First and foremost, I want to make something clear: this is an idea from John Harper’s Blades in the Dark, the clock mechanic, which I am adapting to 7th Sea. I take zero credit for any of this, and all blame for it’s awkwardness. I absolutely encourage looking to the source material for further insight.
With that in mind, here we go.
The Captain’s Wheel
When the GM encounters a situation which requires a little bit more range than a simple yes or no, then she can do the following:
- Grab a post it or index card
- Draw a circle on it (the eponymous wheel)
- Divide that circle into any number of wedges. 4 is the default, but really, 2, 4, 6 or 8 are all fine (or even odd numbers if that suits you).
- Write down a word or two describe what’s being tracked.
- Whenever something happens in play to move towards the outcome being tracked, fill in a wedge on the wheel. Sometimes, things will fill in more than one wedge.
- When the wheel is completely filled in, something happens!
Sounds simple, because it is. Consider this example:
Players are guests in the court of Elaine, but are also secretly spying for Montaigne. Elaine’s spymaster is on the alert, but not yet suspicious.
The GM draws a 6 wedge wheel to represent the awareness of the spymaster. When the heroes do things that might raise suspicion (even if it does not point directly at them), the GM fills in a wedge. On individual rolls, the GM may offer the prospect of filling in wedges as potential consequences that need to be offset. If the wheel ever fills in, the Spymaster realizes that there are spies around and the whole palace goes into lockdown.)
This offers a few interesting tools to the table1:
- As a GM, it gives me an extra handle for consequences on a given roll. That is super valuable to me.
- This scales up and down easily. I can have a wheel in a scene for whether the room catches fire just as easily as I can have a wheel on my campaign for when Posen finishes preparing for war. Wedges can be filled by a raise, by an action, by a scene or by and entire session.
- It lets me address those situations where my gut feels like allowing something for one raise is too much, but I don’t want to just say no.
- Because there’s a physical reminder of the wheel on the table, it remains something easy to engage. A quick glance can reveal what’s in play, and serve as its own sort of bookkeeping.
Anyway, I offer this as a convenience for anyone looking to solve the same problems I intend to use it for.
- I admit, I may also use this notation for advancement, but that’s just a personal thing.) ↩︎