Review: “Fantasy Craft”

fantasycraftFantasy 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.

Good

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.

Bad

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.

Ugly

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!

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Comments

  1. I felt pretty much the same way. It’s still too 3e for me. For example, I saw a class that was mostly based around being a skill monkey with crap BAB and bad HP that reminded me of all the things I didn’t like about 3e.
    .-= Wyatt´s last blog ..10 Things You Must Know About The Spirits of Eden =-.

  2. Given the choice between Pathfinder or Fantasy Craft, I’d much rather run a Fantasy Craft game. The higher crunch-factor and sheer wealth of campaign-specific customizability is a big win for me.

    But, as you quite rightly say, getting player buy-in is an uphill struggle. I burnt myself out convincing my players to convert to 4e D&D. It’s going to be a while before I try that again :D

    Good review.
    .-= greywulf´s last blog ..They grow up so quickly don’t they =-.

  3. Nice review; I had heard some good things about FantasyCraft on RPG.net, but it is sometimes hard for people really interested in 4E to divorce their feelings on 4E with their general dislike for 3E-alikes.
    .-= Jamie´s last blog ..My Life With MMOs =-.

  4. It’s an interesting concept, for sure. Like you, it probably won’t end up on my shelves, though

    Though I am confused by one part of the post.

    set of rules and flavors to separate the divine from arcane casters (to use 4.0 parlance)

    I’m not sure how that is a 4e parlance. I mean, arcane and divine have been defined since probably 1e days, and the terms “divine caster” and such were commonly used to describe classes in at least 3e.

    Or am I missing what is a 4e parlance?
    .-= Graham´s last blog ..CriticalAnkleBites and ChattyDM pretend to be journalists =-.

  5. samsimilian says:

    A good review, but I disagree with the “Ugly” part. I have played a fantasy campaign with tweaked SP 2.0 rules for a year now and will continue it with FC.
    In my opinon FC feels absolutely nothing like 3.5.
    Feats,Skills,Tricks,Stances and Actions offer so many possibilities and are so different from 3.5,that i’m inclined to say that FC beats 4.0 by far.It is true that different character types “Feel” very different in FC, but in my opinion FC is the total opposite from “unbalanced”, no it is by far the most balanced d20 game i have played.
    Moreover the FC corebook is a toolbox that enables you to play nearly any fantasy setting from iron kingdoms to eberron. You can’t say that from any Wizards book.

  6. TheMainEvent says:

    @Graham: The 4.0 parlance is also, in the situation I mentioned, the older lingo you referred to. You didn’t miss anything.

    @Samsimillian: I can definitely see that game play manages to separate itself greatly from 3.5, but the rules under girding the system are definitively 3.5 derived. Even if you have tons of stuff to do you, you’re still using a 3.5 “powered engine.” Also, in terms of balance, the non combat classes require most DMs to really rethink their typical game. I’ve rarely played in a fantasy game, even in systems where non-combat is emphasized, where non-combat characters don’t end up feeling extraneous in combat situations. Fantasy Craft has classes that are pretty useless in fighting, so perhaps the ‘balance’ issues aren’t 100% the systems fault, but also a byproduct of how I perceive most fantasy games to be run.

    Ultimately though, I’m very happy to hear that you love the system. In a perfect world instead of playing in two D&D 4.0 games I’d switch one to Fantasy Craft!

  7. I picked up a copy at Gen Con and like what I’ve seen. I have to agree though that it will be hard to get people into this game with the buy in cost and the currently limited support products. As for me, Pathfinder is a bigger draw in that it offers what I, as well as what everyone in my game group, wants. Had Paizo not done Pathfinder I think I wouldn’t have hesitated in getting people into FC as it offer a lot of diversity and character development that seems lacking in 4e (at least in my gaming groups’ eyes). We still play some 4e, but are quickly out pacing it with Pathfinder now that the final version is out.

    I also found the mentioning of Master Classes without their inclusion in poor taste on Crafty Games part as it forces you to buy more products. For those who love the game and will play it that’s not really a problem, but for those who will end up being casual players or just collectors it would have been nice to at least have a couple presented to get a general feel of what they are like.

  8. I debated quite a bit between FC and PF and ultimately went with FC. I’ve seen the two systems labeled as 3.51 (PF) and 3.75 (FC) and I think that’s a pretty good assessment. I think that FC is a bigger departure from the core game and play style even feels different. I highly recommend it.

    Being a “tool-kit” system creating the “feel” you want your world to have is very easy. Creating new races (species) is very easy and guidelines are posted on the Crafty Games site.

    For those on the fence, just read the NPC/Monster Creation section and it should help the sell. It’s a great, easy to use, flexible system that takes a TON of the work out of creating NPCs.

    When I say that that I chose FC over PF it’s not really true. I use FC as a system and pick up a lot of the PF extras like adventure paths and the like and the similarities between the systems is enough that converting is VERY easy. I did pick up the PF PDF and have read through it and really feel I made the right decision with my $50.