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Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture
Duelists vs. Brutes
brute duelist

    This was a discussion that our group started last night and I wanted to open a discussion with other folks about it. I'll present my interpretation and proposal along with the passages I have found that support this. 


Everyone, including Duelists, can remove Brutes with Raises on a 1 for 1 basis regardless of how many "Wounds" you can deal with a Raise. What this means is that Duelists attack Brutes just like everyone else and cannot take down "Weaponry Ranks" of Brutes with a single Raise. 


My reading of the rules to support this:

Brute Squads (pg. 191): Brute Squads are a 'consequence' in an Action Sequence. They do not roll dice, they have only a single value (Strength) which determines how many Wounds they deal at the end of the Round as a Consequence for not dealing with them. They have no 'Wounds'.

You can attack a Brute Squad, you can Convince them to surrender, you can Run away from them...basically anything can be done to a Brute Squad to defeat them on a 1 Raise / 1 Brute basis.

Under Duelist Maneuvers (pg. 235), all of them deal "Wounds" and do not have any special mention for Brutes. Therefore, since Brutes don't have Wounds, the maneuvers cannot be used to remove multiple Brutes with a single Raise.


The only evidence I can find to the contrary is an example on page 184.


GM: You have a dueling style, right?

Heinrich: Yes! Eisenfaust! I use the Slash Maneuver, spending one Raise to cause…(checks

character sheet) THREE WOUNDS!

GM: That’s your Weaponry Skill, right?

Heinrich: That’s right.

GM: One of the Brute Squads gets knocked down from Strength 5 to Strength 2. 

While this is a clear counter example, my opinion based upon reading the core rules (Brute Squads are a Consequence and have no Wounds) is that the example is not the 'rule of reference' and that it is likely possible that the example is not correctly written (I've seen many times where an example doesn't match the rules, for whatever reason).


What is the proper way to run this? The 'GM' side of me would like Brutes to be dealt with the same by everyone; otherwise, it just increases the power of duelists more and makes advantages like Reckless Takedown a lot less useful as Weaponry goes up.


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Lord Rumfish
Lord Rumfish's picture

I have noticed in my own campaign (as a player) that a brute squad just has no chance unless the GM has upped the difficulty of Raises to 15, or increases the size of the brute squad(s) to ridiculous proportions (Brute Squad 20?  30?).  In my case, Drexel style can take advantage of the free initiative a brute squad provides by using Gerbeck stance to deal +1 Wound with all maneuvers.  My very first combat in the game, I took down a Strength 10 Brute Squad before anyone else in the party could act (that was Metzger stance).  That was when I realized just how dangerous dueling really was, and how weak brute squads are to it.

Based on your interpretation of the rules here, it would certainly be a lot more fair to non-duelists (it might just become their job to handle the brute squads), and it would make brute squads more dangerous.  I think this is more realistic, as fighting 10 armed people in real life is suicide, even if you have mastered a combat style.  Do you want your heroes to be able to fight their way past 30 soldiers (probably broken up into three squads of 10) on a routine basis?  I'm not quite sure what the right call here is, but I'd say... try it and see.  If you're already leaning that way, go ahead and make the ruling and see how it susses out in play.

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

If you do this, I propose you reduce the cost of Duelist Academy to 2, or 3 at the absolute most.  Because now it's going to be useless for 90% of situations.  There should be no reason a player should have to spend 5 points on an advantage that can only be used against someone with the same advantage.  Remember that MOST of your opposition are going to be nameless brutes.

I've stated this repeatedly, I think this is the WRONG approach to fixing Duelist.

My suggestion remains, until JWP comes up with something better, there needs to be a 2 or 3-point Advantage available that gives the hero a "signature attack" of some sort.  This would allow you to spend a Raise to add either your Trait or Skill in wounds once each round.  It would let the non-duelists be more effective in combat without adding a bunch of rules and still keep "Duelist Academy" pretty top shelf at 5-points.  And, since it's only once per round, I see no reason it couldn't stack with your Duelist school.  By that I mean you could either do a duelist manuever OR your signature attack.  The two don't really conflict.  You could handle this with either a handful of specific Advantages (knife fighter, heavy weapon fighter, puglisit, etc.) or have a single advatage ala Signature Item.

I haven't logged as many hours playing 7th Sea as others here have, but this feels — to me — to be a good middle ground solution to keep non Duelists from feeling constantly outclassed.  At least until more official options become available.  I would certainly include it in my game.

Sean Butler
Sean Butler's picture

I agree that Duelist shouldn't be usable against Brutes unless it's vastly toned-down overall.  Otherwise, for only two points more than Fencer (+1 die), you essentially ~triple your combat effectiveness.  If Duelist were just +1 wound dealt/prevented when you spend raises (perhaps for each rank of duelist), that would be well worth the 5 points alone. 

Easl's picture

Harliquinn, I think the rules were intended to follow the example - I don't think it's a mistake. However, I agree with the other posters that this makes a Duelist so much more effective against brutes than non-duelists that it makes such scenes less fun.


Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture


    If the example were not given, would you feel the same way? Without the example, i don't think there's any support in the rules to allow duelists to take down multiple Brutes with Wounds, when they are specifically cited as a Consequence which requires Raises to deal with.


NeoTanuki's picture

Originally, I was very strongly in the "Dueling should do full damage to Brutes" camp. However, I've been thinking more about this position recently. It's very easy for a Duelist to take out 3-5 Brutes with a single action...and a beginning Sabat duelist with Trait 3 and Weaponry 3 can take out 7 Brutes in a single action with the Gambit! Unless one is running a solo campaign with 1 Duelist player against a horde of Villains, that does seem a bit extreme to me. 

At the same time, I totally agree with BluSponge...changing Duelist to an advantage that ONLY works against other Duelists and has no effect against non-Duelists seems wrong and counter-intuitive to me. 

I haven't decided yet if I want to change this up in my own games, but I was considering a compromise House Rule I'd like to throw out for discussion to meet Duelists and non-Duelists halfway when fighting Brutes.

1. When a non-duelist Hero is fighting Brutes, 1 Raise=1 Brute removed from the Squad, as per the standard rules.
2. HOUSE RULE: When fighting Brutes, even a skilled duelist can be overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers...but the Duelist's skill with a blade also offers far greater protection when attacked. Duelists must spend 1 Raise to remove 1 Brute from a squad, just like non-duelists. However, any Brute Squad that attacks a Duelist Hero reduces the Wounds the Squad inflicts equal to the Duelist Hero's Weaponry skill. 

The idea is that it takes a bit more time for a Duelist to take down a Brute Squad, gives Duelists and non-Duelists greater incentive to team up against large Brute Squads...but Duelists can last longer in a fight against large numbers of Brutes, and take more risks in the Round without worrying as much about taking hits. 

For example: Don Alejandro, Castillan Duelist Hero (Weaponry 3), is cornered by a 5-Brute Squad of Cardinal Verdugo's Guard (who inflict 5 Wounds at the end of the round). Don Alejandro draws his sword (the Player rolls Finesse+Weaponry) and gets 2 Raises. Don Alejandro leaps to attack the squad! His flashing blade drops one...two foes in quick succession! (Reducing the Squad's damage inflicted from 5 Wounds to 3 Wounds). The remaining three Guards thrust their blades at him...but Don Alejandro parries (Remaining Squad Damage 3-Don Alejandro's Weaponry of 3=0 Wounds taken) and emerges unscathed, ready to fight the remaining 3 Brutes in the following round.

Of course, Duelists would still do full damage and defense from their Maneuvers when using their style against another Duelist. 

What do you think? I was watching some fight scenes from "The Mask of Zorro" this evening and this seemed to fit the "flow" of the combat reasonably well. Antonio Banderas would be confronted by 3-5 guards, and spend a couple of scenes leaping past, evading them and knocking them down. (1 combat round spent reducing the Brute Squad's strength). Then a Villain would show up and they'd engage in a furious back-and-forth (1 round of single-combat dueling). Then ANOTHER Brute Squad would show up and Antonio would be knocking a couple of thugs aside while parrying the Villain (splitting Raises between taking out Brutes and parrying the Villain all at once!)

Again, I honestly haven't had enough sessions yet to decide if I want to make this change or not...but I thought it might be a good middle-approach between "Nerfing Duelists completely against Brutes" versus "Duelist kills every Brute in reach within 3 seconds."


Sean Butler
Sean Butler's picture

The problem is that this essentially gives Duelists an improved version of Riot Breaker, a 4-point Advantage, for free.  What you described could be considered a 5-point advantage in its own right, since you don't have to worry about increasing your Resolve trait-- you'd presumably be focusing on your Weaponry regardless-- and because your version doesn't force the duelist to take a minimum of one wound from a brute squad.  I don't think people realize just how much less powerful other combat Advantages are compared to Duelist Academy.

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

Over on Reddit, Mike Curry said we'd be seeing some new Advantages in Heroes & Villains to bridge the gap between duelists and non duelists. So all this may be moot in a few weeks.

Limiting duelist maneuvers effective against brute squads is an interesting solution. It makes a certain amount of sense, too. Might be worth exploring depending on what JWP has in store for us.

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

Only part of this discussion is about balance between Duelists and non. Part of it is being able to run a high-adventure style combat sequence without it being completely over in 1 round. I'd rather not have to throw 20+ brutes at a group because I know 10 of them are going to be defeated in the first 3 Raises.

Brutes are already less likely to do damage since they go at the very end of a round. 


NeoTanuki's picture

I see your concerns, and in fact considered this question myself when coming up with this idea, but honestly I don't think the issue with Riot Breaker is as bad as you perceive it to be. As the rules stand, a beginning Duelist with Weaponry 3 can easily inflict 3-4 Wounds with a single Action on a Brute Squad, AND can Bash a squad using another action to reduce damage further, AND can Riposte an Assassin Brute Squad to reduce their damage and wound them...again with a single action! 

My intent with the suggested House Rule is still give Duelists a defensive option, but reduce the ability to wipe out Brutes quickly to make Brute Squads more of a challenging threat. I considered some other ideas such as letting Duelists simply use Defensive Maneuvers as normal, but that gets weird because of the timing of Brutes delivering damage and the way some Maneuvers interact-for example, Riposte only works against Assassin Squads, etc.

Personally, I am strongly against the idea simply nerfing Duelists to doing 1 point of Wounds per action and giving Duelists no defense option against Brute Squads, because then it gives you the opposite problem: You have a frustrated player saying "Why did I pay 5 points to be an awesome fighter when these other people got a few cheap advantages and are more efficient in combat than I am?" That's how combat builds often came out in 7th Sea first edition--Duelists spent huge amounts of points for little or no return while non-Duelists bought a few cheap Advantages and outperformed them in fights, because they had way more points to spend. I don't think it was a good feature of 1st edition and it's not something that I think should be brought back into 2nd edition. 

The suggestion to give Brutes some kind of limited Wound prevention option suggested elsewhere is an interesting idea, and I'd like to see where people go with that. Have people tried using the Monster Brute abilities for their squads? The monster abilities give a significant boost in combat. In our first game session, my player who runs an Eisenfaust Duelist fought Brute Squads of zombies with the ability that allows you to return the Squad to full health. That was NASTY. If he hadn't had a couple of handy Hexe potions, the Eisen would have been in serious trouble. As it was, the zombies definitely gave him a challenge.

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

I really appreciate all the comments in this thread and am having an ongoing discussion with my players on this.

My two biggest arguments for Maneuvers not being used to take out multiple Brutes are:

1) The rules for Brute Squads specifically say Brutes are a consequence. Consequences are dealth with by RAISES, not WOUNDS.

2) There's nothing written in any Maneuver that indicate the Wounds can be spread over multiple targets.

Therefore, if the example did not exist in the book, would anyone feel you could use a single Attack Maneuver to remove multiple Consequences from a scene?

For an extreme example, so there's an Action Sequence and there are consequences of 5 Barrels of gunpowder all with fuses lit to explode. Stopping one costs a Raise. Could a Duelist with Weaponry 5 use their slash to cut off 5 different fuses?

I know it's extreme but it does go to show the fundamental difference between dealing with Consequences ( Brutes ) and dealing with Combatants.


Another point I will bring up is that Duelists are not only effective against other Duelists, but also Villains of all power. Not all Villains will be Duelists, but all Villains have Wounds. Even low-level Villains (Previously Henchman) can and should be brought in as Captains, Lieutenants, Low-Level Bosses, etc. along with Brute Squads. 


Right now, my group is leaning towards not allowing maneuvers to be used on Brutes (Or at least not taking out multiple Brutes with a single Raise). We'll continue to discuss as I don't want the Duelists (We have 3 out of 6) to feel less useful, but I also don't want to have to throw 20+ brutes at the group just so that there's a small chance they are meaningful in some way.

I know Brutes are meant to be taken out, but really they are also meant to be a meaningful choice for using Raises in a Sequence. The characters should have to decide "Do I spend my Raises to remove the Brutes, or spend my Raises to do something else." If this meaningful choice is reduced to "We can take down all the brutes with single raise" there really is no choice and therefore, there isn't really a reason to have Brutes other than to narrate them in the background "The King's Guard tries to stop you but you rush by them leaving them all unconscious".

This becomes a lot less high-adventure in my opinion and we're left with a few choices for interesting combat sequences with opponents:

1) Make all opponents Villains

2) Make all Brute Squads assassins so they can at least do something first

3) Create lots of house rules



Donovan Morningfire
Donovan Morningfire's picture

Oh joy, another "Duelists are too powerful!" complaint thread *rolls eyes*

As for Duelists vs. Brute Squads, have you taken a good look at the primary inspirations for the game?  In a great many swashbuckling/pirate films, we see the heroes generally chew through mooks, and if that hero is a trained swordsman then they rip through them even faster.  Prime example is Inigo Montaya dispatching Count Rugen's guards in moments, and the Three Musketeers in the Disney version dispatching the Cardinel's men rather quickly

While Brute Squads are mechanically a consquence in that they inflict Wounds to a Hero at the end of the round, they're still the nameless mooks that a Hero is meant to plow through.  And a Duelist has made a significant investment to be able to clear state "my character is a badass swordsman!"  As Mike Curry noted, the initial Dueling rules suffered from two problems, the first being that they were overly-complicated and the second yet larger concern that in most stories, being a Duelist really wasn't that much of an advantage, and certainly not one that was worth 5 points since 90% of the time it'd be of little use.

In a very real sense, the Duelist "issue" is akin to what's called the "Jedi problem" over in the various Star Wars RPGs, where by and large the moment a Jedi PC gets their lightsaber and becomes reasonably competent with using their Force powers, they tend to steamroll most opposition, and any foe that can be a reasonable challenge for a Jedi PC is likely to stomp the non-Jedi PCs into the dirt.  Having played and run each of the different iterations of Star Wars RPGs, as well as a few system hacks, I've seen that the "Jedi problem" can be a thing, though kudos to FFG for having done a pretty solid job of largely averting it thus far.  But a lot of times, the core issue of the "Jedi problem" was a player that was abusing the system and rather than trying to play a Jedi instead played a quasi-psychic thug with a laser sword.

But frankly, if you're that upset that a Duelist Hero is cleaning up in combat, then you might as well just disallow the Duelist Academy Advantage outright and be done with it.

Dono's Gaming & Etc Blog

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture


Don't be harsh.  If I understand Harley right, he's not coming at this from a "duelists outshine everyone" position so much as "brutes aren't a threat" when there is a duelist in the group.  And he's right.  If you have 2-3 duelists in your group (a reasonable expectation depending on your group size), you have the throw SCORES of brutes at them to even be worth the trouble.  Logistically and conceptually, the idea of 20+ armed men fighting in a tight space makes me bonkers.  But that's almost what you have to do with the RAW.  Otherwise, brutes aren't much more than a prop.

OTOH, if duelist manuevers aren't effective against brutes, then WTF am I spending my 5 points for on an academy?!  Suddenly, that 2-point Fencer advantage is more effective than my 5 point duelist academy.

In the previous edition, Brutes did damage equal to their DR x Threat rating, which could be pretty substantial.  Now, brutes pretty much do...a lot less.  I guess right now brutes just aren't very versatile.  They are really only a threat to non-duelists.

So based on that, I can definitely see why people would be looking for solutions.  When 90% of your action sequences are going to be made up of brute squads, you need something to give them teeth.  Otherwise, every combat encounter is going to look like this: 1 duelist:duelist, 1x(5-10 STR) brute squad: everyone else.  Because that's really the only way fights can be dymanic.  Which is kind of silly when you think about it.

Most of this can probably be handled by Brute Abilities, but there needs to be some variety so that all encounters don't start looking the same.  Alternatively, you COULD make duelists work slightly differently against brutes.  BUt it needs to be effective enough the advantage maintains its value.

But I think this exposes a different issue from duelists outclassing everyone else.

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

Thinking about Brute Squad abilities.

Duelist brute squads can spend a danger point to do twice as many wounds.  Which can be effective when the duelist has wittled them down from 10 to 3 in one round.

What would be some other cool stunts you could give brutes that make them more effective against duelists?

Spend a danger point to Parry/negate a single maneuver?

An overbearing action?  (They don't do damage, they overwhelm you and bring you down)

Some sort of dirty fighting?


Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

You've pretty much communicated my biggest concern and perhaps the solution is in giving Brutes more 'Danger Point' abilities that make them an actual consequence. Since they go at the end of a round, by the rules, they just likely aren't going to be there to do their consequence in most fights. Here are some other potential Brute Abilities that could be assigned to any type of Brute Squad (Could overlap with the Special Brute Squad rules or be additional options):

1) Bloodthirsty: Spend a Danger Point to cause a Brute Squad to deal a Dramatic Wound in addition to any other Wounds dealt.

2) Hardy: Spend a Danger Point and it requires 2 Raises (or 2 Wounds) to reduce a Brute Squad's Strength by 1. (I use this one fairly regularly for tougher opponents)

3) Reactionary: Spend a Danger Point to allow a Brute Squad to deal its Wounds immediately after its Strength is reduced the first time in a Round. These Wounds can be against the Hero that triggered the ability or another Hero.

4) Mob Tactics: Spend a Danger Point to divide the the Brute Squad into two Brute Squads with half the Strength of the original. This can be done in response to attack against the Squad (Which would only affect one of the Squads) or before they deal Wounds (Allowing each Squad to deal Wounds separately against multiple targets)

5) Swarm Tactics: Spend a Danger Point to overwhelm the target of the Brute Squad's attack. The Hero affected cannot target any other character until the Brute Squad is dealt with

6) Calculating: Spend a Danger Point to allow the Brute Squad to enter the combat any time after the faster Hero has completed their first Action. The Brute Squad still deals their Wounds at the end of the Round as normal.


BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

Bloodthirsty is already covered by the Duelists ability.

I really like the idea of an ability that lets you spend a danger point to cancel a number of wounds equal to the squad's strength at the start of the round.

Hardy: instead of 2 raises, maybe spend a danger point to reduce the number of brutes "killed" by half (rounded up). Does the same thing but fits the rules better.

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

If Hardy were as you wrote it, then 1 Raise still kills 1 Brute :)

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

Which is perfect, because it doesn't step on the non-duelists but helps keep brutes a threat to duelist characters, right?

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

The Danger Point is supposed to make it harder to remove the Brutes for everyone. Doing half rounded up just means the character should spend an odd number of Raises to get around it. If it were "Rounded Down" then it works.

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

You already have a tool to make it harder for everyone to remove brutes.  Spend a Danger Point and increase the Raise difficulty to 15.  Done.  Easy.  My suggestion is only meant to give you the ability to keep the threat alive for duelists without leaving the non-duelists completely hosed.

And you could do both.  :D

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

I don't want to overuse the 15 Difficulty just to make Brutes have a chance to do something :) But I see your point.

Lord Rumfish
Lord Rumfish's picture

Hmmm... how about a reckless brute squad?


Reckless: Spend a Danger Point and up to one brute squad member per Hero can attack one of the Heroes in a reckless assault before the fastest Hero.  Each Hero attacked this way gains one Dramatic Wound, but the brute squad member that assaulted them is automatically defeated.

Snipers: Spend a Danger Point to deal one Dramatic Wound to a single Hero before the fastest Hero.  The squad still deals its normal damage at the end of the Round as well.


Both of these could definitely pose a threat to the heroes, even a duelist-heavy party.  I think assassins are even more deadly at times, so this might not be too crazy.  If you start using reckless squads a lot, you might give the players more opportunities for downtime to heal.

LibrariaNPC's picture

I've run into something similar myself. While I agree with Donovan that we don't want to nerf Duelist Academy, I do agree that Brutes become more of a window dressing than anything. While Brutes in the inspirational material are really there to be an annoyance, they do get lucky and can cause some pretty major injuries or even death (1st Edition, one of my characters was killed by a Brute Squad after a pair of nasty duels). 

I was previously running a game for 5 players before people started to drop over time (schedules changed), and of those five players, four were swordsmen (Eisenfaust, Montovani, Aldana, Sabat). 

That said, I've been kicking around a few options to keep things interesting, with variable results due to lack of in-depth testing.

  • 1 Raise == 1 Brute: This one does balance things out a bit, but leaves Duelists without using their manuevers too often unless they are fighting a weaker Villain. I've bypassed this by making some rather weak villains (3-5 strength) to be disposable leaders, which seems to work out.
    • New Duelist Manuever - Whirl: Instead of weakening Duelists, perhaps show how they are trained to fight in any circumstances, regardless of the number of foes by giving them a special maneuver dedicated to felling multiple enemies.
      Whirl: Defeat a number of Brutes equal to your Weaponry rating. Usable once per round.
      This way, at lower levels, they can still drop most of a Brute Squad in one turn, and when they master swordsmanship, they will still need a few rounds to defeat 20 Brutes.
  • Brutes Take Initiative: Give the Brutes actions during the round. This is entirely in theory, but giving them actions every X Raises (or Strength - Party Members) might make them more viable.
    For example, say the party consists of 3 people, and there are 5 Brutes in each squad; Brutes get to act once every 2 raises.
    This is entirely in theory, but it could make them more dangerous as well as being more than just a consequence.
  • Duelists defeat 2 Brutes for 1 Raise: the previous phrase says it all. Duelists are trained combatants, that I cannot deny, but one way to promote a balance when fighting swarms of Brutes is to double their efficiency. Defeating 5 foes in the time it takes an ally to defeat one is a bit disheartening, but a 2:1 ratio is a bit more balanced and, coupled with the other perks of Duelist Academy, still makes the advantage rather viable.

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

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture


    Good suggestions. I don't know what the difference between Whirl and Slash would be other than rewording to say Brutes (and remove the word Wounds from it which is a confusing aspect). However, I think it's a nice addition.

    I was also kicking around something like Whirl but was going to make it: Reduce the Strength of a Brute Squad by 1/2 your Weaponry rating (Rounded up). For Duelists with 3 Rating, this is essentially 2:1 but can go to 3:1 at Weaponry 5.

    Thanks for your input!


LibrariaNPC's picture

Basically, Whirl as I wrote it was a once-per round attack to drop multiple Brutes equal to Weaponry, and then leave the Duelist the normal 1:1 Raise-to-Brute instead of using Slash. Essentially, the writeup was to still give Duelists an edge, but not make them competent enough to drop 20 men without a scratch.

I was kicking around alternatives like Weaponry 1/2, but it just added extra math that some people just wouldn't like. It also means that until you reach Weaponry 3 (or, if for some reason, you weren't at Weaponry 3), it's a useless ability. It's why I went with the writeup that I did.

Glad to offer an alternative that might be workable for you! I hope it help!

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

Easl's picture

       Harliquinn: "If the example were not given, would you feel the same way?"

Yes.  First, because of the common sense notion that brute squads are more like other people than they are environmental effects like fire.  Second, because if you are really going to treat them as environmental consequences, then shooting them with a firearm would do nothing...and that makes no sense whatsoever.  Firearms create dramatic wounds, not risks or opportunities or consequences. So if you want to allow people to shoot brutes, then you must accept that your brutes are taking wounds, even if its always a 'one hit one down' sort of wound and the dramatic nature of the wound doesn't matter. Third, the special Brute Squad action "Guards" on page 192 makes it pretty clear that Brute Squads take wounds (specifically: they take one less wound when they guard), otherwise the ability makes little sense as written.  Note also that if you go with your interpretation, a brute squad guarding a villain becomes impervious to PC attacks, becaues under your system they only ever lose one 'thing' per action and under the Guard rules, they lose one less 'thing' per action taken against them. Lastly, because if you agree with Donovan that the genre involves heros blowing through groups of 4-5 unnamed characters with ease (and I mostly do...I just don't like the thought of one PC blowing through 10 people with ease while that same 10-person group comprises a very deadly threat to the rest of the PC group), then your system won't replicate that.  Squads of 4-5 become very dangerous threats to a PC under your way, because at one squad per PC, they can be expected to do 5+4+3+2+1 damage, or 3 dramatic wounds!

So, there you go.  I do think we should treat squads as a sort of character that takes wounds. I do think duelists should be able to dispatch them faster and easier than non-duelists.  I just think the current system overvalues duelists a bit too much.  IOW my problem is quantitative, not thematic.

Francesco Panini
Francesco Panini's picture

HI everyone !

I know this conversation has stopped almost one year ago, but i just discovered this forum and i wanted to add my thoughts to yours.
First i only have the core rule book bought one year ago, so please let me know if there are any official news/erratas which solves the duelist(s) versus brutes problem.

Secondly I'm only considering rank 3 or more duelists (in Weaponry) here because i think rank 1 or 2 are far less effective, so that even if they are still better than non-duelists due to the manoeuvers possibilities, they don't make them useless in fight as rank 3+ duelists do.

Finally i wanna say that my thoughts are mostly theory because unfortunately i've only played a few Seventh Sea games yet, and even if i mostly play as a GM, this rule system is new and unusual to my players and I.

But still, I wanted to participate to this debate because i think there are other ways to deal with the power of a duelist without having to create house rules (even if the ones you listed seem really good and i'll probably keep some of them in mind (i like the idea of the special manoeuver), i'm trying to find solutions within the main system without modifying it here). What i mean is that a duelist is a swordfighter. Obviously she can only use her skills in close combat, wether she's fighting a brute squad or a vilain. Put her in an action sequence where her duelist skills are less usable (or simply useless) and she won't be able to take down your brute squad in a heart beat.
For example if your brute squad is a group of soldiers equipped with bows, crossbows, muskets or any other ranged weapons, and they are positioned in a place where they are hard to reach or unreachable (the top of a tower on the other side of the bridge, which is unfortunately destroyed (or about to be)), the players will have to find another way to take them down or avoid wounds (like using an old cannon and try to blow up the brutes's place, simply fire at them, or get some cover behind walls, wood planks or whatever is in the scene). It could be interesting if the brutes are just a few. The players could still choose to ignore them and keep focusing on their objectives, at the cost of taking wounds. Here the duelists wouldn't be able to use their sword skills to take them down.

Following the same kind of situation, you could just make it difficult to reach the brutes. If a duelist has to spend more than half of her raises to reach them, but chooses and manages to do it, maybe she deserves to slay them this easily, using only one raise to kill several of them. The problem here would be the approach, and therefore the trait+skill combination, to choose i guess... But even by changing her approach, she would still only use two raises to kill 3 or more brutes with a slash and it would still be worth it and better than a non-duelist, whom could take down only one or two of them with her few raises left. This way your duelist has to choose : Will I focus on the objective and help my companions stop the vilains we are chasing, or will i take care of these brutes because they are pointing fire arms at us and Asgerd is already badly injured (even if she doesn't seem to care) ?

Another idea i have is to split a brute squad. I mean completely. Rather than split a strength 10 squad to 2 strength 5 (which can still be defeated with 2-3 raises by a duelist) split it into several strength 2-3 squads for example. This way a duelist is still better than others because 1 raise is enough for her to defeat a squad, while her friends must spend 2-3 raises. But it will take time and raises for her to defeat several squads since she can only attack one brute squad per action. Furthermore, she cannot use the same manoeuver as she did in her previous action. So if she defeated a squad with a slash on her previous action, she will need to find another way to defeat the next one, or do something else with her second raise, waiting for her slash to become available again. And the justification for this splitted squad is scene-related.
Say your players are in a mansion. One of their friends is locked upstairs in a room with a vilain, who's trying to get crucial informations from him (and probably not as kindly as heroes would do). But the stairs are guarded by two brutes at the top (as far as they can see). Furthermore two women armed with fencing swords are coming from a door on the left, and -maybe they didn't see him but- another one was standing behind the door when they entered the mansion. He retreated in a corner and is now in their back, ready to strike. There are (at least) 3 little squads which your duelist cannot defeat that easily, and it seems logical in the scene.

What i mean with these ideas is that i think there are ways to give a bit less power to duelists without making them as "weak" as non-duelists, and using only the basic rule. The point will be for the GM to evaluate when to give her the possibilty to simply get rid of an entire brute squad (because, after all, she invested 5 points for this) and when to tell her "ok, this time you might not do this alone. Or at least it will take you some time".
I'm sure it's hard to do because it's already diificult to find enough actions for players to use their raises on, but it still seems possible and viable to me to organise action sequences so that, sometimes, going in as a duelist might not be enough, or even effective.
And about the duelists frustration of not being able to use duelist skills in combat scenes, it's a matter of alternating between action sequences where they can slash everyone standing in front of them, and action sequences where they cannot. After all, all combat sequences are not only about crossing swords.

Carlo Lope
Carlo Lope's picture

Welcome to these forums Francesco. :)


I'm going to share a few thoughts as well regarding a few things you have said, which are interesting.

First, I want to say that some people have problems with duelists and others do not. I am one of those who has problems with them but I'll try to remain neutral.

On reddit, Mike Curry (the guy who wrote the system for this game) said that they were changing a few things. There is no errata yet but I can tell you of two changes at least and perhaps someone else may add more if I don't remember them:

  • Defensive maneuvers can be used out of turn. The core rules say that you can only Parry or Riposte when it's your turn so you can only defend against the last attack but  they said this was being removed and you can now defend out of turn by spending Raises as you would normally do.
  • People have started to take one idea they are using with the Khitai rules that erase the bonus you get for rank 3, 4 and 5 in any skill. Mike said these "powers" can be activated through Hero Points or Advantages. It was done because people often forget about them.
  • Brutes work different in Khitai. They have a dice pool equal to the number of Brutes and can activate opportunities or create consequences (hitting a Hero is a consequence).


Against Brutes... A few more things.

Making Brutes unreachable at the beginning is not a bad idea but if you do this every now and then just to make the duelist "useless" or to complicate his life, they will feel they are being punished instead. This will also affect other Heroes because they will also be shot by Brutes unless you focus on the duelist, which will make him think you are set in going only after him.

Splitting Brutes is not a bad idea either but the problem is that Brutes always go last (this changes in Khitai a bit) so if you split them, only one group of Brutes can fight the Hero at the same time so even if you take some Raises from him, they will be defeated without the Hero taking a single Wound or almost no Wounds. Doing this makes no sense if you want them to fight the Hero to begin with.

What I mean is... if the GM goes out of their way by twisting rules or doing things that make little sense in order to make the duelist's life more complicated may have a different effect on the player's feel for the game, in a bad way.

That said, there are a lot of things that can be done to make everyone feel useful. I am against the idea of throwing someone against something they are bad at because they are really good at something else. Make others feel more awesome to level the ground instead.

With all of the above said, I'm houseruling a few things. I'm a guy that has played different kinds of pen and paper rpgs, old school and new. I realized that I dislike heavy rules and I tend to go towards more narrative games but, for some reason I don't get, nowadays, rpgs are either rules heavy or the other way around, with a few expections. And I want something in between.

There are two things I really really dislike from 7th sea second edition: Weapons(firearms included) and duelists. No matter how much people try to explain it. I simply disagree and it's fine that they disagree with me too.

Anyways, what I'm trying to say is that do what you think it will work for you and your players. Perhaps what you explained above works for you. I know I would do a horrible job doing that. xd.

Francesco Panini
Francesco Panini's picture

Well personally i didn't play enough to find duelists are a problem to me now. Indeed the first combat we've played was a bit easy for them as the duelist defeated a single brute squad in a raise (he's rank 4 finesse and 5 weaponry... i'll try to deal with it x) ). But on the second one i splitted my brute squads and it did work pretty well. Actually i didn't even think about making the duelist feel less powerful, the several small brute squads really came out naturally from the situation. And that's what i was thinking and talking about.

If the duelist happens to be a problem because of his strength, i would try that first to see if it's possible to nerf him that way without getting any of us feel bad and as long as the scenes feel logical and fair. Of course i don't want to get my players frustrated, but if the tips i thought about come naturally from the scene, as far as i have tested it it's not frustrating for the players. Furthermore i would not do this all the time, just at some moments depending on how i feel my brutes and villains should act. I would try to do it as if i were challenging my duelist. I know my player loves that even if it might not be the best game to seek for challenge (especially if you're a duelist).

As i said i don't have that much experience in the game for now, so we'll just play vanilla and see what happens for us and what i can do if there's a problem =)

Donovan Morningfire
Donovan Morningfire's picture

Honestly, I think the change in the Khitai quickstart about how Brutes operate (they can generate Raises. and use them to either create a Consequence that deals Wounds equal to the Squad's Strength, or use them to activate an Opportunity or the Consequence they just created) goes a long way towards alleviating the worry that Brute Squads simply aren't much of a threat to 7th Sea Heroes, especially if there's one or more Duelists (or Heroes with Student of Combat) in the mix.

Dono's Gaming & Etc Blog

Florian's picture

Except,  that

1) the rule to actually kill said Brutes disappeared

2) this doesn't fix the duelist maneuvers vs. brute issue at all

3) Khitai gives a very vague advice to use several groups. Except this advice is lifted from vanilla 7th sea (where it was pretty linear), and is out of control in Khitai. Compare a group of 15 (say, 6 raises) vs. three groups of 5 (say, 2 raises each). First, the larger group always gets "initiative", the smaller doesn't. Second, the large group deals 6x15=90 wounds. The smaller groups deal 3x2x5=30 wounds. Errr... In other words, adding a second small group is MUCH less dangerous that increasing the group size. Did someone playtest it. Did someone read it?

One-handed hand clap for the "errata". Hell, why aren't Brutes simply handled like Vilians, like characters?

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

Well, we only have the QS for Khitai thus far.  I expect the new rules will be more refined once the full core book is available.  So no, these rules probably haven't been thoroughly playtested...yet.

And wait, whoa!  Before you get caught up with damage output, consider a more important question: how does reducing brute strength effect the final consequence.  Let's say this squad of 15 brutes (and why you would ever through a single group of that many brutes against a non-duelist is beyond me) has initiative and spends a raise to create a 15 wound consequence.  They have to spend a second raise for the consequence to apply RIGHT NOW, otherwise, it applies at the end of the round.  So what happens to that consequence when the duelist spends four raise to whittle down the squad from 15 to 3?  Is it still a 15 point consequence?  Can a second hero spend two raises (one to intercede and a second to eliminate the consequence) to save the intended target?

The only way that 15 point brute squad becomes really nasty is if they can split up the targets of their consequences.  Otherwise, any duelist is just going to spend a raise to counter those consequences between slashing attempts.  But now Lunging at a brute squad becomes a dangerous proposition.  You get rid of them, but you stand to pay a hefty price.

As to why brutes aren't treated like villains...because they are brutes!  They aren't supposed to be a real threat.  Villains, OTOH, are meant to stand toe-to-toe against the heroes and even threaten the whole group under the right circumstances.  Even in first edition, where large groups of brutes could be a threat, the heroes cut through them like candy.

I wonder though...has anyone experimented with using brute squads with hazard elements?  That might be an interesting.

Soren Hjorth
Soren Hjorth's picture
... As always, your mind is in the right place. Time to see how that would work.

/Soren A. Hjorth

Florian's picture

Here's my alt rule for using Squads without resorting to 20-packs and painful justification of why the rules are written the way they are and require constant oversight.

Minions Squads have three stats:
Size (number of goons, don't go overboard)
Wounds (1-5)
Strength (rated as a Trait+Skill, 1-12)

Don't split a squad unless there's two clearly different groups.
Separating Str from number and having goons with wounds allow for smaller, reasonable squads, mobs that are actually threatening and duelist that are useful AND under control.

Tavern brawl: 10x2x4
Large angry mob: 20x1x1
Courtyard guards: 12x2x4
Actual Brute Squad: 6x5x6
Double the front gate guard: 30x2x4
King's chamber last stand: 6x3x7
Elite assassins: 3x3x8

* The Squad rolls its Strength, regardless of its current size (in true Ninja style, they attack one by one), and acts as a single character. You may want to split their actions rather than deal a single bigger attack (because they're a lot) and/or restrict non-duelist to killing one goon per Action.
Each attack Raise yields one wound to *each* hero that's in the fight (unless there's less goons left than heroes...). If, for some reason, they gang up on one, deal two wounds per raise to one hero instead.

* Goons with more than 1 w are dealt as vilains: remove one goon every X wounds dealt and keep a tally of leftovers. Assume that all heroes attack the same, for simplicity sake.

* Duelists use their powers as usual. Assume that multi-w powers are actually "sweep" maneuvers.

* Of course, add DP powers, as well as automatic features.
Ex: the Tavern brawlers inflict double wounds to any hero that uses a weapon.
Ex: king guards  can parry one wound per round per hero.

A 4-PC group can deal with a 10x2x5 group in two rounds, suffering 3-4w ea. in the process, which seems right for a speed bump encounter.
Also contrary to Vanilla rules, brutes can be added to Vilains without upsetting balance (reminder: if the heroes attack the Vilian first, they get hammered dead by the vanilla squads. If they attack the brutes first, it makes little difference).

Whay say you?

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

A bit more fiddly and extra book keeping, but if it works for you go right ahead.  I don't see where it breaks the game.

Something I've wondered about, do you even need size?  I mean, other than bookkeeping, what's the point.  If the heroes are attacked by a mob, are they really going to take the time to count the opposition?  If you turn size into an abstract, the brute squad rules make more sense in a way.  You could have a small group of elite assassin brutes with a high Strength that pose much more of a threat or a mob of hundreds with a relatively low strength.  The numbers become part of the narration and window dressing as opposed to some hard currency we need to obsess over.  It's Strength that matters, right?

Florian's picture

Very good point. One could use abstract sizes ("You face a bunch of musketeers."; "Brigands keep coming out of the woods"). In fact, come to think of it, it would have been very simple and quite better for the rules to dissociate the strength from the size. So a Strength 10 squad could be 5 strong goons or 20 peons. This eliminate one issue, that of odd inflated squad sizes - but not other issues (such as Brutes+Vilains, and duelis vs. brutes).

However, while it works with the vanilla rules, it doesn't here. Indeed, dissociating size and strength is what allows Squads to work, I think. So in any event, in my version you will need to specify some form of size, by that or any other name. ("There's 20 wounds worth of enemies"; "you need 20 raises to overcome them")

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

Yeah, no you've sort of hardwired squad size in with the # of wounds requirements.  Though I suppose you could replace group size with some different classification.  Consider:

Like villains, brute squads can take a number of wounds equal to strength before they suffer a dramatic wound.  Each class of squad can suffer X number of wounds before being dispatched, whether that means they are killed, rendered helpless, or demoralized to the point of flight.

  • Class 1 (Peons): 1 dramatic wound
  • Class 2 (Ruffians): 2 dramatic wounds
  • Class 3 (Organized): 3 dramatic wounds
  • Class 4 (Disciplined): 4 dramatic wounds
  • and so on... (but I'd probably cap it at 4 or 5)

So in this case, you still give your squad 1 stat (Strength), which defines the dice they roll, the number of wounds they can take before a dramatic wound.  But instead of defining their numbers, you just assign them a class.  I like your idea that 1 raise = 1 wound to all in range or 2 wounds to a single combatant.  That would work, wouldn't it?

Plus, you can use class and abilities as descriptors.  Disciplined Assassins or Ruffian Thieves has a nice ring to it.

Antti Kautiainen
Antti Kautiainen's picture


Here is my 2 cents. As the game simulates action like THree Musketeers of Dumas, the brutes should have no chance at all vs. skilled musketeers. Swordmanshool is very expensive, but also powerful advantage. Musketeer should take down dozens of normal guardmen without breaking sweat. This is why I enjoy they current system - it is first system I have ever seen which does simulate really cinematic action of heroes. For heroes succeeding or failing is not the case, but how well they succeed. Villains are the equal opponents of heroes, not brutes. 

Florian's picture


Fair enough, and the way the rules work support your stance. But it's also the way most fantasy RPGs work: heroes will prevail.

BUT if that sequence is a quick, undisputed win, it's just boring. The Squad, then, is not even a speed bump, it could be a single sentence "so the Vilain launches two dozen goons at you. You dispatch them."

Now then, because of the speed at which the game plays, I'm having a hard enough time filling up the session time with meaningful events, that I'd want to keep the Brute Squad a eventful challenge.

I'm very happy with the variant rules I'm using. They're very easy to set up and customize, adding special powers or events, straightfoward to balance, and players can relate easily to the number/wounds/strength framework.

The main issue I have right now is the parry problem. If a hero (or Vilain) choose to use his Raises to cancel wounds, it's just dragging the fight on as it just neutralizes action.

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