7th Sea Character: Myth Shepard

The 7th Sea backer preview PDF of completed text and design went out yesterday. Tonight I built my first Hero (always capitalize Hero when talking about PCs in 7th Sea) to get a feel for the system. I really like it quite a bit.

Character creation happens in nine steps. I went through them in order without reading ahead, for the most part. While not exactly quick for a first-time character generation, I was able to build a character I am enamored with and just want to play. The hardest part was the sorcery section. That threw me for a bit of a loop and involved the most revisions as I went along. (Not because I’d gotten it wrong, I don’t think, but because I refined what I wanted as I went along and read more about the sorcery.)

Step 0: Concept

Here the Twenty Questions are back from first edition and L5R. That’s not unexpected. In general, I liked the questions and felt that they helped me build a better character. A few didn’t really apply to this character or most of the characters I play. That’s just a matter of roleplaying preference, I think.

A few highlights that shaped my Hero:

  • Psychology: leaps before looking, impulsive in the extreme
  • Prejudices: I was stumped on this one (generally I try not to actively hate or look down on anyone) but I decided to go for something offbeat with shepherds. I even wrote down, “They remind him of a painfully dull childhood.”

Step 1: Traits

Every Hero begins play with 2 Ranks in each Trait – Brawn, Finesse, Wits, Resolve, and Panache. You receive an additional 2 points to spend here. That’s it. The whole section is a couple paragraphs and a list of one-sentence descriptions for the Traits.

I put an extra point into Finesse and Wits.

Step 2: Nation

Choosing your Nation (which likely happened earlier if you did the 20 Questions in Step 0) gives you a few bonuses. The most immediate is that you have a choice between two Traits to increase by 1.

I chose to play an Avalonian Hero and had a choice between Panache and Resolve. I elected to increase Panache. My Hero’s final Traits are Brawn 2, Finesse 3, Resolve 2, Wits 3, and Panache 3.

Step 3: Background

Each Hero chooses two Backgrounds. These most remind me of life paths in Burning Wheel. Each Background has a Quirk, one or more Advantages, and a list of Skills. Some Backgrounds have restrictions based on nationality. The Glamour Isles have a set of four Backgrounds, and each Isle has a unique one.

I chose two of the Glamour Isles Backgrounds: Knight Errant, because I wanted access to Glamour; and Bard, because I envisioned my character as a wandering, charming rogue and I think Bard fits the new form of Glamour very, very nicely.

The Quirks I picked up are interesting. Knight Errant: “Earn a Hero Point when you uphold a Gesa you are not bound to.” I’m going to need more information on that because it looks to me like my Hero is bound to all seven tenets of the Knight’s Gesa. The Bard’s reads: “Earn a Hero Point whenever you solve a problem by following an example set by a legend.” Yes! I love that. It encourages me to tell tales about ancient Avalon and get rewarded for it. World-building as roleplay.

Step 4: Skills

A breath of fresh air with 7th Sea is a short skill list with only sixteen entries. Each Background gives you a single rank in five Skills. If a Skill appears on both your Backgrounds, you get two ranks. You have an additional ten Ranks to assign to your Skills and cannot train a Skill above Rank 3 in character creation.

Knight Errant gave me Ranks in Brawl, Intimidate, Ride, Warfare, and Weaponry. Bard provided Ranks in Aim, Convince, Empathy, Perform, and Ride. Off the bat I have ranks in both combat Skills (Aim and Weaponry) and all three of the main social skills (Convince, Empathy, and Intimidate) which suits me just fine for a well-rounded character. I added a Rank to Convince, Empathy, Perform, and two to Weaponry. Then I picked up Athletics, Hide, and Notice at one Rank each and Tempt at two Ranks. I figure that will give me a solid baseline for skills. In the end, I don’t have ranks in Sailing, Scholarship, or Theft. Again, that suits me right down to the ground for this character.

Step 5: Advantages

Advantages are special ways your Hero is effective and powerful. They range in cost from 1 to 5 points and some can be taken multiple times. A few Advantages have a discount based on your nationality. Notably, there is a 5 point Advantage with a 2 point discount for each nation in the book.

As mentioned earlier, each Background provides certain Advantages for free. At first blush, it appears that each Background has 5 points worth of Advantages. The Duelist Background, for instance, simply gives the Duelist Academy Advantage – which costs 5 points.

The Knight Errant provided me Sorcery, Sorcery, and Direction Sense. Sorcery is a 2 point Advantage that is tied into your nationality. “You gain the Sorcery from your National bloodline. If you purchase this Advantage after Hero Creation, you may only do so with a Hero Story. See the Sorcery chapter for more information.” The Sorcery for the Glamour Isles is Glamour. Being a Knight Errant gives my Hero Sorcery twice over, which lets me buy more Glamour stuff for him. More on Sorcery below. Direction Sense is a 1 point Advantage that means I am never lost as long as I have a point of reference.

The Bard Background provided me with Able Drinker, Barterer, and Virtuoso. Able Drinker simply states, “Alcohol never affects you, no matter how much you drink.” Legit. Barterer is a bit more interesting. “Spend a Hero Point to convince someone to cut you a deal, give a reasonable discount, or reassure them that you’re good for it.” It’s the sort of thing that can be handled through a Risk or good roleplay but opens the option for the player to bypass that with a resource expenditure. I kind of wish this were just a base assumption of the game but I’m fine with having it spelled out like that. Virtuoso adds a die whenever I make a Perform Risk of a specific type – I chose epic poetry, reinforcing that bard-telling-tales vibe I’ve been going for.

As for spending my points, I considered taking a Duelist Academy but opted instead to go with Legendary Trait (Panache) and Linguist. Legendary Trait means anytime that I roll the dice in a Panache Risk, I set one aside as a 10 and roll the others. If my dice can explode (because I have 5 ranks in something) then that die set aside automatically explodes. Linguist is straight up utilitarian; it circumvents any language barriers we might run into and goes to the wandering bard theme I’ve been working on.

Step 5.1: Sorcery

Picking up Sorcery opens up a whole new section for you to futz around with in 7th Sea. Glamour is fairly straight forward: you are the living embodiment of some fabled Hero of Avalon of old. There are twenty Knights of the Graal and each is tied to a major and minor Trait (Brawn, Finesse, Resolve, Wits, Panache). This covers each possible major/minor combination. Each Trait has two Major and two Minor Glamours. There is also a set of three Major and three Minor Luck Glamours available to all Knights. To activate any Glamour effect you must spend a Hero Point. Major Glamours can be activated once per session, Minor Glamours once per scene.

This is where I had to do the most revisions. Since I took Panache as my Legendary Trait I thought it would be good to have that be my major Trait in Glamour. And since I was envisioning this Hero as a bit of a trickster, I was thinking I’d take Wits as the minor Trait. Except the Panache Glamour is about defeating baleful Sorcery and sailing, neither of which I think are great for me, and the Wits Glamours are about catching bullets and summoning the Sidhe. Again, not my focus. I bounced through a few before settling on Wulfnod, the Bold – Brawn over Finesse. The description of Wulfnod is that he’s impetuous and rushes into battle. That fit perfectly with what I’d put in my 20 Questions and had chosen in my Arcana by that point.

Each time you purchase the Sorcery Advantage you get 1 point to spend on Major Glamour and 2 points to spend on Minor Glamour. The book isn’t clear if you can buy Minor Glamour options from your major Trait. I can see how it might not work but it would be weird if you couldn’t. Anyway, I avoided it by not doing that.

I doubled down on the Brawn Major Glamour Strongest There Is which lets me add Raises equal to my Rank in this Glamour to any Brawn Risk when activated. That’s huge!

My Minor Glamours got split up. I took one Rank of Vanish which reads “Activate this Glamour and anyone looking for you is unable to locate you for 1 hour per Rank you have in Vanish. Any attempts to track you, locate you by supernatural means, or learn your location from others automatically fails.” It only works if no one sees me but I can spend a Hero Point to just get away. Love it. Then I dropped 3 points into Greater Luck, which lets me spend a Hero Point to add my Ranks in Greater Luck to any one die after I roll. If the die reaches 10 or higher, it explodes. This is great because now, even at character creation, if I really need some extra juice, I’ve got it. And if I can drop it on a 7+, I roll and add another die.

Step 6: Arcana

This is a great improvement from the previous version. Your Arcana now gives you ways to earn and spend Hero Points. Your Virtue gives you a narrative ability that requires a Hero Point to activate. I chose The Fool – Wily: “Activate your Virtue to escape danger from the current scene. You cannot rescue anyone but yourself.” Meanwhile, Hubris earns you a Hero Point a session if you hit it. I chose The Lovers – Star-Crossed: “You receive a Hero Point when your Hero becomes enamored with someone he really shouldn’t.”

Step 7: Pick a Story

Stories are a new design space. It’s part love letter to the GM, part Keys (from Riddle of Steel), and part Milestones from Marvel Heroic or Fate (and, yes, I realize those two milestones work very differently but they both apply).

Each Hero has a Story, a goal they wish to accomplish. That Story has a name, goal, and reward created by the player. The name is just a descriptor, a reminder of what the Story is about. The goal is the end-point of Story, the concrete finale. And the reward is what you want to gain out of the deal – specifically including Advantages, Skill and Trait ranks, and buying off Quirks from your Backgrounds. Stories become player-driven roleplay-based Hero advancement. That’s pretty cool.

The Story I created is:

Glory: Assume the mantle of my Graal Knight.

Goal: Recover Chrystaga, the sword carried by Wulfnod, the Bold.

Reward: This is a 3-step story that will earn me the 3 point Signature Item Advantage.

I really dig the Signature Item Advantage (it gives big bonuses when you spend Hero Points to activate it and you can spend a Hero Point to get it back if it’s ever lost) but couldn’t think of a way to make it work at character creation. Instead I’m turning it into a roleplaying opportunity: go get this fabled sword once carried by the knight whose Glamour I bear.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

The finishing touches are small character details: your Reputation, membership in any secret societies, and the way Wealth works in 7th Sea.

A Reputation is a single word that describes your character. You’re encouraged to use adjectives, not nouns. I chose “Roguish” because I picture my Hero as a wandering Knight Errant but not entirely chaste and certainly with flair for the dramatic.

Membership in a secret society doesn’t cost any character resource and it’s not required. If you do take membership in one, you get a starting Favor of 2 (equal to having given them some bit of information of interest to them). Favor can be spent to get help from the secret society in question. It’s a nice way of mechanizing reputation grinding from MMOs in a simple, elegant way.

Wealth is abstracted heavily. A Hero is assumed to have the money to afford all their basic necessities. Wealth is used to buy extra stuff. You can earn Wealth during a session by taking up a Profession. Basically, tell the GM what skill you’d like to use to earn money (Perform for musicians, Weaponry for guards, Aim for hunters, Sailing for sailor, etc.) and you’ll gain Wealth equal to your ranks in that skill. There are a few guides on how much extra stuff – such as a house, hired goons, etc. – but there’s no gear list or anything for you to pore over.

And That’s It

There are some variants I’ve considered, such as taking the Duelist Background instead of Bard and having him be more of a wandering sellsword than bard/minstrel. Or the Aristocrat who is the traveling gentleman. Basically changing up the non-Knight Errant part because that’s too cool.

I would play the shit out of this character. Anyone want to run 7th Sea for me?

About PK

PK Sullivan is a game designer and writer living in Chicago.

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