Saturday, July 10, 2010

Instant swashbuckling, with fast pacing and a fun game

I have been requested to run a game of 7th Sea. This caused me to take down one of those games I have on my shelf which had not seen any action, and make a concentrated effort to make it shine. This brings back the question, before mentioned on this blog, of pacing a game. A game like 7th Sea is very much a game about pacing.

Swashbuckling means you have to keep the pace brisk, and the mood has to be one of adventure and daring. My friends have started to make characters, and while we have decided to start the game at sea, we will probably try to swing from at least one chandelier, and at least have one chase involving horse dawn carriages. My image of how swashbuckling works, is to have iconic settings and iconic dramatic situations presented in swift succession to get that feeling we all look for in such a game.

Now, anyone can line up a few villains, a few chases and a fencing scene or two. Making it sing and dance demands a rhythm, a beat, to keep everyone dancing the same dance.

Swashbuckling is, I claim, not a genre, but a way to approach your game. I suggest the following.
  • Chases - there must be quick transitions between scenes. If you don't just gloss over a bit of travel, it should be a chase.
  • Witty banter - whatever you do, you have to whip out witty one liners. The problem hwre of course is that not all of us are that quick thinking. 7th Sea have something called The Repartee system, usable for tauting and intimidating people while you cross swords. I like that game system support for such a thing.
  • Swinging, sliding and jumping - I designed a S&W swashbuckler class in an earlier post, and tried to get this in there. I think swinging from chandeliers is the thing for swashbuckling. Oddly, most gamesystem give you penalties when doing something at the same time as swinging a sword. To make this kind of action happen you should give bonuses for every action you take while fighting! The only game I know of that does it is Wushu. 7th Sea uses something called Drama Dice, which you can use to increase the chance of success. A good idea, but maybe having to roll at all is a bad idea?
My idea is that if you manage to get that in your game, the pace of "brisk succession" I mentioned above might come naturally. If nothing happens for a while, I'll just have someone enter with a loaded gun (hey, in the 17th century you can have guns!) and then add the three points above. Instant "swashbuckliness". Should work, eh?


  1. Interesting- swashbuckling as a tempo/style of pacing, rather than a genre. Seems like a train of thought that could be particularly useful for tabletop RPGs. Are there any other styles of pacing you might identify? "Hitchcock-iness", maybe?

  2. "Hitchcock-iness"?

    Hmm. I will have to think about that. Probably, I will need to watch some films as well. Nice excuse! It's research.


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