you just don’t think its worth at all for the game having characters with different crafting bonuses and feats being able to craft different things in different speeds at different qualities?

  18. I agree with your end conclusion on the crafting. Abstracting it into yet another currency wouldn’t work. A system which engages with the fiction while also providing opportunities for sidequests etc is definitely the sensible way to do it, kudos for running with that conclusion after reasoning led you there.

    That said, there was something in the article I disagreed with quite mightily. In fact, this is probably the first time I’ve legitimately been offended by something you’ve written – namely  the implication that GMs who run published modules are a “lesser” kind of GM who don’t know how to create their own stuff, don’t know how to practice game design, etc. That’s overly simplistic, incorrect, and insulting.

    There’s a huge spectrum between “people who only know how to run a published module” and “people who build their entire setting and adventure from scratch”. There are plenty of people who are great at world building but awful at (or don’t care about) mechanical game design. There are also people (I would count myself in this camp) who don’t have much interest in world building but who LOVE the mechanical aspects of game design and tweaking/hacking the rules. I don’t write my own stuff, but I do evolve the worlds presented by pre-written modules in response to the players’ choices – I also built an alternate injury system for 5e that other GMs in my group are now using because it adds more tension and weight to combat.

    By this classification though, because I don’t write my own adventures, I’m just a “GR” who “isn’t inclined to add new rules and hacks into my games”. Maybe I shouldn’t even be *called* a GM.

    It’s not a super surprising simplification – it seems like both you and your immediate gaming circle (Fiddleback etc) are of the “do everything” variety of GM. I would ask you, though, to recognize that the “two category, GR or GB, or both, and if you aren’t completely DIY you aren’t a real GM” classification is overly simplistic. There’s a lot more variety than that – at the very least orthogonal “does their own story” and “does their own mechanics” axis.

    Please don’t take this as just some rando whining in the comments. I’ve read/listened to almost everything you’ve put out. I bought (two) copies of your book. I sincerely appreciate your content and your perspective, but I think that you are, in this case, wrong, and in a way that alienates part of your audience.

    • I don’t know, man. I didn’t read any condescension in it. In my understanding, Game Running and Game Building are both skills, and Mastery properly describes the one who has both. Not every game demands a Master, and in fact failing to make that distinction frightens off potential Game Runners.

        • There’s a spectrum. Angry has addressed this in the past. This isn’t a matter of drawing a line in the sand and gatekeeping those who fall on one side – Angry is simplifying a complex topic for the purpose of an example. You need a crafting system to work for all kinds of GMs.

          I’ve had inconsistent groups for years, and I get most of my game time running organized play events weekly and at cons. I haven’t built anything in years. And I didn’t take anything Angry said as a personal affront. That you’re offended says a lot more about you than it does him.

          I think it also says a lot about how the “gaming community” treats GMing, that your gut reaction to Angry making an example was to get your hackles up.

  19. So we’re looking to strike a balance of complexity greater than 1 resource (gold, residuum, etc.) and lesser than an arbitrarily large number of resources. To fight bloat, then, rather than put a hard limit on the number of ingredients that may exist, why not categorize them according to some principle and just require that magic rites use an ingredient of the appropriate principle? The comments I’ve seen so far are focused on using creature type as a key, but in this case I’d suggest their magical school. Game Builders writing adventures could then invent whatever ingredients they liked to include, as long as they keyed them according to their type (and, perhaps, a quality rating, e.g.: Devil’s Arm [Necromancy 5]).

    Taking Cultist Simulator as a not-so-arbitrary example (it’s how I wish playing a Wizard felt), all their items, lore, NPCs, and the rest are keyed to ten elemental aspects, including:
    – Edge: Confronting and defeating
    – Forge: Transforming and consuming
    – Knock: Opening and connecting
    – Moth: Concealing and shedding

    So in order to create a Bag of Holding you’d need:
    – Forge spell (Craft Magic Item or whatever)
    – Knock ingredient (e.g. Blink dog’s paw, Diamond worth 100gp)
    – Moth ingredient (e.g. Fleece, Mask of Lolth, Pixie dust)
    – A bag you bought in a shop

    After the spell finishes, the bag is transformed into a Bag of Holding (aspect: Moth), and its carrying capacity is increased by 2d4x10 cubic feet. Perhaps using higher-strength ingredients increases the number or size of the dice you get to roll.

  20. After reading this, what I would do is somthing like this:

    Keep the materials in broad category:
    Metals, Cloths, Gems, Woods, Reagents, etc.

    Then, monsters would give crafting points relating to what that monster would offer.
    Animals would give cloths (Leather), Sylvans would give wood and reageants, Dragon would give metal (Bones), cloth (Scales) and Reagents (Organs), etc.

    Then you add a already used bonus to good materials.

    EX: Elder Dragons drop 5 Units of Metal +3, 5 Units of Cloth +3, and 3 Units of Reagents +3

    Seems like a good compromise to keep the list of materials short and simple.

    • What if the categories of resources were the categories of the harvested creatures?

      Aberrations
      Beasts
      Celestials
      Constructs
      Dragons
      Elementals
      Fey
      Fiend
      Giants
      Humanoids
      Monstrosities
      Oozes
      Plants
      Undead

      Yes, its a longer list, but at least the categories are known to the DM.

      • Now, your approach would be good for a magic-only crafting system, and quite easy to use. I see it as a good High-Magic crafting system.

        I’m more of a low-magic guy.

        By dividing my materials types, is that you have more “low-magic options”. Like a crafting a really high quality but not magic sword. Furthermore, it opens the possibilities to find rare minerals in a mine, or rare woods in the heart of a forest, and make the crafting materials more than just additionnal loot, by not making it exclusively tied to killing monsters.

  21. Don’t make a list of materials or harvestable parts – maybe provide some examples but leave the creative bit to the GB’s. The mechanics of this are already spelled out (as long as you aren’t crafting something with an effect currently not defined in the game.

    Maybe create a hotlist of game effects that players can craft.
    Ex: character wants to outfit heavy armor with the cuttable property. Character needs SOMETHING strong enough to hold together armor after its been separated. That could be leather straps or a unique plant or doomsday frog intestine. Narratively DM says to player “this doomsday frog intestine looks like it might be tough enough once oiled (or whatever) properly to make straps to outfit your armor with”. Boom, with some crafting done, the character outfits their armor, whatever the setting is that is needed for the character to craft.

    An idea of / list of necessary tools or skills for different types of crafting might be wanted for optional use.

    Essentially the GB can make up the item as appropriate in their campaign – the the mechanical effects it will bring into the effect are already available.

    same goes for poisons (you can harvest nightshade for juice that applies the poisoned condition or deals poison damage) or alchemy “you note that these leaves produce an incredible amount of smoke, blah, and wonder if you could use them to make effective smoke bombs on the fly”, those leaves carry with them “give area heavily obscured condition when burned”.

    So really each craft should have an effect it applies and a trigger for application.

    A GB who doesn’t want to fully engage in crafting can narrate over it some “after your delves in the deep doo, you think you have enough materials to outfit your armor with ___”.

    It might be useful to create a “effect for gold value” for certain game effects (like making armor cuttable or removing the leadened condition) so that GB / players can reap the benefits of customizing gear without involving a heavy new mechanic, if they want deeper customization without actually involving a fabled crafting mechanic – because currently basic gear customization is pretty lacking in 5e.

    Angry, I’m really interested to see you make. Thanks for the article. I enjoyed it.

    • You already identified before that there are several types of crafting systems (even if it goes by another name it’s crafting), and a TTRPG needs more than just one of those to provide what I’ll nickname “immersive advancement” because players have different levels of engagement they are willing to offer for certain activity types and levels of complexity.

      Players should enjoy deciding how their characters progress. And they SHOULD be deciding how their characters progress.

  22. In games where building/crafting/customization is the entire objective, such as clash of cultures, civilization, or settlers of Catan, resources are simplified to a few types which are tied to the terrain that the player is collecting from/exploring. Then one or more resources of one or more types gets used to “purchase” the advancement which depending on the system might be a technology,
    building, or whatever. A crafting system In the end he could do a similar thing where collecting in a dungeon yields one type of resource, Forest yields another, Town yields another, And perhaps a fourth type of resource comes from combats, such as blood or scales or claws. So collecting resources always takes a fixed amount of time ( enough for one random encounter roll per X units of resource), the type of resource you collect is based on where you are collecting, and the cost in crafting resources is based on whether the item is common uncommon, rare, et Cetera.

  23. Hi Angry. I love your work and this is a good article. What is CrP worked like non-monetary treasure?

    Like Gems/Art, you could have “Biological,” “Horticultural,” and “Geological” types ingredients in Uncommon, Rare, and Very Rare categories. Then, like “Art Items” you could have a list of 5 examples of each kind of ingredient. Then a recipe for, say, a +1 weapon could call for “1 Uncommon Bio or Geo item.” This would simplify the list of ingredients and still fit the “stuff into other stuff” requirements. Then, for the players who don’t want to make stuff they could hawk the ingredients in the market, just like the dumb random pieces of art that most players (ime) simply convert to gold.

    That would be a relatively short list of treasure (and could, essentially, REPLACE the Gem or Art tables, since they would have a gold conversion option) and wouldn’t increase the BGBM’s work much.

    As always, THANK YOU for your articles.

    • This is about where I started as well. More than a number of points, the 5e rules for magic item creation make it really clear there is a hard divide between tiers of item. A legendary fire sword should need parts from a legendary fire creature, whereas a common fire-based item would only need parts from something with a fire type or ability. Like art and treasure, these can be abstracted to a degree (Dragon essence (color and tier), Rare Fire herb, etc), but you’d have to integrate them into the treasure tables. Still not sure what to do about time costs or anything else though.

  24. So I just had to comment for the first time here because I’ve been pondering the same issue for a while…

    I think you need broad categories of materials (ore, plant, crystal, hide, scales etc) and give them a grade (1 to 5 to keep it simple), and then, I would add a typing tying the materials to specific planes(Material, Feywild, Shadowfell, Underdark, Astral, Elemental etc), with Elemental getting a secondary type for each classical element and maybe Astral for Good/Neutral/Evil?

    First you’d have recipe for the base item (like a sword or armor), then you can have recipe for special effects that call for a specific planar magic, and then make it so they can’t mix primary type(except with Material Plane type). Here is the fun part: the grade of the material for the base item dictate how many of those effects you can stack, and the grade of the effect above the requirement is extra charges (or potency).

    If you want a flaming sword that can gain extra reach two times a day you need 2 Material Ore (Grade 2) and 1 Material Wood (Grade 1) for the sword for the base; 1 Elemental Fire Crystal (Grade 1) and 1 Elemental Fire Bone (Grade 1) for the flaming part; And finally 2 Elemental Earth Ore (Grade 2) for the reach part!

    This wouldl et players create spiffy custom gear with manageable level of mix and match, and you can just give them any sort of monster body part and give it the typing and grade you want! “So, from the Dragon you manage to harvest enough skin to be worth 3 unit of Material Plane Scale of grade 3, and the claws, fang and horn end up worth 2 unit of Elemental Fire ‘Bone’ grade 2. In his stash you find three dazzling opals that are each worth 1 unit of Feywild Crystal grade 1”

    And when deciding the GP value, you don’t need to worry about the category, just the type and grade.

  25. If you’ve decided you’re targeting adventure designers (or GMs that adventure/game design): rather than defining specific ingredients / recipes / classes of ingredients, I would try to arm them with a framework for defining the ways that things already in their specific adventures can be used for crafting – the more specific you get with specific ingredients the harder it is to fit into their module. (“Well… my module is about fighting undead, not dragons, so I guess I can cross off the dragons-blood part of this crafting table…”)

    This is reiterating an earlier point, but I would also focus on making ingredients unique and rare. The basics are not interesting – people can use their Survival feat or whatever to have gathered whatever basic materials they need for making mundane items or the mundane framework of special items without making the party detour the plot.

    If it were me, I would like an end product like:

    Encounter 5 – The Dragon:
    • If left mostly intact, the dragon’s hide can be combined into existing medium/heavy armor to give the wearer fire resistance. There’s enough for everyone in the party.
    • If recovered, the dragon’s teeth and claws can be ground down and alloyed into existing weapons to make them harder and give them +1 to sunder rolls made with them.
    • Poison can be extracted from the dragon’s spines.

    …and set up the encounter so that ending it with access to the dragon’s corpse isn’t a given, and the players recognize that trade-off.

    But maybe you’re craving something with a bit more systemic crunch.
    Anyways, I think the outcome is not disappointing – the exercise is certainly exciting.

    • Piggybacking on this and elaborating on my earlier comment, this could add a lot of interesting tactical complexity to combat.

      Imagine if you’re fighting the dragon, but using a slashing weapon risks damaging the scales. Or using a bludgeoning weapon risks damaging the teeth. Poison, cold, or lightning might damage internal organs. Or maybe being careful with your shots (taking disadvantage on attacks) could give you advantage on your harvesting check.

      If crafting materials supplement entries to the monster manual, that can add interesting new ways for the GM to decide the creature. It adds tactical excitement. And if the quality harvested depends on your choices during combat, a character’s skill, and luck, it gives them a unique feel, links them to player accomplishments, and fits the feel for how materials are often depicted in movies and books.

      A lot of the ideas listed that lean towards abstraction make crafting feel like a resource game. I could say this appealing to certain players. But I would want crafting to feel totally the opposite–ther result of a hard-earned or extraordinarily lucky victory that ties into memories of a specific, vivid encounter.

  26. I think that, if items are required, they should probably be:

    1. Abstract – i.e., don’t differentiate between “cobra venom” and “fly amanita” – just “Poison Extract.” This way, you only have a few ingredients, and it’s easier for PCs to use ingredients from multiple areas.

    2. Easily identifiable – don’t use things like “lilac” or “rat tail,” which could have any effect. Use something like “Medicinal herbs,” so PCs inmediately know they’re used for curing things. You can afford to have a little resource bloat that way, because if its obvious, PCs should be able to quickly pick out what ingredients they’d need, even if the list of ingredients is 20 or 30 entries long.

    That way, a lot of the complexity in play or in remembering equations is simplified. You can add complexity by requiring different amounts of material (one dose of “Elemental Fire” = potion of fire resistance, two doses = potion of fire immunity, one dose + one “Iron Ingot” = flaming sword), or by adding other checklist prerequisites (e.g., must be trained in a certain skill, have proficiency in a weapon, have a feat, know a spell, etc.).

  27. For me the problem is that the engaging parts of crafting are the economic and opportunity cost issues. As was mentioned this works in computer games where you are trading time for crafting and going on side quests for the sword of dargon slaying -1 to defeat the dracolich.

    It also works in MMOs which have somthing akin to an economy with some players gathering resources, some crafafting them and some sort of mystical gnomish run fantasy ebay for exchange of resources (Currency, materials, finished product)

    However a pen and paper game DOES NOT HAVE AN ECONOMY so you can’t use any economic gameplay as Angry has just spent 2 articles dancing around. Even his “Gather pixie bits” is just currency in a bloated convoluted form, what is to stop the crafter commissioning lower level adventurers to collect left handed pixie wings for gold?

    Thus for me I feel the issue is actually one of missnaming, the game doesn’t need a crafting system it needs a McGuffin quest system as the only way to a make “crafting” engaging. Thus if you need the sword of dargon slaying -1 for killing the Dracolich, the fun part is getting the mcguffin that lets you build it. E.g. the still beating heart of a necromancer and persuading the necromancer to part with it. That is a fun adventure with moral ambiguity but not “Crafting” in the traditional sense. If they players really want to make stuff this can be backgroud fluff in the character desctiption and let them run wild during those gaps in game time when nothing is happening.

    For everything else just run it as a shop where the PCs can exchange thier currency of choice for boring mechanical “stuff”. Magic may or may not be available at this shop at your descretion.

    • Dancing around? I’m pretty sure I outright said that table-top RPGs do not have an economy. And most video games also do not have an economy. Especially single player video games. But you don’t need an economy to have opportunity costs. And time doesn’t have to be the only trade-off.

  28. It’s interesting that you jumped from discussing a fully abstract system (CrP) to a fully concrete system (real stuff) without discussing any intermediate levels of abstraction. Namely, “categories of stuff” (e.g., ore/wood/stone/crystals/gems) are common in video games. I could certainly imagine a system that hands out concrete objects like “copper ingots worth 10 ore” and “iron scrap worth 5 ore” at the table, but then the crafting system itself operates on these more generic categories like “ore” and “gems” to reduce the dimensionality of the problem.

    Did you consider any intermediate abstractions and reject them for reasons you didn’t have time to discuss here? Or are you actually heading this direction in future articles?

    • Remember this is just broad strokes. Figuring out what the system will look like conceptually. Detail work comes once you know what you’re trying to achieve.

  29. I just played Eternal Ring, an old first person action adventure rpg, which had a pretty neat ring crafting system that could be repurposed.

    Basically creating rings was done at a crafting table that had an even number of slots divided down the middle. You’d put elemental rocks in the slots; each rock had a level (level 1 Earth rock, level 2 Earth rock, etc). Rocks in the left slots determined the ring’s element and rocks on the right
    determined whether the ring you made was offensive or defensive (fire and lightning rocks were offensive, Earth and water were defensive). The total level of all the rocks was added together to determine the ring’s power.

    So you had 4 elemental magic rocks each with 5 power levels that created a total of 32 different rings (this is way oversimplified). Lots of depth and difficult choices but relatively little complexity.

    Changing elements into feathers/fur/scales/flora each with 3-5 power levels might be useful

  30. Finding a crate of Mithril and getting to do something with it is pretty cool. Also who has not had fur dire wolf cloaks or Dragon something or other?

    I have a halfbacked crafting system in my D&D 5ed game right now, It’s mostly crap with having more then a few things Angry said not to do backed into it, if only Angry GM was just a little faster.

  31. I have two thoughts.

    First, I have trouble reconciling any crafting system in the game. I watch a lot of blacksmithing videos on Youtube, and what makes them interesting isn’t the end product, it’s the process. It takes time,materials, and skill to make a sword, and only after many days or weeks do the smiths have a product they are proud of. They show you all of the mistakes, setbacks, advances, clever solutions and triumphs along the way. And that is why humans enjoy making things. It’s the tension of overcoming an obstacle that makes the art of crafting satisfying in the real world. I would love a system for it, but I just don’t know how you would implement that in a TTRPG. Especially if we are going by your requirement of minimal GM involvement.

    Which brings me to my second thought. You mentioned what players get out of crafting, and why most GM’s don’t care about crafting. Well, that got me thinking about gaming in general. I know what I get out of playing the game, but as a player, I am wondering what the GM gets out of running the game? It’s seems kind of one-sided. The GM does all the work of crafting (ha!) the world, NPC’s and challenges, just for the players to feel clever for overcoming them. Now, I know what I THINK GM’s get out of it, but I was just wondering what others thought.

    • I can’t answer for everyone, but, as a GM, I somewhat play vicariously through the players. Yes, when I design adventures, I try to do all kinds of nasty things, but seeing them overcome the challenges makes me happy. Also, for GBs, making the world and adventure, as a creative outlet is fun. It is even more fun when these things become more real because of the the other people playing.

  32. I once built (along with a very helpful other guy on a message board) a homebrew system for 3.5 that did crafting materials as a replacement for spell prerequisites in ‘book’ magic items.

    It basically came down to harvesting certain parts of creatures that had an affinity with, or outright could cast, the spell that had to go into the item, e.g. if you wanted to build a flaming sword you could kill a red dragon and extract its flame-producing-whatevers to replace the Fireball spell you’d otherwise need to make the item. You had to make a Heal skill check to successfully extract the component, and then an Alchemy skill check to successfully prepare the component so it would be consumed in the process of making the magic item.

    There were a bunch of different DCs depending on things like how close the affinity was between the creature you slaughtered and the spell you wanted, and on the Heal skill to reflect things such as whether the creature had things like natural armor or regeneration which made it harder to extract, and so forth.

    I loved the look of it at the end, but I also realise now that it doesn’t quite work because it places most of the work on the GM and it’s still basically a bit of a duck hunt looking for feathers.

    • I wonder, though, how you would model anything that can’t be harvested from a foe though. The favor of a Seliegh noble, things like that. I’m starting to come around to the ‘must relate to the spell being used as the basis of the item’, as that makes a natural tier progression in power, but I don’t see a simple way to model that as a treasure table. I am wondering if part of the issue is, at the core, we instinctively place a lot of weight on magic item creation. Ancient cultural relics are so much silver, but this Elven blade was part of a set and has a history and glows, and there are many magic rings but none should be treated lightly, and all that. A magic sword is more than the weight of dragon fire used to forge it.

  33. I read CrP as “crap”. I don’t know if that is the way you intended that to be read or not, but I found it amusing none the less.

  34. I don’t want to have a full list of ingredients, but instead handle it more organically at the table with some guidelines tools.

    Let’s Say the players have slain an Aboleth. Since crafting is opt-in, it’s the players job to suggest what to craft. So they collect some of the aboleth slime that causes people to only breath under water, cool. What can they make with it? It’s a CR 10 creature, so the guideline tell you 1 Rare item or 10 Uncommon items. The players look at the Magic Item list and suggest making potions of water breathing. The GM says, cool! Alternatively, the players can suggest a custom item, and the GM judges if it makes sense and will not be too powerful. What does it cost? Same amount of gp as buying it would, plus the aboleth slime of course. Why not buy it instead of crafting it then? It’s not an open market with everything available all the time. Crafting is a way to get what you want.

    Alternatively, the GM could seed his adventures with monster parts, that can be sold or used for crafting. That means gold cost can be reduced when crafting, and monster parts become treasures akin to pieces of art and so on. But that’s more work for the GM. If it’s truly opt-in, it’s up to the players to jump on the chance and harvest parts.

  35. I’m going to address the sheer mass of items and formulas that hinder many crafting systems.

    You need only to focus on a microcosm of crafting possibilities By microcosm, I mean a small subset of crafting possibilities geared towards your table over the next arc.

    I have a challenge for any Gamebuilding GM: Make a crafting system with only 15 ingredients.

    Look at the next arc (4-8 sessions) of your DnD campaign, take into consideration what terrain and location they will be in, and pick 15 ingredients that the party WILL come across in some quantity or other. Take those 15 ingredients, combine them in at least 30 different ways with different results and write up a chart. Give this to your players. LET THE EASTER EGG HUNT BEGIN.

    This takes some preparing, but use this as an opportunity to add richness to your world and draw attention to special items you want to share with your party.

    When the arc you are on finishes, or the party seeks more options, create a new table to keep them going. Preparing anything that won’t hit the table is beautiful overkill.

    Angry says here that GMs should not be lazy in assigning treasure. If a crafting system is in place, GMs also should be careful to not be lazy in what items are possible to be crafted. Sure, open the Dungeon Master’s Manual to the magic items and say, “Whatever you want to make go ahead.” This could be seen as being open to player imagination, but it could also be a factor of being lazy or not having enough time. The GM is supposed to be a guide and supply a fun session, this includes introducing tools that make party dynamics pop.

    But what do you think about that?

  36. I think that the customize part is the important thing about craftng.
    I have crafting skills in my game: I set a difficulty for every basic item, which tells the players how good they need to be in which skill to craft it. They can pay a lower price to craft it themselves if they want to and gain more crafting actions between sessions as their skill improves.
    They also get some repeatable actions to gain a session long minor bonus on items (sharpening a sword, polishing an armor, whatever). Unused actions can be traded for a little money. This can be done off table because there is no roll involved. Or they can pay for these services if they don’t want to invest xp in these skills.

    Now all this is just foundation to the crafting system, the juicy parts are:

    1) once they’re reach a good enough crafting skill level, the crafter get to choose a unique personal effet that their character can add on weapons/armors/shield or special elixir only they can make. And they choose (with the GM help for balance) the effect. Any item can only have one such effect and it costs a crafting action to assign it. Skilled NPC also sometimes give out such effects as rewards. But the effect is tied to the item so when the item becomes obsolete (because the character has found something better) they can apply their own effect again or find and help someone to have that effect.
    2) special ingredients can be recovered on some monsters, when a character create an item using these ingredients instead of the normal one, they gain a special effect like a flaming weapon from the bones of a red dragon. This effect is free and can be cumulated with a personnal effect.
    I only do this for big encounters so I don’t need a preset list of recipes: I only write down the new material effects as I give them out.

    The system is not perfect but I haven’t changed it for a while (about 10 sessions which is a whole year for me), that means that both I and the players are fine with it as it is.
    My last change was to remove the additional difficulty from using special materials: it lowers the reward effect.

  37. A lot of people here have hit on the idea of grouping crafting resources into categories, or treating them as a list of properties. There’s a pc game called Neo Scavenger which uses this idea well: as the name implies, you scavenge all kinds of things throughout the game (bottles, wood, tin cans, pocket knives, all the way up to fully functioning rifles), but the recipes for crafting use ingredients which might just be a list of properties; a spear requires 1x long, rigid rod, 1x short string and 1x sharp thing, or a lean-to requires 1x long rod, 2x medium rods and 1x large, flexible sheet, for example.

  38. My present attack on this idea is a reorg to magic items to create a sort of masterworking system to add damage bonuses to weapons and focuses and combat protection (CP; damage resistance that doesn’t work against falls and environmental hazards). Only magic adds to attack bonus, but everything can improve damage because I find changing enemy hit points easier and more satisfying than messing too much with their armor classes. Rolling a 1 on an attack can damage your item, forcing an item save (like a death save but with the item quality as a bonus or penalty only) and getting a 9 or less worsens the category by -1 (and it breaks completely at -5). A critical hit may damage your armor or shield (or weapon if you’re gaining a CP bonus with it) forcing an item save as above or it grants less CP, and once it goes negative, a penalty to skill checks and initiative, but AC doesn’t change. Repairing and improving items requires materials, tools, and time or costs money from a service. Enchanting is extremely rare and difficult, so I’m scaling back “immune to non-magic” to more categories of resistance and vulnerability. Granted, this is early days yet but I feel like I’m onto something. Items can be improved to have basic quality bonuses, materials bonuses, enchantment bonuses, and origin bonuses to stack up an impressive set of mixable and matchable stuff. Only PCs worry about item effects, NPCs and monsters just use bonus hit points and damage increases.

  39. Thank you for an interesting article.

    One idea I had was that materials gained should be rather flexible, yet retain a link to their origin. It should also be possible to gain more rare materials because exciting.

    So, to simplify, materials come from creatures or from plants. Creatures could then provide you with one or more materials of said creature type, plus one or more materials of the specific creature. So, you kill a manticore, you get Magical beast material plus Manticore material. For plants, it would be the terrain type, such as Forest material, provided when passing through that terrain, more for gathering. On top of this, there should be specific, very valuable things to find, like a Manticore heart or a Dreamberry root.

    You could add rarities too, so you’d get Common forest material or Rare magical beast material.

    This way, each adventure would provide opportunities for new recipes, yet not be too specific. Generic materials would be the mainstay, and specific materials would power the more interesting recipes.

  40. Possible Solution:
    Go with an abstract CrP system – each monster has a CrP or whatever, with gold equivelence for peopel who don’t want to participate
    Players have to spend time harvesting the CrP (not a real cost, just you can’t stop and skin the dragon when you are fleeing its collapsing volcano lair)
    CrP takes time to trade in. So roll per long rest to see how much progress you make on the item (actual roll mecanics depend on whether or not we are adding crafting skills, but one idea is roll d6s equal to your modifier, for each 5 or 6 make one point of progress, if no 5 or 6s, lose 1CrP)

    BUT:

    They also need to say, narratively, what they get. So if you kill a dragon worth 5 CrP, you can take it all in dragon hide or dragon bone or blood or whatever and you mark down on the CS “Dragon Bone (5CrP)”
    When they want to craft something there is a raw CrP cost, but there is also a “ingredients have to be plausible” ruling. So no making a potion of waterbreathing out of your dragon bones (unless its like a water dragon or something). “Plausibility” edge cases can be an arcana/survival check (i.e. am I a good enough arcanist to isolate the waterbreathing property from this brass dragon’s bones)

    Basic idea is that the mechanical system is the fully abstract one, but there are additional rules that make the implementation align to the narrative. No charts/tables required. Players should be encouraged to disclose their crafting ideas to the GM so that they can guide them on what to harvest etc,

    • The problem I immediately see with this is that “plausibility” is a really lax requirement. It’s different for everyone (for example in my head maybe the fire part of the dragon is in the skin and flesh, but the bones have a “draconic essence” that is common to all dragon and just highly magical and thus they can be used to fuel potions of waterbreathing) and they are easy to manipulate (see what I just did back there?) so it’s really not a requirement at all.

    • I’m leaning in this direction.

      Keep a log of acquired materials. Each item gets a CrP value, rarity tier, and category keywords.
      Two keywords as a rule of thumb would keep things interesting. A material can be used for X, Y, or both, but you can’t save the unused component for later.

      To craft an item, provide at least one material for each required category, plus enough to meet the CrP cost, and at least one of the materials must be a minimum rarity tier.

      Rarity tier would help keep a gate in front of powerful items that you don’t want sneaky players to find a backdoor strategy to acquire.

  41. What I don’t like is players springing crap on me. If there’s a crafting system that says “Vodka, tonic, and moondust create +3 Swords of F.U.”, and I haven’t read the formula for every single crafting item ever (and have them committed to memory), then the players are going to do this:

    “Can we use the crafting system? I really want to use the crafting system.”

    “Fine”

    “Hey, I just love Vodka, can there be vodka in here?”

    “Fine, there’s lot of vodka.”

    “Hey, we should make mixed drinks. Where’s the tonic? I want to buy some at the store.”

    “Fine”

    “Hey, is there moondust anywhere? Like, I heard about moondust and it would be cool because my character is obsessed with the stars.”

    “… Fine”

    “Hey look, I have a +3 Sword of F.U.!”

    • Oh, that one’s easy. “Oh, did you see the part about GM options? So, did you get raw moondust or refined moondust. Me, I’m saying raw, so you’re going to have to figure out how to refine it before you have the +3 sword of F.U.”

  42. Crafting has three elements. Ingredients, recipe, and product. Each of these have predefined and unknown versions. The players are aware of ingredients that could exist (silver, precious gems, dragon scales, etc), they are aware of basic recipes like forging or alchemy, and they are aware of the equipment in the PHB and generic magic items such as healing potions. The players must also be able to interact with these components individually when unknown ones are revealed. The players should be able to find weird ingredients and make something with them, find a recipe and collect ingredients for it, or pick a thing they want and then go about creating it. It seems the best way to solve this would be to have ingredients that boil down to abstract elemental components before being used for crafting. So when the ranger asks to forage for ingredients and you tell them they collect some butterfly wings and ironwood pinecones, you can tell them that is worth 5 tornadoes and 6 shells of crafting points. Recipes for simple things require these elements, and the party should be able to remember where to get ingredients that give those elements. The elements can then be arranged in tiers to give players a fun extra reward/incentive for going to dangerous locations without increasing the system’s complexity. Lastly, partly as a gate on powerful items and partly to make it feel special, rare and powerful magical items require specific named ingredients that require a side quest to gather, in addition to their elemental components. Ingredients can be bought and sold at bad to terrible prices, and also can only be bought at roughly a tier lower than the available equipment on sale in the area. So it’s possible to buy basilisk’s scales, but only in a setting like Eberron in an area that would also sell magical items.

  43. I’m with you Angry. And while it might be equivalent to “squaring the circle”, I’m still rather interested in trying to create a usable crafting system that works in DnD. That is, I’m not sure it’s possible, but I’m gonna keeping whacking at it and hope something clicks. Meantime, thanks for laying out your thoughts on the subject, it actually helps.

    Outside of DnD, on the other hand, I’ve seen the creation of bespoke items via simple exchange of currency for mechanical benefit as rather fun and rewarding, but each time it’s been in a classless system. No fighters, no space wizards, no stabby guys in skintight leather, so instead the characters were defined by our equipment. Sure, we still had feats and skills and such, but that seemed to matter way less than what each character carried. I’ve seen it work as a GM (even with new to RPG players), and loved it as a player. Playing a disgraced bear shaman, I created a pair of clawed gauntlets with chains that could be used as fist weapons or kusarigama (more or less). A felon pressed into the colonial space force I equipped with heavy armor and a gravity-manipulating maul. Another player had electrified hook-sabers and hip-mounted grappling hooks for mobility.

    DnD just isn’t built to handle stuff like that, it’d turn into lollsy, game-breaking nonsense that ruined everyone’s day and wasn’t fun at all, I imagine. Hopefully, there’s a viable middle ground.

    Thanks again Angry!

  44. You know this article gave me a pretty neat idea for my upcoming campaign.

    I came across this interesting crafting system in of the Witcher games. Although I didn’t engage all that much, I recall that all the different monster parts you acquired could be distilled down to their “essential alchemical substances”, which were 5 or 6 different resources. All of the recipes were then comprised exclusively of those universal resources. ghbf

    maybe that is a nice solution for a tabletop crafting system.

    I also think it could actually be really interesting to have 5 of those “elemental substances” and tie them together with the idea of the 5 god pantheon.

  45. The fun – the point – of doing a crafting system for players would be it would allow THEM some control over what kind of abilities and gear they end up using (over and on top of their class, etc. that they choose). They want to be in control of what their abilities are.

    Fine. I love it, more player involvement, that’s kind of the point.

    The hurdle is, that that’s a d&%$#d illusion. The players get what I give ’em, nothing more, nothing less. This would give them a grand and glorious way of saying “Hey, can I have a couple DIY old-fashioned round iron fuse bombs for when we go to knock off that mummy?” and me as the GM saying either “Sure!” or “Nah!” and both of those answers are just me being arbitrary and giving the squeaky wheel more grease. Or me telling him to go f^*$ himself.

    I can gussy that up in a prom dress, hairspray, and stiletto heels by handing out a points system of crafting points or handing out rare and wonderful crafting ingredients. From a question of style, I love the idea of crafting ingredients. But in practical consequence, I feel like thats just a smoke and mirrors routine.

    “Hey, GM, can I have cool stuff my other party members don’t get?”

    “…Hmmmm… Well , and here’s why..”

    I love the idea of a crafting system, loooove it, which is why I googled and found this article. However, your insights convince me to stick with just talking to players pre- and post- game and finding out which kinda stuff they’re interested in getting/learning/doing and just find a way to work that in (with an associated cost to the character) while maintaining fairness around the whole table.

    Anything else and you’re really rewarding metagaming, like solohelion said above with the “+3 sword of F.U.” comment. That’s the voice of experience, there.

    • Oh good, another GMing nihilist. “Well, it’s all just an arbitrary veneer I put over things. The game is an illusion I give my players. None of it means anything.”

      YAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNN!

      I mean, the players also don’t get any XP you don’t give them. So I suppose the choices they make between classes, builds, powers, spells, feats, and ability increases are just illusions too. They don’t make real choices and get no value out of making them.

      Solohelion’s argument is “I don’t want a system because then I’ll have to know it or else my players will blindside me and ruin the game.” That’s the voice of laziness. Not to mention insulting because it assumes such a system wouldn’t have tools for the GM, guidelines, and limits. Your voice is the voice of someone who thinks the only system possible is one that just slaps a coat of paint on top of just asking the GM to approve arbitrary calls. Neither of you is the voice of experience. They are limited views. Experience broadens vision. You both are suffering tunnel vision.

      So, just keep doing things your arbitrary way and pat yourself on the back for it. But I’m busy using MY experience to see beyond laziness, nihilism, and arbitrary fiat.

      Also, didn’t I expressly say in the earlier part of this series that if your only contribution is to say why this is a waste of time and can’t be done well, you can keep it to yourself? I think I said that.

  46. This actually strikes me as a good argument for making crafting the domain of a class(es). Having a crafting class already shows a clear sign of investment on the part of the player, so people who don’t want to craft don’t have to worry about it. And as spellcasters have already shown us, players are willing to sift through lists picking and choosing and customizing as they see fit.

    Of course this also starts to make this hypothetical class sound a lot like a spellcaster except components matter. This also only really applies to consumables as these would presumably be instantaneous or duration based. That kind of leads into a whole different discussion though between permanent and temporary crafting.

    Another thought is doing something like the 5e feat that gives you a cantrip and a level 1 spell to use, except doing that for crafting recipe. We could look at The Witcher for instance. Geralt uses alchemy, but I don’t think of Geralt as an alchemist, he’s just someone who has learned a specific subset of alchemy that fits his needs.

    This leads me to think that instead of starting at a huge table of ingredients, we should start with a list of recipes which do things that a player might want to do. Then when they know what they want, they go look at the giant ingredient table for what they need to make that happen. Now the only one who really has to suffer is the person(s) who build the ingredient table of overwhelming despair. And if the player doesn’t see a recipe that does what they want, they talk to their GM about what it would take to make it happen.

    Thoughts?

  47. My take would be to have components (harvestable by players) have keywords and then the crafting recipes required components with certain keywords, e.g.:
    Component: Dragonscale [Hide,Flying,Magic]
    Recipe: Armour of Fire resistance: 2xHide, 1xFire + Smithing proficiency

    The list of keywords should preferably be around 20 items long in order to be wieldy, but could contain one-of-a-kind keywords on top of that (at GM’s discretion – to add setting flavour). GM is also free to assign further bonuses if the component is of extraordinarily quality

    It works in two directions:
    Players can dream up that special item they want to craft, and the GM can easily assign keywords to the recipe, which the player can then go out and chase.
    The GM can cast a glance at a crib sheet when the player for some odd reason wants to skin the orc for its hide and easily come up with some keywords for that component.

  48. I wanted the players in one of my worlds to start with almost nothing and advance up to heroes, but their early adventures weren’t exactly going to pay the bills. So I had to figure out how they would make money to supplement their adventuring. This brought me to the old RPG staple of finding gold on wild animals and asking the question how does that regular animal have gold coins? Where was it carrying them? Well a solution to that is that the creature doesn’t carry gold and silver around, but it can be skinned, butchered, and dismantled to be sold for that amount in town. So normal animals make people money by selling their fur and pelts while more magical creatures can be sold by the piece to alchemists and magic users. Of course, some creatures would also have a hoard of treasure in their lairs, so they are effectively worth twice as much loot. A perfect example of this are dragons. When dragons are killed their scales and hide are sold to make armor and other parts are used for spells and alchemy, but they also have large treasure hoards full of loot. The materials and drops from creatures will be worth their XP value. Some creatures like goblins and orcs will have open bounties worth their XP value since they are unlikely to be carrying a lot of gold. Lower tier creatures will be worth their XP in copper, each increasing tier of difficulty will increase the coinage to silver, then gold, and the highest difficulty materials are worth their XP in platinum coins. Rare materials may be bought at the next tier of worth, but they must be taken to the right buyer.
    CR 0-4 copper
    CR 5-10 silver
    CR 11-16 gold
    CR 17-20+ platinum

    I didn’t get too far in my game so I don’t know how well it would hold up at the higher end but it is a good way to get materials. The players can ask for what they want from the creature knowing that the body counts as treasure and any player that wants to craft something can bring it up. As for crafting and recipes I haven’t figured it out. I guess there should be enough base materials to craft the mundane item, a spellcaster to enchant the desired properties and enough materials to cast the spell until it is permanent. There should also be a limit to the amount of bonus properties based on the base materials used in the items creation.

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