Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies

Blog posting for me has been beyond lethargic of late. What with the normal life of being a parent of two young kids added to some scary moments with my eldest daughter (corneal abrasion – nothing major as it turned out, but scary as hell with several days of her eye hurting too much to open) and my father-in-law having a stroke. Work has picked up a bit.

Beyond blog posting going way down, I began having trouble with my Wild Talents game. I like Wild Talents a lot and had been having fun. But it is a fairly crunchy game and the prep work was causing me problems – while not requiring as much work as D&D 3.x, it still has a decent level of crunch. And one thing I learned is it requires a decent amount of prep work to consider the right NPCs to challenge your heroes. With some regret I had to put the game on hiatus.

What was clear was I needed something with a lot less crunch. Something I could prep super-quickly – or even, heavens forbid, run on the fly. After some investigation, I narrowed it down to two options – Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies (a game of swashbuckling adventure in a world of floating cloud islands and flying skyships) and Spirit of the Century (a pulp game). After some discussion with my group – and the discovery that one player was totally on board with the idea of sky pirates – we went with Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies.

Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies uses a game engine called PDQ# – Prose Descriptive Qualities Sharp. The idea is your character is centered around fortes. A forte is basically anything you can use to solve problems. They can be careers, possessions, allies, desires, etc. It is a fairly rules-lite game, but unlike others I have experienced, it seems to have just enough structure so you are not making everything up. The game is also designed for characters, to frankly, kick ass. Your characters are supposed to be good at things. And they are heroes! Even if they are pirates… After all, the Dread Pirate Roberts of The Princess Bride turned out to be a pretty ok guy…

We had one session of making characters. To set the mood properly, we needed snacks with a pirate theme…

Arrr... Pirate Cupcakes

Daughter who Frosted Cupcakes for Daddy's Playgroup

So fortified, character generation went pretty well, with the crew of the Monkey Squid’s Musket ready for action. Last night was our first game. I had a rough idea for the game in the days leading up to it, but it wasn’t until the night before that I statted things. Or at least I intended to – I fell sound asleep after a busy day with the kiddies. So stats were made during lunch at work…

The game went well – it was a lot of fun – at least for me it was – and it seemed like the players enjoyed themselves…  Certainly some tweaking to work on and I was far from worried about every rule. One nice thing about the rules was it allows social activities to be rolled just like combat ones. I first encountered that in the Dying Earth RPG. As a result, the opening encounter, which I had assumed was going to be a slugfest with the savage Blue Men of the Jungle Sky, wound up involving a PC who played a character descended from these savages, a player who excels at making things go boom in most games, successfully convinced them to go away.

I’ve seen the setting slightly criticized – I seem to recall rpg.net conversations mentioning that while the setting is quite neat, more detail would be nice. As it turned out, the level of detail worked perfectly, especially in a game where players are encouraged to help shape it. One player ran a character who was extremely lucky – but as a side effect important people have a habit of dying in his presence – from incredibly odd accidents. The player has control over this, but the character does not! This character hailed from one of the major islands, Barathi, but was exiled/ran away (little unclear as to which…) when an important noble met an unfortunate accident. The adventure took them to Barathi, where they encountered a noble woman breaking from tradition and trying to escape an arranged marriage to the heir to the throne of Barathi (it also later turned out she was a sympathizer to rebels on a minor island ruled by the Barathi). When she mentioned the heir, Markiz Donaldo Vanadi, that player chimed in “well he’s actually the second heir – I was at a party with his older brother and he unfortunately fell from the balcony to his death…. But it wasn’t my fault!” The broad brushes of the setting fit perfectly for our group – prior to this game I never knew Donaldo had had an older brother (nor did I know the Blue Men would negotiate with their more civilized cousins…)

There’s a few things I’d work on in future sessions – certain players had a bit more to do than others – and I’ll want to study everyone’s character sheets a bit more to help facilitate this. But it is something I’ll definitely want to play some more.


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