Book of Gears (3.5e Sourcebook)/Crafting
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Why a Revision to the Crafting Rules?
An overhaul to the Craft rules may sound fairly unbalancing, as the current Craft rules were created to prevent characters from making a lot of money and potentially destabilizing their games with an influx of magic items. Unfortunately, like Level Allowance, the heavy nerfing to Crafting resulted in a lot of characters simply becoming unviable, a lot of very dumb things happening all around, and it still doesn't actually stop characters from breaking the game if they really want to. If the party is made out of Elves, they can simply set a single skill rank on fire and announce that they're going to spend 100 years farming, making trained Profession (Farmer) checks every week. That'll get them about 6 gp a week for the next 5,200 weeks -- for a total of 31,200 gp at first level before they even start adventuring. And as elves, they can honestly just spend 200 years farming or spend some real skill ranks on that to get even more money.
If the DM is willing to simply let players roll dice, have downtime, and purchase magic items of unlimited power, the game is already broken on first principles at first level using the PHB alone. If the DM wants to keep sanity going at all, then something in that equation is going to have to go. Probably everything in that equation should go. As discussed in the Dungeonomicon, there is an inherent limit to what players could reasonably be expected to be able to purchase with pieces of gold, so to a very real extent crafting for money is simply multiplying the amount of low-level equipment you have -- it doesn't particularly get you more powerful equipment. And of course there's no reason for players to be able to do all of this 9 to 5 working without having on-camera adventures. An adventure where you are running a silk factory and will make a bunch of money as soon as you can stop the goblin syndicate from extorting all your profits is pretty much the same as the adventure where you run off into a dungeon, fight the goblins, and take the money they stole from the silk merchants home in a sack.
So the nerfs on Crafting just aren't necessary. But what actually needs to change?
- Valuable Raw Materials Aren't Valuable. This is a part of the rules that makes me cry. Since the amount of value you make each day is based on the difficulty of working the material and not on the value of said material, there is no way for a goldsmith to stay in business. Gold is very easy to work and therefore the DC to work it is very low, and therefore a goldsmith makes very little in the way of finished product each week. A five pound gold candle holder is roughly four fluid ounces and fits into the palm of your hand, but it'll take a master goldsmith (+10 Craft Bonus) almost a year to finish one (500 gp value, at DC 5 = 50 weeks).
- The Costs of Materials are WHAT? Remember that five pound gold candle holder? It's worth 500 gp and therefore requires 167 gp worth of materials to make it. But it's worth 250 gp just as a lump of gold. So you can buy things as raw materials and sell them as trade goods and make lots of money. The reverse happens when you make complex or finely worked items. A masterwork sword is made out of pretty much the same materials as a normal sword and is much more expensive because it's better made. But because the higher quality crafting will make it sell for more down the line, the cost of the materials goes up by a 100 gp. Where does that money go? What are you getting for 2 pounds of gold? Sure, maybe you get some better coal or something, but really, that doesn't even begin to cover it.
- Field Fortifications Cannot Happen. Even the simplest of traps (such as a bucket with some acid in it balanced on a partially open door) has a cost that is very high -- in the hundreds of gp. That means even the most gifted craftsman is going to take weeks to boobytrap a room or lay down some field fortifications. When longbowmen want to hammer some stakes into the ground to protect themselves from the knight stampede that's going to come when the battle starts, the Craft rules essentially tell them that they can't do it. Which for those of us who have seen Henry V, seems unlikely.
- Risky and Illegal Trades are Pointless. Some products are expensive because producing them is risky (poison, flower arrangements from the Bane Mires). Some products are expensive because their production and sale is in some manner restricted by the authorities (shrunken dwarf heads, disrespectful puppets of the king). In the real world, people produce these things because they can charge inflated prices because of the risk. It's a gamble, where sometimes you make big money and sometimes you get killed by hydras or agents of King Ronard. But with craft times directly dependent upon resale value, these crafts are gambles where sometimes you make the same amount of money you would have making night stands, and sometimes you get killed by your own poison or Clerics of Torm.