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The Saving Throw
The Reviews are Falling Like the Leaves October 16th, 2009
come enjoy the autumn colors with us

Mail Me · Discuss · Roleplaying Forum

Roll Them Bones!

"And lo! The temperatures began to drop and leaves were right behind." Okay, make a Perception check."
16+ - You see a myriad of colorful leaves, including reds, browns, greens, yellows, and golds. You also see a man holding a big billboard. It says, "Submit your best Halloween related gaming story for a chance to win a PDF copy of Fantasy Craft. Email savingthrow@rpgamer.com to enter. Entries must be received by 11:59:59PM PDT on October 31st."
12-15 - You see leaves of a few different colors, but mostly reds and yellows.
8-11 - You see a few brown leaves here and there.
2-7 - You wonder why everyone is looking at the leaves when there are orcs charging down the road.
1 - You are blind as a cave fish.

This month we have a review of two different Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition products, Paizo's Shackled City compilation and Crafty Games' Fantasy Craft. Fantasy Craft was quite the surprise going into Gen Con, and while it took a couple re-reads to get a good grasp of it, it's quite possibly the second-best title I have reviewed this year, after Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.

Another big surprise I have had in the last few weeks was David Fenton's 33 Rule System, which I had the recent pleasure of playtesting. At first glance I thought it was a bit wacky, since all rolls are on a d3, but it actually seems to work pretty well. Christina and I talked him into running another play test/full-fledged game using the rules. If you are interested in joining, stop by the boards.

Gaming Tip of the Column - Never underestimate the power of misdirection. Or what might happen when your wolf animal companion swallows a shadow pearl.

Looking for a place to play? Check out the Roleplaying Forum. We are always looking for new players and Game Masters or people who just want to talk about their favorite pen and paper or tabletop games!



This Week's Features

Fantasy Craft October 16th, 2009
Mixed just how you like it


The Shackled City October 16th, 2009
Can you save the city of Cauldron


Forgotten Realms Player's Guide October 16th, 2009
Venture back to the Realms in the 4th Edition


Open Grave October 16th, 2009
Dig yourself a grave


Tabletop Gaming News

Crafting the Perfect Fantasy, with Crafty Games

    Crafty Games' Patrick Kapera and Alex Flagg answer your questions about Fantasy Craft.

Q. Why were master classes not included in the core Fantasy Craft book?

A. Space, and because the ones we initially built are linked to the settings. Ultimately, we think the presentation will be a lot cleaner in supplements where there’s room to really dig into the material. We don’t want to spring such a major character option on folks out of the blue, though, which is why we kept the introduction in the core book.

Q. What master classes are planned for future releases?  Which products will include master classes?

A. You'll see the first master classes in the very first print supplement, which at present looks like it's going to contain three settings. This is all subject to change but if it all shakes out as expected you’ll see the Song-Singer for the Epoch setting, the Wind Knight for the Sunchaser setting, and another one for the Cloak & Dagger setting — maybe one or two more without links to settings, depending on how the product comes together. (Crafty Games has since released the Gallant, Infernalist, and Monster Slayer Master Classes as stand-alone PDFs -- Ed.)

Q. Why were so many terms familiar to d20/3.5 gamers changed?  Do you worry this change in terminology may confuse and drive gamers away?

A. We don't, actually; if anything, we think it makes the game easier to grasp. Despite Fantasy Craft having its roots in 3.0, there are many differences, and in nearly every case terms were changed to call these differences out. For example, our version of prestige classes are called "expert classes," which makes sense in the context of our system, where they’re more about narrowing and honing your field of excellence than elevating your status. Characters can also enter expert classes earlier than prestige classes, and there are a few other minor differences, so the new term is an alert to that as well.
There are a couple places where terms changed for clarity (like "ability scores," which conflict with the broader category of "abilities" you gain from classes and feats), and a few where we consolidated terms that really ought to have been tiered versions of the same trait all along (low-light vision and darkvision, for example). It's a delicate balance, keeping things clear and obvious both within the context of the source system and ours, but in no case did we change a term without measured consideration.

Q. You recently announced a new licensing program for Fantasy Craft.  How many third party products do you expect to see released in the next three months? Six months?

A. Well, the license is still very new and most publishers are just spinning up. Also, we don't require publishers with approved game lines to check in with us before releasing products, so the best source of info is usually their sites. We do have a Powered by Products section of our forums, though, and based on what we're seeing there one of the first Powered by Fantasy Craft products may be Whispers in the Dark, an adventure from Natural Twenty Games for its Realms of Eldrath setting.
We're really excited about everything we're seeing across the board, especially Reality Blurs' Iron Dynasty project, which they're calling "Samurai Steampunk." It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Q. What future products does Crafty Games plan for Fantasy Craft?

A. We just released three new expert classes in the Call to Arms line (class/feat PDF packages you can drop into any game), and in November we have a second PDF adventure coming out called The Cleansing of Black Spur. This one's pretty exciting, as Sonic Legends, our newest partner, will be releasing companion "soundscapes" (loopable music/SFX tracks you can play for each scene), and we hear Fat Dragon Games will have some companion terrain tiles as well.
A bit further out we have that first book we discussed, which will probably also include a host of new core material for the game.

Q. Many parts of Fantasy Craft can be included or excluded from a campaign with relative ease.  How does this effect balance?

A. For the most part, it doesn't. The balance is modular as well, meaning that each class, feat tree, subsystem, campaign quality, et al is internally and independently sound. Now, some are linked — the Mage class and the spellcasting rules, for example — so you won't want to keep one without the other, but otherwise you should be able to largely mix, match, and omit at your discretion.

Q. Character creation and magic in Fantasy Craft appear much more complicated than other d20/3.5 related products, especially the character creation with its interconnected origins, talents, and specialties.  How was such a system developed and balanced?

A. Do they? There are perhaps one or two more steps in our game (maybe — some steps weren't called out in D&D), but none of them are any more complex. Origins, for instance, are just a two-part d20 race. In fact, we'd argue that some of our character options are simpler (intentionally so, and for this reason). Skills, for example, are easier to choose and designed so you only focus on your class list each time you level, greatly reducing the chance for option paralysis. Now, we do make up for that with feats, which are numerous in our game (they're one of the cornerstones of character customization, so we focus pretty heavily on them), but they're organized into trees and chains, and carefully named to keep themed concepts together in the book, in order to keep player choices simple, clean, and fast.
Now, as to development, there's no hard and fast process. With Fantasy Craft we had the benefit of Spycraft 2.0 — we were able to choose the base components we wanted to keep and expand on them as we built the parts we felt were missing or underdeveloped for fantasy play. Then it became a matter of adding to or modifying the various sections as new and revised ideas came into play elsewhere, or playtesting yielded important insight. We also had playtesters using the game in its various iterations for over a year and a half, which was enormously helpful.

Q. What are the overarching goals for the Fantasy Craft line?

A. There's only one: fun in your world. If those two fail, nothing else matters. (Well, okay, profit too — because we gotta eat if we're gonna keep making games.)

Q. What were some of the inspirations for Fantasy Craft?

A. Because the game was conceived and constructed as a giant toolbox for all fantasy our inspirations were legion, but the core of the game is rough-and-tumble high adventure — the sort where the world's in jeopardy and no matter how incredible the action and situations get, the tone is always dead serious. We really wanted Fantasy Craft to scream "HERO!" at the top of its lungs, which meant that our core guide posts had to be (in no particular order) the Conan saga, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and great artists like Frazetta, Vallejo, and Brom.
Mechanically, one of the inspirations people are often surprised by is TORG, a wildly ambitious multi-genre game that hit in the late 80's. It was one of the first games to feature exploding dice, which are now seen in many RPGs, including ours (with action dice). TORG determined initiative with cards, which we don't do, but the cards were also used to resolve multi-step skill checks, which we adapted and call Complex Tasks. Something we do use cards for, and which TORG also inspired, is the Dramatic Conflict, which is an extended, themed, and contested Complex Task. In Spycraft 2.0, we have Dramatic Conflicts for chases, interrogation, manhunts, seductions, and more. We've got something really special planned for them in Fantasy Craft, which you'll probably see in 2010.

Q. At Gen Con you mentioned the response to Fantasy Craft had exceed your expectations, is that still the case?

A. Absolutely, yes. Commercially, it's easily been Crafty Games' biggest hit, but we're also seeing lots of new players at our demos and on our forums, which is at least as important. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and we couldn't be happier with the initial crop of third-party publishers who've signed up for the Powered by Fantasy Craft program. Above all else, people are having fun with it, and you can't really ask for more than that.

Q. Aside from Fantasy Craft and Spycraft, are there other products that will use the Master Craft system?

A. Oh yes. The next one is Ten Thousand Bullets, our modern street crime/noir tookit setting, which will hit in the first half of 2010. There will be other Mastercraft lines, of course — we’ve always got at least a few projects in the works.

Q. How has Wizards of the Coast leaving the d20/3.5 market affected Crafty Games?  Was Fantasy Craft a response to this, or something Crafty Games had been planning before hand?

A. Fantasy Craft development started well before the 4E announcement. Wizards’ market strategies have never had an impact on our plans.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the Mistborn and Looking Glass Wars RPGs?

A. It's still very early days for these projects so it’s hard to talk about them with any certainty. We know they won't be OGL games — they'll feature a new house system we're building that will more heavily incorporate GM and player input and plant story squarely first in the experience. The system will still feature our hallmarks — empowered, highly customizable characters; strategic choices with real impact; streamlined, engaging play — but the emphasis will be on what's happening, not how.
More than that, we cannot say — yet.

Q. Most people are familiar with Alice in Wonderland (at least the watered down versions). What differences exist between that book and the Looking Glass Wars series? A. Well, the cores of the stories are actually very similar. Both are about growing up, grappling with that loss of innocence, and rising to the challenges of adulthood. They both (initially) revolve around a little girl thrust into an alien world that repeatedly tests her character and composure. The Looking Glass Wars turns this on its end: what we know to be fiction is indeed a hair off from the truth. There really is a Wonderland and it really is governed by suited royals. Alyss (note the spelling) is one such royal, at least until her vile aunt Redd seizes the throne in a bloody coup.
Alyss escapes through an inter-dimensional portal and arrives in England, where she languishes for years while Redd amasses an army and consolidates her power. Hatter Madigan, Alyss’ personal bodyguard, follows through the portal, searching for her ward, and that's where the story begins. We'd hate to spoil the rest, but as you might imagine Alyss' personal journey from girl to woman is a bit grander in scope than in Carroll's tale, though she meets many familiar faces, and a few new ones.
The Looking Glass Wars RPG will expand on the novels, not only letting players travel to Wonderland during the struggle against Redd but also explore new locations and meet new creatures and characters never before revealed in any version of the story. Frank Beddor, the author, has amassed an incredible wealth of detail — much more than he could fit into the trilogy — and we'll be using that as the basis for our own exploration of this rich land of imagination and adventure.

Saving Throw would like to thank Patrick and Alex for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer your questions and ours.

 



Outro

Another column finished, and another multitude of sickness and accidents overcome. The most amusing one this time was me being stabbed by a tree. As one of my friends said, "Good thing it didn't have levels in Rogue." It seems as if mother nature has conspired to try to keep this column stuck in my head. Or perhaps it was just an attempt to get it delayed until the guys at Crafty Games had answered your questions. If that was the case, I guess she was successful.


Martin "Cursed by the Fey" Drury



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