The second edition of 7th Sea from John Wick Presents is best described right inside the book:
“7th Sea is a tabletop roleplaying game of swashbuckling and intrigue, exploration and adventure, taking place on the continent of Théah, a land of magic and mystery inspired by our own Europe. Players take on the roles of heroes thrown into global conspiracies and sinister plots, exploring ancient ruins of a race long vanished and protecting the rightful kings and queens of Théah from murderous villains. It is a world of sharp blades and sharp wits, where a cutting retort can be just as deadly as a sword’s point.”
I would like to make a point before we get into it; the rule book is a guide and not a set of rules that you absolutely must follow. If something here doesn't suit your fancy, rip it up and throw it away! Not literally though, don’t do that; it's a pretty book. Hoist the sails ladies and gentlemen, because today, we set sail for adventure!
1) The World And Lore
Théah is a wonderful world based off of Europe, the parallel encompassing both culture and environment. It isn't a carbon copy of Europe, but it helps you really grasp what the place you are in can look like. I’m not going to get into every country in Théah’s continent but I’ll use Eisen as an example. Eisen is a country that was obliterated during the War of the Cross, leaving the land to become inhospitable for farming. The people of Eisen are proud that they carved the path for the Vaticine Church. As if war and muddy farm lands were not bad enough, there are monsters too. The population was around 24 million, fallen to only around 10 million currently. Between people fleeing, starvation, and plague, the country has dwindled quite a bit since the war. The crest of the Eisen nation is that of a Drachen (dragon). There is so much detail to the countries that you can find information about topics ranging from politics to what kind of clothing people wear. Now depending on where your character comes from you gain certain bonus to skills and the opportunity to delve into magic. I have to admit, the amount of detail in this book is beyond inspiring. Have to hand it to John Wick on this one.
2) It’s A Big World For A Hero
One of the rules I found whilst wandering through the book was a very interesting mechanic that I’ve never seen in a tabletop RPG before. 7th Sea is more about storytelling than anything else, and it seems they took inspiration from Disney with how they tell stories about heroes. Heroes can't die unless the the villain kills them. I thought this was a strange rule at first glance until I’d really thought about it. It obviously makes it super fun for you and your players. As long as things are based in the realm of reality and physics, your heroes can be the swashbuckling, daring monstrosities they want to be. Why can't we sword fight along a wooden beam for the sail? The game allows you to become Jack Sparrow or the Three Musketeers. Now, this doesn’t mean your heroes can’t fail, because they definitely can. This usually means you get brought face to face with the villain to be killed, but don't worry you’ll make it out (I hope). Being a hero never felt so good.
3) Hero Points And Danger Points
Hero points are a currency out of character that gets passed around from GM to player. Hero points are obtained through story interaction or if the GM buys unused dice (dice that don’t add up to 10, a Raise). You usually gain them by roleplaying a certain way, such as invoking a character’s Quirk or Hero’s Hubris. Hero points can be spent to gain bonus dice, give dice to allies, or even to use special abilities. When you use them they typically force you to roleplay a certain way, adding a flare to the game. An example from a character I played was that he was a homewrecker. When I let a person my character was attracted to get away with doing bad stuff, I gained a hero point. I’m so head over heels for that person, I could look past it. My character was also very loyal and protective of his friends. During a fight I spent a hero point to use a skill called Flirting With Disaster; it allowed bad stuff to happen to me more and less to my allies. In this instance the bad guy wanted to punch me six times every round. In the end, my friends and I were able to make it out alive because of these fun quirks and skills. Thank you hero points!
Danger Points, however, are the nasty ones that the GM gets to use to make the heroes’ lives more (dare I say it?) dangerous! The GM starts each session with Danger Points equal to the number of players, so five players equals five Danger Points. In addition, you gain a point from buying unused player dice. So, by the end of it, buying dice leads to one Danger Point and one Hero Point per die! The Danger points can be used to activate the Villain’s (or his goons’) special abilities, make a check harder, or even murder a hero. Yes, a cruel, evil GM can use his villain and Danger Points to murder someone when they become helpless, which is when you have zero hit points.
4) Dice And Finally Getting That Well Deserved Raise
The dice mechanics in 7th Sea are really fun. They consist of rolling the dice and adding up what are called Raises. So we roll 10 sided dice equal to the stats we are using for the roll. Every point in a stat gives you one die, to a max of five. For this example let's say that I am trying to humiliate the character I am dueling. Everyone describes their actions and determine what dice they roll. I decide I want to use my Panache, which adds three dice because the stat is three, and Weaponry, which is also three. Since this is the first time I am using this particular skill this session, I get to add another d10. I roll my 7d10s and make multiples of ten out of what I rolled. For every ten that I have, it makes one Raise. I find out I have four raises (I rolled 40 as a sum) and the villain has a raise of five. The more Raises you have, the higher you are in the initiative order, which is determined after everyone both explains their action and rolls their dice. In this case, the villain gets to act first. In addition to being an initiative value in Action Sequences, Raises serve as a DC when a character performs a Risk (skill check).
5) “Hello. my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”
So we talked about raises and combat lightly, but how can I talk about a swashbuckling adventure game without the meat and bones of dueling? Théah has a dueling academy that, upon graduation, gives you a pin granting you the right to initiate duels. It also lets you learn really interesting and flashy fighting maneuvers. An example is the good old Riposte, which prevents damage equal to your Weaponry skill and deals that much damage back to the opponent. Then we have dueling styles that grant even more abilities depending on what you choose. Such as the Aldana, which combines fencing and dancing into one fluid dueling style. It grants the hero the ability to use a skill called Aldana Ruse, which adds damage equal to your Panache skill. There are a ton more in the book and we could talk about this forever so let's slash our way to the next point.
6) Wait, There Is Sailing In This Game?
For those who are not sailing savvy, 7th Sea provides all the information you need on sailing. There are four types of Sailors according to 7th sea: we have merchants, naval recruits, privateers, and pirates. The section has awesome descriptions of different crew positions, what their duties are, and who they are in charge of. It even has superstitions that sailors whisper to each other that will foreshadow things to come. One example is the Green Flash that happens at sunset which is just an optical phenomena, but pirates used to say it was a soul returning from the land of the dead, or for those really superstitious types, Davey Jone’s Locker. Pirate battles are a little intense. They work just like rolling for Raises when doing a normal action sequence. These are on a much grander stage, giving the GM an opportunity to go wild. Maybe you can be fighting a villain and his goons while he tries to take control of the Kraken that is currently laying waste to everything around you; who knows?
7) The Villain
I have to say the villain mechanics make them fun for the GM to create and use. Villains have stats that make up their “level”. They are split into two, their Strength and Influence. Strength has to do with the body and mind of the villain, how smart they are, how charming or even how deadly they are with a blade. Strength also determines how many Advantages the villain has. Influence is money, resources, and allies, helping to change the world in their favor. The scale tips either way when it comes to Strength and Influence. Each rank you put into these you add up to make up the villainy rank. Let's say my villain is Influence four and Strength six, making a villainy rank of 10, which is decently strong. Villains get to pull schemes, revealing why villains are so much fun in 7th Sea. When a villain wants to pull a scheme they have to gamble. They invest Influence Points into the scheme, hoping it succeeds. Today we are robbing Avalon’s Royal Bank in order to kill the King, which we invested three of our villain’s Influence Points to do, split up in this manner: capture the banker and take the keys, look for an Avalon artifact, use the artifact to kill the King. If the villain succeeds she doubles the influence she gambled on the scheme, here we bet three so we would get six back. If she failed, well the points are lost; better luck next time. Villains can do a lot in 7th Sea from convincing an ally to betray you, hiring some thugs to rough you up or even introducing another villain.
If you want to try a game that is all about being Zorro or that Robin Hood-like hero... if you want to explore a vast and rich world ontop of seeing monsters and magic.... if you want to feel the breeze of the ocean and the slight salty taste in the winds as you cruise on the giant blue, then you want to try this game out.
“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.”
Benjamin Witunsky, artist, writer and nerd savant. Co-founder of the NerdMantle Podcast available on Soundcloud, Itunes and Google Play Music.
Picture Reference: http://www.7thsea2e.com/port/forum/official-maps-theah
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.