Sunday, May 26, 2019

Players Gonna Be Players

7th Sea (in either edition) is not a game where PCs die very often. The mechanics of the game(s) give players a lot of outs, and lots of ways to seize narrative control or survive against all odds. Damage at worst only knock PCs unconscious. To actually kill a PC, the Villains, Monsters, and general NPCs need to first incapacitate the PCs, and then have an uninterrupted follow-up action to straight-up cold-blooded murder those characters. And even when you do get to that situation, the GM is actively encouraged to not kill them outright unless it is especially dramatically appropriate. PC death should only come if it was earned and warranted, non-random, and well-warned in advance. The GM is really encouraged to only kill PCs in very atypical circumstances, and generally only in cases where the player would themselves have to admit "yep, that makes sense, I should have seen that coming". PC death should only happen as a major foreshadowed plot development. Anything less, and instead of dying they should wake up tied to a chair, or wash up on the shore, or fall off a cliff and be left for dead but actually crawl away to nurse their wounds. It's swashbuckling heroism, where the plucky heroes always win in the end.

That said, I very nearly killed 2 PCs in my latest session of 7th Sea.


In fact, the second time, I absolutely would have killed them, except one of the PCs had a special ability I had forgotten about, which allowed him to spend his last Hero Point to slip loose and stab the villain with the very knife he was about to use for PCtricide.

All because Players just had to be sassy.

It wasn't like I'd built up to this. The Villain who nearly killed them actually met them for the first time in this very session.  He's not even the Big-Bad of the storyline. He's an secret agent of the Inquisition who was working covertly to root out the same supernatural evil the PCs are working against. I expected him to be a distasteful ally in the "enemy of my enemy" sense, someone they could gather intel from, and maybe trick into expending himself against the real Big Bad.

Instead, right after they'd fought a really tough skirmish with the Big Bad that they'd technically won but at great cost, when the PCs were at their weakest, they chose to pick a fight with the Inquisitor. They mouthed off repeatedly, insulted his manhood, dared him to attack them, and threatened to expose his secret mission to the local government he was working against. It was pretty ballsy, and kind of awesome... and it was also a bit of a tactical blunder to pick this fight with an untested villain just seconds after a battle that had left them wounded and low on resources.

2 out of 3 PCs went down almost immediately, and the third fled knowing they were outclassed.

Fade to black. (If this had been D&D, they'd have been dead, but this is 7th Sea.)

They wake up later in restraints, being interrogated by the mustache-twirling Inquisitor. There's also another NPC present, who is tending their wounds, and seems to be sympathetic to their cause. He tells them to be careful with what they say because the Inquisitor is basically looking for an excuse to kill them. There's some exposition and playful back and forth, and I'm trying to lead to a situation where the PCs realize they actually have similar goals (defeat the supernatural evil that is murdering innocent victims all through the land).

But the one player is having none of it. He immediately starts mouthing off again. To such an extent, I feel like I have no believable options. The Inquisitor draws his dagger and leans in to disfigure the PC. I know full well as I do it that the PC won't knuckle under, and will continue to mouth off. I resign myself to having to kill a PC any second now, in a pretty awful way.

And then the player says "You forgot I have the 'Slip Free' power. I spend a Hero Point. He thinks I'm tied up, but I'm not. Taking him by surprise, I shove his own dagger into him". I was not expecting that. Well done, player. I say "well done!"