Fateforge, Part 3: Backgrounds and Classes

I’m back with more about the fantastic 5e setting of Fateforge by Studio Agate. Last time I talked about character species and before that I gave a generalized introduction to the setting. Today, I want to talk about the other parts of the character equation: background and class.

Backgrounds

Fateforge takes an interesting approach to backgrounds: they let you build your own. The Character’s History chapter covers backgrounds and it provides guidelines for making one to fit your character idea. You start with a concept to give you direction, then you choose two skill proficiencies and to other proficiencies for tools, vehicles, or languages. You pick some equipment and add in a feature from a list of suggested feature types. That last step is probably the biggest potential source of problems in this process but overall there’s a lot of directions.

To illustrate this process the chapter goes through each step with three example backgrounds: Artisan, Pirate, and Slave. Additionally ten more backgrounds are given at the end of the chapter to give you a jumpstart on your campaign: Acolyte, Animist, Bohemian, Condottiere, Explorer of Wild Lands, Notable (i.e. “Noble”), Recluse, Savant (in the academic sense), Scoundrel, and Survivor. A few of these (Acolyte, Notable, Pirate) are the same or similar names to backgrounds in the Player’s Handbook but none is quite the same and most are new and tailored to the world of Eana.

Image © Studio Agate

There’s one last bit to talk about with backgrounds and it’s a part that I don’t particularly care for. An optional last step (using the Dark modular system as I talked about in my first post) has you pick a handicap for your background. On the one hand, they don’t explicitly mean being blind or deaf (though “lame,” as in having a leg that is impaired, and “one-eyed” are given as an example) but on the other hand this is some weird ableist junk in the middle of an otherwise good section of the book. Personally, I wouldn’t mind having this as part of character creation (though “flaw” or “scar” might be better) but I would explicitly make it something spiritual to show a life of hardship.

Character Class

At first glance, the character class part of the book is the opposite of the background section. While the previous part of character creation was all new, from the options to how you go about it, the character class section has all the classes from the same classes as the Player’s Handbook and the same sorts of subclasses. Once you start to take a closer look, though, you’ll see a lot of adjustments and tweaks to the classes that make this setting feel different.

The barbarian‘s base mechanics seem to all be the same and the Path of the Berserker remains an option. There’s also a new primal path, the Path of the Wizard Slayer, which turns your rage into a spellbreaking juggernaut. The bard is also generally the same and the College of Lore is the same as well. The new College of Grace is the choice for an acrobatic, roguish bard who fights with trickery and agility.

The cleric showcases some of the cosmology of the world with eight universal deities worshipped in different guises throughout Eana. There are four Harmonic Divinities of growth (World, Maker, Blacksmith, and Flora) and four Entropic Divinities of destruction (Death, Frostelle, Night, and Storm). There are seven divine domains to go with these eight gods and goddesses: Aberrance, Enigma, Force, Life, Sharing, Time, and Travel. If a player really wants I’m sure you could let them take the Knowledge, Life, Light, Tempest, Trickery, and War domains from the Player’s Handbook but I really like that the authors have crafted religion in this setting from the ground up.

Image © Studio Agate

The druid is unchanged, even with wild shape, and the Circle of the Land is the same in features and spells. The new Fateforge option is the Circle of the Spirits which makes the druid more of a totemic, mystical spellcaster than a stone-circle-worshipping nature caster. The fighter is, unsurprisingly, unchanged as well but there’s an optional feature for unarmored defense among cultures in hot climates. The champion martial archetype is still available and the Bladebonded is a new cool option that’s somewhat like the Weaponmaster from Adventures in Middle-earth. There’s also the Thug which is surprisingly similar to the battle master mechanically, though the fancy maneuvers are replaced with cheap shots.

The monk and the Way of the Open Hand are the same but the Way of Pain is a new and creepy option. The paladin is the same way with the regular mechanics and the Oath of Devotion but counterbalanced with the Oath of Ravens who are holy assassins who watch and wait for a chance to punish the wicked. There’s also the Oath of the Errant is also an interesting option presenting a paladin option for wandering monster slayers. The ranger resembles the usual class (the original, not the revised one) but with a few adjustments including an improved version of Natural Explorer and improvements that are staggered to remove “dead levels.” The hunter archetype is provided along with a new Netherworld Explorer for dungeon-delving.

The rogue‘s abilities are the same and the thief archetype is presented. The new archetype is a spy that gives you some social abilities to match your sneakery and the hitman archetype meanwhile let’s you play a bounty hunter. The sorcerer still casts spells in their crazy way and you can still have a Draconic Bloodline (which puts you in a pretty special place in the world of Fateforge). Why stick with that, though, when you can have Psychic Magic?!? Ancestral Memory and an ever-changing psychic boon that you sometimes get when you spend sorcerer points? Yes, please! Of course, you can also go insane this way but… you live and learn, you know?

Image © Studio Agate

The warlock is still super-creepy with their patrons and pacts, but rather than a random Fiend you get specific Archfiends in the hells of Fateforge complete with different deals and different spells. The Primeval One is similar to a Great Old One but rather than creepy whispers they slowly transform you into a horrible creature. The wizard is similar in that you can play a specialist wizard by school, but the rules here are more generic (which I don’t like) and has more of the mysticism I remember from AD&D all those years ago (which I do like). There’s also the disenchanter archetype which is sort of an arcane Indiana Jones, the elementalist which plays into the geomancy that the setting talks up, the war mage lets you fight in melee and still fling spells, and the mystifier lets you channel your spellcasting ability into social trickery.

New Class: The Scholar

Image © Studio Agate

The new class for Fateforge is the scholar who uses tricks and study to support their party. The class has a Bag of Tricks much like a battle master’s maneuvers or an elemental monk’s powers. You spend trick points similar to ki points to support your tricks and can do things like penalize an enemy’s attack roll, get away from a dangerous situation, or gain temporary hit points. Starting at third level they also get an interesting ability to spend time studying an area (at least an hour) and perceiving important details about it. At third level you can perceive magic in the area, understand whatever people are saying in the area, and mystically know when people enter or leave it. As you level you can also cloak the area, ban people from entering, and other useful options.

The archetypes for the scholar (called “pursuits”) are focused on either being craft or being creepy. The Alchemist is part back-up healer and part tinkerer, allowing you to remove conditions from your friends but also make a philosopher’s stone at 17th level. On the other hand, Mind-Delving has abilities for spell disruption, mental influence, and the ability to remove corruption from people like Professor X the therapist. As an optional feature, Adapatibility lets you pick an archetype from another class! I imagine this expands the new class’s utility because you can play a passive bookworm but also still be a hunter or bladesworn. It’s not every archetype (there’s a short list) but it’s great to put the scholar on the same level as the other classes that benefit from all the D&D 5e supplements out there.

Next Time

I’m going to be heading into the crazy world of the Grimoire book which should shed some light onto the magical parts of Fateforge. Right now, you should have an idea of what sets Fateforge apart from other 5e games out there but by the next post you’ll be able to see what sets it apart from other fantasy settings. See you then!

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