5E Crafting Items - Expert Craftsman vs Adventurers

Saelorn

Adventurer
If you did have those numbers, what would you do with them? How would your expert smith deploy their talents that would require a die roll on your part to adjudicate?
Are you asking how I do crafting rules, in general?

At the end of an appropriate time period, the character spends the reagents and makes a check. To make a basic sword requires DC 20. To make something that looks nice, and is suitable for enchanting, you need a 30. Failure on the check ruins half of the reagents.

That's what I came up with, based on what's in the book. It's what makes sense to me, given all of the contradictory and missing rules. The NPC's check bonus (and whether or not they have Reliable Talent) is important to the players, because it determines whether or not a given NPC can perform a particular task, and their relative chance of success. The players have the right to know whether any trained NPC can do something, whether they need to track down the world expert, or whether they can try it themselves. These are all things that they players would know, if 5E wasn't written with a giant blind spot in this area.
 

S'mon

Legend
If you did have those numbers, what would you do with them? How would your expert smith deploy their talents that would require a die roll on your part to adjudicate?
Agreed - 5e doesn't expect the GM to be setting skill bonuses for NPCs like this. Most NPCs in published adventures just seem to be names, with stat block only if combat is expected.

If a PC is competing against a master craftsman the PC might roll with Tools proficiency vs a
DC 20 or 25 I suppose. GM decides.
 

MarkB

Hero
Are you asking how I do crafting rules, in general?

At the end of an appropriate time period, the character spends the reagents and makes a check. To make a basic sword requires DC 20. To make something that looks nice, and is suitable for enchanting, you need a 30. Failure on the check ruins half of the reagents.
Seriously, DC 30? So, to make just the physical aspect of a basic +1 sword that a character might pick up at around 4th level, you need a combined ability and proficiency bonus that no PC can achieve before 16th level, and that's only for a 5% success rate. I'm guessing magic items are particularly rare and expensive in your game.

That's what I came up with, based on what's in the book. It's what makes sense to me, given all of the contradictory and missing rules. The NPC's check bonus (and whether or not they have Reliable Talent) is important to the players, because it determines whether or not a given NPC can perform a particular task, and their relative chance of success. The players have the right to know whether any trained NPC can do something, whether they need to track down the world expert, or whether they can try it themselves. These are all things that they players would know, if 5E wasn't written with a giant blind spot in this area.
There are rules for crafting, expanded upon in Xanathars Guide to Everything and the Wayfinders Guide to Eberron. They don't require ability checks for the actual crafting, merely an investment of time and resources.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Seriously, DC 30? So, to make just the physical aspect of a basic +1 sword that a character might pick up at around 4th level, you need a combined ability and proficiency bonus that no PC can achieve before 16th level, and that's only for a 5% success rate. I'm guessing magic items are particularly rare and expensive in your game.
As I said, there are a lot of contradictory and missing rules in the the book. Bounded Accuracy is a bad concept for a game, and even beyond that, the concept was poorly executed.

If the DC was much lower than 30, then PCs would be able to craft amazing masterwork items at level 1, and that's simply not sustainable from a setting standpoint. If it's supposed to be impressive at all, then it needs to be difficult enough that level 1 characters can't do it.
There are rules for crafting, expanded upon in Xanathars Guide to Everything and the Wayfinders Guide to Eberron. They don't require ability checks for the actual crafting, merely an investment of time and resources.
Anything in a splatbook is irrelevant at any table that doesn't double opt into those specific rules. This isn't 4E. You can't assume that a book is in play just because you paid for it.

The rules that I invent for my own table (to cover the blind spot given to crafting), after reading the actual rule books, are exactly as canonical as whatever suggestions you find in some other book, or what one of your players decides to scribble on a napkin. None of it means anything until the DM at the table accepts it.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
One thing I thought of and I haven't read every post in the thread, so if it's been mentioned, consider this support for it anyway:

Only PCs make skill checks. As DM, once a player wants to do something that might have significant consequences for failure, you assign the skill/ability combination and DC for the check. For NPCs, there is no check. A DM simply decides if they succeed or fail. The sole exception to this is in contested rolls against a PC.

That being said, a DM can roll a skill check for an NPC, but it is by no means required and for the sake of the speed of the game, might even be discouraged at some tables.

If a DM has an NPC craftsman and wants that NPC to succeed, they do, the actual modifier to the number is unimportant. If the DM insists on leaving it to chance, just assign odds and roll. For instance, the DM might decide this NPC has a 5 in 6 chance of doing something, so they could just roll a d6.

Honestly, even in a contested situation, the DM can simply assign the result for the NPC that the PC has to beat to win the contest.
 

Elfcrusher

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.
I wouldn't even give him a bonus. I'd just narrate success or failure depending on what he is doing.

This thread reminds me of a poster who used to pop in on the old Cubicle 7 forums (R.I.P.) to talk about The One Ring. He was always going off on the paradoxes of Gandalf or Elrond or Glorfindel statted out according to the PC rules, and how doing so couldn't possibly explain their awesomeness in the fiction.
 
Last edited:

Saelorn

Adventurer
If a DM has an NPC craftsman and wants that NPC to succeed, they do, the actual modifier to the number is unimportant. If the DM insists on leaving it to chance, just assign odds and roll. For instance, the DM might decide this NPC has a 5 in 6 chance of doing something, so they could just roll a d6.
If the DM just decides that the NPC does a thing, then that's injecting bias into the resolution - the NPC succeeds, because the DM wants them to. Likewise, if the DM decides that they have a 5/6 chance, then they are injecting bias by arbitrarily assigning that probability - the DM wants the NPC to probably succeed, with 5/6 probability. The DM isn't supposed to be biased, or else there would be no point in playing the game; you'd just ask the DM what they want to happen, and that happens.

At the table, the DM has three jobs: 1) Describe the environment to the players, 2) Role-play the NPCs, and 3) Adjudicate uncertainty in action resolution (i.e. figure out the DC of a check, and which bonus applies). Before the game, if they're running their own material, then they also have to create the world and populate it with NPCs. So, while saying that there is an expert blacksmith in a given town is within their purview, saying that an expert blacksmith has a 5/6 chance of accomplishing a given task is not within their purview. How to define a given NPC in terms of system mechanics is a design-level decision. That's something that we should reasonably be able to expect from the book.

If NPCs don't make checks in the same way that PCs do, then we have no way to determine how those checks are made. They've essentially sold us only half of a game. That was the exact mistake which killed 4E.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
If the DM just decides that the NPC does a thing, then that's injecting bias into the resolution - the NPC succeeds, because the DM wants them to. Likewise, if the DM decides that they have a 5/6 chance, then they are injecting bias by arbitrarily assigning that probability - the DM wants the NPC to probably succeed, with 5/6 probability. The DM isn't supposed to be biased, or else there would be no point in playing the game; you'd just ask the DM what they want to happen, and that happens.

At the table, the DM has three jobs: 1) Describe the environment to the players, 2) Role-play the NPCs, and 3) Adjudicate uncertainty in action resolution (i.e. figure out the DC of a check, and which bonus applies). Before the game, if they're running their own material, then they also have to create the world and populate it with NPCs. So, while saying that there is an expert blacksmith in a given town is within their purview, saying that an expert blacksmith has a 5/6 chance of accomplishing a given task is not within their purview. How to define a given NPC in terms of system mechanics is a design-level decision. That's something that we should reasonably be able to expect from the book.

If NPCs don't make checks in the same way that PCs do, then we have no way to determine how those checks are made. They've essentially sold us only half of a game. That was the exact mistake which killed 4E.
Well, even when you decide what ability scores an NPC will have (using point-buy, rolling, or simply assigning them) you are injecting bias. When you decide to give the NPC expertise, you are injecting bias, etc. No matter how you determine the total bonus you want to grant the NPC, even if it is through a rule system provided by the game, at some point you are injecting bias.

The DM has a very important fourth job you seem to be missing: the DM decides the likelihood of success and failure before adjudicate uncertainty. When you assign a DC for something, you are doing the exact same thing as if you were assigning the bonus to a skill check for an NPC or just deciding what "odds" you want to give them, or just deciding "they do it" and don't roll.

For example, suppose following a system (that, you are correct, does not exist in 5E) resulted in a +11. Against what? You decide the DC by deciding what category it falls under. Suppose you decide it is "Moderate" so a DC 15 check. Ok, the chance is 85% then (a roll of 4 or greater), which is roughly 5 in 6... So, by deciding the DC you ARE deciding the odds. Obviously that is a major part of the DMs purview and responsibility. Some DMs might just "feel" a 5 in 6 is about right. Others might just decide it isn't a hard task, and even "taking 10" (to use the old wordage) would result in a 21, so just let the expert accomplish the moderate task without a roll.

The DM makes such decisions all the time and is always interjecting bias. How challenging do you want that lock? Is it a DC 15, 18, 20, 25, or 30? Sure, once you make that decision the DC is there for you, but you as DM are still making it.

Difference DMs play differently. When I DM I often roll for things and other times I just tell the PCs what happens via narrative.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
If the DM just decides that the NPC does a thing, then that's injecting bias into the resolution - the NPC succeeds, because the DM wants them to.
ABSO-Fing-LUTELY!

The NPC is even present in the first place because the DM wants them to be there. The McGuffin must be found because the DM wants it to be needed. The goblin army invades... The dungeon exists... The Zhentarim are bad because...

Looking at your DM jobs;
1) The environment is what it is because the DM wants it to be.
2) The NPCs are what they are because the DM wants them to be. Crafting is not something that needs to be resolved in most cases. Does the NPCs successful or failure impact the PCs? In a meaningful way? Then make up a stat and roll. Does it matter if the DM gives the NPC some arbitrary skill bonus so they can craft a legendary item no one else can? What about if the DM just decides they can? Both are arbitrary. So is using PC rules for NPCs when you don't need to. Arbitrary.
3) ...
Yes it is within the purview of the DM. Saying 5/6s or giving the NPC 15 levels so the odds are the same is no different.

Its a game... everything is arbitrary. Why add complication to an aspect of the game that ADDS NO VALUE?

Play it however you want. But the rules are not broken, even if you don't like them.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
The DM makes such decisions all the time and is always interjecting bias. How challenging do you want that lock? Is it a DC 15, 18, 20, 25, or 30? Sure, once you make that decision the DC is there for you, but you as DM are still making it.
For the sake of brevity, I'm just quoting this part of your post, because it allows me to address the entire topic more succinctly. It applies in equal measure to placing NPCs within the world.

One of the goals of the DM is to remain impartial in their adjudication. You're not supposed to care, whether or not they pick the lock. If you wanted them to pick the lock, then you have the power to make them succeed, by setting the DC to 1. If you wanted them to fail, then you have the power to make them fail, by setting the DC to 40. The DM literally has unlimited power within the game world, which is why it's important that they don't want anything; and if they can't help themselves from wanting something, then they'd better have the integrity to not abuse their power by simply making it happen. After all, this is a game about the players and their decisions, and those decisions would be meaningless if the DM just went around fulfilling their own preferences.

When the DM determines the DC of a lock, they don't set it based on any personal preferences for whether or not the party succeeds. The determination of the DC is a judgment call, about what the DM honestly believes is a fair value that describes the lock, based on everything they understand about the world and how it works, and their knowledge of how that reality is reflected in the game mechanics.

Think about it. The party infiltrates the vampire's castle, and stumbles across the treasure room. What's the DC on that lock? You could low-ball it, make it DC 12, and the party would probably succeed. Or you could set it at DC 30, even if that's unattainable by anyone in the group, so they would definitely fail. But either way, you're just telling the players that none of their decisions matter, because events will progress exactly as the DM wants them to progress. The only way that the players have any agency whatsoever is that the DM doesn't do that. A good DM will never take their personal preferences into account when determining a DC. Instead, they will evaluate what they know about the world, and make an honest determination based on their knowledge of how game mechanics reflect that world. The lock is DC 25, because the vampire is wealthy enough and motivated enough to afford the best lock, and our knowledge of how the game mechanics reflect that reality tells us that the best lock is DC 25. (Setting aside, for a moment, that the rules don't even tell us that; the DM is forced to make a judgment call about how good locks can possibly get in this world, which is compounded by the horrible flaws in the Bounded Accuracy system, but that's getting off topic.)
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
For crafting especially, I think the take 10 rule is the way to go. A lot of the problem is we use a single skill check to represent a 6 second thing and a 2 day activity. Realistically 2 days of smithing should be tons of checks.

So the better way is just to take 10. Then even a +2 to DC can be a big deal. The difference between a DC 14 sword and a DC 16 sword is a really big deal.
 
The DM literally has unlimited power within the game world, which is why it's important that they don't want anything; and if they can't help themselves from wanting something, then they'd better have the integrity to not abuse their power by simply making it happen. After all, this is a game about the players and their decisions, and those decisions would be meaningless if the DM just went around fulfilling their own preferences.
While I understand the point you are trying to make, I disagree at a fundamental level. The DM should have at least one want. The DM should want the players to have a good time. For some groups that means setting up a scenario and then standing back to see what happens. For some groups that means giving the players a good challenge. For some groups that means inserting elements during the middle of play to help tell an interesting, collaborative story. For some groups, I will even admit, it means setting up the players win. For some groups it can be a combination of all of the above and the tricky part is knowing at the moment which option will enhance the long-term enjoyment of the group.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
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)
If a roll is needed, I typically give master craftsmen expertise and advantage on the roll (or, just an additional +5 instead of advantage). In most cases though, a master craftsman doesn't need to roll. Rolling is only for uncertainty. If a master craftsman is rolling, it's because thy're working with a very scarce material they're not used to working with, or to figure out how much waste there is before the work is finished.

Regarding the archery contest, taking more shots helps skew the odds in favor of the archer with the better bonuses. So does firing with disadvantage for shooting at long range.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
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.

[video=youtube;GlhOUyy4wbs]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlhOUyy4wbs[/video]
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
For crafting especially, I think the take 10 rule is the way to go. A lot of the problem is we use a single skill check to represent a 6 second thing and a 2 day activity. Realistically 2 days of smithing should be tons of checks.

So the better way is just to take 10. Then even a +2 to DC can be a big deal. The difference between a DC 14 sword and a DC 16 sword is a really big deal.
Almost as if crafting an item were a skill challenge. X successes before Y failures, or else you ruin the product and have to start over again.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
While I understand the point you are trying to make, I disagree at a fundamental level. The DM should have at least one want. The DM should want the players to have a good time.
I'm all for making the game your own, but as a baseline default until someone says otherwise, everyone at the table will have the most fun if the DM remains impartial. That's what you're signing up for, when you agree to play D&D rather than some other game. If that's not why you're playing, then you need to discuss that with your DM.
 
I'm all for making the game your own, but as a baseline default until someone says otherwise, everyone at the table will have the most fun if the DM remains impartial. That's what you're signing up for, when you agree to play D&D rather than some other game. If that's not why you're playing, then you need to discuss that with your DM.
Perhaps my opinion is heavily slanted by the fact that I have played with the same people for a long long time.

Further, perhaps we have a different understanding of what is meant by "impartial" in this instance. I honestly don't quite understand what you mean . Do you mean impartial at the table? Sure. A partial DM who tries to force a particular outcome or favors one player over another is gonna piss players off. However, I don't see how you can be impartial when designing adventures or designing a campaign. Any time you make a decision, there must inherently be a bias. You choose to include an encounter, an NPC, a location, or a theme because you believe it be interesting to the players. There's a bias. You choose how difficult an encounter will be. There is a bias. Even when running a published adventure or campaign, you must interject decisions about how to roleplay an NPC or decide how the villains react when the players go completely off script (as they should).
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Further, perhaps we have a different understanding of what is meant by "impartial" in this instance. I honestly don't quite understand what you mean . Do you mean impartial at the table? Sure. A partial DM who tries to force a particular outcome or favors one player over another is gonna piss players off. However, I don't see how you can be impartial when designing adventures or designing a campaign.
Yes, I consider the actions of the world-builder to be distinct from the actions of the DM-at-the-table, for the same reason that I consider character creation to be distinct from role-playing your character at the table. Frequently, both tasks are performed by the same person; but they need not be, and even if they are, they are governed by different principles and restrictions.

The world-builder should create a setting or adventure that lends itself toward exciting gameplay, so that the DM-at-the-table doesn't need to cheat in order for interesting things to happen. Often, that's going to involve some contrivance (such as placing monsters in the world so that the players can follow a progression from weak to strong), but you can't fault a premise.
Even when running a published adventure or campaign, you must interject decisions about how to roleplay an NPC or decide how the villains react when the players go completely off script (as they should).
When it comes to role-playing NPCs, impartiality is just honestly playing the character as you understand them, and not having them act out-of-character in order to promote some ulterior motive. (Which really just goes back to not meta-gaming.) And the same goes for the players, with their characters.

The obvious corollary is that the world-designer and character-creator should not include characters which would derail game-play as a result of staying in character.
 

Advertisement

Top