On the Value of Crafting

I have previously characterised crafting in The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™ as a low-value time- and gold-sink. With quest rewards as you level up and drops in the endgame, the place for crafted items is limited. Commenters argued that I was over-stating the point, and this is true. I wish to re-visit the point.

First, crafting is of very limited value as you are leveling up your first character. I stand by this. Unless you are very aggressively pursuing trade skills and spending a large amount on raw materials, it is unlikely that you will make many pieces of use to you. There will be some, but few.

Second, crafting is nice for your second character. You exit the newbie world instance at level 6, and the level 7 armor I can tailor for you will beat most rewards for the next five to ten levels. Repeat for a few tiers: when my Minstrel hit the minimum level for linen armor, he kept only two quest pieces. This was without using single-shot recipes or critical successes; I am using his armor as free crafting experience for characters who “also” have tailoring, as opposed to my main. Crafted items are great for twinks.

Third, you are probably better off buying it. How long does it take you to master a tier of tailoring? And how much would it cost to commission a suit of tailored armor from one of the many others crafting? You already have a stack of hides from normal hunting. Even if you tailor armor for all your alts (no heavy armor wearers) at every tier (no quest rewards), that is twenty suits of armor. You could stretch it to forty if you upgrade constantly. You make more than forty suits to master a single tier. The vast majority of your crafting time is going to grinding useless crap or stuff you sell (cheap) to people taking this advice.

Fourth, the valuable part is at the level cap. After grinding another 1500 points of crafting to finish the final tier, you are a Grand Master. A critical success on a single-shot recipe will get you one of the best items of its type in the game. Depending on the bonuses, a critical success on a normal recipe might be what a class needs. For every class, for some purpose, a crafted item is the best, and if not the absolute best, the best until you raid for several hundred hours. But you only need one of the best, and then you can repair it forever.

As a side note, combining those two means that getting a non-critical version of a final-tier item is very cheap. People mass-produce them in the search for critical successes. They sell the critical successes for a lot but sell the normal successes cheap to make back some money. So a non-critical success from a single-shot recipe produces an item that will sell for less than the recipe itself. The product is worth less than the materials. Which leads us to our next point.

Fifth, the best way to make money crafting is to sell to other crafters. Gathering professions make money: harvest and sell the raw resources, maybe the processed resources. Crafters have already exhibited our economic ignorance by being crafters: we either do not know or do not care about the time-/gold-sink nature of the project, and we will pay too much for the materials. Even if most will not, after all the reasonably priced materials have been bought, yours are next. I make decent money selling crafted tools to crafters. The big trade lately has been selling single-shot Scholar scrolls that people use to increase their chances of critical success on other single-shot scrolls. (Depending on prices, you can figure out which two-recipe path is cheaper.)

Sixth, this is not entirely true with consumables. If you want healing potions or buffing food, you can buy it at any level. Scrolls, hope tokens, and all that jazz can be sold as you make them, paying for your skill-up. You can make a profit before capping out. Unfortunately, your profits at that cap are not much higher. Some people will pay a premium for the absolute best food or potions, but not a lot more. I have bought almost no consumables, using drops and quest rewards for food and potions. This is basically the choice between careers in low-skill labor (decent pay now, a decent bump if you graduate to high-skill) or with an advanced degree (nothing now, shot at a big payout at the end with a bit of luck).

Seventh, they are nice for gaining faction (with one faction each) in tier 5. Tier 4 is okay, and it gives you something in particular to craft, but my tailor capped Rangers of Esteldin faction long before hitting Grand Master. Again, that is late game, and you don’t need master all the tiers to do it.

So if you are thinking about taking up a trade skill, I encourage you: choose a profession with a gathering skill, or multiple like the Explorer. You will make fair money with almost 0 bother, and your vault space will not be full of crafting materials. If you want crafted items, you can buy them cheap or have them made with the materials you provide, probably free if you find someone skilling up (no chance for a critical success, though). And you will be driving down prices for me, which I appreciate.

: Zubon

8 thoughts on “On the Value of Crafting”

  1. There are few MMOs where you should take up crafting, unless you enjoy crafting for it’s own sake. LoTRO is no exception.

    That said, my first toon that I really leveled up was an explorer. I made fat heaps of cash selling ore that I had almost no use for. I also found it very easy to make leather (hunter) for myself as I leveled. The common recipes were mediocre, but rare recipes outclassed the great majority of quested armor drops as I went. I was not all that hardcore about my crafting, and I was wearing mostly crafted armor all the way up. Drops were never better than what I made, quested stuff sometimes was.

    I have played many MMOs where it was either a much worse grind to level crafting or where the great majority of what you could craft was utterly sucky compared to common drops. I have also played a few MMOs that had better crafting, but I’d put LoTRO in my top 5 overall.

  2. WoW has actually improved its situation by making it so that each of the professions has something to recommend it, just on its own. The only way you can get your rings enchanted is if you are an enchanter. There are several recipes that create BoP items in each crafting profession that are as good or better than the stuff you’ll see in the first tier of raids, and more that you can pick up as you raid higher; there are several JC recipes that create BoP items that are arguably the best neck and finger pieces in the game.

    There’s some recipes that can only be picked up in raids, along with materials that can only be picked up in raids, but which create BoE items that can be sold on the market for more than the sum of their component parts. However, these are few and far between, and begin to be devalued as more people on a given server learn the recipe.

    I think the developers are, for the most part, giving up on making crafting into a moneymaking profession. They know now that people will almost always lose money on professions, and are instead trying to give them something for all their effort.

  3. Curious. When I played in The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™ open beta, I was stunned at the amount of money and experience my hobbit farmer could make just by farming. Invest a little bit of coin into good seeds and Rivendell soil or whatever, grow your crops, return to the crafting trader to sell the final goods, buy new seeds, etcetera. It was wholly mechanical, but yielded a small excess of coin along with the requisite crafting experience.

    Then I thought, how long until someone writes a script to do this whole thing and crash the economy?

    That’s the balancing act with crafting, isn’t it? Make producing goods a profitable proposition, and you open the door for gold farmers and OCD-grinders. Make it a fiscally losing proposition, and you make it an unappealing, pointless grind fest.

    Age of Conan rectifies this somewhat by introducing random encounters in the gathering areas, which both spices up the grind of gathering and takes care of farm bots. There is a semi-functional mini-economy of gems due to crafted weapons and armour having gem slots by default. By and large, though, crafting is broken – there is a limited number of recipes, they make static items (as opposed to, say, UO, SWG or Ryzom, where the crafter’s skill and raw materials play into the equation), the items aren’t particularly good compared to drops or quest rewards, and the act of crafting is an uninspired, dull activity. So by and large, crafting is an unappealing activity within that game, too.

    IMHO, there are two ways of making crafting a valuable activity. They’re actually pretty obvious.

    #1: Make crafting a fun and challenging activity in and of itself. By attaching, say, an action-puzzle sequence to the act of crafting and causing the end-result to vary in quality dependent on the player’s performance in the sequence, you fix the problem of craft-bots while providing additional challenge and entertainment for the player. Further, crafting becomes dependent both on character- and player-skill. See AoC’s “active combat” system.

    #2: By making crafting a complex centerpiece of your game, you can create gameplay centred around game economy and communal progress. In these cases, you make it okay for the player to profit from potentially repetitious crafting activities, because there are so many different steps and varieties that the player can explore there is no need to worry the players will get bored. If you’re a savvy designer, you can facilitate the act of crafting such that core gameplay is directed away from repetitious manipulation of the GUI and towards social interaction with other players – establishing trade agreements, forging alliances, waging economic warfare, competing for raw material and so on. See EVE Online (automated factories, anyone?) and A Tale in the Desert for prominent examples.

  4. I’ll agree that with the first character (or any initial crafting type) it’s difficult, if not impossible, to keep up. I made a damn good attempt at it with my hunter, always trying to keep his woodworking skill up so that the second my hunter achieved whatever level the next tier of bow kicked in, my hunter could immediately craft one if he hadn’t already done so. But eventually you end up out-leveling it and fall behind. I suppose if I’d just stopped adventuring and strictly worked on woodworking and only killing the mobs in my way I could have, but that would have defeated the purpose in trying to maintain an equal footing in each sphere of the game.

    I will say that I feel LOTRO’s crafting is more useful, or relevant, than WoW was back when I played it. I’m of the opinion that if I’m going to bother putting in my time and effort to craft (which I don’t always do) then I should be able to craft darn good stuff and eventually the best out there. LOTRO typically keeps crafted gear more or less on par with quest rewards, and the end-game crafted gear is the best. Raid gear is slightly better but only seems to function better when you’re actually in a raid, from what I’m told, and I like that idea if it’s true.

    I’m all for making crafting more meaningful, more relevant, and most importantly: more FUN. So far a system that is (more or less) universally fun has not been devised.

  5. It really isn’t that hard to make cash as a crafter. First i would like to begin by saying you are correct, Singe Use Recipes are indeed the most profitable; however, they are not the only path to riches. With enough dedication you can do any of the following:

    At low levels, head to the bree crafting hall/michael delving in the shire. Guess what you find: quests that require you to seek out other crafters and have them make specific items for you. Now, most 1st characters will NOT have the cash to purchase these items, but many twinks will have plenty of money and will look to complete the quest simply to get the extra xp. Post the bronze armour, for example, on the AH for 50s and there is a good bet that somebody looking to complete the quest will buy it. Huge profit for you, but they are willing to make that sacrifice.

    Next, So you are a mid-level character and all of the good armour you can make is 10 levels lower than you? No problem. Just head to a region for a corresponding level to your armour and market your product. You may not want that level 21 chestpiece when you are 33, but a newbie in the Lone Lands certainly will. The beauty of this plan is that even 1st time toons will ALWAYS have a surplus of cash from questing. Better yet, they probably will NOT know that they need 4.25g at level 35. It is ruthless (but not really since you are selling them a decent product) but you can pretty much strip them of all this coin

  6. @Scott its not that it doesn’t function outside Raids, its just that what is special about it has next to no extra application outside PVE raiding (shadow mitigation and stuff)

    A similar paradigm holds true for the pvp gear.. its really good for pvmp.. and not as special for other things.

    I like this because I don’t like the WoW paradigm where you go raid a ton and then go clean up people in an activity you weren’t even participating in prior. I also like how people with the best gear can still be easily killed if they step out of line, whereas in wow they became a one-man/woman army oftentimes.

  7. Things that I think most systems could learn from EVE:

    1) Everyone could make most stuff, just not very efficiently.
    2) Even the endgame stuff that required specialisation could be made without ever having to make worthless stuff.
    3) Everything makeable could be destroyed or consumed.
    4) Everything could be recycled into a reasonable fraction of its materials.

    Contrast this with Warcraft, where most stuff that most crafters make while levelling up can at best only be disenchanted. This is Not Fun and doesn’t contribute to the character feeling useful.

    Eve limited crafting by availability of blueprints (and to a certain extent factory slots), rather than grinding time.

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