My idea: making a plain old every day item is pretty easy. Making it cool in some way, even in a non-magical way, is harder. Screwing up while making a weapon doesn't instantly ruin it, but it can make the weapon a bit unreliable. These rules are rough and incomplete, but I think the idea behind them is pretty solid. I will certainly be using Harbinger of Doom's ideas for materials of extraordinary (and crappy) quality, and these rules would best be used in a game using the inherent bonus rules from DMG2 (and in a setting where magic items are pretty rare or at least not readily available in a shop).
Crafting Rules (Normal Items): You can derive the base DC of making a weapon by first looking at its Group. If a weapon falls into more than one Group, use whichever DC set is highest.
- Maces, Slings, and Staffs are all level 1 items (DC 8/12/19)
- Axes, Bows, Hammers, Spears, and Unarmed Weapons are all level 2 items (DC 9/13/20)
- Crossbows, Heavy Blades, Light Blades, and Polearms are all level 3 items (DC 9/13/21)
Then you look at which Category the weapon falls into.
- Simple Weapons use Easy DCs.
- Military Weapons use Moderate DCs.
- Superior Weapons use Hard DCs.
I keep talking about checks and DCs. What skill am I rolling to make all of these items, you might ask. That also depends on weapon type.
- Axes, Hammers, Heavy Blades, Light Blades, Maces, Polearms, Spears, and Unarmed Weapons use Dungeoneering (knowledge of metals)
- Bows, Slings, and Staffs use Nature (knowledge of woods and leather)
- Crossbows use Thievery (knowledge of mechanisms)
In order to complete a basic weapon, you must complete a Complexity 1 "crafting challenge" that follows the basic rules of a skill challenge. The DC is set by the type of item you are making. Unlike a normal skill challenge, where you creatively figure out what you are doing and which skill best fits your actions, you simply keep rolling the associated skill check (by yourself or with a friend) until you succeed 4 times. On each check, you apply a modifier for the quality of item you are using (basic quality is usually a +/- 0). Each failure introduces a Flaw (more on these later) into your weapon. Fail 3 times and the weapon comes out so messed up it is unusable. You lose some portion of the materials and must start over.
Flaws and Features
Flaws and Features are Item Daily powers. Features are activated by the player. Flaws are activated, when the appropriate trigger occurs, by the DM.
I haven't worked these all out yet, but the idea, similar to Harbinger of Doom's post, is that each weapon group has a lesser and a greater flaw associated with it. If you fail once, your weapon gets a lesser flaw. If you fail twice, your weapon either gets a second lesser flaw (if your weapon is of multiple groups or has a feature) or your first lesser flaw becomes a greater flaw.
Example 1: A Quarterstaff.
Hoborne, the level 1 Shifter Druid (Nature +11) has been beaten up by thieves, robbed, and left for dead. He wakes up after sleeping off his wounds and decides he needs a quarterstaff for protection. Luckily he is in the woods. He doesn't have very good materials on hand, but he can get an oak tree limb, a sharpened rock, some kind of appropriate sap and some basic wood charcoal to make his staff, but all are sub-par materials, resulting in a -2 for each check he'll be making. A simple staff is a DC 8 project, so even with a -2 penalty, he will never fail. Hoborne can make his quarterstaff with no problems, not even having to roll a single check.
Example 2: A Scimitar.
However, if he decided to try and make himself a scimitar, it would be a different matter. Unfortunately, he is NOT trained in Dungeoneering, so he only has a +4 Dungeoneering check. Even more unfortunately, he will be working with objects wholly unsuited to scimitar making: Stone blade (-2 check), Stone hammer (-4 check), plain old stream water (+0 check), and a camp fire rather than a forge (-4 check). To make matters worse, the DC for a Scimitar (Military Heavy Blade) is DC 13. To make a functional Scimitar, Hobbes would have to roll an 8, a 10, and two 12s before failing 3 times. Let's say Hoborne fails twice before succeeding. He'd have a functional Scimitar, but it would have a major DM-controlled Flaw:
Notched Blade Item Flaw
The imperfections in your blade leave it open to being easily notched.
Trigger: You roll a 1 on an attack while using this weapon
Effect: You deal -2 damage with all weapon attacks that use this weapon until you take a short rest.
Part two will explore what the non-magical types can do to make their weapons awesome without having resort to magic.