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Secret Societies: Los Vagos (Book 5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/12/2017 08:59:09

Consider poor Castille. It's being invaded, things are falling apart. Who champions the people? You know, the ordinary ones who just want to live in peace, make a living, raise their families and so on. The ones who suffer in war and get no rewards from the winning or losing of any battles, but are left with homes and livelihoods destroyed, family and friends killed or injured or scattered to the four winds. And then there's the Inquisition, seeking out heresy wherever they think it might be, on the flimsiest of evidence, or none at all.

El Vago does, that's who. A masked and caped swashbuckler who's recruited a small band of like-minded folk who are called Los Vagos, the Vagabonds. Here's the low down on them, with plenty of information for you to incorporate them into your game. Perhaps your party wants to help them. Or, if they are in the service of Montaigne - or the Inquisitors - they want to capture El Vago and put a stop to this. It may be background, or central to your story. However you want to use it, here is what you need to know.

Chapter 1: La Historia talks about when El Vago arose and how Los Vagos came to be formed, against the background of all the dreadful things going on in Castille and the lack of protection provided by state and church for its citizens. The old King Sandoval had died, his heir Prince Javier seemed to be making a fair fist of ruling but then... he vanished. His 13-year-old brother, another Sandoval, found himself king and he is struggling to get out from under the thumb of the church. No wonder a protector is needed - and here we find out who it is, and how things developed from a single rather oddly-dressed fellow on a horse to an entire clandestine organisation. It is a new group, less than a decade old, and very informal. Still, there are notes on how it is organised and how to become a member, as well as what they do, who they are and how they are supported. The chapter ends with some sample groups and safehouses available to them.

Next, Chapter 2: El Héroe presents many important characters, members of Los Vagos and a few new villains as well. Then Chapter 3: Dramatizar provides game mechanics for becoming a member of Los Vagos and various new skills to pick up including yet another fighting style and even advanced riding skills. There are also new backgrounds and rules for important things like jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Apparently El Vago and his followers enjoy parkour!

Finally, Chapter 4: El Juego contains information on playing a member of Los Vagos and why you might want to do so and the effect it will have on the rest of the party. There's also material for the GM, with even more background and some wonderful ideas about how to run campaigns involving or even centred around Los Vagos. For those seeking the heart of swashbuckling epic adventure, this is a good route to go! Perhaps the party will engage in a classic guerrilla campaign, or act as spies. Or maybe there is only one party member who belongs to Los Vagos, but his exploits will inevitably affect the rest of the group. There are background notes on the NPCs introduced earlier, and a sample Los Vagos campaign if you want a hand to get started.

If you picked up 7th Sea because you wanted to swash your buckle, this gives you ample opportunity not only to do so but feel virtuous about it as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies: Los Vagos (Book 5)
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Secret Societies: Die Kreuzritter (Book 3)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/10/2017 08:28:16

The Kreuzritter serve the Vaticine Church, swearing a fourfold oath of loyalty, charity, secrecy and faith. Yet delve a little deeper and you'll find there is more to them than staunch defenders of the faith (or religious thugs, depending on your point of view). There are reasons for why they are as they are, and they have their own agenda... based on a single question: why did the First Prophet condemn sorcery?

Chapter 1: Loyalty tells of their origins, their aims and objectives, their organisational structure and more. It begins with public knowledge, the information any Théan might know about the Kreuzritter or Black Knights. They started off as a bunch of healers set up in the Crescent Empire city of Zafara by a crusader and his wife, later expanding to include some peacekeepers to police the town and gaining recognition from the Hierophant as the Knights of the Cross (Die Kreuzritter) and being granted their distinctive badge of a black cross. They waxed rich and that, of course, attracted envy and hostility and eventually a successful attempt to bring them down amid accusations of heresy - so far, very much like the real-world tale of the Knights Templar. But we then move on to the secret history, with a firm warning that this should only be read by GMs and those playing a member of the Black Crosses. Basically, they were not wiped out as everyone thought, with connivance by the then Hierophant (yes, the one who had excommunicated them), and have continued for some 200-odd years after their supposed downfall. Various mysteries are revealed here which explain both how and why they became a secret society that stands firm in the shadows, defending the church, the faith and all mankind. We also read about the current way they are organised and how they recruit and train new members, and there's extensive discussion of their philosophy and beliefs (excellent resource for role-playing for the more reflective player!).

Then Chapter 2: Charity contains biographical notes on many members of the order - and some of their enemies - who will prove useful NPCs as the party interacts with the order. This is followed by Chapter 3: Secrecy, which has all the apposite 'rules stuff': a new Swordsman school suited to assassins, the special and unique sorceries the Black Crosses use (sparingly of course, as they hold sorcery to be evil!), various advantages of membership, and some extremely useful gadgets that members may borrow when undertaking a mission. This chapter ends with some rules for tracking, something Black Cross knights are extremely good at.

Finally, Chapter 4: Faith has sections for players and for GMs aimed at empowering effective use of the Black Knights in your game. It starts by discussing whether or not the Black Knights are evil. There are plenty of ideas about how to stay true to Kreuzritter ideals even when you are the only one in a party and may not, of course, even let on what you are. The GM section includes the dark secrets of all the NPCs introduced in Chapter 2, along with their stat blocks. There are also assorted secrets that you may or may not choose to reveal as the campaign proceeds, complete with ideas of how to use them in your game. There are also notes on running a campaign that focusses on the order, rather than having it as an adversary or just having a single member of the party belong to it.

This is an intriguing one. Starting out, as noted, as a pastiche of the history of the Knights Templar, it suddenly takes a sharp turn and builts a complete backstory and rationale that fits the setting of 7th Sea admirably well. A true secret society that most will never know anything about, you may question the book's use unless you have a player clamouring to join or want to run adventures involving them... give it a try and you could be in for some epic games!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies: Die Kreuzritter (Book 3)
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Secret Societies: Rilasciare (Book 2)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/09/2017 09:08:08

The Introduction speaks of the Rilasciare, a secret society that is quite contradictory. Viewed by many as dangerous anarchists, opponents of law and order, they see themselves as a bastion for truth and fairness, stamping out wrong-doing and corruption wherever it raises its head. Enlightened ones speaking out against outdated ideas, or a bunch of hoodlums who trample tradition underfoot with nothing to replace it? You decide...

Chapter 1: The Midnight Crusade looks at the history and organisation of the Rilasciare. It's an apt title, the Rilasciare often work at night or at least within the shadows, convinced of their own correctness they do not trouble to persuade others or even justify their actions. Although the first section is headed The Public Face, the Rilasciare don't really have one. Most regard them as a loose almost disconnected group of criminals, thinkers and reformers (the term used being based on the speaker's opinion of them!) and do not see the underlying organisation and coordination. Their aims and methods are rooted in their history, which by and large is known only to the membership. It all began with some Old Empire senators who turned to the dark arts in their quest to get rid of the current Imperator (and along the way founded the sorcerous bloodlines that spread throughout Théah) - and three senate pages who overheard them making pacts with dark powers and decided that enough was enough. Despite learning their own dark arts of poisons and assassination, they weren't getting very far... until one of them overheard the First Prophet preaching on the streets of Numa and connived to get him martyred, reasoning that such a fate would elevate a mere street preacher and his ideas (which which she agreed) to levels that mere preaching on street corners would never attain.

History rolled on and the Rilasciare with it (their name meaning 'troublemaker' in Old Théan being quite apt). Some members debated philosophy, others sought out sorcerers and brought them to account... or at least, sent them summarily to meet their makers. As the sorcerers they fought against were nobles, they often found common cause with those opposing misrule and oppression. When they wiped out some Eisen sorcerers with the help of a rival noble that didn't carry a sorcerous bloodline, they found that he was an even worse ruler than those they'd aided him to replace, and their thinking began to change: perhaps sorcery wasn't the only evil in the world. Perhaps the real enemy was those in power, however they had obtained it. The advent of the Third Prophet confirmed them in this opinion, and those who had embraced the Vaticine Church began to fall away, becoming free-thinkers. Over time, more and more turned to ideas and debate, still secret as many of the ideas might be deemed trasonous by the powers-that-be, and the violence seemed to become a thing of the past... but it did not go away entirely.

Their basic beliefs can be stated simply. Nobody should be in want. Sorcery is evil. Power corrupts, so the trappings of power must be destroyed. They seek to achieve their ends through freedom of thought, enlightened thinking - but they have not abandoned violence as a tool to accomplish their goals. They believe that all people are created equal, and nobles are not better than anybody else. There's a look at the structure of the organisation and how they work to achieve their ends in the present day. They even run schools - even if it doesn't say Rilasciare over the door! Others pull Robin Hood acts, stealing to redistribute amongst the poor, or commit acts of violence. Others remain committed to the original goal of ridding the world of sorcery. We also learn of recruitment methods and protocols. Whilst those few outsiders who know about them regard them as violent out-of-control thugs, they actually detest mindless violence - theirs is focussed with surgical precision, used only when absolutely necessary. Or so they believe.

The chapter finishes with a listing of locations and resources. Next comes Chapter 2: Hero which introduces some of the leading members of the Rilasciare. This is followed by Chapter 3: Drama, which is full of additional rules and other new material. These include a new, and rather informal, Swordsman school, rules for joining the Rilasciere and creating your own group or cell and even rules for using explosives. And, should you be interested in such things, a certain Eisen style of sorcery the Rilasciare thought they wiped out. Did the bloodline survive? Dare you play one and have the entire Rilasciare on your tail?

Finally, Chapter 4: Freemen contains a wealth of material mainly aimed at the GM (although there is a Player section as well) designed to help you bring the Rilasciare to life in your game. The GM gets the lowdown on the NPCs presented in Chapter 2, secrets and stat blocks galore, as well as advice on running a 'bomb-throwing' campaign... not to mention what to do with just one or two Freethinkers within a more conventional party. There are other ideas as well to get your creative juices going, as well as more detailed adventure hooks and the description of a prison based in a mine and no doubt very handy should some Rilasciare prank go horribly wrong...

The Rilasciare grew on me as I read this book. On the face of it they seem somewhat like a bunch of terrorists, and indeed they could be played that way if you are looking for a persistent enemy for more law-abiding heroes (an option that rather surprisingly is not considered). If your players have an anarchic streak, however, at least one might be open to recruitment or you may opt for a Rilasciare-based campaign. There's more to them than meets the eye!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies: Rilasciare (Book 2)
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Secret Societies: The Knights of the Rose and Cross (Book 1)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/26/2016 12:02:51

The Knights of the Rose and Cross are one of several secret societies in Théah, societies that cross international borders and pursue their own agendas. The Introduction takes pains to comment that the information about the Knights given here are but one view of the society, and it is up to the GM to determine what is the actual truth in his game. This is what might be discovered by diligent investigation by individuals or the party, but it is unlikely that outsiders, or even regular members, will be able to find out all their secrets. To the casual observer, the Knights appear to be a mere gentlemen's social club, but of course there is much more for the discerning eye to discover...

Chapter 1: The Order makes a start, beginning with a section called The Public Face. The Knights do not hide away after all, and this section covers what most Théans know about them. This information should be available to any character who is interested enough to search it out. The society first came to light in 1613 with the publication of a pamphlet that explained the organisation as being a secret band of gentlemen dedicated to three Vows: to bring justice to the unjust, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and to serve those who wore the sacred seal of the Order. The origins of this pamphlet, and the several that followed it, were unexplained, moreover it said that those who followed the Rose and Cross were invisible. passing unknown through society. The Vaticine Church was not impressed and went to great lengths in their unsuccessful attempts to track down whoever was behind it all. A few high-profile rescues of individuals from danger followed and then one day over one hundred highly-placed men put on badges bearing the rose and cross symbol... and by 1617 the Order was recognised by the Hierophant. Speculation continues, as they are still very secretive: you might know where one of their Chapter Houses is, but unless you are a member you may not enter. Like any such group, it's attracted those who want to publicise their secrets, and the work of one such investigator is presented here. Make of it what you please.

The next section is The Private Agenda, which comes with a warning that it ought not to be read by those whose characters are not members of the Order. It is far more ancient than the first public appearances of 1613, and here is a run-through of its origins and history. The Knights were both warriors and scholars. Students of history will note that the early history of the Knights of the Rose and Cross is similar to that of the real-world Knights Templars, woven through the history of Théah to make it appropriate to this setting, and of course continuing into more modern times, the Knights still being active in 1668. The actual nature and structure of the Order is discussed, along with details of life as a Knight. Ranks, secret codes, legends and more are covered, and this is followed by an entire section on the Order's resources. This includes a listing of chapter houses throughout Théah.

The next chapter is Hero, which contains details of many prominent Knights and other notables connected with the Order. Each comes with background details, stat block and role-playing notes, and there are sketches of most of them too. This is followed by Chapter 3: Drama, which provides apposite new rules material. There's a swordsman school available only to Knights, new advantages and even the game mechanics for establishing a chapter house. Other rules cover the extreme athleticism of the Knights, leaping roof to roof is commonplace - it would seem they enjoy parkour! Here are the rules for epic aerial, or at least rooftop, antics. The chapter finishes with notes on some unusual artefacts in the Order's possession.

Finally, Chapter 4: Knight contains material for Players and for Game Masters. The Player section peeks behind the scenes of the design process that went into the Order of the Rose and Cross, as well as a look at alchemical symbolism and chivalry as it is known in Théah. The GM section includes a brief scenario and other plot ideas, a complete chapter house, and a few secrets only briefly touched upon in the rest of the book. In essence, there's a complete quickstart campaign for those who want to run games in which the Order features large, indeed is central to the party.

There's a lot here to take in. It would be easy to dismiss it as derivative, but it is a lot more than that. Those who would adventure at sea have the Brotherhood of the Coast as a framework, the Order supplies similar structure for those who would swash their buckle on land. Knights don't need to search out adventures, they come to them almost automatically - and if there's any paucity of opportunity, a quick word with the Order's hierarchy will soon suggest something worth getting involved with. Indeed it can make a complete campaign with the party all members, perhaps working their way up through the ranks. Well worth including in your game as epic background, even if your players do not wish to become Knights, and if they do... it is the stuff of which 7th Sea adventures are made!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies: The Knights of the Rose and Cross (Book 1)
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Waves of Blood
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/20/2016 11:05:35

Now I don't play card games at all, but apparently there was a collectable card game (CCG) based on the same world as the 7th Sea RPG, and this book is a 'cross-over' intended to facilitate sharing of ideas between the RPG and the CCG. The Introduction explains that much of it was intended to enable CCG players to make use of role-playing material, but that role-players may also find ideas and information to use on the table-top.

The first chapter, History, presents the storyline as used in the CCG. This involves a long and dangerous search for a mysterious island called Cabora that had long lain hidden beneath the sea, by the machinations of the mysterious Syrenth. Just about every nation and faction you can imagine got involved in this search. Plenty of swashbuckling and skirmishes, particularly at sea, ensued as all these rivals searched for a series of 'switches' that would eventually cause Cabora to arise. It all makes for an exciting and epic story and - if your party are not avid card players - could quite easily be turned into an excellent role-playing campaign. (I must confess I'm quite baffled as to how you tell such a story with a card game, though! I think it served more as background to combats between CCG players.) If you are planning such a thing, the timeline in the back of the book will be invaluable.

Then the next chapter, Factions and Places, is about turning features from the CCG into resources for your game, with detailed descriptions of the various factions used in the CCG. Each faction - and there are quite a few! - has its history, structure, tactics and notes on their crews laid out. We also hear about legendary ships and notable locations that have featured in the CCG. Plenty of scope to gather background flavour for your role-playing game here.

Chapter 3: GM's Section looks at adventures at sea and at faction-based adventures. These only work if everyone at the table belongs to the same faction, of course... unless you want a real brawl on your hands. There's also a list of all the artefacts that have turned up in the CCG complete with descriptions of their powers and abilities, a discussion of their current whereabouts, and adventure hooks that are mostly quests to retrieve the item in question. There is also all you might need to bring the horrifying legend of the Black Freighter to your table, as well as plenty of the secrets of the lost isle of Cabora itself. This includes some devilish traps which might come in handy.

Finally, Chapter 4: Rules enables you to convert personalities from the CCG into characters for the role-playing game, and to create cards for your favourite player-characters if you'd like to do that. There are some new bits and pieces for role-playing characters based on stuff in the CCG, and a swordsman school - it's the Rogers one from the Pirate Nations sourcebook - that's appropriate for characters originating from the CCG. New backgrounds, skills and items follow, along with some advanced sailing rules and ones for nautical battles. The book rounds off with two appendices, the first covering locations and a timeline for the CCG (invaluable if you want to reuse that storyline in your role-playing campaign), and the second containing full stat blocks and background information for many of the CCG's most prominent figures.

So, is this useful? It certainly is if you think that the plotline of the CCG would make a good role-playing campaign - and if your tastes lean towards derring-do on the high seas with a strong flavour of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, it probably will - provided your players are not CCG fanatics who already know it, of course. It's certainly good to see all the hard work and imagination that went into the CCG presented in a useful form for role-players.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Waves of Blood
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7th Sea: Heroes & Villains
by William M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/16/2016 16:25:13

A great resource for people who want a handful of colourful NPCs to insert into their campaign, and as inspiration for your own. It really gives a clear idea on how to put characters together for people learning the system, both players and GMs. A handful of new stuff is thrown in right at the end and it's all pretty good- though the new Duelling Style really does need to be expanded on more (but is serviceable as it is). The stuff allowing you to blur the line between Duelists and non-Duelists is very very useful, as well as the discount for existing Duelists to pick up extra styles. The art is great and encompasses a wide variety of styles (which means some pictures may not be to your taste, but each picture has had at least one person in my gaming group say they liked it). All in all a very good resource for many, but not every group will get much use out of it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea: Heroes & Villains
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Nations of Théah: The Pirate Nations (Book 1)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/16/2016 07:44:41

In a cinematic game where swordfighting is an art form, what better way to swash your buckle than become a pirate? Yet the Introduction takes a more philosophical tone, describing how real-world priates of the 17th century operated an egalitation democracy that it took landlubbers a couple more centuries to develop (if indeed they've even managed it yet). The pirates of Théah are similar, seeing themselves almost as another nation, with a common bond forged by their lifestyle and the way in which each ship-load organises itself.

First up, though, is Chapter 1: Ports of Call. Even pirates set foot on dry land sometimes, so here are some places where they might feel at home. Summon up the visual images from The Pirates of the Caribbean, and visit the Straits of Blood. Several taverns and houses of ill-repute can be found here, and there's plenty of atmosphere and background stories to help you make it all come alive. If this very traditional pirate refuge doesn't suit, try La Bucca - a settlement built on the remains of a failed experiment in creating a self-regulating prison community on a remote island. Now it's home to a community that, although on land, lives by pirate rules like a ship. Or maybe Caguine, a nest of smugglers and scoundrels languishing under a Sidhe course takes your fancy. There are sketchmaps of each place, but it's a bit harder to determine where they actually are on Théah. Some pirate legends to beguile the party are also provided (the GM can decide if there's any truth to them, of course) to round out this chapter.

Next, Chapter 2: Pirate presents details of six of the best-known pirate bands infesting the seas of Théah. Find out their stories, organisation, tactics and more... will these be the party's enemies, allies or bosom companions? Leading NPCs are detailed here too, so you know with whom you are dealing - a horde of fellows you'd probably not want to meet in a dark alley, at least, not without your sword to hand!

Then, Chapter 3: Drama contains a bunch of game mechanics aimed at bringing pirate goodness into your game. Here, for the first time, the Destiny Spread aid to character creation is explained (most of the other Nations sourcebooks have a variant on it suited to that particular region). Best done with a Tarot deck if you have one, but there's an alternate method mostly using die rolls if you don't. There's a new swordsman school that teaches what are in effect cinematic piratical tricks, new advantages and backgrounds, new rules to handle languages in a polyglot crew, new skills and even new items... If that's not enough, learn to duel pirate style and even find rules for holding your liquour (or not, as the case might be). More rules cover sailing and naval battles, and there's a discussion about when - and if - a GM should ever deprive a hero of one of his advantages.

This is followed by Chapter 4: Sailor Sourcebook. Herein is a discussion about running a pirate-centric campaign, advancing the idea that choosing one doesn't necessarily mean that trips ashore are no more than opportunities for drinking and wenching. This discussion is divided into a Player section and a GM one, but it's probably worth everyone reading both... even the adventure ideas in the GM section are broad enough that it doesn't matter if the players have read them. There's also a piece about navigation. Without reliable timepieces, navigation at sea is a bit of a bear. You are left with dead reckoning, celestial navigation (which requires excellent mathematics even if you can see the stars), and a rutter - records of the voyages made by a previous captain. So, to pass the time whilst your ship is lost, there are a few gambling games to play here too; and a rundown of the stores and supplies your ship is likely to carry. Finally, there are some nice sketches of pirate ships.

When I first encountered the 7th Sea RPG back in 2000, my first thought was 'pirates'... then I ran a series of land-based adventures. Cinematic in the extreme, but this book rekindles the urge to put the 'sea' back into the game, it captures the essence of what it all ought to be about!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nations of Théah: The Pirate Nations (Book 1)
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Nations of Théah: Vendel & Vesten (Book 8)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/15/2016 08:23:53

One nation, two names. Two completely different outlooks. Will you honour the traditions of Vestenmannavjnar or favour the new ideas of Vendel? Vestenmannavjnar is a primitive, barbaric land of sagas and communal life, Vendel a burgeoning economic powerhouse. Yet they share common bonds: strength and pride... and therein lies the tragedy of potential missed as the two outlooks war instead of working together.

Chapter 1: Vendel-Vesten reviews the sweep of history, or tries to - the rich oral tradition of Vestenmannavjnar isn't too strong on things like dates! Not to mention the mixing of legend and fact, and each skald putting his own spin on things... The first 'hard' date is the year 818, when Gunnaf the Ravenhaired managed to unite the islands in common cause, with one jarl per island and all working together under a single High King, all under the watchful eye of their deity, Grumfather. That's when the raiding began. By 1510, however, some elements of society tired of a life filled solely with raiding and hunting - and even more of a leadership interested in nothing else. Thus, the carls (middle class freemen, merchants, traders, farmers and craftsmen) came together and began the first steps of what is now 'Vendel'. They began to travel, not to raid but to trade, and soon they prospered and the Vendel League was formed. Recently they came up with the concept of paper money, backed by faith in the government issuing it, and their trading reaches ever new heights.

This chapter also contains details of the different tribes who make up the people of Vestenmannavjnar, and discusses culture, laws, naming customs, religion, and everyday life. Here we find the sharpest divides between Vestenmannavjnar and Vendel, so much so that the two are covered in separate sections that address these aspects for each group. Vendel revolves around a guild structure, and they have abandoned the pagan ways of their ancestors, most embracing Objectionism. Here too are descriptions of the islands that make up this nation (a map would have been nice...).

Next, Chapter 2: Hero presents an array of NPCs, Vestenmannavjnar and Vendal alike. This is followed by Chapter 3: Drama, which - as usual with the 'Nation' sourcebooks - contains assorted new options and rules mechanics to aid in presenting this nation within your game. There is a Rune Drawing system (in place of the Destiny Deck) and also horoscopes (favoured by the Vendel), along with new backgrounds, new skills, new knacks, new swordsman schools (used loosely, one fights with harpoons, one axes, and another with pistols, as well as more conventional places that teach you to wave a sword around) and more magical rules as well. Advantages, equipment and a collection of new rules finish this off.

Finally, Chapter 4: Riven presents material for both players and (mostly) GMs. The player portion explores the dichotomy inherent in the people and how to use it to effect in your role-playing. The GM part looks at rune magic and the Living Runes. There are also secrets and stat blocks for all the NPCs in Chapter 2 (and a few more), plus a monster, 3 templates for your own NPCs or even player-characters, and a sheet depicting all the runes.

It's all quite fascinating, and the concept of a nation busy reinventing itself is quite unique and rather fun to play with. The place and people really come to life, so whether your party will come from here or just visit, there is loads of useful material in this book.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nations of Théah: Vendel & Vesten (Book 8)
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Swordsman's Guild
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/13/2016 07:25:47

Do you take swordplay seriously? On Théah, that's probably the only way to take your swordsmanship... so here is an elite organisation that anyone who has waved a sword around ought to be aspiring to join. It's possibly the most 'international' organisation on Théah: it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, you are welcome if your swordplay is good enough and you agree to abide by their rules (which are not onerous). Some say it exists to regulate and control duelling, but perhaps it has a deeper function, maintaining standards amongst those who live - and die - by the sword, and this is how it is presented here. Indeed in many countries where duelling is permitted, oversight has been delegated to the Swordsman's Guild.

In the first chapter, Advance, covers the history of the Guild from its establishment in 1644 to the present day. There is a wealth of detail on how the Guild is organised, the way it ordains that duelling should be conducted, and how to join up - basically, if you study at an accredited Sword School, you are automatically enrolled. There are other routes in for those who do not learn the sword in this way. Note that any bladed weapon used in hand-to-hand combat counts, axemen and the like are also welcomed. It also looks at the state of the sword in the different nations of Théah, how duelling is conducted there, major sword schools, and so on.

Next, Chapter 2: Fleche contains notes on major NPCs in the Guild and from the swordfighting world. Then Chapter 3: Riposte looks at the necessary game mechanics you'll need including new backgrounds, advantages, advanced knacks, and details of the 'sanctioned' schools that have already been published in other books... and, of course, several new ones. An interesting introduction is that of Grand Mastery. Slightly artificially, it doesn't matter how many sword school styles you know, you can only fight using the skills learned in one of them at a time... unless, as a master of several styles, you become a Grand Master. Then you can mix and match styles mid-fight, using anything you know as the opportunity presents itself. The mechanics for achieving Grand Mastery are explained, and for those who aim high indeed, there is also a section on establishing your own School or Fighting Style. Another section details weapon types along with notes on customisation.

Finally, Chapter 4: Coup de Gras lifts the lid a bit, beginning with the 'Great Secret' that underlies the Guild. There are some notes for players on why it is worth being part of the Guild, but the majority of this chapter is for the GM's eyes only. There's an explanation of how (indeed if) you can use the Guild to effect in your game, extra background on the NPCs met earlier on and a few additional NPCs.

That's it, really. In some ways, as presented, the Swordsman's Guild is a bit artificial and you may decide that you'd rather leave it out of your game altogether. But what if you decide to make something more of it? An organisation dedicated to advancing the art - or is it science? - of swordsmanship, that knows no boundaries, perhaps. Or maybe much more of a fraternity, a bond between those who live by the sword that transcends nationality or other allegiencies? These aspects might have been explored, and you may decide to consider them for your own implementation of the Swordsman's Guild.



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The Montaigne Revolution
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/12/2016 08:09:40

As originally published, the entire 7th Sea setting was presented as it was in the year 1668. A couple of years later, this 'update' book was produced advancing the timeline about 18 months... and of course running into the problem that, if your party pulled off enough epic stunts, things might have gone in a radically different direction! Those beginning a campaign have the option of starting their game in 1668 or using this material and starting in late 1669 instead; those with an ongoing game can consider what's in here in relation to what's happened in their game and adjust accordingly. The intention was to publish a series of these updates, advancing the common timeline a year or so at a time, but for various reasons this didn't happen.

OK, so assuming you want to watch history advance around the ears of the party - and it is an excellent way to remind them of the 'reality' of the world in which the game is being played and even let them get embroiled in world-shaking events if they and you want - what's been going on? It's a time of great change and the title is a bit of a give-away: there is a revolution taking place in Montaigne. This is one of the major events to be discussed with an eye to letting the party participate in events, plenty of opportunity here! Chapter 1: The Fallen Sun deals with it in great detail. Pick the point at which you want to get involved, or if the party is busy elsewhere, the news will catch up with them sooner or later.

The background to the revolution involves a downtrodden peasantry ground down by the wars Montaigne is fighting, the backlash from the Emperor when his daughter fails to present him with the heir he was hoping for and the general poverty and oppression from the 'noble' class. The flashpoint came when a peasant soldier, returned from war, killed a noble who was abusing his wife, a lady the soldier had known and loved before he'd enlisted... and was condemned to death for his crime. A riot erupted and... the rest is, or shall become, history. As things spiral downhill, there are plenty of opportunities for you to weave your own plots around events - perhaps the party will influence them, change them, or perhaps they will merely be witnesses to these momentous events as they go about their own affairs. Left to develop, the revolution results in the overthrow of the Emperor and the establishment of a parliament but all is not as rosey as it might be, power corrupts, as they say and not everyone is content with what is going on. This chapter ends with a 'state of the nation' review which allows you to set adventures in Revolutionary Montaigne, and also lays out the involvement of the various secret societies - perhaps characters who are members were involved in these?

Next, Chapter 2: Vodacce and the New Age details the other momentous event of the year: the discovery and opening up of a strange barrier that apparently was the cause of all ships exploring westward never coming home again. There's a whole lot of background detailing the machinations (the Vodaccian Great Game at play, as always) that led to the discovery, and the reactions to it. Just about every nation and society has its own opinion (although they are a bit distracted in Montaigne as you can imagine) and ideas for exploiting the new opportunities. Fundamentally, though, there's somewhere new to explore...

Then, Chapter 3: Elsewhere is a run-through of what has been taking place in the other nations of Théah. No matter where your party's adventures take them, there are events of which you can take advantage, weaving them into your ongoing plots or letting them serve as a backdrop to whatever is going on.

Chapter 4: Adventures and Campaigns is intended for GMs only (assuming that whoever GMs your group's 7th Sea games is but a single person). It contains secrets underlying the recent history that has just been recounted, and possibly the biggest secret of all: what is the 7th Sea anyway? There are notes on creating your own secret society, and a short adventure - 'The Lady's Fate' - to demonstrate how this all works as one is set up during the course of the adventure. There is a fistful of adventure hooks based around the events described in earlier chapters (just in case reading them didn't give you enough ideas). Finally, an appendix provides a wealth of new NPCs.

On picking this up I was a bit dubious, I've never been a fan of a steadily-advancing timeline within a setting. If you are going to do one, however, this is the way to do it! It's detailed yet open-ended, designed with adventure in mind and of course, it's all optional. Pick the bits you want, and write the history of your own version of Théah!



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7th Sea Adventures: Tangled Strands
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/09/2016 07:28:51

How to describe this? A series of encounters, a mini-campaign, an ongoing plotline... basically this book provides four 'episodes' that can be interwoven with whatever else is going on in your game. They concern the ongoing relationships between a Hero, a Scoundrel and a Villain - and at times read like the best quality melodrama! The Hero and the Scoundrel are in love, the Scoundrel did gaol time with the Villain (and they do not like each other)... you begin to get the picture?

Each Episode should be treated as a separate adventure, with concomitent award of experience. The first two can be run back-to-back, but other adventures should come between the following episodes. Unlike many of the published adventures for 7th Sea these ones are quite combat-heavy, and are intended as a breath of fresh air and a bit of exercise for Heroes spending too much time on intrigue and politics.

It all starts with a nice lunch in a good Castillian restaurant, but soon sweeps the party into a tale of remorse and love and a brawl with some bandits. Neatly, whatever the party decides to do with the initial set-up, all options lead to the same place... and matters proceed from there. The NPCs are well-constructed with complex natures and backstories, designed to be woven seamlessly into the world you are creating... and suck the party into the next episode of this adventure, taking them to Montaigne-occupied territory and as far afield as Vodacce and a surprising revelation!

It's all very nicely put together, the sort of low-key long running plot arc that makes the world seem very real. These NPCs have lives of their own when the party isn't around, but remember what has gone before and involve the party as appropriate. Each episode will involve a brawl, but there are still opportunities for those who prefer more peaceful methods to practise those as well. Ideas for further character-driven adventures involving many of the key NPCs are included at the end.

Overall, a very pleasant and entertaining sequence of events to blend in with whatever else is going on in your campaign. Well worth a look!



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7th Sea Adventures: Tangled Strands
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7th Sea Adventures: Mightier than the Sword
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2016 07:38:49

In this book are two complete adventures for 7th Sea, both of which promise some entertaining escapades for your party.

The first is 'The Music of the Spheres' and it is intended to give the party a range of things to engage with - mystery, intrigue, politics, exploration, and combat. This is good if you either have a mixed bunch who like different aspects or people who like a rounded adventure with plenty to exercise the mind and voice as well as the sword-arm. It takes place in the Montaigne capital, Charouse... so someone who can at least speak the language would be useful. The matters to be dealt with reach to the level of the Emperor himself, so Montaignian nobles may be glad of the opportunity to please him - or regret it if everything goes wrong. If the first encounter - a bandit attack - goes well, the party will get invited to court and may even attend a magnificent masked ball. Stir in a missing beautiful young lady and the adventure is soon afoot...

The second adventure is 'The Golden Head of Korlak ur-Nagath'. It's based around an ancient legend that most well-educated Théans will know (much as you have probably heard of Odysseus and the legends surrounding him). There's a lot of background, but basically this adventure is a treasure-hunt. You can play it straight and serious or in a more lighthearted manner, depending on your tastes and the sort of campaigns you like to run. It all begins with a swivel-eyed loon who swears that he's seen the head of a massive gold stature that sounds just like the one mentioned in the legends. Of course it isn't as simple as following his directions and picking the thing up...

They are both cracking adventures that capture the flavour of 7th Sea and are the sort of thing that most parties ought to be able to take on without too much difficulty. Plenty of background and evocative descriptions are provided, and both adventures are suitably cinematic in scope. Go and swash your buckles...



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7th Sea Adventures: Mightier than the Sword
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7th Sea Adventures: Freiburg (Boxed Set)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/07/2016 13:35:07

This boxed set (or bundle of PDFs) provide all the information you need to visit Freiburg, widely considered to be Théah's most dangerous city. Eisen is in a mess, battered by war and this material doesn't just let your party go there, it puts you in a position to shape its future. There's an entire mini-campaign as well as the normal details you'd expect in a city sourcebook. The set consists of three books, one of which is an in-character guidebook your party can buy in the course of the game! A neat touch...

The main book, City of Freiburg, is aimed at the GM. It's got a history of Freiburg, random encounters for different parts of the city, notes on government and law (including, of course, the punishments for those who fall foul of it), loads of NPCs, new rules (including resources for creating characters native to the city) and the local swordsman school. It also has the campaign, Hammer and Tongs, should you decide to run it.

There are three options to consider: a party new to Freiburg, one made up of locals, or a group of established characters for whom this visit is but the next adventure. If you are starting a new party of folk who are strangers to the city, a few hints are given as to useful guidelines for character creation. The campaign itself involves the party becoming owners of a propery in town... a manor house with some interesting secrets, then things get even more interesting when the party tries to exploit what they have found. The campaign is built around four 'hard points' (which are essential to the plot) and a host of 'soft points', which are optional depending on how long a campaign you want, what else is going on, and what the party decides to do. Each comes with plenty of detail to enable you to run it to effect. The first hard point provides for the manor house coming into the party's possession in the first place... and then you can take it from there. It's an entertaining and exciting campaign, well worth the running... particularly for a party that enjoys being embedded into their surroundings rather than just passing through.

The second book is The Sights of Freiburg. This resource contains a complete location-by-location description of the map that's included in the box (or download). There are also building maps and plenty of ideas to spawn plots other than those of the campaign provided. It is full of wonderful detail that makes the place come to life, and invaluable for any visit to Freiburg whether or not you decide to run the campaign. It just about takes you building-by-building, with loads of local colour to make your descriptions vivid and atmospheric.

The final book is Welcome to Freiburg, being a guidebook hawked on the streets to the unwary. Sometimes it contradicts information elsewhere in the boxed set, in which case, assume that the guidebook is wrong! The Sights of Freiburg, which the GM should keep to himself, is the accurate version.

Overall, it is a wonderfully-detailed city, with a campaign that will draw your party right in to the centre of affairs - and the resulting danger! Thoroughly recommended!



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7th Sea Adventures: Freiburg (Boxed Set)
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Crescent Empire
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/06/2016 08:50:18

When 7th Sea first came out, the Crescent Empire was the mysterious unknown. Eventually, though, this book came out and we could all get a glimpse behind the curtain. It's a land of legend and mystery where few explorers have dared to tread, monsters and myths and riches... and endless deserts.

The First Scroll: The Crescent Empire looks at the history and geography of the place, east of Vodacce and south of Ussura. The Empire of the Crescent Moon, to give it its full name, is ancient indeed, said to be the very cradle of life. Its origins lie in nomadic tribes, each of which has legends about its foundation which are given here... ripe for telling around a camp fire. Believers in signs and portents, myths surround historical events throughout their long history. The Second Prophet of the Théan faith came from somewhere deep in the desert, a place where he proclaimed Theus himself dwelled (hence people should make pilgrimages there...). His teachings and ultimate demise led to years of Crusades, invaders from the west. Time past and the tribes unified under a sultan, continuing to be wary of their neighbours. Perhaps now the times are changing, perhaps not.

The scroll continues with discussion of the government as it stands today (structured and bureaucratic) with national and tribal systems to consider... and then there are the Eyes of the Peacock, a vast and all-pervasive secret police who give the impression of knowing what everyone is up to. Military organisation, trade and even slavery (which is a significent element in social structure) are also covered, and the position of women in the Empire is discussed - something little understood by outsiders (or indeed the mind of the modern gamer... but it's not all harems and sex slaves!). Taxes, culture, customs, the arts, food and even their attitude to animals are also discussed here. As for religion, they worship a Great Creator, whose message has been revealed through visions granted to a simple herdsman. And there's more including geography (and a map, I'm glad to say!).

Next, the Second Scroll: Prominent People introduces a host of NPCs, just about any one of which could make your visit to the Empire really exciting. This is followed by the Third Scroll: Drama, which contains assorted rules-related material, beginning with resources for creating characters from the Crescent Empire. The usual collection of new skills, knacks, etc., follows, along with new swordsman schools which include the use of the scimitar and an acrobatic form of knife-fighting. You can even learn horse archery if so minded. Magic, the zodiac and other such esoterica are also covered, along with poisons and equipment unique to the area.

Finally, the Fourth Scroll: Veils and Whispers contains player and GM sections. The player bit discusses the differences in culture between the western nations and the Empire, GMs get various useful materials including cults and magic, NPC secrets and monsters. To round it all off, a scenario - The Emerald Scimitar - for beginning Empire characters, although it might be adaptable to visitors from other lands if they have been able to gain acceptance amongst the tribes. There are also some adventure seeds to get you started on your own plots... and there is a game, Ajedrez, widely played across the Empire, a chess-style game you may wish to have going on in the background.

It's a magnificent sweep across novel and uncharted territory, mixing themes from the Sahara and Middle East in true 7th Sea style into something that feels familiar but is new and embedded into the game world. For those who likeexotic adventures, definitely worth acquiring.



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Nations of Théah: Ussura (Book 7)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/05/2016 07:58:03

Ussura is a vast nation in the north, cold and filled with tradition (some say rather superstition). Looking east as much as west, people here follow the First Prophet claiming that they need no more... except perhaps their own deity, Matushka, whose faith they meld with the teachings of the Prophet. It's untamed steppes, vast forests, places where monsters still lurk and superstitions can come true. Yet it is by no means as backward as the rest of Théah would have you believe.

First Ussura covers the history and geography of the land, covering the story of Matushka herself and the sweep of history from the earliest times up to the present day. It also explains the local style of magic, Pyeryem, which is a gift of Matushka and unlike most magics is not found exclusively in those of noble birth. Formed out of a fusion of five fiefdoms, Ussura is ruled by a 'Gaius' chosen personally, it is believed, by Matushka who signifies her choice by turning the individual's hair snow-white... but more remarkably, the chosen one is almost always a peasant despite the noble class, the boyars, being otherwise a significant part of the country's government, with the heads of the five kingdoms providing a ruling council.

Discussions follow on the governance of the land, its social composition and more. It's a stratified society with each layer secure in its positions and responsibilities. The discourse moves on to the land itself - and this time there's actually a map showing where the places discussed are to be found! This is a great help as the five kingdoms are discribed. Read here about the ruling families, about the towns and other notable features. And then of course there's religion. Ussuran Orthodoxy recognises but one Prophet, the first one. Culture is also covered, much of it being either religious or practical. Ussurans have great respect for the law and a fondness for giving gifts. Outsiders forget this at their peril.

Next, Hero introduces a gallery of prominent NPCs (stats and secrets about them are found later on in the GM's section). This is followed by Drama, home of new rules. There are new Pyeryem knacks and boons to acquire, new backgrounds and skills, and new swordsman schools... er, sort of, one teaches fighting not with swords but with hand axes, whilst schools dedicated to archery and wrestling are also available. There are also rules for busking, in case you can perform but are short of cash!

The final section is Lifeblood, which is divided into Player and GM sections. The Player section has a discussion of the nature of Pyeryem, a sorcery in which the practitioner literally becomes another animal, and more about the Usurran 'style' of life, useful when playing one. Meanwhile the GM gets the lowdown on who Matushka really is, NPC secrets and a few new monsters.

Again, a rich background exploring part of the fascinating world that is Théah - some may say 'too much' but if, like me, the joy of role-playing is creating an alternate reality, this is a mature and well-developed one you can imagine visiting.



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