I was hoping some veterans of the game can tell me how they've composed PC groups consisting of characters from different nations. Reading through the 1e materials, it's clear how much emphasis the authors place on a character's homeland. And unless some/all of the PCs belong to the same secret society, it seems like it could be tricky having PCs of, say, 3 nations working together. I'm looking for tips on to build relationships among PCs, whether they exist prior to the game's start or if the first session is their meeting.
Multi-national ship crews are not unusual, so having them be the officers on a ship (or former officers on a ship) isn't an unreasonable way.
Political allies, like the Quickstart.
Remains of a mercenary company from the War of the Cross, if they are martial enough.
There's a section in one of the books that specifically addresses this potential issue. Basically nationalism is more of a modern concept and so a Castillian and a Montaigne should have no trouble adventuring together despite their countries being at war. The only nation (or technically subnation) I remember being referenced for having nationalistic views was Inismore.
As Joachim said, multinational crews aren't strange at all so if the players have sailing backgrounds you could put them together that way. Here's just a few ideas off the top of my head that assume the player characters met for the first time during your initial gaming session:
- They meet as passengers and/or crew aboard a ship. The ship could get attacked by pirates, they could get shipwrecked, or the vessel could be forced to change course and ends up docking for repairs in a port they're all strangers to.
- Prison break! They've all been arrested for real or false charges and need to band together to escape.
- Polite introduction. You could have them all attending the same ball or other noble event.
- Chain ties. Player A and B are siblings. Player B is best friends with Player C's character. Player C and player D served in the military together. Remember you don't need every player to have a link with one another you just need to create a chain of sorts. Look at your own circle of friends and you'll find yourself hanging out with acquaintances that are friends of friends. It can work that way in a game as well.
I'd write some more but I've got to head off to work. Hope this helps a bit!
Also, depending on the size of your group, you can do a 'mini pre-adventure' for each PC individually where they start alone and end up at the point where they will meet the other PCs. I say 'mini' as in 'takes 5 minutes'. Let's take this scenario:
4 PCs: 1 Montaigne courtier, 1 Avalon sailor, 1 Vodacce courtesan and 1 Eisen mercenary. You want them all to meet in Castille.
The Montaigne is being sent on a diplomatic mission in Castille.
The Avalon sailor is among the crew of a merchant vessel delivering goods to Castille (legal or illegal, as is appropriate.)
The Vodacce courtesan is accompanying her patron while he vacations in Castille.
The Eisen mercenary was hired as security by some noble or merchant.
So now all your characters have a reason to be in Castille. From there, you can arrange all kinds of circumstances for them to meet, as Mat pointed out.
My group never had any issues. We had different nationalities, different secret societies, different agendas, and dark secrets a plenty. They met up at a Castillian country wedding, rescued the bride from bandits, and continued adventuring for years thereafter.
Something to remember that I haven't seen pointed out yet is PATRONAGE. Patronage was big in the 17th century. Essentially, the heroes do things for powerful patrons who thereafter fund them and provide for many of their needs. The group can have a singluar patron or might serve several different ones, each with different agendas. It makes for a great mechanism for keeping the group on the same page. My group had a Castillain noble for a patron and that seemed to work well enough when the members of the group weren't chasing down their own agendas.
Plenty of swashbuckling tales involve the mysterious cloaked stranger who shows up to offer the heroes a job. It's as much a cliche of the genre as meeting up at the tavern in D&D games.
I believe 7S 1st edition has patrons as advantages, but there's no reason to limit it to that. Going by the Three Musketeers, the heroes could have multiple patrons, some as a group and others as individuals.
If you are familiar with the Flashing Blades game, it has some nice guidelines and mechanics for defining patronage. I highly recommend tracking down a copy.
Here are some links that might be helpful:
There's a Flashing Blade game? Is it based on the tv series I watched when small? That is a definite inspiration which I entirely forgot about!
"It's better to have fought and lost, than not to have fought at all, and life and love and happiness are well worth fighting for!" Dum Daaaa, dee dee dum.
Been around for years! I don't believe its based on any TV show, though.
No, not based on the TV show. I need to go and put that into the Inspirations threads.
There are a lot of ways to get the party to finally come together.
The best ways for me are to either:
1. Just assume they already know eachother (make the players figure it out) and start them off mid-action at the tail end of a previous adventure; if they want you to fill in the details, you can run flashbacks later. My very first table-top experience was a 7th Sea session where the GM started us on a runaway carriage while trying to escape having just rescued the daughter for the neighboring town's mayor.
2. Gather the heroes and then get them all into a shared source of trouble..although gathering can be trouble, it helps to get them to focus all around a single person and then create trouble. I like to use some sort of "shared" NPC (it works best if the PCs all have some sort of obligation/loyalty to said NPC) who cause them to congregate and then have something bad happen to said NPC or the PCs in the process. USE YOUR PLAYER'S HUBRISES to steer them to trouble. This way feels a bit like herding cats at first, but once they come together everything starts running smoothly.
3. Force the party to come up with the reason they're hanging out together. Honestly this is the easiest way to do it, especially when one or two members of the group insists on playing the loner-type character who doesn't really make sense.
Our openiong adventure in the Living Campaign put the group on a stagecoach headed to town. Obviously trouble rears it's head on the way to town and by the time they arrive, they have a mutual contact or two, a minor reputation as a group, and a small personal stake in continuing to look into the villian's activities.
The other Living Campaign is ship based and you start with having signed on with the crew. So any adventure you join on worked with any nationality.
I've seen groups start with having been summoned by a trusted mutual friend that may or may not end up being a returning NPC.
the other thing to keep in mind is that the players need to accept that the rest of the group has their own character with their own history and since the player is at the table, They are going to HAVE to deal with the fact that the characters may not have anything in common...yet. Is it in character to do that? maybe, depending on the characters in question. But it's just accepted game convention that you do accept as a player because otherwise one of you is not getting to play what they want to play.
I've never run or been in a 7th Sea game where the characters weren't of a varied national identity. How they come together has varied from game to game.
Sometimes, we've had the traditional "You're in a bar and you fought together and now someone needs your help."
One thing that tends to work well is to have everyone aware of where the game will be set and exlain what their characters are doing there.
Another thing that has worked well is you pair off characters (This works well with an odd number particularly) so that each character has had an encounter (Good, bad, neutral) with another character, so that they at least are aware of one another when they come together for the first time.
Having characters of different nationalities has not caused many problems in our games. Sometimes sorcery, secret societies, and general play styles have had more of an impact.
Mark was very clear I would not likely have any Fhideli story hooks, which was fine :) Besides, I'm far from the most outlandish member of that campaign...Francois I'm looking at you!
Your nation has a lot of influence on how you grew up and what you were/are naturally gifted at or more easily learned, however, nationalism wasn't a driving force in the game, except for potentially Montaigne/Castille or Vendel/Vesten rivalries.
I saw many Nationalisitic Idea's in 7th sea... to me, Nationalisim was a big factor in the state of the world. But, even with that, Castillians would still talk to Montainges. Usuurans were welcoming and had their own customs. The only two groups that I think were on war like terms were Vendal/Vesten, given that the Vesten believed that the Vendel abandoned their way of life.
That said, their was still some racial/national prejudice. Montainges felt they were superior to others, Castillians belived they were the key to civilization, as the most educated people... Eisen were a proud people, even after the war.
Well, if you read a bit of Hobsbawm you'll see that nationalism as we understand it now was practically non existent before the 1800s. The 2 important factors which combined would often help nationalism (1: an organised and centralised modern state with a big part of the population participating in the administration in the official language, 2: religious differences with the neighbours) existed only in Castille in 7thSea - and it certainly got stronger after the Montaigne invasion.
Depending on the timeline you play, Montaigne is probably in the days before the revolution and Montegue's expeditions, so the 'French Nation State' wasn't yet born.
The idea that after the religious war, there would be a feeling of 'uniting Eisen' doesn't have a historical precedent. The very notion of Germans fighting Germans being a bad thing is how Germans in the 1880s were seeing events of 1810, but it wasn't how people were seeing the situation at the moment of the battle of Leipzig (germans fighting both with and against Napoleon).
Even the Balkans - where nationalism in the 20th century played an exterme role - in the 1700s were just divided among 'Cristians' and 'Muslims' - people did indeed speak different languages in neighbouring villages, but some the first revolution ideas (see Rigas Ferraios) were in favour of a pan-balkan Cristian state, not one split into 10 different ethnicities.
So, if most people didn't understand the notion of 'nation' in 1700s, what did they do? The notion of 'patrie' (homeland/motherland etc) actually was referring to the close region of an average villager - with similar lifestyle, dialect etc.
The decision of using the word 'Nations' to describe the 7thSea states is probably a gameplay decision, in order to present easy-to-digest archetypes, similar to classes or bloodlines. Making 7thSea 'Europe' smaller than actual Europe both reduces the need of a country to be split into 20 different 'patries' AND makes travelling faster - thus stories having a faster pace. The problem with this is that then the authors have to get out of their way to explain why people of different 'nationalities' would mingle when, in real Europe of 1700s, it would be totally normal for merchants, mercenaries, sailors etc - ie some of the most common player backgrounds.
There are several pertinent comments on 'nationalism' already, so I'll broaden the discussion a little. I can see two related challenges for a GM starting a campaign:
This thread already contains some excellent ideas for getting everyone in the same physical space and time. To add to the list, the GM can limit character creation to characters that have a reason to be in a specific place at a certain time. I quote from a recent campaign, "This campaign is open to characters from any core nation. Your character must have a reason to be in the dockyard section of Canguine when we start." We've also done well with chain relationships, player "pre-games", and GM-supplied motivations including the classic "race to the finish" and "grand competition" motifs.
One question to ask yourself when deciding on a starting point is, do you want the party to spend game time establishing their relationships with each other? In a group where the players have been friends for a decade, you can take a short-cut by asking everyone to establish relationships as part of character creation. In a group that hasn't played together before, it's a good idea to allow character relationships to develop as part of the storyline.
Getting a group to adopt a common goal is a separate discussion, and again, there are some excellent suggestions in this thread. Using the Societies or patronage is a good way to begin in 7th Sea.
Backgrounds can also be used to develop 'chain relationships'. Crafters may be crafting something for a party member or important NPC. Servants need someone to pay them for their service. Duelists, artists, performers, priests, doctors, merchants, mercenaries, spies...all of them need to develop working relationships as part of the job. The GM, with or without player assistance, can use player backgrounds to establish relationships and mutual dependencies early in the game.
Another way to motivate a group to work together is to put them in a universally unfamiliar situation, the short-hand for which is, "I'm a stranger here, myself". In real life or in games, it is amazing how quickly a group of otherwise strikingly different people will begin coordinating when faced with a mutually uncomfortable or unfamilar environment.
Ship crews have been mentioned as good mechanisms to serve both goals, but don't forget, ships carry passengers, too. Anyone who has been on a cruise can attest to the ease with which "shipboard friendships" can develop, and it is a familiar device in fiction. If you have a group of different nations, with different Societies, Backgrounds, and goals, perhaps you can devise a reason for them to be traveling on a single ship, even if they are headed (they think) for ultimately different destinations? "The Spanish Main" used that technique to good effect. Then, as frequently suggested above, you simply "embroil them in trouble".
In my experience, the best campaigns develop from collaborative effort between the group members. If you have a group of people who have a mutual goal of telling a good story, then the rest is easy. All you have to do is say, "I think it would make a good story if..."
If this is still something people want, here's my experience with bringing multiple-nationality groups together. I'm splitting it between things I've done and things I've played.
==Things I've Played==
While hung over the next day, we found a way out of the prison, stole a smaller, faster ship, and trekked out, only to learn the noble had no recollection of the previous night due to being that drunk. . .but he explained that he was of a rich, noble family. Boom, plothook to get us all together and stay in the mess together.
Another includes already working for a crew. There was a MASSIVE group I was in during college, maybe 8-10 players. Said group all joined up on a crew during the campaign and worked for this one captain as his "away team," so the speak. When I finally joined the campaign, my Vendel (the only one in the group) was added in due to my knowing this captain and working with him sporadically during my travels.
==Things I've Done==
I've used a few of the above, but I've also done a few other things, to. I think my favorites are using in media res or having members pair off.
I don't remember all of the characters, but I do remember how many of them paired off.
We had a Lucani Sorte Strega who was being brought to her fiance, a Vodacce (Villanova) noble swordsman, by a pregnant Courtesan that claimed that the Villanova player was the father of the child. Three players connected, right there.
The Ussuran Pyryem mage was traveling with an Eisen Drexel Swordsman who earned the friendship of the Highlander in a barfight due to his immense size. Boom, three more players connected.
It was really just a game of connecting the dots to see who knew who and who previously worked with who. Made things interesting, especially when new characters had to be added (we had a large duel to the death and assassination ploys going on; story arc ended with five deaths and one character "vanishing" amongst the chaos). This campaign was a crazy story but it was fun.
I'm sure I can go on all day with suggestions, but I think you get the picture. Just give them all reasons to be somewhere (or have them give YOU reasons to be somewhere), and watch everything go from there.
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