A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy!

Observe the craftsman sat on the porch of his rickety weather-beaten workshop. His tanned arms, sinewy and dextrous, carefully manipulate a bow, sanding off the final imperfections.

It’s taken him an age to make.

The yew he collected himself from the ancient forest that surrounds his cabin, dried for a year before it was ready to be carved. A single piece, the sapwood and the heartwood coexist in laminate felicity, together they form that bond of harmonious cooperation that all marriages would aspire to but very few attain: there is flexibility, and with that flexibility comes strength.

The bow string is formed from the sinews of a deer that he hunted himself, his neighbour the forest is a generous giver of gifts and yet asks for nothing in return. The craftsman is conscientious, however: he plants new trees each year and attempts to improve his neighbour’s lot. The bow string is scraped using tools that have been passed down through the generations, each as lovingly made and cared for as the weapons which they are used to create.

The grip is formed from the leather of the deer, boiled and preserved and stretched and cut. A carving runs the length of the bow; Artemis accompanied by a deer hunts the wolf who flees before them, and so the carving runs. The carvings are inlaid with silver, ore that he mined himself and smelted in small quantities. It is applied with a fine brush, its bristles made from the tail of the deer. Nothing goes to waste: the bow is formed of the deer, the deer is slain by the bow, and the cycle begins anew.

When he is finished he looks over his work. It is art and appliance: form and function. He turns it over and over in his hands checking for any imperfection, rests it by its midpoint on his outstretched index finger and confirms that it is perfectly balanced. He leans back and takes a single arrow from the basket next to the door. Unhurriedly he gets up and steps down from the porch, draws the bow and feels the tension in his arms. The arms of the bow pull back, as if the bow was trying to draw him. He launches the arrow, the air whistles as if in admiration as the arrow passes, and is then stunned into silence as the arrow strikes the tree straight and true.

The craftsman nods to himself as he takes a cloth from the pocket of his worn leather apron and begins to slowly massage oil into the limbs of the bow. As with any act of love, he takes his time and is thoughtful and considerate with every action. By the time he is finished, the sun has begun its inexorable rise, throwing back the blanket of morning mist and lifting its head from the pillow of the forest canopy.

The craftsman holds the bow before him one more time, with a wistful look on his face, his eyes full of pride and fatherly love.

Then he chucks it on the pile with the twenty other bows he made earlier, takes the lot down to Norman the Merchant and sells them all for a few measly copper pieces.

9 thoughts on “A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy!

  1. Melmoth

    It’s a crying shame, but who else would buy such items? Beautifully crafted as the bow was, what adventurer would purchase one when they could pop into the nearest dungeon and come out with a bow that has no need for arrows, because it summons Gods and fires them at the enemy instead.

  2. FraidOfTheLight


    Call me a fanboy if you will, but this a really beautifully written posting. You clearly have a way with words!

    And indeed, you have to pity those poor vendors, forever standing around pitching their wares, and yet selling to nobody besides the odd noob, and maybe a freshly-minted twink.

    This does however make me wonder where these same vendors obtain the inordinate amount of ready cash needed to buy every piece of worthless loot that passing adventurers dump on them. What precisely do they do with all those bits of animal carcass, the broken weapons and armour, and the random pieces of seaweed?

    There’s something very odd going on here…

  3. Hexedian

    Easy. Vendors get the skill “Turn item to gold”; makes them a tidy profit off of every item bought, really.

  4. Capn John

    The vendor economy in Fallout3 is somewhat more realistic, but then it can afford to be because it’s a Single Player game. If you hit up Trader Biggles and try to offload all the junk you looted, Trader Biggles can only pay you so much (and yes, it’s in bottle caps, the currency of all good post-nuclear war wastelands). So while Trader Biggles might have 150 bottle caps on him he’ll continue to take everything you throw at him, beyond 150 bottle caps worth, without offering you anything else in return, which actually makes ammunition the true currency of the post-nuclear war wasteland.

    And that’s how you find yourself trading things like four Blastmaster Vests, two Helmets, a Flak jacket, three .38 Pistols, and Hunting Rifle, all for 150 bottle caps and a Mini-nuke, which unlike all that other junk you offloaded weighs absolutely nothing. Then you cross your fingers and hope that somewhere down the road you’ll find another trader with enough bottle caps to buy your Mini-nuke. Although I don’t know why you feel compelled to obtain all those bottle caps, when anything you want in the post-nuclear war wasteland is yours for the taking, just as long as you’ve got the firepower :P

  5. Stabs

    I actually had a brilliant idea for crafting earlier on. Make people able to make things better the longer they spend on it.

    Marry that to a system where rarer and harder to find materials allow a higher maximum time crafting.

    So you basically kill the baddest raid boss in the game, give the rare drop to the best Weaponsmith on the server and he spends an hour a night making you the best sword the game has ever seen.

  6. Melmoth

    @FraidOfTheLight – Thank you for the kind comment. As for where the vendors get the cash? Mafia connections, that’s all I’m saying.

    @Hexedian – An interesting thought, and it might explain all those golden statues of adventurers that vendors have adorning their lawns.

    @Capn John – All we’d need is a chain-gun that fired bottle caps and we could end the firepower vs economy debate once and for all. I really must get back to Fallout 3 some time.

    @Stabs – If one could make the crafting game involving and exciting enough to keep players interested, I think your idea would have potential. I would have commented on your blog posts about such, but for some reason the comment setup seems to hate OpenID authentication. And it also hates copy-and-paste in certain browsers too. Just FYI.

    I’d certainly recommend reading the post and considering the craftsman to be a player character crafter, thus exposing in stark relief my current game-play frustration.

  7. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Stupid n00b! He should have made the great hew great clubs instead. Those take the same materials, except they sell for 2 silver instead of 80 copper per item.

    Or, he should have used the platinum inlay instead. Yew gives good high end damage, but platinum inlay means the bow has twice the bonus to speed compared to silver. Real PvPers know that bow speed is the single most important stat, so silver inlays are worse than useless.


  8. Stabs

    Thanks for the heads up. OpenID thing should be fixed now, not sure about the copy paste. Should work if you copy paste to wordpad then copy paste to the site but I’ll investigate a better solution.

    Back on topic it seems a given that we need a better crafting system. Minigame or whatever. I certainly didn’t mean click once on a WoW type crafting system then go away for a month while it cycles through the crafts.

  9. pjharvey

    When my World of Warcraft death knight first became a blacksmith I made many poor but functional pieces of armour and weapons out of low-grade copper, knocking out dozens a day to pay the bills and gain experience of the craft.

    Eventually the day came when I was ready. I spent many days finding titanium ore, smelting it in to titansteel bars, acquiring other exotic and expensive materials, and finally pulling it all together to craft the titansteel bonecrusher. When I first held it it truly felt like an epic weapon, exactly as you describe the process, except there was no way I was going to sell it, to a vendor or otherwise, and I keep on using it to this day. Because of the difficulty, cost and time to craft one I am also unlikely to make any more, and if I do the extra weapons will fetch a princely sum.

    It felt epic to craft the weapon, and it feels epic to wield it.

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