There are some fundamental philosophical assumptions that this edition of 7th sea appears to operate on which I feel the game is the worse for.
I would like to discuss these in hopes that works in progress may take note and pursue a more liberating avenue. Allow me to first qualify, I absolutely and fervently agree that the goal of a Session is for every player to have fun, and a good experience. I disagree that the avenue and approach provided in 2nd edition achieves this.
The primary assumption is that equality is in and of itself a virtue, and so we must strive to make players equally empowered. Doing so however removes identity and diversity from the player base... as in reality no one is equal in all things, instead we all excel in our particular interests & have an have equal right to grow in our capacities. Inequality is the struggle which grows a character, which causes a player to work to support their compatriots in their successes, recognizing that group success depends on a strong and intricate balance of talents, strengths, and weaknesses.
A situation in which the players are guaranteed success in each of their endeavors because... empowerment, is going to break the reality of the scene time & again. With only one raise required to succeed in any given approach, a player will always have the option to succeed except in the rare fluke chance that they roll less than 5 on 2 dice on an unskilled roll based off of Trait only, it would be quite rare to roll only 2 dice from my understanding of the rules. A system which rules out failure also rules out what has been the greatest teacher of humanity for as long as we have been able to pass our shared experience from generation to generation.
Failure should be seen as a friend, when invited.... which is not to say that a GM's goal is to make the players fail. Indeed, not in the slightest the GM's role is to help the players to find enjoyable successes won through skill, good will and cooperation. But success is indeed predicated on failure, the two do not make sense without the other.... and when you take away the players chance to fail you've taken away the thing that they overcame, their victory. When the outcome is pre-determined. Without that experience I know that I would not have enjoyed the 15+ years of role playing under various GM's, the tension between sessions & my eagerness to return were proportional to the challenges which defied our groups attempts to resolve in one sitting.
There can be no Drama without the chance to be Helpless, no tension or emotional involvement in a scene if a player goes into the scene knowing they have already won. Indeed the players should have the trust in the GM to know that the path to victory (in the case of a good GM many paths) is present, but unperceived, or unearned at onset of the story. I say unearned with specific direction to brute force players who enjoy most deeply the vanquishing of foes, not in any sense to I mean that the player hasn't earned their victory, only that they will not feel their character has earned that victory unless challenges have been overcome, and sometimes not overcome, but the goal achieved through the machinations of the rest of the group. Always in such a way that victory would have been more costly and perhaps impossible without that Player's contribtuion.
I have gone a little far into the negative here but I feel it is vital to the role-playing experience, or at least to those who favor deep narrative play. As I read the Core Rulebook, and Nations of Theah vol. 1, I repeatedly had the sensation that this new edition was meant to convey an almost Dungeons & Dragonian hack & slash, kill bad guy, save the day, repeat experience where the purpose of the game is solely to reward the players, and never provide a situation where players are disempowered. Indeed I believe it has been explicitly stated in a few places that the goal is to "Always empower the player".
The methods used to Empower the player through the assumption that equality is the cardinal virtue are the problem, and also where some of the biases of the authors begin to show.
1. Nationality: In question 10 "What is your Hero's opinion of his country?" there are no positive views of nationalism, or nationality which is odd in a game which is set in a love of nostalgic cultural realism (quasi-realism I suppose). It states "Is your hero a diehard patriot, blind to the flaws of his countrymen, or is he a man without a country, having grown tired of his homeland's foolishness long ago?" Most people are somewhere in between, neither hating their country nor believing it can do no wrong."
There is no, "does the Hero take pride in their cultural heritage, seek to share their national history or represent their country honorably." All assumptions are that fervor in love of country, or assertion that one countries path and beliefs are greater than another are inherently an evil part of, or at least a negative part of the characters identity... shaming the player for choosing national pride.
A more equal approach is for each of the countries to be portrayed by the GM for their strengths & weaknesses as a setting for the players to play out their causes against. Montaigne with it's love of sophistication, aristocracy, & stateliness.... but what of the corruption, the poverty of the peasants, the decadence? Eisen for it's strength & military Prowess, but what of the suffering of the people. Avalon for it's equality, and unique fame? What of the illusion of unity & the divergent nations within? Each country empowered in the chosen path of those who claim it as their nation... a common goal... indeed a diversity among national goals.
As I read that question I felt that this reeks of anti-European sentiment, and an anti-Nationalism sentiment... which I have long experience of in my 4 year University degree in writing. Nationalism is NOT wrong, and robbing a player of a right to revel in and promote whichever Theahn nation they adore, or to reject their nation as they wish; is to rob that player of their personal cultural identity, and the opportunity to expand beyond that. Nationalism should be challenged and shown to players in different lights, it must be acknowledged that nationality is an ideology, and not an ethnicity.... Indeed this is part of why I applaud the addition of the Numa to Avalonian shores. One should not have to choose their ethnicity to choose their national heritage. Well-played and well designed, I am happy to see that the nation of Legends has room for Legends of all people. Indeed nationalism, and moreso Multi-nationalism is crucial to the human condition, one would no more suggest that every individual should be American than they would say that everyone should be Chinese, Russian, Nigerian, Tongan or any other nationality. Each nation adds culturally to the human experience WHICH IS KIND OF THE POINT OF 7TH SEA.
I apologize. I found it disheartening to encounter these biases strongly throughout what was my most beloved role-playing system.
So, to summarize. The forced equality of sameness, and it's rejection of nationalism robs the game of a core experience. Not all nations or cultures are equal.... however each has integral contributions to the human experience which we would be the poorer for without. These differences should be valued, and understood... not villainized.
2. Noble: Conspicuosly absent, and following of the 1st sections statements on bias... within 7thSea2e It is impossible to be born "better" than the other players, and I say "better" in quotation marks, as I ascribe to nobility as a set of behaviors, and not how you are born. The reality of the setting though... is simply that it is true for that setting that culturally some people are born to different classes, and a class system existed, as they do in modern nations. To anyone who has embraced Critical Theory (which you must demonstrate a working knowledge of to get a degree in English) classism is heresy of the highest order. And to some extent I agree, however it is a useful story tool, and also provides for Hero's to be different from one another.
The inequality provides motivation & fodder, as well as challenges for the players to overcome & strengthen their in game (and out of game) relationships in resolving. Yes, if a player abuses it then feel free as a GM to provide an in game challenge to their legitimacy, say an alternate heir usurping the throne and only with the help of the group do they resume their noble status & income....
We must investigate and acknowledge these themes.
I will have to read on and write more. It is quite late as I write this, and know that I do so in pursuit of greater diversity and equality of choice for the players, which I believe will allow them each to be empowered in the way that they so choose.
To that purpose I write, and also in hopes that by challenging the biases of the new editorial team, they might see how they have excommunicated certain experiences from the shared forum of play, and how that harms the diversity of the experiences available to the players.