Skill Challenge: Crafting Items

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 8, 2009

When the skills were streamlined for 4e D&D one of the skills that disappeared was Craft. That’s not to say that PCs can’t create things anymore, it’s just that this kind of task isn’t something you’re likely to use very often. It’s a task more suited for an NPC, not an adventurer.

However, there might still be times when you do want to create something yourself. You might require a unique device to accomplish a goal, you might need to pose as a smith or carpenter, or you might need to craft your own weapon as the first part of an epic quest.

When PCs find themselves in this situation the DM needs to determine just how significant the outcome is going to be. If it’s just something you’re doing during your down time then no role playing is probably required. In fact no roll is likely required either. However, if the success or failure of your handiwork will affect the outcome of things to come, then perhaps it’s time to turn your labours into a skill challenge.

The complexity of this kind of skill challenge should be directly related to the importance of the success. If you’re trying to shoe your own horses in order to hasten your departure then a complexity 1 or 2 is probably sufficient. But if you’re crafting a new sword with the intent of having it enchanted by a powerful wizard then a complexity 4 or 5 seems more in order.

The nature of the task you’re trying to accomplish will also determine which skills are most suitable. This is where PCs are encouraged to be imaginative. Below is an example of some skills that might be suitable if you’re creating a new sword.

Complexity

4 PC level (requires 10 successes before 3 failures).

Primary Skills

Athletics, Diplomacy, Dungeoneering, Endurance, History, Nature, Perception, Streetwise

Other Skills

Dungeoneering, History, Nature, Perception, Streetwise

  • Each skill can only be used to accomplish 1 success towards the overall skill challenge unless noted otherwise.
  • Normally, skill checks denoted as assist do not count as a success or failure towards the overall skill challenge. However, PCs other than the one making the item have a choice when attempting a skill check denoted as assist.
    • They can choose to treat it as a normal assist gaining +2 to the main PC’s next check (as usual).
      Or
    • They can choose to treat it as a primary skill check with the normal success/failure repercussions. A success does not provide any additional bonuses as a normal assist would.

Sample Skills

DM’s note: Many PCs have powers that they might find useful in this particular situation. If a PC comes up with a creative way to use a power they should be given a decent chance of success. Use of an encounter power counts as 2 successes. Use of a daily power counts as 3 successes.

Athletics (moderate DC, maximum 3 successes)

You need to pound the iron flat while turning it over and over again without running the materials.

Diplomacy (easy DC)

Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Nobody is good at everything.

Dungeoneering (easy DC +2)

Ensure that the raw materials are suitable for the task at hand. Dwarves gain +2 to this check.

Endurance (moderate DC, maximum 2 successes)

You need to endure the extreme temperature while working near the superheated metal and within close proximity to the forge. PCs with fire resistance gain +5 to checks of this nature.

Endurance (moderate DC +2, maximum 2 successes)

The work is physically demanding and extremely repetitive.

History (hard DC, maximum 2 successes)

You rely on your own knowledge of how to craft the item.

History (moderate DC, assist)

You’re the brains, he’s the brawn. You provide direction and instruction to the guy swinging the hammer.

Nature (moderate DC)

Forge fires need to be incredibly hot to keep metals soft enough to work with.

Perception (hard DC, maximum 2 successes)

The slightest flaws or impurities can ruin your attempt. Keep a sharp eye on the item.

Perception (moderate DC, assist)

It’s not glamourous, but you oversee the process to ensure that mistakes are avoided.

Perception (moderate DC)

You are your own worst critic. The hardest part of making anything is to recognize when it’s finally finished.

Streetwise (moderate DC)

If the intent is to sell the item you’re crafting, it’s probably a good idea to find out if there’s a demand for it and what the going price is.

Success

You are successful in your attempt to craft the item. It’s as good, or possibly better, than anything you might find in a local merchant’s shop. If your goal was to sell this item then you should have no problem getting a good price from an interested buyer.

Failure

Depending on how badly you fail there are different possible outcomes. You might have spoiled the raw materials before completing your craft work, causing delays or additional costs for raw materials. You might have completed your task only to discover flaws in the craftsmanship. Good luck selling it for the price you expected. You might even realize that you simply lack the formal training or raw ability to craft the item. After all, some people apprentice for years before becoming masters of their trade; you can’t expect to become an expert overnight.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 deadorcs December 8, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Wow….interesting timing, lol. I’m about to tackle this same issue a little later this week in my own blog. Crafting and Performing have been neglected enough!
.-= deadorcs´s last blog ..It’s A Trap! E.S.S. Trapbook, Level 10 Traps =-.

2 Ameron December 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm

@deadorcs
Feel free to take the foundation I’ve put together here and build on it. We’re all in this to make D&D better. I look forward to reading your articles in the coming weeks.

3 Chase Dagger December 8, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Nice, I needed this. I’ve got some item parts (the PCs have one part so far) that will eventually all come together to form something new. Thing is it seems a little dull if these items just snap together like lego. I’d rather it be a challenge to assemble the item. Failure would be an issue for sure but I have an idea of how to tackle that now too.

It’s funny I misread the article title at first thinking it said: Grafting Items. Which would also be cool IMO. My PCs just rescued an NPC dwarven blacksmith from an undead lair. The Blacksmith and his Daughter were captured by an evil priest; by threatening the blacksmith’s daughter the priest was able to force the blacksmith into forging weapons and armor for his undead army. The blacksmith being somewhat of a local hero and all made a couple of escape attempts, each time the undead succeeded recapturing him. Unfortunately the undead are not the most graceful bunch and the blacksmith has been critically injured each time [for example he lost an arm once, the undead ate it before priest could step in.] Since the priest needed the blacksmith to remain productive they’ve crafted new undead body parts on the dwarf to replace what he’s missing. The NPC is mutilated to look at but fully functional.

Anyway should there ever be a grafting skill challenge, or an un-grafting skill challenge I know I’d use it.

4 Neuroglyph December 8, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Very cool idea for a skill challenge and a nice way to solve the crafting void without having to add alot of new skills. I am posting a link on my site to this one. Really inventive!
.-= Neuroglyph´s last blog ..Review – Tikbalang: Guardians of Kalikasan by Nosfecatu Publishing =-.

5 Franciolli Araújo December 10, 2009 at 8:52 am

Thanks Ameron to allow me translate your articles and publish at TrampolimRPG.

Althought I’m crediting the articles and linking it to the original post I feel that will be more polited of my part give here the feedback of the posts that I’m translating.

To everyone that would like to read this article in portuguese (brazilian) the link is http://trampolimrpg.com.br/?p=2531 .

About this post I’ll take to me the words of Neuroglyph: “very cool idea to solve the crafting void without having to add a lot of new skills.” Great!
.-= Franciolli Araújo´s last blog ..Desafio de Perícias: Criando Itens =-.

6 Snarls-at-Fleas February 18, 2010 at 3:45 am

Thanks a lot very nice idea. Now have an aswer to my ranger who carries around white dragon skin hoping to fashion something from it. :)
.-= Snarls-at-Fleas´s last blog ..Age of Conan and my tabletop campaign =-.

7 Ameron February 18, 2010 at 8:51 am

@Chase Dagger
A Grafting Item skill check sounds both morbid and awesome at the same time. However, I can’t see PCs performing such a skill challenge unless there was absolutely no other way to save a dieing comrade or NPC. It would certainly involve a lot of Heal checks. I also see it using Perception, Endurance, possibly Thievery (representing the deft fingers required) and probably an Arcana or Religion check at the end to get some magic in there.

@Neuroglyph
I find that there are a lot of “normal” tasks that can easily become fun skill challenges. The real trick is finding the right balance. If the PCs need to do skill challenges for every little thing they’ll hate it. But once and a while this kind of thing is useful to change the pace of the game and throw the PCs a little extra XP.

@Franciolli Araújo
I’m glad you like our stuff enough to share it. Keep up the great work.

@Snarls-at-Fleas
Glad I could help. I’m almost afraid to ask how the Ranger manages to carry the dragon skin around. Bag or Holding I suppose? Just remember to inform the PC that if they undertake this kind of skill challenge and fail some or all of the material (in this case the dragon skin) will be ruined.

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