We’re doing something a bit different this time; I’m going to be reporting on a campaign that I’m a player in. Jacob from the In-Fighters will be running the game and has volunteered to provide input where necessary. We’ll be playing John Wick’s 7th Sea Second Edition.
Theah is an alternate Europe in the mid/late 1600’s. It’s a land of swashbuckling adventure, pirates, strange monsters and mysteries including that of the titular Seventh Sea. Each nation has a rich history originally outlines in a first edition 15 or so years ago but ‘rebooted’ for this one. The book is gorgeous and rich with information, providing tantalising plot hooks and a world which feels ready for adventure.
The system is more of a traditional RPG than we often play these days, however Wick’s a veteran of all ages of gaming and it’s interesting seeing how he’s combined his styles from the traditional dot-point games like Legend of the Five Rings with his weirder games like Houses of the Blooded and Aegis Project. He’s learnt a lot in his years and the polish here shows.
Your character has stats which I’ll get into with character creation, but to quickly explain the system, you’ll add numbers up into a pool of ten-sided dice. You roll them and try to split them off into sets of the number 10. Whatever action you’re up to will require one set just to get done, then the GM will add extra challenges and opportunities as ‘raises’ which means you can spend extra sets of 10 on them.
For instance you’re trying to swim out of a sinking boat. That’s a Brawn + Athletics roll. You roll six dice in total from your stats and any other modifiers, then you clump them together in sets of ten. The GM also tells you that the challenges are: Suffering 1 damage from the collapsing ship, being noticed by a shark and then he gives you the opportunity of finding a safe spot of water to surface in. You roll 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1. This makes three sets. 10 on its’ own, along with 8+2, 6+4 and the 1 is useless as it doesn’t make a set. You get to pick what happens, so you decide that you escape the boat (the basic success), you take no damage, surface safely, but a shark is following you. What next? Well, we’d see where the story takes us.
I’d voraciously read the setting fluff of the book when it first arrived and the system the day before the game. Jacob was aware of the system, Lee Ash and Vinnie knew enough to have character concepts. Amy and Josh were both on holiday during this bit of time, so they arrived with Josh’s knowledge of first edition and little more. Even so, we would all end the evening with fleshed out characters.
So the basic thing is just, “what do you want?”
Lee and I both wanted characters from Avalon, a UK equivalent where the Fair Folk roam and most people are pretty good at boats. Lee’s character is the son of a privateer who’d been betrayed by his quartermaster. Now, the character was seeking revenge and to get his boat back. My character was going to be an explorer looking into this whole ‘science’ thing as magic was so passe.
Vinnie’s character would be from Eisen, the Germany equivalent. Ruined by religious war, the Vaticine Church pulled out of Eisen, leaving a scarred land for the remaining Objectionist believers. There were stalwart warriors and eldritch horrors here, not the kind of place to holiday in. Vinnie’s character would be an Eisen soldier which he’d mentioned on Twitter the week before, would “weaponise his trauma”. So a standard Vinnie character, potentially.
Ash wanted an ex-musketeer from Montaigne. He joined them, got disenfranchised with the nobility and is looking to take the nobles down a peg or two.
Josh decided to try out the new nation which wasn’t in the first edition, The Samartian Commonwealth. It’s the first true democracy where the nobles and the peasants all get a vote. He saw that their kind of magic was about making a pact with a devil and was on board as a kind of union leader type character.
Amy was the least familiar and took a bit of time working out what she would do. She picked Ussura as a nation and that she would be looking for technology to bring back to her homeland to help out there. I reckoned this character would either be a friend or a rival to my character.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t GMing, so my notes on what other people took are flimsy and limited to what I remember they said and what’s been posted in our In-Fighters Google Space.
With Josh, Amy and I all playing female characters, our group reached gender parity for a rare moment. Our long-running multi-system fantasy game had it for a season, as did the Buffy RPG back in 2003, but I think that was it.
I’ve split this up into two sections; the more stat-based and the more story-based.
Each of the steps gives you a thematic choice with fixed results and then you can choose to add a scattering of other points to help direct the creation of the character in the way you want.
First of all is Nationality. I picked Avalon and that gives me +1 to a Trait. Traits are your innate brawn, finesse, resolve, wits and panache. You only get a couple of bumps to these as you’ll be using them a lot in the game. Avalon didn’t give me choices which fit my smart, quick explorer. I went for Resolve as the stat to boost as I specifically wanted to be not very good at Panache yet. I added two more points, this time to Finesse and Wits.
You then pick two backgrounds which are your origin in the world. You gain some skills, advantages (which are basically random extra abilities or stunts you can do) and ways of generating Hero Points; the dramatic currency of the game.
It was easy to find the right backgrounds for my character; Archaeologist & Explorer. The advantages all seemed pretty cool, although one of them wasn’t what I originally planned on getting; Second Story Work. The advantage lets you spend a Hero Point to break into somewhere you shouldn’t be automatically, taking up to one other person with you. It changed a little of what my character would be like, as suddenly I got ideas about having a more breaking & entering type explorer.
I padded out my character’s skills, maxing out Athletics and Scholarship. “Indiana Jones by way of Guybrush Threepwood” became the key phrase for my character.
The next part was short, although I spent a while convincing Lee it was less daunting than it was before the game started. He’d already had an idea which could be turned into a Story. Vinnie and Ash were the same.
Virtue and Hubris would be the bigger challenge, then. I had a shortlist, but mainly of Hubris, of course. These are personality traits which either earn you Hero Points for doing bad things or allow you to spend Hero Points for cool things. There’s a virtue and a hubris for each card of the tarot, but you can mix and match them or pick randomly from a deck. I picked Friendly as my Virtue, being a young and unassuming hero. This meant I could spent a Hero Point to be perceived as a friend by anyone I meet for the first time. My Hubris I narrowed down to Curious, which is where I would get a Hero Point for investigating something dangerous-looking. I figured that would be happening a lot with my character in the campaign, hopefully not to a lethal level.
The Story mechanic was the final part of each character and a really awesome replacement for experience points. Some games like Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine make them more of a core part of playing the game instead of a simple reward. Powered by the Apocalypse games use them as behavioural incentives. Here, there’s no XP at all. You pick something you want for your character, like a new level in a skill, an advantage or some non-mechanical advancement and the GM tells you how many steps it’ll be. You then construct a story and a goal around it. Or do it the other way round if you already have a story planned; you and the GM can work out what you’ll get as a reward. You’d only work on the first step of your Story if there was more than one, then in play you’d work out the next ones with the GM.
In character creation I would have been able to take membership in a secret society for free, but decided that my character would need to earn it. Her first story became, “Ooh, pick me!” where the reward would be membership in the Explorer’s Society. This would be a one step story, so I originally said that my goal would be to find an artefact of worth to the Explorer’s Society. After talking with Jacob, this was changed to the more plot-relevant meeting with their contact in Kirk, a city in the nation of Vestenmennavenjar. Surely if I succeeded at whatever mission they sent me on, I’d totally be an explorer.
So I had the stats and the Story. I’d had some notes from earlier in the day and came up with the following as my background:
A Tale of Patience
Born in a small fishing town in Avalon, Patience Varrow was the youngest of many children. She was dressed in hand-me-down clothes and expectations. Each child was expected to fish or to work the market stalls they had. They didn’t want any of the Varrow family travelling far from home.
Patience’s grandfather Barnaby was delivered to them when his wife Euphemia passed away. The man was old and apparently demented, talking about his adventures all over Theah and beyond. Compared to the other family members, he made time for Patience and followed her through the woods on many ‘adventures’. They chased off a scary-looking dog, navigated to the next town in the dark using only the stars and stole a nautical book from a wicked old man.
Patience grew dissatisfied with her life as a future fisherwoman and begged to go to university. While she wouldn’t state it in front of her parents, she wanted to be an adventurer like Barbaby. He’d seen great sea beasts, fallen into the 7th Sea, drank with lords and found strange new lands. She wanted all of this, but needed an education first. At university, she was a good, if inattentive student and grew enamoured with the Explorer’s Society, even going as far as to make a fake ‘dig jacket’. As an overactive, impatient person, she grew to resent her name and went by Effy, which she felt sounded more like an explorer.
After university, life felt mundane back with her family. Barnaby had apparently gone to find the location of the 7th Sea on purpose, compared to his drunken arrival there once. Patience wanted to go out exploring but her family didn’t allow it. She overheard her parents talking about some family curse and how it was too much letting her older brothers take jobs on fishing vessels. They were superstitious and more fearful of the Sidhe than most. Enamoured with science, Patience rarely paid them any mind and treated the concept of them as just another part of life on the Glamour Isles. Being told ‘no’ by her parents was the best way of encouraging her to start her life as an explorer. She kept the name ‘Effy’ from her university days, stole her grandfather’s prized grappling hook, “Barnaby’s Key,” then fled to the docks where she sought transport to a new life as a soon-to-be-famous explorer.
As Effy, she would get membership in the Explorer’s Society, find strange artefacts, new lands, maybe she would even find her grandfather and the mysterious 7th Sea!
Here are my workings out:
Lee created Finn Hopkins, an Avalon son of a privateer. His father was murdered and his ship, The Dawn Star, was stolen by its’ quartermaster. He would be a ‘gun wizard’, having learnt a duelling school using pistols. Jacob got excited about the quartermaster, mentioned he may be a big factor in the plot and could he not be from Avalon? Lee agreed as he’d not worked the details out about the quartermaster yet.
Vinnie created Vanya Steiglig, a dead-eyed Eisen soldier who looked like he’d been stretched upwards without the required amount of skin to help him. He was too methodical to be a fighter, but this was Eisen, an Eldritch blight on Theah. He learnt to hunt monsters and use their parts in strange potions thanks to his Hexe magic. He wanted to join Die Kreuzritter, a group who hunted monsters. He used a harpoon as a weapon, a huge monster of a thing with an ornate ivory handle.
Ash created Remy (last name withheld), a former musketeer who grew jaded with the nobility he had to protect. He opted into having a secret society; The Rilasciare, a bunch of free-thinkers. He was from Montaigne with all the fancy flounciness that entailed. Also this meant his plot would work well with Josh. I think Remy was the only one of us to have a real swordsman school involving swords.
Josh created Janina “Nina” Kohrs from the Samartian Commonwealth. Initially Josh mentioned being a kind of union leader type, then Jacob started enabling his worse instincts with a school of magic based around having a pact with devils. Or maybe angels, but let’s face it, they’re probably devils. This was the new nation and a form of magic I had no idea about, but devil pacts was an instant buy-in from Josh. There was an ability where you could pretty much plunge a localised area into 100 years of winter, so how could he resist. This is also why the book has strict attitudes on heroic or villainous behaviour, as well as how magic’s great but can lead to that sort of thing.
Amy was the person with the least amount of 7th Sea knowledge around the table, so even though Josh hadn’t read up on the rules or differences between editions, even he could get the gist. It must have been dizzying, which is the downside to a massive, well-made setting. Still, she walked away with Galina Rurick Olgovna V’novgorov, a noblewoman from Ussura who wanted to bring technology to her people. She looked practical, but was actually really quite fancy for her people. She also had an ability to have a family member pretty much anywhere, who might be able to help out.
Jacob had a lot to work with, and also encouragement from the book to take a lot of it in stride, not to plan too far or too fixed. It would be interesting seeing how this new system would run and how he would deal with running it.
We had our heroes, we were extremely pumped, but would have to wait a week until the first session. As will you, when we perform a heist, a counterheist, a re-heist and an unheist.