Of Chitin And Creativity V: The Final Frontier
Or, what does a giant bug need with a starship?
And thus, we arrive at the end of our exciting adventure. Bringing the Cha’k into Crafty Games’ "FantasyCraft" is fairly straightforward. Direct conversion of mechanics is Right Out; I’m not going to figure out how much a Cha’k can list in Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition and then give it the necessary Strength in FantasyCraft. Rather, I’m going to convert conceptually — if a Cha’k is "slightly above average" in 4e, it will be "slightly above average" in FC.
There are a few other points to consider, and here we get into issues of game goals and design assumptions. 4e is very heavily balanced around combat. This is not a criticism or an accusation that it’s "not a roleplaying game" — it’s a clear fact, explicitly stated by the designers. No class or race is going to be balanced by trading off combat and non-combat abilities, period. Other than a very small number of utility powers, all non-combat specialization is handled via feats. Assuming the design goals do not change over time, you will never see a class where attack powers are weaker because the class makes such great diplomats. There’s quite a lot of reasonable debate over whether or not this is a good thing, but that’s not what this article is about.
FantasyCraft, coming from its roots in SpyCraft, very explicitly does the opposite — classes are balanced around several roles, and while no class is completely useless in a fight, some are much better than others. Likewise, while 4e’s racial balance and design is heavily focused on "Never inconvenience the player", FantasyCraft’s is much more simulationist, and balances some racial traits via limiting player freedom. Dwarves, for example, cannot make jump or swim checks. Orcs cannot attempt to calm people down. Drakes can’t use gear built for humanoids.
With different design assumptions come different choices. FantasyCraft emphasizes different aspects of play than 4e does, and when designing, or re-designing, for it, it’s vital to keep that in mind.
Let’s see how it goes, shall we?
Behold! The Wiki Of Wisdom!
I’m pretty sure the good folks over at WOTC have a complex spreasheet or two which they use to balance races, classes, and power, presumably modified by seeing how they perform in actual play. We probably won’t see it. The CraftyGames people have very kindly revealed some of their secrets, however, including a very handy guide to costing out a race. Like all point systems, this one is intended as a guideline, not a set of harsh absolutes, but it gives us a very good place to start and helps avoid the "flip, compare, and toss a coin" method of design. (That is, flip through the pages in a core book, compare the races, and make a WAG about whether or not the designers think proficiency with swords is better or worse than darkvision.) The races in Fantasy Craft are built using the same cost profile as the Talents in SpyCraft, which is why humans just pick a Talent instead of having their own race block. Pretty, uhm, crafty, and a very good way to "bolt on" fantasy races to a game system originally built and balanced for humans only.
We begin with attributes. FantasyCraft uses the same "Basic 6" as 4e, and they’re on the same scale. It would cost 6 of 7 points to raise two attributes by 2 with no drawbacks, and this is where we begin to see the differences between systems and why linear conversion is a Bad Thing. For 2.5 points, though, we can give our bugs +2 Int and +2 Dex, and a -2 to Charisma, so that’s what we’re gonna do!
Total Points Remaining=5.5
Cha’k are, at best, quasi-human. They are of roughly human size and of a vertical configuration. In a dim alley, wearing an overcoat, they just might pass for a human. This costs 0 points.
For 0.5 points, we give them darkvision.
Total Points Remaining=5.0
It’s worth noting that the powers shown here are not an exhaustive list; they’re guidelines for use in costing your own creations. The lists are long enough that it’s pretty easy to weigh a power against them.
Let’s spend one more point to give them DR 2, counting as Armor. In FantasyCraft, this is referred to as Thick Hide.
Total Points Remaining=3
A good chunk of Cha’k mechanics in 4e reflect their innate toughness, which is an interesting "twist" for a race without benefits to Strength or Constitution. FantasyCraft uses a completely different mechanic for damage, death, and healing than 4e does. There are a lot of options here, just as there were in 4e. Extra Vitality? Regeneration? Fast Healing? The latter is very useful, but it doesn’t reflect the idea that it’s just plain hard to kill these buggers in out-and-out combat. I can’t find a specific ability on the page that mimics what I want, so I’m just going to make one up — a Cha’k can spend an Action Die to automatically stabilize, and when they spend Action Dice to heal, they may roll the die twice and take the higher result. This keeps part of the spirit of the 4e rules — the Cha’k is using its personal reserves of fortitude, luck, what-have-you to stay alive. This strikes me as close to Fast Healing — more useful in a fight, less useful out of it — so I’m going to call it 1.5 points.
Total Points Remaining=1.5
Inclement weather is, oddly, one of the areas where FC does not have a great deal of detail, at least compared to D&D 3.5 or even 4e. I am going to say that Cha’k had Damage Resistance 5 against any effects from heat/cold waves (FC p. 369) and this costs them a big ol’ 0 points.
Cha’k scent communication: As per the 4e version, the Cha’k can leave scent message of up to 30 words, at a rate of 6 words per half-action. They can communicate with others of their kind at a base range of 50 feet downwind or 20 feet upwind. This is also a 0-point ability.
The Cha’k ability, in 4e, to resist "ongoing" damage is harder to map to FantasyCraft, because the damage model is different. There are, again, quite a few possible options. I am going go with a +2 on saving throws against poison, for 1 point. DR 1/- costs 1 point, but that’s too broad for this and we already have DR 2/- as armor. So let’s spend 0.5 points and give them DR 1, only vs. Fire and Cold damage.
This drops us to 0 points. But are we finished? FantasyCraft lets us go into the negatives, provided we also have some drawbacks. I am running a bit lot on time here, so let me be quick. I want them to have trouble with weapon and armor made for humanoids. This is not explicitly listed in the table, but a -0.5 penalty seems fair, given the assumption that the Cha’k can buy weapons from his people and/or get them crafted for a reasonable cost. Rather than out-and-out forbidding them, though, I’m going to say a Cha’k suffers a -2 penalty to attack rolls when using weapons made for humanoids, and both DP and ACP increase by 1 (that is, go from 0 to -1, or -1 to -2, etc) when a Cha’k wears armor made for other races.
And once again, time runs short. Next stop, a few more limits, followed by a few more racial traits, followed by species feats!