D&D 5E Why is there a Forgery Kit?

I love the tools, kits, instruments, etc in 5th edition. Most of them make sense, and they are one of the best ways to add 'civilian' flavor to your character. A couple of them frustrate me.

Today I want to talk about the forgery kit.

The activity of forgery is quite important, especially in games with political intrigue. I do not want to rule it out.

What I would rather do is eliminate the forgery kit and instead empower Calligrapher's Supplies and maybe Painter's Tools to do forgery. Looking at the tools section of Xanathar's there's a little overlap between the two, but it only goes one way.

A Calligrapher can forge a signature (DC 20). That's the same level of difficulty as a forger being able to duplicate a wax seal.

Even the list of components is nearly the same. The Forgery Kit having silver and gold leaf (which the Calligraphy Supplies should also have) and supplies for sealing wax and seals. This is the only set of tools that has the sealing wax.

My change would be simple. Calligraphers should have sealing wax and be able to do everything that those who have Forgery Kits do.

This helps the narratives built from the use of tools, and broadens some PC creation by allowing one more tool for a handful of backgrounds.
 

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Horwath

Hero
I love the tools, kits, instruments, etc in 5th edition. Most of them make sense, and they are one of the best ways to add 'civilian' flavor to your character. A couple of them frustrate me.

Today I want to talk about the forgery kit.

The activity of forgery is quite important, especially in games with political intrigue. I do not want to rule it out.

What I would rather do is eliminate the forgery kit and instead empower Calligrapher's Supplies and maybe Painter's Tools to do forgery. Looking at the tools section of Xanathar's there's a little overlap between the two, but it only goes one way.

A Calligrapher can forge a signature (DC 20). That's the same level of difficulty as a forger being able to duplicate a wax seal.

Even the list of components is nearly the same. The Forgery Kit having silver and gold leaf (which the Calligraphy Supplies should also have) and supplies for sealing wax and seals. This is the only set of tools that has the sealing wax.

My change would be simple. Calligraphers should have sealing wax and be able to do everything that those who have Forgery Kits do.

This helps the narratives built from the use of tools, and broadens some PC creation by allowing one more tool for a handful of backgrounds.

Wax seal is not the same as signature.

Signatures are easier to forge as it is only few letters most of the time.

Forgery kit has DC15 to imitate handwriting that is far more complex than a signature. It's a complete style of writing. Much demanding to learn/imitate than a signature.

With Calligrapher tools you could forge a document that only requires a signature of an official person.

But if that official usually writes the whole document that would not be possible.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Except....forgery, while related to painting and calligraphy...is really a different skill. It's just that the tools are similar. And 5e defines crafting skill as skill with the toolkit.

I guess I would argue that forgery involves more than just the paintbrushes. For example, the material it's done on must also match, which might involve some kind of distressing, or other treatment.
 


I guess I would argue that forgery involves more than just the paintbrushes. For example, the material it's done on must also match, which might involve some kind of distressing, or other treatment.

Even that's a stretch, because it's likely that matching exact document appearance would actually rely on simply obtaining the same material (if the person was familiar with the specific example of the specific document), or be unnecessary, because you just really just need to make the seal/signature/etc. look right.

I suppose there's art forgery, but that's got the same issue - it's just the tools the appropriate artist would use.

Pretty sure this is just a result of not thinking it through on the part of the designers.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Pretty sure this is just a result of not thinking it through on the part of the designers.

So would you just let calligraphers and/or painters be good at forgery, as part of their proficiency? I see it as an artifact of the decision to associate skills with their tools, not a lack of thought on the part of the designers.

I could see an urchin-turned-assassin being good at writing a wedding invitation, but not so sure the old sage who was an illuminator as a young monk should be good at forgery.

Then again, maybe. Food for thought.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
A forgery kit has different types of pens and paper.

A painter's or calligrapher's kit only contains one kind of paper and pen.

If formal and informal papers use different paper and pens, you would need the forgery kit or multiple different sets of the calligrapher's or painter's kit..
 

hbarsquared

Quantum Chronomancer
I love the tools, kits, instruments, etc in 5th edition. Most of them make sense, and they are one of the best ways to add 'civilian' flavor to your character. A couple of them frustrate me.

Today I want to talk about the forgery kit.

The activity of forgery is quite important, especially in games with political intrigue. I do not want to rule it out.

What I would rather do is eliminate the forgery kit and instead empower Calligrapher's Supplies and maybe Painter's Tools to do forgery. Looking at the tools section of Xanathar's there's a little overlap between the two, but it only goes one way.

A Calligrapher can forge a signature (DC 20). That's the same level of difficulty as a forger being able to duplicate a wax seal.

Even the list of components is nearly the same. The Forgery Kit having silver and gold leaf (which the Calligraphy Supplies should also have) and supplies for sealing wax and seals. This is the only set of tools that has the sealing wax.

My change would be simple. Calligraphers should have sealing wax and be able to do everything that those who have Forgery Kits do.

This helps the narratives built from the use of tools, and broadens some PC creation by allowing one more tool for a handful of backgrounds.
Go for it. 5e is meant to be tweaked in this way.

One could just as well argue the Painting skill should be broken up into watercolor, oils, acrylic, and even spraypaint (I'm sure I'm missing, I don't know, a hundred other art styles), all of which require different tools and different techniques.

But this is a game, and we don't need to be that fine-grained (unless you want to with your all-bard party, have at it!).

Personally, I'm a fan of having your mundane skill able to be applied to as an adventurer skill (Calligraphy to Forgery, Tinkerer to Thieve's, etc).
 

A forgery kit has different types of pens and paper.

A painter's or calligrapher's kit only contains one kind of paper and pen.

If formal and informal papers use different paper and pens, you would need the forgery kit or multiple different sets of the calligrapher's or painter's kit..
Xanathar's says "three quills" for calligraphy, not one.
It says "a dozen sheets of parchment" no mention of being a single kind beyond that. it would be absurd to think they are all the same. No artist would have just one type and size of paper
 

So would you just let calligraphers and/or painters be good at forgery, as part of their proficiency? I see it as an artifact of the decision to associate skills with their tools, not a lack of thought on the part of the designers.

I could see an urchin-turned-assassin being good at writing a wedding invitation, but not so sure the old sage who was an illuminator as a young monk should be good at forgery.

Then again, maybe. Food for thought.

Do you know how many art forgers are skilled artists? It's about 100%. If you are a skilled artist, and capable of imitating styles (which is not a matter of special training), then you can forge art. That's how forgers get into the business, typically. How well you can do it is another question, but practice makes perfect to a large extent. It doesn't require special training, it doesn't require special tools. It requires experience, patience, and the right kind of mind (not everyone has the latter).

Relevant to D&D, I could pull of DiTerlizzi well enough that you might believe it was an original when I was 17, because I was utterly obsessed with his stuff. Copying directly rather than riffing off it would have made it even easier. Not every artist can do this, but it's talent, not some kind of special training. I was able to do stuff like this since I was very little. I didn't need special training to be an extremely good imitator.

Modern art forgery is much harder, but only because the analysis techniques we have now are amazing, and that's all irrelevant to any time before say, the 1900s, and really the 1970s-1990s is when most of the power techniques come in.

Calligraphic forgery will be similar but easier (again, assuming no modern techniques, no microscopes etc. in routine usage, which is a fair assumption in most D&D). It will require a practiced hand, care, and good materials (and enough of them to deal with your mistakes), but absolutely, yes, an experienced scribe, who has the talent (again I stress this is a talent, not special training - some people will always be bad at it, some people will pick it up easily), and the inclination to imitate styles, and some experience in doing so (he probably has such experience from doing different kinds of

You say "Oh a street urchin could do it but not a old sage". I say the exact reverse, assuming both had the talent the old sage still has great eyesight and manual dexterity, and both had the talent, the knack. He's has vastly more experience of different documents, the different hands that write them, the different materials involved with them, the different qualities of ink and different ways you might cut your pen. The urchin is more likely to get mixed up in it, of course, but he's far less likely to have the experience and skill necessary to do it (again, assuming both are in good health in the right ways). The urchin will probably have been exposed to tiny fraction of the writing the sage has, and whilst he may be determined, he's just not going to be thinking about ways you might give yourself away, whereas an old sage will be very familiar with looking at documents, and seeing that sometimes, the person who was writing them changes without acknowledgement and so on.

So to sum up:

1) You need the basic skill. You cannot forge calligraphy or art without being a calligrapher or an artist. Period. So the idea of a forger without the appropriate skill is a nonsense.

2) In my view experience of being quite a good copier, you need a talent. Some people are just not good at copying other people's stuff, and it's pretty consistent - like if they can't imitate one style, they probably can't imitate another. D&D doesn't deal with talents, it's too small-scale, so I guess the player/DM decides if they have the talent.

3) You want experience. The more writing or art you've seen, the more techniques you're familiar with, the more you know about the materials, the approaches and so on, where inks come from, what they're made of, the better job you're going to do.

What you don't need are particular tools beyond the tools of the appropriate trade. I mean you do now, but even those are generally improvised and specific to the exact thing you're forging, that's not really the case here. You could improve your odds simply by stealing the right things - if you can "borrow" the exact ink, parchment/paper/whatever, and exactly the right kind of pen (i.e. if he cuts his own quills, one he cut), that's going to make your life easier and reduce the need for experience.

The only specialized thing I can think of is maybe something to make a seal. I'll be honest, I'm not actually sure how you'd do that, other than use vaguely similar seal (or just a blank one) and then very carefully cut at it with a little knife/scraper (which I can assure you an artist or scribe will own), and drip wax where necessary to make it look right. Which again will be essentially an artistic task, I don't think it'll require tools you don't have.

It's also worth noting that most of your targets will have little/no experience with forgery, some of them won't even be able to read, and even those who can, are unlikely to possess the kind of awareness to look for this. They may notice a seal looks odd, or falls apart when they touch it or something. The person you should be most scared of is the old sage - he'll have seen countless works which have been copied by multiple hands, or where the author is someone other than who he professes to be.

Imho "forgery kit" should be removed from the game. Whether you can forge something should be a matter of whether you believe your character has the talent and inclination, and if you can make the right checks. Having access to an example document and the right ink/wax/parchment etc. (probably stolen, or very carefully sourced) might give you advantage.

EDIT - To be clear, the notion of "proficiency" in a specific "forger's kit" is the problem here, not what exactly is in that kit. A calligrapher should be able to do literally all the same things - including the gold leaf. And further a forger who can do this? They can certainly act as a calligrapher/scribe.
 
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TheDelphian

Explorer
I look at as more than just a kit.

Having the proficiency in a kit means you also have the training, talent or both in using it in the manner it is intended.

As several posters have indicated sometimes the difference in calligraphy kit and forger kit is fairly close to zero without being pedantic but the difference in having proficiency could mean the difference in training, talent and or intent in what is created.

but that's just me.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think tool proficiencies are the worst part of 5e character ability design, but, so long as you are going to use them instead of an actual skill, it's better to regard them as potentially overlapping. This is what Disadvantage is for: if the forger only has access to a calligraphy set, Disadvantage. If the calligrapher tries to forge a wedding invite, Disadvantage.

Rather than the tool proficiency I am inclined to just call it a "background skill" slot and adjudicate it as needed. There won't be much tangible difference in play and it will offend my sense of immersion less.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Do you know how many art forgers are skilled artists? It's about 100%. If you are a skilled artist, and capable of imitating styles (which is not a matter of special training), then you can forge art. That's how forgers get into the business, typically. How well you can do it is another question, but practice makes perfect to a large extent. It doesn't require special training, it doesn't require special tools. It requires experience, patience, and the right kind of mind (not everyone has the latter).

Oh are we talking about art forgery? Yeah, if the players wanted to forge a piece of art I would probably look at Painter's Kit proficiency.

I was thinking more in terms of forging documents, and the archetype I had in mind was the WWII spy forging Nazi passports. (No need to go off on a long, pedantic essay about how that's totally different because of printing presses and photographs. Yes, I know.)

You say "Oh a street urchin could do it but not a old sage". I say the exact reverse, assuming both had the talent the old sage still has great eyesight and manual dexterity, and both had the talent, the knack. He's has vastly more experience of different documents, the different hands that write them, the different materials involved with them, the different qualities of ink and different ways you might cut your pen.

Just to make some decent wedding invitations?
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Xanathar's says "three quills" for calligraphy, not one.
It says "a dozen sheets of parchment" no mention of being a single kind beyond that. it would be absurd to think they are all the same. No artist would have just one type and size of paper

In XGTE, the forgery kit is the only one that states if has different pens and paper.
 

Just to make some decent wedding invitations?

Look, do you want this done right, or do you want to end up being beaten up by a half-orc bouncer in front of an entire wedding? :) I have standards!

And yes a wedding is a good example of where you'd definitely want to source exactly the right kind of paper particularly (and get other things right that a street urchin would probably miss before an old sage did). You might be able to get away with some approximation from a "kit" for something like an arrest warrant or a bill of sale (it's unlikely the Sherrif or a random merchant or whoever has extremely high standards and consistent paper quality), which is a one-off, but your invites are going to be directly compared to dozens of invites that the bouncers/guards have already seen that very day, and they, for once, will be closely scrutinizing them, as people may well be trying to crash. You'd definitely need an invite to work from - it'd be an auto-fail without that, though you might only need it for a twenty minutes to get the general idea. As it's an invite, likely delivered to the recipient (theoretically you) sealed, it has the advantage that it probably won't have a seal, but rather will just have a signature (or two). But it might have gold leaf scrollwork or something, depending on how rich they are.

I'm assuming these are wanted to fake your way into a wedding (haven't read whole thread). It's much easier if the entire wedding is fake, then they just need to look plausible, but they're kind of not even fake then.

I think tool proficiencies are the worst part of 5e character ability design, but, so long as you are going to use them instead of an actual skill, it's better to regard them as potentially overlapping. This is what Disadvantage is for: if the forger only has access to a calligraphy set, Disadvantage. If the calligrapher tries to forge a wedding invite, Disadvantage.

Rather than the tool proficiency I am inclined to just call it a "background skill" slot and adjudicate it as needed. There won't be much tangible difference in play and it will offend my sense of immersion less.

The trouble is that forgery proficiency is a super-set of the skills needed to do calligraphy/scribe-work. Basically a forger is just a high-value scribe with specialized experience. There's nothing a calligrapher can do that he can't. If a character could choose, he should always choose forgery kit proficiency because he has all the skills possible to do calligraphy (it's literally impossible to do his job otherwise).

But yes, I think a "background skill" is the right approach, because that makes a lot more sense.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Look, do you want this done right, or do you want to end up being beaten up by a half-orc bouncer in front of an entire wedding? :) I have standards!

And yes a wedding is a good example of where you'd definitely want to source exactly the right kind of paper particularly (and get other things right that a street urchin would probably miss before an old sage did). You might be able to get away with some approximation from a "kit" for something like an arrest warrant or a bill of sale (it's unlikely the Sherrif or a random merchant or whoever has extremely high standards and consistent paper quality), which is a one-off, but your invites are going to be directly compared to dozens of invites that the bouncers/guards have already seen that very day, and they, for once, will be closely scrutinizing them, as people may well be trying to crash. You'd definitely need an invite to work from - it'd be an auto-fail without that, though you might only need it for a twenty minutes to get the general idea. As it's an invite, likely delivered to the recipient (theoretically you) sealed, it has the advantage that it probably won't have a seal, but rather will just have a signature (or two). But it might have gold leaf scrollwork or something, depending on how rich they are.

I'm assuming these are wanted to fake your way into a wedding (haven't read whole thread). It's much easier if the entire wedding is fake, then they just need to look plausible, but they're kind of not even fake then.

Um, no. I was trying to describe a reciprocal situation: a sage with calligraphy trying to forge something, vs. an assassin with forgery trying to write some nice wedding invitations. Maybe a party member is getting married?
 

jgsugden

Legend
D&D has a lot of overlap. Weapons, for example, have a lot of overlap. They tried hard to avoid having any that are entirely overlapping, but most are very similar.
 

MarkB

Legend
Xanathar's says "three quills" for calligraphy, not one.
It says "a dozen sheets of parchment" no mention of being a single kind beyond that. it would be absurd to think they are all the same. No artist would have just one type and size of paper
But they wouldn't be likely to specifically carry a selection of each grade and size of paper commonly used in official documents, either - nor the tools to adapt them to match other stock, or a selection of inks that can be blended to match the colour of ink used on a specific document, nor particular chemical treatments in order to artificially age or distress a document so that it doesn't look freshly penned.
 

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