Actual Play – 7th Sea (11/17/2008)

System: 7th Sea

Ah, 7th Sea, how good you almost are. The game is great; it’s full of secret societies, swashbucklers and sorcerers. Repartee, cunning skill and flashy showmanship are the name of the game… almost.

We played last night and had a great time. The entire crew was there, which was nice considering all the games of late that have been missing people. It’s natural as the holidays get closer and the flu season hits, but it’s still cool when everyone shows up.

The adventure continued from our last game, our heroes trying to find Montague and warn him of those who would betray him.

What Rocked

Hibou had a wonderful experience (for me at least) of courting a beautiful Jenny, only to take her to bed and rather than fornicate, write a love letter to his far away love, which is his encoded letters back to the Gaius, telling him of Montaigne’s affairs. Hibou nearly wept at the betrayal he was committing, both to his friends and the country that has been his home for over a year. Later he had a heartfelt talk with Enrique about the nature of love and how his heart belonged in only one woman’s bosom but instead of he was unfaithful to two. This was a pretty thinly veiled exposition of his suffering as a spy, but I definitely appreciated the other players for going along with it.

We had some crazy over the top stunts. A giant log suspended from the air by ropes was shot down and clobbered quartermasters. Kegs of gun powder were lit and tossed a sea serpent. The pirate blue up a barn with a mixture of gunpowder, rum and his cigar. One of the musketeers taunted a mythical beast… and lived. Good stuff, as to be expected from our crowd.

I got to talk to horses and ask them for a smooth ride. Woot for Pyeryem Speech and animal affinity. There wasn’t much game effect, but again, I was happy because I was able to reveal, in some small way my character’s inner dilemma.

The GM rolled with punches pretty well. In a fight that was supposed to involve a whole bunch of musketeers clobbering us that the heroes really didn’t want to be a part of, we pulled some punches to let us get away rather than drag out an unnecessary fight.

Combat went a little bit faster. We called off the action numbers this time and prevented some of the bog downs. The one thing I don’t like is that the system rewards inactivity. It is usually far better a move to hold you actions and wait for your opportunity. What this ends up with is combats that are all condensed into the 8,9 and 10 count, which doesn’t make much sense realistically (wait, wait, wait, go, go, go) or cinematically where the action should be constantly moving. If I were to house rule this I’d say you can’t hold more than one action. Or alternately, if you want to hold an action you can do so only by rolling one less panache die and then you can take your action any time you want, but it has to be a defensive/reactive action, not an attack.

The “Fan Mail” system for drama dice worked out better, we had a good flow of dice, which made me happy. I see the one fault of being the token guy to award dice… I didn’t get any. But I think that is maybe because I didn’t do anything that cool. Who knows.

What could have been improved.

Wacky to say but it might have been better if we had less fun. We got so loud it woke up my wife and she wasn’t very happy.

Combat, in general, is still slow. Besides calling off the numbers though, I don’t know how to speed it up without major house ruling.

Fan Mail was disputed a bit, but I think we came to a consensus by the end of the night.

The story. It’s a cool one. We meet lots of cool people, we go to lots of cool places, but my, oh my, is it scripted. We spent like an hour of game time trying to find a boat because the only way to get out of the damn city was to ride on this ONE guy’s boat. I know he’s integral to the story. I know he had to be on the boat. But Theus all-mighty, couldn’t he have just BEEN on the same boat we ended up on. The contrived manner that we had to go through got me frustrated and I think others might have felt the same way. I understand modules need to get you from point A to B, but I want the players to choose how to get there. I blame this mostly on the module, but I also think in the future I’d recommend the GM recognize when we’re clearing getting off the rails and try to find a way to include the critical plot elements along side whatever path the players take. In this case, I think we could have found a captain who would have taken us, and Colsen could have just been on board as well.

Fighting a god. No really, that is what we did. We fought this sea serpent with no stats. It was as disguised as a combat when it was really just a deadly puzzle trap. You need to insert X amount of Y into Z to succeed. All the while Z is trying to bite your head off. In this case it was 3 Powder Kegs blowing up on the Sea Serpent to make him find easier prey. The idea of it is cool, but the feeling of being ineffectual is not. I shoot it, I blast it with a cannon (didn’t end up happening), I stab it, I cut my way out from the inside (also didn’t happen but it was considered) – Nothing. I light a powder keg and blow it up… Okay, now it is annoyed. Basically, I think this comes down to the writers of the module trying to use combat mechanics for something that isn’t a combat encounter. Again, cool idea. Poor execution in the module. As for the GMs roll in this, I was at first dismayed when he told us that it didn’t have stats, but realized after the game that if he didn’t we could have kept trying to ineffectually hurt it and gotten even more frustrated, so I think me made the right call.

No room to improve here, just bitching.

System. You want to climb, do you have the climb skill? No, okay you fail. You want to ride? Same. You want to do any array of swashbuckler moves? Yeah, get in line. You don’t get to be cool as a starting character, you need to work up to that. I like roll and keep and I like different fighters using different moves… I really don’t like nine million skills you can’t possibly have all of and then being penalized for not having them. This is where 7th sea failed. It’s not a problem with the GM or the module, it was an oversight in development. You give the players 100 points to make a character and then you keep adding skills they need. Result is the character needs to do more with less, so they either end up doing some muchkin move to keep up or they just suck at things they should be good at. Ah well, we love the sea, even though a bitch she may be.