Right Tool, Right Job — Tool Proficiencies and Minigames in D&D

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Tools in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons featured pretty prominently lately among the Nerdarchy crew. We focused a live chat on the topic, a newsletter, video, website post and our October Patreon rewards zeroed in specifically on gaming sets. For November we’re following up the Rolling Bones rewards with a broader spotlight on all the other D&D tools. Union Salon is a location you can drop right into your campaign setting. Characters can explore their tool proficiencies through practice with experts, engage with colorful NPC masters of their craft, discover brand new tool sets and put their tool skills to use uncovering a mystery surrounding an auction of oddities and playing minigames in D&D. So let’s get into it.

D&D tools tool proficiencies minigames in D&D

Tool proficiencies in D&D

One of the common things we see and hear about tool proficiencies in D&D is there’s little incentive to use them, either for players or Dungeon Masters. In our experience it takes players on both sides of the DM screen to make tool proficiencies fun and interesting. To help put a spotlight on D&D tools and provide ways to include or increase their value in a campaign we created Union Salon, a location you can drop right into your games.

The idea for Union Salon is a large marketplace or bazaar to function as a hub of commerce and craft. Personally I like to imagine the bustling facility as a destination spot or waypoint. Although the content is written assuming Union Salon is an autonomous institution, you can certainly place it within a larger city. Wherever you’d like to include a place for characters to spend downtime using their tools, buying and selling items acquired during adventures or for leisure activities, Union Salon can fit the bill. Between adventures, characters can spend downtime practicing their craft, pursuing professions or engaging in games of skill and chance.

As a companion piece to Rolling Bones, Union Salon is another place for adventurers to try their hand at any of the games of skill and chance from that book too. In addition, networking opportunities abound with NPCs offering new quests and job offers. Rumors and gossip circulate frequently, and the artisans there might have unique insights and answers to confounding circumstances.

Incidentally, both Rolling Bones and Union Salon draw from a collection of ideas from Nerdarchist Ted. For years Ted has been compiling a document filled with concepts for players and Game Masters alike, and we raided the vault to bring some of them to you. Our approach of creating a bustling marketplace gave us an opportunity to include disparate items in a practical way.

Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll find inside Union Salon.

Adventure hook

Union Salon is hosting an auction of high-end objects d’art and several ambitious collectors are highly motivated to acquire a rare artifact up for sale from an anonymous seller. An ancient sword has drawn interest far and wide, but the blade is more than an exquisite relic of a bygone age — it secretly holds a curse the mysterious owner hopes to pass on to the winning bidder. Characters can discover this plot, gather clues and solve the mystery by engaging with specific Notable Patrons and learning about the new tool sets contained in this book.

Notable patrons of Union Salon

Each of the 12 NPCs listed in the book is visiting Union Salon for a specific reason, in addition to any other goals or tasks at the facility. These characters come from the city of Gryphongaff, straight from Nerdarchists Dave and Ted’s longrunning campaign. Rather than including stat blocks, the NPC entries indicate their tool proficiency specialties, how they will interact with the auction adventure hook and insights characters can glean from them through learning about the new tool sets they introduce.

Special items

The Union Salon auction features a collection of new items. Some are magical, some are mundane, but all of them hold special interest for the notable patrons who have come to Union Salon. Several of these items include Game Master notes for further adventures. There’s also guidelines for handling the auction and how NPCs interested in each of the items bids. One item in particular carries an unusual curse. Characters can learn about the curse and discover clues to the culprit behind passing it on to an unwitting buyer by successfully engaging each notable patron and learning about the new tool set they introduce.

Notable vendors and minigames in D&D

The focus of Union Salon is introducing five new tool sets — barber’s supplies, ritualist’s supplies, investigator’s kit, medical kit and ceremonial supplies. But there’s a whole bunch of other new items for sale at Union Salon too. There’s new poisons, new traps, and a rare magical fruit called dwapples that permanently increases a character’s hit point total. Characters can also participate in two minigames using their tool proficiencies, called Tool Wars. Construct Conflicts and Goop Games pit competitors against each other where they’ll control constructs and oozes to battle each other, while using their D&D tools to hamper their opponent’s creatures.

New playable race

A wholly new creation, dwelves are the offspring of a dwarf and elf parent, blending many of the characteristics of both together. The idea evolved from the NPC proprietor of Union Salon. We wanted to make them memorable and compelling, and a character incorporating the best qualities of elves and dwarves felt perfect for this.

Whereas half-elves traditionally feel out of place in both human and elvish culture, dwelves are celebrated as a symbol of unity. Both of their cultural heritages call to them, and they find solace and harmony through acts of skilled creation. One of a dwelf’s characteristics is proficiency in artisan’s tools of your choice. This tool set is something they retreat to when they feel lost, uncertain or feel disconnected with either cultural heritage. Engaging in this tool use is where they are truly at ease.

Union Salon proprietor

Development of the dwelf playable race springs directly from Union Salon’s proprietor, Choam Gero, who founded the enterprise to meld their two passions, art and artistry. We wanted to create a character with a unique flavor who represents a passion for creativity, craft and commerce. Union Salon is a colorful place, and its founder personifies the atmosphere.

To make this NPC even more unique, we made them a powerful Beardomancer because of course! What better NPC to introduce barber’s supplies than a wizard who brings their beard to bear against foes and to protect allies with beardomantic energy from the Beard Dimension.

Where to find Union Salon

We had tremendous fun finding inspiration from Ted’s compiled ideas and picking out a bunch of them to blend together to create Union Salon. The Nerdarchy crew are big fans of tools and tool proficiencies in 5E D&D, and we were really excited to put together a collection of ways players and GMs alike can incorporate them more into their games.

And we got carried away so much that both October and November rewards focus heavily on these concepts!

Last month’s Rolling Bones proved pretty popular with our awesome Patreon supporters. We heard a lot of feedback on the minigames included in that book. It was really cool to see live chat viewers comparing results from using these minigames in their own campaigns. Whether its our 3100+ videos, 1800+ website posts, years worth of monthly Patreon rewards or anything else, we love creating new content for games. So it’s absolutely fantastic to hear our fans and fellow gamers used any of this stuff with their friends and game groups.

If you like the idea of using D&D tools in new ways, adding actual games players themselves can participate in during a session and including a vibrant location for characters to explore creativity and commerce, head over to our Nerdarchy Patreon and get involved. Supporters at the $2 tier will receive Union Salon, our November rewards with fun and interesting ways to use tool proficiences and learn about new tools. Since we post our rewards on the Patreon page, you can access all our previous rewards too, including the companion Rolling Bones, back to December 2018!

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Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, worldbuilding, or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy, he enjoys cryptozoology trips and eating awesome food.

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