Tools of the Trade: A Discussion of the Masterwork Tool


Many of my favorite items in Pathfinder are cheap, mundane items that grant a considerable benefit in specific circumstances. Of these, perhaps my most favorite is the Masterwork Tool. The reader’s digest version of the description I linked is that for 50 gp and a pound of encumbrance, you can get a +2 circumstance bonus to any one use of any one skill. According to Jason Bulmahn, it really can be any skill at all. The reason I am so very fond of MW Tools is that the player (even in PFS) can ‘flavor’ them to their own preference. In other words, you can decide what the tool is and how it helps you.

The circumstance bonus stacks with anything else, except another Masterwork Tool. There are some Masterwork Tools that might operate slightly differently, or have different costs and/or weights. These exist because specific versions of them have been published in Paizo materials. Before moving into a list of all the MW Tools I can think of, I’ll list these specific published items. They are: the Alchemist’s Labclimber’s kithealer’s kitdisguise kitmasterwork musical instrument, and masterwork thieves’ tools. Before buying any of these, be sure to read their descriptions, as they have varying costs, rules caveats, limited uses, etc.

Moving on, I’ll make a list of MW Tools for any occasion. If you have a suggestion for more tools, feel free to comment here or anywhere I post a link to this article and I’ll consider adding them in (crediting you, of course). I frequently use books for these, and basically say my character frequently reads books relevant to their skills/professions. Some may occupy the same space as a wondrous item slot, but never fear. As they are mundane items, you can benefit from them and your favorite wondrous knick-knack as well.


Moving across narrow or uneven surfaces – MW Balance Pole There actually are balance poles sold for 8 sp that grant a +1 circumstance bonus. I’d shell out the extra gold for +2 instead.

Moving through threatened/occupied squares – Knee Pads You’re tumbling after all

Jumping and Falling – Custom insoles


Valuate gems – gemcutter’s magnifying glass

I’d be willing to take suggestions here. I don’t think I’ve ever rolled this skill in my life.


Conveying a secret message – A book, Using Subtext, by Suttle Mann.

Deceive/Lie – A shiny piece of jewelry or other shiny bauble, by playing with it you can distract someone you’re speaking to to diminish their ability to sense your true motives.

Feign Harmlessness – a cane. People never expect the old man with a limp to stab them in the face.

Feint in combat – a long cape. By flourishing your cape you can temporarily blind the opponent to what you are doing.


As stated before, there is an official climber’s kit, and that should be used rather than custom tools.


Honestly, there are so many things one could craft that this one skill could go on endlessly. I’ll just list one for the sake of completion.

Woodcarving – Fine sandpaper, makes those cabinets really gleam.


Seeing how powerful this skill is, I typically make the usages a MW Tool can benefit highly specific to a locale or demographic. That isn’t exactly necessary, but I think it helps game balance. I’ll include a few examples.

Gather information in a particular city – a tourist’s guide to the city

Influence attitude of a merchant – a letter of recommendation from a Qadiran trade prince

Make a request from a soldier – a uniform for a low-ranking officer of their military

Disable Device

See: Masterwork Thieves’ Tools


See: Disguise Kit

Escape Artist

Get out of ropes – silk clothing, reduce the friction against the ropes to shimmy out

Escape manacles – bump key, it’s basically a little ‘skeleton key’ you can easily keep hidden in your sleeve cuff.

Move through a tight space – any kind of cooking oil, get nice and lubed up

Escape a grapple – moisturizing body wash, keep your skin slick and smooth


Hover – winged shirt, think of a flying squirrel suit

Turn more than 45 degrees – a feathered tailcoat, you could use it as a rudder

Fly upwards at a greater than 45 degree angle – balloons

Handle Animal

Handle an Animal – a command whistle. This usage is to get animals to do tricks that they know.

Push an animal – a whip, it may be cruel but it gets the job done. This would not be the weapon whip, but a MW tool only. Probably one of those goads that you don’t really hit the beast with, just makes a loud noise.

Teach an animal a trick – tasty treats. I’d probably say you’d get a limited number of uses for this, like the healer’s kit.

There are actually a ton of tools for Handle Animal outside of MW Tools.


See: Healer’s Kit


Improve a creature’s attitude – sheriff’s badge/gang symbol, let them know you mean business and have people backing you up

Demoralize – necklace of severed ears, or implanted devil horns


I made a list of books for identifying each creature type. Here they are:

Aberration (Dungeoneering) – Teeth and Tentacles: A Description of Those Things that Defy It, by Dr. Skwid

Animal (Nature) – Principia Zoologica, published by the Wildwood Lodge

Construct (Arcana) – The Golem’s Gift: A Treatise Upon the Benefits of Mechanical Guardians and Laborers, by Chrysalis Black

Dragon (Arcana) – My Kin and Kind, by Garaudhilyx

Fey (Nature) – Fey Folk and Fauna, by Amalya

Humanoid (Local) – The Many Peoples of Golarion, by Creighton Shane

Magical Beast (Arcana) – Bulfinch’s Bestiary, by Thomas Bulfinch

Monstrous Humanoid (Nature) – Residents of the Uncanny Valley, by Aram Zey

Ooze (Dungeoneering) – Gels, Globs, and Goos, author unknown

Outsider (Planes) – Choirs of the Outer Spheres, by Kyra of Qadira

Plant (Nature) – Botany and Mycology: A Survivor’s Guide, by Dr. Adalbert Tiller

Undead (Religion) – Who Dare Defy Pharasma, by Vae Mortis Blakros

Vermin (Nature) – Dang Varmints, by Jonathram of Tamran

For other uses of Knowledge skills, one can buy various Pathfinder Chronicles.


Create forgeries – MW stationary set, always have the right kind of paper and inks to emulate anyone’s style


Visual – prescription spectacles


A nice set of dancing shoes, or the Masterwork Musical Instrument. It shouldn’t be hard to come up with something.


Like craft, this could go on and on forever. I’ll give one example.

Barrister – Legal texts about contract law


Control mount in battle – A really nice bit and bridle

Guide with the knees – saddle blanket

Cover – well crafted saddle straps

Soft fall – padded clothes

Spur mount – spurs. Kind of obvious, that one.

Fast mount/dismount – specialized stirrups

Stay in saddle – nicer saddle horn

Sense Motive

You know, I can’t really think of anything. I’m willing to take suggestions here.

Sleight of Hand

Stealing stuff unnoticed – silk gloves for smooth entry

Entertain – balanced juggling pins

Hide objects – coat of many hidden pockets


I’d probably resort to books for spellcraft as well.


Go silently if something can’t see you at all – padded shoes

Blend into various backgrounds – camouflaged cloaks for different environments (desert, woodland, urban, etc.)


Avoid getting lost – compasses, maps, and sextants are great for this, and all have specific entries. Hypothetically you could make a MW Tool that stacks with the circumstance bonuses granted by those items, but it seems unnecessary to do so.

Follow tracks – machete, to clear underbrush out of the way. A small brush to make tracks clearer may also help.

Survive in the wilderness – water purifier, finding potable water is one of the most common and constant challenges of surviving outdoors.


Those flippers you can put on your feet. I love those things.

Use Magic Device

Activating blindly – A lucky rabbit’s foot.

Decipher a written spell – special tinted glasses that make reading magic easier somehow.

Use a scroll – a yad makes sense here.

Use a wand – wand polish or a wand coozy make sense to me.

Emulate an alignment – some kind of preserved body part from an outsider of said alignment

Emulate a class feature – a lock of hair from someone of that class

Emulate an ability score – a mezuzah pendant with a writing from someone who exemplifies said ability score inside.

Emulate a race – a disguise prop that makes you look more like that race. Like, a dwarf fake beard, or elf ear tips, or half orc tusk dentures


So, those are some ideas I’ve come up with. What tools do you enjoy using?


7 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade: A Discussion of the Masterwork Tool

  1. For “sense motive”, I suggest a book titled “The Game” by Neil Strouss.
    (this is a real book, you might want to make a tongue-in-cheek version for your list)
    Note: My oppinion of “pickup artists” is that reading this book would help your sense motive (you can see the signs if someone’s trying to play you) but it wouldn’t help at all for bluff/diplomacy/etc, coz it’s all a load of crap.


    1. Not a bad idea, I’m just trying to avoid using books too much. There’s also the argument that the tool needs to physically play a part in the check. Where with Knowledge skills you could make a strong case that just having read it recently is helping you (because it directly gives you Knowledge) it would be more difficult to argue the same for other skills.

      Thank you for the suggestion though, and in your home games I think that is a fine item. I’m just trying to limit ‘gray area’ stuff as much as I can, given how gray a lot of this item’s rules inherently are.


    2. Thanks Melodee – it has actually been great fun already having somehow connected with Paul via Fa-Tbook:c)ehanks Paul – I shall check out more of what you do…


  2. Would something like the “Blakros Field Guide” work for Appraise?

    Maybe some sort of lie detector for Sense Motive? Glasses that let you see sweat or changes in body temperature? That doesn’t really seem mundane though.


    1. I like the Blakros Field Guide idea, although I may change it to whatever that auction house in Absalom is. Definitely inspired by your idea though.

      Sense Motive really is a tough nut to crack. Your idea would actually make a clever flavor description for a Wondrous Item (probably +5 competence bonus), but you’re right, it isn’t really a mundane property. Hmm.


  3. Masterwork crowbar for Disable Device. Negates the -2 penalty for not having thieves tools but still not as good as mwk thieves tools. However, you can force a door open or beat someone to death with one. 🙂


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