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In general: if you kill a monster with a body part that has some known (or suspected) property, is there any mechanic around harvesting the body part and using it as-is (or with minimal processing required)?

Specifically: We're fairly low level and just found ourselves fighting a Dretch. While none of us did very well on our knowledge checks, it became apparent during the fight that it had a fair number of buffs, including DR and elemental resistances.

  1. Which of these are properties of the skin, and which are properties of the creature itself?
  2. Would such properties persist in the skin after removal (and tanning, I assume)?
  3. Would tanning/crafting produce armor, a wondrous item, a trophy, or what?

I read some comments about how his is sort of frowned upon since it disrupts the economics of the game... and, ultimately, I understand this is totally subject to DM's approval, but... just thought knowing how this is handled generally is appreciated.

(I asked another question about repurposing magic items which is somewhat similar to this, but I don't think this is a duplicate, since this is specifically about harvesting nearly-ready-to-use parts of creatures, whereas the other one dealt mainly with using magic items to create new items).

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I know some creatures' body parts do have listed prices, like the Flail Snail's shell which is worth 800g, and of course dragonhide. I would assume therefore that if it has no listed price, it is worthless. –  Eric B Oct 5 '13 at 13:21
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@EricB That assumption is yours to make. Many of us choose to use a little more GM prerogative for sake of verisimilitude. There's little harm in letting people get a flew silver for Spleen of Cockatrice. –  C. Ross Oct 5 '13 at 15:35
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Other monsters with prices listed include Gorgon's (250gp for powdered horn) and Unicorn (1600gp equivalent for healing spells). –  C. Ross Oct 5 '13 at 15:42

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Yes, If it's a Dragon

The lone case I know of in the rules that talks about this is Dragonhide Armor. You use a dragon's scales to make it, and the armor can get properties from it. Here's the description (emphasis mine, as it's the relevant part):

Armorsmiths can work with the hides of dragons to produce armor or shields of masterwork quality. One dragon produces enough hide for a single suit of masterwork hide armor for a creature one size category smaller than the dragon. By selecting only choice scales and bits of hide, an armorsmith can produce one suit of masterwork banded mail for a creature two sizes smaller, one suit of masterwork half-plate for a creature three sizes smaller, or one masterwork breastplate or suit of full plate for a creature four sizes smaller. In each case, enough hide is available to produce a light or heavy masterwork shield in addition to the armor, provided that the dragon is Large or larger. If the dragonhide comes from a dragon that had immunity to an energy type, the armor is also immune to that energy type, although this does not confer any protection to the wearer. If the armor or shield is later given the ability to protect the wearer against that energy type, the cost to add such protection is reduced by 25%.

That's about it.

Which of these are properties of the skin, and which are properties of the creature itself?

Properties are that of the creature as a whole. Skinning a Drow and wearing it does not confer it's Spell Resistance on you. Somehow capturing part of an Air Elemental and eating it doesn't let you turn into a Whirlwind (although it might give you an upset stomach). Etc.

The exception is Dragonhide, which is mentioned specifically in the rules.

Would such properties persist in the skin after removal (and tanning, I assume)?

Aside from Dragonhide, this is going to be DM interpretation. Does a Drow's right hand have Spell Resistance if severed? I really have no idea, and the rules don't say.

Would tanning/crafting produce armor, a wondrous item, a trophy, or what?

There's precedent for using hides to produce armor (Dragonhide, and "Hide Armor" in general). So if your DM rules that a bear hide has some special property, you could use it to get armor crafted, sure. But that requires such a ruling to work, by RAW the only time it works for armor is Dragonhide. You would also still have to have someone use the hide to make the armor with Craft: Armor.

Wondrous Items by the rules can only be produced with the Craft Wondrous Item feat. You could use whatever you skinned as the base of that item, but you'd still have to use the feat and pay the appropriate costs to make it magical.

As for a trophy... I don't see any reason why Craft: Taxidermy (or Profession: Taxidermist if your DM prefers) couldn't be used to make trophies. And hey, they look awesome on the wall of your base of operations. :)

There are a few cases (as Eric B mentioned) where an item might have a listed value. In that case, you could harvest the item and sell it. If it doesn't have a listed value, it's worthless unless your DM decides otherwise. (Maybe the leatherworkers in the area really like working with Dire Wolf pelts and will pay for them.)

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Taxidermy might be better suited as a craft, since you're using it specifically to make items, much like weaponsmithing or pottery. –  dlras2 Oct 5 '13 at 14:19
    
@dlras2 Good point, I'll add that as an option. –  Tridus Oct 5 '13 at 14:20
    
I think this is as good an answer as I can hope for: the only thing in the rules is for Dragon hides, anything else is a house rule. That said, I recall "angel skin" being listed as a special material... that might be one other mention of something like this but, again, not specifically relevant. –  Patrick87 Oct 5 '13 at 15:57
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@Tridus Just to further dlras2's example Craft(Taxidermy) is a recognised skill in D&D 3.5 specifically in Stormwrack and a requirement for the Leviathan Hunter prestige class. –  Dancing Kobold Oct 5 '13 at 20:55
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@starwed The poisons themselves are made with a skill, but the things they're named after might serve as components that you normally pay for, if your DM allows. –  Tridus Oct 6 '13 at 1:48

Tridus's post above covers the core rules very well, however if you don't mind using third party house rules, my housemate's blog is doing a series of articles on house ruling skinning and trading hides. The article came about from the house rules we've used on occasion taken into further depth and balanced.

The ruleset focuses on D&D 3.5 but can also be used for Pathfinder.

Skills that can be used

The Survival skill, Craft (Taxidermy), Profession (Hunter), (Taxidermist) can be used to recover valuable parts from slain creatures.

Other useful skills will include Appraise or Profession (Hunter) which can be used to gauge the value of such an item, Knowledge (Nature) could help as well to identify animals with valuable pelts while Knowledge (Arcana) can be used to recognise creatures with spell component uses.

Skill DC : Task

  • 5: Skin an animal for strictly utilitarian purposes e.g. Cooking, bait
  • 10: Skin and prepare a tiny/small common animal for its pelt and meat e.g. a squirrel, rabbit, small birds. Craft a simple basic item from a pelt e.g. patch for clothing, crude moccasins or gloves
  • 15: Skin and prepare a common game animal e.g. Deer, wild pig/boar, wild goats. Craft un-complex fur clothes e.g. Hide overcoat, fur cap or tribal trophy.
  • 18: Skin and prepare a Magical Beast to preserve pelt and meat e.g. Unicorn, Dire Animals, Worgs.
  • 20: Skin and prepare a familiar creature that is not commonly skinned e.g. Humanoids
  • 25: Skin and prepare an completely unfamiliar creature e.g. Most Outsiders.
  • 30: Skin and treat a Shapechanger’s pelt so it remains in its current form and does not change.

Circumstances : DC Modifier

  • First time skinning that type of creature: +5
  • Creature is a Aberration or Outsider: +5
  • Creature is Favoured Enemy: -2
  • Experienced in skinning creature (skinned creature 10+ times): -5
  • Disregarding pelt and focusing on internal organs: -10

In the case of Aberration or Outsider it is recommended to start at DC 20 or 25 for more unusual creatures, though more animalistic outsiders like celestial animals or Yeth hounds can be treated as Magical Beasts.

Failing a check by less than 5 reduces the pelt to poor quality pelt decreasing its value by 50%, failing by more than 5 makes the pelt worthless for anything more than scraps. Passing a check by 10 or more improves the quality of the pelt increasing its value by 50%.

A single medium size creature provides 20lb of hide, small creature 10lb and a tiny creature 5lb. For larger creatures continue to double the weight of hide I.E: a large creature provides 40lb and huge 80lb etc.

Determining the worth of hides uses the table in Dungeons and Dragons Arms and Armour Guide which states: pg:40

  • Furs and hides, common 20lb: 1gp–5gp
  • Furs and hides, unusual 20lb: 6gp–10gp
  • Furs and hides, rare 20lb: 11gp–20gp
  • Furs and hides, exotic 20 lb: 21gp–50gp
  • Furs and hides, monstrous 20lb: 51gp–200+gp

While rules exist in the Dungeon Master's Guide and Pathfinder's Core Rulebook regarding Dragonhide and the amount hide needed to craft armour, there has been a lot of complaints from players regarding downgrade in abilities from 2nd Edition D&D and the sheer amount of hide required to make anything.

This will be focused upon in detail in a later article but these issues highlight why it is not suitable for a general ruling to be used on other materials, however the rules regarding Chitin armour listed in Races of the Dragon (Quoted below) have made a much better ground work to create the rule set suggested here.

Races of the Dragon pg121

A single giant beetle provides enough material to create a single breastplate or tower shield sized for a character of the same size category as the beetle (or two such items for a character two or more sizes smaller than the beetle). For example, a Large giant stag beetle has enough chitin to make either a breastplate or a tower shield sized for a Large character, or two such items for Medium or smaller characters. A suit of half-plate or full plate armor takes twice as much chitin, while a light shield or heavy shield takes half as much. (A chitin buckler can be made from the cast-off bits of any giant beetle.) The chitin from multiple giant beetles can be combined; a Small beetle counts as half of a Medium beetle, a Medium beetle as half of a Large beetle, and so forth

So taking this as our example:

A single creature provides enough material to create a single suit of light or medium armour (Hide, Scale or Breastplate depending on the creature) or a tower shield for a character of the same size category. Two items can be created for a character one or more size categories smaller than the creature or four items for a characters four or more size categories smaller. A suit of heavy armour takes twice as much material, while a buckler, a light or heavy shield takes half as much. Small trinkets can be made from a number of cast offs, for items like cloaks treat them as a single suit of light armour while smaller items such as boots and gloves use the same amount of material as a light shield.

Of course this is subjected to common sense for example skinning a Wolf would provide enough material for Leather, Studded Leather or Hide armour or a leather buckler or hide light shield, you wouldn't be able to create a tower shield despite the rules as a wolf doesn't provide suitable materials. It should also be remembered that most materials will also have to processed by a hide worker or tanner before they can be used in crafting.

Next looking at some possible effects of using unusual hide to make armour, rather than listing the effect of every creature individually here is some common questions by players.

Does it increase the armour/shield bonus?

The following method works well by preventing low CR monster from unbalancing the game at low level but rewarding at high level, it repeatedly mentioned on many roleplaying forums and the version below has been expanded to include shields:

  • Start with the natural armour bonus of the creature and divide it by three, rounding down.
  • This number is the basic non-magical armor bonus for a suit of heavy armour.
  • For a suit of medium armour you subtract 3 from this number.
  • For a suit of light armour you subtract 5 from this number.
  • For shields again start with the natural armour bonus of the creature and divide it by three, rounding down.
  • Halving this number this is the basic non-magical shield bonus of a tower shield.
  • For a heavy shield you subtract 1 from this number.
  • For a light shield you subtract 3 from this number.

If the value is less than the regular armour/shield bonus of the crafted armour then the material just has a visual effect and uses the normal armour bonus of the armour type.

So for an example: A Bulette (CR7) has a natural armour bonus of +12, dividing this by three equals a armour bonus of 4 for heavy armour or 2 for a tower shield (4 halved). Since both of these are below the normal ratings these are increased to 7 (splint mail) and 4 (Tower shield) respectively and have little effect on the armours abilities other than visual.
A stronger creature like an Black Scorpion (CR15) has a natural armour bonus of +28, breaking down to 9 for heavy armour and 5 (rounded up from 4.5) for a Tower Shield. In addition the Black Scorpion armour would class as Chitin armour and gain any further benefits due to this.

Does it increase the maximum dexterity bonus?

In most cases it is easier to assume that the maximum dexterity bonus remains the same as the original armour unless the creature possesses an exceptionally light and strong shell or scales. Existing examples of this are Chitin armour which has been mentioned.

Races of the dragon pg121

Chitin Armor: The maximum Dexterity bonus of an armor or shield made chitin is 1 greater than that of the same type of armor made from metal. Breastplates, half-plate armor, full plate armor and shields can be made from chitin.

What effect does it have on the armour check penalty and spell failure?

The armour check penalty and spell failure is more of a result of the armours design rather than its material again this will often be unchanged, however armour made from particular heavy or bulky creatures may increase. Though I recommend by no more than +2 armour check penalty and +5% arcane spell failure on top of the armours normal penalties.

Handling addition effects.

Regarding a creatures natural damage reduction and resistances I have personally found the following system has worked well in many campaigns adding minor benefits while not unbalancing play.

Creatures resistance/damage reduction   Amount gained by wearer.
5                                                           1
10                                                          5
11+                                                        10

For example if a creature had 5 damage reduction bypassed by magic weapons, armour made from its skin would gain 1 damage reduction/magic.

The armour itself retains full damage reduction (added on as hardness) resistances and immunities, the reasoning behind why a character does not receive the full benefit is simple. It is not just a creature's skin that makes it resist to its elements and even the best made armour requires joints and openings for the wearer for moment and simply to put it on.

No plate or leather armour has ever been waterproof so while a splash of acid may harmlessly dribble down a black dragon hide breastplate, a knight being struck by a considerable amount would still suffer damage as acid seeps in through the cracks and joints of his armour.

One special mention is spell resistance (SR) rather than granting the wearer SR it simply affects the armour, alternatively it may be treated as the armour as having the spell resistance armour enchantment appropriate to the creatures SR without the Strong abjuration visible by detect magic.

D&D SRD

Spell Resistance: This property grants the armor’s wearer spell resistance while the armor is worn. The spell resistance can be 13, 15, 17, or 19, depending on the armor.

Strong abjuration; CL 15th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, spell resistance; Price +2 bonus (SR 13), +3 bonus (SR 15), +4 bonus (SR 17), or +5 bonus (SR 19).

The reasoning behind this is that it limits the enchantments that can be placed upon the armour as well as increasing the cost, in addition any attempts to enchant the armour would have to overcome the spell resistance.

In the rare cases of spell immunity the armour could not be enchanted at all and bring all the benefits and drawbacks of been immune to magic to the wearer.

It should be noted unlike most creatures with spell resistance the wearer of spell resistant or spell immune armour would not be able lower their resistance willingly and in an emergency may have to be stripped of their armour for healing spells to work on them.

Other things to consider

A creatures extraordinary abilities have to be handled on case by case basis but a general ruling can be be taken as armour or equipment crafted of the creature reduces the cost of applying suitable related enchantments by 25%. For example:

The iconic Dungeons and Dragons displacer beast is famed for its displacement ability which makes it appear to 5 foot away from where it really is.

Creating a displacer beast hide cloak does not give the wearer the natural displacement ability of the displacer beast but it could be used to create a cloak of displacement (minor or major) at a reduced 25% cost ( 12,000 gp down to 9000gp and 25,000 gp to 18480gp respectively)

A possible suggestion to scale this would be to require higher CR monsters for more powerful magic items, continuing with the example above creating a cloak of displacement (major) with a reduced 25% cost would require the hide of the more powerful and rare displacer beast pack lord.

Here is the big question and arguably the most difficult: Cost.

Simply put I can't answer this, it really depends on how rare your creatures are and the demand. Sure wearing troll skin leather is effective but does it look and smell bad?

I will suggest that the cost for masterwork items is doubled, and that the armour for unusual creatures table from the SRD is used to determined the extra cost by using the nonhumaniod section of the table.

Armor For Unusual Creatures D&D SRD
Armor and Shields. Refer to the appropriate line on the table below and apply the multipliers to cost and weight for the armor type in question.
Size                        Nonhumanoid
Cost                       Cost     Weight
Tiny or smaller            ×1        ×1/10
Small                      ×2        ×½
Medium                     ×2        ×1
Large                      ×4        ×2
Huge                       ×8        ×5
Gargantuan                 ×16      ×8
Colossal                   ×32      ×12

The craft DCs should not be changed from 10 + AC bonus as the increased AC does this automatically and the additional costs represent the extra time and equipment needed.

Finally these rules are not set in stone and are simply suggestions, your DM shouldn't be afraid to say no if you suspect something will unbalance your game or doesn't fit in.

Finally if you want to take the rules further the blog's articles continue discussing reagent’s and material components gained from skinning and gutting monsters.

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@Jonathan Hobbs Thanks for editing the page, I'm still struggling a little with the post format. –  Dancing Kobold Oct 6 '13 at 8:47
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There's an editing help page if you need it. I suggest you take a glance over that to see your formatting options. Tables in general don't work super well in our post format, so it may be better to have something you can link to. –  Jonathan Hobbs Oct 6 '13 at 8:58

Pathfinder, like its predecessor D&D 3.5, follows careful guidelines regarding the amount of treasure awarded and the value of items with magical properties.

That means while it's up to you as DM to decide what monster body parts are worth and what items can be crafted from them, be aware that you're effectively giving out treasure.

  1. While there are no official rules, it stands to reason that the corpse has the creature's physical properties. A red dragon's hide is still tough and fire resistant even after separated from the dragon. However, magical properties (like a displacer beast's displacement) might degrade over time unless fixed in place with enchantment.
  2. A house rule in our 3.5 games is that the item itself may have some properties of the creature, but the item does not confer these abilities to its wielder. For example, a red dragonhide shield won't protect you from a fireball, but the next adventurer to stumble upon your charred remains will find the shield undamaged. In fact, this rule made its way into Pathfinder's rules on dragonhide armour. While the armour doesn't confer energy resistance, the price to add the energy resistance enchantment is reduced by 25%.
  3. You can craft weapons, armour, trophies and other items from slain creatures. Here's what I suggest:

    • Weapons/armour: You're essentially just crafting a normal item using the creature's corpse as special materials. Make craft checks as normal, but you don't pay the raw material cost. The GM decides what special properties the material has, if any, what items can be made, and what those items cost (for the purpose of craft duration and sale price). Properties shouldn't normally be as powerful as a permanent magic enhancement (but if they are, the GM should be aware of the treasure value he's awarding every time he uses that creature).
    • Wondrous items: Mundane crafting isn't enough to create a permanent magic item. You need rituals to fix the magic property in place. At best, a creature's body provides a discount of up to 25% on crafting an item: e.g. a displacer beast hide to make a cloak of displacement.
    • Spell components: 250gp for powdered horn sounds like a great way to get rich. However, that's the buy price, so you'd sell it at 125gp, and that's after processing: as per the craft skill, raw materials are only worth 1/3 of the finished item. So at best, body parts harvested for spell components are worth a fraction of the part's price.
    • Trinkets: Preserved monster hearts, heads on plaques and so forth should only be worth a few gp at most. Use the craft skill as a guideline. You can normally make half your craft check per week in gold as a profession anyway, so this isn't out of bounds.

If your players try to carry back every animal part for gold, this will lead to a lot of boring bean-counting and extra gold. Remind players that their carrying capacity is limited and body parts weigh a lot. Have the market saturate and suddenly nobody wants to buy all these grell beaks. Or abstract it away: say "you sell all the collected monster parts for 50gp", or you can craft as a profession for double value for two weeks after you have been on an adventure where you collected parts.

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