Recently I was DMing a game, and my players ran into a giant lizard. After they defeated it, they asked if they could skin the lizard and make it into armor. I basically just made it up on the fly; all that happened was they made a huge mess. What are the rules for skinning animals, if there are any?
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There are no official rules for that in 1e. There are hunting and foraging rules in the AD&D Wilderness Survival Guide and nonweapon crafting proficiencies, including Leatherworker, in the AD&D Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, but they do not speak to specifics like amounts of raw material required or the skinning process. Just make it up; sounds like you did fine.
There are rules covering the making of armors in AD&D 2E Fighter's Handbook. They don't include the effects on manufacture of variant sources of leather. It is noted, however, that Hide armor is 2 points better than leather, but has worse penalties to Dex and thief skills...
Variant metal armors are in the AD&D 2E DMG.
Both can easily be used in AD&D 1E.
Since I am using the Core Rules 2.0 Expansion CD's RTF's, I can't give page numbers.
See the section on nonweapon proficiencies in the Dungeoneers Survival Guide, page 26 :
While none of the nonweapon proficiency skills explicitly covers the act of skinning the animal, it would not be a far stretch to say that to "tan and treat leather" would include getting the hide off the animal in question. It would also be fair to say that skinning an animal would be a part of the hunting skill. Details for the hunting skill can be found in the Wilderness Survival Guide, page 15. Again, it does not explicitly say it covers the act of skinning but what good is being able to hunt the game if you don't know how to clean/field dress it.
The mechanics of nonweapon proficiencies are simple enough. As seen in the Wilderness Survival Guide, page 11 :
In the case of leather working the check is against INT.
I will note that the section for success and failure of nonweapon proficiencies in the Dungeoneers Survival Guide, page 23, is not correct (the logic in the section detailing check rolls is reversed) and the one in the Wilderness Survival Guide, page 11, should be used as the check roll logic is correctly stated there.
From the D20SRD:
I'd read that as you are able to use mundane Lizard scales to create mundane armor. I'd follow the same guidelines. Dragonhide makes masterwork armor, and I think that would be because dragons are innately magical. I'd say nonmagical animals would make regular (not masterwork) armor, but for simplicity's sake, I'd use the same size guidelines for dragonhide above.
If you are trying to get a set of armor for a Medium sized PC, you would need a Large lizard for Hide armor, Huge for Banded Mail armor, Gargantuan for Half Plate armor, and Colossal for Full Plate armor. I'm striking out on finding a stat-block for the Giant Lizard on Google, However, I'd rule that whatever size of tanned leather you need, you could substitute 4 hides of the next smaller size. (so 1 Colossal hide would be about equal to 4 Gargantuan, 16 Huge, 64 Large, 256 Medium, 1024 Small, 4096 Tiny, 16384 Diminutive, and 65536 Fine sized hides).
EDIT: The above should help with how much skin to make armor of various thickness. As for knowing how to make the armor, you will need:
I've had a Quick dig around my books and the Armorer non-weapon proficiency on page 52 of Oriental Adventures says that the character can make all the armor types in the OA book, and from any other AD&D book if they have a piece to copy from but they have to do it at a -2.
Skinning you can just run from the survival non-weapon proficiency