Showcase Thoughts: Shelving 7th Sea

After 2 months of play, it’s finally time for my RPG showcase to move on again.

Matt’s Note: “I like 7th Sea. It’s a lot of fun. It’s probably my favorite game I’ve run for the Showcase, which is really impressive. I don’t want to seem like a jerk about a game I really like, so when I talk about problems I had, take it with a grain of salt, okay? My group was rather odd.

I ran 7th Sea for over 2 months, with varying attendance of players. a new semester of school hit me hard, with 5 of 5 players no longer able to make it on game day. So we had some struggles.

Character Issues, Player Issues

The biggest problem I had is something that my Showcase just has to deal with- people coming in and out of the game all the time. Sometimes, I have players who arrive late, some who leave early, some who miss a week or three. And there’s not much I can do about it. My game is open to the public, so I can’t reschedule to a better time fore everyone, easily cancel for poor attendance, or even get a solid headcount for the next week.

These caused issues for 7th Sea. If I played again, I might try for a bit more fluid, adventure of the week style game, but 7th Sea makes it easy for me to try to go epic. Which is cool, but if people are popping in and out, they can’t learn the story, and you can’t give them the clues without it backfiring in your face. Our last session had a person with a vital clue arrive late, not read the scene properly, and ended up making the situation worse, not better.

I also had few people who caught the spirit of the game. And the spirit is really cool, but with so many players NOT understanding the world, it was really hard to keep things going properly sometimes.

Character Stories

My biggest hardship is in Character Stories. I like Stories. I love the idea of them, but in practice, I had a lot of difficulty with them. Part of it was I had new players. Constantly. So none of them learned the way to do it right through play.

Also, though, I had characters who pursued their Story to the ignoring of the group Story, which was not okay. They would harry off following their own path to the exclusion of all else and occasionally, drag some other characters off of the main tale to go and do nothing in support of this other player.

More commonly, though, I had players who ignored their Stories entirely. That… sucked. Because I couldn’t lead them to interesting things. I had no way to predict what they would do, as much as I had tied everything together super cleverly, it didn’t matter because a WHOLE TABLE didn’t bite any hook. Bleh.

Part of it is my fault. I haven’t figured out the perfect speech to teach the mechanic, which is one of my jobs in the showcase. If you have players who learn the system, either from a burning desire to play it or experience from multiple run throughs, this wouldn’t be a problem.

I also don’t have a solid grasp of the GM stories and Episode Stories. I think its intended for longer games than what I run. I dunno. Its one of those pieces of the game that I feel I could do more with if I understood it better.

Thinking in Raises

One of the big things about 7th Sea is that it’s action resolution has been turned on its head and thoroughly shaken. Instead to roll to see if you make it, you roll to see how many times you get to just succeed. This is very hard to wrap your head around. The bits that I did internalize have corrupted other games Which isn’t a bad thing for characters to be able to do epic things, but it sets up expectations which can cause problems for future DMs in less epic games.

Using raises in social circumstances is TOUGH. And I think I did it badly. Giving out notice and scholarship is really tough. I learned a lot about game play and I think giving players tough choices is really, really interesting, but I need to put a lot more time in before I can internalize the Raise system.

What the Game Needs

7th Sea feels as if you were given the most powerful tools in gaming, then not given the instruction manual to turn them on. I think this comes from the desire to not make robot clone DMs, and to make sure everyone knows they can do whatever they want in the game. Which isn’t a bad notion, but…

I think the game needs something akin to the Dungeon Master’s guide. Honestly, the thing I would really want would be a hundred actual play transcripts, done right by the rules, with an incredible index to let me find the precedent I’m looking for. In game play, I know I under utilized: Villains, Dramatic Sequences, Hazards, Action Sequences, Consequences, Social Risks, GM Stories, Episode Stories, Crew, probably more.

I got a handle on Brute Squads, but I have no idea how many I should be throwing at the party. A quick side box saying “A combat oriented party can deal with 1/2 a 10 Strength brute squad per player in a decent amount of time. Add a full brute squad for each duelist you have.” I don’t know what the numbers would be, but it would be nice to be able to estimate how dangerous a threat needs to be (and a way to judge party capability, I guess)

Conclusion

I ain’t done with 7th Sea. Not by a long shot. I’ll be buying the books as they come out, I’ll keep my nose poking into the subreddit, and you’ll see things from me, I’m sure. I think its one of the best games I’ve ever played. Most of my complaints stem from the root of “My players and I don’t perfectly know the system yet.” The next time I pull these out, I’ll know them better, I assure you.

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