Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Crafting Items in Pathfinder

From Gnomes of Golarrion supplement,
Illustration by Christopher Burdett
It's no secret the Craft skill in Pathfinder doesn't work that well and makes no logical sense when you really break it down.

For those of you who don't know how the Craft skill works in Pathfinder, I'll give you the basics.

First, you need to determine the item you wish to craft's price in silver pieces. One you have done that, you need to find the item's DC on Table 4-4: Craft Skills on pg. 93 or the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. After that, you will have to pay one-third of the item's price for the cost of raw materials.

Once you have done that, you have to make the appropriate Craft check, with each check representing one week's worth of work. If the check succeeds, multiply your check result by the DC. If the result x the DC equals the price of the item in silver pieces, then you have completed the item. However, if the result x the DC equals double or triple the price of the item in silver pieces, then you've completed the task in one-half or one-third of the time. If the result x the DC doesn't equal the price, that check only represents the progress you've made this week. Record the result and make a new Craft check for the next week. Each week, you make more progress until your total reaches the price of the item in silver pieces.

On paper this might not sound too bad or broken. However, this process can produce some very strange results when put into action at the table.

Here's an example. Let's say that a smith is commissioned to make a heavy repeating crossbow. After you convert the item's price, it ends up costing 4000 silver pieces. After looking at the chart, the DC for the check will be a 15 and the Smith has a plus 5 in his Craft (Weapons) skill. Let's say he manages to make a 10 on each and every Craft check. 15 times 15 equals 225. So, after doing the math, it would take the smith about 17 or 18 weeks to actually finish the heavy repeating crossbow. While that might not be a problem for the smith, it is for the adventurer who commissioned the item and has to now wait a couple of months before getting his item.

It should be obvious by now that the Craft skill doesn't work that well in action. However, some of you might be thinking, "Why bother trying to fix this system? The game's about going out on adventures and slaying dragons, not crafting items in a forge." Well, it's pretty simple really. What is one of my players came up to me and said, "Hey, I want to play a dwarf weaponsmith who travels the land, trying to find rare materials to make new and interesting weapons with?" Am I supposed to tell that player, "Sorry, can't play that character because that's not what the game is about?" No, I should try and fix a broken system so he can play that character and have actual fun with it.

Luckily, someone out there has already purposed a fix to the Craft skill rules that I actually rather like. Spes Magna Games released an 8-page PDF written by Mark L. Chance about how to fix Craft and make it more logical. Basically, Chance has decided to throw out the old model for determining how difficult an item is to craft and how long it takes. Instead, both of those factors are now determined by the item's complexity. There are five levels of complexity: Very Simple (things like a crowbar or a quarterstaff), Simple (most simple weapons and articles of clothing), Moderate (most martial and exotic weapons, bows, shields, etc.), Complex (most types of armor, crossbows, most vehicles, alchemist's fire, etc.), and Very Complex (ocean-going vessels, unusual armors, antitoxins, etc.)

Other things, like is the item of masterwork quality or is the smith using an unusual material like adamantine, also factor into the difficulty and time needed to craft the item. The variant system is well designed and I think  it does a great job of fixing the weaknesses of the Craft skill. The only real weakness I can see in the variant system is the lack of rules on crafting magical items. However, I think that extension could easily be added on here without much of a problem.

 The PDF can be found for sale here for a rather cheap price. I highly recommend giving it a look.