7th Sea was a tabletop role-playing game and related CCG created by AEG after Legend of the Five Rings became a success. The game's setting is Theah, an alternate version of Europe during the 17th century. Theah was composed of several theme park versions of various major European countries and cultures. The countries vied with each other for political and economic dominance, while pirates sailed the seas in search of adventure and treasure. The world is based very much upon the varied tropes common to swashbuckling and pirate stories.
The tabletop RPG features a system similar to Legend of the Five Rings in mechanics, but distinct in that the PC's are almost explicitly given a mild form of Contractual Immortality. PC's can only be killed off if the GM is specifically setting up such a possibility through the plot's villain, or if the characters fall victim to the Chunky Salsa Rule. Players are encouraged to come up with utterly outrageous plans of action and are given rewards both for implementing these ideas and for impressive role playing using the Rule of Cool as a guide. The RPG setting enjoyed being quite over the top when encouraging ideas for characters and stories. Like Legend of the Five Rings, the rules were later adapted for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition under the name Swashbuckling Adventures.
The CCG had the players choosing a faction which represented a pirate crew or a country's naval power, pitting two ships against one another in combat. Players would attempt to hire crew, chase down their opponent's ship, and then attack with ether cannon or boarding based attacks.
Like the Legend of the Five Rings, the Metaplot was supposed to be steered by players' choices in the CCG tournaments and in RPG supplements distributed through the quarterly newsletter sent to game masters who had paid a registration fee to AEG.
The main story arc of 7th Sea only spans about a year and a half of time, unlike its cousin, Legend of the Five Rings which has gone through several lifetimes worth of game plot. The major storyline elements were quite varied, with every country and major faction of the world having a part in the story.
The CCG and then the tabletop RPG were discontinued with little fanfare, though the CCG had a final expansion set published online free for download and printing while the RPG managed to get a final supplement which included a timeline for the major plot arcs which were never resolved in the metaplot.
In the RPG, the various splats were the country of origin a character hailed from. In addition to this, a character could join one of a number of secret societies whose origins, goals, and knowledge were made available in additional RPG supplement books.
The RPG is also very notable for its No Celebrities Were Harmed versions of quite a number of NPC's described in the sourcebooks. People with only a cursory knowledge of European history can name at least two or three of the major NPCs' real-life counterparts. Those who have more background in history can find many more, as well as note the places where Wolfrond von Hazel was a Syrneth Spy.
The countries in 7th Sea provide examples of
Avalon (The British Isles)
- All Your Powers Combined: Glamour magic, the Avalonian sorcerous lineage, allows the sorcerer to channel the mythical powers and abilities of various Avalonian heroes of the past. The legends a particular glamour sorcerer has access to are set at character creation and the powers available vary wildly.
- Bonnie Scotland: Called The Highland Marches.
- Dummied Out: One of the Destiny Spreads grants the character a 1 Point Druidic Secrets Advantage...but no such Advantage made it to the printed book.
- The Fair Folk: The sidhe consider Avalon their home, and use their reality-warping powers for their own inscrutable purposes. Avalonians usually give them a wide berth, but those who know how to deal with them can gain quite a lot of power, such as glamour magic.
- Land of My Fathers and Their Sheep: Called Breg, the area is still ruled by their own king who swore fealty to Elaine, Queen of Avalon when she took the throne.
- Oireland: Called Inismore, it's actually better off than Ireland was at that period of history. They even have their own recognized king, Jack O'Bannon
- Badass Spaniard: Pretty much any PC from Castille will be one of these, unless it's specifically being averted by the player.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: King Sandoval is only in his mid-teens, never expected to become king, and is the head of a country engulfed in war with Montaigne. That's rough, buddy.
- Playing with Fire: El Fuego Adentro, the Castillian sorcerous lineage, allows control of any fire and immunity to being hurt by fire and heat of any temperature. It was wiped out by the Inquisition. There's a few families still left, though.
- The Spanish Inquisition: As you'd expect. Led by the ruthless Cardinal Verdugo who has decided that scientific discovery is heretical against the church.
- Spexico: for representing Spain in a world without any Americas, there sure is a lot of Mexican/Latin American influence.
Eisen (Germany/The remnants of the Holy Roman Empire)
- Empty Shell: an entire social class of them, called 'waisen' (literally: orphans). They became like this due to shell shock and trauma from the local Thirty-Years War.
- Germanic Depressives: Justified in that their once proud empire is now a fractured set of principalities, some of which barely can grow enough food to feed the people living there.
- Gratuitous German: Gratuitous and wrong as usual. The Eisen inventor of the guillotine called it "die Toetenklinge", which translates to "the to kill blade".
- Hired Guns: After 30 years of war, the Eisen armies have decided to lend themselves out to whoever pays the most.
- Mithril: Dracheneisen, a very rare and highly coveted material only found in Eisen. Finding a mine of the stuff used to automatically grant the lucky finder a sizeable portion of land as a new principality.
- It's heavily suggested in some of the GM's sections that dracheneisen is actually a form of pottery that's hardened and shined up through secret alchemical practices, and that the "mines" are actually clay beds. Whether this makes any logical sense, as the stuff is nigh-indestructible, is left up to the player to decide.
- Further hints are dropped that the "clay" is in fact ancient dragon poop.
- Ultimate Blacksmith: The Nibelungen, a reclusive group of smiths who are the only ones who can forge Drachenesien. Once forged, it's nearly unbreakable and super light, making a weapon made of it quite powerful. It is also the only useful armor in the game, as it can stop bullets.
- Deadly Decadent Court: and HOW.
- Design-It-Yourself Equipment: Puzzle Swords.
- Heir Club for Men: L'Empereur Leon XIV has had nine daughters so far, and no sons, due to a curse his mother spat from her deathbed.
- Our Wormholes Are Different: Porte sorcery, the sorcerous lineage of Montaigne, allows a user to physically tear open holes in space with their bare hands. The exit point must be close to a place or item marked by the sorcerer's blood, and allows the sorcerer to either grab the blooded object and pull it to them, or walk through the portal to where the object is. Oh, did I mention that portals scream in pain as they open and bleed at the edges?
- And, if you go by the Die Kreuzritter supplement, the Walkway is actually a part of hell, and by using Porte frivolously, the Montaigne are weakening the barrier that keeps the legion of bloodthirsty demons at bay, so that one day soon, they'll all come pouring through the gap and overrun the world.
- And the first thing they teach you? If you walk through the portal, never open your eyes. Sometimes you hear voices calling out to you, telling you that they'll give you such wonderful things, if only you open your eyes...
- Praetorian Guard: The Lightning Guard, elite swordsmen who guard L'Empereur.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them: L'Empereur's edicts sometimes defy all logic, especially when it comes to antagonizing the church.
- Upper Class Twit: Other countries can suffer from this trope too, but Montaigne overshadows the rest in this area.
- Speaks Fluent Animal / Voluntary Shapeshifting: Pyeryem sorcery, the Ussuran sorcerous lineage, allows a character to talk to animals. This then allows them to bargain with the animal for its shape. If the animal agrees to give up its form, the sorcerer adds that shape to their library of forms, and may take that shape at will. More dangerous animals are harder to change into, obviously.
- Empathic Environment: The Ussurans claim "Mother Winter" protects them. It certainly seems like Ussura is on the side of its people...
- Fisher King: The Ussuran Gias doesn't have a great deal of actual political power - but when he tells you to do something, you either do it, or Ussura itself ensures you regret not doing so.
- Bilingual Bonus: The Vestenmannavnjar's name is taken from Vestmannaeyjar, a small island off the coast of Iceland. Amusingly enough, its name comes from what the Norse called captured Irish slaves, making this a bit of a Blind Idiot Translation.
- Geometric Magic: Laerdom, the Vesten sorcery, has sorcerers learn up to 24 runes which are thought to be the fundamental words of creation. Each rune has a different effect when it's inscribed. More powerful sorcerers can make magic items inscribed with runes, and masters can gain permanent powers by branding themselves with a rune in a specific ritual.
- Also Named Weapons, as weapons imbued with Laerdom must be named.
- Global Currency: The Vendel have created the Guilder, accepted everywhere but Vodacce.
- Notably subverted and played straight at the same time, as the player's guide also contains a list of currencies native to each country as well as exchange rates based on the nations relative economic strength.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Vesten tend to take this role, seeing as the middle class merchants broke off to create the Vendel League.
- Cast From Lifespan: Vesten warriors may take the Bearsark Advantage, which whips them into a superhuman fury at the expense of aging 1 week for each round it's active.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: After several books setting him up as the ultimate Corrupt Corporate Executive, Val Mokk, leader of the Vendel League, turns out to be one of Theah's nicest Heroes.
- Arranged Marriage: Basically required between the nobles, though the nation book points out that they're rarely as unfair to the women as one might think. A little judicious use of Sorte and...
- Big Screwed-Up Family: The Princes of Vodacce are all cousins of some kind, which probably explains why they rarely ever come to an agreement.
- Evil Is Stylish: While the Vodacce aren't necessarily evil, the rest of Theah thinks this trope applies. Hey, if even Montaigne considers their fashion impressive...
- Gender-Restricted Ability: Sorte, the Vodacce sorcery, is only possessed by women. Girls who show the ability are kept illiterate, and are kept locked away from the public much of the time. It allows sorceresses, called a strega to see the various social connections between people, seen as physical threads connecting them. The strega can then attempt to alter these threads, strengthening or loosening them. Fate makes sure what the strega wants to happen, happens. At their most powerful, they can literally strangle with the red string, though the thread meaning romance is blue to them.
- Vodacce men have their own (rare) permutation of Sorte, although it's easily overlooked because it's mentioned in only a few places in the nation book. It's called being "unbound" and essentially makes the guy impervious to the manipulations of the Fate Witches: His strands can't be seen, and a strega attempting to attach a thread to him will always fail and suffer a backlash. Needless to say, Fate Witches are terrified of these guys, because their one defense against the often-brutal Vodacce men is the threat of sorcery.
- High-Class Call Girl: The courtesans (see below).
- Pride: Yessiree, and one of the leading causes of brawls, duels, and blood-feuds in Vodacce.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: But not in the way you'd think—Playing dirty is expected in Vodacce, but they have an honor-code which no noble (particularly gentlemen and -women) will lightly disregard. Of course, Vodacce being Vodacce, adherence to the Code varies.
- School of Seduction: Vodacce women can train to be courtesans; essentially they're very expensive prostitutes who hope to find a rich noble to leech off of. However, Vodacce courtesans are also given the chance to be educated (unlike noblewoman, who are kept illiterate), and many are appreciated for their intelligence and wit as well as their beauty.
- A Sinister Clue: In the 7th Sea RPG, being left-handed is an advantage with a tangible combat benefit, with the conceit that everyone is used to fighting right handed opponents more. Vodacce characters can buy this advantage at a discount, and everyone who learns the Ambrogia Swordsman School, the main school of Vodacce swashbucklers, gets this advantage for free when using the style.
Note: Since the secret societies of 7th Sea are secret a great many of these examples are hidden with spoiler text. Those that aren't are generally common knowledge.
The secret societies of 7th Sea provide examples of
- Another Dimension: Die Kreuzritter have an artifact ring which gives agents the permanent ability to step into another dimension through shadows. This allows for a sort of short teleportation.
- Death Faked for You: The public believes Die Kreuzritter's full membership was killed to a man. Actually the hierophant cut a deal with the lesser known members to allow the group to live on. Most of the group, including all the best known members, sacrificed themselves to give the illusion of complete destruction. New members tend to have their deaths faked in similar manners
- He Who Fights Monsters: Die Kreuzritter is well aware of this trope and members try to shy away from it. It doesn't always work.
- These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Well, they found out sorcery is likely going to unleash eldritch abominations upon the Earth. So they're going to do something about it.
- Who You Gonna Call?: Expect them to be any place there's something really bad happening.
The Explorer Society
- Adventurer Archaeologist: The whole point of the Explorers.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Lots of Syrneth sites are like this, as one might expect for a setting like 7th Sea. Just as problematic, though, is that most of the other Secret Societies think the Explorers are meddling in Things Man Was Not Meant to Know and must be "dealt with." Later in the timeline, the Explorers get understandably touchy about this as they learn just how thoroughly this trope applies to them.
- Precursors: Called the Syrneth, finding artifacts they left behind is The Explorer's Society's bread and butter. The syrneth are actually about a half dozen different sets of precursors, each with their own style and theme.
The Invisible College
The Knights of the Rose and Cross
- Captain Ersatz: El Vago is modeled after Zorro and, apparently, V of V for Vendetta fame.
- There's a picture of him in the color section of at least one edition of the main book. The V reference becomes obvious.
- La Résistance: Against the Inquisition and the Montaignes invading Castille.
- Shrouded in Myth: The mysterious El Vago himself.
- La Résistance: Against any form of authority, primarily the Montaigne.
- We ARE Struggling Together!: Rilasciare barely has any connection between the different groups, so organizing anything becomes difficult.
- Bomb Throwing Anarchist: A great deal of effort is taken to show the reasons why the Free Thinkers are anti-authoritarian. That said, their lack of cohesiveness and tendency to be generically anti-authority is also recounted in great detail. And all the explosives skills are in their splat book (two of three new skills listed are "Arson" and "Bomb-Making.").
Novus Ordum Mundi There's nothing here to see, just move along...
- Basically The Illuminati.
- NOM is the product of an Ancient Conspiracy concocted by the servants of some Senators who thought it'd be a cool idea to make a pact with some demons in exchange for horrible magic powers. The servants were understandably annoyed by this, and so they made a deal with each other (after killing their errant masters) that they would do everything they could to keep Thea on a tight leash and make sure the world leaders don't screw it up, and that's why Thea doesn't have fuel-efficient vehicles. NOM, combined with the fact that Thea used to be overrun by insectoid/lizardlike people, adds a strange tinfoil hat flavor to this swashbuckling RPG.
- Of course, ruling all of the nations in secret is not enough for these people. They have their fingers in several other pies, such as Sophia's Daughters and The Invisible College.
- As a matter of fact, they just pretty much ate the whole pie as far as The Invisible College is concerned. Alvara is their de facto leader, and everyone looks up to him and just eats out of the palm of his hand, but little do they know that he's using their well-meaning organization to further his own goals.
- Oh, and it gets better! He is not only bending The Invisible College to his will, but he has made himself the leader, more or less, of NOM, which is supposed to be leaderless. Not bad for a scholarly old Castillan gentleman (who once roasted an inquisitor alive in its own armor).
The rest of the game world of 7th sea provides examples of
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Captain Reis' unmistakable crescent shaped scythe. It cuts through Dracheneisen, along with everything other material.
- Action Girl: Plenty though the Sea Dogs' first mate "Bloody" Bonnie McGee is one of the most prominent.
- Ancestral Weapon: Most Dracheneisen weapons are inherited.
- Anachronism Stew : a heavy dose to go with No Celebrities Were Harmed - the "French" Revolution is brewing under "Louis XIV" while "Napoleon" is bogged in the Retreat from "Russia". "Vikings" raid the "East India Company".
- Armor Is Useless: Justified, as bullets and rapiers have brought an end to the era of the armored knight. Unless it's made of dracheneisen, armor does nothing. (And in a society based heavily on seafaring, it'd be literal deadweight much of the time...) Quoting the book itself (which doesn't give armor stats), "If you want armor, play an Eisen noble. Everyone else simply goes without."
- Back-to-Back Badasses: An encouraged fighting tactic, the Eisen have the word rucken to describe a pair who do this all the time.
- Band of Brothels: The Jenny's Guild. It's quite politically powerful, holding one of the main seats of the Vendel League.
- BFS: Zweihanders, Eisen swords as tall as the wielder. Also Highland claymores.
- Black Box: The game prefers any syrneth artifact introduced by the GM to behave like this, fully taking advantage of Clarke's Third Law.
- Blade Brake: The 'Ride the Sail' trick from the Rogers swordsman school.
- Blade on a Stick: The boar spear is a popular Eisen weapon, and even has its own swordsman school.
- Blessed Are the Cheesemakers: One of the things that Avalonian Glamour mages can do when channeling the hero "Jack" is turn a small object into a fist sized hunk of cheese. They can turn it into other stuff, too, but that's the only food (unless you count the live bird, which vanishes if killed and hence would be rather unfilling). Presumably this is because the legend of Jack involves him turning something into cheese, but the game doesn't elaborate.
- The game may not elaborate directly, but it can be assumed that the story of Jack is similar to the stories of "Jack the Giant Killer", "The Brave Little Tailor", and "Jack and the Beanstalk". One such tale has the hero tricking a giant by claiming he can squeeze water from a rock. He switches the rock for cheese, squeezes water from it, and fools the giant utterly. Also you can get a loaf of bread from an object with Jack, so cheese is not the only foodstuff.
- Born Lucky: Jeremiah Berek, his luck is so legendary in Avalon that Glamour mages can choose to call upon his luck directly.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Vaticine church is very very close to Roman Catholicism. In fact, the 1st prophet is Jesus' exact analog. Oddly enough, it goes on to have a Crystal Dragon Mohammed as well, as the 2nd prophet acts as a close analog for him. This makes the lack of any group which is identifiably Jewish all the more glaring.
- Actually, strictly speaking, the Vaticine Church is a blend of Islam (with the three Prophets and prophesied fourth) and Catholicism (in terms of social and political influence). Matthias Lieber is a fairly transparent analogue to Martin Luther, making the Objectionists a kind of Muslim Protestant sect. The Crescent Empire follows mainly the second prophet, making them more similar to Christians, while the Ussuran Orthodoxy follow only the first prophet and the teachings of Matushka. They're likely intended to represent the Russian Orthodox faith, but one could also make the argument that they are the Jewish analogue in the setting. The Glamour Isles' continued propitiation of the Sidhe, as well as the Druidic faith described in the Glamour Isles supplement, are representative of Old World paganism, as are many of the Eisen superstitions. Finally, the Vestenmannavnjar gods or "living runes" are obvious references to the old Norse deities. Really, the setting presents quite a bit of religious diversity, if you pay attention.
- The Crescent Empire sourcebook introduces a straightforward Islam analogue, with some undercurrents of an earlier pagan religion. It doesn't bother to explain why previous books said that the Crescents follow the second prophet of the Vaticines.
- Combat by Champion: The swordsman's guild allows this sort of combat to be done by just paying your champion.
- Dark Chick: Dalia after turning undead and joining the Black Freighter. (Granted she was already pretty villainous as a Corsair.)
- Death Seeker: Joern Keitelson, first mate of the Crimson Rogers. He set out to kill the Vendel after his village was raided by them. He ran into the Rodgers and killed so many of Reis' crew, Reis was impressed and gave him the position. Joern doesn't care about anything but fighting until he dies.
- Did Not Do the Research: The Invisible College sourcebook treats rifles as though they are a complete gamebreaker, but in the real world by this time rifles had been around for centuries. It wasn't until the invention of the minie ball that they became a viable weapon, and given the invention rules, no one is going to be able to invent a minie ball.
- Discredited Meme: Mentioned in the rulebook. The rules explicitly allow the GM to punish anyone who makes Monty Python references.
- Drunken Master: The Finnegan school of pugilism teaches a form of boxing that's rather unique. A master will get better at fighting while they get more and more inebriated. Unsurprisingly, it was invented in Inismore.
- Duel to the Death: Very possible if the offense is grave enough.
- Executive Meddling: There are rumors the John Wick, who created both Seventh Sea and Legend of the Five Rings originally intended for both games to take place in the same universe but that he was forced to abandon this plan due to copyright issues with Wizards of the Coast.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: All of the nations, and some minor cultures. Think of it as a slightly more advanced 18th Century Europe mixed with One Piece.
- Fatal Flaw: Characters may take a special disadvantage called a hubris which the GM can exploit specifically so they can make the wrong decision. In addition, each swordsman school has a weakness that is explained in its description can be exploited via the school's aptly named "Exploit Weakness" knack.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Several NPC's have encountered syrneth artifacts or had other supernatural encounters that left them... changed. Gerald Hohne of the Crimson Rodgers and Hamish of the Corsairs are good examples.
- Ghost Pirate: The Black Freighter is a ship full of these.
- Glove Slap: Sword dueling is quite common, and is usually legal in most countries.
- The GM Is a Cheating Bastard: The GM's guide explicitly gives two rules. Rule #1: There Are No Rules. Rule #2 Cheat anyway.
- Grappling Hook Pistol: A very common item of equipment for any adventurer.
- Heroic Sacrifice: All of Philip Gosse's crew.
- Hook Hand: There's an artifact called the Scarlet Hook of Madness.
- Implacable Man: PC's may choose the "Man of Will" advantage, which makes them immune to fear, mind altering effects of any sort, and they can't be socially bullied in any way. Needless to say, it's a VERY expensive advantage to buy at character creation.
- Implausible Fencing Powers: Most swordsman schools get pretty ridiculous as to what they can do.
- For example, making a broadsword hit someone like a gunshot wound.
- Istanbul (Not Constantinople): It's really pretty blatant about this.
- Lady of War: Fauner Posen of Eisen. Do NOT mess with her.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The CCG can be blamed for this.
- The Longitude Problem: Incorporated into the worldbuilding.
- Lord British Postulate: Captain Reis, the pirate depicted in red on the page image above is intended for use as a plot device by the DM to either make the PCs run away, or die. In melee, he is essentially unstoppable, since his weapon ignores any kind of armor and slices through even Dracheneisen with trivial ease (meaning you can't parry either). However, if you manage to shoot him in the head and burn all your drama dice for extra damage, he will go down, since you can't block bullets and he doesn't wear armor.
- You can't spend Drama Dice on damage rolls, unless you have some ability that allows you to do so.
- But you can spend Drama Dice on attack rolls, where calling Raises will increase damage.
- Mooks: Called brute squads. They come in packs of 6. A typical PC can take down a standard set in about 2 or 3 rounds. And an experienced swordsman can take out 2 or 3 brute squads in one round.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Only this time it's with historical figures.
- Pirate: All the tropes that go with them.
- Pirate Girl: "Bloody" Bonnie McGee, amongst others.
- The Plague: The white plague, which is analgalous to the real world's black plague. It was a magical disease released by Sophia's Daughters to make sure that sorcery didn't wind up spreading too wide.
- Point Build System: A completely free-form one, players aren't told where the points need to be assigned at all.
- Retired Badass: Phillp Gosse, gentleman pirate, he claimed his own island after plundering so much treasure. He decided to have one last adventure.
- Rich Idiot With No Day Job: A common way for noble heroes to go out and do things which may lose them face at court. Phineas Flynn, the highwayman of Avalon, fits this well too.
- Sourcebook: One for every major nation, and one for every major secret society. They're of variable quality, but still provide useful background information.
- Swashbuckler: Too many to count, NPC and PC alike.
- Slave Galley: The Corsairs love to use slave labor.
- Soul Jar: Kheired-Din of the Corsairs found a cross that acts as a soul jar. He'll always regenerate, even if his body is completely destroyed, unless the cross is destroyed first.
- Spin-Off: The card game.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Tom Toblin of the Sea Dogs is really Nicole Cowbey. She signed on board to find the murderer of her father and her husband, and disguised herself so she wouldn't be recognized.
- Team Pet: Several ships have pets on board, but most notable is Captain the mascot of the Sea Dogs of Avalon. Jeremiah Berek claims that he is the true captain of his ship and anyone surrendering to them must surrender to the dog.
- Theme Park Version: Instead of a rich tapestry of smaller states and annexed countries, with their varied-but-dying cultures and languages, we have seven very simplistic countries.
- The Undead: The Black Freighter, a ship of the undead that sails once per generation to torment the living.
- Volleying Insults: Some swordsmen, especially Montaigne ones, are experts at this.
- The Vendel as well, who have a swordsman school whose Master level ability is to gain an extra action each turn—which can only be used to taunt enemies.
- Walking Wasteland: The (theoretically extinct) Zerstorung sorcery school.
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men: It describes any sea based adventure perfectly.
- Wretched Hive: The city of Freiburg in Eisen, unsurprising, as there's no real government there.
No Banter, No Barter, No Quarter.