Craft and Item Creation Talents

Working out when you’re angry, while it can be somewhat cathartic, is not a very good idea. Totally blew my pacing on this workout, had to stop before finishing my routine because I had nothing left in my legs, almost had a visit from Pukie the Clown, and am now a hurting unit.

So, that said, let’s knock off a fairly simple topic – crafting and magic item creation.

Crafting Skill

The Craft skill in D&D 3.x is kind of boring. It lets you make fairly mundane things, and if you’re really quite good you can do it two or three times as fast as someone who isn’t.

Yawn. Let’s see if we can do a little better than that.

I see two ways forward here. The first is to increase the results you can achieve with the Craft skill. It so happens that The Black Company campaign book from Green Ronin has rules for exactly this that can be readily adapted for this purpose. Their rules for masterworks can be found in the reference area.

For each tier you have in this talent, you may spend additional time crafting an item and possibly make one that is higher grade.

Tier Benefit
None You can craft crude items – serviceable, but not special or suitable for enchantment.
Basic You can get a +5 bonus to all Craft checks related to your craft, and can craft fine items.
Expert You can craft excellent items.
Heroic You can craft exceptional items.
Master You can craft superior items.
Champion You can craft masterwork items.
Legendary You can craft masterpiece items.

Crafting Times

The crafting rules in D&D 3.x have always struck me as more of an annoyance than a benefit. Tracking the copper value of your work on a daily basis (or silver on a weekly basis) until you have enough to have completed the item really sucks. I’d like to see more or less fixed base times for item creation.

Weapons and Armor

A bit of web research suggests that a skilled craftsman with the needed resources at hand could prepare the blade of a sword in about a week, then there could be a week or so of finishing work (making and fitting the hilt, polishing, and similar – engraving and the like would presumably be on top of that) that could be done by other specialists. I’m prepared to say a normal longsword takes about 2 weeks to craft.

I started trying to come up with some formulas based on Craft DCs, weight of the item, cost of the item, and so on. They worked okay(ish) for weapons, fell apart completely when I tried the same thing for armor. I decided to go with some simple rules. A martial one-handed weapon takes two weeks. Light weapons are half that, as are simple weapons (so a light simple weapon is one quarter the time). Two-handed weapons take twice as long, as do Exotic weapons (two-handed exotic weapons are four times as long). This gives us

Simple Martial Exotic
Light 1/2 week 1 week 2 weeks
One-handed 1 week 2 weeks 1 month
Two-handed 2 weeks 1 month 2 months

I would treat shields as weapons, with bucklers and light shields being light, heavy shields being one-handed, and tower shields being two-handed (they aren’t, but they’re big enough to warrant extra craft time).

I plan to treat bows specially too. Shortbows are simple weapons for the purpose of construction, longbows art martial, composite bows (short or long) are exotic. They’re all two-handed weapons, so we’re looking at two weeks, one month, and two months respectively.

Similarly for armor, we have light, medium, and heavy, and let’s split things on ‘metal’ and ‘nonmetal’.

Metal Non-metal
Light 2 weeks 1 week
Medium 1 month 2 weeks
Heavy 2 months 1 month

The above values may or may not be accurate, but in a world where someone bleeding to death can be stabilized in six seconds, I’m prepared to ignore something that happens more or less off-stage anyway.


This has never really come up in my game, that’s what alchemy shops are for. I’d be willing to go with one day per item, with multiple units being possible – tindertwigs by the bundle, alchemist’s fire by the vat, and so on. Don’t make tindertwigs on the same day you’re mixing alchemist’s fire, for some obvious reasons.


This has never really come up in my game such that I would want to use Craft rules (there has been the occasional pitfall or deadfall, adjudicated on the spot because days or weeks would be dumb). I’ll come back to it later.

Other Mundane Items

Honestly, I don’t care how long it takes to make a spoon or an iron pot. I really don’t. Call them incidental work and ignore them. If it matters because it’s a masterwork, call it a day.


Now that I’ve got some times to work with, let’s adapt the masterworks stuff from The Black Company.

Grade Beat DC By Time Required Benefit






1 benefit



2 benefits



3 benefits, may double once



4 benefits, may double once



5 benefits, may double twice or triple once



6 benefits, may double twice or double and triple once.

Creating a masterwork longsword takes 12 times as long as usual (about six months) and you have to beat a DC 29 Craft check. Given that you must be at least 13th level to be able to do this, you have at least a +6 Level Bonus, +5 competence bonus, and can have up to +11 for Intelligence, for a total of +22 so far. If enhancement effects were allowed you could push this higher trivially, or you could use a Feat of Intelligence (this build has Champion Intelligence, so +16 more) to make this more or less automatic.

Eh, you’re spending six months on it, I don’t mind if it can’t fail.

Someone not so tuned (Int 16, no talents spent on Intelligence) would have +6 Level Bonus, +5 Competence bonus, and +3 for Intelligence, for a total of +14. He stands a decent but not reliable chance of achieving his goal, and is still likely to end up with a Superior or Exceptional product.

As with the Black Company rules, only if you fail to beat the base DC do you not end up with something usable – it’s only how much better it is that is in question.

Item Creation

The next bit is item creation. I’m inclined to take the easy way out here. Skilled crafters have the item creation feats needed to make magic items, even if they are not themselves spellcasters. Any spellcasting prerequisites can be met by assistants (though I suppose a spellcaster may see it the other way around) or through alternate means such as described in my Bound Magic Items article.

A crafter can make any item suitable for his craft up to the tier he has the craft talent in. A weaponsmith with Heroic Craft(Weaponsmith) can make magic weapons with Heroic enchantments. To make a flaming longsword he might call on a friendly spellcaster for a fireball spell to complete the enchantment, or he might arrange to bind a captive fire elemental into the weapon.

Personally, I like the latter option better – high-level crafters should have some really cool stuff going on in their work areas, or might have to do their greatest work in some seriously out of the way places.

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  1. hadsil

    With these rules, you leave out the possibility of a non-adventurer NPC from being a Master Craftsman. 6 months to craft a masterwork weapon is a lot of downtime for a 13th level character for little result. Craft remains not worth the effort. You need to be less realistic if you want to encourage players having their characters use Craft.

    In 3E a 1st level character might put ranks in Craft as background roleplay flavor and justification for the player to say “I make some X” during downtime without really having to roll via DM fiat handwaving during the campaign, but rarely would the player put in any more ranks beyond the occasional 1 every few levels.

    In Echelon, talents are everything. I’m not going to spend a talent on Craft for the above “benefits”.

    The problem with Craft is that roleplaying games have an inherent anathema to a player character getting anything not acquired through adventuring. If a fighter wants a masterwork weapon, he has to find it in adventuring treasure or earn enough money in adventuring treasure hoards to buy one. If he wants to make his own, he has to stop saving the world for a long time. That’s not going to happen.

  2. I knew I was going to regret using the word ‘Master’ for the tier name. As far as mundane crafting is concerned, Basic training can be sufficient — ‘Fine’ work is all you need, which is consistent with the 3.x masterwork.

    I’m adapting rules from Black Company, which is perhaps a little too gritty to actually fit. I think you’re right, it’s probably enough if I lose the extra time requirements — if you have the talent to a high enough tier you can get the better results. I think I still want the skill check to be made, just in case (it’s possible to still fail altogether, though unlikely).

    Apart from that, even if someone doesn’t use Craft to make masterworks, Craft does provide the Item Creation abilities previously handled by other feats, so it still has value.

    Still, I think you’re right, lose the time requirements.

  3. hadsil

    I wasn’t being literal using the term “master” in “Master Craftsman”. I meant that as you have it no non-adventuring NPC could craft a masterwork or otherwise exceptional item and have the reputation of being the “finest in the land”.

    I don’t object to an actual Craft check. “DM handwaving” comes in because the 3E rules has Craft take so long no one wants to bother with it, so it just become roleplay filler.

    Indeed, I think the only real issue people have with Craft is the length of time. Minutae details of the how is an afterthought.

  4. I’m actually okay with non-adventurers being unable to be the best. It is possible for a low-level character (non-adventurer) to make quality goods, notably better than most, even two grades better (I don’t mind having non-adventuring Expert-tier characters, though Heroic should be uncommon). After that I *want* them to be adventurers, because that’s how you get access to the really impressive things (elemental fountains, dragons, etc.) that let you build the really nifty stuff.

    A legendary (in the mythical sense) weapon should be crafted by a legendary (mythical) smith. I can imagine there being stories about the forging itself, even apart from how the weapon was later used.

  5. GreyKnight

    I was thinking a bit about this lately. What if, instead of using terminology like “excellent”, “exceptional”, etc. you graded items by tier, like you do with characters? So a talentless character can make only “crude” weapons, with Basic talent he can make Basic-tier weapons, Expert talent allows Expert-tier weapons, and so on. Magic item creation can be tiered in a similar way (an Expert-tier scroll has a spell of L0/L1/L2, Heroic tier has L3/L4, and so on).

    This can also make it easier for GMs picking treasure to see which items are appropriate for their party; just pick a couple of things of the same tier, and a bunch of others from lower tiers.

  6. Regarding item classification by tier, I’ve already been doing it that way in my own mind. It just makes sense.

    I’m still considering how magic items work, though. The Tome has most magic items automatically scale to the level of the user, so you just have “magic sword” and it has an enhancement bonus appropriate to the level of the wielder. Artifacts have inherent levels (so a 15th-level magic sword starts with a +5 bonus, even if you’re first level) but still scale if you’re higher level. That sort of thing.

    I need to think about it some more… but otherwise, yes, I expect it will be easy to label items with tier that they apply to.

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