Survival Out in the Wilds Part 1: Skinning

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , ,

Shadows danced across the forest clearing in the gentle breeze as the fading days light filtered through the swaying leaves, several small rabbits grazed cautiously unaware of the man watching them from the cover of branches of young yew tree.
Duncan silently cursed his travelling companions lack of preparation under his breath as he shuffled trying to bring life back into his numb back, to be fair though no one had expected the mudslide that had injured the young priests leg.

The boys divine gift had healed his wound but the fever that followed left him weaken and had slowed their pace considerably and only he had bought more trail rations than those required for their return journey to Tymburg and those had run out now with just over a days trail left. His thoughts were interrupted by a Hawks cry above the now startled rabbits starting to flee, giving up on the chance of a deer Duncan drew back his notched arrow and let it fly.

Its an interesting fact that both 1st and 2nd edition AD&D and various Dragon Magazine articles did include rules for skinning and values of pelts, however these rules were not included in later editions.
Since then a lot of players have often slain a huge beast and have inquired how or if they could use anything from their fallen foe. This article series aims to expand this question and introduce some new items and uses.

While the Survival skill is the most commonly used Craft (Taxidermy) and Profession (Hunter) can also be used to recover valuable parts from slain creatures.
Other useful skills will include Appraise or Profession (Hunter) which can be used to gauge the value of such an item, Knowledge (Nature) could help as well to identify animals with valuable pelts while Knowledge (Arcana) can be used to recognise creatures with spell component uses.

Skill DCTask
5Skin an animal for strictly utilitarian purposes e.g. Cooking, bait
10Skin and prepare a tiny/small common animal for its pelt and meat e.g. a squirrel, rabbit, small birds. Craft a simple basic item from a pelt e.g. patch for clothing, crude moccasins or gloves
15Skin and prepare a common game animal e.g. Deer, wild pig/boar, wild goats. Craft un-complex fur clothes e.g. Hide overcoat, fur cap or tribal trophy.
18Skin and prepare a Magical Beast to preserve pelt and meat e.g. Unicorn, Dire Animals, Worgs.
20Skin and prepare a familiar creature that is not commonly skinned e.g. Humanoids
25Skin and prepare an completely unfamiliar creature e.g. Most  Outsiders.
30Skin and treat a Shapechanger’s pelt so it remains in its current form and does not change.

CircumstancesDC Modifier
First time skinning that type of creature+5
Creature is a Aberration or Outsider+5
Creature is Favoured Enemy -2
Experienced in skinning creature (skinned creature 10+ times) -5
Disregarding pelt and focusing on internal organs. -10

Due to their unusual and unnatural natures aberrations and outsiders are particularly difficult to skin and there is often little demand for a full pelt. To determine the DC for skinning these creatures either start at DC 20 or 25 for more unusual creatures, though more animalistic outsiders like celestial animals or Yeth hounds can be treated as Magical Beasts.
Failing a check by less than 5 reduces the pelt to poor quality pelt decreasing its value by 50%, failing by more than 5 makes the pelt worthless for anything more than scraps. Passing a check by 10 or more improves the quality of the pelt increasing its value by 50%.

It should be remembered that after combat not all creatures will be in great condition to recover pelts from, while an arrow to the flank might not damage a worg’s pelt too badly repeated hits from a +1 Flaming longsword will certainly lower the quality.

Regarding the pricing of pelts on the town market Expeditious Retreat's A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe or A Magical Medieval Society: Silk Road have been highly recommend by various members of the RPG community for their in-depth trading rules. However according to the Silk Road book a pelts worth is measured per pound and this leads to the problem of trying to determine the weight of each pelt.

A simpler rule of thumb is provided by the Dungeons and Dragons Arms and Armour Guide which states: pg:40

Furs and hides, common 20lb.     1gp–5gp
Furs and hides, unusual 20lb.        6gp–10gp
Furs and hides, rare 20lb.            11gp–20gp
Furs and hides, exotic 20 lb.        21gp–50gp
Furs and hides, monstrous 20lb.   51gp–200+gp

This still leaves the problem of weight of the hide, using the weight of hide armour and the rules for armour weight by size category I suggest a single medium size creature provides 20lb of hide, small creature 10lb and a tiny creature 5lb. For larger creatures continue to double the weight of hide I.E: a large creature provides 40lb and huge 80lb etc.

While the party will hardly become rich through hunting and skinning this adds a nice bonus for a opportunist, and in more primitive tribes where gold is seen as little use they may be accepted instead with the added benefit of respect killing the beast brings.

The next article will cover a few general rules on just how much hide you get from a monster and what kind of advantages it brings when used to craft.

Quick Link: Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Drawing his arrow from the slain rabbit Duncan wiped its bloody tip across the grass as he looked up at the circling hawk, by sheer bad luck they had both chosen  the same prey and now the bird its prize stolen seemed to be judging if it could steal it back. While the rabbit was hardly enough for his group to eat the fading light would make it impossible to hunt further, “Perhaps a meagre meal will teach the others to prepare more in the future” a small grin crossing his face with the thought Duncans fingertips slipped down to the only other catch of the evening a fat squirrel.
“No sense us both been hungry aye old girl?” Tossing the squirrel further into the clearing he watched as with a few moments hesitation the Hawk flew down collecting the prize, with rabbit now in hand he turned to begin his march back to camp thoughts drifting now if he should use the soft pelt to make a pair of gloves or a muff for the sweet barmaid at Tymburg.


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