So I mentioned before that the Crafting rules in Pathfinder as essentially useless as-written. I went through the whole of it in my previous post, but here’s the cliff notes: success is practically guaronteed given time and materials (if you’re bad you’ll waste a lot of money on ruined materials), and how much time is inversely related to the DC of the item being crafted, so more difficult items take proportionally less time to craft than simpler items (of the same value).
That’s actually the only complaint I can really level squarely at the system, I think. I have a little bit of concern about impractical craft times (my calculations show a Master smithy taking upwards of 9 months to make a suit of plate armor, but I have no notion of how realistic that is) and the fact that there are several different systems for crafting common items, traps, magic items… But each of those things are mechanically different in the game as well, so having different mechanics for crafting them isn’t absurd of its face. I think I’ll need to address both of these, but it’s more a matter of argument and investigation, whereas my primary complaint is simply math.
Of course, the fly in that ointment is that it takes less time to craft a more-difficult item of the same price, and in general it looks like more-difficult items tend to cost more, so the otherwise-wonky math just offsets the escalation, so that it doesn’t take a hundred years to forge plate armor.
Here’s a comparable pair: hook hand (DC 12, 100 sp) and a short sword (dc 15, 100 sp). Assuming a Master of moderate talent we have a Take 10 score of 18 (10 base +1 attribute, +1 skill, +3 class skill, +3 skill focus). His weekly crafting score is 216 for the hook and 270 for the short sword; in each case it’s double-but-not-triple the target (100), so they each take a half-week to complete. Huh. That doesn’t tell us anything.
If instead of a Master we assume a craftsman of minimum capable skill, with a Take 10 of 12 and 15 respectively, the hook will score 144 for the week and the sword will score 225, so the hook is done in a week and the sword is done in a few days… but the sword was done by a better craftsman. But that same craftsman would score a 180 on the hook and take a full week! Aha!
I’m… not sure what this proves. Maybe hooks are harder to make than swords? Maybe the abstraction is good enough, without getting into the minutia of every item’s form and composition?
One more. A Dwarven Longaxe (DC 18, 500 sp) and a Greatsword (DC 15, 500 sp). Our Master would get a weekly score of 324 for the longaxe and 270 for the Greatsword, so it would take two weeks (648 and 640) to complete each. Again, doesn’t really tell us anything, I think.
So, here’s the question that I’m left with, given a flawed system that seems to work out alright in practice: why are we doing this? What are we trying to accomplish? LS at Pencils and Papers was actually looking to change the Crafting skill, he said so deep in his first post on Crafting: “If characters are to be able to craft magic items using the crafting system (as is my goal)…”. As-written, D&D3.X/Pathfinder Crafting isn’t intended to create magic items, as those are covered by a Feat and a separate system that (if I recall) requires no roll. By declaring that Craft should allow players to create magical items and then declaring that Crafting is broken because you can’t find a hapy medium where Decent Characters and Focused Characters can co-exist, he’s kind of making his own problem. (Sorry for the slight, LS.)
Crafting in D&D is meant to model, to some rough level of “good enough”, mundane craftsmanship. A first level character with moderate talent and training can master all but the most difficult of crafts – Alchemy has DCs in the 20 to 25 range, but most other items top off at DC 18; a Master craftsman with a few apprentices (or high-quality tools) can Take 10 on a DC 26. I propose that it is mostly a tool for guaging the efficiency of NPC craftsmen – it’s deep enough that it can be applied to PCs because NPCs and PCs exist in the same world and abide by the same mechanics.
I think this comes down to a difference in philosophy: why have a skill in your game system if it’s only really meaningful to NPCs? One of the things like I like about D&D is that, for the most part, it is a complete system. That is, it can model the whole world. Others don’t like this, and there are game systems designed with minimal mechanics, or mechanics that only pertain to PCs, or rely on GM fiat to cover anything that the designers didn’t think was important. And although I think Craft (and other skills) are mainly intended for NPCs, that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful for PCs. It’s unlikely that a Player will have the time or opportunity to forge plate armor while on an adventure, but if the group uses downtime well (and I propose that all groups should use downtime, and use t often) he might have a few months to put some together. Will it be better than the magical gear he can find while adventuring? Probably not, unless the DM decides to fudge things the way LS intends to. But is it a pointless endeavor? Again, no – it’s cheaper to forge your paladin a new suit of armor (if you have the time and talent) than to buy a new one, and it can be used (if you have the time and talent) to pad your coin purse a bit if you can find an interested buyer. It’s not directly related to dungeon crawling, but I propose that it doesn’t need to be, and it doesn’t even need to be directly related to PCs. The power of the D&D system is it’s completeness.
(As an end note: this isn’t where I expected to be when I started the post, but in investigating the actual application of the Craft rules I don’t think it’s as broken as I thought. Wonky? Sure. Perfect? No way. But definitely meaningful and workable.)