7th Sea, character currency, and advancement systems

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Clinton R. Nixon:
I'm currently playing in a 7th Sea game, and I've enjoyed it more than I thought I would, to be honest. The system is simple, and many things about it reinforce and evoke the swashbuckling genre.

However, I've had one slight problem with it since I've been playing, which ties into several of our discussions here:

Characters have a currency called 'Drama Dice' which can be used in game to assist dramatic actions. (Examples will follow.) Characters start with a limited supply (1-5, with 2 being the most likely amount) and may gain them in play by performing very dramatic actions, being heroic beyond the call of duty, or being especially witty and causing the other players to laugh.

The 7th Sea system uses d10's to resolve a situation, with a large number being rolled, a few of the highest being kept, and then summed together. Spending a Drama Die gives you an extra d10 to roll and sum.

(You also often have to spend a Drama Die in order to activate your sorcery.)

So far, this works well. It gives players a bit of a reserve to use when they want to jump up, swing from the chandelier, do a backflip, and smack two different guys on the head with their rapiers. In addition, it rewards heroic play by giving the players more Drama Dice for performing these heroic actions.

However, the place I've found the game to bog down is in the character advancement system. Each player receives a fixed amount of experience points (usually 1-3), a few more if his or her flaws came into play, and then 1 point per Drama Die remaining at the end of the adventure. It is often that the majority of experience points come from these Drama Dice.

This 1 experience = 1 Drama Die left over correlation rewards players for not spending Drama Dice--without which they can't perform heroic actions, and can't earn more Drama Dice. In practice, players rarely perform risky actions in order to prevent the need to use Drama Dice and keep their experience total high.

(Sorcerers are the worst about this. I play a Ussuran [read: Russian, but more interesting] shapechanger. In order to change into an animal form, I must spend a Drama Die. Changing forms is not really dramatic at all, and usually garners no Drama Dice rewards. So--if I use my power, I stand no real chance of getting better at it. If I don't use my powers at all, I get better at them quicker.)

The solution I've come up with (I'm not running the game, so it's not in place) is that you garner experience points based off the number of Drama Dice you spend during play. As you perform more dramatic actions, gain more Drama Dice, and spend those, doing more dramatic actions, and possibly gaining even more, your experience point total rises. This actively encourages players to be as dramatic as possible--well in form for the swashbuckling genre.

Does this make sense to anyone else? Has anyone else had this same issue? Mixing character currency with an advancement system seems like a risky tactic to begin with: is there a time when it's useful? Is it useful in either the original 7th Sea rules, or in my proposed variation?

Note: I'm looking for theory here on using character currency hand-in-hand with advancement systems, not a bash of 7th Sea. It's a damn fine game, but, like all games, has its rough edges. Tread nicely, and think before commenting.

joshua neff:

Ron & I talked about that a while ago--that in a sense, the game punishes you for being swashbuckling, since if you spend Drama Dice, you lose out on experience points (not all, but some). My solution is the same as your--give experience for Drama Dice used, thereby rewarding people using them.


On 2001-07-10 18:04, joshua neff wrote:
My solution is the same as your--give experience for Drama Dice used, thereby rewarding people using them.

That's interesting.  Do you guys actually have to justify your use of Drama Dice?  We don't in our game.  So your system wouldn't work because the way it works in our game is that you earn Drama Dice for attempting a 'colorful' action.  Whether you succeed or not is irrelivant the point is you were being more creative than just, 'I try to hit him.'  We don't actually USE the drama dice on doing something colorful and out of the way.  We usually use them to make a more mundane action really count.

So we usually spend about the first half of an action sequence doing lots of really cool things to earn drama dice.  Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail but we still get the die for the effort.  Then once we have a lot of Drama Dice we finish things off with calling lots of raises on some basic action like a simple 'attack' roll.

So I always viewed the NET Drama Dice as being XP because it meant those drama dice were most likely earned doing something that not only was cool but successful AND effective all on your own merrit.

Just my thoughts


Gordon C. Landis:
Here's our solution (my 7th Sea game has been dea. . .ah, resting, for many months now, but it was sure fun!):

Drama Dice GAINED DURING PLAY can be "banked" for experience   AT THE TIME they are gained during play.  No experience from  Drama Dice "left over" - they simply carry over for use in the next session.  So, if the GM tosses some DD your way when you (intentionally) catch your skirts on a table corner, ripping them from your dress and distracting the Villian with the resulting exposure of your shapely legs, you split 'em however you like between your Drama Pool and Experience Pool, right then.

At first, I didn't think this would help - logically it shouldn't, nothing substantive is changed.  But somehow it did - no one agonized over whether to keep or spend DD anymore.  They made their choice (usually around 50/50) and kept playing.

Now, a caveat - we only played 2 sessions this way, so it might not be a long term solution.  Over time, people might get upset at the "selfish" folks that "bank" all their DD rather than use 'em to help the group/make sessions fun/add color.  But short term, it worked.

Gordon C. Landis

Clinton R. Nixon:

You may have hit on something here. I really need to get and read the GM's guide, as I don't know the exact guidelines for when to give Drama Dice. In the game I'm playing in, they're pretty spartan--I start with 2, and usually get 1 or maybe 2 during the game. 3's the max I've ever seen passed out (with the exception of one character who has some crazy swordsman school that gives them out like candy.)

I suppose if they were more plentiful in the game, this might alleviate the players' reticence to spend them.


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