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Captain Cutlass
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I used to do reviews for CERBERUS2 but recently it became independent and renamed itself to http://www.Gamejunks.net

This is my first review for this new site. Hope you like it.


Fantasy Craft is a Role Playing Game from a company called Crafty Games, who have come up with a ruleset they call Mastercraft. According to them these rules are -and I quote: "...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. Mastercraft’s greatest strengths are its incredible versatility and customization. GMs and players have absolute authority to create the characters, worlds, adventures, and NPCs they want without complex, hard-to-find or -use mechanics."

These rules are a lot like D20 but they are far better than any D20 product I've come across. The writers took the best rules and created a new, versatile system out of it. It has been a long time since I came upon a game that has the depth and variation of Fantasy Craft in a relative simple and easy to learn ruleset. Unfortunately it also has some flaws on which I'll elaborate later.
The book is a hardcover, good quality product with very nice black & white interior art. The cover is very inviting and I especially love the header & footer artwork depicting elaborate dungeon scenes throughout the chapters. You wont find any elaborate background info on the game world in this book because there is no one world described. Instead you'll find several rules on how to create you own campaign worlds. The only background info that is presented is a very short description on races and classes and such.

Character Creation.

After a very short mandatory intro the book starts straight away with character generation. Each Character starts with its stats. These are the same as any DnD game, Str, Dex, Int, etc... but use a point buy system to generate the scores. Next, every player picks an Origin, consisting of a Species and Speciality. the Species is your race and the Speciality is your characters profession before he became a hero. Humans have an extra Talent as well, something they are good at.
Each Species also has some Splinter Races you can pick from. The Species you can choose from are:

- The Drake, a Dragon-like creature, complete with wings and breath attacks. Splinter Races include, Swamp Drake, Ice Drake, etc...
- The Dwarf, your standard dwarf, available in most fantasy RPGs. Splinter Races include, Hill Born & Lava Born.
- The Elf, again no surprise. Splinter Races include, Wood Elf, Dark Elf, High Elf.
- The Giant, a 10 to 15 feet tall humanoid, probably has trouble with most dungeons. Splinter Races include Elemental Giants.
- The Goblin, the conniving, dastardly greenskins (the book describes the skin as 'earth tone'). Splinter Races consist of several tribes, each with a specialty.
- The Human, who is very interesting because the Splinter Races and Talent allow for very diverse people.
- The Ogre, akin to the Giant but a lot shorter. Splinter Races are the same as the Goblins.
- The Orc, akin to the Ogre but somewhat smaller and smarter. Splinter Races are the same as the Goblins.
- The Pech, who is just a halfling, described as one, acts as one. Splinter Races include, Hairfoot and Gnome.
- The Rootwalker, A living tree creature. Splinter Races include different tree types.
- The Saurian, a lizard man or other reptilian creature. Splinter Races include Draconian, Jungle Clutch, etc..
- The Unborn, A Golem type creature. Splinter Races include Clay, Clockwork and other Golem types.

As you can see you have plenty of choice. Some of these races are not as well done as others. The Pech sits at the top of these. I found it a bit disappointing the writers did not create a more original race out of them. A Pech is more of a fairy creature than a halfling in my mind but the description is clearly a halfling. Obviously, the GM has control over which races can be picked and which are excluded. The Drake, Giant and Ogre are probably not suited to dungeoneering scenario's. Personally I excluded most "monster" type heroes from play. My players picked a Human, Elf and Saurian. Interesting to note is that the human extra Talents are quite good and on par with the abilities gained from other races.

Next, each Character picks a specialty from a list of 36 types. Each of these give your hero a number of special tricks he can do. For instance, Our Saurian picked Shield Bearer which gives him the Shield Basics Feat, a defense increase of 1, the Blunt Weapon Proficiency, Melee Combat Expert which gives him an advantage when using combat Feats, Practiced Resolve (a boost for Resolve Checks) and The Shield Block combat Trick. Other interesting examples of Specialties are: Acrobat, Barbarian, Criminal, Lord, Ranger, Shaman or Wizard.

On top of all this, Characters can pick a Class out of these: Assassin, Burglar, Captain, Courtier, Explorer, Keeper, Lancer, Mage, Priest, Sage, Scout, Soldier, Alchemist and Beastmaster. These work exactly like other D20 Classes with new abilities to be gained and bonuses to stats when your hero levels up.
The Origin and Class allows for very detailed and original characters, no two fighters will be the same. During play-testing my Players came up with a versatile adventurers crew, apart from that you can mix and match several archetypes to create your unique hero. The heroes created were a Wood Elf Bard Assassin, a Human Sorcerer Priest with Fey Blood, a Jungle Clutch Saurian Shield Bearer Soldier and a Nimble Human Rogue Explorer.
The Wood Elf will function as a very charismatic and knowledgeable killer, the sorcerer can cast spells as well as blessings, the Saurian will function as the crews tank and the explorer is a thief-style dungeoncrawler.
Characters can Multiclass and pick an Expert Class (Prestige Class) similar to other D20 games.

What makes Fantasy Craft stand out from other D20 games are without a doubt the Action Dice rules, similar to Force Points, Luck, Bennies, Void Points or Karma in other RPGs these rules allow your hero to do the really heroic stuff. Starting Characters normally begin with three Action Dice but this number may vary, depending on Campaign Qualities (described later) or other Character options. A Character may spend an Action Die to boost a roll, boost defence, activate a Threat (similar to critical success), activate an opponents error (similar to critical failure) or heal himself. Interesting to note here is that when using Action Dice to boost a roll, your dice Explode, meaning that you can re-roll when you rolled the maximum possible number and add the result.

The Skills system is, again, very like any other D20 game with some minor improvements and additions as well as simplifications. A skill still encompasses several options, for instance Acrobatics is used for Balance, Break Fall, Jump and Tumble. Taking a ten and a twenty is still possible, along with cooperative checks, opposed checks and so forth.
The Dreaded Skill Synergies are also still in place, allowing skills with high scores to influence other skills. A time consuming rule that I would have rather seen adjusted.
20 pages of Feats allow your heroes to perform all their special tricks. New heroes can pick one feat from the list to finish their characters.

Magic.

There are two forms of spellcasting in Fantasy Craft, Arcane and Divine. Arcane casters start with a number of levels of spells equal to their wisdom plus Spellcasting Rank and use a number of Spell Points gained from Class and some Feats. The Spell points are spent when the caster utters a spell. Divine casters choose one of the 30 available Paths, each of which consists of five steps. Steps along the Path grant special powers, including spells, most of them can be used once per scene. Spells are grouped into eight Schools, each with three Disciplines, these spell selections can be upgraded with the Spellbound expansions available from Crafty Games. The Basic schools are: Channeler, Conjuror, Enchanter, Preserver, Prophet, Reaper, Seer and Trickster.
The Spell system is easy and fun to play and with 44 pages of spells your spellcasting wont become repetitive any time soon.

Gear.

The Forge chapter described the rules for equipment, allies and magic items. It's quite extensive and covers pretty much anything you desire in a fantasy game. Its mechanics are refreshing and very enjoyable to play. All heroes can gain Lifestyle points by selecting charismatic or wealth feats. These points can be spent on Panache and Prudence. Panache summarises your ability to be elegant and allows for a steady income. Prudence reflects your discipline with time and money and allows for bonus money when completing adventures or performing Downtime tasks. Most Gear has possible upgrades, rules, durability, construction difficulty weight and cost. Gear rules also cover Reputation an Renown, favors, contacts and holdings. Only one thing that bugged me here was the fact that magical items are restricted to a Characters Renown. This means that if your hero finds a magic item but has insufficient Renown he must give it away! While I can understand why such a rule would be in place I would have rather seen some kind of story tied effect that disallows the use of a magic item. Many other rules in this game are tied to story effects so this one is a bit disappointing.

Combat Rules and Foes.

Action is simple and based on a half and full actions each round. A Standard attack check exists of 1d20 plus the attack bonus versus the defense of his target. Of course there are many many combat options that allow all kinds of bonuses. Several stances, range and special attack options for example. The rules feature two kinds of combatants; standard and special. Special characters are harder to take out, they have vitality and wound points while the standards go down with ease. A third character is the tough standard one and so you have three types of characters, similar to the Savage Worlds system. Like skills, attacks have a threat and error range, action dice are spent by the player to score critical hits and by the GM to provoke critical failures. The damage system is solid en expansive with many damage types and character conditions, explosion rules, suffocation, etc... Armor does not give a character a bonus to defence but instead gives a damage reduction, a lot more logical than in other OGL games. This and other minor changes to the known d20 system make Fantasy Craft a jewel of a system.

In about 20 pages you can read a small but interesting manual to create monsters and NPCs. This can be done quite easily but takes some time, instead you can pick among many pre-made foes. The most interesting to do however is to choose and add a template to a creature. You want a Liche Troll or a Dire Raptor? With a quick plug in template you can have it in five minutes. For your building pleasure you can convert your own OGL d20 foe into a FantasyCraft one in 10 easy steps as well.

Creating Worlds.

As said before, the game does not feature a world of its own, instead you can adapt, convert or create your own world with these rules.

Your world can include magic or not or only divine magic. You can add, restrict or omit anything you'd like and this chapter provides some good guidelines on how to do it. On top of the details on species, monsters, language, law, trade, history, etc... you can add Campaign Qualities to your game. These provide additional rules at the cost or benefit of game rules. For instance: If you add the "beefy heroes" quality the heroes gain a damage reduction equal to their Strength modifier, the GM gets to spend an extra action die as long as this effect remains in play. These campaign options are many and interesting and can even change between adventures or scenes. The information on how to create adventures is one of the best I have seen in any RPG. Giving a GM plenty of inspiration and tools to create interesting and compelling scenario's. For both beginner GMs and advanced ones this section provides easy tools and frameworks to create excellent adventures. The storytelling techniques and game rules used in Fantasy Craft should make even the most burned out or newbie GM able to create memorable adventures.

Conclusion:

Fantasy Craft emphasises story over rules and despite being built on a d20 ruleset is actually very innovative and thought provoking. With the multitude of character creation options, the unique rules for downtime and a quick and easy combat system this RPG should cater for any type of roleplayer. The action dice system allows for players and GMs to influence the story much more than in most other RPGs and is one of Fantasy Crafts strong points. Unfortunately the game isn't all praise and goodness, for one the lay out is abysmal and the character sheet, while extensive, is quite messy and like so many Character sheets features far to little place to write up your special tricks and feats. It can be quite difficult to find a specific rule since sometimes the pagenumber is noted but at other times it is not. Some tables for class descriptions are placed within descriptions of other classes which can be very confusing. On top of that the multitude of bonusses, actions and penalties can become tiresome to calculate, especially for newbies learning the rules. A GM will have to spend quite some prep time before running the game because he needs to create his world from scratch. Obviously, this prep time is less than a tenth to other d20 games. None the less, the game delivers its promises, taking the best the d20 system has to offer without overcomplication and adding some very original and fun game mechanics.

Score

Design: Great illustrations but an abysmal lay out. 7/10

Content: Well written, few flavour text 8/10

Rules: Excellent! 9/10

Score: 8/10

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Jason Cookingham
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Thank you for the review.

I really enjoyed the 1st edition of Spycraft, but never got around to running 2nd edition. I think my big concern was trying to teach a game that was so close to the d&d we were already playing, but different enough to cause confusion.

The other intimidating part of it is that the rules are so heavy... since I, the gm, would be the only one to actually read the book... it would be frustrating.

It is a shame the layout of their books is still an issue. The 2nd edition of Spycraft was a mess as well.

Do the pc's buy and keep their equipment? I would imagine so-- but the Spycraft rules have odd rules for equipment. It is fitting for the espionage genre, but they must have changed them fantasy.
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Shanya Almafeta
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How does this compare to Stargate? I briefly skimmed over Fantasy Craft, but compared to Stargate, it seemed... less complete.
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wayne r
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Almafeta wrote:
How does this compare to Stargate? I briefly skimmed over Fantasy Craft, but compared to Stargate, it seemed... less complete.


How so?

The book is very complete! It is player's handbook, GM's Guide, and Monster Manual all in one (hence the 400+ pages).

It has rules allowing you to create any type of fantasy you want. The npc and creature creation rules are excellent (and much better explained than SpyCraft IMHO). There are rules to creating your own magic items.

I think you may be saying that because FC isn't tied to any setting...
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Shanya Almafeta
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I was specifically referring to character creation and equipment.
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Michal E. Cross
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I'm running through character creation with my wife for some 1-on-1 action gaming, and that seems complete to me.

The equipment (Forge chapter) is also very complete, with loads of options and upgrades. Note that you cannot buy magic items with cash, you have to adventure to gain "Reputation" which you can use to buy stuff (ask a favour, inherit an heirloom etc.). This prevents the typcially crazy D&D economy.

But I digress...

Personally, I think the layout is good. I admit that Spycraft 2e was a mess until the 2nd printing.

Cheers!
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wayne r
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cookinjr wrote:
The other intimidating part of it is that the rules are so heavy... since I, the gm, would be the only one to actually read the book... it would be frustrating.

It is a shame the layout of their books is still an issue. The 2nd edition of Spycraft was a mess as well.

Do the pc's buy and keep their equipment? I would imagine so-- but the Spycraft rules have odd rules for equipment. It is fitting for the espionage genre, but they must have changed them fantasy.


In some ways the rules are simpler than 3.x. For example, combat is explained in terms of just 1/2 action and full action. In comparison to SC, the rules have either been stripped or streamlined. I found the book a lot less intimidating then either 3.x or SC.

The layout is very clean, easy to read, and visually pleasing although since so much info is packed, things do tend to get lost.

Yes, the PCs buy their own equipments and there is a new way of looking at a PC's finances.
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