On Skill Deconstruction: Craft

Craft is a skill reflecting your ability to make things. It uses the Intelligence stat as a modifier

What can you do with Craft?

Make stuff.

There is a flat mechanic in craft for producing half your check result in gold pieces per dedicated week of work.

If you actually wish to craft an item, there is a fairly complicated process involving taking it's value in silver pieces. You then make a check and multiply by the DC of the item and that is your 'progress' in silver pieces in making the item.

Which of these have ground for use?

I have mixed feelings. I can certainly tell you that after a certain level of proficiency I've never failed to complete a drawing. Some have not turned out the way I like, but it wasn't due to random variance in skill. It was due to either a lack of skill, or a new technique.

With something like alchemy or baking, a certain random element is good, because there are vagaries of temperature, air pressure, and other variables that are outside of control.

I have never been a blacksmith or a fletcher. Perhaps a trained blacksmith (1 rank + 3 class bonus + 1 Intelligence) fails and ruins 25% of the longswords they make.

Current Analysis

What is it we gain by having this skill?

It is a quick system to generate an earned integer of gold pieces every week. It allows characters to produce basic equipment at a reduced cost. It also allows characterization, defining a character beyond class roles or things they can do in combat.

What do we lose?

I'm not sure - no, wait, I am sure that no dungeon master anywhere ever has tracked silver pieces per day multiplying them out to determine when the item is completed. If you ever have, please let me know

Also, I'm having difficulty seeing the system as one that intends to determine the goodness of a product with high granularity. An argument was presented recently that in this or in a profession skill the degree of the roll indicates the goodness of the result.

This is objectively incorrect.

The system clearly intends the roll to indicate the speed at which the task is accomplished, and the goodness of the task is set by the creator.

I'm going to create a masterpiece of a painting - I set the value at 10,000 gp and the DC is 20 (for highly complex) and then I'm off. Even with one rank in craft if I keep plugging away at it long enough it will be accomplished (even if I waste a metric ton of materials)!

Making a bunch of arguments over whether that's accurate to real world examples is pointless. The real question is:

How is this implementation of the skill improving my game?

I do not believe that it does so.

Conclusions & Suggestions:

The granularity is too high. Also, it doesn't represent how actual craftsmanship works (in that you are not likely to fail in many cases).

I am fond of a 'non-weapon' proficiency system for such things - allowing a level of proficiency, and then further focuses of mastery and grand-mastery.

Most systems run such a skill as a great/pass/delayed/failed/disaster system which is something I find perfectly workable for alchemy, but as far as forging and other type of craft activities, I much prefer two to five levels of granularity and not forcing checks in order to produce - just requiring the time and materials seems to be enough.

4 comments:

  1. I just thought, that example with the painting is a real good example for how some artists seem to work... ;)

    I do remember doing some math about how much plate armor in a given time could be constructed by x armorsmiths... in AD&D there were ...well... complex rules for this as well.

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  2. I just think crafting is something best done by non-adventurers. I try not to encourage any of this boring, grinding foolishness. A background in a craft means you get a 25% discount from a friendly craftperson (as you flash the masonic signs or whatever) and can evaluate and repair such goods competently. The discount should be the rational choice because the cost of materials, workspace and botched attempts would make any attempt to go into business for yourself as a PC inferior to actually buying the stuff at 25% off.

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  3. The Craft skill is a deeply dissatisfying attempt to create a crafting system in a game, and to give players who don't have magic-item-creation feats to profit very slightly from downtime. I'm glad they tried to include a crafting system - and, to be fair, 3.x's Craft skill is definitely not worse than 2e's Weaponsmith and Armorer NWPs, which are a real mess - but 3.x's system still isn't good. I've always disagreed strongly with the assertion that crafting is something done by non-adventurers, though; a healthy minority of fantasy protagonists have something a rule system would classify as a crafting skill.

    My gaming groups (both ones I've run and ones I've PCed) absolutely played Craft as-written, in terms of tracking silver pieces of progress. The Craft skill may or may not be realistic, but it is most assuredly not fun or worth spending skill points on as a player. For pure moneymaking, Perform is objectively better, and if Tumble is a class skill, it's better than Craft OR Perform, in addition to its combat applications.

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  4. In Echelon I treat it pretty simply. Most items have base time requirements, and base skill requirements. If you're skilled enough, invest the resources (time, money, special materials, tools) and you've got your item. You might, might be called on to make a skill check if you're doing something unusual.

    If you're more skilled you can get better results (such as masterwork weapons -- someone 'untrained' might be able to hammer out a workable knife, but a masterwork weapon takes actual knowledge), with increasingly masterwork results possible as your skill increases.

    Also, an earlier draft had this lead directly to magic item creation as well (I'm not certain how magic items will shake out in Echelon, so it's back and forth). If you want to make a holy avenger, you need to know how to make swords really well, sort of thing.

    However, skill checks are generally needed only when you are missing some of the resources. No proper smithy, just the remains of a ruined forge, and the metal is not of normal quality? Okay then, let's see if you can get past these difficulties. Check, and either you do or you don't. Otherwise, assume it all works out.

    Y'know, just like magic item creation in 3.x... and if magic items are that easy, I'd think mundane items should be at least as easy.

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