Darkwood! The equal and opposite of the iconic Mithral.
While the details of where it really comes from and the proper method of harvesting it are up to the Dungeon Master, in the base Pathfinder setting it is described as a wood that is somewhat light in weight, but very durable and dense.
Perfect for weapons and armor. It’s frequently found deep in old-growth forests. Darkwood is (as its name would imply) a very dark-colored wood, almost ebony in color, with some species having an almost purplish hue.
Darkwood is very much an answer to an issue your average Druid Enjoyer has been dealing with since Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition. That problem being, how does one use more advanced equipment than simple wooden items without losing access to your spells and other abilities.
Hide armor and a stick can only go so far. What we need is a SPECIAL KIND of stick!
Mechanically, Darkwood is somewhat similar to Mithral, as it makes weapons, shields, and armor lighter.
However, unlike Mithral, Darkwood is oftentimes less expensive, which balances out the fact that it can only be used in a limited number of items.
Advantages of Darkwood in Pathfinder 1st Edition/Dungeons and Dragons 3.5e:
- Items made are considered Masterwork
- Darkwood items are half the weight of their regular counterparts.
- Darkwood Shields have their Armor Check Penalty reduced by 2.
- For the purposes of Breaking or Destroying Darkwood it has 10 HP/inch and a Hardness of 5. See: Damaging Objects
Advantages of Darkwood in Pathfinder 2nd Edition:
It is worth noting that an item needs to be made OF darkwood to gain its benefits. A battleaxe with a shaft of Darkwood, but a head still made of metal does not a Darkwood weapon make.
However, a Quarterstaff, Bow, or Club woub definitely be considered a Darkwood Weapon.
Armor is somewhat more tricksy, as wooden armor is not something DnD or Pathfinder really bring up in their core published books. Historically, wooden armor was relatively common, but the development of metallurgy made it obsolete. It is not impossible in a universe with Magic Weapons and Armor though.
First Edition Pathfinder doesn’t really have rules for Darkwood Armor specifically because of this limitation, but Second Edition Pathfinder does!
Time for a Mechanics Breakdown!
Darkwood in D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder 1st Edition
Let’s go over each individual bonus from Darkwood, and then break down the costs.
As per the d20 SRD: Masterwork items are created with incredible care and skill, making them better by the dent of the craftsmanship.
Weapon Mechanics: + 1 enhancement bonus to attack rolls made with Masterwork Weapons. For example, a Monk using a Darkwood Quarterstaff without any other enhancement, would add a +1 enhancement bonus to every attack roll he makes with the staff.
Armor and Shield Mechanics: Armor Check Penalties are reduced by 1. This ability is a bit more complicated when it comes to Darkwood, so let’s address it with the main entry below.
All Darkwood items weigh HALF as much as their normal counterparts. Let’s look at some examples:
A Heavy Wooden Shield on the SRD weighs 10 pounds, but if it was made from Darkwood, the shield would only weigh 5 pounds.
Likewise, a Normal Club from the SRD weighs 3 pounds, but as a Darkwood Club, it would only be 2 (One half of 3 rounded up).
3. Armor Check Penalties for Shields
Darkwood is more light and maneuverable than regular steel or wood, so it is MUCH easier to work with and move around while using. As such the Armor Check Penalty for using a Darkwood shield is reduced by 2.
As an Example: A Heavy Wooden Shield normally has an Armor Check Penalty of -2, meaning a Fighter needing to make a Strength or Dexterity based check while using the shield would be taking a minus 2 when doing it. However, with a Darkwood Heavy Shield, that would be a -0 because of the lightness of the Darkwood.
It is worth noting here that the Masterwork bonus to Armor Check Penalties has already been factored into this advantage, and does not stack with the Material Bonus of the Darkwood. It remains a reduction of 2 rather than a total reduction of 3.
What Does Darkwood Cost?
To determine the price of a darkwood item, first, we find the Masterwork cost of the item in question (base cost + 150 gold for armor/a shield or 300 gold for a weapon), and then add 10 gold per pound of the item’s original weight before becoming a Darkwood item.
Expressed Mathematically we can see this as:
(C + M) + 10W = Total Cost
In this formula C is the item’s base cost, M is the Masterwork cost (150 for Armor or Shield, 300 for Weapon) and W is the original item weight.
That’s a jumble of math up there, but let’s simplify with some examples.
First we can start with a Heavy Wooden Shield. The base cost of a Heavy Wooden Shield is 7 gold. We then add 150 gold for making it a masterwork item equalling 157 gold.
Then we need to multiply 10 times the original weight of the item, so 10 times 10 lbs equals 100. Then we add that 100 to the 157. That makes our Darkwood Heavy Shield worth 257 gold!
Now we can look at a Darkwood Longbow. The Longbow’s base cost is 75 gold. To make a Masterwork weapon, the additional cost is 300 gold. So that step makes it 375 gold.
On the other side of the formula is 10 times the original weight of a Longbow which is 3 lbs. That comes to 30. Therefore we have 375 plus 30 equals 405 gold total!
Last example here! Let’s go for a curveball: A Darkwood Quarterstaff. A quarterstaff is special because this one is a double weapon. In order to get the C + M part of our formula above, we need to add M twice because a Quarterstaff is 2 weapons in one.
Funnily enough, quarterstaffs do not have a base cost (C in this) because it’s a stick. So 0 plus 300 plus 300 for 600 gold. The weight for a quarterstaff is 4 lbs, so 10 times 4 comes to 40. Add that together and you get 640 gold. Quite an expensive stick!
Darkwood in Pathfinder 2nd Edition
Whereas Darkwood in 1st Edition was more focused on Weapons and Shields, the rules for Darkwood in 2nd edition are more specifically focused on Darkwood Armor.
Pathfinder 2nd ed uses a system for its Carry Capacity called “Bulk” which is a somewhat nebulous rating for how easy it is to carry an item in your inventory. A good way to think of it is 1 Bulk weighing about the equivalent of 5-10 lbs.
Anything only a few ounces would be considered “negligible,” and anything between those two would be considered “Light.” 10 “Light” items are considered the equivalent of 1 Bulk.
For character purposes, a character can carry an amount of Bulk equal to 5 Plus a character’s Strength Modifier. If a character carries too much they get the Encumbered condition, and if the character goes 10 beyond their Strength Modifier, their Spine herniates out of their body in a gruesome display of organic Jenga. Or…however the DM wants to describe it, really.
In the case of Darkwood, items made from it are counted as 1 Bulk lighter than their normal value to a minimum of Light. Steel Shields typically weigh between 5-8 pounds meaning they are 1 Bulk. If that Steel Shield is instead made of Darkwood, it would move the same 1 Bulk shield down to Light.
In the case of a Breastplate, which is a Bulk 2, it would move down to 1 Bulk overall. Less chance your spine will yeet itself across the room.
2. Reduced Check Penalty
Check Penalty in Pathfinder 2nd is in many ways similar to the Armor Check Penalty of D&D and Pathfinder 1st, but can be overcome by a high enough Strength Score.
Using the above example for a Darkwood Breastplate, your average breastplate has a Check Penalty of -2 and a Strength rating of 16. What this means is a character wearing a breastplate must have a Strength score of 16 OR they take a -2 penalty on all Strength of Dexterity skill tests while wearing the armor.
However, if we make the breastplate from Darkwood, that Strength rating decreases to 14, making it easier to move around in the armor without it interfering with Strength and Dexterity related actions.
Armor is complicated and can make you slower. The heavier armor is, the slower it will make you. The reputation of the awkward Knight in Plate mail is not completely unwarranted. Heavier armor in Pathfinder 2nd Ed reduces the base speed a character can move every round.
Again going back to the above Breastplate, because it is such a good example, we can see that a breastplate slows a character down by 5 ft, hacking a whole square off your possible movement speed. However, Darkwood is lighter and more maneuverable.
Darkwood armor reduces the Speed Penalty by 5, giving that extra square of movement back to the character. In the case of Splint Mail, which reduces the character’s speed by -10 ft, a set of Darkwood Splint Mail would change that to a -5 ft instead.
But at What Cost?!
Darkwood in Pathfinder 2e can get relatively expensive quickly. The majority of the cost depends on the Bulk of the items being made and the level of craftsmanship required.
In the case of low-grade or standard items, they are much less expensive, but cannot be used for higher-level magical enchantment. High-Grade items cost more but can be the focus for higher-level spells.
|1,600 gp (+160 gp per Bulk)
|1,400 gp (+140 gp per Bulk)
|32,000 gp (+3,200 gp per Bulk)
|13,500 gp (+1,350 gp per Bulk)
In the case of Armor, you start with the base cost of 1600 gold if standard grade or 32,000 gold for high grade, then you add an amount equal to the Bulk of the item in question. The rules are similar regarding weapons, but use different numbers.
Example: The value of a Darkwood Breastplate would first depend on its craftsmanship. A High Grade Darkwood Breastplate would be 32,000 gold (base price) plus 6400 gold (3200 gold x 2 Bulk) for a total of 38,400 gold . A Standard Grade Darkwood Longbow would be 1,400 gold plus 280 gold (140 x 2 Bulk) for a total of 1680 gold.
Shields are at flat prices and are better shown with their own specific table.
Knock on Wood
Darkwood is the go-to material for any character with a more naturalistic bent in their roleplay and mechanics. It offers a good alternative to the typical metal armor-wrapped fighter and gives characters like Druids and Rangers the option to truly stretch their legs.
Darkwood is also a good base to slowly build on with enchantments and other improvements.
Also if their dice rolls suck, they have a ready piece of wood to knock on for good luck!
Happy Hunting, Pathfinders!