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I already regret starting this series. It’s really forced me to think about skills and their place in the game. I don’t regret that; I regret trying to put down on digital paper the torrent of thoughts crushing my brain. Trying do do this on schedule means I have to rush; it makes my writing inelegant. I’ll probably revisit all of these at some point. And these are by no means exhaustive; they’re just what I put down at any particular moment in time. Without further whining, we get back to…

Craft (Int)(Full Description on PFSRD)(-C’s Post)(-LS’s Post)

Craft represents the ability to make things, and to know about the things you can make.

What can you do with this skill?

Making Stuff:The Craft skill covers a lot of area. The crafting skills adventurers are most likely to take are pretty much the only ones you’ll see on a regular basis; but there are a theoretically infinite number of Craft skills, from the wide reaching Alchemy and Weapons to the extremely specific Underwater Easter Baskets. In general, crafters specialize in certain things but often know enough to do well in related areas. For instance, a person with Craft (Weapons) will likely know how to make horseshoes, but not as well as the more generic Craft (Blacksmithy), who may not be as good at making high quality armaments (there’s more regular money in simple repairs and household items, but the specialist can often command a higher price for their skills). Use good judgment, and the DM’s friend: for a related but different task (an armorsmith making horseshoes, a weaver making Padded Armor) a -2 modifier is usually sufficient. A weaver forging a sword would have to make that roll untrained. And I’d still slap a -2 on there in many cases; we all have a good idea of how to make a pot, and what it should do, but how many of us have tried to make a properly balanced and properly honed sword designed specifically to kill people on  a battlefield? Proper training counts for a lot in some cases, and sometimes (making simple arrowheads), not so much.

It’s a good thing he’s immortal, because that sword took a long long time to make.

Really, the key to this skill is that anytime you actually need to create a nonmagical item, it is a Craft skill; Int is almost always the appropriate ability for this. You could make an argument for other abilities, but the truth of the matter is this: in general, for skills of this type, someone with better processing power will learn the skill faster, have better knowledge retention, and will be more flexible when applying the theory behind the crafting. You can’t impress a hunk of metal with your sparkling personality, beating on it without technique is no good, and all the grace in the world only helps after you know what you’re doing. So we’ll use Int for Craft.

None of that really means much, because I have always assumed that the game is played by people with more intellectual capacity than an angry halibut. We can all agree that what you can make with Craft is not the most challenging thing to figure out. It’s the time that it takes to make something, and the stupid money-making parts of the rule that are the problem. The money thing is easy: just take the money-making part out, and move that to Profession. Just because you’re a master craftsman does not make you a master salesman; that’s what the sales department is for. So move money making to Profession; there, I fixed it. The working times are not so easy to fix…

Read this:  -C’s Post. Yeah, it’s the same one as above. I linked it twice so you’ll know to read it.

Now, can we agree that the times it takes to make something are sometimes hilariously long? The rules for how long it takes to make something totally break down when you consider special materials and high-value masterpieces. For example:

Okay, maybe this would take two years.

It takes 16,500 gp to buy a suit of Adamantine Full plate. That’s 165,000 sp. With a Craft (Armor) bonus of +30 (a 10th level genius and master of the art), a DC of 39 (AC bonus +9 = DC 19, +20 to make it faster while still taking 10), and taking 10, the master armorer (the best there’s ever been, no doubt) can make the suit in 105 weeks. That’s two years. Two years!

It is hard to say how long armor takes to make, historically; there are figures out there that indicate it could take up to a year to make a custom suit (and that was for a suit of horse armor along with the rider), so maybe two years isn’t so bad.

No, wait. That’s horseshit. Two years is a long fucking time, especially in an early Renaissance type of world. That’s two years of non-stop, 8 hour a day work (with assistance!) to make one item. Did you pay in advance? Good luck finding the guy you just gave 16K to. I’d skip town and live pretty well for the rest of my life, given the prices on things in the Core Rulebook. I can tell you that this genius crafter is not going to work for two years for free. So there’s that. And no player wants to take two years of campaign time to forge a suit of armor, unless that time doesn’t really matter; if that’s the case, it’s not really a problem, but that’s not really why you became an adventurer, is it? If you have two years of down time there are so many better things to do than constant toil. The times are of questionable realism, and are certainly not designed to make crafting expensive stuff a viable option. If the goal is to make expensive items take too long to craft so that players won’t wreck the economy, why offer the skill in the first place?

Consider also that it takes hardly any less time to make a suit of Adamantine Splint mail (102 weeks) than it does to make APM (105 weeks). Steel Plate mail vs. Steel Splint mail, made by a common armorer (1st level expert, 12-14 Int)? 41.5 weeks vs. 6 weeks. Does that make any kind of sense? All of the value is in the Adamantine, not in the type of armor. So Adamantine takes two years to forge and shape? Mithral takes a long ass time too. What if you wanted to take a bunch of jewels and make something decorative, like say a gem encrusted sword? Let’s set the value of sword at 3000 gp. This is a purely ornamental sword; it’s not balanced or sharpened, it is totally unsuited for the rigors of combat, and can in fact simply be poured out of a mold, polished up, and finished. How long does it take to make? Well, it’s worth 3000 gp, so it takes 8-9 times the amount of time it would take to make a masterwork sword (315 gp); it takes longer to fix diamonds to a poorly made sword than it does to make a finely balanced killing weapon. This is solely due to the value of the finished product. What if you wanted to take a piece of chalk and make a mural on the side of your house? How do you set the value of that? Does it matter if you’re a famous artist or not? Yes, yes it does. It takes longer for Van Gogh to draw a picture of my dog then it takes me, by orders of magnitude, because his art is worth more.

This is better than anything I could do, and is worth more.

There is a very strong disconnect between the Craft rules and the skill system and the real world. You can get to the point where you cannot fail to make something, but it takes way longer than it should; you also don’t get any better without gaining levels (a criticism of level-based skills as well as Craft, but we’ll let that go for now). Every other skill addresses success or failure (without much granularity, also another topic altogether), but Craft really addresses time rather than success (yes, I know that there is a pass/fail as well, but with enough time, you can’t actually fail; it just costs more to make than it does to buy at that point).

So what we need is something that makes better sense. It’s hard to take something as encompassing as making things and compress it into a three paragraph rule.

Actually, it’s impossible.

But we’ll take a stab at doing something. Take Craft (Weapons). It takes a team of specialists anywhere from one to four weeks to manufacture a sword, depending on who does what and what materials are at hand. It probably takes less time to make something like a mace, and definitely takes less time to make a spear. Let’s set the bar at one week for a simple weapon (we’re not looking for verisimilitude, but something like it). We’ll also assume that someone who has Craft (whatthefuckever) will use the appropriate resources. That means that one team forges the blade, another team grinds it, another sets the pommel, etc. Look it up sometimes if you want to know just how involved making a sword is. Anyway – one week for a simple weapon. Double that for most martial weapons, and triple that for most exotic weapons. Now we have a better feel: one to three weeks for a weapon, depending. Special materials? No problem. What makes the materials special is that they’re all better than the usual choice of material in some way. What that equates to is more time and more skill (but not two fucking years!). Adamantine is hard; very hard, and very rare. Let’s say it takes more time and skill to work, it works slower, and not just any jackass is going to be given free rein with the stuff. Let’s say quadruple the time, just to get the right conditions with so rare and difficult a material. That means an Adamantine Longsword will take 8 weeks. Not too long, but not too quick. Mithral is special because it’s rare, hard, counts as silver, and is very light for its strength. We’ll set the time multiplier to three. For Darkwood, we’ll use two, and we’ll also use two for Cold Iron and Silver.

For armor, we’ll set light armor at three weeks. These are pretty simple items, many probably take less time, but we’re just ballparking here (and I’d be happy to hear from someone more informed how long it should really take). Medium armor is set at four weeks, and heavy armor is set at eight weeks. Yeah, full plate is very individualized, but let’s just set a number, for now. One week for shields, and Dragonhide has a multiplier of one, because the rules say so (there’s no issue there). Now we have a pair of tables:

Item to be made: Base time to fabricate:
Simple Weapon 1 Week
Martial Weapon 2 Weeks
Exotic Weapon 3 Weeks
Light Armor 3 Weeks
Medium Armor 4 Weeks
Heavy Armor 8 Weeks
Shield 1 Week
Special Material Time Multiplier
Adamantine X4
Darkwood X2
Dragonhide X1
Iron, Cold X2
Mithral X3
Silver, Alchemical X2

Maybe these times aren’t right, but they’re a hell of a lot better than what the rules would have us believe. Use similar logic for other items, and you’ve got something better than what’s presented. I hate to use Rule Zero as a solution to everything, but if there’s a place to use it, it’s here.

Appraising: A separate appraise skill is ridiculous. Appraising the quality or value of items you do not know how to make and do not encounter regularly or have any reason to know about is a skill, that’s true. It’s a Professional skill. There are people in this world who make a living appraising things, and that has always been so. For everyone else, there’s Craft. Any decent craftsman will know the costs of raw materials, labor, added value, and so forth. So use the Craft skill to appraise an item, if you have the relevant skill. Also, the appraisal rules are silly. Use this chart instead:

Item

DC

Very Common*

10

Common*

15

Uncommon

20

Rare

25

Very Rare

30

*Anyone can try to appraise very common or common items.

If you have the relevant Craft skill, there you go. If you don’t, add 5 to the DC for untrained use. No detection of magic; that’s what Detect Magic is for. As for the most valuable item in a hoard, you’ll have to figure that out on your own. In what world can a person, without any way to detect magic, look at a pile of dragon loot and take 6 seconds to say “Oh, get the Ring of Three Wishes, it’s the best thing in that giant pile of treasure!”? Not in my world, that’s for sure.

Final Analysis: Craft requires some work (by some, I mean a lot). It’s not the idea of the skill; it’s the execution that’s flawed. I’ll probably think more on this and revisit it sometime soon, but just the stuff I’ve put down here seems better than what the standard rules have to offer. Keep Craft; use DM judgment, and you and your players will likely be happier. It also occurs to me that this post will totally appear to be bashing the designers of the game; not so. I’m guessing that nobody could truly be happy with this miscarriage of a skill, but there were better things to spend time on. I know I feel that way.

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