After reading my first article, I don’t hide the fact that I lost my love for Dungeons and Dragons many years ago. A game that I used to love so much turned me away with clunky mechanics, a lack of interest in role-playing, and worst of all, an attempt to make the game more of an MMO than an RPG. I wondered if any game would ever capture what I loved so much from Dungeons and Dragons. It took years, but I think I finally found it in Fantasy Craft.
Fantasy Craft is published by Crafty Games (http://www.crafty-games.com) that was printed in a partnership with Mongoose Publishing. I will be upfront in saying that I personally know the creators and founders of Crafty Games. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Patrick Kapera, Alex Flagg, and Scott Gearin (though no longer with Crafty Games) when I ran LARPs for them at numerous Gencon conventions over the years. When I heard about this product over a year ago, I knew this would be huge for their company. All three of them put their blood, possibly literally, into Fantasy Craft, and I can say that it has paid off.
Fantasy Craft will look familiar to most d20 roleplaying fans, as it uses the standard d20 rules. But, unlike most d20 games, you will not need the Dungeons and Dragons Players Guide to play this game. The game contains the level experience chart, which you won’t see in other d20 games written under Wizard of the Coast’s Open Game and Open Content License. Fantasy Craft is written using Crafty Games’ Mastercraft rules set. The rules are “the culmination of almost a decade of experience honing a single game system, which is itself based on the oldest, most respected RPG on the market” (page 5, Fantasy Craft). That RPG they are referring to is Dungeons and Dragons. The Mastercraft rules set have already been partially seen in Crafty Games’ Spycraft line. Now, it has been honed and tweak to official stand under the Mastercraft brand. (Note – Crafty Games is using the Open Gaming License in this book and it is properly displayed at the end of Chapter 7).
Right away the book explains what a roleplaying game is and what to expect from their game. I always commend RPGs opening up with this, but Crafty Games continues focusing on roleplaying throughout the entire book. You can see they want their game to stay focused on roleplaying and including many roleplaying opportunities within their rules. For example, the book includes rules for when players aren’t adventuring, or if they are traveling, called Downtime. This aspect allows the character to focus on the things they want to do during Downtime. Maybe your character wants to research some history of the world or create a new set of armor or do some horse training. All of this would be handled during Downtime. They give rules on how to make a Downtime check to allow the character to accomplish their goal. This is definitely a nice feature for any game and something the players will definitely appreciate.
I titled this article saying that Fantasy Craft is the future of fantasy roleplaying games. This game offers so many new and fresh ideas that will want you to play this game. Let’s take a look at a few of these. First, and foremost is your character’s Origin. Your character’s Origin is a combination of your Species and Specialty. I truly love the options for Species in this game. Besides the stereotypical choices of Human, Elf, and Dwarf, Crafty Games also gives you the options of playing a Drake (kin to a dragon), Giant, Goblin, Ogre, Orc, Pech (think Hobbit), Rootwalker (living tree like Treebeard in Lord of the Rings), Saurian (lizard folk), and Unborn (construct or golem). All races other than Humans get a number of Species benefits and usually one weakness. If you choose a Human, you also get a Talent, which provides bonuses and sometimes minuses to attributes and other benefits to your characters skills. All characters get a Specialty that provides a bonus feat without requiring the pre-requistes plus some additional character bonuses. The right combination of Species, Talent (remember, Humans only), and Specialty can make their 1st level character excel at certain skills or combat abilities immediately and in turn give them some detail about their character. Talents are described as adjectives (Agile, Cunning, etc..) while Specialties appear to be archetypes (Acrobat, Cleric, etc…). So you could have a Drake Acrobat as your Origin, that would indeed make for an interesting background if you so choose it. Who wouldn’t want to play a dragon-kin, somersaulting character?
Second, the core classes (referred to as Base classes) in Fantasy Craft are unique. Instead of seeing the standard dull Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard, we are treated to a variety of new classes including the Assassin, Burglar, Captain, Courtier, Explorer, Keeper, Lancer, Mage, Priest, Sage, Scout, and Soldier. And each class has their own special abilities and perks that would make them appear more like prestige classes than Base classes. Instead of prestige class, Fantasy Craft references these as Expert classes. Here you will find the Alchemist, Beastmaster, Edgemaster, Paladin, Rune Knight, and Swashbuckler. If you thought the Base classes were great, the Expert classes are even better. They provide more unique abilities and focus as a character class and something for your Base classes to grow into. Personally, I love making the Paladin an Expert class as it focuses the player on dedicating the necessary skills and abilities one must have to be a Paladin. Everyone knows the road of the Paladin isn’t easy, Fantasy Craft making it an Expert class only shows why it requires such focus to obtain the class. The book also offers Master classes, which are higher versions of a Prestige class with the exception that a character can only choose levels in 1 Master class. Master classes were not listed at this time in the main rulebook and will probably appear in supplements.
Third, Fantasy Craft completely overhauls the magic into a more useable rules system. There are two types of magic: arcane and divine. If you are an arcane spellcaster, such as a Mage, you receive a number of spell points to use at each level. The cost of the spell is simply the level of the spell. Spell points refresh at the beginning of each scene as long as a spell that was cast is not still in effect. Arcane casters know a number of spells equal to his Wisdom score plus his ranks in the Spellcasting skill. Finally, wizards in the fantasy genre don’t have to wait until higher levels to feel useful! And no more of the ridiculous Dungeons and Dragons limited number of spells per day. In Fantasy Craft, even the lowest level Mage can be potent and that is sure to make players happy.
If you are a divine spellcaster, such as a Priest, your spells that you know are dictated by your character alignment and path of worship. Divine casters do not use spell points. Instead, their spell abilities are limited to use of once per scene. Priests have a major advantage in not needing to make a Spellcrafting check to cast a spell. Since these are favors from divine sources, they are granted automatic success in casting.
There are 8 schools of magic in Fantasy Craft and each school as 3 sub-schools. The school of Channeler for example has sub-schools in Energy, Force, and Weather. There are 36 pages of spell descriptions. Some are very familiar with new rules, such as Magic Missile, the Power Word spells and Conjure Elementals. Others are familiar, but have levels, such as Fireball I and Fireball II. And others are completely new such as Align Weapon. Crafty Games states their Spellbound PDF series contains compatible schools of magic and spells that can be used with Fantasy Craft.
Let’s talk about what is good about this game. First and foremost, all the new aspects I mentioned! There was so many new aspects to this fantasy genre game I was almost overwhelmed. I love that Craft Games stepped away from the standard fantasy mold and made their own foundation to work from. This is what will separate it from everything other fantasy roleplaying game in the market today. And from what I recall, Fantasy Craft is their best selling product ever.
Second, Crafty Games brings back some of their own rules from originally seen in their Spycraft product line that work quite well in Fantasy Craft. One of my favorites is the use of Vitality Points and Wound Points. Instead of having one Hit Point stat to determine when your character is dead, Crafty Games uses two stats: Vitality and Wounds. Vitality damage is more of combat fatigue than physical damage. The more Vitality damage your character takes, the more exhausted he is becoming and getting closer to taking a deadly wound. Wound points are actual injuries your character has taken. Vitality points are based on class and Wound points are based on your characters Constitution score.
The Vitality and Wound separation allows combats to become more cinematic in description and also more deadly. All damage is automatically removed from Vitality points first. Once Vitality points reach 0, then damage is removed from Wound points. If a character scores a critical hit in combat, all damage is automatically removed from Wounds, no matter how much Vitality the target still has left. Here is a quick example: a group of characters are facing a very formidable Soldier who has 120 Vitality and 16 Wounds. In Dungeons and Dragons, this would be a long drawn out combat as the characters would have to widdle away at 120 hit points to defeat the enemy. In Fantasy Craft, a few critical hits can knock out the Soldier’s 16 Wounds and put him down, without having to fully go through all 120 Vitality. I’ve played a few of Crafty Games’ products with the Vitality/Wound aspect and absolutely love it. My players also loved it better because combats were faster and more fun when you can take out a big enemy with a lucky shot or two. Do you like the game yet? There’s still more to like!
Another of my favorite returning rules is the use of Action Dice. Action Dice provides the characters a bit of extra luck. They can be used to increase any one die roll, temporarily increase a character’s Defense, activate a critical hit or critical success on a skill check, activate a critical error against an opponent (when they opponent rolls a natural 1 on a d20), or to heal your character. The Action Dice type and amount per adventure is dependent on the character’s level. The higher the character the more dice you get and bigger die type to roll.
When you roll Action Dice, you automatically re-roll and add the additional results when you roll the highest number on the die. For example, if you Action Dice is a d6, when you roll a 6 when using one, you re-roll it and add the next result. If you continue rolling 6s, you keep rolling and adding! Action Dice can also be gained by players as rewards by the GM. The GM should reward the players with selfless and heroic acts, helping to move the story along, excellent roleplaying, etc… My favorite part is for every Action Die you hand out to a character, the GM gets one for his own Action Dice pool. GMs can use action dice the same way as players, but also get additional perks such as spending Action Dice to let the main villain get away. A useful tool when you didn’t expect your players to roll so well (or the GM roll so badly) and have your villain come back to fight another day. Do you like the game now? Good, let me tell you why you’ll still like it more.
Crafty Games combat changes also return for Fantasy Craft. Instead of Armor Class, all characters have a Defense stat that is based on class and your Dexterity. In most fantasy games, armor adds to your Defense rating. Not in Fantasy Craft. Instead, armor provides you damage resistance (i.e. ignore X number of points of damage per hit) and usually makes it easier to hit you. Heavier armor will usually protect you better, but you become a lumbering mass of metal so anyone can smack you around, though they may not do damage to you.
Players will find most of the combat rules familiar. One of the biggest changes is the removal of attacks of opportunities and that every character gets either 2 half actions or 1 full action. This means a character can attack twice, move twice, attack and move, or perform a full round movement or attack. This is a definitely improvement to combat and makes it move much quicker, which is a serious improvement to Dungeons and Dragons lumbering slow combats.
Another combat change that I like was the return of special attacks that were very prevalent in Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition. These special tricks, as they are called, can be learned by giving up 1 weapon proficiency per trick. Some tricks included are Called, Parry, and Arrow Cutting (literally cutting an arrow in mid-air). I was pleased to see these add ons to make any character unique in combat. These tricks aren’t limited to the fighting type characters. Anyone can learn them. Wouldn’t be cool to have a Mage who could cut an arrow out of mid-air with a staff or dagger (or spell if the GM allows more cinematic descriptions)? I think so!
Of course, with all the things I did like about the game, there are bound to be things I didn’t like. First, I didn’t like about Fantasy Craft is that creating your attributes is a point based system. Players are given 36 points to split into your standard 6 d20 attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma). Point systems like this one usually give you a character that is either average at all attributes, good at one or two of them, or excellent at one and terrible at the rest. I’m definitely a fan of rolling your statistics and letting fate play a hand. The good thing is that you can decide to easily bypass Fantasy Craft’s point system and decide to roll up your character, with your Gamemaster’s (GM) approval.
The second thing I “didn’t” like is Fantasy Craft does not provide a world for you to use. Most fantasy games will have an entire chapter dedicated to the game world. This game doesn’t have one mention of it. Why? Because Crafty Games wanted to leave it up to the GMs to create the world they want and not have a world forced upon the GM. For the beginning GM, this is not helpful because they may be intimidated in creating their own world and rather have something to fall back on. From a selling perspective, I find the lack of the world a negative for Fantasy Craft. Maybe Crafty Games will provide their own worlds in supplement books.
With that said, I say I “didn’t” like the lack of the world only because less experienced GMs may have a hard time coping without pre-generated information. Personally, I love leaving out the world. Instead of dedicating a chapter to their own history and people, I rather make one up myself. And Chapter 7 of Fantasy Craft does a phenomenal job guiding the reader through making their own world.
Another piece I did not like was the 4 page character sheet included in the book. Every time I look at a new game, the first thing I do is flip to the back and look at the character sheet. The character sheet should give you a good idea on how easy or hard it will be to pick up the game. While the 4 pages are probably needed for Fantasy Craft, I found it clunky. I’ve seen other character sheets that were just as long that looked better and provide more (or sometimes less) information to help the player build their character.
I highly recommend this game to anyone who is looking to play a fantasy roleplaying game. This is a solid game with great foundations and so many new concepts to play with. Crafty Games has already produced a number of supplements for Fantasy Craft in both print and PDF to provide more material for this game. Whether you are a new GMs, experienced GMs, new players, experienced players, Fantasy Craft has something for everyone to enjoy. I truly believe roleplaying game publishers will be looking at Fantasy Craft as their new contender to beat for the future of fantasy roleplaying games.