A system for recipes

Once players have their characters gather resources, they will also want to know how they can recombine the resources into new items. Instead of having an infinite list of resource descriptions (as is the case in my current cooking system), it would be good if resources were described systematically, as the Angry GM wrote here. This is a radical departure from the recipe system I now have in place, and it’s also not an easy task to come up with a system that is intuitive to players and remains non-gamey enough to be immersive. But there is a huge pay-off to developing it anyway.

Now since I have decided players will roll on a table to gather resources, my system will differ from the one suggested by the Angry GM. He suggested to go for [rarity, type, special quality. But I don’t want a special table for each craft and I also don’t want characters looking for metals to find mushrooms instead. So I am dropping type. Type is going to be determined by the player when formulating the action and I am going to assume that if his character finds a rare, fiery metal I am creative enough to come up with a better descriptor on the fly. And if not, well, then my state of mind is probably not good for DMing anyway.

But would this be enough? Since the minimum levels for crafting items of increasing rarity are increasingly apart, there will be more entries for rarer items in the roll table. So I have space for a more fine-grained description system as the items become more rare. I am going to postpone making a decision about this, though.

Adding descriptors to the resource table

It is not immediately apparent which descriptors would be useful for item crafting, especially if the descriptors would need to apply to alchemy, blacksmithing, carpentry and beer brewing. But we can assume that heroes want to accomplish certain things by crafting, and what they want is in all likelihood tying into their ability scores. That’s six descriptors already. For the more magical effects, I intuit that the classical elements are going to be useful. That’s another five, leading to eleven descriptors. I will stick to that for now. Let’s see how this affects the tentative resource table.

Tentative resource table for level-four characters (version 2)

Roll 4d6Item
1Common resource, durable
2Common resource, healthy
3Common resource, flexible
4Common resource, worn
5Common resource, sharp
6Common resource, outstanding
7Common resource, earth
8Common resource, fire
9Common resource, air
10Common resource, water
11Common resource, aether
12Uncommon resource, durable
13Uncommon resource, healthy,
14Uncommon resource, flexible
15Uncommon resource, worn
16Uncommon resource, sharp
17Uncommon resource, outstanding
18Uncommon resource, earth
19Uncommon resource, fire
20Uncommon resource, water
21Uncommon resource, aether
22Uncommon resource, earth
23Uncommon resource, fire
24Uncommon resource, air

A sharp fruit is going to be different from a sharp metal when I describe it as a DM, but both could be necessary to craft items that involve intelligence somehow. That’s not to say they could not be used to craft something else. In fact, I’d say that if someone wants to just build a chair, almost any common type of wood would be useful, except worn wood or burnt wood. So finding resources for simple items is going to be simple, but more specific qualities also require very specific types of resources.

This list is not enough to start defining recipes, though. There also need to be systematicity in the combination of resources. For now, I’d say that non-magical items need five “units” of resources, while magical items need one additional unit per rarity class. Also, the rarity of any recipe is determined by its rarest constituent. So if I have four units of common wood, one unit of uncommon metal and one unit of legendary beans, this recipe is legendary. You will always need a legendary recipe for a legendary item. In the next post, I will check whether this idea works out for a variety of items.

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