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LibrariaNPC
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Some House Rules
house rules, progression

Mods, if you think this is better fit elsewhere, please feel free to move it.

After running a few sessions of 7th Sea, I've been kicking around a few ideas of ways to modify the rules for future sessions.

  • Progression: I'm not sure how many people run into groups that don't focus on progressing a main storyline, but I know my group has been rather odd with it all. I'm looking at tweaking things a bit to allow players to progress at a pace they want while the story still progresses. 

    First, every player still gets a story of their own. I would suggest that this story drives their character's plot forward, and they have a set, fitting reward for it. Unless something needs to change, these are set. (Example: Dalemir, a disgraced noble, has a 4-step plan to go back to the Sarmatian Commonwealth, with the goal to acquiring the Signature Item in the form of of an ancestral sword).

    Second, GM Stories work a bit differently. As steps are completed, players may "cash" them in for upgrades that the player is looking for. (Example: The party has completed 2 steps of a 4 part adventure. Dalemir may cash in early to gain the Sorcery advantage, while another player could wait for the story to be completed for a 4-point reward).

    While this does change certain dynamics a bit with GM stories, my group seems to enjoy knowing that they are leaving a session and making progress on their characters, even just a Step for a 5-7 hour session. 
     
  • Character Creation: I'm kicking the idea around, but I'm thinking of just removing the Backgrounds and allowing players to just take 20 points in skills, 15 points in advantages, and taking two Quirks of their choosing (or making their own). This gives a bit more freedom for characters that don't necessarily fit into the preconcieved notions regarding certain backgrounds.
     
  • Brutes: While the rules are a bit fuzzy until you get into the action scene example, there has been much discussion about whether or not swordsman manuevers should defeat more than one brute at a time.
    Personally, I like the idea of 1 Raise equals one Brute, as it doesn't make swordsmen the de facto brute-slaying machines. As a counter, I'd look at certain two-weapon styles (like Soldano) and bring back Whirl to better handle brutes. Perhaps "Gain the Whirl Manuever: Defeat a number of Brutes equal to your Weaponry Rating."
     
  • Damage Opportunities: Some combat situations have some characters that will have to sit in the sidelines for whatever reason, or they don't have a direct combat role. In ship combat, for example, whoever is at the helm isn't exactly able to do combat actions of their own (unless you count their raises spent as allies below decks firing cannons or reloading them). 

    A Character may spend a Raise to perform an "Assist." After the first raise, they may spend up to 3 additional Raises; these may be applied as additional damage to that character's next action.

    Example: Riordan, the helmsman, is doing his best to keep the ship afloat in this storm, but wishes to still help his allies by lining up a shot from the cannons. He announces that he is going to go hard to port to cross the T, allowing the party the perfect shot against their persuer's bow. He spends one Raise to take this action, and spends three of his other Raises to allow Angelina, the captain, to perform an even more accurate (and deadly) volley than originally expected.
     
  • More to come as I finish making notes/do things with my party. Other rule ideas include:
    • Grandmastery of multiple sword styles (thinking having Duelist Academy twice, then a 6pt advantage to blend them together).
    • My tweaks to Knights of Avalon (May be a different thread altogether).
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"Smilies exist because no one's bothered to create a sarcasm font." --Lost_Heretic

Donovan Morningfire
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With the Player Stories, the rules already suggest that the player choose the reward for completing it when they come up with that story, so no house rule really needed.

On the GM/Plot Stories, my thought is to wait until the Story is completed, and then let the PCs cash those steps in as they wish, provided it makes some manner of sense within the context of the larger story.  So at the conclusion of a 4 Step GM Story, one PC could opt to purchase Rank 1 in a new skill and a 3pt Advantage, while another PC could opt to shift a point in their Traits, and a third PC could get a 1pt Advantage and increase a Rank 2 skill to Rank 3.

As for Swordsman vs. Brutes, if you look at one of the major inspirations for the game, that being swashbuckling movies, we see that highly-trained/skilled  duelists like the Three Musketeers and Zorro are able to plow through the nameless minions with a great deal of speed.  A prime example of this can be found in The Princess Bride, where Inigo Montoya dispaches five of Count Rugen's men in under a minute; in game terms, Inigo uses a Slash maneuver with his Weaponry 5 to take out a Strength 5 Brute Squad with a single Raise.  In the Antonio Banderas version of The Mask of Zorro, we again see him making pretty quick work of the nameless guards once he's donned the mask; sure he's not killing them, but he's taking out small groups of brutes pretty quickly as befits the extensive swordtraining he's been through.

Plus, it seems like you (and a number of other people here) are overlooking the fact that acquiring a Duelist style requires a PC to spend 1/3rd of their available points for Advantages, and at 5 points an Advantage had damn well allow the character to be awesome.  Take a look at the other 5 point Advantages in the book; each one of them allows the PC to break the game's established rules in a pretty major way.

As for "Damage Opportunities," this sounds more like a problem with the players not being creative in using their skills during an Action Sequence.  Frankly, as a GM you should be encouraging the players to get creative in how they spend their raises to deal with Brute Squads or to stymie the Villain.  If a Hero is using Athletics to leap across the rigging, let them spend a Raise or two to take a couple of brutes by dropping something heavy on them, or simply using that brute's head as a brief stepping stone, knocking the brute to the ground and out of the fight.  Or in the example you gave, the Hero at the helm uses their raises to shift the boat quickly, dumping a number of brutes (however many Raises they spend) overboard.  This will make the player feel like they are actively contributing to the action (because they are) instead of just being a support mechanism for the other players.

Dono's Gaming & Etc Blog
http://jedimorningfire.blogspot.com/

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

From Donovon: 

Plus, it seems like you (and a number of other people here) are overlooking the fact that acquiring a Duelist style requires a PC to spend 1/3rd of their available points for Advantages, and at 5 points an Advantage had damn well allow the character to be awesome.  Take a look at the other 5 point Advantages in the book; each one of them allows the PC to break the game's established rules in a pretty major way.

It's really not that hard to become a Duelist. It's 1/3 of your Advantages, sure, but most Duelists take the background Duelist and that alleviates the 'cost' such that you are not giving up your customization Advantages at the end. A 5-point Advantage should be very good, but it doesn't have to be the thing that makes one Hero the star in every Action Sequence.

Many of the other 5-Point Advantages change the core rules but usually cost a Hero Point (limited resource) and/or only affect a single Action or 1 Round in an Action Sequence. 

I rather like the idea that each Raise spent by a Duelist allows attacking one Brute, but I'd have to see it played out. It reminds me of the opposite in Princess Bride, where Fezzik has trouble fighting Wesley because he's used to fighting hordes of men and not one man. I could see the Duelist in reverse: They are used to fighting a single opponent in a duel and fighting hordes of Brutes requires additional effort (Raises) to be effective. 

John 

LibrariaNPC
LibrariaNPC's picture

Hello Donovan, it's good seeing you on another forum outside of the EotE forum, and thanks for the input!

My only game (online) is on a bit of a hiatus (spent the last month renovating a house whenever I wasn't at work, now I need to replace my desk and rewire the office to not fry out my main computer), so I haven't had the chance to really test everything. Most of this is theoretical and up for discussion, which is why I offered it up. Now, for your specific notes:

Progression/Stories: Player stories don't need much of a change, but it is a bit of a frustration to have a slow progression due to the need to get somewhere for a specific thing to complete the story. I also felt it was a bit detrimental to progression when a player has a non-material, non-reputation goal for a Story and feel as though they made better progress toward that goal over the course of a different story (such as learning Seidr from a Vesten the party rescued and sailed with, or picking up Reckless Takedown after a few "interesting" stops in port). I think allowing the reward to be changed based on the game progression is viable.

The Step approach for cashing in was pitched as it was to allow players to either pick up smaller rewards along the way (such as a non-combatant learning Weaponry before taking on a Villains henchman again) and allowing the players to feel like they are able to get "better." Some games have a slow progression based on how much the party does, whether it's at the pace of stories (7th Sea 2E, Fate, etc), or by experience points gained (whether it's level ups for progression or tons of XP to raise anything). 
Waiting until the end of a story is viable (and possibly prefered), but I'm wondering if I should use something similar to the Milestones in Fate; basically, allow them to accrue steps but only spend them at an appropriate time. That might be a better balance, allowing players to feel like they are progressing in some way every few games instead of however long it takes for the story (as my players have only finished Part 1 of the story I had in place after two games, due to how they approach things).

Swordsman vs Brutes: I haven't overlooked that it's 1/3 of the starting points for Duelist, but I was feeling that Duelists take out too many Brutes too quickly (and it means a nasty sliding scale for difficulty as swordsmen get tougher). It also detracts from a goal I had of re-creating Soldano, which was an anti-brute school when you think about it.

Also, for your example, it isn't to say that Inigo was able to defeat Rugen's goons because of being a duelist, but he could have done so due to sheer dice pool. For example, if Inigo had Weaponry 5, Finesse 5, Signature Item (Six-Fingered Sword), and Fencer, he'd already have a dice pool of 13 after spending an HP. If Fezzik or Westley spent an HP as support (whether due to silent support or something we see offscreen), that's another three dice, raising him to 16. This would go up to 17 because of Flair (first time using Weaponry this round), then 18 for Flair again due to his commentary. If he then had the Glorious Virtue, he could spend another HP and turn all 18 of these dice into automatic successes. Therefore, Inigo would be sitting at 18 Raises; spending four to dispatch the four guards Rugen had still leaves him with 14 Raises.
Even without Glorious, if he had Legendary Trait (Finesse), he'd be rolling 17 dice. At this rank, he'd be averaging about 9 Raises on the low end of things (without explosions), +1 for Legendary Trait. That's still 10 raises; 6 remain after slaughtering the Brutes.
This also doesn't include if he has anything going for him, like a school bonus we don't see, a grandmaster bonus, an "Exploit Weakness" or a "Vengeance" bonus. . .who knows what else he'd have that's not in the book, but the above is a solid start for a character as experienced as Inigo.

Rugen's Strength is up the in air, but I'd probably put him closer to Strength 15 mark just to be closer in skill to Inigo. This would still average about 7-8 raises, and would show why he was able to deal such a greivous wound to Inigo (especially if Inigo's player didn't bother to reduce damage).

Now, an alternative I was considering was incorporating a new manuever called "Whirl" as a nod to first edition. Basically, allow it to deal extra damage to Brute Squads (2 per Raise?), to show that trained swordsmen can handle groups but can still be overcome by large numbers.

Damage Opportunities: This honestly was the weakest part of the ideas I had. I run into players that either have bad days with narration or are entirely new to the idea. In Fate, they knew they could create sticky Aspects and Consequences to help their allies deal more damage or cause problems, so I'm trying to find a way to implement something similar to promote players wanting to do this and not feeling like they are wasting their Raises.

Also, in my example, I said nothing about the party being boarded, but specifically that the Helmsman was helping the gunners. In ship battles (especially in ship battles), there's only so much for players to do when they aren't manning a gun that isn't just narrative "I get close enough to shoot." 7th Sea ship battles aren't dogfights with multiple manuevers, so it was a concern and my desire to give them something to do. Sure, if they were boarded, then your options are all valid, but trying to get close enough to board, lining up the perfect shot, or things like that are mostly narrative and some players feel like they may be a waste.

Granted, the example (and rule) were specifically tied to ship battles, as creating Opportunities can be a bit limited (and might not be horribly helpful in combat). Might just be reading it all wrong, but Opportunities are great narrative snippets to move things along and make things interesting, but they are really limited to the environment and skill/experience of the players (which, let's face it, not everyone has the experience out of the gate).

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

Donovan Morningfire
Donovan Morningfire's picture

Hey yourself man.

As for Progression/Stories, I think that's more an issue with groups that don't meet frequently or don't get more than a couple hours a session to play.

I'm going to go out on a limb, but I suspect the presumed default in the writers' minds was a group would meet every week for about 4 hours' worth of play, and that most of the advancement would be done through GM stories, which as far as I know (or recall) don't require the player to specifiy a reward until the story has been completed, and likely with the idea that a GM story will be somehwere between 3 to 4 steps from start to finish, with 5 step stories being saved for major plots not unlike what we'd see in a major motion picture.  ANH would probably be a fairly typical GM Story (Step 1: Find the Droids and get them to Alderaan, Step 2: Rescue Leia from the Death Star and get her to the Rebels, Step 3: Assault on the Death Star, Conclusion: The threat of the Death Star is gone and the Rebels have proven they can win).

As for the Player Stories, maybe suggest to your players that they use those for the "big things" like hitting Rank 4 in a skill, or boosting up a Trait, or something else suitably large, and thus leave the smaller rewards to the GM stories, which at least in the early going shouldn't take more than a session or two to complete (unless the players are seriously dragging their feet).  Just also advise them that they may not always be able to proceed with their personal story in a given session, or that at the very least they need to keep the fact they're part of ensemble cast in mind when creating their personal stories.  Yes, Inigo's quest for revenge against Count Rugen is great, as is Westley's quest to reunite with Buttercup, but the steps to those goals shouldn't be so rigid that if events go screwy for the group (such as Vincini accepting the job to kidnap and murder Buttercup) that the steps of their personal stories can't be altered to fit. Which is something the rules themselve allow, so that if a player finds that the next step they decided upon for their personal story just isn't feasible, that they alter it to something that is but still allows them to get closer to their objective.

Dono's Gaming & Etc Blog
http://jedimorningfire.blogspot.com/

LibrariaNPC
LibrariaNPC's picture

I agree that progression in my case is a matter of getting people together. We were meeting bi-weekly for about 4 hours each meeting (I think that's an inherent problem with online games; people don't feel as pressured to be on time), and at least one player (a fellow 7th Sea GM; he's running a local-to-him group and he's been in my crew for over a decade now) is feeling the itch to have some sort of progress after two solid sessions of RPing (with one fight he handled single-handedly and another her helped to avoid). It was actually this discussion that prompted the idea.

My current plot was originally 3 steps that become 4 due to the need to add a player at the last minute (getting said player's character out of a predicament and getting his notes back became a step); none of the players had their own stories kick in yet as two players don't have stories, one had a story that is directly tied to the latter part of my story (he's getting something for his Patron, which is a side project he can do as part of the story), and the last is a 4-step story to get an ancestral sword back in the Commonwealth (he has also asked to wait until he sees how his character works with the group to settle on the first two steps/goals, which I agreed to).

Really, my group is already going the route you mentioned with the "big things" for personal Stories (or in one case, a story thing tied to a specific goal; he's getting Reputation), but like most groups, they will drag their feet more often than not. I'm hoping to light a fire under them to get moving, especially since they just turned a throwaway faceless "villain" and a one-off pesty noble into angry nemeses. 

As for changing the steps for a story, I'm all for it (it keeps the game interesting), but it's the smaller progressions players get from the overall GM stories I'm looking at.

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

Donovan Morningfire
Donovan Morningfire's picture

In the case of Fezzik, he probably had Reckless Takedown to take down the really large groups of foes in one go.  Plus, with a high Strength, high Brawl (4's in each easy), Brawler, and Legendary Trait (Strength), Fezzik's going to have no trouble generating enough Raises to obliterate smaller Brute Squads (say groups of half a dozen men) in a single Round.  But Fezzik also isn't a trained duelist, and frankly isn't really even that sophisticated a grappler; he relies exclusively on brute force to see him through, which works great against mooks but not so much against well-trained fighters like Westley, Inigo or Count Rugen, so as he noted his usual tactics (spend all his Raises at once for a lot of damage) didn't work so well against a well-trained fighter who could spend their own Raises to avoid the damage and then gradually use their remaining Raises to use Pressure to force an outcome or gradually where the giant down.

Of course, since Westly was fighting Fezzik with his bare hands, I'd say he'd be barred from using Duelist Maneuvers since he's not using Weaponry bur Brawl instead.  Westly just got really lucky on his rolls and kept generating more Raises than Fezzik, enough to survive the giant's initial onslaught and evnetually Pressure (with the GM being very liberal in what Pressure could be used to do) him into capitulating.

Dono's Gaming & Etc Blog
http://jedimorningfire.blogspot.com/

Harliquinn Whit...
Harliquinn Whiteshadow's picture

Fair enough. On a more 'game related note' I think allowing Duelists to affect huge amounts of Brutes AND be the go-to for attacking a Villain just doubles down on the feeling of inadequacy of other non-dueling heroes.

Now if a Duelist wants to be good at taking down Brutes, they are free to take those Advantages you mentioned. I think it could really add to the dynamics of a fight when the Duelist shouts "You take the hordes of the Cardinal's men, I'll keep him busy!". I know in our group of 5 players, 2 of them have Duelist Styles (Boucher and Donovan) and 3 have Sorcery (Knights of Avalon, Hexenwerk, and Matushka's Touch). The sorcerers will likely have combat stuff to do but I know in particular the Knight wants to be 'decent' at fighting as well.

I may implement this and see how it plays out and talk with my Duelist players to see their opinions. We don't play again for a few weeks though.

John

LibrariaNPC
LibrariaNPC's picture

I probably should have finished everything before replying to a specific thing >_>

Anyway, I do stand by the comment of 1 Raise == 1 Brute, solely because it can make Duelists the center of attention at all times.Reckless Takedown is a great way to buffer this, and houseruling Whirl back into the 2nd Edition wouldn't hurt, either.

 

As for the Westley vs Fezzik fight: if we're going by the movie, sure, Fezzik probably dropped all of his Raises into a single action, Westley avoided the worst of it, then began to wear down the giant. If you look at it from the book perspective, Fezzik "forgot" how to fight against one man and it took him too long to remember it. Once Westley put him in the chokehold, he began to remember too late, and you can chalk up the results as bad luck for Fezzik and good luck for Westley. You could also, arguably, state that Fezzik was played by a player at the table who said "I fail" before the second (or third) round of combat began, allowing Westley to take him out. 
There are just too many variables there.

 

I am running into a similar situation as Harliquinn here, but slightly differently. Of my four players, only ONE is not a Duelist, and only one doesn't have any form of Sorcery (they are not the same character). The duelists have proven more than capable of destroying villains of Strengths 5-7 with relative ease (mostly good rolls) and a single one of them can, on an average roll (about 4 raises), wipe our a Strength 8 Brute Squad without any issues in one round. That makes Brutes far less useful or indimidating beyond cannon fodder or distraction (due to special types of brutes), and since 1 Brute = 1 Strength, you'd need a busload to really bother a group of swordsmen if Slash defeats a number equal to Weaponry. Sure, dramatic, makes you feel heroic, but really puts a damper on things for anyone who isn't a duelist.

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

Donovan Morningfire
Donovan Morningfire's picture

To me, having played plenty of Jedi characters in various Star Wars RPGs, the idea that a Duelist can be the "go-to" for dealing with a major threat (be it a large Brute Squard or an impossing Villain) isn't that alarming of a notion.  In FFG's system, a lightsaber is a truly frightening weapon, especially in the hands of a skilled user; I've got a PC in one friend's game that can wipe out minion groups (FFG's version of Brute Squads) with great ease, especially as he's got a talent that gives him a boost when attacking more than one foe and can effectively make multiple attacks against adjacent foes in the same action, while the same party has a mercenary that can drop pretty much anything with the seriously tricked out heavy blaster rifle he's packing, doing more raw damage than my 'saber monkey with his highly modified lightsaber.  And we do have a couple of other characters who aren't nearly as combat capable, and they find ways to contribute both in battle and in other aspects to allow our group to succeed at our missions (we're a SpecialOps group working for the Alliance).

But yeah, if you've got an entire party of Duelists, that's probably something the designers didn't intend to happen, and would be very much like a D&D party full of nothing but moderate-to-high level Wizards and Clerics with a single Rogue along for the ride.  Or to pull from a Shadowrun one-shot I was in, being a non-cybered Private Detective with a revolver and light armor while the rest of the crew are packed to the teeth with mil-spec gear and chromed to the gills with cyber-tech.

As a compromise, I might suggest changing the damage of Slash to being Ranks in Weaponry/2, and by extension change the other Maneuvers that use Weaponry Ranks to determine their effect to match (Parry stops Weaponry/2 damage, Bash reduces target's damage by Weaponry/2, etc).  This way, the duelist Heroes aresitll getting to be awesome in a fight (which they did pay for, even if it was from a Background choice) but isn't completely overshadowing the non-duelist in the group.  And it should generally take a while for any of the PCs to reach Rank 5 in Weaponry, by which point they'll be doing a whopping 3 damage per Slash.

Dono's Gaming & Etc Blog
http://jedimorningfire.blogspot.com/

LibrariaNPC
LibrariaNPC's picture

Yeah, Jedi characters (especially the 'saber careers in FFG's Star Wars line) tend to be pretty beastly with the right setup; I had a player in a playtest nearly drop the main villain of an adventure in a single attack due to sheer number of successes and high crits (augmented by other players handing their boosts over to allow for the bigger dice pool). Sure, that's not to say that the others weren't also capable, but we are now seeing something similar: if you want to be great at combat, here is the field you'll want to go into. In Star Wars, it's a Jedi. In 7th Sea, it's a duelist. In Shadowrun, it's getting specced with gear. In D&D, it's whatever combination of classes to deal the damage you want. 

I'm not saying this is a bad thing, at least not necessarily. For a "classless" game like this, it does put a major spotlight on duelists, and even with Sorcery hanging around, most players still go for the Duelist Academy first as it's, for the most part, more versatile (and means you can issue duels; how cool is that?). Granted, at least two of the players picked up Duelist Academy because, in 1st Edition, it was such a headache to even try to get Sorcery and a Swordsman School at character creation.

Your compromise is an interesting idea. Perhaps a slightly different tweak:

Whirl: Swordsmen in Theah often must compete against multiple opponents at the same time; those who don't manage this often don't survive. When performing a Whirl against a Brute Squad, you defeat a number of Brutes equal to half your Weaponry Rating, rounded up, plus 1 Brute for each additional Raise spent.

I still like the idea of duelists dealing the damage they deal against individual targets (as it means the Villains are dealing the same, keeping them on their toes), but it's the groups of enemies that cause me to pause, as a group with 2-3 swordsmen will need quite the large number of Brutes to keep them occupied with the RAW (at least 12 each if you want them to survive the round at chargen). I mean, yeah, players are supposed to look like Big Damned Heroes (and it's why Brute Squads and Minion groups exist in the first place), but slaughtering boatloads of opponents isn't nearly as cool as having that near miss with the Cardinal's Men (and only one being an actual Villain). Again, just throwing ideas out there and seeing what sticks.

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