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 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.
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. Its queen is currently trying to lead a union between the Irish and Scottish-flavored islands to become modern. Their racial magic involves taking on the mantle of various great men to get some of their powers.
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. 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 Inquisition. A decent nation (their sorcery-equivalent is actually high-quality public education) beset within and without by threats to its good-hearted and intelligent but woefully-inexperienced king.
Imperial China with some influences from Korea and Tibet. Hidden behind a massive bug-off wall of fire, 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.
Germany during the Thirty Years' War, here fought between the Vaticine and the Objectionists. Ravaged and war-torn, the people of Eisen are hardened and violent. 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. 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.
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. 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. A later book included the option to have the nation undergo its inevitable revolution. Their racial magic involves creating various teleportation points, and traversing a mysterious void in-between. No matter what, don't open your eyes in there...
Eldritch horrors and sea-dwelling creatures. Some of their kind were actually made playable in The Sidhe Book of Nightmares supplement.
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.
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. Only the former use magic, in the form of runes that can create various cool effects, though it's much more rigid and less free-form than the other magic powers.
A coalition of city-states largely inspired by Italy, complete with constant blood-feuds between angry relatives. Their sorcery involves seeing and manipulating destiny and the bonds between people, and unlike the others is only possessed by women. The men are terrified of them as a result, and so few of their "fate witches" are taught to read. (There is a male branch of the sorcery, but it manifests almost entirely as immunity to fate-sorcery and the ability to create fear in women-sorcerers as a result.) 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.
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 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.
- 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. They're awesome.
- 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.
- The Swordsman's Guild is an organization dedicated to the finer points of dueling and swordsmanship. They keep all the different swordmasters 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 Goose'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, Goose'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, Goose'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|
|Collectible Card Games:|| Call of Cthulhu - Cardfight!! Vanguard - Force of Will |
Magi-Nation Duel - Magic: The Gathering - Netrunner
Pokémon - Vampire: The Eternal Struggle - Yu-Gi-Oh
|Other Card Games:|| 1000 Blank White Cards - 7th Sea - Apples to Apples |
Cards Against Humanity - Decktet - Dominion - Dvorak
F.A.T.A.L. - Mafia - Mag Blast - Mahjong - Mao - Munchkin
Poker - Race for the Galaxy - Tanto Cuore - Tarot