A staple of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, tool proficiencies seemingly conflict with the prevalence of skills, so where do they fit into the game? That’s exactly what we’re here to discuss in this new series of articles! Please note: tool proficiencies and how to use them are less defined in the 5E D&D rules than skills. As such the options and explanations presented here might differ from how your own Dungeon Master treats tools and tool proficiency. On top of that, any DM can adjust rules to fit their own table at their discretion, so check with your DM if you have specific questions about how they deal with tools in their own games. And with all the necessary caveats out of the way, let’s horn in on cobbler’s tools!
5E D&D tool time — cobbler’s tools
That sugary, crumbly topping! That ooey, gooey fruit filling! Cherry! Blueberry! Blackberry! Peach! The – Wait, what? What do you mean I’m talking about the wrong thing? Hold on, guys. Excuse me for just a minute.
*Walks behind the giant Nerdarchy logo.*
Doug, you specifically told me I was talking about cobblers…
Oh. You said “cobbler’s tools.” That makes more sense.
*Bustles out from behind the logo, a sheepish grin painted on face.*
So dear nerds, I guess we’re not talking about the oh-so-sacred summertime dessert. Instead, we’re talking about shoes! I know what I’m talking about. I just don’t act like it. Tool proficiencies in 5E D&D are weird. They interact with skill proficiencies (in some nebulous way), but some are easier to apply than others.
Before we dive in, let’s define what constitutes cobbler’s tools.
“Cobbler’s tools consist of a hammer, an awl, a knife, a shoe stand, a cutter, spare leather, and thread.”
… Well. (Deep subject, I know.) That wasn’t super helpful.
Here’s the thing with cobbler’s tools. Cobbler’s tools are used for making shoes. However, in addition to these tools you’ll need the raw materials to make the shoes — buckles, leather, laces, dyes and potentially rubber. The thing with shoes is they can be just about anything you wish. From fashion to function, shoes come in all shapes, colors, styles purposes and more. Boots, heels, sandals, geta… You name it!
Most adventurers wear shoes and footwear is one of the often quickest forgotten of equipment. Making a character who knows the ins and outs of footwear is likely going to result in a fascinating and developed person. What’s more, a skilled cobbler would likely be able to make footwear fit for enchanting, potentially lowering any costs associated with crafting a magic item.
Cobbler’s tools and skills
Cobbler’s tools don’t have a ton of apparent uses in 5E D&D but the few niches they fill could prove quite interesting for adventure hooks.
Arcana, History, Nature. Of course when it comes to knowledge checks a good cobbler will know the properties (magical or otherwise) of the different materials used to craft shoes. They would likely also know the significance of certain types of shoes or styles in given settings.
Whether determining a shoe’s age, appropriate time period, best enchantments or best environment for wear cobblers are likely to know it all. A good cobbler might be aware of special properties a shoe could possess, if made from a specific magical material or possibly a special leather or plant. Proficiency in cobbler’s tools makes you the quintessential knowledge base for your party when it comes to shoes. In fact, your character might even recognize the specific maker or owner simply by examining a pair of shoes.
Investigation. Here’s something I hadn’t considered before writing this post — suppose a character had a hidden compartment in their shoe? What better place to conceal an object? What’s more, your character might be able to locate or trail certain footprints however faint and they would likely be aware of specific materials that might soil shoes.
Maybe you’re in Eberron, and the mud on the murder victim’s shoes doesn’t match the place the body was buried, or perhaps the footprints found at the scene were clearly planted as a diversion, as evidenced by the way the shoe must have fallen to make it? Little details like these add a whole new dimension to play and can make a character with cobbler’s tool proficiency shine.
Survival. Yet another option would be gaining added info when tracking. Maybe a character with cobbler’s tool proficiency can determine how many creatures there were. Were any of them quadrupedal? Are those halfling shoeprints, dwarven or did they belong to a human child? A cobbler could likely find this answer!
Is your shoe game on-point?
While cobbler’s tool proficiency is a niche for sure, it’s exactly the sort of thing a truly unique character might build themselves around. From a lowly shoemaker turned investigator, to the enchantress shoemaker to the wizard queen herself, cobblers have a vast number of roads they can travel — in the most fashionable and practical of shoes, of course.
What do you think?
Have you ever had a character with cobbler’s tool proficiency? Did shoes ever come up as a main adventure hook for you or a group you ran? What other ideas do you have for shoemaker characters? We want to hear from you in the comments!
Make sure to return to Nerdarchy daily for more great D&D content, and until next time, stay nerdy!