Piracy in Theah! John Wick’s 7th Sea

“Let’s play a pirate game!” Who hasn’t either heard this exclaimed or shouted it themselves when contemplating their table’s next set of adventures eh? Over the years there have been a number of games suited well enough for a game on the high seas, generic systems like Savage Worlds, or maybe even a game that integrates the concept within like Iron Kingdoms. None have ever been quite as quick to the tongue as 7th Sea however and now, fresh from a successful Kickstarter run (and the starting of a whole new company, John Wick Presents) we have finally received a second edition of the game. Let’s be honest though, this is more of a re-branding of the titular title, utterly new and cinematic in nature, the new 7th Sea is upon us.

cover

The version of this product I will review is the pdf format of the game, available from Drive Thru RPG for $24.99. At this price point you will receive:

  • The Core Rulebook in a Low and High resolution format
  • Character Sheet
  • Two World Maps
  • The Quick Start rules

You’ll find zero complaints from me regarding the design, layout, and imagery of this product. It is flat out gorgeous. It really makes me consider getting my hands of the physical copy of the book some day, if for no other reason than to have it sit on my shelf looking pristine while I use the pdf for game-play so as never to touch it. As is evident from the style chosen to introduce those behind this book (a well drafted mock up of a movie poster) there is a push to showcase this work as a grand cinematic feature. This style choice does not disappoint, I had some real fun parsing these pages and loved all the artwork within.

After an introductory work of short fiction, the well written “A Day’s Work” by Jennifer Mahr, that goes a long way into giving its audience a feel for the world of Theah and its heroes (no worries I’ll not ruin it, great read) we get ourselves into the meat of the book.

Chapters one and two are all introductory pieces into the 7th Sea and an expanded introduction into the world of Theah itself. The continent of Theah is loosely based on our real world version of Europe and Asia of the pertinent time periods to the age of piracy. An interesting tidbit we receive right off the bat is an emphasis on how the world of Theah handles diversity, in that peoples of all nation, sex, and creed are to be treated equally. This is a great idea for the game table anyway, so including it in game (with a good rationale for why it is that way) is a nice touch. Further through chapter two we are introduced to the various nations (their etiquette, governments, and even food, clothing , and customs), Religion, Guilds, Pirates and Privateers, and more. Some of the items touched on here are broadened in their own chapters, like Secret Societies. Spanning just over 100 pages these chapters give you just what you need to have a feel for the setting.

splash

I adore every chapter’s two page splashes. Some utterly epic work.

Character creation, as described in chapter three, comes across fairly simple with enough choices to address even the most fiddly of players. An interesting process starts this creation off. A list of twenty questions helps to guide a player into fleshing out just who their character is. Questions like “How would you physically describe your hero?” might assist you in the mechanical aspects of the upcoming creation and yet there are also questions like “Is your hero in love?” that speak to more “fluff” related items. After reading through this section I can easily see how a veteran of the game might simply skip it but I’d urge any player to use this list as a jumping off point, it really looks like it might add some much needed depth!

Honestly, once you have a concept for your character (something the aforementioned section will produce) the remaining choices simply fall into place. Traits detail core strengths, next your character’s nation and background add bonuses to and Advantages, then you enhance Skills gained through your Background or add new ones, and add some extra Advantages. These are the major mechanical aspects, and your concept will help you choose them quickly. After that there are two items to add on to a character that I feel are pretty unique. Arcana is essentially a version of horoscopes that add extra bonuses to certain styles of play, and then you come to Choosing a Story. This last bit is much more abstract, as you aren’t bound by the suggestions they lay out, but as I mentioned there are suggestions (and a helpful template). Your story appears to be the mechanism for how your character advances in “level” or rather how one increases certain Traits\Skills or earns new Advantages. Complete your story, earn the pre-ordained reward. I will note that there is one last step of some finishing touches to work on after this though, wealth, languages, secret societies, etc.

Chapter four addresses the mechanics of play. There is a simple three step system to recall for any situation. The GM sets the scene, a player may decide to take an action and if the GM feels that action is what’s called a “Risk” the player will need to roll dice, lastly the results of those rolls to resolve the Risk. Obviously things may get more interestign than that but thems the basics. One thing I like is the section starting on page 172 that lays out a fictional back and forth between a GM and a player to showcase how such situations play out. I’ve seen this trick done many a time in RPG books and I always like it.

Once the die are cast and totaled, called the Approach in this book,  the GM must then decide if the player has succeeded and created an Opportunity for the players, a Consequence, or both. Great care is taken to ensure any GM knows that it is far more interesting to mix the two and to liven them up from a standard “You\They take wounds” situation where possible. Make it cinematic.

Getting deeper into this chapter the rules allow for all sorts of adjustments, from both the GM (ala something called the Danger Pool) or the players (Hero Points, Flair, Pressure). Details get rounded out about dealing with wounds, because sometimes the Consequence truly is taking a sword to the gut, and there is even a nice section on setting up a “rush of furious activity” known as a Dramatic Sequence. The mechanics can seem a heady at first, but the deeper you read (and after parsing the various examples) you’ll get the gist rather easily.

duel

All I’ve spoken on only encompasses the first two thirds of this book. The next four chapters cover various character options, the many styles of sorcery available, dueling maneuvers, how to sail a ship, and the various secret societies a player can belong to. Then, to wrap things up, we have a strong finale chapter dedicated to assisting GMs (from novice to veteran).

7th Sea is a very different game from its roots with its original Roll and Keep system, and it stands to be seen which players may prefer. The new system is well fleshed out though. Attention has been paid to the minutia, and we have a very complete game. It is an interesting blend of fiddly mechanics and emphasis on storytelling that I find myself interested to dive into. I get the impression my regular gaming table would not approve of the “leveling” mechanic in the game, but I honestly love the idea of setting out to actually complete story arcs and goals, and then being rewarded for doing so.

If you find yourself craving that cinematic feel of piracy on the big screen, this is your game. If you love the idea of taking a character along a storied path, this is your game. If nothing else the book is chock full of excellent artwork, and fantastic lore usable in any piracy game. There’s a reason this project raised over 1.3 million on Kickstarter, it is grand!

sailing

Get out there and sail those seas!

-Melvs

 

 

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Gen Con Schedule

GenCon2016

If you follow me on any social media you are likely quite aware that I will be in Indianapolis August 3-7 for Gen Con 2016! Just wanted to put out a little schedule of events in case you want to try and catch up with me somewhere, which I fully support you doing.

WEDNESDAY 8-3

Early Afternoon: Arrive in Indianapolis, check into hotel

Rest of the night: I plan to swing between two events.

  • A: Hanging out with the Gamerstable folks at The Ram
  • B: Playing some games with folks over at The RPG Academy Podcast’s Pre-Con Gaming event ZED16102815

 

THURSDAY 8-4

6:00 am (likely earlier): Get in line for my Press Badge and hopefully one of the early access passes to the Exhibition Hall

8:00 am-5:00 pm: At some point grab my Orc Stomp 5k Packet, other than that I’m free!

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Gamerstable Award dinner at St. Elmos Steakhouse. Every year at Gen Con the folks from the Gamerstable Podcast award one or more in the RPG industry for their contributions to the gaming world we love. This year they will be presenting their award to Monte Cook of Monte Cook Games. I look forward to sharing some good times and good food with this industry legend.

7:00 pm – Midnight (and beyond): I’m torn between two events:

  • A Deadlands LARP: I love Savage Worlds, I love Deadlands, and good friends are also set to play the game.
  • VIP Kickoff Party @ the Playbook Mansion: I met the Trapdoor Technologies folks at a press event back in 2014 for their then Project Morningstar…err project. So most of us know Wizards dropped the ball there but another company picked it right back up. Now they are with Paizo and they are kicking off their Pathfinder Gaming app, known as Playbook, in style. It would be really great catching up with them as I count them as good friends as well as interesting tech designers.

FRIDAY 8-5

6:00 am – 8:00 am: Orc Stomp 5k: Oh lord what was I thinking… why can’t I ever just see a run and not sign up for it? The BEST case scenario for the 5k is I choose the LARP the night before so I don’t have a hangover. Though… I will say that a three mile run has often kicked some of my hangovers to the curb. I have many friends running this with me. Shout outs to Shannon, Rob, and anyone else I might be forgetting!

9:00 am – 11:00 am: RPG Academy Network Panel SEM1686145! Join a group of us from the RPGAN, we’ll be fielding questions and generally just chatting with you all about whatever you want to know. Come ask me questions about starting a blog and learn how little I actually know about it!

2:00 pm-3:00 pm: All About Phoenix Dawn Command SEM1689664: I’ve been a Keith Baker fan since Eberron first appeared on the scene. It remains the Campaign Setting I’ve run the most games in. So naturally I’m interested in Phoenix Dawn. I’ll admit, I only know a little about it at this point. Excited to learn more!

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: She’s a Super Geek Panel SEM1689926: My friends, and fellow Network members, over at She’s a Super Geek are having a panel. I urge you to join me there too!

5:00 pm – 12:00 am – The ENnies & more: The ENnies starts at 5:oo pm and runs until at least 10:30 pm. You probably know this but I have been nominated for “Best Website” so even though I always go to this I actually have a vested interest in attending this year! Even if I wasn’t nominated though I have good friends nominated all over the place (even some in my own category) so I’ll have plenty of folks to root for!

SATURDAY 8-6

I literally have nothing scheduled except for a pickup game in the afternoon.

SUNDAY 8-7

Zero scheduled.

 

Overall I’m really looking forward to this year’s Gen Con. I’m very unscheduled so pickup games will be a must I’m sure! Looking forward to seeing a bunch of old and new friends, even a few that I’ve never actually met in person (looking at you Toju)! Hopefully I’ll get some great gaming in, because I know I’m going to get some great face time with buddies.

Take care and good gaming!

-Melvs

 

Melvin Smif’s Geekery 2015 Contest Winners

Roughly a month ago I celebrated my birthday, and the successful funding of AcadCon, with a contest. I tasked folks with an adventure write-off seeking two concepts, one for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition and one for Savage Worlds (originally just the Deadlands setting, and then later any Savage Worlds setting).  After numerous submissions and two weeks to review them all I’ve chosen the winners! A big congratulations Garrett Weinstein and Aaron Tudyk.

Garrett  is the proud new owner of a copy of the Savage Worlds Explorer Edition, signed and personalized by Shane Hensley. Garrett brings us a Deadlands adventure that caught my attention namely with its initial hook, see if it catches yours – “A woman stumbles into town, half-dead from thirst and exhaustion, and shackled to a pine coffin that she’s dragging behind her. She has a rather fresh-looking bloody scar on her forehead that has been bleeding into her left eye, and an empty holster at her waist. Her gun-belt is also empty of bullets.”  Tell me that doesn’t grab your attention, make you want to saddle up, and save the day?

Aaron’s entry was by far the most involved. While it doesn’t lay out any of the adventure itself but it did come with an incredibly detailed backstory leading up to the beginning where the players would first encounter the issue at hand. Starting with the common trope of a small village besieged by an unknown threat the concept makes for a great adventure that will flip some expectations on their ear.

Now I can’t go into great detail because I plan to run at least one of these at AcadeCon, both if I have time. After that, with the authors’ permission, I’ll be sure to post both to the site with my full write-ups on each. Hopefully my changes won’t rankle too much ;).

You can find Garrett at his site Ninjas Riding Dinosaurs and Aaron on Twitter @Skydut. Me you can find here of course or on Twitter @SharnDM

-Melvs

 

 

CONTEST! From Me to You on my Birthday

Hey all, it’s my birthday! I turned 30 today and I’ve got gifts on the brain, but not for me, for you! Not only that but this is my 100th post! I’ve been wanting to hold a contest for a while now and figured today would be the best day to roll it out. So with out further adieu I present:

Melvin Smif’s Pitch Me a Game 

(Just imagine I put some picture of me throwing a 20 sider to a baseball catcher or something. I…I really didn’t feel like doing that.)

RPG Academy Logo

So I’m very excited for AcadeCon, and the Kickstarter, as you may recall from my most recent post. I plan to run a number of games while I’m there and have some great ideas for all of them but I’m willing to bet some of you might have some better ones so I’m going to ask you to pitch me your best concept for a Savage Worlds: Deadlands and/or 5th Edition D&D (bonus points if you use the Eberron setting!).

The pitch can be as brief or as lengthy as you wish it to be (though I’ll admit the more creative you get the more I’ll likely dig it) and I’m going to pick two winners. One for the best Deadlands pitch and one for the best 5th Edition pitch. The winners will be receiving some source books.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen

The winner for the best 5th Edition D&D pitch will receive a copy of the adventure Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

Savage Worlds Logo

The winner for the best Savage Worlds Deadlands pitch will receive a copy of the Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition signed and personalized for them by Shane Hensley himself!

If I really like the pitches I’ll probably write those adventures up and they may feature at AcadeCon with your names mentioned as Co-Authors of course. After you win you are welcome to continue helping me polish your games if you can;t make it to AcadeCon, or if you can I will run the game for you. After AcadeCon I will feature the adventures on the site.So here’s how you enter. Send an email to melsmifcontest@gmail.com. In the subject line give me “YOUR NAME – ADVENTURE NAME/CONCEPT – SYSTEM” after that it’s all you, give me a sentence, paragraph, word doc, etc. put as much into it as you want! Like I said above, more effort will earn the best chances but hey, who knows you may line up the best couple of words I’ve ever seen so don’t let that discourage you ;)!

Contest will run for two weeks and I’ll have the winners within another two weeks tops!

Feel free to ask questions below or even share your ideas. Good luck folks!

-Melvs