7th Sea is an RPG of swashbuckling pirate action. The setting is a fantasy version of early modern era/age of sailing time period Europe where magic users are born not made (in fact, the noble families are nobles because they can do magic shit like open portal from the point a to the point b or summon legendary popular culture characters), catholic church burns the witch and all the pirates seem to come from a bad movie adaptation of Stevenson's Treasure Island. Did I mention there's a Kharn version of Long John Silver who carries around a scythe that cuts like Wolverine's claws?
7th Sea was released in 1999 by Alderac Entertainment Group. The game used a d10 system designed by Rob Vaux, John Wick, Jennifer Wick, and Kevin Wilson. It would win the Origins' Best Roleplaying Game of 1999 and met with some initial success. An updated core book was released in 2005 that changed the game to a d20 system. The 7th Sea Compendium is a free pdf for the revised edition of the game maintained on Alderac's site. This is intended to allow players with the first edition book to play the revised edition.
A large number of supplements were released for both editions. The main lines for these supplements were nation books and secret society books, each detailing a specific nation or non-governmental organization of Theah. Seven quest modules were also released for first edition, while revised edition got a collected adventure book.
Second edition was announced November 2015 and the kickstarter was successfully funded in March 2016. The kickstarter raised $1,316,813 and is the most backed RPG on kickstarter ever, both in terms of number of backers and funds raised. Core rules were due for release in October 2016, but actually released in June, ahead of schedule, with eleven sourcebooks scheduled for regular release dates after that.
Rules System and Notable Changes
The original edition had some novel ideas for preventing the traditional pitfalls of its system, such as having advanced knacks be more expensive at character creation and cheaper afterwards, keeping similar pay-tables at character creation, and having all five stats be important to combat, to prevent picking on you don't care about and ignoring the rest.
Brawn was needed for melee damage (which is most damage) and making Wound checks, Finesse governs all to-hit rolls, Resolve was needed for having a high pool of Dramatic Wounds, Wits was needed for all defense rolls and passive defense, and Panache granted an action each round per point.
However, by far the biggest problem was the Drama Die system, whereby all XP-equivalents were earned at a very slow rate in a byzantine and confusing system, could be destroyed by enemy maneuvers, and were needed for extra re-rolls. Also, because you always roll stat + skill but keep stat, high stats break the game, and the system does tend to fall apart at high levels of play.
The second edition keeps the five main Traits, trims skills down to just 16 total (as a start, expect more later), and reuses the Trait+Skill system. Past this point, it diverges heavily. The new system tries for a more 'storytelling' flavour, so it disposes of the older "roll X keep Y" system altogether, and bases everything off a 'raise'. Raises are calculated by choosing your Trait+Skill pairing, rolling all the dice associated, and then grouping them up to get a total of 10 (or more) for it to count as a single raise. Raises are then spent to perform an action of some sort. The GM is expected to give you some idea of what to spend raises on though.
A simplified flow of play boils down to:
- The GM states the issue and fleshes out things a bit: "It's a dining room, with a large table in the middle, overhung by a chandelier held up by a rope tied to a hook nearby. The rugs and hanging tapestries are engulfed in flame. There is a small desk near the door in the back, with several papers on it that are beginning to smolder. You need a raise to get across the room, two raises to avoid any damage from the flames (2 wounds total, 1 per raise), and one raise if you want to grab the papers on the way out the door."
- The player(s) pick how they want to approach the solution: "I want to roll finesse (3) and athletics (3). I rolled 10, 9, 8, 7, 5 and 1, so that's (10),(9+5+1) and (8+7) so 3 raises total. I want to spend one on crossing the room, one on not taking damage, and one on grabbing the papers."
- The GM can accept that, or add extra restrictions depending on events, and provides the player an opportunity to narrate: "Alright, how does it happen?"
- The player details their action: "Marcel sprints to the rope tied to the wall, grabbing it and slashing it free from the wall. The chandelier crashes to the table, yanking Marcel into the air on the end of the rope. He swings, landing on the edge of the tabletop and has to roll off it, through the wreckage of the chandelier to come to his feet by the desk. A quick swipe of his hand and he and the papers are through the door and away from the flames, wincing from the burns from the roll."
- The GM closes up the scene, and/or sets up for the next one: "Works for me. You spend a moment slapping your smoldering clothing with your hands, then another moment slapping the now smoldering papers, before noticing the signature of Cardinal Incensio on the bottom of a letter." 'What's the Inquisition doing writing to a nobody Vendel merchant?' "Good question...what do you want to do about it?"
Another notable change is that sword schools have dropped the leveling system they had, instead once you have the school, you get all the associated maneuvers all at once (and so far they're not the mix of useful, okay and OMGWTFBROKEN that the old system had). Similarly, magic is now (usually) a system of "pick 2 abilities, and get given one drawback/geas" per point of sorcery. You can still be a pretty little butterfly-sue, but the setting is far more grimbright then the old system. An example: You can still play your Eisen noble knight with all the drakeneisen bling, but be aware that it's irreplaceable, is only really helpful against monsters and undead, and marks you as a target by everyone from the Eisenfursten princes down through to the good-guy 'Die Kreutzritter' monster-hunters (who will 'politely' get you to give up the weapons or join until death parts you from said drakeneisen, provided you will said drakeneisen to the society).
On the plus side, you can now play a expy-russian drunken boxer whose likes are saunas, ice-riverwater baths, vodka and punching peoples' heads off with metal-shod fists of justice. Dosvidanya, malen'kaya suka!
7th Sea is set on Theah, a world dominated by swashbuckling, sorcery, and secret societies. Much of the fluff was expanded in the various nation books released throughout the early 2000s and the collectible card game. The nations are just stereotypical renditions of the European kingdoms of the period, so the "Italians" are extremely Machiavellian, the "Spanish" have a secret society composed mostly by Zorro wannabes and "France" is just exactly like in those Alexander Dumas novels.
Until relatively recently, most "modern" nations had nobles that descended from the Senatorial families of the Numan empire, the ancient Rome-equivalent, who (spoilers!) made pacts with the powers of Legion to gain sorcery. The Second Prophet got rid of the mist-sorcery of what is now the Crescent Empire, while the Third Prophet mostly stamped such sorceries out in Eisen and Castille, drove them underground until fairly recently in Montaigne, and Vodacce... well, it's hard to do more to Vodacce sorcery than the Vodacce do to themselves with it. This is for the entirely-reasonable reason, if not a reason shared with the general public, that such sorcery is literally eroding reality and making it easier for the otherworldy monsters who made the pact to tear open portals to Theah and invade in force.
Other forms of sorcery, which mostly come from nature spirits or mastery of the self, are much more tolerated, though the Inquisition doesn't always toe the line.
If the political tension between Thea's nation is not enough for your players, there is a shitload of secret societies that just plan to conquer the world (even the whores have their own conspiracy for taking over the world and turn it into a pimp paradise). Also, there is a "China" and a "Ottoman Empire" that will make your high level characters be dead in the second turn after they put a feet on their borders, loads of ruins and artifacts from an Atlantis-like civilization and monsters that make you remember Call of Cthulhu: the first because they will make your chars get mad; the seconds because they are mostly impossible to kill (just read the succubus stats in the GM handbook).
A mystical version of England. Dominated by Arthurian style knights and fae. The Knights of the Rose and Cross is a secret society based in Avalon and Montaigne, although they seem more inspired by Musketeers than Medieval knights. Their racial magic involves invoking personas of
great men SUPERHEROES IN KNIGHTS' ARMORS to get some of their powers. And they even call it "taking up a heroes mantle", so it totally is not a pun. There are also two other isles, Inismore (totally-not-Ireland) and Highland Marches (totally-not-Scotland). All three are called Glamour Isles, in theory independent. In practice, both "Mad Jack" O'Bannon (boss of the Inismore, don't confuse him with Jack'O'Latern, he doesn't have pumpkin head) and James MacDuff (first of communists of Highland Marches' clans) decided to follow Queen Elaine (chosen by the graal descendant of sidhe, beautiful and, if needed, incredible bitchy). Mostly for protection against Montaigne, and to fap to her portrait honor the graal. Since they went lucky bastards and got an islands (and thus have no land borders with those Montaigne bastards), they put lots of effort into maintaining powerful navy. Namely, they hire anyone willing to attack any ship belonging to any nation they don't like (mostly Monatigne). Land of fae, sidhe, legends and other silly stuff for kids.
Also, them mates rival Ussurans in the "drunken boxing" discipline, even having a formal training system for that.
Spain during the Reconquista, save that they're hoping to reconquer their country from France rather than Muslims. The supplement highlights the nation, but also has large sections on the Vaticine Church (their version of the Vatican) and the nation's nearly-extinct racial fire magic. Instead of Sorcery, Castillan characters get access to their nation's high-quality public education, which is nice, if not necessarily fair trade. The Los Vagos secret society is based out of Castille, a vigilante group somewhat akin to Zorro and somewhat akin to Anonymous who protect the king from the external threat of Montaigne and the internal threat of the rampant
Spanish Inquisition. A decent nation beset within and without by threats to its good-hearted and intelligent but woefully-inexperienced king. Well, now king has twin sister, and she's doing her best to help her brother, but bad villain is keeping her in tower home arrest (first, towers are so passe, and second, we don't lock kids in towers, that's not Shrek, for the love of anime). People are nice and open to each other. Or at least were, until some zealous maniac, one Cardinal Verdugo (Richelieu, anyone?), decided that humanity has waited long enough, and it's time to prepare for coming of the 4th Prophet (local equivalent of Judgement Day End of Times Second Coming of Christ). So, he took Inquisition, and turned form church's militia arm into bunch of fire-spitting zealots, burning everything and everyone in the name of Menoth Prophet.
Imperial China with some influences from Korea and Tibet. Hidden behind a massive bug-off wall of fire erected when the Senators made their pacts for sorcery, so no one knows anything about them.
Largely based on Turkey, but with a smattering of various Arabic and Persian influences as well. Mostly-despised and isolated for killing the second prophet and refusing to follow the same religion as the others. The supplement for this nation was largely intended for very high level characters as most everything will kill new players in no time at all.
Home of several scary options such as a supposedly-extinct (nah, not really) mist magic with blink and dematerialization, a handful fencing schools and ancient artifacts surpassing everything non-Vendel Theah has to offer.
Germany during the Thirty Years' War, here fought between the Vaticine and the Objectionists, and with more monster infestations than whole Witcher universe. Ravaged and war-torn, the people of Eisen are hardened and violent. Are mentioned as having the best and most badass army in whole setting, for the sole reason to show how badass others are (by comparison: it wouldn't be as much fun to say Sarmatians got best cavalry, as saying they got cavalry BETTER than Eisen, right?). Plus, they got raped by winter. Twice. And it doesn't matter that this winter was bloody Ussura personification getting bitchy on them, 'cause they didn't bother to get invitation.
Die Kreuzritter is the main secret society of Eisen, an order of knights said to be destroyed centuries ago that greatly influence the country from the shadows. Only now they are trying to get Eisen monsters from raping everyone and everything.
Eisen keeps a sort of record among two editions for magic flavors. They kind of got four, three if you are unnecessarily picky. Its racial magic, based on decay and destruction, is (probably) truly extinct, but they have a super-metal called Drachen-Eisen to make up for it. In the "vanilla" 1st ed it is the best "magic" of them all, because even a start-character can have enough to be immune to the basic form of combat (swords/arrows/pikes), and that's more than other mages can muster at their peak. Except they lost it as well in second edition (well, not really - it's still somewhere there, it's just as rare as people with fetish for Heterosexual Sex in the Missionary Position). In exchange they learned how to make magical potions from dead bodies. And finally, for the fourth entry, abovementioned Die Kreutzritter have their own brand of "shadow" magic - walking in the literal shadow world and killing with immatedial shadow stilettoes - which was conceived as a "trying to use dark powers to bright ends" topic, but came out as one of the utterly bullshit gamebreakers which dont even require an effort to reduce any balance and flavor to shadows. Pun intended.
And the best part: they have frau Fauner Posen 10 years before Brienne Tart is even a thing, and said frau is not a mere knight but an Eisenfurst, one of regional lords.
France before the French Revolution, it is even ruled by a guy called the "Sun King," though, rather than a frothing Catholic, he's a mad sorcerer who's recently declared that his nation will be ruled by devil-magic. Biggest dickhead in the setting, even when compared to Vodacce Merchant Princes. Corrupted and sick bastard (although not as much as some other corrupted and sick bastards, like Vodacce Merchant Princes). The first edition supplement is largely focused on the intrigues of the various noble houses and secret societies that dominate the country. The Rilasciare, for example, are a secret society dedicated to overthrowing the monarchy. Or Church. Or any other form of government, to be honest. They still pretend to believe in Revolution and power to the people. Noone else does. A later book included the option to have the nation undergo its inevitable revolution. It ain't pretty. Also, they have one of the most elite combat units in the setting - the musketeers. And since there is no way to force player to choose a profession that is simply a bodyguard of a greatest dick in the universe, they are also depicted as the best fighting force, capable of conquering rest of the Theah by themselves. Montaigue racial magic involves creating various teleportation points (by cutting-up reality itself to force it to bleed), and traversing a
Hell mysterious void in-between. No matter what, don't open your eyes in there... Unless you're a Hero, who spend some time there and returned. But in that case, you don't remember anything, including what you saw, except you DON'T WANNA THIS TO HAPPEN EVER AGAIN!!!
Take a bunch of Eeeeeevil senators, king that made absolutely everyone in whole nation a noble (yes, including all the peasants), hussars, and people who got no magic of their own, so they decided to seek out demons and formed pacts with them to use their power - and you should understand why Sarmatian Commonwealth is one of the more "interesting" places in this settings. You know, like in this old curse, "may you live in interesting
times places". So, you got a place where old King died, his son needs noble's approval to become new king (it sounds weird, but that's how actually polish crown worked in similar time period, so keep scrolling), his mother tries to snatch the crown for herself, and old nobility sees all that is wrong with their nations as direct effect of old king's work. And their boss wanna get the crown for himself, because he can. Also, they got the best cavalry in whole Theah, because it would be boring if Eisen would have all the military glory for themselves. And, like mentioned at start, they don't have magic of their own, so they pact with demons (locally called Deva, but we know what this is) to use their power. They claim to be good guys trying to not let demons to let loose, but c'mon, we know better.
Introduced in Second Edition, as a love-letter to the many Eastern European countries where 7th Sea had a huge fanbase in 1st Edition, and which all-too often get lumped into Russia by the West.
Eldritch horrors and sea-dwelling creatures. A.k.a. Fae, and not exactly the nice fairytale sort. Some of their kind were actually made playable in The Sidhe Book of Nightmares supplement, this kind is mostly associated with Avalon.
There's a thick subplot about ancient wars between Sidhe and Syrneth, the latter being, so to say, more evil (and are most likely the walled-off evil with whom Bargainers dealt for the noble's magic)... But honestly, it is such a mess of derp, bullshit and abruptly dropped storytelling, best left forgotten.
Feudal Russia and Eastern Europe. Has a more Kislev feel to it. The supplement also allowed for the use of their national shape shifting magic. Not a terrible place to live, since the harshness of the land causes the people to be kind to one another. Oh, and the land is now sentient and is protecting them, so it was able to take two different invasion armies, and rape them to her heart content. Locals call it "Matushka" (meaning
your momma Mother) and are stiull unsusre if they are treating her as a goddes or ancestor. Kids are taught that Matushka can show up in their lives and test them, if they are good people. And guess what? It does happen, so Ussurians are generally nice people, ready to help others. Unless you're trying to mess with them, and then you learn why ot was a mistake. Seriously, those guys wrestle bears for fun. Don't. Mess. With. Them.
Vendel and Vesten
Northern islands ostensibly in alliance. The Vendel are inspired by the Dutch trading houses, while the Vesten are your fantasy style vikings. They are technically the same ethnic group, with the former being Vesten who decided to convert to the religion of the Prophets adn abandon axes and war-cries for ledger-books and mercantilism. Only the latter use magic, in the form of runes that can create various cool effects, though it's much more rigid and less versatile than the other magic powers. As a mandatory "compensation" the Vendel got a sick-fuck "swordsman" school which cares not a iota for swords, but rather works with pistols. Sounds just like any of the multitude of other schools in the setting, except instead of a flashy fencing guys, as normal, it makes a one-man SPAAG of the m163 Vulcan or ZSU-23-4 Shilka likeness. And if that sounds just a small bit too much for what is an 17th-18th century setting, than, well, you are not wrong.
Both can be a great bards though (locally called skalds, so nobody takes them by mistake for those D&D pussies), who are great at improving your reputation. Originally it was their way of remembering great warrior heroes. Until some sneaky merchant realized that good reputation means better prices, and it took him like 0,0863 second to realize that skalds can help him make more money. And that is how
I met your mother modern day skalds were born.
A coalition of city-states largely inspired by Italy, complete with constant blood-feuds between angry
relatives Princes (they are relatives, but Royal Relatives! And remember it, or else...). Their sorcery involves women seeing and manipulating destiny and the bonds between people. Yeah, women. Like, ONLY women. The men are terrified of them as a result, and so none of the "fate witches" are taught to read. Most women are taught to be good wives, staying at homes, caring for their husband and so on. There are courtesans (yeah, your guess is correct), who are going to parties, and can talk to men they just met, and do other fun stuff, but as everywhere, "polite" company considers it "improper". Not that they would consider, say, backstabbing as such. As for fa/tg/uys weeping that they cannot be magicians here, there is a good news and a bad news. Good one - there are male sorcerers in Vodacce. Bad news? Well... They are completely immune to Fate Witches' powers, and cannot do anything on their own. At least they can scare the shit out of Sorte Strega (that's how they call women with magic powers). Much like the Montaigne book, this one focused on the political intrigues of the greater nation. It also greatly expanded the poison mechanics of the game. The Invisible College, alchemists and scientists hunted by the Vaticine Church, operate in many of these city-states. They are also known for their extreme bravado and recklessness, incredible talent to get into any trouble in quite impressive radius, and being backstabbing dicks.
A number of other secret societies and non-governmental organizations exist in Theah as well:
- The Vaticine Church used to be a super-cool version of Catholicism, 100% supporting scientific progress as "uncovering the puzzle of creation" and only trying to exterminate the kinds of magic that literally come from Hell and actively erode reality to let demons in. Unfortunately, between the disappearance of the last Pope, the inability to pick a new one, the disastrous Objectionist revolution, and the Sun King of Montaigne breaking away to proudly reveal that his nation still has its sorcery and intends to rule it forever as a nation of evil magic, their better elements have fallen on hard times. The current dominant power are a bunch of shitty hypocritical fuckwits called the Inquisition who're actively trying to kill all scientists, burn all books, and hasten the end of the world, with the other factions unable to unite to stop them.
- Explorer's Society are an organization dedicated to the exploration of various uncharted territories of Theah, including the alien ruins of the weird precursor civilization.
- Sophia's Daughters are a secret society of prostitutes said to have more connections throughout the world then any other. Their sourcebook revealed them to actually be an entire society of Mary Sue half-sidhe women who are beautiful and immortal and have unique magical powers. It was derp.
- The Knights of the Rose and Cross are a swashbuckling version of the Knights Templar, and the historical kind rather than the fictional kind. They're awesome, heroic people fighting the good fight against evil.
- The Rilasciare are anachronistic anarchists and pro-democrats who want to make away with the social order and free the peasantry from the shackles of the nobility. Depending on who's writing them at the moment they're either a bunch of bomb-throwing idiot stereotypes or a valiant, ancient order who knows more than all of the rest of them.
- The Invisible College is made up of adventurer scientists out to save science from the clutches of the Inquisition by being generally awesome. Unfortunately, they are thoroughly penetrated by an evil super-duper secret society using them for their own ends.
- The Swordsman's Guild is an organization dedicated to the finer points of dueling and swordsmanship across all nations. They keep all the different swordmasters in all the different national styles from losing all their accumulated knowledge in a frenzy of honor-duels for rank via a few basic common-sense regulations.
Collectible Card Game
The 7th Sea Collectible Card Game was released in 1999 alongside the RPG. The game was supported through 2001, but was dropped late that year. Much like other AEG games Legend of the Five Rings and Doomtown, player actions influenced the ongoing story line of the the game. These changes were also reflected in the RPG supplements released during this time, although only the first story arc was concluded.
The major card types were actions, adventures, attachments, chanteys, crew, and ships. Each player built their own deck centered around a ship and a captain. This ship would determine a player's faction. Crew functioned as both resources and attacking/defending forces of a ship. Ships had limited crew space and were generally faction specific, so your choice in crew would limit who and what you could play to your ship. Likewise crew with the "Captain" trait were limited to one per ship and represented your deck's faction alongside the ship.
Actions were the catch all card type, representing everything from your crew's actions, meteorological phenomenon, and reactions. These were all one-use effects and were discarded upon resolution. Attachments, meanwhile, represented permanent changes in status, such as firearms for your crew or persistent changes in sea conditions. Adventures represented the various quests and ordeals your crew endured, often rewarding control points for accomplishing the objectives listed on them. The game was won by having enough control is all five seas to claim victory or by sinking all opposing ships.
In later expansions the card type chantey was introduced. These were cards that had a global effect on the table and remained in play until replaced by another chantey. Only one chantey could be in play at any time. The game board was represented by five seas that ships could move between, the sixth and seventh seas not being represented on the board.
At this same time, massive errata was issued for numerous cards throughout the run of the game. This was reflected in the Iron Shadow release, reprinting the previous core set, cards with errata, and all supported faction captains and ships. This coincided with the conclusion of the first story arc, which removed Gosse's Gentlemen as a faction. These factors combining at once are often attributed to the sudden drop in sales of the game. Two more commercial sets were released in 2001 before the game was cancelled. A digital set, Parting Shots was released on the website of AEG and sought to give one last shot at balancing the factions for legacy play.
|Set Name||Factions||Release Date||Set Size|
|No Quarter||Brotherhood, Castille, Crimson Rogers, Explorer's Society, Montaigne, Sea Dogs||1999||323 Cards|
|Strange Vistas||Corsairs, Gosse's Gentlemen||1999||161 Cards|
|Broadsides||Brotherhood, Castille, Crimson Rogers, Explorer's Society, Montaigne, Sea Dogs||1999||329 Cards|
|Shifting Tides||Montaigne, Vesten||1999||161 Cards|
|Scarlet Seas||Crimson Rogers, Sea Dogs||2000||161 Cards|
|Black Sails||Black Freighter||2000||54 Cards|
|Fate's Debt||Brotherhood, Corsairs||2000||161 Cards|
|Reaper's Fee||Castille, Vesten||2000||161 Cards|
|Horizon's Edge||Explorer's Society, Gosse's Gentlemen||2000||115 Cards|
|Iron Shadow||Black Freighter, Brotherhood, Castille, Corsairs, Crimson Rogers, Explorer's Society, Montaigne, Sea Dogs, Vesten||2001||623 Cards|
|Syrneth Secret||Brotherhood, Montaigne||2001||169 Cards|
|Parting Shots||Unaligned||2001||54 Cards|
| Call of Cthulhu - Cardfight!! Vanguard - Force of Will - Jyhad - Magi-Nation Duel |
Magic: The Gathering - Netrunner - Pokémon - Star Wars: Destiny CCG - Yu-Gi-Oh
| 1000 Blank White Cards - 7th Sea - Apples to Apples - Bang! - Cards Against Humanity |
Coup - Decktet - Dominion - Dvorak - F.A.T.A.L. - Mafia - Mag Blast - Mao
Munchkin - Race for the Galaxy - Sentinels of the Multiverse - Tanto Cuore
|Mahjong - Patience - Poker - Tarot|