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The PHB lists many sets of tools and supplies for several crafts and trades:

  • Alchemist’s supplies 50 gp 8 lb.
  • Brewer’s supplies 20 gp 9 lb.
  • ...
  • Smith’s tools 20 gp 8 lb.
  • Tinker’s tools 50 gp 10 lb.
  • Weaver’s tools 1 gp 5 lb.

Some of those are pretty self-explanatory. Woodcarver, leatherworker, mason, those are all regular professions from real life. However, what are the exact uses of Alchemist's Supplies and Tinker’s Tools?

I've read that Alchemy can be used to make Healing Potions, but Alchemy is used by Wizards to turn wood into metal and things like that. The gnome's tinker can create Clockwork Toy, Fire Starter, Music Box, and is that all?

What if some of players ask to build a bomb with a tinker's kit? Or turn a rock into gold with Alchemy? Can anyone provide a concise explanation of how these two specific sets of tools are used in D&D?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I'm being pendantic here, but isn't "tinker" also a "regular profession from real life"? \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Dec 17 '17 at 2:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm "a person who makes a living by travelling from place to place mending pans and other metal utensils." I had no idea, I thought a tinker was some sort of medieval inventor :O \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Dec 18 '17 at 0:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Heh. Who says D&D isn't educational! :) \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Dec 18 '17 at 1:14
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There are great new rules for these — and all the tool proficiencies — in the Dungeon Master's Tools chapter of Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

For each tool, these things are given:

  • The components that make up the supplies or set of tools (and the note that proficiency means you know how to use them).
  • Skills for which the tool proficiency grants advantage in certain situations, and suggested extra benefits for characters proficient in both the tool and the relevant check.
  • A "special use" — a concrete thing you can do with this tool. For example, Brewing Supplies let you purify water during a long rest.
  • Sample DCs for other activities the tool lets you perform. The word "sample" strongly implies that this isn't meant to be an exhaustive list (and such a limitation seems out of the spirit of 5E).

The Alchemist's Supplies can be used to give additional information in some Arcana and Investigation checks. They can also be used in Alchemical Crafting to make "alchemical items", of which there is a short list: a dose of acid, alchemist’s fire, antitoxin, oil, perfume, or soap.

The sample DCs are given for activities ranging from "create a puff of thick smoke" or "identify a poison" (both 10) to "Neutralize acid" (20).

Tinker's Tools can let you determine the age and origin of an object with a History check, or find how an object was damaged through Investigation. You can also repair damaged objects, at a rate of 10 hit points per hour of work (provided you have the appropriate raw materials).

The things you list (turn rock into gold or build a bomb) seem out of the power range of the various options explicitly listed, but they seem reasonable to attempt — if you set the DC appropriately high and the right raw materials are available and a reasonable amount of time is taken. Turning rock into gold might consume quite a bit of other valuable ingredients — or it might just take time. Under "Downtime Revisited" in the same chapter, there's this section on "Work":

Resolution. To determine how much money a character earns, the character makes an ability check: Strength (Athletics), Dexterity (Acrobatics), Intelligence using a set of tools, Charisma (Performance), or Charisma using a musical instrument. Consult the Wages table to see how much money is generated according to the total of the check.

So, you can use either of these tools to make money. You could just describe the Intelligence (Alchemist's Supplies) check as literally making money.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty sure it's Forgery Tools to literally make money. Alchemist's supplies would (theoretically) just let you make gold - you'd have to turn it into money via other means. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Jan 3 '18 at 20:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. Depends on whether you have a gold standard or not, I guess. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jan 3 '18 at 20:19
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In a more mundane way, these are both just normal professions of the time, but are now obsolete. Alchemy was the state of chemistry at the time, so you would use alchemy tools to do anything you would now use chemistry to try to do. Make or neutralize acids, purify water, distill alcohol, extract a metal from an ore, etc. Tinker, at the time, was a general repair function. You would use tinker, or tinkers tools and skills, to mend a pot or a pan, a door hinge, etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Assaying is probably the most accessible example of alchemists at work \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 17 '17 at 2:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Although factually correct, the question is asking their specific use within D&D. This answer could be used for any game system or even in real life. It needs to be approached from the perspective of how to use them within the framework of the game: what skills are used, time, difficulty and money required, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Dec 17 '17 at 5:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Any situation in the game in which those skills could come in handy. He asked what the alchemy and tinker crafts were, and that's the question I answered. Not all situations are covered by the rules. Not all skill uses must apply directly to an adventure scenario. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Boncer Dec 17 '17 at 6:38

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