D&D 5e - Questionable Arcana - Crafting: Creating and Selling Artwork

D&D 5e - Questionable Arcana - Crafting: Creating and Selling Artwork




Important Disclaimer: Although this crafting system leverages many existing 5e mechanics, the final product is completed home-brewed. Furthermore, some of the finer details are still being revised, and those changes will slowly be introduced into this document. However, the system as a whole is completely functional and ready to be used in any campaign. If nothing else I hope this document and its siblings can be used as a source of inspiration for whatever crafting system you decide to use.


Updates - 2017/06/03

  • Created the "Artisan's Tools Properties" table.
  • Modified the Crafting Progress Roll to use the Base GP value from the "Artisan's Tools Properties" table instead of a flat 5 GP for all tools.
  • Added a base crafting cost for each key which can be found in the "Artisan's Tools Properties" table.
  • Expanded on rules for multiple artists crafting the same item.

The typical player's desire to craft items from the Player's Handbook often results in them overlooking more creative crafting options. One such example of this is using artisan's tools to create fine art.

Anybody who has wandered through an art gallery knows that there is a great deal of interest in artwork produced by a talented painter or woodcarver. Most people simply observe the art and move on, but sometimes a prospective buyer will appear and after some careful negotiation with the artist a sale is made. Alternatively the creative genius may decide that hustling a sale is not their forte and opt to have a merchant handling the sales process.

Both options are legitimate real world examples of art trade in action, and I recommend allowing your players to exercise both options. I am going to leave the finer details of direct sales process in the hands of the DM, however I would like to present some guidelines that should help simplify the process as a whole.

This system is meant to be used in conjunction with the the Questionable Arcana Crafting System, however the concepts discussed can be applied to any crafting system you decide to use in your campaign.

Crafting Artwork

The first step of making a sale it the actual creation of an item. Ideally we would use the gold based crafting system to keep things consistent, but the problem is we need to have a set item value for the system to work. Finding this value for a work of art can prove to be very difficult in the inexact science of artwork appraisal.

To solve this issue we need to change the way the item's value is assessed. Instead of using GP as a progress bar like we would if we were crafting a spear or a plate mail, we will use a combination of crafting rolls and ability checks to progressively increase(or decrease) the GP value estimate of a work of art.

We handle this process by requiring the artist to make two rolls, an artisan tool ability check followed by value modifying roll. The rolls and other aspects of the crafting and selling process are modified by values included in the following table:

Artisan's Tools Properties

Artisan's Tools Base Cost Per Day Base GP Progress Special Properties
Brewer's Supplies 1 GP 5 GP You can always find a buyer when selling products with a rarity of common
Calligrapher's supplies 1 GP 5 GP Granted one inspiration die for crafting artwork per day.
Carpenter's Tools 5 GP 10 GP Selling products takes half as many days(rounded down) to find a buyer.
Cartographer's Tools 1 GP 1 GP Cannot get lost in areas you have mapped except by magical means.
Cobbler's Tools 1 GP 5 GP Selling products takes half as many days(rounded down) to find a buyer.
Cook's Utensils 1 GP 5 GP Finding a buyer only takes 1 day, but unsold products are thrown out.
Glassblower's Tools 1 GP 10 GP +10 to the roll modifier on the "Selling a Magic Item" table when selling your glasswork.
Jeweler's Tools 1 GP + material cost of gemstones (minimum 10 GP) 5 GP + material value of gemstones (minimum 10 GP) Granted one inspiration die for crafting artwork per day. Gemstone costs are not lost if crafting fails.
Leatherworker's Tools 1 GP 5 GP None
Mason's Tools 5 GP 10 GP Grant one inspiration die for crafting artwork per day.
Painter's Tools 1 GP 10 GP Granted one inspiration die for crafting artwork per day.
Potter's Tools 1 GP 5 GP Selling products takes half as many days(rounded down) to find a buyer.
Smith's Tools 5 GP 0 GP None
Tinker's Tools 5 GP 5 GP None
Weaver's Tools 1 GP 5 GP Selling products takes half as many days(rounded down) to find a buyer.
Woodcarver's Tools 1 GP 5 GP None

Note that some tools such as the Jeweler's Kit have special rules surrounding the materials used in the crafting process. For more in-depth information on those rules please reference the individual documents linked in the table above.

The Artisan's Tool Ability Check

The type of ability check required is determined by the DM but should reflect the activity taking place. Below are a few examples of these ability checks:

  • An artist meticulously carving a small griffon figurine out of soft wood would need to make Dexterity(Woodcarver's Tools) check. 
  • An artist creating a large abstract statue from solid oak may need to make a Strength(Woodcarver's Tools) check.
  • A team of artisans turning a mountainside into a statue of a king may be led by one artist making Intelligence(Mason's Tools) checks, and several hirelings making Strength(Mason's Tools) checks

Once the type of check is determined, the ability check DC is determined based on the estimated value of the item. The formula I recommend for determining the ability check DC is as follows:

Artisan's Tool Ability Check Formula

Ability Check DC* = [Item's Current GP estimate]** / 10


*Values are rounded down and the Max DC is 20
**Does not include the value of materials used to craete the artwork. For example the value of any gemstones installed using a jeweler's kit is not used to calculate the ability check DC.

Once the artist has decided to make the ability check, the must immediately remove the kit's base crafting cost from the "Artisan's Tools Properties" table worth of crafting materials from their inventory. If the player has access to a market, they can buy these materials the same day they do the crafting. If the character is away from a market(for example if they are on a long boat ride) then they are allowed to pay the gold up front to stockpile resources. Track however many days worth of resources the character has as an inventory item.

The Crafting Progress Check

If the artist passes the ability check they are then able to use a modified version of the Questionable Arcana gold based crafting system to increase the items GP value estimate. The formula can be found below:

Crafting Progress Check

Crafting Progress Check = [Base GP Progress] + ([Proficiency Dice Roll] * 5)

Should the user fail the ability check no progress is made. If the user fails the check by 5 or more they must once again roll their crafting dice, but deduct the result from the items value estimate.

As an example a level 5 character with woodcarver's tools proficiency working on a figurine of a minotaur with an estimated value of 125 GP would need to roll a DC 12 Dexterity(woodcarver's tools) check. If they succeed they are then able add 5+(1d6*5) to the figurine's value estimate.

Using Additional Artisanal Materials

Finally the artisan is able to use materials purchased on the market to help ensure their artwork will increase in value. Purchasing 10 GP worth of luxury crafting materials on the market allows the artisan to gain advantage on their ability check. After all, it is likely that a wooden minotaur figurine with a glossy varnish would likely be perceived as more valuable than a one simply carved out of wood. The artisan can purchase the materials at any time, but they must decide to use the materials before the ability check is made. 

The artisan is permitted to stop or start working at any point, and if they are satisfied with the items valuation the next step of the process is to decide if they want to keep or sell their artwork. However, should an item be subjected to 5 failed artisan's tool ability checks, the artwork has been damaged to the point that it is no longer able to gain any value.

Multiple Artists working on The Same Item

When multiple artists work on the same item the rules for ability checks and crafting progression do not change. However, some artisan's tools such as the Calligrapher's Supplies grant special bonuses when working in groups. These bonuses can be found on the "Artisan's Tools Properties" table referenced earlier.

The Takeaway: Creating artwork requires the artist to pay an upfront cost, make an ability check, and make a proficiency dice roll. If the artist succeeds the check they add the modified results of their proficiency dice roll to the estimated value of the item. If they fail by less than 5 no progress is made, if they fail by more than 5 the value rolled in the proficiency dice roll is removed. Once an item has been subjected to 5 failed ability checks it can no longer increase in value. Artisans can also purchase items on the market to gain advantage on their ability check. Multiple artists can work on the same item at the same time.

Selling Artwork

There are two main methods of selling artwork. The first is to have the player sell the item themselves, and the second is hiring a merchant to sell the item for them. Both methods start at the same point, trying to find a buyer. 

During the session a player has more flexibility when it comes to finding a buyer since they are able to ask any NPC they meet if they are interested in purchasing the art. Much like the art of haggling I believe the art of role playing a sale should be left in the hands of the DM. I do not have any rules behind selling to NPCs during sessions. I simply recommend that the DM keeps the NPCs desire, and more importantly means to purchase an item in mind when adjudicating whether or not the party's sorcerer's suggestion spell convinces the buyer to purchase a painting at 300% market value.

On the other hand, those of us looking to reserve table time for killing monsters will likely be using a players downtime activity or hired NPCs to sell the item. In both cases the process is the same, you use a slightly modified version of the "selling magic items" rules on page 130 of The Dungeon Master's Guide.

You begin back having the player(s) or merchant(s) who are trying to make the sale roll the DC20 Charisma(Investigation) check required to find a buyer. If the check is made roll the applicable dice in the "Days to Find Buyer" column of the "Salable Magic Items" table.

For reference the tables(including all modifiers) is below below:

Salable (Magic) Items

Rarity Base Price Days to Find Buyer Base d100 Roll Modifier
Common 100 GP 1d4 +10
Uncommon 500 GP 1d6 +0
Rare 5,000 GP 1d8 -10
Very Rare 50,000 GP 1d10 -20

Once a buyer is found, you roll [1d100] + a [1d20 Charisma(Persuasion) Roll] + [The Base d100 Roll Modifier from the "Salable Magic Items Table"] and use the total result on the "d100 +mod" column of the "Selling A Magic Item" table. Some artisan's kits such as the Glassblower's Tools grant an additional bonus to this d100 roll. These values if they apply can be found on the "Artisan's Tools Properties" table referenced earlier.

Optional Rule 1: The sellers are allowed to choose any Charisma ability check when rolling their final "selling a magic item" table d100 modifier.

The "Selling A Magic Item" table from the Dungeon Master's Guide can be found below:

Selling A (Magic) Item

d100 +mod You Find...
< 20 A buyer offering a tenth of the base price
21-40 A buyer offering a quarter of the base price,and a shady buyer offering half the base price
41-80 A buyer offering half the base price, and a shady buyer offering the full base price
81-90 A buyer offering the full base price
> 91 A shady buyer offering one and a half times the base price, no questions asked

Optional Rule 2: If a seller is being helped by another seller in the sales process, they have advantage on their ability check when determining their "selling a magic item" table d100 roll modifier. 

There should be no additional bartering that takes place during this process as the dice rolls are an abstraction of the seller searching and haggling for the best price possible. If the buyer and the seller are able to come to an agreement, then the sale is made. 

Finally if a player makes the sale, then 100% of the earnings go towards the player/party purse. If a hired merchant succeeds in making the sale, then the merchant takes a percentage of the earnings. The commission rate can be negotiated at the DM's discretion, but as a standard I recommend starting at no less than 25%.

The Takeaway: Artwork can be sold directly to NPCs during a session, or a buyer can be found over time as part of a down-time activity. Selling a piece of art follows the same rules as "selling a magical item" on page 130 of the DMG. This task can be accomplished by a player, or by a hired NPC. If sold by the player, then they keep 100% of the sale value. If sold by an NPC, then the NPC will take a reasonable commission.

In Conclusion

Creating a selling artwork an be a very effective way for a player to spend their downtime. Not only can artwork fetch a good price between sessions, but pieces of fine art can also be used as bargaining chips in negotiations taking place during a session. However despite these advantages I believe that crafting mundane and magical items is still competitive with producing artwork.





D&D 5e - Questionable Arcana - Crafting: Jeweler's Tools

D&D 5e - Questionable Arcana - Crafting: Jeweler's Tools

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