Related question: Is it balanced to replace a musical instrument proficiency from my character's background with an artisan's tool proficiency instead?

I'm designing a Wood Elf Outlander Warlock (in D&D 5E) who only has one hand. This makes my arm nearly useless. As an Outlander, I am proficient with a musical instrument, and have skill proficiency in Survival.

I have designed the character as a self-sufficient hunter, who uses everything from a kill: hides for clothes, meat for food, and bones as a carving medium.

What I would like to do is trade the musical instrument proficiency for a proficiency with a type of artisan's tools that would be used in carving bones into practical things I could use, or decorative items I could sell.

What kind of tools would be used for bone-carving?

  • \$\begingroup\$ The [tool-recommendation] tag is for questions asking for recommendations on out-of-game RPG tools (such recommendations are no longer allowed here). As such, I've removed the tag. (The [tools] tag is similarly about such out-of-universe RPG tools, and would also be inappropriate.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 6:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you ask about any existing game mechanics regarding bone carving specifically? Or do you ask, what tools are being used for bone-carving in real world? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 10:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ What kind of "things I can use" \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor: Here I am asking about existing game mechanics. If you choose to answer that using information from the real world, I will certainly welcome such. \$\endgroup\$
    – VarisBersk
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @John: Mostly I'm referring to decorative. It did occur to me that I might be able to make things like daggers (maybe bone-silverware), or other simple tools that might actually be useful. However that portion of background refers primarily to decorative items. \$\endgroup\$
    – VarisBersk
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 16:53

4 Answers 4


"Bone-carving artisan tools" is fine

The Player's Handbook, page 154 "Tools" doesn't have the exhaustive list. It describes "examples of the most common types of tools" instead:

Artisan's Tools. These special tools include the items needed to pursue a craft or trade. The table shows examples of the most common types of tools, each providing items related to a single craft. Proficiency with a set of artisan's tools lets you add your proficiency bonus to any ability checks you make using the tools in your craft. Each type of artisan's tools requires a separate proficiency.

Since there are no special rules for any of these types, sticking to this particular list doesn't make much sense — you are free to choose any type you want.

Rule-wise, "artisan tools" is a single concept. It wouldn't be really "homebrewing", because there are no new rules being introduced — you just say "I am proficient in this particular type of craft" and use the same mechanics for crafting as for other artisan tools types:


You can craft nonmagical objects, including adventuring equipment and works of art. You must be proficient with tools related to the object you are trying to create (typically artisan's tools).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Worth to emphasize specifically table shows examples part of the rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you want a technical term, I suppose the closest real-world example would be something like scrimshaw. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 15:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @anaximander Scrimshaw is specifically decorative carving on the surface of the basically unaltered bone/tooth. It doesn't really cover utilitarian objects such as buttons or knife handles. There isn't really a term (beyond "bone carving") because we don't usually make utilitarian things out of bone anymore \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 8:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MartinBonner was saying about decorative things by the way. AFAIK we still make decorative things from bones \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 8:45

By raw there is nothing, but tools are kept vague for a reason.

There is only one mention of shaping bone at all and it is an ability for lizardfolk.

Cunning Artisan. As part of a short rest, you can harvest bone and hide from a slain beast, construct, dragon, monstrosity, or plant creature of size Small or larger to create one of the following items: a shield, a club, a javelin, or 1d4 darts or blowgun needles. To use this trait, you need a blade, such as a dagger, or appropriate artisan's tools, such as leatherworker's tools.

As a DM I would look at it one of two ways.

  1. Woodcarving tools, in the real world bone carving and woodcarving tools are identical so woodcarving tools would be my first choice.

  2. Include it in a custom "hunter's tools", Harvesting meat, bone, and leather is not actually covered by any tool description, even the more in depth leatherworking description in xanthar makes no mention of harvesting hides. So I would just group it all together into a single custom tool set, since it is obviously a skill set that has to exist. As per cunning artisan ability I would just say the kit is a set of knives in a leather roll.

Of course since you are not a lizardfolk I would require proficiency is said tools.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for pointing out they're largely the same as woodworking tools. I'm bretty crappy at both wood-carving and bone-carving, but I've done enough of each to realize how similar the materials handle. I'm sure a better carver might notice differences, but that's like saying Tom Brady can distinguish between types of leather with his fingertips. Probably can, but just about any football'll do for this backyard hack. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 19:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 you can get nearly as much variation with different types of wood, I made a handle out of lignum vitae once, I had to use some of my metal cutting drill bits. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 2:47

No existing tool exactly fits what you want. The closest I can see would be woodcarver's tools with leatherworker's tools being a distant second. I'd ask you DM about homebrewing up some custom tools for bone carving. In my experience, tools don't generally have a huge impact on the game.


Since you are accepting answers about real-world scenarios, per

@enkryptor: Here I am asking about existing game mechanics. If you choose to answer that using information from the real world, I will certainly welcome such. - VarisBersk

Simple abrasive stone has been used to carve bone for over a million years, so a set of abrasive stones in a pouch would count as a "simple set". You can see examples of modern abrasive stones and associated tools here, here, or here.

Assuming your game is set in the typical 5E time/technological period as most are (e.g. some basic steam/industrial tech, tops), it also wouldn't be out of the question to include a basic hacksaw, a serrated knife, and file (each of which have been around for several thousand years in real life) each made of iron/steel. You could include some fancier metal if you want to provide increased cost/rarity in exchange for higher 'success' rolls.

For example, you could have a table using this suggestion:

Carving Tool Quality |  Cost    | Bonus to D20 roll:
Stone                |  3cp     |  +0
Iron                 |  2sp     |  +1
Steel                |  5gp     |  +2
Mithril              |  100gp   |  +3
Adamantine           |  1000gp  |  +4

or something similar (I just based Cost values off the top of my head-- I don't have the PHB handy to reference existing costs). Implicit in the above table is the suggestion that you need to have at least a set of some quality tools to be able to carve bone at all.


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