Product– 7th Sea
System-7th Sea 2nd Edition
TL; DR-Great if you like story, bad if you need hard rules. 90%
Basics-It’s a Pirate’s life for me! 7th Sea is an RPG set in a world on the cusp of the age of exploration after a massive civil war in fantasy not-Europe. Also key to this game is its unique approach to combat and mechanics. Let’s dive into this one.
Base mechanics and rounds-Each scene in the game is divided into action and dramatic scenes. Action scenes are high octane events where characters fight to the death against other humans or monsters! Dramatic scenes are slower time periods where players may try to sway the king in a debate or sail a ship across the sea. But, unlike most games where you choose an action, know your dice, and roll to see if it happens, in both scenes, you say exactly what you want to do. THEN the GM says what attributes and skill you must use. You then take a total of 10-sided dice equal to the sum of that attribute and skill and roll them. This is where the game becomes interesting and extremely different. you can use one or more dice that add up to 10 and that counts as a raise. Each raise is one action you can do in the scene. Then, the GM will describe the scene where the main goals are, side goals are, possible hazards, and if any timed events are. You can can do exactly what you said you were going to do each turn with the person with the most raises going once first and continuing until his or her raises equal another player. If you want to do something you didn’t ask the GM to do at the start, it uses two raises. Want to hurt a guy? One raise does one damage. Want to rifle through the desk? One raise. It very simple and very fast. Base monsters and humans are part of brute squads that do damage equal to the number left in a brute squad with numbers ranging from 1 to 10 numbers per squad. Named monsters and NPCs are treated just like characters and rolling dice just the same.
Advancement-Characters advance via completing story steps. These are amazingly subjective, but that’s an integral part of this RPG. Every story step is one advancement and different things like skills and advantages require different advancement costs.
Magic-It wouldn’t be fantasy if the game didn’t have magic. Magic is an advantage you can take like any other, but the different flavors of magic color your use. Some are things that require a sacrifice. Some require a code of conduct, and some require you to build up a pool of tokens that counter your ability to do things but hurt the enemy. It’s an interesting take on the use of magic, providing a diverse set of subsystems that don’t break the game in their implementation.
Mechanics or Crunch-Overall, 7th age plays quickly, but it’s VERY loose. That’s its goal, but it’s so loose my players had major trouble with the game. One player couldn’t comprehend that he could just see the hidden stuff by spending a raise. Upon being told he already rolled he rolled again and asked what it meant. It’s a HARD shift for a murderhobo to join a story RPG. I like it, but even I would like some more explanation to some of the more fluffy rules built into the system. Nothing here is bad, but it is a game that needs more than just a few quick half page explanations to show how it works. 4.25/5
Theme or Fluff-7th Sea is an amazing world. It’s fully filled out and well developed. It’s a place with lots of stories to tell as well as a lot of places to explore. It’s got everything the age of exploration needs and all the fantasy that your average Pirates of the Carabean movie needs to tell epic high seas fantasies. 5/5
Execution– PDF? Check! Hyperlinked? CHECK! Great layout and ease of readability? CHECK! What do I want? Well, honestly more. It’s a pretty short PDF and the fluff part of the story is well defined. That fills my soul with happy. What isn’t well defined is how to play. It took me way too long to see that your raises were your initiative and how you spent them one to one. I’ve read a few of these books, so I feel that’s a bit on this book. But then again, this is a solid paradigm shift. This ISN’T just reskinned DnD, so your traditional frame of reference if you came in as a solid d20 player isn’t as useful as you may think. If you get used to thinking outside the box, you will be fine, but if you need hand holding like I do during my transition from DnD to story RPG, you might get lost a bit in this book’s flow. 4.25/5
Summary– 7th Sea is a fun story game with less crunch than I’m used to. My wife loved it and gravitated to it easily. My other gaming friends couldn’t handle the story based shift. That’s the major take away-if you want more baked in story, this is the game for you. If you need more solid crunch in your game, then maybe give this one a pass. The book is solid, if you can handle the stuff it leaves out because it’s not important. If you need those pieces, then maybe just play DnD on a pirate ship. But if you can get into the flow of a story game and handle most of the game being hand-waved away because those parts are honestly not part of the story, this is a fantastic take on the pirate fantasy RPG. 90%