We started with a flashback to the previous session to throw in a little extra color for the night when Zeta watched the Ladies’ townhouse before departure. She spotted Marcella sneaking out, tailed her, got made, and had a very civil exchange (both of them masked, of course) that gave a little bit more of a sense of the NPC (and tied her into Zeta in advance of the game to come).
The first half of the session revolved around the arrival of Princess Bera at the court of Kirkwall and the assorted problems that came with that, especially since The Macduff remained conspicuously absent. The group was kept close at hand by simple virtue of the fact that Bera and Marcella trusted that they weren’t enemies (a certainty that could not be extended to the rest of the court). This lead to a few things:
- Captain Quinn was a loud voice in favor of the new Princess and got in at least one scuffle over the topic. How much of his motivation was genuine support for Bera and how much was “Screw you, Macduff” is an exercise left up to the viewer. He also got drawn into a poorly thought out romance (his usual kind) with Marcella.
- Doctor Valdis was the only one in the group with any real sense of why a Princess of Vesten didn’t make much sense, which lead to some axe-throwing-and-discussion with the Princess that revealed that this marriage is part of her father making a bid for the seat of the High Thane. Valdis also had some business discussions with Edwin MacBride, which revealed MacBride’s interest in closer trade ties with Vendel.
- Basillio was offered the position as head of Bera’s guard. He deferred, so instead Bera and Marcella asked him to help them find some trustworthy (or at least reliably-bought) men to serve as her guard so she did not have to rely on Highlanders.
- Basillio and Zeta went recruiting, and found an old comrade-in-arms (and student) of Basillio’s named Paolo (explicitly sourced in Basillio’s current story), and recruited him for the job. The interview consisted of a fight with Bera, which went well enough to get him the job.
- Arrangements were made for an obnoxious MacBride cousin to be available to earn a beating from the princess, which played out as planned.
The second half of the session was mostly fight and aftermath. At a party, attendees started passing out due to drugged Wine, and a large number of men (who it turned out were working for the embarrassed MacBride cousin) attempted to kidnap the princess, and the only ones in a position to fight were the PCs (who disdain this Avalonian swill, excepting Captain Quinn, who had Glamour magic to keep him going) and Paolo. This all seemed bad enough, but then a dart hit the entertainer’s dancing bear, and marksmen started getting into position on the wall.
Basillio and his companion went back to back in front of the (semi-conscious) princess and held off the incoming brutes while Zeta and Valdis wealth with the Marksman and Captain Quinn placed himself in the path of the rampaging bear. Things seemed to be almost under control when Paolo’s shadow reached up an started strangling him, and Basillio’s shadow stepped out of the ground and assumed a duelists pose.
While Basillio fended off the shadow and the remaining brutes, new brutes arrived, and were intercepted by Valdis in a most violent fashion. Zeta took off over a wall to try to find Marcella and Quinn faced down the bear. Things were not looking great for the Princess until two things happened.
First: Quinn beat the bear. Not through strength, but by sheet dogger stubbornness (and taking 18 hits in one go, and shrugging it off). Having established dominance, he rode upon the bears’ back and into the mob of brutes descending on Basillio to devastating effect.
Second, Zeta found Marcella – unconscious – but upon approaching her was attached by a figure who literally stepped out of the shadows, struck, and stepped back into them. As she readied herself for him to strike again, he instead spread the shadows to darken the entire room, and moved to strike. However, Zeta spun a web from the threads of fate, allowing her to sense where her attacker was and catch him by surprise. He was previously hurt, but something else pulled him back into the shadows, dispelling the darkness and also dispelling the magical shadows back at the party. Valdis finished off her reinforcements with aplomb, and all seemed well enough again.
Obviously, some chaos followed, and the offending MacBride was dealt with by his own clan in a fairly gruesome fashion. But there was no time to rest – in the absence of a way to hurry the MacDuff home, it was necessary to reach out to Vesten and make the correct political noises. And, of course, what ship would be better suited to delivering gifts and news than The Gates?
Ok, GM time
- We didn’t touch the dice for the first half of the session. This is not meant as a broad statement about RP, but rather is kind of indicative of the fact that 7th Sea feels like a diceless system with dice to me, and I’m starting to embrace that for all its complexities and apparent contradictions.
- But partly because of that, I pressed hard on this fight. All in all there were ten 5-strength brute squads, plus the adversary using shadow magic.
- We also have fully adopted the “Duelist school damage bonuses don’t apply against brutes” rules, which continue to work well. Without those rules, Basillio and Paolo (who got 12 raises in the first round) would probably have obliterated most of them in a single round.
- Basillio’s Melee is now a 5, and the jump from 4 to 5 is nowhere near as scary as the jump from 3 to 4 was.
- It is really proving night and day to see Glamour next to Sorte. Glamour is fun, exciting and sees constant use. Sorte is flavorful, but hard to engage usefully. I am absolutely going to be writing some hacks for it.
- I leaned very heavily on the enemy’s magic during this fight, mostly because I had a surplus of danger points and a hankering to use them. When he did a magical effect, I paid a point, since that seemed fair, but it was a little ad hoc.
- We had just gotten the Pirate Nations preview, and I’d given the players some free XP, so we looked over the mechanical bits with some enthusiasm (I also have OPINIONS about the book as a whole, but that’s another post). The Ocean’s Favorite was perfect for Captain Quinn (lots of bonuses for being an awesome ship captain) and Basillio is pursuing My Word is My Bond because it’s colorful (Swear to do something, spend some HP, for the rest of the scene, so long as you are upholding the oath, add the # of HP as raises to every risk you take).
- Also, we collectively erased Archery Dueling and the Speed Load Advantage from our universe.
All in all, it was a fun session, and pushing the fight hard paid out very well, and I think there’s room to push harder. I’m still not satisfied with how to handle villains at a tactical level, and I need to think about that more, but I now feel a bit more comfortable leaning on brute squads, so I’ll probably start exploiting them more.
That said, I really need to re-read the rules about brute squads taking risks, because I’m definitely not clear when they roll dice and when they do not.
Brute squads never roll dice. Mechanically, they are walking bags of wounds unless you give them an ability (activated with a danger point). There has been some discussion on how they might exploit the Pressure mechanic, but nothing official there.
Why did your group decide to ditch the archery fighting style and speed load advantage?
Yeah, I went looking for some exception to that and found none, which definitely meant clunky synergies, especially for Sorte.
As to the other things, one of the things which *killed* first edition 7th sea for me was the introduction of a gun-based dueling school, which turned the game from lighthearted action to chain-of-murder, so I’m gun shy (har har) both about ranged dueling styles and making guns more badass. Since my players largely overlap with that 1e group, we are fairly uniform in our aversion.
I’m trying to determine what sort of information the Fate Witch in my game will be able to gather using Read. How have you been interpreting the base Sorte “Read” ability? The description in the 2E book suggests that you can see the Arcana of characters, which seems straightforward, but it also suggests that you can see the strands of fate, which aren’t well defined. I don’t have any experience with the first edition, so I don’t have any prior lore to draw on.
So far I’ve literally just been revealing Arcana, and our witch occasionally triggers or changes them all, though I’m flexible in what that means. For example, one early villain had Cowardice swapped in and triggered, so I had him flee the field. But it’s still kind of rough.