5E Crafting Items - Expert Craftsman vs Adventurers
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  1. #1
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    Crafting Items - Expert Craftsman vs Adventurers

    Hey there folks,

    I have a little issue with how the Skill System works in 5e in regards to Master Craftsman.

    See, in 3.5 you could pump up a godly amount of skill points into a particular skill, which made sense when you were creating Bob, the capital's most famous smith. However in 5e, all your skills proficiency increase at the same speed - and very slowly on top of that (in fact the difference between a level 1 and a level 20 is... 4 points of proficiency). Furthermore, the bonus is heavily impacted by the stat modifier itself (since the proficiency bonus doesn't go that high).

    This is good to avoid massive difference between players when it comes to adventuring, but for specialists it's... kind of eh?

    Here is an example. Let's say I have Timmy, Bob's son, decide that he wanted to become an adventurer. Timmy's proficient in Smithing or whatever equivalent tool exists in 5e because of his past. Timmy's a level 1 Fighter with 18 in Strength because he's buff and ready to smash some goblins.

    On the other side, I have Bob who's been working the forge his entire life. Let's say for good measures that he's level... 5? That's the equivalent of a regional champion, Bob's a fairly reputed smithy. Now Bob's been working hard at the forge but he doesn't have his son's strength, let's say he's at a very respectable 16 (which is already pretty high for a human, Timmy's just blessed with good genes).

    Timmy has +2 (Proficiency) + 4 (Str Mod.) = +6 in Smithing (if I consider that it's a Str-related skill, one could argue but that's beside the point the example would work with any stat).
    Bob has +3 * 2 (Proficiency + Expertise) + 3 (Str Mod.) = +9 in Smithing.

    That's... a mere 3 points difference. If they were to throw dices, Bob would have only 15% chances of a better outcome than Timmy, that dumb ingrate son of his that decided to run into the countryside great sword in hand to slay goblins and throw himself into danger pits, the numbskull.

    Overall I oriented this discussion with Crafting in mind, but I could extend that to many other topics. A highly trained circus acrobat vs the halfling rogue who... well, just has high dex and expertise in Acrobatics. A wise old doctor who's fought off multiple plagues vs a young cleric rolling medicine checks. You get my gist.

    So. How do you deal with this? Do you just go "eh screw the rules" and decide that good craftsman get godly bonuses in their own craft? (They have EXPERT Expertise) Do you just shrug and say that adventurers, by virtue of their pure awesomeness, are able to compete with poor peons that spent their lives honing their craft? (well they didn't get to get their ass blasted by mindflayers so boohoo screw your hard work)
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    It isn't just crafting either IMO. I was looking at proficiency bonus for attacks. At level 1 you are +2, at level 8 you are still only +3.

    Let's say the kingdom is having a festival and there is an archery contest. Young Tim was trained by his father Bob in the bow for a long time, so he is a Fighter 1 with Archery Fighting style, just like his dad, Bob, who is level 8.

    Now, Tim is blessed with a very good Dex (16), but his father has honed his Dex over the years (ASI) and has an 18 now.

    So, Tim is 2 (prof bonus) + 2 (Archery) + 3 (Dex), so +7.
    Bob, is 3 + 2 + 4 = 9.

    Despite being 7 levels higher and a bit higher Dex, Bob is only +2 to hit over his son, Tim. THAT IS RIDICULOUS IMO!

    We're talking an XP difference of up to 48000 points. None of the characters in our current game have that much XP and we've been playing for almost 6 months now. Sure, Bob has Extra Attack, he might even have Sharp Shooter so no disadvantage at longer ranges. But either way, Tim has over a 38% chance of rolling higher, and 4.5% of rolling the same total as Bob. If they each took a single shot, Bob has less than a 60% chance of beating his son, Tim, despite the incredible difference in XP/levels!

    I know Bounded Accuracy was meant to keep things under control, but to me it goes a bit too far.
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    In general I don't stat out NPCs that I never expect to engage in combat. I've never seen the need to make a roll to see if the local blacksmith can do his work for the day. It's his job so he can do it. If the players approach him wanting something done then I as the DM just determine if it is possible for him to do it. The smith in a small farming village will not be able to craft an exquisitely detailed custom sword, but the smith in the capital city who has a reputation for crafting fine weapons for nobles can.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MonkeezOnFire View Post
    In general I don't stat out NPCs that I never expect to engage in combat. I've never seen the need to make a roll to see if the local blacksmith can do his work for the day. It's his job so he can do it. If the players approach him wanting something done then I as the DM just determine if it is possible for him to do it. The smith in a small farming village will not be able to craft an exquisitely detailed custom sword, but the smith in the capital city who has a reputation for crafting fine weapons for nobles can.
    This.


    Adventurers are already expert at so many other things, like adventuring and defeating nasty monsters, that crafting does not need to be one of them. Gives them something to spend their plunder on when they visit the big city.

    That said, letting a Bard or Rogue use their Expertise to gain double proficiency with Smith's Tools or Leatherworker's Tools or whatever sounds fine to me if that's a thing that will help advance their character concept.

    Quote Originally Posted by dnd4vr View Post
    We're talking an XP difference of up to 48000 points. None of the characters in our current game have that much XP and we've been playing for almost 6 months now.
    Sure, but playing for 6 months doesn't actually mean much. Do you meet weekly? Bi-weekly? Perhaps more importantly, how much time has passed in your campaign world? Characters in our campaign (which meets every other week or so) might gain 3 levels over the course of 6 or 7 sessions - and that might be months in the game world or it might only be 4 or 5 days. Point being, if you think about it too hard it all becomes nonsense. So? Did we have fun despite the math/physics? If yes, then it's all good.


    It seems that the OP issue (as @dnd4vr empathizes above) is really with bounded accuracy. The range of bonuses in 5e is tight on purpose. Rather than abilities advancing exponentially, 5e ability advancement is mostly linear and, with some exceptions, capped. Seems that it goes without saying, but the game is not intended to simulate reality. It is, as they say, what it is, and the math hasn't impacted the enjoyment of the sessions at our table.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dnd4vr View Post
    It isn't just crafting either IMO. I was looking at proficiency bonus for attacks. At level 1 you are +2, at level 8 you are still only +3.

    Let's say the kingdom is having a festival and there is an archery contest. Young Tim was trained by his father Bob in the bow for a long time, so he is a Fighter 1 with Archery Fighting style, just like his dad, Bob, who is level 8.

    Now, Tim is blessed with a very good Dex (16), but his father has honed his Dex over the years (ASI) and has an 18 now.

    So, Tim is 2 (prof bonus) + 2 (Archery) + 3 (Dex), so +7.
    Bob, is 3 + 2 + 4 = 9.

    Despite being 7 levels higher and a bit higher Dex, Bob is only +2 to hit over his son, Tim. THAT IS RIDICULOUS IMO!

    We're talking an XP difference of up to 48000 points. None of the characters in our current game have that much XP and we've been playing for almost 6 months now. Sure, Bob has Extra Attack, he might even have Sharp Shooter so no disadvantage at longer ranges. But either way, Tim has over a 38% chance of rolling higher, and 4.5% of rolling the same total as Bob. If they each took a single shot, Bob has less than a 60% chance of beating his son, Tim, despite the incredible difference in XP/levels!

    I know Bounded Accuracy was meant to keep things under control, but to me it goes a bit too far.
    Actually now that you're talking about it, that does feel a little strange. I know features & feats / ASI are supposed to make the difference, but the bonus differences are so small that it sometimes feel pretty frustrating to miss at higher level.

    Note: I saw the other post after that, I have to say that I'm not completely against the notion of bounded accuracy - however, coming straight out of 3.5 I feel like it's tuned a little too high (+1 to +20 => +2 to +6 is quite a jump).
    Last edited by Myzzrym; Tuesday, 23rd April, 2019 at 03:58 PM.

  6. #6
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    So 3 point difference. Does not sound like a lot. But look at it that way. Crafting an item does not take 1 skill check DC 20, but 20 Checks of DC 10. One each day. While Bob will make every single check Timmy will on average fail 3 checks and will waste materials.
    Or make it DC 15. On a failure you lose material. On a failure of 5 or more you will destroy your work. While Bob will usually not fail by 5 or more - Only on a 1, timmy will fail quite often anf has a considerable chance to fail by 5 or more. Bob will have an apprentice who helps him Bob will only destroy the item on every 400th check on average.
    Timmy will fail every 25th check on average.

    I noticed the same problem with 3rd edition. Actually it was even more pronounced because if timmy would invest in smithing, at level 10 he will make checks, bob would only dream of.
    Here the same solution applied.
    I reminded players that checks are usually 10, 15 or 20. And an expert level 2 with skill focus and synergy could reach 5+2+3+2 from int. So he could compete with a fighter that only uses a skill point on smithing every other level.
    I reminded my players that a skill where you invest in every level is a field of expertise and if they only invest half a point per level (similar to a cross class skill) it is enough to beat challenges appropriate to that level.

    As soon as this was established skill points were abundand for every class and the rogue felt special because he was way ahead of most other classes. And experts could compete, even if they were just level 2.

    Back to 5e. Don't use too high DCs. Make more checks. Remember that a 1 in a check is not an automatic failure. Make checks for proficiencies with different abilities. Maybe Int, Str and Con all play a role. So one check each per day. Use advantage and maybe the optional fail at a cost rule.
    Only problem I see: an expert will never have a proficiency bonus higher than 2 (4 with expertise). If you stat an expert, maybe just give him a background like feature that just allows him to circumvent a check or gives an arbitrary bonus determined by crafter rang.
    Expert smith: hans gets a +5 bonus for practicing smithing for many years. Here it comes in handy that you don't have to build nscs as PCs. If a PC would ask me if he can also become an expert, I'd probably allow it.
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    This is only a problem if you insist on every NPC being built according to PC rules, which is fairly absurd.

    I would just hand Bob a +5 bonus and call it a day.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myzzrym View Post
    .

    So. How do you deal with this? Do you just go "eh screw the rules" and decide that good craftsman get godly bonuses in their own craft? (They have EXPERT Expertise) Do you just shrug and say that adventurers, by virtue of their pure awesomeness, are able to compete with poor peons that spent their lives honing their craft? (well they didn't get to get their ass blasted by mindflayers so boohoo screw your hard work)
    I don't say "screw the rules" but perhaps I actually go a step further: I only apply the rules to player characters. You might say that I use the game rules as an adventure simulator, not a world simulator, and so none of the rules apply to anything that isn't about adventuring.

    The master smith doesn't have bonuses of any sort. He simply is a master smith. Or in other words: Master Smithman, Master Smithman, does whatever a Master Smith can.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Satyrn View Post
    I don't say "screw the rules" but perhaps I actually go a step further: I only apply the rules to player characters. You might say that I use the game rules as an adventure simulator, not a world simulator, and so none of the rules apply to anything that isn't about adventuring.

    The master smith doesn't have bonuses of any sort. He simply is a master smith. Or in other words: Master Smithman, Master Smithman, does whatever a Master Smith can.
    However don't give master smith a sonic screwdriver, he wouldn't be able to drive the blue box.

  10. #10
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    Bounded accuracy works by shifting focus from the quantitative success chance to the qualitative outcome of success failure. The problem is that 5E does this really well for combat, but not at all for other types of skill checks.

    • Tim the archer is a level 1 fighter, so when he hits with a longbow, great, 1d8+3 damage.
    • Bob, at level 8, is starting off with +2 attack and +1 damage over Tim. But he also, he has Extra Attack, so he can attack twice as fast (which matters in certain types of archery contests); has Sharpshooter, so he ignores disadvantage for range and cover, and has the option of -5 attack / +10 damage; and is a Battlemaster, so 5 times per day, he can add +1d8 to either attack, or to damage with some fun rider (like knocking the target prone or making them frightened of him).


    In that context, I'd say the +2 attack and +1 damage is totally fine.

    Now, that's how bounded accuracy is supposed to work. The problem is that this stuff is all specified in detail for combat, but is totally neglected for the other pillars of the game.

    As a thought exercise, here are some things you could use to differentiate blacksmiths:

    • Timmy the smith has a +6 an can craft 5 gp worth of stuff per day.
    • Bob the smith has only +3 more bonus than Tim. But he also has the rogue's Reliable Talent -- if he rolls less than a 10, it counts as a 10. And let's say he's got the crafting equivalent of "Extra Attack" -- he can craft twice as fast, or 10 gp per day. Hell, let's say he's also got the equivalent of "Cunning Action" and can do up to 15 gp per day. And, let's say he never suffers disadvantage for poor tools, materials, or task complexity. I'm even willing to say that Bob knows how to craft magic arms and armor of common or uncommon rarity; he's not a spellcaster himself, but has something akin to Ritual Caster which lets him do this. Finally, if Timmy and Bob are both making passive checks, Bob's modest +3 modifier does let him automatically succeed substantially more often than Timmy.


    Yes, I just made up a bunch of rules, but that's kind of my point: bounded accuracy needs more than just the bonus in order to be fun. Differentiate your characters qualitatively, not quantitatively. For NPC stat blocks, this shouldn't be hard.
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