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[Let's Read] Fantasy Craft

Herodarwin

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Construct (+5 XP): The NPC is inorganic or manufactured. It is immune to poison and disease, and takes only half damage from attribute, sneak attack, stress, and subdual damage (rounded down, minimum 0) and never gains the bleeding condition. It ignores a total number of instances per session of the fatigued and shaken conditions equal to the standard number of starting action dice according to its threat or career level. When determining critical injuries, it uses a d10 instead of a d20. It regains vitality normally but does not naturally heal wounds, though it may be Mended with a successful Crafting check using the Medicine rules (see page 77). It becomes inert when reduced below 0 wounds is considered banished when destroyed (i.e. reduced to at least –25 wounds). A construct doesn’t age and doesn't need to eat, sleep, or breathe.

If used to make a construct Species it costs 6 build points instead of 9.
Is there a reworked version of the unborn based on this version of construct?
 

s/LaSH

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Interesting that Horrors gain a repulsion to animal attacks. One of the things that comes up a couple of times in Lovecraft is that the best defence against unseen and malevolent forces from beyond our sphere is a good dog, who will get angry and bite monsters. That's how they took down the mi-gou and Wilbur Whately.

I'm not saying they're doing it wrong, mind. A malus to animals is a perfectly fine way of mechanically symbolising that these things are unnatural.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

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Is there a reworked version of the unborn based on this version of construct?
Shameless plug:

Vei
A different form of "unborn" that has a soul and a squishier body.
Splinter Race Feats: Special Construction (clay, crystal, wood, and others), Elemental Heritage (earth, ice, lava, and other materials). Unless you select one of those you are 'cadaver'.
Type: You are a Medium biped vei*. Your Wounds equal you Constitution score. [6]
Attribute Modifiers: +1 Constitution, -1 Wisdom or Charisma
Base Speed: 30 ft.
Achilles Heel (Electricity): When you suffer electrical damage, you also suffer an equal amount of lethal damage.
Enlightened Skill: Choose one skill in Chapter 2. Your maximum rank in that skill increases to your Career Level + 5. Only the highest bonus from any single enlightened ability may apply to each skill.
Inquisitive Mind: You gain 2 additional Interests.
Lumbering: You suffer a -2 penalty with all Reflex saves and become flanked any time two opponents are adjacent to you.

* Same as the modified construct, just named to keep both around.

Interesting that Horrors gain a repulsion to animal attacks. One of the things that comes up a couple of times in Lovecraft is that the best defence against unseen and malevolent forces from beyond our sphere is a good dog, who will get angry and bite monsters. That's how they took down the mi-gou and Wilbur Whately.

I'm not saying they're doing it wrong, mind. A malus to animals is a perfectly fine way of mechanically symbolising that these things are unnatural.
I'll quote the book:
Fantasy Craft said:
Natural animals refuse to attack the NPC and often flee from it unless they’re trained to attack horrors or they’re attacked by the NPC or its teammates.
Same thing for fey (only sub in "fey" instead of "horror").

So the only scenario that won't work for your version is if you expect an untrained dog to attack first.
 

NobodyImportant

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That’s not a very strong restriction. Natural animals also refuse to attack humans and often flee from them unless they’re trained to attack humans or they’re attacked by the human or its teammates. I think I would’ve prefered a little more mechanical weight to the bonus.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

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Natural animals also refuse to attack humans and often flee from them unless they’re trained to attack humans or they’re attacked by the human or its teammates.
We're probably talking about cinematic animals who are going to attack the stars of the movie the PCs because we need random wilderness fights.

Plus it means random guard dogs won't attack the character: they have to be specifically trained to fight fey/horrors, and your average junkyard mutt with a spiked collar in Standard Fantasy Land is only expected to bite Folk.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

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Mobility
You get one kind of mobility for free, or you’re Immobile. Your free one gets you 30 ft and you start paying after that. If you want another mode you have to pay up from 0 ft. The four modes are Walking, Burrowing, Flying, and Swimming. There is no Climbing mode: that’s an NPC quality we’ll get to later.

You might wonder why anyone would want anything for their NPC other than Flying. Well, here’s where we find out how they balanced flight: while flying (at least, flying with wings) you count as one Size larger for penalties and have an increased error range (even more if you hover).

Attributes
It’s 1 XP for each point above 10. You get nothing for lowering scores, that’s left to concept. (I really like how FC has decided low attributes/ability scores shouldn’t be worth any points back.)

Traits, Health, Signature Skills
Finally we come across how FC scales its NPCs: their Initiative, Defense, Attack, Resilience, Competence, Health, and Signature Skills are rated and priced based on a Roman numeral from I to X. When you want to use them you just look up the level you want them to be on a chart and cross-reference that with the numeral to find the bonus number (then add things like attribute bonuses, if they exist).

Resilience is for saves. Competence is general skill bonus so you don’t have to record for every single one of them. Signature Skills are for those times you want a skill to be higher than Competence.

The Health number for standards is what they add to their damage save. For specials you instead multiple the numeral by level to get Vitality.

It’s a nice way to keep monsters relevant at any level, but it does mean the pre-built stat-blocks later in the book can’t be used “out of the box”.


NPC Qualities

These are your special abilities. In 3e design these are probably the things that come at the end of the stat block that aren’t special attacks, and make up the majority of things I ever read about 3.P monsters. However the book cautions you against putting in too many because they can make the NPC complicated and add to the XP total while not necessarily adding to the challenge.

This is another one of those instances where reading all of them would be super-boring, so I’ll try to find some interesting stand-outs. If I don’t mention something you really want to know if FC does please ask.

* NPCs don’t get Restricted Actions they get Banned Action where they’re just not allowed to do the certain thing. Of course this is how it originally worked for PCs, but it’s much less crippling on NPCs.
* Chameleon II gives you Predator stealth: you aren’t completely invisible, but you’re blending in so well that if you don’t move you effectively are.
* Class Ability is how make a “classed” NPC. The chart of costs takes up a whole page in this book, and every time they release a new class they have to list the costs for any of those abilities that can be taken.
* Damage Defiance is how you handle NPCs having Resistance to something: rather than give them varying amounts of “5s” the NPC just takes this once per kind of damage and reduces it by half.
* Diurnal gives back XP and makes the NPC take penalties at night.
* Dramatic Entrance: “The scene becomes Dramatic when the NPC arrives.” Time to cue the Boss Fight Music.
* If you want your NPC to come back like something out of a Republic serial you need Everlasting. Well, technically this is for beings that self-resurrect unless you destroy the body, but the principle is the same.
* In fearless I and II “Morale” is capitalized. So we’re going to get rules about enemies running away.
* Feat gets the NPC a feat. I maybe didn’t have to mention this, but I decided to be thorough about letting newcomers know how NPCs got PC stuff.
* If you have frenzy 1/combat you can use each of your attacks in a big ball of wild fury.
* These qualities aren’t just for combat, as honorable makes NPCs immune to bribes.
* You can get both impaired sense and improved sense in case you want to do that thing where rhinos can’t see worth a damn but have good hearing.
* Mook. Or, as I like to call it, “that thing you give to an NPC when you want combat to go really fast”. A standard automatically fails damage saves; specials have no Vitality. -4 XP, but what’s 4 XP when you can treat enemies like Dynasty Warriors.
* Natural Spell is FC’s version of the spell-like ability. 1/scene, cast the spell without Spellcasting or spell points. Costs between 1 and 9 XP per spell, depending on Circle. And hopefully it’s obvious that the GM needs to say no to PCs who build PLs and Animal Partners who are nothing but high-Circle Natural Spell slingers.
* Shambling limits how many actions you can have and other things, making it the go-to zombie trait.
* Shapeshifter I, II: PCs may not have many shapeshifting options in this book, but for NPCs it’s only about the Size and XP of the form they want. But they need shapeshifter III if they want to mimic PCs, with a hefty price tag of 12 XP.
* Okay, Story-Critical is for Republic serial villains: 1 free Cheat Death per scene for +0 XP.
* There are 5 superior [movement type] traits for boosting how far you move with Climb, Jump, Swim checks or Running and long-distance traveling. Superior climber is what you give instead of climb speeds.
* Swarm isn’t like the 3e subtype: it’s for making individual NPCs who attack en masse. In fact there isn’t a way to make 3e swarms in the core: you need to Legion creature type from the Spellbound spells preview for that.
* Treacherous is for giving standards the ability to crit.
* Normally you’re supposed to scale NPCs to the PCs’ level. In that scenario you have to add XP and the veteran quality to raise the NPC’s level above that. (Of course you could just set NPCs anywhere you want, the XP rewards just might be a bit skewed.)


Next: Attacks. Weapons aren’t the only things customizable around here!
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

Quadruped Transhuman
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Step 3: Attacks

Stuff that causes damage and conditions. Unless it’s a separate object, in which case you go to the next step.


Natural Attacks
For attacking with your pointy or smacky bits. Having multiple doesn’t get you extra attacks unless you have 3+ and take FC’s only version of a full attack. Natural Attacks don’t scale that much: you’ll get +2 threat range and +2 damage dice at max. They do scale by Size, though, which is something of a stealth benefit for Large PCs as opposed to bigger weapons. They’re all considered Unarmed attacks, so you’ll want to invest in monk-type fighting if you want to use them.

You can also get special weapon qualities for them! Armor-piercing, bleed, trip, extra reach, poison, and types of damage other than lethal are some examples.

ASIDE: Unfortunately I have a rant about the “worth” of certain natural attack types vs others. I will spoiler it for those who aren’t interested:
Spoiler: Show
Claw/Slam/Kick/Talon is worse by RAW than other attack types: Bite has higher damage dice and inherent threat range. Gore has higher threat range and has bleed. Tail/Tentacle Slap has higher damage dice and gets +1 reach for free. Squeeze, Swallow, and Trample are all kind of situational, but they still kind of “feel” better by sheer virtue of the fact that it’s obvious you are going to want them for situations you don’t want, say, Bite.

This mean that back in Chapter 1 when Drakes are given 1 Claw and 1 Bite the Claw is kind of superfluous: there’s no RAW reason not to use Bite for all your attacks since you can only use one natural weapon per attack. The Claw becomes marginally useful if you can gain a third and start flurrying, but until then it feels like a concept tax.

Personally I allow PC and PC-created-NPC builds to use the Gore stats for Claw/Talon and Bite stats for Slam/Kick. A weaker attack is fine for NPCs: they’re not important enough.


Extraordinary Attacks
Everything else. If you need a fire breath or a petrifying gaze this is what you use to build it. You start out either specifying if you want damage (which you can limit to plants/wood or metal) or a condition, then pay XP per grade which determines damage dice size, how many d6 round a condition lasts, and save DC. You can also add upgrades for additional XP like tying a condition attack to a natural attack, or you can add an area such as an aura, cone, or gaze.

The system could be a bit better: since grade affects both save DC and how many d6 of rounds the condition lasts higher grades might turn into save-or-suck. (And there is a petrifying attack for classic sucking.) Plus the fact that the save DC is based solely on the grade and not on the NPC’s level save attacks don’t scale like you might expect.


Step 4: Gear and Treasure

First we rehash what was said earlier about determining what gear does to an NPC: if they’re player-created it affects XP and can’t have a Complexity above 15 (the XP cost is determined by Complexity instead of silver), while for GM NPCs it’s considered part of the reward. GMs can also give NPCs a treasure code that says in short-hand what treasure tables to roll on, and how many times, to find out what kind and what it’s worth. These tables include the usual coins and magic items, but also include one for stuff you carved or took off the NPC just to show you killed them.


Step 5: XP Value

Total up all the stuff you bought for them and they can’t be worth negative. For player-created they’ve already been assigned a limit by the feat, but for GM NPCs the XP total is how much you get for defeating them. If they’re special; standard NPCs give you an amount divided by the number party members for each standard (i.e. if you have 5 party members a standard NPC gives you XP/5). Normally what the GM is supposed to do is throw a bunch of standards at the party to make up for this.


A little short, maybe. I’ll probably do another update some time today.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

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The next two sections are short things that mostly consist of telling you miscellaneous things -- how to give Reputation to NPCs, how to calculate what action dice rules they use, and how proficiencies work for them -- and explaining how to scale the NPCs via some examples that the book’s been working on this whole time. “Hit the party with a special ancient dragon at Level 1 or throw formidable standard orcs at them at Level 12. The shackles are off an the sky’s the limit!” Bold words, book, but FC comes closer than any similar system I’ve seen.


Tips & Tricks

FC then goes the extra mile and admits that GMs need some advice because the system has pitfalls. This section lays out many of the ways an NPC’s XP can become bloated with features (doing things like admitting only even-scored attributes are generally worth it) and tries to point out ways to narrow down what qualities, attacks, and magic-based options a concept calls for. It’s all probably old hat to someone used to NPC building, particularly in a point-buy system, but I always think advice is better than no advice.

The Art of (Not) Killing the PCs
This is where we get FC’s version of “Challenge Rating”: general ranges of XP indicating how much of a threat an NPC is likely to be. Pushovers rate 40 or less. The most significant threats, like dragons, are 161 XP or more. In between the ranges are 40 XP wide, so there’s only 5 “CRs”.


I originally thought this update was going to be longer because that’s actually a couple pages of text. I’m stopping now because next is the first of our stat-blocks, the Rogues Gallery, and I want to make sure they get the attention they deserve (and give myself time to decide how i want to write about them)....
 

Felix

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It is probably the best scalable system I've seen too. One of the more annoying issues with D&D 3e from a storytelling perspective is that a monster is going to be a total party kill if it's 3 or 4 CRs above the party, and expendable if it's a few CR below. So a CR 10 monster is only appropriate as the big bad if your campaign ends around level 8 or 9.

I don't think it actually scales perfectly with all creatures; a dragon probably has too many special abilities and tools to actually scale down to Threat Level 1 well. But it does work over a good range, so your 16th level party will be properly terrified of that beholder Watcher In The Dark.
 

Talisman

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It is probably the best scalable system I've seen too. One of the more annoying issues with D&D 3e from a storytelling perspective is that a monster is going to be a total party kill if it's 3 or 4 CRs above the party, and expendable if it's a few CR below. So a CR 10 monster is only appropriate as the big bad if your campaign ends around level 8 or 9.
Depends heavily on your party, of course (mine would regularly tackle monsters with a CR of level +4). 3e does allow you to scale monsters up via the addition of extra HD, class levels, or templates, so your CR 10 monster is probably a potentially viable boss up to level 16 or so.

But it's definitely a highly variable and imperfect system.
 
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