Making Tools Useful in 5e: Tinker's Tools
Here we are, another week and we have another tool coming off the line up. Next week I will be taking a small break, but after that we will keep on moving through Xanathar’s!
For those that aren’t aware, I am going through the tools in DnD 5e that are listed in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and updating them. I was a bit put out by how sparse their effects were, and wanted to give them a boost for my players. I’ve created: Healer’s Kit, Brewer’s Supplies, Smith’s Tools & Cooking Utensils.
For those that don’t care about the nitty-gritty:
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Now, when creating these I realized a major problem I had, and I even tweeted about it. What do people think of when they think of Tinker’s Tools? Cause I’ve always thought of a crazy scientist in this garage tinkering away at contraptions to take over the world, but the actual definition of Tinker is a bit more… mundane. They are:
1. (especially in former times) a person who travels from place to place mending metal utensils as a way of making a living.
2. an act of attempting to repair something.
Not exactly exciting the brain waves is it? Well, right or wrong… I’ve gone with the mad scientist approach to the Tinker’s Tools. These are going to be tools used to create useful, problem solving gadgets with very little focus on combat. If you don’t like it… well, I guess you can have them roll to fix some forks, or make a huge spork empire.
What’s In The Bag
So we’ve figured out what direction we are going to go with them, let’s do the normal thing and check with Xanathar’s to see what they have to say about them.
A set of tinker's tools is designed to enable you to repair many mundane objects. Though you can't manufacture much with tinker's tools, you can mend torn clothes, sharpen a worn sword, and patch a tattered suit of chain mail.
Components. Tinker's tools include a variety of hand tools, thread, needles, a whetstone, scraps of cloth and leather, and a small pot of glue.
History. You can determine the age and origin of objects, even if you have only a few pieces remaining from the original.
Investigation. When you inspect a damaged object, you gain knowledge of how it was damaged and how long ago.
Repair. You can restore 10 hit points to a damaged object for each hour of work. For any object, you need access to the raw materials required to repair it. For metal objects, you need access to an open flame hot enough to make the metal pliable.
Cost: 50 gp / Weight: 10 lbs
Eh. Gonna have to say, not a fan of this tool the way it’s written, but that’s fine. We are going to spice things up and I’m going to introduce a new little item to really get things going.
But first, let’s go ahead and add into the bag: hand tools, saws, screwdrivers, wrenches, small oil dropper, rubber tubing and other strange gadgets. This will get us where we need to go, and keeps things going for us.
Now, our gadgets, at least what I have in mind for the gadgets, need something to power them. These machines don’t work off of friendship, instead they work off a dangerous and volatile substance known as miasma. Miasma is just a strange vapor or gas, but for this system, it will be the by products of creating runes. These are the same runes that I talked about in my Runic Weapons - Homebrew, I am also going to be using the rules I made in my Downtime Days - Homebrew.
Back to Miasma, this stuff is potent and is what we are going to use to fuel our gadgets. This is basically just a cost for the player to keep their uses down. By putting it behind a small paywall, it makes them pause a moment before jumping over to their gadgets, and I’m not a fan of everything being powered by wind up toys.
Our gadgets are just simple problem solvers that affect one person in the party. The tinker will have to create multiples of the same tool if they want the entire party to benefit from their contraptions, and that is going to get expensive fast for them. Plus, that just invites the possibility of our next mechanic: Malfunction & Catastrophic Failure.
These two terms will help keep our gadgets from being abused, and provides another cost for using our gadgets. After a Tinker uses some of their equipment, they have to roll a Tinker check to ensure that their gadgets don’t break and stop them from using it for a short rest to several days.
Here is where we start jumping into the complexity of Tinker’s Tools. A tinker does not automatically get to work on their gadgets, they must first create blueprints (or schematics) to start producing their gadgets. Once they create the blueprint, they have it for future gadgets and don’t need to spend a Downtime Day working and drawing it out.
When creating your blueprint, you will make a Tinker’s Tools check using your Intelligence modifier, this signifies the careful thinking and planning that goes into creating tools. On a failure, you make no progress and have to spend another day on your blueprints. An important part about this part is that it doesn’t cost you any gold to draw up blueprints. So if you are a poor tinker, you can be working on designs for future gadgets once you kill that one dragon and steal all of its gold.
Another important part of the blueprints is how we created the DC for them. This is based off of the power requirements and the complexity of gadget being created. This mostly relies on finding spells that have similar abilities and using that spell level to determine the DC. (There’s a chart in the file.) By creating the DC based off of how complex or how much power a gadget will need, we can make it harder to build wings vs making night vision goggles.
Complexity / Power Requirements can be tricky when coming up with them. While they are separated in three tiers, Simple / Low, Mild / Mid, and Complex / High; that doesn’t solve the problem of what effect goes where. So I assigned them spell levels in groups of three, Simple / Low are spell levels 1-3, Mild / Mid: 4-6 and Complex / High: 7-9.
When determining the Complexity / Power Requirements, you can look at spells that have a similar effect and determine the DC based off of that. Some effects, like Fly, will require more power than just a normal level 1-3 spell, so I increased it to the next category: Mild / Mid for it’s Complexity / Power Requirements. This allows us to have a bit more flexibility in the system, and we can just rely on the normal chart as guidelines for what we are going to do.
Now, when it comes time to craft these gadgets, there is a certain amount of gold and Downtime Days required to be expended. The tinker must also succeed on the Tinker’s Tools check at the end of each day using their Dexterity ability. This signifies their clever fingers putting together and building their gadgets, each DC determining if they made progress today on their gadgets. If they failed their rolls, this means they still expend the gold cost for the day and make no progress.
So, now our Tinker has finished producing their gadgets, they want to use them. This involves getting a Miasma Vial and powering up their new toy. They get to enjoy it for a limited amount of time depending on how much power the effect would require, and then it shuts off once the miasma has been all used up. They can not swap miasma vial’s and keep the effect on going as any time that the miasma vial is not connected will cause the gadget to stop functioning.
When the gadget is done being used, or stops functioning, the Tinker must roll a Tinker’s Check using their Dexterity modifier to determine if the gadget suffers a malfunction. This is just checking to see how well they did on their gadget and makes them think a bit before using their devices all the time. It sucks when your gadgets break and you have to spend your short rest working on them, it sucks even more when they completely break down and you have to spend more gold and Downtime Days repairing them.
So there we have it, our Tinker’s Tools are no longer just for making sporks, but for building crazy machines to do our building… or at least, make some neat goggles so we can see in that dark cave.
Next week, not quite sure what we are going to talk about, but I am going to take a short break from building out tools and dispense with some advice. If you liked this, make sure you check out our Patreon, there’s an option to get access to all of my homebrew in one central place, this includes the other tools I’ve done, future tools I’m still working on, monsters, items, etc!