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At Sword's Point
by Jonathan S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2017 12:10:12

Okay, not really a formal review, but thought I'd weigh in on this one since I'd been working on something similar a while back.

In short, if you're one of those that think that Duelists are horribly unbalanced, this PDF is not going to improve your opinion one bit.

It starts off with a rundown of duelist weapons, breaking the corebooks tenet of all weapons are equal by handing out a myriad of screwy bonuses if your Hero rolls a 10 during a Risk using a specific weapon. This adds extra complications for minimal benefit, breakign the "less is more" vibe the core rules have going for them. About the only useful thing with this section is that it provides a nice clarification of what constitutes a Fencing weapon vs. a Heavy weapon, and I'll be completely ignoring the various mechanical effects of using different weapons; if I want that kind of granularity with weapon selection, I'll go play D&D. On the upside, at least it's not handing out damage bonuses, but it does little for those folks that feel that Heroes who choose to use Brawling or weapons other than swords are arleady getting the short end of the stick.

Next we get to Duelist Academy Techniques. Most of these boil down to one of two categories: Either a slight tweak of an existing style bonus (generally by swapping the Traits/Skills used) or something that requires a Hero Point to trigger; those tend to be very powerful, especially if the player knows their GM will be handing out Hero Points on a steady basis. There's a handful of fairly original style bonuses, but some of those are so laughably bad that the only reason to take that particular style is purely for role-playing purposes. There are a couple gems, but those are far and few between.

So in summary, this one's very much a mixed bag in terms of overall value. The purchase price is 3 bucks, but frankly this feels like it should have been a dollar in terms of actual usefulness and originality of the material provided. Frankly, unless you really have a mad-on for Duelists or are running an all-Duelist campaign, I'd say skip this one entirely or wait until there's a sale and you can get it at a deeply discounted price.



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[2 of 5 Stars!]
At Sword's Point
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High Price of Love
by Prof Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/04/2017 20:24:11

An excellent two session story designed for a group that hates staying on the rails. Descriptive language; interesting plot, and no rails. There are alternate plot points, events, and characters for just about anything your players can think up. Whether your friends want a combat-filled adventure or decide to work from the shadows or at court this adventure is already prepared with events and characters and plot points.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
High Price of Love
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7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
by Marc S. M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2017 20:53:25

Some context first: I never player first edition so I cannot compare it with the old material (no fanboy resistance), and I backed the kickstarter.

Now, my impressions:

After reading it for the first time, my mind wasn't able to assimilate the game system. I liked a lot because it's simplicity and because it was narrative oriented, but the change of paradigm was so strong that I didn't assumed it. It was like seeing a Lamborgini Diablo and having its keys... wow, what a car but... uuuh... will I be able to drive it?? How?? I was very afraid to use the system to my players, and also I was afraid to not knowing how to use it as a game master and doing it bad.

I also disliked the lack of equipment and description of weapons, armors and tools of the setting. I had to search what a zweihander was, and seeked videos in how it is used. I think items have a personality, too, and that may affect the story. I dind't know how to manage it.

Until two weekends ago, when I played a one shot demo as a player... and I enjoyed it a lot. I was playing an Inismore Bard trying to make his friend a reputated hero... and it was the character I enjoyed the most of all characters I ever played. EVER.

So I game mastered that same adventure to a pair of friends, with pregenerated sheets: an Eisen Krieger and the Inismore Bard. I was afraid, and I warned them that the game would be a strong change of paradigm (they are players used to Rolemaster and Dungeons and Dragons).

The result was fantastic. They enjoyed a lot the game. When oportunities were first introduced, a player asked me "wait, you're telling me I can decide what happens in the scene? Seriously?". I told them "well, if it is appropiate with the story and the narrative, yes, you can". He was overjoyed, and used it to make the narrative very interesting.

They enjoyed also the combat system. When they saw that narrating what they heroes did to overcome the brute squads gave them extra dice, they enjoyed explaining the movements of their heroes... and surprisingly, they kept on doing so forgetting to claim me the extra dice: they simply were inmersed in the narrative.

I found myself comfortable with the system, with less weight in my shoulders, rules and narrative speaking, and it was easier for me to keep the story on.

When I asked the players their impressions, they insisted in how they liked feeling part of the story, to participate in the narrative and can decide events in a scene and not only reacting at what the GM throw them. They also liked narrating themselves what they heroes did and how. They asked me for another session. They want to keep playing the adventure and the game. Yay!! ^^

Now the fear is gone. The change of paradign is still there, but I am re-reading the rules and I understand them a lot more now. And the equipment? Well, the Eisen player wore a plate armor on the chest, a panzerhand and a family shield that used to narrate how his Eisen Krieger bashed some brutes to the sea... and he didn't care that there were no rules for the shield nor the armor. And me, neither.

So, I reccomend it? It depends. Want to play simulationist? Forget this game. Want crunch? Forget this game. Want tons of pages describing how to rule everything? Forget this game. You hate FATE-like systems? Run away from this game, now.

You want light rules and share the weight of the narrative with the players? Take it. Want to be narrative? Take it. Don't care about initiave modifiers and damage reductions and calculations about how difficult is to be hitted? Take it. Do you see your players as your heroes? Take it. Do you want a system that helps to focus on the history with rules oriented on helping you instead of slowing the pace of the story? Take it.

You are warned: you will love it or you will hate it. If you remember that there is a BIG change of paradigm, things will be easier.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
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Wield
by Kenneth S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/26/2017 22:26:13

I picked this up because it sounded like Bloodlust, which was a French game I'd heard about where the PCs were intelligent weapons and other players were the characters using them. So Wield has that same basic concept and some fun suggestions for items and character creation. It's a nice looking book too. It doesn't really have a setting. No bestiary or equipment lists or NPCs or maps... or anything. Beyond the concept of the Vatcha it's just an outline of some simple mechanics... simple to the point that I wonder if the authors' goal was rules-lite or work-lite. I'm not so fond of it's combat system... it feels like something from a kid's party game and is very 'meta'. Overall, it was worth the purchase for some grand ideas... but I think I'll be using the Vatcha in a different system, probably some flavor of BRP. Now... If I could just find a copy of Bloodlust in English...



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
Wield
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7th Sea: Pirate Nations
by Nathan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/06/2017 00:24:09

Excellent addition to the 7th Sea setting. 2nd Edition's reimaging of Numa as a full nation in its own right adds swashbuckling fantasy "not-Greece" to the makeup of Theah. The Atabean Trading Company are exactly the villains a heroic pirate campaign needs! The new nations of the Atabean Sea ("not-Carribbean") give a taste of the bredth of Terra on the horizon, from the native Rahuri, to the revolutionary nation of former slaves of Jaragua, and the Pirate Republic of Aragosta.

La Bucca (a former Theahn Prison colony that's now a privateer free market state near Theah itself, at least relative to the Atabean Sea and the pirates of Aragosta) speaks to me less strongly than the others, but I realize that's probably personal taste rather than any lack of quality on the part of La Bucca.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea: Pirate Nations
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7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
by Maxime L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/27/2017 09:27:07

TL;DR: 7th Sea 2nd edition is a strange mix of old and new content which doesn't always work but looks promising.

When you hear 2nd edition for most games, you usually expect a rules update and maybe some small setting adjustments, but 7th sea took a much more radical path. The very land has changed, as we are introduced to a new map (with a whole new country) and briefly told of new continents. Some of it is welcome - many had ponted out in 1st edition how unlikely it was for piracy to become prevalent without a New World of sorts. Other parts are baffling - when you think Swashbuckling Europe, is Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth really one of the top ten countries to come to mind? What about, say, Portugal or the Netherlands ?

Some might point at how a version of Portugal is hinted at in the Explorers Society section - but that's only what it is, hinted at. And the reason why is sadly simple - the major part of the setting section is just a rehash of 1st edition. The authors clearly have many changes in mind - and, now that Pirate Nations has come out, we can see some of these - but weren't bother to include them in the core book. And, I'm sorry to say but this just lazy. On top of this the whole history section of the 1st edition is missing, meaning you get a partially updated, not fully explained setting. A good example is "Anno Veritas", the year 0 of the Thean Calendar, which is mentioned in the introduction - and never explained anywhere. It's easy to guess even for newcomers (it corresponds to the arrival of the First Prophet) but it's still surprising not to find it explained more clearly. I think authors should have started from scratch rather than rebuilding from an edition they're otherwise trying to distance themselves from.

It's far from all bad though - for one, the book is absolutely gorgeous. It's also more inclusive in terms of sexuality and ethnicity, and the new system looks good if a bit quirky. It's just that after a record-breaking kickstarter campaign, I expected better results. Thankfully as more supplements come out I think we will see more clearly the direction the game is intended to take.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
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7th Sea: Heroes & Villains
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/22/2017 09:10:14

Billed as a collection of Heroes and Villains, this manages to be more - it gives added shape to the world of Théah, filling it with giant personalities and exploring new corners of potential within the setting, and backing them up with appropriate game mechanics.

Chapter 1: Introduction sets out its stall, talking about the role of Heroes and Villains within the game. The sample ones given here have been catagorised beyond just whether they are good or bad into five types each, based on their style, the way that they go about things. For style and panache are all-important in 7th Sea, a deliberately-cinematic game where how you do something is almost as important as what you are doing! Heroes and Villains, however, are distinguished by the choices they make, so what they choose to do is also of great importance. Faced with the same background, the same situation, you can rely on the Hero to do the right, the good, thing whilst the Villain will invariably take the wrong or evil path... but both do it in style.

One thing to bear in mind, though, is that even the blackest of Villains has the potential to turn his life around, and so the concept of redemption is introduced and each of the Villains presented here are given - when possible - a path out of the dark place they are in presently... and there's a new advantage, Saviour, for those Heroes who seek to find that path and guide Villains down it. GMs are encouraged to use the Villains in their own plots; the Heroes can serve as exemplars to aid players in creating their own characters, and might show up as allies... or even be played if one appeals or time is too short to create your own.

Chapter 2: Heroes contains detailed notes on some forty Heroes, but begins with a discussion on how to play a Hero as well as one on how to run a game for Heroes. Useful advice for those on both sides of the GM's screen. The player advice, in particular, should give players a few things to think about and are applicable whatever you happen to be playing. The Heroes themselves are grouped as being Indomitable, Deft, Tacticians, Steadfast or Tricksters... but they are all good guys, who can be relied on to do the right thing when it comes to a pinch. Each Hero comes with a portrait and character sheet, on a single page so that PDF users can print it out if needed for a game, along with a second page that covers backstory, goals, and role-playing advice. They make for a fascinating read, showing the wide range of characters that can be played, and the vast potential that this setting has.

Chapter 3: Villains follows a similar pattern, although the preliminary essays are aimed mainly at the GM. The Villain sees the world in terms of how it can best serve his needs and, comments about possible redemption aside, there are no shades of grey here. Villains are bad, and that's that. The discussion looks at ways of weaving Villains into your stories, and incorporating what they want to do in such a way that there is a direct impact on the Heroes' lives. This gives them all the more reason to want to go after the Villains, after all. There are also comments about duels, with a lengthy example of how one such might play out. Then on to the Villains themselves, who are grouped as Beasts, Chameleons, Masterminds, Juggernauts and outright Deranged. Each category comes with some notes on how to use that particular type of Villain in your game. Each Villain has two pages dedicated to him, including a portrait, character sheet, and notes that not only give a backstory but look at the sort of schemes he might be hatching and how to weave them into a plot. An excellent resource that spawns ideas for adventures even as you read through them.

Finally, an Appendix contains new game mechanics and short-form Hero and Villain character sheets. There's also a comprehensive Index.

Of most use to GMs, this book is a handy resource especially if you are a bit short of time or seeking that killer idea (or at least, Villain) for your next adventure. If you run 7th Sea 2e, this book has a place on your shelf.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea: Heroes & Villains
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7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/21/2017 13:36:22

The opening fiction sets the scene for the sort of epic swashbuckling action this game inspires... indeed the cover layout, looking like a film poster, suggests the cinematic exploits the party can perform. Wit, swordplay, acrobatics, poise and sheer adventurous fun is what this game is all about!

Chapter 1: Welcome to 7th Sea sets the scene. Swashbuckling, sorcery, piracy, adventure, diplomacy, intrigue, romance, revenge, archæology and exploration all have their place in this almost-17th-century-Europe where new ideas challenge accepted dogma, lost secrets are coming to light, and dramatic swordplay carries the day and often wins fair lady too (unless she's the one waving a sword around...). There's a brief explanation of what role-playing is all about, and how the party are designed to be Heroes with a capital H - they may be rogues or rascals, they may dice with the law, but they are not evil people. We'll leave that to the Villains, thank you very much. There's a very brief overview, a summary, of major powers in Théah, the world in which this game is set, then it is on to more solid material.

Chapter 2: Théah is a glittering sweep of the world, introducing the various nations, an essay for each seeking to encapsulate the national 'spirit' - even if the concept of a nation is quite a new-fangled thing, Théah's only had them for the last hundred years or so. Culture and clothing, currency and customs, art and music and religious belief are all covered. We also learn how each nation is governed and defended, and how they get on with the other countries. It's an overview, whole books can be written about each one, but it serves well to give an idea of what each nation is about. If you are familiar with the first edition of 7th Sea, much will be familiar... but read it through anyway, this is fresh and well-written (and beautifully illustrated), and there are of course changes, some subtle others more blatant, to make this a wholly-new game in a similar setting. There's also a wholly-new nation, the Sarmatian Commonwealth, which sounds a fascinating place to visit. Here you can also read about the Church in all her various forms, pirates and privateers, secret societies and even monsters...

Next, down to business with Chapter 3: Making a Hero. You've already read about the nations, here are one-page summaries explaining what Heroes that come from each are likely to be like. You don't have to stick to them, of course, but may find yourself a stranger even in your own land if you stray too far from the expected (unless you have an exceptionally good backstory, and even then that relies on people knowing it!). Then there's the nine-step process for creating your Hero. (It's billed as eight-step, but with a Step 0 that involves coming up with a concept before you start in on the game mechanics stuff!) To devise your concept there are twenty questions to answer which should help you understand who your Hero is and what makes him tick. You may not want to answer them all, you may not choose to share the answers with anyone else, you may even change them as you get to know him better: but it provides a starting point.

Once you have a handle on your Hero, you move on to getting some numbers onto that character sheet. We start with five Traits (Brawn, Finesse, Resolve, Wits and Panache), and use a point-buy system to discern strengths and weaknesses. Next, stir in the appropriate bonus for the nation that you call your own before deciding on your background - the stuff you did before you became an adventurer. These are your past, the things you were and did. They'll give you knowledge and skills, contribute to your backstory, but they are not likely what you are now, as the game begins. Note that Sorcery occurs more than once in some of the lists you can choose from under various backgrounds. It looks odd but it's there for a purpose: if you want to be a powerful sorceror you can choose it as many times as it appears. You then pick skills, again via point-buy. There are also advantages to be purchased, they help round out the character as well as providing, well, an advantage under certain defined circumstances. All straightforward so far... then comes arcana. Consider a Tarot deck, or at least the Théan equivalent, a Sorté deck. You choose (or may draw... John Wick Presents sell Sorté decks if you want one) a Virtue and a Hubris based on the twenty character cards in the deck.

Step 7: Stories is quite unusual and rather neat. This is where you work out, with the GM, the story you want to tell with your Hero. What aspect do you want to explore? What do you want him to accomplish? You can tell multiple stories, but only one at a time. For each, you need to decide on appropriate endings (there may be more than one), and decide on the first steps that you'll take to resolve the situation. From then on in, it becomes part of the ongoing plot. There are loads of ideas and sample stories here, but the best ones are probably those that you come up with for yourself. Finally, in Step 8: Details you put the finishing touches to your character. There's also an outline of a very abstract system for determining wealth (agonising over every last penny is inappropriate for a swashbuckler, after all), and a slightly flippant section on how character wounds are handled.

Character done, we move on to Chapter 4: Action and Drama to find out how everything works in the game. Task resolution uses the character's Traits and Skills to overcome a Risk - the action taken in response to a threat, or one which has a consequence for good or bad depending on the outcome. It all starts with a situation... and like all game mechanics, sounds more complex on paper than it is once you get the dice out and try it for yourself. There are plenty of examples to help you get your head around it. The complex bit is that you roll handfulls of d10s (based on the points you have in appropriate Traits and Skills for the task in hand) and then seek to get the most Raises, or 10s... but it's not just rolling a 10, if you roll a couple of 5s, you can add then to give yourself another Raise. Raises can be used to accomplish the task, ameliorate the consequences (e.g. if you'd get a wound you can cancel it out with a Raise) or take advantage of an opportunity that presents itself. There's a discussion of how rounds work, for when more than one character is involved in whatever the Risk is (a swordfight say), and all manner of additional bits and bobs... but no 'dodges' - viewed as a bit unheroic, if you want to avoid being hit take action to get out of the way and describe that rather than saying thay you are dodging! You can fail on purpose, too, getting a Hero Point and not rolling any dice at all.

All this has the potential to make what should be a thrilling action scene horrendously mechanical. Just remember that the key is in the descriptions you give of what your character is doing, and once the group is used to the game mechanics and you don't have to think about what you are rolling when it all becomes much more fluid. When engaged in a scene other than one that produces a flurry of action, you can use a Dramatic Sequence instead - similar mechanics, but played out over a longer period, such as character actions during a party, attempting to charm or impress people. Or you may prefer to role-play this, but it does give a chance to those who maybe find it hard to come up with good lines to still have their character be impressive and witty! The chapter ends with some Game Master rules for things like handling Brute Squads - those hordes of minions villains always seem to have around - and Villains themselves as well as monsters.

Next up is Chapter 5: Sorcery. Denounced by the Vaticine Church, feared or hated by many... yet beguiling to those who seek power other than that of the sword arm. Many Théans have some kind of magic in their bloodlines, and although it is lumped together as 'sorcery' each type has its own specific rules and methods of operation. Most of it is associated with particular nations, woven deep into their culture and psyche, and most is extremely powerful. Handle with care, or you'll find yourself a Villain before you know it. There is a wealth of material here, some familiar to players of 7th Sea 1e but there is a lot of new stuff: it's more elegant and organised, more diverse, balances a blessing and a curse: that awesome power comes at a price.

Swordfighting is the lifeblood of 7th Sea so it's no surprise that Chapter 6: Dueling is devoted to every aspect of sword play. This covers the Duelist's Guild, the trade body for sword-waving folk, and the myriad of Academies where they learn their art. There are many different styles of sword-fighting, and keen fighters can learn several, mixing and matching styles to fit the occasion. Each confers a specific advantage when it comes to combat.

Next up, the other staple of swashbuckling adventure with Chapter 7: Sailing. This chapter provides information on everything from the skills needed to man a ship to the organisation of a crew and the difference between a pirate and a privateer. To get into true sea-dog mood there are nautical superstitions, then details of different types of vessel and notes on the different seafaring nations. Ships have histories too, mostly for flavour but they can confer game mechanical advantages as well. Information on carrying cargo and engaging in sea battles, as well as the monsters of the deep round out this section.

Then comes Chapter 8: Secret Societies. Most other things tend to be centred around the various nations of Théah, but the secret societies spread their tentacles across the known lands, embracing individuals of all nationalities and backgrounds who agree with their cause. Joining one confers benefits and obligations upon a character, and should never be embarked upon lightly. Characters may join a society during character creation or in the course of play if the opportunity arises. It adds loads of flavour and many ready-made opportunities for adventure.

Finally, Chapter 9: Gamemaster which opens by talking about that magical moment when a player stops talking about his character and says 'me'... and continues with ideas about how to make that moment occur in the games that you run. There are standard tropes here, the golden rule of having fun (with its rider that if someone isn't having fun, find out why and sort it out), prior preparation and planning, and the GM wearing three hats (author, storyteller and referee). These are all explained and used to provide ideas about how to run games of 7th Sea to best effect (and often will work whatever game you are running, so make for a good read anyway). There are loads of ideas for themes and plots, a look at how to take that plot idea and turn it into a well-crafted adventure and much, much more. It also touches on improvisation, character death, enforcing rules and other thorny matters. There are even suggestions for how to be mean to the characters, making the players feel that there are real risks to be taken even in a game where it's quite hard to kill player-characters off. There are ideas for handling players too, rewarding the good ones and coping with uncooperative or otherwise disruptive ones. All in all, it provides an excellent textbook for being a good GM.

Overall, this is a masterful retooling of an already enjoyable game. All the good bits of the original are here, but it's been refined into an elegant coherent package. If you want to swash your buckle in a mix of Musketeers and Captain Jack Swallow style adventuring, this is the game with which to do so.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
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7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
by Yann E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/11/2017 04:40:28

Très bonne seconde édition de 7th Sea. L'article contient plusieurs PDF : deux cartes (une en couleur, une en noir et blanc), deux PDF du jeu (un en haute résolution, un en basse résolution) et une feuille de personnage.

Le jeu est lui même excellent avec un systeme qui encourage l'héroïsme et l'action.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea: Heroes & Villains
by A H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/09/2017 14:20:57

While the layout is lovely, the art is very pleasent, the system is interesting and it has good writing, my issue is, that this work is a collections of heroes I would never actually want to play, or even really follow the examples of. To me, heroes should jump off the pages, and carry you down countless plots and scene you could play out with them, but none these do so. The villians are very creative, and I don't a have problem with them. Hopefully if you get this book, you won't suffer the some issue I have with it.



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[2 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea: Heroes & Villains
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7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
by Sven K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/09/2017 09:52:35

Actually I am ashamed that I helped to finance that pice of crap. I am a big fan of 7th sea for 15 Years now and I love the World and the System. With the 2nd Edition you made everything wrong that you could, exept for one thing: the design (including the Map) is awesome. The rest ist … crap. First: resetting the World to 1668 is a slap in the face of all people who played in that World for years and all the history that happened. Let’s start with a small thing: you renamed Fauner Konrad Pösen (which is a Name that reflects strength) to Elsa … that ist he name of a Milk Cow … why? Thats stupid! You destroyed the great Vendel/Vesten conflict which was absolute intereseting to: „Well, they are all Friends“ … why did you do that? Destroying one oft he most interesting conflicts in a world is stupid. What is it with that crappy Commonwealth stuff? Why inventing a new realm? Why? And that silly history oft hat Realm. The last I want to speak about ist he System. You hat a great and unique System with the roll & keep System (okay L5R uses it too, but that is one oft he reasons why L5R ist hat good). The roll & keep System is absolutely great for a cinematic system in wich you have to dare something. Saying „i can do it better and more cinematic“ and then rase the stakes. What you made out of 7th sea here is a ordinary success-system like many other Systems (except instead of simply count successes you have to add dices to make successes), so that 7th Sea isn’t something special anymore. You may CALL the successes „raises“ but they aren’t raises, they are successes. And give a player an extra die because he discribes what the character is doing? How silly ist hat. The discribing is the most fun part of a Roleplaying game, to award that makes ist cheap. I won’t start to talk about the character building and all the other points that I don’t like (there are many!)



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
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7th Sea: Heroes & Villains
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/21/2017 03:58:24

http://www.teilzeithelden.de

Das erste Quellenbuch zur zweiten Edition von 7th Sea liefert 80 Charaktere zur freien Verfügung am Rollenspieltisch und nimmt es sich zum Ziel, dem Leser Theah durch die Augen dieser sowohl niederträchtigen als auch edelsinnigen Individuen zu zeigen. Dabei beschreibt es großartig, hat aber ein paar blinde Punkte im Sichtfeld.

Was der Band an Großartigem liefert, liegt in der tollen Beschreibung seiner Helden und Schurken, die allesamt interessante Subjekte sind. Durch ihren Blick gewinnt die Spielwelt Farbe. Die grauen und farblosen Stellen finden sich dagegen in den Regelzusätzen wieder.

Inhalt

Der Inhalt des Bandes ist schnell erklärt: Es bietet jeweils 40 ausgearbeitete Helden und Schurken, wobei die zusätzlichen Regeln auf drei bis vier Seiten passen: Das Quellenbuch konzentriert sich also rein auf die vorgestellten Charaktere, die es aber in schlecht durchdachtem Rahmen präsentiert.

Der hässliche Rahmen

Bevor wir zum Lob des Inhalts kommen, streift der Blick erst über die Fassung, die doch recht hässlich geraten ist. Helden sowie Schurken sind in fünf Typen unterteilt, die sich an den Traits orientieren. Das heißt, die Helden des Indomitable-Typs richten sich ebenso wie ihr dunkles Ebenbild, die Beast-Schurken, am Trait Brawn aus. Darüber hinaus soll diese Unterteilung aber auch den Charakter definieren. So sollen die Heroinnen des Indomitable-Schlages besonderes draufgängerisch und wagemutig sein, während ihre bestialischen Gegenspielerinnen ihre Ziele wütend und brachial verwirklichen. Die Typus-Beschreibungen füllen ihre zwei Seiten durch übertriebene und sich wiederholende Phrasen. Einzig die Hinweise auf typische Intrigen der Schurken sind sinnvoll.

Warum diese Abschnitte so schlecht erscheinen? Das hat drei Gründe:

Die Werte der nachfolgenden Heroen passen meist nicht in die Kategorie und erzeugen so einen Widerspruch. Zumindest auf Seiten der Helden lassen sich die Geschichten der Charaktere nicht in diesen Rahmen fassen. Die Zuordnung wirkt, wenn man die Tatsache hinzunimmt, dass selbst die Werte nicht passen, völlig willkürlich. Die Praxis der Einteilung legt wenigstens auf Heldenseite unnötige und einengende Maßstäbe fest. Schlimm ist das vor allem, weil die Heroen nicht nur als NSCs gedacht sind, sondern ausdrücklich auch gespielt werden können. Das System leistet aus diesen Gründen, zumindest auf der Protagonisten-Seite, nichts Positives. Im Feld der Bösewichte sieht das etwas anders aus. Der Werteaspekt fällt hier weg, da die Schurken bei 7th Sea abstrakte Werte erhalten. Die Geschichten wirken größtenteils passend, und die Schurken fallen eher in die zusammenhängenden Muster der übergeordneten Einteilung in die verschiedenen Typen.

Das schöne Bild

Die vorgestellten Charaktere sind dagegen gut gezeichnet. Fast jede Geschichte ist spannend geschrieben, häufig nachvollziehbar, und in sehr vielen Fällen erfrischend ungewöhnlich. Der gesamte bisher bekannte Kontinent wird abgedeckt, und jedem Winkel dieser Welt entspringen interessante Charaktere. Die große Stärke der Beschreibungen ist ihre Diversität und ihre Kreativität. Es ist schon keine schlechte Leistung, 80 Personen zu erschaffen, und sich dabei nicht nur in Klischees zu ergehen und zu wiederholen. Vom sarmantischen Husaren in Rente, der sich den Schutz seiner Stadt vor einer übernatürlichen Schurkin zur Aufgabe genommen hat, zur Bierbrauerin aus Eisen, die nahezu besessen vom perfekten Bier ist - der Band bietet viel. Ungewöhnlicher wird es beim giftmischenden Apothekarius, der durch seinen Glauben an eine omnibeseelte Welt, von sich selbst nur in der dritten Person Plural spricht.

Natürlich werden auch klischeehafte Stereotypen verwendet, dabei aber gut präsentiert, oder in ungewöhnliche Umgebungen versetzt. Es gibt ihn hier nicht, den simplen guten Retter ohne eigenen Ballast. Viele Themen unserer modernen Gesellschaft, die sonst in Tischrollenspielbücher keinen Eingang finden, wie Homosexualität oder die Selbst-Identifikation mit dem anderen Geschlecht, werden hier mühelos integriert, ohne dabei jedes Mal zum großen Aufhänger der jeweiligen Geschichte stilisiert zu werden. Die Vorgestellten haben in einigen Fällen Beziehungen zueinander und ineinander verstrickte Geschichten. Jede Heldin und Schurkin bekommt zu ihrer grundlegenden Beschreibung noch Hinweise zur Darstellung beigelegt und drei Ziele bzw. Intrigen, die sie verwirklichen will. Es wird also eine breite Palette an Möglichkeiten geboten. Besonders für den Spielleiter kann sich dieses Buch als wahre Goldgrube an potenten Plot-Ideen und einsetzbaren Charakteren erweisen. Die Schurken bieten schon für sich genommen 40 Ideen zu 40 Abenteuern.

Für die Spieler sieht das ein wenig anders aus. Die Heroen und Heroinnen haben eine sehr klar ausdefinierte Geschichte, mit klarer Einbindung in die Welt, definierten Zielen und häufig schwerwiegenden Verpflichtungen wie Kinder. Das macht sie wenig variabel im Einsatz. Ein guter Weg wäre mit Sicherheit, wenn Charaktere gewählt werden würden, die eine Verbindung zueinander haben, oder der erste Plot um einen vorgefertigten Spielercharakter konzipiert wird, während die anderen Spieler selbsterstellte Helden oder Heldinnen verwenden. So ließe sich beispielsweise um die Familientragödie der ussurischen Zwillinge Viktor und Agafya Markovich ein wunderbarer Plot stricken, wenn ein Spieler die Rolle Viktors übernimmt. Den jungen ussurischen Tierfreund aber in ein anderes Szenario zu verschiffen, wäre sowohl schwierig als auch wenig fruchtbar.

Die rechtschaffenden Charaktere gefallen am Ende doch noch ein wenig besser, da ihre Geschichten stärker divergieren und in vielen Fällen nachvollziehbarer sind. Das ist allerdings Kritik auf wirklich hohem Niveau. Denn weder die brutale Kapitänin der menschenfressenden Piratencrew im hohen Norden, noch der insektenbeherrschende, intrigante Hofnarr sind in irgendeiner Weise langweilig oder uninteressant. Die Hinweise zur Erlösung der Widersacher fallen ebenfalls erstaunlich sinnvoll aus. Sie wirken nicht konstruiert, und häufig besteht die Einsicht in die simple Unmöglichkeit eines solchen Versuches.

Ein paar Seiten Regelzusätze

Die wenigen Mechaniken, die hinzukommen, sind fast zu vernachlässigen. Die Zusammenfassung der vier neuen Advantages des neuen Hintergrundes zur Charaktererstellung, des kurz angerissenen Fechtstils, des neuen Typus einer Gegnergruppe, und der zwei neuen Zaubereien füllen gerade mal eine Seite. Einzig eine neue Regel, die ihr Pendant im Grundregelwerk ersetzen soll, verdient eine nähere Betrachtung. Die Intrigen der Schurken und Schurkinnen funktionieren nun wie die Storys der Helden und sollen parallel dazu den Fortschritt des Bösewichts abbilden und regeln. Prinzipiell gilt nun schon die gleiche Kritik, mit der ich diese Mechanik in meinem Ersteindruck zum Grundregelwerk versehen habe, aber damit ist es nicht genug. Prinzipiell kann die Spielleiterin einen gewissen Satz an Einflusspunkten ausgeben, um eine neue Intrige zu kreieren. Die Anzahl der Schritte, die benötigt wird, um die Intrige zum Erfolg zu bringen, ist gleich der Anzahl an investierten Einflusspunkten. Aber hier kommt nun der große Haken. Im Gegensatz zu den Geschichten der Helden schreiten diese Intrigen nicht durch erreichte Handlungsziele voran, sondern ganz simpel am Ende einer Spielsitzung. Wieder zeigt sich, dass das Regelwerk an vielen Stellen enorm wenig durchdacht ist. Eine Spielrunde ist eine völlig inadäquate Einheit zum Messen von im Spiel verstrichener Zeit. Viele von euch haben mit Sicherheit schon mal einen oder sogar mehrere Abende ohne großen Zeit- und Handlungsfortschritt verbracht. Durch selbsteingefügte Stufen lässt sich das Problem vielleicht leicht lösen, doch dass das Spieldesign mit der einzigen größeren Regelneuerung in diesem Band aber dermaßen schlecht verfährt, ist einfach enttäuschend. Somit setzt sich der Trend des Grundregelwerkes fort: Wo die Weltbeschreibung in Kreativität erglänzt, rostet das Räderwerk der Regeln vor sich hin.

Erscheinungsbild

Das gesamte Layout und die Illustrationen sind bis auf zwei seltsame Ausnahmen, in denen der kulturelle Kleidungsstil ohne Erklärung komplett verfehlt wurde, gelungen. Ein Index ist vorhanden, und das Buch wurde zu großen Teilen sinnvoll strukturiert.

Fazit

Machen wir es kurz: Der Band ist gut. Das, was er leisten möchte, nämlich eine Vielzahl von Einblicken in die Spielwelt durch die Augen ihrer Bewohner zu liefern, erfüllt er mit Bravour. Die Geschichten sind abwechslungsreich, spannend geschrieben, und häufig kreativ gestaltet. Es wird ein sehr breites Spektrum an Personen abgedeckt. Eine Menge Abenteuerideen und viel Rohmaterial zur Ausgestaltung werden dem Spielleiter in die Hände gelegt. Soweit wäre alles gut, wäre da nicht der unnötige Rahmen und die nicht durchdachte Regelergänzung.

Doch dies sind leidlich kleine Wermutstropfen, welche die klare Essenz des Buches kaum zu trüben vermögen, denn das Quellenbuch leistet am Ende das, was es soll. 19.99 USD sind für dieses PDF gut verwendetes Geld, wenn man ein Sammelsurium von 80 interessanten Charakteren haben möchte.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea: Heroes & Villains
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Church of the Prophets
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/17/2017 08:59:11

It is the nature of human beings to seek after the meaning of life and for many that means a belief in higher beings, deities if you will. The people of Théah are no different, and this work discusses their beliefs and explores how they can be used to effect in your game. To start with, people found solace and guidance from many gods until a man came declaring himself to be the Prophet of Theus, whom he said was the one true god and creator of everything. This caught people's attention and a whole religion grew up around his teachings, one which grew, flourished and fragmented over the centuries. Four main branches of this church are reviewed herein: Vaticine, Objectionism, Ussuran Orthodoxy and a newcomer, the Church of Avalon.

Chapter 1: The Word begins with a history of the Vaticine Church. It all began with the First Prophet, a fairly mysterious fellow, who travelled around with Nine Witnesses explaining about Theus and how he wanted people to study his creation and avoid sorcery. Three hundred years after the First Prophet was murdered, a Second Prophet appeared to address a church that had waxed fat in temporal power, rivalling many nations in wealth and influence. He came from the Crescent Empire with his own Nine Witnesses in tow and told them that the church had become corrupted. He laid out precise rites and rituals that should be followed, and urged people to avoid all seven deadly sins... but perhaps it was when he said people ought to avoid alcohol that they began to question what he said. The common people loved Theus but doubted that he wanted them to give up all earthly pleasures. Worse, the Second Prophet urged believers to separate themselves from the world by going back to the Crescent Empire with him. Forty thousand followed him... to their deaths.

As it was the Crescent Empire that had killed them, a Crusade was launched against them. There also was a lot of dissent amongst the various sects that believed in Theus, which were called together by the Imperator Corantine who demanded that they all agree on a common framework of belief and gave them a year to sort one out. They made it, just, and the Vaticine Church was born. It flourished and grew, establishing a hierarchy across the face of the globe, even as nation-states rose and fell. About seven hundred years later, someone claiming to be the Third Prophet appeared in Castille. He claimed that the church had again lost its way and needed to eschew sorcery and part ways with the Crescent Empire. Now there were a lot of people from the Crescent Empire in Castille and this soon led to the Second Crusade as war erupted. When it was over, the King of Castille built Vaticine City in honour of the Third Prophet... and said Prophet began an Inquisition to seek out heresy within the church. A minor squabble over which diocese a monastery belonged ended up in yet another war, with the Prophet saying the church should now be based in Vaticine City and the Hierophant still holding firm to his seat in Numa in Vodacce. Castille won out. The church flourished again... until the Objectionists arose, in Eisen, led by one Lieber who declared that you didn't need priests to worship Theus. There was fighting over that, too.

It's a magnificent sweep of history, ending with the state of the Vaticine Church in the present day, its organisation and a wealth of other details including vestments and ceremonies... and then we start in on a history of Objectionism which covers their development and beliefs including several sub-sects with differing opinions. If that's not enough, we next read of the rise of the Church of Avalon, a breakaway movement driven by politics (or at least the need of an Avalonian king to find someone on whom he could sire a child) rather than a difference in belief, and also about Ussuran Orthodoxy (although that's quite well covered in the Ussura sourcebook).

Next, Chapter 2: The Faithful contains an array of senior churchmen to use as NPCs, with background notes and sketches to help them come to life. This is followed by Chapter 3: The Sacraments which covers game mechanics and other details needed to make the church an integral part of your game. Perhaps you want to play a Priest or a Missionary? There are full details, along with new advantages and backgrounds, new Swordsman schools for the more, ah, vigorous proponents of the faith and some new equipment.

Last but not least, Chapter 4: The Light has a Player Section that looks at playing priests and also members of military religious orders and a GM Section that, amongst other things, explains who Theus really is! Or does it... Like many things in this game, it is ultimately up to the GM to decide, but there's a lot of helpful material here. There are also notes on running relgious-based campaigns, pagan religions and the low-down on all those NPCs we met earlier. Finally there are a selection of maps including Vaticine City, the Great Cathedral of the Prophets and a few generic religious structures.

This is a well-constructed religious system with loads of potential for making your game come to life. There's nothing like belief for getting some good role-playing going, especially with players who take the trouble to understand what their characters believe and who are willing to take it further than a note on the character sheet. OK, so in some places it is a bit derivative, but to just label the Vaticine Church the Catholics under another guise and so on does them a disservice. Embrace these as the faiths you'll find on Théah, rather than treat them as a pastiche of real-world religion, and make this aspect of life feature in your alternate reality.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Church of the Prophets
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Nations of Théah: Avalon (Book 2)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/16/2017 08:51:47

Avalon, the 7th Sea analogue to Britain, is a place of myths and magic, a land where the Sidhe still dwell, a race older than human beings but dwindling now. It's made up of three kingdoms - Alvalon, the Highland Marches and Inismore - but all hold the glamour, the mystical nature of ancient Celtic lands. Avalon is a beautiful and terrifying place, legend woven through the fabric of reality.

Chapter 1: The Glamour Isles is the main part of the book, jam-packed with detail on the history (or is that legends?) upon which present-day Avalon is built, beginning with the Sidhe. The islands were united under a single monarch early on, the first king being presented by the Sidhe with an artefact - the Graal - which he was told would provide protection and blessings. Indeed it did until one king in 1028 who had three sons divided the kingdom between them instead of nominating one to succeed him. One son protested and was banished for his pains, the other two fought each other to a standstill with the first son returning from exile to reunite the realm just as the Montaigne turned up and invaded successfully due to the weakened nature of the Avalon forces. Things went downhill with restrictive laws, incessant civil war and a series of monarchs who saw their role as to line their own pockets rather than one of service to the kingdom, with a few shining moments that reminded the Avalonians of what they were and might become again.

Religion caused issues too, coming quite late to belief in the Vaticine Church, but eventually having a rift with them due to a childless king wishing to divorce wife after wife... sound familiar? While it's all a blatant pastiche of real world British history, it has all been twisted around and renamed and recast into something that stands as the Théan version and culminates in the current queen, Elaine, who stands in stead of Elizabeth I but is a unique individual in her own right... although Avalon flourishes under her. We read of lands and titles and Elaine's personal knights, the Order of the High King. This is a body of twelve, with some two hundred at their command maintaining law and order across the kingdom and below them an array of sheriffs, constables and mayors. Then there's a geographical run-down including throw-away ideas than spawn plot ideas if not whole campaigns as you read them. Pity the only map is one of Caerleon, the capital.

So far we have focussed on Avalon itself, but then Inismore and the Highland Marches take their turn - history, gazetteer, culture and more - before we are introduced to the Sidhe. These secretive ancient and mystical magical race are explored in quite some detail that covers much of what makes the whole place so otherworldly. We also get to meet some of the monsters of legend, which are disturbingly real.

Then, Chapter 2: Hero introduces an array of notables to use as NPCs each with a portrait and a description (stat blocks come later in the GM section of Chapter 4). This is followed by Chapter 3: Drama which contains game mechanics - a destiny spread for character creation, rules for the Sidhe (do they even obey rules?), as well as new advantages, new backgrounds, new equipment and skills and new ways to wave a sword around (i.e. new Swordsman schools). There are relevant mechanics for Elaine's Knights, including their oath in full, and if you want to follow the old religion, notes about the Druids. The chapter ends with some magical items.

Finally Chapter 4: Legend is aptly-named, it's all about creating your own legends with a Player Section aimed at would-be players of Avalonian characters giving them ideas as to how to play their characters to effect and even providing pointers and resources to those who'd like to try playing a Sidhe. The GM Section provides stat blocks and background 'secrets' for the NPCs of Chapter 2, along with ideas for bringing Glamour magic and the Sidhe to life in your game and a few monsters.

Whilst living up to the subtitle 'The Glamour Isles' some may find it too derivative, drawing excessively on real-world British history and just changing a few names. I think it does an excellent job of blending reality and imagination to create a part of Théah that fits right into this alternate reality yet feels familiar.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nations of Théah: Avalon (Book 2)
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Secret Societies: Sophia's Daughters (Book 6)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/14/2017 10:10:51

Sophia's Daughters are the oldest of the Théan secret societies by a long way, back to the time the first Sidhe arrived. They seem to know much, and manipulate people and events to twist fate to their own ends, even whilst claiming to know what the future will bring.

Chapter 1: Birth opens with a brief note on the public face of the society... brief because there pretty much isn't one! Those who are members don't talk, and noone else will know what you are talking about. Pretty impressive for an organisation that has been around as long as this one has. This means that only players of characters who are Sophia's Daughters and GMs will find information that is of use within the game, which does rather limit the audience for this book.

So, the history of the society as known to them is covered from legendary times right up to the present day. It explains how a Sidhe first mated with a human being, and how one of their offspring was the original Sophia. (There was also a boy child who was raised as a Sidhe, his descendants turn up too...). Sophia was an oracle and seer, able to read the future, and had many children also. She died as the First Prophet began his ministry and their fates are linked. Whilst there is still an oracle, the final Fourth Prophet will not appear, it is said. Transmitted by bloodline, the distinctive powers normally manifest in females, the Daughters. Their history, then, is one of amazing women... although of course not every powerful or wise woman in Théah is a Daughter. They work for peace and unity, and to better the lot of women in the world, and the remainder of the chapter traces their influence throughout history - an influence that is by and large unrecognised by those outside the Society. It also covers the current position and how people become members (mostly through birth, but there are some who have discovered their goals and agree with them enough to join. The organisation is a loose web with the Oracle at the centre and a Handmaiden overseeing activities in each nation... and a fascinating band of adjuncts in the Jenny's Guild (the Théan organisation for, ah, ladies of negotiatble affection), which has been infiltrated by the Daughters: not every Jenny is one by any means, but guild leaders quite often are. We also learn of the Sidhe and their ongoing influence, and of a dire plague and its even worse ramifications that echo down the centuries.

Then Chapter 2: Blood presents leading members of the Daughters, beginning with the Handmaidens. There are many fascinating tales accompanying this bevvy of interesting women, and plenty of scope to weave them into your plots. It's not all a feminist fantasy, though, there are male supporters of Sophia's Daughters listed here as well. This is followed by Chapter 3: Barrier, which presents new game mechanics and rules apposite to Sophia's Daughters including advantages, backgrounds, equipment and both a new Swordsman school and a new type of sorcery, Scrying! It starts off, however, with explaining how to join the Daughters which can be done at character creation or - once a player has discussed an interest with the GM - as the focus of an adventure during your campaign.

Finally, Chapter 4: Beyond contains information for players planning a character who is a Daughter and GMs who want to run plotlines built around them. This consists of a series of short essays about things like Predestination and Visionaries (always a bit tricky to handle in a role-playing game). There is also a section purely for GMs which presents some interesting ideas to weave into your plots when there's a Daughter around, and explains what is behind all the machinations in which the Daughters engage. Lastly there are stat blocks and hidden secrets about all the NPCs in Chapter 2 and a few sample characters.

This provides an interesting and novel group but is of necessity of limited appeal due to the very secretive nature of Sophia's Daughters. Most Théans don't even know that they exist, that will include your party. Only if one of your players wants to play one, or you decide that their activities will embroil the party, is this book going to be of much use. That said, for those who love intrigue it poses a lot of fascinating opportunities ripe for creative use.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies: Sophia's Daughters (Book 6)
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