Game: B-
From 524 reviews

7th Sea

First Edition

A Great Pirate RPG ... For a European Setting

Publisher Description

7th Sea is a tabletop roleplaying game of swashbuckling and intrigue, exploration and adventure, taking place on the continent of Théah, a land of magic and mystery..

Players take on the roles of heroes thrown into global conspiracies and sinister plots, exploring ancient ruins of races long vanished, and protecting Kings and Queens from murderous villains.

It is a world of sharp blades and sharp wits, where a cutting retort can be just as deadly as a sword’s point!

7th Sea is one of the oldest and most popular "swashbuckling and sorcery-themed" (ie. fantasy pirate) RPGs ever made, as you can see from its Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Game of 1999, or the fact that it ranks 73rd out of (all editions of) all RPGs on RPG Geek.

Originally created as a collectible card game, the fantasy (but heavily based on real-world 17th century Europe) setting was later turned into a full-fledged pirate/swashbuckler RPG by AEG, the same company behind earlier editions of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG (another CCG-based RPG).

Edition Note

Before we go any further, we should mention that Seventh Sea actually has two editions, but most gamers will want to stick with the first.  The game's second edition was a dramatic shift from the first (from a more traditional RPG to a more narrative one), which displeased most of the game's original fans. As a result, the seonc edition ranks more than a hundred places behind the first on RPG Geek.

Fortunately, both editions of the game are available from its current publisher (Chaosium), as well as digitally on Drive Thru RPG, and on used-game sites like Noble Knight and EBay.  While most will likely want to pick the first edition, if you're a fan of games with a heavier narrative focus you may instead want to check out the second edition.

It's A Pirate RPG, But Not A One Piece RPG

However, while 7th Sea is an excellent game for a fantasy 17the century setting, it's not designed for the world of a Japanese anime.  You'll find rules for a German claymore-wielder or a French swashbuckler,  but not for a character with rubber powers, or most of the other powers of the characters in One Piece.

To run a One Piece campaign with 7th Sea, you'll definitely need to do some work to adapt its rules ...

7th Sea, First Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

Just as with it's sister game (Legend of the Five Rings), before creating their character  mechanically, players in 7th Sea are strongly encouraged to play the "game of 20 questions".  These questions force the player to decide their character's country, motivation, fears, loyalties, family, religion, and so on, so that they have a true character in mind before they ever start filling out their "character sheet".

Once they start that sheet, the first field they'll fill in is their country, which is also their race.  There are analogues of all the major 17th century European countries, so your character can be from France (Montaigne), Russia (Ussura), Germany (Eisen), and so on.  Each country offers different in-game bonuses, so for instance the Eisen (German) characters get a bonus to Strength, while characters from Montaigne (French) instead get a bonus to Panache.

Next, the player gets 100 "hero points" which they can spend on traits, sorcery or sword fighting schools, advantages, skills/knacks, backgrounds and virtues.  They can also gain a hubris (which are negative) in exchange for 10 extra points.

Although 7th Sea doesn't have "classes",  a few expensive point options almost amount to the same thing.  To become a sorcerer the player must spend 20/40 points (depending on whether you are half- or full-blooded), and to learn a sword fighting "school" they'll have to spend 25 points (35 if it's from another country).  Both sorcery and sword fighting schools vary heavily by country.

After those major choices the player can spend points on traits, which are similar to attributes in other RPGs.  Each trait starts at two and costs 8 points to raise (max 3, unless the character has a country bonus).  Next the player can buy advantages for their character, making them noble, dangerously beautiful, or even an ordained priest.

After that the player can buy "skills" for 2 points, which are really more like professional skill sets.  Examples include Courtier, Sailor or Spy, as well as martial skills such as Fencing or Firearms.  Each skill is subdivided further into "knacks", providing a single rank in each.  For example, a doctor gains the Diagnosis, First Aid, and Quack knacks at 1 each.  Players can spend more points to raise knacks, or buy "advanced" knacks (eg. Surgery).

Finally, the character can buy Backgrounds and Arcana.  Backgrounds vary in cost, and range from having Amnesia, to Romance, to Debt.  Each Background is negative, but it provides the player bonus XP whenever it affects the game.  Arcana are unique marks of fate on the character, which can either be a beneficial Virtue (costing 10 points) or a negative Hubris (giving 10 points).

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

7th Sea is a d10-based system, and most rolls involve rolling a number of d10s equal to the appropriate trait plus the appropriate knack.  The player then keeps a number of dice equal to the trait (but not the knack), and totals the result.

If a die rolls a 10 it "explodes", and the player keeps the 10 but then re-rolls the die and adds that result ... and if any further 10s are rolled, they too explode.  If the final total exceeds the target number set by the GM (with 15 being average difficulty), the action succeeds.

If the player thinks the target number is too low, they can voluntary add five to the target number, which is called taking a "raise".  Raises allow the character to succeed with some extra benefit or flourish.  For example, if an archer wanted to shoot a man it wouldn't require any raises, but if they wanted to shoot him in a specific body spot, that would require one or more raises (depending on where exactly),

On top of all this both the players and the GM each get "drama dice", with players typically getting two, and the DM three plus one per player.  These dice have several uses, but their primary one is that they can be spent to add a single kept die to a rolle, and this die can even be added after the rest of the dice have been rolled.

Combat [ edit ]

Combat in 7th Sea is organized into rounds, which are further divided into ten phases.  When a round starts players roll a die for each point of Panache they have.  The GM then counts from 1 to 10, and if a player rolled that phase's number they get to act on that phase (multiple times if multiple dice rolled the same number).  This means that a swashbuckler with a higher Panache score actually gets to act more in combat.

A character can move in combat by using their action, and rather than having a movement score a single movement action let's them reach anywhere in the current map level, or else let's them change map level (eg. running down stairs).  The goal is to encourage dramatic scenes and swashbuckling bravery, and not on square-by-square tactical combat.

Attacking also requires an action, and is accomplished by making a Finesse + Weapon Skill check, which needs to beat five plus five times the defender's Defense knack.  If the attack would hit, and still has an action remaining, they can give it up to make a Wits + Defense roll, and if it beats the attack roll they successfully defend.

Whenever a character takes damage (the amount varies by weapon) they take a number of flesh wounds equal to that damage.  They also have to make a Brawn check which beats their total damage so far.  If it fails they also take a Dramatic Wound, which clears their flesh wounds but have other ill effects: too many wounds and the character's dice no longer explode, or eventually they pass out.

While there are a few more details beyond this, overall 7th Sea's combat rules are fairly straightforward, and mainly focus just on the basics (as you can see from this combat summary).  The overall goal is to allow for dramatic swashbuckling scenes, and features like raises and the drama dice help encourage this.

Should You Buy It? [ edit ]

Again Seventh Sea (First Edition) ranks in the top 100 of all games/editions on RPG Geek, and when it first premiered in 1999 it won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Game.

But it's also received great reviews on other sites as well, earning a 4.6 / 5 for both the player's and GM's guide on  Similarly Drive Thru RPG (where only customers can make reviews) gave both books a 4.5 / 5.

However, while 7th Sea is a great pirate game, using it for a One Piece campaign will acquire either having a much more mundane European feel, or else "home-brewing" a lot of rules for all the more unique aspects of One Piece, so don't choose this game unless one of those two options appeals to you.