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And the Tree Was Happy
It's easy to forget the importance of woodworking when nearly every adventure revolves around brandishing steel or amassing gold. Players may not be slaying dragons with cedar swords or bartering with koa coins, but wood still may be a campaign's unsung hero. And, despite mundane appearances, wood shops can do far more than chop firewood or pull a stump.
Though adventurers may run across loggers who help harvest trees or millworkers who help process them, these aren't typically the woodworkers they should seek out. Instead, players should inquire about the local craftsperson selling goods or services related to general carpentry, wood carving, or turning. These prerequisites may not seem like much, but they are the building blocks for nearly all specialized trades that use wood.
One of the more expected ways a player may request help from a wood shop is by commissioning furniture or cabinetry to decorate their keep, perhaps with ornate inlay for a bit of flair. However, a skilled artisan can often provide additional specialized services. Pragmatic players may desire the assistance of a shipwright to repair a boat or a wainwright to build a wagon or cart. Those focused on building their class may search for a bowyer or fletcher to improve their archery or a luthier to craft the perfect performance accompaniment. Even players who enjoy diving into their backgrounds may find unique uses for a marionettist for puppets or a cooper to further their distilling dreams. Whatever the case, adventurers shouldn't overlook the opportunity to utilize the wooden resources they often take for granted.
Not Any Tree Will Do
In the early days of the world, a woodworker's native region dictated the availability of their natural materials. As transport and commerce evolved, exotic and rare woods, along with the knowledge of how to use them, became more widely available. These advancements led to a simple two-wood classification system that has persisted into the modern day. Softwoods are typically harvested from coniferous trees and exhibit an open grain pattern, whereas hardwoods come from broadleaf trees that reveal a tighter grain.
Native to colder climates, softwoods are less durable, lighter in weight, paler in color, and more likely to fall victim to pests and fungus than hardwoods. Its lighter weight, low density, and open grain pattern can compromise the wood's strength, contributing to its tendency to shrink or swell as it dries. However, these same properties make softwoods like basswood, aspen, and butternut excellent choices for carving and shaping projects.
While all hardwoods originate from deciduous trees, woodworkers have further subcategorized them by temperate and tropical origins. Tropical hardwoods grow within the warmer climate of the equatorial belt, while temperates represent the broadleaf trees that thrive elsewhere. Though more brittle, hardwoods resist pests and rot and are generally denser and heavier than most softwoods. These attributes can make them more challenging to work with, but their rigidity, strength, and resistance to warping make hardwoods an excellent choice for long-lasting items like furniture or delicate keepsakes.