Crafting at the Tabletop

skyrim_smithingA lot of computer roleplaying games and especially MMOs often feature crafting. In games like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim or World of Warcraft players can craft a plethora of items from raw materials. Yesterday I was playing Skyrim again and I noticed that I basically spent all day disenchanting magic items, mining ore and crafting armor pieces and weapons, which I then enchanted with the effects I wanted.

Curiously not many tabletop RPGs feature player-created items. One of these few games is D&D. Especially when the Eberron campaign setting came out I hoped someone would run an Eberron campaign for me so that I could play an Artificer. Artificers are a special kind of magic users that instead of throwing fancy spells around, they create wands, scrolls, rings, etc. or put enchantments on items. Usually characters had to pay item creation with experience points and was not that popular because of that, but the Artificer actually got a certain pool of points every level that he could use to create items without having to pay from his experience points directly. I thought this could be a fun character class and I definitely wanted to play one.

I also faintly remember that my first Earthdawn character I ever played was a Weaponsmith. And when I am not mistaken, every discipline (Earthdawn’s classes) had various crafting abilities from creating runes to forging armor. For some reason I can’t remember anymore I played this character only for a few sessions before switching to a Scout, but I still think that a travelling craftsman could be an interesting alternative to the usual adventurers.

My game Warrior, Rogue & Mage actually features crafting skills as well, like Alchemy, that allows the creation of potions, but I never actually wrote down rules on how this is supposed to work. Yesterday while creating Iron Daggers in Skyrim to improve my Smithing skill, I pondered why player-crafted items usually don’t play a big role at the tabletop. Even in the computer games it feels a lot like work, but still we do it to get exactly the items we need. Or creating and selling player-created items is a good way to pay the bills. But I can’t remember the last time one of my players wanted to forge his own sword.

I think one reason why crafting items is not common at the game table is that it’s not what adventurers usually worry about. In most cases – especially in fantasy games – the game is about killing monsters and taking their stuff, not standing for hours in the smithy. In a lot of campaign settings magical shops are quite common and you get magical swords at every street corner. So why bother creating your own sword, when you can easily buy one? And what killed the idea for me in the D&D games I participated in was the fact that I had to pay magic item creation with experience points.

But I still like the idea of allowing players to craft their own equipment if they wish to do so. And perhaps there are already a few games out there that support this kind of gameplay. I ‘m actually almost certain that I own a couple of these games but I never actually paid too much attention on this aspect before.

What are your thoughts on that topic? Player-created items in your tabletop RPG? Yay or nay? Please share your comments below!