(Originally Posted May 2009)
One of the changes to 3.5 that carried into the new Pathfinder RPG is the simplified tradeskill mechanic. If a character is trying to make a living at a trade, the GM is encouraged to give out half the check result in gold pieces. Unfortunately, this simple-to-remember system has a few problems:
- The scale of this income is linear, while the scale of a character’s adventuring income is exponential. A character that specializes in a tradeskill will make an average of 10 gp a week at first level, and an average of 20 gp a week at 20th level. The extra 10 gp is probably not enough to justify sinking a skill rank into the skill for 20 levels.
- Perform is on an entirely different, much harder to remember chart.
- Crafting is actually on an exponential scale if you can convince your GM to let you craft specific items for sale rather than taking the ad hoc award.
This last point is the most troublesome. Once a character can regularly hit a DC 20, it’s far more profitable for a Crafter to make masterwork items than to use the ad hoc award. For example, a blacksmith that regularly rolls 20s can make a masterwork weapon in around 7 weeks. This weapon is worth over 300 gp with about 200 gp of that being profit. Meanwhile, if he’d been using the ad hoc award, he’d have made around 70 gp. If he can sell his masterwork item for at least 60% of its price, it’s far more profitable to craft individual items. In theory, there’s a chance of failure that means that invested materials cost more, but a canny player can figure out the risk-reward ratio and make far more money.
Professionals don’t have this option. Taking a Profession is far less useful than a Craft under the default system.
The easiest way to fix this would be to institute a system of raises: when just trying to earn money, the base DC is 10; failing earns nothing. For every extra 10 points the player adds to the DC before rolling, the income is doubled (e.g., a roll of 26 would earn 13 gp with no raises, 26 gp with one raise to 20, and no gp with two raises to 30).
But we can do something with that to add color to the setting.
If this optional rule is in effect, tradeskill users develop a reputation in their home cities based on the quality of their work. This represents how widely known their work is for quality and what kind of prices their creations can command in the market or with patrons. For this system, all three tradeskills earn money in downtime in the same manner.
When attempting to make money from a tradeskill, the character’s check result is compared to a DC equal to his or her current reputation. If it equals or exceeds the check result, the character’s reputation increases by one. If it does not equal the result, or the character does not craft for a given period, the reputation might go down. As a character’s reputation in a skill increases, he or she becomes known for it and earns more income for practicing the craft. This income is commensurate with crafting items for sale at higher DCs.
- 0-9 (Unknown): The character is barely known in the city for his or her work. He or she only earns half the standard result (Check result x 1/4 gp per week). The character’s reputation is reduced by 1 for every week in which he or she does not engage in the tradeskill or does not meet the reputation DC with his or her crafting.
- 10-19 (Known): The character has developed a reputation for quality, and can command normal prices for his or her work. He or she earns the standard result (Check result x 1/2 gp per week). The character’s reputation is reduced by 1 for every month in which he or she does not engage in the tradeskill, or every week he or she does not meet the reputation DC with his or her crafting.
- 20-29 (Respected): The character’s reputation is shining within the city, and his or her goods or services are highly requested. He or she earns double the standard result (Check result x 1 gp per week). The character’s reputation is reduced by 1 for every year in which he or she does not engage in the tradeskill, or every week he or she does not meet the reputation DC with his or her crafting.
- 30-39 (Master): The character is known throughout the city as the preeminant master of the skill. He or she earns three times the standard result (Check result x 1.5 gp per week). The character’s reputation is reduced by 1 for every decade in which he or she does not engage in the tradeskill, or every week he or she does not meet the reputation DC with his or her crafting.
- 40-49 (Grandmaster): The character’s name is spread far and wide as the first choice for those that can afford it. He or she earns four times the standard result (Check result x 2 gp per week). The character’s reputation is reduced by 1 for every century in which he or she does not engage in the tradeskill, or every week he or she does not meet the reputation DC with his or her crafting.
- 50+ (Legend): The character’s fame at the skill will be written into the history of the world. He or she earns five times the standard result (Check result x 2.5 gp per week). The character’s reputation will never fade.
These reputations mean slightly different things based on the character’s tradeskill:
Craft: As a crafter’s reputation improves, his or her maker’s mark becomes more commonly known and more and more individuals come for masterwork crafting. Even the crafter’s simpler wares command higher prices as they are known for quality or as objects of art. Eventually, all the character’s time is spent creating works for the richest individuals in the city, at commensurately high prices.
Profession: As a professional’s reputation improves, he or she becomes known as a worker that is more effective than a team of similar workers. Employers or patrons go out of their way to hire or patronize the character, and the character easily performs at a quality far beyond what would be expected from a normal member of the profession, ensuring future work. Eventually, the character works directly for the richest individuals in the city or has them as patrons for his or her service.
Perform: As a performer’s reputation improves, he or she becomes famous for the quality of his or her art. Whenever the character announces a show, the audience becomes more and more packed. Eventually, the character regularly sells out huge venues or plays directly for the richest individuals in the city.
Reputation is somewhat transitive: nearby cities may or may not have heard of the character. Depending on how much commerce of goods and information occurs between two cities, reduce the reputation of the character by 5-10 for each “step” between a home city and a new city until the character is once again starting from 0. For example, a crafter with a reputation of 25 might only have a reputation of 15 in the next big city and a reputation of 5 in the next city beyond that. If a character sets up shop on a more permanent basis in a new city, the reputation begins improving again from this level.
Characters may improve faster than one level of reputation per week with exceptional check results or relevant roleplaying, at the GM’s discretion. A character that can regularly create master quality results may not have to wait the better part of a year to grow back into his or her reputation.
Other skills might be tracked for reputation in a similar manner to determine how well known the character is for the use of that skill. Even if the skill does not offer income during downtime, it may affect roleplaying scenarios. For example, a character known as a master Diplomat may come to the attention of the local nobility for purposes of negotiations, while a master of a knowledge may be considered the preeminent scholar of that field.