Crafting – What elements of the crafting rules are realistic? (Part 3)

by lyletealeaf

As promised to havenofinspiration in the comments of my last post, this time I will show the “Thomas Edison” Approach to crafting.  Thomas Edison’s approach to invention was to try tons of things until something worked. He had a experimental laboratory where just kept trying variations on the invention until a commercially viable one was found.  In that spirit, how much time and money would it take a crafter to complete an ambitious project (both in gp and dc) if he had the backing of unlimited time and money?


The top half of the figure shows the median amount of time it would take in log10 of weeks to complete the project of a given cost with the shaded area being the 10th to 90th percentiles.  The bottom half of the figure shows the same distributions for the amount of money in log10 of weeks. Remember, every skill check takes a week and every attempt costs one-third the retail price.  For reference, the red line in the gp half of the figure is the item costing its retail price in raw materials to make (e.g. 2 failures then a success).
The curves in blue show how a bonus +0 crafter would do making DC11 items with retail price from 10gp to 100gp. The curves in green show how a +10 crafter would do making DC21 items with retail price from 40gp to 400gp. In both cases, I chose these starting points because this starting price is the amount of value added a single take 10 success would create. For the +0 crafter, he will start spending more to make the item than its worth 50% of the time at about 40gp; for the +10 guy that happens at about 120gp.  However, the other half of the time, these crafters are still spending more (of much more) than the item is worth  to make it.  For very large projects (10 times the take-10 value-added per success), the median outcome is enormously expensive and the 10% to 90% range of outcomes is enormously wide.  For these big projects, you really have no idea what you are signing up for at the start (assuming you plan to chase success to completion).

This pattern looks realistic to me as a general representation that when we undertake a project out of our comfort zone (DC11+), we really have a wide variation in the time and effort it will take to complete it.   We often won’t know if success is just around the corner even after many previous failures (this attribute is modeled by the geometric distribution which is memory-less so previous success or failure doesn’t make subsequent success or failure more likely). A bad result on an ambitious project can be orders of magnitude worse than a good one.  This is a reminder that achievements like the moon landing were the products of good project management as well as high craft engineers.  Breaking a project into ten 10,000gp DC21 projects is much more likely to succeed on time and on budget than one 100,000 gp project of the same DC.

For players, I would say this re-iterates what I said in my previous post, with the possible addition of suggesting that you play a long-lived race if you care for your character to spend his retirement treasure on ambitious craft projects like writing the great novel of his or her respective cultural group. For GMs, an impatient patron who feels cheated by the artist contructing his glorious statue or precious steel-golem chassis are plausible adventure hooks, even if noone in particular is trying to do harm. Maybe the party needs to find a magic lathe to get that crucial additional bonus. Well… its an idea at least.