Magesmithing 101 is a 18 page pdf product and the second in Dog Soul Publishing's 101 series of products, the other being Golemcraft 101. The 101 series aims to provide DMs and players with different sets of options for their d20 game, and in the case of Magesmithing 101 an alternative crafting system for magical items is presented as well as several other related options.
The product itself comes as a single extensively bookmarked pdf file. Bordering and background is light enough that it should be easy to print as is. Layout and editing looks good, although there were one or two editing errors that slipped through, one of them being an incorrectly referenced table in the text. I found the writing to be generally good, but the organisation of the material appeared a little confusing and a brief overview or summary of the magesmithing process would've gone a long way in making the rest of the material easier to read and absorb. Mechanics was often buried in the text and not explicitly stated or highlighted. Generally, though, a well-presented product.
Magesmithing 101 presents a number of new options for crafting magical items, and in particular the option for non-spellcasters to craft magic items or the ability to craft magic items without casting any spells. Magesmiths have the option to create any kind of magical item from any kind of material, and there are some additional options that make this process easier. Fundamentally the system is an extension of the Craft skill rules for the core rules, with some additional modifications to allow for non-casting during creation.
Unlike a normal spellcaster who applies magic to an already crafted item, the magesmith applies the magic while actually crafting the particular base item itself. In order to do this the magesmith requires protocols and materials, the former being a set of instructions, as it were, on how to craft the items and is very similar to a ritual of sorts. Materials include all the normal materials to cover the cost of creating the item, and could include the use of special materials depending on the nature of the item being created. For example, some fire giant hair may be required to craft a flaming weapon.
To research a protocol requires a number of days based on the caster level of the item in question. This means it can take long to learn a protocol before crafting is even started but this is to a certain extent balanced out by the fact that crafting with magesmithing is often a lot quicker than the standard magic item crafting rules. Once a protocol is learnt, it can be applied indefinitely to item creation after that.
The need to learn or research protocols limits the magesmith's ability in the sense that most magesmiths won't know protocols for every magic item or every spell effect. Given a particular protocol, a magesmith can create a weapon or other item by following the standard craft rules, with the exceptions that the magesmith is required to succeed on additional Spellcraft checks to apply the protocols correctly. This makes crafting a very high risk proposition unless you have a lot of ranks in Spellcraft, something that non-casters won't have, but most casters would. The pdf does attempt to alleviate this risk by adding optional rules where only one set of checks is required per item rather than multiple checks as the item is crafted.
The pdf also presents a different craft system using Craft Units, a neat idea where the complexity of the item is based on its number of Craft Units rather than its price. So a silver item would be no more difficult to craft than a platinum item, and the extra cost is represented by the cost of the materials. If doesn't consider the fact that most items from other materials vary widely in how easy they are to craft, but it's a good simplified system to use for crafting a wide variety of items.
The latter parts of the pdf are devoted to a number of different and eclectic topics - advice on running magesmiths in a campaign, suggestions for various special materials required for magesmithing, advice of playing magesmith characters, new materials that make crafting certain items easier and a magesmith base class and a magesmith prestige class. Both the latter are top-heavy, in the sense that it's very easy to just invest a few levels in each without a significant loss of other abilities, and as a result are not the best or most interesting mechanical designs. The special materials are interesting and a neat idea, and can be used quite readily even using the standard crafting rules.
Magesmithing 101 is an interesting idea that presents some new options for crafting magical items without having to cast spells. While it's a good idea the mechanical implementation is stringent in its requirements and therefore has debatable utility. Since magesmiths require Spellcraft checks to apply protocols, the only non-spellcaster class that has Spellcraft as a class skill is the Expert. Non-spellcasters are as a result very rarely going to invest cross-class ranks in Spellcraft, something that could cost them dearly if they fail a check.
In addition, since a magesmith still requires the relevant item creation feat to create items, and since most characters that can realistically be magesmiths will be casters, there's not that much incentive to use magesmithing skills (unless, of course, you want to craft something that requires a spell from another spell list). It's also worth pointing out that once a protocol is learnt for an expensive item, said items can be churned out very quickly, in most cases less than a day for Wondrous Items - a less than desirable result.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: This pdf provides a number of options and alternatives for crafting magical items. There are a number of good ideas in there such as the special materials and the concept of Craft Units that would enhance any game. The magesmith concept is interesting, and DMs can easily implement this concept in game. Well-presented with some interesting options and material.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The text is somewhat confusing in its organisation with mechanical details buried within long paragraphs of explanatory text. In addition, there are some traits and aspects of the magesmith crafting rules that some DMs and players may find undesirable, such as high risk, lengthy (and sometimes overly short) crafting time, stringent skill requirements and others.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>