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Tabletop Game / 7th Sea

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What began in Theah long ago
Sails to new shores!
Welcome to Théah, where a cutting remark can be as sharp as the sharpest blade.

7th Sea is a tabletop role-playing game and related CCG created by AEG after Legend of the Five Rings became a success. The game's central setting is Théah, an alternate version of Europe during the 17th century, bordered by the Crescent Empire, an analogue of the Ottoman Empire, and Khitai, an analogue of Asia. Théah is composed of several theme park versions of various major European countries and cultures. The countries vie with each other for political and economic dominance, while pirates sail 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 RPG is very notable for its No Historical Figures Were Harmed versions of quite a number of NPCs 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.

In 2015, John Wick Presents, run by John Wick, part of the original development team for 7th Seanote , bought the publishing rights from AEG. They announced plans for a second edition that would reboot the game, changing up the system and setting, making some changes to the established countries, and expanding the 7th Sea world, now named Terra - Aztlan (Central/South America), Wabanahkik (North America), and Ifri (Africa) were added to the world map, and the Sarmatian Commonwealth (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) was added to the map of Théah.

A Kickstarter to fund the second edition line ran in February/March 2016, which smashed through its initial $30,000 goal for the corebook and The New World sourcebook (for Aztlan) in seven minutes, went on to fund ten additional sourcebooks and a considerable amount of other stuff (novels, maps, etc.), and ultimately became the first tabletop RPG Kickstarter to reach a million dollars, with a final total of $1.31 million.

A planned second 7th Sea line, 7th Sea: The East, was announced during the Kickstarter, focusing on Cathay and other Asian-analogue countries, with its own independent corebook. Beta-test rules were given out for free at GenCon 2017. The Kickstarter for this locale ran in October/November 2017. The Quickstart guide has been publicly released online.

    Seventh Sea, First Edition 

The RPG's first edition features a system similar to Legend of the Five Rings in mechanics, but distinct in that the PCs are almost explicitly given a mild form of Contractual Immortality. PCs 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 enjoys being quite over the top when encouraging ideas for characters and stories.

The RPG's various splats are the country of origin a character hails from. In addition, a character can join one of a number of secret societies whose origins, goals, and knowledge are made available in additional RPG supplement books.

Like Legend of the Five Rings, 7th Sea was 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 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 first edition's main story arc 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 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.

    Seventh Sea, Second Edition 
Second Edition of Seventh Sea maintains most of the core nations of the First Edition and even the names of many key players, but most similarities stop there. Rather than a direct sequel to First Edition, Second Edition was written as if it were beginning from scratch but kept important names and places.

Due to the success of the Kickstarter and the subsequent expansion of the game's universe beyond Theah's shores, the game's splats are no longer based on individual nations, but entire regions. Eastern and Western Theah, Aztlan, The Pirate Nations, Ifri, and others all introduce new Hero and Villain options while providing Fantasy interpretations of historical cultures. The meta narrative has become Lighter and Softer while not shying away from serious topics. Women and LGBT persons are now commonplace- the Fantasy version of the Barbary States is ruled by a Transgender woman. Darker and Edgier topics are still present as well- there is a lucrative Slave Trade moving Ifrian war refugees to the Atabean Sea, and women in Vodacce continue to be kept in cultural bondage. The Syrneth are mentioned in almost every book, but not nearly as much detail is given about them as in First Edition. Cathay exists but is a mispronunciation by Theans- it is pronounced Khitai and is not one nation, but an entire continent analogous to Asia.

The game no longer uses a modified D&D rule set, instead utilizing a unique d10 based system that eschews the traditional "I deal 8 damage to the enemy with my pistol" for a more narrative style, "I fire my pistol, blow up the powder magazine and create a very loud distraction." Likewise, the players write the metaplot along with the GM- they level up by writing the story beats for the next chapter of their character's story and provide the information to the GM ahead of time, working together to craft the narrative.

Rather than a Collectible Card Game, JWP has tried to launch a board game that tells the tale of the War of the Cross. A mixture of Diplomacy and Risk, as of August 2018 the Kickstarter has been canceled twice after nearly hitting its initial goal.

The rest of the game world of 7th Sea provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Captain Reis' unmistakable crescent shaped scythe. It cuts through Dracheneisen, along with every other material. There's exactly one magical weapon in the entire setting that can parry it.
  • Action Girl: Plenty, though the Sea Dogs' first mate "Bloody" Bonnie McGee is one of the most prominent.
  • Anachronism Stew: Like most Medieval European Fantasy, except the era is instead from roughly the Renaissance to roughly the Age of Revolution, along with a heavy dose of No Celebrities Were Harmed. - the "French" Revolution is brewing under "Louis XIV" while "Napoleon" is bogged in the Retreat from "Russia". "Vikings" raid the "Dutch East India Company". The short version is that the setting is Europe, if every nation was going through its biggest crisis of that several century time period, all in 1668-1669.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Most Dracheneisen weapons are inherited.
  • Anchored Teleportation: How Porté magic works in second edition. A sorcier can place a drop of their blood on an object and concentrate, placing a Mark on it. A Major Mark allows the sorcier to Walk to that object.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Black-and-White Morality: The 2nd Edition Sourcebook continually reminds GMs and players that the story is about HEROES. There is even a mechanical penalty for not adhering to some basic tenets of goodness.
  • Blade Brake: The 'Ride the Sail' trick from the Rogers swordsman school.
  • 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.
  • Chastity Dagger: The bodice dagger is a popular weapon among Vodacce courtesans; many of whom are students of a swordsman school that specializes in the use of knives.
  • City of Adventure: Many in 2e: Frieburg, Vaticine City, Boisal, Quamontaine, Iskandar and Djen.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Avalonian Glamour Magic draws on the power of stories. Glamour mages gain extra drama dice for every ten points of Reputation (positive or negative), drawing from the power of stories told about them.
  • Combat by Champion: The swordsman's guild allows this sort of combat to be done by just paying your champion.
  • Continuity Reboot: Second edition. Most notable are the changes in geography (in addition to the new continents, first and second edition maps of Théah look very different), and the removal of aliens from the setting (the Syrneth are still part of Terra's history, but no aliens).
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Among the Advantages that can be purchased during character creation, there are levels of physical beauty that increase all social rolls by 1k0 for 10 points per die. The core book allows a character to spend up to 20 points this way, but supplements go all the way to Blessed Beauty, adding a whopping 4k0 to all social roles and costing as many points as full-blooded Sorcery. A character who purchased this Advantage will have few points available for anything else, but will be able to coerce, intimidate, and seduce anything with a pulse.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The major faiths of Theah are the Yacchidi, the Orthodox, the al-Din, the Vaticine, and the Objectionists.
    • The Yachidi are a Jewish analogue introduced in Second Edition's Crescent Empire book. Their people were enslaved by the old Numanari Empire and were freed in a revolt led by Moesh ben Amram. Most can be found in Sarmion, with a small but growing community being set up in eastern Eisen.
    • The Orthodox are the followers of the First Prophet, Yesu. Born a Yachidi hermaphrodite, Yesu's mother registered him as male to the Numanari rulers so he would not be forced to bear children. The Orthodox are vegetarian pacifists who follow Yesu's creed of "to understand the Creator, seek to understand His Creation." They revere all trees as sacred. Almost all of the Orthodox are in Ashur, with an offshoot being the dominant faith of Ussura.
    • The religion of al-Din follows the Second Prophet and is an Islamic analogue. If Vaticines identify as scientists, the al-Din identify as artists. They seek to help the Creator perfect His Creation. Since art is by definition imperfect, they know this is an impossible task that will never be completed- but they do it anyway. The primary tenets of the faith are kindness to others, remembrance, and perseverance through adversity. They discourage (but do not ban) revealing one's face in public, substance addiction, and practicing sorcery.
    • The Vaticine church follows the Third Prophet's teachings favoring science over sorcery. Vaticines reckon themselves scientists, trying to understand the will of Theus by understanding his creation, though lacking the Orthodox veneration of nature and trees. The church is based in Vaticine City off the coast of Castille, and is usually led by a Hierophant. Men and women may act as priests. The Yachidi, al-Din, and Orthodox peoples do not believe the Third Prophet was a legitimate Prophet due to his violent conquests of Theah and persecution of sorcerers.
    • Objectionists are an expy of The Protestant Reformation in the setting. They viewed the Vaticine as growing too corrupt, worldly, and power hungry. With the Inquisition's rise, they might not have been too wrong...
  • Darkest Africa: Ifri is a downplayed and justified version, in that it is more High Fantasy than Theah; while nobody from there is a savage, noble or otherwise, the supernatural is way, way more blatant; gods regularly interact with the people, and not believing in Bonsam is suicidally stupid. Unfortunately, nobody told the Atabean Trading Company, assuming they would even care; it's entirely possible Bonsam's forces will invade Theah simply because it was able to corrupt the ATC. Also subverted, in that all its issues are the very foreign ATC's fault and Mbay hitting its Godzilla Threshold.
  • 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 Rogers 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.
  • Discredited Meme: Mentioned in the rulebook. The rules explicitly allow the GM to punish anyone who makes Monty Python references. invoked
  • The Dreaded: The Fear Rating mechanic makes fearsome characters more difficult to fight. Fear Ratings usually come from supernatural sources, though a few Swordsman schools and Advantages can grant them to players. Importantly, Fear Ratings are cumulative.
  • 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!
  • Duel to the Death: Very possible if the offense is grave enough.
  • Dummied Out: One of the Destiny Spreads in First Edition grants the character a 1 Point Druidic Secrets Advantage...but no such Advantage made it to the printed book.
  • Expy: Many, but it's notable that Captain Hook's is played straight and is probably the single most powerful character in the game.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: All of the nations, and some minor cultures, are the counterpart of a nation or a culture that truly existed. Think of it as a slightly more advanced 17th Century Europe mixed with One Piece.
    • Avalon is the stand-in for England, although the Arthurian-style musketeer knights and Sidhe are a twist. Together with Inismore (not-Ireland) and the Highland Marches (not-Scotland), they form a united kingdom known as the Glamour Isles, ruled by Queen Elaine of Avalon. The Glamour Isles are a rising force in Theah, having recently defeated the Castille armada and broken with the Vactine Church. Notably home to the Goodfellow archery school, the Peeke school of quarterstaff fighting, and the Donovan swashbuckling school (they actually use swords and bucklers, fitting the name). Inismore is home to the Finnegan school of unarmed drunken boxing, and the Highland Marches has the MacDonald claymore school.
    • Castille is the Spain stand-in, suffering from its recent post-armada calamity and the brutality of their version of the Reconquista. Castille's culture is advanced and tolerant and its current king is kind but terribly inexperienced, squeezed like a vice by the Inquisition and the looming threat of its neighbour Montaigne. Castille is home to many fencing schools which use the fencing sword, like Gallegos, Torres and Soldano, but they also have the notable Zepeda school which teaches the bullwhip.
    • Cathay is Imperial China, with a few Korean and Tibetan influences. It's a secretive country to the east hidden behind a gigantic magical wall of fire and nobody really knows much else about it.
    • The Crescent Empire which lies in the immediate east is a civilized and cosmopolitan (if heathen) empire where coffee beans are the currency. It's the Ottoman Empire with some Persian and Arabic influences as well.
    • Eisen, a centrally-located land rebuilding from the ashes of a devastating conflict and split between various squabbling petty kingdoms and the ever-warring Vacitine and Objectionist factions, is a more monster-infested version of post-Thirty Years War Germany. War has made the people of Eisen hard and violent, and the nation is home to many fighting schools including several based around the use of the "Panzerhand", an iron gauntlet that can grab and shatter blades and crush bones, as well as the obligatory zweihander greatsword schools and Gelingen, a non-combat school for studying and exploiting the weaknesses of monsters (turning you into a pseudo-Witcher).
    • Montaigne is France before the French Revolution. It's even ruled by a "Empereur" named the Sun King, and he's a mad sorcerer who practices devil magic. There's a secret society named the Rilasciare who want to overthrow the monarchy and the church and deliver power to the people. There's a sourcebook for the first edition that deals with Montaigne's revolution, and the country is thrown into chaos as the Empereur fights to retain control and multiple secret societies with competing ideologies crawl out from the woodwork. Montaigne has a Badass Army of musketeers and several schools that deal with Dual Wielding, including Boucher (two knives or daggers), Valroux (rapier and gauche dagger) and Gaulle (sword and triple dagger), as well as the Rois de Reines school of bayonet combat.
    • The Sarmatian Commonwealth is a mixture of Czechoslovakia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It's a land of heroic horsemen who love democracy and glorious cavalry charges, and cynical traditionalists who make pacts with local deva spirits to gain magical power. Their king is even modelled on King John Sobieski.
    • Ussura is a frigid and harsh land to the east, and fits as the Russia stand-in. Rather than being grim and cynical, the people are actually generally decent; it's their tsar Gaius who is the problem (think Ivan the Terrible). Known for their druidic shapeshifter magic, and for three fighting schools: the Bogatyr fighting school which teaches the use of the greataxe, the mounted archery and hunting-oriented Buslayevich school, and the really awesome bear-wrestling Dobrynya fighting school.
    • Vendel and Vesten is an archipelago nation formed from an alliance of two cultures, the vaguely Dutch/Hanseatic-inspired Vendel and the Viking/Norwegian-inspired Vestenmannavnjar. The former traded in their axes and warlike culture to become merchantile explorers, and the latter stick to the Good Old Ways and practice rune magic. Home to several interesting fencing schools, including Swanson (using the Sword Cane and underhanded moves), Halfdansson (a fighting school derived from fishermen self-defence techniques using the whaling harpoon), Larsen (a fighting style which combines a sword and a lantern to blind and confuse enemies and also using the immediate environment to your advantage) alongside more traditional Vesten schools like Leegstra (using a heavy naval axe and wrestling moves together) and Kjemper (using the longsword and a stout shield).
    • Vodacce is a motley collection of city-states inspired by pre-unification Italy. Behind the pretty cities and scholarly workshops lies a bloodbath of feuding families and squabbling merchant princes, always looking to one-up each other. Their magic is tied to divination and weaving of fate, and only women can use it (men fear them as a result). There's a strong undercurrent of Combat Pragmatism in Vodacce fighting schools; you have Ambrogia, a bastardized version of Valroux that combines the rapier and main gauche with trickery, Lucani which combines the traditional broadsword and pugilism, and the very badass Cappuntina school of gypsy knife-fighting, knife-throwing and acrobatics.
  • 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.
    • One Eisen Swordsman school is dedicated to fighting monsters. It contains only Exploit Weakness knacks, each devoted to exploiting a different monster's Fatal Flaw.
  • Fictional Earth: Théah is essentially a fictionalized version of Earth in the 17th century. Even its name is a Significant Anagram.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Several NPCs have encountered Syrneth artifacts or had other supernatural encounters that left them... changed. Gerald Hohne of the Crimson Rogers and Hamish of the Corsairs are good examples.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: In first edition, 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.
  • Ghost Pirate: The Black Freighter is a ship full of these.
  • Glove Slap: Sword dueling is quite common, and is usually legal in most countries.
  • The GM Is a Cheating Bastard: The GM's guide explicitly gives two rules. Rule #1: There are no rules. Rule #2 Cheat anyway.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: A very common item of equipment for any adventurer.
  • Great Offscreen War: In the Second Edition, two huge wars happened in the past and left an important mark on Théah.
    • For the entire continent and even above, there is the War of the Cross between the Objectionists and the Vaticine Church, fantasy counterpart of the Thirty Years War. The books only give vague general information on what happened during said war. It lasted 30 years, involved all of Théah's nations in some fashion, ended roughly two decades prior the events of the game, and shaped the continent's history, with consequences still visible after twenty years. The war is responsible of Eisen's sorry state: It ravaged the country, leaving the nation devastated; without a lone leader, and crawling with supernatural horrors awakened by the blood shed and the spells used. It forced a lot of Thean nations, especially Montaigne and Castille, to burn their resources, weakening them. It allowed the Vendel League to enrich itself through arms sales. It pushed Ferdinand Medellin to mount an expedition for the New World to avoid being conscripted, leading to his ill-fated attempt to take control of the Nahuacan Alliance. It allowed the Atabean Trading Company to build its own army by recruiting disbanded soldiers and mercenaries after the war's end. And so forth.
    • For stories set in Montaigne or in Castille, there is Montaigne's recent invasion of Castille that bled both countries' finances dry, decimated their youths and ravaged the Castille. The growing discontent among the commoners of Montaigne and Castille's sorry state are direct consequences of this short but disastrous war.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: All of Philip Gosse's crew.
  • Hook Hand: There's an artifact called the Scarlet Hook of Madness.
  • Implacable Man: PCs 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.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: Most swordsman schools get pretty ridiculous as to what they can do.
    • For example, making a broadsword hit someone like a gunshot wound.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): It's really pretty blatant about this.
  • 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: Both the First and the Second Editions are this compared to the real history and the books that inspired them.
    • Even in the First Edition, it's made clear that, unlike in real life and the swashbuckling novels that inspired the setting, duels are rarely to the death, heroes generally don't employ lethal means, and the Vaticine Church's strong rationalist influence has led to advances in sanitation and agriculture that make the average person's life much safer and more comfortable.
    • The Second Edition's setting is this compared to both real history and the First Edition.
      • Compared to the real history, the game's developers made a conscious decision to make their fantasy version of the 17th century free of many of the prejudices and forms of oppression which dominated the world back in the day, both in order to include the largest amount of Hero concepts possible and because they didn't want their idealistic, swashbuckling vision marred by such ugliness. The Vaticine Church (barring the villainous Inquisition) actively promotes scientific research and a good chunk of the world's religions are shown to be very tolerant towards other faiths. Places where men and women are not seen as equal, LGBT persons are not openly accepted, or members of racial or religious minorities are despised are the exception, not the rule. Even some of the worst villains out there are shown to be surprisingly progressist when it comes to some topics: intolerant fanatical Cardinal Esteban Verdugo is Straight Gay, L'Empereur Léon Alexandre would gladly allow one of his daughters to inherit the throne if only one of them showed affinity to Porté magic... While slavery and genocide do exist, they are always committed by capital V Villains and are usually stopped sooner rather than later by capital H Heroes.
      • Compared to the First Edition, the 2E setting is also considerably lighter on seemingly omnipotent villains, unstoppable monsters and cosmic horror elements.
  • The Longitude Problem: Montaigne solved this a long time ago, thanks to Porte allowing them to have access to clocks without having to bring one onboard. As such, their charts are significantly better than the rest of the world's.
  • 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 (whether via an ability, or via extra Raises that become damage), he will go down, since you can't block bullets and he doesn't wear armor.
  • Make Them Rot: Zerstoerung, the lost sorcery of Eisen, consisted mainly of these powers.
  • Malaproper: Now that The East has been launched, the eastern continent's name is actually pronounced Khitai. Theans just can't seem to pronounce it correctly.
  • Money Sink: Taking the "Married to the Sea" Advantage in Second Edition gives the players a ship and 10 Brutes they can use at will. It also eats half of the group's wealth, rounded up, every session to pay their crew. If the crew can't be paid, they will mutiny and you lose the ship. There are also no rules for generating wealth through trade or how much cargo a ship can carry, though it's mentioned throughout the main book. A Killer Game Master or a single misspent bribe can doom the whole crew.
  • Mooks: Called brute squads. They come in packs of 6. A typical PC can take down a standard set in about 2 or 3 rounds. And an experienced swordsman can take out 2 or 3 brute squads in one round.
  • Noble Savage: Completely averted; every non-Theah character is explicitly part of a larger, quite civilized, culture, thank you very much.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: If your reputation falls too low, you become an NPC villain.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Only this time it's with historical figures.
    • With a touch of Legend and Mythology as well. The setting's Queen Elizabeth is also their King Arthur.
    • A good number of illustrations also resemble modern-day actors (example: The king of Castille kind of resembles a young Leonardo diCaprio).
  • Our Mages Are Different: Both from the usual template and from each other. Sorcery is hereditary, and each nation has its own version. In Mainland Théah, the main forms of sorcery are:
    • Avalon:
      • First edition has Glamour, magic that gains its power from great stories. A Glamour Mage chooses a story for each Trait, gaining power from their connection to it. A Glamour Mage 's own story also has power. The "reputation dice that characters can normally only use to influence social situations become full fledged Drama Dice for Glamour Mages, which is important because most of their powers require spending Drama.
      • Second edition shifts this slightly to the Knights of Avalon. A character that takes this trait takes the mantle of one of the historical King Arthur-esque knights. They are bound to seven Gesa, but in return, they get access to the Glamours connected to the traits of the knight whose mantle they take up. If they break a Gesa once, their powers are still functional but they can feel their power slipping away; break a Gesa again when their mantle is in jeopardy and they lose their powers unless and until they seek out another Knight to atone.
    • Montaigne have the power of Porté, the ability to move themselves and objects through space. Mastery reflects the mage's ability to move themselves versus objects, and whether they can bring others with them. Oh, and don't open your eyes in a Porté hole, no matter how nicely the voices inside them ask you to; everyone who does goes mad.
    • Castille's Sorcery is nominally extinct...but a few families still have it. El Fuego Adentro allows the mage to control fire (though not to start it). The mage must be careful, as they very easily be the one burned.
    • Vesten:
      • The Vesten sorcery involves the inscription of powerful Runes. Basic understanding allows Runes to be invoked by drawing them (even in the air). Journeymen can inscribe Rune Weapons, making powerful magic swords. Masters become a Rune, inscribing it in their skin and making its effect a permanent part of themselves. Unless they're Vendel, in which case their abandonment of tradition means that no Rune is willing to live in them.
      • In second edition, the magic is named Galdr, and is described as not quite lost, but hard to find. It still revolves around runes, but this time, the runes can be inscribed on tablets or scribbled into the dirt and destroyed to release their power. Practitioners, named vala, are cautioned that as Galdr is a magic of balance, anything you use a rune for will come back to haunt you. Using a rune for love will cause heartbreak later, for example.
    • Eisen:
      • In first edition, the Eisen Sorcery is extinct. Written up in a later book, it allowed Mages to use their power to corrode and rust metal. It truly is extinct because the rules as written don't actually work (one of the Knacks gives a bonus to rolls with a different Knack...that doesn't roll dice). The Core Book costs Dracheneisen Armor as a clear substitute.
      • Second Edition adds Hexenwerk, the ability to craft Witches' Brew-like Ungents from herbs, poisons, and parts from corpses(usually fresh ones!) that are typically best used to deal with the undead. Needless to say, using it without sliding into villainy can be a challenge.
    • Ussura:
      • In first edition, Ussuran Mages can gain the ability to commune with animals and take their forms. Initiates can shapeshift into any animal that has consented to let them take its form. Journeymen can partially shapeshift, augmenting their human form with animal aspects. Masters do not need to shapeshift, and can call on the strengths of their animal allies without shapeshifting, including things like slashing with invisible claws.
      • In second edition, this takes the form of Mother's Touch, Dar Matushki. Matushka, a grandmotherly figure, gives them a Lesson they must learn, which includes two Gifts and one Restriction per sorcery level. Examples of gifts include being able to mend items by touching them, being able to command animals, or illuminating an area around you. Restrictions are made up of a Limit (for example, always offering aid to someone in need), and a Penance associated with it (aiding someone who has wronged you). If you break your limit, your gift vanishes until you do penance.
      • Second edition also brings a different magic tradition, Tura's Touch, and Matushka's Spear Counterpart and nemesis Tura. While Matushka's powers control animals and the land, Tura controls the sky and the weather. Rather than restrictions, Tura brings Freedom and Responsibility. A character will gain two Gifts and a Task in return, which takes the form of a special Story. The Task can be anything, from travelling to a town and sharing a story about Tura, to discovering how a specific healer came to a city. While some people say Tura is kinder than Matushka, he mainly dislikes her methods, not her price, so he may ask just as much of a player character.
    • Vodacce mages can see the strands of fate linking people and circumstance with their Sorte magic. Mastery allows greater control over the strands, including the ability to sever them completely. Unlike the other Sorceries, Sorte only manifests in females. In second edition, this is retooled slightly. A Sorte Strega can Read another character's Arcana (major character trait and character flaw) and activate either one, she can grant blessings (extra dice) or curses (removing dice), and she can pull other characters towards her by pulling on their strings of fate. However, Fate doesn't enjoy being toyed with, and doing one of these will give the Strega Lashes, which the GM can use by not allowing a Strega with Lashes to use dice that rolled equal to or lower than her number of lashes. Lashes can be paid by either taking a number of Wounds equal to the amount of Lashes, or by granting the GM Danger Points to raise the stakes in a conflict. There are stories of untrained Strega accidentally calling ruin upon entire towns by being unaware of using their gift until Fate came calling.
    • In second edition, Samartia gains a magical tradition called Sanderis, meaning bargain. It's heavily inspired by Deal with the Devil, in the form of a binding contract between a powerful malignant creature called a dievas and a human, henceforth referred to as a losejas. The goal of a losejas is to learn their dievai's True Name so they can destroy it; the purpose of a dievas is to corrupt the losejas into a Villain. In gameplay, this translates to the losejas being able to ask for Favors, Minor and Major. Dievai are obligated to grant Minor Favors and can always grant Major Favors, but they will be demanding a favor back from their losejas, and the greater the Favor, the greater the price will be.
    • Scrying is effectively two forms of Sorcery, one for males and another for females, and isn't tied to a nationality. Though the book notes that the two schools are called "male," and "female," these represent the majority, not the totality of Scrying mages. Female Scrying does what it sounds like, granting insight and glimpses of the future. Male Scrying makes the character an exceptional physical specimen with excellent strength, speed, and perception.
  • Pirate: Everyone and their mom is either a pirate or involved with piracy somehow.
  • Pirate Girl: "Bloody" Bonnie McGee, amongst others. In fact, a growing criticism of the Second Edition is that so many iconic pirates from the setting have been recast as women (including Allende, Captain Reis and the new Queen of the Brotherhood of the Coast) that one begins to wonder whether they aren't more common on the seas of Theah than pirate men.
  • The Plague: The white plague, which is analogous to the real world's black plague. It was a magical disease released by Sophia's Daughters to make sure that sorcery didn't wind up spreading too wide.
  • Point Build System: A completely free-form one; players aren't told where the points need to be assigned at all.
    • There's actually two kinds of points.
      • Character points represent attributes from a character's past. This includes things assigned at birth like hereditary sorcery and left-handedness, and things gained at any point their life before the start of the game, like backgrounds and affiliation with certain organizations. Character points and are assigned at character creation (the recommended amount is 100). They can purchase Advantages, Sorcery, and swordsman schools, Traits, skills, and Knacks (Knacks being sub-skills that handle specific tasks under a given skill. For example, the difference between using a fencing sword to attack versus to parry). Unlike Experience points, Character points can't raise Traits or Knacks above rank 3 (out of a possible 5), and differentiate between Basic and Advanced Knacks. Advanced Knacks cost three times as much as Basic and represent specific or unorthodox applications of a skill, such as the ability to fight with improvised weapons or read lips. Unlike Experience points, each rank purchased has a flat cost.
      • Experience points represent a character learning over the course of play and are awarded for accomplishing goals and good role-play. They can improve Traits and Knacks (with no price difference between Basic and Advanced) and buy entirely new skills and swordsman schools. They can't be used to buy Sorcery or Advantages, at least not without GM approval. Unlike Character points, the cost to improve a Trait or Knack increases based on its current rank (meaning that, for example, it costs more XP to raise a Knack for 3 ranks to 4 than it would to raise another Knack from 2 to 3).
  • Red Mage: In first edition, a character can spend up to 40 character points on sorcery, in chunks of 20. Spending the full 40 on one school grants access to three tiers of powers, though most characters will have only the basic tier at the start of the game. Spending 20 makes it so that the character can never gain any powers beyond those bestowed at the first tier, no matter how high they raise their sorcerous knacks. The rules specifically note that a character is free to spend 20 points each on two different sorceries, with the explanation that their parents each had one sorcerous legacy and they inherited a modest gift from each.
    • Additionally, a character is free to purchase more than one swordsman school. This is more cumbersome than having two sorceries, as the character must either spend an action to switch between the schools on the fly or spend a massive amount of XP maxing out each school and then Grandmastering them into a single, cohesive fighting style. Grandmastering is only available for schools that share a primary weapon skill; schools that merely don't conflict with each other (like the polearm school Posen and musket school Rois et Reines, in a game that counts a bayoneted musket as a Polearm) can't be Grandmastered.
    • Finally, a character is also free to take both a Swordsman school and a sorcery (full, half, or twin blooded), without the Grandmaster limitations.
  • Redemption Quest: The Story system to allow Heroes to remove Corruption points.
  • Redemption Rejection: Heroes are encouraged to look for ways to stop Villains other than imprisonment or death. However, of the sample Villains in the 2E Heroes and Villains sourcebook, some are too far gone to be redeemed.
  • Retired Badass: Phillip Gosse, gentleman pirate, who claimed his own island after plundering so much treasure. He decided to have one last adventure.
  • Skill Scores and Perks: Character builds are extremely freeform, with no generalized indicator of power like a character level.
    • Encounter scaling is based on the highest Trait (primary stat) score in the party. This is offset by how advancing Traits works. During character creation, Traits are very expensive, can't be raised above 3 (out of a possible 5), and are competing with everything else the character needs, much of which can't be bought with XP. Once the game is progress, raising Traits is extremely expensive and gets moreso based on how high the Trait already is.
    • Unusually, almost all "perks," (called Advantages in-game) can only be purchased during character creation. A handful of exceptions come in the form of contacts or gaining entrance to an organization. However, Swordsman schools and full-blooded Sorcery grant the character new abilities as they level the discipline's respective Knacks (half-blooded Sorcerors save 20 character creation points but don't get to unlock perks later).
    • The skills are also unorthodox. Each skill is actually a list of thematically connected Knacks. The Knacks themselves are the actual skills rolled and how skill is improved over time. Knacks are separated into Basic and Advanced. The differences are that every skill comes with 1 tank in all it's Basic Knacks (and these free ranks stack if they appear in multiple skills that the character has purchased), and Advanced Knacks cost three times as much to improve during character creation.
    • The closest thing to classes in the game are Swordsman schools and Sorcery. These are bought with character points, and Swordsman schools can also be bought with (a lot of) XP. The thing is, there's nothing stopping a character from having multiple Swordsman schools, up to two Sorceries, a combination, or none of the above. This is mostly limited in practice by their expense in character points, but careful point rationing makes it entirely viable.
  • Slave Galley: The Corsairs love to use slave labor.
  • Soul Jar: Kheired-Din of the Corsairs found a cross that acts as a soul jar. He'll always regenerate, even if his body is completely destroyed, unless the cross is destroyed first.
  • Sourcebook:
    • In first edition, there's one for every major nation, and one for every major secret society. They're of variable quality, but still provide useful background information.
    • The initial set-up for second edition is that there are two sourcebooks for the major nations of Théah, one sourcebook each for Aztlan, Wabanahkik, Ifri, the Atabean Sea, and the Crescent Empire, and one detailing all of the major secret societies.
  • Spin-Off: The card game.
    • Second Edition has seen the dev team launch several Kickstarters for a mobile game and a board game, to varying degrees of success.
  • Swashbuckler: Too many to count, NPC and PC alike.
  • 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.
    • This trope is decidedly not invoked in Second Edition now. Between dozens of major warriors, politicians, and pirates being introduced, and other legacy characters like Captain Reis and Bonaventura being re-imagined, Theah seems to have become much more gender neutral... except for Vodacce. Though there is one major exception: Rocio Sandoval, the twin sister of Amadeo Sandoval, who often disguises herself to look like her brother. Though even in that case it's played with, as her main goal when she disguises herself as a man isn't to hide her gender, but to hide the fact that the late king of Castille gave birth to twins, which means that the brother and the sister can switch turns pretending being the only heir while the other can act in the shadows to break the Inquisition's influence on the country.
  • 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.
  • Volleying Insults:
    • Some swordsmen, especially Montaigne ones, are experts at this.
    • The Vendel as well, who have a swordsman school whose Master level ability is to gain an extra action each turn—which can only be used to taunt enemies.
  • Walking Wasteland: The (theoretically extinct) Zerstorung sorcery school.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: It describes any sea based adventure perfectly.
  • 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.

No Banter, No Barter, No Quarter.