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Part 1 of my shoot from the hip review can be found here.

On Friday I discussed the world that S7S resides in as the default. Now we'll discuss the mechanics. You can find an overview of the PDQ# system here, but I'll assume people won't want to follow that link, so I'll discuss in depth.

The PDQ system is very narrative in its function - what do I mean by that? The rolls that you make are less about determining what your character does precisely, and more what the result on the story of the character's action. But I don't even really like that description. To quote the book, "The core design concept of PDQ-based games is of prose, descriptive, do-it-yourself, wide-ranging Fortes ... [that] are a measure of story effectiveness rather than reality simulation..." (p. 131)

The basic system is simple roll 2d6 + modifiers against a target number that rages from 5 (a trivial task) to 21 (the difficulty of this task beggars the imagination).

To generate a character you select a number of Fortes, and a single Foible. The fortes are what your character is good at, and range from +2 (Good) to +6 (Master); with all other Fortes at 0 (Average). Forte's can be related to personality (Thoughtful, Perceptive, Prankster), physical (Strong, Dancer, Handsome), Mental (Scholar, connosieur, loves the Lady Madelina) or Professional (Teacher, Spy, Musketeer, Fencer). One of these Fortes will be your "Swashbuckling Forte" which means you can buy your techniques cheaper.

What's a technique? A Technique is a specialization within a forte where you gain a bonus die or a +1. And they can be combined. So let's say that you had Fencing, with the Techniques Acrobatic, Two blades, Against six-fingered men. That means if you do a particular acrobatic flip, while attacking with both your blades against a six fingered man, you can add up to 3d6 or +3 (flat) to your roll; note however, you are still only going to keep two of those dice, so it isn't necessarily best to throw everything into extra dice. The problem is that you can only use a technique once per turn (aka round).

I mentioned Foibles earlier. A foible is your continual story hook for your character's weakness. Perhaps your foible is true love, and you'll do stupid things to nurture or protect, or perhaps you are a drunken bastard, who ruins fine social occasions with drunken words that are all too true, or perhaps you are a common born woman in an organization that only accepts noble men. When the foibles come into play, the players get style dice. Which I'll discuss later, but effectively they are drama/hero/action points of a sort.

There's a long listing of Foibles and Fortes to stimulate the stymied player, along with setting specific ones (such as Koldun and the Gifted, i.e., those who possess the mystical arts.)

Some neat non-standard forte's: Vehicle - yes you can start out with a boat (though the GM can always give you a team vehicle if he'd rather); and Sanctum (a hide out) - each of those have different techniques that can be purchased.

Now we'll discuss style dice. Style dice are given to the players for getting themselves into story moving trouble, doing heroic things, or other "good form, chap!" things such as excellent roleplaying or descriptions of successes or failures. They go away at the end of every session, so there is no reason to horde the style dice. A neat trick is that there is a style point economy, where there's a limited number of style points that are awarded at the GM's whim called the bowl. Other style dice are distributed when the game's mechanics require it. This means when the bowl goes empty, the GM has no more dice to hand out as he (or she) wishes. This should encourage the players to go large and to spend them. (Amusingly enough, the player with the most style, has initiative in conflicts.)

Style dice in S7S do just about everything I've seen drama/hero points do in other games: Add to skills, restore damage, modify the world, use mystical powers.

Unlike some other similar narrative-based games out there, there are integral advancement rules in S7S that focus around gaining training points from failing. Which kicks off a neat little cycle, go for a large goal, fail and get training points, and describe the failure amusingly or dramatically enough and get style points, to allow for success later.

We'll skip over the rest of character generation and move into conflict resolution.

Most conflict is resolved with a simple 2d6+Modifiers versus a Target number. Nice, quick, simple. The game specifies a number of different types of challenges: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Profession, Social, and Mystical. The professional challenges are for all the would-be traders out there, where the options range from Average: Make enough to resupply the ship and pay wages to Inconceivable: Make enough to resupply, pay wages, and grant Master Wealth (Temporarily) to the Officers AND the crew. Let's hear it for economies.

Duels or extended conflicts are for challenges that would be fun to play out in detail - you get the back and forth, and there is a separate dice subsystem. This is one of the few "dings" that I have against the system, I've grown to dislike subsystems in my games. This one is relatively close to the real system, as it uses 3d6+Modifiers versus an opponent's 3d6 modifiers. However, these 3d6 need to be allocated to offense and defense.

Note: This is a swashbuckling game, so ganging up is bad form. But still effective. The assisting characters just add their modifiers to the attacking character's roll. Not as interesting, but if you wanted interesting you shouldn't have ganged up on the poor little bad guy bent on your destruction.

What happens when you get hit? Damage. And this is where PDQ# gets quirky. Instead of there being a separate health stat, your Fortes instead take damage, going down a number of ranks equal to the levels of damage(+6-> +4-> +2-> 0-> -2-> Zero'd out). This means that in a Swordfight, your relationship with your wife can take the damage from the wounding. It can be up to the players and the DM to come up with an in game reason, or to just accept the quirkiness and move on. The classic example is that Peter Parker frequently takes the hit on his relationship-based qualities while fighting crime, hence why he is always having drama.

The first Forte hit you take generates a story hook for the GM to use in a future scene or session to generate a concept; similarly, the first Forte to zero out also generates a story hook. You recover fairly quickly from damage; however, this doesn't save you from the various story hooks that will occur. The book has a wonderful discussion as to this mechanic is why the Dastard Pirate is always going off to deal with troubles with his mother because he keeps zeroing out his "Loves his mother" Forte in combat.

I really enjoy what S7S did with vehicle combat. Another subsystem, but this one does something a lot of other games don't, makes everyone useful on a ship. The Captain gives orders; the officers roll to generate Vehicle dice, the captain then distributes the dice between various attack/defense/other actions. Otherwise, the duels continue the same. There are rules for boarding and disabling as well.

The peniultimate chapter is your standard GMing this game chapter. Most of the advice is fairly stock standard to me, but generally applicable to all games, the interesting part is in setting the dials - where you can sit down and discuss what sort of game you want to play with what themes and how often.

Once the campaign's dials have been set, there's a neat (with nautical terms) ways of designing a scenario/scene for S7S, which I found useful to contemplate in my Changeling game for generating story ideas and how things are going to hang together and interconnect to interest all the players at the table.

Other dials can either ramp up or ramp down the deadliness of firearms, the presence of the mystical, and many other mechanics such as a Team vehicle or sanctum.

The last chapter discusses the swashbuckling genre in general - romance, settings, tropes, and expectations that can arise from using the term "swashbuckling".

So I'm reading back and I've got a great job of summarizing, and not really a huge job of discussing, probably because I haven't field tested these rules at all, in any way, shape or form. The pieces look like they hold together nicely, and provide enough mechanical weight to make my players happy, while being flexible enough to handle a wide variety of situations and needs. At some point, I'm sure that I'll use this system, or more specifically, try to encourage one of my friends to run it so that I can play.

Date: 2009-05-12 08:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It is definitely one of the quirkier bits, and one I'm still having the most issue, without playing the game, to wrap my head around. And it is one of the more frequently house-ruled items I've seen in regards to the system. But I'd want to play it straight before trying to modify it.

January 2011

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