Well, I’ve gotten a little further with the basic design overview for my crafting test-of-concept, but still a lot of work to do.  The document isn’t exceptionally descriptive… there are a lot of terms and assumptions thrown around without a lot of definition behind them.  However, just in case anyone was interested in weeding thru it and providing feedback (and because I really wanted to post _something_ this weekend), I figured I’d throw this out there and see if there was any commentary offered.

All the gory debris (so far) comes after the jump. P.S. Sorry about the formatting… let’s put it this way, it didn’t translate well from the original MSWord doc. I’ve edited it some, but there are still some less-than-pretty sections…


This is a proposed implementation for blacksmithing in Voyages in Eternity (with an eye toward future expansion to all other types of metal working to be incorporated).

The intent of this design will be consistent with the overall design goals of the Voyages project itself, specifically the utilization of detail to create meaningful options, and the focus on processes (as opposed to basic success/failure determinations) to encourage decision-making. Other goals specific to this design are outlined in the next section.

In brief, this proposal attempts to recreate the basic steps of the real blacksmithing process in rough abstract. This is intended to give interested players some basic insights into the actual craft, while avoiding becoming so detailed and “realistic” that any players more casually interested in the endeavor are discouraged.



  • Each task/step is a process, dictated by player
  • Detailed outcomes based primarily on player choices
  • Random events create challenges to be met and opportunities to take advantage of
  • Most tasks are not time bounded; player can act intently or leisurely as desired


  • Impart some basic information as to the actual blacksmithing process

Related Subsystems

Character Development: Knowledge
There will be a standard set of Skills, Techniques, and underlying Concepts defining the character’s current abilities in various aspects of the craft.

Various forms of equipment, including weapons, armors, and a variety of tools, are fairly typical products of this craft. The craftsman will have a significant influence on the basic specs of the equipment he creates. This needs to tie directly into how such equipment is used by other characters in play.

Character Development: “Fortunas”
The impact of various general “Fortunas” (vaguely similar in function to “inspirations” in City of Heroes) on the crafting process will be defined. There will be a set of “Fortunas” specific to the crafting process as well.

Crafting: Smelting
Smelting is used to produce one of the primary commodities used in the Smithing craft(s): “pieces of metal” of various sizes and alloy content.

System Requirements

The basic real-life process of blacksmithing seems to boil down to 5 major steps:

  1. Forming
  2. Annealing
  3. Detailing
  4. Tempering
  5. Finishing

Each of these steps will be implemented as a process for the smith to complete.  Only Annealing and Tempering are time-critical in real life, and both can probably be implemented in such a way that retaining that sense of timing will not create too much pressure on the player to “concentrate on the game” such that communication or dealing with other distractions would become cumbersome.

Note that all of the following is strictly related to iron and steel working: i.e. “black metals”.  Other metals and alloys such as copper, brass, bronze, silver, tin, and so on work rather differently (for example, pounding most of these “white” metals makes them both harder and more brittle, unlike iron/steel which just becomes more brittle, but no easier/harder to work.  The re-heating of “white metals”/non-ferrous is mainly to soften the metal up, and such items are only rarely worked while hot, obviously a very different expectation than iron/steel.

Core Resolution Process

Each primary technique used will cause the generation of three basic values, loosely categorized as “Force”, “Efficiency”, and “Vulnerability”.  These values are multiplied together to determine a basic “Applied Force” score.  Applied Force is then divided by two values, largely determined by the specific metal being used and the item being crafted.

Applied Force / Hardness = Effect Score

Effect Score is compared to the Item’s current Malleability to determine of how much overall effect the technique will have, particularly in terms of how much progress that particular use of the technique generated.  The number of multiples of the Malleability score that are achieved have a strong impact on the total effect generated by any technique.


Applied Force / Cohesion = Damage Score

Damage Score is compared to the Item’s current Durability (modified for Stress) to determine the possibility of the introduction of flaws and the occurrence of other potential mishaps.  The Damage Score is compared to the modified current Durability, and a “Critical severity” is determined, with a second random value then being generated to determine the actual effect/impact.  Critical determination works about the same as in the Voyages combat system: 25%-33% is a Light Critical, 33%-50% is Moderate, 50%-100% is Severe, and 100%+ is Lethal/Devastating.  The specific type of Critical is related to the technique being used (Pounding, Chiseling, Sheering, Bending, etc), and the specific effects are often modified by the original Force, Efficiency, and Vulnerability factors generated.


Metals and Alloys with higher Cohesion factors are somewhat easier to work with, being less likely to shatter or fracture.  Cohesion and Hardness are related, but not identical nor necessarily strongly bound to any particular ratio: metals and alloys with higher Cohesion are likely to have higher Hardness scores as well, and vice versa, but not in any specific 1:1 or other correlation.


Forming at its core is simply getting the steel into the appropriate basic shape.  There are two common ways of doing this: “stock removal”, which is taking a stock piece of steel and cutting and grinding away material until the basic form is achieved; and “forging”, the more traditional method of heating the steel and pounding it into shape.  A third method would be “molding”, using a plaster mold to create the base form. 

(I am uncertain how often molding is actually used in real life: while it is a common feature of depictions of weaponsmithing in cinema, for example, it receives absolutely no mention at all in a couple of the resources I used during research, but does get some treatment in a couple of others.)

In the first two cases, stock removal and forming, the smith starts with a basic “piece of metal” item (products of the Crafting: Smelting skills/process).  The process being used, and end result desired, determine the necessary dimensions and weight of this “piece of metal”.  In stock removal, the piece of metal will need to be at least as large as the item to be made in all dimensions, as material is removed via chiseling, filing, and so on to reach the desired shape.  In forging, the piece of metal simply needs to have approximately the same weight and shape as the item to be made, the material is then molded/pounded into the proper form.  (Pieces of metal will be products of the Smelting skill.)

The forming process in either case is a basic process of getting from a Form value of 0 to some target figure (“target Form value”) based on the above criteria.  Simple forming tasks (say, forging crowbars) might have target Form values of perhaps 500, while larger or complex tasks such as a rapier blade might have values in the several thousands.  (Future consideration: perhaps for the stock removal process, we have the process go from a very large starting value down to the target value, to better express the concept of removing material.)

More intricate or complex items, such as weapons, components for machinery, etc., will have multiple Form values representing ever more detailed levels of precision in terms of form.  Some examples:

Rough: Crowbars, horseshoes, armor plates

Regular: Many tools, blunt weapons, smaller items

Fine: armor joints, blades, precision tools (shaping hammers)

Precise: advanced weaponry, machine parts

Each item will have a range of Form values at one or more of the above levels that are defined as “acceptable” values. Moving on to the Tempering phase prior to having all the various Form values in the acceptable range will lead to both reduced utility and increased likelihood of breakage, expressed through the addition of multiple random Flaws during the tempering process itself (i.e. making them nearly impossible to fix).In addition to adjusting the Form value, the craftsman is also (potentially) modifying various other values related to the finished product.  Some of these are real-life considerations common to the process, but many are contrived game mechanisms that tie into other subsystems.

General Properties:

These are scores that apply to all items, and can be altered via general Smithing skill

Bend: any bent or curved item also has a target Bend score to be achieved
Durability: numeric score indicating overall likelihood of breaking during use/stress
Malleability: numeric score indicating how easily the item can be shaped/bent/etc
Weight: how much the item weighs
Utility: general score indicating ease of use (applies to tools, convertible to finesse for weapons)

Weapon Properties:

These are scores that are particular to weapons, altered via Weaponsmith techniques

Balance: indicates an ease of use that translates to quicker restoration of Readiness
Finesse: indicates an ease of use that translates to bonus for successful use
Heft: indicates an ease of use that translates to higher base damage factor
(Balance, Finesse, and Heft generally trade off amongst each other)
Edge: indicates how fine and durable an Edge can be achieved (damage bonus, slashing)
Point: indicates how fine and durable a Point can be achieved (damage bonus, piercing)

Armor Properties:

These are scores particular to armor, altered via Armorsmith techniques

Ease: adjusts the burdening factor of the armor while worn (Stamina costs)
Ward: additive protection value (accessed via Armor Finesse skills)

There is no solid “end” to the Forming process, per se: the craftsman can continue to work the item, seeking better values for multiple scores, for as long as desired. However, there are Challenge factors that accrue while the item is being worked, which the craftsman must continually deal with to continue to make progress, and which will eventually accumulate to such a level that the craftsman is likely to be better off finishing the item than trying to continue to work it.


Stress: acts against Durability, making the item more likely to pick up flaws and even break as it is worked

Familiarity: acts against the craftsman’s Awareness, making Flaws more and more difficult to find without assistance

Heat: acts to define a timeframe during which the item can be worked while Forging.  Items can be re-heated as often as desired: this really only has impact in situations where there is a limited amount of time to create a finished item (deadlines, delivery dates, etc).

Flaws can be introduced at nearly any point in the process, and one of the main challenges of the craftsman is to find and fix any flaws as quickly as possible.  Flaws have 5 basic related scores/ratings, which fluctuate with each additional working of the item.

 Flaw ratings:

Detection: the Awareness score necessary to be notified that Flaw exists, but no specifics

Identification: the Awareness score necessary to be notified of the specifics of the Flaw

Difficulty: modifies how much effort will be required to fix the Flaw

Target: the amount of Mitigation that must be accrued to remove the Flaw

Mitigation: tracks the amount of progress achieved in “fixing” the Flaw

Stock removal is actually somewhat analogous to going straight to the Detailing step.  It also has obvious similarities to the art of sculpture.  Steel in the (relatively) soft, brittle, and cold “annealed” state is chiseled and ground down to the appropriate form.  Note that simply pounding on the steel (as per forging) in this state will be very likely to eventually shatter the steel: this is a process involving patience and precision, directed force more than raw force.  Tools used include chisels, grinders, and hammers.

Forging consists of heating the steel to a temperature that makes the steel workable (ex. 1200F-1800F for carbon steel), then working the steel into the basic shape desired, largely through pounding.  Tools used include a forge (for heating the steel), an anvil (a base for pounding against), tongs (for handling the steel, moving it into position), hammers (for pounding with).

Accumulated Stress can be mitigated through the process of “normalization”, essentially heating the item to the forging (“austenization”) temperature, and then allowing it to cool without working it.  Accumulated Familiarity can be mitigated by setting the item aside for a time, or with the assistance of another craftsman through certain evaluation techniques.


Annealing is a process of heating and cooling an item to put the steel into a relatively “soft” state, amenable to finer work with tools such as chisels and files.  This is achieved by heating the blade to “forging” temperature, but then cooling it slowly, often by packing it in an insulating material.  In the real world, this cooling will take at least several hours, up to about a day: obviously that will need to be compressed somewhat for the game implementation.


This is the stage of the process where finer work takes place: in game terms, properties like Edge and Point should be far easier to establish here.  Limiting factors should include a general inability to increase any of the “Form” scores, allowing only decreases, or perhaps at most tradeoffs from higher/larger levels down to lower ones (maybe a technique allows reducing Rough Form by X points in exchange for adding Y points to the Regular Form score, for example)

Alternatively, Form scores may be easy to increase, difficult to reduce.  Part of the crafting challenge then becomes an exercise in “achieving specific Form scores without going over”, creating another effective limitation on how much an item can be worked.

Detailing work should seem somewhat slower, and more heavily dependent upon non-physical energy expenditures (Sanity (precision) and Spirit (patience), as opposed to Stamina), although Stamina should still play a role… it’s still a physically arduous task.

While it is possible to go back and forth between Detailing and Forging, it should be discouraged.  In short, a lot of any definition obtained during detailing should be lost if the item is taken back to the Forming stage of the process.


Tempering is a 2-step process: first the item is “quenched”, which is a preliminary hardening of the item by heating it to forging temperature, then quickly cooling it by quenching it in oil or water.  This is done to perform an initial hardening of the item.  This is a fairly tricky part of the process in real life: if the item does not cool evenly for some reason, it can fracture or warp.  Also, the item cannot be left in the quenching bath for too short or too long a time, or complications can occur.

The second step is the actual tempering of the steel.  In this step, the item is heated again, but not all the way up to forging temperature: tempering is achieved at a far lower temperature.  It is heated for a time then quenched again.  This is done multiple times to achieve specific levels of hardness. 


The basic resolution system should be similar to combat.  Three factors are determined per action: Force, Efficiency, and Vulnerability.  These combine to determine the actual effect of each use of a technique, based on the specifics of the technique.  FxExV gets compared to both the adjusted Malleability and adjusted Durability of the item… Malleability determines the scale of the positive results, Durability determines scale of negative results.


Handling, Tongs

This skill should be all about adjusting the position and maintaining control of the item/piece being worked during forging.  Implementation would be similar to that of a combat weapon: a variety of Grips, and a selection of Adjustments.  Grips should apply various bonuses and penalties to Malleability, Stress, Familiarity, and the Vulnerability of the item.  One and two-hand versions of various techniques should be included (requiring/encouraging “pairing up” to work larger items like two-handed swords should be considered.)  Defensive “reflex” techniques allowing resistance of certain “criticals” might be incorporated under this skill as well.

Handling, Hammers

This skill should be about managing the readiness of the primary tool for forging, the hammer.  Readiness acts as a limit on how frequently the craftsman can act to work the item.  Grips and Adjustments which impact the recovery of Readiness, maximum Readiness, stamina depletion, and so on would all be part of this skill.  Modifiers to the likelihood of success with various Smithing techniques might also be achievable via techniques under this skill.  Again, one and two-handed versions of techniques should be implemented.


This skill should incorporate all the basic techniques for forming an object out of iron/steel, largely leaving out factors related to weapon or armor traits/properties.  Basic forging, detailing, proper heating and cooling, and basic Flaw detection should be the types of techniques under this skill.


This skill should be an adjunct to the Blacksmithing skill (as well as other crafting skills in a larger product, i.e. Coppersmithing (copper/brass/bronze), Silversmithing (silver/mithril), Stonework (weapons of stone, jade, volcanic glass, etc.), and so on.  Weaponsmithing techniques should focus on applying and improving weapon-related properties of an item: heft, balance, point/edge, etc.


This skill should be an adjunct to the Blacksmithing skill (as well as other crafting skills in a larger product, i.e. Coppersmithing (copper/brass/bronze), Weaving (padded armors, lacquered wicker/wood slat armors as per American Indian armors), and so on.  Armorer techniques should be about adjusting armor-related properties like Ease and Ward, as well as achieving specific sizes/fits.

General Perception

This skill should focus on allowing the player to manage the character’s Awareness score in general terms… keeping the general Awareness score as high as possible, overcoming random distractions, etc.  As it applies to the blacksmithing demo, Awareness is mainly about detecting and identifying Flaws in items being worked, as well as being expended to “power” various techniques.  Techniques for focusing specifically on finding/identifying Flaws are instead incorporated into the Blacksmithing, Weaponsmithing, and Armorer skills.


Instruction skill incorporates techniques for defining efficiency when passing “Knowledge elements” back-and-forth between characters.  Techniques would include generating new Lessons based on Concepts known/mastered by the character for distribution to others, as well as techniques for effective distribution of Lessons and other Knowledge elements (blueprints for new items, for example).  This is intended to add/emphasize a “social” dimension to the character advancement system: accumulation of Lessons leads to mastery of new Concepts, which combine in various sets to open new Techniques to the character, which allow ever more effective options for exercising Skills.  Lessons can be accreted via errand/quest completion, research (via “study” of manuals/tomes, for example), and/or through interaction with other characters to share/trade knowledge.

A secondary impact of this skill in the demo should be related to the ability to point out Flaws and offer “Insight buffs”, i.e. “tips”, to other player/characters.  Initial generation of such Tips would be achieved via techniques under the various smithing skills, but then would be transmitted from one character to another via Instruction techniques.

Physical Tolerance, Mental Tolerance, Emotional Tolerance

Three separate skills, each granting limited control over one of the 3 health/energy scores (Stamina, Sanity, and Spirit.)  The health/energy scores act as a limiting factor in terms of how long the character can operate without at least a brief downtime.  Fatigue and Exhaustion conversions and accruals should be applied as per the current overall Voyages design.  Resistance of the occasional accidental/random stresses to the character also falls under these skills (i.e. Physical: burns, potential cuts and bruises from mishandled tools; Mental: distractions, misjudgments; Emotional: impatience, indifference, frustration)



Given this basic layout…
Voyages main interface screenshot 2007-03-11

Main change necessary to this basic layout would be replacing the “Target” interface composite control in the upper right hand corner of the screen with an interface that reports progress on the various factors related to item creation instead (Form values, for example.)  Flaws, potential tips, etc. could be reported in the exact same manner as buffs, conditions under the existing “Target” element, creating rows of “icons’ from right to left (in the area titled General in the screenshot).  The hit location element is unnecessary… question is, should it be replaced with a graphic of the item being created, or do we need that screen real estate for giving feedback on progress with the various crafting factors?

Still have to design the composite control for managing techniques.  Additionally, the composite control for managing “Fortunas”, similar to Inspirations under CoH, needs to be defined.  For the first pass, an interface similar to that of CoH/CoV should be sufficient.

  • Tools
  • Customer Service
  • Logging
  • Metrics
  • Risk Analysis
  • Use Cases
  • Visual Aids


How Stuff Works: Sword Making

  • Choosing a design
  • Selecting the stock
  • Forging and shaping the blade
  • Normalizing and annealing the steel
  • Adding the edge
  • Tempering the steel
  • Adding the guard, hilt and pommel

Heating the blade: worked while too cool, might shatter; too hot, same problem.

  • Drawing: pounding to shape, long and flat
  • Tapering: creating tip and tang
  • Normalize: heat, air-cool, smooth the grain, more durable
  • Annealing: heat, cool slowly, makes soft, easier to grind/cut
  • Grinding and filing: setting edge and tip
  • Hardening: hardens steel, heat evenly then cool quickly thru quenching
  • Tempering: heat to lower temperature, cool

Alchemy Companion (ICE Rolemaster RPG)
pp.8-9, + “spell lists” throughout the book

  • Work area is divided into sections: Hot working/Cold working (Forging/Detailing)
  • Large windows (lighting), tables/benches
  • Furnace with bellows (smelting)
  • Forge/Hearth (similar to furnace, more open for easier access)
  • Anvils, hammers, tongs, pliers, ladles, ingot molds, crucibles, quenching vats
  • Cold working: Jewelers’ saw, calipers, punches, awls, anvils, shears/metal snips, scrapers, files, chisels, draw plates (for making wire), grindstones, buffing wheels

Non-ferrous metals get hard and brittle with cold working, heated/annealed to soften them. By contrast, ferrous metals are heated to harden them.

A good overview of history of metalworking, including metallurgical/chemical reaction info