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 Painter’s Supplies At A Glance
RAW Cost: 10 GP
RAW Weight: 5 lbs
*Example Items: Papers, Parchment, Palette, Brushes, Ink, Jars, Varnish
Crafting Restrictions: None
Mundane Item Crafting: Books
Magic Item Crafting: Cards and Marvelous Pigments
Artwork Creation: Can create painted works of art ranging from simple paintings, to massive murals.
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. They can also apply “finishing touches” to any artwork.
Structure Building: At the DM’s discretion you can contribute to building construction. There will likely be less slots available in a project for painters compared to masons and carpenters.
Adventuring Utility: Able to use artwork to supplement subersive and persuasive activities.
* These items are specific to the Questionable Arcana system. Other similar crafting systems may utilitize a different list of items.
Now that I’ve finished gushing over the incredible utility of the calligrapher’s supplies, it is time for me to finish my coverage of what I had initially considered the “inferior” crafting options. Given that I have been completely wrong about many of these allegedly sub-par toolkits, I am going to keep an open mind while researching the painter’s supplies. As always we will start things off by settling on a definition of painting, then go through a brief overview of the history of painting in the real world.
Since the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition seems to be having some recursion issues, I ultimately decided to go with the cambridge dictionary definition of painting.
- A picture made using paint
- The skill or activity of making a picture or putting paint on a wall
With the definition solidified I moved on to the historical side of things.
I’ll be honest when it comes to the history of painting there is a lot of material to cover, and most of it really isn’t relevant to the discussion on hand. Rather than bore you with the specifics surrounding the evolution of different painting techniques, today we are going to discuss how painted work has been used as a source of influence throughout the ages.
As we all know prehistoric man used to create all manner of crude paintings in caves. There are all kinds of theories as to what they could have been used for ranging from teaching tools to marking areas of spiritual significance. However, something we can probably agree on is that painting was one of the earliest forms of record keeping that man ever used.
Early Egyptian rulers believed that paintings could preserve their souls after death, which is why the ancient pyramids are such a rich source of archaeological findings. Ancient Greeks used painted work to decorate their temples and palaces, and early Greek and Christian empires commissioned painters to create murals and paintings that filled their temples, tombs, and other places of spiritual importance.
The middle ages marked an era of upheaval where very little artwork survived as barbarian tribes roamed throughout Western Europe. However, despite those setbacks it was at this point in time that many new types of portraits and stylized text started to appear. Wall art started to take a back seat to book illustrations that were found in many old manuscripts. Many of the finest works of medieval artwork were collections of calendars, devotional prayers, and psalms.
Finally painting reached a form that most of us would recognize today during The Renaissance in the 15th century. At this point in time painting started to become a more of casual art-form instead of a functional and social tool.
As you can see no matter what era you look at, paintings have been instrumental in teaching the young, expanding the mind, and influencing the masses.
The World is Your Canvas – Crafting With The Painter’s Supplies
One advantage that the painter’s supplies has is that there are no real crafting restrictions beyond obtaining ink and a canvas(paper or otherwise) to paint on.
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).
- A Lead Artisan - An artisan with the appropriate tool who can lead the crafting process.
- 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.
- Means of Production - Any special equipment or location requirements such as a forge for blacksmiths.
- Instructions - Memorized instructions for mundane items or a written blueprint for magical items.
- 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)
However, the painter’s supplies run into a similar problem that the calligrapher’s supplies had where there is an extremely limited number of RAW adventuring items you can create. In fact, their list of craftable mundane items is exactly the same:
|Adventuring Gear Crafting List|
|Book||25 gp||5 lb.||LEAD|
As discussed earlier, often times the focus of books in the middle ages was imagery instead of prose. This means that a talented artist could potentially copy books composed mostly of images and sell them 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 beautiful book containing historical paintings 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 painter’s supplies. She brings along two of her party members Ungoldor and Bellamy who aren’t great artists, but are able to color spaces between the lines. 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.
If the player authors their own book since I consider it an original creation and therefore artwork, which is covered later on in this write-up. As per the rules of the Questionable Arcana Crafting System, crafting mundane items requires some type of blueprint, which is fulfilled in the aforementioned example by the book that was found while adventuring.
Outside of books it is possible to earn some coin by offering your services to local businesses. Perhaps a blacksmith needs a new sign, or a new tavern wants you to paint a mural to attract attention. In game you could work out a price with the business owner, and a few days plus a handful of sleight-of-hand/artisan’s tools ability checks later you could end up with some extra gold in your pocket.
When it comes to creating magic items, the painter’s supplies have a fairly limited number of options:
|Magic Item Crafting List|
|Deck of Illusions||Uncommon||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Deck of Many Things||Legendary||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
|Marvelous Pigments||Very Rare||Wondrous Item||LEAD|
I excluded the various magical scrolls, tomes, and manuscripts from this list because those imply that you need to have some mastery of language to create them. You can create the items above using the painter’s supplies because they require the ability to create the appropriate imagery(for the decks), or an advanced understanding of color pallates(marvelous pigments).
Here is an example of how you could use the painter’s supplies to create Marvelous Pigments:
EXAMPLE HOME-BREW: MARVELOUS PIGMENTS
Recipe: Marvelous Pigments
Item Rarity: Very Rare
Total Material Cost: 49,000 GP
Item Type: Wonderous Item
Item Origin: SRD
Materials Required: 7000 GP worth of gems of each of the 7 primary colors totalling to 49,000 GP worth of gems.
Item Description: Typically found in 1d4 pots inside a fine wooden box with a brush (weighing 1 pound in total), these pigments allow you to create three-dimensional objects by painting them in two dimensions. The paint flows from the brush to form the desired object as you concentrate on its image.
Each pot of paint is sufficient to cover 1,000 square feet of a surface, which lets you create inanimate objects or terrain features—such as a door, a pit, flowers, trees, cells, rooms, or weapons— that are up to 10,000 cubic feet. It takes 10 minutes to cover 100 square feet.
When you complete the painting, the object or terrain feature depicted becomes a real, nonmagical object. Thus, painting a door on a wall creates an actual door that can be opened to whatever is beyond. Painting a pit on a floor creates a real pit, and its depth counts against the total area of objects you create.
Nothing created by the pigments can have a value greater than 25 gp. If you paint an object of greater value (such as a diamond or a pile of gold), the object looks authentic, but close inspection reveals it is made from paste, bone, or some other worthless material.
If you paint a form of energy such as fire or lightning, the energy appears but dissipates as soon as you complete the painting, doing no harm to anything.
Crafting Instructions: Grind up the gemstones grouped by color into 7 separate pots. Once they are ground up you need to carefully add paint of the same color while chanting the extradimensional incantation on the opposite side of this recipe. Over a great length of time with the correct balancing of colors the paint should start flowing inside the pots on its own. The enchantment is complete once the pigment starts repelling paint when you try to add it to the container. Repeat this process for all 7 colors and combine into pots once completed.
Finally when it comes to creating structures, there is actually some potential here for a player with painter’s supplies proficiency. As discussed earlier important buildings often require paint work. This could come in the form of a religious mural or just a simple paint job to make the building look nicer. At the DM’s discretion I would recommend allowing a small number of painters to contribute to a building construction project.
The Takeaway: The painter’s supplies are fairly limited when it comes to crafting options. You can create books for a profit or work directly with local businesses, but when it comes to creating magic items you are limited to only a handful of extremely rare items. Painters can also contribute to structure construction in a limited capacity.
Making Happy Little Bushes – The Art of Painting
While the definition of what is considered art has expanded quite a bit over the years, for most of us when someone mentions artwork the first thing we think of is painting. Ever since the concept of excessive wealth became a thing, painting has become the gold-standard of “things people buy when when they have too much money to spend”. Original paintings can sell for an absolutely insane amount of money that defies all logic and reason. As a player you should absolutely try to capitalize on this madness.
When creating original works of paint I recommend using the Questionable Arcana Artwork Crafting System or something else similar.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Fortunately the process of painting artwork is extremely straight-forward. You find a nice quiet spot to create your work, and as long as you have paint and time, you can continue working on the same item for as long as you’d like.
The painter’s supplies can also combine with any other tool in the artwork creation process. After all, a good coat of paint can make even the shoddiest of work look like a professionally made masterpiece. From a mechanics stand-point this means that any time the painter’s supplies are used to create artwork, the artisan is granted a crafting inspiration token that can be used to to re-roll any ability check rolled against the item being crafted during that session.
Furthermore, the painter’s supplies can be used to apply “finishing touches” to any piece of artwork. On or after final day of artwork crafting, if a player with painter’s supplies proficiency works on a piece of art it gains a +10 bonus to the “selling a work of art” table in the Questionable Arcana Artwork System. However, it is important to note that if somebody besides a painter works on a piece of art while this bonus is active, it is removed from the item.
As an example, if a woodcarver decides they want to work on their painted statuette without a painter’s assistance, the additional carving work being done will ruin the coat of paint, forfeiting the “finishing touches” bonus.
The Takeaway: The painter’s supplies rightfully are the strongest kit in the game when it comes to artwork creation. This kit has a double bonus of creating crafting inspiration tokens, and boosting the “selling a work of art” roll by 10 when selling any item that is painted on its final day of crafting.
Art That Inspires – Using The Painter’s Supplies While Adventuring
At first glance it might not seem like the painter’s supplies are really applicable while adventuring. However, with a some imagination this unsuspecting little kit can have a profound impact on a myriad of social interactions throughout your campaign.
As we discussed in the first section, painting has been a staple for any institution that is in the business of peddling influence. For example, having a religion is one thing, but having a religion whose folklore is widely disseminated in the form of beautiful portraits and grand murals is another.
Another example of this concept is war-time propaganda. One could simply pass out papers saying “we can do it” in an attempt to inspire the workforce, but combining that message with an expertly painted strong-willed women turns this basic message into a call-to-arms in the form of Rosie The Riveter.
This concept can be applied to a number of campaign changing social interactions. For example, say you are trying to turn the villagers against their despot ruler. You could try to persuade villagers one by one over time, but that would be time consuming and risky. A more effective and expedient approach could be to use your artistic skills to create the necessary unrest.
Painter’s Supplies: Propaganda Example
The party is visiting a village that is under the vicious rule of a cruel governer. The village has the numbers to win the fight, but all attempts to organize a revolt are quickly shut down by the village’s corrupt militia. The party wants to kick the revolution off, but they want to be sure the villagers are primed to fight before lighting the first torch.
Renlia the level 6 bard with painter’s supplies proficiency spends several days(at the DMs discretion) painting leaflets that show the a mob of villagers with pitchforks in hand throwing torches at the governer’s manor. The bottom of the leaflet is a message styled to look like it is written in blood that states “tonight it is your blood that will be spilled”. Once the leaflets are completed the party discretely slips them under the doors of each villager’s hut.
Later that night the party splits up and goes door to door in an attempt to convince the villagers to join them in the fight. When attempting to persuade the villagers each party member can add Renlia’s painter’s supplies proficiency on top of their own personal persuasion check bonuses.
For example, if Jim-Bob the level 7 bard with 18 Charisma and expertise in persuasion is trying to convince a villager to revolt, his persuasion check would look like this:
Persuasion Check = 1d20 + 4(Jim Bob’s charisma modifier) + 6(Jim Bob’s persuasion modifier) + 3(Renlia’s painter’s supplies modifier) = 1d20 + 13
This concept can even be scaled out in a more systematic way by using the Sowing Rumors mechanic in the Dungeon Master’s Guide on page 128. Should you incorporate painted imagery in any attempt to sow rumors, you would be able to add your painter’s supplies proficiency on top of any other bonuses associated with the check.
The Takeaway: The painter’s supplies are a very effective tool when it comes to large scale influence. Any-time vivid imagery is used to reinforce an idea, a player can add the painter’s supplies proficiency bonus from the character who created it to any check associated with the imagery.
Although the painter’s supplies have some pretty serious limitations when it comes to crafting, they are unrivaled in their ability to produce works of art. Furthermore there are quite a few practical social applications of the kit that make them desirable in any campaign where you need to manage public opinion.
If you are in a more mobile campaign where you don’t have many opportunities to sit and craft for long periods of time, then the painter’s supplies are an attractive choice.
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