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

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

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.

Now that we have finished digging into the destructive properties of poisons, I think it is time to focus on something a little more constructive. Rather than dig into the more popular forms of crafting like alchemy or smithing, I am going to start on some of the perceived runts of the crafting litter. One of those supposed runts is the Woodcarver's Kit. 

I honestly don't know why so few players elect to specialize in woodworking. At a surface level it might seem like an inferior alternative to smithing, but I firmly believe that is simply the result of a positive bias towards smithing due to its popularity in fantasy settings. In practice woodcarving allows the player to craft a large number of blacksmith quality items without the burden of needing a forge to make it. Furthermore it also allows you to easily create wooden artwork that can be sold, traded, or gifted.

To be fair woodworking does have its drawbacks. Other than shields, there aren't any RAW armor types that can realistically be produced with woodworking. Also there are very few RAW slashing type weapons that can be produced by woodworking without considerable DM intervention.

With these ideas in mind, the goal of this article will be to help clarify some of the confusion around when and how the Woodcarver's kit can be used. The rules and concepts discussed are meant to be used in tandem with the modified crafting system we created, however many of the items being discussed can be applied to any crafting system.

Getting Wood - Crafting Process and Materials

As usual, I recommend sticking to the gold based progression system referenced in our crafting system article for Woodworking. This system functions by having the DM assign a GP value for an item, then whenever players craft an item they use the GP contributed during crafting as an abstraction of crafting progression. Once 100% of the value of the item has been contributed, the item is complete.

There should also be a real GP cost associated with making an item from woodworking. When crafting mundane equipment the cost should be 50% of the item's GP value, and magical items should cost 100% of the item's GP value. 

The GP cost of items can sometimes create some confusion with woodworking. After all, a resourceful Woodcarver could make an effective spear out of a long branch. Rather than restrict these types of items I would recommend you permit it but be sure to implement a drawback of some sort when using these items.

For example a hastily crafted spear should be more fragile and likely to be broken if targeted in combat. An ad-hoc spear might only have 10 HP and 14 AC where as a properly crafted wooden spear could have 30 HP and 15 AC. 

Carved out of Wood - Craftable Items

There are a lot of approaches you can take when determining what items each kit can create. In the spirit of keeping consistent with my overall design philosophy when it comes to crafting systems, I am going to try to avoid providing you with an itemized list of crafting objects. Instead I am going to look through the existing list of RAW items and provide a basic set of guidelines to use when determining if woodcarving is an acceptable way to create it.

Weapons Made Entirely of Wood

Figuring out how to handle weapons entirely made out of wood was actually fairly simple. All of the martial weapons traditionally have some type of metal component in them, so by default they are ineligible to be carved out of a log. Furthermore, in order for a weapon to effectively deal slashing damage a wooden edge really isn't going to do a trick, so all of those weapons are out as well. This leaves us with simple weapons that deal bludgeoning and piercing damage.

The dagger was the only piercing weapon that was a little bit suspect at first. However, since a dagger shares the same damage as an improvised piercing weapon(1d4), I see no problem with allowing a skilled woodworker to balance the knife properly granting it the finesse and thrown properties.

You might also be tempted to say the mace and light hammer require a metal head, but before you commit to that decision I recommend you do conduct this two step experiment.

  1. Go outdoors in real life and find a nice dense piece of wood.
  2. Have a friend test the wood's performance in the role of either a mace or light hammer on you.

If after this experiment you still doubt woods ability to function in this role then feel free to exclude maces and light hammers as crafting options. Otherwise I recommend you simply apply the following "takeaway" to your crafting system.

The Takeaway: Using only wood you are able to create any simple weapon that deals bludgeoning or piercing damage.

Armor Made Entirely of Wood

Armor is a bit trickier, open to interpretation, and therefore more fun. As alluded to above the only armor that uses wood in its RAW description is the shield, so for posterity's sake I will state that creating shields out of wood is a valid choice. However, I don't feel like laminar armor is being given a fair shake. There are many instances of wooden laminar armor being used over the course of history, so I think that it is valid to include it as a homebrew option.

Historically wooden laminar armor was phased out because of the relatively poor protection it provided against metal weapons, and the burdensome weight it imposed on the wearer. Fortunately for us there is already an armor in existence that has these exact properties! Yes the good old fashion ring mail seems to have the stat line we need. With a nice low AC of 14 unmodified by Dex, a weight of 40 lbs, and permanent disadvantage on stealth checks, I think it is fair to say that it is perfectly acceptable to use laminar armor as a ring mail surrogate. While it may not be an adventurer's first choice for protection, it can serve as an effective low cost option for a low level character or when stocking a militia on the frontier.

Finally when it comes to magical wood, I firmly believe the sky is the limit. Should the DM create a fictional wood that is as resilient as steel, I see no reason that a woodcarver with the appropriate magical cutting edge to match could not use it to create any armor in the list.

The Takeaway: When using regular wood, the only armor you can craft is shields and laminar armor(wooden ring mail). Magical wood is exempt from these rules at the DM's discretion.

Crafting Weapons

With the rules behind wood only weapons nicely squared away let's move on to the types of weapons you are going to spend most of your time crafting.

Unless you are playing a particularly brutal survival campaign, you are probably looking to create some higher end equipment, and therefore will have an interest in dipping into the martial weapons. The problem is a woodcarver would not be able to create many of these weapons on their own.

However, should the woodcarver have access to the metallic components of these weapons such as the head of a pike, it is reasonable to assume that they would be able to lead or participate in the construction of many weapons. Examples of ways to acquire said components are purchasing them from a market or having an artisan with the needed tool proficiency produce the component.

Personally I would put some minor restrictions on what types of projects a woodcarver can lead. While wooden components are an integral part to many crafted items, there are some weapons in the PHB that a woodcarver wouldn't have the expertise needed to create on their own. I would argue that leading the construction of any martial weapon that deal slashing damage would be beyond the expertise of a woodcarver.

However, when it comes to assisting another artisan in the crafting process, I would recommend being flexible. As alluded to above, every single RAW weapon has components that can be created using wood, and it is not a stretch to assume the woodcarver can assist with minor non-woodcarving tasks once the carving is done.

The Takeaway: Woodcarvers can lead the creation of any Bludgeoning or Piercing Martial weapon, and assist in the creation of any weapon.

Money Does Grow On Trees - Creating and Selling Wooden Artwork

Using the Questionable Arcana Artwork Crafting Rules a woodworker can create very valuable artwork. The process of crafting wooden artwork is the same as the standard process described in the link above, but we will also quickly run through the basics below:

  1. OPTIONAL: Use 10 GP worth of artisanal goods purchased on the market to gain advantage on your Woodcarver's Tools Ability Check
  2. Make an Woodcarver's Tools Ability Check. The DC of the check is based on the current value of the artwork. The more valuable the artwork already is, the more difficult it is to increase the value.
  3. If you succeed add your Crafting Progress Check to the Estimated Value of the artwork. If you fail by less than 5 no progress is made. If you fail by 5 or more subtract your Crafting Progress Check from the Estimated Value of the artwork.

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.

In Conclusion

I hope that by the end of this arcana you are convinced of the merits of woodcarving. Even if you don't choose to use the QA crafting system, many of the concepts discussed in this document can be applied to any crafting system. Although it is often not a player's first choice, in the right hands the woodcarver's kit is arguably one of the most useful crafting kits in 5th edition.

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