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I picked up Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies (S7S), on a semi-whim because Evil Hat productions had a limited run hard-cover edition, and I happened to have the right amount of money sitting in my gaming book budget, and no new Changeling books that I hadn't preordered till after July.

So I took a chance.

7th Sea, eat your heart out.
I love the idea of a good swashbuckling game, for much the same reason why I enjoy the conceptualization of pulp - romance, intrigue, action, adventure. And what am I greeted with on the backcover? "Skyships. Pirates. Musketeers. Fencing. Intrigue. Mysticism. Adventure!"

The game is put out was developed by Chad Underkoffler's Atomic Sock Monkey and distributed by EvilHat Production. It utilizes the Prose Descriptive Qualities Sharp (PDQ#) System as developed by Chad, which is basically broadbased narrative categories form the baseline of your character's stats. This has been previously used for other games such as Truth and Justice (Superheroes) and The Zorcerer of Zo (Fantasy), but modified for the genre.

Let's begin with the world.

The World
The first four chapters, or 130 pages, discuss the world in depth - and it's most definitely a fantasy world. The world is a hemisphere of sky with landmasses floating at various levels on clouds. There a mysterious blue viscous liquid at the base, and a dome of air of above, with a star and sun that rotate around the dome. Within this dome there are 7 layers of winds, and and 7 skies - Mists, Jungle Sky, Sky of Thunder, Sky of Stones, Ghost Sky, Sky of Frost, Sky of Fire. Each of these skies rotate around the dome bringing different weather.

The skies of Mist and Jungle are early and late spring, from the cold mists, to the wild growth. The sky of Thunder is Summer's warm rains and vicious destruction of the storms. The skies of Stones and Ghost are the dying times of Autumn, with the Sky of Frost's rotation bringing winter's cold breath. What this means is that there is a long spring and autumn, and a short summer and winter.

The sky of fire doesn't move, instead functioning as the center pillar that all other skies rotate around; it possible to cross it during the dark nights of the new moon, but at any other time, your skyship will burnt up.

The islands themselves rest on a Cloud, which keeps the island stable, with a Fog shield that protects the inhabitants from the worst of conditions that the Seven Skies bring with them.

As far as people, all are human with six major nations - Barathi (Byzantine intrigue and revenge), Viridia (harsh, rocky warrior nation), Colrona (split between two kingdoms - one feudal, and one theocratic, a land of romance, religion and honor), Crail (Cosmopolitan crossroad), Illwuz (pirate isle that is unique in that it changes its location), Sha Ka Ruq (a new island, freshly emerged from the Blue a century ago, and a barbaric land).

Like 7th Seas, several of these nations have analogs to more familiar nations, with a twist - Barathi harken to the Italian city states, but not quite, Viridia is the scandavians, Colrona, split between the Spaniards and the Moors, Crail and Illwuz were once one nation, and vaguely British, Sha Ka Ruq is the stand in for Africa, but these are just hints and aids, with far more serial numbering filing. For some of them it took me to read the suggested names before I was sure what ethnicity/region was being ripped off.

The third chapter is named the Mystical and the Faithful. Magic does exist (though it can be tweaked up or down), Alchemy, while rare, is the the most common and is the mixture of materials; while the Gifted have a single gift of seven; and the Koldun are the sorcerors and masters of several Gifts. There is only one Church in the Seven Skies, the Church of Vaoz; but, there are several popular heresies that fill the sky.

The Gifts form the main stay of the magic, each covering a rather large spectrum, for example, The Basilisk allows you to hear thoughts, and send thoughts; while the Griffin can perfect their mind, body, or soul, but only one at a time; those with the Merhorse Gift can see into the future, and see spiritual energy. So on and so forth, Koldun have access to all of these gifts, and three special, exclusive gifts.

The Church generally, as a rule tolerates the Gifted, and views the Koldun with suspicion - power corrupts. Some heresies say that the Koldun are evil and must be purged; and others say that Vaoz himself was the first Koldun. However, the central core tenet of the Vaoz faith is Honor. Appropriate for a game of swashbuckling.

Skyships form the mainstay of the game. They come in many different sizes, but three main types - Galleon, Junk, and Schooner, in order from largest to smallest. There's a fair amount of detail on how they work and operate, but that's not needed for the most part. I did appreciate the summary of skysailing jargon, crew positions, and officers. Oddly enough, there are five officer positions - or about right for your standard party.

Probably one of my surprises was finding a listing of the nations and what they produced, what they wanted, and specialty goods they sought. Yay! We can have shipping routes that make sense. Okay, perhaps you aren't excited by this, but I am, mostly because I know my usual group of players, and I know that this would come up in the first few sessions.

A discussion of warfare, and different types of shot. Of pirates and booty. In short, everything you'd need to cover in this sort of game.

When I next have time - a discussion of the system. Part II (where I do an overview of mechanics) can be found here.

Edit: Unlocked as per [livejournal.com profile] chadu's request.

Date: 2009-05-11 12:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushputin.livejournal.com
Like 7th Seas, several of these nations have analogs to more familiar nations, with a twist - Barathi harken to the Italian city states, but not quite, Viridia is the scandavians, Colrona, split between the Spaniards and the Moors, Crail and Illwuz were once one nation, and vaguely British, Sha Ka Ruq is the stand in for Africa, but these are just hints and aids, with far more serial numbering filing. For some of them it took me to read the suggested names before I was sure what ethnicity/region was being ripped off.
This was the dealbreaker for me with 7th Sea. I finished reading the opening fiction just in time to realize that what I'd been reading as "Irishman" was really "Inishman," and that it hadn't changed a thing I had no choice to put the book down in disgust. Shit, or get off the pot!

A larger distance between the fantasy culture and its real-world analog makes the fantasy culture a lot more interesting, believable and justifiable.

Date: 2009-05-11 12:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arashinomoui.livejournal.com
Amen - these were close enough that it gives players, IMO, the ability to have something to hang off of, if they are struggling to visualize what the society defaults to, but different enough that you aren't constrained by the historical comparisons.

Date: 2009-05-11 01:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chadu.livejournal.com
Good! That's what I was going for.

IMAO, that's mostly because for each I threw multiple inspirational historical and fictional cultures into a blender for each culture, hit PUREE, then strained out the lumps.

As it were.

Frex: Crail = Casablanca + Babylon 5 + Lankhmar + Gangs of New York + Gotham City + Granada, Spain.

January 2011

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