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Author Topic: 7th Sea, character currency, and advancement systems  (Read 10638 times)
Clinton R. Nixon
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« on: July 10, 2001, 01:58:00 PM »

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.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
joshua neff
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2001, 02:04:00 PM »

Clinton--

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.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
jburneko
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« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2001, 02:26:00 PM »

Quote

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

Jesse
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2001, 04:54:00 PM »

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
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2001, 04:54:00 PM »

Jesse--

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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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
jburneko
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« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2001, 05:52:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-07-10 20:54, Clinton R Nixon wrote:
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.)


Hmmmm... That doesn't sound right.  They're supposed to 'flow like water.'  That's a quote from somewhere but I can't remember where.  And as for any Drama Dice earned from Swordsman Schools, those have expirory times on them. (Some last until the end of the scene others for a certain number of phases.) They NEVER turn into XP.

But anyway my 7th Sea Character starts with 2 Drama Dice and I usually earn about 5 through out the game and according to what I've read in the books MY GM is stingy.

Just more thoughts.

Jesse
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John Wick
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« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2001, 05:59:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-07-10 20:54, Clinton R Nixon wrote:
Jesse--

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.


When I was running 7th Sea (both fur reel and during playtest) I threw Drama Dice all over the place. Players regularly got 10 per session.

Plus, whenever they spent those dice, they usually spent them on something "dramatic" which meant they spent drama dice on the action, then got some more back in return.

I _think_ all of that is in the GM Guide... but it's been a while since I wrote it. :wink:

Take care,
John

(PS: I like the notion of giving XPs based on how many you _spend_ during the adventure. That's very cool.)
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Carpe Deum,
John
Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2001, 08:02:00 PM »

Ron uses that (spend 'em to get XP) in Elfs where you have to spend your coins in order to gain higher stats.  It's a great idea.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2001, 09:38:00 PM »

Quote
(PS: I like the notion of giving XPs based on how many you _spend_ during the adventure. That's very cool.)


See, now I find that interesting, & here's why: I've had a hunch for a while (with no real data to back it up--& John, feel free to tell me just how far off I am) that 7th Sea is a whole lotta John Wick that was altered by demands from AEG. The whole "unspent Drama Dice convert to XP" makes sense in the RPG tradition of "balance", but makes no sense in the grand, epic swashbuckling the game promotes. (Yeah, I know, John--you try to write games for lots of different types of gamers, & the "balance" issue is essential to gamism, even if it's generally contrary to narrativism. But then, you said yourself that after seeing a munchkin abuse the rules, you changed them & took out Disadvantages. Which I think was a great move.)

Someone on RPGnet posted that the only types of magic John had wanted to put in were Glamour, Porte, & Sorte, & the rest were added in by request of AEG. I found that also interesting, as those are the only types of magic I really like in the game. The Ussuran one (the name of which I can't remember off the top of my head) is okay, & I really don't like the rune magic (or the Vestenmanfuhffurnugen).

Anyway, I think 7th Sea is, essentially, a very good game. & with a few rules tweaks, I like it even more.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
John Wick
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« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2001, 11:10:00 AM »

Quote

See, now I find that interesting, & here's why: I've had a hunch for a while (with no real data to back it up--& John, feel free to tell me just how far off I am) that 7th Sea is a whole lotta John Wick that was altered by demands from AEG.
Someone on RPGnet posted that the only types of magic John had wanted to put in were Glamour, Porte, & Sorte, & the rest were added in by request of AEG.


Originally, 7th Sea was Vodacce. That's all, nothing else. It grew from there. That's all I'm gonna say about that. :wink:

Take care,
John
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Carpe Deum,
John
Rod Anderson
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« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2001, 07:16:00 PM »

New poster here. Regarding the Drama Dice as XP: My impression was that Drama Dice were indeed meant to "flow like water", and the GM was expected to squeeze them right back out of the players by applying pressure: more baddies, more danger, bigger stakes. PCs who refused to part with their Drama Dice would naturally not hold up well and could look forward to all sorts of Candide-like misadventures: kidnapped by pirates, cursed by witches, sold to the salt mines, the ever-popular auto-da-fe . . . on the bright side, they'd have plenty of Drama Dice to spend on boofing up their skills and whatnot.
Played this way, 7th Sea could be looked at as an exercise in simulating those old saws, "Suffering builds character" and "Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want."

--Rod Anderson
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2001, 07:30:00 PM »

Hello,

I regret to say that in spite of TRYING, I have not yet played 7th Sea. This is due to a GM who in four HOURS of play did not give us the opportunity to fight ONE single sword-battle. I'm serious - and we tried hard.

That aside.

Given what's been said on this thread so far, there is one refinement needed - do not permit ANY advancement based on Drama dice. The only thing they're good for should be dramatic stuff.

DO use the "advancement based on Drama dice expended."

This would remove all traces of contradiction. As it stands, even if the Drama dice do "flow like water," the basic contradiction is still there if an unspent Drama die can be spent later for improvement.

I am speaking here NOT as a game designer criticizing anyone, but rather as a player/GM who'd tweak it this way. (When Sorcerer's available, you'll be able to pick out dozens of things I'd do differently now ... dammit ... so I specifically do not criticize at that level.)

Best,
Ron
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Rod Anderson
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« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2001, 08:42:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-07-11 23:30, Ron Edwards wrote:

Given what's been said on this thread so far, there is one refinement needed - do not permit ANY advancement based on Drama dice. The only thing they're good for should be dramatic stuff.

DO use the "advancement based on Drama dice expended."


Is this intended to have the consequence of penalizing players for NOT expending all their Drama Dice by the end of the session, or simply to resolve the contradiction?

If the latter, why not award Experience Points and Drama Dice concurrently?

(12:10 am: Just realized -- I was assuming that, if the experience point function of Drama Dice were removed, so would be the incentive to hoard them. But of course, a player could still be uptight about spending Drama Dice out of a desire to save them for "the big fight at the end" or some such. Mr. Edwards'  suggested mechanic removes this other incentive to hoard; I retract my question.)

As an aside, I just reread Mr. Nixon's original post and took note of this statement:

"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."

This seems to imply, if I read correctly, that Drama Dice are only awarded if the character enjoys game-mechanical success in an action described evocatively by the player. Is that according to Hoyle?

--Rod Anderson

[ This Message was edited by: Rod Anderson on 2001-07-12 01:17 ]
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greyorm
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« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2001, 08:43:00 PM »

Quote

the basic contradiction is still there if an unspent Drama die can be spent later for improvement.

Hrm...I think I could see this as "Drama later?"
That is, the Drama is used to better oneself and therefore add to dramatic tension later, or open up new areas of character exploration based on the expenditure of this currency.

That said, I do agree; giving experience per Drama die used is the way I'd go as well...for it supports the dramatic element in play and rewards it.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Laura Bishop
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« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2001, 10:23:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-07-12 00:42, Rod Anderson wrote:

...I was assuming that, if the experience point function of Drama Dice were removed, so would be the incentive to hoard them. But of course, a player could still be uptight about spending Drama Dice out of a desire to save them for "the big fight at the end" or some such.



This is, actually, exactly what happened in our 7th Sea game.  When we were using the original DD/XP rules, we had two things happen: nothing "dramatic" during play, and then bank XP at the end.  Now, really - we're all good people.  There isn't a real PowerGamer in the bunch. But it's hard to squeeze a character out of 100pts! ; )  And if you have Sorcery/Dracheisen... oof.  We didn't -mean- to be Munchkins, but we all wanted something: Fin-3, Attack (ImprovWeapon)-2, etc.  We had goals, and by golly, we had the means.

By the third session, our GM had caught on.  He then instituted this House Rule: XP and DD are two separate things.  They do not correlate and in no way does one reflect the other.  DD are given out like candy and XP is issued at the end as it might be in a more "standard" game.  On average, my Inish Glamour Sorcerer Breanna O'Toole gets 5 DD and 3 XP a session.  DD carries over into the next session, of course, but rarely do I start a session with more than 2 in my pool.  Now that the security blankets been given to me, I throw DD all over the place! ; )

Someone in the group complained once that it detracted from what DD meant to the game, but to me, they seem to reach the same ends.  We now spend our Drama Dice to do swashy things, and we know we're going to get XP in the end for doing said swashy thing.  It's a Win/Win situation for us players, really.

We're now into something like 4 months of regular play in this one campaign, with another just under a month using the same house rule (different GMs).  This has worked for us; it might work for you. : )

--L
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