Making Tools Useful in 5e: Smith's Tools
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After the success of my article on Cook’s Utensils, someone made a request. Smith’s Tools, and making them useful. I sighed, contemplated life and put it on the back burner. My problem is: how do you make smith’s tools useful for characters that don’t keep a forge or a heavy anvil on them. My idea of a smith is a super buff dude with huge bellows, a huge forge, an anvil that weighs a ton and a super heavy hammer for hitting things. But…, I’ll try and keep an open mind going into this.
For those that don’t care about how I did it:
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Smither? Smithy? Smithest?
Before we get started, let’s see what Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has to say about it…
Smith's tools allow you to work metal, beating it to alter its shape, repair damage, or work raw ingots into useful items.
Components. Smith's tools include hammers, tongs, charcoal, rags, and a whetstone.
Arcana and History. Your expertise lends you additional insight when examining metal objects, such as weapons.
Investigation. You can spot clues and make deductions that others might overlook when an investigation involves armor, weapons, or other metalwork.
Repair. With access to your tools and an open flame hot enough to make metal pliable, you can restore 10 hit points to a damaged metal object for each hour of work.
Cost / Weight: 20 gp / 8 lbs
While this isn’t a huge amount to go on, it does give us a decent idea of what we have to work with. We have our tools, which is a good start, but we are missing something to strike the heated metal against… and the intense heat we need. We will tackle the heat part first.
According to wikipedia we only need to get our steel up to 2003° Fahrenheit. And, according to this site, a regular campfire with good airflow can produce heat up to 2,012° Fahrenheit, so that handles our heating steel hot enough. All our would be smith needs to do is stick his steel in the campfire (hopefully not knocking over the cooking pot) and let it sit there for a bit to warm up.
Now, another important part of being a blacksmith is that you have something to strike your metal against. One needs an anvil to beat the heated metal into submission so that you can shape it into something useful. Doing some research, it looks like railroad ties, heavy blocks of steel and construction steel bars are all great anvils for the beginner smith… sadly those all weigh several hundred pounds… which is a bit of a problem when you are trying to climb up a mountain. But fear not, I have a solution. Along with learning more about anvils, I also learned something new… you can use the head of a suitably large sledgehammer. Sink it into the ground, or a bucket of sand or concrete and hammer out small items off of that. That brings me to my big idea for Smith’s Tools.
We separate items to craft based on the size and complexity of the item. Certain items our adventurers can craft on the trail, other items will require a full forge to work with.
To figure out what can be crafted off and on the trail, let’s go ahead and make three categories for complexity: Simple, Moderate, & Complex.
Simple - requires no moving parts and is generally one piece of metal shaped quite quickly into form. All simple weapons and some types of armor, like breastplate.
Moderate - requires multiple pieces of metal shaped into a more intricate form. All martial weapons, except certain types, and some armor falls in this category.
Complex - requires lots of pieces and many moving parts. Some martial weapons and most armor belong to this category.
But that doesn’t cover it all. Ringmail and Chainmail are highly complex in that they require up to thousands of rings crafted, but the individual rings can be crafted by themselves and so they can use our mini-anvil by a campfire. To determine how big something is, we will have to look at each item on a case-by-case basis and separate them into two categories: Campfire or Forge.
And that category is pretty self explanatory. If something can be crafted at the campfire, it’ll be in the Campfire category, everything else will fall into the Forge category. Now, I am going to pause here and leave this small PSA to all would-be adventurers that would like to craft in the middle of the spooky forest at night…
Blacksmithing is extremely loud. I am not at fault if you are attacked by all manner of spooky beasts.
Now that that PSA is out of the way, let’s get back into it. We have our items placed into two categories so far based on complexity and where they can be crafted based on their size. So what more do we need? Time, we need to figure out how long this is going to take us. Looking at the rules of other places, its all over the place. Seems like people have very different ideas as to how long something should take, and frankly it’s a bit overwhelming. This is a game, we don’t need to be extremely realistic, our players just want a taste of it all, they don’t actually want to take years crafting the Perfect Blade©.
We are going to take the weight of the object to help determine the number of days we need to craft something. But… a Complex item, even if it is lighter than a Simple item, will still take longer to produce, so we will adjust the number of days needed by the complexity of the item.
Simple - weight / 4 = # of days needed to craft; minimum 1 day, round up
Moderate - weight / 2 = # of days needed to craft; minimum 1 day, round up
Complex - weight = # of days needed to craft; minimum 1 day, round up
For a few examples, this means that:
Shield (Simple) 6lbs = 2 days of crafting
Scale Mail (Moderate) 45lbs = 23 days of crafting
Ringmail (Complex) 40lbs = 40 days of crafting
But, because I am doing this, we can’t make it that simple. Nope, I gotta add some more complexity into my beautiful tool system. We now have to talk about the different grades of armor and weaponry. I’m talking Scrap, Common, & Mastercraft.
Scrap refers to equipment that is subpar and offers a -1 to attack rolls or -1 to AC depending on if it is a weapon or armor. Scrap requires no crafting rolls if you are proficient in Smith’s Tools and the crafting cost is half of what the item costs.
Common refers to the normal type of equipment you can find all over the place. These are the stock equipment that any blacksmith can throw together. The craft DC varies based on what you are creating, and the crafting cost is half of what the item costs. If you fail any of the rolls to make a Common item, its becomes a Scrap item.
Masterwork refers to equipment that is above Common, this equipment can be highly decorative and has higher durability. It grants a +1 to attack rolls or +1 to AC. This equipment has a much higher craft DC and costs triple what the Common equipment costs to craft due to the high quality metal needed. Crafting also takes 25% longer when attempting Masterwork equipment. If you fail any of the rolls to make a Masterwork item, it becomes a Common item.
Bring It All In
So now that we have our different complexities sorted, our different qualities, what can be crafted where, it’s time to figure out Craft DCs. I am going to start with a base DC of 13. I am starting with a base of 13 as I assume blacksmiths have a slightly higher strength, like 12 or 13, and they have a +2 proficiency, which means the average they will get when rolling a d20 over and over again will be 13 (10 base + 2 prof + 1 str). For each level of complexity, we will add 1 to the DC. So Moderate will be DC 14 and Complex will be DC 15.
And then for Masterwork, we will raise the DC by 8 so that Simple is DC 21, Moderate DC 22 & Complex DC 23. My thinking behind that is that when a character is level 20 and retiring as a world famous blacksmith, they will have a +6 proficiency, a (if a strength based character) +5 to their strength. This gives them an average of 21 when they roll a d20. I wouldn’t find it unbelievable for a master craftsmen to have masterwork quality goods on average, since they are known for their amazing quality.
Now, I can hear the next question quite clearly. How many times will our adventurers roll for their check? Once a week of craft time, plus at the end when they finish their work, with a minimum of once. This means that if your adventurers are trying to create a Shield (Simple) 6lbs, they will need 2 days of crafting, it will cost them 5 gp to craft and must make one DC13 check to create it.
A few more examples:
Chain shirt (Complex) 20lbs, 20 days / DC15 - 3 craft checks / cost: 25 gp / Campfire
Plate (Complex) 65lbs, 65 days / DC15 - 10 craft checks / cost: 750 gp / Forge
Scale Mail (Moderate) 45lbs, 23 days / DC14 - 4 craft checks / cost: 25 gp / Campfire
Rapier (Moderate) 2lbs, 1 day / DC14 - 1 craft check / cost: 12 gp 5 sp / Campfire
Masterwork Dagger (Simple) 1lb, 2 days / DC21 - 1 craft check / cost: 3 gp / Campfire
Masterwork Flail (Complex) 2lbs, 2 days / DC23 - 1 craft check / cost: 30 gp / Campfire
Scrap Glaive (Moderate) 6lbs, 3 days / No Check / cost: 10 gp / Forge
Scrap War Pick (Moderate) 2lbs, 1 day / No Check / cost: 2 gp 5 sp / Campfire
Now, we could call this good enough. I’m pretty pleased with what we got going on so far, we have the ability to work on things while at a campfire, and we have how long this will take to craft as well as costs and how we can make better equipment. But I have a few things I want to add as equipment for your players to purchase.
Based off of feedback, I added in a Variant rule to decrease the DC by 3 for each item. This allows low leveled players (Tier 2 & potentially Tier 1 characters) an easier chance to craft their items.
See, I really hate the idea of crafting in front of a campfire inside of a spooky forest. TO make this a bit better, let’s go ahead and make something available to players to maybe find or buy in your world.
Smith’s Hammers of Silence - These hammers have been enchanted to make no sound when used to craft equipment.
And that isn’t all, what if your players want to drag a forge along with them on their trips? It’s not unbelievable to have a moving forge, militaries the world over had traveling forges they could use to supplement their army and they used… Travel Forges. This, expensive, cart has all the tools a wandering blacksmith could want. A full set of hammers, a nice hefty anvil to craft all the equipment they would need and a furnace on wheels. This baby will help them craft anywhere they are… so long as they can carry this 1,200 pound cart where ever they want to go.
Travel Forge - This cart has 1,200 pounds of tools, coal and supplies. These tools and supplies included a bellows attached to a fireplace, a 4-inch-wide (100 mm) vise, 100-pound (45 kg) anvil, a box containing 250 pounds (110 kg) of coal, 4-foot-long (1.2 m) bundled bars of iron, and on the limber is a box containing the requisite smith's tools. All of this is placed on a convenient cart that just requires a draft horse to pull it around. This equipment will allow you to craft materials that require a forge. Price - 800 gp
We have successfully made Smith’s Tools in 5e useful. Any suggestions for which one we should tackle next? I’m thinking Healer’s Kit.