There's been a bit of text in the PHB that's been bothering me as of late regarding the artisan trade that's found on page 143 in the Coinage passage (Emphasis mine):

With one gold piece, a character can buy a belt pouch, 50 feet of good rope, or a goat. A skilled (but not exceptional) artisan can earn one gold piece a day.

(Note: In the older prints, belt pouch is in the place of bedroll)

As the only mention of skilled artisan I have found is regarding if you are proficiencies or not, this made me consider two possibilities:

  • Either there are two subclasses within the artisan background
  • A skilled artisan refers to one without proficiency while an exceptional artisan would include it.

What got me started on this was trying to understand how long crafting would take, and finding that the PHB states that only 2 hours of your 8 can be used on mundane tasks while XGE states under Woodcarver Tool Proficiency that they can craft up to 20 arrows (offering a net profit of 1/2gp) in the long rest, suggesting that if your party members are taking a day off, you could spend the day making 1/2 gold every 2h just crafting arrows in a lumber yard...

Whatever the case may be, I think I'm overthinking this and really am looking for some clarification on what differentiates a skilled artisan from an exceptional one as well as how to calculate an hourly rate for a character with an artisan background who's working while traveling (Such as the woodcarver who's whittling amulets while relaxing by the fire).

I apologize if the answer is in either XGE or the PHB (as those are what I have bought so far to work with) and I have been too blind to see it, and I do appreciate your patience.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding your note: the basic rules also refer to a bedroll, rather than a belt pouch. I'm unsure if this was something changed in later printings of the physical PHB as well. (Apparently it was, according to a screenshot someone shared with me on Discord - it says "bedroll" in the books now too.) I'm guessing it was an unintentional error in the PHB at first given that "belt pouch" isn't mentioned anywhere else in the books... \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 19, 2019 at 8:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're right. I referred to my pdf as I was away from my book, though I did double check the hard copy I bought recently and it did change to bedroll. I will edit it right away. As for not being mentioned, they are mentioned within backgrounds "a belt pouch containing XXgp", which is why I noted the sly mention. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jun 19, 2019 at 9:32

2 Answers 2


It's describing the value of money, not particular character options. It relates to how expensive maintaining a modest lifestyle is (1gp per day).

A skilled artisan is someone who can live modestly on their craft. An exceptional artisan is someone who can live comfortably (or better) on their craft.

There are no rules for PCs earning gps from crafting, they either make items or negate living expenses.


You must be proficient with tools related to the object you are trying to create (typically artisan’s tools).

For every day of downtime you spend crafting, you can craft one or more items with a total market value not exceeding 5 gp, and you must expend raw materials worth half the total market value.

While crafting, you can maintain a modest lifestyle without having to pay 1 gp per day, or a comfortable lifestyle at half the normal cost.

Basic rules - Downtime Activities

  • \$\begingroup\$ That does clear up for downtime activities, though I'm still feeling like I am missing a major piece of the puzzle... Though I can simply think of it as "everyday downtime, my character can make 2gp 1ep profit" and assume that "if my character is carving statues in the back of a wagon on the way to a dungeon and takes 2 days doing so, they can make up to the same"... but does that mean that he'd be an expert, as the book says skilled (not expert) artisans can make 1gp a day (and not 2.5)? \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB because crafting a 5gp object isn't the same as acquiring 5gp. D&D is weird like that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleth
    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB: Also worth considering that this all slightly steps outside the world of exact rules and into the hands of the DM and the setting. The rules give a rough idea of what it costs to live a modest lifestyle and how much an average worker earns (to help the DM manage the setting). But it is entirely possible for a DM to decide that a renowned artisan, known for his exquisite jewellery, could be extremely rich. NPCs don't have to use PC rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Caleth If crafting a 5gp object costs 1/2 that in gold, that means that once my character sells it, they'd make 2.5gp profit after the cost of the materials, no? Though if I cultivate the raw material myself, I guess the profit would be 5gp, but I was under the impression 5e didn't have a grinding materials aspect... \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:43
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB you'd have to ask your DM if that would work. Particularly you'd have to find buyers for the items you make. To clarify my previous comment, an object that costs a PC 5gp is not generally saleable for 5gp (the exceptions are gems / art / jewellery). \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleth
    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:48

There are three states that a character can have in a particular skill or tool, unskilled, proficient, and expertise.

The rules provide for characters to have proficiency (or expertise) in a tool or skill, gained either from their class, background, race, or a feat. To qualify as an artisan you need to have proficiency in one set of artisans tools (as provided by the guild artisan background).

While there is no explicit guidance on what makes an exceptional artisan, it would be reasonable (in this DMs opinion) to suggest, given how the stepping works, for an exceptional artisan to be one who has expertise in their chosen set of artisan tools. This would be particularly appropriate given that having expertise, or the equivalent, in a tool is actually surprisingly hard, as of this posting there is only one way to gain tool expertise.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In the link provided, it only talks about smithing... Given my character is a wood carver, refining his talent whenever he can, we can evaluate skills given the end result of the same task: Unskilled would make a statue that's sorta human, Proficient would make an artistic representation that's easy to identify, and an Expert would make a facsimile out of wood... Would there be no way for him to create a breathtaking figurine then, as he's not a smith or gunsmith? \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jun 19, 2019 at 10:38

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