Mar 092017
 

RPG Review – 7th Sea Second Edition

7th Sea Second Edition cover

 

At A Glance -

For those of you who don’t know, 7th Sea 2nd Edition is a tabletop RPG set in “Theah”, a world very similar to 17th century Europe.

Pirates, heroes, political intrigue and secret societies in a world peppered with legends and lore, a pinch of sorcery, and a punch of corruption set the backdrop for the fantastic tales of your swashbuckling, savoy heroes.  All told with cinematic flare in this beautiful little 300 page gem by John Wick.

As most of you know, I don’t usually like to compare games that I’m reviewing with other games. That said, this is the 2nd edition of a game that I enjoyed very much so I think the review needs a little comparison to be complete. I really liked the original edition of 7th Sea.  It was a fun and refreshing look at the genre presented in a way that hadn’t really been done before.

The second edition is trimmed down a bit.  Sleeker mechanics and speedier action make for slightly fewer choices for the players but add so much more to the collaborative storytelling aspect of the game.

In short, I LOVE this edition!

Now that we have that out of the way,

On with the review!

The Book -

The book itself is absolutely beautiful.  The pages are filled with gorgeous and immersive landscapes, believable character portraits, and inspiring scene captures by a team of fantastic artists.  The rules are concise, with examples of execution, well laid out, and easy to find.

The Setting -

As mentioned before, the setting is roughly 17th century Europe with the names changed to protect the innocent.  This allows the players and GM to draw on the shorthand knowledge that they have about the real world country and/or culture upon which it is based.  The first 130 pages or so are dedicated to fleshing out Theah.  This section breaks down the individual countries, some of their collective views and values, a brief overview of the customs, important people, social strata, military, religion, etiquette, etc.  I wanted to just breeze over this section but wound up reading every word.  The attention to detail exercised here really comes through in the final product.  There is even a beautifully rendered coat of arms displayed for each one.  An important detail for a pirate campaign, methinks.

Be sure to click the link below to see a map of Theah!

7thSea_Map_1

The System -

The conflict resolution system for this game really sings.  It utilizes a d10 dice pool.  The size of your pool is determined not only by your stats, but also the type of action that you choose to take, as well as how you plan to portray that action in game.  In short, the more cinematic the action and immersed in the character you are, the more opportunities for success you have.  You are rewarded for using different types of actions in a scene, promoting the use of any and all skills that your character possesses.  This helps to eliminate the hack and slash feel that you get with a lot of games.  Sometimes it may make more sense from a productivity standpoint to just slash with your sword again instead of punching the bad guy in the jaw, even though in a lot of cases the right hook would just feel better.  This game rewards that sentiment.

This game approaches scene setting in a manner very similar to the medium that inspired it…

You guessed it, swashbuckling movies!

The scenes are framed by the GM.  The individual players announce how their character would like to approach the problem.  Whether they decide to be talky, sneaky, fighty, flighty, sexy, etc., the GM decides what stats and skills apply. Then he tells the players what the consequences of their actions will be as well as any opportunities that will arise from them. The players roll their dice pool, collecting “raises” (sets of dice that add up to 10) and choose how to spend their raises in regards to completing their goal, overcoming consequences, taking advantage of opportunities, helping out their fellow heroes, etc.  They can also choose to simply fail.

I love this mechanic!

Sometimes the hero gets captured, drops the McGuffin, or slips over the edge.  This game rewards that decision to heighten the tension with something called Hero Points.  Hero Points can be spent later to accomplish truly awesome things when they most matter. (Just like the movies! Huh…imagine that.)

The heroes don’t have “hit points”, they take wounds as a result of bad rolls or choices they made while spending their raises. These wounds are tracked by a portion of the character sheet ominously called “the death spiral.” This is a spiral of circles and stars that get colored in as heroes get injured.  Every fifth wound taken by a hero is a “dramatic wound”. Wounds themselves are no big deal but dramatic wounds serve to heighten the tension of the scene.  And once again, the further down the death spiral the hero falls, the more awesome stuff he can do…

Just like…well, you get it.

The game handles conflict resolution in social situations, action scenes, and large scale battles in pretty much the same manner, what changes is the time that elapses in game and the scale of the conflict.  This, as well, is beautifully executed as it breeds familiarity with the system allowing it to take a back seat to the story sooner regardless of what size or type of pickle the heroes have found themselves in.  Also, because of both the intuitive nature of the system and the speed with which the players and GM achieve familiarity with it, most conflicts are resolved very quickly regardless of size.  There are so many more subtleties to this system that I can’t touch on them all here without just rewriting the rules for you.

As a special note, the naval rules in this game are some of the best that I’ve ever seen.  They come complete with descriptions of the types of ships available, as well as list of the positions and personnel needed to man them. As with a lot of naval legends and lore, ships in this game are characters unto themselves. In this chapter you’ll find superstitions, adventure seeds designed for the advancement of ships, and even rules for bringing them back from the dead.  I’m understating this on purpose.  The naval rules alone are worth the price of the book.

I want to steal them…

…incorporate them into every game I play…

…lie to my players and tell them that they’re mine…

…be revered as the greatest GM of all time…

*rubbing hands together “MUHAHAHAHA!”

Character Creation - 

The character creation process is, for lack of a better word, deep.  In a lot of RPGs you create a framework of a character and hang personality on it like a mannequin.  In 7th Sea Second Edition, this process is front loaded so that when you sit down at the table for your first session you have a fully realized hero complete with an identity, a personality, an outlook, a past, and their own story to tell.  The character creation process begins with a concept and then you are asked to consider 20 questions about your hero.  Most, but not all of these will be answered from your hero’s perspective.

Rest assured this isn’t a hippy-dippy-story-sticky type of game, however.  There are more than 20 pages with lists of traits, backgrounds, advantages, skills, and other things to keep the min-maxers and number jugglers in your group happy.  This doesn’t even count the sorcery section of the book which we’ll get to shortly.

I suggest having a character creation session with your group.  Watching all of the heroes take shape together will both help you as the GM become familiar with the character concepts and you’ll see that the players begin feeding off of the creative energy in the room.

Magic - 

Magic in this game is as varied as the cultures of Theah. Meaning that there is no specific system that governs the use of all magics.

It’s more of a sorcery flavor selection, like a fountain at a large gas station that dispenses magic instead of soda.

Each of the cultures has their own brand of the supernatural and they are all represented very well in the book, beautifully capturing the essence of their superstitions and mysticism.  The chapter on sorcery is worth reading just for the flavor and immersive way that it’s presented.

The GM - 

A lot of the work for a campaign is, like character creation, front loaded because as the GM is building the framework of the story that will be told by the group he must also consider the stories of the individual characters in the group.  At first glance, this game looks like it brings back the “Workhorse GM” concept of running a game but, trust me you get very adept very quickly at leading players through the story once you actually begin playing.  Improvisational GMing is definitely possible with 7th Sea 2nd Edition but that’s no excuse for poor preparation.  The last chapter in the book is extremely informative for both new GMs and those that are just new to the game.  Even old guys like me will probably learn a thing or two.

Read it.

Price Point - $24.99 (PDF) – $59.99 (Hardcover)

For this price, you get the entire game.  No other books are needed to play.  Considering the quality of the book, art, and mechanics, this is a fine price.

Versatility - 

Tabletop RPG experiences are as varied as conversations among friends.  Because of this, the game itself must be versatile in order to stand up to years of playing.  The framework has to be flexible in order to tell a myriad of stories.  While I haven’t had it for years, you can tell when a game is a one trick pony and this one is not.  As well as the swashbuckling stories that were the inspiration for the game, John Wick and company have put together a beautiful toolbox with which to tell tales of dark fantasy, political intrigue, or “lone wolf’ stories ranging from grim-dark street level campaigns to high profile kingdom-shakers.

The choice is yours, it will not disappoint.

Rating - 10 out of 10

I rarely hand out a 10 in regards to an RPG.  My reasoning for this is that any given session of a tabletop RPG exists in a vacuum and the experience is subject to the moods and whims of those around the table. This can make it very difficult to give a game a fair shake upon reviewing if somebody in your game group had a rough day at work.  The way I rate an RPG is by assessing how well it does the job that it sets out to do.

This one performs beautifully.

If you want to tell stories like “The Three Musketeers”, “The Man in the Iron Mask”, “The Mask of Zorro”, “Robin Hood”, etc., this is the game you want.

Final Thoughts - 

 By changing the way that wealth and equipment work to a more abstract system, as well as lossening some of the restrictions on skills and such, the second edition of 7th Sea does trim out some of the bulk of the original edition, this is sure to ruffle some feathers.  That said, I beleive that it was done in good spirit with the motivation being to streamline scene setting and resolution with a focus on getting the players into the action.

To me, this game is a truly romantic exploration of the of swashbuckling genre through the lens of a contemporary tabletop role playing game.

But then again, this is just my humble opinion.

-Dan Whorl

(CarpeGM.net Game Reviews)


 

Full Disclosure - 

A review copy of 7th Sea Second Edition was given to me by the game developer for an honest review of their product.  No money or further compensation changed hands or has been promised for a good review.  They earned it!

Sep 172014
 

Hands down the BEST interview from GenCon!

I had the pleasure of once again catching up with Sean Fannon of Evil Beagle games.  We cover a lot of ground in this one, so hold on tight! Enjoy!

Host - Dan Whorl

Special Guest - Sean Fannon (Evil Beagle Games)

 

 

 

Media - 

 

Sean’s Pick of the Day (dot)com
Shaintar (dot)com
Evil Beagle Games (dot)com

You can purchase Shaintar and other Evil Beagle products at:
Evil Beagle Products on DriveThru RPG

Follow Sean!
-on Google+
-on Facebook
-on Twitter

Sean Supported:
SpringGiving and ThanksGmaing
and also:
Doctors Without Borders

This episode was made possible by the beautiful folks at GenCon 2014. Be sure to check them out – http://www.gencon.com/

 

 

 

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Jul 312014
 

Topic - In this episode, we talk about reward mechanics, loot, and ways to make them interesting in game.

Hosts - Dan, Mack, Steve, and Lucas

 

 

 

 

 

Media -  Be sure to check out and support the Tsunamicon Kickstarter, a National level gaming convention based in Wichita, Kansas and being organized by our sister podcast, Metagamers Anonymous.   Only good things can come of this……..

Tsunamicon Kickstarter
Tsunamicon.org
Tsunamicon Facebook

 

 

 

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Oct 302013
 

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Topic - In this episode, we announce the birth of the Carpe GM Digital Network !  Dan gives a brief description of the shows on the network and makes a few exciting announcements, as well. We answer a couple of listener emails, one of which also contains our first entry into the Game Store Weirdos contest.  And finally, Brian debuts a new game for the podcast….Ask Aubrey!

Hosts - Dan,Bryan, Mack, Steve

 

 

 

 

Media - 

Sentinels of the Multiverse
Saints Row 4 – Million Dollar Copy
The Backwards Compatible Podcast
Metagamers Anonymous
Modiphius Calling
The Probably Questionable Podcast
Subscribe to the CarpeGM Digital MEGAFEED!


The interstitial music for this episode is: “Sinfully Yours” by As Angels Bleed
For more from this awesome band:
Check out their website – http://www.asangelsbleed.com/index.html
Find them on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/AsAngelsBleedTV
Twitter – https://twitter.com/AsAngelsBleed
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/asangelsbleed
Where can you purchase their music?
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/as-angels-bleed/id596881328
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/As-Angels-Bleed/dp/B00B6LT2GU/ref=sr_1_1?s=dmusic&ie=UTF8&sr=1-1&keywords=As+Angels+Bleed
…or directly from the artists – http://www.avelinademoray.com/store/categories/As-Angels-Bleed/

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Aug 012013
 

Carpe GM Gamecast Logo 300x300
Hosts - Dan, Bryan, Steve, Tyler, Mack

Topic - In this episode, our intrepid hosts tackle some questions and comments from our listeners, for better or worse.  Also, we announce our “Gamestore Weirdos” contest.

Notes - The Pathfinder book that was mentioned in this episode is actually  Ultimate Campaign my apologies for the oversight!

Be sure to enter our “Game Store Weirdos” contest….. find out more at http://carpegm.net/contest/

 

 

Hear more of The Cold Stares and purchase their music at CD Baby!

Like The Cold Stares?  Find out more:

on their website http://www.thecoldstares.com/

on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thecoldstaresmusic

on Twitter https://twitter.com/thecoldstares

Purchase their latest album “A Cold Wet Night and a Howling Wind” on CD Baby ~ http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/thecoldstares2

 

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Jun 042013
 

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Hosts - Dan, Steve, Bryan, Mack, Tyler

Topic- In this episode, we discuss the usefulness (or lack thereof) of alignments in RPGs, their applications, and explore what our own alignments would be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help Support These Animals and Their New Album - Pages!

Notes - The music for this episode is “Souvenir” by ‘These Animals”

Many thanks to them for allowing us to share their music!

 

Find out more about this band:

On Reverb Nation –  http://www.reverbnation.com/theseanimals
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/theseanimals?sk=app_2405167945
Twitter - https://twitter.com/TheseAnimals
or on their website - http://theseanimals.com/index.html

 

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Apr 122013
 

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Hosts - Dan, Bryan, Steve, Mack

 

 

Topic - In our first ever Listener Episode, we settle in for a fantastic, and sometimes heated, conversation about ways that character creation can change the canon of your game world.  The topic was provided by our listener, Matthew Parody, from the Probably Questionable Podcast.  Matthew wasthe winner of  his own episode during our rating and review raffle, and has the distinction of being the fist person that I let my co hosts talk to!  The conversation was lively, and there’s no doubt, we will do it again.  Enjoy!

 

 

Media - 

Men At Arms Hobbies Inc (Facebook)
Midtown Comics
Iron Kingdoms | Privateer Press
D&D Next Playtest – Wizards of the Coast
Robot Chicken Star Wars
Probably Questionable
IPA Comedy (YouTube)
The Burningmoore Incident (2010) – IMDb
Nerdist
Harmontown

 

 

Buy Maple Ridge by Swear and Shake

The music for this episode was provided by:

Swear and Shake

You can find more of their work at:
http://www.facebook.com/swearandshake
http://www.youtube.com/swearandshake
http://www.reverbnation.com/swearandshake

 

 

 

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Mar 292013
 
EyeOfFlameBeholderDetail1

Finally, it’s all in place. You’ve done the bookwork. The characters are all rolled. And after much introspection and contemplation you’ve sewn the first strands of a web-like plot in your head. Now, every great adventure needs a grand beginning.  So how do you bring this all together? You want to get your hooks in early and keep them on the line, but how? Too many campaigns commence in a tavern.  A group of adventurers just deciding randomly to throw their lots together just doesn’t offer that explosive start you’re seeking. Wait a minute, that’s it! Start with a bang, literally.

Nothing will get your players attention quite like a fight. In fact, I think a good skirmish can be exactly what is needed to really kick things off right. It sets an exciting tone for the rest of the campaign. Immediately, and without remorse, the characters are put to the test and are instantaneously inundated with a sense of fear and anticipation of what awaits them beyond each turn. That sense of anxiety and curiosity works fantastically to a DM’s advantage in a number of ways. Similarly, the scuffle itself can be used to several ends.

Characters and players experience will vary. Some players may be seasoned vets, or as with my party, most are quite inexperienced and green. A good scrap right from the start is great because it provides an immediate opportunity to explain the rules and mechanics of the game itself. It’s a lot easier to teach someone how THACO (old school D and D battle mechanic) and Armor class work when it’s in game and they’re rolling dice as opposed to in a conversation. The fight can be a clever way to give your players a tutorial without them realizing because it can simultaneously kick off a grander story arc. It doesn’t have to be a semi- random onslaught of kobolds upon a quiet farming community. However, there is no shame ever in a random kobold offensive.

Many good lads were lost to the Great Kobold Incursion of 987 DR.

For my group I had arranged a delightful little ambush by thugs. Though it should be said, this was not just a lame attempt at extortion. The opening sequence of the campaign came together as something of a theatrical production.  I had given each player a few specific lines or actions there were to take to get things started and then they take over with their role-playing and off we go.

So it was, the paladin of the group is a young nobleman named Dhagan who had recently been promoted to captain of the guard of Copperkeep, the city in which this is all set.  He and his trusted counselor, the wizard Vaerzaal, were at the barracks awaiting the arrival of a bounty hunter, a ranger of some renown by the name of Ulderic the Blackbear. The ranger was bringing to justice a young and naïve halfling rogue known as Longbelly who was involved in the robbery of a powerful and influential mining guild. As the gruff ranger pushed the bound Longbelly into the captain’s chamber he declared with a wry smirk on his weathered face, “It’s not so hard to track a Halfling.”  So there they were, the four would-be companions. The first interaction wasn’t particularly amicable as you might imagine.

The halfling revealed that he was the “patsy” in a grander scheme. He offered up anything he had on the local thieves’ guild, and was even willing to help in the capture and disposal of the rest of the bandits in exchange for his own neck. (A truly typical amount of loyalty shown by a thief) However, no sooner than he had struck his bargain, they were all ambushed by a group of thugs hired to assassinate the halfling should he be bold enough to show his face or portly belly. To the little round one’s credit, he did immediately endear himself to the group by saving Sir Dhagan’s life in the onset of the ambush. The halfling, gifted with great dexterity and freshly unbound, unsheathed his sword in a flash and deftly batted away an arrow bound straight for the knight’s head.

Fear not though, after some tense moments the group did successfully overcome the thugs. It is important to remember not to overwhelm your party right away. You want to challenge them, but you don’t want to set a climate of defeat within the group. Certainly not in the beginning anyway, sometimes you will need to crush them just to remind them they’re not the biggest kids on the block. But, a nice clean victory over some brutish assassins to get things started, that sounds about right.

They’re getting a little cocky, it’s time for them to learn what a beholder is.

And that was our first session. They came together, they fought together, and they learned together. After all, anyone who plays or played old school knows THACO takes some getting used to. All in all, it went really well.  It’s all about finding the right blend, my friends. You have to have a good mix of story-telling and the hack and slash. Once your players get the hang of what dice they need to roll when, and the web really starts to unwind, it becomes like your new favorite show and you can’t wait for the next episode.

Mar 292013
 

Carpe GM Gamecast Logo 300x300
Hosts - Dan, Mack, Steve, Bryan, Tyler

Topic - In this episode, the hosts explore the idea of character death, whether or not if it matters, and how it factors into our games, our game design, and what we do when it occurs.

 

 

 

 

 

Media - 

RPG Circus | The Greatest Show In Gaming(Podcast)
NPC CAST | Your place for face to face games(Podcast)
Blizzard Entertainment:StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
New 52 Batman – Batman News
RPPR Actual Play | Role Playing Public Radio
The Death and Return of Superman – YouTube (NSFW)

Notes - I’ve checked them out, and NPC Cast not only exists, they’ve got a really good podcast!  Make sure to check them out!

The music for this episode is provided by:
Captain Carl’s Tuesday Nite Blues Band
Find more from these wonderful musicians….
On Facebook
On ReverbNation

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Mar 142013
 
Prismatic Dragon

In the past year or so, a new sort of wisdom has emerged amidst the community of modern game masters.  Drawn from the root philosophy of improvisational entertainment and arguably a life-altering perspective that could forever change your relationship with your friends, your environment, and ultimately your gag reflex, the “yes, and…” mechanic is an inspiring idealogy comprised of “can-do” conventions and clever altruisms, coated in a mild veneer of sly wit and much winking of the eye.  Whether it can improve your knitting, your sex life, or your dry cleaning bill is a matter best left to wiser men than I… but it can certainly improve your game.  Dangerously so, in fact.

Let’s posit an appropriately fictional scenario.  Your brave and oh-so-clever party of intrepid adventurers are making their way through an old dwarven stronghold that has now been overrun by filthy goblinses.  Putting aside the ridiculous presumption that a small army of goblins could infiltrate a well-defended stronghold of heavily inebriated dwarven regulars, you watch as your heroes gracefully stumble upon a nest of feasting humanoids in what was once the banquet hall.  As the two groups manage to both reel in stupefied alarm at the suddenness of the encounter, your players start casting about for ideas that can restore the balance of power to their effectively outnumbered adventuring party.

“Filthy goblinses!” John says, in his best Dwarvish brogue. “GM, sir… could I slide under the table and surprise them all by lifting it up and throwing it?”

“Of course,” you reply blandly, “if you want to be stomped by six of the fiends on the way there.”

“GM, sir,” Sarah says.  (Isn’t is nice how they call you sir?)  “Are there any torches I could grab off the wall?”

“Goblinses need no torches,” you respond, offering Sarah a look of quiet sympathy.  “They appear to have ripped all the sconces right off the wall.”

“GM, sir!” Richard exclaims.  “I’d like to step forward and loudly proclaim, ‘You insolent fools! Do you realize what the Goblin King will say when he hears that you’ve been lounging about, drinking all the mead?!  Stand up straight!  Eyes forward!  His Majesty approaches!”

You quirk an eyebrow.  “Seriously…?” you exhale, reaching for your dice…

You may be thinking to yourself, “that’s it, GM sir… teach those presumptious know-it-alls a lesson in humility.”  In which case, I’d like to kindly invite you to let each of your own brood take a turn GMing for you for a session or two and see how much you enjoy it.  You might be surprised to learn that they’ve picked up a few of your more stingy and unforgiving traits.  Not to say that the game can’t be fun… but let consider an alternative approach.

“Filthy goblinses!” John says, in his best Dwarvish brogue. “GM, sir… could I slide under the table and surprise them all by lifting it up and throwing it?”

“Of course!” you smile, “You slide past the lead goblinses before they even have a chance to pull up their wastebands and lock yourself into position for a mighty heave.  You’ll need to avoid the teeth of a snarling goblindog, then make a strength check to heave the oaken table.”

“GM!” Sarah says, (forgetting the sir, but that’s alright)  “I grab a torch off the wall and light in the fireplace!”  You nod assertively, pointing over to Richard.

Richard ponders a moment.  “I got it!” he says, striking a defiant pose and setting his features in a visage of terrible wrath.  ‘You insolent fools! Do you realize what the Goblin King will say when he hears that you’ve been lounging about, drinking all the mead?!  Stand up straight!  Eyes forward!  His Majesty approaches!”

You find yourself smiling along.  “Make a bluff check,” you say, watching as Richard rolls an 8 out onto the ricketty card table; not really much of a success, even against goblinses.  You offer them a level look.  “They are so befuddled by the sudden torchlight and your exclamation that they are caught completey off guard as the dining room table explodes into the air, iron trenchers and goblets of fine mead flying in every direction.  They reach for their weapons, but they are obviously unclear how many opponents there are which way to leap…”

In the second scenario, you’ll notice, you provided an empowering reaction to each of your players attempts at cleverness and heroism, without mitigating the challenges involved.  Instead of feeling stumped at every turn and unable to do anything cool or interesting, the players felt energized and heroic, even in the face of poor die rolls.  This is the “Yes, and…” philosophy at work.  Rewarding your players for their engagement invests them in the scenario and makes it more fun to play.  Believe it or not, a “Yes, and…” motif can even make tragic failures a powerful and engaging struggle for your players, and they will even accept character death or dishonor with a sense of dramatic panache.  The key is to listen to what the players want and find a way to give it to them, adding a twist, condition, or challenge to the process.  It’s easier than it sounds.

There is a precipice, however, that much be watched carefully.  Permissive GMs can create a sense of entitlement in their players over time.  And too much entitlement can create an expectancy in the players that will have dramatic and unpleasant results when you don’t give them what they want.  It isn’t necessary (or even a good idea) to “Yes, and…” every challenge the heroes encounter.  The story may wrap itself around the main protagonists, but the world doesn’t.  Sometimes, there really are no torches on the walls.  Or the goblinses just beheaded their king and offer only wicked smiles to Richard’s proclamation.  As long as that sense of empowerment is there enough of the time to make the players excited about each new challenge, they are easily resilient enough to accept that sometimes life just doesn’t play by their rules.

You wanna walk along the precipice, not run over it to get away from murderous gamers.

 

Orryn Emrys, the Prismatic Dragon, is the director of the Prismatic Tsunami web community and the host of the popular Metagamers Anonymous RPG podcast. Learn more at http://www.prismatictsunami.com.