There’s a game I’ve never played and yet I’ve enjoyed anyway. It’s called 7th Sea, and it’s a near-Earth (not an alternate history, but with deliberately obvious parallels) setting that, at its debut, was extremely innovative. Unlike much more ubiquitous roleplaying games, you don’t start off as someone who barely knows how to hold a sword; the game assumes you’re already a hero, and have already made a name for yourself. It’s a setting where from the moment you start, you are assumed to be affecting the fate of empires.
7th Sea was very popular, but the publisher didn’t develop it much. Now, the game and setting creator has obtained the rights to the game, and has set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund 7th Sea‘s second edition, with an initial goal of $30,000.
It was funded in seven minutes. It’s now raised over $800,000.
Yes, really. I told you this was popular, didn’t I? One has to wonder how the original publisher feels about it now. I can just imagine someone at the company saying “Thank goodness we still retain the rights to publish our own 7th Sea first edition stuff.”
Of course, odds of that mattering are slim at this point, because the fans are pouring in to support this one. Last week, it became the largest Kickstarter ever in the tabletop RPG category (the previous record being $684,755), and it still has two weeks left as I write these words. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t get over a million dollars in pledges.
And yes, some of those dollars are my own. I want this setting, even if I never actually play the game. I’m tempted to run a 7th Sea game using my own Fate Core hack. I’m even more tempted to see what I could draw on for ideas, as this setting was already an inspiration for my design. Yet even more than that, I want to read it for the sake of reading it. I enjoy a well-crafted campaign setting even when it doesn’t have great rules (hello, TSR-era Forgotten Realms), and even when I don’t actually play it.
7th Sea is set (primarily; the second edition is bringing in other continents for the first time) in Théah, a near-Earth analogue of Europe. It has nations like Avalon (British Isles), Montaigne (France), Castille (Spain plus Italy), and more. There is a religion based in Vaticine City (based on the Catholic Church), and there are the Objectionists who reject such authority (based on Protestantism), and followers of the One Prophet in the Crescent Empire (Islam).
And yet, none of them are exact analogues by any stretch of the imagination. The similarities are artfully balanced; they’re close enough to allow for the nuances of our real history to play into the game, while sufficiently different to make things new, exciting, and unpredictable.
And, while I obviously enjoy the Fate System the most, the 7th Sea Second Edition rules are easy to pick up and allow for some pretty fun thematic events, as well as the need for careful choices and accepting consequences in order to succeed.
You can read all about the project at the Kickstarter campaign page, but I’d like to summarize the stuff that’s been funded by this project. (For those who don’t know, Kickstarter campaigns have a minimum funding goal, and then additional, or “stretch,” goals beyond that if enough total money has been raised to fund a production run.)
There are several pledge tiers, based on how many books you want, whether you want them as PDFs or as dead trees, and whether you want extra goodies. I’m not going to detail all of them, but here are the ones I think will be of greatest interest to the general audience:
- $20: The 7th Sea Core Rulebook as a PDF via DriveThruRPG. It’s not stated, but the fact that this is an option implies it’s a “pre-order discount” over what the normal PDF price will be.
- $40: All PDFs, including First Edition 7th Sea books.
- $60: All PDFs, plus a hardcover 7th Sea Core Rulebook.
- $200: All PDFs, plus a limited-edition leatherbound 7th Sea Core Rulebook, plus any stretch goals labeled as “Pirate’s Booty.” This, in my opinion, is the minimum tier fans of the original game will want to pledge for.(And again, there are many more tiers.)
Here are the goodies that have been unlocked so far:
- Free Basic Rules. You do not have to pledge for this. If you’re reading this and thinking “Well, it sounds cool, but I don’t have the money for this kind of expense,” or “Crud, I only find out about this cool stuff after the Kickstarter is closed?” then you can still plan on getting the free rules to try things out for yourself without spending a dime.
- 7th Sea Core Rulebook.
- The Nations of Théah, Volume 1: a sourcebook detailing NPCs, locations, plots, and more in Avalon, Castille, Montaigne, and Eisen.
- The Nations of Théah, Volume 1: a sourcebook detailing NPCs, locations, plots, and more in Ussura, Vestenmennavenjar, Vodacce and the Sarmatian Commonwealth. (And if you’re experienced with the First Edition and you’re wondering about that last nation, it’s new.)
- The Crescent Empire: a sourcebook detailing lands inspired by Islamic and Egyptian nations.
- Lands of Gold and Fire: a sourcebook detailing Ifri, a new continent based on Africa.
- The New World: a sourcebook detailing lands inspired by Central and South America.
- The Pirate Nations: another sourcebook, detailing island kingdoms and pirate bands.
- Cities of Faith and Cities of Wonder: two sourcebooks giving close looks at cities all over the setting. (Note: Cities of Wonder, at the time of this article’s publication, was not yet unlocked; but with two weeks to go, a small matter of twenty thousand dollars is unlikely to be an obstacle.)
- Maps of Théah, the Crescent Empire, Ifri, and the New World, either as PDFs or print versions suitable for framing. They’re also included as Pirate Booty.
- A three-paneled GM screen in full color. Included as a PDF with the $40 pledge tier, and available as a hardbacked add-on or included as Pirate’s Booty.
- The Deck of Heroes and the Deck of Villains: card sets for NPCs that can be used at a moment’s notice. (This sounds great for the GM who needs to improvise because the players decided to throw a curveball.) Both decks are included as a PDF, a separate add-on, or as Pirate’s Booty. There’s also a separate sourcebook, Heroes and Villains, which gives more information on all of these characters.
- A special Storium expansion, joining the details of the campaign setting with an online storytelling game where every player is an author rather than an actor.
- 7th Sea novels by John Wick, creator of the setting. Now, I’m always suspicious of game tie-in novels, because it takes rare talent to meld the fun of a game’s setting with the very different storytelling style; but these are included as PDFs in the appropriate tiers, so they make an intriguing bonus. And while I might be suspicious, I’ve read some excellent gaming novels in my time. (I’m actually tempted to offer my services as an editor, but I’ve got a pretty full docket anyway.)
- Songs from the 7th Sea: a collection of tavern songs, sea shanties, and ambient sounds for use in your games, or perhaps just at a pirate party. It’s included as a download for everyone who pledges $40 or more.
If you’re wondering what else they might come up with in the time remaining, the answer is “not much.” Rather than be swept up in the excitement and keep adding promises, John Wick and his team have decided on a hard deadline: whatever they do as a result of this Kickstarter must be out in the world by the end of 2017. Nearly two years sounds like a long time, but take it from someone who knows the publishing world: they’re going to be busy beavers to get all that done.
And all the PDFs will be in the hands (well, on the screens) of their backers long before publication. Backers will have a chance to test, review, and suggest changes before anything gets “locked” by printing.
It’s hard not to get excited by this campaign. 7th Sea is an amazing setting. If you want a swashbuckling adventure with Renaissance and Age of Sail elements, there is literally no better setting out there. Even if you’re not looking to use the rules (hey, I’m not either), you’ll be able to mine the details for your own campaigns with just a little imagination.
See you on the high seas!