D&D 5e – Questionable Arcana – Crafting: Calligrapher’s Supplies

Woman writing on parchment
Questionable Arcana Crafting System
Item Crafting Rules Artwork Crafting Rules
The Artisan's Tools
Alchemist's Supplies Brewer's Supplies
Calligrapher's Supplies Carpenter's Tools
Cartographer's Tools Cobbler's Tools
Cook's Utensils Glassblower's Tools
Jeweler's Tools Leatherworker's Tools
Mason's Tools Painter's Supplies
Poisoner's Kit Potter's Tools
Smith's Tools Tinker's Tools
Weaver's Tools Woodcarver's Tools
Other Homebrew Rules
Critical Hit Charts Wild Magic
More Martial Actions D&D Drinking Game


IMPORTANT NOTICE: Although this crafting system leverages many existing mechanics published under the 5e SRD and OGL, the final product is completely home-brewed. The finer details of this system are still being revised, and those changes will slowly be introduced into this document. However, the system as a whole is totally functional and ready to be used in any campaign. Furthermore, the rules and concepts discussed are intended to work in-tandem with the expanded artisan's tools rules found in Xanathar's Guide to Everything. If nothing else I hope this document and its siblings can be used as a source of guidance and inspiration for whatever crafting system you decide to go with.


The Caligrapher’s Supplies At A Glance

RAW Cost: 10 GP
RAW Weight: 5 lbs
*Example Items: Parchment Paper, Ink, Quills, Ruler, Paintbrush
Crafting Restrictions: N/A
Mundane Item Crafting: Books
Magic Item Crafting: Manuscripts, Tomes, and Scrolls
Artwork Creation: Can create beautiful handwriting that can be used in tandem with virtually any other toolkit.
QA Artwork Bonus: Artisan is grant a crafting inspiration dice that can be used on themselves or a crafting companion that is working on the same object during that crafting session.
Structure Building: N/A
Adventuring Utility: Any written document you create has a more profound impact than it otherwise would.

* These items are specific to the Questionable Arcana system. Other similar crafting systems may utilitize a different list of items.

Months ago when I was deciding the order in which I would analyze these kits, I wanted to save this kit until the very end because I was convinced it would be useless. However, now that I’ve finished flipping the script on my perception of the on the cobbler’s tools, I am going to approach today’s toolkit with a completely open mind.

I started things off with no idea how to sell you the calligrapher’s supplies, but as always we are going to begin by digging into the history books to make sure we are up to snuff on the origin, and definition of the art of calligraphy.

To kick things off I went straight to the source and pulled the Cambridge dictionary definition of Calligraphy:

 “The art of producing beautiful writing, often created with a special pen or brush.”

Satisfied that I at least had enough prior knowledge to get that right on the first try, I broadened my search to the origins and history of the craft.

In the early days when the ability to write was somewhat of a rarity, there was a lot more care given to all written work. In fact most text written before the 8th century would be calligraphy by today’s standards. It wasn’t until after the 8th century that literacy rose to a point that more workers manuscripts were needed, and new forms of writing such as the Minuscule Script that favored speed over style began to evolve. The English word for calligraphy didn’t even exist until 1613, when a word was needed to distinguish the difference between ordinary handwriting, and more decorative scripts.

Eventually the invention of the printing made calligraphy less relevant, but smaller publications such as musical scores, scientific notation, and other specialized works continued to be handwritten into the 19th century. Furthermore, many typefaces used in modern advertising still incorporate calligraphy, and new type-faces and font-sets continue to be developed for modern writing and word-processing tools.

Making Manuscripts – Crafting Items With The Calligrapher’s Supplies

Depending on your setting literacy might be more or less common, but since I have been making these guides under the assumption that most campaigns are in a Medieval-type setting I am going to continue with that approach. The Medieval Era lasted until about the 15th century, and as stated before Calligraphy was much closer to normal writing than an art form until around the 16th century. What this means, is that from a mechanics stand-point, one of the key things calligrapher’s supplies proficiency gives you is the ability to write exceptionally well.

Questionable Arcana Item Crafting Rules At A Glance

Overview: The Questionable Arcana Crafting System is a homebrew set of rules that builds on the RAW crafting system. The goal of the system is to increase the rate that items are crafted while introducing an element of variability(aka dice rolling).

FOLLOW THIS LINK FOR THE COMPLETE RULES


Crafting Requirements

  1. A Lead Artisan - An artisan with the appropriate tool who can lead the crafting process.
  2. Crafting Materials - Materials to craft with. The items should be valued at 50% market value for mundane items and 100% market value for magical items.
  3. Means of Production - Any special equipment or location requirements such as a forge for blacksmiths.
  4. Instructions - Memorized instructions for mundane items or a written blueprint for magical items.
  5. Labor - Time and energy measured in 8 hour increments and proficiency dice rolls!

Crafting Capabilities Definitions

  • LEAD - You can serve as the lead artisan when creating this item.
  • ASSIST - You can work under a lead artisan to create this item.
  • OPTIONAL - You could potentially create a non-RAW version of this item at the DM's discretion.
  • N/A - You cannot use this toolkit to contribute to the creation of this item.
  • SPECIAL - Special cases defined on a case by case basis.

Crafting GP Progression Formula

[PROGRESS IN GP] = 5 + (Proficiency_Dice_Roll * 5)


Important Disclaimer: The Questionable Arcana Crafting Rules and lists are not official material. The concepts and ideas provided by this write-up are simply suggestions. I happen to think they are good suggestions, but ultimately your table's DM has the final say when it comes to any and all crafting rulings.

From a crafting stand-point, the means that you have exactly one RAW item you can craft:

Adventuring Gear Crafting List
Item Cost Weight Crafting Capability
Book 25 gp 5 lb. LEAD

While it is true that you are able to write on parchment and paper as well, when it comes to the ability to actually make a profit from your craft in a systematic way books are the only straight-forward item that works. The crux of my argument here starts with the definition of a book in the SRD.

“A book might contain poetry, historical accounts, information pertaining to a particular field of lore, diagrams and notes on gnomish contraptions, or just about anything else that can be represented using text or pictures.”

In the definition it is implied that a book is not simply a blank set of pages, but a finished product containing information. From a DM perspective I would obviously recommend being flexible when pricing books, since prices can vary wildly depending on the book’s contents. However, I would leave that particular rabbit hole for debating in game. We are here to discuss how to turn dice rolls into gold pieces, and using books as a medium there are a few ways the calligrapher’s supplies can do just that. One way is to pick up some type of scribing contract, perhaps from a guild, where you work for a flat fee upon completion of the contract. Another way is to perhaps take an unusual book you found during your adventures, copy it, and try to sell the finished product for a profit.

Questionable Arcana Crafting System: Book Scribing Example

Over the course of their adventures in the City of Endgar the party found a funny book of misadventures that none of them had ever seen before. Seeing this as an opportunity to make a little coin, Renlia the bard decides to start scribing copies of the book out of hopes of selling those copies to her contact in a local bookstore.

QA Basic Crafting Progress Formula(Proficient): 5 + ([Proficiency Dice Roll]*5) GP/Day

QA Basic Crafting Progress Formula(No Proficiency): 5 GP/Day

Renlia is a level 6 bard with proficiency in the calligrapher’s supplies. She brings along two of her party members Ungoldor and Bellamy who are literate, but do not have any exceptional writing ability. The three of them combine efforts and are able to making the following progress each day

Total Daily Progress = [5 + 1d6x5](Renlia) + 5(Ungoldor) + 5(Bellamy) GP/Day

Over the course of 10 days the party is able to produce the averaged total amount of 325 total GP worth of books, which comes out to 9 books total. The materials required to create the copies cost half of the base value of the finished product which totals to 162 GP and 5 SP. If the party is able to sell all of the books at market value before heading out on the trail they look to gain a profit of 162 GP and 5 SP.

As you can see a player with calligrapher’s supplies proficiency can still make a fair bit of gold if they get creative.

On the magic item front there are quite a few powerful magic items that are worth noting:

Magic Item Crafting List
Item Rarity Category Crafting Capability
Manual of Bodily Health Very Rare Wondrous Item LEAD
Manual of Gainful Exercise Very Rare Wondrous Item LEAD
Manual of Golems Very Rare Wondrous Item LEAD
Manual of Quickness of Action Very Rare Wondrous Item LEAD
Spell Scroll Varies Spell Scroll LEAD
Tome of Clear Thought Very Rare Wondrous Item LEAD
Tome of Leadership and Influence Very Rare Wondrous Item LEAD
Tome of Understanding Very Rare Wondrous Item LEAD

The manuals and tomes are obviously of interest, but I think that the most relevant item on the list above is the spell scroll. Typically the construction of a magic item requires an its own adventure to find the specific materials needed to complete the crafting process. While this may also end up being the case with spell scrolls, the modular nature of spell scrolls makes it more likely that a DM would make the materials needed to create scrolls more common. If this ends up being the case then the calligrapher’s supplies would rival the alchemist’s supplies and poisoner’s kit in its ability to consistently churn out magical items!

Below is an example of a system agnostic way to create a spell scroll:

EXAMPLE HOME-BREW SCROLL

Recipe: Scroll of Conjure Animals(Dire Wolf)
Item Rarity: Uncommon
Total Material Cost: 250 GP
Item Type: Spell Scroll
Item Origin: Home Brew
Materials Required: A Prepared Conjure Animals Spell, 2x Chrysoberyl(100 GP) + 1x Tuft of Dire Wolf Hair(50 GP)


Item Description: Allows the user to cast Conjure Animals as a 3rd level spell to create a pair of dire wolves under the caster’s command. This scroll functions exactly like a regular scroll of Conjure Animals.


Crafting Instructions: Grind up the Chrysoberyl and mix it in with the ink used to write the scroll. Using a brush composed of a tuft of dire wolf hair, you must continuously focus your magical energy into the spell scroll. Over the series of several days you will retrace the spell scroll repeatedly, focusing the energy into the scroll repeatedly until all of the ink is used. Once the last of the ink is gone, you should sense a powerful aura radiating from the scroll, signifying that the process is complete.

In this example if you used the Questionable Arcana Crafting System it would take a level 6 player with calligrapher’s supplies proficiency about 5-6 days to craft the scroll described above.

The Takeaway: The calligrapher’s supplies can be used to create all manner of books. There are some options for magical books as well, but the ability to craft spell scrolls can really make this toolkit shine.

Perfect Handwriting – Calligraphy As Artwork

Up until now I have been essentially using calligraphy and writing interchangeably. However, now I want to go back to talking about the more commonly known form of calligraphy. That is slowly and painstakingly writing words that look REALLY pretty.

When it comes to pure calligraphy as an art-form there aren’t a lot of options, but the ones you have are fairly interesting(noticing a trend here?). For example using the Questionable Arcana Artwork Crafting System or similar you could have some success selling the fantasy equivalent of a get well cards, or creating signs for local businesses.

Questionable Arcana Artwork Crafting Rules At A Glance

Overview: The Questionable Arcana Artwork Crafting System is a homebrew set of rules that allows your players to create potentially valuable artwork. The goal of the system is to allow for crafting options beyond the defined RAW items. This is especially important for artistic toolkits such as the painter's supplies where RAW crafting options are limited.

FOLLOW THIS LINK FOR THE COMPLETE ARTWORK CRAFTING RULES


Crafting Process

  1. Obtain Means of Production - Obtain any special equipment or set up in a location that allows you to use the artisan's tools. This step does not apply to all kits. For example a smith needs a forge to create art, but a painter can create artwork anywhere.
  2. Roll Artisan's Tool Ability Check - A skill check that involves using the artisan's tool to create a piece of artwork. If you succeed the check add Crafting Progress Roll value to the estimated value of the artwork. If you fail the check no progress is made. If you fail the check by 5 or more you subtract the Crafting Progress Roll value from the estimated value of the artwork.
  3. GP Progression Roll - Roll your proficiency dice to determine how much value is added or subtracted to the estimated GP value of the artwork being created.

Artisan's Tool Ability Check Formula

[Ability Check DC]* = [Target Item's Current Estimated Value]** / 10

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


Crafting Progress Roll

[Target Item's Estimated Value] = [Target Item's Current Estimated Value] +/- ([Proficiency Dice Roll] x 5)


Important Disclaimer: The Questionable Arcana Artwork Crafting Rules and lists are not official material. The concepts and ideas provided by this write-up are simply suggestions. I happen to think they are good suggestions, but ultimately your table's DM has the final say when it comes to any and all artwork crafting rulings.

As a DM in these situations I would allow a player to focus their energy into one item if they want, but I would make sure you set some internal limits on how much these items can sell for. There is simply no reason for a thank you card to sell for an excessive amount of gold, and you shouldn’t let your players game the system like this. However, if the player has a price point for how much they are trying to sell these hypothetical cards for, then you could allow a player to split their efforts between multiple instances of the same item. For example if they are trying to sell these cards for 5 GP each, then 20 GP worth of progress could yield 4 cards.

While making your own cards and signs is all well and good, where this toolkit really shines is when working in conjunction with other artisans. For example a calligrapher could work along-side a cartographer and really make their map stand out. Beyond increasing the value of an item a calligrapher can even help stylize blemishes on other works of art in a way that can turn a crafting mishap into a boon. From a mechanics stand-point this means that they are granted a crafting inspiration token that can be applied to any ability check rolled against the item they are working on during the crafting session.

This ability to enhance other player’s work makes a calligrapher an extremely valuable teammate when it comes to creating grand works of art.

The Takeaway: Calligrapher’s have a handful of options when it comes to personal artwork, but where they really shine is when they work in conjunction with other artisans. They are able to inspire other artisans that they work with in the form of crafting inspiration tokens.

The Pen Is (Sometimes) Mightier Than The Sword

In your adventures you will often find yourself needing to convince someone to do something. This could be as difficult as negotiating peace between two warring civilizations, or as simple as convincing someone the bandit cave never actually had bandits in it. Sometimes the spoken word is enough, but often times relying on words alone leaves you at the mercy of your target’s mood(or more typically a high stakes roll of the dice).

In real life anybody who has given an executive presentation before knows the power of “the money slide”. Often times the thing you need to close the deal is a visual representation of the information most important to your client. The right written supplement can instill a logical and emotional response in your target audience in a way that simple words often fall short.

This concept can be applied to your D&D campaign as well, and no toolkit can create these representations better than the calligrapher’s supplies. It is impossible to list all of the situations where a player could benefit from this tool, but at the end of the day you should give a player who can write beautifully and eloquently a leg up when they try to use writing to influence somebody.

For example say a party member with brewer’s supplies proficiency opens up a tavern, and they need a sign for their grand opening. They could attempt to create the sign on their own, but it wouldn’t be nearly as eye popping or enticing as a beautifully written sign created by a calligrapher. The same concept can be applied to the the peace treaty example discussed earlier. A crudely written proposal might detail a fair treaty, but it won’t have the same impact as a proposal that is immaculately written.

In all of these situations I think it is fair to add the writers calligrapher’s supplies proficiency bonus to any checks that involve someone reading the written work they created. This bonus can be applied in tandem with other party member’s bonuses which can lead to some truly impressive ability check modifiers.

Calligrapher’s Supplies: Diplomacy Modifier Example

The party is trying to broker peace between two warring nations. They decide their level 7 bard Jim-Bob who is the most charasmatic(18 charisma with +4 modifier) and has expertise in persuasion(+3 proficiency modifier x2 for +6 total) should lead the negotiation. However, given the gravity of the situation they want to put their best foot forward and make sure that the proposal is written up by Renlia who is a level 6 bard with proficiency in the calligrapher’s supplies.

Renlia drafts up the proposal, and gives it to Jim-Bob. During the negotiation Jim-Bob presents the proposal at a key moment triggering a persuasion check. Because the proposal is so eloquently written, he is able to add Renlia’s calligrapher’s supplies proficiency on top of his already formidable persuasion check modifiers. This results in his final persuasion check are as follows:

Persuasion Check = 1d20 + 4(Jim Bob’s charisma modifier) + 6(Jim Bob’s persuasion modifier) + 3(Renlia’s calligrapher’s supplies modifier) = 1d20 + 13

In the above example Jim-Bob’s persuasive nature combined with Renlia’s expert penmanship results in proposal that will at best result in peace between the kingdoms, and at worst simply require further negotiation. The sky-high multiplier makes it virtually impossible for the persuasion roll to truly fall flat.

Finally one special use case that I believe is worth mentioning is the how the calligrapher’s supplies can enhance a wizard’s ability to copy the contents of spell scrolls into their spell book. The SRD rules are as follows when copying spells from spell scrolls:

A wizard spell on a spell scroll can be copied just as spells in spellbooks can be copied. When a spell is copied from a spell scroll, the copier must succeed on an Intelligence (Arcana) check with a DC equal to 10 + the spell’s level. If the check succeeds, the spell is successfully copied. Whether the check succeeds or fails, the spell scroll is destroyed.

I would argue that it is appropriate to allow a wizard to add their calligrapher’s supplies proficiency to this roll as well. If your DM agrees with this ruling, then the calligrapher’s supplies become one of the best tool proficiencies in the game for wizards.

The Takeaway: The calligrapher’s supplies can be used to make your written work more effective. Any time a check is made involving written work created by somebody with calligrapher’s supplies proficiency, you should add their proficiency bonus to the check. Furthermore wizards should be able to add this tool proficiency to their arcana checks when copying spells from spell scrolls over to their spell books.

Conclusion

At first I thought that artwork would be the only real use for the calligrapher’s supplies, and even that would be limited at best. Having once again thoroughly proven myself wrong I can comfortably say that this ugly duckling is a swan. The calligrapher’s supplies mundane crafting options are extremely limited, but the options you have are fairly compelling. This holds even more true for magical items where you are able to craft maybe the most accessible magical item in the game in the form of spell scrolls. When it comes to crafting artwork this toolkit may be a somewhat sub-par on its own, but its ability to work in tandem with other toolkits is unparalleled.

On the adventuring front there is quite a bit of utility to be gained from this kit. This toolkit is invaluable whenever the party is brokering a deal, sending a message, making the sign for their newly opened tavern, or simply put participating in any type of written persuasion. A beautifully handcrafted message simply has more impact than a shoddily put together one. Lastly depending on the rules you use, if you are a wizard who scribes spells from spell scrolls frequently this toolkit is nearly essential.

Call me crazy, but after further review I have no problem crowning the calligrapher’s supplies as one of the strongest artisan’s toolkits in the game.


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