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7th Sea: Villain`s Kit

Villain's Kit

More than just an additional resource for GMs, this book was part of an attempt to build a 'GM Community' that would receive regular updates on a subscription basis. There was also, as explained in the Introduction, the intention to provide information that, as far as the players knew, had only gone to members of a given Secret Society, thus enabling the GM to build adventures focussed very specifically on what that player knew. The whole thing was based on the concept that people not only were divided rigidly into 'Player' and 'GM' but also that individual players would only ever play a single character, and that so enthusiastically that they would be prepared to pay extra money to join a 'fan club' based on the secret society to which that character belonged. Interesting idea, but it never really took off...

The book begins with a run-down on the Secret Societies, and what players who join the 'fan club' versions will be told. Naturally, there are also the resources of the various sourcebooks to draw upon, depending on what you and your players possess, and what you choose to use.

Next comes a full-blown adventure, Drake Footprints, which has been written with the novice GM in mind, but is quite entertaining nevertheless. It's aimed at characters who are pirates, although as it revolves around finding missing parts of a treasure map (part of which is acquired during a pirate raid on another ship) it might be possible to lead non-seafaring characters into the second and third parts of the adventure, even if the sea battle that forms the first part would not be appropriate. Or you can - as the text suggests - tell them that they are at sea anyway and leave them to figure out why there are involved!

The sea battle is loosely described, there is plenty going on but it is possibly a bit too free-form for the novice GM to cope with. It's rigged, of course, that the merchant ship captain will fall into their hands, along with part of a treasure map - the other half is in his brother's possession... and of course, said worthy is currently in gaol! So the second part of the adventure involves attempting to rescue the brother from durance vile, before everybody can head off in search of the treasure itself. The gaol is on a remote island, and is extremely well detailed - a useful place to bear in mind should any of your characters really manage to annoy the authorities (it's a Montaigne prison, but ought to be readily amended to serve another nation if that is more appropriate!). Characters may either sneak in via a tidal pool that leads to a subterranean tunnel or they may attempt to bluff (or bribe) their way in.

Needless to say, once the parts of the treasure map are brought together, there's a code to be broken. Now, while I am quite good at codes and moreover I am sitting here with the answer in front of me, it is extremely obscure and is likely only to be solved by some die rolling and GM prompting. Assuming they eventually get there, they'll have to await low tide (it's a reef), and then fight their way past a sand spider to get the buried treasure. Although the adventure is quite straightforward, the NPCs are well-rounded individuals who all have their own lives to lead, giving the feeling that the characters are interacting with an 'alternate reality' that isn't just there for their benefit.

The next part is an extremely well-detailed tavern, the Powder Keg - the detail is so good that GMs may wish to use it as the characters' base or at least their favourite watering-hole. Ideas are supplied so that you can make the Powder Keg fit into any of the nations of Théah. It's a fine place and well worth making use of, as a base or as the jumping-off point for all manner of adventures.

The following section is 'GM Tools' - things like how to make Brute squads distinctive, how to make use of the fact that many different languages are spoken in Théah (and it's unlikely that your players will know all of them!) and more about building really good villains. The language tips - phrases for the GM to mutter when the characters don't speak the language in question - are based on the real world equivalents for the nations involved, so don't be surprised if a player who speaks French or Russian or whatever responds! (I did once, when playing a turncoat Montaigne fellow sneaking through a Montaigne army camp, save the day with a burst of gutter French that had the GM in hysterics... but on the whole I prefer to play down the similarities between the Théan nations and those of Europe.)

The section on Villain Creation is excellent, although painted in a fairly harsh black and white. Characters are Good and Villains are Evil... This is partly driven by the game mechanic that says that Characters (and Villains) are never killed outright by damage alone, they get knocked unconscious and have to be killed by a deliberate action. That aside, though, there is a fine body of material about making Villains truly believable as well as Bad Guys worthy of being defeated by your characters. It'll help you decide what made your Villain the way he is, how far he'll go to accomplish his nefarious ends, even what those ends might be.

The rest of the book is resources: some good maps and plans, both for the adventure and the Powder Keg tavern and some generic ones; and a series of 'portraits' of various archetypical characters that are cartoonish and none-to-well drawn. There are also a few forms, if you like planning your campaign on a form, want to use a special Villain Sheet or keep a ready-reference for the PCs. The maps presented are: The Powder Keg Tavern, a theatre, a Vaticine Chapel, a coach house and stables, and the treasure island and the gaol from the adventure. Although nicely-detailed plans, several suffer the problem of being spread over 2 pages so if you want to copy them you'll end up breaking the spine of your book - something that makes them verging on useless, a shame as they are actually rather good. Of course, it's easier if you have the PDF version, you can print the pages out and stick them together to get your full map.

Altogether, an adequate adventure, excellent inn and notes on villain development and some plans that could have been presented better...

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