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Craft Approaches September 4, 2013

Posted by Conrad Hubbard in : RPGs , add a comment

Like most of you, I have yet to see the rules for 3rd edition Exalted. I was hoping I would get to playtest them, but so far an opportunity to do so hasn’t materialized. Meanwhile, I have been wondering about them, and trying to guess how they will work. One of the mechanics of the game has been that of crafting. Because it affects the creation of so many things by players and NPCs, and because I have always had one or two crafter types in my gaming groups, I am curious to see how the new rules play.

The Onyx Path schedule says that some aspects of new game are still being rewritten. Realistically, I am potentially wasting my time on a topic which will soon be resolved in some manner which will be relatively immutable for whatever period lies between the launch of 3rd edition and a hypothetical future 4th edition. However, I am still guessing about it, and figured I would share some of those guesses, along with thoughts about their consequences. If none of them are even close to correct, then maybe something here will nonetheless be useful to somebody making house rules adjustments to the game.

Craft as First

There is the chance that the writers could revert to a system mirroring the first edition of Exalted. In those rules, the Craft Ability had to be taken once for each craft which the character meant to perform. Thus you had Craft(weaponsmithing), Craft(carpentry), and so forth. The d20/OGL system does a similar thing with its crafts.

There is a certain sense to this system. The skills one masters when carving a wooden desk are not all applicable to forging a steel blade from raw iron. This aspect appeals to those of us who find it hard to believe that a talented shoemaker is also a talented gem cutter. The system also fits a worldview where different people spend their time producing different goods, such as most of us probably expect in the real world and in a typical imaginary setting that is nonetheless shaped by our ideas of the real world.

The downside of such a system is that there are seemingly endless skills for a player to choose. Game systems are likely to only give a player some number of limited points to apply to such things, and every additional skill in the game is another which the player might not possess. As the number of skills grows, the competency of the characters diminishes.

Craft as Second

Potentially the writers might keep some version of the second edition Exalted rules. In those rules, there were a limited number of Craft skills, lumped together in categories. We had Craft(Wood), Craft(Earth), etc. The core book presented only five of these, but more were added with subsequent publications.

This approach gets past the explosion of skills method, by explicitly limiting them to a set number. If there are only 5 or 12 crafting skills from which to choose, and everything falls under one of those, then the player can be assured that with enough effort she will be able to craft whatever she wants. In the Exalted system, this means that a crafter has to spend more points to be a master of all crafts than a warrior spends on Melee, but at least it can be done.

The downside to this approach seems to be the categorization of the crafts themselves. How exactly DO you lump together every single crafting activity that real and fictional man can do into a small number of skills? Does it seem weird for gem cutting to be Craft(Air) and building an Air Manse to be Craft(Earth)? Do herbal medicines fall under Craft(Water) or Craft(Wood)? Which Craft do I use to make a lightning ballista, or a destiny, or a zombie? In the end the authors didn’t seem satisfied with the answers, and new crafts kept being introduced to the game. Some crafts even muddied the waters by requiring other crafts or even non-Craft skills as prerequisites.

Craft as Prerequisites

On the other hand, maybe they were on to something with that prerequisite train of thought. What if every Craft skill has some prerequisite? Can a swordsmith really craft a good blade with no concept of how to wield one? Could a tailor make beautiful clothing with no sense of fashion? Would a gardener really possess no knowledge of the wild?

You could have each Craft require some related prerequisite. Possibly a craft that lets you make weapons requires you to have Melee. Or maybe there is a Craft(Weapons) Ability which can only be used to manufacture those weapons for which you possess some degree of skill. Imagine that a swordsmith might have Craft(Weapons) 2, Melee 1. A bowyer might have Craft(Weapons) 2, Archery 1. A master weaponsmith might boast Craft(Weapons) 5, Archery 1, Melee 1, Thrown 1.

Presumably the limited number of possible prerequisites would also push you towards a limited number of Craft skills. This would cash in on the strength of a limited number of skills, allowing Exalted to be fairly omni-skilled with some investment. It would also appeal to a sense of believability.

The difficulty for such a system probably lies in the prerequisites themselves. What is the prerequisite for making armor? Does this suggest a new skill? Also, you still have the issues of Second. How many Craft skills should there be? And what falls under each of them? Additionally, where do the prerequisites stop? If it exists, should Craft(Genesis) 5 really require Medicine 5, Occult 5, AND Lore 5? When the second edition system already required Lore to repair magitech, was it not redundant to require Lore to raise your Craft(Magitech)?

Craft as Melee

Another approach I could see being taken is the treatment of the Craft Ability as a singular universally applicable crafting skill. In Exalted, if you have the Melee Ability, then you can use it with virtually any handheld weapon that strikes, slashes, or stabs without leaving your grasp. Previously, the Martial Arts Ability has covered some weapons that would seem to fit the Melee Ability. Regardless, the player of a character with Melee has long expected to pick up any one of an incredible array of weapons and use them with equal skill.

This could be the model for Craft, too. Perhaps a single Craft Ability would be used for any roll involving a character’s crafting skill. Certainly one advantage to this is that it would mirror the way skills are done in the rest of the game. You don’t have to take Melee(sword) to use swords, or Archery(crossbow) to use a crossbow. With this model, you wouldn’t need a special Craft to craft anything. All of it would be packaged up in one neat bow.

For some, this might go too far. Even weaponry is actually divided into a handful of skills: Archery, Thrown, Martial Arts, and Melee. Should the diversity of crafting be less than that of weaponry? Does it make sense that the tailor could just as easily make swords or sailing ships?

Craft as Linguistics

The Linguistics Ability inspires another approach. In short, that skill gives one language per point, although we are basically told that each of these “languages” might really be a massive language group that dominates a huge portion of Creation. Mechanically, the Craft version of this would mean that for each point in the Craft Ability, the character would get another craft. There are a couple of different ways to implement this.

Potentially there are at least as many crafts as there are languages, including every tribal language imaginable. Craft 4 might mean Craft 4(Weaponsmithing, Carpentry, Gardening,Tailor), for example, with the character getting her full rating in each. In such a system, the character could be good at crafting a number of different things, but not everything. However, her rating would apply equally to all of the things she knew how to craft.

Alternately, there could be a limited number of crafts—perhaps 10 in total—which cover every possible endeavor. Craft 4 might be Craft 4(Air, Fire, Necromancy, Magitech), or something of the sort. Again, the character would have 4 Craft dice to apply to any of the sub-skills she chose. By limiting the total number of possible crafts to 10, you would allow a hypothetical Craft 10 character to be skilled with all of them.

Assuming one’s Craft Ability cannot rise beyond a certain point (say Essence 5 limiting you to Craft 5), the disadvantage of this system is that a character still cannot gain even minimal skill in every craft without exceeding the barrier. If the skills are vast in number, this disadvantage is even greater.

Craft as Linguistics plus Dialects

Another variation that might be considered is that presented by the model of Linguistics and dialects. In second edition Exalted, each dialect of a language could be taken as a specialty, and these specialties were only limited in number by the number of dialects that exist. To translate this to crafting, one would take dots in the Craft skill, and could take any number of specialties in actual crafts. Thus one might have have Craft 2(weaponsmithing, carpentry, gardening, gem cutting, cobbler, shipwright), and be able to roll 2 Craft dice for any of those. Presumably one specialty would be included with even a single dot of Craft, as with a “native” tongue and Linguistics. In the previous example, let’s imagine it is weaponsmithing, and the other crafts are bought with specialties. Importantly, though, a character would receive one such specialty for free upon gaining his first dot in Craft.

Such a system should still allow for regular specialization, in order to preserve the dice mechanics of the game. Dreams of the First Age suggested Linguistics specialties for characters, which actually added dice. Thus, this model would allow specialties to get a craft and specialties that grant dice to specific actions. A character might have Craft 2(weaponsmithing, carpentry, shipwright +2), or in another format Craft 2[weaponsmithing, carpentry, shipwright](Shipwright+2).

Further variation is found in deciding how many “dialects” Craft has. If there were just 5, then with 5 specializations a character would be able to do anything. If there were one specialization for every possible craft a character might want, then there is no limit to the XP that must be spent to gain them.

Craft as Occult

In second edition Exalted, characters could gain thaumaturgical powers by way of Occult specialties. Each dot of specialties provided some degree of thaumaturgy, along with some number of rituals. This could translate into some sort of craft system as well.

One simple model might be that a character has one Craft skill but can only use it in ways that are covered by his specialties. Craft(Weaponsmithing+1) might allow one to use his Craft rating for any normal weaponsmithing. Craft(Weaponsmithing+2) might allow exceptional crafts, with mechanical bonuses. Craft(Weaponsmithing+3) might allow the crafting of Artifact weapons.

Alternately, it might be even closer to the Occult model. Perhaps Craft(Weapons+1) gives one the ability to some limited number of various weapons (possibly even some minor magic ones such as talisman weapons), while Craft(Weapons+2) allows for creation a limited number of minor Artifact weapons, and Craft(Weapons+3) allows for creation of a limited number of major Artifact weapons. In each case, the actual Craft dots would be the default number of dice that Craft adds to the action.

Potentially knowing how to make specific items such as a grand goremaul or dire lance would be the equivalent of Occult “rituals” and could be purchased individually or received in limited numbers as part of a specialty’s mastery. Potentially, a Craft 5 master might ONLY possess the Craft Daiklave ritual, for example. It can be difficult to decide how many “rituals” should be included in a single normal specialty dot.

This model is very adjustable, but it also lacks simplicity. Its system could be very specific, with exact requirements for various crafting projects. Particularly, Artifacts might be the product of very specialized craftsmen, which might be fitting. However, the person who attempts to gain generic Craft mastery is probably doomed to failure.