Fantasy Craft is a D&D 3.0 OGL full-service RPG that boasts a robust set of classes, innovative and interesting feats, and a refreshing skill-based system of spell casting. With systems for item crafting, downtime for players, acquisition of holdings, prestige, and reputation it fills a gap that many have criticized as absent from the current 4.0 rules set. Fantasy Craft is an excellent product, with great ideas, but realistically won’t manage to penetrate my busy gaming schedule.
Whereas Pathfinder sought to ‘patch’ D&D 3.5, Fantasy Craft takes the core of the OGL 3.5 and uses it to build a game that could best be described as first cousin rather than a sibling. Frankly, I like it more than trying to salvage the most cumbersome aspects of 3.5, but even for those with affinity for the old stuff it’s close enough to warm the cockles of the nostalgic 3.5 gamer. There are plenty of classes, many of which are tooled for things OTHER than combat (gasp). The upshot is that Fantasy Craft spends ample time supporting things other than combat, so that these classes are viable.
Spell casting is done entirely with skill based system and encounter-based skill points. Tons of feats help customize your spellcaster’s abilities within this system so that no two spellcasting PCs should come out the same. “Divine” magic works in a sort of modified 3.5 domain style system (called Alignments) that provide a satisfying set of rules and flavors to separate the divine from arcane casters (to use 4.0 parlance). If there’s one place that the system is different than 4.0 is that different character types FEEL very different. For some, this is a great draw, for others this smacks too much of the unbalanced older days of D&D. For me, it’s a neutral aspect, I miss the variety of old D&D, but I’m glad that I can finally play a rogue and not suck ass.
Fantasy Craft’s treatment of social stats, adventuring downtime, holdings, and more are one place I would say its definitively better than any other rival I’ve come into contact with. It’s quite possible to cannibalize these aspects to fit into any d20 type game. It’s not a perfect fit into all games, but the rules on Reputation, Prizes, Favors, Holdings, and Down Time are well thought out, balanced, and satisfying numeric solutions to the rather difficult task of fairly adjudicating these sorts of actions in most fantasy RPGs. For anyone that has thought about taking their campaign away from the adventuring-only archetype this provides tons of great ideas and guidance to make that process simple, satisfying, and ultimately rewarding for both DMs and Players.
The system has its prestige/paragon path equivalents (called expert classes), but these are woefully limited in the initial book. With eleven base classes and only six expert classes it seems like most players would be forced trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Although the system freeing supports multi-classing akin to 3.5, this section is just very skimpy and unsatisfying. Moreover, Fantasy Craft dangles the existence of Master Classes (which I assume will be like epic destinies, but more ‘grounded’ in fantasy realism?) but provides no support for it. As someone that favors the paragon tier or equivalent thereof, the lack of content in this area is irksome.
The biggest problem with Fantasy Craft for me, is the “buy in.” D&D 4.0 is a system that my gaming group adopted readily and enjoys. I enjoy it and I play in a number of ongoing 4.0 games currently. So, despite all my praise for Fantasy Craft, ultimately, I doubt I’ll put my money where my mouth is and start playing it. Moreover, although it takes the 3.0 engine to its limit, when you compare the very cool feats a lot of fighter/warrior/combat characters take and the ‘tricks’ they grant (AKA powers/maneuvers) these classes still end up seeming extremely confined to their 4.0 counterparts with a host of powers for every situation.
Make no mistake, Fantasy Craft is an awesome system with lots to offer, but for me, personally I don’t see it occupying a space in my gaming life. I fear that that very same concern is the system’s greatest hurdle to success as a stand-alone RPG alternative. That being said, this offering has me very interested in their upcoming Mistborn RPG as I am huge fan of the series.
Rating: B+. Hit!
Want to learn more about Fantasy Craft? Read on…
- Atomic Array: Fantasy Craft (Atomic Array 032)
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- Questing GM: Questing with Fantasy Craft
- allgeektout: What Fantasy Craft Has to Offer
- Campaign Mastery: Mine Fiction for Campaign Qualities
- Emerson’s Bookshelf: Fantasy Just Got Crafty
- Critical Hits: Critical Review
- Fear the Boot: Fear the Review
- Gnome Stew: What Fantasy Craft Brings to the Table
- Uncle Bear: Fantasy Craft Chargen
- Flames Rising: Dark FantasyCraft Review
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