Wear & Tear
Everything decays, given enough time. It's hard to keep your gear in good shape out in the wilds—swords chip, staves break, and armor dents. Nothing stays in perfect condition forever—especially given the rigors of day-to-day adventuring. Keep a good whetstone in your pack and a sharp sword in your hand to survive the dangers ahead.
This chapter introduces rules to help track wear and tear on your items, how damage affects your gear, and how to repair and temper your equipment to prevent future damage.
Items degrade with use, losing condition until they become useless. This is measured with notches—the more notches an item has, the more it has degraded.
Items gain notches through damage and critical failures, and must be repaired or otherwise restored using the correct skills, tools, and expertise to function properly again.
Any object that can suffer damage can become notched, reducing its functionality and quality—through scratches, chips, dents, and cracks.
Objects generally fall into one of four categories: weapons, armor, magic foci, and miscellaneous items.
Armor gains a notch when you are critically hit by an attack. Each armor notch reduces your total AC by 1.
If you are not wearing any armor and are critically hit by an attack, select a random item in your inventory—that item gains a new notch instead.
Weapons—both melee and ranged—gain a notch when you critically fail an attack with them.
Each weapon notch reduces by one step the damage die you roll with that weapon (to a minimum of 1):
1d12 → 1d10 → 1d8 → 1d6 → 1d4 → 1
Some weapons roll multiple die for their damage—for example, greatswords rolling 2d6. In these cases, each notch reduces just one die at a time:
2d6 → 1d6 + 1d4 → 2d4 → 1d4 + 1 → 2 → 1
A weapon's damage cannot go below 1, but it can still gain additional notches. These notches must be repaired with relevant tools (whetstones, smith's tools, etc) to restore the weapon's damage dice.
A spellcasting focus—such as a bard's instrument, a wizard's staff, or a cleric's holy symbol—gains a notch whenever you critically fail a spellcasting action whilst wielding it.
Each notch reduces your total spellcasting ability by 1 in any spellcasting action involving that focus.
Magical Mishaps: Magic can be wild and dangerous if not handled carefully. If you roll a critical fail while spellcasting and are not holding a spellcasting focus at the time, the power strikes out—a random item in your inventory gains a new notch.
If you hold a focus—whether it was used during the spell or not—that focus automatically attracts the wild magic and gains the notch instead.
All other items gain a notch whenever appropriate, often when they take direct damage or are used in a failed skill check—such as rolling a natural 1 to disarm a trap with a set of thieves tools.
- GM:The door to the basement is locked, Viridian. A heart is etched under the key hole.
- Viridian:Locked? Against a bard and his lock picks? I don't think so... (rolls 1) ...oh come on!
- GM:You feel one of the tools bend awkwardly in your hand. Your lockpicks take a notch of damage.
Each notch reduces the item's efficacy by 1, adding a cumulative −1 penalty to any roll made using that item.
Using a lockpick with one notch, for example, will apply a −1 penalty to your lockpicking attempts.
Everything falls apart eventually, given enough damage and time. Your items can break irreparably if they suffer too many notches, becoming useless scrap.
Most objects are sturdy enough to withstand a fair amount of punishment, but be careful with delicate items—any more than one single notch and they shatter.
|Delicate||Thin glass, ceramics, complicated or tiny machinery||1|
|Sturdy||Wood, metal, well-made goods||10|
|Indestructible||Thick stone, strong metals||100+|
- GM:That's a critical failure on your spell attack, Clanda. Take a notch of damage.
- Clanda:Damn, I'm not holding my focus. That means my... (rolls for a random item) delicate potion of healing takes a second notch. Oh dear.
- GM:Oh dear indeed. Your arcane power hits the already-chipped glass potion bottle—it shatters inside your bag, spilling the liquid everywhere.
Sacrificing Weapons and Armor
When you hit with an attack, you can shatter your weapon to roll its original un-notched damage die. Decide this before you roll your damage.
Likewise, you can sacrifice your armor when hit by an attack to reduce the damage taken by 3d4 for light armor, 3d8 for medium armor, and 3d12 for heavy armor—it falls apart irreparably in the process. You can decide this after damage is dealt.
Items can be repaired by an appropriate craftsman, costing 10% of the item price per notch. Depending on the item, this may require rare or expensive components.
Characters may, if they're proficient, also use relevant tools to perform basic repairs on their gear while out traveling—a whetstone to smooth out a notch, a sewing kit to patch up a robe, a hammer to tap out a dent.
Repairs of this kind generally require an hour, tools, and a successful Intelligence check. Failure, however, could result in creating a new notch if not careful.
The Mending cantrip repairs broken items—a torn waterskin, a split bow, a torn page. Notches, however, represent only minor damage to an item—not a complete break—and cannot be removed with Mending.
You can, however, use Mending to restore an item that has shattered from too many notches. A restored item is usable again, but has the maximum number of notches—without repairs, it will break again with one more notch.
- Clanda:After—finally—drying out my bag, I'll scoop together the remains of the bottle and cast Mending.
- GM:Your magic fuses the glass fragments back together into a useable, delicate bottle—it's cracked with 1 notch, but it'll hold liquid again.
You can't use Mending to restore a weapon or armor you have sacrificed—that gear is far too ruined for your simple cantrip to have any effect on.
With the right skills and the right materials, you can make your gear more resistant to wear and tear. This is called tempering and it reduces the number of notches your equipment takes from critical failures.
When you temper an item, you strengthen the material so that it can withstand more punishment and remain effective for longer—a tempered sword becomes harder to chip, and tempered armor harder to crack. The better the temper, the stronger your equipment.
There are three grades of temper, each more exclusive and expensive than the last: pure, royal, and astral.
|—||Common||Gains 1 notch|
|Pure Temper||Uncommon||Gains ½ (0.5) notch|
|Royal Temper||Rare||Gains ¼ (0.25) notch|
|Astral Temper||Mythic||Gains ⅛ (0.125) notch|
A tempered piece of equipment is less vulnerable to the effects of wear and tear. When you would gain 1 notch from a critical failure (such as when attacking or defending), you instead gain only a fraction of a notch—a half, a quarter, or an eighth, depending on the quality.
- GM:The troll lumbers towards you with a loud roar, Krazak. What do you do?
- Krazak:Hah, a dwarf fears no troll. I swing my greataxe in a wide arc... (rolls 1) ...and miss. Great.
- GM:Your axe cuts deep into the adjacent stone wall with a loud crack. It gains a notch of damage.
- Krazak:Lucky I had this beauty tempered back in town, she only gains ½ notch.
Applying a Temper
To temper a piece of equipment, you need four things: time, facilities, materials, and skill. You won't usually be able to temper gear yourself—such work requires special training—so keep an eye out for trained craftsmen.
|Pure||Base Value x 2||3 days||Base Value x 3|
|Royal||Base Value x 4||1 week||Base Value x 6|
|Astral||Base Value x 8||2 weeks||Base Value x 12|
It's relatively straightforward to find someone who can apply a pure temper (for a price, of course), but royal or astral tempering is extremely rare—you'll need to search far and wide for such legendary craftsmen.
Rare and unique equipment may require special materials for tempering—ore from ancient mines, red dragon scales, gems from a slaad's brain. Recovering these components may be an adventure in itself.
Repairing Tempered Gear
As you temper equipment, its inherent value increases. But it also becomes more expensive to repair damage whilst maintaining the temper—make sure you have enough coin to look after your gear.
In the mines of Kazadorn, Krazak has his greataxe Vengeance tempered. Applying a pure temper costs 60 gp (30 x 2) and takes 3 days. After the temper is applied, the weapon is worth 90 gp (30 x 3) and any notches will cost 9 gp (10% of 90) to repair.
The quality of an item affects how people treat it. Lower quality items are more likely to have visual defects, such as dents and scratches, that mark how it's been used.
This doesn't affect the item's effectiveness, but it may change how NPCs react—a merchant will offer much less for damaged goods, and a noble may be offended to receive anything that appears second-hand. Sometimes, you might want your goods to have a few scratches—a fighter who wears pristine armor may look like they've never been in battle, drawing scorn and derision.
There are four grades of item quality:
- Pristine: Never been notched. This item looks, feels, and smells brand new.
- Worn: Has had only one notch at a time. This item has one main defect that indicates use.
- Well-Worn: Has had two or three notches at one time. This item shows heavy signs of use.
- Scarred: Has had four or more notches at one time. This item looks shabby and in poor condition.
The quality of an item impacts how much a merchant may offer you for it—lower quality means lower prices.
Item quality can be restored by an appropriate crafts-man. This usually requires 1 week per grade, though rare or delicate items may take longer.
|Worn to Pristine||50%|
|Well-Worn to Worn||30%|
|Scarred to Well-Worn||10%|
Magic items are much more difficult to restore than mundane items—you may need to find an elite artisan or some especially rare materials to finish the restoration.
Wear & Tear is a flexible game mechanic that can be adjusted to suit a variety of settings and gameplay styles. If you want to customize the experience, consider using some of these variant dials.
Basic Wear & Tear
If you want to include a simplified version of item decay in your game, use object conditions. These lightweight conditions replace notches, tempering, and qualities.
Any object that can suffer damage (such as weapons, armor, magic foci, and other items) may track its state with three object conditions: fine, damaged, and broken.
- Fine: This object works as intended.
- Damaged: This object has taken some noticeable damage—a crack, a bend, a tear, etc—but can still be used without penalty.
- Broken: This object has been broken and can't be used again until it is properly repaired.
Unlike notches, object conditions don't affect the utility of your gear until they are broken—a damaged sword still cuts well, but a broken sword must be repaired.
Objects take damage whenever they are mishandled or otherwise treated poorly—such as by being critical hit or fumbled with.
Critically Hit: If you are critically hit by an attack, one of your items must take damage. You may choose either your armor or an object you are holding—if you're not wearing armor or holding anything, a random item in your inventory takes a level of damage instead.
Fumbled: If you critically fail with an object during an ability check, you fumble and the object takes a level of damage. Attack rolls and saving throws don't cause a fumble, even if you roll a natural 1.
- GM:The orc swings a sword at you, Valiant. It's.. (rolls 20) ...a critical hit, 20 points of slashing damage.
- Valiant:Ouch! Looks like my gear is taking some damage from that. I'll choose... my shield—I tried to block the attack with it and the sword cut deep, tearing a large crack in the shield. It's damaged now.
You can repair an object if you have the appropriate tools and knowledge. Repairs generally require an hour, tools, and a successful Intelligence check—after which you may improve the condition of the object by 1 tier.
Mending: You can use Mending to repair a broken object (if you have enough pieces). An object mended in this way is restored to a damaged condition.
Variant: Thicker Armor
If you want to add some more durability to your armored characters, extend the number of object conditions for heavier armor types:
- Medium Armor: Fine, Damaged (1/2), Broken.
- Heavy Armor: Fine, Damaged (1/2/3), Broken.
If you want to use notches in your game but without the need for tempers, then consider this temperless notches variant to change how notches are gained.
If you are critically hit by an attack, one of your items must gain a notch. Apply a notch to either your armor or an item you are holding (such as a weapon, shield, or spellcasting foci)—you may choose the object.
If you're not wearing armor or holding anything, a random item in your inventory gains a notch instead.
If you critically fail with an object during an ability check, you fumble and the object gains a notch. Attack rolls and saving throws don't cause you to fumble.
To add some variety to your monster actions, consider giving them destructive attacks that specifically damage equipment in addition to—or in place of—hit points.
|Armor Class11||Attack Bonus+6|
|Hit Points45 (23)||Damage10|
|Speed30 ft||Spell DCs14, 11|
|Saving Throws Str +4, Con/Dex +1, Wis/Cha/Int −1|
|Skills Initiative +2, Perception +2, Stealth +2 +|
Beserker Punch (common)
Melee 5 ft: +6 vs AC. Hit: 10 bludgeoning damage.
Sunder (recharge 5/6)
Melee 5 ft: +6 vs AC. Hit: 10 slashing damage and the target's armor suffers 1 notch.
Giffyglyph's Monster Maker
For more ideas about monsters and monstrous attacks, try Giffyglyph's Monster Maker—a supplement full of guides and templates to help build dangerous monsters.