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 dive into carpenter’s tools!
5E D&D tool time — carpenter’s tools
Carts, boats and beyond count among adventurers’ most useful utilities. Hiking along a journey is all well and good but it really takes a toll on the feet. Likewise, any late night watch can be stimulated by conversation and possibly a game of chess or dice. Often in our fantasy games I feel like we take for granted the prevalence of wood and things made from it. Carpentry is more than houses and horse drawn carriages. Carpentry is used for toys, tents and even machinery. Yet how many characters have you seen played who flaunt their proficiency with carpenter’s tools?
Carpentry would likely be among the most lucrative of mundane professions, especially in a fantasy world like D&D. Not only do people regularly need the daily provisions standard for the times but how many villages are destroyed or raided on a frequent basis? Things need replaced. Before diving too deep, let’s consult Xanathar’s Guide to Everything about these useful carpenter’s tools, as that is our primary official source for tool info.
“Carpenter’s tools include a saw, a hammer, nails, a hatchet, a square, a ruler, an adze, a plane, and a chisel.”
Carpentry & skills
What sort of skills could possibly relate to carpentry, you ask? Let’s discuss!
Arcana. While not listed I absolutely think any magical wood or woods used for specific magical purposes would fall under this proficiency. Perhaps you know holly wood is sacred to druids or that oak is especially treasured or loathsome to a particular god or their worshipers. Maybe the stake for the vampire’s heart has to be of a certain type of wood for a more permanent solution. Arcana really opens the doors to new possibilities when it comes to any tool proficiency, carpenter’s tools notwithstanding. After all, magic world…magic trees? It’s not a huge leap.
History. Officially, history is impacted when it comes to large wooden structures but I feel like a skilled carpenter would definitely know about the historical context of wooden architecture much like a dwarf’s Stonecunning feature. Carpenters would likely know the historical significance of developments and innovation when it comes to vehicles. Obviously land vehicles and sea vehicles would gain this trait as well but a carpenter would understand the mechanical reason why a certain wood was used or how a part came to be as it was. While the actual vehicle proficiency itself would likely illuminate the how and why of the whole vehicle, carpenter’s tools would illuminate those answers when it comes to parts and pieces.
Investigation. For this skill carpenter’s tools proficiency allows spotting of abnormalities, hidden doors and switches and so on. Perhaps you notice a house’s layout should have a larger room, indicating the secret chamber hidden behind the bookcase and your understanding of carpentry might even clue you into how the mechanism works.
Nature. This one’s a no brainer and it surprises me it’s not included in the official materials but obviously a skilled carpenter would know about wood. Types of wood, textures, special properties, possible medicinal applications to a lesser extent are a few examples of a carpenter’s knowledge about wood. Superstitions about certain types of wood could definitely be another thing too.
Perception. As already mentioned, noticing abnormalities in wood is easy for a carpenter as well as detecting especially fine or shoddy craftsmanship. Additionally you might notice if a particular type of wood used would be effective or ineffective for its purpose or you might notice other qualities related to wooden constructions.
Stealth. How many times have you failed a stealth roll and your DM describes a squeaky floor, hmm? With a proficiency in carpenter’s tools you would likely know where to step and when, and you would be able to spot how to know this.
Carpenter’s tools also allow for a character to make a given wooden structure stronger. Temporary shelters such as shacks, lean-tos and the like are much easier to construct with an understanding of carpenter’s tools. What’s more, repairs on a wagon or chest after a chase or an assault would be much cheaper (or even free) for a skilled carpenter. Just send your friendly neighborhood druid, ranger or outlander into the wilds to acquire some materials and you’re all good! From designing and building structures and vehicles to spotting and exploiting or reinforcing weaknesses in wood, carpenter’s tools are incredibly handy (pun intended) for the adventurer creative enough to do a little research and apply it to their current situations.
What do you think?
Do you have a character with carpenter’s tools proficiency? How could you use carpenter’s tools in your games to make things more interesting? We want to hear from you in the comments! Make sure to return to Nerdarchy for more daily content, and until next time, stay nerdy!