Making Tools Useful in 5e: Cobbler's Tools
No one asked for it, but here we are…
Today we are talking about shoes. I don’t know about you, but I never cared about shoes. Based off of quick research I learned that the average man has 12 pairs of shoes in their closet (women average 27!), and I have 3. Fancy dress shoes (that really need to be replaced), walking shoes (that really need to be replaced) and a new pair of flip flops (that my dog really wants to eat). I’m probably the least qualified to talk about shoes and cobbling.
For those that don’t care about the how:
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As always I look to what has come before me, and check out Xanathar’s Guide to Everything on page 80:
Although the cobbler's trade might seem too humble for an adventurer, a good pair of boots will see a character across rugged wilderness and through deadly dungeons.
Components. Cobbler's tools consist of a hammer, an awl, a knife, a s hoe stand, a cutter, spare leather, and thread.
Arcana, History. Your knowledge of shoes aids you in identifying the magical properties of enchanted boots or the history of such items.
Investigation. Footwear holds a surprising number of secrets. You can learn where someone has recently visited by examining the wear and the dirt that has accumulated on their shoes. Your experience in repairing shoes makes it easier for you to identify where damage might come from.
Maintain Shoes. As part of a long rest, you can repair your companions' shoes. For the next 24 hours, up to six creatures of your choice who wear shoes you worked on can travel up to 10 hours a day without making saving throws to avoid exhaustion.
Craft Hidden Compartment. With 8 hours of work, you can add a hidden compartment to a pair of shoes. The compartment can hold an object up to 3 inches long and 1 inch wide and deep. You make an Intelligence check using your tool proficiency to determine the Intelligence (Investigation) check DC needed to find the compartment.
And as always… I end up not liking whatever it is that they put in that book. But this time, I do like one thing they put in there. The Craft Hidden Compartment is a pretty fun thing to add, and would be really helpful for those trying to sneak out some precious gems or secret missives to the king!
Now let’s get crafting! … er… cobbling?
Shoes, Boots and Footwear
So, cobblers aren’t going to be the traditional adventurer, but after making this tool, I hope to convince a few of you to pick up this handy little tool. Not only can you make a pair of nice travelling boots, you can also make boots for all your companions to help them succeed in their travels!
I didn’t know much about shoes before this article, and frankly I’m probably going to forget everything after I finish this article. Shoes just don’t interest me that much, but they have a cool history. Traditionally they were just simple leathers with a leather thong to tie everything around your foot. Then there were sandals mostly worn by the Romans, and other cultures would use furs for colder climates. But, that’s not what we are talking about. Instead, I was interested in how they are actually crafted… and man… it takes a while to make a good pair of shoes.
Cobbling a pair of shoes takes weeks to produce. Futhermore, the cobbler needs your feet so they can make the exact measurements to build the shoes. Though, luckily you don’t need to chop off your feet for a few weeks. There are things called Lasts that are just basic wooden facsimiles of your feet and are crafted by cobblers to be similar to the size and shape of your feet. They then take those Lasts and use them for their shoes, but already I am going too far into cobbling for a game of DnD.
The basics are this: Cobbler’s need wooden facsimiles of feet to create their shoes. Shoes are then crafted out of leather, and fitted to the feet of whoever is going to wear the shoes. This is a long process that can take several weeks for a good pair of shoes.
But we are going to have to shorten that time requirement a little bit. See, players don’t want to spend a massive amount of time doing one thing. They want action. They want adventure. It’s a poor GM who keeps their players from the action, and forces them to work on bookkeeping.
There are a few basic things for when it comes to making shoes in our system. First, we have time. It’s going to take at least a week to make a pair of shoes. Second, we need the materials to craft our shoes. This is going to be a fairly cheap tool, though depending on what ideas your players have, it could get very expensive. Thirdly, we need our shoe design. Our players have to be working towards something, and that will be the motivator for what they create. We could have the most elegant crafting system for Cobblers, but if no one wants to cobble… whats the point of it?
So, how do our players start cobbling? First, they select what shoe design they want to work on, they select who they are making the shoes for, they pay the materials cost and begin working. At the end of each day, they need to spend a few hours working on the shoes, but it’s not an active crafting system for the players. Instead, they work on it passively during their adventures, and once the time has expired they then make a Cobbler’s check using their Dexterity modifier against the DC of the Shoe Design. If they succeed, they have a beautiful pair of shoes for their target, otherwise they have to start making repairs on the shoes in an attempt to get them working.
It’s pretty simple, and most of the time the player won’t have much to do with it. They only interact with the system at the beginning and end of the process, and their character works on the shoes passively through out the time required. You could, of course, have them keep precise track of their progress… but that feels like way too much book keeping for me, but every table is different!
Now, we talked about crafting the shoes, what happens if they get damaged or they fail their initial Cobbler’s Check? Well, this is when they take those damaged shoes and begin repairing them. See, while they can still be worn they don’t provide any benefits while broken, and that’s a problem. I want shoes that actually do something in the adventure, not just exist.
So when our useful shoes are broken, we then must get the repaired. It takes a quarter of the time it took to make them, to get them repaired. This means just a common set of boots that require 7 days to work on will only take 1 day (rounded down) to get them repaired. Our fancy boots that take 21 days to make will take us 5 days to repair.
Yes, I can hear you all saying it. You are all saying, “This is all fine and good, but I’ll just buy a pair of boots. Why do I want to take this tool?” And here is my answer to you, and why I had so much fun writing this tool up. You can make special shoes.
Yup, that’s right, you can make special shoes! Now, they aren’t going to destroy encounters or cause the GM to flip a table (I hope), but they are going to provide a bit of a small bonus to anyone that crafts a special pair of boots. This includes have more movement when you Dash, hiding gems in the heel of your boot, hiding daggers in the toes of your shoes, swim better, dance better, and even love better! Ok… I made that last one up, but think of the possibilities with shoes! I only came up with a couple, and I fear what my players might be able to think up!
I think, at least when I first went into writing this tool, I was going to find a boring tool that I couldn’t do much with. But after writing it up, I really enjoyed coming up with ideas for how specialized footwear might work in my fantasy world… plus, who doesn’t want a great pair of kicks that you can literally kick people with? (Check out the Redcap’s Iron Boots for more information.)
I hope you like this tool, and I hope you can find a place for it in your games! If you have ideas for other seemingly boring tools, I’d love to hear them all… plus, let me know what you want me to work on next!
If you like what we are doing here, or want to access all of my tools in one convenient place, check out our Patreon page! You’ll get access to our discord, our Homebrew Hoard, our extras podcast and more!