7th Sea is a swashbuckling fantasy game set in a vague parallel to old Europe, albeit the old Europe of the Musketeers, the Princess Bride and so on. You don’t make characters, you make ‘heroes’. You get bonuses for mixing up the skills you resolve things with, you fight ‘mooks’ and upon taking your first dramatic wound you get more awesome. In the recent campaign I managed to fight using a person on the end of a grappling hook, play with deadly artifacts and do that thing where you knife your way down the sail of a pirate ship. It was right there, I had to.
As you may be able to tell, I am a huge fan of 7th Sea. You can see the two-part preview campaign here PART ONE and PART TWO. Myself and a couple of others in the group backed the 7th Sea Second Edition Kickstarter and had a fantastic eleven-part campaign which has commenced its serialised cliff hanging buckle swashing instalments here.
In addition to the core book, eleven sourcebooks, three novels, a soundtrack and free rules, the Kickstarter reached a point where they threw in a platform for official third party content. This doesn’t feel like the d20 system and the legendary glut which followed. The content guidelines are fairly simple but also very thorough in making sure the tone of products suits the world of 7th Sea. The system can’t be used without the setting and vice versa.
Out of curiosity, I decided to pick up most of the day one releases to see exactly what the first of the third party products are like. I will warn you that while I’ve played a lot of first edition and now 13 sessions of second, I’ve only read these books and not played with the resources yet.
At Sword’s Point
My Rob Weiland
7th Sea First Edition had a ton of different swordsman schools, something which the new version didn’t have so much off from the start. It also didn’t differentiate between any particular type of equipment due to the narrative focus of a raise simply meaning a wound or a downed mook. This book adds a bunch of schools for each nation and rules for some weapons. It’s seven pages long so it’s not exhaustive which is only a good thing. I think my group would love this and the different schools will add some flavour to the fighting styles of each nation.
Besos de la Araña
By André la Roche
This booklet is a new sorcery system, based around spiders. Everything is delivered with a kiss; to a person, an item, even your own hands. The powers are all spider-based, making you stealthy, venomous or agile. The deadly spells seem pretty powerful and I feel like I’d need justification from players if they wanted to take them. There is a spell in the core book which can make a thousand years of winter though, so all sorcery is pretty powerful. Something the other spell magic systems were persistent in saying in the core book was that these are good ways of racking up Corruption and losing your character if you go ‘full villain’. This may do well to remind players that.
By Kevin Krupp
It’s good to have a nemesis in an RPG and in 7th Sea you can specifically declare a nemesis. I got a nemesis in our 7th Sea campaign, although it didn’t mean a huge amount in the end. This book provides some advice and extra mechanics to make a nemesis more impactful in a game. It’s okay, however there it does add a lot more lethality to fighting a nemesis. If you want an extra challenge when fighting a relevant enemy then this is for you. I might bring it up with the group but probably won’t use it unless players insist.
The Cost of War
By Reid Woolridge
This is an adventure set in Eisen and you’ll all hear my opinions on Eisen soon enough. For the uninformed, Eisen is basically Germany if it went through a horrendous religious war and was haunted by unspeakable horrors. Out of the adventures here, it’s written more like a traditional adventure but brings up the concept of ‘Hero Time’ to help add player-specific elements to allow their stories to be integrated or even flashed back to in the midst of this pre-written one.
The heroes are summoned to Eisen and asked to go after a rogue hexenwerker (a person who uses potions made from dead monsters). There are some ruins, some talkative villains (which works better in this game than so many others) and a ton of side quests. The side stories give a lot of customisation to the adventure which feels like it could be done as a one-shot. I ran the Erebus Cross’ first adventure three times and thanks to attention like this, each one felt quite different.
The Dark Journals
By Tobie Abad
This is a short monster supplement framed with a journal in the first few pages. I won’t say 7th Sea Second Edition wanted for monsters, but it’s nice having more, especially with Eisen as an appealing place to have characters from. The three monsters are quite different and could have done with a little more definition. They are quite a lot darker and more gross than the standard 7th Sea monsters, so you may want to avoid them depending on the tone you’re wanting in your game.
By Kyle Killpatrick
This is one of the shorter items, being a sheet with hexes showing the fencing manoeuvres you can make in relation to each other. It also says what they do, as each move gives different benefits. I’ve not had a duel in 7th Sea yet, but I know two players used the techniques a lot. It seemed quite tricky, so anything to help with that could be useful.
By Rob Donoghue
I was cautious looking at this booklet. I knew like the duelling schools that it would be something my group might like, but that it might add unnecessary crunch. The book knows this. There are widgets for your ship including nation-specific modifications for boats. There are simple chase rules which mainly skip to the drama, thankfully. There are even simple rules for trade and coming up with trade goods on the fly. This would have been useful in the campaign I’ll be posting up here, as you’ll see. If any campaign I run in the future goes to the boat place, I’ll get using this.
High Price of Love
By Heather Osborne
This is actually two files; a two-part adventure and some pregenerated characters which can be used.
Robbers are stealing from the nobles of Montaigne (fantasy France) and the heroes are brought in to deal with them. Out of all the adventures released in this initial volley, this is the broader and yet more detailed. There’s a lot of scope for injecting personal stories, a lot of material to use with the scenario and a few ‘soft hooks’ as they used to be; optional scenes which can be used for side quests, subplots and so on. The pregenerated characters are okay, they fit the setting and will be fine if this is a self-contained story. They feel a little lacking compared to the ones in the 7th Sea preview, but they’ll do.
Jewels of Avalon
By Josh Wasta
Like The Cost of War, this adventure uses Hero Time as a good way of inserting character-specific plot elements to a premade adventure.
This adventure sees the heroes travelling through all three of the Glamour Isles (the high fantasy UK) and that means a lot of supernatural weirdness. Players get a tour through the land and the tempestuous seas which surround them. There are weird god/fae beings and a couple of the big factions from both first and second edition. If you want a deep dive into Avalon and its’ ways, this is a good way of hitting the greatest hits for a 1-3 part adventure.
The Meretrices of Magdelene
By Nicole Winchester
This is a secret society which looks out for poor women in Theah, initially founded by jennys (prostitutes) to look out for one another and then it seems to have expanded while keeping some of the flavour. It’s a couple of pages long and has some information for gaining favour or spending it with the Meretrices (which does sound like a World of Darkness term). It’s okay as an idea, however part of its usefulness depends on how you use gender disparity in your game. Outside of Vodacce, the general intent in the world of Theah is to have equality for races, sexualities and genders. I may use this, possibly localised to Vodacce.
By Ken St Andre
This is the longest of the 7th Sea Explorer’s Society podcasts at a whopping 27 pages. I’m really torn with this. It’s a well-made book and the only one with original art, a fancy cover and a really nice map. The cast are shipwrecked on an island and looking for treasure. It may be an entertaining aside with a lot of animal attacks involved. There’s also promise of a sequel, if this adventure floats your boat. It feels the closest to a d20 system era adventure and while it may be a little Monkey Island-ish, it’s not enough to feel uniquely 7th Sea.
By Darryl Lloyd
This is an odd one compared to the others. It’s a card game which can be played on its own or as part of a game of 7th Sea. There’s some flavour and mechanics to reflect what your character’s doing in a game. An in-game minigame is a tricky thing to do. You don’t want it to take over the game and if only a few of the group are doing it then that can annoy the rest of the players. It could even end up being a whole session and that’s got to be a mutual decision. Then there’s the “blitzball” factor where the games may suck. Yes, blitzball sucked.
Lee from my role-playing group and I tried it out. It’s okay. I wouldn’t derail a game for it, but then a whole game may take two or three minutes if you’re cutting dramatic tension out. The game is about hitting a number closest to 17 with a normal deck of cards, without going above it. You have one card and a face-down river, play about with the cards a bit, bid tokens on spaces (not cards) in the river and then play about with them a little more. It’s quick and a little chaotic. There are rules for which ‘role’ your character may take in this game. There are some advantages, although I would recommend against them unless this is a key part of a campaign.
There were some scenes in our 7th Sea campaign where a couple of characters weren’t in focus and I can definitely imagine mine and Lee’s Avalon characters playing this game while the others bicker or play politics.
By Rob Donoghue
Like with ships and duelling before, I underestimated this product. These reviews are really showing me how good the works of Rob Donoghue are. Eisen as I’ve said already is basically Spooky Germany and one of the things which was partitioned off from being a thing players could generally access was ‘dracheneisen’, a metal made from the bones of dragons. There used to be gauntlets which glowed when monsters were near, as well as other weapons made from it. This booklet has two methods of making dracheneisen accessible to players. First is an heirloom which is much larger than a signature item, taking up all your starting advantage points unless you take the background, ‘Iron Heir’. That’s how big a deal this stuff is. There’s a second option for Tarnished Dracheneisen, which is one point less because it needs a few stories (the replacement for XP) to unlock new features. Again, there’s a background offering this up for free. I like that the Iron Heir background gains Hero Points for not using their item as it would be beneath them, given how powerful dracheneisen is. The Trubeneisen background has a shamed name as their heirloom is tarnished, they gain Hero Points for taking risks to protect their sullied names.
There’s an optional method of having players get into debt to gain more advantage points. This forces their hand a little with stories to wipe the debt clean and provides the GM with more Danger Points. It feels like something which might be gamed by the less scrupulous player, but may be a way of allowing a pricy advantage without it having to be your player’s only one.
The Wine List
By Andrew Peregrine
This is one of the longer resources, despite being a free book. Written as a kind of in-universe guide to booze, this is okay. The nations pretty much all act like their real world equivalents as you’d expect. There are a few names of wine and beer which may be interesting to flavour your game with and a few traditions which players may want to use with their characters.
First of all, the bookmarks on all of these files are terrible. That’s possibly something on the people self-publishing these files, but it’s a habit which I noticed immediately. These aren’t big books though and bookmarks are luckily not really needed. The quality differs quite a lot. The resources John Wick Presents has provided allows for some simple and pretty books. A lot of the books keep the font style of the core book, others like the Wine List were jarring after enough had kept to the same style.
Only Ken St Andre’s book had a fancy cover, some of the others had simple covers and some have basically no cover whatsoever.
The products have been interesting as a whole. It’s very tempting to start adding to this and there are several resources I wish we’d have had in our campaign which is definitely a good sign for their worth going forward.