D&D 5e – Questionable Arcana – Crafting: Cobbler’s Tools

Pair of worn boots
Questionable Arcana Crafting System
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Jeweler's Tools Leatherworker's Tools
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Poisoner's Kit Potter's Tools
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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 Cobbler’s Tools At A Glance

RAW Cost: 5 GP
RAW Weight: 5 lbs
*Example Items: Awl, Closing Block, Gouge, Hammer, Last, Lachet, Paring Knife, Needle and Thread
Crafting Restrictions: None
Mundane Item Crafting: Footwear for common, costume, fine, and travelers clothing.
Magic Item Crafting: Small but relevant list of magical footwear.
Artwork Creation: Can create valuable footwear that sells fairly quickly due to high demand.
QA Artwork Bonus: Selling Products takes half as many days to find a buyer.
Structure Building: N/A
Adventuring Utility: Able to mend the party’s footwear, which depending on the DM could confer a benefit.

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

I initially had some difficulties wrapping my head around the advantages that today’s toolkit could provide. However, having learned my lesson from my last article about the potter’s tools, instead of simply judging a book by its cover I took a bold step forward and immediately started walking in this artisan’s shoes. If it wasn’t clear from my failed attempt at podiatric punnery, today’s write-up will be covering the Cobbler’s Tools.

As always, the first step(truly no pun intended) in understanding a tool making sure we understand the definition and history of the craft associated with it. Much to my surprise I managed to find two definitions of what a cobbler is in the ancient vaults of Wikipedia.

  • Cobbler, a shoe repairing ( not a manufacturer or cordwainer) guild or occupation
  • Cobbler, a person who illegally forges passports and other documents

I was happily able to ignore the second definition since 5th edition already has a forgery kit that fulfills that purpose, but the parenthetical anecdote caused me a fair bit of anxiety.

I was initially under the impression that cobblers were responsible for the creation of shoes, and not just the repairs. It turns out that historically cordwainers(aka shoemakers) not cobblers were the tradesmen responsible for the design and creation of footwear. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th century that the shoemaking and cobbler trades were merged as a result of mass manufacturing leaving most shoemakers without a job.

However, in the preceding time period before manufacturing ruined everything, cordwainerery was considered a distinguished profession. In fact, the difference between the two professions was so vast that it was considered a serious insult to call a cordwainer a cobbler. For hundreds of years both professions were associated with different guilds, and it was actually illegal for a cobbler to use fresh leather in their work that should normally be given to the cordwainer’s guild. As a result cobblers were only allowed to use older, lower quality leathers and materials to practice their trade.

The actual process of shoemaking is somewhat nuanced, but for the most part can be broken down into a short series of steps:

  1. Measure the feet and cut out the upper leathers to the desired size.
  2. Fit and Stitch the leathers together.
  3. Assemble the leather soles
  4. Attach the soles to the “last” made of wood to shape the shoe.
  5. Hammer the soles into the desired shape.
  6. Attach the wooden heel lifts to the bottom of the shoe.
  7. Finishing tasks(paring, scraping, smoothing, blacking, sanding, withdrawing the lasts and pegs)

The process detailed above is for leather shoes, but some variation of this process exists to create shoes of varying materials such as wood or furs.

Armed with this knowledge frustration was mounting. The cobbler’s tools were already very limited in functionality BEFORE we took away its ability to produce new footwear. What could I possibly do to sell the merits of the toolkit to a player or DM looking to add it to their campaign?

Lets Just Cobble Them Together

The distinct lack of a cordwainer’s toolkit lead me to a brilliant(not really) yet elegant solution… just merge the cobbler and cordwainer professions together. This prevents your players from being stuck with a truly lackluster toolkit, who’s dullness is only exacerbated by the fact that most campaigns don’t bother tracking the quality/condition of the party’s footwear.

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.

Unfortunately, on the crafting front there really aren’t any straight-forward RAW crafting options that allow you to use the cobbler’s tools. However, your ability to handle leather and cloth does translate into the ability to work on a handful of items under the guidance of a lead artisan.

Armor Crafting List
Armor Cost Weight Crafting Capability
Padded Armor 5 GP 8 ASSIST
Leather Armor 10 GP 10 ASSIST
Sudded Leather Armor 45 GP 13 ASSIST

Adventuring Gear Crafting List
Item Cost Weight Crafting Capability
Climber’s Kit 25 gp 12 lb. ASSIST
Clothes, Common 5 sp 3 lb. ASSIST
Clothes, Costume 5 gp 4 lb. ASSIST
Clothes, Fine 15 gp 6 lb. ASSIST
Clothes, Traveler’s 2 gp 4 lb. ASSIST

Another way that cobblers can still adhere to RAW principals while crafting mundane gear is by rolling up their efforts into a greater initiative. For example:

Crafting Example: Militia Crafting Contract

A client in the militia needs 50 GP worth of boots for their militia. The terms of the contract state that you need to provide the materials for the job, but you expect to make a 25 GP profit upon completion. Using the GP progression crafting system of your choice you can work over the course of the next 2-5 days to complete the contract. Upon delivery of the goods you are given 50 GP, which leaves you with 25 a GP profit.

This type of approach can work for any artisan’s toolkit, but works especially well for kits like the cobbler’s tools that have a limited number of RAW items to tie back to.

On the magic item front, a cobbler has a handful of fairly compelling options:

Magic Item Crafting List
Item Cost Weight Crafting Capability
Armor +1 – Padded Armor Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor +1 – Leather Armor Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor +1 – Studded Leather Armor Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor +1 – Hide Armor Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor +2 – Padded Armor Very Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor +2 – Leather Armor Very Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor +2 – Studded Leather Armor Very Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor +2 – Hide Armor Very Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor +3 – Padded Armor Legendary Armor ASSIST
Armor +3 – Leather Armor Legendary Armor ASSIST
Armor +3 – Studded Leather Armor Legendary Armor ASSIST
Armor +3 – Hide Armor Legendary Armor ASSIST
Armor of Resistance – Padded Armor Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor of Resistance – Leather Armor Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor of Resistance – Studded Leather Armor Rare Armor ASSIST
Armor of Resistance – Hide Armor Rare Armor ASSIST
Belt of Dwarvenkind Rare Wondrous Item ASSIST
Belt of Hill Giant’s Strength Rare Wondrous Item ASSIST
Belt of Stone Giant’s Strength Very Rare Wondrous Item ASSIST
Belt of Frost Giant’s Strength Very Rare Wondrous Item ASSIST
Belt of Fire Giant’s Strength Very Rare Wondrous Item ASSIST
Belt of Cloud Giant’s Strength Legendary Wondrous Item ASSIST
Belt of Storm Giant’s Strength Legendary Wondrous Item ASSIST
Boots of Elvenkind Uncommon Wondrous Item LEAD
Boots of Levitation Rare Wondrous Item LEAD
Boots of Speed Rare Wondrous Item LEAD
Boots of Striding and Springing Uncommon Wondrous Item LEAD
Boots of the Winterlands Uncommon Wondrous Item LEAD
Glamoured Studded Leather Rare Armor ASSIST
Slippers of Spider Climbing Uncommon Wondrous Item LEAD
Winged Boots Uncommon Wondrous Item LEAD

While this list might not be as awe-inducing as some other kits, each item in this list is usable by virtually any class.

The Takeaway: Merge the cordwainer and cobbler professions into one kit. Although there aren’t any straightforward mundane option for crafting, a player could still try to work through contracts or guilds to produce and sell footwear. Beyond that there are a handful of compelling magical options the cobbler’s tools can create.

Producing Pumped up Kicks

If you’ve ever looked through the average sorority girl’s closet, you know there is a market for fancy footwear. If a player wants to create footwear beyond what is considered “fine” attire, then I recommend you use the Questionable Arcana Artwork System or similar to craft it.

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.

One of the main benefits of being someone who sells footwear, is that there is very high demand for your products. This is because footwear naturally expires over time, and often times people need new footwear for specific tasks or occasions. Furthermore, when it comes to apparel repeat business is a major factor. Once someone finds a merchant that can consistently deliver the type of work that they enjoy, they will usually return at a later date when they need something similar.

Rather than try to create individual modifiers for each instance listed above I recommend you simply modify the average time it takes to find a buyer. If you are using the Questionable Arcana Artwork System this means that a seller will take half as many days to find a buyer compared to a typical piece of artwork such as a figurine created with the woodcarver’s tools.

The Takeaway: When selling custom footwear the player is able to find a buyer in half of the time it takes to sell most other artwork.

The Cobbled Road

I want to revisit one of my statements from earlier.

…most campaigns don’t bother tracking the quality/condition of the party’s footwear.

All of you DM’s out there who are reading this need to listen to me very carefully right now. If you were not planning on tracking the condition of your party’s footwear in your campaign, DO NOT use a player choosing proficiency with the cobbler’s tools as an opportunity to do so. All this does is penalize the party for trying to choose a more creative toolkit than the usual suspects of alchemy and blacksmithing. Instead I would recommend positive reinforcement.

Here is an example of an adventuring bonus someone with cobbler’s tools proficiency could provide:

Optional Rule: Back On Your Feet

Whenever a cobbler spends a long rest repairing and preparing the party’s footwear for the journey ahead, they are granted a bonus to their travel pace. Using the RAW travel pace table below, the party can move at a travel pace that is one level higher, while retaining their normal benefits. For example a party travelling at a fast pace is not subjected to the penalty of -5 to passive perception. This bonus lasts for one week of travel.

Using this optional rule we now have a unique reason to use the cobbler’s tools that isn’t overpowered, and isn’t imposing a needless penalty on the party.

Beyond shoemaking, a cobbler would likely have an advantage in when investigating anything foot related. For example if the party is tracking a missing merchant and finds a confusing set of footprints in the mud, a cobbler should be able to add their proficiency bonus to a check to determine if it is a shoe type that is commonly used by merchants.

The Takeaway: DO NOT USE A PLAYER CHOOSING COBBLER’S TOOLS PROFICIENCY AS AN EXCUSE TO TRACK THE CONDITION OF THE PARTY’S FOOTWEAR IF YOU WEREN’T ALREADY PLANNING ON DOING SO. Instead give them some positive bonuses such as allowing them to increase the party’s travel speed, or bonuses to checks involving footwear.

Conclusion

Although the cobbler’s tools are not a marquee choice when it comes to crafting items, they can bring a fair bit of utility to a party that does a lot of travelling. Furthermore, when they can craft magical items it is usually something that can be used by virtually any member of the party.

I would argue that having at least one player with the cobbler’s tools is a very strong choice for parties with a high degree of wanderlust. However, if your campaign is localized to an area that typically doesn’t involve long-distance travel, then this kit is one you can safely avoid.


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