Category Archives: 7th Sea

Running 7th Sea on Roll20

File this under This Should Be Interesting…

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On Sunday, February 11th @ 8:30 pm CST, I will be hosting an open tutorial for running 7th Sea over the Roll20 VTT system. Anyone who is interested in checking out Roll20 or specifically running 7th Sea on it are welcome to attend. If you are a seasoned 7th Sea GM with experience with Roll20, I would love to have you join the discussion. If you are interested in attending, you can leave a message here, or send me a private message on Roll20.

You will need at least a basic Roll20 profile to attend.

Voice chat will be handled on Discord using the Explorers of Théah FB Group’s servers. So yes, you’ll need to be running both Roll20 and Discord to get the most out of the workshop.

I’m planning to quickly cover the Basics of Roll20, but then move on to how to set up the VTT to really get the most (in my experience) out of it with the 7th Sea 2nd edition ruleset.  This will include discussion of character sheets, macro design, and other topics.  I know.  You’re thinking, sexy!  But even with all that technical voodoo, I’ll try my best to keep it light and fun.

So put the kids to bed early and spend Sunday night with us!

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The (Actual) Play is the Thing

So today we are going to talk about 7th Sea Actual Plays, both video and podcast.  APs are suddenly big news, and no surprise why.  They let you get a taste of a new RPG without ever leaving the comfort of your home.  Critical Role alone is being credited with a surge in DnD’s popularity lately.  I can’t say I’ve watched more than a few minutes of it, but I can certainly understand the appeal and recognize the potential both as a gateway into the RPG hobby and as a teaching vehicle for fledgling GMs.

WARNING: This is going to be something of a rant.  If you just want some links, you can skip to the bottom and come back and read later.

The other day, after a friend and I had browsed Twitch’s catalog of Roll20 and DnD programming, I browsed youtube for new 7th Sea APs.  When I stumbled across Die Party: Dead Man’s Crest, I hoped I’d finally stumbled across something worth my time.  Alas, I discovered pretty quickly thereafter that that group had given up on 7th Sea in frustration and converted the whole storyline over to Savage Worlds.  More on that some other time, but suffice to say it left me feeling very irritated and frustrated.  Because despite quite a few 7th Sea APs out there, very few of them have given me much worth listening to.

When I ran my Teen Library program, I’d often get wallflowers who were hesitant to jump in and play.  I’d tell them that WATCHING people play a roleplaying game is probably among the most boring exercises I can imagine.  I’d always try to give them some role to play in the game, whether it was granting bennies or rolling for the monsters.  Now, part of that is because I wanted to motivate people to get some skin in the game, but I do truly believe that watching other people roleplay is damn tedious and dull.  Unless you have a stake in it (like watching people play an adventure you’ve written or playtest your game) its about as sleep inducing as NyQuil.  So personally, I really don’t get people who watch these things for recreation.  No biggie, I don’t get people who play MMOs solely to craft, either.  You be you!  But when I picked up 7th Sea, I did start seeking out APs.  This time I had a stake in it – the 7th Sea 2nd ed system is way outside my comfort zone as a GM, so I wanted to see what people were doing with it to wrap my brain around it.

But that’s the thing: I don’t give a rip about your story.  I don’t care about your witty banter or your Monty Python jokes.  I’m here for one thing: to see how your GM runs the game.  When I was a kid watching baseball with my dad, he would tell me to always watch the catcher, because he is the heart of the game.  (My dad was a catcher in the minor leagues and even auditioned for the majors before he settled on becoming a doctor, so you can understand his biases).  That’s sort of how I approach APs – it doesn’t matter what the players are doing, I’m here to watch/listen to the GM.  I’m here to learn and I’m taking notes.  It’s okay if you get it wrong – I’m still learning from you.

But more often than not, I come up against two big issues: either the show desperately needs an editor to cut the useless chatter and dead air (Happy Jacks AP, I’m looking at you here!) or the GM can’t really be bothered to learn the system and just phones it in, counting on the interplay between the players (and all those things I listed above that I just could care less about) to carry the show.

Man, listening to that Die Party episode epitomized the worst of all of these.  Not only was the GM guilty of some of the worst practices out there (the players begin marooned on a deserted, featureless island with an unreachable destination lingering in the background – tell me if you’ve heard that one before), but also other than recognizing aspects of the system, it didn’t even seem like they were using the game setting (at least, not that I could recognize).  So about 30 minutes into it, I turned it off in disgust and jumped to the episode where they announced the switch.

Yeah, not surprised about that.

In the least.

Maybe it was a bad turn.  I don’t know.  I’m not going to waste time sifting through the back catalog to find out.

AVAST YE!

So having bitched about a handful of APs that could just a haircut and a case of JOLT COLA, let’s talk about a couple of 7th Sea APs that deliver the goods from this GM’s perspective.  That is, they are not only enjoyable to listen to, but you actually learn something from them.

Essential NPCs (7th Sea Episodes) – this is a relatively new series (though not a new podcast), that is really delivers.  The GM, Addie Gia, proves she has chops and a good grasp of what makes the system work.  Each episode begins with GM reflections on the previous episode, which is just delicious gravy for someone like me.

Tabletop Potluck (7th Sea, episode 1) – a new AP podcast, interesting as much for the makeup of the cast (a majority of the players are women) as it is the gimmick.  Even inexperience with 7th Sea, they made a good faith effort to put it through its paces.

Tabletop Radio Hour (Flash, Bash, and Panache, Episode 1)  – honorable mention because they were the first to devote a long series of episodes to the game.  However, they are often guilty of just leaning on player interaction to carry the day and often use the game system as an occasional prop.  But there are some gems in the mix, so they get points for that.  Plus, very little dead air or prattling on.

HEAVE TO!

Geek and Sundry Starter Kit Season 2 on Geek and Sundry’s Project Alpha deserves special mention here.  Despite the fact that it’s locked behind a paywall, it’s 6 episodes of 7th Sea 2nd edition.  Run by John Wick.  If you check the time, this amounts to watching John Wick, the guy who wrote the damn game, run a 4 hour demo session.  Great production value, great editing (again, no dead air or useless witty banter – it moves, FAST!), and know what? John Wick is a damn fine GM.  But in this case, he plays fast and loose with the rules.  A lot!  So while this show is required viewing for 7th Sea GMs of any experience level and worth navigating the paywall (thirty day free trial, baby!), from this GM’s perspective, it’s more a master class in GMing than a master class in running 7th Sea.  Should you watch?  Hell yeah!  And you’ll learn a lot, too.  But at some point, you’re gonna start to wonder why villains cause a Dramatic Wound each time they spend a Raise.  Word to the wise.

WALK THE PLANK!

Because I’m a completist, and because I realize that not everyone has my sense of taste (for whatever that’s worth), here’s the part where I list a bunch of links to various 7th Sea APs that I’ve devoted time to listening or watching.

Play Better Podcast (7th Sea, Episode 1)

Tabletop Radio Hour (Glory and Fame, Episode 1)

Fumbling and Mumbling (7th Sea Quick Start, Episode 1)

The Drunk and the Ugly (The Ballad of the Fantoma Reine, Episode 1)

Talking Table Top (Interviews, not Actual Plays) These interviews were done around the time the 7th Sea 2nd edition kickstarter was going on and reveal a lot about the aspects of the system, though not a lot of how those mechanics really work in play.

7th Sea: Let’s Play (Episode #0: Prologue/Story Building) This one has a pretty long run, 25 episodes though most range from 15-20 minutes in length.  I haven’t listened to enough of it to really speak for how good it is.

7th Sea – Swashbuckling RPG with GM David Crennen (Episode 1?Crennen did an interview with John Wick that was released prior to this AP.  Based on that, I was disappointed with the scope of this AP.

7th Sea: The Search for La Liberteria (Episode 1: Blind-Shot)

Epilogue: Witch Hunter: The Invisible World

Yeah, I wish I could supply a list of WH actual plays.  But unless you speak Polish, you’re SOL.  Sorry.  But hey, if you have one, let me know!  I’ll shout it from the rooftops.

Random Boxer Tables

When we started our 7th Sea game, one of the players created an Inish boxer.  His main story goal?  Become a fighter renowned throughout Théah and to box the O’Bannon!  The whole vibe of the character always reminded me of the South Park Russel Crowe spoof: Makin’ movies, singin’ songs, and FIGHTIN’ ROUND THE WORLD!

Unfortunately, life interviened and after only a few game sessions, this player had to take a indefinite sabbatical from the game.  Before he left, to prepare for a string of title boughts in various ports-o-call, I created a series of tables to randomly generate boxing opponents of various skill.  I think I finished them the day before he resigned the game.

Well I guess this work won’t be seeing much play in my game now, so I’m posting it here!

Random Boxer Tables

d10 In the Other Corner…
1 The Kid (Green Fighter)
2 The Ham/Palooka
3 The Up and Comer
4 The Seasoned Fighter
5 The (Current) Champ
6 The Has-Been
7 The Grizzled Veteran
8 The Exotic Foreigner
9 The Prodigal Son
0 The Augmented Fighter
d10 Style
1 Pressure Fighter
2 Swarmer
3 In-Fighter
4 Slugger
5 Boxer-Puncher
6 Switch Hitter
7 Out-Boxer
8 Unorthodox/Unconventional Form
9-0 Roll Twice; ignore this
result again.
d10 Descriptor and Trait
1-2 The Mountain (Brawn)
3-4 Quick and Nimble (Finesse)
5-6 Head in the Game (Wits)
7-8 Tenacious and Unshakable (Resolve)
9-0 The Showboat (Panache)
d10 Quirk
1 Best Defense
2 Southpaw
3 Achilles Heel
4 Drunk
5 Cocky
6 Grudge
7 Distracted
8 Dirty Fighter
9 Secret Enchantment
0 All Heart
d10     The Match
1 Organized Crime is involved.
2 Your opponent throws the Match
3 Your opponent is the crowd Favorite
4 Rough Crowd
5 Your opponent is Altruistic (Man of the People); has vowed to donate all winnings to a popular cause
6 Crooked Promoter
7 Your opponent dies at the End
8 Fat Purse (+1 wealth point to the winner)
9 A Fate Witch is secretly manipulating the fight
0 Showcase Match; your opponent is completely mismatched

Boxing Moves/Terms

  • Jab: Jab is a short straight punch
  • Cross: Cross is a straight punch delivered from the side
  • Uppercut: Uppercut is an upward punch that comes from underneath the opponent’s guard
  • Hook: Hook is a swinging blow with the elbow bent
  • Body Blow: Body blow is a punch to the body
  • Block: Blocking is the use of the shoulders, arms, or hands to prevent an opponent’s punch from landing cleanly
  • Bob and Weave: To bob and weave is to make quick bodily movements up and down and from side to side in order to dodge punches. In boxing bobbing moves the head laterally and beneath an incoming punch. As the opponent’s punch arrives, the fighter bends the legs quickly and simultaneously shifts the body either slightly right or left. Fighters generally begin the bob and weave to the left, as most opponents strike with their left hand, or jab hand first.
  • Stance: Stance is the position adopted by a boxer in readiness to land or receive punches
  • Clinch: To clinch is to hold one’s opponent in such a way that he cannot throw punches
  • Corkscrew: Corkscrew is a punch thrown with the elbow out and a twisting motion of the wrist
  • Counter: Counter is an attack made immediately after an opponent throws a punch
  • Feint: To feint means to fake a punch with the intention of disorientating one’s opponent
  • Guard: Guard is a defensive stance, with the gloves raised to protect the face
  • Haymaker: Haymaker is colloquial term for a wild swinging punch
  • Hold: Hold is a grip of the opponent that prevents him from throwing punches
  • Infighting: Infighting is engaging at very close quarters, so that it is impossible to throw full-length punches
  • Reach: Reach is the distance between the fingertips of the outstretched arms of a boxer; (cricket) the extent to which a batsman can play forward without moving his back foot
  • Rally: Rally is a sustained exchange of blows
  • Roundhouse: Roundhouse is a wild swinging punch
  • Sidewinder: Sidewinder is a blow struck from the side

John Wick on Running 7th Sea

The Spirit of the 7th Sea podcast gave us a not so surprising Halloween surprise: an interview with John Wick on running 7th Sea!

I say it wasn’t much of a surprise because Hannah Shaffer (JWP marketing director) had asked for questions for the interview weeks ago.  The surprise was that the interview was far more about style and less about form, so most of the mechanical questions never made it into the interview.  A wasted opportunity that, but I’m not going to complain since two of my questions made it into the interview.  And the answers were interesting.  I’m not going to give it all away here, but I would encourage other 7th Sea GMs (and players!) to give the interview a listen.  There is some good stuff in there that really needs to be distilled into the GM section of 7th Sea: Khitai or the inevitable 7th Sea revised edition.

If you are not a fan of the new edition, if the revised mechanics and setting make your teeth itch, if the mere mention of John Wick triggers you, pass this one by.  There is nothing in here that’s going to change your mind on any one of these points.  If you love the setting, but the mechanics read like Greek (sorry, Numenari) to you, there aren’t any revelations to be had.  He does discuss creating Consequences and Opportunities for a scene, but I’m not sure how helpful the answer really is as the context feels…weird.

In fact, if I have a complaint about the interview, its the perspective offered.  I get the impression that John Wick’s experience running 7th Sea is that of a series a highly episodic sessions and one-shot, not as a long-running serial that us old timers aspire to run.  Now part of that is probably the nature of the biz: when most of your play comes from demos and con-hopping, that’s what your experience is going to be.  Or if you are used to switching RPGs often or troupe-style GM play.  But for those of who dig in for long haul campaigns, there is something of a disconnect in the advice given.  (I hold all RPG developers to the unrealistic expectation that they, like Gary Gygax, run a weekly open table game for migrating groups of players for years to test out ideas and new rules – which the man did for both D&D and Lejendary Adventure.  So keep that in perspective.  And yes, I know almost none of them actually do that.)

My dream a big 7th Sea GM roundtable where everyone gets deep in the weeds Angry GM style on how to make the game sing like a siren is still unfulfilled.  So if you’re listening JWP, put that on your list for 2018.

Whisper on a Black Wind

Back in 2001 or 2002, I honestly can’t remember which, we were in the thick of our 7th Sea (1st edition) campaign.  It was October and I proposed a Halloween themed “one-shot” for the group.  Unfortunately, this “one-shot” took all of about 4 or 5 sessions to actually complete, something I’ve become a bit notorious for since then.

This year, over on the Facebook Explorer’s of Théah group, I proposed everyone submit a scenario for Halloween as a community project.  While this wasn’t the first of my old adventures that came to mind — that one involved a murderous redcap stalking the students of a Castillain university (“Remember the tooth!”) — I settled on this one because of the 2015 film, the Witch.

After having seen that movie, I think I would run this one completely differently than I did before.  In fact, I think this would have made a great adventure for Witch Hunter: the Invisible World, All for One: Regime Diabolique, or the Savage World of Solomon Kane with only a bit of tweaking.

So if you and your group are getting together to roll some dice for Halloween fun, I offer this short adventure scenario for your consideration: Whisper on a Black Wind.  See if you can make it the horrific one night affair it was intended to be.

Addendum

A quick shout out and thank you to Dyson Logos for his amazing work and making some of it available to use.  If anyone wants a copy of the unaltered version of the map used in the adventure, you can find it here.

Three Occult Books for 7th Sea

These three books were recently discovered on the shelves of Tomlin and Sons Booksellers in La Bucca (Sunrise Haven). The number of available copies varies, but they may well appear in other collections on the occult, especially in Western Théah.

Power in the Blood: A Woman’s Journey
Written by Blanche Levellé, born to a family of strong Porte sorcerers but found herself lacking any ability. She devoted most of her life to the search for a means to activate her latent potential, mostly through Alquimia.
Secret: While she never quite gets there, a lot of Levellé’s conclusions and research gets dangerously close to Blood Sorcery (Secret Societies: The Invisible College, 1st edition).
Additional Details: The first edition of this book was published in 1649 in Frieburg.  It has become scare after the War of the Cross and is prized by collectors in Montaigne. This book has been deemed heresy by the Inquisition.

Bloody Legecy: A Codex of Sorcerous Wounds
A pamphlet on Blessures, written by an esteemed Vaticine Witch Hunter, Brother Sergio. The text catalogs know Blessure sites in Théah, both Montaigne and elsewhere, and includes detailed descriptions and long-term observations. Despite its age, the pamphlet is still required reading among dedicated agents of the Inquisition and is held in high esteem as a scholarly text.
Secret: This was one of the texts that revealed the origins of the Inquisition and its original purpose to Inquisitor Octavio Mzabi.  He has been working on an updated edition, seeded with ciphers for Inquisition Aquila members.

Montanus
A translation of a lost late-Imperial document by Sister Hypathia of the Gnostic Order. It chronicles the Montanus family, who rose to power in the Numaneri senate and whose bloodline would eventually come to dominate Western Théah and the nation of Montaigne. It devotes a considerable amount of detail to Porté sorcery and suggests it was born of a pact between the Montanus family and diabolical otherworldly beings. Despite its pedigree, the text is considered antiquated and has largely been debunked by (mostly Montaignious) scholars.
Secret: Despite its reputed inaccuracies, the text does describe a few lost powers of Porté that could be rediscovered through study and practice.

Your Own…Personal…Dievas

Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
— Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode

In 7th Sea, a dievas is an ethereal, fey or demonic-like being straight out of Lithuanian folklore.  Obscenely powerful, the only way they can make mischief in the world is through the complicit actions of a petitioner: a losejas.  They is the classic crossroads demon, happy to grant you your fondest desire, but always seeking to twist it to serve their own mercurial ends.

Dievai can come in many shapes and forms.  No doubt they might come completely imagined by a player or GM.  But sometimes its fun to add an unexpected twist to the mix.  For that purpose, I offer you a collection of random tables to help generate a dievas for a storyline.  Roll on as many as you like.  The first group determine how the dievas usually appears to its losejas.  The second, its usual personality in such meetings.  The third set of tables determine what sort of conditions the dievas appears under, and what phenomena (if any) herald its arrival.  Together, they should give you plenty of room to build upon.

APPEARANCE
d10 Sex
1-2 Androgynous
3-5 Male
6-8 Female
9-0 Shifting
d10 Apparent Age
1 Childlike
2-3 Younger
4-6 Indeterminable
7-8 Older
9 Elderly
0 Shifting
d10 Unusual Feature(s)
1 Eyes
2 Face
3 Hands
4 Hair
5 Ears
6 Clothing/Dress
7 Feet
8 Limbs (Arms, Legs)
9 Skin
0 Shadow
d10 PERSONALITY
1 Innocent/Childlike
2 Seductive
3 Direct
4 Wise/Approachable
5 Aloof/Coy
6 Friendly/Benevolent
7 Melancholy
8 Annoyed/Inconvenienced
9 Quiet
0 Majestic

 

VISTATION
d10 Conditions
1-2 When Called/Summoned
3-4 Constant Companion (Harvey)
5-6 Constant Presence (Distant)
7-8 Only when alone
9-0 Unreliable (On its terms)
d10 Signals Appearance
1 Soft music
2 The tinkling of bells/chimes
3 Particular Odor (Foul or Pleasant)
4 Thunderclap
5 Temperature Change (Chill, Heat)
6 A sudden flight of birds
7 Elongated shadows
8 Children’s laughter
9 Muted Sounds/Complete silence
0 Sudden change of location