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If a caster typically uses a spellcasting focus to cast spells and loses it, and they are in a dungeon or other location where they cannot purchase a new one (or even purchase special materials for a new one), can they craft a makeshift focus, and if so how?

The relevant rules (PHB p. 151):

Arcane Focus. An arcane focus is a special item -- an orb, a crystal, a rod, a specially constructed staff, a wand-like length of wood, or some similar item -- designed to channel the power of arcane spells. A sorcerer, warlock, or wizard can use such an item as a spellcasting focus as described in chapter 10.

Druidic Focus. A druidic focus might be a sprig of mistletoe or holly, a wand or scepter made of yew or another special wood, a staff drawn whole out of a living tree, or a totem object incorporating feathers, fur, bones and teeth from sacred animals. A druid can use such an item as a spellcasting focus as described in chapter 10.

Holy Symbol A holy symbol is a representation of a god or pantheon. It might be an amulet depicting a symbol representing a deity, the same symbol carefully engraved or inlaid as an emblem on a shield, or a tiny box holding a fragment of a sacred relic. [...] A cleric or paladin can use a holy symbol as a spellcasting focus as described in chapter 10. To use the symbol in this way, the caster must hold it in hand, wear it visibly, or bear it on a shield.

Regarding use (PHB p. 203)

A character can use a component pouch or spellcasting focus (found in chapter 5, "Equipment") in place of the components specified for a spell. But if a cost is indicated for a component, a character must have the specific component before he or she can cast the spell.

A couple of drudic foci (sprig of mistletoe or totem) are available for 1gp. Arcane foci and holy symbols start at 5gp. This suggests a certain level of craftsmanship and/or quality materials. Thus is seems that a wizard can't just pick up any old wooden branch, peel off the bark, and declare that wand-like length of wood to be his new arcane focus.

It's less clear whether a druid can just pick up some other natural item, say a flower or mushroom, and use it in place of a sprig of mistletoe. Given that a sprig of mistletoe is being sold for 1gp, that suggests that it must either be somewhat rare, or perhaps specially preserved? (Lore from older versions suggest that it must be harvested only on Midsummer night, which would account for the rarity.)

I can't find specific rules for crafting non-magical items, other than that a Dexterity check might be used to "craft a small or detailed object" and that proficiency with a relevant set of artisan's tools would allow one to add one's proficiency bonus to the check. Is there any precedent in the rules that would suggest how long such an endeavor would take, and how difficult (DC) it would be?

I have posted a companion question here that deals with the question of using an improvised focus.

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    \$\begingroup\$ From memory, the reason why druids use mistletoe is that it remains green regardless of season, and was therefore more symbolic of indomitable life (or something like that) than other things were. So presumably a seasonal plant wouldn't work. Maybe. Related question: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/51638/on-the-fly-crafting?rq=1 \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Sep 16 '15 at 1:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe I did look at that one, hoping to maybe get more focused (ouch) answers here. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Sep 16 '15 at 1:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't recall the source, but in a prior edition part of the reason mistletoe used by druids was expensive is because it had to be harvested under a certain phase of the moon, during a specified season, with a sickle whose blade is made of pure silver. Presumably there could be similarly stringent restrictions on what can and cannot become arcane foci. \$\endgroup\$ – CrusaderJ Sep 16 '15 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re your addition: now that it's clear there are no "improvised crafting" rules, are you looking for homebrew rules? (If so, that might be better as a separate question.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 16 '15 at 16:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie the non-improvised crafting rules answer is helpful. What I'm looking for an answer on (probably homebrew, I guess) is not really improvised crafting rules, but rather how to rule trying to cast with an imperfectly crafted spellcasting focus. So it's more about using the non-optimal focus than the crafting. Should I make that a separate question? \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Sep 16 '15 at 20:29
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Mundane items can be crafted as per the rules in the PHB, given time and materials, based on the items normal cost. It's up the the DM to decide if any specific tools and/or tool proficiencies are required to do so.

According to the descriptions, all of these focuses are used to channel magic, but are not magical items themselves.

"Downtime Activities," sub-topic "Crafting."(PHB, p. 187)

The general level of effort required is 5 gp per character day spent on item creation.

  • Examples from Adventuring Equipment Table (PHB, p. 150):

    • Arcane Focus (varies); 5-20 gp, 1-4 character days depending on it's form.

    • Holy Symbol (typical); 5 gp, 1 character day.

    • Druidic Focus (varies); Yew wand, 10 gp, 2 character days.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To be clear, this would be a normal focus, not an improvised one, right? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 16 '15 at 4:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, this would be for a normal focus, crafted in the wild. The other option would be to gather specific spell components from the environment. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Sep 16 '15 at 4:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Downtime activities" suggest that they can only be done "between adventures" seems they could be done anytime the characters take time to work on them. I wouldn't allow them during a time that is supposed to be a short or long rest, but if they want to "rest" for an extra hour and put a hour of crafting time into their item, that seems reasonable. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Sep 16 '15 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems reasonable to have a crafting day mid-adventure if they are in a city (or some reasonable location) with access to materials and equipment if a full day can be spared. I don't think the rules are meant to be used as part of many long rests though. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown Feb 9 '18 at 14:31

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