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In The Lost Mine of Phandelver,

the story is about the lost mine which is on multiple occasions described as providing enough energy/magic for crafting a big variation of powerful magic items. Sadly I wasn't able to find anything more specific. At first I didn't care about it, but when in the end the players get a share of the mine, which also includes a magic forge, this now is an issue, since my players seem to want the campaign to continue after this adventure.

So given this land and property plus the specific feature connected with it, what can the net outcome of it expected to be? I have no clue and the official material doesn't given any hints.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a perfectly legitimate question. "There's nothing in the adventure or other D&D5e rules that would help you define it" may be a legitimate answer if that's the case, but not a reason for closing. Of course you as answerers shouldn't go off into brainstorm land. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 17 '16 at 19:32
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There's no hard-and-fast set of rules on this. But we've got a few ways of looking at your scheme.

1. Crafting (PHB187)/Crafting Magic Items (DMG 128-129). Each of these pursuits allow you to manage your downtime-game to the level of which X are you creating at what times. While crafting mundane items and crafting magical items proceed at different paces (5gp-worth vs. 25 gp-worth each day), in each case we have the following provision: while crafting a [magical] item "you can maintain a modest lifestyle without having to pay 1 gp per day, or a comfortable lifestyle at half the normal cost."

The reasonable read on that is that the PCs labor "earns" them 1gp per day. It's not explicit in the rules, but you could make the argument to your DM that while your work earns you 1gp you could choose to "squeak by" on a semi-modest or even poor lifestyle, pocketing the difference.

2. Practicing a profession (PHB187). But perhaps you're not interested in the exact items you're crafting, you just want to be a smith. The PHB has rules which allow you to abstract your economic activity one layer and practice that profession. At the low end this earns one enough to cover a modest lifestyle (1gp per day), as in the "crafting" rules. But adding a support organization--a guild or, perhaps, your business partners--in your profession allows one to cover a comfortable lifestyle (2gp per day). As in point 1, perhaps there's room to extract profit from living within one's means?

3. Running a business (DMG129). Frankly, though, it sounds like you're capitalists. Big bosses. You own the means of production. You're running a business. Your business has maintenance costs indexed to its size/complexity that you'll have to figure out with your DM. But here's some guidance:

Maintenance Costs (DMG127). I'd estimate that a good half-dozen skilled workers might productively work at your location (based on keyed locations 12 and 15), with some larger number of unskilled workers assisting\$^1\$. This puts your business in the neighborhood of those with 10 gp/day maintenance costs on the low end, squarely in the conversation with businesses requiring 20 and 25 gp/day, and well below those requiring 50+ gp/day. It's assumed that a functional business left alone covers its maintenance costs, but doesn't particularly clear a profit.

Making a Profit. To make a profit on your business you've got to invest some of your time. I'll spare you the details--they're in the DMG--but downtime days spent on your business produce modifiers to a roll for the business's profitability. Assuming a 25 gp/day maintenance-cost business\$^2\$ (see above), your expected gp/day profit ranges from 5 to 39.75 as you devote between 1 and 30 downtime days\$^3\$.

Putting it all together: "what can the PCs expect to earn?"

  1. If you're crafting a specified item: <1 gp/day, with DM's allowance of living beneath your means and pocketing the difference.
  2. If you're practicing your smithing: <2 gp/day, with the DM's allowance of living beneath your means and pocketing the difference.
  3. If you're "running" the business: 5-40 gp/day, assuming a 25 gp/day maintenance assessment on your business.

Epilogue: so why run a business?

Your business is not going to sit there and generate a return for you unless you invest time into it. But it does play the following roles:

  • A place to store (monetary) wealth: if you've got a thousand gp burining a hole in your pocket you can keep it in an obvious chest, convert it to easily-stolen gems, or expand your side business.
  • A place to spend (temporal) wealth: if you've got downtime you can turn it into cash at your business. See above.
  • Nesting.
  • [meta] Plot hooks.

1 - This ignores the mine, focusing on the spellforge. As mentioned in note 2, including a mining operation will actually drive down the profitability of your enterprise. But should you wish to include it, the expected returns look like (at 30-day downtime investment) 36gp/day profit for a 100gp/day maintenance operation (ca. 100 workers), 21gp/day profit for a 400gp/day maintenance operation (ca. 300 workers). Diminishing returns, and all....

2 - Not to get too deep into the weeds, but the profitability of businesses diminishes with their size. That's because losses are proportional to maintenance costs, but profits are constant. So it may be incumbent upon an enterprising wealth-manager to consider diversifying business holdings rather than growing, but this'll depend on how you strategically hope to invest your downtime.

3 - The modifier to the business roll plateaus at 30 days.

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There's a million things you could do, and that is pretty difficult for us to answer. But, I'll let you know what our DM did that has been working for our group. All of the following is what our party and DM has done with the mine from Mines of Phandelver. Based on this answer being dependent on knowledge of spoilers, you are hereby warned: Spoiler Warning

Start a Business

The mine is a business enterprise. The players are investors/employees of this enterprise. So you're going to need to set up this business, how successful it is, what it creates, how it sells the product, and most importantly how it interacts with the players. That's why this question is so broad.

For us, part of our "side quest" with this newly acquired mine is that we are sometimes finding merchants and traders that might want to do business with us. That is, the DM offered these opportunities to us. We as players decided to give it a name and even to do some graphic design for fun. I highly recommend you to encourage your players to get involved in this aspect, it's a lot of fun.

Our mine can make magical items, but it needs some TLC. So, maybe start low and grow from there. Initially, our mine could make basic healing potions (1d4+2 I think). We could buy them for cheaper than normally. Because of that, they were useful in and of themselves, but also as something we could sell at normal price for profit. As time went on and production increase and the mine got better, our potions got better and we got to choose what type of potion to make next. This was awesome for us, we got to have control over the business and it felt like another character for us to level up. Think of any resource management game out there, making decisions like this is just plain fun.

I highly recommend you give some control of this mine to the players, by way of the owner/operator asking them questions. Make it matter to them, and they'll treat it the same way they'd treat an in-game pet. I recommend this advice from the point of view of a player, not a DM, so take some salt with that.

What can you get out of it? Anything you want, really. Money, items, you name it. If it can be crafted, you can make it. You have control over the operations. You have control over the choices your players can make. Follow normal crafting rules and it should be more or less balanced. Will it grow into a large company with dozens of employees and several buildings, or is it just a side gig that doesn't go anywhere? It's up to you and your players.

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I had a set of tables I made for 3.5 that detailed a lot of fun things about running a business, but this is what it comes down to from a DM perspective:

Figure out what sort of benefit you want to give your players, add some randomness, and have that be the effect of the mine.

For example, let's say you want to give them a nice passive income of 500gp a month. Rule that the mine generates 1d6*100 + 150 gp a month that it is up and running. Alternatively, start it much lower and give the players an opportunity to "improve" it by undertaking various quests (say, going into the mine and killing some troublesome Bullettes or other beasties). As the mine improves in quality, so does the benefit.

You can make this the centerpoint of a lot of the player's activity as well. Say, for example, they are on a quest to defeat some daemon prince or something. On their quest they find shards of a sword that once defeated this prince, but it needs to be reforged under very specific circumstances by only the best smiths and blessed by a priest descended from the Knight who slew the Prince. Well, they have a Magic Forge already, now they just need to do some questing to find the priest, maybe find some rare reagents to upgrade their forge further to forge the sword, and then they will get their maguffin to kill their enemy (maybe complete with a cinematic battle at their forge, where they not only have to protect the priest, and the craftsmen, but keep too much damage from being done to their investments there).

When you start worrying too much about mechanics with a set piece, you are doing things wrong. Figure out what you want to give the players, and use the forge to give it to them. I would say that as a magical forge, things I would think would be a result of owning a share in one are: Discounted Magic Items Flat gold payouts Discounts in Time to create magic items or cost of creating magic items Special Runes or Temporary Enchantments for equipment. A source of magical advice and knowledge, or a ready supply of magical support should it be needed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not crazy about your last paragraph's beginning: some of us are in the hobby (partly) because we enjoy the fictional tinkering, planning, and optimizing that could go into running a side-business in-world. That's not wrong, it's just not your cuppa. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 24 '16 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 if that is your motivation, then the side business isn't just a set piece. \$\endgroup\$ – Marshall Tigerus Jun 24 '16 at 20:03

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