One of the biggest perks for backing the 7th Sea 2nd Edition Kickstarter at the Pirate level was all of the extras that were included in addition to the leatherbound rulebook, namely in the form of the “Pirate Booty”, including poster-sized maps, GM screen, dice, tokens, a Sorte/tarot deck, and the two decks for the Heroes and Villains book. There was also a music album released to backers that will be released later, and I am including information on it in this review.
While it took a year for most of these items to be finalized shipped out to us (the maps are still on hiatus with no updated ETA), they have finally arrived to much fanfare.
Curious how each item turned out? Take a look at the snippets below. There’s no real rating for items like these, so I will instead just speak about each item and my general thoughts/impressions of them.
==Music From The 7th Sea==
For the $500k Stretch Goal, Sheldon Morley was tapped to create ten songs that would fit with the setting of 7th Sea. Many of the songs are inspired by “work songs” and other sea shanties, but with a 7th Sea twist. Backers were sent the files, so it wasn’t exactly part of the Pirate’s Booty, but I would be remiss to not include it as part of the overall loot collection for the game.
Some of the songs were rather interesting in the stories they told (like the one in “Off to Frothing Bay) and again, fitting for the setting, while others didn’t quite jive with me or didn’t quite make sense in the setting (such as the line “A drop of Gosse’s blood wouldn’t do us any harm” in the song “Roll The Old Chariot” when there was a part for Berek’s blood already, and Gosse’s blood has no real purpose as he was only a Pirate King while Berek is supernaturally lucky). These issues may be nitpicky or boiled down to personal preference, though.
In addition to the ten songs, we were given three “Interludes” with minor stories or potential plot hooks within the setting, as well as a second version of “Off to Frothing Bay” that was not a duet.
At this time, there is not a way to purchase the album (official word I was given was that they are still finalizing album art), but word is there should be something on that in the near future via the John Wick Presents website/webstore or on Sheldon’s Patreon page.
The music is overall solid. I don’t have issues with any of the singers sounding bad (I was classically trained for a few years as a kid, it happens), the music is well composed, the background sounds (tavern, the sea, etc) is fitting, and overall it’s a fun little album of sea shanties.
If you want setting-specific background music or just something to get you into the mood of 7th Sea, it won’t hurt to consider picking this up (depending on the price and what you are willing to spend, of course). I wouldn’t deem it necessary, exactly, as many of these songs are rehashes of or inspired by other shanties that you can easily find and listen to elsewhere, but I won’t say don’t look into it because it is a good interpretation of many of these songs.
==The GM Screen==
While not part of the Pirate’s Booty Box, the GM screen was an included part of the Pirate level of the Kickstarter.
Like most GM screens, it is a sturdy, tri-fold that, when it arrives, makes you wonder just how much real estate is it going to take.
When you open the screen, it does cover quite a bit of space, making it a useful resource if you want to hide your rolls and notes from your players. The exterior artwork (see above) is pulled from the rulebooks and flows rather well together into this massive thing.
The interior side is like most other GM screens: you are presented with some of the most frequently used rules with page numbers, namely for Action/Combat sequences, Non-Combat/Dramatic sequences, duelist maneuvers, GM Story rules (tied to progression and pacing), Hero/Danger point usage, Influence (for Villains), Brute Squads, and a whole section on Consequences and Opportunities. Nearly everything here is from the core rulebook with associated page number, so later information (such as Inquisitors as Brutes) is not available, but it’s a good start.
The font and layout and really easy to grasp, read, and follow. It’s not loaded with charts, and finding whatever you need is a breeze. Overall, it’s a solid GM screen.
While it’s a nice screen, I do have some minor issues with it.
On a physical side, my primary complaint is that it is glossy. Yes, I do really mean GLOSSY. At certain angles, you will just get reflected light (and even be able to see your own reflection, and that greatly reduces how useful this will be for me. This is a trend I’ve been seeing with many tabletop resources lately (even core rulebooks) that I wish would stop.
From a rules side, I’m not fond of the Consequences/Opportunity section. While I like seeing more on the topic, I find it mildly frustrating that there are rules here that don’t entirely make sense with the corebook (i.e. there’s nothing about going beyond the veil without Porte, but it is hinted here), and that these sorts of examples weren’t in the GM section of the book in the first place. As this rule was pretty vague, it’s irksome that clarification and examples of it, which should have been in the core rulebook, requires purchasing another product.
There’s also the pet peeve that there was some discussion on the (unofficial) forum about doing things like this (like using Opportunities to deal damage) when the rules didn’t exist or support it in the RAW, and then suddenly it’s in an official product months later. Again, just a pet peeve of mine.
One thing I do wish is that this was more than just a GM screen. Most GM screens include a short adventure to help get things started for new players/GMs, and sometimes that adventure includes some expansion to the rules (whether via examples or by actual rules adaptations, such as brief squadron rules we saw in the Age of Rebellion GM screen). This GM screen is just a screen and nothing more, making the pricing of it not as competitive as other screens that include these extra materials.
The 7th Sea GM Screen is not included in the Pirate’s Booty Box and retails for $19.99. If you like using a GM screen for your table, it’s not a bad one to have with all of the information on it. The only better 7th Sea 2nd Edition screen you’ll find is if you make your own to fit your own needs.
==The Pirate’s Booty Box==
I’m not going to lie: I was ecstatic to see a box that was about four RPG books thick sitting in my mailbox and finding this smaller box within it.
The Pirate’s Booty Box is shipped within a tougher, unmarked cardboard box to keep it safe, and within THAT is the art-covered Pirate’s Booty Box.
Each side of the box has artwork from the 7th Sea rulebook with edges that are similar to that of an actual treasure chest.
Cracking open this box is not as satisfying as opening up a chest (there’s something about that *creak* sound), but the loot is tightly packed to ensure nothing is going to be damaged in transit, with the Sorte deck on bottom braced in with the Hero Points and Dice, topped with the Deck of Heroes and the Deck of Villains.
The box itself is simple cardboard. It’d be a nice and presentable way to haul some of your necessary tools for GMing a game of 7th Sea (namely, the loot itself with some loose dice and/or minis), but it’s one bad storm away from being paper. Nice presentation and has alternative uses, so I’ll take that and run!
One of the basic items offered in the box are a set of ten “bone dice,” with the 1 replaced with a skull. These are not marked in any way to denote they are for 7th Sea, so they are easily used for any other game.
These “bone” dice are white and brown, almost like a caramel color, with clear black numbers stamped onto them. As you can tell, the dice are not entirely uniform in coloration, so it’s got an oddly organic and chaotic element to it, so your dice all will look a bit different.
The dice are packed in a rather small box with artwork from the rulebooks on the outside and a little quote from Captain Reis (although it’s not a quote I recall seeing in print yet) about dice on one side.
The dice are just that: dice. My only concern with them outside of their higher-than-average price tag (see below) is their weight. They are rather light compared to Chessex dice and, according to friends who did a comparisons for me (and a few who also got the the Pirate’s Booty box confirmed that their dice were also light), closer to the weight of Games Workshop dice. After picking up the Hero Point tokens (see below), lifting one of these dice feels like handling a flower petal.
Even so, the dice don’t feel like they will crumble if I grab them too hard, so I’ll take that as a plus. I just personally prefer rolling dice with a bit more weight.
The 7th Sea Bone Dice come in a set of 10 and retail for $19.99. This is a little high in my opinion as most shops sell dice from fifty cents to one dollar on average, but the price point is apparently closer to the price of Games Workshop dice.
Personally, unless I were getting them in an overall bulk order (like the Pirate’s Booty Box), I’d save the money and buy cheaper dice, as I’ve had too many instances of needing to roll more dice than are in this set (and for the same price, I can get double this number at my FLGS).
One of the other useful items included in this box of pirate booty is a set of twenty tokens with the 7th Sea logo on them.
These are used to track Hero Points (formerly Drama Dice) that players earn. While anything could be used to mark these (I’ve previously used my 7th Sea CCG collection for this, or would use some old pachinko tokens I’ve had sitting around if I wanted something a bit more solid), having a solid and sturdy object is never a bad choice for this sort of game, doubly so when it is clearly marked for the game being played.
The tokens are packaged very much like the dice: in a cardboard box with various game-related art (mostly characters) and a lone quote on one side, this time from Prince Alexy Nowak of the Sarmatian Commonwealth.
These tokens are clay poker chips identical to what you’d find in a decent casino with the exception of the 7th Sea sticker. Said sticker has a holographic-like luster to it, making it pop a bit, while the tokens themselves are pretty thick.
The tokens are, overall, really nice. They have a nice weight, feel durable, and I think the only things that work better in a 7th Sea game would be coins (real or replicas) from the era/country the players are in (or other coins fitting for the feel of the game) or the older 7th Sea card game cards (if for no other reason than the artwork and quotes being inspirational).
7th Sea: Hero Points come in a pack of 20 clay tokens and retails for $19.99
==The Sorte Deck==
Within the setting, a Sorte Strega (fate witch from Vodacce) has to make her own deck of cards that allow her to better see the future of those she focuses on, and her view of the strands is influenced by her personal deck. Furthermore, the decks are personal; while the usual themes/suits match, the major arcana do shift around based on owner preference, belief, and training.
While the Strega doesn’t have very much use of the cards in this game (1st Edition gave Destiny Spreads for expanded character creation, as well as being a prop for Strega doing “spreads” in game for specific powers/effects), Wick has written alternative rules to dice rolls using the deck instead, and most GMs have the general idea of using the cards to help with storytelling (i.e. one could EASILY hack some of Savage Worlds for this).
The deck could also, technically, be used as a standard tarot deck, but it would take some time to get used to as the major arcana don’t exactly match a standard Rider-Waite deck, nor are these particular cards numbered (so finding the correlation is that much harder).
The deck itself is interesting, to say the least. The artwork has some nods to a standard Rider-Waite, but they aren’t enough to really be used as such (or are changed enough to make it difficult to read in a similar fashion). Most of the suits have enough of the object to warrant being classified as that number (Ace of Coins being one coin, while Five of Swords having five swords). The minor arcana and court cards are all done in a sepia-like coloration, while the major arcana are in full color.
The major arcana do not match that of a standard tarot deck. While some traditional cards are here and just tweaked to fit (such the The Hanged Man hanging from the mast, and The Magician being a Porte mage), others do leave you questioning where they would fit (the “Moonless Night”, for example). As the major arcana are not numbered (as they are in other decks), it adds another degree of difficulty with reading them or using them as a tarot deck, but it fits in perfectly with the intuitive nature of a Strega. At the very least, the art is beautiful and fitting into the 7th Sea universe.
The production of the cards is not what I would have expected, though. They cards feel a bit thick, tough, and have a lot of “grip” with them to the point “fanning” them out is near impossible. They do not feel as though they are laminated/coated, and it’s almost as though I can feel the ink on the cardstock. While this may be been done on purpose to feel more “authentic” to the timeline, it’s almost like they are tiles of a board game and not stand-alone cards to me. A part of me is even wary of trying to shuffle the cards due to how much they stick together and how tough they feel (to the point a colleague of mine and I fear we’d “crack the ink”), but that may be needed to break them in enough to be used.
Even the box had a bit of an issue; the tabs that help keep the box shut are too good at what they do, and it keeps the box from opening at all. I had to pry a letter opener into the gap to open the box without ripping it open, and then snip the tabs slightly so I wouldn’t need tools again.
My biggest problem with the deck, outside of the physical issues, would the lack of “instructions.” Nearly every tarot deck I’ve run into/purchased (which is quite a few; I have a growing collection) would include a booklet or even a single card that would explain something about the deck (suits or major arcana meanings), sample spreads, or even a game to play/how it fits into the game it is associated with. This deck lacked this resource, which is sad considering there were hints of rules that would allow players to use a Sorte deck instead of dice at the gaming table with some cards granting special bonuses (such as the major arcana). I felt this was a lost opportunity, as we now have to wait for these rules to be published elsewhere to be purchased (a dick move considering the cost of the deck) or to be printed out (and not be as crisp as an official publication). The website on the back of the deck box currently leads to a mailing list sign-up for the announcement of when the deck goes up for sale, but nothing else.
The 7th Sea Sorte Deck retails for $24.99. It’s around the same price point as a more expensive/art-driven tarot deck, but it doesn’t include any tarot-specific information (i.e. how to read the cards), nor does it include any of the rules that were being discussed during the Kickstarter.
If you want an in-game prop, it’s not a bad way to go, but if you want to learn to read tarot and/or want something more versatile in a deck, look elsewhere. I’m personally feeling it’s a bit overpriced for the physical quality and lack of those rules/instructions, but I do love the art for the most part.
==The Heroes and Villains Decks==
The book Heroes and Villains had some mixed reviews due to the nature of the book as well as the artwork, but a pair of decks were created to supplement the book.
Each of these decks uses the artwork of the character on one side with details on the character on the reverse.
As the decks use the same artwork, I’m really not impressed by the cards that much. On the plus side, there are 54 cards in each deck (the 55th is a credits and a classification card), and as the books only gave 40 heroes and 40 villains, that means there are 14 more characters in each deck, and some of these characters are from countries that we do not have stats for (like Ifri). Rather interesting.
Additionally, the backgrounds for each card are lovely, and the print quality on the cards are top notch. The colors stand out and quite literally pop, and the print on the cards is well selected, crisply done, and easy to read.
On one side of each card, we are presented with an image of the Hero/Villain with their name, a quote, and a classification. On the back, we are given their NPC stats (Strength, Influence, and Rank for Villains; only Strength for heroes) as well as touch of their background with their Plots/Goals. Sadly, these are NOT complete sheets, even compared to what we have in the Heroes and Villains book; you have everything you NEED to play, but any mechanic touches you may want/need, such as advantages or special powers/tricks will not be available.
The Hero Deck is also nigh-useless for players; it is barely even a cheatsheet for a player, and the only use I have for it is to be a standee at a gaming table to denote who the player is playing and what they look like with a note of their goals. Otherwise, it’s a minor GM tool for heroic-NPCs using a toned down villain mechanic as Influence is not added here (meaning there will be some flubbing if you need to use one of these “Heroes” as a Villain for some reason, such as if your players cross them badly enough).
The card quality is nothing to write home about. Like the Sorte deck, the cards like to grip one another, making them hard to look through or spread out, meaning you need to basically peel them from each other one at a time. The quality is low, to the point that members of my gaming table equated them to being closer to tiles/cards from low-cost board games that they’d be afraid to shuffle or do anything with.
There was also an issue with one card in each deck, in which a front was printed on two cards but the backs were different. The printer for John Wick Presents admitted to the problem and they are reprinting cards now, but the current estimate for domestic replacements around GenCon in August. After August, all decks should be okay, but until then, the decks will each have an odd card.
While I respect products like this, I think it needs to be done right. These cards just don’t seem to have the the same quality (whether in art, detail, or physical build) as similar products from other companies (such as FFG).
In the end, was the Pirate Booty worth it? Honestly, I have to say “That Decision Is Up To You.”
For someone that is new to 7th Sea and RPGs in general, it’s a good box to grab (and the other loot isn’t bad to consider) to get the ball rolling as it gives you a workable set of dice, a dice alternative (whenever those rules come out), tokens, and a useful set of character cheatsheets, but the production quality on the cards and the high price point on just about everything in the set makes me wary to say it’s worth the money due to (much) cheaper alternatives existing. Most old hands of RPGs will probably have everything they need in their own collections, making this more of a novelty and very few items a “must have.”
The Pirate Booty Box can be purchased for $79.99 from John Wick Presents. If you wish to purchase the dice, tokens, and all three decks of cards, it’s the best deal; buying those items individually would be $105, so you’re basically getting the Sorte deck for free at that point, or you can take that savings and buy the GM screen to get the full experience.