It’s been a little while since I’ve done a 7th Sea post, and with a newly-arrived PDF, why not go back to Theah for at least a short moment?
One of the teasers we were given during the 7th Sea 2nd Edition Kickstarter was the psuedo-announcement of a new Eastern-themed RPG that would fit into the new 7th Sea Universe. Long-time fans of Wick’s work will already know of Rokugan (Legend of the Five Rings) and Cathay (7th Sea), and know the pitfalls that each of these products faced.
Now we’re given a new Eastern realm to explore, and the exploration begins with the new Quickstart rules.
7th Sea: Khitai has the onerous goal of adding Eastern cultures to the 7th Sea banner. Unlike L5R, this is going to tie directly to the rest of the game line instead of being an entirely different game, but like L5R, it will stand on it’s own for those who don’t want to bother with the Western World.
Like the Quickstart rules released during the Kickstarter, this packet isn’t going to have everything needed, but rather get you started with this new land.
==What You Get==
The PDF of this Quickstart weighs in at 38 pages, including covers. Like the previous quickstart, we are given five player characters, a brief adventure, and basic notes of the mechanics and setting.
The first 15 pages are dedicated to the mechanics, which should be read due to a number of changes (with a note that they can easily be introduced into 7th Sea), while the rest of the book is the adventure itself.
The Quickstart also emphasizes a “Call to Adventure,” but not in the same was as 7th Sea. It’s noted that those of Khitai “serve the world” instead of walking their own path, and the Call to Adventure is literally to change the world, whether by claiming new territory or changing the balance of society.
We get one page to briefly describe each of the new Nations, including the Agnivarsan Empire, Fuso, Han, Kammerra, the Kiwa Isands, Nagaja, and Shenzhou. It is very clear that Fuso is Japan, Han is Korea, and Shenzhou is China, but from there it’s a bit hard for me to tell which is which (for example, the Agnivarsan Empire and Nagaja sound like Thailand, while the Kiwi Islands seems like the Phillipines).
As it has been the trend, the artwork is still beautifully rendered and worth gawking at.
As someone who’s studied the Japanese language, history, and culture, I found the Kamuyru sorcery to be rather interesting. It’s basically Shinto-themed with names that make nods to the Ainu culture (Ainu are the indigenous people of Hokkaido), amulets with the correct names (and even the explanation behind these amulets is accurate), and the elements references are the same as Miyamoto Musashis “Book of Five Rings” (a rather Japanese Zen approach).
There are some new mechanics added in that would be fun to tweak and put into a “standard” 7th Sea game, like the modified Wound mechanics (Resolve+5 for each Dramatic) and the ability to explode 10s with a Hero/Danger Point.
Like the previous Quickstart, we have a brief adventure that throws you into the thick of things to fully understand how the game works. There are Dramatic scenes and Action scenes, and the adventure ends with a Duel. A bit typical, but it does help with adapting to the change in setting and new mechanics.
Like other 7th Sea materials, there are bits of odd typos and inconsistencies, one of which technically makes the game impossible to play. The tweak to Dramatic Wounds uses the Resolve Trait, but there are alternate traits called Virtues in Khitai, meaning Resolve is non-existent.
There’s also notes of the Metal element in the discussion of Kamuyru, but Metal is not explained (I also think Metal as an element is more Chinese than Japanese).
Speaking of Kamuyru, while it is interesting in theory, the actual uses of it are exceedingly vague. We are given merely a sentence for each Element, yet we are told that the result of binding a spirit to an object will depend on the element in question. We are also given minor examples (like a lantern that won’t go out if bound to a Fire Kamuy), but some are erroneous/lacking information (like Metal as an element). We also don’t know if this one progresses or not, but that may be due to the nature of the Quickstart.
Mechanically, the game’s new approach has some issues. With the introduction of Seven Traits (of which you get five:Compassion, Honesty, Joy, Loyalty, Peace, Respect, and Wisdom), you lose some of the structure that was within 7th Sea. Additionally, because of how vaguely worded these Traits are, it becomes worse than Fate Accelerated’s Approach system. In Khitai, you choose your Trait and state how it is the one driving you through the rest of your Approach, and as long as you can provide an answer, the GM is suggested not to second-guess or argue. That’s…a bit vague and over-the-top, and it BEGS to be abused.
One of the new mechanics is called Peril, and it kicks in when the GM has a set number of Danger Points. Considering that a GM can get 1 Danger point for each die not used in a roll, as well as getting 1 per player at the start, it really isn’t that hard to build up to 10. At 10 and 20 Danger Points, the GM gains boosts for NPCs (extra dice at 10, 9 and 10 exploding at 20), while at 15 it forces player pools to be reduced. To quote a friend of mine, “Wick loves to say ‘Fuck You’ to players,” and with this mechanic, I’m sure he’d be screaming it.
There’s also a gripe in my circle of players/GMs that these new rules are basically being added in as a new edition/rulebook instead of being released as Errata or similar optional rules. I can see both sides of the argument (rules are fitting for the new version but could/should have been in the original), but I’m leaning more towards “bad” because of the general quality of mechanical updates/changes without needing to buy a new book.
The Quickstart is a freebie and is only a sample of what’s to come, so I can’t really give it an actual verdict. I am curious what’s going to happen with it, but I’m not sure if I’m going to be willing to buy yet another core rulebook from Wick without seeing some general improvements across the board.
If you’ve been enjoying 7th Sea so far, then absolutely swing over to DriveThruRPG and pick it up. If you were/are a fan of L5R and want to see a different approach, then you should also pick it up.
If you don’t like Wuxia-style shenanigans, or prefer to have your heroic deeds more in the West than East (and/or don’t want to have a bunch of katana-wielding, trenchcoat wearing Highlanders at your table), then you may want to avoid this.