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.
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.
The Smith’s Daughter’s core ability lets her create new equipment. There are two common approaches to crafting in RPGs:
- Recipes: a pre-determined list of items which require specific ingredients to create. Crafting items opens new recipes.
- 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.
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.