Welcome to Theah, where a cutting remark can be as sharp as the sharpest blade.7th Sea was a tabletop role-playing game and related CCG created by AEG after Legend of the Five Rings became a success. The game's setting is Theah, an alternate version of Europe during the 17th century. Theah was composed of several theme park versions of various major European countries and cultures. The countries vied with each other for political and economic dominance, while pirates sailed the seas in search of adventure and treasure. The world is based very much upon the varied tropes common to swashbuckling and pirate stories.The tabletop RPG features a system similar to Legend of the Five Rings in mechanics, but distinct in that the PC's are almost explicitly given a mild form of Contractual Immortality. PC's can only be killed off if the GM is specifically setting up such a possibility through the plot's villain, or if the characters fall victim to the chunky salsa rule. Players are encouraged to come up with utterly outrageous plans of action and are given rewards both for implementing these ideas and for impressive role playing using the rule of cool as a guide. The RPG setting enjoyed being quite over the top when encouraging ideas for characters and stories. Like Legend of the Five Rings, the rules were later adapted for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition under the name Swashbuckling Adventures.The CCG had the players choosing a faction which represented a pirate crew or a country's naval power, pitting two ships against one another in combat. Players would attempt to hire crew, chase down their opponent's ship, and then attack with ether cannon or boarding based attacks.Like the Legend of the Five Rings, the metaplot was supposed to be steered by players' choices in the CCG tournaments and in RPG supplements distributed through the quarterly newsletter sent to game masters who had paid a registration fee to AEG.The main story arc of 7th Sea only spans about a year and a half of time, unlike its cousin, Legend of the Five Rings which has gone through several lifetimes worth of game plot. The major storyline elements were quite varied, with every country and major faction of the world having a part in the story.The CCG and then the tabletop RPG were discontinued with little fanfare, though the CCG had a final expansion set published online free for download and printing while the RPG managed to get a final supplement which included a timeline for the major plot arcs which were never resolved in the metaplot.In the RPG, the various splats were the country of origin a character hailed from. In addition to this, a character could join one of a number of secret societies whose origins, goals, and knowledge were made available in additional RPG supplement books.The RPG is also very notable for its No Celebrities Were Harmed versions of quite a number of NPC's described in the sourcebooks. People with only a cursory knowledge of European history can name at least two or three of the major NPCs' real-life counterparts. Those who have more background in history can find many more, as well as note the places where Wolfrond von Hazel was a Syrneth Spy.
The countries in 7th Sea provide examples of:
Avalon (The British Isles)
All Your Powers Combined: Glamour magic, the Avalonian sorcerous lineage, allows the sorcerer to channel the mythical powers and abilities of various Avalonian heroes of the past. The legends a particular glamour sorcerer has access to are set at character creation and the powers available vary wildly.
Dummied Out: One of the Destiny Spreads grants the character a 1 Point Druidic Secrets Advantage...but no such Advantage made it to the printed book.
The Fair Folk: The sidhe consider Avalon their home, and use their reality-warping powers for their own inscrutable purposes. Avalonians usually give them a wide berth, but those who know how to deal with them can gain quite a lot of power, such as glamour magic.
Oireland: Called Inismore, it's actually better off than Ireland was at that period of history. They even have their own recognized king, JackO'Bannon
A Child Shall Lead Them: King Sandoval is only in his mid-teens, never expected to become king, and is the head of a country engulfed in war with Montaigne. That's rough, buddy.
Playing with Fire: El Fuego Adentro, the Castillian sorcerous lineage, allows control of any fire and immunity to being hurt by fire and heat of any temperature. It was wiped out by the Inquisition. There's a few families still left, though.
Empty Shell: an entire social class of them, called 'waisen' (literally: orphans). They became like this due to shell shock and trauma from the local Thirty-Years War.
Germanic Depressives: Justified in that their once proud empire is now a fractured set of principalities, some of which barely can grow enough food to feed the people living there.
Gratuitous German: Gratuitous and wrong as usual. The Eisen inventor of the guillotine called it "die Toetenklinge", which translates to "the to kill blade".
Hired Guns: After 30 years of war, the Eisen armies have decided to lend themselves out to whoever pays the most.
Mithril: Dracheneisen, a very rare and highly coveted material only found in Eisen. Finding a mine of the stuff used to automatically grant the lucky finder a sizeable portion of land as a new principality.
It's heavily suggested in some of the GM's sections that dracheneisen is actually a form of pottery that's hardened and shined up through secret alchemical practices, and that the "mines" are actually clay beds. Whether this makes any logical sense, as the stuff is nigh-indestructible, is left up to the player to decide.
Considering it's main points are way stronger then metal, way lighter then metal, and the abovementioned technology, it's pretty clearly a medieval CARBON FIBRE!
Further hints are dropped that the "clay" is in fact ancient dragon poop.
Ultimate Blacksmith: The Nibelungen, a reclusive group of smiths who are the only ones who can forge Drachenesien. Once forged, it's nearly unbreakable and super light, making a weapon made of it quite powerful. It is also the only useful armor in the game, as it can stop bullets.
And the first thing they teach you? If you walk through the portal, never open your eyes. Sometimes you hear voices calling out to you, telling you that they'll give you such wonderful things, if only you open your eyes...
Upper-Class Twit: Other countries can suffer from this trope too, but Montaigne overshadows the rest in this area.
Speaks Fluent Animal / Voluntary Shapeshifting: Pyeryem sorcery, the Ussuran sorcerous lineage, allows a character to talk to animals. This then allows them to bargain with the animal for its shape. If the animal agrees to give up its form, the sorcerer adds that shape to their library of forms, and may take that shape at will. More dangerous animals are harder to change into, obviously.
Empathic Environment: The Ussurans claim "Mother Winter" protects them. It certainly seems like Ussura is on the side of its people...
Fisher King: The Ussuran Gaius doesn't have a great deal of actual political power - but when he tells you to do something, you either do it, or Ussura itself ensures you regret not doing so.
Bilingual Bonus: The Vestenmannavnjar's name is taken from Vestmannaeyjar, a small island off the coast of Iceland. Amusingly enough, its name comes from what the Norse called captured Irish slaves, making this a bit of a "Blind Idiot" Translation.
Geometric Magic: Laerdom, the Vesten sorcery, has sorcerers learn up to 24 runes which are thought to be the fundamental words of creation. Each rune has a different effect when it's inscribed. More powerful sorcerers can make magic items inscribed with runes, and masters can gain permanent powers by branding themselves with a rune in a specific ritual.
Also Named Weapons, as weapons imbued with Laerdom must be named.
Global Currency: The Vendel have created the Guilder, accepted everywhere but Vodacce.
Notably subverted and played straight at the same time, as the player's guide also contains a list of currencies native to each country as well as exchange rates based on the nations relative economic strength.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Vesten tend to take this role, seeing as the middle class merchants broke off to create the Vendel League.
Cast from Lifespan: Vesten warriors may take the Bearsark Advantage, which whips them into a superhuman fury at the expense of aging 1 week for each round it's active.
Arranged Marriage: Basically required between the nobles, though the nation book points out that they're rarely as unfair to the women as one might think. A little judicious use of Sorte and...
Big Screwed-Up Family: The Princes of Vodacce are all cousins of some kind, which probably explains why they rarely ever come to an agreement.
Gender Restricted Ability: Sorte, the Vodacce sorcery, is only possessed by women. Girls who show the ability are kept illiterate, and are kept locked away from the public much of the time. It allows sorceresses, called a strega to see the various social connections between people, seen as physical threads connecting them. The strega can then attempt to alter these threads, strengthening or loosening them. Fate makes sure what the strega wants to happen, happens. At their most powerful, they can literallystrangle with the red string, though the thread meaning romance is blue to them.
Vodacce men have their own (rare) permutation of Sorte, although it's easily overlooked because it's mentioned in only a few places in the nation book. It's called being "unbound" and essentially makes the guy impervious to the manipulations of the Fate Witches: His strands can't be seen, and a strega attempting to attach a thread to him will always fail and suffer a backlash. Needless to say, Fate Witches are terrified of these guys, because their one defense against the often-brutal Vodacce men is the threat of sorcery.
Pride: Yessiree, and one of the leading causes of brawls, duels, and blood-feuds in Vodacce.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: But not in the way you'd think— Playing dirty is expected in Vodacce, but they have an honor-code which no noble (particularly gentlemen and -women) will lightly disregard. Of course, Vodacce being Vodacce, adherence to the Code varies.
School of Seduction: Vodacce women can train to be courtesans; essentially they're very expensive prostitutes who hope to find a rich noble to leech off of. However, Vodacce courtesans are also given the chance to be educated (unlike noblewoman, who are kept illiterate), and many are appreciated for their intelligence and wit as well as their beauty.
''Note: Since the secret societies of 7th Sea are secret a great many of these examples are hidden with spoiler text. Those that aren't are generally common knowledge.
The secret societies of 7th Sea provide examples of:
Another Dimension: Die Kreuzritter have an artifact ring which gives agents the permanent ability to step into another dimension through shadows. This allows for a sort of short teleportation.
Death Faked for You: The public believes Die Kreuzritter's full membership was killed to a man. Actually the hierophant cut a deal with the lesser known members to allow the group to live on. Most of the group, including all the best known members, sacrificed themselves to give the illusion of complete destruction. New members tend to have their deaths faked in similar manners
He Who Fights Monsters: Die Kreuzritter is well aware of this trope and members try to shy away from it. It doesn't always work.
Everything Trying to Kill You: Lots of Syrneth sites are like this, as one might expect for a setting like 7th Sea. Just as problematic, though, is that most of the other Secret Societies think the Explorers are meddling in Things Man Was Not Meant to Know and must be "dealt with." Later in the timeline, the Explorers get understandably touchy about this as they learn just how thoroughly this trope applies to them.
Precursors: Called the Syrneth, finding artifacts they left behind is The Explorer's Society's bread and butter. The syrneth are actually about a half dozen different sets of precursors, each with their own style and theme.
The Promise: Knights can take an advantage called The Vow which allows them to use 20 saved experience points to make an in-character vow, the GM MUST allow the vow to come to pass as worded, though there are certain restrictions.
La Résistance: Against any form of authority, primarily the Montaigne.
We ARE Struggling Together: Rilasciare barely has any connection between the different groups, so organizing anything becomes difficult.
Bomb Throwing Anarchist: A great deal of effort is taken to show the reasons why the Free Thinkers are anti-authoritarian. That said, their lack of cohesiveness and tendency to be generically anti-authority is also recounted in great detail. And all the explosives skills are in their splat book (two of three new skills listed are "Arson" and "Bomb-Making.").
Gut Feeling: Scrying sorcerers can tell if a person is a hero of villain automatically, it's a pretty bad Game Breaker
Magic Mirror: Female scrying sorcerers can look into any reflective pool of fresh water and see other places, more powerful ones can see into the past and future as well.
Novus Ordum Mundi There's nothing here to see, just move along...
NOM is the product of an ancient conspiracy concocted by the servants of some Senators who thought it'd be a cool idea to make a pact with some demons in exchange for horrible magic powers. The servants were understandably annoyed by this, and so they made a deal with each other (after killing their errant masters) that they would do everything they could to keep Thea on a tight leash and make sure the world leaders don't screw it up, and that's why Thea doesn't have fuel-efficient vehicles. NOM, combined with the fact that Thea used to be overrun by insectoid/lizardlike people, adds a strange tinfoil hat flavor to this swashbuckling RPG.
Of course, ruling all of the nations in secret is not enough for these people. They have their fingers in several other pies, such as Sophia's Daughters and The Invisible College.
As a matter of fact, they just pretty much ate the whole pie as far as The Invisible College is concerned. Alvara is their de facto leader, and everyone looks up to him and just eats out of the palm of his hand, but little do they know that he's using their well-meaning organization to further his own goals.
Oh, and it gets better! He is not only bending The Invisible College to his will, but he has made himself the leader, more or less, of NOM, which is supposed to be leaderless. Not bad for a scholarly old Castillan gentleman (who once roasted an inquisitor alive in its own armor).
The rest of the game world of 7th sea provides examples of:
Anachronism Stew : a heavy dose to go with No Celebrities Were Harmed - the "French" Revolution is brewing under "Louis XIV" while "Napoleon" is bogged in the Retreat from "Russia". "Vikings" raid the "East India Company".
Armor Is Useless: Justified, as bullets and rapiers have brought an end to the era of the armored knight. Unless it's made of dracheneisen, armor does nothing. (And in a society based heavily on seafaring, it'd be literal deadweight much of the time...) Quoting the book itself (which doesn't give armor stats), "If you want armor, play an Eisen noble. Everyone else simply goes without."
Back-to-Back Badasses: An encouraged fighting tactic, the Eisen have the word rucken to describe a pair who do this all the time.
Band of Brothels: The Jenny's Guild. It's quite politically powerful, holding one of the main seats of the Vendel League.
BFS: Zweihanders, Eisen swords as tall as the wielder. Also Highland claymores.
Black Box: The game prefers any syrneth artifact introduced by the GM to behave like this, fully taking advantage of Clarke's Third Law.
Blade Brake: The 'Ride the Sail' trick from the Rogers swordsman school.
Blade on a Stick: The boar spear is a popular Eisen weapon, and even has its own swordsman school.
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers: One of the things that Avalonian Glamour mages can do when channeling the hero "Jack" is turn a small object into a fist sized hunk of cheese. They can turn it into other stuff, too, but that's the only food (unless you count the live bird, which vanishes if killed and hence would be rather unfilling). Presumably this is because the legend of Jack involves him turning something into cheese, but the game doesn't elaborate.
The game may not elaborate directly, but it can be assumed that the story of Jack is similar to the stories of "Jack the Giant Killer", "The Brave Little Tailor", and "Jack and the Beanstalk". One such tale has the hero tricking a giant by claiming he can squeeze water from a rock. He switches the rock for cheese, squeezes water from it, and fools the giant utterly. Also you can get a loaf of bread from an object with Jack, so cheese is not the only foodstuff.
Born Lucky: Jeremiah Berek, his luck is so legendary in Avalon that Glamour mages can choose to call upon his luck directly.
Subverted with his nemesis, the General. A brilliant tactical mind — so much so that he's successfully adapted land strategy to naval battles — he's nonetheless a German surrounded by Frenchmen, fighting an Englishman.
Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Vaticine church is very very close to Roman Catholicism. In fact, the 1st prophet is Jesus' exact analog. Oddly enough, it goes on to have a Crystal Dragon Mohammed as well, as the 2nd prophet acts as a close analog for him. This makes the lack of any group which is identifiably Jewish all the more glaring.
Actually, strictly speaking, the Vaticine Church is a blend of Islam (with the three Prophets and prophesied fourth) and Catholicism (in terms of social and political influence). Matthias Lieber is a fairly transparent analogue to Martin Luther, making the Objectionists a kind of Muslim Protestant sect. The Crescent Empire follows mainly the second prophet, making them more similar to Christians, while the Ussuran Orthodoxy follow only the first prophet and the teachings of Matushka. They're likely intended to represent the Russian Orthodox faith, but one could also make the argument that they are the Jewish analogue in the setting. The Glamour Isles' continued propitiation of the Sidhe, as well as the Druidic faith described in the Glamour Isles supplement, are representative of Old World paganism, as are many of the Eisen superstitions. Finally, the Vestenmannavnjar gods or "living runes" are obvious references to the old Norse deities. Really, the setting presents quite a bit of religious diversity, if you pay attention.
The Crescent Empire sourcebook introduces a straightforward Islam analogue, with some undercurrents of an earlier pagan religion. It doesn't bother to explain why previous books said that the Crescents follow the second prophet of the Vaticines.
Combat by Champion: The swordsman's guild allows this sort of combat to be done by just paying your champion.
Dark Chick: Dalia after turning undead and joining the Black Freighter. (Granted she was already pretty villainous as a Corsair.)
Death Seeker: Joern Keitelson, first mate of the Crimson Rogers. He set out to kill the Vendel after his village was raided by them. He ran into the Rodgers and killed so many of Reis' crew, Reis was impressed and gave him the position. Joern doesn't care about anything but fighting until he dies.
Drunken Master: The Finnegan school of pugilism teaches a form of boxing that's rather unique. A master will get better at fighting while they get more and more inebriated. Unsurprisingly, it was invented in Inismore.
It also presents about the most hilarious Game Breaker ever in a printed RPG, all but guaranteed to give a good laugh (and possibly a Drama Die to whoever brings this up in smart fashion): One wording of Finnegan's ability was "reverse inebration penalties". Inebration penalties are, like, -2, -4, incapacitated. So a dead drunk Finnegan is literally omnipotent :)
Fatal Flaw: Characters may take a special disadvantage called a hubris which the GM can exploit specifically so they can make the wrong decision. In addition, each swordsman school has a weakness that is explained in its description can be exploited via the school's aptly named "Exploit Weakness" knack.
From Nobody to Nightmare: Several NPC's have encountered syrneth artifacts or had other supernatural encounters that left them... changed. Gerald Hohne of the Crimson Rodgers and Hamish of the Corsairs are good examples.
Gameplay and Story Integration: Out of a pool of 100 points, buying a swordsman school from a character's native country costs 25. Buying a foreign school costs 35. There is no functional difference between using a domestic or foreign school, aside from the point difference. As a result, most PCs and NPCs use swordsman schools from their home countries, instead of munchkin-ing the most powerful schools with the nationalities that grant the best Traits and Advantage discounts.
Implacable Man: PC's may choose the "Man of Will" advantage, which makes them immune to fear, mind altering effects of any sort, and they can't be socially bullied in any way. Needless to say, it's a VERY expensive advantage to buy at character creation.
Lady of War: Fauner Posen of Eisen. Do NOT mess with her.
Legacy Character: El Vago is only the most obvious one, but the captain of the Black Freighter is invariably some madman who sold his soul to Legion to captain the ship.
Captain Reis is a subversion and aversion at the same time. A character picks up his clothes and weapon, and becomes a Fake Shemp to Reis' crew, only to suffer blackouts after extended impersonations, with strong implications that Reis is pulling a Grand Theft Me.
The Longitude Problem: Incorporated into the worldbuilding. There's one country that's solved it - the country with teleportation magic among its nobility. Nobody's invented a clock that's accurate and robust enough to survive a sea voyage, but by bringing a noble aboard, having him teleport home, and then having him come back with the time, Montaigne has developed the most accurate charts in all of Theah.
Lord British Postulate: Captain Reis, the pirate depicted in red on the page image above is intended for use as a plot device by the DM to either make the PCs run away, or die. In melee, he is essentially unstoppable, since his weapon ignores any kind of armor and slices through even Dracheneisen with trivial ease (meaning you can't parry either). However, if you manage to shoot him in the head and burn all your drama dice for extra damage, he will go down, since you can't block bullets and he doesn't wear armor.
You can't spend Drama Dice on damage rolls, unless you have some ability that allows you to do so.
But you can spend Drama Dice on attack rolls, where calling Raises will increase damage.
Sweet Polly Oliver: Tom Toblin of the Sea Dogs is really Nicole Cowbey. She signed on board to find the murderer of her father and her husband, and disguised herself so she wouldn't be recognized.
Team Pet: Several ships have pets on board, but most notable is Captain the mascot of the Sea Dogs of Avalon. Jeremiah Berek claims that he is the true captain of his ship and anyone surrendering to them must surrender to the dog.
Popular Fanon had this with Senor Ladron and Allende — the monkey and captain, respectively, of the Brotherhood of the Coast. The captain's face wasn't well-known in the backstory, despite him being the exiled king of Castille, so the fans suggested the two were confused by mistake.
The equivalent for the Black Freighter was their masthead, the mummified remains of the ship's first captain. Late in the story, he broke free and regained control of the ship.
The Undead: The Black Freighter, a ship of the undead that sails once per generation to torment the living.
Wretched Hive: The city of Freiburg in Eisen, unsurprising, as there's no real government there.
Yandere: The ill fated courtesan turned Fate Witch, Lucrezia. Once she encountered Gioseppe, her entire world revolved around him... and once he rejected her things got really, really messy. But her story doesn't finish with merely the classical conclusion. Lucrezia wants him back alive, and it seems she's found a way to do it, even if it means violating Creation and destroying an entire world in the process.
You Fight Like a Cow: Players can use taunts to make themselves more difficult to hit, and intimidation to make it easier to strike enemies. The players are encouraged to come up with witty banter themselves, but if they don't feel up to the task, they can roll their panache skill instead.