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
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.