And you are wondering what to read or focus on.
Obviously the Player's Guide will give you the best overview. Surprisingly, most of the GM guide can wait but do read the section toward the back on the Three Hats of the GM. John boiled down the essence of what it takes to really run a great game in this setting.
IF YOU PLAN ON PLAYING AND NOT RUNNING DO NOT, I REPEAT NOT, READ ANY SOURCEBOOK GM SECTIONS AND CHARACTER SECRETS IN THE BACK OF THE SOURCEBOOKS.
-Pirate Nations gives you some insight on Pirate crews but is mostly about several famous crews. a handful of very cool syrneth artifacts and a great sword school (rogers)
-Montaigne offers a social tracking system for reputation at court.
-Rose and Cross is probably the heart of John's efforts. Read it, adopt it and live it.
-Die Kruezritter will show you what the old guard keeps talking about when they mention aliens and sci-fi aspects. but there is a solid core in that book so do not disregard it.
-Ussura will have you considering a completely contained campaign ignoring the rest of the continent.
-Freiburg is a really complete city campaign with plenty to do and could occupy your group for many sessions. One of the better city set ups in RPGs.
-Islands of Gold covers those caribbean islands you thought were going to be in Pirate Nations. they are hit and miss with most players. You will find a few you like and some you hate. (the little story in the front about the Comptesse du Bete is based on an ex-girlfriend's character. Dana killed her off as a favor to me)
-Montaigne Revolution updates all the storylines and can wait until you absorb the other core books.
-Swordsman's Guild is great for you stat people that just want more combat schools but less for you fluff people.
-Church of the Prophets covers ALL the religious factions in the game and gives you some insight into the differences. Don't overlook it. it has some great info.
-Rilasciare gave us the big reveal on the origins of the bargained sorceries. And proved them more than bomb chucking anarchists.
-Rapier's Edge was written without the team knowing it was the last book. We thought we were going to the new world next and did the adventure tags in the back as a way to hold people over for a couple of releases. If you want to use the LARP characters in your second ed tabletop games, convert stats as follows:
Trait or skill
Rank 1 = 1-2 pips on tabletop character
Rank 2 = 3-4 pips tabletop
rank 3 = 5 pips
Most of the advantages were converted to simple add a point or two so let them add a die to a risk when applicable.
The 4 and 20 blackbird adventure in Rapier's Edge was a direct play on using the format from the tv show "24". We had planned on trying to run it in 24 hours real time with rotating GMs. This version is stripped down in scope and will not take that long to play.