Pen and Paper RPG House Rules

Making our favorite games even better

D&D 5e

Character Creation Backgrounds

Crafting, Magic Items, and Economics

Familiarity vs Proficiency

Character Focus

Tactics of Mistake

 

D&D 5e House Rules: Crafting, Materials, Magic Items and Economics

This is my first draft and there is likely to be some minor changes going forth.

The basic rules for crafting make sense when dealing with simple crafting but quickly breakdown as unrealistic when dealing with let’s say a goldsmith crafting a gold ring with a large emerald setting. At 5 g.p.’s a day the ring would take months to craft while a silver ring could take weeks or at least several days even if plain and unadorned.

So, in the rules that follow I will cover how each item has a complexity of design, a material that can modify the difficulty in successful crafting, a level of quality which can modify the value and/or functionality, and how long it takes to craft plus some basic economics on running a business or being an employee for those characters who focus on being a business owner or guildmember or master in their downtime. The more skillful the smith the less raw material is wasted or lost in the smithing process.

A common material could be a malachite stone, copper, bronze, iron, oak wood, beaver fur, cow leather, or granite. Common materials have a base minimum value of 1 g.p. a day for determining amount of work done and cost of materials though this could be modified by local conditions, prosperity of the region, and supply and demand. The base time to craft is the basic cost for the item as listed in the PHB such as 10 g.p.’s for a battle axe.

Uncommon materials could be a garnet or agate, dwarven steel, common mithril, silver, electrum, Fey-bronze, iron-oak, mink fur, wyvern leather, or marble. These have a base minimum value of 20 g.p. a day for determining amount of work done and cost of materials though depending on the material the costs can far exceed that starting value. The crafting time using most uncommon materials is twice as long as the value listed in the PHB such as 20 g.p.’s for a dwarven steel battle axe though some uncommon materials may be harder to work and have an higher multiplier.

Rare materials could be a ruby or emerald, noble mithril, admantine, gold, platinum, Ebon Ash wood, Holy Willow, fur from a Feywild Polar Bear, Shadow touched stone, and Dragon teeth or scales. They have a base minimum value of 100 g.p. a day for determining work done and cost of material. The crafting time using rare materials is usually five times that of the basic cost for the item though gold is easier and only has double the normal time when used for jewelry.

Very Rare materials could be a star ruby, royal mithril, primal gold, fur from a Primal Cave bear, a claw from an ancient dragon, marble carved from Mount Meru, and other such potent or valuable material. They have a base value of 500 g.p. a day for determining work done and cost of material. Crafting time is usually five times that of the basic cost fro the item.

Legendary materials might be a gem grown from the heart of an elder tree in the sacred grove of the first elven nation that holds an echo from that ancient time, a scale from Tiamat, iron ingots mined by undead dwarven masters in Hades and smelted by Hephaestus himself, locket of hair from the Freya, or Hide from a slain Nemean Lion.

Overhead per day of crafting is typically around 1 g.p. and covers everything from sales and property taxes, bribes, expendables such as wood or coal to burn at a smithy, and paperwork.

Labor and Lifestyle costs are based partly on the prosperity, trade, and urbanity of the locale but commonly sit at 5 s.p. a day worth of lifestyle and 1 g.p. a week for wages for apprentices and at least 1 g.p. in pay or lifestyle for a journeyman, and 5 g.p.’s a day or more for a master.

The Labor “Retail Value” equals Proficiency/Familiarity bonus + Ability Score Modifier + Tool Quality Modifier

For example:

A human Journeyman smith crafting a warhammer with iron has a Strength Modifier of +1 and a Proficiency of +2 with average “apprentice” tools that provide no bonus would do 3 g.p.’s of labor a day. This would add to the 1 g.p. in material and 1 g.p. in overhead so the total retail value of labor would be 5 g.p. a day. The smith would complete the warhammer in 3 days since the cost in the PHB is 15 g.p. There would be 6 g.p. worth of material and overhead involved and if the smith sold the warhammer to a merchant for 9 g.p. then he would have made 3 g.p. for 3 days of work if working for himself and probably less if an employee with a typical employee making a basic lifestyle for the 3 days and maybe half a gold in wages. If the smith was lucky and an adventurer commissioned the warhammer for retail price then the smith would’ve made 9 g.p. for 3 days of work or 3 g.p. a day.

A dwarven master smith crafting a dwarven warhammer made of royal mithril for his king. She has a Strength Modifier of +5 and a Proficiency of +5 with rare crafting tools providing a +3 bonus would do 13 g.p. of labor a day. Each day of labor would use 500 g.p. worth of material as royal mithril is treasured for its ability to attract legend and thus magic making it highly likely to become enchanted through use over time. The dwarven smith completes the royal warhammer in five days (65/13 = 5) using 2500 g.p. worth of material and 5 g.p. in overhead. The royal commission paid 5000 g.p. so she made close to an hefty 500 g.p. a day profit though if the GM used my optional rule requiring a DC check after completion of the item and failed then that is risk of wasting a lot of expensive materials!

Optional Rule: Crafting Failure

Each item has a DC to craft as a base item which can be modified by the type of material. Difficult to work materials place the craftsman with a Disadvantage on their roll. Easy to work materials give Advantage on their DC check. Simple products lower the DC category by one while complex products can greatly increase the DC like a master poisoner’s secret recipe of instant death or the careful and precise grinding and glasswork necessary for a quality spyglass or building a massive cathedral. Failure means the item is unusable or if the roll was close has an hidden or obvious flaw such as a sword that works fine until it gets below freezing when it becomes brittle or in the case of art just doesn’t show the emotion intended or just isn’t any good.

The base DC (common) for most weapons, most small objects of art, simple housing, is the number of days spent crafting times 5 which creates a weapon or item at the level of quality of the materials.

The base DC (uncommon) for longbows, most armor, most medium objects of art, basic housing is the number of weeks spent crafting times 5.

The base DC (rare) for advanced tailored armors, vehicles, fortifications, and most large objects of art is the number of months spent crafting times 5.

The base DC (very rare) for advanced and large sea vessels or mansions, keeps, and cathedrals is the number of seasons spent crafting times 5.

The base DC (legendary) for flying citadels, planar ships, 1000 foot bronze statues, great Pyramids, and other world class projects is the number of years spent crafting times five.

Optional Rule: Exceptional Success

When you double the base DC on your crafting roll the Quality of the item goes up by 1 category. A common item that would be limited to a common enchantment now counts as an uncommon item. If you triple the base DC than it goes up by 2 categories et cetera.

Optional Rule: Item Quality and Enchanting

A quality crafted item like all things that exhibit excellence and develop interesting stories tend to attract and collect magic. A knowledgeable and powerful character can take advantage of this and craft items with the potential to become magical over time or even weave magic into the crafting of the item at the beginning. As is often the case items with minor magics at creation can achieve Legendary status when wielded by great heroes or villains or as the case of the Moonblades of the Elves of Toril when wielded by generations of heroes.

The quality of the item must match or exceed the level of the enchantment. A Legendary Quality sword could accept any level of enchantment while a common blade would be limited to a common enchantment. A common quality blade could develop into a Legendary Artifact but wouldn’t be crafted it would be earned by the blade.

When enchanting an already crafted item or when enchanting while crafting the artificer rolls either Arcana, Alchemy (potions), Nature, or Religion depending on the type of character and the type of enchantment. Any character with a Class can enchant an item though those that require a spell require a spellcaster to make who knows and can cast the spell.

An alternative rule is to replace the 25 gp in labor for enchanting with the ability modifier + proficiency + tools (Enchanting Lab or Zen garden or Sacred Grove or Cathedral Chapel) times 5=X g.p.

A cleric of a charismatic religion could focus his passion of his zeal to create an holy avenger while a monk could spend her day dwelling on the riddle of the wolf while raking sand and trimming bonsai trees and would use Wisdom and Nature and a druid could craft a magical staff while carving in the tranquility of the sacred grove.

If the character is crafting and artificing at the same time the total time crafting is doubled as long as the enchantment matches the material quality and the artificing. This increases the material cost spent on the item as it will take longer to craft. The artificing DC matches the crafting DC.

Crafting magical potion batches has a DC of 5 plus 5 for per level of the spell and requires common materials for a 1st level spell and one tier better for each level after that. For each level of material surpassing the requirement the DC is lowered by 5. The base cost used for how long it takes to craft the potion is the DC of the Alchemy task. Legendary ingredients allows up to 9th level potions though few would try to attempt that. Each batch has 1d6 potions of the type crafted.

If adding an enchantment to an existing item the time for artificing and the DC for artificing is the same as shown on the optional rule for Crafting Failure with the number of days, weeks, months, seasons, or years determined by the DM based on the item and what the enchantment is. A common enchantment has a DC of 5, uncommon 10, rare 15, very rare 20, and 25 for Legendary.

For example:

An elven smith Leiwand is crafting and artificing a Longbow which has a base retail price of 50 g.p. He and his adventuring party had gone deep into the Feywild and in the course of battle a treant was slain by a fire giant and some of the wood was still good so he harvested it. Using leather from a young adult red dragon he slew a few years ago for the grip and gut sinew from a fey saber tooth tiger he begins his crafting of a rare magical item. It will have a +1 to attack and damage and sets the arrows on fire as they get fired adding 2 points of fire damage to each arrow plus an extra +3d6 of damage towards Giants and Giantkin. The adjusted retail cost is 250 g.p. and the smith has a proficiency of +5 plus Expertise and a Dexterity of +4 and rare tools to provide a +3 bonus and a total of +17 and 15 days to make. This rounds up to 3 weeks which is doubled for a total of  6 weeks because of artificing. The DC for crafting is 15 and for artificing is Nature + Wisdom against a DC of 15. He rolls a 14 for a total of 31 and that doubles his craft dc so the quality goes from Rare to Very Rare. The artificer roll succeeds as well. The Quality level is Very Rare but the enchantment is Rare so the item has room to grow.

Chilldeath

Marekanos the Barbaric’s Battle-Axe Chilldeath had been a favorite of his father and had at the time he claimed it a common enchantment but after slaying the Crimson Necromancer and the Demi-Lich of Kora it became far mightier by absorbing both the Legend and a share of the magical energies that were expelled at their destruction. After slaying and bathing in the blood of the tyrant Dragon-King Torenus who was an ancient white dragon the Battle-Axe earned its final name as it protects the wielder from the cold and cold magic while also dealing chilling and necrotic damage alongside every strike. So, a minor magical weapon became an artifact of incredible power during the century of adventuring the Half-Elven barbarian survived and continued its adventures in the hands of first his half elven daughter Tiana from an human mother as Chillend rejected the other daughters who didn’t express any elven features and after her death by her half sister the half elven Alrekanos born of an elven mother as Chillend rejected those kin who expressed only elven traits.

D&D 5e House Rules: Familiarity vs Skill Proficiency

With this rule I am blending the Jack of All Trades Feature idea from Bards and the Background optional rule from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Familiarity with a Skill, or Tool grants the character a bonus equal to half their Proficiency bonus.

Familiarity with a Weapon, Armor, or Language gives the ability to communicate and comprehend basic everyday concepts or the ability to use or wear weapons and armor without the benefit of Strength and Dexterity Ability Score Modifiers and with Stealth Disadvantage as well as a higher risk of exhaustion.

Familiarity represents a basic knowledge or ability that would be gained with an apprenticeship, training, or heavy exposure and use of a Skill. It basically represents completion of an apprenticeship within the purview of the Background.

A Bard with the Jack of All Trades feature can be regarded as having Familiarity with all skills, tools, languages, weapons, armor, and ability checks that the Bard can reasonably explain that they might have been exposed to during their journeys. A Bard would not be familiar with a gunpowder weapon if it was foreign to their travels but would quickly pickup the basics of a flintlock after seeing it in action or given a quick tutorial.

Each Background in the Player’s Handbook or created by the DM now only provides Proficiency in one Skill or Tool but instead provides Familiarity with any tasks that the Player can reasonably explain via their character’s history.

Gaining Familiarity in gameplay is relatively easy if during the game the PC is often engaged in activities surrounding the topic such as a Rogue impersonating a low ranking janitorial employee of a Fugger bank for a few seasons would pick up a lot of the jargon and concepts of the banking world just by exposure and overhearing conversations. The player just makes a good argument to the DM or other players depending on your style of play for why she should be familiar with a given process or tool.

For example:

A merchant’s daughter who accompanied her mother on her monthly journey to the Elven trading outpost at the borders of Qualinesti might reasonably have picked up proficiency in Elven customs, language, and writing system along with an understanding of appraisal, markup, accounting, paying tariffs, and general rules of trade. Maybe she played in the forest with elven children and learned a little about surviving in the forest or practiced with an elven composite shortbow enough to not embarrass herself with the other kids.

A squire to a knight who paid for his living by traveling from one tourney to the next across the many lands and city states of the Marches might be Familiar with Martial Weapons and Light, Medium, and Heavy Armors while picking up an understanding of how to gamble and place bets, analyze other warriors for strengths and weaknesses, a smidgeon of an half dozen languages and more dialects, a fairly comprehensive list of the Heraldry of prominent champions, fighting houses, martial orders or tourney hosts, and how to behave without embarrassing yourself around knights and lesser nobility.

With Armor the character with Familiarity must make a Constitution Saving Throw equal to the AC rating of the armor after every full minute of constant battle or 8 hours of wear while active.

D&D 5e House Rules: Feats at Character Creation

The idea for this House Rule grew out of my original idea to develop Half-Elves as more of unique and variable race given their hybrid status. An Half-Elf raised among rural Humans is going to be culturally different than one raised in a cosmopolitan planar city like Sigil or raised among the Fey Lords in the Feywild or in the forests of Silvanesti. That is just the cultural differences which wouldn’t take into account variations in biology. A Liger is very different than a Tigon despite both being half lion and half tiger. I also remember a version of D&D that had a whole lot of options at character creation using a GURPS style point system. Anyway, before I digress any further here is my idea. None of the feats below are enough to make the pc’s substantially more dangerous. It is really for flavor, roleplaying, and differentiation between PC’s.

Character Creation Feats:

Each PC gets access to one Character Creation Feat that shows a key part of who they are and what they focus on. A Rogue who is well connected in a legal merchant guild is going to roleplay differently than a Rogue who is a Savant with thieves tools. A Paladin carrying his father’s shield blessed by Brennan the demigod of protecting children is going to have a different feel than the Paladin Weapon Specialist.

Well Connected: Based on your character’s background you have a wide range of contacts giving you an “in” and respectability within that field or organization and a constant source of general information that can be turned towards specific information at a price. A guild member will know the gossip in the guild and a secret or two and easily find themselves well ensconced in a new city and probably find a few leads on guild and adventure work. A criminal knows the major players in the shadows and recent critical events from the point of view of the underworld. A noble knows that Baron Schwine has the finest hawks in the Marches and recently decided that he would pay a fortune to the noble adventurer who brings him a griffin egg. A travelling Sage who was well connected would be welcomed upon arrival at Candlekeep. At GM discretion the PC can have advantage on certain social or investigative rolls involving their social circle and can use the group’s influence in certain social interactions with outsiders. A lowly street gang member is easier to intimidate by a made thief of the Guild than a random no name thief. It is wise for the Well Connected PC to share time, knowledge, and money on her contacts even if it is just a drink or lunch or an hunch. The more lubricated the contacts the better the gossip flows back. The difference between a well connected Noble and a Noble with just the background would be that the Noble knows the daughter of the Duke and has maybe exchanged words once or twice but can’t get invited to her party while the well connected Noble who had never met the daughter of the Duke could in an afternoon of conversation at a local Baron’s luncheon find themselves with an invitation upon arrival back home.

Wealthy: The PC starts with an additional 100 gold pieces or adventuring equipment worth an equivalent amount, or tradeable goods worth at least 250 gold pieces that would need to be sold a sizable distance away and includes an hireling and a mule and wagon for overland travel or part of a cargo hold for overseas travel. The Wealthy PC would of course be wise to hire protection on such a journey. Wealthy PC’s tend to attract wealth but need to spend it as well and don’t take well to modest lifestyles. A Wealthy PC knows how to act and dress higher status and knows the best inn in Waterdeep before she had ever been there. If the PC’s want to sell a minor magical item legally the wealthy PC might know who would be interested and who would be able to afford it. The DM is encouraged to have money flow in the direction of this PC and the PC is encouraged to spend freely and often.

Heirloom: The PC has one very expensive and valuable piece of property that they inherited and treasure. They would never sell the item or allow the item to be taken from them. It could be a mastercrafted sword or a suit of half plate worn by a famous Paladin ancestor that inspired the PC to take on the adventuring life or even a minor magical item passed on by a loved one when they died. It should be an item that would grow in power with the PC and their legend. One cannot picture Raistlin Majere without the Staff of Magius even if the only magic he could do with the staff was a light spell at 3rd level. Torvald’s father’s battleaxe soaked in the acidic blood and soul of the adult black dragon he had slain and from that day dealt acidic damage on his foes and later slew a demi-lich forming a strong antipathic resonance against the undead. The DM should find some sort of excuse or work with the player to make the heirloom scale and remain a key part of the PC as they become more legendary. Torvald after all had passed up on some pretty looking axes with heavy enchantments on them when they arrived in Sigil.

Weapon Specialist: The warrior has a favored weapon that they spend inordinate amounts of time mastering to the exclusion of a vast chunk of their social life. With a specific weapon type the PC has a +X added to their attack with X representing the number of normal attacks they can do in a round. At first level this would be a +1 bonus but a fifth level fighter would be +2 because they have two attacks. When the PC increases their bonus they gain an additional favored weapon.

Defense Specialist: +1 bonus to AC as long as the character has freedom of movement.

Elemental Resistance: PC is resistant to a type of energy damage like acid, fire, cold, or thunder. More exotic resistances are possible with DM approval and PC background such as being a Fire Priest’s acolyte or being a distant descendant of a race resistant to that type of energy.

Magical Prodigy: The PC is extremely talented with a school of magic and gains an extra cantrip and an extra level 1 spell slot for that school. For those without a spellcasting class they gain just a cantrip. Should the Prodigy ever get trained in a spellcasting class and gain a level they would then gain access to the extra level 1 spell slot.

Studious Spellcaster: The PC has worked very hard to learn how her magic works and how to stretch her capabilities. Her Spell save DC has a bonus of +1 and she learns 1 additional spell at character creation.

Battlemage: The PC is talented with combat spells and cantrips. The PC adds their Dexterity Modifier to their Spell Attack Modifer for combat magic that needs a spell attack roll.

Savant: Character is extremely proficient at the basics of a skill or tool or instrument. The Savant counts a roll of 7 or less as a 7 with any tasks involving that skill.

Attractive: The attractive PC has advantage on social rolls with someone who finds them attractive at the DM’s discretion based on the social situation at that time. It should be a common enough event if dealing with creatures of the same race and culture.

Healer: Any use of a Healer’s kit or Herbalist’s kit or magic to provide aid to an injured or otherwise hurt individual gains the injured character a bonus hit point per die rolled.

Fleet Footed: Speed increases by 10 feet.

Tough: Has an extra 2 Hit Points at character creation and an additional 2 HP per level afterwards.

Sharp Senses: +5 bonus to passive Perception rolls. Pick one sense and have advantage on all rolls involving using it.

Well Traveled: Familiar and comfortable with many different cultures and races with a very cosmopolitan view of the world. The PC is unlikely to have a total faux pas in interacting with exotic beings, foreigners, nobles, and rustic folks to name a few and counts a 5 or lower as a 5 with all skills they are proficient in that involve interacting socially with them or involving academic knowledge of them and their traditions. Common among traveling sages who can become quite valuable to leaders and merchants hoping to begin diplomacy or trade with little known peoples. Well traveled PC’s have an extra language they can learn.

Darkvision: A PC of a race that doesn’t have this trait gains Darkvision of 60′. It may be as a result of pact with infernal or fey beings or as a result of an ancestor from another race or from exposure to wild magic or even an experimental potion.

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