Introducing the Blacksmith’s Daughter

Today we unveil the second of Below‘s playable characters: the Smith’s Daughter. In Below, each characters’ abilities have to express something about them. The themes of the Smith’s Daughter’s are defiance and self-reliance.

 

A young woman carrying a shield and an axe

After the break: the problems with crafting.

She can endure the dungeon longer than other characters – relying on the Above deck a little less. She’s less dependant on her bonds with the people she’s left behind. And she defies the expectations her society imposes on her.

Making

The Smith’s Daughter’s core ability lets her create new equipment. There are two common approaches to crafting in RPGs:

  1. Recipes: a pre-determined list of items which require specific ingredients to create. Crafting items opens new recipes.
  2. Lego bricks: you assemble an item from a number of components that determine its stats. You want it to do X damage, with Y special effect and have Z charges. Making items increases your repertoire of components.
Skyrim has examples of both approaches: the former in its Blacksmithing skill; the latter in its Enchanting skill.

Neither of these felt quite right for Below. The recipe approach can feel like a conveyor belt – you end up crafting and discarding a lot of items you don’t need, in order to increase your skill and make the next thing. However, it’s relatively straightforward to balance, so it makes a good starting point. The Lego bricks approach often feels utilitarian. The things you craft might have just the stats you want, but you can see the joins – nothing you make has the character of a One Ring or a Stormbringer.

For the Smith’s Daughter, crafting is her vocation. Her passion. It should provide the opportunity for the player to say something about her. It should be a story.

Apprentice. Journeyman. Master.

Mediaeval craftsmen underwent a progression of apprentice, journeyman, and master. An apprentice learned their craft under a master. When they’re ready, they became a journeyman, travelling the world and honing their skill. And when they’d learned enough, they created a masterpiece to present to their peers. If it was considered worthy, they became a master and took apprentices of their own.

That division sums up the Smith’s Daughter and what her profession means to her. You can explore her apprenticeship through her memories in the Above deck. Her adventures in the world below represent her time as a journeyman. And ultimately, she’ll be able to create a masterpiece and call herself a master. Or something equivalent. The fact that two of those terms assume maleness (‘journeyman’, ‘master’) is part of her story. Girls aren’t normally smiths in Gallowmoor. Her life has been a struggle, and there’s a long way to go  yet.

How it works

She begins with the ability to craft and improve unique items: initially, an axe and a shield. These are a new class of item called prestige items, which grant slightly better bonuses than normal. While most characters need a Bond with a game-controlled character like a Sister, or Father, or Tutor to improve their equipment, the Smith’s Daughter can improve her crafted items just using resources she finds in the dungeon.

As she does so, she accumulates Craft. Craft comes in two types: Delicate and Unyielding. As they rise, she’ll eventually unlock the ability to make masterpieces, like a Wolf-Pommelled Sword, a Coat of Silvered Mail, or a Ring of Hidden Fires. Masterpieces grant exceptional abilities that are normally only found in the better treasures you can find in the dungeon (we’ll look more at these in another post).

Her Craft qualities determine which masterpieces she can create. Unyielding Craft opens some choices, Delicate Craft opens different ones, and a balance of the two opens others. She can only have one masterpiece at a time, but she can always abandon one to make another.

So ultimately, her masterpieces are determined by the choices she’s made while crafting throughout her career. If she likes she can keep making masterworks in an endless quest for perfection. And ultimately, making a masterwork will open a retirement option  allowing her to stop adventuring, become a master, and pass something special on to your next character.

Next time we’ll look at the Smith’s Daughter’s advancement – the abilities she can learn as she gains experience – and how the advancement system is changing from the prototype. Read about it here.

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Andy Raff January 5, 2013 9:11 pm  Reply

    An interesting read, and (in addition to the story stuff that was very cool) I found this bit especially interesting – “ultimately, making a masterwork will open a retirement option allowing her to stop adventuring, become a master, and pass something special on to your next character.”

  2. Lily Fox January 8, 2013 12:15 am  Reply

    I really do like this crafting concept. How different is it from the Friar upgrading his staff, say?

    Over the past couple of days, I’ve been trying to think of any other games that employ a similar crafting style and have drawn a blank. At least with hero items – you could make the argument that this is like upgrading a home base. There is a Dungeons & Dragons supplement (one of the 3.5e Players Handbooks II or III perhaps) that covers unique personal items that gain powers as the character levels up, but I never played with that myself.

    • Chris January 15, 2013 8:15 pm  Reply

      Hi Lily!

      “How different is it from the Friar upgrading his staff, say?”

      The Friar (and all other characters) improve items by remembering more about them. By spending Memories of Home, you get to upgrade them to the next tier, and learn something more about what the item means to you. Each item is associated with a different Bond, or connection you have with someone on the surface. When you improve it, you learn more about them and your relationship with them.

      So when you improve your Battered Lantern to a Hooded Lantern, you find out exactly why your father needs a hooded lantern about the place. When you improve it again to a Witch-Glow Lantern, and get a recollection scene wherein he tells you about its hidden properties and how he came to own it. In each case you’re not changing the item as much as declaring that it (and the relationship) is important to your character.

      You get Memories of Home mostly from the Above Deck, although occasionally from exploring the dungeon, too.

      The Smith’s Daughter is the only one (so far) who actually makes things, which is another thing that makes her unique.

      Although the spells of the Masterless Apprentice may end up working in a similar way…

      “There is a Dungeons & Dragons supplement … that covers unique personal items that gain powers as the character levels up,”

      Weapons of Legacy! Yes, we used those in our long-running Ptolus game. They were fun, although the rules were a nightmare to untangle.

  3. Vael Victus January 12, 2013 12:10 am  Reply

    She looks so interesting! I think I’m holding out for that lady character, but I must say this one seems very tantalizing.

    I’m glad to see there’s going to be replayability via mechanics like passing down a piece of equipment. I was wondering about that, because Below is totally the kind of game I would play multiple times.

    Oh, and that ring. I fell into a hidden Ring of Fire…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5L0q09CgUWo

  4. andy raff January 15, 2013 7:53 pm  Reply

    I’m looking forward to hearing about the treasures deck by the bye. I’ve spent the last week ‘at work’ desperately trying to bridge the gap between “cool/story” and “mechanical/crunch.” It’s challenging to have an item ‘do’ something so that players can get excited about the way they can use that item, yet at the same time tell you something about the game, the world or the characters in it. Especially if some of those items are the equivalent of D&D’s old +1 swords.

    I assume that the Treasures for Below (it having both story and rules mechanics), have had similar tensions?

    (Yes. Transparent attempt to prompt you to write something about treasures. So sue me).

    • Chris January 15, 2013 7:59 pm  Reply

      Hi Andy,

      Yes – totally a tension. In some ways, StoryNexus is an advantage, here, because you can always attach a card to an item to give it specific fictional impact. That’s content-costly, though, so it’s hard to do for everything.

      Definitely a post in that.

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