Game Review: Fantasy Craft by Alex Flagg, Scott Gearin, and Patrick Kapera from Crafty Games – Chapter 2

Last week I started my chapter-by-chapter review of Fantasy Craft from Crafty Games and writers Alex Flagg, Scott Gearin, and Patrick Kapera. And the more I read about Fantasy Craft, the more it’s growing on me. Chapter 2 – “Lore” – deals with skills and skill resolution along with the concept of “Action Dice.”

What is an Action die you may ask? Well, it seems to be sort of a combination of the D6 system’s exploding die concept and Dragon Age’s “stunts.” Each character gets a few of these Action dice at character creation and can get more as GM rewards, but any not spent by the end of a gaming session disappear. How do you earn them? Through roleplaying rewards. Taking risks. Solving problems. Working together. Generally anything you’d usually do during a great night of gaming.

What can you do with an Action die? Tons.

First, they can be used to boost a die roll for an attack, or while performing a skill, testing character knowledge, during a saving throw, or boosting any lethal, stress, or subdual damage. And if a single d6 isn’t enough, roll a 6 and the die explodes so you can roll another. Roll another 6 and it could continue to explode over and over again, seriously boosting whatever action your character is trying to accomplish.

And if that’s not enough, how about the ability to boost your character’s defense a couple of points for a few rounds? Or maybe nudging an attack or skill check from a success to a critical success? Or maybe even bumping your enemy’s failed attack to a critical failure? Or even to spontaneously heal a few HP sort of like a Healing Surge in 4e?

I really love the dynamic that these Action dice can add to a game. It works for GMs looking to encourage good roleplaying as well as for players to make their characters that much more heroic when it counts the most.

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The next section starts to talk about skills – from a straightforward skill check mechanic (1d20 + skill rank + any modifiers for the skill’s key attribute + any GM modifiers) to the various types of checks and difficulties, the concept of “Downtime” checks, and the detailed descriptions for each skill and trait. Quite honestly the skill resolution system isn’t any more complex than that for D&D or half a dozen other systems with bonuses and penalties sprinkled liberally over the top for gear, current conditions, magic, and so on.

Where things get interesting is with the sliding scale of threats & critical successes and errors & critical failures… The idea of critical successes and failures is nothing new, but the concept of being able to increase those little windows of opportunity is new to me. Instead of a natural 20 on a d20 being the only critical success and a 1 being a critical failure, it can vary (and be varied further with the application of Action dice). Perhaps with a few modifiers, an error then becomes a 1-3 and a threat (critical success) moves to 18-20.

Now add to this the ability to work cooperatively with more than one character or an entire team all attempting the same action to get a better chance of getting a successful outcome and you have a lot of the pieces missing from D&D… Did I mention that I’m starting to like Fantasy Craft more and more?

Deutsch: pd, gnu-fdl, selbst fotografiert. Bil...

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Then there’s the whole concept of “Downtime.” And yes, I know nearly every campaign has some downtime – the space between adventures when the PCs can rest, relax, and take care of any research or other tasks they can’t really complete while on the road. Fantasy Craft adds the concept of “Downtime Checks” to do things like earn a living using some of your character’s skills and fostering good will in and around the area in which the PC lives. There are even tables for these types of checks to see how much coin was earned during a break!

After all the mechanical talk is done, we get into the meat of the skills themselves – the descriptions. And here is another place where this system shines. You have 20 base skills. That’s it. And each of these groups some of the sub-skills that in other games (like D&D 3.5e and Pathfinder) might actually be entire skills on their own.

As an example, let’s look at Athletics, which is a Strength-based skill. Athletics rolls up the ability to Climb as well as the ability to Push Limits (to increase speed and increase strength for encumbrance) and Swim, all neatly into one little bundle. And Prestidigitation, a Dexterity-based skill, rolls up the abilities of hiding actions from plain view (Conceal Action), Disable (disabling traps and picking locks), and hiding items on the PC’s person or in a place (Stash). I’m a big fan of this method of grouping skills into logical collections.

Lastly there’s a similar description of all the feats available to characters and races in the book. Again, the feats are grouped into logical collections but where the skills are broad in application, the feats are quite specific. From feats for combat to chance, covert, gear, species, and spellcasting… Some have prerequisites, leading to a sort of feat tree like you might find in a computer RPG.

The deeper I get into Fantasy Craft, the more I’m liking what I see. The system so far has plenty of flexibility while staying bounded and tight. I can hardly wait to see what Chapter 3 has in store…

By the way, if you missed part 1 of this review series, you can find it here. For more about Fantasy Craft, you can also check out the Crafty Games website.

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