5e Tools – More than just Flavour

Scroll of Roles and Playing

Bottom Line Up Front

With both mechanical benefits and role playing flavour, picking a set of tools instead of another skill could be a great choice for your character.

Frequently, the only 5e Tools mentioned in our campaign were Thieves’ Tools.  Even years later, most Dungeon Masters and Players don’t seem to know that Xanathar’s Guide to Everything expanded Tools and Tool Proficiencies in a way that vastly improves them for Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons. Tools aren’t just for locks and they’re not lost effort in Character creation anymore.

Common Questions about Tools in 5e

How does 5e tools work?

5e tools (the website) is a free to use online resource. As far as I know, it accurately contains all 5e D&D rules.

During gameplay, 5e tools provide a Player with the equipment to create items appropriate to those tools. If you are Proficient with those same tools, you can add your Proficiency Bonus to create items and to other Ability Checks that relate to that set of tools. We all love adding a bonus to our dice.

Is 5etools safe?

I’ve been using the 5etools website for over a year without any issue so I’d say it was safe.

During gameplay, 5e tools are usually safe but you could accidentally poison yourself with either the Poisoner’s Kit or the Chef’s supplies.

Is artificer good 5e?

The Artificer is a fun class to play  with four viable sub-classes where tool use is integral to your role playing game. I prefer the Armorer over the other three but they all have great flavour.

What are Smith’s tools 5e?

In 5e, Smith’s tools include hammers, tongs, charcoal, rags, and a whetstone. You can use these items (along with a hot fire) to repair metal items. Your proficiency also allows you to add your bonus to Ability Checks that are related. For example, a smith could have a bonus to identify a historical armour. Therefore, they could add their proficiency bonus to a History Check.

5e D&D Thieves' Tools at work
It’s important to have the right tool for the right job.

5e Tools – The Breakdown

Wizards of the Coast initially gave only a small amount of guidance, which was appropriately in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. They also provided a list of tools in the Player’s Handbook. A few years later, they gave us Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. That book changed the game for tools in Fifth Edition.

The PHB gives you the list of supplies, cost and weight but not too much else. XGE provides some fantastic information making it easy for Dungeon Masters to integrate tools into every session. The DMG takes a very limited view of what Tool Proficiencies will do in the game. XGE makes a much broader interpretation of what benefits being proficient in a tool set will bring to a character. XGE’s expanded benefits encourage players to pick up Tool Proficiencies by making them as valuable as many other skill choices.

In your Campaign

Your choice is going to come down to how you want to play your campaign. From a mechanics standpoint, no tool is as valuable as the Perception skill. However, my Elven Bard is also a Painter. Therefore, his Proficiency Bonus can be added to an Investigation Check on a strange dungeon mural.

Tools and Tool Proficiencies are not just flavour anymore. While not magical, they can be as important as magic items in the creation of your special character. They can be an important part of the range of options you have to support your group. You don’t have to homebrew tools because you’ve got all the basic rules you need.

Tools and Tool Proficiency in 5th Edition

The rules on tools in game are actually pretty straightforward and succinct so I’m going to quote straight from those documents, and the tables in them, so you don’t have to search for  them.

Dungeon Master’s Guide

Having proficiency with a tool allows you to apply your proficiency bonus to an ability check you make using that tool.

For example, a character proficient with carpenter’s tools can apply his or her proficiency bonus to a Dexterity check to craft a wooden flute, an Intelligence check to craft a wooden secret door, or a Strength check to build a working trebuchet. However, the proficiency bonus wouldn’t apply to an ability check made to identify unsafe wooden construction or to discern the origin of a crafted item, since neither check requires tool use.

There is some conflict between the DMG and XGE. Xanathar’s allows you to use the knowledge you gained with your tool proficiency in other Ability Checks. This is a big improvement for the game.

Player’s Handbook

A tool helps you to do something you couldn’t otherwise do, such as craft or repair an item, forge a document, or pick a lock. Your race, class, background, or feats give you proficiency with certain tools. Proficiency with a tool allows you to add your proficiency bonus to any ability check you make using that tool. Tool use is not tied to a single ability, since proficiency with a tool represents broader knowledge of its use. For example, the DM might ask you to make a Dexterity check to carve a fine detail with your woodcarver’s tools, or a Strength check to make something out of particularly hard wood.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Xanathar’s Guide is where the rubber hits the road. Or, I should say, where the hammer hits the monsters. XGE let’s you add your bonus when you roll dice on a wide variety of skill checks ranging from a hidden compartment search to identifying monsters by the clothing they weaved. Spells, schmells. You’ve got tools!

Tools have more specific applications than skills. The History skill applies to any event in the past. A tool such as a forgery kit is used to make fake objects and little else. Thus, why would a character who has the opportunity to acquire one or the other want to gain a tool proficiency instead of proficiency in a skill?

To make tool proficiencies more attractive choices for the characters, you can use the methods outlined below.

Advantage

If the use of a tool and the use of a skill both apply to a check, and a character is proficient with the tool and the skill, consider allowing the character to make the check with advantage. This simple benefit can go a long way toward encouraging players to pick up tool proficiencies. In the tool descriptions that follow, this benefit is often expressed as additional insight (or something similar), which translates into an increased chance that the check will be a success.

Added Benefit

In addition, consider giving characters who have both a relevant skill and a relevant tool proficiency an added benefit on a successful check. This benefit might be in the form of more detailed information or could simulate the effect of a different sort of successful check. For example, a character proficient with mason’s tools makes a successful Wisdom (Perception) check to find a secret door in a stone wall. Not only does the character notice the door’s presence, but you decide that the tool proficiency entitles the character to an automatic success on an Intelligence (Investigation) check to determine how to open the door.

5e D&D tools poisoner kit
Poisoner? No Sir. I’m a Herbalist.

List of 5e Tools

Information on Each Tool & Set of Supplies

Here’s what XGE has to say about Tools:

Components – The first paragraph in each description gives details on what a set of supplies or tools is made up of. A character who is proficient with a tool knows how to use all of its component parts.

Skills – Every tool potentially provides advantage on a check when used in conjunction with certain skills, provided a character is proficient with the tool and the skill. As DM, you can allow a character to make a check using the indicated skill with advantage. Paragraphs that begin with skill names discuss these possibilities. In each of these paragraphs, the benefits apply only to someone who has proficiency with the tool, not someone who simply owns it.

With respect to skills, the system is mildly abstract in terms of what a tool proficiency represents; essentially, it assumes that a character who has proficiency with a tool also has learned about facets of the trade or profession that are not necessarily associated with the use of the tool.

In addition, you can consider giving a character extra information or an added benefit on a skill check. The text provides some examples and ideas when this opportunity is relevant.

Special Use – Proficiency with a tool usually brings with it a particular benefit in the form of a special use, as described in this paragraph.

Sample DCs – A table at the end of each section lists activities that a tool can be used to perform, and suggested DCs for the necessary ability checks.

List of Tools (and no, I’m not including  your DM.)

See the Items page for details on each one.

Alchemist’s supplies 50 gp 8 lb

Brewer’s supplies 20 gp 9 lb

Calligrapher’s supplies 10 gp 5 lb

Carpenter’s tools 8 gp 6 lb

Cartographer’s tools15 gp 6 lb

Cobbler’s tools 5 gp 5 lb

Cook’s utensils 1 gp 8 lb

Glassblower’s tools 30 gp 5 lb

Jeweler’s tools 25 gp 2 lb.

Leatherworker’s tools5 gp 5 lb

Mason’s tools 10 gp 8 lb.

Painter’s supplies 10 gp 5 lb.

Potter’s tools 10 gp 3 lb.

Smith’s tools 20 gp 8 lb.

Tinker’s tools 50 gp 10 lb

Weaver’s tools 1 gp 5 lb

Woodcarver’s tools 1 gp 5 lb

Disguise Kit 25 gp 3 lb

Forgery kit 15 gp 5 lb

Herbalism kit 5 gp 3 lb

Navigator’s tools 25 gp 2 lb

Poisoner’s kit 50 gp 2 lb

Thieves’ tools 25 gp 1 lb

5e Tools – The Reference Website

This website is a fan driven collection of  Wizards of the Coast’s Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons references. I use it to link my blog posts to the source material. It’s a fantastic resource especially for online D&D games.

Please note that this is not an official website and comes with the following disclaimer:

5etools is intended as an easily-accessible digital reference for products you already own. Please ensure you only access content in accordance with your local laws.

Personally, I wish that D&D Beyond had come out before I purchased the hardcover versions of my core rulebooks. I would have gone all electronic. Unfortunately, I’m caught in the middle with too much invested in physical books to re-purchase them electronically. I wish there was a way that I could access to all my purchased physical references through D&D Beyond. Unfortunately, that method doesn’t exist so I appreciate the ability to use the 5e.tools website to fill the gap.