5E Crafting Items - Expert Craftsman vs Adventurers

Myzzrym

Explorer
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)
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
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.
 

MonkeezOnFire

Explorer
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.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
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.

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 [MENTION=6987520]dnd4vr[/MENTION] 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.
 

Myzzrym

Explorer
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).
 
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UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
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.
 

Dausuul

Legend
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.
 

Satyrn

Villager
.

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.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
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.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
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.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
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.
While I agree with the basic premise, that adventurers and non-adventurers should use different rules for how their skills improve over time, the big problem is that we have no idea what Bob's bonus should be. We have very detailed formulas for how good an adventurer with smithing proficiency should be, and we have nothing for how good a non-adventuring smith should be. So does Bob get a +5 to checks? Or a +10 to checks? Is he simply unbeatable by anyone who isn't also an NPC?

For the amount of detail given over to PC advancement, they really could have spent a bit more effort on defining what NPCs can do, since they are the majority of the people in the world. Whether an expert NPC has +5 or +15, in general, is an important detail in figuring out how the world works.
 
That's... a mere 3 points difference. If they were to throw dices...
Overall I oriented this discussion with Crafting in mind, but I could extend that to many other topics.

So. How do you deal with this?
You can just play favorites. The Expert Craftsman who's been doing it longer than the adventurer's been alive churns out masterworks without needing a roll. The Adventurer needs to make a DC 20 check the one time it's important for him to create a masterwork and there's a meaningful consequence to screwing it up. If the Craftsman were in some odd situation - didn't have his tools, was working with a demon glowering over his shoulder, or whatever - he might need to make a DC 20 check, too, but in his shop, making things he's been making every day for years? No.

Because, ultimately, they're declaring very different things, even though they're making the same thing. The Adventurer is making something using skills he has a talent for, but has rarely utilized, because, for some reason at the moment, he needs it to advance his world-shaking goals, while for the Craftsman it's Tuesday.


And that really goes for everything. When an action is declared or a DM narrates an NPC action, rolls only come into it if the DM wants to evoke that drama of uncertainty. With NPCs, often, here's no need - especially if the task is mundane. With PCs, often, the circumstances call for drama, or the PC wouldn't be doing it.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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." Rather, I do what they say, which is to call for ability checks only when there's uncertainty as to outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure.

And when it comes to whether some blacksmith can do the mundane tasks he or she does every day, there's no uncertainty and thus no roll. The blacksmith simply succeeds.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
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).
Yeah, we've adjusted proficiency bonus to range from +1 to +8 because it seems pretty wrong over 19 levels to gain only a +4. I never had an issue with things in 2E or even 3E for the little while we played it so I don't understand why bounded accuracy even was thought up... Any way, we also changed proficiency bonus because ability score modifiers going up to +5 and prof bonus to +6 as written meant a first level character with 18 ability would have +6 total, same as a 20th level character with average (no mod) ability. Just seems wrong IMO. We also nerfed ability scores a bit so max a player will get is +4 not +5.

I agree: I think if things needed a "fix", I would have changed it to +10 or +12 max instead of +6.

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.
Sure, as I wrote, Extra Attack, SS feat, etc. is how it is supposed to make up for the mediocre increase, but to me it really doesn't make up enough. Here is an alternative proficiency bonus progression we might adopt:

1: +2
2: +3
3: +3
4: +4
5: +4
6: +5
7: +5
8: +6
9: +6
10: +7
11: +7
12: +8
13: +8
14: +9
15: +9
16: +10
17: +10
18: +11
19: +11
20: +12

But at this point it would involve adjusting ACs for monsters and all their attacks, etc. Don't know if it is worth the hassle.
 

Lord Mhoram

Explorer
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!.
That's just target practice though - in a real fight bob would be able to half dodge lots of incoming arrows (higher hit point total) than his son. 5E combat keeps accuracy bounded but has experience in combat dealt with by other mechanics.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
This isn't a thing at all. Period. This isn't 3.x, only PCs need be made with PC rules. If you want to make an NPC with PC rules you're welcome to do so, but you don't have to. The Monster Manual doesn't feel the need to stick to closely. Heck, the Druid entry is a 4th level caster without Wildshape.

Second, the game isn't going in that direction in terms of realism. Look at the crafting information - it's under downtime. You make one set amount per day, regardless what you are crafting and how good you are. What is presented is for PCs - characters who are primarily adventuring and spending time on that. The PHB is not the vehicle for a more in depth crafting system.

Third, you already have an answer - 15% is a big deal when applied day in and day out. Especially when with a detailed crafting system materials are problems wasted on failed checks. Think of two modern businesses with the exact same costs but one produces 15% more saleable goods. Could be the difference between breaking even and making money - or even being profitable or not. And that doesn't even consider that one will have a reputation for more durable goods (higher average DC to make) and will be able to produce some goods that the lesser smith couldn't even with a 20 because the DC is too high. That 15% quality difference is big deal.
 

MarkB

Hero
Personally, I wouldn't find this an issue for NPCs - unless they're in direct competition with a PC for some reason, they're probably not going to be rolling at all. If the PCs have quested to find the fabled Tooth of Ansk-Stelgon and brought it to the Master Smith so that he can forge the legendary Blade Unyielding, I'm not going to have him roll a natural 1, then turn around and say "oops, that's a cock-up, can you fetch me another one?"

If you do want something more formal, I would look to specialisation. Tool proficiencies are pretty broad, and most people would be better at crafting some items than others.

Maybe codify it as a feat - something that gives you a significant bonus when crafting items within a narrow category. So a blacksmith could be a legendary swordsmith, but be only ordinarily proficient when crafting armour.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
That's just target practice though - in a real fight bob would be able to half dodge lots of incoming arrows (higher hit point total) than his son. 5E combat keeps accuracy bounded but has experience in combat dealt with by other mechanics.
I am not talking about survivability or lethality, I am talking about pure odds of hitting. That's all. With the sole exception of the SS feat removing disadvantage at long range (a feat that Bob might have and Tim might not), Bob has very little advantage (only +2) over his neophyte son despite likely years of experience.

I am also not saying I think it should still be a 1-1 level to bonus increase, but I do think bounded accuracy went too far in leveling the field between lower level characters and higher level ones. It goes back to the other philosophy of bounded accuracy: players will feel better if they hit more often even though since we gave pretty much every more hit points it takes just as long to bring it down.

The trade-off is simple: you hit less, but things have fewer hit points OR you hit more, but things have more hit points. It takes just about as long either way... so other than trying to make someone "feel better" what was the point?

So, let's bound things, then hordes of weaker foes can still pose a threat to higher level characters... aha, right, sure, okay... *yawn*

Who plays that way? I'd be so annoyed with the DM if he threw 20-30 goblins at the party, which we would end up defeating anyway, and then we get so little XP it wasn't worth the hours the battle took. Why do you think we have tiered random encounter tables? Because by the time you get to tier 3, tier 1 monsters should be a joke. When I DM, I don't even bother with such encounters--game time is too valuable to waste on such meaningless engagements. I might story tell such an encounter if it is important to the plot, but I would hardly waste time playing it out.

The point is like Myzzrym said, going from a +1 to +20 spread to a +2 to +6 was way too much of a retraction. We currently use the +1 to +8 as a slight improvement because it doesn't necessitate revamping monsters that much really, but I would prefer the +2 to +12 option.

Anyway, I've ranted enough for now LOL. Whether you agree with me or not, I'm sure you get my point. :)
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
So, let's bound things, then hordes of weaker foes can still pose a threat to higher level characters... aha, right, sure, okay... *yawn*

Who plays that way? I'd be so annoyed with the DM if he threw 20-30 goblins at the party, which we would end up defeating anyway, and then we get so little XP it wasn't worth the hours the battle took.
I play this way, and it's awesome. The 20-30 goblins aren't acting alone: they're minions for a formorian warlock. They attack in a group and function more like a terrain hazard, at least until a fireball or a couple of shatters takes them all out.

It's similar to 4E's minions, except that you don't need special rules for it, thanks to... bounded accuracy.

The point is like Myzzrym said, going from a +1 to +20 spread to a +2 to +6 was way too much of a retraction. We currently use the +1 to +8 as a slight improvement because it doesn't necessitate revamping monsters that much really, but I would prefer the +2 to +12 option.
Speaking of "who even plays this way?," I think we should be comparing a level 1 character to a level 8 character when those two PCs won't be in the same party. I think the more important comparison is between PCs. Bob the level 8 archer may have a total +9 to attack with a longbow -- but Penelope the level 8 war cleric with a mediocre Dex only has a +5, and Sam the level 8 mountain dwarf wizard could pick up the longbow and have a -1 to attack.

That's where you see the difference in hit chance. And increasing the proficiency bonus exacerbates that difference. It's unlikely that Sam will pick up a longbow since she's 50% less likely to hit than Bob, but it could happen. But if you increase that discrepancy, it becomes even less likely.
 

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