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Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
My chat with John Wick
creator comments

So John Wick was at Origins (from what I can tell to socialize with friends and network a bit before things go crazy at GenCon for him)  and he was gracious enough to sit down with me for about 30 minutes and talk about the new game.

 

For background on this, you all should know I ran a session for the Heroes of Altamira living campaign using the new system and was trading feedback on what we experienced with it for some advice and tips on a few topics.

Item one: summoning syrneth.

  I know this is a very ambiguous ability as written and that turns out to be by intent.  John wants you to do it in oyur own way and to probably be inconsistent with it.  His exact phrasing was "the sidhe are never predictable so any rule on their behaviour would be pointless"  So sometimes the hero gets what they want, sometimes they get too much help and sometimes they get too little.  It should always help as they paid points for it but it should never be a guaranteed method of success. 

Item two: Group Size

   I asked him point blank how big a group they playtested with and he told me they tested the game with all sorts of sizes.  I then revealed I had just ran three consecutive sessions of 10 players and was feeling a bit overwhelmed creating enough consequences with variety in some places.  His eyes went wide, he gulped, stammered a bit and said "Ten?  at the same time?  We only tested up to five!"    So the game is designed for small group play.  Nobody ever even thought about it being used for even the standard convention table of six.  If you have a larger group, you are going to see some glitches it seems.  John's solution for big groups is to go LARP instead of tabletop (which we have no rules for and kind of goes against my plans when I drop the game for freeform play)

Item three: That LARP thing

They ARE working on a LARP for this.  very much down the line after the promised kickstart stuff in all probability.  And he will probably be bringing in some specialists to do it who know how to best incorporate live play with his vision.  but at this point they don't even know if they will make it a social or a boffer play game.  (I am firmly in the no swinging foam swords camp for the record)

Item four: Pressure

The first thing every group tried to do in an action sequence was to apply pressure to the brute squad to surrender.  As they don't really have actions to spend, I asked John how that would work.  Do they just automatically drop their swords, does the villain need to spend actions to keep them going, can you not do it (which seems weird and unfair)  John admitted he had no idea because in all these playtests it apparently never came up.  We discussed some options and I will do a post about that in the houserules section.  Personally, I think he needs better and broader playtesters.

Item five: The Explorer's Drive Thru site.

It's coming and he is very excited to see what we put out there for the game.  There will at some point be some tools to format your adventures to look like the official stuff and it should be really cool.  He also was very emphatic about one thing:  Ideas are free but writing them up is WORK and you deserve to be paid for that effort.  So if you are doing something for that site, don't feel bad about asking a few bucks for it. 

Item Six: Secret Societies

The stuff in the core is very bare bones and obviously more is coming in the sourcebook.  He also confirmed at least two more societies in the Pirate book (which I assume are factions... Maybe Kheirid Din) and one in the New World for certain at this point.  He conceeded my view on the Rose and Cross write up being less inspiring than past incarnations but assured me that they will be all they have been in the past and maybe a bit more.  I then changed the subject to save the surprises for myself.

Item seven; world building

For those who are not aware, the Original game was jsut going to be Vodacce.  John and Jen wrote it to just be one nation in the 17th century.  AEG asked that it be expanded to the continent and that was what we saw in the original Player's Guide.  Then the sourcebooks got handed off to different teams and everything quickly spiraled beyond John's control.  a lot of what was in the original wave of sourcebooks was based on what he wanted but not all of it. 

This time around, John is keeping things close.  EVERYTHING goes through him, Mark Diaz Truman and Rob Justice.  They are doing this to maintain a consistent game setting and to keep it from wandering into strange metaplots that do not fit the setting.  They are doing it to give us the best game they can.

The rest of the conversation related to my experiences at the table that day, how my players received the game and stuff most of you don't care about.  

But there is something else you all need to hear about.  His reactions when talking about this game are pure from the heart.  The light in his eyes, the joy in his smile, he is completely and personally invested in this game as something he really believes in.  It's not just a guy pushing a product (and I talked to plenty of those guys last week)  This one was a labor of love and he is truly grateful that each and every one of us is interested in his project.  It is a lot like talking to a new father who is totally in love with this brand new child and just realized how damn much work is ahead of him.  

And, as he usually does, he asked me to thank the rest of you for helping make this all happen.  And I cannot type the sincerity he expresses with those words.  

 

And there were probably 800 other things I would have liked to talk about that we could use clarification on but I had taken up enough of his time.   

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Alfredo Tarancón
Alfredo Tarancón's picture

Seems like you had a great chance there. :D

Group Size
I would have reacted the same way about playing with groups of 10. That's just crazy, imho... 5 is my prefered maximum... There's no way you can properly pay attention to 10 people in the same game, making sure they're all implicated and having fun... Beyond 5, and they players start falling down the cracks, getting bored between the actions of all the other players, checking their phones, or talking among themselves about things not related to the game... Larping really seems like the way to go there...

 

Explorer's Site

I'm really looking forward to this... And I'm wondering if it's gonna be only for adventures or if people will be allowed to create other kind of materials (like sheets, game guides, new secret societies, dueling schools, any other kind of expansions...)

DaWaterRat
DaWaterRat's picture

A very interesting conversation. Thank you for posting.

I've got a group of 8, but 3 aren't even 13 yet, so they could decide they want to go play with friends or something instead on any given game day (and the one in High School is entering her Junior year, which means that she's likely to skip games to finish homework, especially once the various clubs start up.) Still, knowing they didn't test for that much is good to be aware of.

Re: worldbuilding - it's going to be interesting to see what elements stay and what goes. For now, I'm cherry picking from the old books when I need to, but I'm trying to stay light handed enough that I can retcon them easily when I get new info.

Explorers ... heh. Somewhere to put all those plot ideas I can't use with my group for some reason... and turn a profit!

Alfredo Tarancón
Alfredo Tarancón's picture

Yeah, I'm guessing that going forward the changes to the setting as presented in the 1st edition will be bigger... The way I see it, it's more than probable that the swashbuckling phase will be kind of ignored or changed deeply... KInd of what Alan Davis made when he returned to his comic book ClanDestine 

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture

I don't know.  I think there will be as much or more swashbuckling. 

I also am aware that group size is subjective but I am used to running convention events where the standard is 6-8.  And I used to have a home game for another system that regularly help 15-20.  There are techniques and styles that work for that but it is a ridiculously specialized range.  (and I know that as well) 

 

If you get the chance to talk with him, take it.  and if you need an in, I recommend a bloody mary with three olives. 

Salty Dog
Salty Dog's picture

Thanks for posting this Sal. I'm actually slated to play a 7th Sea game with John in September and I'm really looking forward to it. Figured he was more of a whiskey drinker, though. ;)

I can't imagine playing 7th Sea 2e with more than 6 players. For conventions it makes sense but I prefer my games on the smaller side. Whether I'm GM'ing or playing there's just too much down time for my taste; in my experience, most players prefer plenty of GM attention.

Lady Grace
Lady Grace's picture
I was a witness to how packed that con session was that Sal ran. It's why I offered to sit out for a later time (which thankfully I was free for).
BluSponge
BluSponge's picture

Thank you very much for sharing, Sal.

Yeah, I'm not surprised they didn't really test things out with big groups.  Only crazy people run games for groups of more than 6, right?  Or people who introduce teens to RPGs at the public library and hurl 13+ screaming teenagers into the gaping maw of a deathtrap D&D dungeon.  Yes, that's me.  But that's ok.  Very few games can stand the stress of a big group (B/X D&D is holding up surprisingly well, even without a full time caller).  So I expect some aches and pains from even something like 7th Sea.

Pressuring brutes?  I can see why that might not come up in playtesting.  I expect there will be a sidebar in Pirate Nations thanks to your conversation.

Everything else sounds like gravy to me.

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
Yep, gotta be nuts to run for a crowd. Never denied it.
Bradley
Bradley's picture

Personally, I think playtesting with a group of up to 8 is a good idea. I would say the group sizes needed for playtesting an rpg are 2 (gm and player since one would just be a writer), 5 (standard size), and 8 (Large end). If it starts to fall apart somewhere, test in between till you find the sweet spot and maybe put somewhere the recomended player pool size.

LibrariaNPC
LibrariaNPC's picture

I'm glad to hear that the talk went well and that this is clearly a labor of love, but I am shocked at how they didn't expect the situations with pressuring brutes and large groups.

I'll talk more about my crazy-large groups in your other thread, but I run into the same situation you do at conventions: my tables have run from 3-8 players, and due to the politices of the conventions I've run for (i.e. count every player for better numbers), I've tended to run high, regardless of system (7 players for 7th Sea 1st Edition, 8 players in a Dresden Files Fate game, etc). The fact they didn't think to test the game for more than five players is a bit of a concern.

"Smilies exist because no one's bothered to create a sarcasm font." --Lost_Heretic

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
As something that has a personal effect on my game play. It is going to become my pet project. More of a "what you have to ignore, tone down or not exploit" than a rewrite. Last thing I want to do is rebuild the mechanics.
LibrariaNPC
LibrariaNPC's picture

From what I can tell, it's not so much mechanical rewrite, but playing things by ear.

I agree wholeheartedly that lower Strength (4-5) Villains fill the role of Henchmen rather well. When I ran a massive game of 7th Sea in college (I think the largest session had 15 people because they all showed up), I seldom needed the use of villains in combat, and relied on Henchmen and mid-range Brute squads. It kept the action moving quickly because of it, and since we don't have all of the situational modifiers that we see in D&D, it wasn't an issue of slowing down. Sure, we had our slow moments, but they weren't horrible.

As for the Consequences side, were you using generic consequences that individuals had to overcome (like a burning room), or consequences that could actually be stopped altogether (like keeping the fire from reaching the powder room)? I think adding in consequences that could be stopped, or possibly a consequence that can be stalled by heroes spending Raises, might be helpful in the large group situations. 

 

I'll be honest: I haven't run the game yet (no locals are willing to play, but members of my old groups are joining an online game next month), but I have a bad (good?) habit of playing out how things can go, so. . .

"Smilies exist because no one's bothered to create a sarcasm font." --Lost_Heretic

Rob Justice
Rob Justice's picture
Quick question: Did John mention me by name or are you mentioning me because you know of my involvement?
Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
In reference to who is guiding this whole thing, he mentioned you and Mark by name. Frankly, you and the whole team should be throwing high fives and chest bumps. You turned out a great corebook ahead of schedule. Still lots to do but you guys are on the right track.
Rob Justice
Rob Justice's picture
Interesting. Thanks.
Edward B
Edward B's picture
Thanks Sal. Even if I am convinced that the sweet spot for 7th Sea (whatever edition) is GM+3 (small groups for high involvement and drama for each PC), I ran a campaign 1st edition with GM+7 and one GM+5, so it is a bit alarming to see 5 is the biggest which has been playtested. Even if GM+4/5 is standard, GM+6/7 is not uncommon for a large group.
Lady Grace
Lady Grace's picture
Especially once you start getting into conventions. You just know a LOT of folks are gonna want to hit the tables with the new edition now in play...
Edward B
Edward B's picture

It must be a different practice over in the US: My experience in Europe is that at conventions tables have a set maximum number of players (typically GM+4/5), while the times I have been in large groups (at least two GM+7 and sometimes +6) have always been in private groups (friends or clubs). Indeed at conventions there are often not enough GMs / too many players and so some have to either set up improvised sessions or play boardgames. My experience of large tables tells me there is a good reason not to do them for single sessions, only campaigns, as the going is slow.

Alfredo Tarancón
Alfredo Tarancón's picture

Same here. I actually have been coordinating a convention for 10 years here in Spain and in all this time I've seen a table with more than 6 people only a couple of times, and they were special events, one with 2 gamemasters and another that was mostly a D&D gladiator tournament with zero story or real roleplaying, just what seemed people hitting each other with their characters sheets...

I feel it takes enjoyment from the rest of the players when you have too many on a table, and that's not someting related to the rules exclusively, it's about personal interaction. I'm sure that some GM can develop a proper personal interaction with tables that crowded, but probably there's a price to pay, in other areas...

Nobody argues when when you can only play a basic Catan game with 4 people. Rpgs are more flexible and, that's part of the charm, but there's an optimal limit as well...

BluSponge
BluSponge's picture

Back when I was running Living Greyhawk for the RPG, I believe the table limit was six players.  There were some guidelines for pushing that to 7, but we rarely sat tables of more than 6.  Except at Interactives, but that's a different beast altogether.

 

Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
Most con's over here reimburse the GM admission but you have to run a specific number of games AND a specific number of players. ( for Origins it's 4 games and six per table). But if a GM regularly ends up seating fewer, they start having problems with the con accepting events. Now, our campaign has an embarrassment of riches in terms of player attendance. We schedule 6 plan to accept up to 8 total with walk up tickets. And we still need to run on demand events at the end for those who could not get in. This year we ran 92 hours of events in 52 hours of play time over 4 and a half days. And we still have players wanting more. So in our case, the players will for the most part settle for sharing the space over not participating.
Salamanca
Salamanca's picture
On the other side of that debate: over the last ten years of convention play, regardless of system, groups of less than 5 have left the players saddled with participants who made the session impossible to complete. Most of these problems came from participants who were unable to make use of their abilities ( which larger group would have overlap to cover) or pushed to inhibit the group dynamics which, again, could have been over ruled in a larger group. But this system is going to be a bear to run for 6. Even thinking about 8 will take someone very, very used to working big games. And from experience, 10 is crazy. Don't try it.
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