Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fantasy: Artifice

First of all, sorry for the delay on this -- I'd say I've been busy, but that wouldn't be -- what's the world? -- accurate. We did character creation and the first sorta session of our "SotS" campaign last weekend, which was a learning experience. I say "sorta" because I was just pulling a scenario for the night out of thin air, and I'm kinda terrible at that, so I thought it was pretty lame. However, I have a couple weeks to make sense of the mess I started with, and I'm already pretty happy with what I have so far. All I need to do now is convince my players that it's what I meant to do all along.

As for the learning experience, well, let's just say there's a world of difference between creating dozens of pre-gens for cons and actually letting players create their own characters. We came up against a lot of vagaries and misunderstandings in the rules (primarily concerning the Heritage boon), and I realized that all of those pre-gens had given me a lot of pretty unreasonable assumptions about how characters would be made. The first fix: Starting characters can take the Heritage boon or the Item boon or Companion boon, but not more than one of the three. That is, if you take Item, you can't also take Heritage or Companion. Taking two or all three results in a tangle of little details to keep track of, and that's exactly the opposite of what we're going for here. I don't think it's too restricting -- rather, it should help focus a character more.

Anyway. There'll be more on that as we go. This post is really all about Artifice.

Artifice is the creation of permanent of magical items, or of enchanting ordinary (if well-made) items. The key skill for this type of magic is Craft.

To make an enchanted item -- a sword, a ring, a cloak, etc. -- first make the mundane version of it, according to the usual rules for Craft (which are, admittedly, forthcoming). Then pick a number of improvements from the list below, and make another Craft roll. This is the Artifice roll. The difficulty for this roll is equal to double the total number of improvements.

Enchanting an existing item follows the same basic procedure, minus the part about making the item in the first place.

In either case, the higher the quality of the base item, the easier it is to enchant, like so:

Item Quality - Artifice Roll Difficulty = Modifier to Artifice Roll

For example, enchanting a Good (+3) cloak with two improvements (a total difficulty of Great (+4)) means a -1 penalty to the Artifice roll (3 - 4 = -1).

Enchanting an item takes a minimum of one day, plus one step on the time chart per improvement added. Extra time can be taken to improve the effort, at +1 bonus/+1 step on the Time Chart, to a maximum bonus of +4. Likewise, extra shifts obtained on the roll can be spent to reduce the time required at the same ratio, but not below one day.

Atakan wants to enchant his Good (+3) quality battle-axe to make it more effective against the undead and incorporeal, since there seem to be a lot more of them around these days. He picks three improvements: Craftsmanship (+1 Melee with the axe), Special Effect (Able to strike ghosts as if they were solid), and Upgrade (+2 Melee with the axe against undead). That means a Fantastic (+6) difficulty, and because the axe's quality is only Good, he'll be at a -3 for his Artifice roll (since 3 - 6 = -3). Atakan rolls +1, adds his Fair (+2) Craft, and applies that -3 penalty for a total of Mediocre (+0). He spends three Fate Points to invoke three aspects, giving him just enough (+6) to succeed. The whole process takes a few weeks (One Day + 3 steps on the Time Chart) before Ghostreaver's ready for action.

As you can see, Artifice isn't easy. It takes a lot of time, probably a lot of money, and most likely two or three Fate Points. But then again, you are creating a new and permanent magic item -- why would it be easy?


Additional Capability

The item can now do something else of roughly the same scope. Examples include a magical bow that fires arrows of pure energy, a flying cart that can travel on the ground or through the air, or a sword with a blade of fire.

Alternate Usage

This effect allows skills to be used differently. Examples include enchanted spectacles that allow the wearer to use Alertness rather than Empathy to get a read on someone, a magical sword that lets the wielder use Melee instead of Alertness for initiative, or a shield that can used to attack with Missile instead of Melee.


The item gains the ability to attack, or to allow its possessor to attack, with Melee or Missile as if he/it possessed a weapon of some kind. Examples include a scarf that can be used as a whip or a gauntlet that shoots bolts of fire.


The item provides armor-like protection. If taken once, this effect provides the benefits of Light Armor. If taken twice, it acts as Medium Armor, and three times, Heavy Armor. Examples include a cloak that provides magical protection against blows or an amulet that sheathes its wearer in abjurant energy.


Add an Aspect to the item (such as a magic shirt with "Tough As Steel"), or to the wearer upon activation (e.g., a magic cloak of flight would give its wearer the aspect "Flying" when he's... well, flying).


The item has some manner of sentience and is able to act independently in a very limited fashion. Oftentimes, this means that the item gains a skill, the rating of which is equal to the total number of effects the item possesses. This effect can be taken multiple times to either bump up a single skill or acquire new ones. How this all shakes out depends greatly on the item in question, but odds are only mental skills will be appropriate. For example, a sword containing the bound spirit of a demon might have its own Alertness skill, or Learning, of which the wielder can make use. Athletics, however, would be a tough sell, because the sword simply lacks a means of locomotion. Despite the sentience, the item can't act independently of its owner; it requires a command or prompt of some kind to activate. Note that this basic concept can also be more or less created using Specialty, below, although it'll be quite different in practice.

Prerequisite: Conscious
Like Conscious, but the device is capable of basic reasoning, and can interpret simple commands. As the name implies, the item can act independently, even if its owner is unconscious. Limited movement is possible, even without a means of locomotion, as is speech or some other form of communication with its bearer. Depending on the nature of the item, it can even have physical skills such as Melee, although these will always be limited to Mediocre (in other words, having the skill at Mediocre lets the item use it at all).
This is the "It's much bigger on the inside!" effect -- something that looks small, but which behaves as if it weren't. Examples include a pouch that holds as much as a warehouse or a hut that can sleep a small army.


The inverse of Miniaturization: Sometimes you just need something to be big. This effect is used to alter an item for circumstances when size will truly matter, such as a weapon that can’t possibly damage its intended mega-monster target without being very large, or a house-sized carriage pulled by dozens of horses that’s able to transport a huge number of passengers.


The item grants a +1 bonus to any effort using it (usually only to one skill, if it supports the use of multiple skills). This improvement may not be taken more than once per affected skill. Examples include a magically sharp sword, an amulet that imparts arcane knowledge to its wearer, or shoes that enable their wearer to run especially fast.


Specialty has a lot in common with Focus, but instead of applying a +1 bonus to the entire scope of a skill, Specialty grants +2 to a specific usage of it. A troll-slaying sword, for example, would grant a +2 bonus when used against trolls. If an item has both Focus and Specialty that apply to the same skill, only Specialty applies. That is, if that troll-slaying sword had both Focus: +1 with Melee and Specialty: +2 vs. trolls, you'd get a +2 when using it against trolls and a +1 when using it against anything else.

Special Effect

The item may now operate on different principles, like a carriage that doesn't need horses or a mace that can strike ghosts as easily as the living. The game benefit of this will depend highly on the specifics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you have any thoughts on the balance issue here? Unlike the other magic you've introduced, this one seems like it gives a permanent multi-use bonus -- effectively, it's a free stunt. Or stunts plural, since you can make multiple items, right? I'm pretty fast-and-loose about character balance in FATE but this seems like it's pushing it a bit.

Is the balance here that you can't have another kind of faster on-demand magic like Incantation? Or is it that the characters are finding magic items anyway, so what this gives you is mainly the ability to determine more precisely what you get?