Making Tools Useful in 5e: Leatherworker's Tools
Other tools: Cobbler’s Tools, Poisoner’s Kit, Cartographer’s Tools, Alchemist’s Supplies, Mason’s Tools, Gaming Sets, Tinker’s Tools, Healer’s Kit, Brewer’s Supplies, Smith’s Tools & Cooking Utensils.
Making your own leather, its a horribly gross and smelly job… but someone has to do it, and I highly recommend paying someone else to deal with the tanning part of it all! Did you know you have to let leather ferment in urine? Did you also know that leather has to soften using animal dung? Well, let’s get into the odoriferous trade of Leatherworking!
For those that don’t care about the how:
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As always, let’s review the knowledge of everyone’s favorite beholder: page 82 of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything… that’s a weird name, even for a beholder…
Knowledge of leatherworking extends to lore concerning animal hides and their properties. It also confers knowledge of leather armor and similar goods.
Components. Leatherworker's tools include a knife, a small mallet, an edger, a hole punch, thread, and leather scraps.
Arcana. Your expertise in working with leather grants you added insight when you inspect magic items crafted from leather, such as boots and some cloaks.
Investigation. You gain added insight when studying leather items or clues related to them, as you draw on your knowledge of leather to pick out details that others would overlook.
Identify Hides. When looking at a hide or a leather item, you can determine the source of the leather and any special techniques used to treat it. For example, you can spot the difference between leather crafted using dwarven methods and leather crafted using halfling methods.
Is it just me, or were they scraping the bottom of the barrel when trying to figure out what to do with Leatherworker’s Tools? I’m extremely interested in how other people try to identify magic items… and what added insight is a leatherworker going to have on magical items that an arcane master, like a wizard, wouldn’t have?
And investigating leather to pick out details? I mean sure, maybe the leather thongs that were used to tie someone up should be investigated… but unless the leatherworker is into some kinky stuff, they are probably going to come to the same conclusion as others… they are leather thongs for binding things or people. The only interesting thing they have is identifying hides but even then… crafting methods used by different races? Maybe my table is in the minority, but I’ve no idea how I’d let someone at my table with a Leatherworker’s Tools actually use this tool with the way it is written… so let’s change that!
Dude, You Gotta Do That Somewhere Else
Did you know that properly preparing leathers is an incredibly smelly task? I bet you did because you are highly intelligent! I thought I knew how smelly of a task it was too, and then I found out that its more than just urine they use in preparing leathers but also animal dung! More specifically, dog dung and pigeon poop… sometimes they even use animal brains, though that is for tanning!
But we are getting ahead of ourselves! First we have to talk about leatherworker’s tools!
Now, my idea for leatherworker’s tools is that they are for working with… leather! Not very surprising, I suppose. Anyways, before we can work with leather we need to get some leather and to do that we either buy it or we go hunting!
I wasn’t happy with just allowing a leatherworker to just buy leather, I mean that is an option, but I don’t see it as the fun roleplaying option. The fun roleplaying option is rubbing in the fact you get to piss on the rogue’s future armor in the rogue’s face… and then you get to rub ‘animal dung’ onto the leather… Of course, we all know you are just shitting on it so you can mock the rogue for wearing your literal shit. But the rogue will like it! You are making them armor!
Before we get too ahead of ourselves in poop jokes, let’s go over how to properly tan leather:
1 - Hunt and skin the animal
2 - Clean the animal skin and ferment it in urine (or another acid) to remove the fur
3 - Scrub off the fur and pound in animal dung to soften the leather
4 - Tan the leather, this can be by boiling in water and then wax, rubbing in vegetable oil, animal brains or another type of oil.
This is a pretty lengthy process in and of itself, and I could find very little historical information how long these processes were supposed to take. But for the sake of fun and the game, it only takes a day to ferment in urine and a day to soften your dung laden leather… though in real life, I suspect its more like a week.
And now you realize why tanneries where often sent to the outskirts of cities in the poorest of neighborhoods. It’s disgusting and smells awful. An alternative method to using urine to destroy the fur was just to heavily salt the skin and then leave it out for several months as it decomposed. What a smell! I can’t begin to understand what that smells like, and quite frankly… I really don’t want too.
Now, of course, you could be incredibly boring and just buy some leather. The pricing is based off the cost of Leather Armor, nothing too fancy, though here is where I introduce the leather size. Animals come in all different sizes… at least, according to the Monster Manual as some beasts are tiny or small, others medium and a few scary ones are large! By taking the beast’s size into account, we can figure out how much leather we would need to build our leather equipment!
Crafting Leather Equipment
Now, we finally get to the fun part of being a leatherworker, besides shitting on the rogue’s fancy leather armor, and that is actually crafting the rogue’s fancy shit armor!
This is a pretty simple process, and for every day you spend working on leather equipment, you can get 2 lbs of work done. That’s pretty quick, especially for something like fitted leather armor, but again… for the purpose of fun, its important that you can work on things quickly. No one wants to sit at the table and track weeks of work on something… well… maybe there are some people out there that are down for that, but for the purpose of fun… we try to ignore them!
One of the fun things about crafting leather goods is that it could be completely free! If you go through the trouble of preparing your own leather, it doesn’t cost you a thing… except your friends at the table that yell at your character to do their tannery business elsewhere!
Now, I’m going to take a moment to talk about the different types of leathers we are working with. Boiled Leather and Vegetable Tanned Leather, you see these are two different processes for preparing leather and they come with their own special properties.
Boiled Leather becomes harder and more brittle as the extreme heat tightens everything up, it is also brittle and shouldn’t be used for something that requires a lot of movement… which is why it was used for leather armor.
Vegetable Tanned Leather is more flexible, but lacks the strength of Boiled Leather and was commonly used for backpacks, pouches and cases… and it shouldn’t get wet as it will ruin the leather, unlike Boiled Leather.
But see, we have a problem. I wanted to give the leatherworker more to do than just shit on the rogue’s armor. I wanted them to be able to build something that was actually useful, and not just something you could pick up from the local general store… so, I decided to ignore the part that Boiled Leather was the normal armor and gave it a special property… Damage Reduction! If WotC can make up fake armor like Studded Leather, I think we can get by with lying a bit about Vegetable Tanned Leather.
Before you freak out, its only a point of damage reduction so it isn’t going to unbalance the game, but to your players, it’ll be invaluable! Who doesn’t want to take less damage?! It’ll be a fun armor that they can get at lower levels that help keep them alive, and the guy who took Leatherworker’s Tools gets to feel awesome when the rogue wears his shit!
And that’s really all we have for the leatherworkers! I went through the equipment presented in the Player’s Handbook and determined what size of animal skin would be needed to craft it, and the amount of time to craft such an item. There isn’t a whole lot, but creative players can definitely come up with some fun ideas of their own!
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