7th Sea – The Alchemical Compass

Tonight, I’m getting together with some of my friends to play 7th Sea, a role playing of of swashbuckling high adventure set in a fictionalized 17th century Europe.

Cover of 7th Sea

I’m playing a Castillian (i.e., Spanish) guitar instructor to the court of Elaine of Avalon (Britain) and a skilled swordsman. I’m also a member of the secret society of Los Vagos — freedom fighters like Zorro who protect common folks from the inquisition and the beleaguered young King from political rivals — but that backstory isn’t likely to come into play in this adventure. We’re seeking a magical compass that may allow ships to navigate the mystical 7th Sea (imagine a roaming Bermuda Triangle).

7th Sea is written by John and Jennifer Wick, and has a really interesting core mechanic. You have several base abilities called Traits (brawn, finesse, wits, resolve, and panache), and then Skills and Knacks. To resolve a conflict or test in the game, you roll a number of d10 dice equal to the sum of your Trait and the appropriate skill/knack. You then “keep” a number of dice equal to the Trait (the ones that rolled high, of course).

So, if I need to leap to grab a chandelier, and I have a brawn of 2 and a leaping knack of 3, I would roll 5 dice and keep the highest 2 (written as 5K2). So the skills contribute to higher rolls, but the Trait is the limit on how high a total is possible. Except that a rolled 10 “explodes;” you get to roll again (and maybe again…) and the sum of all the exploding rolls add to the value of the first d10, so it counts as one really big die roll that you can keep.

There’s also sorcery, political intrigue, mysterious ruins, and loathsome monsters. And there’s a drama dice system for rewarding risk-taking and good role playing that can work for both the players and the storyteller. All in all, our short campaign has been a lot of fun. Tonight is supposed to be the concluding session.

I’m thinking about offering to run Dogs in the Vineyard for a while if folks are interested in continuing to get together.

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