Crafting is cool, otherwise it wouldn’t be as persistent in gaming as it is. But cool as it is in theory, pretty much every implementation of it that I’ve ever encountered sucks. It seems like all of them are either an overpowered, overcomplicated mess, or they’re bland. This has literally been bothering me for almost 4 years now, and my attempts to solve the problem represent some of the most rigorous game design I’ve attempted. But despite my best efforts, I’ve been stymied as to how to make crafting work in a way I could be happy with.
But this might be kinda cool:
Crafting is a skill, with advancement, and success/failure determined like any other skill. A player who wishes to use the craft skill must first determine the type of crafting they are trained in. Options include (but are not limited to): Blacksmith, Leatherworker, Clothier, Painter, Sculptor, Glassblower, Cook, Silver/Goldsmith, Carpenter, Stonemason, Toolmaker.
Characters who intend to use their skill should also add some amount of nondescript “raw materials” to their equipment list. Raw materials take up as much or as little encumbrance as the player wishes. The more they have on hand, the more use they will be able to get out of the skill. Materials should also cost some amount of money. Perhaps 100sp per point of encumbrance.
Whenever the player wants, they can declare that they’re attempting to create some item that falls within the purview of their chosen craft. The referee then tells them how much encumbrance that item would take to carry. If they have an equal amount of raw materials, then they can make a skill check to attempt to craft the item they described. Succeed or fail, the attempt takes 3 turns, and the raw materials are used up.
Essentially, the craft skill becomes a sort of equipment “wildcard.” Lets say your profession is glassblower. You don’t need to bring a magnifying glass, and a lens, and a mirror, and a jar into the dungeon. You can just take a lump of raw materials, and create whatever you end up needing whenever you realize that you need it.
Obviously this system is an abstraction. Something perhaps better suited to a board or video game. On the other hand, the really neat thing about the system is the tactical infinity of it. Something that can really only exist in a TRPG.
If a character turning a lump of steel into a dagger without a forge or an anvil to work with bothers you, I totes get it. It kinda bothers me too. But consider: if the character DID have a forge and an anvil, that probably means they’re safe in town. And towns have shops, where daggers can easily be bought.
I’d still like to see a crafting system that works the way I’ve always imagined. Something that allows players to express their creativity, and provides real benefits without requiring an encyclopedia of rules. Maybe it’s about time I took another crack at writing a system like that. But as an option, this “Equipment Wildcard” system intrigues me.