“Is that…” Dulce, on my left, breathed. I could sense that she was ready to draw her sword and just take it then and there. Few people ever made the mistake twice of getting in her way when she had her sword drawn. Although I couldn’t sense it, I was sure that Tubal had his strange abilities ready to be unleashed, too, and Torren had all of our backs, if it came down to a fight.
“No, its not the real one.” The voice of the bartender, turning from serving a greybearded patron and facing us. A balding, slightly overweight man, he looked at us with beady eyes. “No, its not the real golden idol of Osric, its only brass. Before I could let out a disappointed sigh, he continued. “ However, I found it on an island called Eregnor, where I am sure the real one lies.”
My heart leapt. I didn’t quite know why Dulce, Torren and Tubal had signed up with me to find it, but as for my part, if I could find the real Idol, nothing would be in my way of marrying the fair Grace.
“Tell us more…” I urged the bartender.
Chapter Seven is my favorite chapter, because that's the Gamemastering chapter. I've been called a "GM for all occasions" and I buy games and supplements with an eye toward "How can I run this?" So, how does Chad approach GMing S7s?
Chad doesn't assume that you are a good GM or would be a good GM of S7s without guidance. And guidance he provides. Much of his advice can be exported out of S7s and into GMing in general. Much like the advice on how to run games in Spirit of the Century, Chad's advice is portable and applicable across a wide variety of systems. I admit that the advice does not work for all systems and all games, but any GM can find words to ponder and reflect upon in this chapter.
For example, his advice on rolling dice:
Only Roll When You Have To
Seriously: if something’s not important, don’t roll dice...
The answer is two part: 1) don’t roll much; and 2) when you roll, the result should be
interesting, whether the character succeeds or fails.
And his advice on the role of a GM:
You’re More the Cruise Director than the Captain
As a GM, you have two responsibilities: 1) making sure everyone—including
you—is having fun; and 2) making sure the story as you and your group are
creating through play has some sort of cohesiveness. But the order these two
things are listed in is exactly the order of importance. Remember it.
While it’s best if fun and the artistry of the tale the players are writing walk
hand in hand, if push comes to shove, fun is more important than art.
Chad goes on to talk about GMing S7s in more specific detail, and how to make the game yours and your players. Here, its revealed
that some of the settings of the game can and should be tweaked for the preference of you and your gaming group. The strength of magic. The strength of firearms. What sort of aesthetic will your game have? What sort of structure? Et cetera. Think of it like a digital camera. While you can get good pictures on the automatic settings, it is when you venture out from those settings, and choose more specific settings that the pictures you take can really sing.
Chad does dig down to even more specific details, including a method on generating a scenario based on player characters motivations and foibles. Even from game start, with no prior story hooks, this method makes it possible for a GM to begin the game with scenarios based on the characters. Chad firmly believes that "its the characters, stupid" and this advice in GMing formalizes that.
Then there is this bit about the Perception roll. I use them often in my Exalted game, and they have a place here. With the default assumption that players narrate success and failure, though, in S7s, it might work like this:
“ Everyone make Ye Olde Perception Roll at TN 9 to see if you hear the
assassin sneaking in through the kitchen window. If you succeed, tell me
how and why you succeeded. If you fail, tell me how and why you failed .”
This chapter ends with a selection of NPCs, ranging from low level to some of the strongest NPCs in the setting.
Chapter Eight talks about Swashbuckling as a genre. It's conventions and tropes, and what should shine through in your S7s to reflect that genre.
This chapter works as well as a distillation of the genre in book and film form as well as its use in a role playing game. Action. Adventure. True Love. Revenge. Heroism. Courage. Honor. Humor. Passion. Intrigue. Romance. Style.
There are plenty of quotes from The Princess Bride in this chapter. It's clear that the movie is not only a favorite of Chad's, but its themes, style, panache and structure are a major influence and inspiration for S7s. But in addition to those quotes, and quotes from other films and books to illustrate these themes, there is an extensive bibliography, filmography and a ludography (game list). My Netflix queue has been enriched by reading this list, as well as to-read and to-play pile.
So what do I think?
Its a big book, and my only concern and hesitation in trying to run this is that it is a large amount to digest. Its hard to see how the book could or should be trimmed down for the purposes of running it, though. Chad does a comprehensive job.
I want to run this. I could have wished for, perhaps, a players version of the book like Trail of Cthulhu does, so that I can more easily infect the enthusiasm I have for the game on potential players.
Possibly, this game could do for the swashbuckling genre what Spirit of the Century did for the pulp genre.