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Cthulhu Netobvious
Cthulhu Netobvious's picture
Dramatic Conclusions (by KCKrupp)
house rules, drama

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.

Dramatic Conclusions

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.
Granting Mercy

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.

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TAJ-07: Technopriest And Justicar Of 7thSea2e

Mark Threlfall
Mark Threlfall's picture

I cannot find in my reading of the corruption rules why I need to change anything. The only especially evil acts called out for corruption are Torture and Innaction. If a villain is in a duel with a hero you can bet I have told my player "this guy means business" if we understand this is the concluding and final showdown (we will know it when we see it), there is no way I will give out corruption if the player decides to kill that villain. The pain caused was not unnescessary.

Therefore there is no reason to think that Heroes are not allowed to kill. I agree they are not allowed to murder. A simple example there would be not finishing off a helpless villain. Indeed you could even say they heroes would make sure a helpless wounded villain got treatment, which depending on where you are in any given story could either give a chance for that villain to escape and recurr or if it seems fitting end his days in prison or indeed be executed.

There are in my mind various forms of justice heroes would find acceptable, and one is that they are stopping an evil person. I only have one "saveable" villain in my game, and I have made it obvious that he is. There are actions that he has taken in his backstory (that the PCs will learn) will see as a hero falling to corruption. That villain exists as a player wanted it in her background.

Therefore I do not see it corrupting for heroes to kill brutes, as every one of those brutes would attempt to kill the PCs if they could or at least place them in a siutation where their boss villain could. Fine the players know the rules do not allow this, but in the world fiction their characters do not. They are fighting for their lives.

However, and this is important. The only real tool we have to challenge the "character" of our heroes is the corruption mechanic. Therfore I WILL try to put my heroes in situations where it would be tempting to cross the line. There is even one villain who is attempting to do this to one member of the party. In truth it is the only way a character can fail. And I like this, the only way a hero can fail in this game is through a failure of character, that someone pushes them to throw away all their values and fall.

It is however true that many of our well known Swashbuckling heroes do not live up to modern standards. I do tell my players that some modern standards need to be ignored. If we did not do that then the Montaigne Musketeers are not heroic as they see serving their King as more important than the common member of their nation, and their King is a tyrant. (Musketeers earn HP when serving their king or taking serious injury to protect their comrades). Even the second point says in my mind that the immediate party is more important to them than whoever needs aid. The Musketeers are not heroic, in fact the King is likely to demand his Musketeers round up hungry and starving peasants who afterall are angry at him for taking their Priest away and have them hung. A strict wording of how a Musketeer earns a HP in this situation is worrying in the extreme.

I know this has been rambling but in the end I think it should be plainly obvious to the group when Corruption has been earned. Plus the game as is written goes out of its way to tell you that Villains are EVIL. This is meant to be a game of White hats versus Black hats. The only reason mine has a Grey hat is that the player really wanted to have their character redeem someone.






Carlo Lope
Carlo Lope's picture

As a friend told me last night:

The main problem is that there are people who want a book with coherent rules that don't force them to act in certain ways. Some people think that morality depends entirely on the individual (there are a lot of comments on reddit about corruption rules and morality). Another big problem is that morality cannot be shaped into rules. Some people will be okay after killing people while others will feel haunted until the end of their days and that does not mean the former is a villain and the latter is a hero.

To sum things up: Because it is impossible to write about morality in 10 lines, the rules where left a bit vague so the GM may decide when or when not is an act evil. Because they were left vague, people are angry as they do not want to start changing things or assuming things when they paid for it. What they don't realise is that it is impossible to represent and that this game is meant to be played in a certain light, like you said.

I agree that if someone tells me that Brutes don't die because rules say so I will say "I rule it differently and I don't care". There is a pretty comment on page 16 where they say that's how they would do it but it is not necessarily right, but I also understand that there are people who believe (like my friend) that a game must have specific rules because that is why it's a game, even if it's a narrative game. If you are told to change or make up things every now and then then what the hell are you paying for?

I agree with you and I'm quite happy with this game even if I disagree with some rules. I don't think it's that big of a deal. There may be situations where it's tricky to decide if it's worth a corruption point or not: Batman is an example here that they used on Reddit. Batman uses fear to "torture" and he sometimes punches Brutes until he has what he needs. On Reddit, KcKrupp says Batman is a Hero but if we think about it... I can totally see Batman having a couple of Corruption points stored even if some people say what he did was justified.

I love the house rules he has created, even if you could have done the same without having these rules written. In the end I guess it's up to every GM and no one (including players) is going to agree entirely

Wyrd GM
Wyrd GM's picture

Morality is a very subjective issue. Once that I love to delve into with many games.

Also, since the rules say to advise someone that an action will be worth corruption before hand, there is always an option to say "No, I will not cross that line." or "Yes, I will cross that line."

I feel as long as I am explicit, all is well. The rest of it, however, is managing the group consensus of what the world's morality is.

Salamanca's picture

As long as you give them the warning and the chance to withdraw the action, the corruption rules work just fine. 

As for Batman, he has a corruption point he totally does not deserve but feels he does.  He probably has a second one that he totally argues that he did not earn.


the whole point of keeping brutes and villains around is so you can drag them back into the campaign later.  D'artagnan ran into one fellow several times during the series that he had fought in that first skirmish with the Cardnial's Guards. They even banter about that.  This is the sort of thing that adds to stories.  Play it up and the players will love it.

Star West
Star West's picture

So let me explain why I wrote these rules a bit. From my perspective, when a Villain hits "Helpless" they are literally Helpless and can no longer put up a fight. They drop to their knees and surrender, they beg for mercy, they slump to the ground in exhaustion unable to lift their sword any further. The fight is gone.

In my opinion, killing a villain when they're Helpless is the same a killing a captured POW, and so killing a villain when they're Helpless earns Corruption. I run 1st Ed the same way, where taking an action to kill a Villain was always a major Reputation loss.

(Note that Mike Curry has clarified that in HIS opinion spending an action to kill a villain after fighting them probably wouldn't warrent a point of Corruption, especially if the villain is particularly vile. I'm guessing he's imagining that it varies based on what's actually happening in the scene.)

That said, the epic duel to the death is a staple of the swasbuckling genre, so I was looking for a way to have the GM create moments where death was a possibility mid-combat, because sometimes the fights do get serious and there are repercussions. You can only stab and shoot eachother so many times before someone does seriously get hurt.

It's also kind of intended to mimic the fact that most Swashbuckling villains aren't really looking to kill the hero most of the time. They look to waylay the hero, mock them, humiliate them - until the hero has meddled in their plans long enough and it's time for the gloves to come off.

the whole point of keeping brutes and villains around is so you can drag them back into the campaign later. 

100% agree with that Sal. Recurring Brutes are a fantastic way to build the world. I've had brutes who eventually switched sides and joined the heroes, and brutes that elevated into henchmen and villains. My personal favorite was a Brute who eventually became a major villain. The Squad he was in originally was just sort of "haha-hehe" laugh em off sorts of blokes, and as they got more competant the heros got rougher with them and started actually using swords against them. Since this was 1e whether or not brutes lived or died was completely on the GM, so slowly the heroes would take out brutes and the next time James would be missing from the squad, then Lawrence. The squad also got less silly and more angry and menacing. Finally one day the heroes noticed "Jacqueline" wasn't there and asked where she was.

"She died from your swords, you bastards," the brute leader shouted.

Totally changed the tone of the game. The brute leader became a major villain for the campaign.

Donovan Morningfire
Donovan Morningfire's picture

A personal take, but once a Villain reaches that 4th Dramatic Wound, I would put it into the hands of the player right then and there as to whether the Villain survives that final blow.  Prme example is the fight between Inigo and Count Rugen in The Princess Bride.  I wouldn't count Rugen as being Helpless at that point (he's spending his last few Raises trying to get Inigo to let him go), and takes his fourth and final Dramatic Wound when Inigo stabs him saying "I want my father back you son-of-a-bitch!" after which Rugen sputters briefly and then falls to the floor in a lifeless heap.

Granted, once the player has decided the Villain is still alive, whether it be unconscious or simply sprawled on the ground in a bleeding heap, an attempt to end that Villain's life would fall under the Corruption rules as an act of murder, killing someone that is entirely at your mercy and not able to defend themselves.

Being both player and GM in FFG's Star Wars: Force and Destiny RPG, character morality is something I've had to consider, especially given that Star Wars as a setting leans more towards black and white with only the barest shades of grey (Han and Lando are light grey, the Fetts are a very dark grey).  7th Sea appears to operate on the idea that the player-characters are Heroes with a captial H, and while they might do some greyish things, they are generally good and upstanding individuals, who don't do things like murder helpless foes or push small children out of windows.

As for Villains surviving an encounter with the Heroes, the rules have you covered as the Villain can spend Influence equal to the highest Trait amidst the PCs in order to automatically escape the Scene (page 195).  So if you've got a Villain you want to hang around for a while, simply ensure they've always got enough Influence to pull such an escape card.  Now said escape could literally be leaping out the nearest window to a waiting carriage, or invoking some manner of what amounts to diplomatic immunity that if the Heroes press their attack will lead to a horrific scandal; for instance if the Heroes somehow got Cardinal Verdugo at swordpoint, he could spend Influence to invoke that even if the Heroes kill him, they are in the midst of an Inquisition held fortress and the Heroes would not escape alive, but he's willling to let them leave unharmed if they'll kindly remove their swords from his throat.  Or that cruel Montaigne Count actually has close familial ties to L'Empereur, and if said Count winds up dead, then the full weight of Montaigne's authorities will come crashing down on the Heroes' heads, as the Count as made sure that a death of unnatural causes is laid squarely at the Heroes' feet.

And if you've got a player who refuses to accept that and tries to murder the Villain anyway... then you have a player that's probably not very interested in playing a Hero, and I'd say the GM has free hand to level whatever consequences they like at this character, and by association his compatriots if they did nothing to intervene, up to and including the equivalent of "rocks fall, everyone dies," as would likely be the case with the Verdugo example I listed earlier.

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