At my first GenCon something like 5 years ago, I decided to play a bunch of games I had never had the opportunity to try. (I recommend all avid Role-players use Cons for this purpose) One of the games I was able to get into was a 7th Sea 1st Edition game. All I really knew of 7th Sea was it involved pirates in a colonization era society. Which sounded great to me. The game was one of the highlights of GenCon that year. It was a blast. I was impressed with a system that rewarded players for doing cool daring stunts and not always take the tactilely sound approach. Coming back from the Con and looking up the system, I found it hard to find, out of print, and none of my players too keen on the idea of jumping into a “dead system”. ( I hate the idea of a “Dead System” it is more like a mature system, you have all the material there you will need. You can still play even though it isn’t in print) Funny how they would want to play WEG Star Wars but not 7th Sea. I didn’t call them on their hypocrisy.
Flash forward a few years and John Wick is reviving his game via Kickstarter for a 2nd Edition. It was a no-brainer for me, he had my money.
I Now have the Rulebook and have read over almost all of it. I’ve also read quite a bit of Wick’s pretty darn good Novel Daughter of Fate. However, I hadn’t had a chance to get it on the table until recently. A few of us in a Google+ community were lamenting the fact that we hadn’t played the game and there were no good Actual-Plays out there (besides ones of the pre-release demo adventure) that we could find to get a feel for it with. (seriously if you know of a good actual play let me know) However, another member of the community came forward saying he’d played the game a lot with his home group and had been working on a Con adventure and would be willing to have us run through it if we’d give feedback. Of course, we said yes and quickly assembled a party.
The game was a blast, and completely different in style than many things I have played before. How 7th Sea works is you roll a bunch of d10s based on your approach to a problem and your skills and traits that apply.
For example: While you are schmoozing around the upstairs indoor balcony of a banquet hall, the lord of the house discovers that you had relations with his fiancée, and orders his guards to “Seize him at Once” What do you do? Well, you state. “I am going to leap for the Chandelier (there is always a chandelier) swing on it towards the entrance of the Hall, drop down onto banquet table and run towards to door.” Wow, even though you are fleeing I would say you are doing it with Panache so roll that trait coupled with your Athletics skill. Now as the GM I would say, that that move is going to take the guards completely by surprise, so you don’t have to worry about taking damage from them, however, that is quite a fall from the chandelier and the table is full with remanence of dinner. So you will need one success (called a raise) in order grab the chandelier, and make it out. However, the slippery fall will do 1 damage so you need another raise if you want to avoid that. And well as an incentive you notice that the Lady Celina, the Lord of the house’s fiancée, is by the door wearing your family’s heirloom bracelet you were eyeing earlier; For 2 raises you can kiss her hand and slip it off her wrist on your way out.
So you roll your Panache plus your Athletics in d10s. Each group of 10 or more is one raise. Group of 10 is an interesting destination. If you roll a 9, a 6, an 8 and a 7 that is only 2 Raises. Even though total 30 you can only make 2 sets that equal more than 10.
Now say your roll 3 raises. In the scenario above you can choose to apply them how you see fit. If you really want your family’s bracelet you can opt to take the damage from the fall and still get the bracelet. You apply your raises accordingly and narrate the action.
Now each party member has advantages and background things that give them abilities to make certain dice explode or grant party members extra dice or even turn low dice into 10s.
7th Sea also has a Hero Point currency that you get by activating your Hubris or playing to your character’s quirks and you use them much like bennies to give you extra dice on a roll or to activate special abilities or assist other players, or simply to avoid dying.
Combat plays out similar to as described above but each round last as long as people have raises so you can do multiple actions in a round. “This round I’m going to slide across the rain-slick deck and grab my rapier before it falls overboard.” Great that is Finesse plus Athletics and a bonus dice because you described it coolly, and another bonus because this is the first time you used Finesse in this combat. “Great I have 5 successes.” Great, you go first, your mutineering First-Mate only got 4. “I slide over and grab my sword and turn towards the First-Mate swinging the sword with a flourish. “You’ll never Captain the Mermaid’s Kiss” I sneer. The Enraged First mate uses all 4 of his raises to attack you, what do you do. “I use 3 of my actions to block his attacks only taking one hit, but leaving me with one raise left.” Sounds good, what do you do with that remaining raise. ” I am going to spend a hero point to activate my Leadership Advantage and inspire the crew to take up arms against First-Mate Farmsworth and his toadies.” Nice, the 3 men loyal to Farmsworth surely cannot take on the whole crew…..
And so forth.
The game we played involved a Ghost Ship and an expedition to some ancient ruins before some rival ship got their first. I played Roseline the aging ship captain who was tough as nails, married to the sea, and had a short temper. She could eat the foulest of food, had perfect balance, and still the best eyesight on the sea. She was one fun Character to play. Characters seem to be the biggest highlight of 7th Sea. They are quite varied with a lot of quirks and advantages, Hubris and Virtue. Giving you a lot of fun tools for combat and social situations alike.
The Setting itself is vast and to be honest a bit daunting. A lot of the nations are analogous to real world locations, Germany, Spain, England, the Colonies, but I don’t know much of the culture or the politics of that area during that era, nor can I do accents that well. So I always feel my players may think I am doing things wrong or portraying an area wrong.
However, once I read and learn more I think this could be one hell of a game to run. Its narrative elements are solid and it is a game that still encourages players to have their characters do cool and heroic things and even rewards them when they do. Something I think makes games much more entertaining.