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April 4, 2012

SotC / 7th Sea, simplified

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — inky @ 2:44 pm

A while back I did a thing on converting 7th sea characters to Spirit of the Century, but re-reading it the other night I decided it’s a little too heavyweight for actual games I’d run. So here’s an attempt at the same thing but stripped down, with a few other tweaks because I am compelled to do that (in practice this is basically a 7th-sea-themed SotC/Apocalypse World mashup).

Character setup:

Characters have skills (ranked Untrained, Average, Fair, Good, Great) chosen from the following list: Academics, Athletics, Brawn, Community*, Fingersmithery, Nature, Reflexes, Resolve, Riding, Sailing, Science, Stealth, Weapons*. Starred skills require a specialization: see below for details.

You can pick 20 points worth of skills, where a skill at Great costs four points, Good three, Fair two, Average one. This means the standard layout is a build with two skills each at Great, Good, Fair, and Average. If you want to have a more generalist build you can swap out either/both of the Great skills for one additional Fair and two additional Average skills, but it’s not recommended for most character concepts. Skills otherwise not ranked are considered to be Untrained.

In addition to the skills characters have five aspects, two “primary” aspects and three “secondary” ones. Primary aspects should be things that your character demonstrates most sessions: the most common primary aspects are going to be swordsman schools and sorcery, but you can use whatever your core character concept is (Dashing Courtier, Master of Deception, Man of Will, Crazy Alchemist, etc). Secondary aspects are things that flesh out the character, but don’t come up as frequently: Lucky, Good-Looking, Vodacce, and so on — though any particular aspect could work as a primary or a secondary depending on the character concept.

Basic mechanics:

Rolling a skill is done with the Apocalypse World model: 2d6+skill+modifier; less than 7 is a failure, 7-9 is a partial success, 10-11 is a full success, 12+ is an advanced success. A roll of 2 always fails and 12 always at least succeeds (it may be an advanced success). By default advanced successes act as normal successes, but see below about techniques. Skill adjustments are +3 for Great rank, +2 for Good rank, +1 for Fair, +0 for Average, -1 for Untrained. Other modifiers are set by the GM, but are usually +/-1 (+/-2 is as large as is generally seen in practice). As an alternative to a more extreme modifier, the GM may require an additional roll before the main roll.

Note that players roll all the dice in this system: to attack an opponent with a sword, a player rolls Weapons (Fencing), and to defend, they roll Weapons (Fencing), Athletics, Resolve, Reflexes, or other skill, depending on how they choose to defend.

Aspects are used to modify skill rolls and effects in two ways. If you have an aspect of any type (secondary or primary) that is related to the roll you’re making, then after you roll, you can pay a fate point to increase the success level by one step, from failure to partial success to full success to advanced success. You can even use an aspect on an opponent or on the situation, as long as it’s relevant (taunting someone with a Hot-Headed aspect, say).

Additionally, only with primary aspects, you can spend a fate point before or after a roll to unlock “techniques” of the aspect. Once unlocked, a technique is available for the rest of the adventure (without having to pay to unlock each time). The specifics of the technique get decided on at the time you unlock them, though they should roughly conform to the guidelines below.

Things a technique can do:

  • Negate a penalty, either a modifier or a required extra die roll (fighting in pitch darkness for an “Ambrogia Student” aspect; walking on a tightrope for an “Acrobat” aspect)
  • Provide a +1 or +2 bonus in some specialized situation (+1 for less-specialized situations, +2 for more-specialized) which isn’t a direct attack (+1 to Reflexes rolls when outdoors for a “Hawk and Wolf Are My Spirits” aspect; +2 to Fingersmithery rolls when picking locks for a “Master Burglar” aspect)
  • Get an advanced benefit when you roll an advanced success with a skill relevant to this aspect, instead of treating the advanced success as a normal success (Weapons (Heavy) rolls with a “Wandering Bogatyr Master” aspect; Science rolls with a “Mad Scientist” aspect)
  • No mechanical benefit, but allow some really specialized or magical in-world action (retrieving or pocketing an object for an “Apprentice Porte Sorcerer” aspect; performing the five-finger death punch for a “Cathayan Martial Artist” aspect)

…or anything else you feel like of roughly equivalent power (plenty of stunts from the standard FATE rules qualify, like reappearing in the guise of an NPC for a “Master of Deception” aspect).

Characters start off with five fate points. In terms of refresh, the usual fate point economy doesn’t seem to work well in our games (though maybe this is just a lack of practice) so I’m thinking we instead have something like Shadow of Yesterday‘s pool refresh rules, and say you refill your fate points when you relax in a manner appropriate to one of your aspects. Relaxation in this way takes up a large chunk of the day (6-8 hours, say) during which time you can’t be doing anything else of importance.

Maneuvers and blocks:

There are a few other things you can use skills for besides a direct assault on a problem: a maneuver betters your position in some way in preparation for a direct attempt later, while a block attempts to stop an opponent from completing an action.

A maneuver creates a temporary aspect which can be used for later rolls, with specific effect based on the success level of the skill roll used to it: a success creates the aspect which comes with one free fate point to use it once, after which the aspect goes away; an advanced success works the same but the aspect doesn’t go away until the end of the conflict (though you have to pay fate points to use it later); a partial success creates a different aspect than the one intended and/or comes with no free fate point; a failure creates a penalty aspect (see below) on the character who attempted the maneuver, or causes some other penalty (though a lesser penalty than for a normal skill roll). Maneuvers are usually easier than direct actions, and get a bonus to the roll: +2 if it’s something the target is especially vulnerable to (Community (Merchants) to taunt a hotheaded shopkeeper), +1 in the normal case (Fingersmithery to distract a crowd with juggling), and +0 if it’s something the target is especially invulnerable to (Weapons (Fencing) to intimidate the king’s fencing master). Aspects and penalty aspects created by maneuvers generally last until the end of the conflict, or some other short period of time.

A block is an attempt to interrupt an action in progress. The effectiveness of the block depends on the skill roll to create it as follows: a success stops the action from occurring but not necessarily in a way the blocker controls; an advanced success stops the action from occurring and lets the blocker take control of the momentum of the situation; a partial success hurts the blocker and/or only partly stops the action and/or doesn’t prevent the blockee from retrying their action; a failure means the action proceeds as usual.

Penalty Aspects:

There are a few ways in this system to acquire penalty aspects. If a character has a penalty aspect, their opponent (usually the GM) can choose when to use it, but they have to do so before the roll. When they do so, the character receives a -2 modifier to the roll (in addition to whatever other modifiers apply). The first time a penalty aspect is used, it’s free; after that, the opponent must pay the character a fate point to use the aspect.

Skill Details:

The following describes the skills in more detail. Starred skills, as mentioned, require a specialization. When using a skill outside its specialization, it is treated as two ranks lower (but not lower than Untrained).

  • Academics: Scholarship, library research, academic subjects that are mostly theoretical or observational (philosophy, mathematics, history, astronomy, cartography, ancient languages, etc)
  • Athletics: Physical activities involving the whole body that require both dexterity and strength: climbing, jumping, swimming, rolling.
  • Brawn: Physical activities primarily involving raw strength: arm-wrestling, shouldering down doors, pushing boulders.
  • Community*: The ability to act as a member of a particular social group: gathering information, fashion, bluffing, understanding motives. Specializations are by profession (soldier, pirate), location (Vodacce), or social class (peasant, noble). If the campaign is set entirely within a particular social group (the PCs are all pirates, or all in Vodacce), specializations should be smaller than that group (pirates belonging to group X, or people from Numa).
  • Fingersmithery: Physical activities involving manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and general cleverness: sleight of hand, lock-picking, knot-tying, juggling.
  • Nature: Knowledge of animals and the natural world: finding safe food and water in the wilderness, building fires, interpreting animal behavior, gathering and using herbs.
  • Reflexes: Anything that involves quick reaction and/or spotting: dodging thrown objects, reacting when ambushed, finding a hiding spot while being chased. Generally not a suitable skill for actions taking longer than a few seconds.
  • Resolve: Will, persistence, endurance: hanging onto a hot object, resisting a sleeping drug, leading troops on a steady charge into gunfire, staying watchful on a long guard shift. Generally not a suitable skill for actions taking less than a few minutes.
  • Riding: Horse selection and care, as well as riding them. Usually a roll is only required when performing tricks or unusual maneuvers while on horseback (or, for instance, jumping out a window and landing on a horse). Covers other basic horse-drawn vehicles like carriages.
  • Sailing: Ship building, piloting, navigating, rigging, etc. In most situations only one person on a ship needs to have sailing to operate the ship, though having more helps. Does not cover gunnery or boarding, beyond getting the ship in a reasonable position to attempt them.
  • Science: “Applied academics” that are mostly hands-on: alchemy, biology, chemistry, medicine, creating and analyzing poisons. Building large machines.
  • Stealth: Concealing people, actions, or things; or detecting concealed things: sneaking past a guard, making a surprise attack, setting up an ambush, finding a secret door.
  • Weapons*: Evaluating, attacking, and defending with weapons. Specializations are by type (bows, heavy, guns, fists) or by profession (duelist, assassin, soldier).

There is no skill for Sorte, Pyeryem, etc. If there is an obvious skill for for the situation (catching an object with Porte would be Athletics), you use that; if not, you use a default skill you select when you take the aspect. Suggested defaults are Porte: Weapons (Dueling Blades), Sorte: Community (any), Pyeryem: Nature, Laerdom: Sailing, Glamour: Fingersmithery.

Damage, wounds, and healing:

Damage from an attack depends on the source and the success level of the roll. There are two ways to absorb damage: stress and consequences. You can check off one or more stress boxes to absorb that many points of damage; alternately, you can check off a consequence to absorb some amount of damage (usually more than one point), but that forces you to also gain a penalty aspect describing the effects of the damage. Stress boxes are cleared at the end of the fight; consequences last some amount of time depending on the consequence.

You start off with two stress boxes, plus an additional one if you have at least a Fair Resolve or Brawn, and another one beyond that if you have at least a Great Resolve or Brawn. You have three consequences: a minor one that absorbs two points and lasts til the end of the fight; a moderate one that absorbs four points and lasts til you refresh your fate points; and a major one that absorbs six points and lasts til the end of the adventure. With an appropriate skill roll (usually Science), you can clear a minor consequence immediately instead of at the end of a fight.

Ballpark for weapon damage is that knives/daggers do two points, fencing swords and arrows do three points, heavy weapons do four, guns do five. A success on an attack roll does normal damage, an advanced success does one and a half times normal damage, a partial success does half damage; a partial success on a defense means you take half damage, and a failure means you take normal damage (and an advanced success gives you a +1 for your next move). Using a less-appropriate skill for defending (Resolve or Athletics are typically less-appropriate) may result in taking extra damage on a failure. A failure on attacking may result in you taking damage (which could be half or normal) or it may involve some other penalty.

Enemies and Groups:

Enemies meant to be a challenge singly have custom-designed sets of stress boxes and consequences; at minimum two to four stress boxes and one consequence that absorbs four points of damage and lasts for the duration of the adventure or longer.

Enemies meant to be a challenge in groups — minions — don’t have stress boxes or consequences: instead, a partial success injures one (or takes one out if already injured), a success takes out one, and an advanced success takes out one and injures another. However, defending against the attack of a group of minions takes a -1 penalty for each minion beyond the first in the group (but a group of minions only does damage as for a single attacker no matter how many minions are in the group). With an appropriate skill check, characters can reduce or eliminate the group penalty, either by maneuvering to limit the number of minions that can attack at once, or by disrupting their ability to work as a group (Athletics to move into a doorway, Brawn to topple a bookcase and provide some shelter, Community to taunt them into taking you on singly).

Minion variants might take more or less damage to be taken out (for weaker minions, a partial success takes out one, a normal success takes out two, and an advanced success takes out three; for stronger minions, a partial success gives a +1 to the character’s next roll, a normal success injures one, and an advanced success takes out one), modify the base bonus for rolling against them, or change which skills get the group penalty (a phalanx with shields might apply the penalty to attacking them instead of defending against their attacks; a group of gossipy nobles might apply the penalty to intimidating them).


Chases and other stuff work by having a second track, representing the distance. Your skill rolls are essentially tradeoffs between the distance track and a health track (could be the character’s health, could be their vehicle’s health). Like, a typical roll where you’re just focused on advancement is like: success is +1 on the distance track; advanced success is +2; partial success is either -1 on the distance track or +1 on the distance track and -1 on the health track; failure is -1 on the health track and -1 on the distance track. Distance track modifiers are either up or down depending on what you want; on a typical setup, the distance starts at 5-ish, the chaser gets the chasee if the distance drops to 0 and the chasee gets away if the distance hits 10. Instead of running the racers can also try to attack/trap the other racers, change the arena (crowded streets to rooftops) or the vehicle (grab a horse and ride off) and so on.


Couple possibilities for advancement in this system.

  • Permanently unlock a technique that you unlocked during the adventure/session
  • Gain a skill you don’t have at Average
  • Gain a new secondary aspect
  • Advance an aspect to a more powerful version that allows for more/better techniques (“Porte Apprentice” -> “Porte Master”)
  • Make a secondary aspect into a primary one (possibly making room by making a primary aspect into a secondary one)
  • Increase the rank of a skill (possibly making room by decreasing the rank of a neighboring-ranked skill)


For reference, probabilities at various modifiers out until success or failure has a 90% chance (this includes the rule that a 2 always fails and a 12 is always at least a success):

  failure partial success advanced
+6 0.03 0.06 0.19 0.72
+5 0.03 0.14 0.25 0.58
+4 0.03 0.25 0.31 0.42
+3 0.08 0.33 0.31 0.28
+2 0.17 0.42 0.25 0.17
+1 0.28 0.44 0.19 0.08
+0 0.42 0.42 0.14 0.03
-1 0.58 0.33 0.08 0.00
-2 0.72 0.25 0.03 0.00
-3 0.83 0.14 0.03 0.00
-4 0.92 0.06 0.03 0.00

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