Using 7th Sea’s Story Mechanic in D&D

My favorite mechanic in 7th Sea is the Story. No, its not the plot (well, not really). It’s their version of leveling up. Each character has a set idea of what happen next in their story with a distinct number of steps and the players determine the reward they’ll get when they complete that story. It works really well for a point buy system like 7th sea, which is sadly not what D&D is.

Let’s smash them together and see what sticks!

Point buy! Getcha Point buy here!

The big difference between 7th Sea and D&D, from a character creation stand point, is that D&D is a class based system, and 7S is, as I said, kind of a point buy system. Its a tad more complicated than that, but point buy is a useful enough description.

“Matt, what is a point buy system?” I hear the perpetual players of D&D say. It is a system where your character starts not as choosing to be a Rogue or a Wizard, but you get a hand full of points and maybe you pick up Expertise and some Spellcasting, and maybe the Druids wild shape and you build a character that works the way you want, without needing to pay attention to things like classes and levels, just how many points you want to spend.

It’s a fun and chaotic way of generating characters. I’ve got some notes somewhere trying to convert D&D5e to a point buy set up. I might work on that later, but for now, imagine that you can take only the parts of the class you want and not all of it.

Point buy, of course, is very unbalanced and its a lot easier to make a bad character. Classes shield us from that, so we should respect them, however grudgingly.

There is a part of D&D, however, that is more a la carte, very flexible, and doesn’t have a consistent way for being handed out. I’m referring of course, to Magic Items.

Everything is Magic, Magic, Magic!

Magic items are pretty cool. Most of them that is. An Alchemy Jug probably has places where its useful. I’d rather have Slippers of Spider Climbing, tho. Not all magic items are created equal, even within their tiers of rarity. The tiers are a good way of grouping the power of the items though and we’ll use it later.

Magic Items have issues of course. DMs would love to give items that are custom fit to characters and their backstory. We really would. But its time, effort, and there is a big risk of putting something untested in the game that is really overpowered.

So we’ll turn to the DMG and it’s handy charts and tables. And while it’s useful to be able to roll up a random item for a dragon horde, its annoying when you roll up something the party can’t use. I hate having to give out cleric only scrolls in AL, for example, as I never have clerics at my table for some reason.

It’s also a little unsatisfying to buy the magic items you want. I think you could make it work, I’ve seen good examples of it, but it doesn’t always feel right. Pumat Sol is probably the best part of Critical Role, just do to the sheer entertainment, but the act of magic item shopping seems a little off to me.

As does giving the DM a wish list. That one never made sense to me. Here’s a list of items. Now hand them back in game. Done. Yeah, always weird.

So let’s see if I like the idea of using stories a bit better.

Brand New Components

I… don’t feel like explaining stories much more, because I would basically be retyping straight out of the book onto here and that feels like work and I don’t like doing unneeded work. Instead, I’ll link you to this handy dandy page that has the basic rules for 7th sea (which are basically the complete rule with just a smidge of things removed.) Check out part 7 of character creation. That’s what we’re talking about. (If you’re as lazy as me, I’ll do an example later that’ll give you enough context (ideally))

How do we know how big our story should be? let’s head back to magic items. Xanthar’s Guide to Everything has some handy lists for our purposes, on pages 140 or so of that useful tome. We see, as we flip through their lists that there are 2 big classifications of items, minor and major. Minor items are things like potions and I don’t want to go on a quest for things like that. Major items are where its at.

Looking at the major items, it seems they start at uncommon and go up. Xanathar’s does have common items listed, so keep those in mind if you want them. Some of them are kind of cool.

The smashing of the two systems fall down to a lowly table, upon which our example below will use:

Item Rarity Number of Story Steps
Common 2 Steps
Uncommon 3 Steps
Rare 4 Steps
Very Rare 5 Steps
Legendary 6 Steps

The Story of Leif-Leif

I joined a game recently and I get to play as a Kobold named Leif-Leif. I have some mysterious past, a huge cloak, and I’m specked for combat. Here’s what I would do (and I’m totally planning to try to talk the GM into using this, btws).

I think it’d be cool for my cloak to get some magical effects, so I scan down the lists for a cloak and settle on something fun: a Cloak of Displacement. It’d give attackers disadvantage until someone hits. Seems useful. It’d also be fun to describe as his cloak being so big, people can’t find him in it. Brilliant. It’s a Rare Item, which means a 4 step story.

Lief-Lief has a tragic story, in that his kobold village was destroyed. He blames himself, because he stole something from a place he shouldn’t have the night before. His 4 part story is a quest of absolution and self redemption. And I’m going to list his first step as Return to the village. He’s been avoiding it for a bit.

Now, that’s a vague quest and you can see why there’s no one step stories, because that would be too easy. Once I get to the village, I complete a story step. I would then figure out the next step.

Not having all the steps be listed gives the GM flexibility in their writing. Maybe the village was burned by a dragon, like Leif-leif thinks. Maybe it was a demon or some dwarves or whatever. I don’t need to know at the outset. But when we get to the village, I can set the next step to be “Determine who set the fire,” maybe. And that give my character new lines of approach, new goals to focus on, and more things the GM can interact with me and my story, instead of the two of us doing our things on our own.

And at the end, the exact awardment of the item is up to the GM, as well as the player. Leif-Lief might suddenly move more confidently in his cloak, learning to fight with this style. Maybe some pixie will touch it, transforming it. Maybe Lief-Lief finds a necklace that grants the ability of the cloak, without actually being the cloak. As long as the mechanical nature of the object is appease (aka attunement) then the game doesn’t care about anything else.

Conclusion

Switching hats from player to GM, this is really cool as it gives me so many options to tie the giving of loot into the story, instead of it being kind of a blah mechanical thing. It’s like… this method of Stories and Items is what being a DM is supposed to be like, but without the structure of it, it’s hard to make work well. It also, I might add, rewards the players who care about the game, show up often, talk the others into aiding thier quests, and the players who take a back seat to things are left in passive behind.

I will note that you can change your story at any time, to any goal. Your progress resets, however. The 7th Sea stuff has more rules and things. Its a good system, and one worth adding to the Toolbox.

(Grind day 3)

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