QUOTE: Kevin Krupp from Reddit
NOTE: I'm going to start with a bit of an explanation on my thought process. If you want to skip the philosophical blah-ti-blah, just skip that nonsense down to the house rule below.
Some of our most beloved and recognizable heroes, like Spider-Man, are characterized by the fact that they go to great lengths to avoid killing. There's also nothing wrong with wanting to play anti-heroes like the Punisher or Spawn. These are both valid narratives, and the folks at JWP decided that they wanted to focus on a game where you play characters more like Spider-Man than Frank Castle. Essentially the rules are saying that the heroes are so great at what they do, that they can pull their punches and dispatch enemies without having to stop and think about doing so without killing them. And there is something somewhat refreshing and whimsical about the idea of a world where no one dies (heroes at least) unless it's done with purpose, or Indiana Jones style where in the villain's own folly they open the arc and melt their face off.
That said, it's also understandable that people are frustrated. Why? Because even Indiana Jones shot and killed a man. Han, Luke, and Leia kill A LOT of stormtroopers (as do the supposedly pacifist Jedi,) and so does the very definition of swashbuckling adventurer: Errol Flynn. Again, I don't fault the 7th Sea team for wanting to create a world of larger than life heroes, but this is a game of swashbuckling heroes, and the reality is, swashbuckling heroes kill --
They don't murder, but they do kill.
Sure, swashbuckling films will often dance around it, for example Jack and Will only formally kill one person in the first Pirate's move: Barbossa, but that's because they were fighting zombie pirates, which let them stab the brutes to their heart's contents without "killing them" (heck they even stuff a bomb into some guy's chest before blowing him up...good thing he was undead, right?) but the movie ends on pretty much the same note as most swashbuckling movies: one of the heroes kills the villain in the midst of a duel. The final duel where the hero kills the villain is a quintessential swashbuckling moment -- it's certainly what Errol Flynn would do, and ironically it's something that is mechanically impossible in 7th Sea. Now, again, there's nothing wrong with saying "we want to make a swashbuckling game about quintessential heroes who never kill - like Spider-Man," but it's not really fair to say that the "great big swashbuckling heroes don't kill."(1)
Cold-blooded murder and assassination are NOT things that swashbuckling heroes do (most of the time)(1), but they have no problem killing armed opponents in a fight or on a battlefield. Jack kills Barbossa, Geoffrey Thorpe kills Lord Wolfingham, Capt Blood kills Levasseur, Zorro kill Capt Pasquale, Brian Hawke kills Brasiliano, Morgan kills Dawg (with a cannon no less), Robin Hood kills Sir Guy, and the Three Musketeers+d'Artagnean kill 22 Rochellese soldiers(2) and Rochefort (granted, accidentally...because he doesn't recognize him, in 22 Years Later.) Sure the Scarlet Pimpernel doesn't kill, but he's actually the exception.
Now, 7th Sea isn't supposed to be some sort of Errol Flynn simulation; it's a narrative game, and you can do whatever you want to make the story happen. I also get why the design team made the decisions they made. They wanted a light-hearted game with larger-than-life heroes that don't kill, and they also wanted to empower heroes to do crazy over the top swashbuckling stuff that Errol Flynn WOULD do without the risk of dying, while making sure that villains were durable enough to do the typical "I'll live to fight another day."(3) They were also building off of 1st Ed, which worked basically the same way. But, I get why some folks disagree; there's no way to recreate the climactic Errol Flynn movies with the current rules. Fortunately, the design team has given us an awesome framework that we can build off of and modify to make it happen.
I swear, I'm done pontificating, here's the rules. I'm just spit-balling here; haven't actually played them yet.
Eventually tensions come to a head and villains and heroes find themselves locked into one final duel to the death. Dramatic Conclusions give you an opportunity to re-create the epic final duels; the moments where villains - which up to now have seemed neigh immortal - finally expose themselves to the heroes blade. While heroes may go to great lengths to avoid unnecessary deaths, sometimes when two combatants are locked in battle, death is inevitable.
At the end of a 4-pt or 5-pt story, at the final confrontation between a hero and the villain at the center of their story, the Villain can challenge the hero to a "final duel." The GM then spends 3 Danger Points. For the duration of this scene, if a wound dealt by the villain to the hero would render the hero helpless, instead of becoming helpless, that hero is killed (the GM has essentially paid the "cost" for killing the hero up front.) The same applies for villains, where if a wound dealt by the hero to a villain would render the villain helpless, instead of becoming helpless, the Villain is killed (again, the GM has essentially paid the "cost" up front.) The hero does not receive Corruption if the Villain is killed while actively engaging the hero in combat or attacking one of the hero's friends; if the villain is trying to escape or has surrendered, then Corruption would apply.
If the hero or villain earns a number of wounds to render them helpless due to Consequences, they are not killed, but instead rendered helpless as normal.
Staving off Death
Heroes and Villains can stave off death during a final duel. When a hero or villain would be considered "killed" during a "final duel" either can spend a Hero Point to be able to take an additional 4 wounds before becoming helpless; for the sake of simplicity a single shot by a musket or pistol at this point deals 4 wounds of damage.
Klara spends a HP to stave off death, earning her 4 extra wounds in her final battled with von Heidelburg. VH spends 1 raise to fire his pistol at her, dealing 4 wounds. Klara spends 3 of her raises for that round to reduce damage from the firearm by 3 wounds; she has 3 of her 4 extra wounds remaining.
When a hero deals the final blow against a villain in a "final duel" they can choose to spend a HP, to instead of killing the villain with the final blow, render them Helpless as normal. If the GM announces that the duel is finished and that the hero has won, they cannot choose to then stave off death and keep the villain fighting after the hero grants them mercy; the Villain is resoundingly defeated, but left alive, and will no longer be a threat to the hero.
(1) Swashbuckling heroes also sometimes do awful things that make us cringe, like the fact that most people forget how Athos reveals (without remorse) how he tried to hang Milady before the start of The Three Musketeers, AND that all 4 of the protagonists oversee Milady's execution in a secret trial of them and an executioner. Seriously, these are the heroes we're trying to emulate?
(2) They kill those 22 soldiers as part of a bet that they can hold the fort for an hour while they plan out their next course of action. They're sitting there bantering as they kill 22 men. These are our heroes.
(3) I also, fully agree that I don't want to run a game where my players run around trying to murder every brute they meet in increasingly violent ways. I also recognize that a lot of people fit Assassin's Creed into the swashbuckling genre, but, let's be honest...Edward Kenway is really more of an anti-hero and doesn't really fit into the traditional Swashbuckling hero role.
TAJ-07: Technopriest And Justicar Of 7thSea2e