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Storybuilding: Expanding Salvage Rules
Jul 6, 2022

Grim Hollow Article by Greg Marks

Perhaps the most exciting new rules to come to the Grim Hollow setting from the Monster Grimoire are the salvaging rules.

With the salvaging rules, every encounter might offer the chance at interesting unique treasure, even for those creatures that don’t normally carry coins. Whether the creature’s blood can be transmuted into a cure for poison, or it has horns that can be fashioned into special arrows that fly twice as far, the salvage rules provide options for those characters who are interested in crafting new things. These rules also give you the opportunity to highlight some of the more rarely used skills and tool proficiencies which might otherwise be overlooked.

fey dissection salvage Grim Hollow

Artist: Suzanne Helmigh

Salvaging lets you highlight the grim dark setting. The monster doesn’t carry a magic sword, but if you are willing to cut out a femur from its corpse, you might be able to combine some folk magic with your Medicine skill to create a bone sword that is able to damage creatures immune to non-magical weapons. Teeth, feathers, and other tokens taken from the dead and worn as talismans take on a new meaning when they have actual minor magical effects that protect your character.

There are also no better salvagers than player-characters using the Monster Hunter class, and trophies taken from slain foes can attest to your skills as well providing new and valuable equipment.

Design Notes

Grim Hollow: The Monster Grimoire gives some general guidelines on creating items already listed in that tome, along with some feats and failure rules. However, it doesn’t give rules or examples for creating items for your own campaign. I wanted to expand on the rules found in the Monster Grimoire, and then create some new examples based off monsters found in the basic rules so you might look at ways to use the salvage rules for other monsters in your campaign.

 

Expanding Salvage Rules

There is, and should be, wide variety in the requirements to craft an item from salvage, but some guidelines are helpful. These are general guidelines, and you should feel free to adjust the approximate values based on what you are trying to create. When creating a new item consider the approximate gold piece value of a non-magical item, or the approximate rarity if the item will be magical. The value or rarity sets how difficult it is to create the item. This is reflected in the DC of any ability check, the level of spells needed, and how long it takes to craft the item.

Gold Value Magic Rarity Ability Check DC Spell Level Time (days)
25 Common 10 1st 1
150 Uncommon 15 2nd 3
500 Rare 20 4th 7
1500 Very Rare 25 6th 20
5000 Legendary 30 9th 50


monster salvage grimoire grim hollow

Artist: Tijana Janković

Gold Value: The approximate value of a crafted nonmagical item if it was to be purchased from a merchant. This can also be considered the upper cost of any required additional ingredients to construct a magic item.

Magic Rarity: The approximate rarity of a magical item based on the item’s power and uniqueness.

Ability Check DC: The DC to craft the item if an ability check with a skill or tool proficiency is required. Some items may only require proficiency with a skill or tool and no roll, while others might require both proficiency and a successful ability check, or even more than one roll.

Spell Level: The level of a spell required to craft an item of this value or power. Some items, particularly powerful magic items might require that a spell or spells be cast multiple times during the creation of the item. On average, once a day is typical.

Time: The maximum amount of time in days required to create the item. Consumable items often take half the listed time.


Skills and Tools Proficiencies

Choosing the right skill or tool proficiency can be difficult, but here are some suggestions.

Skills:

  • Arcana: Used for essences or powders, or just about anything magic when nothing else seems to fit.
  • Medicine: Medicine is relevant if you need to remove a creature’s organ or bones intact.
  • Nature: This skill is useful for telling which of a monster’s parts are useful and being able to separate poisonous things from those you might want to eat.
  • Religion: This skill is rare, but not unheard of if something is being blessed into a holy relic, or the remains of an undead or fiend are being turned into a protective talisman.
  • Survival: Like Arcana for magical substances, Survival is a good catchall for collecting skins, claws, teeth, or just about any part that needs to be recovered.

 

Tools:

  • Alchemist’s Supplies: Appropriate for brewing alchemical items, elixirs, oils, and most potions.
  • Carpenter’s Tools: Potentially useful if building anything out a plant creature or with timber parts, particularly buildings or furniture.
  • Cook’s Utensils: When making anything that must be prepared first before it is eaten, you might use this tool set.
  • Herbalist Kit: You might use this tool set if collecting berries, herbs, or other edibles from a plant creature, or making infusions with herbs and other organs or blood.
  • Jeweler’s Tools: Some creatures have jewel-like protrusions or have teeth that can be carved into scrimshaw or other pieces of art, requiring the use of jeweler’s tools.
  • Leatherworker’s Tools: If you need to tan a hide or make leather armor, this is the proficiency for you.
  • Poisoner’s Kit: Use this kit to collect poison or venom from a monster, or craft poisons or toxins that have salvage as part of their ingredients.
  • Smith’s Tools: If a creature contains ore that has to be smelted or turned into armor.
  • Weaver’s Tools: These tools might be used when creatures have hair, fur, or silk that is woven into clothing or even rope.
  • Woodcarver’s Tools: Crafting wooden talismans, arrows, bows, staves, wooden shields, or just about anything from wood or even chitin might use these tools.


Carvaloth Monster Grim Hollow 5e

Artist: Brent Hollowell


Example Items from Monster Salvage

Ankheg Acid

Nonmagical equipment

Insectoid ankhegs produce their own acid which may be recovered from their remains, stabilized, and bottle by trained alchemists. The ankheg’s acid behaves as a standard vial of acid once it goes through this process.

Salvage: In 1 hour, a character proficient with alchemist’s supplies can recover and stabilize a vial of acid from an ankheg’s acid glands with successful DC 10 Intelligence (Alchemist’s Supplies) check. For every 5 that the result exceeds the DC, another vial of acid can be recovered.

Design Notes

A vial of acid is a nonmagical piece of equipment worth 25 gp, so it requires a DC 10 ability check. Since its consumable I have shortened the time, and since it is not particularly unique, I included a mechanic to recover multiple doses of the acid by doing better on the ability check.

 

Ettersilk Rope

Nonmagical equipment

This 30-foot rope is made from the alchemically treated, braided silk of an ettercap. This slightly sticky rope gives disadvantage to Intelligence (Sleight of Hand) checks to untie knots in it and Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks to slip out of it. Ettersilk rope has 4 hit points and can be burst with a DC 18 Strength check.

Salvage: A successful DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) check is needed to remove the spinnerets of an ettercap by a surgeon who is also proficient in alchemist’s supplies. The silk is then harvested, treated, and braided over 2 days before the rope is complete.

Design Notes

Normal silk rope costs 10 gp, but ettersilk is better in nearly every way (except length), so I treat it as a 150 gp nonmagic item. This requires a DC 15 check and I throw in proficiency with alchemist’s supplies as well since it makes sense to treat it so that not everything sticks to it, and it doesn’t just decay. I balance that out by lowering the time it takes to make the rope.

 

Fire Elemental Grim Hollow 5e

Artist: Mattia Rangoni

Immolation Elixir

Potion, uncommon

The ashes left behind by a defeated fire elemental can be mixed with certain herbs to create a potion that causes anyone that imbibes it to burst into flame for ten minutes. While aflame, you shed bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet. Your melee attacks do an additional 1d6 fire damage and whenever a creature within 5 feet of you touches you or hits you with a melee attack, the creature takes 1d6 fire damage. You are immune to your own flames.

Salvage: A character who succeeds on a DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check can properly powder and brew a dose of immolation elixir in 2 days. Each dose requires the ashes left by one fire elemental and one dose of alchemist’s fire.

Design Notes

The elixir is an uncommon item, so DC 15. It’s a consumable, so half of 3 days, but its pretty strong for low level characters, so I rounded up. Since it is potentially adding about 21 points of fire damage over three rounds for a melee character, I decided to also add an additional ingredient cost of an alchemist’s fire (which is 50 gp, well below the 150 gp maximum).

 

Spiketail Morningstar

Weapon (Morningstar), rare

The tail spikes of a manticore can be grafted onto a piece of specially prepared wood inscribed with runes of ruin and death, to make a crude looking but extremely deadly morningstar.

You have a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. You can launch a spike from your Morningstar, making a magical ranged weapon attack that does 1d8 piercing damage. The spikes have with a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet. The morningstar’s spikes regenerate immediately upon use.

Salvage: Six spikes must be carefully removed from the tail of a manticore with a successful DC 20 Wisdom (Survival) check. Over the course of 10 days, the spikes can then be affixed to a piece of rune-inscribed yew worth 500 gp by anyone proficient in woodcarver’s tools. The magic weapon spell must be cast upon the spikes each day during the morningstar’s construction.

Design Notes

Since a magic weapon is a permanent item likely to permanently add to a character’s power, I lean towards to upper limits of my chart. It takes a DC 20 check to get six spikes, though since a manticore has 24, there is room for retrying. The wood costs the maximum and construction requires a spellcaster and someone proficient in a tool set as well.

 

Treant’s Bulwark

Shield, rare

The shield is carved from the heartwood of deceased treant. Living leafy branches sprout from the edges, and the shield itself is covered with a forest scene depicting a kindly looking treant.

While holding this wooden shield, you have a +1 bonus to AC in addition to the shield’s normal bonus to AC. Also while holding this shield you can use your Action to summon an awakened shrub. The shrub appears adjacent to you and is an ally to you and your companions. In combat, the creature shares your initiative count, but it takes its turn immediately after yours. It obeys your verbal commands (no action required by you). If you don’t issue any, it takes the Dodge action and uses its move to avoid danger. After one minute, the awakened shrub disappears. Once you have used the shield in this way, you may not summon another awakened shrub until you complete a long rest.

Salvage: In 1 week, a character proficient with woodworker’s tools can carve a shield out of the heartwood of a treant with a successful DC 20 Dexterity (woodworker’s tools) check. The plant growth spell must be cast upon the shield each day of its construction.

Design Notes

The shield is +1 (+1 shields are uncommon magic items), but has an additional property, so let’s call it a rare item. This requires a DC 20 ability check and a week to create. Since it’s a magic item, let’s also require a spell be cast each day of its creation. Awaken is a 5th-level spell, and seems appropriate, but is a little too high level for this sort of ability. Plant growth is 3rd-level and within range of the approximate level of spell required, so is a better fit.

1 Comment

  1. Telamont

    Thanks for this, I was trying to work out a good way to add this to monsters outside the MG and this will certainly make that much easier.

    Reply

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Grim Hollow: The Monster Grimoire offers over 400 new monsters, tailor-made for a dark fantasy campaign.