I took to heart the advice I got about running a 7th Sea game to see how it worked at the table. I got in contact with a few of my friends from games that I have run in the past, most recently my Monster of the Week campaign (and also D&D Adventurers League). Upon contacting my friends to see if they would be up for a one shot of the game, my friend actually found a coworker that had playtested the game when it was Kickstarting, and she wanted to know if she could play as well. That brought me up to five players.
The new FLGS is located in a mall, and they have permission to run events in the hallway outside of the store. Since there was a Warhammer 40K tournament today, we got to play out in the hall. It was actually kind of fun. We had two tables next to the food court, and it was actually more comfortable than trying to squeeze into the store.
I wanted to make sure that the players had a chance to make up characters, so we started earlier than I normally would. I printed out character sheets and a cheat sheet for each of the players. The team we ended up with consisted of the following heroes:
Ashleigh Winters, Avalon Duelist/Knight Errant
William of Lochlarn, Highlander Bard/Seanchaidh
Felix, Montaigne Criminal/Orphan
Ivan Markevich, Ussura Cossack/Farm Kid
Karen Wolfke, Eisen Mercenary/Monster Hunter
One one hand, people picked a wide range of national origins, which could have made getting them together tough. No one really wanted to go with the "shared secret society" angle, either. Thankfully, the stories of multiple characters allowed for some interaction and some guidance on how to get the team together. I decided to run an opening scene with each character to get them to Avalon, where Ashleigh was already waiting for them. William had met Ashleigh before, and because of some imagined slight, he wishes to duel Ashleigh, but Ashleigh won't agree to it. Because of that, William is following Ashleigh around until he convince him to duel.
Felix is a thief that travels from place to place looking for a score, ostensibly to steal from the rich and give to the poor, but often becoming too tempted with wealth to do the last part of his initial plan. Ivan accidentally defected from the Ussuran military by boarding the wrong ship. I honestly loved his story, which he named "Accidental Deserter," which requires him to make it home to Ussura to explain how he got on the wrong ship.
William started out running from members of another Highland clan, who were convinced he had stolen their horse. This impression was bolstered by the fact that the horse's livery had the other clan's symbols all over it. William spun his horse around, drove hard between them, then jumped across a ravine to escape them, driving hard for Carleon.
Felix got a tip on how to break into a Montaigne expatriate's house in Carleon, and in the course of breaking in, Felix found some strange papers along with the jewelry he had hoped to score. Upon seeing watchmen on the street below, Felix knocked out the captain with his sack of treasure, then took out the rest, and lifted a pass that the watch captain had, allowing him access to restricted parts of the city.
Ivan was on a ship sailing out of Vesten, hoping to convince his hosts to drop him off somewhere that would allow him to make his way home. When a storm blew up, Ivan's ship seemed to be hundreds of miles off course, with a broken mainmast, about to slam into a cliffside. Through a major feat of strength, Ivan held up the broken mast long enough for the crew to steer away from the cliffs, and the ship sailed into the nearest port, which was, impossibly, Carleon.
Karen was travelling with a Vaticine priest that was helping her hunt monsters, and when he died, he asked for her to return his body to Carleon, where most of his family lived. Because of the curse laid on the priest, he may rise as an unquiet spirit if the wake isn't performed properly, so she had to find an officiant, the proper venue, and invite his family. She managed to find the venue and officiant, but failed to invite his family members. The priest's spirit was laid to rest, but a minor curse of bad luck fell upon his family, which she now feels compelled to lift. She began to research where all of his family members were located to help them.
Ashleigh was being questioned about indiscretions related to Lady Ashmore while Ashleigh was on his last mission. He managed to talk his way out of trouble, and was given the mission to board the Silver Starlight, a merchant vessel plying the Montaigne straights, to investigate why ships had been disappearing in the straights, leaving no signs of being wrecked or scuttled.
Out On The Streets
Ashleigh walked out of his hearing, near the docks, at which point William found him and challenged him to a duel. Ashleigh told William that he had important business, but they could conclude things later. William threw a fit, and attracted attention of from Ivan, Felix, and Karen.
Hearing about the disappearing ships, Karen wanted to investigate possible ghost ships. William, who was extremely skeptical of the supernatural, laughed off the notion. Felix decided to join the investigation because the papers he stole from the Montaigne expatriate mentioned payments that indicated that the disappearance of the ships were related to some kind of payment to the expatriate. Ivan just wanted to talk to someone in authority to ask for a ride home.
Ashleigh told Captain Chelin of the Silver Starlight that the rest of the heroes were his cohort for the investigation, but since William had bargained his own way onto the ship, he allowed William to be put to work as a hand on the ship.
The party was invited to dine with Captain Chelin, except for William, who was sent to serve the party in the captains quarters. After introductions, the first mate brought word that a strange ship was seen on a parallel course to the Silver Starlight. Karen and Ivan raced each other up to the crow's nest, Felix stole a spyglass, and Ashleigh politely thanked the captain for dinner before stealing Felix's spyglass back from the thief.
The ship in the distance was the Vile Lass, an lost Montaigne pirate ship. On the deck was a pale man in out of fashion captain's gear, with glowing red eyes. The group also spotted a strange, small island that doesn't appear on any charts.
The team headed to the mysterious small island to investigate, while staying away from the circling Vile Lass. On the island, the group found that the ground was oddly spongy, and beneath what appeared to be rocks and soil was grey sludge of some kind. At this point, another much more fashionable dressed Montaigne ripped a hole in reality with Porte magic, and expressed surprise at the people on "his" island.
After getting bashed in the head with a barrel and stabbed by Ashleigh, the Porte sorcerer opened more screaming wounds in reality, dumping masses of tentacles and eyes onto the island. Karen and Felix both fell through the crust into the island, into the grey sludge. The Porte using Montaigne left before anyone could assault him further, leaving the heroes to deal with his tentacled masses.
Ivan turned into a bear using his native sorcery and saved Felix from the tentacled horror, after Karen "saved" him by throwing him clear of the sludge. Eventually the creatures were dispatched, but William decided the small island, devoid of caves, must have had a bear living on it, and wondered where Ivan went.
Ship to Ship
The Vile Lass closed on the Silver Starlight, and after a quick conference and work from the ship's surgeon, the heroes attempted to board the Vile Lass before she began to open fire on the Silver Starlight.
Ivan swung across into the gun wells of the Vile Lass, while Karen and Ashleigh swung across to the deck, and Felix waited until the ships got close enough for him to jump across without a rope. Karen and Ashleigh barreled into a deck full of skeletons forming into crew.
Under the decks, ghostly crew members loaded cannons to fire at the Silver Starlight. Ivan moved one of the cannons so that it fired across to take out the other cannons. He then waited for the ghosts to light the cannon again, and aimed it at the deck of the ship.
Ashleigh and Karen finished off the skeletal crew, and as William charged across the deck, he wondered how the captain animated the skeletons to scare off his victims--probably wires of some sort. William then charged the captain, while Felix crept up behind him. Ashleigh and Karen engaged the spectral captain from the front.
Surrounded, the captain lashed out, primarily at Karen and her special sword, glowing in the presence of the supernatural. The captains sword was covered in frost as he attempted to freeze the monster hunter, but the heroes managed to hold him off long enough for Karen to put her pistol under his chin, pull the trigger, and when his head started to reform, she ran her monster slaying blade through his body, causing him to fall into a pile of clothing, devoid of captain.
Felix stole a strange compass from the captain's body, which looked much like the compass held by the Porte mage on the strange island. Ivan's work below decks caused the ship to sink, and the heroes crossed back over to the Silver Starlight, watching the ship dissolve into mist as it broke apart. William decided that the supernatural is extremely unlikely, but perhaps a few people still make unholy bargains with Legion that pay off.
This session went really well. I didn't prepare anything, other than to have cheat sheets ready to remind me of rules without looking them up, and to give me some hints at scene structure. Once the characters had stories in place, I put together the outline of a plot for the session.
I allowed Karen a Dracheneisen sword as a special item, even though it was a bit much for a Signature Item, but this was potentially a one shot, and she agreed that if we ever moved to a long term campaign with the same character, she would rework this part of the character.
The story that William's player wrote was to gain Comaraderie once he realizes he doesn't want to kill Ashleigh. I love that story. I also love that Ivan is attempting to get the title of "Trustworthy" by returning home to explain his accidental desertion. Felix is going to accidentally get a reputation for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, despite not actually following through on the second part. He's going to accidentally help out repeatedly. I loved that I could dive straight in to Karen's past with her priest friend in the intro. The stories gave me a lot to work with.
I was surprised that, as soon as I explained the "I Fail" mechanic, I had multiple players volunteering to fail to see how the mechanic looked. It was a great show of trust and enthusiasm for seeing what I would do with the mechanic.
I had a lot of fun coming up with Opportunities, although I started one scene without establishing consequences or coming up with Opportunities, but it happened less often than I thought it would. A few times I let people do a little too much with their raises at one time, but after allowing it, I mentioned that I should have split the different actions into different parts of the round, and everyone understood. It didn't happen too often, but at least twice.
I'm definitely looking into finding a way to fit a regular 7th Sea game into my schedule after this session.