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Mike Irving
Mike Irving's picture
Questions on Improvise and Flair
improvise, flair


   My wife backed the recent kickstarter and we just received a copy of 7th sea 2nd ed. smelling of fresh ink. Lovely!
   I've been trying to wrap my head around the ruleset to see if we could run it for a one-shot with some friends. I've had several points of confusion but nothing that can't be glossed over for a first go. Except one thing...

     Improvising and Flair seem at ends with eachother. I suspect I'm misunderstanding how one of them works, so I'll explain my interpretation, and perhaps someone could tell me where I went amiss?
    (Risk basics) When appropriate, the GM starts a Risk phase where heroes declare their intentions for the near (couple min?) future. After announcing their intentions, they are bound to them and the GM corresponds each intention with an appropriate skill/trait and tells the player about the consequences/opportunities of their actions. The players then rolls their dice and spend it on consequences/opportunities. Play continues in rounds, each time the GM produces new situations, consequences and opportunities, but the players stick with their original intention. If a player decides to switch then the following two things happen:
    (Improvise and Flair) Through 'Improvise', if a player ever wants to do something requiring a different skill/trait than the original, they do so at a 1 raise penalty. Through 'Flair', players are also encouraged to do something requiring a different skill/trait than the original with a bonus die awarded. Also, unrelatedly through 'Flair', players are further encouraged to describe what they do with *ahem* panache for a second bonus die.

   What I'm running into is, it feels odd to both disincentivize and incentivize the act of using different skills in a sequence. I feel like it should be gently incentivized (as in the Flair mechanic) but between both Flair and Improvise it seems to be moderately disincentivized in a peculiar way. It's peculiar enough I think I'm misunderstanding it- can anyone with experience tell me how these work together?

   Thanks much!


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Joachim Deneuve...
Joachim Deneuve du Surlign's picture

Hi Mike, welcome to the game and boards.

I can see where you aren't quite right, and I hope I can explain it.  I'm going to refer to the sequence on page 172.

Flair is applied in step 2, as an incentive not to rely on the same skill for every roll.  It is more likely to turn up in action scenes because they have multiple rounds of rolling dice.  This acts as an incentive to have multiple skills at a level where they can be invoked.

Improvising happens during step 6 if a player decides they need to do something outside of their initial approach.  It is more likely to turn up in dramatic scenes because you are covering a lot of ground with one roll of the dice.  That said, there's no reason why you can't improvise in an action scene, probably as a result of suddenly revealed circumstances mid-fight.  This acts as a disincentive to the everything looks like a nail effect.  "You're going to a Grand ball."  "I roll Finesse+Weaponry because it gives me 9 dice and my Convince is only 6."  "But, you'll need to spend 2 raises to do anything other than stab people!" "Okay, I'll roll the convince then."

An example could be that one of the party goes down during a fight and someone else wants to get them out of danger immediately, because that Villain still has Danger Points and Raises left.  However, their approach was to use Aim for shooting at the enemy, which really doesn't cover either dragging them or interposing yourself.

As you can see, both rules are actually incentives to make rounded characters. 

I hope that helped.

Mike Irving
Mike Irving's picture

Thanks for the help, Joachim! I love the examples :) , and I think that's a sensible way to use Improvise, as something that applies to each round seperately.

That leaves me with a confusion on the wording of Improvise, though. It says that Improvise happens whenever someone "take(s) an action outside the scope... rolled at the beginning of the sequence", and sequences are basically the entire scene made of many rounds, right? So if you start a fight by leaping from a tall building on top of an unsuspecting guard (resolve+athletics perhaps?) then every time you whack one of his mates in subsequent rounds (brawn+brawl?) it seems you should pay a raise to improvise. I'll admit that doesn't feel right, so I wonder if Improvise was typo'd to say 'sequence' instead of 'round'? That would totally be the source of my confusion if so.

Regardless, I think the way you described it is great, and makes sense from a gameplay perspective. I'm totally going to use it!

One follow-up question then... When you improvise, are you still expected to handle the original action's consequences, or are those cancelled away because you're improvising a different action? I feel like it must cancel away consequences because otherwise why would you ever improvise? But as you suggest, somebody could be cheeky and use their stellar finesse+weaponry to become the impromptu prettiest belle at the ball. Then again, if you ask the player roll play it, maybe that's not such a bad thing :D . Still, there's situations where one trait+skill should be reliably a few raises beyond another so it feels... exploitable even if unintentionally. Hm. I'll definately just make the players RP any whacky improvisations that come up. What would your take on it be? Or is my understanding of Improvise's mechanics still a bit off?

Thanks again for your help. It's been a great clarification!

Mars University
Mars University's picture

Joachim sums the distinction up nicely, but in short:

  • Flair provides a bonus for the roll/Round for players changing things up and making the game more interesting through their descriptions. It would probably be seen most in Action Sequences, where you roll every Round. This gives a slight advantage to the player who goes from "I wade into the boarders with my sword," to, "I draw pistols and fire on the enemy Captain," to, "I chase him into the Ship's rigging," in subsequent rounds over the player who just states that they, "duel with my sword," each round.
  • Improvising / Changing Your Approach gives a slight penalty while spending Raises for changing a plan in mid-action, or going against your current momentum. You're trying to snatch a document mid-duel, or stopping a charge to protect a friend, or take the opportunity to knock out a guard at the ball you're trying to keep up a facade as a common coutier at. Mechanically, it also penalizes a player from just leaning on their best ability all the time - otherwise, you'd potentially have players trying to convince the GM to let them use whatever their highest skill is in every single situation, and never actually apply that skill within a Sequence.

Flair encourages changing things up to make the game interesting, but both rules work against abuse of a character's "best" abilities within the game.

Salamanca's picture
What is sticking for you is the lack of dice rolling that you normally see in a game. Maybe I start a sword fight by drawing and waiting into combat (finesse and Weaponry). I get flair because it it's the first fight. Next round I decide to keep fighting by leaping around the villain and off the walls to confuse where the attack will come from ( now it's finesse and athletics). I still get flair. But my ally is in trouble this round and I really need to shoot his opponent across the room . Shooting has nothing to do with leaping so it costs me an extra action to do it. (The improvise penalty). The next round we decide to flee and running away is athletics and finesse ( no flair). If I need to hit the villain during this round, that is fighting and not running so I imcur the improvise penalty for that. But if i grab a rope and swing away, that would fit athlete so no penalty.
Mike Irving
Mike Irving's picture

Thank you also to Mars University and Salamanca, your comments just appeared!

It now seems Improvise is definately in regards to single rounds, not full sequences as stated in the new (2nd ed?) source book. I noticed (I actually checked before the initial post) that there's nothing in the errata about this, where should I suggest it?

From what Salamanca says everyone always gets flair for their first action in a scene. I'm assuming this extends to single round risks as well? So I could get flair for the single roll risk of using Resolve+Perform to win an apple pie eating contest? Then it's only if that risk develops into a sequence and I continue using that Resolve+Perform (eg. more pies) that I wouldn't get flair? This would make sense mechanically, it's just that recieving variety flair for a single roll seemed counterintuitive at first.


Salamanca's picture
Ok, let's adjust terminology. Dramatic Sequence and Action Rounds are both the same thing. We will call them "sequences" for this. When a Sequence starts you declare intent and roll dice. That gives you raises to use in the sequence. (This is when flair is applied). Each time you want to do something in the sequence, that is an "ACTION". Each action costs you a raise. If the action is not in line with imtent (improvise) you pay an extra raise. There is no dice rolling for ACTIONS, just pay the raise. As for earning Flair... That is dependent on first use in the game SESSION. So if you play for four hours and have 6 Sequences, Flair for Resolve+Perform only happens the first time you use it. If you have 4 fights, Weaponry+Finesse only gives flair bonus in the first round you use it in of the first fight of the session you use it. (Creative description always works to add flair at GM discretion and might get you combos using that skill with the other 4 Traits for flair).
Salamanca's picture
Tips for getting flair: you have 5 traits to combine a skill with. Find a way to do what you want with each in a combat. Round 1 you can declare a basic dueling plan and get Weaponry+ Finesse. In round two, maybe describe looking for weakness to exploit and use Weaponry+Wits. In round 3 you can try to humiliate him with tagging and elegant footwork for Weaponry+Panache. Get to round 4 and you can try to force him to his knees with a corps a corps for Weaponry+Brawn. Should it reach round 5, you can just try and wear him down with your superior training and a rapid fury of blows to tire him out and use Weaponry+Resolve. If it goes past that, switch to Aim and shoot him.
Mars University
Mars University's picture

Salamanca, I don't think this is the intention of the Flair rules as presented on page 176. As written, it looks like the unique skill use flair has two requirements:

  • The Skill must be unique: You'd get Flair for the first use of Weaponry (regardless of Trait), but not unique rolls that include Weaponry with different Traits.
  • This must be the first use of that unique Skill within the Scene: So, you could get this bonus the first time you use a unique Skill in an Action or Dramatic Sequence (both are Scenes), or on an indepedent Risk within any other Scene. So if you wanted to conceal a dagger on your person using using Hide before passing two guards at the port, you'd get Flair on that independent Risk, but you wouldn't get it if you tried to sneak past two other guards using Hide later in the Scene.

That said, there are benefits to the interpretation you've given, if a table wanted to make that ruling. Allowing unique Trait+Skill combinations (rather than just unique Skills) would encourage the use of unusual Traits that would commonly see less use for a character. Limiting flair to the first use in a Session (as opposed to a Scene would encourage more varied skill use throughout the night, and avoid some of the oddities of the Flair based on Scene rule (for example, you'll always get it on Dramatic Sequences, since each of these should be their own Scene).

Either interpretation is fine, I just wanted to clarify for anyone trying to parse the rules for the first time.

Mike Irving
Mike Irving's picture

I'm glad you're helping out, it seems I understood this less well than I thought I did. So if I'm understanding you correctly, a Dramatic Sequence and an Action Round (singular) of an Action Sequence are essentially the same (save for some nuances)? From reading the Action Sequences section, I originally thought that Action Sequences typically transpired by the GM essentially setting up a Risk (with lots of available raises) per Round for each player in the scene with new actions as an available option, but it seems it's more common for the GM to have players to free style and plink in new actions based on that Round's Approach a single Raise at a time so each Round of the Action Sequence winds up lasting a fairly long time and covering a lot of ground in the scene. Is that correct?

So then (ah hah!) a "Sequence" refers to the the Dramatic Sequence style of sequence, which is like a single round, as opposed to an Action Sequence style of sequence which is multiple Rounds. That would mean that the "Sequence" in the Risk:Improvise section reffers to a single Risk/Round and not a sequence of Risks/Rounds... Or... hm. Edit: That must be it though! As everyone has been kind to illustrate, Improvise applies to a single risk, a dramatic sequence or a single round of an action sequence. Sorry this took me a while to get, "sequence" was (incorrectly) one of my core points of understanding so it took me a while to relearn. I think Salamanca's advice of using "Dramatic Sequence" and "Action Rounds" as terms is a great way to keep from getting confused.

As for the Flair variety bonus, I agree that it makes sense to do it by session (as I probably will), but the book says it's by scene. It describes you getting the bonus die "Every time you use a unique Skill (a Skill you have not used before in this Scene)". It also conspicuously doesn't mention any aspect of the traits, so I wonder if a couple changes were made in tandem for this most recent printing? I like your way better though... I love the concept of using the same skill in hugely different ways for maximum effect.

This has been much more nuanced than I originally thought and I appreciate your help sorting out the concepts!

Edit: I'm definitely looking forward to that Space mountain ride!

Salamanca's picture
The key is that the goal is not rolling dice for everything a player does. An action sequence is like an old system combat round but raises are both the initiative result that tells us how many things we can do AND replace the combat rolls on those actions. Players can end a fight in a single action round and it can be quick. Other times it may involve chasing a fleeing opponent and stretch time a bit. Each raise might be an attack. Another player might use theirs to rob the place during the confusion of a fight. A dramatic sequence might be all climbing, leaping and swinging chases through a city.
Lady Grace
Lady Grace's picture
Flair requires Stylin' & Profilin' and trips to Space Mountain and WHOO~!!!!!
Salamanca's picture

Here is another good example for flair skipping around on skills instead of traits.

Fight breaks out in a building.

round one I opt to draw a blade and duel the opponent (weaponry+finesse)

round two I opt to run up the walls to avoid his attacks while getting around him to attack from behind. (Athletics+Finesse or maybe Panache)

round three I opt to lure him outside where my friends are and improvise a few blows on the way (Intimidate or Tempt depending on description+wits)

round four turns out my friends left so I draw my pistol and shoot him (aim+finesse)

round five I decide to get out of town while he grabs his knee in pain (hide+resolve)

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