I was working on my leatherworking last night, and using a combination of accumulated items in the bank, a few auction house purchases and a rampage through Nagrand denuding it of much of its native wildlife, I managed to increase my leatherworking skill by a massive seven or eight points. Woo! It’s now 341, allowing me to craft a couple of bits of armour that might have been briefly useful several levels ago, some nice leg armour kits with expensive components, and bongo drums, presumably for tapping out some crazy jazz rhythms. That’s insane, daddy-o!
Crafting has something of a split personality. On the one hand, it seems set up such that you only need a small number of crafters. At the very, very least, a crafter needs to make one item per point of crafting skill, so to hit the maximum crafting skill of 375, they’ll likely have made 400+ items; outside an Alchemist drinking his own potions, that’s far more than the crafter themselves will need. Furthermore, the sheer quantity of raw materials required to make those items needs one person to spend a lot of time and effort (or money) acquiring materials, or, more ideally, several people gathering resources to supply one crafter.
On the other hand, however, everyone is given an incentive to craft, with most professions now having either bind on pickup recipes (i.e. only the person who crafted the item can use it), or items requiring a certain crafting skill to use (in much the same way that most engineering items always needed a certain engineering skill to use, so e.g. drums require a certain leatherworking skill).
So you have your eye on the bind on pickup Trousers of Splendidness, and you’re crafting away working on improving your skill to get to the required level for them, and you think “well, I might as well help my buddies out” (or perhaps “muahahahaha, I’ll make me some money by selling stuff”). And that’s a bit of a problem for tailors, leatherworkers and blacksmiths. Everyone is bombarded with quest rewards as they adventure around the world, which tends to be enough to give a fairly decent outfit. On top of that, there’s the items randomly dropped by mobs (quite where wolves keep those greatswords, shields and cuirasses is a constant source of mystery); if they’re not directly useful, they can always be traded around a guild, or put up for sale at the auction house. These drops can be *anything*; a Cheesemongers Hatstand of the Wombat? Absolutely! An Undercoated Wardrobe of the Herring-pickler? You bet! (OK, I exaggerate slightly. But the items cover the whole level range of the game, for every possible type of weapon/armour, and with a wide variety of possibly bonuses). In contrast, within a range of ten levels or so there’ll probably be… one set of crafted armour that may be vaguely applicable to your class. If you’re lucky. Granted, the crafted item is available then and there (presuming the crafter has the raw materials), but with an active guild and/or auction house there’s almost always a superior alternative (usually a range of them depending on which stats you prefer).
To an extent, this is offset by other things the crafter can produce, like a tailor’s bags or a leatherworker’s armour kits, so now and again you can increase your skill while making these useful items. But inevitably (for leatherworking at least, I’m guessing it’s similar for others) there comes a point where, in order to increase your skill, you need to make more useless armour and dump it on the auction house for less than the raw materials would fetch (as you’re competing with every other leatherworker dumping the same useless armour), or send it off for disenchantment. Which is all the more galling when you could’ve used the same components to make a couple of stamina giving armour patches that people really would find useful, but wouldn’t have increased your skill.
At the very least, it would be nice if there were some more generally useful items that could be used to skill up, but it doesn’t seem like it would take a giant leap to make the armour crafting system more useful. The Wild Leather items, for example; when made, they have a random enchantment (… of the Monkey, Tiger, Wolf etc.) This makes them even more staggeringly useless than the rest of the armour that you can craft (remember, random loot = bad), unless you get lucky and happen to get a useful stat combination. However, if you could *control* what enchantment they were assigned (start with ten pieces of thick leather, and say add elemental fire and a feather for … of the Monkey, elemental earth and a pearl for … of the Tiger, whatever), all of a sudden you’ve got more choice with what you can make. Having gem slots in crafted items is a step in the right direction, but they only turn up on some of the higher level Rare pieces. Ah well. In the meantime, I’m off to some dungeons to try and get some Stylin‘ Hat patterns to add to my headwear collection.