In February this year, I backed the Kickstarter for the second edition of 7th Sea. This proved to be another campaign with overwhelming support, making the rewards phenomenal value. I received so many pdfs as part of the package, but I chose the second edition rules as the starting point.
As to be expected from rules written by John Wick, 7th Sea contains some excellent advice. This mini-series expands upon just one such gem.
Here in part two, I present some options for the in-game sources of information
First, a quick overview of 7th Sea. The second edition of this game of swashbuckling and sorcery was published by John Wick Presents in 2016. The core rules book describes itself as follows:
This book gives you all the information you need to tell stories of swashbuckling, sorcery, intrigue, romance and adventure! Get ready to enter a world of piracy, diplomacy, archaeology and exploration. It’s a world of musketeers, buccaneers and privateers, ancient sorcery and lost civilizations, secrets that hide in the shadows and monsters that hide in plain sight.
To recap, the GM advice in 7th Sea suggests the GM filter all information to the Player through the lens of the setting. The GM should not simply narrate facts to the Players. Instead, the GM should bring setting details into the game as a source for the information:
If [Players] want to know the circumference of the world, quote the answer from one of Théah’s scholarly texts. If you don’t know one, make one up. If they need to know something their Heroes don’t, make them look it up or find an expert on the subject.
This essay focuses on providing you with a range of potential sources for information.
Even in a fantasy game, there are several sources of information available to the Heroes. Here are a few of them:
- Folklore, song
- Folklore, story
I will explore each one in turn.
Top of the list for sources of information is the GMC. Whether this is a sage, a wizard, a priest or a bard, there is always someone in the world who has an answer for the Heroes. This outcome doubles as an opportunity for roleplaying, and the chance for the GM to portray a character.
The type of expert may vary according to the knowledge sought by the Hero:
- Academic – this is the classic scholarly sage or ageing wizard. Academics will be found in cities, or possibly in a remote research tower. They would trade knowledge for rare tomes, or a similarly obscure piece of information from their field of expertise. If the Heroes are lucky, they may trade a first-hand account of their own adventures.
- Artisan – these are the experts engaged in making physical items. Expert weaponsmiths and jewellers have deep knowledge in their field. These GMCs are drawn to population centres, where there is the market to support their specialist skills. The local smith may identify the metal of an ancient sword, but it is the Queen’s Master Bladesmith who can tell you who forged the sword. These GMCs are commercial experts, know the value of their time, and will charge the Heroes accordingly. Perhaps they will trade knowledge for rare components, but want the material in their hands before passing along the valuable information.
- Witness – The final category of expert has first-hand experience of the event or location the Heroes are researching. This is probably the least-used category of expert, but the one to offer the most flexibility to the GM. Firstly, given the immortal nature of many planar creatures, almost any event in the history of the setting may still have a witness for the Heroes to find. Secondly, the beauty of a witness is how it really could be anyone. The witness to the murder of the Emperor may range from a lowly slave to a mighty dragon scrying from afar.
Another area of knowledge frequently overlooked in a game is folklore. Songs are especially relevant to 7th Sea, as sailors know all manner of shanties and drinking songs. These are likely learnt in dockside taverns, and thus can originate from anywhere in the known world. The information found in a song is likely to be short and fragmentary, as the text is broken up by the chorus. Yet, a broad range of nautical knowledge and dramatic history could be enshrined in a song.
For the GM, there is much to admire in a song. The text is likely to be short, meaning a handout can be quickly read. Even better, the knowledge within the song is likely to have been tweaked to make the song rhyme and scan. Effectively, the song is a riddle to present to the Players. Obscure clues and allusions, which might make a conventional story too obscure, are all maintained in the lyrics of a song. My Players love a riddle, and here is a fresh way to present one, aside from a staid sphinx orating an awkward piece of poetry.
This source of information represents tales told around the fire, either bardic epics or gossipy accounts of what is happening in the next village down the road. Such sources are likely long, rambling, and possibly garbled over time. Yet, there is no reason snippets of truth cannot persist within a story passed down for generations.
Sometimes these stories are very personal to the individual, and represent another way to hear a witness testimony. Grandmother’s stories of when she was in the shield wall of General Wolf are great favourites within the family, even if some of the adults doubt Grandmother really did all the things she claims. Amidst the bluster and exaggeration, there remains a lot of useful information about the high pass through the Dragon Mountains, the approach to the Black Tower and the favoured tactics of the great barbarian tribes.
While folklore sources are about mundane people and places, myths operate at a much grander scale. These are the tales of gods and epic heroes, the clash of empires and the foundation of worlds. Alongside such creation stories, most myths will tell of mortal heroes, or possibly demi-gods, who fought more natural foes. Thus, myths can be a good source of information about monsters and other planes of existence. All manner of cosmic secrets and obscure knowledge may be hidden in a myth.
The final category of information available to the Heroes is the written source. Of course, this pre-supposes a literate society, which is not true for many medieval and bronze age societies. If your setting assumes the existence of sages, scribes, a rudimentary bureaucracy and a core religion based around sacred texts, then there will also be books in that setting. Thus, there will be libraries filled with tomes, scrolls and inscribed tablets.
This option is only suited to a Hero who is also literate. Such a Hero will have heard of the book they need to answer their question, or may have read it without recalling the exact details required for the current question. The Hero knows where to look, but not the answer itself. In contrast, a Hero who cannot read is more likely to seek out an expert to learn the answer.
As you can see, there are many sources of information open to a Hero. Knowing where to look is the first step towards finding the answer. This essay presents several different places to find information. The next article in the series will list some options for the GM about how to run these information sources at the table.
Are there any sources I have missed? Which source do you prefer in your game? Do your Players always look for information in the same places? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.
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If you enjoyed this article, then please share it, or the associated quotations. You may also be interested in the following links:
- Something for the Weekend last week: November ’16 Carnival Mixing Gaming with Life
- Something for the Weekend next week: Dragonmeet ‘16 Report
- Part 3 of this series presents six tables for generating a source for in-game knowledge