There are a few design parameters I want to clarify before I dig into this.
1. This is for the E6 variant of D&D 3rd edition. This is important; I don't know, or care to guess, how well this plan would scale. I will worry about broader level ranges and other game engines once I've established a model that works on a more limited scope. You could look at this as a rapid-prototyping design approach.
2. This is for a sandbox style of play, not a mega-adventure on a timeline.
3. I specifically reject other boundaries to what I may or may not change in the function of 3.x to make this possible.
To address my problems with crafting in D&D 3rd edition as described in Part One of this series, I am introducing informed, weighted randomness and supply management. The version I'm working with at the moment has some things in common with Dust to Dust's Forge Magic.
In addition to their existing character class, all characters gain a secondary class. This replaces Craft, Profession, and the money-making functions of Perform and Tumble. A partial list of these classes includes Weaponsmith, Armorsmith, Jewelcrafter, Noble, Guardsman, and Merchant. These classes represent ways that PCs spend their downtime. These classes range in level from 1 to 6 just as the core classes do in the E6 variant. Several of these do not make anything, because not every character should be a crafter.
Enchantments on equipment are no longer permanent. Their duration is measured in a number of 24-hour-long activations; so, for example, a newly-enchanted weapon might have a duration of four activations. While the item is not activated, it acts like a mundane object of its kind. Once it is activated (a free action), its effects persist for 24 hours, though a flaming sword does not burn through its sheath or anything like that.
Enchantments on equipment do not include bonuses to attack, AC, or saving throws. These bonuses, where necessary for balance reasons, are coded into the progressions of their core classes. Enchantments are instead just the adjectives: flaming, ghost touch,holy avenger.
Here I will lay out the function of the Weaponsmith. The Weaponsmith, in this conception, is not primarily dedicated to turning iron into swords; he instead turns mundane weapons into weapons with a temporary enchantment, as described above. He can choose the general theme of what he'll wind up making. He can choose to put in more materials (on which more later) in hopes of a stronger outcome, and he can expect that greater skill levels will result in greater outcomes.
When he wishes to enchant a weapon, the smith selects one enchanting formula that he knows and commits the necessary items (discrete items in his character inventory) to the task. The formula also allows him to add specific additional materials, at his option. These materials improve the final outcome in a somewhat predictable way. He rolls a d6 one or more times (see below), applies modifiers, and checks the result against a table.
Roll | Result
1 | Enchantment fails; all materials are lost.
2-3 | Enchantment fails; only time is lost.
4-5 | Basic enchantment succeeds, and has 4 activations
6-7 | Basic enchantment succeeds, and has 6 activations
8-9 | Intermediate enchantment succeeds, and has 6 activations
10-11 | Advanced enchantment succeeds, and has 6 activations; OR Intermediate enchantment succeeds, and has 10 activations
Weaponsmith Class Progression
Level 1: Enchant Weapon (the basic function of the class becomes available)
Level 2: Roll twice, taking the higher of the two rolls
Level 3: Add a +1 bonus to all enchanting rolls
Level 4: Reduce the penalty for overenchanting (enchanting a weapon with a preexisting enchantment) from -3 to -1
Level 5: Roll three times, taking the highest of the three rolls
Level 6: Add a +2 bonus (not cumulative with the Level 3 benefit) to all enchanting rolls
Enchanting Formula: Burning Weapon
Minimum Materials: two pounds of kingsilver, one piece of amber, one black pearl
Optional Materials: +1 pound of kingsilver (+1 bonus), +1 sunstone (+2 bonus), +1 pound of mithral (+2 bonus). (These bonuses stack with each other, but not with themselves.)
Time to Create: 2 days
Basic Enchantment: Burning Weapon (+2 fire damage per strike)
Intermediate Enchantment: Flaming Weapon (+1d6 fire damage per strike)
It will be necessary to create and distribute through play a variety of different materials. For the purposes of this example, I've stolen names from KG and DtD. There are at least five different materials, and at least three grades of each. For example, silver/kingsilver/mithral is one material with three grades; amber/sunstone/jewel of ages is another. I haven't given sufficient thought yet to the pricing of these goods, but they are rare enough that most merchant NPCs won't have more than, say, ten to fifteen materials of various types. These materials turn up in some supply as part of adventure loot, with silver and its improved forms more common among the dwarves, and black pearl being (naturally) more common near the sea. In the sandbox gameplay environment mentioned above, the players might prioritize one adventure plan over several others because they like improved odds of getting one particular type of treasure.
I think I have probably done a less than ideal job of organizing my thoughts in this post, but I will attempt to clarify and edit in response to comments.