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Insights from Mike Curry (7th Sea Dev)

Insights from Mike Curry (7th Sea Dev)

QUOTE: Mike Currey (published 2016-09-04, Monday)

Hello! I am Mike Curry, Systems Lead for 7th Sea 2nd Edition!

Greetings!

As the title says, I'm Mike Curry. If any of you attended GenCon this year and stopped by the JWP booth, you probably saw me there and perhaps talked to me or had me sign your book.

For those of you that didn't, it's great to meet you. I've been lurking in the subreddit off and on for a while. I tend to do that in most online communities. I talk rarely, but I spend a lot of time listening.

But I thought it might be fun to start joining in on conversations now and then.

So, let's get me vetted first.

I'm this Mike Curry.

I'm also this Mike Curry.

But most importantly right now, I'm this Mike Curry.

I've spoken with the mods here (hence my sweet custom flair that has my name!) and we're probably going to be putting together a more "official" AMA sometime in the future. For now, I just wanted to make a post introducing myself and just making it clear that I'm happy to answer questions, discuss the game, and generally chat.

Want to know why a certain mechanical system (coughCORRUPTIONcough) functions the way it does? I can answer that question for you. Want to know more specifically how something works, or how two seemingly separate rules interact? I can probably tell you, or I can make something up on the spot that sounds super convincing.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask away. I might answer them... no promises. But maybe. >.>

Cheers!

 

[–]Almanorek

Oh, this is fantastic. Last week, me and my group completed our eight session of second edition. We're having a great time so far, but there are some things I'd like clarification on, if you wouldn't mind, that could make things even better.

  1. Combat. This is the big thing. We've actually avoided combat for the most part because it feels kind of boring, and I think a big part of that is that none of the players picked up a dueling style. That being said, many of them have points in brawl/weaponry/aim, but it feels like they don't really have a lot of options. 1 raise = Inflicting or preventing 1 wound. It seems like creating opportunities during action sequences is the way to go here, but as far as we can tell, there's no way to, say, throw dust in a villain's eyes. At least not in a way that matters mechanically.

  2. Opportunities/Consequences. As far as how we've been using them goes, the system is pretty great. Way better than a binary pass/fail. I do have a question, though, about weighting consequences and opportunities. For particularly difficult things, I'll sometimes say that it takes two or maybe even three raises to secure an opportunity, or avoid a consequence. I'd like to know if this is actually supported by the rules. Additionally, are consequences and opportunities allowed to be conditional? Can I, as the GM, say that they can't secure an opportunity if they haven't avoided a consequence? And lastly, can players avoid consequences and secure opportunities without spending a raise to actually succeed on their action?

  3. Conditions. This is kind of connected to combat above, but it seems like, besides dramatic wounds, there's not much that can stick to someone beyond a scene, or sometimes even just a round. There are advantages for avoiding the negative effects of food, water, and even poison, but it feels like there are no mechanics in place to even handle how these things would affect players. Do I make them roll less dice? Do I take away raises? Do I just create a consequence for them?

[–]7thSea_dev

Combat is something that happens during an Action Sequence. Anything players can do in an action sequence, they can do during "combat." Slink out of the room and avoid notice of Brutes? Totally. Pick the lock on a safe and crack it out? Yeah. Pick up one of the discarded weapons and, using Scholarship, declaring that these weapons aren't real--they're cheap stage props. That last one actually happened in my last game, and the Brutes were as surprised as we were. They'd been sold crappy swords.

Can it take multiple raises to overcome a consequence or activate an opportunity? Sure, but those should be really big-deal opportunities. You can set up Consequences and Opportunities plenty of different ways (I think your suggestion about having an Opportunity available after a Consequence is dealt with is very interesting) but you should be upfront with the players.

Things like poison and the ilk are always a difficult thing to design for. Anything that takes dice away from the players, I try to avoid--it isn't fun, and I feel like a good game makes even a negative circumstance fun to play. With that in mind, you could certainly remove dice or even Raises as a negative consequence to extreme hunger or being poisoned or drugged. Just be sure that you do this to increase the drama at the table, rather than to "punish" the player for doing something you didn't like.

[–]ADampDevil

Pick up one of the discarded weapons and, using Scholarship, declaring that these weapons aren't real--they're cheap stage props. That last one actually happened in my last game, and the Brutes were as surprised as we were. They'd been sold crappy swords.

Right but I think the point is what in game effect of that? Mechanically a crappy sword is just as lethal as a good sword, or a tea cup, or Lieutenant Colonel Alan Caldwell's thumb.

I guess you could mechanically simulate that by lowering the strength of the Brute Squad, same as doing damage, just a different narrative flair to it. Throwing sand in the enemies eyes would again just be a different narrative way of getting the same result, lowering the Strength of the Brute Squad.

That's fine against a Brute Squad but what about against a Villain?

I suppose against a Villain the easiest way to simulated it is with Pressure "You spend your next action blinking and removing the sand from your eyes." So they can still attack you but it costs them a raise.

[–]Almanorek

I really appreciate the response, though I'm not sure you've completely answered my questions.

I understand that players have a lot of non-combat options they can take during combat, but I feel like it's the combat itself that feels kind of bland for non-duelists. You give an example of a brute squad discovering they're using prop swords- but the game makes no distinction between brutes wielding weapons, and brutes fighting with their fists. Narratively, that's a cool twist, but as a GM I have no idea how to resolve that in a way that doesn't feel arbitrary.

Also, in another response, you say,

A Duelist has invested in a 5 point Advantage specifically to be good at swordfighting. Someone who isn't willing to make a similar commitment on the mechanical side should not be able to outshine them.

But a non-duelist upgrading, say, their weaponry from 4 to 5 also requires a 5 step story, and weaponry pretty much has just as limited of an application. In exchange they get an extra die on their rolls, and they get exploding dice on weaponry tests, but dice only explode 10% of the time, and an extra die only gets you half a raise on average. (67% of a raise, I guess, with the bonus you get from rank 4 of a skill.) Meanwhile, taking the duelist advantage basically squares your effectiveness in combat.

Regarding poison and such, I appreciate the position of not wanting un-fun things to happen to players, but I do feel as though there's a gap between what the rulebook presents as plausible gameplay, and what it gives me in its mechanical toolbox. In fact, one of the examples of consequences in the book is 'Because this is the guards’ quarters, they’ve installed a poison needle. Got to avoid that.' And even that example paints a very dramatic picture of a rogue trying to quietly stumble their way out of a manor before the poison takes effect and they pass out or worse.

This kind of stuff can be resolved by a good GM filling in the gaps and making impromptu rulings, but I think what this ends up doing is creating a somewhat inconsistent experience for players. I've definitely argued with people on this subreddit who appear to simply not understand the way you're 'supposed' to play the game in a way that's readily apparent to me, and fault the game for it.

[–]adidasfiend

Hey I know this guy!

[–]robjustice

I know both these guys!

[–]7thSea_dev

Can unfortunately confirm. :/

[–]NihilisticMind

Hi dudes! (Fabien here)

[–]7thSea_dev

Can confirm. In fact, if you did go to GenCon and came by the JWP booth, you were probably MORE likely to talk to this gentleman here.

[–]derkrieger

So I'd like to know more about the ideas behind dueling. Magic I understand can and likely is broken in the right circumstances but they come with their own challenges and are a obvious a fairly extreme character type. Meanwhile many players are combat focused either in melee or with guns. We know guns can be useful in that they are basically a guaranteed dramatic wound but melee just seems....pointless, that is unless you're a Duelist. If you are a Duelist then you are an absolute killing machine in melee combat that can really only be countered by another Duelist or a whole lot of player muskets. What are your guys plans or intentions when it comes to other players being viable in combat without having to become a Duelist themselves?

[–]7thSea_dev

There is probably a "Duelist Lite" advantage coming soon that will give you access to a small number of Maneuvers under a certain circumstance. I haven't designed it yet, but it's on my mind.

As for non-Duelists being good in a fight, there are ways that they certainly can be, but those ways are often circumstantial. Riot Breaker and Reckless Takedown have been mentioned, Signature Item can make you a serious badass if you have Hero Points to burn.

If you're asking when non-Duelists will ever be as good as Duelists in combat... never. A Duelist has invested in a 5 point Advantage specifically to be good at swordfighting. Someone who isn't willing to make a similar commitment on the mechanical side should not be able to outshine them.

There are more advantages coming that give additional situational benefits or allow you to do other things during Sequences, but there are also more Dueling Advantages coming soon, so everyone will be getting new toys.

[–]derkrieger

I understand and you bring up a good point I hadn't thought about where some of the other advantages being extra useful in combat, just theirs are usually more situational.

Also the knowledge that we'll be getting some new toys, for Duelist and non-Duelist (Duelist Lite sounds especially appealing for people who want to be decent fighters but don't want to fully invest into a Duelist) is great to hear and I am excited to see what comes out in future books.

7th Sea 2nd Edition is probably the most narrative focused game that I actually enjoy as it doesn't sacrifice good mechanics to be narrative and free. Many "Storytelling Systems" attempt to be open to everything and allow you to do more with your Roleplaying....while offering less and giving you little advantage over just free form roleplaying. 7th Sea has managed to break away from being super mechanical while still offering solid mechanics to help guide and provide structure to our game of imagination and storytelling.

I've recently run my 1st one-shot with my group and the game is a big hit. They enjoyed being able to figure out a clever way to use their Abilities and skills in different situations. In fact the 1 bonus die for each unique skill use pushed them to try different approaches to a situation instead of straight intimidation or fighting and I was very happy that it happened so naturally without players having to be coerced. Thanks again for all your guys' work and I look forward to more adventures using 7th Sea.

[–]ADampDevil

I wouldn't mind a more official answer to a couple of questions I've already raised.

How long is Pressure meant to last?

Is there an order damage should be applied?

[–]7thSea_dev

Pressure lasts for the next action. Regardless of whether the target Pressured takes that action as normal or does something else and pays an additional Raise to do so, the Pressure is then ended.

This is unclear in the text, particularly in the examples, because changing a small rule like that means that the example has to be rewritten nearly from scratch. Trust me on that, I had to do several of these re-writes as a rule changed. It isn't surprising that something slipped through the cracks.

But yes, short answer, Pressure lasts for the next action, and then it's gone. Unless you have some way of extending it with an Advantage or a Sorcery or just spending more of your Raises, etc.

[–]kckrupp

Thank you for the clarification, Mike. I was way off on that.

How about when applying pressure to Dramatic Sequences? Using the example from the book, if the villain pressures the hero into not telling the King about his plot, is that just for the hero's next Raise expenditure, or would that continue through the rest of the scene.

Similarly, is Pressure supposed to be only a "DO" or can it be a "DO NOT" as described in the example under Villainous pressure (i.e. Is "I want to apply pressure to prevent the villain from running away" just as valid as "I want to apply pressure to have the villain attack me.")

[–]7thSea_dev

Apply the Wounds from Raises first, then the automatic Dramatic Wound last.

[–]Anchorsify

So I'm curious if you were involved in and have info you could share regarding the big big changes to sorte ( removing it's strands manipulation, adding 'pull' ), and dracheneisen (removing it from the game as a defensive thing/removing it from Eisen nobility, only having stats for weapons which are now tied to a SS). I understand john might have opinions that influenced the latter (I don't think he ever was happy with how dracheneisen turned out?), but haven't heard much about Sorte.

[–]7thSea_dev

As far as the core book goes, there is no mechanical decision that I wasn't involved in.

Our biggest reason for the changes to sorcery (and Sorte is probably the biggest recipient) is that we wanted to push strega forward, out of being sort of restricted to being the back-line character who just comes in with some information and then hides in the corner while everyone else sword-fights and swings on ropes. We wanted the strega to be able to get in on the fun.

To that end we reduced the base cost of Sorcery to let them pick up supporting Advantages if they wanted, and we made new powers like "Pull" which they can use to defend themselves and participate in these more action-oriented scenes.

Dracheneisen has an interesting history. Originally it was in, then it got folded in with Signature Item, then it was removed entirely, then it was in again, then it was in and was given to Die Kreuzritter rather than the Eisen.

We did this because we want Dracheneisen to be special and rare and have an air of mystery about it. Dracheneisen weapons are the primary focus because they're in the hands of Die Kreuzritter, and Dracheneisen really screws up monsters, so it's a perfect fit. When we talk more about Dracheneisen and similar materials in the future, you'll know more.

[–]Anchorsify

I will say that I kind of dig the fact that Sorcery is more piecemeal, though interestingly it's basically been flipped in that swordsman schools (duelists) are now the all-or-nothing purchase and Sorcery is more flexible..

How much in terms of mechanics vs lore do you deal with? I ask because it seems like.. lore-wise, the strands have never been physical things. They can see them, but they aren't truly physical, aren't they? They're visible threads connecting people to one another, but when the fate witch is messing with them, that seemed to be more of a magical effect (done with somatic gestures) than a truly physical one. Which is why I think Pull is so jarring.. I mean, it's costly, for one, because it requires a HP (so you can't just become viable in combat with it, really) every time you do it, but on top of that, it seems like it changes the fundamental basis for what the fate strands truly are. All fate strands represent concepts and connections, not physical things, and if you go down that slope of 'I can physically manipulate you with your fate strands', what keeps a fate witch from just making a noose of anyone's strands and choking them out? Of binding them up? Of garroting anyone (from range)?

[–]7thSea_dev

To be clear, none of the game is designed in a vacuum. By that I mean it isn't like I make a game system and then yell at the writers to make it work (if anything, quite the opposite).

Lore-wise, I don't directly write a lot of independent stuff. I write pieces -- Sorcery lore, Duelist Style backgrounds and fluff, example text, etc -- and I am something along the lines of an editor / sounding board for the larger lore pieces.

With Sorte in particular, we took some liberties with the definition of exactly what a strand represented. While they are still heavily based around relationships and associations, there is also a limited physical component to them. Mostly we did it for cool factor -- we thought it was still thematically appropriate, but also a new little trick for veteran Sorte players to toy with.

To directly answer your question of "what stops a fate witch from strangling people with their fate strands?"

The same thing that stops an assassin from looping a noose around your neck. So, not much.

I could see a situation where I let a Fate Witch spend her raises in an action sequence to trip people with errant strands, bind them, lash them around, etc. Sounds pretty cool, but I don't see a specific power being associated with that sort of use any time soon.

This is a bit off topic, but a lot of my answers to questions are different depending on whether you're asking me as a designer or as a GM. There's a lot of stuff that I'd be willing to let people do as a GM in my particular campaign that I would never DREAM of writing a mechanic for. The reason for this, in general, are that players don't see rules as special or unique.

For example, let's say I write a power that allows a Strega to cause Wounds at some higher ratio using fate magic. Just, for the sake of discussion, let's say it looks something like this...

Activate this power. Until the end of the round, whenever you spend a Raise to cause a Wound to another character or to reduce the Strength of a Brute Squad, you the effect is doubled. You cause 2 wounds, or reduce their strength by 2, for each Raise you spend.

It isn't a particularly interesting mechanic, but it has a direct use. It's easy to understand in application. That makes it pretty boring.

On the other hand, as a GM, if I write up a similar power and through the course of the story I give the strega in my group the option to pick up this custom power, they are more likely to find it much more interesting. The fact that it is unique to them adds a lot of spice.

Simple mechanics become a lot more interesting when they are YOURS only, when YOU are the only strega who can smack people around with fate strands.

Things like the Pull power are meant as much to be a specific power available to players as they are a signpost that this kind of thing is okay. It's a little outside the traditional role and scope of sorte, but it isn't WILDLY out of line. It doesn't come completely out of left-field, and even if someone doesn't particularly like the implementation or isn't interested in it, they can see how it would work and how this power relates to fate strands in a general way.

I rambled a bit here, but my aim is to give you an idea where I'm coming from when I answer questions of this sort.

[–]Anchorsify 

I understand. I can't say I agree with the design philosophy, but I get it--I think you did a good job making the game you set out to.

[–]7thSea_dev

That's okay. It's impossible to make a game that everyone everywhere will like or think is the best iteration or the best design philosophy. Mostly, like I said elsewhere, I just want people to understand that nothing was flippantly decided or just tossed in there without pretty careful consideration.

[–]WanderingPenitent

I like the idea of Dracheneisen being a signature of the Imperator, even if not of all of Eisen nobility. The 1st edition lore had mentioned that each of the Eisenfursten had a piece of the Imperator's armor as a sign of their status as an elector. I would think that at least could exist in the setting without Dracheneisen seeming too common or lacking in mystery.

What I'm hoping for (and I realize this is very far down the line) is some stats or more description of Dracheneisen in the Nation Sourcebook detailing Eisen.

Not a question, just a comment.

[–]7thSea_dev

There is almost guaranteed to be more information on Dracheneisen. I'm not sure if it will appear in one of the Nations books or in the Secret Societies book.

[–]writermonk

Hi, Mike! I'm one of your Ifri writers!

[–]negromaestro

We have been desperate for some insights into Ifri. Would you be willing to drop any hints? Like how many nations will premiere in the Ifri Sourcebook? Will they reflect the cultural divide between North Africans, West Africans, Central Africans, East Africans and South Africans modeled from the real world like what we already see in Theah of 7th Sea (as pseudo-Europe)?

[–]7thSea_dev

Looking forward to working with you! :)

[–]kckrupp

Hi Mike, since you mentioned Corruption, I'm curious to hear your explanation. When I first read through Corruption in the playtest, I REALLY liked it (and I'm still very much in favor of a Corruption mechanic.) The roll aspect of it has started to bother me more as time has gone on -- especially in context with the "spirit of the game"- related text.

(When you really get down to it, I'm just splitting hairs and it's really not a big deal; it just seems like an odd design choice considering the push away from "arbitrary" results from die rolls.)

Overall though, the more I've run the game, the smoother everything gets. I also had my first chance to play rather than GM at PAX West Sunday. It was really fun to see someone else's interpretation of the rules.

[–]7thSea_dev

I wrote a pretty lengthy bit about Corruption and why we designed it the way we did here.

[–]kckrupp

Cool, thanks Mike. I missed that post on the Corruption thread.

[–]beardlovesbagels

How was GenCon for you and the JWP crew?

[–]7thSea_dev

Exhausting. I lost my voice by Saturday, and was going through cough drops like crazy trying to just get through the last couple days. It was good though, but believe me when I say that I slept for a week when I got home. :)

[–]beardlovesbagel

A few GMs and LARPers I know use the singer/host trick and drink honey lemon herbal tea the day before and throughout for GenCon or Origins. Good to hear that it was busy. Hopefully you fought off the con plague.

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