1 I tried learnin' the language, but it tasted like noodles every time I said anything. I hate noodles.
2 I won't have bloodshed in my house. The stains never come out.
3 Don't they teach you Vodacce girls anything about men?
4 Men reveal more with their bodies than with their tongues.
5 So many women didn't know how to perfume a letter, but this lady did - and yes, he chose those two words very carefully.
6 Twisting a man's fate did have a price, after all, but the pain was better than what those two had in mind.
7 Beloved. By tomorrow night, Good King Sandoval will be...safe within his grave.
8 Trust an Avalon to ruin a good fist fight by pullin' a blade.
9 I already had me press gang this month.
10 Go ahead, then. Kill me. Kill me and seal your fate.
11 Perhaps the orb exerts a repulsive force on the cog similar to that of two similarly aligned lodestones?
12 Lord Weberly dropped the object in surprise as everyone of his hunting hounds began a most mournful howling.
13 There is a silvery rod somehow driven through the middle of the sphere which is impossible to remove.
14 The sphere can be spun on the rod with almost no applied pressure and continues spinning for a long time after being spun, but to what end, I am uncertain.
15 I swear that I saw the cloud pulse, and grow a little bigger, right as we lost sight of it.
16 Halt! In the Name of the King!
17 You've saved my life and the lives of countless thousands of my men.
18 Everybody dies, McGee. Sooner or later, everybody dies.
19 The Montaigne would destroy the world if they thought it would entertain them.
20 Swearing like a sailor is a vice I think the Order can live with.
21 Nothing is done until blood is spilled, old man.
22 It's a terrible thing to let good veal parmigiana go to waste.
23 What mother could leave her child behind?
24 You cannot marry him. You are already promised to another.
25 Grief enough to lust after a barbarian from the north?
26 The name means nothing to me anymore. I am not my father's daughter. Nor my mother's daughter. I am Maab's daughter. I am Meryth.
27 Your greatest love will bring your darkest day.
28 What of the new prisoners, sir?
29 My subjects, illusory or not, love him dearly in a way they have never loved me.
30 I think you enjoy your curse more than you let on.
31 I'm nobody's fool, least of all the Empereur's.
32 "Madam, your husband is no fool." "Prove it to me and come back alive."
33 He's a butcher in judge's robes. If we let it continue, dozens more may die.
34 The law does not excuse cirumstance, signore, no matter how tragic.
35 I should like to see the methods you use to obtain such pious confessions.
36 Bill. Bill. Transfer of prisoners - this shouldn't be here. Bill.
37 This is Vodacce, Kasper. Brothers kill each other here for far less reason than I had...
38 It's all right, Mr. Braun. I've just become one of the nine richest people in the world.
39 I know Father Grumel, and he would never lie to me. I despise liars, Eckert.
40 Oh Theus. No more! I will give you everything I own, just have mercy!
41 Charles, my whipping pistol.
42 Even a madman is better than the tender mercies of the Vestenmannavnjar.
43 Sorcery's just like any other source of power - it can help or hinder, and it doesn't care which.
44 We are Montaigne! The world is ours! Am I clear?
45 Tomorrow, a foreign sun would rise over Barcino.
46 Tell the men to be ready - and tell them that the butcher of San Juan commands the enemy.
47 Montegue isn't here to help you any more. Your war stops here.
48 You are scavengers, du Toille, not worthy of my anger.
49 The Church has forgiven you, and believes you should not have to bear this burden alone. Find all of Efron's blood, and ensure that they join him in Paradise.
50 For you, for Castille, for all...
51 I have found a greater treasure than gold, wife.
52 Would that I was truly her mother. Then, perhaps, I would know what decision to make.
53 Like all Witches, her heart is as cold as her bed.
54 Shut up, woman. You are a heretic, a renegade and a murderess.
55 "No, Gioseppe. I love you...I will always love you." "You will be burned."
56 One day, she just appeared up there, laughin' like a storm.
57 Easy question, boy. He died when she killed him.
58 I told you not to rob that bishop. My Uncle Sigmund always said that robbing priests is ill luck.
59 Kazi believed that a spoken compliment was an insult - an admission to a lack of faith in another man's abilities.
60 Still, we might have been better off facing him than the evils in this forest.
61 Run...
62 For I am far from home, and here shall I die...
63 I believe she enjoys apples.
64 Take care of my horse, Black Cross, or my curse upon your corpse.
65 Theus is a monster.
66 It is a waste of many brilliant minds.
67 Crafty devil. But I invented the craft.
68 No speeches. Thank Theus for small favors.
69 This so-called 'empiricism' is a disease in the Church.
70 Welcome, gentlemen. Do step in and make yourselves at home.
71 Those who put an end to Arciniega will be welcomed into the kingdom of Theus.
72 Lost your nerve? Come now, gentlemen. I'm sure you're responsible for worse...
73 The very notion that light can be broken down into a - what does he call it? - a 'spectrum.' Blasphemy of the first order.
74 It mocks the glory of Theus and defies all common sense.
75 Let him stand as an example to all who would follow him.
76 You should drink. You are too pale, and it is cold outside.
77 I walk in Matushka's lands. He cannot harm me here.
78 Did you expect a battalion of men? Three talking wolves? Perhaps one of the Leshii?
79 Your name is Montegue du Montaigne, General.
80 Considering that you have an entire army less than two miles from here, I believe three men is 'alone' enough.
81 How did you get my wife's letter?
82 I know you do not wish to make war on us, and that when any of your men die, you feel it as keenly as if he were your brother.
83 Better our lives than our honor.
84 And may he walk with you, Dochka. We will both need his wisdom before there can be spring.
85 Our little dochka did well, did she not?
86 Ay mio. What a dilemma - my daughter or my country!
87 It would be quite unfortunate if I had to question your lovely young daughter regarding her father's apparent need to interfere in the affairs of the Inquisition.
88 A difficult choice, mis amigos, eh?
89 Next time, El Vago. Next time, it will be you...
90 Do not speak to me of foolishness, nor of duty. Believe me, I know the difference: I was taught by the best!
91 May Grumfather's eye always watch and cherish you.
92 It was annihilation, a white death over the land and water and sky.
93 But it was Sterk, who never fell, that spoke for the twenty-five.
94 It was the venom of a thousand snakes, the strength of a thousand jarls, the evil of a thousand sunless days, restless in the womb of the world.
95 Even Kjølig, ever-brooding, smiled at this revelation.
96 The speed of their flight extinguished their fire, the burning torch keeping the darkness at bay.
97 He absorbed his friend's suffering, taking it as his own.
98 These binding runes were the Truth of the world and kept the Great Wyrm here.
99 The twenty-five have a place between our ancestors and Grumfather.
100 You think that you know us.
101 You consider us to be powerless. Weak. Naive.
102 You believe that you control us.
103 You assume that because we are women, we are not worthy of strength, power, and knowledge.
104 You are wrong.
105 I live. And I am free.
106 Give me a sword and a hand to wield it, and I will move the world.
107 No doubt you have heard the Kire's name before. It is well that you should.
108 You have heard the tales, yes? The Kire can assure you, they are all true.
109 Would that the Kire could embrace such an end to his own life.
110 Yes, you read the Kire's words correctly.
111 I pray your pardon, gentle reader, for the Kire does not know.
112 The Kire never promised an ending.
113 Meanwhile, the Kire must set his pen down.
114 He knows that he will find you there safely.
115 The Holy Crozier of Saint Konstantinus will never be held by hands as wicked as yours!
116 Just who in Legion's name do you think you are?
117 Perhaps I'm feeling charitable today.
118 Eisen has too many half-wits roaming around for me to keep track of them all.
119 Saint Konstantinus' Crozier is not for sale.
120 Someone hired these clowns to steal a stick?
121 Be happy, holy man. You're going to die defendin' yer beliefs.
122 It better be down there, or ye can start giving yerself Last Rites.
123 No, but that doesn't really matter, does it? That's the nature of faith.
124 Léon will see the wisdom in our words.
125 They're taking a prisoner to the Gaol. He's to be executed.
126 Has justice itself now become a crime?
127 My word. I never thought the little scarecrow had it in him. How marvelous.
128 It's water, husband. It isn't even particularly interesting water.
129 Can your pride allow you to accept a Montaigne garrison in Barcino?
130 You read San Juste?!
131 I suppose the Western Ocean is for other adventurers.
132 Theus takes no notice of us. He thinks we're nothing. Nothing at all. But He's wrong.
133 We have something within us that yearns to be more than the Syrneth ever became.
134 Your king is an abomination upon the throne.
135 I am the only one fit to judge what is beneficial to my country.
136 Eisenfaust must survive.
137 So be it. Our pact is sealed.
138 Hopefully they shall receive what I offer them, to spare my people.
139 They are filthy, dishonorable weapons that have no place in a civilized society.
140 Ambrogia awaits attack: it does not initiate an attack unless it has to.
141 At your convenience, senor.
142 If it's a matter of honor, then you shall have your duel.
143 I beat you today: I'll beat you tomorrow. I'll beat you any time you come for me.
144 The Crescents require a delicate touch, much like a courtesan.
145 Water. Clean soothing water.
146 Antonio had faced a good number of fierce things in his journeys, but Salih Husnuh's first wife was certainly close to the top of the list.
147 If he never saw another grain of sand, he would be truly happy.
148 However, no man may take more women than he can sustain in comfort.
149 In the end, I know that I shall go out by the same door from whence I came.
150 From the study of the body we shall learn what is healthy and what is not.
151 The Great Creator cupped his hands around his mouth and blew, and the winds were born.
152 My Dakalan beauty, my lady of the stars.
153 Or perhaps there is no work on the subject because these creatures are simply figments of our fertile imaginations.
154 I tell them no, but perhaps soon.
155 When you walk through your house at night, let a torch light your way, lest a minion of Darkness lie coiled like a black silk snake waiting for you to sleep.
156 That's my money jangling in your purse, thief.
157 You gentlemen really should practice more.
158 There's nowhere to run, my jackanape.
159 You're standing on the edge of St. Rose's grave.
160 Extortion does not become nobility - even in Inismore.
161 Théah had sorcery long before it had Senators.
162 Shouldn't we check with the Captain?
163 Rejoice, my friends, for Theus loves and cares for you.
164 The Captain! He's one of them now!
165 How would you like to be a god?
166 Perhaps tomorrow you could show me that trick with the belaying pin?
167 Welcome to paradise.
168 Drink deep, for tomorrow we may die.
169 There's not enough experience in a lifetime to make me see things your way.
170 I have told him time and again that I do not need his sorcery, I have Theus.
171 While justice may have been served, vengeance never dies.
172 Imagination and courage, steel and powder. Everything else will just be a hassle.
173 What do you think we'll need to explore these islands?
174 Truth is not a privilege. It is a right granted us by Theus.
175 Fascinating. Hmmm, a ring appears to be missing.
176 Nasty little toy.
177 You are utterly and unquestionably insane!
178 You may be quick, mon capitaine, but you are not fast.
179 No one can save you now, girl.
180 You wield your darkness well, murderer, but darkness will ever flee before the light of truth!
181 Doesn't being steeped in hypocrisy ever bother you?
182 Another time, Explorer.
183 No matter their motives, Explorers were a danger to all of humanity.
184 By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.
185 Right here is where, alone and restless,/He begins a journey of a thousand miles.
186 Those in the West have the peculiar notion of a place called "Cathay" wherre we all move about like stately porcelain figurines. These people are very simple-minded.
187 Drink, my horse, while we cross the autumn water!
188 It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.
189 If you cannot see her by the jeweled mountain top,/Maybe it is on the moonlit Jasper Terrace you will meet her.
190 We never tired of looking at each other -/The mountain and I.
191 All warfare is based on deception.
192 Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.
193 Let me leave the world. Let me alight, like you/On your western mountain of phoenixes and cranes.
194 Once you think you have catalogued them all, you find another that marks your recordings as antiquated.
195 Just row, boy!
196 The Sidhe strive for perfection, whether in beauty or ugliness.
197 The Sidhe are not to be trifled with.
198 I'm running out of things to hit people with.
199 The Sidhe are not confined to Avalon by any means.
200 Every drop of rain is a teach she cries. Every rumble of thunder is a bellow of her anger.
201 This do I pledge:/Peace unto Avalon,/Strength in everyone/Woods grown with antlers/The land held secure/Peace unto Avalon/Nine times Eternal!
202 So who is found at court?
203 It is not enough for the nobles of Théah to just divide themselves from the commoners.
204 Sir, I may be a liar, a cheat and a scoundrel, but I am also an excellent swordsman and a passable shot, so I suggest you take that remark back.
205 I would take you on in a battle of wits, but as a gentleman I could not attack an unarmed man.
206 In the sight of Theus and by the wisdom of the first prophet, I charge you to speak.
207 How dare you make such baseless accusations in this room. I have broken men for less slander.
208 And I trust that now completes the debt I owe you.
209 But why deal with one thorn, when you can kill the entire rose?
210 I told you I was not to be disturbed.
211 I have no appointments for today and the Hieros, in their benevolence, do not allow me the honour of guests.
212 Merciful Theus, why do you torment me, your humble servant, with incompetents and buffoons.

I tried learnin' the language, but it tasted like noodles every time I said anything. I hate noodles.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

By my count, that's 8 for 7th Sea to 4 for Gypsy.

Seventh Sea: I tried learnin' the language, but it tasted like noodles every time I said anything. I hate noodles.

So, let's take a look at Seventh Sea! Produced by AEG in 1999, Seventh Sea took the system they built for Legend of the Five Rings and tried to warp it to fit a very romanticized swashbuckling Rennaissance feel. It also had a completely insane backstory that was only hinted at early on. Like Pinnacle and Deadlands, there was a metaplot that went on through the line and required you to buy a number of books to get the full backstory of what was going on and who the major villains of the setting were; unlike Pinnacle, though, it was fairly easy for a GM to just run the parts that were cool and ignore the metaplot because it was far less of a thing.

Sort of.

We'll be looking at the books in order of publication, much as we would if we bought them as they came out! We'll start with...

The 7th Sea Players' Guide.

While the art isn't perfect, it very much captures the feel the game is going for. The art direction in general is pretty good for this book. It begins by introducing us to three viewpoint characters - the villainous Villanova of Vodacce (and his priestly companion, Bernardo), the pirate fencer O'Connell (an Inishman of Avalon), and Helena, a daring woman of Vendel.

You'll learn what those names mean shortly.

7th Sea, in its own words, focuses on: swashbuckling and sorcery, diplomacy and intrigue, and archaeology and exploration. One-liners and swordsmanship are very important, as is the noble blood of sorcery, the dark power that runs in the veins of the noble families of the world. Pirates and other freedom-seeking adventurers trawl the waters and trek across the lands, exploring the unknown and seeking treasure, as the nations sit on the verge of going beyond kingdoms and becoming countries . Royalty and nobility try to resolve disputes in the face of rising nationalism and espionage. And meanwhile, there are the Syrneth ruins. Which have no real world analogue, so let me quote at you.

7th Sea Player's Guide posted:

Beyond the kingdoms of Théah lie the ruins of an ancient civilization, lost centuries ago. Hidden beneath thousands of years of dust and the waves are vast cities of Lost Syrneth. Who knows what ancient treasures remain, unseen by human eyes, untouched by human hands?

Men and women who call themselves "archæologists" are hired by the kings and queens of Théah to unearth these treasures and bring them back to noble hands. Daring the perilous ancient ruins, these men and women are all the rage in the noble courts and the subjects of romantic novels all across the land. Praised as heroes, they hope to discover the secrets of the Syrneth in hopes that they may uncover the key to man's own origins, and possibly the secrets of the universe itself.

Now, there's some things we'll cover as basics before the book dives into the world - just a primer, really. Théah is not the world - it's the continent. It intentionally resembles 17th century Europe. However, it has magic - each nation has its own magic, save for Castille and Eisen. Magic is bloodline-based, generally, and can be very dangerous.

The religion of most of the continent is the Vaticine Church, the Church of Prophets, which resembles Catholicism. However, the Vaticine embraced science for the most part far more than the Vatican did - until very recently, almost all scientific breakthroughs have been the direct result of priests researching or funding research. The Church has founded many, many universities to teach science. However, it has just emerged from the thirty-year War of the Cross against the Objectionists (read: Protestants), which has left chaos across much of the world, especially the nation of Eisen...and in the wake of the War, "a sinister Inquisition" threatens to take over.

There are six known seas, and the mythical Seventh Sea, where the world is strange and backwards. No one's ever proven it exists.

And the Syrneth! The Syrneth ruins exist beneath the earth, on long island chains in the western sea and in other remote locations. They were built by an inhuman race called the Syrne, of whom little is known. What is known is that the ruins have produced much wealth in the form of puzzling scientific marvels that have yet to be reproduced.

The nations of Théah are: Avalon, the enchanted land of three united kingdoms. It's Britain. Castille, headquarters of the Vaticine, which has recently been attacked by the nation of Montaigne. Castille is Spain. Eisen, a once-proud empire now struggling to recover from the disastrous War of the Cross. It's Germany. Montaigne, the most powerful nation in the world, led by a vicious emperor...but also home to the great arts. It's France. Ussura, the wild land of the north, a traditional land with great vastnesses. It's Russia. The archipelago of Vendel and Vestenmannavnjar, where the wealthy Guild traders struggle with the traditionalist raiders who refuse to give up their heritage for money. It's...well, the Netherlands. And of course there is Vodacce, once the cradle of civilization and now split by merchant princes. It's Italy.

There's also the Empire of the Crescent Moon (Arabia) and Cathay (China), but those are seperated from the rest of the world by culture and by physical barriers. There may be other continents, but no one's been there.

There's also a number of secret (and not-so-secret) societies. For example, the Explorer's Society - a gentleman's club of explorers and geographers. The Invisible College, a secretive band of academics who work to protect science from the Inquisition, which has turned against it. The Knights of the Rose and Cross, an order of adventuers who seek to bring justice and protection. Die Kreuzritter, a holy order of Vaticine knights who were wiped out centuries ago by treachery - but rumors of which still circulate. Los Vagos, the followers of a mysterious masked man seeking to protect Castille's people from all threats - internal and external. The Riliasciare, the Free Thinkers, who promote free will and self-determination...at any cost. And, of course, Sophia's Daughters, a Vodacce women's union seeking equality of the sexes and political power via covert means.

Next time: Do you care at all about the system, or shall I move on to the more in-depth look the Player's Guide goes into?

I won't have bloodshed in my house. The stains never come out.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: I won't have bloodshed in my house. The stains never come out.

First, a brief system overview.

You have 5 Traits, which are what every other system would call attributes. They are Brawn , which is strength and endurance. Finesse , coordination and agility. Resolve , willpower. Wits , wits. And Panache . which is specialness.

You then also have Skills and Knacks. A Skill is, for example, Performer. You spend points to learn the Performer skill, which you then have permanently. This gives you access to its knacks, such as Acting, Dancing, Oratory and Singing. You buy ranks in these, but can only buy ranks in knacks that you have access to.

You roll d10s based on a Trait plus a Knack, and keep a certain number of them, usually your trait rating. 10s explode. As in L5R, you can declare Raises - voluntarily making a roll harder to get more effect.

There are two kinds of attacks: normal and firearms. With normal attacks, you make your attack roll against your opponent's defense knack, which could be his Footwork or Parry (Weapon), or if he's doing something like swinging on a chandelier, his Swinging knack. You have to beat 5+(Defense Knack*5). Firearms only have to beat 5. They are very dangerous, but take forever to reload.

You then roll your damage (generally based on Brawn and your weapon, except ranged weapons which just use weapon damage) and he takes that many Flesh Wounds. Your foe then makes a Wound Check, rolling Brawn against his current Flesh Wounds total. If he succeeds, nothing changes. If he fails, he gets a Dramatic Wound, plus another for every full 20 points he fails by, and erases all Flesh Wounds. Firearms deal an extra Dramatic Wound for every 10 points you fail your check by. You can take a number of Dramatic Wounds less than your Resolve with no penalty, but once they are equal to or more than that, only your Drama Dice explode. Double your Resolve and you're KOed. (This is just for PCs. NPCs work differently.) More on Drama Dice at a later time.

Specifically, there are three types of NPC. Villains work the same way as PCs, Henchmen are KOed at Dramatic Wounds equal to their Resolve, and Brutes are low-tier bad guys who are easy to hit and get KOed when hit. However, they travel in packs. You can make Raises to take out more than one at a time.

Actions in combat are based on your Panache. You roll (Panache) dice, and the results tell you your initiative for each action. High Panache is very good.

Anyway, that's really all you need to know about the system for now. We'll cover important bits as they come up, and if you want more, then read the books.

Now, we move into the world info! We get introduced to more of our major plot characters: Archibald, the Avalonian Swordsman. Clarisse, the sinister Montaigne diplomat assigned to Castille who hires him to duel a man. Lucia, the Vodacce witch who serves Clarisse. As yet, they are utterly unrelated to the pirate battle the other plot characters are involved in. We'll see more of all these characters later.

We start with a timeline, divided into two eras: AUC, the time of the First City, and Anno Veritas, the modern era. AUC is the time of Numa, the First City, which arose in the lands now Vodacce. It was a republic ruled by a noble Senate, and worshipped a pantheon of planet-based deities. It grew corrupt and was reborn as an empire under the first Imperator, Gaius Phillipus Macer, during a military coup. A group of Senators used knowledge from ancient Syrneth artifacts to become the world's first sorcerors, turning the empire into their puppet.

The year 1 AV marked the arrival of the First Prophet. Fifty years after the birth of sorcery, a stranger appeared, speaking of a god called Theus and speaking against the use of sorcery, claiming it to be an abomination. He claimed that intelligence and free will are man's greatest assets, and that it was their duty to use these and to encourage their use. He became a threat to the Senate and was declared a criminal. He turned himself in, the Book of the Prophets says, the night before his warrent was signed, and he was put to death after predicting three prophets to follow him. His cult grew in power, and two centuries later, the Imperator declared himself a convert and made the teachings of the Prophet the true church of the empire, seizing the Senate's power and forming the Church of the Prophet.

Over the next two hundred years, the Empire split into the Eastern and Western Empires, before the whole lot collapsed and sent the land into a dark age. This ended with the coming of the Second Prophet in 305 AV, arriving from the land of the Crescent Moon. He spoke against sorcery like the first Prophet, but also spoke of a need to leave the corrupt land behind them. He led his followers east on a great pilgrimage...but he and many of them were killed on the border of the Crescent Empire, leading to a series of bloody crusades.

After the Crusades, a new Empire is formed under the rule of a man named Corantine. The Prophet's church had splintered into hundreds of sects, and Corantine united not only the lands of Théah, but also the church. He ordered the establishment of one Credo, forming the Vaticine Church in the city of Numa, to be led by a Hierophant and a council of Cardinals from across the empire. The Church was granted unprecedented power, able to rule in all spiritual matters even against the Emperor. Corantine's empire fell apart after his death, but the Church lived on.

Three centuries later, another man would unite much of Théah - the warlord Carleman, who conquered what would become Montaigne, Eisen and Vodacce. He was declared High Imperator of all Théah by the Church, which was not only politically powerful but also the beacon of education and learning at the time. AFter his death, everything collapsed again, though Montaigne, Eisen and Vodacce all gained national identities. Another 300 years of dark ages after that.

In 1000 AV, the Third Prophet arrived in Castille. Unlike his predecssors, he spoke of war and fire. He arranged for a coup to replace the sorcerous nobles of Castille with others, and declared the Crescent Empire to be infidels who must be fought, starting a new crusade. (Prior to this, Castille and the Crescents had been fairly good allies.) The Prophet declared Castille the center of the faith and led a short war against the Vaticine - which he won. While Vodacce retained control of the cardinals, the Hierophant was based in Castille. He restructured the Church to emphasize research...and he also founded the Inquisition. Its duty was to seek out sorcerors and kill them, and it answered only to the Hierophant. This made enemies among all nobles in Théah, and Sorcery became a secret for five centuries.

In 1028, the King of Montaigne invaded the island of Avalon, intending also to conquer its neighboring isles of Inismore and the Highland Marches. The Sidhe, an ancient race of strange creatures, fled Avalon and took their magical glamour with them, leaving Montaigne to rule. Eventually, they assimilated, but it left the two nations in fierce rivalry.

After 200 years of Crusades, they finally ended when the Poor Knights of the Prophet, a major crusading order, were declared heretics. They were executed to the last man, and the border with the Crescents was closed to all but a single Vodacce merchant family, who traded with them. In the meantime, culture flourished in Vodacce, between the Crescent trade and the Church's establishments of learning. This rennaissance spread throughout the world...and also led a monk named Mattias Lieber, in 1517, to denounce the Church, which had grown somewhat corrupt. He declared the Church obsolete and that only Theus had command of the human soul, starting the Objectionist movement - which spread to almost a third of all Vaticines.

The Objectionists were burned across the world until the early 1600s, when Eisen opened its borders to the "Liebers." Tensions remain high, especially after the War of the Cross. Eisen's former Imperator had allowed the Objectionists in...but his successor was a Vaticine fanatic. He demanded the Objectionists renounce their faith...which led to open war. It destroyed Eisen over 30 years, and all nations had a hand in it. The Church's power was weakened, leading into the current day.

More recently, Elaine of Avalon threw off all traces of Montaigne rule, becoming High Queen in 1658. She declared independence from the Vaticine Church and began a royal navy, uniting the three islands now called 'Avalon'. The navy, equivalent in social rank to knights, have become notorious pirates. This led to Castille declaring war, but their great fleet was defeated badly, leading Avalon to have the most powerful fleet in Théah. The deadly White Plague returned in 1665 without warning, taking many lives before vanishing without apparent cause just a year later. Church scholars remain confused.

The barbarian Vestenmannavnjar have slowly been growing a merchant caste, using their swift ships to carry cargo across the world instead of raiders. They call themselves Vendel now, and they have founded the Guilds, taking control of many of the Vesten lands. When Eisen splintered, they stepped in to gain power, starting a merchant war with the Vodacce princes. The Vendel Guilder has slowly become the common coin of Théah, much to Vodacce's dismay.

Most recently, the King of Montaigne openly admitted to being a sorceror. In 1666, High Inquisitor Verdugo assembled a largely Castillian army to arrest the king for heresy...and the King refused to surrender. The army decimated Montaigne's forces...until the King's personal guard, the Musketeers, were all that was left. The Musketeers' firearms destroyed the enemy forces thanks to the genius of their captain, Montegue. He became High General, and the King of Montaigne declared himself l'Empereur and invaded Castille. The Hierophant went to try and negotiate a peace, but he fell ill and died within the space of a few days during his stay - or so the Montaigne say, claiming he died of Plague and his body was burned. A lack of unanimous decision among the Cardinals has prevented election of a new Hierophant for two years...and in the meantime, an Avalonian scholar, Jeremy Cook, has denounced the Church's backbone science of alchemy in favor of something he calls Empiricism, leading the Inquisition to be turned against this new heresy after Cook was put to death. For the first time, scholars and the Church have broken from each other.

Next time: The Nations of Théah.

Don't they teach you Vodacce girls anything about men?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Don't they teach you Vodacce girls anything about men?

We're told, as the Nations section begins, that for more information we'll want the GM's Guide and the forthcoming Nation sourcebooks. AEG decided to go with the 'shell out another thirty bucks' style of setting information here. Fortunately, we at least get some information this time around.

Mad Jack O'Bannon being a lunatic while Elaine and James MacDuff watch.

We begin with the nation of Avalon , more properly the United Kingdoms of Avalon in the Glamour Isles, three kingdoms united together. The islands of Avalon are beautiful - the grass is greener, the sky more blue, the forests darker and clouds more white. Everything seems larger than life there.

Avalon's leading political figure is Queen Elaine, a woman so devoted to her nation that she turned down a marriage offer from a Castillian prince because she "was already married to Avalon." Avalon is governed by its Queen, but also a parliament of lords - to get any laws passed, both queen and parliament must agree to pass the law. Elaine's been good at making deals with them.

Just across the water is the island of Inismore, whose king is the mysterious Mad Jack O'Bannon, said to be a thousand years old. He's appeared many times in Inish history, always exactly as he looked the last time - and always disappearing again after a while, leaving only one promise: "I'll be right back." And then he walks away, not to be seen for years, perhaps a century or more.

And the northern of the three isles is the Highland Marches, least organized of the kingdoms. It is ruled by the Highland Clans, who have elected their own High King, James MacDuff. MacDuff has been High King since before Elaine's rise, and it was his support which gave the young woman the legitimacy she needed to solidify Avalon into what it is today. The two are close allies.

Avalon's peeople are hearty and rough, farmers and fishermen who love the waters. While their spiritual reverance for Mother Ocean was subdued by 500 years of Vaticine influence, they still remember the Lady of the Lake, guardian of the rivers and swamps of Avalon, who promised that so long as the waters of Avalon were kept pure, the land would remain one of wonder. This promise was symbolized by a magic cup called the graal, but the Avalons say the promise was broken when Montaigne invaded. Elaine reforged the promise when she emerged into the spotlight bearing the graal and claiming descent from the true kings of Avalon.

Elaine's been hard at work restoring Avalon's old ways. She has restored the King's knights even as she started the famous privateers of Aalon. Inismore and the Marches, meanwhile, no longer need fear Montaigne invasion...but both nations have those who would see them independent of Avalon itself now, even if that means blood. MacDuff of the Highlands dismisses these cries in his Council, and the O'Bannon, as Jack is called, either kills the men who complain or simply beats them until they apologize depending on his mood. However, rumors say that the O'Bannon is plotting rebellion, and that MacDuff is plotting marriage to the beautiful Elaine.

Now, the Sidhe are the last thing to be remembered about Avalon. The Lady of the Lake is one of these ancient people, a powerful race that has only now returned to Avalon. They are apparently unique to AValon, though some arachaeologists suggest a connection between them and the mysterious Ussuran matriach called Matushka, and the Avalons claim them to be the oldest beings in the world. The sidhe are split between seelie and unseelie - the 'good' and 'wicked', though the seelie are good perhaps only by comparison. For fear of offense, they are called only the Goodly Folke, and almost all of Avalon's customs come from the superstitions about the Sidhe. Avalons don't steal horses (they might be shapeshifted pooka), don't walk off the path in the wood (they're haunted), and they always keep a penny in their left shoe to protect against sidhe tricks.

A priest, a boy king and a masked fencer walk into a bar...

Castille is next. Its culture is a collection of oddities - founded by one of of the oldest Old Empire families, it is howeer not ruled by sorcerous blood. It shared an alliance with the Crescents for centuries, yet is home to the Vaticine Church. It's a rich, fertile land with good weather and a normally extremely strong economy. Its rulers are the Sandoval family, but the country is divided into rancheros , each ruled by a noble family led by a don .

The King of Castille recently died, leaving his fourteen-year-old soon on the throne. This boy has been dubbed Good King Sandoval, and he has held the nation together for two years - a surprisingly long time, given what his detractors expected. The Church is a powerful influence here, and the King makes hardly any decision without advice from the Church. Several have tried to assassinate Sandoval - but all attempts have been foiled by the mysterious masked swordsman El Vago , the Vagabond. Castille's biggest problem, however, is Montaigne - General Montegue is invading them, and has claimed nearly a quarter of the country by force. Montegue's advance has faltered, though, since he split his army to also assault Ussura. (The Castillians hae no idea why he did this.)

Castille's people tend to distrust foreigners, thanks to the many invasions they've suffered. They are devout Vaticines, though some have begun to doubt the church after Montaigne's invasion. The Castillians are very practical and have taken great advantage of the Church's presence. They have aqueducts in all their cities, free education and clean water. Even the poorest village has a church with medical supplies and a doctor. On average, Castillians are the best educated of all the world. The Castillians are also passionate, loving music and dancing. They are devoted to the concept of family, and especially revere motherhood - the mother is the core of the family unit, beloved by all.

The recent invasion, however, is destroying Castille. The economy, once vibrant, is in ruins. The nobles are driven from their lands, and other nations wait on the borders to seize what they can. Good King Sandoval is doing his best, but it's only a matter of time before someone tries to take advantage.

Germany - angry people in armor and a fat happy man.

The next is Eisen , the proudest of nations. Its rulers hae no magic in their blood, and they are proud of it. As a central location, Eisen has always been key to politics and war. However, it lies in ruins after the War of the Cross. Its economy is in shambles, its fields are destroyed, its military power is shattered.

Eisen is divided into seven konigreiches (read: kingdoms), each ruled by an Eisenfurst , or Iron Prince. They each rule by right of their control of the dracheneisen, the metal that has made Eisen famous - it is stronger than steel, and twice as light, able to armor even against modern weaponry. It is the traditional armor of the Eisen nobles, and it is the edge by which the Eisenfurst maintain their rule. Each kingdom is ruled differently - some strict, some lenient.

The people of Eisen have been forged by war. While their governments are ruined, the survivors have been made strong. The people have more collective combat experience than anyone else in the world. Most armies today have an Eisen advising on tactics. They have nothing left to sell - so they sell war. Their military academies are the best in the world, and they produce many, many mercenaries. Being Eisen, after all, is a good reccomendation. The Eisen are renowned for their stubbornness, as well - they never give up. The may lie back to recover, but they always return to fight. It's little wonder that many of the loyal sons of Eisen have left the nation to fight abroad, given all this.

One of these things is not like the others...one of these things just doesn't belong...

Montaigne is the center of culture, art and fashion for the world. It is a rich nation, full of farms, gardens and palaces. The peasants are poor, perhaps, but the cities are rich beyond measure. The lower classes struggle to feed themselves, but the nobles - they have no limits. All government revolves around the Sun King, l'Empereur Leon Alexandre. He is the unquestioned king, with dozens of nobles under him - the governing dukes and many lesser nobles.

The peasants are a simple people - uneducated, poor and quiet. Their sons are conscripted to the military, and many do not return, so the only men around these days are those too old to fight, and the farms are looked after by these old men, their wives and their daughters. It used to be custom to hold weddings in spring, but with the war, the custom has changed to winter, when the fighting is slowest and the young men return on leave. They get married quickly, and are encouraged to have children just as fast - after all, Montaigne will always need soldiers and farmers.

The nobles, by contrast, rarely have more than two or three children, if that. Primogeniture rules here, after all, and younger sons are rarely well-liked by their elder brothers They have nothing, for the most part, and form a sort of cloud of hangers-on in the courts, lesser nobles who have no land or power. Two sons is wise, since one might die - but more than three is bad manners. (The Emperor is free of this, of course, as well as his nine daughters.)

This contrast is built into everything. The peasants are hospitable and direct, but the nobles have made an artform out of half-truths, inferences and metaphor. They can be very confusing to outsiders, as the courts are thus a barrage of quotations and quips that bear little relation to what people actually mean. The height of rudeness is forcing someone into a direct response, especially on controversial subjects. Instead, they make light of seriousness so that no one must address it directly. It is thus that Montaigne breeds its many spies. The nobles adore the newfound freedom that comes with throwing off the yoke of the Church - but the peasantry lie in fear of their new status as a godless nation, being by and large devout Vaticines.

Next time: The other three nations.

Men reveal more with their bodies than with their tongues.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Men reveal more with their bodies than with their tongues.

Santa was buff back then.

Ussura is a cold, cold land, full of legends of the woman Matushka, Grandmother Winter. She wanders the snowy woods, saving respectful little children from being lost - and eating rude little children in her black pot. Like Matushka, Ussura is not kind - but it is fair.

The Ussurans are some of the most primitive people in Thèah - it's commonly joked that they live 500 years in the past. They have no modern roads, their architecture is antiquated at best and even their peasant huts are primitie compared to those of other nations. The Ussurans are, however, well-fed and happy despite the frozen lands they live in. Despite the ice, the land bears crops, and hunting and fishing here are better than anywhere else.

Ussura is ruled, technically, by the Gaius, elected from the peasant class, the muzhiks . Because of his low birth, he is guided by a council of merchants or boyars called the Knias Douma . Traditionally, the boyars rule with the Gaius as their puppet. In modern days, though, that is not the case. The current Gaius, Ilya Sladivgorod Nikolovich, is no puppet. The boyars call him Ilya Grozny, Ilya the Terrible, because he will not obey and once had a boyar who crossed him fed to the man's dogs while his family watched. The people love Ilya, though - he watches out for them, not the boyars, and will forge his own destiny with or without their help.

Most people in Ussura have dark hair and eyes - but the nobles marked by Matushka have green eyes and the gift of magic. Matushka is said to have made a deal with the people - as long as the Knias stands, Ussura will support its people. An Ussuran farmer who is good and kind, who looks to his duties before himself, will always grow enough food to feed his family, no matter how harsh the year. And just as surely, one who is not will be punished by the cold.

The Ussurans are closer to nature than most people. They love the land as it loves them. And it seems to love them - for no army has ever been able to invade Ussura. Cathayan hordes have died of plague and starvation, and an Eisen army in 523 were found after the snows ended, frozen and dead. They had been buried by an ice storm that began in midsummer. The Ussurans attribute this love to Matushka, the iron-toothed old woman of legend. They also refuse the Vaticine, preferring the Ussuran Orthodox Church, which follows only the teachings of the First Prophet - because, they say, if he got it right, why do you need another one?

The vikings are angry about birdhair trends.

Once, the nation of Vendel was called Vestenmannavnjar . The island chain's largest island was Oddiswulf, now Oddis. It's capital, Kirk, was Kirkjubæjarkluster. But the Vendel have turned away from their heritage in favor of the Vendel League. Their nation is on a chain of nine mountainous islands. Once, they had a king - but he vanished after arguing with the League over military matters a century ago, and the League has been in complete control since.

The League is ruled by nine Chairs, one for each of the Guilds that founded the League and one for the inheritor of the Eisen Imperator. The seats are sold at auction each year to the highest bidder. Politically, Vendel is neutral on almost all issues - save money. They have pushed their coin, the Guilder, into prominence with merchants around the world, accepted everywhere but Ussura, Castille and Vodacce in their continued trade war with the Vodacce princes.

Their land is still split, however, between the mercantile Vendel, who live in comfort and luxury...and the traditional Vestenmannavnjar, who reject these comforts. The Vendel have gone out of their way to be accessible to foreigners, renaming their ancient lands for ease of dialogue and preparing to sell practically everything.

The Vestenmannavnjar religion, however, holds the importance of names: the soul and the name are tied together, and to lose a name is as bad as death. The Vendel endanger these ancient names and risk loss of the ancestors - and so the Vesten hate them, and many Vesten have turned pirate, perhaps fueled by Vodacce gold...or by Inish gold. Though the Vodacce claim not to be involved and the O'Bannon has sworn to keep his people from such violence, the raids have not stopped, and the Vendel are looking to other solutions - violent ones.

Cobwebs are very popular in fashion!

Vodacce is most famous for treachery. It is a dangerous place, where the powerful must watch their backs, as the merchant families play dangerous, savage games of diplomacy. It is the home of the ancient capital Numa, the birth of Thèan civilization - and today, it is sharply divided into seven territories by the seven merchant princes.

Much of Vodacce floods, and their cities are famous for the canals, especially on the southern islands. There, the cities have dammed and walled canals to allow swift travel across the island cities - and there, the merchant princes live, each controlling one of the seven islands off Vodacce. The mainland has been almost forgotten by the princes, who use it only for growing food - they far prefer the soutern islands, where each can rule their own. Each of the princes controls a different aspect of the economy - wine, Crescent trade...or, in one case, Syrneth artifacts. The Vodacce princes are all rich and powerful, and they collect money and riches like no others. All seven are cousins, tracing their lineage back to seven brothers - and they all hate each other.

The people of Vodacce are famous for their hot tempers and passionate feelings. Duels and brawls are commonplace - but always with one's own social rank. One does not insult one's betters, even if one would have a friendly fight for the same insult with one's neighbor. Of course, all thise fighting is for men - and only men. Vodacce is clear on that. Women, however, bear the blood of sorcery - and only women. The noblewomen are the Fate Witches, the Sorte Strega , who control the lines of destiny itself.

Adultery is a common passtime among the nobles - marriage is mostly for politics and convenience, and couples seldom care about the affairs they hae. Men aim for professional courtesans, who are seperate from all other Vodacce women. Where other Vodacce women do not read, the courtesans are well-educated and expected to be able to converse with the nobles. Where other women dress simply, they dress vibrantly, with complex and elaborate costumes. The courtesans are all the nobles are not - but the noble women bear the power of magic, and even the courtesans and noblemen fear their anger.

The calender is set up differently - twelve months, all exactly thirty days. 28 in seven day weeks, but the 15th and 30th are considered feasting days that are part of no week at all. The year is four three month seasons, and a five or six-day celebration at the end of the year, the Prophets' Mass.

The seas of the Thèah are these: the Trade Sea, around Vendel, known for shallow waters and hard-to-track reefs. The Frothing Sea, between Avalon and Montaigne, full of sharks, sirens and fog. La Boca de Cielo, the Mouth of God, off the coast of Castille, home to whales and the immense leviathans, giant whales of vicious disposition. It is also famous for its pirates, and the legendary Estallio, a sea serpent sed to eat the leviathans. The fourth sea is the Forbidden Sea, southeast of Vodacce, near the Crescent Empire. None are allowed there, but it is said that a miles-wide pillar of water surges to the sky there. The fifth sea is the Mirror, south of Ussura. It is said to contain a creature called Vodanken, of which little is known, and sailors speak of islands that rise from the deep only to resubmerge hours later - islands on which entire crews have been drowned by the sudden submergences. The sixth is the Corridor of Flame, called such because as it is sailed towards Cathay, a huge labyrinth of fiery walls appears, twenty feet high. They are not hot, but anything that touches them burns to a crisp instantly. There is enough space to sail between them - but it is terribly dangerous, and it is said that dead ends empty into an immense whirlpool, and a vast pillar of fire roars up from its center. And then, there is the legendary seventh sea, where the sun and moon shine together, the stars go backwards and the waters are silver. None know where it lies, but the Explorers' Guild has found an ancient Syrneth artifact they call the "alchemical compass", which they think was used to sail the Seventh Sea.

Twenty years ago, duelling became a problem for the world, and many nations looked to outlaw it. Three men of different nations came together to save their favored sport, and they created the Swordsman's Guild with the agreement of their kings. The Swordsmen have formalized duelling. Only a Swordsman can challenge, and there are strict rules. And, of course, a Swordsman may never take contract on another Swordsman. Likewise, there has been the formation of the Jenny's Guild - named after Jenny Malone, a woman arrested for murdering an abusive man...and who successfully claimed self-defense was reasonable. She has visited madams across the world, and the courtesans are now banding together for protection. They have taken to be called Jennys as a result.

Socially, chivalry is dying. The average person looks out for himself, his friends and family and is done. But honor is not fully lost. Some romantics still hold onto the ancient ways of honor, though they are still few. The ways of chivalry are hard, after all. A promise, once given, is broken only by lowborn dogs. A true gentleman would die before breaking his word, and may not turn down a duel or allow the weak to be hurt. More recently, some women have also been trying to uphold chivalry, which has been received with mixed thoughts by most of the world - some feel they are trying to be men, but others feel that trying to be noble is worthwhile even for women, and that it is to be lauded.

Thèah is a little ahead of our world in the mid-17th century - they use microscopes and telescopes, for example. They're impressive architects, and have named six known planets. The sun is Solas, and then there is Velme, Amora, Terra (where they live), Guer, Re and Volta, all named for gods of the Old Republic. They know the size of Terra to within 1%, and they can predict eclipses. Telescopes have existed for a century, but only in 1668 was the reflecting telescope invented. Chemistry is just emerging now, and mathemeticians have achieved algebra, trig and geometry along with the number zero. Probability is not well-liked because of the gambling connotations, and calculus does not exist yet but should soon. Anatomy is well-studied, and they understand that sick people spread disease, though not why yet. Recently, static electricity was harnessed, though not for anything useful yet, and the spectrum of light was discovered. Rifles don't exist yet, but mustkets do, and the Montaigne have developed primitive, unreliable grenades. They're very risky.

Next time: Sailors and Secret Societies!

So many women didn't know how to perfume a letter, but this lady did - and yes, he chose those two words very carefully.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Here, have another one today, because I'm bored and feel like it.

7th Sea: So many women didn't know how to perfume a letter, but this lady did - and yes, he chose those two words very carefully.

Fuck, that's a lot on sailing. Sailing, despite a lack of New World, is hugely important. It's been much easier to transport around the continent by sea than to brave the mountains and rivers by land. Every nation has a navy - Avalon's Sea Dogs are the strongest, of course, and Ussura's is more of a fishing fleet, but they all have one. Protection from pirates is a lucrative business. There are four types of sailors, really. Merchants, which covers cargo hauling, fishing, whaling and so on. This is most sailors. There's also naval recruits, who belong to official navies on military vessels. They patrol, hunt pirates and do battle. Being a navy man sucks, unless you're lucky enough to have a competent captain. Then there's privateers, which includes mercenaries and general rogues. Essentially, yes, pirates for hire, but also escorts and so on. Avalon's Sea Dogs count as these. And then there's pirates. They answer to no one and are freer than any other men and women in the world. They have few friends, and all military vessels will try to sink them on sight...but they're not all bad. There's gentleman pirates, and while ruthless, the Brotherhood of the Coast is a pirate band with honor and even democratic feelings.

We'll skip all the jobs on a ship because you don't care and I don't care. If you care, you can go look it up. Sailors do have some superstitions, though, that are neat - a halo around the sun or moon means it'll rain or snow soon. A morning rainbow means a storm is coming. A clear night sky means a cold night with a frost. And a red sun means bad weather.

Oh yeah - and you never carry dead men. Ever . You wash him, dress him and throw him into the sea where he died. If a man is lost at sea, you don't make a grave for him for seven years, in case he's alive. And you don't speak of the dead save as 'Poor Jack' or whatever his name is - best to be respectful, for everyone's heard tall tales of ghost ships. The water is called Mother Ocean, and sailors believe they belong to her. If you fall over the side, she's claimed you - and so a sailor will never reach over to save a fallen man, for they're likely to be claimed too. If a corpse washes up on shore, she doesn't want that one any more. Sailors also refuse to dye their clothes with things from the sea, or use sea stones as ballast - because the sea claims her own, and they think it'll sink the ship. The sea, they say, also hates criminals. (Not pirates, mind you - murderers, thieves and so on on land, yes, but not pirates.) They're bad luck.

There's some other superstitions about luck - a lot of them, really. Luck's important. But we'll move on. The most famous pirates in the world are the Castillian Brotherhood of the Coast, former prisoners on the prison isle La Bucca. They escaped, led by a man named Allende who may be a Crescent or a Castillian - none can tell. Some say he's a sorcerer, and his crew is fanatically loyal. The Brotherhood have declared themselves a nation of free men, beholden to no king.

The Vesten Raiders haunt the north, and are very dangerous thanks to their use of sorcery. The Vesten keep runemasters aboard their ships, who are said to be able to throw lightning and call up fogbanks. The Vestens give one chance to surrender - and if you don't, you fight to the last. They take no prisoners, and leave only one man alive from any crew that fights them, to spread the word of the fight.

And then there's the famous Crimson Roger - a single ship, but terrifying. They offer no quarter and take no prisoners. They seem to be on the hunt for Syrneth artifacts, and some say they use Syrneth devices as they fight. It's even said they can sense the presence of Syrneth things. Their leader is a man called Reis, who wields a strange scythe of unknown origin. He's got an 8000 guilder price on his head from Avalon.

Speaking of Avalon - the Sea Dogs are, of course, a famous 'pirate' fleet. Officially they do not work for Avalon, but most people think that's a bald-faced lie, especially as they never harm Avalon ships or merchants. Their leader is a dashing, charismatic man named Jeremiah Berek, whose crew is loyal to the last.

The most famous pirate, though, is Philip Gosse, a Montaigne navy man who befriended an unorthodox priest named Hernando Ochoa. The two led a mutiny and turned pirate. It's said he never kills unless he has to, and that crews he raided would often join him without even a shot fired. He is said to have retired from piracy to settle an island according to Ochoa's (unknown) beliefs. However, two years ago, an old man claiming to be Captain Gosse boarded a merchant ship and seized it. He treated the crew civilly and threw a party for them, leaving enough food to reach land safely.

And the most feared pirates are the Corsairs of Kheired-Din. They are Crescent Empire men, who come out of nowhere and sack entire towns. None know how they pass the garrisons in the islands around Vodacce, but they have kidnapped thousands over the past twenty years. None have been heard from again. Their leader is a huge man named Kheired-Din, famous for his red beard and his devout following of the Second Prophet's teachings - which extends to a bloody hatred of sorcerers. He also hates alcohol. The Chuch has offered 10000 Guilders for his death.

But now, secret societies!

The Explorers' Society were founded in 1598 by a man named Cameron MacCormick. It's been at the forefront of archaeology for nine years now, has catalogued hundreds of artifacts and is open about both its existence and membership. The Society was founded to discourage "diggers" - men and women who took artifacts to sell to nobles. They are famous and well-beloved by the people.

Their greatest foe is the Vaticine Church. The Third Prophet denounced the exploration of Syrneth ruins, saying that it led to corruption of the soul. Some Cardinals defend the Explorers, but the official stance has remained that it is heresy and punishable by death if needed. The current headquarters of the Society is in the Avalon city of Carleon, with regional headquarters in Montaigne, Vendel and the Eisen city of Freiburg. Members are required to grant hospitality to each other - and, if needed, sanctuary from the Church.

The Invisible College are very recent. For the past thousand years, the Church has been the bastion of learning and science. However, the Inquisition's founding reduced funding for research...and more recently, Cardinal Giuseepe Verdugo brought them against scientific research. He has called for all research to stop, saying that it is the time of the Fourth Prophet, and time to prepare for the next world. Church leaders are too busy with Montaigne's rebellion from the church to care what he does.

The College was formed to continue research under his nose. The scholars lack funding and resources, but have created an underground communications network, to pass on data, facts and evidence to others within the Church. Most College men are ex-Church researchers, after all. Verdugo has not uncovered their members, and their papers are encoded - but he hunts for them. None can say how large the College is, though, as each member knows only two others, and then only by synonym. Verdugo believes they have at most 24 members.

The Knightly Order of the Rose and Cross is strange as a secret society because it...isn't secret. Indeed, it is surrounded by folklore and legend as a gentleman's society of justice-seekers, wrong-righters and protectors. Most Knights are fifth or sixth sons of nobles, and join the knights to gain a good reputation and perhaps prospects for marriage of a rich daughter or son of nobility.

The Order has houses throughout the continent, and they are led by Aristide Baveux, said to be the most beloved man in Montaigne. Five of l'Empereur's bodyguards are Knights of the Rose and Cross, and so are three of King Sandoval's. Even Queen Elaine has toyed with the idea - though rumor says her advisor, the druid Derwyddon, advised against it.

Joining isn't easy, though - you can buy an honorary position, but that doesn't grant you the rank of Knight, just Benefactor. Knights must undergo three years of service, and they're hard years at that - serving without question, they must do quests and perform duties that only a madman would try. But if they succeed, they become full Knights.

And lastly, Die Kreuzritter . The Knights of the Cross, as they were once called, provided hospitals for the poor, donated food to charity and fought valiantly in the Crusades. They were primarily Eisen, and in 1411, the Eisen Imperator had a puppet Hierophant declare them heretics. They were destroyed utterly in the battle of Tannen, but rumors of Die Kreuzritter surviving in disguise to do the will of the Hierophant continue to this day.

Next time: More secret socities, and also the Church!

Twisting a man's fate did have a price, after all, but the pain was better than what those two had in mind.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Twisting a man's fate did have a price, after all, but the pain was better than what those two had in mind.

Los Vagos are the protectors of Castille. Foreign invaders control a third of the nation, the Inquisition walks openly in the streets and the king is a youth with no experience. But these men and women love their nation, and they will protect her people come Hell or high water. They are led by the mysterious El Vago, and they are beloved by many.

They fight to defend the boy king Sandoval, to save people from the oppression of the Inquisition and to liberate Castille's land from the invaders of Montaigne. Their work is secret, and they never reveal their true identities. They are a small group - but they have sympathizers in all walks of life. They have brought hope back to Castille, and rumor has it that at least one of King Sandoval's advisors is a member of their order.

The Inquisition isn't fond of them, of course, but more and more the people of Castille look up to the rooftops for the dashing figures of El Vago and his loyal followers to save them and see them through the darkness.

The Rilasciare are known by many more names than that: the Freeman League, the Oppositionists, the Freethought Society, the Guerrilla Alliance. They are anarchists, opposed to any and all forms of authority or anything that limits human freedom. They oppose Church-funded education, the government, monarchy, ownership of goods, money, religion and sorcery. They are at once the most united and disjointed of societies.

Their philosophy is simple at its base: no human should ever need to ask or want for anything. They feel it is power disparities that have caused all problems, and so they make sure that those in high power are made examples of. They take vengeance on bad rulers and those who abuse their positions, viewing law as a tool for the weak and simpleminded to protect themselves from independent thinkers. They know that strength comes from free thought, as does vero coraggio , true courage. This is the highest virtue.

The Rilasciare have no headquarters, no official meetings and no official...anything, really. They know each other by secret signs and modes of dress, and have existed for nearly a century now. They are one of the smallest societies - but one of the loudest.

Lastly, there are Sophia's Daughters . They exist, nominally, to bring equal rights to women. In practice, however, they are also a skilled group of political manipulators. They train women as spies and agents, placing them near powerful men to guide them in the "proper" direction. Slowly, they have been gaining strength, and hope to eventually make themselves public instead of secret.

When not engaged in trying to manipulate the governments of the world to their liking, they make efforts to keep women safe from abuse, help lower-class women better themselves and enhance the standing of women. The Jenny's Guild has been good for them, and many of the Daughters are Vodacce courtesans. They are more than willing to use magic to further their aims, and an abnormally high number of the Daughters are sorcerers. It's even rumored that they can make potions to restore youth, but their leadership denies this.

Each member keeps a detailed journal, copies of which which are sent to several Daughter-controlled nunneries for storage in a great library. These are, together, one of the most accurate recordings of history ever. Sometimes the Daughters sell some of these records to the Rilasciare.

The Vaticine Church believes that the world is a riddle meant for humanity to unravel, and that the closer they come to solving it, the closer they come to knowing the mind of God. They have followed a simple credo since the year 325, with six articles of faith that must be held true.

Article One
We believe in one true God, the Creator Almighty, Maker of Paradise and the World, and of all things visible and invisible.
They hold that there is only Theus, the one god, the Creator of the Universe. They cannoy believe in other gods or powers - including sorcery, which they say comes from Legion, the Great Adversary. Sorcery is use of power other than that of the Creator, and it is heresy punishable by death and cremation to purge the corruption.

Article Two
We believe in one holy and prophetic Church.
Just one church, the Vaticine. Only the rituals ordered by the Prophets are holy, and all other churches are false.

Article Three
And in its Prophet, who spoke the Creator's message for man and his salvation; who foretold the coming of three further Prophets; who delivered himself unto his enemies; and who was martyred for us in the days of Augustin Lauren.
The First Prophet's the big one, the one who reveealed the message of Theus. He gathered followers, who achieved enlightenment by reason, and he preached acceptance of fellow man to achieve salvation.

Article Four
And in the Second Prophet, who bore a staff; spoke the Creator's message, and delivered men from evil; and was betrayed by the unfaithful and was martyred for us.
The Second Prophet came from the Crescent Empre, led his followers to the Crescents on a pilgrimage and made powerless all sorcerers whom he encountered. He led his followers into the desert, and there he was betrayed and murdered.

Article Five
And in the Third Prophet, who bore a sword of pure flame; spoke the Creator's message; divided the righteous from the unrighteous; and made the way clear for him who shall follow.
The Third Prophet was a warrior, neither understanding nor tolerant of others. He was a noble who sparked a war of faith, changing the way the entire world thought with one decisive act.

Article Six
And in the Fourth Prophet, who shall bear a balanced hourglass, who shall be announced by trumpets; and the dead shall awaken and he shall reign in the visible and invisible world forevermore.
And the Fourth Prophet will bring the end, herald in Armageddon and cast the world into battle for the soul of mankind. He will bring life and his army will be the fallen, led through death and anger and conflict into a new age of truth and glory.

The Church is basically set up identically to the Catholic Church. Churches are places of court, of town meetings, of worship and of refuge and healing. Services are usually performed in Old Thèan (read: Latin), but the Eisen and Avalon have tended to translate them. There are female priests, however. (Not priestesses - female priests.) The Church is also currently arguing with itself over determinism versus free will. Some believe they have logically proven free will impossible because all effects have causes, and making a choice is an effect, and to have an explanatory cause means it can't be free. Others argue that nature must be personal, and if man can't choose it is impersonal and not what the holy books say it is like.

They also have, of course, the Inquisition. They have been, since the Third Prophet, meant to be sorcery hunters kept in check by the Hierophant. However, the Inquisition has gradually been granted more and more freedom, and with the disappearance of the Hierophant they are answerable to no one until a new one is chosen. Their leader is Cardinal Esteban Verdugo, and he has been moving quikcly to expand the Inquisition and fill its ranks with fanatics. They have declared war on the universities, burning books and hanging professors. Enemies are kidnapped and executed, and in the span of a decade they have come to dominate the Church.

The Objectionist Movement, meanwhile, was founded by Matthias Lieber and holds that the Church has become corrupt and decadent. He felt that only Theus can intercede for man, with no need for priestly arbitrators. Only Theus can perform miracles and sae souls. The proper way to live is toread the Books of the Prophets and act on that, expressing their faith through charity, hard work and helping others, with no authority overseeing it. The Objectionists have far less authority in their priesthood, and no true leader. Their priests lead mass and oversee ceremonies, but their duty is to live as an example rather than a leader. It's been a century since their formation, and the anger between them and the Vaticine is still strong.

Avalon, as noted, is no longer Vaticine. It's similar, but Queen Elaine has been granted rank equivalent to Hierophant and they pay no more service to the Church. Castille is devoutly Vaticine, more than any other nation. Half of Eisen is Vaticine, but the other half is Objectionist. Montaigne's peasants are devout Vaticines, but their nobles have rejected the Church. The Church would love the excommunicate the entire nation, but only a Hierophant can do that, and he's dead and they're deadlocked on electing a new one. Ussura follows the Ussuran Orthodox Church, which follows only the teachings of the First Prophet. The Church doesn't really care about them. The Vendel are largely Objectionist, and the Vestenmannavnjar follow their ancient pagan faith. The Vodacce, lastly, are staunch Vaticines.

And hey, let's go big and finish this chapter. The Syrneth ruins! The Syrne appear to have lived across most of Thèah, appearing everywhere in the world. The most famous remains are in Montaigne, where some buildings exist that have been inhabited by men for centuries but clearly were not built for them. Beneath the capital of Montaigne, Charouse, is a set of tunnels that have existed since before human memory, in which metal ornamentations have been found, along with a vast "Star Map", a spherical chamber containing gemstones marking out stars - along with stones that mark only what would be empty sky. This is estimated to be right below l'Empereur's palace. The Montaigne royal guard have barred entry to the tunnels now. Beneath Eisen, meanwhile, are more caverns, full of carvings of all sorts of figures. It's believed that they are meant as some form of communication, and a strange harness has been found for a creature that would have had to have a twelve-foot-long head alone. And beneath Vodacce are a set of catacombs that...might be Syrneth, possibly. Their mountains are clearer, containing a set of caverns that contained strange, brittle armor made of amber. If heated, it softened and could be molded. It's useless as armor, but it has become something of a noble fashion to wear "Syrneth armor" for show. There's also ruins out in the islands, and probably others of which very little is known.

Thèah is also home to monsters. Ghosts are well documented, and some Montaigne sorcerers have caught them in mirrors - though it's dangerous, since ghosts can interfere with some sorcery. Ghouls, meanwhile, are strange ape-beasts that eat human flesh. Kobolds, also called die Schwartzen Walden , are...well, gargoyles. They have poisonous bites. Sirens are flesh-eating merfolk who pretend to be women in danger so they can devour foolish sailors. Zombies are zombies. The Church claims the are men who are too proud to accept death, but some scientists believe that zombies are in fact caused by a strange disease.

There's also griffons, which hunt in packs but are little studied due to danger, the night terrors, which are hard to sutdy because they attack in dreams, and the drachen , strange giant lizards which have not been sighted in living memory.

Next time: Fencing!

Beloved. By tomorrow night, Good King Sandoval will be...safe within his grave.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I have nothing better to do today since I lent my Xbox to my brother, so...

7th Sea: Beloved. By tomorrow night, Good King Sandoval will be...safe within his grave.

The plot thickens!

With the new chapter, Helena and O'Connell find that robbing the sinister Villanova was not as easy as they thought. The ships are sinking, and all three are thrown into the waves! But Villanova is luckier than the other two. He has recovered the item he sought - and been rescued by a woman! A woman we know already - it's Clarisse from the last chapter...and she's planning to kill Sandoval of Castille!

But we'll have to wait to find out more. This is the chargen chapter, so I'm skipping most of it. You get skills, advantages, and so on. Advantages can include things like having been commissioned, having a great eduation, knowing people, being huge, whatever. There's also Backgrounds, which are plot hooks you pay points for - say, that you have a Nemesis. The more dangerous, the more points you spend. Why would you do this? Well, every time your background becomes a major part of the story, you get double your background's rating in XP. The background must involve conflict somehow. And Arcana - well, they are the Tarot major arcana, and you can have them either as a Hubris or a Virtue. A Hubris is some major flaw in your character that the GM can trigger by paying a Drama die. (He has them, too.) This forces you to either spend a Drama die or follow your Hubris - and he can up the price if he wants to. A Virtue lets you spend a Drama die in certain circumstances to activate it for a special ability. You can have only one - either Virtue or Hubris, but you get points to spend for taking a Hubris.

Hubrises are things like Hot-Headed - whenever that's activated, you have to either pay the GM in Drama Dice or lose your temper and start trouble. Virtues, by contrast, are things like Passionate, which lets you activate it whenever you are making an action that directly saves the life of a loved one or friend. When you spend a Drama Die to activate Passionate, it doubles your kept dice for that action, drastically increasing its success chances.

But now we are introduced to a very special type of skill: Swordsman Schools. A Swordsman School is a fencing style (or another weapon than the sword, sometimes) which grants you special combat knacks that are pretty useful as well as special abilities when you raise the School knacks to certain levels. You start with the Apprentice ability, get Journeyman when all your knacks are at 4, and Master when they're all at 5. In this book, there's one fencing style for each nation. Except Ussura.

Also, most Swordsman Schools come with free admission to the Swordsman's Guild.

Aldana is the signature fencing style of Castille. It is one of the rarest of styles - one weapon, no shield or off-hand weapon at all. Instead, an Aldana fencer tucks his hand behind his back and faces his opponent in profile, to narrow the choice of targets. Aldana is designed for fencing swords, and can be used by nothing else. It combines dancing and fighting to create an elusive, unpredictable style. The duelist counts time in his head, mentally playing the song he "dances" to. This lets him make unpredictable moves to the rhythm of the song, since his foe has no idea what song it is. Aldana Masters are even able to work themselves into a trance that focuses them completely on the moment at hand, making them some of the most terrifying foes in the world.

The weakness of an Aldana fencer is his song's chorus. There, and there alone, the fencer is predictable - whenever the chorus comes, he will move the same way. Someone familiar with the Aldana style can easily take advantage of that. Apprentice Aldana dencers are renowned for their speed, and they roll an additional Initiative die for each mastery they've learned in Aldana. That's not too shabby. A Journeyman Aldana moves in a weaving, disorienting style that increases the target to hit them by 5, straight out, which is pretty awesome. And a Master Aldana fencer entrs a trance when fighting, giving them bonus dice each round equal to their Wits, which they can add to any attack rolls or active defense rolls that round. They can't save the dice round to round, but they get them every round, so that's pretty damn awesome.

Ambrogia is the signature style of Vodacce in recent years. It's a very popular style there, since it teaches the fencer to fight with the sword in their left hand and a main gauche in their right, making them very hard to fight with normal training. Also, it was invented by one of Vodacce's most famous courtesans, Veronica Ambrogia. The school emphasizes practicality over style, as it's the winner who tells the tale of a duel. Other Swordsmen sometimes mock Ambrogia fencers for learning from a courtesan, but it's an excellent style.

The greatest weakness, however, is that Ambrogia relies on forcing the opponent to react to the fencer's moves and tricks. If an opponent is able to ignore those tricks, the fencer's in trouble. As an Apprentice, Ambrogia negates all offhand penalties for fighting with a dagger or main gauche in one hand and a sword in the other - and it gives you the Left Handed advantage free when using the style. (Yes, that's worth points - most fencers are terrible at fighting lefties.) They also learn to twist their weapons in the wounds when they hit, adding 2 to all damage rolls with fencing weapons or daggers. A Journeyman Ambrogia fencer learns to step into danger for that extra chance, causing anyone they deal a Dramatic Wound to when using this style to suffer a second Dramatic Wound - but at the price of taking one themselves if they choose to deal the extra damage. A Master Ambrogia fencer learns the secret of the riposte, giving them a bonus to hit anyone who misses them - but if they don't attack before the end of the round, the bonus is lost.

Avalon's signature fencing school is Donovan , an old-fashioned style using a buckler and smallsword rather than a rapier and main gauche like most modern styles. It's a style of slashes and thrusts, which can confused fencers trained to fight only against thrusts - the smallsword, after all, has an edge, unlike most rapiers. The Donovan school takes advantage of that.

The great weakness of Donovan is that its elaborate slashes require a moment of preparation that a clever foe can exploit to get past their defenses. The Apprentice Donovan fencer suffers no offhand penalty when using a buckler and gets a free Raise when using that buckler - essentially, a +5 bonus to rolls. This is great for locking a foe's weapon against the shield. A Journeyman Donovan fighter learns the move named Donovan's Twist - whenever they successfully parry as an active defense, they deal damage to their foe as they rake their weapon's blade across their foe's hand. A Master Donovan fighter learns Edwards' Thrust, a special technique that allows them to interrupt a foe's attack to immediately launch a counterattack once a round.

Not Germany: The craziest motherfucking dudes.

Eisenfaust , the signature style of Eisen, is unlike most others. It is practiced with a broadsword in one hand and a panzerhand on the other - an iron glove that's meant to catch swords. It's a highly defensive style, despite using a heavy weapon instead of a fencing one. It waits for the foe to attack, and then exploits any mistake they make. Its slow buildup and patient style can infuriate foes, and that's just when the Eisenfaust master attacks, tearing them apart with the broadsword.

The great flaw of Eisenfaust is its rigidity. Eisenfaust teaches over 70 moves - but they all have specific circumstances to them, and rules to be followed when flowing between them. Some moves cannot be used after each other due to the awkward movements necessary. This means that against a canny foe, the Eisenfaust fencer is predictable enough to be exploited. An Apprentice of Eisenfaust suffers no offhand penalties when using a panzerhand, can wield a broadsword in one hand and gets a free Raise to their next attack against any foe that misses them - more, if they get missed by a large amount. However, you have to use those before the end of the round and before that foe attacks you again. The Journeyman learns how to grab an opponent's weapon with their panzerhand and break it. Whenever they successfully make an active parry with their panzerhand, they can spend a Drama die and make a Brawn roll to try and break the weapon completely - though well-made weapons and heavier weapons are harder to break. An Eisenfaust Master has learned true patience. They often hold their actions and wait for their foe to attack - and when they do, they get to roll extra damage dice for each phase they held action for, up to their Resolve. This can only be done once a round, and while doing it, you can only hold or actively defend with your other actions.

Vendel and the Vesten share a fighting style which is really more of a philosophy: Leegstra . It can be used with any heavy weapon, be it broadsword or axe, and it foscues on the will over safety. Leegstra warriors are slow but inevitable, ignoring any assaults on themselves in favor of focusing their strength into one killing blow. Leegstra fighters have spawned many tales of immense warriors cutting off heads in a single blow.

The flaw of Leegstra is that it is slow. Most fencers are used to starting off with testing and experimental lunges - which is just what doesn't work against Leegstra. However, there is little a Leegstra "fencer" can do about a foe who knows to go for a decisive blow quickly. A Leegstra Apprentie can give up actions in order to get more kept damage dice on a later attack - but if they miss, the gamble's wasted. A Journeyman of Leegstra can give up actions in order to toughen themselves up and increase their dice on a wound check, making it much easier for them to handle massive blows - but again, failure wastes these actions. A Leegstra Master, meanwhile, learns true power. When they hit with heavy weapons, opponents take damage on failed wound checks as if hit by a firearm - that is, usually taking twice as many dramatic wounds as melee weapons usually deal.

Valroux is the signature style of Montaigne, which uses a fencing weapon in the main hand and a main gauche in the off-hand. It is a defensive style, using the dagger only to parry, and famous for teasing foes into overextending themselves on attacks and leaving themselves open. Valroux fencers don't finish duels by taking advantage of those, though - rather, they draw attention to them and humiliate their foes, ending the fight only when bored. Valroux is a very fast style, making this a viable strategy - its students are fast strikers and quick movers, dancing rings around slower foes.

The great flaw of the style, though, is arrogance. Someone who knows how to fight a Valroux fencer can fake openings for their opponent to exploit - and when the Valroux fencer takes the time to mockingly draw attention to the opening, he lowers his guard, giving a canny foe time for a powerful strike. Valroux Apprentices suffer no offhand penalties with a main gauche or dagger, and they get a free Raise when parrying with one of those weapons in the offhand. A Valroux Journeyman has learned how to taunt his foe into taking risks. Whenever he makes at least one Raise on an attack and succeeds, his foe must, on the next attack made on the Valroux fencer, make at least as many Raises as the fencer did. A Valroux Master is one of the fastest swordsmen in the world, getting a free +1 bonus to their Panache - which also raises their maximum Panache by 1, letting them have superhuman Panache of 6 (or more, with the appropriate advantage).

Next time: Drama Dice, Repartee and Sorcery!

Trust an Avalon to ruin a good fist fight by pullin' a blade.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I didn't expect this to be done so early! But it was, so...eh, why not. I don't currently have any plans to run a 7th Sea game, but if my schedule frees up enough to do so, I'd think about it. It'd be IRC or on a Telnet space I own, rather than on the boards, though, because I feel that some stuff, especially banter, handing out drama dice and the repartee system, are best done in real time.

7th Sea: Trust an Avalon to ruin a good fist fight by pullin' a blade.

Oh man, pirates!

As we move into the next chapter, Archibald runs into a Vendel woman and an Inish man - O'Connell and Helena! They've made it to port! They have a brief scuffle, but are interrupted by the arrival of a squad of brutes! The three team up to fight them, with Helena using a strange musket prepared from Vendel - what it does we don't know, but it's powerful. The three discover they are all seeking the dastardly Villanova, and join forces. The spy, Lucia, sees this and is pleased.

Now then! We get a brief sidebar on various monetary systems but look that up yourself, it's kind of boring for me. More on the system, but we've covered most of that. Except Drama dice and Repartee! Okay. Drama dice. Each arc, you get Drama dice equal to your lowest attribute. You may spend Drama dice to:

1. Add a kept die to any one roll.
2. Stand up after being KOed - however, you're easy to hit in that round and you're still heavily wounded.
3. Activate a Virtue or a Villain's Flaw. (Which is like a Hubris except you make it happen.)
4. Some magic.

Any Drama dice you spend go to the GM's pool of Drama dice at the start of the next scene. You get Drama dice for doing cool stuff. However, at the end of an arc, all unspent Drama dice become XP. Personally? I'd just say 'no they don't' and be done. Encourages you to spend 'em and use 'em rather than sit on 'em.

Now, Repartee! There are three types of Repartee: Charm, Intimidate and Taunt. Charm uses Wits, and is rolled at a target number of your target's Wits*5. Once you succeed a number of times equal to their Resolve, the target likes you better or is convinced to do something or believe something. However, if you fail any of those rolls, start over. Now - there's some limits here. First, it is flat impossible to use Charm to get someone to do anything they're inherently opposed to, morally, ethically or otherwise. Second, Charm is strictly temporary and short term - you're going to have to do more than roll Wits and smile to change attitudes or make longterm convincing.

Intimidate uses Resolve, with a target number of your target's Resolve*5. If you win, the target loses one die, plus another die for each Raise you made, from every action directed at you. If you get rid of all the target's dice, the action automatically fails. It lasts one scene. (This might be too long, in practice - I might allow Villains to recover.)

Taunt uses Panache, same target except their Panache. For every Raise you make, the target must make the same amount of Raises on their next action aimed at you. Of course, they get all the benefits of having done so if they succeed, so there's that.

All Repartee effects end when you leave physical proximity of the target. You can hit one Villain with a single repartee effect. You can hit one Henchman, plus an additional one per Raise you make to add targets. You can hit an entire Brute Squad at once, plus an additional Squad per Raise if there happens to be more than one squad in the area.

Now, skipping a whole lot of rules on ships... Sorcery . Sorcery is genetic. If both your parents were full sorcerers of the same nation, so are you. If only one was, or each was a half-blood, you're a half-blood sorcerer. A half-blood and a non-sorcerer don't have sorcerer kids...but two full-bloods of different nations or two half-bloods of different nations produce a twice-blood sorcerer, who is a half-blood in two types of magic.

A full-blood can achieve maximum sorcery power. A half-blood can't ever get past Apprentice. Achieving mastery is done pretty much the same way Swordsman mastery is - each Sorcery has specific knacks, and you get four of them them to level 4 for Journeyman and five of them to 5 for Mastery.

E: As a note: Sorcery is incredibly expensive in initial points investment to learn, especially full-blood...and with very, very few exceptions, none of which are in this book, must be taken at chargen.

The first sorcery we're going to cover is that of Avalon: Glamour . Glamour is the power of legend, harnessed to strengthen the sorcerer. It was taught to the Avalons by the Sidhe, and its power is sealed by the Graal. Without the Graal, all Glamour sorcerers would be rendered powerless. It is divided into various legends, each of which is associated with a stat. You can have one legend per stat, but not two of the same stat. There's only one per stat here, but they promise more in the Avalon book.

At Apprentice rank, all of your Reputation dice (side note - you get a number of dice called Reputation dice based on your fame, which can be used to make people like you) become Glamour dice, which can be spent exactly like Drama dice except they can't become XP and can't activate Virtues or Flaws. They can, however, power Glamour sorcery. See, you can now use the Apprentice power of your knacks, which costs a Drama die. At Adept, the GM's Drama dicepool at the start of the session is reduced by your lowest attribute, and you can use the Adept power, which costs a Drama die. At Master, your Drama dicepool is based on your highest stat, and you can use the Master power, ditto.

The following knacks are in the book:

The Horned Hunter (Brawn) - The Horned Hunter was a warrior of immense strength and stamina. He could leap great distances, hurl huge boulders and survive blows that would cut a lesser man in two.
Apprentice: Add your Horned Hunter knack to your Brawn for one roll. This can't be used in contested rolls, wound checks or damage rolls.
Adept: Add your Horned Hunter knack to your Brawn for one wound check.
Master: Add your Horned Hunter knack to your Brawn for one contested roll or damage roll.

Robin Goodfellow (Finesse) - Robin Goodfellow was a legendary archer, able to hit a target at immense range, put an arrow through a man's eye and even split an arrow with another arrow.
Apprentice: Lower the effective range of your next attack with a bow by 5 feet per rank of your Robin Goodfellow knack.
Adept: Add a die of damage to your next attack with a bow for every rank of your Robin Goodfellow knack.
Master: Lower the TN to hit for your next attack with a bow by 5 per rank of your Robin Goodfellow knack.

Jack (Wits) - Jack is the trickster, the giant-killer. Those he tricked usually never realized what he'd done until too late - and he was nearly invincible in his own home.
Apprentice: You can turn a small object (less than a cubic foot) into one of the following: a knife, a fist-sized hunk of cheese, a bird, a rock, a pair of dice, a playing or Sorte card, a Guilder, a 20-foot ball of twine or a button. The object reverts to its original form at dawn. If the cheese is eaten or the bird is killed, it doesn't turn back. The rock, card and coin effects can be used on multiple objects - five for the rock and card, five times your Jack knack for the coin. If an object is broken, all pieces but one disappear at dawn, and that last piece turns back to normal. You can cause the power to end early.
Adept: You learn one of the five following forms per rank in this knack. This power costs 2 Drama dice instead of one if used on anyone but yourself, but you may transform yourself, a willing person or a horse into the form until the next dawn. The forms are:
The Child - The person becomes younger; if middle-aged or elderly, he becomes spry (we're told to see the GM's guide for Aging rules); if younger, there is no effect. This has no mechanical effect unless the GM enforces aging penalties, in which case they are negated. An aging horse becomes young again.
The Hag - The person becomes old and ugly, losing 1 die to all social rolls, but is recognizable as himself. No other traits or skills are effected. A horse becomes hideously ugly.
The Noble - The person becomes beautiful or handsome, getting a bonus die to all social rolls. A horse becomes very good-looking for a horse.
The Ogre - The person becomes subtly more intimidating, perhaps getting sharper teeth or subtly red-lit eyes, getting -1 die to all social rolls except for intimidation and interrogation, which get +2 dice. A horse becomes frightening, perhaps with fire coming from its nostrils or red light in its eyes.
The Peasant - The person becomes bland and unmemorable, getting +2 dice to all Disguise, Unobtrusive and Shadowing checks. A horse loses any distinctive characteristics it might have to identify it.[/i]
Master: You may enchant a building no bigger than 4000 square feet in size. This takes a full month and the tear of a Sidhe to do. Once complete, you may select three of the following laws that are always true in the area you have now made your home. You may have only one home at a time, but can end an enchantment at will. These powers work without fail unless some other sorcery disrupts them temporarily, and they are permanent until you will the enchantment to end.
1. I can't die in my house.
2. Nobody's magic but mine works in my house.
3. I always know where everything (and everyone) is in my house.
4. No one can enter my house without my permission.
5. Nobody ages in my house.
6. The pantry in my house always has food and drink in it.
7. I can instantly rearrange the inside of my house with a thought.
8. My house cannot be harmed in any way.
9. The inside of my house is twenty times bigger than the outside.
10. No one can find the way to my house unless I let her.

Why would you ever not take Jack?

The Green Man (Resolve) - Legend says the Green Man once challenged a knight to strike off his head with an axe, then picked it up and put it back on his shoulders. The knight didn't survive the Green Man's own blow.
Apprentice: Roll a non-exploding die for every rank you have the Green Man knack. Keep the highest one, and give it to another hero. He gains a bonus on all rolls this scene equal to the die's number. No one may have more than one of these dice at once. You can't use it on yourself. You can only affect a number of people up to your rank in the Green Man at once. You can only use this on willing characters. At the end of the scene, the person you gave the die to suffers a Dramatic Wound for every 5 points rolled on the die, rounded up.
Adept: Choose a character, which can include you. The next Dramatic Wound that person suffers heals itself at the end of the round it was received on. This can return someoned from being knocked out, but not dead.
Master: When you use the Adept power, the target can spend the Drama die to pay for it instead of you.

Thomas (Panache) - Thomas traveled to the Sidhe court, and there he learned to sense and resist sorcery. He returned to the human world and fought many sorcerers, gaining much fame.
Apprentice: When someone or something that has sorcery comes within 30 feet of you, your left thumb begins to tingle, and continues until the thing that caused it moves out of range. (This has no cost.) When someone uses sorcery on you, you immediately detect what's being done and can activate this power to resist the magic; this can't resist magic that empowers the sorcerer attacking you. You must have a rank in the Thomas knack greater than the rank of the power affecting you.
Adept: When someone uses sorcery within 30 feet of you, you immediately detect what's being done. (This has no cost.) You may activate this power to cancel any Sorcery knack in use or active within 30 feet. You must have a rank in the Thomas knack greater than the rank of the power you cancel.
Master: When activated, magic cannot be used within ten feet of you for rounds equal to your Thomas rank. Any active magical effects that enter this area are immediately canceled.

Note - Jack's Master knack comes back on when Thomas's magic-cancelling knacks end.

Next time: Vendel/Vesten magic. That's gonna take a lot of space.

I already had me press gang this month.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Last one for today. I didn't, again, think I'd finish this today. Seriously this is a shitload of runes. This post is huge.

7th Sea: I already had me press gang this month.

Don't fuck with viking wizards.

The Vendel and the Vestenmannavnjar practice the art of Lærdom , the study of true names. Those who perform it are called Skjæren, the Rune Carvers - and they know the twenty-four holy words spoken by their tribal ancestors, who became gods. Each represents the god who first carved it, and now their power can be tapped into by carving the Lærds, the Runes. Runes are written, carved onto objects or inscribed on living flesh. Just speaking the word is not enough - it must be made real in the world and invoked in a special ritual.

The Apprentices, the Discoverers of Secrets, know how to invoke a rune. They can write it to tap into its power - but it's not safe, necessarily. This is the raw power of the world, a live wire which you are dipping into. Most who do this use paper and ink, but any temporary writing will do. Adepts, the Wards of Secrets, know the deeper secrets, and can inscribe a rune onto an object. Its power will hold for one year, and then the rune must be rededicated. Conventional wisdom is that the best day to do this is the day they were first inscribed, which will provide the most power - even, perhaps, allowing contact with the gods. The Masters know the Heart of Secrets, the Great Wisdom. They can summon the power of a lærd in themselves, and they can perceive the Living Myth, Valhalla - vaguely, but there. They can faintly hear the chanting of the ancestors. (This has no mechanical effect, but GMs are encouraged to occasionally allow them to receive advice from the ancestors.) They are able to carve a single rune into their flesh and become it.

Invoking a rune takes one action, because it's temporary. Inscribing one on an object takes five actions and isn't doable in combat. An inscribed item receives a name, and can receive no other. Anyone holding the item, even a non-sorcerer, can say the name to become affected by its rune for one round, plus one more for each Raise made in the inscribing. No roll is needed for this. Becoming a rune is permanently carving it into your body, taking ten actions and a red-hot iron brand. This is definitely not possible in combat. This does hurt you - but after that, the rune can never be destroyed without killing you, doesn't count towards the limits of runes you can have affecting you, is always on and never needs to be maintained. There are also weather runes, which are different - the radius they affect goes up with rank - one square mile for apprentice, three for adept and ten for master. They last an hour for apprentice, a day for adept and a week for master, assuming no other sorcerer goes in to change it. The GM controls the practical effects of the weather - you can't aim an earthquake to kill a specific person, without Raises assigned by the GM. Invoking a weather rune must be done out of doors. An inscribed weather rune is good for one use, and becoming one lets you use its power at will.

Whenever you fail at using a rune knack, you take one die of damage for every five points you failed by, rounding up. You can control a number of active runes equal to your ranks in Brawn at once, though you can make Raises to do more. If you ever fail a Lærdom roll while using more runes than you can normally control, all runes immediately end and you take one die of damage per active rune as the power explodes on you. You can only try to invoke up to (Wits) times per day. Runes can be inscribed only onto you or an inanimate object. Any object can only ever have one rune inscribed - even after the spell's power ends, that's the only rune that object will take. You can maintain up to (Brawn) inscriptions - if you go over that, all runes active fail and ruin the objects they are on. They may never be inscribed again. An inscribed rune can only be activated a number of times per day equal to the maker's Wits. And you can only ever become one rune.

The Runes:

- Kjøt, Flesh
The first rune is that of Self. Its lesson is this: "Know yourself, that is the first lesson; the first truth." It demands honesty with the self, and the god who is Kjøt was the most hermetic of the Vestenmannavnjar - ever. He never spoke to anyone but Empathy after he solved the Riddle of Flesh. Kjøt adds two dice to any attempts to resist being fooled or beguiled, by magic or not.

- Bevegelse, Empathy
The second rune is the Outer World, where others move and meld in a cohesive yet chaotic whole. Empathy is the union of the Self and the Outer World, and it is said that the goddess who is Bevegelse taught Flesh to understand himself, which made her the stronger of the two. However, Solitude claimed that "the Second would never survive without the First." Bevegelse adds two dice to any social interaction.

- Varsel, Omen
The third rune is that of the messenger of the gods, the Trickster. Varsel has been blamed for being unfair, making his omens too difficult, but he disagrees, claiming that "only those willing to listen are worthy to hear." When invoked or inscribed, Varsel allows the user to make a skill check to speak in secret, making all present whom he wishes to deceive hear only gibberish unless they are using the Flesh rune. Those who become Omen do not need to roll and may use the ability at will.

- Ensombet, Solitude
The fourth rune cuts away the past, the anchor that keeps you from moving forward. It allows you to move past fears and angers, to concentrate on the present. This is the duty of the true hero, who understands that the future waits for no one. Solitude was the first to accept his gift, the first to use it and the first to fall saving his home. Ensombet adds two dice to all Resolve checks.

- Styrke, Strength
The fifth rune challenge Flesh for supremacy of the body. He was a warrior, both in mind and body, with the soul of a demon and the power of the greatest ox. His courage is remembered across Vendel, inspiring the modern sport of caber tossing from the legend of how he uprooted the tallest tree in the world as a challenge to Legion itself. He drew a line between this world and the demons it had embraced, and his conviction is today shared by many Vestenmannavnjar. Styrke adds one die to all damage rolls.

- Uvitenhet, Mystery
The sixth rune hides the truth. What was clear is concealed, what was known forgotten. Under the influence of Uvitenhet, deceits and lies go unnoticed and veiled, even from the Gateway rune. Many say th at those who carve Uvitenhet become less and less themselves, and all who have become the Mystery rune have permanently cut ties with all they knew to devote their lives to scholarly work and puzzles. Uvitenhet adds two dice to all rolls to deceive others, and counteracts the Gateway rune.

- Stans, Calm
The seventh rune is also called Sorrow. For the sailor, no tragedy is greater than a stilled sea. When used, the winds die and the air is quiet. Doom comes to the sea. The god Stans observed the moment of silent revelation after Legion was hurled back to the Abyss at the end of the war for Vendel, and has observed the same silence between each Age since. When a skjæren learns Stans, he chooses either the weather or emotional focus. This choice can never be changed. As a weather effect, Stans stills the weather conditions. Gales die into breezes, blizzards turn to light snowstorms. Weather conditions can only be lessened, not changed into another type of weather. As an emotional effect, Stans adds two dice to all rolls to calm another's mood or curb aggressive emotions.

- Storsæd, Greatness
Greatness is the fledgling hero, the young and untrained prodigy. It is an encouragement to others to be like itself, reflecting the best in all it meets. The first person to be Storsæd was a squire to Styrke. Seemingly weak and in need of protection, he was the most valiant of all the gods and never wavered through the Worst Days, proving to be an example of all they fought for. When invoked or inscribed, Storsæd allows any Raises made on an action that is successful to be distributed among those who observed the action as the skjæren wishes, acting as free raises for the targets. The skjæren can transfer a number of raises per action equal to his lowest attribute. One who becomes Storsæd gets a pool of free raises equal to his lowest trait at the start of each scene, which he may use or distribute as he wishes during the scene. Any that are not used by the end of the scene are lost.

- Kyndighet, Skill
The legends say that Kyndighet was the stout, clearheaded mentor of the gods that saved the world. He knew that victory could not be rushed, that valor could not be hurried. He taught the value of patience and the proper moment and then showed all the gods what triumph meant. His rune is one of adroitness and instruction. Kyndighet allows one die per combat round to be rerolled.

- Sterk, Wholeness
There is a Vestenmannavnjar saying attributed to Sterk: "Understanding one's weaknesses is more important than knowing those of your foes." Sterk was the warlord who never fell, a master of defensive combat. Most of his battles were won by attrition and tiring his foe out, and he was one of the greatest friends of Kyndighet. Those who use his rune are blessed with uncanny ability to avoid blows. Sterk gives +5 to the TN to hit the skjæren.

- Velstend, Wealth
The Vestenmannavnjar claim that Velstend the Pauper was the richest of men, his altruism purest of the gods. He came from a foreign land, a land destroyed by Legion long ago, and he came to protect what he saw as "an innocent culture, devoid of the rampant greed and lust spreading across the world." His rune is called Wealth for lack of a better term. It spews forth a wellspring of ideas, tapping into the collective knowledge of all who came before. Early skjæren were wary of the rune, but modern Vendel are not, and it is rapidly becoming their most popular lærd. When a sorcerer learns this rune, he must choose between a focus on money or on wisdom. Once made, this choice cannot be changed. The money effect allows the user to make a skill check to double any money he receives by any means that is not regular income while the rune is active. The wisdom effect allows the user to make a skill check to tap into hereditary memory, asking the GM a question relevant to his situation. The answer occurs as a "flashback" into the life of a previous Skjæren devoted to Velstend which is pertinent to the current situation somehow. The relevance is left to the player to interpret.

- Fjell, Mountain
The twelfth rune is one of heroic sacrifice, but also absence of suffering. Bearers of this rune ignore crippling wounds, for it takes away suffering and pain and frees the mind. Fjell was a sympathetic healer, who in the final hours of the Worst Days took on the wounds of the warrior Krieg when he fell before Legion, sacrificing his own life to save Krieg's. Krieg, however, defied the Bargainer who gave the gods their power and went into its home in the Great Tårn Mountain to bring him back - and this rune saved his life. Fjell, when invoked or inscribed, allows the user to ignore the effects of one Dramatic Wound already suffered, both for purposes of penalties and unconsciousness. Those who become Fjell can suffer an additional Dramatic Wound before falling unconscious and may ignore all penalties from one Dramatic Wound, chosen when the wound is inflicted. Once that wound heals, another can be chosen.

- Høst, Harvest
The thirteenth rune is the time of plenty. There is no famine during the Harvest, and the hunger of winter to come is forgotten. However, it is also the lesson that nothing can be gained without work and dedication, that perseverence reaps the greatest reward. Høst was the only one of the gods left behind in the Worst Days. He tended the fields and farms during Legion's onslaught, and he rallied the common folk to do the same. His long struggle is remembered over the first meal of each year's harvest, even among those who despise the traditions of Lærdom. When invoked or inscribed, Høst allows the bearer to, before each story arc, voluntarily lower a knack by one. This rank of knack is "stored away" for the story, and when the story ends, the knack returns along with 2 XP that can only be spent to raise the knack's rank. Those who become Høst do not need to make a skill check to use this power each story.

- Grenseløs, Unbound
The fourteenth rune opens the way. Those that constrain it are defeated. Shackles, ropes and bindings cannot hold it. Grenseløs was the first to show this power, and the only person to ever escape the Great Keep of Krigsfang, where even Legion was said to have been bound. When invoked or inscribed, Grenseløs causes bindings and shackles to fall off the user when activated. Becoming Grenseløs allows this power to be used at will.

- Krieg, Warrior
Krieg is victory in battle, causing arrows to find their mark and axes to thirst for blood. This rune is much-prized, though many also remember the Great War, when Krieg the Inhuman ravaged the coast with an army of branded followers as proof of its ultimate corruption of the flesh. Krieg adds one die to all attack rolls.

- Nød, Intensity
Nød is diametrically opposed to Calm. Legend states the two married each other befor the Worst Days and were driven apart by their differences once they got their runes. Intensity is all that is violent, aggressive and forthright. She is a terror on the open sea, a savage wind that stings the eyes. Those who learn Nød must choose, when they learn it, between weather and emotional effects. Once chosen, this choice cannot be changed. As a weather effect, Nød worsens the present weather conditions, turning drizzles to downpours or snowstorms to blizzards. This cannot change types of weather condition, however. As an emotional effect, Nød adds two dice when trying to incite wrath or promote aggressive emotions.

- Sinne, Anger
Sinne is the bitter gale. Anger fills the sky, uncontrollable to most and unquestionable to all. Sinne embodied this fury. She was a beauty that none could possess, control or even hold the attention of for long. She is still today the most emulated of all the gods. Sinne adds two dice to all Brawn rolls.

- Tungsinn, Gloom
Tungsinn is the sullen shower, draining all life around it and casting everything in shades of gray. He leeches courage and reminds others of their losses. He was the embodiment of malaise, a nihilistic critic who was sure the Vestenmannavnjar would lose until several moments after they won. He has been mostly forgotten, for people have far better things to do than sulk. Tungsinn adds two dice to all attempts to cause depression or fear in others.

- Herje, Ruin
The nineteenth rune is that of disruption and destructive nature. Ruin is unexpected and brutal, thrusting all it touches into a desperate struggle for survival. Herje embodied this destruction, plagued by terrible luck, worse than any other man who survived childbirth. He fled his homeland after the Worst Days, and nearly all images of him have been burned in the hopes that he will never return. Herje allows the user to add their rank in Herje to the TN of their target's next action. The rune's power ends immediately after.

You know, as a rune to Become, that'd be a really, really nasty one.

- Reise, Journey
Reise is swift, calling to all those who seek to travel. It is the path that matters, not the goal, and every experience on the way is important. Those who follow Reise hate to see a journey end, though they are prepared and careful in their travel. Reise is a common name now among the Vestenmannavnjar, and the power of the rune has been passed down easily through the centuries, as the bearers prepare for the journey into death. Reise adds two dice to any perception checks.

- Fornuft, Gateway
The twenty-first rune is the Gateway, bringing visions to the water. This rune can spy on foes and learn their plans, and the only defense is Mystery. The Vendel love those who have learned the Gateway rune, for its power has great value, especially to the Guilds. Fornuft was an aging artist who had gone blind trying to paint the sun. He received a "divine inspiration" and began to create art based on the other gods. During the Worst Days, he learned his visions were actually happening as he observed them, and from then on his art weighed on him heavily, until he joined the pantheon he had once aided. Fornuft allows the user to see visions of other places, though the Mystery rune blocks all visions within fifty feet of itself, showing only a cloudy haze. The sorcerer must close his eyes and cannot speak during a vision. Invoking the rune allows the user to view events in a place he is familiar with for one round plus one round per raise. Inscribing it allows the user to watc events in a place he has seen before for one round plus one round per raise, but the object inscribed must have a reflective surface of some kind, in which the vision appears. Those who become Fornuft may call up visions of anywhere in the world they have been to and can maintain them for one round plus one round per raise. This can be done only once per day.

- Lidenskap, Passion
Lidenskap is the rune of passion and of day. Clouds part, rains end and the sky clears. Fog is dispelled by this rune as well. Between this rune and Hatred, any journey can be made pleasant. Lidenskap was a fiery man with a sharp-edged temper. Lidenskap can increase the temperature as a weather effect, which may induce heat waves, droughts or other heat-based effects.

- Kjølig, Hatred
Kjølig is the rune of hatred and night. It brings the clouds together, cooling the air. Kjølig was a brooding angel of a woman, and her billowing black form skirts the moonlit clouds on clear nights even today. Those who felt her acid kiss linger still above the northern Tårn Mountain. Kjølig can decrease temperature as a weather effect, which may cause freezing nights, snow or other cold-based effects.

- Villskap, Fury
The final rune is both fury and lightning. The rumbling in the sky foretells the doom of enemies. Villskap fought alongside Styrke and Krieg in the Worst Days, hurling lightning bolts down at his foes. When Krieg went mad in battle, it was Villskap who slew him, but only after Krieg strangled Styrke in his madness. Villskap allows the user to hurl a lightning bolt from his hands, targeted as a normal missile attack with range of 25 times mastery degree. Value for both attack and damage is Mastery degree+Villskap knack, keeping Mastery degree.

Next time: Possibly the entire rest of the sorceries.

Go ahead, then. Kill me. Kill me and seal your fate.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Double post, but...

7th Sea: Go ahead, then. Kill me. Kill me and seal your fate.

Opening your eyes means death, perhaps from madness at the interlaced muppet.

First, let's mention the nations without sorcery. Castille has none, and not even a consolation prize because they got a really cool fencing style. Eisen has dracheneisen instead. A half-blood noble gets a little of the armor, and a full-blood gets much more. The reason this rocks is that the armor reduces incoming damage and can make you harder to hit. Even against bullets. Because the dragon iron is just that damn good.

Montaigne, on the other hand, has Portè , doorway magic. Portè involves ripping bleeding holes in reality and pulling things through them - and that word 'bleeding' is important, because Portè is also blood magic. To do it, you'll need to bleed. The Montaignes refer to the place-that-is-not-a-place between doorways as "the walkway", and none know what might live there. It's not safe to linger there, and it is absolutely never a good idea to open your eyes while in the walkway. Don't do it. Ever. Just don't.

An apprentice of Portè can open doorways the size of a human fist, and is also taught how to "blood" an object, marking it with his own blood. They are then taught how to open a doorway to the blooded object and pull it through. An adept can open doorways big enough to walk through, and so can not just pull blooded objects to him, but travel to them, as well as pulling through objects the size of a man - though they have to be able to lift the things to get 'em through the doorway. A master can open a doorway large enough for multiple people, and can finally allow others to travel the walkway with him, up to a number of people equal to their Resolve. They must hold onto the sorcerer or someone holding the sorcerer - those who lose their grip are lost forever to the maelstrom of the walkway. Don't do that.

Portè has limits, though. Travelling the walkway causes portal sickness - like sea sickness, except you never get used to it. Nausea and dizziness are common. When you walk through a doorway, you roll a die and subtract your Resolve. That's how many turns you're sick after, and that causes -2 dice to all actions. People who don't have Portè that you pull through with you don't subtract their Resolve. Pulling things through doorways doesn't actually open a physical connection - it's just a magic hole you stick your hand through and pull an item out of. A pin thrown into the sea that you pull through will be wet, but no water will come through the doorway. If your travel to a blooded object is blocked - say it's buried underground or left inside a jewelery box you can't fit into - you'll find yourself unable to exit the walkway and forced to walk to another blooded object. You can still pull the objects out, though, without a problem. And, of course, you absolutely must have a blooded object as an anchor for where you're walking to, and can only pull blooded objects out of your magic doors.

The powers of Portè are as follows: Attunement - the power to sense, generally, where blooded objects are in relation to you. This starts out working in a ten foot radius, but at rank 5 operates out up to ten miles. Blooding , of course - the power to ritually mark an object with your blood and link it to you with magic. Apprentices can have three blooded objects at once, adepts six and masters nine. You can drop a link at any time, but must then re-blood the object to reestablish it. Bring , the power to reach through a hole in reality and pull a blooded object to you. Pocket , the ability to claim part of the walkway as your own and store things there. They can't be alive - living things just can't enter your pocket hole - and you can only store ten pounds per rank of the Pocket knack. If you go over that, your pocket bursts and you lose everything in it forever. There is a small chance of any object in your pocket vanishing - no one knows why, but people think someone's learned how to steal them. So don't leave valuable, one-of-a-kind things there long. And lastly, anything in your pocket must be able to hold its shape - no liquids without being in a container, or it'll just fall back out of the pocket. And, of course, there is Walk , the power to open a doorway big enough to pass through - and, at Master levels, big enough to bring people with you. This can cross vast distances extremely quickly.

That bear has an excellent tailor.

In Ussura, the magic of Pyeryem is practiced. It's...not really sorcery, according to the Ussurans. They claim it is a holy act granted them by Matushka: the power to take on animal shapes. These are reverent powers, not to be used lightly, and passes from mother to child. All Pyeryem sorcerers learn first how to change into a specific animal - the first to offer up its 'spirit skin' - and then how to talk to other humans. They can't change back until they learn that, or talk to animals. Acquiring new shapes is a matter of finding an animal and bargaining with it for permission to use its spirit skin. The animal who does that, in return, will live as long as the sorcerer. IF killed by other means than age, the sorcerer must care for the beast's young until they are strong enough to take care of themselves, but does not lose the power to become the animal.

An apprentice of Pyeryem learns the Shape of the Beast, the power to turn his entire body into an animal, gaining all the powers of that animal. He can speak to other animals while transformed and to other Pyeryem users, but not to normal humans. Transformation costs a Drama die to attempt, and then you make skill roll. If you fail...yeah, the die's wasted. If you fail by a large amount, you are trapped in your current form until the next dawn. Turning back to a human works the same way, including the chance to be trapped, but costs no Drama dice. Each animal (including Human) is its own knack. You can always speak to any animal native to Ussura, and can roll to speak to any other animal, but it gets harder the further from Ussura and more domesticated the animal. An adept learns the Heart of the Beast, gaining the power of partial transformation. By shifting only a part of the body, he can call on one of the animal's abilities - say, by growing down around his eyes and a slightly hooked nose to use an owl's night vision. You can't use two powers that interfere with each other, or two that'd affect the same part of the body. You can also only use one power per animal - so if you have owl vision up, you'll need another bird form to take wings from if you also want wings. You use your Man knack to turn all your powers off...and, again, can be trapped in your current form until the next dawn if you fail badly enough. The master learns the Soul of the Beast: form is unimportant, spirit is all. They learn the art of spirit conjuration, calling on the powers of their animal forms without needing to transform their body. They can call as many powers from a single animal as they desire, but can only use one animal's powers at a time. There's no need to turn back, since no transformation happens - however, all animal powers wear off at the next dawn, or can be cancelled early.

There's a list of animal forms and associated powers. There's also a list of powers, excellent for use in building an animal that isn't already there. The Ussura book has more animal forms listed, and a few new animal powers. There's stuff like claw attacks, armor (due to speed, toughness or whatever), burrowing, stat changes - though when a stat goes up, another often goes down...and the two are usually considered a single power when that happens, as are things like speed and no grasping limbs. It's a pretty flexible system, though, and while powerful animals can be hard to turn into, they've got some great abilities.

The magic of Vodacce, now, is Sorte , fate magic. It is a very rare sorcery, found exclusively in Vodacce women, the fate witches. Those who have the power can see the great web of fate and how it connects to all things. They learn to watch its strands - and the grand witches, the nonna , even learn how to create and destroy them. The young witches learn how to see the strands using a sorte deck, reading fate via the cards. They learn what the cards mean - the Arcana are strengths and weaknesses in a person, and the suits are types and strengths of connection. A fate witch can't manipulate Arcana, but can manipulate the others - Coins, the connections of business and trade, Cups, the connections of passion and emotion, Swords, the connections of conflict, and Staves, the connections of status, respect and authority. Each suit and the Arcana are the five knacks of Sorte, the skill in manipulating that type of fate. (Or, in Arcana's case, of being able to read it.)

The witches can automatically see the most powerful strands a person has - the first most important for an apprentice, the two most important for an adept and three most important for a master. They can also look closer to see the specific strands between two people. When a witch can see a strand, she knows what suit it has, where its ends are - if both ends are in sight, she can see that...but even if not, she knows what direction the end is currently in, how strong it is (from one to ten)...and whether it has a court card. Court cards mean the strand can't be manipulated - the Squire because it is too new and unstable, the Knight because it is too powerful, the Queen because it is splitting and creating a new strand and the King because it is too old and stable. They also learn if the strand is being twisted or frayed, and can tell if a strand has been cut - but a cut strand can't be altered unless you can make new strands.

The Vodacce women may lay blessings and curses. It's said they can do it just by meeting your eyes - but that is not true. It takes a bit more than that, and it's pretty risky. To do it, they must look into the eyes of a person, say his name three times and then kiss him. That lays the blessing...or the curse. And only the witch knows what she laid. She then rolls her appropriate knack - Cups to give a romantic blessing, say, or Swords for a curse on conflicts. For every 15 points rolled, the target gets either a Blessing or Curse die. However . the witch gets a Curse die for every 10 points rolled. Blessing dice are added to the results of all appropriate rolls. However, they can't explode - and if they ever roll a 1, they go away. They remain until then. Curse dice are rolled the same way...but rather than adding to the results, they subtract. They go away if they ever roll a 10.

A witch can also tug on strands she can see. This lets her increase or decrease its strength. The effects of this aren't sudden or spectacular...but it causes something to change a relationship. Perhaps when she weakened a passion strand, there will be a lover's quarrel that night. If she strengthens it, perhaps luck will bring them closer to gether after the man defends the woman's honor. It's subtle, but can be very powerful - at least until it wears off. The change lingers for one day per rank in the appropriate knack...and if you're lucky, circumstances might make it permanent. Perhaps, after all, you ruined the relationship by causing the man to be sent off to war and making it long-distance. Just because the magic wears off won't stop that from being true. However, the GM controls how the magic manifests, not you. You can't tug a strand that has a court card.

Stretching stands is much simpler. If you can see a strand, you can stretch it - and while you are doing so, it adds or subtracts dice from appropriate pools. So if you witness a sword fight and can see the Swords strand between the duelists, you can weaken or strengthen one of the fighters by stretching the strand. It's not easy, but very potent. You can't stretch a strand with a court card.

The greatest witches can create and destroy strands. Destroying is the easier of the two. It's like tearing through a web, with each part important to maintaining the structure. However, you can't destroy a strand with a court card. If you succeed the (rather hard) roll to destroy a strand, you dramatically destroy the relationship. Lifelong friends feel nothing for each other, perhaps a tragic accident tears a father and son apart and they never see each other again. It's not something you control, but it is very dramatic. However, you get caught up in the effect: you become connected to both people the strand you cut had connected, even if you have only seen them before and never spoken to them. This is a great risk, for such connections can be tracked by other witches and used to weaken you, as you well know.

Creating strands is the hardest thing a witch can do. It is less risky to the witch, but very hard. Plus, the strand must be watched carefully to ensure the relationship goes the way you want - that the political relationship between two leaders creates an agreement, not a war. That you don't start a romantic relationship with a man who just isn't what you want - you can, after all, end up accidentally turning him into a stalker if you aren't careful

Lastly, the Arcana: a Fate Witch can watch a person and see if they have a Virtue or Hubris. They can even tell what it is, based on what Sorte card they see and if it's inverted or not.

However, there's always a risk when using Sorte. Famously, "Mad Queen" Marietta controlled the fates of an entire village - and over the years, her skin developed scars as if struck with a lash. That is because she was: a fate lash . It eventually drove her insane and she killed her husband and children. Whenever a die on a Sorte roll explodes more than twice - so whenever a single die goes over 20 - you suffer a fate lash. Since you can choose to not have a die explode, it's all down to you overreaching...because while you get lashed, that explosion means the spell still worked and got lots of numbers. It's a risk that might be worth it. When you get a Fate Lash, you lose three Drama dice. If you don't have three to lose, you take a Dramatic Wound for every die you don't have. The scars remain for three months, but cause no other problems.

Dun dun duuuuuun...

The last part of the book brings us to the end of the story. Clarisse and Villanova are at a party for King Sandoval's birthday when Archibald arrives! Clarisse has hired him to fight her lover, Villanova - but why? We don't know! The two fight, but Villanova's Ambrogia fencing is too much for Archibald - he can't beat the man. While Villanova gloats, however, Archibald notices Lucia, who is doing something . She tugs on the strands, stretching them - and when Villanova moves in for the killing blow, he misses! Villanova turns, cursing at her - but that gives Archibald the opening he needs. He knocks the sword from the villain's hand and has him at his mercy. At this point, Helena retrieves the stolen object from Villanova - a Syrneth egg containing a poison virulent enough to kill everyone in the room.

Archibald is about to kill Villanova when the man reveals that he, too is a Swordsman - and no Swordsman may take commission on another! Archibald could kill him - but only by accepting death himself, at the hands of the Guild. He spares Villanova, who swears vengeance on Lucia for costing him victory. Lucia nearly faints, but Archibald catches her.

From here, we move into a player advice section which is, honestly, one of the best I've ever read. It talks about what stats do, but more importantly, aobut player expectations and what we'd today call the social contract. It talks about how players should make characters as a group, so they can hook into each others' backgrounds and cover each others' weaknesses, about sitting down and forming a charter for the PC group so that they have rules they can fall back on in times of disagreement - a novel idea, if not one I usually use. And it talks about how being dick "because it's my character" is unacceptable behavior and should not be done. This is not a game designed for interparty conflict beyond argument and debate - PVP combat just isn't what it's good at. And it's open about that. There's also advice about flexibility. Say you took Nemesis as a background, but your Nemesis hasn't shown up yet and you really, really hate this NPC the GM has just introduced - you can ask him if that guy can be your Nemesis instead! And usually he'll say yes.

Sometimes, the GM will introduce NPCs, and the game suggests that he let players decide who they are sometimes - the example is this: "Do I recognize him?" "...hm. Sure! Who is he?" "Well, he looks like my fencing instructor. What's he doing so far from home and dressed so shabbily?" "Sure, we'll go with that." The GM can veto you if he has other plans, of course. Likewise, you can improvise chandeliers into existence in fight scenes if you need something to swing on, and the GM is expected to tell you if your PC is doing something stupid that he'd know not to do - a sorcerer opening his eyes in the walkway, say, or a fencer standing somewhere that'd put him at terrible risk in battle. Basically, it's a game that suggests players be courteous to each other and not be dicks. Good advice.

It also talks about playing with an accent, and the appendix has example accents, including 'pirate'

Next time: The GM's Guide.

Perhaps the orb exerts a repulsive force on the cog similar to that of two similarly aligned lodestones?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Perhaps the orb exerts a repulsive force on the cog similar to that of two similarly aligned lodestones?

Tick-tock, captain, tick-tock.

We begin with the standard-at-the-time stern warning to players not to read this section, and then move into the 'metaplot' narration, this time from an archaeologist named Edward Hollingsworth. He's come into two Syrneth artifacts, a three-inch brass-like sphere on a silver rod and quarter of bluish cogwheel covered in wires, which wrap around a gray orb and have immense tension. After a visit with a man named Lord Weberly, it is discovered (by Weberly's niece) that it's a musical instrument - but it's dropped and nearly kills the niece when the strings snap and the orb goes barreling through a wall.

We're informed that the 7th Sea plot will be continuing as time moves on, and that while now it is 1668 in Thèah, time will move there as well. We start off with a rather in-depth look at Avalon. Elaine, of course, is based both on Elizabeth the I and King Arthur, while her advisor Derwyddon is Merlin.

Elaine's taking the throne has returned the Sidhe to Avalon, and brought the magic back. In Avalon, the nobles and the commoners are closer than in most nations. Elaine is well-beloved by the people, and that keeps them loyal - but a hated lord cannot expect anything. Avalon fashion is, well, utilitarian. They've invented the pocket to free up hands, tend to long hair and facial hair and frown on wigs and makeup. Married women wear their hair up, and maidens braid it.

Avalons fucking love alcohol. Beer, stout, whiskey, mead - they love it all. Except wine. They don't drink much wine. They eat cabbage, carrots and beets, and the favored meat is rabbit. Venison's illegal. Fishin, however, is extremely common. As a result, the Avalons tend to be sturdy, powerful folk. The nobles love imported delicacies, but only of food - everyone loves local beer and ale. Avalons are also renowned both for hospitality and for superstition. The supersition comes from the presence of the Sidhe, who follow strange rules - sometimes, it is vital to throw spilled salt over the shoulder or keep a copper penny in the left shoe. It's also why they're so polite to strangers: the Sidhe loathe and punish disrespect, and you never know when someone's a shapeshifted Sidhe noble.

The Avalons love song and story. While the peasants have had their native religion suppressed for four centuries, it was not forgotten - instead, it became legend and ballad. Gods become kings, heroes become knights, but it was all still there. The songs tend to follow patterns, such that even if they've never heard a song before, an Avalon can usually join in the chorus of a ballad. They tend to the bawdy, and while on the surface such things are punished, the songs mock such punishment even as they tell about it. The old names are coming back, too - the ancient Avalon tongue, Cymru, is making a comeback. Where Dyffd became David and Ieuan became Ian, now they are changing back.

There are three religions in Avalon - the Objectionists, the Reformed Vaticines (otherwise known as the Church of Avalon) and the Traditionalists. Most normal Vaticines have left after Elaine declared independence from the Church. The Traditionalists, well, they're druids. Elaine has pioneered a program of religious tolerance, trying to keep the three groups from being at each others' throats. They don't really like each other, and the Traditionalists seem to want to get the Church entirely off their island. Scholars, at least, are happy because Elaine doesn't persecute them like the Inquisition does.

Avalon's had a parliament for six centuries, but the true power still lies with Elaine. While the vocal minority doesn't like her, Elaine's moderate stance on most issues gained her the majority's support. Avalon's divided into seven regions, each ruled by a lord save one, which is the Queen's personal dominion. The capital was once Luthon, but Elaine moved it ten years ago. Now, it's ruled by Lord Mayor Nigel Bester, one of the richest and most influential lords of the parliament. The capital is Carleon, the ancient capital. It had fallen, but Derwyddon raised it again - and some whisper he did it in a single night, summoning spirits of ocean, smoke and fire. It's got a fairy tale castle to back that up.

Beyond that, major cities are Wandesborow (pronounced Wanber), the Sailor's City - a major port and home to many sailors, and Cardican, home of the rich and powerful Garloise family. The Garloises are well-known as an ambitious family, but they support Elaine as well as any other. Their current leader is a man named Mark, who is married to a powerful sorcerer named Rhiannon. There is also, just off the coast (though it seems to wander), the Isle of the of the Grey Queen. There's a tall tower there, containing a woman who has never aged. She sits at a loom and spins. No man who has ever sailed there has returned, and none have tried for a century. Some say the Gray Queen is a banesidhe or something even more terrible, but none know for sure.

While Elaine's got a very powerful navy, AValon has no standing army. The nobles objected, but Elaine focused on the navy because they couldn't afford both and the navy brought in money. The Avalons are thankful Castille is busy, as otherwise the seat of the Vaticine would be coming after them. They wish they could help Eisen, but have to keep their own house in order, and are friendly with Montaigne so long as they don't seem likely to invade. They don't know much about Ussura, and they distrust Vodacce and Vendel. They fucking hate pirates.

Inismore, just across the water, is an independent nation allied to Avalon. It is ruled by the immortal O'Bannon, the árd rí , recently returned. Some - such as the kings when he arrived, the O'Tooles - think he's an imposter, but he's powerful enough and mad enough to be the real thing. Should Elaine lose the Graal or betray the Inish, he'd turn on her in an instant, and his wrath is terrible.

The Inish claim to have been placed under a gesa when their nation was formed, a spell that enforces four laws that form the basis of all society. Three they live by - and the fourth is for those who don't. The first law is that of hospitality: All men must be hospitable. The King maintains roads and travelers hostels that are free to all, in which violence is punishable by death. A host never turns away a guest, and it is expected that those who have will be generous to those who need. When they don't - well, reputation is everything, and rumors travel fast in Inismore. The second law is that of Bravery. An Inishman would rather face a painful death than live life as a coward. The important thing to an Inishman is that he dies and is remembered. Violence is casual, even friendly - fistfights are respectful, and very common. No weapons, of course. The winner always buys his foe a drink - after all, he fought so hard he couldn't get up, and that's what matters. The last law is Loyalty. So long as a promise doesn't force a man to betray the other laws, he cannot break it. His first loyalty must always be to his own honor, and his lord is second - a strange idea to most people. This individualism can make the Inish very distinct in a world such as this one. The fourth law is Justice: those who break the law are punished. The Inish believe the land itself will conspire to do so, but if they witness a transgression, it is their solemn duty to set it right. The only way to atone is to quest to clear your name. Traditionally, this involves attempting the impossible - and often dying in the attempt, but there's no better way to clear your name than that.

Like Avalon, the Inish love songs. They've got a ton of them - rebel songs, war songs, love songs, drinking songs...the bards, the filid , are a very important part of Inish culture. They're a unique feature of the Inish, a sort of holy person and living history. The native religion of Inismore worships gods said to live in worlds beyond this one. They claim that magic can reach the gods, but the gates have been closed for centuries. They aren't all that concerned about it - just worship on holy days and leave well enough alone. Anyone, they feel, can become a god - it's a matter of making a big enough legend. This is why reputation is so important - and why the worst thing you can call an Inishman is 'coward'.

The holy men of Inismore are the druids - wise men who know the secret truths. They learn the ways of the world and how to predict them, and many believe them to be magical. Bards are the initiate druids, historians and song-singers but also priests-in-training and seekers of secret knowledge. They also serve as messangers, using the famous Inish "seven-league striders," magic boots that can walk the entire island in a single day. Like the Avalons, the Inish are superstitious. They know never to block a river, for the Sidhe will punish them if they do. The waters are important, and must be let to go where they will.

The capital of Inismore is Tara, home of the Fål Stone. It was cursed in 600, but when the O'Bannon returned years later, he broke the curse by letting his blood fall on the Fål Stone. Since then, the city has had sixty-foot ramparts guarding her. Beyond it is Carman, the face of Inismore. Tara is the capital, but Carman is the main port and trading center. And beyond that is the bastion of the O'Tooles, Lachcuan. It trades exclusively with the Highland Marches, and it is ruled by the O'Toole clan, whose distrust of their High King is no secret. Most of the Inish military is untrained, but their leadership are professionals, fanatics who can whip their followers into a bloodthirsty horde. They have no navy, but many Inish have joined the Sea Dogs. The Inish have few foreign relations, letting Elaine handle it.

Lastly for Avalon, there are the Highlanders of the Highland Marches. The Highlands are not an easy country - it's rainy, foggy and cold. The roads are poor, and bandits are common. But this has made them tough and loyal. They are formed into clans, and it's very important to belong to your clan and support it. They wear their clan tartans in public, and clans color all of their culture, from dances and songs to politics. We're told that clan support is roughly like being an American football fan - nothing to go to war over, but certainly something you might start a fight over. And, of course, unite against outsiders.

Women are, legally, second-class citizens. They can't hold office or own property, are officially less than men and could never lead a clan. However, they control most financial matters behind the scenes and wives are often the most trusted advisors for noblemen. Women can also join the army, and one of the most famous of the Sea Dogs is a Highland woman, "Bloody" Bonnie McGee. The Highlanders have also embraced the idea of aristocratic education, taking to philosophy well alongside hunting and art. They are also consummate politicians, and most are deeply concerned over the wellbeing of the nation, focusing all their work on bettering it. Peasants, on the other hand, tend to keep to themselves, farm or run small shops and hold boisterous gatherings for beer and song.

Honesty is the most important thing to a Highlander. Arguing and even fights are perfectly acceptable, so long as you're honest. Breaking your word is the worst sin you can commit...but all this applies only internally. Deceiving a foreigner is nothing - and many noblemen make a game of it. Beyond that, they are rather similar to Avalon. They have a parliament in which all the heads of the major Clans serve, and are overseen by a High King. Currently, that's James MacDuff, leader of the Unifist faction - the Unifists being supporters of alliance with Avalon who support Elaine's leadership. He is opposed by the Seperatists, who want the Highland to be sovereign and seperate nation. Their capital is their oldest city, Kirkwall, and once a month its population triples for the meeting of the clans in the king's Grand Hall. There is also Connickmoor, home of the MacBride clan, leaders of the Seperatists. So far, they haven't achieved much, but they're patient. The Highlanders generally allow Elaine to deal with the outside, but maintain relations with a number of nations, and are on good terms with both Vendel and the Vestenmannavnjar thanks to careful maneuvering.

No discussion of Avalon would be complete without covering the Sidhe, however. They are known variously - the Tuatha de Danaan, the Doine Sidhe, Tylwith Teg, the Goodly Folke...even faeries, but no Avalon would ever dream of using that word, which they despise. They fear and hate cold iron - though no one has ever gotten a clear explanation on what makes iron cold, so it's safest just to avoid any and all iron around them. They are walking dreams, legends made real. They can be found anywhere in the world, though Avalon is where they call home in this world.

Their true home is the ghost isle of Bryn Bresail, which appears at dawn and vanishes at dusk - or, at least, that's the gateway to their home. There, it is forever a frozen spring, blossoms covered in frost. Like humans, the Sidhe have nobles - tall, beautiful nobles with wide eyes and nimble, long fingers. Only those they trust have seen them eat and drink, and they are terrified of looking into mirrors. They are all lords and ladies, and are ruled by a King and Queen - though no human has ever seen the King of the Sidhe. The Queen is powerful, however, far moreso than her husband - or so they claim. She has never been seen in the same form twice, and refers to her appearance as her "costume", for the Sidhe are shapeshifters. She's always seen with a mortal man whom she calls her knight. He is usually young, around sixteen, and handsome...but some say that the knight suffers a terrible fate on the summer solstice.

As the Sidhe are beautiful, so are they terrible. They are like thunderstorms - vast, powerful and unthinking in their fury. They are capable of great beauty, but terrible cruelty and vengeance. Their magic is powerful - and their wrath is moreso. This, of course, is only for the Seelie Court, the Blessed. There is also the Unseelie, the so-called Unforgiven. They are said to be creatures of living fire, of burning shadow, full of passion where the Seelie are distant and far more aware of the terror they embody.

There's also the lesser Sidhe, the common folk. Goblins, bogeys, boggins and brownies are among their ranks. Like all Sidhe, they appreciate good manners. Respect is the key in dealing with the Goodly Folke, and must always be remembered. Nobles are always Lord or Lady, and knowing their full title and using it is a good idea. If a common sidhe is known to be kind or helpful to humans, he is a hob and should be called such - but only do so if you know he's truly a hob. To do so falsely is to show the sidhe you're a fool and need to be tricked. The Sidhe are also the masters of Glamour, far moreso than any sorcerer could hope to be. To challenge one to a contest of Glamour is an insult worthy of death.

There are many superstitions about the Sidhe, and it's up to the GM to decide which are true. They include things like 'turning your clothes inside out protects you from Glamour', 'spreading salt on your windowsills and below your door will bar Sidhe from a building', 'Sidhe can't cross running water' and 'bells frighten and may even harm the Sidhe.'

Some important folks! Queen Elaine is a careful, cautious woman who is constantly working to maintain the Avalon alliance, and is almost always seen with her twelve personal knights. She also wants to keep her support of the Sea Dogs officially secret. Her primary advisor is Derwyddon, a man with one red eye (which can see the past) and one red eye (which can see the future). He cannot, however, see himself in either - and so he doesn't know how old he is. He wants to keep Elaine in power, though he has no idea why it's so important. The leader of Elaine's knights is Sir Lawrence Lugh, and he is the best of them all. He is strong, powerful, brave - and has a number of secrets. He is a full-blooded Sidhe who was cursed by a witch who was once his lover. When she learned he intended to leave, she put him to sleep and cut off his hand, replacing it with an iron one to destroy his magic. Since then, he has become a mortal man, beginning to age and losing much of his power. He is terrified of old age, and the other Sidhe cast him out as a cripple. He is afraid of death, but hides it well...and he is in love with Queen Elaine. Due to that love, he has given up all hope of returning to the Sidhe. The O'Bannon, meanwhile, is a terriying madman who claims to be centuries old. He loves Inismore, but his moods are dangerously unpredictable, and he's been known to kill men for saying things he thinks are stupid. And lastly, there is James MacDuff II, High King of the Highlands. He's a canny and shrewd politician who enabled the Avalon alliance by supporting Elaine. He wants to preserve it as long as it is convenient - but he doesn't think it'll last forever, and his ultimate goal is to ensure the Highlands come out on top when it goes bad.

Next time: Castille!

Lord Weberly dropped the object in surprise as everyone of his hunting hounds began a most mournful howling.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Lord Weberly dropped the object in surprise as everyone of his hunting hounds began a most mournful howling.

Castille's people tend towards the relaxed. They live fll lives, and they see no need to rush - mostly. Sure, there's a war on, but that's over there . But go into a monastery or university, and everyone's rushing. They're too busy experimenting and researching! No time to eat, no time to sleep! This is only one of the contradictions of Castille.

Good King Sandoval was forced to take the throne when his elder brother disappeared and his father, Salvador Aldana, died in 1664. Sandoval believes his brother is still alive and wants to find him - and he is indeed right. You see, Sandoval's brother is secretly the pirate Allende, the founder of the Brotherhood of the Coast! He has no desire to take the throne back, but he's definitely interested in ensuring his brother stays alive. He's in close contact with El Vago, and it was he who asked El Vago to protect Sandoval. The assassination attempts on Sandoval are plots by Cardinal Verdugo. El Vago cannot yet prove this, but he's gathering evidence to try.

Castille is primarily rural, with each part of the land, or rancho, governed by a noble family led by a Don. Castille's people are patriotic, prideful and often a little bit xenophobic. They are devout Vaticines, acknowledging King and Church as equals (though Sandoval the boy king has caused a stir there - his youth counts against him). After him are the land-holding Dons, and after them, the ones without land. Merchants are next, then the commoners. However, social status is of lesser concern to Castillians.

The great focus of Castille is la familia . There's no such thing as 'extended family.' Uncles are family. Cousins are family. Second cousins twice removed are family. Families are important and loyal to each other, usually tracing their heritage back to a common matriarch revered by all. No matter what family does, they share blood - and that is what matters. The most unforgivable sin is to kill a family member, and the worst punishment they can level is ostracism from the family.

Castillians are prone to la nostalgia , a sort of homesickness, when they are away from their country. It is largely because Castille has tended to ignore the rest of the world, focusing on itself above all, and to leave it is a shock. Until recently, the nobles have stood apart from the peasants' joyful street parades, dances and other festivals - but with the Montaigne invasion, they have adopted the peasant customs and become far closer to their people, banding together against the invaders. Castillian music revolves around the guitar, which has singlehandedly defined Castillian sound. To them, it is the perfect instrument.

For the first time since 1386, when the royal family all died of plague, the king of Castille has been denied the title of Rex Castilium by El Concilio de Razon, the Cardinal's council that acts as his advisors. They have instituted a constitutional monarchy instead of allowing him absolute power, and they are essentially running the country. They aren't, however, very good at it, being priests rather than good governors.

The Castillians are not fond of Avalon thanks to her split with the Church, but are too busy to act against them. They don't mind Eisen so much because there's little chance of danger from there. Montaigne, of course, is hated for their invasion. They pay almost no attention to the pirates after the destruction of their armada. Ussura has little contact with them, as does Vendel. Vodacce and Castille have long had a heated rivalry due to the split in the church.

The important people of Castille include, of course, Sandoval, who is trying his best to be a good king. He's been learning mostly by listening to his main advisors argue with each other. El Vago, of course, is a flamboyant masked swordsman whose skills at disappearing make many think he's actually a Montaigne sorcerer. He just wants to protect Sandoval and fight the Inquisition. Esteban Verdugo is one of the king's advisors and head of the Inquisition. He wants to save souls - by any means necessary. He will do literally anything if he thinks it will save a soul - torture, murder, anything. And if he thinks you're slipping - better to kill you now and ensure you go to Heaven. The king's other advisor is Andres Bejarano del Aldana, an excellent statesman who is concerned above all with the state of the people. He is a good swordsman who once fought alongside El Vago to protect the king. He focuses on keeping Castille happy over military matters, unlike Verdugo, and the two are bitter rivals. And then, of course, there is Headmaster Salvador Garcia, once a bishop in the church. After the Hierophant's death, he resigned in disgust at the political maneuvering he saw. He is a firm supporter of the Invisible College.

Eisen is disorganized and shattered - but it is coming back together slowly. Its internal discord is a problem, of course, but all of Eisen is trying to recover from the damage of the War of the Cross. National pride is strong - they are all Eisens, and they are ready to fight for that.

There are four classes in Eisen: the Adel , the nobles who live in grand castles. The Sölden . the mercenaries who are the next-wealthiest. They often form military academies when they grow old. The Baueren , the peasantry who farm Eisen's inferitle land. They have suffered much, and tend to be angry. And the last class was created by the War of the Cross: der Waisen , the orphans. Their homes were destroyed and their families killed in the war, and they have no real support. Many die of diseases, and others for trespassing where they once lived. The Adel claim they are easy to identify - they are the ones that don't shield themselves when beaten.

The Eisen are a straightforward people, straight-talking and blunt. They will lie for a friend, but not for no reason, and they see little point in sparing feelings of those they don't like. A friend is often called a Rücken , or "back" - meaning that the Eisen would trust him to defend his back in battle. An Eisen will never abandon a friend unless asked, and expects the same. The trust they have is very strong. Their customs are rougher than in many other lands, which can take foreigners off guard, and they have a little trouble with quietness and subtlety in speech and action.

The Eisen have become less demonstrative now. Holidays often go uncelebrated because work must be done. Children eat first to ensure they will eat at all, even before honored guests - and it is custom for those who have enough food to bring a gift of it when visiting, to ensure they have enough to eat while they serve you the best they have. The baueren believe it is bad luck to touch a waisen, that their bad luck is contagious and must be washed away with bathing. Their music tends towards the idyllic and quiet, unlike their customs.

Eisens are split between Vaticine and Objectionist, and workers often discuss religion as they toil. The mercenaries, regardless of religion, often wear necklaces bearing the names of pious mercenaries of the past - these are called Heiligen and are believed to be protected by the spirits of those named. The four most common names are Imperator Weiss, remembered for his religious tolerance, Imperator Gottschalk I, remembered for creating the Hierophancy, Stefano Wulf, an Objectionist who wasn't actually an Eisen but was a major figure in the movement and General Strauss, champion of the Eisen Vaticines.

The land is governed by seven Eisenfürst, each with their own königreich. The first is most recent: Freiburg, the free city, governed by Nicklaus Trägue. He is the first atheist to rule openly, and he was made so by the horrors of the War of the Cross. He believes all men are traitors for the right price and has been known to curse out passing priests. He tries to do his best for his people, manipulating them to do right by using their moral failings. Freiburg pays no taxes and relies on free trade - in fact, its government tries to do as little as possible. Trägue believes Freiburg will not live to see its fifth anniversary, for his atheism is not liked by the other Eisenfürsten. The next is Wische, ruled by Reinhard von Wische, a kind man who has let his land go to ruin following the deaths of his family in the War. His land was ravaged, and most of his income comes from tolls on merchants. It has more waisen than any other area. The third is Pösen, ruled by Fauner Pösen. She is most prosperous of them, except perhaps for Freiburg, and her land was left mostly untouched. The fourth is Heilgrund, ruled by Stefan Heilgrund. He works to reunite Eisen, but the others see him as a brash young fool and hae no desire to submit. Indeed, only Nicklaus will talk to him, as a potentially useful tool. Stefan is rumored to collect occult books and objects for no clear reason.

The fifth königreich is Fischler, ruled by Faulk Fischler. He is a brooding man who discovered dracheneisen in his land in 1649, thus earning his status. His land was once part of Sieger and Hainzl, a fact that Erich Sieger has never forgiven. Fischler is depressed and lonely - once, he was surrounded by nobles who looked down on him for being poor, and now by nobles who fawn on him for being rich. Much of his money comes from fishing, but the fish are getting less and less common - and now, Fischler is wrestling with whether he should cease all fishing to let them recover. Doing so could be ruin - but so could not doing it. The sixth königreich is Sieger, ruled by Erich Sieger. Technically, it is Castille land, but when Castille tried to claim it they found a madman in a fortress, willing to fight over burned, salted mud. They decided not to bother. Sieger has trougle feeding his people, but he is stubborn enough to never give up, and that may be enough to keep the königreich alive. The final one is Hainzl, ruled by the jovial Georg Hainzl. He has come out virtually untouched by the War, and in fact by most political realities. He focuses on art and culture, surviving by Hainzl's iron mines, which make enough money to let him focus on these things. All of the Eisenfürsten keep their people busy with public works, but Erich Sieger has taken to having his peasants move loads of dirt around for no clear reason, much to their confusion.

The Eisen do not wear their panzerhands save when going into battle, so the traditional challenge to a duel is 'Show me your fist!', literally meaning 'put on your glove.' They do not trust Avalon at all, believing all Avalons to be liars. They like Castille, but aren't going to debate religion with them. They see the Montaigne as arrogant but rich children - worth being polite to, but not very smart. They like the pirates, because the pirates bring in money - to Freiburg, and to Eisen mercenary guards. Eisen also likes Ussura, because Ussurans tend to, like Eisens, be quiet and strong. They respect Vendel and the Vesten, despite Vendel's role in helping start the War of the Cross, and they do not trust Vodacce at all.

The Eisenfürsten are the rulers of Eisen, and while we've talked a little about them, there's more to know. Stefan Heilgrund is a little in love with Fauner Pösen, but she has nothing but contempt for him. He sdesire sorcery powerful enough to reunite Eisen. Georg Hainzl is...well, kind of senile. He is an old man and has trouble telling fantasy from reality, and his advisor Marcus Stefan Adolfo tends to handle matters of state. Fauner Pösen is a brilliant tactician with no time for romance at all, and all she wants is to ensure that Pösen remains prosperous. Erich Sieger burned and salted his own land to keep Castille from claiming it, and since then he's been trying to restore it. He had an illegitimate son, but disowned the boy after finding that instead of military school as intended, he went to university. Sieger really wants nothing to do with the rest of the world, not after his service to the last Imperator ended with his lands being seized. He just wants to keep what's his now, and bow to no man. Nicklaus Trägue is a bitter man, and he is currently writing a book on philosophy with the aid of his scribe, Logan Gottschalk Sieger (yes, Sieger's son) which will put forth ideas on morality and ethics without need of religion. He hopes to finish before Freiburg falls to inevitable attack.

Next time: Montaigne and Ussura!

There is a silvery rod somehow driven through the middle of the sphere which is impossible to remove.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Being stuck at home with a head cold makes it easy to read and post.

7th Sea: There is a silvery rod somehow driven through the middle of the sphere which is impossible to remove.

Montaigne's nobles, as expected, are decadent in the extreme. They've got far more money than they know what to do with and nothing better to do than make trouble. The entire country has been practically excommunicated - and while the nobles don't care, it's made the peasants very, very angry. There's a number of people to keep an eye on: General Montegue is a peasant who's risen to change the entire face of military theory more than any other man in a century. He invented the rifle line and is the first commoner to ever command an army. He's a pragmatic general, willing to do anything to win a battle - gun down retreating foes, cut off supply lines, anything. Then, of course, there is Leon Alexandre's youngest daughter, Dominique. She has shown no potential for sorcery at all, and so has been ignored by her father...but the ritual that foretold that also foretold, after l'Empereur had already stormed away, that her child would be the greatest sorcerer in the world. This was hidden until Dominique discovered it recently, and it will be the trigger to worldshaking events. Which, uh, we won't tell you about yet.

Montaigne is beautiful, fertile and glorious. Its people are fit and clean, compared to the rest of the world, and they are said to set the style for all others. That's the nobles, of course. The peasants are rather less ambitious. Due to primogeniture, Montaigne nobility is rather complex, and child-swapping of lesser sons is fairly common - to the point that except for firstborn, lineage is often very hard to determine. This is a practice called "chaffing."

The social strata of Montaigne are highly divided - the royal family wields absolute power. The current wife of l'Empereur is a Vodacce witch named Morella Alouse Giacinni - his third wife, and the third wife unable to produce a male heir. The last wife was mother of three of the emperor's nine daughters, Castillian and died of "feminine ills." Below the royals are the noblesse , the nobles. The landed nobles are highest, followed by the lesser nobles. Beneath them are the petite noblesse , the gentry. They are noble by virtue of being rich, and like second sons spend most of their time travelling between estates, mooching off their hosts. Currently, having gentry staying with you is highly fashionable. Below them are the noblesse errante , the disenfranchised nobles. They are emissaries and dignitaries for the crown. Below them are the courtesans, the talented commoners - poets, jennys, jesters, actors and so on. Below them are scholars, then merchants, and craftsmen, and then the peasantry.

The nobles avoid confrontation and are oblique to the extreme in all they say. They speak through metaphor, wit and envoy, and few have the will to go against trend and consensus. Precedent is also very important to them. The peasantry are rougher and more direct. They are taught that complaining is rude, and so unlike the nobles are humble and accepting. Montaigne is at the head of philosophy, art, fashion and music - but all of that is driven by the nobility. Their music tends to be slow, but a composer named Wolffrond von Hazel is trying to change that. He's Eisen, but is adored by the Montaigne.

Religiously, the Montaigne have been Vaticine until very recently. The last two kings saw spiritual decay, and the nobles are rejecting religion. They openly oppose the church and support secular movements. The peasants, however, remain devout Vaticines and are very unhappy with the change. Currently, there is no Cardinal of Montaigne since the last one's death, and one cannot be elected, as all the bishops have gone missing.

Montaigne once ruled AValon, but today they remain trade partners and try to ignore the old grudges. They are, of course, invading Castille with intent to conquer, and the war is seen as a righteous rebellion against the Church. The Montaigne don't much like Eisen, though they are publically cooperative. They also hate pirates, but are refusing offers of assistance from Vendel at fighting them. Recently, they have invaded Ussura, though no one is sure why the Emperor ordered that. They trade happily with Vendel and Vodacce, and of course the Emperor's wife is a Vodacce noblewoman. The Vodacce are really the last true allies they have.

Some major figures...well, of course there's Empereur Léon Alexandre du Montaigne XIv. He is the most powerful, arrogant and narcissistic man in the world. He's also eccentric, flighty and prone to losing interest in his own projects. His wife is Imperatrice Morella du Montaigne, a powerful Fate Witch who married him for political reasons. She is worried that she will be killed for bearing only a daughter, and recently awoke to find a black strand attached to her - Sorte tradition states that's a sign of impending death. So now, she plans to flee Montaigne before she can be killed. Her daughter is Dominique du Montaigne, recently married to General Montegue. She is torn between loyalty to her husband and her father, and is unsure which side to take. Secretly, she commands a web of spies in the courts of the world, who keep her informed. Her husband is a loyal soldier, but his peasant birth and refusal to follow trends has made him an outsider in court. He is direct where they are subtle, and he doesn't like it much. Under him is Jean-Marie Rois et Reines, head o the musketeers. He knows about the peasant unrest, but has sworn to protect the emperor, and cannot break his word. He tries to get the people cared for, but few listen or care. The only way he would ever break his vow is if the Emperor turned traitor to his own people. He is married to the emperor's daughter Anna.

Most of the world looks on Ussura with pity and contempt - their religion is backward, their people uneducated, their nobles boorish. Why, they are even ruled by a commoner! But they don't speak too loudly, for it's said that the forests of Ussura can hear every word spoken - and the land itself is more terrible then any threat could be.

Ussura is cold and rough, but her people don't ever really seem to notice. After all, Matushka provides for her own, and if she is hard it is only to make them strong. The people tend to be gentle, contented folks - they don't fight much but they are very open about their emotions. This and their general lack of guile and restraint makes other nations view them as very large children. They are also deeply religious and superstitious - no Ussuran would ever doubt the existence of Matushka.

There are only two classes in Ussura: muzhik and boyar. The muzhik are the peasants, and the boyars are landowners. Among the muzhik, greatest respect is given to the big and strong. Physical contests are common, from arm wrestling to tug-of-war. Women are not barred, but tend to prefer contests where their superior stamina makes up for their lesser sheer brawn. Boyars, meanwhile, derive status from the amount of land they own. Sure, a boyar can compete, but power is all about land.

Because of the physical distance between villages and the deadly cold, hospitality is hugely important to Ussurans. To refuse a traveler food and lodging is the same as killing him. Thus do Ussurans get their reputation for generosity - and, of course, for being insulted when refused the same. This also gives Ussurans a reputation for hot tempers, as they don't take being so gravely insulted lightly. The Ussurans have little care for strict table manners or for nudity taboos - they have communal steam baths, and the casual attitude toward stripping down is viewed with shock by other nations - as is the Ussuran ability to handle rough treatment of the body, going from steam bath to icy snow and water in instants.

Ussurans work hard in the summer, and in the long winter they take great love for alcohol, making the winter a long, drunken revel. Important talk is done over zvetchy , spiced tea, at the kitchen table - the most important place in the house. On the last day of the week, all Ussuran muzhiks take two hours to pray to Matushka and the Prophet at the village altar, led by the most learned man in the village - most villages don't actually have a priest. The most important day of the year is Rebirth Day, the anniversary of the bargain with Matushka. On this day, every Ussuran - even the smallest child - pricks their finger with a needle and spills a drop of blood onto the soil for Matushka. Ussurans are also famous for woodcarving, especially miniatures, which can be incredibly small and detailed. Their music is loud and boisterous, like them, and often a bit off-key. They're meant to be sung as a group, and usually are spirituals that praise the land, or fairy tales.

The Ussuran Orthodox Church is the religion of the nation, combining the teachings of the First Prophet with worship of Matushka, the Earth Mother. She is said to appear as an ancient matron with iron teeth and nails. Children must be polite to her, for she eats rude little boys and girls and takes no impertinence. However, she rewards respect. The Ussurans are close to nature, feeling it is a moral guide - something that often confuses outsiders. The teachings of the Second and Third Prophet are ignored, due to the strongly Ussuran sense that if something was right the first time, why change it?

Governance is by the Gaius, a muzhik selected by Matushka at the death of the previous Gaius. It is never, ever a boyar. The current Gaius is Ilya Sladivograd Nikolovich, a serious man who once, when insulted by a boyar, had the man thrown to his own dogs and watched him be torn apart. Ilya is guarded by the stelets , his personal musketeers. He is 'aided' by the Knias Douma, the boyars' council. There are five members, each the leader of a powerful family. The prime position is held by the Novgorovs, merchants whose leader can assume the form of the Great Wolf, the king of all wolves. The current Novgorov leader is Aleksi Pavtlow Markvo v'Novgorov, an ambitious and unpredictable man who, unlike most past Novgorov heads, does not lead the Knias. Then there are the Vladimirovichs, whose leader can assume the form of Grandfather Bear, the fiercest bear in the world. The third is the Pscov seat, a family that competes with the Vladmirovichs for trade with the Crescent Empire. They are also called the Tabularius , the Guardians of the Faith, and are very pious. Their head is said to be able to take the form of a drachen. The fourth seat belongs to the Riasanova, whose head has the shape of Firebird, a hawk whose feathers burn bright. They are the smallest family, but fierce and tenacious. They occasionally trade with the Cathayans. The last family is the Pietrov, led by the mysterious Koschei. Koschei can only turn into a raven, but his flesh is waxy and corpselike - and he has held the Pietrov seat since the founding of the Knias Douma centuries ago.

Ussura has no standing army, but no invasion of the land has ever succeeded. Attackers die of plague, mysterious summer freezes, or other strange happenings. The Castillians say that the Church has conquered Ussura - but they are wrong, and the Vaticine has made almost no inroads at all. The Ussurans are, as a result, very superstitious - they practice numerous rituals to ensure good luck. For example, a tree is planted at the birth of every child. If it does well, they feel so will the child. A legend tells of a man who went to war, whose death was known because his child-tree withered and died that instant. Even-numbered flowers are used only for funerals, and on a wedding day, the bride wears a fishing net over everything else - the knots will keep her safe from harm, and knots are believed to defend against sorcery. Every home in Ussura is said to have a domovoi , a protector spirit that is also a prankster, stealing socks as well as generally being friendly.

Ussura likes the Avalons - they are fun and friendly...but woe betide the Avalon who cheats an Ussuran, for they have long memories for a grudge. Castille is seen as stubborn and pig-headed, but good-hearted. The Ussurans feel there is something wrong with Eisen - the land, and therefore the people. They're afraid any Eisen they meet might go mad and start cutting off heads. They have nothing but contempt for Montaigne, and the use of Porté near them seems to sometimes cause physical pain. Ussurans don't actually care about pirates, since their 'fleet' is mostly fishermen. They're quite fond of the Vendels, and confused by the Vodacce.

Some major figures include the Gaius, Ilya "Grozny" Sladivgorod Nikolovich. He became Gaius at the age of nine, and the boyars took him away from his family and treated him cruelly to break his will before his sixteenth birthday. If it worked, they would control him. It didn't. He took the leader of the plot and fed him to dogs, earning the nickname Grozny, the Terrible. He is popular with the people, but keeps the boyars on a short leash. As the Gaius, he is said to have the power to strip the magic of Pyeryem from any noble at any time - even while they are in animal form. He has nothing but contempt for the boyars and wants to remove those who abuse their power. Koschei Molhynia Pietrov, the Undying, is the only boyar who shows no fear of Ilya. He has held his seat since the forming of the Knias Douma, and he is a frequent visitor to Cathay, apparently able to ignore the wall of fire that bars the path. He is obsessed with caring for his family, tending them as a gardener would his plants. Some have fled the nation to escape him, but he somehow finds them anyway, apparently unhurt by their fear. He can turn into a raven, but seems to have other, stranger magic. If Ilya were to hurt his family, he would turn on the Gaius in an instant.

There is also Ketheryna Fischler Dimitritova, once Katherine Fischler, sister to an Eisenfürst. She changed her name when moving to Ussura, thinking the Gaius position was hereditary. She has since learned that it changes practically at random, and that the marriage she worked for is not, in fact, the political coup she thought it was. Now, she works to try and improve the primitive conditions of Ussura, making it her purpose in life. However, she'd still love to make life easier for her brother. Then there is Aleksi Pavtlow Markov v'Novgorov, head of the Novgorov family. Publically, he pretends to be traumatized by watching his father be eaten by dogs - but privately, it fueled his ambition. He has the spirit skin of the Great Wolf, giving him the power to command wolves - which he uses to seek out objects of power so he can achieve godhood. Aleksi's father wanted to rule Ussura - but Aleksi wants to steal the power of Matushka herself. And then, at last, there is Pyotyr Siev Andropovich. Pyotyr is the son of a woodcarver, Andropov, and once saved Ilya's life at a woodcarving festival. He was made one of the stelets, and has since risen to become their leader. He is not the smartest man, but is easily one of the most methodical. If told to search a house for someone, he'd have his men take it apart piece by piece, then dig into the foundation for tunnels. He is a pious member of the Ussuran church, but does not let it get in the way of his service to the Gaius. He is one of few men allowed to call the Gaius by his first name. He's incredibly loyal and would do anything for Ilya.

The most adorable ruthlessly loyal bodyguard!

Next time: Vendel, the Vestenmannavnjar and Vodacce!

The sphere can be spun on the rod with almost no applied pressure and continues spinning for a long time after being spun, but to what end, I am uncertain.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: The sphere can be spun on the rod with almost no applied pressure and continues spinning for a long time after being spun, but to what end, I am uncertain.

Everyone knows there's trouble between the Vestenmannavnjar and the Vendel. The reason why? Names. The Vestenmannavnjar hold names sacred - and the Vendel are changing them all, and with each one the Vesten feel they are losing touch with their sacred ancestors. The Vendel, of course, see this as superstitious nonsense. This is the core of the problem. The islands are split politically between the old tribes and the Vendel League. The largest island, Oddis (once Oddiswulf) is firmly Vendel, but the rural people of the other islands are the Vestenmannavnjar tribes for the most part. The two groups are the same blood, but far different in philosophy.

The Vestenmannavnjar recognize kings, who are elected by blood and sacrifice of pain for wisdom, and have historically divided themselves into three casts: jarl , the warrior caste, carl , the farmer caste, and thrall , the serfs. The jarls ruled the islands for centuries until the carls started to learn from the merchants of other nations and displaced them. Within a decade, the land has changed. The Vesten still hold their herdings, a few scattered provinces, but they have no High King - he's been missing for longer than most can remember. No one dares take up the role now. In Vendel, all falls beneath the gaze of the Guilds. In Vendel land, all is for sale - including law. There is only one social divider: the Guilder, and who has it.

The Vesten value four thingS: courage, loyalty, honesty and luck. Courage, of course, is valor in the face of danger - but not fooldhariness. Loyalty is first to family, and then to others. Honesty is hand-in-hand with these - courage being honesty with one's self and loyalty being honesty with one's family. And luck - well, they feel that every man is born with a measure of luck, and those with a great deal are to be honored. Those with the wrong kind of luck...well, they're to be pitied. They also hold both mead and stories in an almost spiritual regard, and as linked - both can leave you lightheaded, make you think you can do the impossible and get you into a lot of trouble. The Vendel, on the other hand, value cunning and resourcefulness. Where the Vesten value tradition, the Vendel look to adaptation and realize that they must change or die. Neither is entirely wrong, and that makes them both angry.

The greatest piece of Vesten music is the Grumfather Cycle , a collection of epic poems about the creation of the world and the rise and fall of gods and heroes, ending in a battle of massive destruction that ended the universe. The men who tell tales and recite poems and songs are skalds , honored for their memory of the past - because the Vesten believe that a soul lives on so long as its name is remembered. Their music sounds primitive to modern ears. In Vendel, beautiful art can be found in the Guildhouses - sculpture, paintings, carvings. Only Montaigne equals them.

The Vesten religion is solid, undebatable. Their gods are not faith - they are fact, backed up by the runes. Their priests see ancestors and can call on their power. They believe a great hall awaits them in the afterlife, but only those who die in battle can go there. There, they fight a great serpent that wishes to devour the world. Their religion is a living myth, and those who master the runes are called Ypperste Prest , high priest. The Vendel, meanwhile, have turned away from this, embracing Objectionism wholeheartedly. They are currently engaged in a thirty-year plan to build the greatest cathedral in the world.

The Vesten would follow a High King as the embodiment of the Gray Wanderer, king of the gods. However, he cannot just be crowned - he must undergo an ordeal in a hidden place, in a cave. In the center of the cave is a tree, and at its roots is a well. The king must rip out one eye and drop it in the well, which will then reveal its wisdom to him and mark him as High King. The Vendel method...

7th Sea GM's Guide posted:

The Vendel method is less bloody. It involves small slips of paper, a pencil and a box. They tally votes and the person with the most becomes the Lord Mayor of the city. The Lord Mayor appoints a Lord Sheriff who appoints deputies. No blood is involved.

Vesten law is simple...and to most people, backward. When needed, they form an impromptu court called a thing which deals with problems. They convene only when families cannot resolve problems themselves and need higher authority. When they reach a decision, it's up to the family to enforce it. This means weaker families have little chance of justice, and that's part of why the carls broke away and became the Vendel League. The Vendel, meanwhile, are governed by the Guild House. There are nine Chairs and 91 Seats. The Chairs are held by the founding Guilds - the Merchants, led by Val Mokk of Vendel (once Sigvald Mjøkke), the Sailors, led by Allen Trel of Vendel (nee Arvor Troelsen), the Carpenters, led by Joris Brak of Vendel (once Braakenjor), the Blacksmiths, led by Sela Cole of Vendel (once Selma Colbjorsen), the Jennys, led by Lorraine Weller of Avalon, the Usury Guild, led by Red of Vendel (once Reidar Engnestangen), the Brewers, led by George Skard of Vendel (once Jorgan Skaardal), the Miners, led by Eladio Ballesteros of Castille and Joseph Volker, Butler of the deceased Imperator Riefenstahl of Eisen.

The Vesten have little industry - but the Vendel are merchants supreme, having changed the face of the world with the Guilder. They announced it would have a set value that would never, ever change. Merchants adored this. It's so easy to use, after all, and it exploded international trade. It is now the most popular coin in the world, and Vendel is the most popular tourist destination. The Vesten 'military' is primitive, with rune-enchanted axes and clubs - but they're rather hard to face, since many of them are apparently able to stand back up after being shot. The Vendel, on the other hand, entirely hire mercenaries.

The Vendel were an ally to Elaine when she took the AValon throne, and remain one - but Avalon tends to be appalled by their treatment of the Vesten. The Inish are said to crew Vesten ships, but the O'Bannon never answers questions about it. The Vendel and Castille are suspicious of each other - but Vendel need Castille's help if they're to displace Vodacce as the masters of all trade. The Vesten, meanwhile, hate the idea of the Inquisition and hate Castille by proxy. The Vendel have been making lots of money on Eisen and refuse to even accept the Eisens' old coinage, replacing it with the Guilder. Eisen is actually accepting this. The Vesten have warned them against Vendel, however, and believe the Vendel are seeking the secret of dracheneisen. Montaigne and the Vendel League are great allies and friends, since they've both become very wealthy off each other. The Vestenmannavnjar hate the Montaigne nobles and would do something about him if they could. Ussura and Vendel have little interest in each other, but the Vesten and the Ussurans get on quite well with each other. Vodacce and Vendel hate each other because they're engaged in a trade war, but the Vendel no longer consider them a threat...while the Vesten are looking to them for funding to be pirates.

Here's important people! Val Mokk was the man to have the idea for the Vendel League, and he is one of its chief powers. He lives opulently and loves to be the center of attention - easy, since he's an entertaining and powerful public speaker. He wants to turn Vendel into the leading power of the world, and to live with every luxury. Joris Brak of the carpenters is a quiet, introspective man who hates the idea of war. His greatest possession is a tiny golden egg containing a tiny house, which he claims he won in a woodcarving competition in Ussura, though no one remembers him ever going there. All he wants is to keep Vendel out of war, for he knows the suffering it brings. And then there's Boli Kollsson - a Lærdom adept who works for Vendel. He's an Objectionist who looks on the old religion as a heresy, and sees Lærdom as just another type of magic, neither good nor evil. However, he has recently met a Vesten master of Lærdom who has told him he will never master the power, for the final step is faith. He wants to spread Lærdom to the Vendel to help them assume their rightful place in the world.

Among the Vesten, there is Gunrud Stigandsdottir - said to be a hundred and fifty, she may be even older. She lives in a cave overlooking Kirk, and while the Vendel would love to get rid of her, the last three men to try came back deaf, dumb and blind. She is a seer, a mouthpiece of the gods, and has no desires beyond to serve her purpose. And the greatest secret is that of Gjæving Asbjornsson, a Vestenmannavnjar thief. He was fleeing Vendel officials when he fell into a hole, where he found a cave. In the cave was a tree, and at the roots of the tree was a well. He made a promise, ripped out an eye and dropped the eye in the well. In a single breath, he became High King of the Vestenmannavnjar. He doesn't want it. He hears voices, sees visions, even occasionally the glimpses the future now - but it makes his head ache and his nose bleed. The voices tell him he has a destiny, but he just wants to go back to the way things were before. He knows if his actions are discovered, the Vendel will kill him - and so he wants to hide until he can convince the voices they picked the wrong man.

Vodacce is a dangerous place - its people favor treacherous, tall architecture with narrow bridges and walkways - and the whole place seems about to fall into the sea. The politics are worse. Vodacce is ruled by seven merchant princes, the most ruthless men in the world. They are, for once, reluctant allies in the trade war with Vendel...but they are all cousins, and they all know each other for backstabbers. There've been as many as twelve princes before...and as few as three.

Continental Vodacce is a set of peasant provinces ruled over by the Princes on their southern islands. The islands themselves are actually linked clusters of smaller islands, the Vodacce keys, that are currently divided into seven main groups by the princes. The men of Vodacce are proud and hot-tempered, quick to take offense and quick to duel. A man in the islands is judged by how he spends his money - a proper man never worries about price, but only a fool is taken advantage of. The women are quiet in public, but their arcane power is not to be trifled with. The peasants are sharply divided from the nobles, but at least they live well. They farm, eat massive meals and sleep. There are festivals, but most peasants do little more than work and rest. There is also a middle class of merchants and artisans, some of the most talented in the world. They compete massively, and bargaining is a national pastime. A man who cannot make a deal is not a man, and a woman who cannot shop properly is worthless. The nobles, or Signore, are serious men who bicker among themselves for wealth and pride, the cornerstones of Vodacce. When they convene, it is on the mainland in a neutral estate, to prevent tactical advantages. None of them trust each other. Princes do visit each other for weddings and funerals, but sacred tradition holds that at these times, none are to do any violence. The Princes compete to show off for the lesser nobles, holding elaborate feasts to show their money and power. The final class are the courtesans - they are exempt from the rules on how women are to act, being educated and witty where well-bred women are modest and shy. Romance is a virtue, but marriages are arranged, you see. While normal women are illiterate, courtesans are expected to be scholars - but they lack the protections of normal women from danger. And, of course, noblewomen have the magic, the Sorte. They do not read, but they manipulate fate as masters, a dichotomy that has long bothered many scholars - and which the Church has used as an example of the price of sorcery on the soul, for if you must give up knowledge, what is life worth? This power is the reason women are so controlled - if they were not, the men fear they would seize all power.

There's a few rules of etiquette to keep in mind when in Vodacce. Never meet a woman's eyes - you offend her husband. Always meet a man's eyes, or you are a coward. If someone does a service, tip generously. To not do so shows you can't afford it. Never let your sword touch another man's, even by accident - or else you call his blade poor, and he must challenge you to a duel to prove you wrong. And never, ever refuse a challenge. Family is also important to the Vodacce - your father's skill is as important to your reputation as your own in your trade. And you never, ever speak ill of the dead - even your worst foes.

Vodacce is strictly Vaticine...but they are also famous for adultery and sorcery. This is because the Vodacce church spends much time strictly defining what sin is and what it is not. Rumor has it that some of the most decadent Vodacce are clergymen, but it has never been proven. Religion, for the Vodacce, is first and foremost a tool of politics. They control five of ten seats of the Church's ruling council, and these five must be won over for any policy to be made. Sin, for Vodacce, is inaction. Sloth is the greatest sin, followed by envy - do not envy your neighbor, but go make your own fortune. The sin of lust, for Vodacce, is not in the wanting but in the failure to act on it. Pursue those you love, do not sit by and do nothing. Vanity and pride are sins only if unjustified - know yourself, do not fool yourself. The sin of wrath is again one of inaction - if you feel fury, challenge the man who enrages you and justify yourself. If you cower at home and do nothing, that is a sin. Gluttony, of course, is the sin of consuming more than you should...but the Vodacce define 'more than you should' differently.

The seven Princes come from seven families, to be succeeded on death by their eldest son. Three (Bernoulli, Falisci and Villanova) have enough power that they might attempt ot unite Vodacce - and each of the three tries to manipulate the lessers to support him. So far, none have yet gotten the backing to try a coup. The first family is the Bernoulli, a staunch Church family that is granted the right to trade with the Crescents. Their leader is Gespucci Bernoulli, a devout man who is growing old. His sons are taking on more duties of trade, and frequently travel to the Empire of the Crescent Moon - and the sons are far more decadent than the father. The Church is turning a blind eye for now...but when Gespucci dies, who knows what will happen?

The Falisci family is led by Donello Falisci, who believes in doing one thing - and doing it perfectly. For him, that is making wine. Falisci wine is some of the very best, and men have missed their own weddings to attend his parties. He lives opulently and owns the most fertile part of the mainland, so he is very rich. Bottles of his wine have been traded for entire estates. The Villanova family, on the other hand, are famous for their treachery. Their leader is Giovanni Villanova, whose father Allegro died at 32 when he fell down a flight of stairs. Giovanni was only ten then, and his brother Giam stepped in to help the young boy rule - but he grew sick soon after, and died after two years, when Giovanni took full control of the family. He rules with an iron fist, and he controls the only university in Vodacce, Dionna University, famous for its sciences - especially medicine, for the doctors there are less squeamish than those in Castille.

The Lucani family has only been around for a century - before then, their land was owned by the Villanovas. The Lucanis were given the land as a reward for loyalty, and they have struggled to keep it since. Four years ago, the family's control was given to Alberto Lucani, and it's clear to Alberto that the Lucani wine trade is worthless compared to the Falisci. However, their cloth is amazing, and focusing on noble-embroidered cloth has made Lucani a rich man...but when fashion shifts, who knows what he'll do? The Mondavis make their living on rice and agriculture, led by Alcide Mondavi. He is the only prince to live on the mainland much of the time, though he cannot live there permanently due to various treaties. He is least social of the princes, least decadent and most prone to visiting the mainland. The Mondavis seem fairly happy with the status quo.

While the Bernoullis may control foreign luxuries, the Vestini family rules domestic ones. 200 years ago, the Vestinis gained control of the best craftsmen by inducing them to move to their island. They were strong enough to keep it, and so they made their fortune. Oddly, the name of their leader isn't listed! The last family is the Caligaris, led by Vincenzo Caligari - the world's foremost expert on the Syrneth. He was old ten years ago, but he shows no signs of retiring. He has modeled his home on the ancient Numa republic, and he spends much of his money on getting more and more Syrneth artifacts. He believes they are the reason he's lived so long...but whatever the reason, he hasn't been ill in thirty years, and his eldest son curses that daily.

Vodacce has no standing army, but each prince keeps a house guard and garrison, and every nobleman learns how to fence. They haven't got an official navy, but their merchant fleet is armed and keeps marines on board each ship to fight pirates, and could easily be a navy at the cost of trade. Officially, the Vodacce want nothing to do with Avalon, but rumor has it that they trade using the Sea Dogs. Castille and Vodacce often have strained relations, but are very similar to each other. The Vodacce also fear Eisen invasion, given the state of the nation and their own fertile lands. They like the Montaigne since the Montaigne buy a lot from them, and they fear Ussura - the fate witches have felt a shadow over Ussura, protecting it, and that scares them. Thanks to the predictions of the witches, Vodacce suffers less from piracy than many, but they still fight them when they see them. And, of course, they really don't like Vendel, and may soon erupt into war against them. The only reason they haven't attacked is that no single prince has the power to face Vendel alone - and doing so would mean admitting trying to go behind the backs of the others for more trade.

Hope you like this guy, 'cause he's gonna be involved in a lot of shit.

Some important people include the infamous Giovanni Villanova - a man who's a villain, knows it and loves it. He pushed his own father down a flight of stairs and poisoned his brother over two years to gain control of the family. He drives his university's scholars to research dark secrets, hoping to control Vodacce. Whatever he wants, he takes. His personal courtesan is Juliette, daughter of Veronica Ambrogia - the inventor of the Ambrogia style. She is well educated and one of Giovanni;s great advisors. Secretly, she is smuggling witches out of Vodacce, and prays that Giovanni never learns of it. Beyond them, there is Vincenzo Caligari, the man who would be immortal. This is why he's learned so much about the Syrneth - he believes their artifacts hold the secret of immortality. He'd kill anyone and do anything for that. His niece is Beatrice Caligari, sister of the Imperatrice of Montaigne. She is said to be able to control even the dreaded black strands, and is the greatest fate witch of the age - or so she believes. Even her uncle is terrified of her, and the other witches say she tangled up all her own strands - though none can say why. She wants to push Sorte magic farther than it has ever gone before. Lastly, there is Donello Falisci, a vintner of immense skill. He loves parties and guests, and his parties are famously safe from poison - for any poisoner would be banned from further parties. He wants to make friends and increase his influence, but lately he has been feeling ill - a fact he is concealing. He is extremely loyal to his friends.

Next time: Pirates and priests!

I swear that I saw the cloud pulse, and grow a little bigger, right as we lost sight of it.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: I swear that I saw the cloud pulse, and grow a little bigger, right as we lost sight of it.

The most organized pirates are the Brotherhood of the Coast. They started out as a group of prisoners on the island of Bucca, off the coast of Castille. It was located in a very dangerous part of the sea to prevent escape. Rumors say that the plague broke out there, but only those who were they know what happened for sure. Whatever it was, though, the inmates overcame the wardens before anyone know what was happening and captured a supply ship. They set sail, and before long had captured three Castillian galleys, two Montaigne warships and a Vodacce merchantman.

Two years later, they're the scourge of the seas. They've got ships from every nation that sails, and sailors from across the world - and why? Because people want freedom. The Brotherhood offers it. They are still based on the isle of Bucca, now protected by the prisons' dangerous waters - full of reefs and shallows. There's only three maps of the area, and they own two. The third was stolen from the office of Castille's High Admiral by unknown thieves and hasn't been seen since. There's only one safe approach, and the "King" of the Brotherhood, Allende, has laid in traps in those waters. Only he and his men know the one safe path. The island itself is self-sufficient and has enough food and water for the Brotherhood. The local seas are also full of leviathans, the greatest whales. No one knows why they school in the area, though.

The Brotherhood is the first true democracy. All of its members, man or woman, has a voice and a vote. Public forums are common, and any time there's an issue, it gets put to vote when the talking's done. The Brotherhood's grown three times its original size since it was formed, and is now practically a small nation. The most common name for members is 'buccaneer', after the island - but that name can only be applied to the original prisoners there. Anyone else using it is in for a nasty fight. All of the members, though, are 'brethren.'

Allende is their leader and likely to remain so - he is clever, resourceful and ruthless. He also knows the waters of Castille perfectly. He avoids attacking Castillian vessels - unsurprising, since he is in fact a Castille prince, as we learned before. He is surprisingly talkative with his men, and they are all loyal to him. His favored targets are Montaigne warships. Besides him, there is the famous Jeremiah Berek - famous for both his daring and his idiocy. He is an Avalon nobleman, captain of the Black Dawn. He's got no real experience on the high seas, which accounts for his reputation for stupidity - but it also makes him hard to predict, and he's used very unconventional tactics before. He's more at home in court than at sea, though - but he makes up for it in charm and daring, and he loves to attack Castille and Montaigne ships to get more gold for Avalon.

Sure, the hook looks silly, but are you going to argue with this guy?

Another famous pirate is Reis, a bloodthirsty villain with wild eyes and thick black hair. He's the most feared pirate on the six seas, famous for his wicked, ancient scythe, which can cut through iron and bone like paper. He only cares about money - and he's getting a whole lot of it to go hunting for Syrneth artifacts. Unlike many pirates, he's a psychopath - he doesn't negotiate. He doesn't banter. And he never, ever leaves survivors. Another feared pirate is the Crescent man named Kheired-Din. He is bloodthirsty, but also devoted to the teachings of the Second Prophet. He's been seen to pray after his battles, and he's captured and kidnapped entire villages, leaving the empty buildings burning as he sails back east. He seems to have only one goal - to capture slaves. He speaks no languages of the modern world - or even Old Théan. And, of course, there's Yngvild Olafssdottir, a fisherman's daughter who learned the art of Lærdom. When the Vendel destroyed her village to make a new port, she turned to piracy for vengeance. She commands the ship Revensj, and has captured seven merchant ships so far, putting her on the list of threats to the Vendel League. She's a small woman with no real warrior skills - but her Vestenmannavnjar crew are more than capable of making up for that, especially with her magical aid. She wants nothing more than to truly hurt the Vendel.

But what of hte Vaticine? Well, the Inquisition's leader, Cardinal Esteban Verdugo, truly believes he is doing good. Sure, he's ruthless - but he, and the average Inquisitor, believe that the Inquisition saves souls, setting men on the right path by torture - or any other means necessary. Legion, after all, is a terrible foe who must be fought with any weapon.

But what does the rest of the Church believe? Well, they believe that sin is a failure of character. It is making the easy choice, the dishonorable but pleasant choice, the choice we know is wrong. That knowledge is the Creator's hand guiding us, and to keep it strong, the Church prescribes penance for sins. But no one is truly lost, for sin exists so that we may learn the virtue of forgiveness, the greatest of them all. Sorcery is a sin because it wasn't greanted by the creator, but the enemy, Legion. Sorcerers who die having not atoned and controlled themselves inevitably fall to the Abyss. Cleansing the soul is done by study of the world, enlightenment and penance - often via counselling and guidance by priests.

The Creator, Theus, is said to be just, forthright and noble. He is not human, and cannot be judged as one - he is neither harsh nor gentle. He is demanding, but only to educate, never to punish. He is rarely active, and is neither truly male nor female - both sexes are derived from him. He is, in fact, Creation itself. And man can become closer to him, by studying his works. Learning about nature and the world is the way to get closer to the divine. The world is not imperfect, though men perceive it so - that is the Eternal Puzzle, the Great Creation. It is a test of understanding, and that is what all men need to understand. There is no evil, only the illusion of evil. There is only sin, masquerading as evil. The world is as it is, and only human judgment applies the word 'evil'. Injustice, however, is caused by man's free will - but so is justice. It is man's duty to make justice where injustice is, to put right what is wrong. Theus gave this gift of free will to teach us duty. Bad things happen because people sin - and sin does not effect only the self, but ripples outwards, to hurt others as well.

After death, the soul - which all creatures, not just humans, have - passes on to a waiting place, the Elæthorum. There, it sleeps. Souls that are sinful fall to the Adversary, Legion - the collective of demons who wish to overthrow the Creator and steal his Creation. This is because corruption ways down the soul, sending it to the Abyss, where Legion devours it for power. The Third Prophet foretold that all the souls in the Elæthorum would eventually awaken in the time of the Fourth Prophet and make war on Legion and the fallen. As one might guess, there are in fact angels and demons in this theology.

Now, what are the secrets of the secret societies?

Well, the Explorers, Invisible College and the Rose and Cross don't really have them, or so we are led to believe. They are what they appear to be. Die Kreuzritter, however...

Die Kreuzritter, the Black Crosses, were not truly destroyed. A token force was, yes, but the rest went into hiding when the Hierophant warned them the attack was coming. They became the Hierophant's servants and personal guard after they were "wiped out," evolving into an elite, secretive organization that have served as bodyguards, messengers and assassins. They answer only to the Hierophant - though, of course, there isn't one now. Their leader is no Verdugo, though, but is instead a kindly old man named Gunther Schmidl, who uses them to serve the gentler goals of the Church and aid those faithful who need it.

We're told that Los Vagos have only twenty-two members (plus two dead oneS) - a fact that won't actually remain true for long. Only three know El Vago's true identity, though, and if we want to learn it we'll need to buy the Castille book. Their goal is to protect Good King Sandoval and Castille. The Rilasciare...well, the reason they hate sorcery is because they are humanists. Sorcery is a power that makes someone better, just by birth - and they hate that, and want to end it forever. They also hate law, feeling it is a way for weak, feeble men without moral authority or willpower to control others. They call this Dominion, and it is their great foe after sorcery. Sophia's Daughters do, in fact, have a magical longevity potion, which only the highest ranks of the group have access to. It is given only to a handful of people who have proven worthy, because the leadership feel a need for certain people to remain around for some long-term plan we're not told about.

There's one other society, with no sign of sigil: Novus Ordum Mundi . It has only thirteen members, and it was founded by ancient senators in old Numa. Its purpose? To control the world. Its pawns never learn its true extent - and most do not even know it exists. They work circuitously - a man steals a shipment of oranges, so a merchant is short on taxes. He must make up the loss, and finds a large shipment of lumber that must head to Vodacce. He buys it and sets sail - and because he has never done anything illegal, he is not questioned. But beneath the lumber are hidden Syrneth artifacts that are stolen and being smuggled in. That is how NOM works. Who are they? Well, we're not saying. Buy more books.

I said buy more books!

Here, we move to a new chapter and get introduced to a merchant named Vincenzo Lucani, who is negotiating with a churchman over donations, learning about science and hearing about a shipload of Syrneth artifacts being attacked by pirates who were consumed by a mysterious "black cloud" after the crew fired one of the artifacts at the pirate ship. We also hear more about the nobleman whom our archaeologist friend visited, Lord Weberly. He's a political mover-and-shaker whose butler secretly hates him, apparently turned by the man's enemies.

What's here? Well, not much that's interesting. Stuff on rules, mostly, and we'll skip it. We learn about Wiles and Flaws (Virtues and Hubrises for villains) and get some plot hooks based on advantages players take - useful, but not that interesting for our purposes. There's also animal stats! Birds, cats...and some strange ones, like aspreys - winged snakes from the ISle of Syrne who can be tamed as pets. There's also the Boca - a swarming, hopping rodent that is basically a furry plague of locusts. And ghouls, huge flesh-eating apes!

Ghosts occur when people die unnaturally, and each ghost is pretty unique. They are immune to normal weapons, have no stats and can only occasionally harm people by throwing objects. Most can't do that. They just moan and scare folks, and can make themselves selectively visible. Montaigne has "mirror ghosts", who render Porté unusable around themselves. Their full information is in the Montaigne book, we're told. Griffons are quadrupedal birds the size of wolves who hunt in packs. Hindes are thin deer of incredible speed with glowing horns. Cutting the horn off kills them, but they can be made into jewelry that makes people faster. Leviathans are immense whales - three times bigger, in fact. And Night Terrors? Well, they're living wisps of green fog that slip into your mouth as you sleep. They torment you with nightmares and can only be killed by overcoming your fears. IF you don't...you die. They can be forcibly removed from the body, though, by kissing the victim. This transfers the night terror into the kisser.

Some generic ruin monster stats that are easily customizable...sea serpents! They're gigantic sea serpents. Sirens are merfolk who feed on human flesh and aren't that bright. They pretend to be drowning to get folks to come into the water, and the 'siren's song' is the noise of pleasure they make when eating. Succubi are creatures that live in the mists of the walkway that Montaigne sorcerers travel. They don't do anything except try to convince them to open their eyes. That's it.

Zombies are worthy of special mention. A zombie is a small rat with tentacles for limbs and gray tendrils in its mouth. It lives in the water. It crawls into a body via the mouth - usually corpses - and controls it from the brain cavity. It eats the brain. It has all the skills of its victim, and uses them to find new victims, transferring into the new host to eat their brain, too. This can happen to the living, who have only a little while to get rid of the thing before they fall completely under its control. There's no known way to bring them back, though the Syrneth might have had one.

That's it for that chapter! This is from a sailor's viewpoint - a sailor aboard the ship mentioned before. Pirates attack the ship, and they're running low on cannonballs. The pirates are closing in, so he heads below deck and finds a silver sphere that's just the right size. It's really heavy, but he manages to get it loaded and fired - and when it hits, there's a flash of light before the pirates are devoured by a cloud of inky blackness. It never faded as they sailed away - just stayed there, pulsing.

And this chapter is more rules. Useful rules, mostly, but boring. We do learn something the core book didn't mention clearly - Porté takes both hands free to use, because you use them to rip a hole in the air. Also, if you abuse your Glamour, the Sidhe will come after you, apparently, and turn you into a tree. Spirits seek out powerful Lærdom mages for help, and...huh. The Ussurans try to keep Pyeryem secret, apparently? This wasn't mentioned before, and it can make things a bit awkward. It is, however, the magic that feels the best when used. Glamour is overpowering, Lærdom is a rush of energy - but also dangerous and painful when it goes wrong, Porté is terrifying even for the mage, and Sorte is disconcerting and frustrating - but Pyeryem? Comfortable and happy.

And that's really it for interesting content in this book! We get a short story about a nameless swordsman defeating a squad of brutes with ease, and then GM advice. It's not nearly as good as the player advice - while it covers 'don't be a dick' and strongly advises against killing PCs because in this genre, that just doesn't happen - villains leave deathtraps or just leave them alive to suffer - it also specifically advocates a playstyle that not everyone likes, with tons of cheating and die-fudging to make sure things go the way you like. It does, at least, give some good advice on how to shape story themes and how to ensure everyone's having fun, which is what matters most.

Next time: The first adventure in the Erebus Cross series: The Lady's Favor!

Halt! In the Name of the King!

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Glad you guys are enjoying 7th Sea! I like sharing it, it's fun to be able to share something that...well, doesn't engender loathing.

7th Sea: Halt! In the Name of the King!

The GM's screen came with this adventure, which also includes some information on the Explorers after it. It's the first in a three-part series, and it's surprisingly flexible. It's made for groups of any experience level, with a number of encounters that are completely optional - they've got power levels assigned to them, and you take 'em out and put 'em in at appropriate points for the appropriate group. It's also intended to allow you to fit it into your game easily. It focuses on General Montegue du Montaigne - he's been assigned to invading Ussura because he's getting too popular, and that scares the Emperor. His wife Dominique has discovered this, and wants to send him a message.

Part One: A Matter Most Urgent

The adventure begins when Dominique du Montaigne. She's the emperor's youngest daughter, remember, and her father basically ignores her. She has recently learned that her husband Montegue has been sent out to die in the Ussuran steppes, and she's horrified. She wants to save the man, but she needs someone to deliver a message for her. The party will have to begin the arc in Charouse, Montaigne's capital, but it can be for whatever reason. Dominique wants to hire a group of diverse people like them because it's safer - they'll be less likely to follow national interests over their own. If they're not part of any formal group, they'll be approached by Dominique's personal witch, Anna, who will offer them a reward if they help a "noblewoman with a dire problem." If they have government status of some kind, Dominique will have their superiors approach them as a personal favor to her. Montaigne heroes are ironically the hardest to hook in, and Anna will swear them to secrecy before making her offer. Anyway, the party is instructed to meet with Dominique in the catacombs beneath Charouse. The catacombs are part sewer system, part vault and part crypt - they're huge, and very easy to get lost in, but the directions they have are easy to follow.

These black cloaks are completely subtle and hard to notice!

Dominique reveals her identity to the party, while Anna watches them carefully. She thanks them and apologizes for the surroundings, explaining that General Montegue is in grave danger, and that forces are gathered to ensure he dies in Ussura. She wants to warn him before he can become the victim. She has a letter, which will save his life if he reads it by informing him of the danger, but she needs a brave and stalwart group to deliver it. Is the party willing? If asked for more details, she becomes evasive, not wanting to implicate her father. The letter is sealed. If the players need convincing, the game says to emphasize either Montegue's heroism (for Montaignes) or the fact that he could destabilize the courts (for others). Plus. you know, Dominique is rich and powerful and will owe the party. If they accept, she sets some conditions: No one must know they're working for her, the letter must be delivered as quickly as possible and they must not have any dealings with the Montaigne government involving it, as the government has been made pawns of the enemy and will kill them. However, she is willing to provide any supplies the party needs, including documents of free passage as agents of the king, an unmarked coach and any other things they need. Her influence is strongest in Montaigne, so she can't help for the trip through Eisen to Ussura. But, most importantly, she gives the party an ancient, valuable artifact - a brass compass that will always point at its companion, which Montegue carries at all times. This will let them find Montegue.

Just as the heroes finish making their deal with Dominique, there are running footsteps! Anna and Dominique flee, urging the party to do the same - guards are coming! The soldiers were alerted to their presence by a loyal citizen who saw them climbing into the sewers, and followed discreetly to see what they were up to. The guard leader, Charles du Chevalier, heard enough to believe the party is plotting against l'Empereur, and he has ordered his men to apprehend them! There's 5 musketeers after them, plus one for each hero. What they do is up to them - they can stand and fight, but the adventure says running is the safer bet, and the GM should remind them that killing a Musketeer is a hanging offense. Should they flee, they are pursued in a dramatic chase - the book says to roll dice for the Musketeers firing, but ignore the results and stress that the bullets are just barely missing them. Any imaginative idea to escape should work. If they fight, the Musketeers try to take them alive and won't use lethal force until one of their own goes down. Innovative ways to disarm them and escape should work, but if they take too long, have more soldiers arrive to encourage them to flee.

Just keep singing, maybe they'll leave!

Getting out of the sewers is going to be hard - guards patrol the streets, and they'll notice combat. However, the party can find a private manhole that leads to the basement of the Columbe d'Or theatre, and they should find it whenever the chase gets boring. The theatre is hosting the world premiere of Anger Helven's latest opera, Das Drachenfeld , which has just started. The heroes find themselves backstage, with the opera's first song commencing. The Musketeers pursue, of course, and this is probably the best place to fight them off - lots of activity, so they can scatter and flee when they win. The theatre's full of ropes to swing on, catwalks, crew in full mythological garb - perhaps a duel even gets shoved onstage during a big production, to be called 'awkward' in the review tomorrow. Once they flee or beat the musketeers, they can make their way out easily - the guards are after them, but only a few actually know what they look like. They can escape Charouse however they like.

Once out, it's up to them how to get to Ussura. They'll have to get through Eisen, though, and there's two major routes - overland, through the Weisberg mountains, or south to the Dechain river and a barge. The river route is easier and much faster, but the overland route is more direct. Either way, they're going to be chased by Captain Chevalier, who has vowed to stop them. He's assembled a company of 20 musketeers and is off to pursue them - he'll be tracking them the entire way. If, somehow, they're captured, they'll be tortured and executed. Dominique will disavow all knowledge of them. Don't get captured.

The GM can now insert whatever random encounters he likes. The list will be covered later. If the party tries the mountains first, we go to Part Three. If they go for the river, we go to Part Two.

Part Two: On The Waterfront

This event could happen either in Montaigne at the Dechain river, or later in Eisen, on the immense Südlache. In either case, they need to head east and have little time. They're going to need a boat that won't ask questions. Chevalier should be pressing down on them, and after entering town, the party spots Musketeers on the road behind them at hard gallop. They'll have to find passage quickly - there's no sewers here to hide in. Getting into town, even just before sunset, is easy, but no matter what methods they try to secure a boat, they should fail. No one's willing to take people in such an obvious rush for any money. Eventually, they find their way to a small, mostly unmarked tavern, The Place. It's got all sorts of old, weird stuff on the wall - shrunken heads, masks, knives, whatever. There, they can ask around about a ship. Either they'll ask the steward (whose name, depending on location, is either Jean or Waldorf), or he'll overhear them. He's actually the owner, and he mentions hearing about a ship looking for crew, run by a man named Coson of Avalon. He directs them to Coson. Jean/Waldorf is secretly an Explorer, and the bar is showing off what he's got. He's not a ruin-hunter, but rather a fence - he stores artifacts and helps transport them. The Avalon is Coleson, another Explorer who needs money, and he's steering them to him to help him out. As they go, they should notice some Musketeers - they aren't spotted, but it ups the tension.

The spot they're directed to is an old, rotting townhouse...but with a reinforced door and the sign of the Explorers over the door. Inside, they find an Avalon man who is ranting about how he needs help to save his cargo. This is Reginald Coleson, the man they're looking for. He's with a man named Antonio Scalessi, a Vodacce whose job is to move things through the port. Neither has realized they left the front door open, and they're rather embarassed. Coleson listens to the party and asks why they think he can help - but in truth, they're just what he wants. The heroes have money, and he needs money to pay his crew - without funds, his store of artifacts will be seized when his ship is searched for taxes, and the crew won't move until paid. The party's got money and need his ship. Coleson will bargain for as much as he can get, but will in the end settle for whatever offer the party makes that'll pay his crew.

His ship is the River Mist (today), and its current captain is "Ringer" Gutwold. They're ready to leave and have no problem taking the party either to Eisen or the Drachenberg Mountains, depending on where the party is. Once on board, they ship out moments before Chevalier arrives, and he shakes his fist at them angrily as they sail off. The Musketeers fire until out of sight, and may hit the party, but in general they're in no risk here...and the Musketeers should have as many problems finding a boat as they did. Now they get a chance to chat with Coleson and make some friends. It takes a week to reach the destination - either the Eisen town of Stark, or the Ussuran border. Again, there's room here for random encounters on the river.

Sometime during the trip, Coleson will ask to see the relic Dominique gave the party. If allowed, he examines it and declares that it's very old - at least Old Empire, and probably not even human-made. He deduces the existence of a companion piece, and says it has a second function, in addition to being a locator. There's an inscription on the bottom of the compass that he's seen before on doors - small objects like the compass were used as keys. He's never seen a dual set before, though. He's very excited, but has no idea how the thing works or how to open it. He's got notes where he's going that'll help translate it, and asks if, once they're done, they can bring it and its companion if possible to the castle of his friend, a nobleman in northern Eisen. If they agree, he thanks them and looks forward to seeing them. Once they're dropped off, they can continue east.

Part Three: Through the Forest, Deep and Dark

Here, the party is either heading into Eisen through the Weissberg mountains, or they are heading through Eisen's legendary Schwarzen Forest. They'll ahve to go through one, but not both. No matter which they enter, though, they run into trouble: the woodcutter Fleischwulf. He is an ancient, malevolent being who hunts the souls of living men and traps them in carved wooden figures. Once in the woods, he will approach them, posing as an ordinary woodcutter. He'd love to add them to his collection. If they're doing this first, the woods are imposing but easy to navigate. The Schwarzen, on the other hand, is a terrifying place full of huge trees that block out the sun. There are many paths through whatever wood, but most are overgrown and poorly maintained. New travelers will hear horrible tales about the Schwarzen, but Chevalier is hot on their tails if they try to go around it.

Fleischwulf (who will use the name Leblanque on the Montaigne border) is a few hours into the woods. He'll be surly and suspicious of them, noticing them as they pass and whirling with his axe, threatening to kill them if they're bandits. He relaxes when they aren't, and asks them what they're doing. He'll offer his services as a guide, provided they protect him from any dangers. If they agree, it's a few days before he strikes. There's room here for random encounters as desired. Fleischwulf, however, is easily able to let the party trick Chevalier and hide from the Musketeers. He mixes friendliness and distrust in his talks, and he whittles little figures he claims are dolls for his niece as he leads them deeper into the wilderness.

Would you believe this is the soultaker?

One evening, he'll stay up with whoever's standing guard and chat with them. As time goes by, the carving he makes becomes more detailed, and the area becomes darker and darker, more and more uneasy. Fleischwulf changes while the hero isn't looking - his hands are clawed, his eyes glow red and his mouth is full of needle fangs. His carving is a perfect likeness of the hero. He's sunk his power into the party, and now they need to break it. He challenges the hero to a riddle contest - if the hero can't solve all his riddles, he wins the soul. If the hero can, though, Fleischwulf will leave. This is not a trick or a lie. This can be as many or as few questions as you like, and if the first hero fails, Fleischwulf will set his carving aside and repeat the process with each hero until one succeeds. They can also offer him their own riddles and try to stump him, for whatever stakes they like. He won't give them anything, but will swear a one-time favor if they desire it. Fleischwulf should be able to answer the first few riddles, but after that, whenever the players come up with a cool riddle he should be stumped and depart gracefully in a puff of smoke. The heroes will be transported instantly to the edge of the forest.

Alternatively, while Fleischwulf himself cannot be physically hurt, the carvings can. A quick player, with the help of others to distract the woodcutter, can seize a carving. This will make Fleischwulf very angry, and he'll threaten the party unless he gets "his property" back. However, damaging it causes him to double over in pain before glaring at the party hatefully and vanishing in an explosive (but nondamaging) cloud of wind and fire. Any souls he'd taken are restored after a terrifying vision of being imprisoned and paralyzed forever, and the camp smells of brimstone. The smell sticks to the heroes for a week. However, the person whose carving is destroyed receives a "soul scar" seared across his essence that those who are attuned to such things will notice. He can now sense monsters like Fleischwulf within fifty yards...but now, he radiates a disturbing aura that will make fate witches want to avoid being touched by him and can be noticed by dark creatures. Fleischwulf, of course, survives and swears vengeance. The book also provides some example riddles, stuff like:

The Lady's Favor posted:

No sooner spoken than broken. What is it?

The maker doesn't want it, the buyer doesn't use it, the user doesn't see it. What is it?
A coffin.

I never was, am always to be. No one ever saw me, nor ever will. And yet I am the confidence of all who live and breathe on this terrestrial ball. What am I?

Once escaping, the party can continue with whatever random encounters you like, and emerge either in western Eisen and needing to cross a river, or on the Eisen frontier, before the Drachenberg mountains.

Next time: The exciting conclusion! Random encounters! Explorers!

You've saved my life and the lives of countless thousands of my men.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Since no one voted, I choose to post this because I want to. Tomorrow, pirates!

7th Sea: You've saved my life and the lives of countless thousands of my men.

Look, men, it's just winter! We'll be fine!

Part Four: Mother Ussura Enraged

Finally, the heroes have passed beyond the Drachenbergs. The area is full of signs of invasion - ashes on the ground, clouds of smoke filling the air. Fields lie trampled, corpses line the roads, crows and wolves feast with impunity. At least once, the party will pass an entire company of Montaigne soldiers literally frozen to death . Like, with icicles hanging off their faces. There's few travelers, though - almost no refugees, mostly just a few deserters and stragglers. The weirdest part, though? The weather.

In Eisen, it was clear and warm - but on this side of the mountains, it's freezing. Snow's piled up hugely, and the wind drops temperatures well below zero. The skies are always dark - it's only early fall, but it looks like the dead of winter. This is because of Montegue's invasion. Ussura has always been a force of itself, its land embodied in the magical and spiritual "Mother Ussura." She has been fighting the Montaigne since they arrived - and Montegue has little idea what to do. The weather fights him, snow destroys his gunpowder, the cold kills more each night. Forests seem to move around overnight, obscuring trails, and the animals steal their food and supplies. Only Montegue's unique combination of genius, willpower and charisma has kept his army together. He's convinced that if he can take the city of Pavtlow, he can return home in honor and the weather will cease its fight. This is what the Sun King is counting on to kill him.

The compass-artifact points the heroes straight to Montegue, at least. Their main problem is with the weather. When they arrive, Ussura acts against them, thinking they are here to help Montegue - which they are, but not in the way she believes. They are assaulted by mod, snow and rain, by annoyed animals of all sizes...but if and when they let their true motives slip, perhaps in conversation with others, things will change. Instantly, the skies will clear and the area will warm, their journey becoming as smooth and easy as possible when Mother Ussura realizes they, too, want Montegue out of the place.

However, as they crossed the mountains, Captain Chevalier realized where the party was going. He's used Porté to teleport to an anchored Montaigne base ahead, and he's planning to stop the party, engaging them with all the forces he's got - twenty-five musketeers and a few members of Montegue's army. He arrives as the heroes get close to the Montaigne camps, calling out to them to surrender. He's got 25-30 soldiers behind him...but by this point, the party should have Mother Ussura on their side, and she's not playing fair. The party will be on firm ground in sunlight - while just a few yards away, the musketeers are in a raging swarm. The Chevalier won't back down, though, and will attack. However, all the musketeers fight at -1 Finesse due to slippery mud, twigs lashing out at them and so on, and ranged attacks on the party automatically fail. The party, of course, suffers no penalties - Mother Ussura is shielding them. If the party doesn't take too much advantage of this or show mercy on the musketeers, just knocking them out or disarming them instead of killing them, Chevalier will grudgingly surrender and retreat when half his men are down. He'll even tip his hat in honorable defeat - though it's clear he's still holding a grudge, and will be waiting for them in Charouse.

All that's left now is to deliver the message to Montegue. The clear weather around the party makes him suspicious at first, thinking them Ussuran sorcerers...but the letter convinces him, as he knows his wife's handwriting. He becomes angry over the letter - the arrogance of the Emperor! He thansk the party, telling them that he is grateful for their saving his life and those of his men - but that the Montaigne government will be less grateful, for they have defied the Sun King. He owes them a great debt, and soon begins to prepare a retreat. The weather, of course, immediately lightens up, but he doesn't pay any attention. Montegue offers the party anything within his power to give right now - he'll escort them home (with his entire army, in fact), supply them food and equipment...if they ask for money, he'll lose a lot of respect for them but will sign a cheque for any reasonable amount, which will be honored by any reputable merchant. If the heroes remember about Coleson's interest in the compass artifacts, they can ask for Montegue's compass - he'll happily hand it over now that the campaign is ended and it won't break his promise to his wife. It is perfectly alike to the one they have, save for the inscription on the bottom.

Even if the party doesn't ask for it, though, what happens to it matters to them. As Montegue either hands it over or bids them farewell, it vanishes in a brilliant flash of light. The heroes catch sight of a hand reaching out of a crack in space and snatching it from Montegue, then vanishing in a puffo f smoke. Whichever hero is carrying their half of the artifact pair suddenl has a powerful vision: a jungle surrounds her, and she can hear the sound of exotic beasts. A man stands in a wide clearing, surrounded by stone and metal outcroppings. He's wearing explorer's gear and has a cruel look on his face unlike any she's seen. A large box stands in front of him, with an indentation matching the compass perfectly. In one hand he holds the artifact, and he turns to glare maliciously at the hero. It is cleaR: he's going to open the box.

What the party does next is up to them. The can go back to Montaigne or whatever they like. If they want to pursue the stolen compass, though, you'll need the next adventure in the Erebeus Cross series: Scoundrel's Folly! They get 3 XP if they complete the adventure, or 1 XP and a huge loss of face if they fail. Any other rewards are up to the GM.

Now, some suggestions for random encounters. I'll only cover a few of these. In one, Burning Down the House, the heroes discover a village engulfed in smoke - one of the houses has caught fire, and if nothing is done it'll spead to the whole village! There's only around twenty to thirty buildings here, and the burning house is on the edge of town. Fifty men are trying to put it out, but it's slow going and not doing much. The heroes could ignore the locals' please for help and move on, in which case the fire consumes the entire village...or they can stay to help. The burning building's a lost cause, but they should easily be able to help keep the rest of the place from being set on fire - soaking the nearby buildings, digging trenches or firewalls, even destroying the nearby buildings to cut off the path. Whatever they decide, the farmers obey with alacrity. Once the fire's under control, the party can move on, but they've lost precious time. They'll have any aid the village can provide - perhaps slowing down Chevalier and his men. Even if they don't ask, the villagers will try to help, extending their lead immensely. GMs can also have a cinematic encounter where the musketeers arrive while the fire is still blazing, starting a dramatic swordfight in the burning town as the farmers work to try and stop it.

While aboard the boat on the Dechain, they may run into the terrifying Beast of Dechain , a legend of the river for millenia. It's a serpent of immense size, said to devour entire boats. It attacks the River Mist while they are aboard. It's far too big for them to hurt - small arms and swords don't faze it, and the cannons can't be turned to fire downwards at it. The Beast will try to headbutt the boat until it cracks a hole and sinks it. The party will discover that there's twenty barrels of gunpowder aboard, though - and with care, they can be turned into bombs with a well-cut fuse. Three bombs will drive the beast awa. Alternatively, a brave hero might volunteer to pilot the ship's lifeboat as a diversion, or even dive into the monster's gullet and cut their way out, which will drive the Beast away for easier prey. It won't be easy, but it might work. There's no chance to kill the Beast, though - but anyone who's saved the ship has the sailors' thanks, especially if they did it by going into the Beast. If the heroes fail, the ship sinks. They make it to shore, where they can continue - but almost all of the crew died, eaten by the Beast as they got away. A few of Coleson's creates are salvaged, but most are lost, and he heads off to his destination in sadness. (This can be done on the other river, too, with a smaller and less famous serpent.)

There is also a minor event suggested where the party learns the secret of the River Mist - it has three co-owners who all serve as captain, switching roles when they must evade pursuit. The ship can even remove its nameplate and has several spares, allowing it to evade smuggling charges easily. Clever, but not all that interesting as an encounter. There's also an attack by gargoyles!

I can't see this without hearing the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz.

And, of course, there's the chance of running into an Ussuran forward group. The party can run into an ambush with five vicious if ragged partisans led by a minor nobleman who begins the battle by turning into a bear. If Mother Ussura's still against them, they're definitely in trouble here. If the party speaks Ussuran, they can try to reason with the group - they're angry, not blind. This is easiest if the the party has many nationalities, especially an Ussuran. Montaignes will make it harder, though. If the party's got Mother Ussura on their side, though, the weather will strike at their foes to try and warn them away.

Then we get NPC stats - which, incidentally, Fleischwulf doesn't have, because he's fucking invulnerable. Likewise, the Beast of Dechain only has damage stats in case someone is dumb enough to step in front of its head while it's headbutting and biting the boat. It's not able to be hurt by anything short of cannon shot. If you want to learn more about the guy who stole the artifact, though, you need to buy more books

The Explorer's Society

The rest of the little booklet is devoted to the Explorers. They were started when the last Hierophant, Julius IV, approached Cameron MacCormick to retrace the lives of the prophets, from their birth to their deaths. While traveling in southern Vodacce on this errand, MacCormic found caverns full of amber encasing strange suits of armor. Initially, he identified them as Syrneth - but earlier, he had found other ruins in Eisen, also identified as Syrneth, which looked nothing alike. In Eisen, the ruins used pictograms, while in Vodacce, they used a fluid script of curves and dashes. In Eisen, the doorways were over 50 feet tall - but in Vodacce, they were barely large enough for a man, and the armor suits were meant for small men. His imagination was caught by this, and he was unable to finish the Hierophant's request, handing it off to a friend.

MacCormick began studying the ruins, offering huge money for artifacts. He ran out of money, in fact - but he and several friends banded together to fund a new group, the Discoverer's Society - adventurerss seeking truth. This worked out until he discovered that his friend Caligari had been selling the artifacts that the group discovered! Caligari formed his own team, and MacCormick's society falterd without his money. The group began to dissolve, down to only three of its core members...but they developed a system to allow them to weed out the best sites and catalog their work. MacCormick's brother died, leaving him with the family money - but also responsibility for their estates. He solved this by declaring his home the official university of the newly renamed Explorer's Society, inviting all his old friends except Caligari, along with several others. Now, there are chapterhouses in Avalon, Vendel, Eisen and Castille, and a new one opened in Montaigne.

Publically, the Explorers seek knowledge and truth about the ancient race of Syrneth. Though some of their findings conflict with church doctrine, they are on good terms with the Vaticine and most governments. However, behind closed doors, they have theories they cannot share with the church: there was more than one race among the Syrneth. They are certain of it, having determined comparative age seperating old ruins via layers of soil, and have found different civilizations on different layers. They hope to find evidence of more than one group in a single layer, existing together. This makes them rather unpopular with the Inquisition, though - the idea of more than one race capable of intelligent thought and building is heretical at present. The society also believe the Seventh Sea exists, and its inner circle believe that it is connected to the old races and where they went.

The society is divided into ranks, each named after a different sea. EAch rank knows more than the last, and the upper ranks are given access to artifacts for personal use - there's some the Explorers have found enough copies of that they don't need to study them all. Members identify themselves as being from whatever sea is given to their rank, as a way to confuse outsiders. Many of their expeditions are not looking for new lands, but rather the Seventh Sea - though so far, none of those have reported back.

The ranks are: The Trade Sea , who are essentially laymen who've just joined up. They still believe there was only one race of Syrneth and are required to take basic courses at the chapterhouses or learn from a field tutor. This teaches them how to record findings. After that, there is the Frothing Sea , who have been on several digs. They can begin to receive unique equipment, such as globes that glow in the dark after being left in the sun. The third level, La Boca , learn that there were multiple races of Syrneth, and are allowed full participation in digs under senior explorers. They can also begin to receive credit in published journals. After that is the Forbidden Sea , who are granted housing and board for free and and have all expenses paid. They are told the agenda of trying to discover linkages between the old races - so long as only one race's remnants are found per dig, it can be claimed the race changed over time but was the same, while mixing in one area would prove multiple races. Then there is the Mirror , who learn the theory that the Seventh Sea is not only real, but a physical place that could possibly be visited, and may be connected to the old races. After that, there is the Corridors of Flame , the highest rank outside the inner sanctum of MacCormick. They are told the truth of the Explorers' expeditions seeking the Seventh Sea, and that the Explorers feel the sea may be more than a place but a doorway by which the old races left the world. The Corridor also produce false reports from the expeditions sent out to publically search for new lands, since...well, none of them have ever sent back reports so far.

What do the Explorers know about the Syrneth? Well, we got a lot of IC letters and reports, but I'll boil it down. Jules von Gregor investigated an area of Castille that had been overrun by the boca, the locust-like rodents that migrate through each year. He found a strange skull, larger even than a large man's, with a strange forward protrusion as of a beak - and evidence of wing growth below the shoulder blades. He estimates the wingspan to be four yeards in length. These have been named the "Setine." They have hollow bones, and he found similar (if much larger and with different body structure) bones in Eisen as well. The same hollow bones have since been found all over southern Théah, some male and some female, some with wings and some without. He has also found armor styled after the Old Numan Republic's but clearly useless to humans - large and form-fitted for ten-foot creatures with huge barrel chests and twisted legs. And in a Vodacce key, he has found a sample that exhibits both genders - he'd love to examine it, but Villanova will not release the specimen. He has four theories to explain why the Setines were so prolific: They may have been a slave race, a servitor race, a guide race or a ruler race. The last theory is the most popular.

The Isle of Syrne.

The Isle of Syrne's a strange place - they've found strange grids there, with uncertain significance, inside buildings with strange white cubes. These girds are aligned to magnetic north, largely, and have many cubes inside of unknown purpose. The doors are designed cor creatures about 6-7 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide, and the number two and its powers are repeated throughout the ruins. The area is sadly infested by scarabs with extremely virulent poison, strange lights that burn those who investigate and mysterious gas explosions. Other artifacts include Legion's Spike, a crystal that gives indescribable visions to those who look into it - but which sometimes drive men mad or change their personalities.

The entire sections is really a fun read, and I highly suggest it - in summary, the Explorers believe that there was more than one, perhaps far more than one prehuman race - and that their disappearance is linked to the mysterious, nigh-legendary Seventh Sea. They're hunting for proof and have found many mysterious artifacts, ruins and dangers which they keep secret both to avoid thieves like Caligari, secretive men like Villanova and the powers of the Inquisition.

Next time: Nations of Theah, Volume I: The Pirate Nations

Everybody dies, McGee. Sooner or later, everybody dies.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Everybody dies, McGee. Sooner or later, everybody dies.

Nations of Théah, Book One: The Pirate Nations

We begin with a story about the pirate Jeremiah Berek and his companion, Bonnie McGee. They've seen a Montaigne ship - a Montaigne ship they know is captained by the man known only as The General. Their ship's in the midst of repair, but Berek plans to attack anyway. The General, an Eisen man, prepares to fight - but his ship is assaulted by snipers! That ship turns back - but there are 20 with it! Berek's in a cove that allows only one ship at a time, though, and they're holding well. Unfortunately, his plan to block the cove with the first sunk ship fails - and whho knows what'll happen next?

Now then. We start out looking at some famous pirate cities. The Straits of Blood are one such - a deadly island chain surrounded by reefs and sharks. It can be navigated only at night via use of the Bloody Lighthouse, and has only two towns on its islands - Bilgewater and Tumbledown. The pirate who discovered the way through the reef was a Montaigne named Guivere, who used it as his hideout for years. He vanished, but left the secret with his daughter Annabelle, who founded Bilgedwater. It's said that somewhere in the Straits, Guivere's treasure is still buried. The book goes through two hugely detailed maps of the islands, which I feel is actually not the best way to do this, now. It's mostly boring.

There are some interesting places, though - for example, the Captain's Daughter, a tavern with a tall platform out front, with a pretty girl on top. There's a rope. and any man can climb it. Getting to the top means they get a kiss - but falling means being mocked and having a bucket of water dumped on you. Bilgewater's the more dangerous of the two towns, and Tumbledown is quieter, frequented by retired pirates and with less dangerous jungle around it. The other islands around it are Pebble Beach, where the treasure may be hidden, Jackie's Rock (named after Guivere's dog, who was his mascot), and Coldwater Isle, a place where...well, the water is icy cold despite the heat lal over the rest of the area. It's believed that the island is haunted by Guivere's ghost and those of his crew.

There's also La Bucca, home of the Brotherhood of the Coast. It was originally founded in 1552 by Cardinal Alfonso Orduñez of Castille in an attempt to devise a new kind of prison that would reform its people. He wanted an experiment - a prison with no walls or guards, to teach the value of civilization. The island he chose was la Bucca, then called la Palabra de Dios. Within the first month, half the prisoners were rescued by pirates looking for crew. So he built walls around the prison, keeping ships out north and south while a mountain handled the west and a reef the east. Since then, seventeen escapes were tried - and all failed. However, the experiment of teaching the men the value of civilization by removing them from it failed completely: la Bucca was home to a revolt that killed a third of the guards (yeah, they showed up at some point) and 90% of the prisoners. It became just a prison - a place to put those who were unfit for normal civilization.

In 1666, though, a man was found dead at the south gates - dead of the White Plague! The guards fled the island to avoid death - but that was the plan. The prisoners had faked the outbreak, and they launched a revolt as the last two supply ships came, seizing them. The prisoners used the island's guns to defeat the guard ships, and they seized control of the island, led by the man called Allende. He proposed the Brotherhood of the Coast: a nation unbound by religion, culture or nationality. The island is mostly notable for a haunted shantytown and a dense swamp from which no one has ever returned. However, deep in the swamp is a strange obelisk made of neither stone nor mortar, apparently made of gold as hard as steel. It has an entrance just big enough for a man to slip into, but only two inches are bove water level. No man has ever seen it before, let alone tried to go into it.

And there's also the city of Canguine, in Avalon. It's a smuggler's haven, turned ugly and brutal by an ancient Sidhe curse. It was once a beautiful Montaigne city, built by the conquering army. However, the compulsive orderliness of the place brought its ruin when its mayor attempted to throw a Sidhe into jail. The Sidhe revealed his nature and cursed the city to be chaotic and disorganized until its residents could be polite to one another for a full day. This doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon.

The place has a number of (completely broken) fountains - it's said that if they ever start working again, it means Montaigne is invading. This is also the home of Jeremiah Berek and many other of Elaine's Sea Dogs. Their inn is the Broken Compass, which has an odd tradition: any time someone tells a story, they are asked if they died. If they say yes, then the pirates shout that it must be true and buy the teller a drink. If they say no, the pirates shout that the teller's a liar and throw their drinks at him. The Curse on Canguine is quite real as well - it affects everyone within two miles of the former town hall, and it means this: When the GM activates a Hero's Hubris, it costs twice as many Drama dice to resist as normal. Heroes and NPCs with the Scoundrel advantage start with an extra Drama die each story. Heroes can go to -50 Reputation before becoming villains instead of -30, and they get Drama dice for arguing with each other and causing public disorder. Oh, and there's Timberjack. Timberjack is a huge, rather dim man who beats anyone who tries to cut down the forest north of town. This hasn't made him popular with local woodcutters or shipwrights, but he's a powerful man. There's a 50 guilder price on his head.

There's also a ton of legends out there. For example - the tale of Captain Justice Rogers' lost treasure! Rogers was the first pirate to ever gain real fame, and he is the archetype. He was an Avalon who captained the Jolly Rogers, raiding the Montaigne fleets. However, at last he fled when pursued by a huge fleet, and hid on a remote island. Only his empty ship was found - and when the Montaignes took it, a storm came from nowhere and destroyed the entire fleet. Three centuries later, no one's found a trace of his treasure...but they did find that he'd hid at least on the isle of Syrne. Then there's the Black Freighter - a terrible ghost ship with many, many tales of its origin. Some say it hunts those who wreck ships in search of revenge, while others say it's attracted to death and murder. Others say that you can keep it away by hanging a dead man's shoes from the mast, or that a cat will help you avoid it. None know the truth. There's also tales of a huge siren, the Queen of the Sea, who's been seen only three times in history - first by Old Empire sailors, then five hundred years later by Vesten raiders, and then two years ago by Avalon sailors. She is a huge, bloated creature with a strange, booming song and a thirst for blood. It's said she was a beautiful FAte Witch who went too far in her magic, or perhaps a shipwrecker cursed by the sea. Whatever the truth, she threatens all sailors now.

These guys are either fighting or dancing.

Now, let's talk about the Brotherhood of the Coast. Their leader is the "Pirate King," Allende, captain of the Hanged Man. He wrote the charter they live by - a strict code of conduct that all of them swear to follow. However, they are also devoted to freedom. Every Brotherhood ship carries a copy of the charter, which does many things - it organizes how the ship is run, forbids gambling on board, even gives a method to solve quarrels. It also says that each man is to have a vote in affairs, and that no pirate crew can dissolve until each man's gotten a thousand guilders of plunder. The Broetherhood also allow every ship a chance to surrender and not be harmed. Their flag is three skeletal arms, each holding a knife and thrusting them into a single cup. Some have said the Brotherhood is in league with El Vago, and others that they've taken commissions from Queen Elaine.

Allende, of course, is secretly Prince Javier of Castille, elder brother to Good King Sandoval and in the yes of many, the rightful King of Castille. He knew many state secrets, including those about la Bucca, and he had college friends in the Rilasciare. While he never joined, he did help them on occasion. He was also the best captain in Castille. When war broke out, his father the king grew deathly ill - but while he served as regent, he became unpopular with the Inquisition, who dragged him from his bed and threw him into prison, causing his unexplained disappearance. He was found guilty of heresy and exiled to la Bucca. There, he has spent the last decade working and arranging the formation of the Brotherhood - only to discover that now he was free, his father was dead and his brother was on the throne. He can't reclaim it, for that would damage his brother's authority and hurt Castille...so he's dedicated himself to protecting Castille's shores. He's aided in this by Alesio, a Vodacce Fate Witch named Alesia pretending to be a man. She spied on him when he was royal, and when he was betrayed, she went to la Bucca after him. They are not lovers, but she feels a deep sense of loyalty to the man. He also has the loyalty of a diverse and skilled crew - including a msterious tattooed man from the Crescent Empire known only as Donna.

Jeremiah Berek, meanwhile, is the most famous of the Sea Dogs. He's also one of the most hated men in the world, because whenever he captures a ship, he makes sure to force the enemy to surrender to his pet dog, Captain. All members of the crew also swear to serve that dog, rather than Berek. He's succeed by luck and daring - when he enters a situation, he deliberately chooses the least likely way to win and then forces it to work. He's a master of unorthodox tactics. Berek allows his crew to run the ship, though - he knows he's no sailor. His flag is the Sea Dog, a dog with a knife in its teeth. He's beloved by Elaine's court, especially the women, but he is loyal to the woman he loves from afar: Queen Elaine. His first mate is Bloody Bonnie McGee, a woman who once threw herself overboard rather than admit defeat to the dread pirate Reis. She's harsh but fair, and is obsessed with finding Reis, to see why he allowed her to live. He's also got the Beast, a huge man who serves as carpenter - not that he's vicious. He's, in fact, very kind and got the nickname when Berek met his mother, who thanked him for "bringing back my little beast," which he found hilarious. The Beast is a master swordsman. The rest of the crew is no less strange and diverse, including a compulsive and creative liar, a studious monk and brewmaster and the bastard daughter of a Sidhe and a noblewoman.

More terrifying, though, is the corsair Kheired-Din. He (and the Crescents in general) are said to know more about the Syrneth and the occult than the rest of the world - and Kheired Din's flagship, the Strange Skies, has a strange device that shoots "living fire" which backs up the claim. He commands a fleet of sixty ships - and that's because of how he kidnaps slaves. Those whom he steals are forced to build a new ship, then serve aboard it as a rower. When asked what his goal was, Kheired-Din said that he sought this: "I will bring about the next age of the world. The angels shall rise into the skies and move among us once more. I, and all of you, shall be their agents, chosen of all men, to make their will known." Kheired-Din hates to fight naval battles, and so he uses any trick he can to avoid them. He is a brutal man who hates blasphemers, alcohol and...in fact, any prophet but the Second Prophet. Also Sorcery. His flag is a tattooed skull with crossed scimitars beneath. He claims that his tattoo was given to him by angels - and it heals one Dramatic Wound per hour, even if he's been killed . If dead, he reappears in his quarters on his ship, alive once more. Only by finding the magical cross that is linked to the tattoo can he be truly killed. His crew is viciously loyal, except for most of the slave rowers.

Then there are the Vestenmannavnjar raiders, commanded by Yngvild Olafsdottir. She was a fisherman's daughter driven from her home by Vendel landowners. She mastered the art of Lærdom and became a pirate captain on the ship Revensj, seeking...well, revenge. She uses weather control runes to sneak up on her targets and assault them once the crew is tired of dealing with the storms she calls up. She is a merciless captain, with no patience for disrespect - but she has a few allies in the form of Jeremiah Berek (well, sometimes) and the O'Bannon. Her flag is the Vestenmannavnjar flag, flown upside down. Yngvild herself is no great warrior, but is a master of magic...and her first mate nad lover, Red Thorfild, more than makes up for that. Red is a vicious man who would see no mercy for any Vendel, while the ship's bosun, Hoskuld Hardrada, often argues with him that women and children must be spared as the only honorable thing to do.

Last, and perhaps worst, is Reis of the Crimson Roger. No one dares surrender to Reis, for he will kill them all - and even his crew is terrified of him. He appeared ten years ago, a monster even then. It was said he was a demon summoned by putting the twelve most evil men in the world into one body, that his crew were beasts wearing human skin. He started most of these rumors himself, but since then other legends of sprung up - some true, such as the fact that he takes no prisoners and leaves none alive. His crew all swear to obey the Pact of the Crimson Roger, which is written in the blood of the first man to ever wound Reis in a fight - a dead man named Robert Langstaff. IT's written on the skin of his back. The oath is to loyalty in exchange for plunder...and Reis takes it seriously. Disobedience and disrespect are not permitted: Reis is as a god, and his devil is the sadist Riant Gaucher, his torturer and bosun. His flag is black with a red skull and crossbones. Reis is famous for the scythe he wields - a weapon that can cut even through Dracheneisen. It cannot be parried, ignores all armor and deals damage regardless of the target's Brawn - to the point that any 10s he rolls on damage are automatic Dramatic Wounds. He has no stats given, and the truth about him will be revealed "in time". His crew is vicious and hateful, coming from across the world - he's even got a strange, mysterious black man named Jemy on his crew. Reis is working for the Vodacce Caligari, seeking out Syrneth relics. He's got the man's cousin Julius on board - a swordsmasn of some skill...but also a traitorous dog who's sold his loyalty to Reis instead of his cousin. Reis doesn't trust the man any further than he can throw him.

Don't get captured.

The book introduces a new thing for chargen: the Destiny Spread, which can be done with dice or a tarot deck. This lets you get some free stuff based on what you pull, which gives you some backstory events ('When you were five, a witch foretold that you'd bring death to your family. And, indeed, you caught the White Plague and spread it to them, and they all died. You survived, though - and while you're immune to the White Plague now, your immediate family is dead.') and some hints of future trouble that the GM can use.

We also get Rogers , a new swordsman school favored by pirates. It is said to have been made by the famous Captain Rogers, and of course many new tricks have been added to it since. It relies heavily on tricks to fool its foes, as well as teaching its users to fence while a ship rolls under their feet. Its big weakness? Well, that balance that you learn for ships can be watched - it causes a peculiar flexing of the legs that can be exploited to prevent dodging. This happens even on land, it's so ingrained.

An Apprentice fencer can use the Balance knack instead of the Parry one, and learns one Pirate Trick. A Journeyman gets +5 TN to be hit while on a ship unless they're surprised, and learn a second Pirate Trick. A Master gets +2 to his Fear Rating - which is 0 if he didn't cause Fear before. This means foes can be terrified and get penalties to fighting you! Also you learn two more Pirate Tricks. What are Pirate Tricks? Little gimmicks that the Rogers style uses! Here's the list:

Against the Rails - you get a Free Raise when using the Corps-á-corps technique (read: body checking a guy) and your target is defending via Balance (usually meaning 'on a ship'). Belay That! - You roll and keep an extra damage die when attacking with a belaying pin, and get no off-hand penalty for wielding one. Dagger Ride - you may spend an action to drive a knife into a sail and ride it down to deck, avoiding all falling damage. You can even attack someone below you while doing this, dealing one die of damage per two levels you drop, rounding down. Death from Above! - if you're at least one level higher than your target, you may swing down and attack, dealing 3k1 damage and knocking them prone - but if you miss, you have to roll Swinging to not become prone. Hold Your Liquor - you get the Able Drinker advantage free and get a free raise when attacking someone with a beer mug. Kick Up - you can grab a sword off the ground and attack with it in the same action, provided you start the action standing right next to it. Over the Side! - you increase the Boarding rolls of all of your side by 1 in a Boarding ACtion; this stacks up to three times and is dealing with 'mass combat' ship rules. Quick Draw - you may draw and fire a pistol in one action. Sea Legs - you roll and keep an extra die when using your Balance knack, though that doesn't increase your passive TN to be hit when using it. Sidearm - you have no offhand penalty for using pistols.

You can also learn one of those via advantages, though not if you know the Rogers style. If you ever learn the Rogers style, you lose your advantage and it becomes your apprentice trick. There's also an advantage for being an evil dread pirate, and one that lets you start with a Syrneth artifact. The list you can get: A golden marble which is used by tapping it with a fingernail and then carrying it somewhere else and dropping it. The marble will roll towards the place you tapped it at, and will remember it until you tap it again. It rolls at a slow walking pace and can resume its journey if lifted and carried later. When it reaches water, it stops at the edge and will continue if carried across. A golden bracelet which will heal you of the first 10 flesh wounds you get each scene. A golden armband with a silvered animal skull on it, whose mouth will open when you tense your arm twice in a row rapidly. A hand comes out of the mouth, trailing a silver cable, and grabs anything it hits within fifty feet. Then, the cable retracts, swinging you over to the hand - this functions like an easier-to-use grappling gun that never slips. A gray knife that deals an additional 3 flesh wounds when it hits. a reddish metal hand that replaces your offhand, which never gets tired and repairs itself when damaged. If cut off, it can be reattached, but it has no special powers over a normal hand beyond that. An ornate glove and a dagger - whenever you pull your hand back as if to throw the knife, it appears in your hand. Yoiu can throw it once per round, otherwise it comes back to your hand before it hits the target. The knife must be left sheathed for two hours a day, or it loses its returning property until it is. The glove, meanwhile, must be worn for ten hours a day or it loses the power to call the knife until it is.

You could also get a reddish metal cutlass that lets you, once a scene after you hit and deal damage with it, immediately spend a drama die on your next action to exactly imitate the last attack, using the same attack roll and damage roll. You could get a segmented belt that, when worn, glows with a light that covers twenty feet in all directions. It can only be taken off by the person wearing it, and stops glowing in sunlight or when not worn. There's a silver box that can only be opened by you and is immune to all damage. There's a tarnished mug and tap (as in for tapping kegs), which are immune to damage. When placed on a keg and opened, nothing happens - but when someone tries to drink from the mug, liquid from the tapped keg appears in it. It flows only if drunk, and it cannot be spilled. It must be inserted in a container, though - just throwing it in a lake won't mean endless water.

Then, some discussion on what a pirate campaign might do - smuggling, ruin raiding, privateering, whatever. Some ways to make campaigns - hunting for treasure, serving a nation, fleeing with something very expensive and valuable, whatever. Navigation's not easy because, well, you can use the Prophet's Star (read: the North Star) to tell where you are north-south, but east-west is hard. The Sun means you need to know what time zone it is - or at least what time it is somewhere definite...except that pocketwatches haven't been invented. Clocks are pendulum-based and hate ships. Dead reckoning's mostly what's used, though there's also a method used by the highly educated which involves measuring the moon and stars, but the Montaigne, as mentioned, just have a guy at home with a clock who teleports in and tells you the time. This means they have the most accurate maps in the world, though they've been stolen by many other nations.

And we end by finding the fate of Berek and the General. Berek is fired on, and his ship seems doomed. However, Bonnie McGee has led a crew to swim the gap, and they've boarded the General's ship! The Marines take the General's ship and use it to sink the rest. Berek and the General duel afterwards, but it turns out that it was Lady Celedoine, the half-Sidhe, disguised as Berek! Berek himself arrives and saves her life. The General escapes overboard, and his surviving men are called off by Bonnie's trick, as she's run up flags to set them away.

Next time: The second part of the Erebus Cross!

The Montaigne would destroy the world if they thought it would entertain them.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: The Montaigne would destroy the world if they thought it would entertain them.

Erebus Cross, Part II: Scoundrel's Folly

This adventure picks up just after The Lady's Favor. If you haven't played that one, though, it can start out with the heroes getting the compass and receiving their vision by some other method, hearing about Regindal Coleson as an expert in Syrneth artifacts and so on. The visions are being sent by the villainous Lucius Malveck, who is staying on the island L'Il du Bɇte, the Isle of the Beast - a private game preserve of the Montaigne, where monsters are teleported onto the island and set loose for hunting by bored nobles. Malveck is sending visions out to the heroes using an artifact connected to them - a "pool" of silvery metal that's as hard as diamond, by which the bearers of the compasses can grant each other visions. He's trying to lure the Heroes in. They're going to play right into his hands, of course.

This is because he's sending visions of his plotting over villainous schemes - a surefire way to get any hero interested. They've already met Reginald, and should therefore be bright enough to set out to meet him at the court of Baron STefan Heilgrund, wher he's told them he's staying. If they're not interested in just stopping schemes, remind them that Coleson will pay them for the artifacts. Eager parties may just start following the compass, but fortunately Heilgrund's castle is in its path, and they can contact Coleson without losing any time. Heilgrund's castle sits on the Rotstrom river, and getting there is easy - Monteque will give them any supplies they need and a letter of passage to get through checkpoints. The weather's nice and while there might be some encounters of whatever kind, it's basically easy to get to Heilgrund's castle.

Part One: The Court of the Baron

The province is blackened by war, with ruined houses all over the place. There's a few signs of recovery, but not many. Stefan Heilgrund's castle is Heilgrundstat, and this is actually his secondary estate - his primary is in Gottkirchen, but he comes here to get away. Heilgrund intends to rule the entirety of Eisen some day, and he's friendly with the Explorers in the hopes that Syrneth artifacts can grant him the power to do so. Coleson knows Heilgrund only wants power, but the man's cash is useful, so he's happy to work with the man for now - though he makes sure Heilgrund never learns about some things. Heilgrund's home is well-protected - the portcullis is reinforced with dracheneisen. They are met by Stefan's butler ERnst Grümbel, a short-temepered and blunt man who doesn't much like the party but goes and gets Coleson. He's surprised to see them, and brags about them to the butler, who is unimpressed. He loves the compass, of course, and promises to do anything he can to help - even charter a boat, if they can wait a few days. This conversation can take as long as you like so long as folks are being entertained.

Heilgrund is not all that interested in the party when introduced, until he learns their errand - at which point he becomes gung-ho about supporting them and insists that Coleson go along to help if he's going to fund the trip. Coleson's going to take a few days, though, to examine the artifacts. In the meantime, the players can get involved in some international intrigue if they like. If you don't have any for them, there's some pre-provided - a pair of Vendel and Vodacce merchants trying to edge each other out, a Montaigne admiral trying to get free passage on the local rivers and an Avalon sent to kill him, some Montaigne noblewomen who love the 'haunted' castle and are mostly around to be seduced, that sort of thing. This can, again, go on as long as desired. In the meantime, more scientifically-minded heroes can go with Coleson and study the artifact/

Those who go with Coleson are warned not to open any locked doors in the basements - in fact, the heroes are told to open none of the locked doors in the entire castle, and there's plenty of them. Any strange noises are attributed to the wind. Those who study the compass with Coleson learn some very interesting facts. (If none do, have Coleson tell them.) The metal is a very unusual compound, even for the Syrneth, and it's only been found on a few islands. Coleson's been to all but one, and none had the intricate nature of this compass. The one he's not been to is L'Il du Bɇte. The inscriptions on the bottom are instructions, and Coleson can translate them roughly - they talk about using the compasses to open doors, raise wards on leylines and "ignite the Soul's Mirror." He has no idea what they mean, and they're incomplete - the rest must be on the other compass. The artifact also has an internal power source of some kind - Coleson could open it and find out what, but that'd break the compass and might blow everyone up. And lastly, there is a complex pattern beneath the literal translation of the inscription, matching the stars. Central is the constellation called the Erebus Cross, which apparently forms an arrow, pointing somewhere - though the compass doesn't say anything about where. Any Montaigne heroes will know the nature of the Isle of the Beasts, as does Coleson - and they'll know that only Montaigne nobles are allowed to visit. Coleson rather hates this, and the Montaigne nobility.

If the heroes go poking around, they'll have to break into the locked areas, which isn't easy, and battering down the doors is noisy. Above ground, it's mostly secrets of state. Below, however, are labs - they contain artifacts, books on various occult subjects...including ones such as summoning Unseelie or dark spirits to make pacts, or even calling on the forces of Legion. Stefan Heilgrund is after power, and will pay any price he feels is reasonable. The worst is a biology lab containing strange experiments - rats with wings, cows with siren's teeth, even experiments done on human corpses - though no live tests have been done with humans. Yet. If the players are discovered, however - and they probably will be - then Heilgrund's men will chase them from the castle as bandits, and Coleson will barely escape, having lost his position there. He will still help the party, but will lose all respect for them, even as he acknowledges their feelings in the matter as valid.

Either way, Coleson will also say that he's sure the trip is a trap - he thinks Malveck is sending the visions to lure them in, but they'll never find him and stop him without the compass, so for now they'll have to play into his hands...but at least they'll do so knowing he wants the compass they have and ready for his tricks.

Part Two: Wooden Ships and Iron Men

If they don't do that, though, Heilgrund will pay for their trip. They'll need to get a ship in Freiburg, which can be as exciting as the GM desires. It's a bustling, lively city with surprisingly little crime, especially since it has no police force. Coleson meets with an Explorer, Madeline du Bisset, trying to get passage with Jeremiah Berek. He's in Carleon, and Madeline will send the party there if they'll take along a box marked with a Vesten rune (Villskap, if you care). There's no catch, she just doesn't want to do it herself. She'll try to open the box for the party, sending sparks across the room, then close it completely again and warn them never to do that. (The box, in truth, contains a cursed rune that will lay its power on anyone who reads it. Anyone who opens the box fully will read it - and the curse is one of freezing, causing the target to become freezing cold even in the hottest weather, taking 1k1 damage per week; every fourth roll, the damage can never be healed. Eventually they will freeze to death. The rune on the box will cause 8k5 damage to anyone who opens the box. This is irrelevant, for the most part, since the heroes should be bright enough to take the warning. It is up to the GM, if it comes up, how the curse might be undone.

Getting a ship is easy, and it takes a week (in which encounters can happen) to get there, Carleon is a pleasant, well-ordered city where everyone seems happy. Finding Berek and the Sea Dogs is easy, but the Dogs don't want anyone bothering their leader without good cause. Explorer or AValon credentials will help, but otherwise it may take a few fists and a quick tongue. (They hold no hard feelings for a fistfight as long as no swords are pulled.) Berek is bored out of his mind, when the party meets him, and he's interested in helping - though he'll play coy and ask them about why they want to do this. He's fishing for as much as he can get out of the deal...unless someone mentions a chance to fight the Montaigne navy. Running their blockade will be fun for him. After they get his help, Coleson will go deliver the box, and the heroes can go with him if they like. There, they will find an inscription from a Vodacce ruin that precisely matches that of the compass! Coleson is fascinated, and wants to go the ruins - but the Explorers tell him they're off limits and he can't, for reasons they won't say. He decides to go anyway, and leaves the heroes on their own while he heads off to Vodacce. He says he'll meet them back in Carleon when they succeed at stopping Malveck. The Black Dawn's still in drydock, so Berek commandeers a ship named Hurricane, drafts a letter to the queen and sets off with the party. The crew is mostly volunteers since this is not strictly a Sea Dog mission, and the heroes are given places with the crew. They head southwest, following the compass.

Part Three: High Seas Gauntlet

This is where most of the random encounters happen. Through the voyage, the visions of Malveck come fast and hard, with a strong sense of urgency. The compass leads to the islands easily, and any sailor hero should be disgusted by the waste of resources that is the huge blockade around them - ten full frigates! The Hurricane's crew spot the ships long before they're spotted, and Berek prepares to proceed. (If the heroes have short-circuited this part by, say, taking their own ships, any reasonable precautions will result in them spotting the blockade early, too.)

The Montaigne blockade has each ship in sight of two others, to let them react in case of trouble. However, the ships are old and staffed only by moderately competent crew. With a good plan, they should be able to do this. Berek (as the GM's voice) will help point out any flawed plans - and if the party has none, offer some of his own: commandeering a Montaigne ship to pass by in disguise, slipping past in a rowboat by night or just blowing through the blockade by main force. The Hurricane can even the odds on any of these by flying a flag of distress to lure out a few of the ships and take them on more even ground.

Berek and his men won't go ashore with the heroes, though - they're just going to get them ashore and fight some Montaignes. Once ashore, the party can go for the Montaigne manors on the island or head straight for Malveck. If they want to poke around a bit, there's an encounter written for it. If not, then it's on to...

Part Four: Jungle Confrontation

The jungles of the Isle of the Beast are full of sounds - usually enraged animals. As the heroes follow the compass through the jungle, they'll run across huge swaths of the area broken by large animals. Six Syrneth buildings dot the island, all exactly sixty degrees from the last. Their purpose is unknown; the Montaigne use them as marshaling grounds for hunters. They have Syrneth posts around them that generate a field keeping monsters at bay. No controls exist, so the Montaigne believe they can't be turned off; Malveck is going to prove otherwise. The heroes are likely to encounter monsters or hunters as they pass through the jungle - and almost any animals at all can be found here.

The compass leads the party to a wide clearing, containing the silver spring mentioned previously. It never showed up in any of the visions, though. Standing next to is Lucius Malveck, holding the other compass. The stones around him form a barrier, protecting him from harm - nothing can cross the barrier. Lucius introduces himself and will answer any questions the party has, though mockingly - he thinks his scheme is foolproof. When asked about the box in the vision, he admits that it never existed - he invented it completely. He then takes his compass and uses it to pull the party's from their hands, attaching it to the underside of his own. He laughs maniacally and twists them, causing machinery under the island to rumble. He mocks them more, telling them that the manor houses have been locked and the monsters will soon be after the locals. Only he can get them out! And he's right - he's done just that. The monsters can't get into the houses, at least - but neither can anyone get out. He has no desire to fight the heroes now and in fact has no ill will towards them, saying they can leave if they wish.

He's missed one thing though: he just lowered all the wards on the island - including the ones protecting him. The heroes can discover this, but Malveck has no idea. They should be able to beat him easily - he's a good swordsman, but not good enough to face a whole band of heroes! If he realizes the danger, he'll flee or plead for his life. He promises them great Syrneth power - but ideally at this point the heroes will knock him out. Once the compasses are detached, the manor houses are restored to normal. The two campasses can now be returned to Heilgrund for a great reward, or given to the Explorers, who will be less grateful - but less likely to abuse them. If Malveck survives the meeting, he will remember the party and seek vengeance at some later date.

The silver pool has two indentations for the compasses, and if the party places them both in, the pool will give them an image of strange experiments being performed on the island - and also a splitting headache, as it gives them telepathic information meant for inhuman minds. Prolonged exposure would drive them mad and kill them. The experiments done here created an engine capable of drawing huge power from the skies, for no clear purpose. The images show its construction and the rudimentary principles involved, though the builders go unseen. It was built somewhere in Vodacce, though, they can tell - the place Coleson is going. In order to ensure it was not used improperly, the place was given heavy security and can only be opened twice a year, when the stars are right and the moon is new. The compasses can then be used to open the locks and get access to the star machine. The map is the stars themselves - the Erebus Cross points the way. All you need to do is know where the Cross will be on the right nights. If none of the heroes have the cartography skill, they can meet up with the Sea Dogs, who'll do it for them. They have thirty days to get to Vodacce and learn the fate of their friend Coleson - in the third and final adventure of the Erebus Cross: The Arrow of Heaven!

Some encounters include a strange chamber in Heilgrundstat containing Montaigne mirror ghosts. In the chamber of the ghosts, Porté does not work at all, amd there are two mirrors. The right mirror has a strange figure in it - a pale man who reaches to touch the mirror's inner edge with a thud. The ghost taps against the glass until someone gets close and touches the mirror. Anything that touches the glass can pass through it - objects disappear, and the ghost will grab anyone who touches the glass. It has Brawn 5 and will try to pull anyone through. Anyone pulled in will become trapped as a mirror ghost. Heilgrund will discover this, but he will offer to help the party on their adventure and even free the hero caught if the party swear never to speak of what they saw - he's fascinated by it and is feeling generous. Others include an attack by sirens on the Hurricane, who have holed the boat and try to come in from beneath. There's also encounters such as a storm created by Sidhe sailors fishing for the bodies of drowned sailors, who will try to catch the Hurricane's crew in their nets - only unforged iron, dracheneisen or powerful magic can cut the nets - though the cannon shells count. The Sidhe will also fight the crew, though not anyone using cold iron weapons. Anyone 'killed' does not truly die, but goes into a coma for a few days and permanently gain the effects of the Inattentive Hubris and Intuitive Arcana, as their dreams distract but enlighten them.

Malveck is Montaigne man who hates the rich. That's why he's doing all this - he wants vengeance on them as an illegitimate son of a nobleman who went unacknowledged. He's a half-blood sorcerer and an expert on the Syrneth. He's not quite a full-fledged Villain yet...but he's getting there. And now, on to the part of the adventure that is more information on the Explorers!

Their current headmaster is Vincent Bernvadore, a Montaigne fifth son of a noble who took up with a Vendel explorer woman. After following her on an adventure, he realized he loved the life, and joined the Society. He rose quickly through the ranks and has led many digs - even into the Crescent Empire, though he denies crossing the border. He was elected Headmaster in 1656, and in recent years his duties have kept him from the field. He's well liked and genuinely loves exploration, as well as being a great diplomat. The head scholar in AValon is Figuero Calleras, a Castillian librarian and noble who was once a monk. He deciphered a strange pattern in an unknown language that led him to find secrets in an ancient scroll case - it contained strange powder that came out when he depressed certain symbols, and it gave him terrible visions. He was unconscious for five days, and joined the Explorers to learn more about what he saw. He is still troubled by strange dreams and visions.

The head field scholar is Cristenne Elise d'Asourne, a Montaigne peasant girl who once viewed the Emperor as a god. As she grew older, though, she began to doubt. She embraced the Church, but its corruption drove her away. Eventually, she left home to find something else to believe in. She ended up working for the Explorers' founder as a groundskeeper, and was taken aback by the passion of the Explorers. She soon joined. She's held her position for only a year, but she's very good. She secretly hopes to find something in the Syrneth ruins that will let her prove the Emperor of Montaigne to be a charlatan once and for all. The head of the shieldmen, the guards of the Explorers, is an Ussuran named Staver Mikochov who was once one of the Gaius's stelets. His father was a boyar, who resented his service to the Gaius, and as a result caused Staver to miss a critical mission on which an Avalon diplomat was killed. The Gaius was furious, and offered to kill Staver in return, but Elaine asked him not to - so instead, he banished the man. Staver wandered until he ran into some explorers, saving them from a strange monster by turning into a wolf and fighting it. He defeated it, and from that day he considered the Explorers his family, considering the fact that Matushka allowed him to transform to protect them to be enough to earn his loyalty. He still wishes he could go home, but he consoles himself by protecting his new family.

There's a number of other members detailed, but I'm sure you're growing as bored of them as I am. If not, I suggest you pick up the adventure and read about them! We also learn some of the codewords of the Explorers, which they slip into conversations to convey secret information about digs and other such things, and also about how they make money. Mostly, it's wealthy patrons, but very rarely they will sell artifacts - the artifacts must be fully documented and catalogued, and not one of a kind, and they are sold at very, very high prices.

Next time: Secret Societies I: Knights of the Rose and Cross!

Swearing like a sailor is a vice I think the Order can live with.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Swearing like a sailor is a vice I think the Order can live with.

Secret Societies of Théah, Volume I: Knights of the Rose and Cross

We open with the tale of a man named Cowan Cooper who is in a dangerous place - an artifact which reminds him of a woman, Adara. She was his Domini - a word we'll learn more about later - when he joined the Rose and Cross, and an ex-sailor. Five days ago, he and Adara discussed her own trainer, Corbitt, and how he has recently discovered that he has a daughter - an imprisoned one. Yesterday, they searched Vodacce to find the daughter...and twenty minutes ago, they tricked their way into her prison and fought their way up the tower. Ten minutes ago, they ran into more danger than they expected - and Adara may have died. What happens next? We'll learn eventually.

What kind of pose is that for a swordfight, anyway?

The Knights of the Rose and Cross, despite being famous, are in fact a secret society - they have a public face, sure, but they've got plenty of secrets, too. Their public history has them appear in 1613 in the form of a pamphlet declaring their existence, swearing to bring justice to the unjust, protect those who cannot protect themselves and serve those who wore the sacred seal of the order. The Hierophant ordered the Inquisition to find the authors, but they could not, and declared the incident a hoax. Two days kater, another pamphlet appeared, apparently written Verkündigen Rosenkreuz - and again, the Hierophant demanded explanation. It was an obvious psuedonym: He Who Declares the Rose and Cross. The Inquisition could find no one. Ten weeks later, a third pamphlet appeared in Castille's Grand Cathedral, A week later, the Hierophant ordered that the Rose and Cross should explain themselves and make their intentions plain. For a year, nothing - but then, in 1615, an assassination plot against a Montaigne cardinal was foiled by three men wearing the seal of the Rose and Cross, and the rescue of the Castillian king's daughter was performed by men bearing the same seal. A Vendel merchant was saved from a burning building by another such man, and the Rose and Cross soon became associated with heroic acts.

Two men and one woman claim responsibility for the Rose and Cross. The first is Brother Domingo del Aldana, one of the oldest and most powerful monks of the Davidian Order. He was the Hierophant's high advisor for a decade. The second was Beatrice Desaix du Paix, first daughter of l'Empereur and one of the most famous duelists in the world - her son would go on to become one of the first Swordsmen. The third? Salvatore Vestini, third son of Augusto Vestini and heir to the Vestini lands. These three ensured the position of the Order in society, and nobles flocked to join - but were told it was invite-only. They were allowed to be Patrons of the orders, however, and even the Hierophant recognized their might, declaring them "servants of the Church and Makers of Justice." Strongholds popped up throughout the world over the next few decades, and many have speculated on the secrets they hold - for nonmembers are not allowed within. The rose, being an alchemical symbol of purity, and the cross, a symbol of the four elements, led one Church scholar to theorize that the famous acts of the Knights were able to be done due to a secret alchemy they possessed, while another felt they were a religious order because the cross is a symbol of the Prophet and the rose is also called the Prophet's Blossom. However, others have claimed them to be Legion-worshippers - an accusation levelled almost word-for-word against the Poor Knights of the Temple of the Prophet three centuries before.

Five years ago, a man going by the name Balreaux published a book called Revelations of the Rose and Cross , claiming to have infiltrated the order and gained its secrets. He claims the knights swear three oaths on joining: to protect the weak, to bring justice to the unjust and to swear to serve the Order and those who wear its seal. If the Master Knight giving the pledge doubts the recruit for even a moment, he kills them instantly by driving his sword through their throat. He claimed the Knights had three factions - those of the first three ranks, the Apprentice Knights, those of the last three, the Magister Knights...and the Invisibles, members known only to the Masters of the chapterhouses, who control politics on a grand scale. He also claimed the Knights had an "Elixir of Life" that granted them amazing powers of physical prowess, the ability to speak any language and even the ability to turn invisible.

The Order has had little direct effect on the world - they are reactors, not actors. However, they have made sure that everyone, even the commoners, know of the Knights as heroes, who will protect everyone . Where Swordsmen sell their blades to the highest bidder, the Knights will protect everyone who needs it, and the commoners feel more safe with them around. They have also caught the hearts and minds of the newspapers, who love Knight stories. And, of course, children throughout the world dream of joining the Knights. More recently, they have been at some rather public work - one of their patrons, a cousin of l'Empereur, was accused of murder - but they saved him and brought the true murderer just as he was about to be hanged. They foiled a plot to steal a Syrne artifact and the conspiracy surrounding it that had replaced a famous Explorer. However...when the Hierophant died, a piece of fabric from a Knight's tabard was found at the scene. The Inquisition tried to accuse them, but it was deemed too easy for an enemy of the Order to plant it.

As far as outsiders are concerned, there are six ranks: the Poor Knight, the Wandering Knight, the Sergeant Knight, the Adept Knight, the Senior Knight and the Master Knight. They're organized like a military, with the upper three ranks serving as officers. Avalon only has two Chapterhouses, but the Knights are very active there, and Elaine cooperates with them. In Castille, they have four Chapterhouses, but must move carefully, for the Inquisition is watching them. In Eisen, they have only one house, in Freiburg. In Montaigne, they have six, one of which is their headquarters. The Emperor occasionally donates heavily, but tends to not care much unless a relative is involved. There are no houses in Ussura, and they have very little influence there - in fact, their attempts to gain some have been turned aside mostly by the weather. Vendel has a single Chapterhouse, and Vodacce has a single one on the isle of the Lucani family. They had one on Villanova's, but it burned down. Twice.

Secrets of the Rose and Cross!

The order goes far further back than 1613 - indeed, they go back as far as the Old Empire, the First Prophet and the Senators who bargained for Sorcery. Sixteen centuries ago, there once was a group of men and women who protected the Imperator and brought justice in his name: the Fraternity of the Sword. They served loyally for fie generations, rivals fo the Imperator's secret police, the Invisibles. The two groups were always at odds with each other...and when the senators gained the powers of sorcery and stole the Imperator's power, the Fraternity faded from prominence, leaving only the most loyal. Then, the First Prophet appeared, and his words struck a deep chord with the leader of the Fraternity, a warrior named Curtius. When the Prophet was killed, Curtius despaired, and he drank poison. After his death, the Fraternity faded even more. One of their own, Verginius, sought truth in the teachings of the Prophet - and he found enlightenment. The enemy was not sorcerers: it was sorcery . He and his friends wen to the Invisibles and banded together, vowing to undermine the Enemy (that is, sorcery) at every turn. They called themselves the Invisible Sword, and for a while, they were successful. However, in 888, a Fate Witch revealed their existence to her husband, and all of them were slain save one. He recorded the events of the betrayal before his own death in 891, and his journal laid undiscovered for a century.

In 992, it was discovered by a monk named Guillaume. He read through it, learning the ancient history of the Fraternity and the Invisible Sword, and he swore to restore their sacred order. He knew it would take years, but that did not dissuade him. He travelled across the world, even to the Crescent Empire, dying there of unknown causes - but his apprentice, the man who would become Verkündigen Rosenkreuz, continued on. His true name is lost to history. He began to realize that the First Prophet's words - "The world is a puzzle. Only those who are worthy or make themselves worthy can see even that much truth." - meant that a worthy soul could transform the world. Even sorcery would be powerless. He became freiends with an alchemist named Khalid in the Crescent Empire, who revealed that transforming metal to gold was only a meteaphor for transforming the base soul into a "golden soul" - the rose being the symbol of the soul, and the cross being, in truth, the crux , the crucible of transformation. Rosenkreuz showed his findings to the Church and was cast out as a heretic.

He didn't care. He took three monks with them, taught them the secrets he'd learned, and dubbed them the Brothers of the Rose and Cross. Together, they traveled the world to learn more and spread the words of the Prophet. They hired mercenaries, teaching them their secrets - and without realizing it, formed a new Fraternity of the Sword. The divide between monk and warrior vanished, and the scholar-warrior of the Rose and Cross was born. In 999, a man came to Rosenkreuz - the Third Prophet. He rejoiced at their discoveries, and told them they would lead man from the wicked path of sorcery, but they must go to Vodacce and build their new church. Two months later, they arrived...and found they were too late. Another Prophet was there already.

The man most of the world calls Third Prophet was false - a usurper crusading against the Vaticine, a pretender. He ordered Rosenkreuz and the Third PRophet captured and killed - and while the Brothers could rescue their leader, the Third Prophet was burned alive as a sorcerer by the newly formed Inquisition. Rosenkreuz swore that justice would be done - but not now, not by their hands, because they were not strong enough. They went underground and tried to spread the truth - but the False Prophet's charisma was too great, and his birth and power made him too strong. Rosenkreuz recorded all the events he'd witnessed, hiding them and other banned books away, and forbade nay to wear the seal of the Rose and Cross, to keep their knowledge a secret. He made them each swear they would pass down their knowledge only to a single successor each. In 1035, he went to his death, buried with his journal, the key to his tomb and a scale. No one knows why he asked for the scale.

In 1118, during the worst of the crusades, a mane named Hughes Allais du Crieux went to the Hierophant and asked to establish an order of knights to help protect the captured lands and those who wished to visit the homeland of the Second Prophet, the Crescent Empire. The Hierophant granted him this, and so the Holy ORder of the Poor Knights of the Prophet was born = and Hughes was, secretly, a Rose and Cross. His order emulated Rosenkreuz's teachings, and vowed to serve the Prophets, not the Church. They lived as monks and fighting men, and the upper ranks were taught the truth of the False PRophet. For a hundred years, they were richer than kings, for they were given donations and captured treasure - and as a monastic order, they were free from tax. However, their secretive nature led the Church to whisper of secrets - and when the Order refused to reveal their initiation rites, they became a dangerous threat. In 1307, the Hierophant declared them heretics - all of them. The Knights held off all the armies of the world for three days before surrendering - but they did surrender. They were tried for hereseym and to save himself a young knight named JEremy Johnson "admitted" to being a Legion-worshipper and that the Knights were such. Thirty-six knights were tortured to gain that confession, but only Johnson broke. The Orders' master, Jacques du Mugent, refused to confess, and it was ordered that one knight would be burned each day he did not. For fifty-four days he did not confess, and each knight that was burned swore that they Knights would have their vengeance. Finally, after fifty-four burnings, Jacques said he would confess - but refused once more, when asked to do so, and was burned at the stake, vowing, as all the others had, that they would have revenge. Jacques du Mugent, last of the Poor Knights, died in 1308 - or so many believed.

In truth, many of the Knights escaped the fires, fleeing to the Highland Marches with the magically uncorrupted body of Rosenkreuz. They swore they'd help free the Marches from Montaigne if granted protection - and the Highlanders agreed. At the battle of Dun Vahl, the Highlanders stood agains tthe Montaigne lines - and the Knights aided him, defeating the Montaignes. So they won their sanctuary. They began once more as an order of monks in the Highlands, and so they lived for two centuries. This time, they would not champion the Church, but its people. Thus, they became the Knights of the Rose and Cross, as their public history shows.

At present, there are 514 Knights, divided into ranks: The Initiates or Beggar Johns, who are not yet truly knights. They have an eighteen month training, and only one in ten graduates. Then, there is the Poor Knight, trained but untried. Usually, they serve as an apprentice under another Knight, and their master calls them a Tyro, while the teacher is Domini. Above the Poor Knights are Wandering Knights, who have proved their worth. This is the most common rank. Above them are the Sergeant Knights, who serve as trainers, though the Wandering Knights do not answer to them. Instead, they answer to the Adept Knights, who do...well, most of the paperwork. Above them are the Senior Knights, who run the order, and the Master Knights, who serve as the diplomats for the order. Above them are three more ranks, but only four men occupy them. The Seneschals, of which there are two, who carry out the daily duties of maintaining the order. The Minister, currently Miles Valroux du Martise, who is the true master of the order and the only man who knows the locations of their secret library and Rosenkreuz's tomb, and the Grand Master, currently Aristide Baveaux, the public face of the entire order and publically the highest ranking of all knights; privately, he's nowhere near it and knows only a few secrets.

There is one more rank, which no initiate or Poor Knight knows of, and few Wandering Knights. Only a few Adepts or Senior Knights would recognize them: the Invisibles, the secret hand. They do not openly wear the seal and are never introduced as knights. There are not many, possibly less than a dozen. They are the espionage experts. There are also the Patrons, the men and women who fund the order. They are members, but not Knights, and the only requirement to be one is to pay 5000 guilders a year.

Knights are trained over 18 months - grueling physical training, learning to fight, as well as taking care of all the physical needs of the chapterhouses. Most initiates don't get past three days of this. They are also required to train their minds, studying science, math and medicine. Senior knights also learn Crescent alchemy and surgery with methods that could revolutionize the world...but are heretical. They also pray and learn spiritual exercises that are their first glimpse at the Order's true philosophy. Once they pass, they perform the Ritual of Vows and swears to protect those who cannot protect themselves, bring justice, and so on. If they show any hesitation or doubt, they are killed on the spot. If they do not, they are granted a new name, known and used only by the order, a tabard and his sword. He must name the sword - but never, ever reveal the name to anyone. Poor Knights become apprentices to a Domini, though those with crafting skill are granted special privileges and service at chapterhouses. After many months, sometimes years, they are initiated as Wandering Knights and given knowledge of the Great Secret: that human souls have a power that is immeasurable, greater than any sorcery. They are told the story of the Third Prophet and the False Prophet, and the true history of the Poor Knights and the vengeance they swore. He makes his vows again - but this time, he learns the lesson of the Third Prophet: Mankind's words have power. When the ritual is over, he knows his own power: when a knight makes a Vow, a promise based on his three Vows, it will come to pass. He does not know how, or if he will even be around for it, or who will be involved - but it will happen.

The Order has no plans to control or manipulate the world. They tried that once, as the Poor Knights. It didn't work. Instead, they have a plan to bring humanity out from under the yoke of sorcery. They know the Third Prophet's message and hope to teach by example, going out to perform noble deeds, make heroic sacrifices and fulfill their Vows. As they do, they believe there will be those who understand the Truth and will come to the Order. Those who desire Truth more than pride pass the tests of the initiates and the Poor Knights, and they learn the Truth - and they, too, go out to spread it by their actions. This is the Grand Plan.

There are a number of legends among the Knights. There is the Black Rose, a man in black robes, a black mask and the Seal of the Order who has been doing great acts of heroism. The Order would take credit if they had any idea who he was, but they don't - and so he has been denied by the order. That hasn't, however, stopped him from working. Far from it. Many Knights have tried to capture him and learn his identity, but none have succeed. And then there is Louis-Claude due Sinjin, also known as Archduke of Stanley, Count of Soldano and Marquis of M'Lady. He claims to be an alchemist, a lover and a poet - and to be four hundred and ninety-eight years old. He claims he'll die on his five hundredth birthday in 1670. He's been associated with the order, and usually denies it - but sometimes, he claims to various ranks. Then there is Wandering Renaud. In 1501, a young boy came to the Order, claiming to be the best swordsman in Montaigne - and he defeated a Sergeant of the Order to prove it. They took him in for training, serving as a Wandering Knight for fifty years and refusing all promotions. He is one of the most famous knights, and died in 1572, and he is remembered as a hero. The last legend scares them the most. On a ruined wall on the border of the Crescent Empire and Vodacce, there stands a single knight, looking east. He wears the tabard of a Poor Knight, wields the sword of a Poor Knight and wears a moustache in the style of the Poor Knights. He has been there longer than any can remember. None know his name. None know how long he's been there. He is waiting, watching - guarding from some unknown horror. In 1662, a Wandering Knight awoke from a terrible dream and rode out from Castille to meet the Lone Knight. There, he emptied a waterskin into a cup and gave it to the man. The man took the cup, drained and out never looked away from the horizon, thanking the Wandering Knight. And then, the man rode home and slept for a week - and when he awoke, he thought it was all a dream. The greatest treasures of the order are located somewhere in the Highlands: the Secret Library and Rosenkreuz's Tomb. The Library contains the complete history of the ORder and all the knowledge of Rosenkreuz. Only a few ever get to read them, and those must be blindfolded for the journey. The tomb has been seen only by twenty men, ever, and its location is closely guarded by the Minister of the Order.

Avalon, of course, is on good terms with the knights in truth as well as in public - as is the Highlands. Elaine works with them, and the Knights owe a great debt to the Highlanders. Inismore, however, is less friendly. The O'Bannon tolerates them, but the idea of foreigners telling him what's best makes him very angry. In Castille - well, the people love the Knights, but the Inquisition hates them. As far as the Knights know, though, the Inquisitors have not realized these are the Poor Knights of the Prophet yet. In Eisen...well, the Order's not popular. Only Freiburg has a chapterhouse - and that's not because they're sponsored, but because the ruler of Freiburg just doesn't really care. In Montaigne...well, the knights are well-loved, and l'Empereur is their most famous patron...but there is a deep rivalry between the Knights ahd Lightning Guard. (Who are they? The Musketeers.) Matushka does not like the Knights - she hates them and all they stand for. She doesn't want them teaching her children self-reliance, liking them just as they are - and so the Knights have made no inroads in Ussura at all. Vendel likes the Order...but the Vesten do not. They smell too much like the Inquisition for them. Vodacce...well, the Knights have had little luck there. And they know why: Fate Witches are terrified of them. Most of the strands that Knights bear are guarded by the court cards, rendering them impervious to all Sorte. This makes the witches hate them - and as a result, it means that most of the Princes don't want them around. The only exception is Prince Lucani - and even then, the nobles and their wives hate the Order.

The Knights are not aware of the existence of Die Kreuzritter. They look upon the Explorers' research as a double-edged sword - they believe the Syrneth artifacts have something to do with sorcery, and so while the Explorers may lead others to further understanding sorcery...so will the Order, and understanding the enemy is key to defeating him. The Knights are very sympathetic to the Invisible College, and have saved them from the torch several times. However, they can't openly support the group. Likewise, they like Los Vagos, but cannot openly support them, thouhg its said that many of Los Vagos bear the seal of the Order, at least as patrons. They sympathize with the goals of the Rilasciare, but feel the Free Thinkers work in the wrong direction and that rebellion against all authority is the wrong way to fight sorcery. Many Free Thinkers have tried to infiltrate the Order, but so far none have succeeded. The Knights do not know that Sophia's Daughters exist, but three Daughters thus far have joined the order. They are also responsible for the longevity of Louis-Claude du Sinjin...but unlike most males given their elixir, he did not die of it. The Vendel League is liked by the order for their step away from sorcery (in the knights' eyes), but they don't like how the Vestenmannavnjar are treated, even if they are sorcerers.

Knights who betray the order are considered on a case-by-case basis for punishment, but it is the most severe crime they can commit. Fights between knights, if agreement cannot be reached, are solved by duels to first blood. The Knights believe that killing is always wrong, so they only do it when they must...but sometimes, it's required. Usually, that's because of infiltration or betrayal. When this must be done, they perform the Ritual of the Black Stone: the knights gather, blindfold themselves, and draw stones from a bowl. There is only one black stone - the rest are white. Those who draw white meditate on their fortune in not drawing the black...and the man who draws the black stone must go kill the prisoner. It is, they feel, an evil act - but one they must do, and do so their brothers do not have to.

Next time: More secrets of the Rose and Cross!

Nothing is done until blood is spilled, old man.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Nothing is done until blood is spilled, old man.

We left off just before learning the two ways a man can lose his Knighthood: marriage and retirement. Knights can't get married. They aren't allowed to. Ever. No exceptions. A knight who gets married does, however, get to keep his or her sword - they're still part of the order, just not a Knight. Instead, they are a Fellow. The Order will always offer to pay for the wedding, though. And retirement? Well, when a knight decides to retire, he's taken to a ceremony and asked to tell the story of his greatest triumph, his worst regret and then to sum up his whole career. He, too, becomes a Fellow and is no longer a Knight.

The Knights use several codes - a cipher for written communications, a secret handshake and passphrase, a code of colored roses and hand signals for conversation and combat communication. Then there's a list of the fourteen biggest chapterhouses, but this isn't all that interesting.

Hi, I'm in a Dreamworks movie!

Now, some of the most famous knights! There is the Wandering Knight Adara, a proud and courageous fighter who has refused all promotions - she'd prefer to die fighting than to be safe. She's the daughter of a Vodacce fate witch, but has no magic. At the age of nine, she fled her home to get away from her father, who beat her and threw her in a canal. She was found by a merchant, who married her against her will, and once more she fled, meeting the Knight Corbitt, who smuggled her out of Vodacce and helped her recover. She wanted to be a knight, but was not invited yet. Instead, while traveling the world, she found a nobleman's son whose father had bought him a commission - so she seduced him, knocked him out and stole his papers, then cut her hair and went to be made a Knight. Her trick lasted about a week - but she impressed the Knights, and was invited in anyway. Higher ranking is Master Elijah Basquez, a man who takes his vows very seriously. He despises the Inquisition - they tortured his daughter Tara to death three years ago on suspicion of being a half-blood witch, thanks to a tipoff from a jilted lover. The priest who tortured the girl, the lover and every member of the Inquisition in town at the time began to disappear, one after another. It's not certain what happened, but rumors suggest Elijah is somehow responsible. He desperately wants to crush the Inquisition, and while he is loyal and maintains his Vows, he's rapidly on the route to becoming a villain. He doesn't care - he'd sell his soul to get revenge for his daughter.

The Grandmaster of the order, Aristide Baveaux, is perhaps the most beloved man in the world. He is the public face of the order, and he loves his ob. He was the second son of a Montaigne family, and decided to make his own fortune since he'd get none from them. He oined the army and became wll-respected, earning an invitation to the Rose and Cross. His father and brother were killed by highwaymen, leaving him the sole heir - and he donated almost the whole fortune to the Order, as well as convincing Duke Sebastian Allais du Crieux to donate his own estate. He once overheard someone say that he was silvertongued enough to convince l'Empereur the sun rose in the west, and he now wants to do so, just to say he did. Another important member is Marcos San Felipe, a man who secretly spent years poring over forbidden tomes of Crescent knowledge, which have allowed him to unearth medical knowledge that will remain unknown to the rest of the world for at least a decade - primarily the uses of certain plants and fungi. They have made almost supernaturally skilled at medicine, and he desires nothing more than to heal all the sick of the world. He'd love to see the Inquisition end so he can spread his techniques, and he regrets that the Church forbids all travel to the Crescent Empire.

The world's oldest fop.

Then there is the famous Louis-Claude du Sinjin - one of the Order's Invisible Knights. He really is as old as he says, though he isn't immortal - he just ages very, very slowly. At the age of seventeen, he met a girl who said she was a daughter of Sophia, whatever that was, and gave him a drink - and then fled when he didn't immediately die. Three hundred years later, he doesn't look like he's aged a day. He's convinced the woman's alive still, too. He joined the Rose and Cross in 1599 and the Invisibles in 1610. He's had to exercise more discretion than usual, but he's pretty good at being a spy. He's traveled all over the world and learned many, many things - and he's also a crack shot and deadly swordsman. But he really is kind of a dandy and a lecher - just one who's had centuries to learn how to take care of himself. The minister of the order is Miles Valroux du Martise, who proved himself clearthinking and fearless in his early days. He was offered the chance to serve special duty as the Minister - and he's never looked back. He is the only knight who knows the location of the Secret Library and Rosenkreuz's Tomb...and the only knight who knows what happened last year. He had a terrible dream on the anniversary of Rosenkreuz's death, and awoke with a voice in his head telling him to go open it. There, he found the books open, the scales full of sand and the key broken - and worst of all, the body of Rosenkreuz was gone - and when he next checked the Library, the secret passage was open and books were missing, too. He's also starting to feel his age catching up to him.

Then there's the man called only Sprague, the greatest living swordsman of the Rose and Cross. He has an oak trunk he keeps locked - people speculate that it holds the secret to his skill...but what is within it is, in fact, merely tokens of every student he's ever had. Some are marked with blood - not for magic, but because when he hears word of the death of a student, he will stay up all night and argue with the himself, shouting about how he should have trained them better before pricking his finger with a heated needle and bleeding on the student's token as a sign of respect. He wants nothing more than to see all of his students live to a ripe old age - and that's why he drives them as hard as he does. Another of the Order's great masters of skill is Rachel Milligan, an Avalon second-story thief with an unnatural talent for climbing and leaping. She's not very big, but she's very brave. Once, she was spotted during a robbery by a Knight, who chased her across the roofs and fell to his death. She felt tremendous guilt for it, and joined the Order to assuage that guilt. She really just wants to have fun.

Some of the order's patrons include Queen Elaine of Avalon, whose knights love to compete with the Rose and Cross, Val Mokk of Vendel, who is actually becoming more powerful among the Vendel Knights than their chapterhouse Master, and several other nobles - some well-liked, like the secret Invisible College man Don Julio del Bejarano, and some less, like the arrogant Duke Douard Allais du Crieux, who demands the Knights attend him for his own amusement in exchange for his massive amounts of money.

Skills of the Rose and Cross!

This book introduces Grandmastery - the ability to get up to rank 6 in a knack. You must find a Grandmaster to learn from - and the Rose and Cross have only three. Then you have to spend time training with them and spend a whole lot of XP - 25, in fact! Then you get Rank 6. You don't get to be a Grandmaster - you can't train others. You're just rank 6. The Rose and Cross have Sprague, who teaches Attack (Fencing), Rachel Milligan, who teaches Leaping, and Marcos San Felipe, who teaches Surgery. They also have their own unique swordsman school, Desaix, a Montaigne style derived from Valroux. It lacks the fun of Valroux, favoring an overwhelming offense rather than the tricks and taunts, and it is taught by the current head of the Desaix family at any time - which at the moment is Sprague. The flaw of Desaix is that it is far too aggressive, and a good swordsman can lure a fencer of Desaix into an attack and strike them down when they take the bait.

An Apprentice of Desaix suffers no offhand penalty when using a dagger or main gauche, and gets a free raise to parrying when one of those weapons is in his offhand. A Journeyman can spend an action to make two attacks on the same target - one with the rapier and one with the main gauche. The price is that each attack loses two dice from the damage roll. A Master, meanwhile, is lightning fast and once per round may make an active defense as an interrupt action for only one action die - normally, it takes more than that unless you've already declared you're using that action for defense! The Knights also teach the secret of the Third Prophet, which enables them to train beyond human potential, allowing one of their attributes to be advanced to rank 6, much like the Legendary Trait advantage - though if you have both, they must be in different traits. They also have the Vow - the power to make a vow that will happen. The rules for what you can vow to do? Well - you can't vow to do anything that would make you lose reputation points if it became public knowledge, so no vowing to murder people. You can't vow to do things that are impossible - like leaping across oceans or running across the entire continent in a night. You can't vow to do anything that directly or indirectly breaks the three vows of the Rose and Cross. And you can't vow anything that directly affects the action of others - it has to be something that's about you and what you do. You have to pay for it ahead of time, too - at the end of each story, you can convert Drama dice into Vow Points. When you have 20, you can make a Vow at any point. You can only build up to one Vow at a time, and can only have one Vow at a time - until you succeed at it, you can't make another. However, the GM will ensure that whatever you vowed for happens. Period. You might get hurt, you might even die - but you will not fail . That is the power of the human soul.

Yes, the Poor Knights of the Prophet all vowed vengeance as they died, which breaks several of these rules. Even though both the King of Montaigne and the Hierophant died shortly afterwards, that was clearly a myth. Clearly. (Yes, that's the book's stance on this: they got to break the rules just because. ) Anyway, Knights can also get a Dietrich Sword, a powerful weapon - when they make damage rolls with the sword, they can reroll 1s until no more 1s remain in the damage roll. All Knights also get a two point discount to the Indomitable Will advantage, have the TN of all Sorte actions against them raised by 10 and get a free Patron in the form of their Domini - they don't get money from that, but the Domini will happily advise them and may even occasionally provide minor assistance. They also get an extra Reputation die per story which can't be used as a Glamour die. They may also delve into the libraries to try and learn lost physical and mental techniques - though it's risky. They either have to pay for the ability in costly, costly points...or they have to roll on the Injury table.

What sort of abilities are those Lost Arts? Well, they list ten: Healing Meditation , allowing the Knights to spend an action to heal themselves of 5 flesh wounds as often as they like, Resist Sleep which lets them stay awake for a number of days equal to their Resolve, after which they must sleep for half that time, which they can do once a month, Total Focus , which lets them spend an action to get a Free Raise to their next attack roll, which they can do as much as they like...but if they don't use by the end of the round, it goes away. Ignore Pain , which lets them ignore any penalties they'd suffer from being crippled once per Act, Hold Breath , which treats their Resolve as 3 points higher when drowning, Rage , which allows them to choose to lower their TN to be hit by five at the start of a round, as much as they like, to a minimum of 5, in exchange for one more die of damage on all damage rolls that round per lowering. Feign Death , which lets them appear to cease breathing and look dead, though careful study will show they aren't, [/b]Heighten Senses[/b], which lets them roll another kept die once per act when making a perception check, Ignore Heat or Cold , which allows them to suffer one less kept die of damage from weather effects, or Endurance , which provides a free raise to any long distance running or other check to see how long they can continue heavy physical exertion.

The Knights also have a small collection of artifacts. They've got the Flash Rifle - which is a regular refile with a hollowed cylinder of strange bonelike substance mounted to the barrel. They have four of these total, and what happens is that when they fire, it makes the gunshot louder and the flash of fire from the barrel hotter, larger and longer. It deals an additional die of damage and produces a foot-long, six-inch-wide flame from the barrel, which will set fire to anything but stune or metal. A hero's that fired one has his passive defense increased by 15 for three phases due to the heat of the flame and may use the fire as a beyonet in that time. They have rather more of the beach tokens - flat things that are covered in ridges and markings. The 'top' side always lands facing up when thrown into the air, and when they touch the ground they always point due north. This doesn't work on ship's decks or the palm of the hand - just the ground. They've also found a hard metal rod, about the size of a dagger, which turns into a nearly nine foot pole with spikes on the top and bottom when slapped. The rod can then be pushed into stone with relative ease and will hold firm for an hour before turning back to the dagger-sized rod. When in use, it turns warm, about body temperature, and hums softly. Some Knights have said that they felt an unsettling sensation when standing on it.

The Knights also have a large amount of "gray powder," also called the Devil's Snuff. It's...well, super-gunpowder. It explodes with a rating three higher than gunpowder, and if used in a gun it causes the gun to have quite a kick but deal more damage, adding 2k1 to the damage but also increasing the target's TN to be hit by 10. Each use of the of Gray Powder has a cumulative 1 in 10 chance to blow the gun up, too. The Knights, Explorers and Invisible College have also learned how to cut the powder, changings its effects. IF cut with ash or charcoal, it burns slowly, lasting eight hours per pound, and releases continuous gray smoke. If cut with talc or chalk, it emits a yellowish-gray smoke that, when inhaled, knocks people out for a few hours and sometimes causes nausea. Even those not knocked out will cough and sputter for 1d10 actions. It costs about ten to twenty times as much as normal black powder to get gray powder on the black market. There are also the Black Prisms, obsidian-like stones that disperse light like a prism, though they don't show all the colors of the spectrum. They emit a low-pitched growl that can only be heard by animals and people with especially keen senses. Anything that can hear the growl have to make a resolve roll to avoid fleeing it in fear and cowering, ears covered. No two look alike, and the Invisibles control the few dozen the Order has. Lastly, they have some Vivianne's Light, a hot yellow llquid as thick as honey which must be kept in glass jars. It'll eat through practically anything given enough time, and clothes and skin get eaten quickly indeed. It is supposedly from an underwater volcano, and at night it gives off a soft red glow. It radiate 120 degrees at all times, floats and steams when poured on water, ignores air pressure completely and responds only to direct pressure of hard substances, is extremely heavy in direct sunlight but light at all other times, and absorbs blood completely. There is a vocal minority among the Knights who feel that artifacts are a tool of Legion and cannot be honorably used at all, but Knights determine their beliefs on this themselves.

Athos: Hero of the Beach!

Now, back to our little stoyline. Cowan watches as Adara's motionless body is hurled through a door. He prepares to leap as he sees Corbitt, her teacher, move in after her, not wearing his tabard. Adara awakens slowly, and it appears Corbitt has betrayed her, trading her life for his daughter's. The man holding the daughter is Adara's erstwhile husband, and Adara gives the signal to attack. Corbitt and Cowan lunge, taking out the guards and allowing Adara to take down her 'husband'. Corbitt swears a debt of honor to Cowan, though Adara refuses it, seeing herself as having already been in debt to him and just paying it back. Then, they all leave, but not before Adara hits on Cowan.

We also get a short essay on how the inspirations for the Rose and Cross are the Jedi, the Templars and the Rosicrucsians. IT's a fairly neat read, but we'll skip over it. Some talk about the concept of chivalry...the skill requirements for promotion in the Knights, and now, the list of controversial situations the Knights have taken stances on. They are waiting for Giovanni Villanova to make a mistake and give them an excuse to take him down hard. They are also aware of his courtesan Juliette's smuggling of fate witches out of Vodacce. As yet, they have been ordered not to help her, because while the treatment of the Fate Witches is a problem, they are also corrupted sorcerers. Many knights disagree with this stance. They also dislike l'Empereur, despite his huge donations to the order. They're waiting for him to die, since they think that his successor will be the peasant Montegue, who has no sorcery. Montegue's refused two offers to join the Knights so far, and when he returns from Ussura he'll get a third. They are also aware of Val Mokk's attempts to bribe young Knights with gifts...and they don't much like him, but he hasn't broken any rules. When he oversteps his bounds, they'll be there, waiting to step in and stop him.

While the Knights like Elaine, they very much don't like the Sidhe and they don't trust the O'Bannon. They feel that the Sidhe have become tyrants seeking to control Avalon, and the O'Bannon is slave to them. If they have their way, all of Avalon will be slave to their stories. Still, they really like MacDuff of the Highlands and of course owe a huge debt to the Highlanders. While they think the O'Bannon is a self-absorbed madman on a patternless rampage, they fear the Gaius of Ussura is a self-absorbed madman on a deliberate rampage. Fortunately, someone very close to Katerina is part of the Invisibles, in secret. They like El Vago and would love to help him, but the Inquisition would be on their backs the moment they did. They'd like to set up more in Eisen, but Fauner Pösen refuses to pay for them because she has no spare resources...and while Stefan Heilgrund would happily pay for them, they feel he's not interested in advancing their causes, just himself. They have spent a long time considering the Brotherhood of the Coast, and they have ultimately decided to oppose the group on the grounds that pirates are still pirates, even if they are more choosy in their victims and have a cause.

We skip some more maps and examples...the GM is advised to use the Vows of the Rose and Cross as intended, and not allow players to abuse them. Keep the players aware of how the Vows are intended to be used and that selfish/evil vows just won't work - and, in fact, suggests anyone who tries that should lose all Knightly powers immediately. If players continue, they suggest going and playing the evil genie with their vows.

Now, let's talk about the Invisibles. They're the spies and infiltrators of the Order, who do what the Knights cannot. There are only eleven Invisibles, and only the Minister knows them all - the others only know the true identities of one other Invisible each. The Invisibles have existed since the Fraternity of the Sword, and while the Knights have fallen, the Invisibles never have. Ever. They have always survived. Invisibles engage primarily in banditry, extortion and blackmail against the Order's more protected foes...but they also sometimes commit murder. They are meant primarily as an NPC-only group, but if a PC really wants to be one, the game gives the skills they're required to have and some advice fpr how to handle it: don't let everyone do it, or perhaps have the Invisible in the party be scouting the others for recruitment - but either way, be careful and try to keep to their feel - they are good people, but they do some very bad things...and the PC's going to have to find a way to explain that without revealing their true nature as an Invisible. But this can be very hard, so the again suggest that Invisibles be NPC-only.

The exciting finale of the Erebus Cross: The Arrow of Heaven!

It's a terrible thing to let good veal parmigiana go to waste.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: It's a terrible thing to let good veal parmigiana go to waste.

The Erebus Cross, Part III: The Arrow of Heaven

When Scoundrel's Folly ended, the party discovered the true purpose of the compasses: to awaken a machine that drew immense power out of the stars in the sky - immensely dangerous power. Now, they must do something about it. Jeremiah Berek will deliver the team back at Carleon, where they will learn that all has not gone well.

Part One: The Dogs of War

When they arrive, they learn that Coleson disappeared on his trip to Vodacce, and they fear that the Caligari family has become aware of the ruins. The Explorers don't want them there - they know of the great machine, and will be especially eager to stop the Caligari if the heroes explain what power it holds. They'll be given all they need to get going - but there's just one problem. They can locate the ruins to within 30 miles...but the ruins are in a swamp, and they'll need more precise directions than that. The Society's destroyed all maps of the place, hoping it would keep the ruins safe. There is one man who might help them, however: Miguel Olivares, a professor in the Castille city of San Augustin, one of the greatest mapmakers in the entire world - and one of the few with experience translating Syrneth language. He's even on the way to Vodacce! The bad news is that he's also on the front of the Castille-Montaigne war - they've been trying to take San Augustin for six months. Still, the trip there is uneventful.

San Augustin stinks of gunpowder, ash and fire, and Berek will not go close - he'll give the party a rowboat to make the final appropach, while an Explorer ship will take them into port but not be able to leave. Anyway, there's no problem getting there, though there are several fleeing refugees, deserters and spies all over the place. When they make their way to La Universidad de San Augustin, it is mostly abandoned. Olivares is missing - nowhere to be found. Heroes who go hunting can find only one man to help: José Marquez, the groundskeeper. He is willing to help them now that he's seen them around for a while. He tells the party that Olivares has fled to San Cristobal to hide, and that the university these days doesn't like foreigners much - they think they're spies. He suggests that Olivares was fleeing something besides the Montaigne, though, and is fairly sure that he remains in the Castillian capital. There's just one problem: that's across the front lines. No one else around has the knowledge to help them, though Marquez will write a letter introducing them to Olivares.

The party must now make their way to San Cristobal - a sea route will be hard, as few captains are willing to risk the Montaigne blockade. A land route would be easier, but will require them to cross the front. They can use several methods for this - military tactics to pass where there are few patrols, that sort of thing. However, they have a second, harder front to cross - not just the siege forces, but the place where the Castillians have held the Montaigne to stalemate for months: El Rio de Delia. One side of the river is coated in Castille cannon and forts, while the Montaigne side has faltered, as Montegue has been busy in Ussura and unable to lead them personally. Getting there isn't hard, but crossing the water is - there are no bridges any more, and scouts will spy any boat. They could try to swim across, sneak over by night or any other method that might work, so long as it's fun and exciting - but naturally, starting a fight is a terrible idea. Once on the other side, it's no real trouble to make their way to San Cristobal.

Part Two: Truth and Consequences

San Cristobal is far nicer and less wartorn than San Augustin was. The university here is far from empty - it's practically bursting with scholars. Questions about Olivares are referred to "Dominick" in the Hall of Records - though no one can tell them where it is or how to get to it. After several amusing diversions, they should find their way to the hall, in the main building of the university. Dominick is a small priest who is very busy with paperwork - he's in charge of housing all the displaced academics, and that's taking a lot of time. He won't tell them where Olivares is until they show him Marquez's letter, at which point he gives them their directions (and tries to keep them from touching anything). Olivares lives in a little nook in the library and clearly hasn't been outside in days. He reacts to interruption badly, but ends up not stabbing the party with a sextant when he realizes they aren't who he thinks they are. He offers to help them, but only if they help him in return: he has a book which must be taken from Castille. The Inquisition is hunting it, and he wants them to take it to Dionna University in Vodacce. He is, you see, a member of the Invisible College, and the Inquisition is hunting him down for heresy because of this book. That's why he fled San Augustin and has been hiding here - though he won't explain that directly. Anyway, the party has no reason not to accept the deal, so he writes them a careful map after producing several charts - it's very exact, though he's got no clear idea what the terrain is like - just where the ruin should be based on his calculations. Once they leave the university, it's night time.

And things have gone badly: the Inquisition is here, and while they can't go in after Olivares, they can easily follow the heroes, having heard they were seeking the man. Two of them will tail the heroes back to whatever inn they have decided to stay at - though keen-eyed heroes might spot them, in which case they will flee. Either way, though, they will wait until the dead of night and then show up at the inn with around twenty other Inquisitors. They will demand the heroes be turned over to them, though the innkeeper would die before handing guests to a mob, and will set part of the inn on fire with thrown torches. All normal exits are guarded, but the innkeeper reveals the existence of a skylight through which the heroes can flee.

The Inquisitors will give chase, on the roofs and the ground, and should they get their hands on the book, they will burn it immediately and hang any captured heroes from a lamppost - which will probably require some rescuing from. However, if the party can outpace them until dawn, they will flee. Once that's over, there's two ways to Vodacce - overland or by sea. Either will work out fairly well for them, though the trip by sea is much faster and easier.

Part Three: Nest of Vipers

Dionna is on the way to the swamp, so there's no real reason to skip it. There, the party can easily find the university and drop off the book. The city itself is on one of the largest islands of Vodacce, the headquarters of the Villanova family. It's full of high towers, canals and rope bridges - and it was where Coleson began his expedition. Stopping here might help find out what trouble he got into, as well as fulfilling their bargain with Olivares. Dropping the book off is extremely easy - the headmaster of the university will happily take it and start decoding it. Coleson, while there, consulted with several geographers and avoided the local Explorers' safehouse. The party is pointed to his in,, where the innkeeper says he doesn't remember them, but does remember two explorers who were killed for asking too many questions about him. He won't say any more on that. Stopping by the Explorers' safehouse is more helpful - the party will once more meet Madeline du Bisset, who they once met in Freiburg - she was sent here because she has Porté and the local Explorers have gone to ground to hide. She's not happy about it and is going to complain to the party. A lot. She will, however, fill them in on what's been going on if they don't already know: Coleson has vanished and she thinks that he's gone off to the ruins - but he might be kidnapped. He went against orders to do this and she fears the Caligaris caught wind of what he was doing. Those, she says, are who killed the explorers who went looking for Coleson. She'll explain that Vincenzo Caligari wants immortality, and so he is obsessively hunting Syrneth artifacts. The ruins and their great machine will be immensely dangerous if he gets his hands on them.

The party must now decide what to do next. The Caligaris, meanwhile, are preparing an expedition, led by Vincenzo's great-nephew, Alfredo "Fredo" Caligari. He's busy, but sends his cousin Antonia ot deal with the party. If they go looking, they are soon directed to Antonio - but if not, they will be met on the edge of town by burly men who inform them that he wants to speak with them. They meet in a public restaurant. Antonio is planning to poison the party, and tries to put them at their ease with casual chat. He claims that the Caligaris just want to find knowledge, though it's clear he's lying. The party won't have long to wait, though - he keels over dead with a knife blade between his shoulders after a bit, his bodyguards vanished, and the other patrons are pointedly looking the other way. That's because Giovanni Villanova has arrived in full black leather. He pushes the corpse from its seat and begins eating Antonio's food as if nothing happened.

Giovanni has style , give him that much.

Giovanni has had the chef forcefed his own arsenic, and apologizes for the Caligaris' lack of manners - both to the party and to himself by not announcing their presence. He wants them to help him correct that error. He'd love for the party to hunt down the rest of the Caligaris, and asks them about their business. Ideally, he wants to know what Coleson's after, but letting Villanova learn about the ruins would be worse than the Caligaris - he's far, far more dangerous. If the heroes drop that information, he'll play dumb and wait for the entire adventure to be over before he steps in to examine the ruins. If they don't, he will ask them to kill Fredo - something he thinks they'll want to do - and tells them he will let them leave his province peacefully if they do. He will threaten them if they refuse, but they have little reason to - Fredo is a threat to their friend Coleson. Attacking Villanova...well, it is an extremely bad idea. Don't do it.

If the party isn't ready to leave yet, have the compasses get stolen. If they've dumped the compasses to keep the Caligaris from getting them...well, the Caligaris were ready for that, and will have them at the climax of the adventure, having fished them out of the sea or dug them up or whatever they need to do. From here, it's on to the bogs of Vodacce.

Part Four: Endgame

Heading into "the Swamp," as it is called - well, there are no trails, strange plants, giant crocodiles...tracking Coleson down takes several days, and they arrive at the site the morning of the new moon. The ruins jut suddenly from the swamp, masked by overgrowth of centuries. Olivares' map is extremely helpful - without it, they could have camped 30 yards away and not seen the ruins. They consist largely of a huge mosaic floor covered in strange symbols, with occasional tall towers in some unknowable pattern. There is a small camp set up in the center, with some of Coleson's men camping out. They explain that Coleson found the entrance and has gone below as of a few hours ago, and they can go after him if they like. (The adventure assumes everyone goes underground, and notes this - Fredo and his men will be attacking while everyone's below ground, and the adventure says that if anyone stays above, they should definitely survive the attack even though the rest of the camp won't be.)

Coleson's marked the way down with chalk, and it's easy to follow his path. The entire place is built around the machine chamber, and the areas Coleson hasn't explored are trapped pretty well - though Coleson has marked and bypassed the ways on his own path. Coleson's team down there is examining a hole, which coleson has climbed down with a rope. He can't hear their calls, so they ask the party to go get him. In the hole is the Syrneth engine, in a huge vault larger than anything the heroes have ever seen. High overhead, glowing stones are built into the ceiling that perfectly match the stars in the sky. The floor is a series of catwalks surrounding the huge engines, the smallest of which is two stories tall. Coleson is examining the controls, and he's very surprised and pleased to see the party - and very dismayed to hear the Caligaris are coming. He admits that he should have listened to the Explorers, and they need to leave. Coleson will go to any lengths to prevent any particularly dumb members of the party from trying to activate the machine - it's dangerous and very old, after all.

The party can leave via a set of stairs if they have the compasses to open a door, or the way they came in if not. Either way, when they get out, Alfredo Caligari is waiting for them, having killed the members of tghe expedition who'd been above ground. Fredo sneers at the party and threatens them, then offers to let them live if they take him to the engine - though he is, of course, lying. IF the heroes left the compasses elsewhere, Fredo produces them now and tells them the should have hidden them better. Fights ensue - Fredo has ten henchmen and will try to avoid personal combat - but if he gets a chance for a duel, he'll take it. Once they win, the party must decide whether to kill him or not - if he survived the fight, anyway. Killing him...well, Villanova asked them to, and there's no way he'd be charged with any crime if they let him live. On the other hand, if they've beaten him and left him helpless, it'd be murder. If they kill him, Villanova will be pleased and try to make deals with them for help in later adventures...but if they don't, he will swear vengeance on them for defying him. At this point, the moon rises.

If the heroes use the compasses on the revealed doors, which rise out of the mosaic floor, the doors will practically fly open and the machine below will hum with power. It continues until morning, when it fades to nothing once more. If the heroes are overpowered in the fight, though, Fredo will be the one to open the doors and will drag them below to gloat. He will activate the machine - a terrible plan. It's old and somewhat damaged, and he'll start a chain reaction that sends arcs of energy everywhere, collapsing the ruins. The heroes get a chance to escape, leaving Fredo's party buried in the ruins. It'd take someone very patient, rich and ruthless to repair and learn to use the machine - someone, perhaps, like Giovanni Villanova. This also happens if the party activates the machine.

Anyway. The party makes their way out of the swamp, and Coleson suggests they leave north, towards Eisen - it's safer than going back through Vodacce with the Caligari still probably upset. At Freiburg's Explorers safehouse, the explorers are very grateful. They ask for the compasses and will offer up to a thousand guilders for each of them, to hold for safekeeping. Coleson is demoted and sentenced to deskwork for a few months as punishment. And thus ends the Erebus Cross!

There's a few encounters usable to spice things up on the way. The party can run into Captain Chevalier from the Lady's Favor again while in Castille - he'll challenge their greatest swordsman to a duel to regain his honor. He only wants to first blood, of course. If he wins, he considers things settled - but if he loses, he'll be on the lookout for more revenge later. Killing him, of course, will get a huge fight started with his soldiers. The crowd wants the PC duelist to win, and if they do, then the people of Castille will like them better. Or perhaps the heroes save a Vodacce fate witch from drowning while in Dionna. If they do, her husband will feel his honor impugned - they're suggesting he couldn't protect his own wife! And he'll start a fistfight. If he wins, the party has all their coin robbed as they're left unconscious in the street and he considers the matter settled. If he loses but the party doesn't escalate to blades, he likewise considers things settled and will actually be perfectly happy - even sending them a letter thanking them and containing a gold coin worth 2 Guilders as they leave the city. After all, anyone who can beat him is surely worthy of protecting his wife, and by showing respect he regains his honor. Killing him, however, will cause his wife to curse the party and dog them through their stay with her magic, cursing them to have horrible luck while in Dionna.

Now, the last part of the book is about Syrneth races. The Explorers don't have any proof yet, but they are right - and the GM now gets to learn what the Syrneth races were. First is the confederation of legends called the Sidhe. They exist in their own world, which connects to Théah via places over overlap, like Bryn Bressail. Time works differently in their world. Then, there are the Drachen - the ancient Drachen were intelligent creatures, 500 feet tall and thousands of tons. They had wings, but no one has ever confirmed them able to fly, and it's hard to believe they did. They lived in the Eisen mountains and most of their ruins remain hidden. Those that have been found are misinterpreted - for example, tail ornaments have been taken to be carpets. Then, there were the Tessera. They appeared after the Drachen were wiped out, but were later destroyed themselves by the other Syrneth. All that is left is their technology, based in magnetism. They used magnets to fire huge cannons, to make flying machines - though most of their machines are gone completely, leaving only little toys and trinkets.

Out in the islands, there were the Thalusai - strange insects who foresaw some great catastrophe. They prepared - but they were wiped out anyway. Their amber coffins are broken open now, and their carapaces are taken to be 'armor' - the famous soft, amber armor found by explorers. The Thalusai artifacts are mostly this 'armor' and weapons - as though they were waiting for an enemy when they died. Then, there were the subterranean Domae, humanoid creatures who lived in peace and harmony - but who were destroyed by a massive civil war. All that is left is their capital, beneath Montaigne, which l'Empereur forbids any exploration of except by his own men. Last, there were the Setines - hollow-boned but diverse creatures, some with horns, some with wings. They were the most widespread, and used clockwork technology that utilized the strange energy called æther, a substance not yet understood by modern scientists.

Then we get some sample artifacts that you might run into. Each race has a theme, and not all their artifacts are actually useful or even special. Drachen artifacts are immense - generally far too large to be able to move, let alone use. The example they give is a rod covered in man-sized pictographs. A hero who touches the right pair at the same time ceases to age for five years. The only noticeable effects are a sudden surge of energy in the hero's body and the rod itself cracking and becoming useless. The Tessera, on the other hand, have magnetic objects. The first listed is a small, flattened sphere that fits in the palm. When squeezed, it becomes warm and begins to rise. It will lift up to two hundred pounds straight up at a rate of one foot per second...but will continue to heat until it's hot enough to scald skin, dealing one die of wounds after sixty seconds. It also leaves a coppery taste in the user's mouth for around a day. There is also a curved, pointed device set with gems and sometimes lenses. When the gems are touched, the device hums, vibrates and then over the span of five seconds fills the area with a strong magnetic field which causes all metal in the area to hum and vibrate intensely. The artifact and the metal objects heat up, and also scald flesh after a minute, dealing a die of wounds. If you don't take your hands off the gems (and thus deactivate it) after seventy seconds, it will turn itself off and need to be reactivated. No one knows what the lenses are for. There's a coin-sized blank disk of metal that always lands on its edge, and a small needle that, when placed in a lock, gets warm and then pops the lock open.

The Thalusai tended to odd materials. The greatest of the three listed artifacts is a gauntlet that, when worn, shuts tight around the skin and stings the wearer. It now adds an extra die to all Brawn-based actions...but it can never be taken off short of amputation. There's also a long, thin and twisted pole that is...well, just a pole. It's a really strong pole and would make a great spear shaft or walking stick. There's also a blood-red gem that resembles an eye and is made of no known material. The Domae, meanwhile, had a ton of gemstones. The most famous is the Domae Diamond, green stones with blue specks that are called that because they are the hardest things in the world - only a Domae diamond can scratch another. There's also rainbowstone, a gem that shifts colors to no known pattern, and smokestone, which has black veins that get darker and colder as midnight approaches - at midnight, it's so cold it burns to touch. Then there's bloodstone, is clear with veins of red which thicken after sunset and form a 'heart' in the center of the stone. They also have the Domae moonstones - in daylight, they are milky white, but at night their color fades to translucent and they glow, the lighting changing at regular intefvals. There's also sunstone, which does the same but in daylight instead of night. Moonstones and sunstones have been combined to make "Domaedials" which someone trained to read can use to tell the time to within the hour. There is also waterstone, a blue gem that grows darker as storms approach, and bonestone, which resembles bone in color and becomes pure white at night. It's fashionable to grind up and add to wine in Vodacce. The most dangerous, though, is blackstone - when placed near another Domae stone, blackstone makes both vibrate violently. If they touch, they'll explode, dealing a die of wounds to anyone caught in the blast. Blackstone is a black gem that turns light that passes through it blue - the light also leaves a blue stain on whatever it hits, which fades over a few minutes.

The last artifacts are Setine, and they are clockwork - clockwork with no obvious source of power, believed to run on perpetual motion...though if that were true, the artifacts would still be moving when found. The first example is a clockwork hand, of which only three are known: when attacked to a human arm, they work fine and give a bonus of one die to all attack and wound rolls...but cause permanent loss of a rank of Resolve and prevent Resolve from ever rising above 3. A clockwork eye has been found which can be surgically installed and allows the wearer to see in darkness...but to take a die of wounds for every hour exposed to sunlight. Then there's æther compasses, like the ones in the adventure. This one always points north, unless the person holding it turns north, in which case it turns and points south. Last, the Clockwork Cannon, the device used in the corebook story. It's a strange, strange gun that fires a stranger energy blast unlike anything known, which deals 5k5 damage. However, each gun has only 1-10 charges...and no one knows how to recharge them.

Then there's advice for designing your own artifacts, and advice to keep them rare and strange, so that your game is still swashbuckling rather than sci fi with fencers. And a new Swordsman school, Shield Man School. It is the philosophy taught to the warrior-defenders of the Explorers, meant to use improvised weapons. Its weakness? It's not designed for fighting human being so much. The Apprentice learns to wield improvised weapons without any offhand penalties and can prevent improvised weapon breakage 50% of the time. The Journeyman learns to be better at protecting others and can use Active DEfense on others at no penalty, and also may push others out of the way of traps more easily. The Master learns even better, and when making rolls to protect others with active defense or save them from traps, his traits are considered one higher for the attempt. He may also spend Actions for Active Defense as if he were two phases faster than he is.

Next time: Nations of Théah, Volume II: Avalon!

What mother could leave her child behind?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: What mother could leave her child behind?

Nations of Théah, Volume II: Avalon

We bgin with Elaine of Avalon, dreaming. She remembers discussing her lover with her father, when she was younger - and how she was pregnant with his child. She remembers her wedding day, hiding the pregnancy - and being interrupted by a strange, dark figure: Derwyddon the druid. He forbade the marriage - and in the dream, her lover is suddenly dead and rotten. She awakens from the nightmare and performs some affairs of state, trying to forget the dream. It is also revealed that she lusts after James MacDuff of the Highlands. She dreams again - of the birth of her child, and how Derwyddon told her that the child has been sent to live with her father - and forbade her to cry. When she next awakes, a young girl claming to be daughter to Queen Maab of the Sidhe has arrived. She claims she has come to look for her mother. She never knew her mother - but she knew her father, who died in a shipwreck...but her own life was spared by Maab of the seas. She reveals that she is far wiser than her youth would show - and that she bears a cruel hatred for the mother that bore her: Elaine of Avalon. Her name is Meryth, daughter of Maab - and she has no pity for her birthmother.

Now then! We begin with a history of Avalon, though 'history' is more 'legend' - recorded history only began with the Montaigne invasion. Still, their ancient legends are well remembered. Long ago, before even the Old Empire, a handful of people survived a great flood in a boat that sailed to Bryn Bresail. There, they met the Sidhe and made a pact - and so, the Sidhe led the men to the isle of Avalon. For centuries, they thought they were alone...until General Julius Caius of the Old Empire led a conquering army across the isle. The Sidhe watched the Imperials for 150 years, as they built colonies, began to integrate the island...and then, quite suddenly, all contact was lost. Ships seeking Avalon were caught ins trange storms, and no one could even spy the island from afar for fifty years. The Imperator declared the place cursed and forbade any further trips. Fifty years later, though, the isle returned - and no one on it had aged a die. Within ten years, the Empire's invasion faded from the culture, and the colonists integrated. The Sidhe had torn the island from the world for fifty years.

Eventually, there came a time when the island was divided up by many petty kings. The Vesten came from the east to invade, and none were able to stand against them. A king named Elilodd tried, but was too weak. However, he fought the king of the raiders and defeated the man, demanding surrender and end of war in exchange for alliance with the Vestenmannavnjar. With their help, Elilodd united the island under his crown. While the rest of the world followed the Third Prophet, the Avalon studied the stars, learned the cause of tides and deduced the spherical nature of the world. Even the Sidhe recognized Elilodd's importance, and they gave to him the Graal, declaring that as long as he and his descendants sat on the throne, the land would be blessed. That line ruled until the year 1028.

In that year, the aged king Herygh was dying, and instead of leaving his land to one son, he split it among his three sons. The youngest son, Athrwys, objected - and he was banished to Inismore for his temerity. Moments later, Herygh died. The two elder brothers started a war over the ownership of the lands, and Athrwys returned with an Inish army when their own armies were weak and tired. Atrwys won the day - but even as he did so, Montaigne's invading forces arrived, led by Henri du Montaigne. It outnumbered all of the armies, and defeated them, killing Athrwys and his brothers. Athrwys's last act was to hurl some artifact into a pool of water, though the invaders never learned what. For the next hundred years, Montaigne ruled Avalon, forbidding its native tongue and its native religion. In 1153, though, Eleanor, the Queen of Montaigne, had her husband declared dead while he was away on the crusades, and she married the King of Avalon, giving him claim to three fifths of Montaigne. She soon grew bored, however, and began to disguise herself and go out among the people - where she ran into the bards of Avalon, who still told the old tales at risk of death. She got a monk, Christophe Flaubert du Dorém to translate the tales, and there was a slow revival of the old ways. Glamour began to return, but Eleanor's work was fought against by the nobles and the church, so she arranged for her friend Harold Guisard to become Archbishop of Avalon.

That turned out to be a terrible idea: he was a pawn of her brother-in-law, Charles. Charles and Guisard got Eleanor hanged for treason and he became the regent of Avalon. Eleanor is still remembered as the Beloved Queen, who restored Avalon to its former glory for a brief, shining moment. Charles, however, was corrupt and cruel. The land needed a hero - and it found one in Robin Lovaine, a nobleman just returned from the Crusades. He was disgusted by the injustice, spoke out and so he was stripped of his lands and titles and thrown in prison. He escaped, and began harrying the taxmen and servants of the crown under the name of Robin Goodfellow, becoming a legend. By 1215, he'd stolen so many resources that Charles lost all claim to Montaigne. He tried to invade and reclaim the lands - but he was utterly crushed. The Avalon nobles, meanwhile, marched on the capital and forced him to sign a document preventing the kings of Avalon from making arbitrary decisions - a sort of declaration of rights, though it protected only nobles.

A year later, the rightful king returned and reinstated Robin, who was thus able to marry his lifelong love, the daughter of the Beloved Queen Eleanor. She wrote down his legend, and he became immortal. In 1347, though, the White Plague came and destroyed much of the population. Inismore rebelled in this time, forcing the Avalons to focus on quelling the rebellion - and while the army was busy, usurpers claimed the throne. Another half-century of civil war commenced. The eventual winner was King David II, who managed to live long enough to get an heir, David III. David III unified the Avalon nobles, revived national pride and invaded Montaigne, defeating their armies against all odds. He even declared himself king of both countries, though the Montaigne king refused to abdicate. David died in 1422, leaving his ten-year-old son David IV as king - though he seen fell victim to infighting, and the AValons were driven from Montaigne.

This pattern of strong king->weak heir->invasion->strong king continued for two centuries, killing off many of the old noble families. Two lines eventually rose to the fore - the Camlanns, descended from Henri du Montaigne, and the Lovaines, descended from Eleanor. Two kings arose then - Henri IV of Camlann, the Bloody Boar. He was a devout Vaticine and brilliant soldier. His chief rival was Richard Lovaine, handsome and popular. In 1527, Henri tried to assassinate Richard - but the plot was foiled and war borke out. Henri found himself besieged on all fronts, and died at Richard's hands. Richard was crowned Richard II, and went on to reconquer Inismore. In 1535, an anonymous monk republished a tome of highly illegal stories of Elilodd and his knights, based on an earlier text by the Montaigne monk named Tómas Malreaux. Surprisingly, Richard publically embraced the book and became known as Richard the Kind. In 1614, his great-great-grandson, Richard IV, took the throne. He was in an excellent position to rule, but his own pride and his blind loyalty to the Vaticine proved his downfall

Richard became deeply involved in Church politics, attacking the Objectionist movement at every opportunity. He was named Avalon's Defender of the Faith by the Hierophant, in fact. However, he could get no heirs - his only child was a girl, Margaret. This caused problems, so in 1622 he went to the Hierophant and asked for permission to divorce his wife. He was refused. Stunned at what he saw as a huge betrayal, he passed the Act of Supremacy, declaring a new Avalon Church with himself as Hierophant. He then married a commoner, Morwenna Sutter. A year later, she too give birth to a daughter: Elaine. He divorced her as well and tried again. And again. And again. By his death, he'd only had the two daughters. Margaret took the throne, and Elaine was essentially forgotten - since birth, she'd been living as the child of a petty noble due to being rejected by her father.

Margaret was a devoute Vaticine, wife of a Castillian noble and the cruelest ruler ever to rule Avalon. She tried to turn the entire nation away from "heathen" religions like Objectionism and the Traditional faith by fire and blood. She became known as the Iron Queen for her cruelty - but at least she was not one of the rulers plagued by civil war. In 1654, on the night of the spring equinox, at the stroke of midnight, she fell dead. Elaine could not be found, either - she vanished on her wedding night and had been gone for eight years. A civil war seemed about to start. The Inish and Highland Marches declared independence, and Montaigne prepared an invasion fleet - when out of nowhere, Derwyddon and Elaine appeared, with Elaine seeming no older than she was on the night she vanished at age nineteen. However, she bore an object that proved her right to rule - something not seen since the Montaigne invasion six centuries before: the Graal. She ended the civil wars two years after they began, riding a tide of Glamour, and in 1658 she was declared Queen of Avalon in her new capital of Carleon.

Since then, she has made an alliance with Inismore and the Highlands, established an order of knights, sponsored the Sea Dogs and defeated the Castillian armada. Elaine's people are prosperous and proud...but there are shadows behind the bright future everyone can see. Derwyddon and his strange predictions strike fear in the court, and Elaine has never explained where she was over the ten years she was missing. Some say she was bewitched by the Sidhe - and on cold afternoons, she wanders alone down to the seashore, and listens to a child's laughter carried on the waves.

Now, let's talk ranks. There's two types of nobility: appointed and landed. Appointed nobles' titles end with them, while landed nobles are inherited. The most common appointed nobles are knights, who have the right to tax an area but do not own it. His direct vassals are squires, who own no lands and haven o vassals of their own. Knights also serve as Avalon's law enforcement. The landed nobles have three titles: Barons, who own a city and directly answer to the Queen, Earls who own large sections of land and are beholden to the Dukes above them, and the Dukes, the former kings of Avalon's counties, the most powerful men on the isle. There are currently four: the High King of Breg, the Duke of Camlann, the Duke of Lothian and the Duke of Percis.

Elaine's Knights, the Order of the High King, have seized the country's imagination. Their core are the Twelve, the greatest heroes of the realm. (Mostly.) They are the leaders of the knights, and the others serve under them. There's about two hudnred knights total, ranging from squires to masters, who perform in whatever means Elaine assigns them. To become a Knight, one must drink from the Graal. Elaine has warned all prospective knights that only a true heart can sip the Graal's waters - those who lie will be poisoned and die of the drink. This is not in fact true - the Graal can't poison people. But Elaine doesn't tell anyone that, and so she knows that anyone who refuses to drink is a liar.

The Twelve, at present, are these: the Queen's Champion, Lawrence Lugh, of whom more will be spoken later. Jeremiah Berek of the Sea Dogs, who commands no actual knights because he runs, well, the Sea Dogs. Bleddig, Elaine's stepfather and the second man to swear fealty to her. He's not the strongest, bravest or boldest - but he's the kidnest and the best liaison Elaine has for the nobles. Cowan, Elain's elder stepbrother, who is in charge of training and has earned the nickname "the Boot" for his relentless training methods. Geriant, the Queen's diplomat abroad. Gwydd, the youngest knight in the court, who showed up two seasons ago and is barely eighteen - but he has the power of Glamour and Sidhe blood is in his veins. He handles most Sidhe matters. Lamorak, once a competitor for the throne who swore service when he saw the Graal. He is the chief military tactician of the knights. Bors MacAllister, a Highlander who serves as King MacDuff's liaison with the Queen. He has since become one of Ealine's favored advisors. More on him later. Owain, son of Uwaine, one of the newest knights - he's a replacement for the fallen Sir Melias, who died during the unification of Avalon. He's brave and honorable but his position, so far as I can tell, is based on nepotism. Peppin, a brave knight who hunts the monster that has haunted his family for generations: the Mirror Beast. It exists only in mirrors, and Peppin cannot look at himself in mirrors for all he can see in them is the Beast. He divides his time up between trying to find a way to defeat the Beast and serving Elaine, and he refuses to marry or fall in love while the Beast lives. Uwaine, the first to doubt Elaine's right to rule - until he saw the Graal. He is in charge of law enforcement. And lastly, Yseult, the only female knight, who is the most daring and willing to accept any adventure.

The lands of Avalon are these: Balig, ruled by Baron Conon - who is nominally a vessel to King Piram of Breg. He's running a bit of a scam, though - while he is supposed to basically impoverish himself with taxes, the taxmen are Balig natives who are in on the scam and underreport his riches, usually doing their assessments just after major market days when all goods have been sold. Its major cities are Canguine (see the old Pirate Nations post) and Pomitain, where Conon lives. It's a fishing village. Conon's got a bit of a problem - one of Piram's taxmen stopped by recently and uncovered his little game. Now, he has to stop the man before he can report back to Piram.

Piram is High King of Breg, and he was one of Elaine's greatest rivals. He only surrendered to Elaine because he was allowed to keep his royal title, and he still would love a chance to depose her. Breg has at least two rebel groups plotting to kill Elaine, and while Piram has nothing to do with them, he'd quietly encourage them if he knew. He's not about to risk his own life, but if some idiots will do it for him he's not about to stop them. Breg is the richest county in Avalon, but its uncivilized border reaches are infested with Unseelie Sidhe. Some important towns are Brenneth, home of the rebel "Loyalists" (an ironic name they gave themselveS) who plot to assassinate Elaine by placing gunpowder under the throne during her birthday party, and Escavalon, a town that is currently undergoing a major witch hunt due to some strange, apparently supernatural troubles they've been having lately, which some people are prepared to use to settle old scores.

Camlann is ruled by Duke Mark Garloise, and it is an area that is heaily influenced by the Inish. It is also the largest concentration of Glamour sorcerers. The people are proud of their ancient heritage as the seat of kings, but are looking not to the past, but the future. More Sea Dogs come from Camlann than any other county. The capital is Bedegrane, where a new university has sprung up. Unfortunately, the baron had it built on land the Sidhe considered theirs - and now, the entire place is in grave danger of Sidhe vengeance. There's also Fenshire, a town renowned for its hatred of the Bregs. Recently, they've been causing trouble - which is normal - but it's started to get bloody - and that isn't. The next county is Gaavane, ruled over by the druid Derwyddon. It is home to the most sacred (and haunted) forest in the country: Grumweald. The county is a hotbed of druidic activity, but most people are too terrified to live there. It is illegal to go out at night without a sprig of holly - a legal enforcement of ancient traditions meant to prevent evil spirits from kidnapping people. The officialy capital is Roestock, and its population is about 20, due to the fact that most people fled in terror when Derywddon made his home there. The practical capital is Norgales, which has retained its population largely due to the fact that the inhabitants are stubborn and traditionalist folk descended from druids.

After that is Lothian, ruled by Duke Carlyle, who is half Highlander. He wears kilts to court, and Elaine once told him that his wife would have to wear trousers, since he insists on wearing a dress, and someone must wear the pants in the house. Carlyle's a stubborn man who loves the Highlands, though, and so when he next came to court, his wife was indeed in trousers. Lothian practices many highland customs and is full of legends about heroes who slay monsters. It is also home to the notorious giant Jack-in-Irons, and the oldest fortress in the nation: Cerwidden Dun, said to be haunted by the ghosts of the last men to fight against the Montaigne invasion six centuries ago. The largest county is Lovaine, ruled directly by Elaine. It is also the most glamour-filled county, its people living out stories of passion and adventure. Lothian is also the chief source of coal - Derywddon got Elaine to pass a law forbidding the burning of wood, so Avalons burn coal instead in special coal-burning stoves. Lovaine is home to Carleon, the capital that was built in a single magical night, the Forest Avalon where Robin Goodfellow once lived as King of Robbers and the former capital, Luthon, which remains home to most of Avalon's bureaucracy.

The last county is Percis, ruled by Duke Neville Chalmondeley-Featheringstonehaugh. (It's pronounced Chumley-Fanshaw.) It's heavily influenced by Montaigne, though Duke Neville is highly loyal and has no desire to join Montaigne. Rather, he is fascinated by their culture instead. It is also home to Avalon's famous playwrights, Montgomery Peerson and Frances Chandler - good friends who were also rivals. A year ago, though, Chandler was found dead in alley - and Peerson is convinced he was murdered by a nobleman who was offended by Chandler's highly political plays. He needs allies, now, for the same people that killed Chandler are after him. IT also has the town of Surluse, which is home to a sea beast named Towyn - a huge but essentially harmless creature whom they feed with fish and encourage to scare tourists. Towyn seems to avoid scholars and monster hunters instinctively. And then, of course, there's the Isle of the Grey Queen, where an ancient but ageless woman sits besides a spinning wheel and refuses to look into a mirror. Once, she looked into and saw the handsome Sidhe named Lugh, falling in love. He refused her love because he was already devoted to another, and she cursed him, giving him a hand of unworked iron to mutilate him and casting him out. The Queen of the Sidhe cursed her in return - if she ever fell in love again, she would die. That was a long time ago, and she has not dared to look in her mirror since. When she does, though, she will see her old love, Lawrence Lugh, and she will fall in love once more - and the curse will come down upon her.

The Avalons have been relearning their ancient tongue, Cymric, though it's rather difficult. The most popular book is the Graal, based on the lives of Eleanor and Elilodd. The two religions of Avalon are the Church of Avalon (which is the Vaticine church, but recognizing Elaine as head and declaring Glamour to not count as sorcery) and the Druids and other learned men ( filid ), who keep ancient secrets and draw power from them. Apprentice druids serve as bards, travelling the land and telling stories to learn the ways of the world. Bards are then initiatied as ollamdh , settling down in one place as judges, omen-interpreters, Sidhe bargainers and historians. They master knowledge and riddles. Most never rise above this rank. Sometimes, though, the world itself secretly declares an ollamdh to be a druid. He keeps this secret from the rest of the order, but learns the greatest secrets of power. There are currently only seven druids in AValon - and that includes Derwyddon. Druids also claim to not be sorcerers - they say their magic is not spells, but secrets, which they learn to recognize, and the power of omens. The secrets cannot be taught, but only learned - because if the teacher ever simply reveals a secret, he will lose its power, as will his student. It is the secrecy that grants power. Druid magic can also lay down gesa, supernatural taboos that can protect people or grant them power if they uphold a ban.

Avalon is ruled both by a queen and a parliament, whose power balances each other. The Parliament has two houses - the House of Lords, which handles internal matters, and the House of Kingdoms, which handles foreign policy. Each has 400 seats, granted to nobles from across the land - though poor ones often sell the right to the seat to 'official representatives' as a way to get some cash. Sometimes, seats are granted to heroes, such as Jeremiah Berek - who is famous for sending Sea Dogs in his place, since he finds government boring.

Avalon is not fond of either Castille or Montaigne - Montaigne for their long rivalry with the country and Castille because of Avalon's break with the Church in 1622 and the defeat of the Castillian armada. The Vodacce are tolerated a bit more, but their treacherous ways clash with the Avalonian sense of honor. Eisen is regarded with both respect (for its discipline) and pity (for its circumstances). Ussura confuses Avalon, though they tend to like what they see. The AValon respect both the Vendel and Vesten, and want to stay out of that civil war. There is also a strong sense of mixed feelings about hte Inish and Highlanders - the Avalons tend to feel they need to guide their 'cousins', and don't always understand the Inish and Highland desires for more autonomy. They also come off as really condescending.

Next time: The land of Mad Jack O'Bannon - Inismore!

You cannot marry him. You are already promised to another.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: You cannot marry him. You are already promised to another.

Long ago, the people who would become the Inish invaded Inismore and defeated the native people of the island. Those people are know basically forgotten. The Inish, meanwhile, divided the land into kingdoms they called tuatha and fought for control of the island. At last, a high king, an árd rí , came to power: Hugh O'Bannon. He proved his rule by kissing the Fål Stone, which weeped and sang. The O'Bannon ruled only fifteen years before placing his crown on the throne, packing a small bag and telling his wife "I'll be back." He walked out of his castle and was not seen again for centuries. War broke out, and the kingship changed hands many times, most often hanging with the O'Toole family - and though there've been good O'Tooles, there've been far more nasty ones.

In 430, the Prophets' missionaries came to Inismore. They were listned to - and then summarily kicked off the island. Inismore has never listened to anyone telling them to abandon their faith. In the 700s and 800s, the island was terrorized by Vestenmannavnjar raiders, and they continued until the early 1000s. Indeed, the conquered parts of the island. In 1014, however, a young man arrived in the capital, casted the Fål Stone - and it wept and sang. He called himself O'Bannon, and he walked into the king's chambers, killing both the ruling O'Toole and the Vestenmannavnjar he was meeting with. He threw the corpse from the throne and declared himself the new árd rí . The O'Bannon then raised an army and defeated the Vestenmannavnjar - but he offered them a chance: they could swear loyalty, that they "loved his mother", and he would allow them to stay as part of the Inish people. Seven years later, he took off his crown, packed up a bag and told the court that he'd be back. And then, as soon as he was gone, the infighting started again. The throne was won by a man named O'Connor - but it was only six months before Ewan O'Toole deposed him with help from Avalon.

When Ewan died in 1170, the Avalons began to expand their claims in Inishmore. An Avalon lord claimed the throne, and for the first time, Vaticine churches were built on Inish soil. The Inish language began to be supplanted by Avalon. By the fourteenth century, Avalon owned practically all of Inismore - but the Avalon lords had grown very Inish. In the late 1300s, Inismore declared independence and fought off the Avalon army sent to stop them. They held indepence until 1534, when Avalon stormed the island. A decade later, in 1541, they lost - and Richard II annexed the whole place. Avalon rule was benign, though, until the reign of the Iron Queen, who ordered any Inish who refused to speak Avalon to be hanged, and any who did not accept the Vaticine to be burned at the stake. She even refused to call the island 'Inishmore,' renaming it 'Erin' in all official documents. Her reign ended in 1650, and the Inish were given resources by Montaigne spies in order to rebel. Churches were burned, lords killed and chaos reigned for a year. In 1651, the Fål Stone wept and sang once more, for the O'Bannon had returned.

He led the war on the Avalons, and defeated them again - but in 1656, just as he was preparing to assault the capital, he called for a ceasefire. At that second, across the water, Derwyddon had introduced Elaine as the queen of Avalon. The O'Bannon immediately left Inismore, sailing for Avalon. He appeared before Elaine, knelt and declared Inismore's allegiance to the throne, just as the Highlander MacDuff had done days before. The O'Bannon's only been around for a few years, but his presence has changed everything. People are worrying about the chaos of his inevitable departure, and the O'Tooles are putting into motion plans to rule once more. Other clans more faithful are trying to stop their maneuvers, but the O'Bannon himself doesn't seem to care at all about politics. He is also doubted for his unquestioning support of Elaine - after all, Inismore was on the verge of independence when he ended his own revolution and swore fealty to a foreign throne. The O'Tooles have been using this to fuel resentment for the king and sympathy for the rebel cause.

Inismore is divided into four estates, which then break down into twenty-two counties. The four estates are Donegal, ruled by the Lynch, Carrig, by the O'Toole, Dreenan, by the O'Brien and Leister, by the McKenna. Carrig is the largest estate, and the current O'Toole is Arghyle O'Toole. His clan has held the throne more often than any other - but they are also famous as liars, drunks and cheats. Arghyle sees himself as a patriot, though, looking to bring back Inish independence. He's planning a coup. The O'Tooles are famously lacking in Glamour - indeed, the O'Toole's got eight children, and only one has the gift - and she's the second in a century to have it. The largest city of Carrig is Dunkeen, a port and home to Inismore's most famous poets and musicians. It also has the great trading port of Lochcuan, home of Dun O'Toole, stronghold of the O'Tooles.

The next is Donegal, ruled by Cathal Lynch. The Lynch and his clan claim to be of the bloodline of O'Bannon, and certainly their Glamour is most powerful of all the clans. Thus, they feel themselves rightful rulers after the O'Bannon, and are making plans for rule after he leaves. Their land holds the capital, Tara, where "Mad Jack" O'Bannon holds court from a throne carved of a living tree. At the heart of the city is the Fål Stone, which has sang a totle of three times. It also hosts one of the only universities in Inismore, Burke University. The walls of Tara have never been breached - though when the O'Bannon returned from Avalon, he scaled the wall and removed a single stone from the highest rampart, "just to show you I could do it."

Next is Dreenan, ruled by Gael O'Brien. They have not ruled the nation since the 10th century. Instead, they have focused on serving the High King. The O'Briens are traditional advisors and very well-educated. Gael himself is a friendly old man who leaves much of the ruling of Dreenan to his son, Standish. He's fond of telling tall tales that ramble on and on. Dreenan also boasts the city of Liumnech, notable only because St. Rose's Cathedral, left over from the Avalon occupation, has recently been bought by the Jenny's Guild and turned into a whorehouse. Lastly, Leister is ruled by the MacKenna, Nevan MacKenna. It is famous for its love of the arts, and many famous bards, poets and actors have been MacKennas. They are traditionally staunch supporters of the O'Bannon, but Nevan is fed up and has publically supported the O'Toole - which just might give the O'Toole the power needed to seize the throne. Nevan's son and heir, Andriu, has disavowed his family and left the country in disgust. Their largest city is Newport, which...is rather small, and while it has become a trading port, it has also become a heavy center of crime.

Inish culture focuses on the fine , the family. The "real family" or derhfine is designed as everyone you are related to all the way back to your great grandfather. Lineage is traced this way, and when a member of the derhfine dies, his wealth is divided up among it. It should be noted - none of your children are part of yours, though you're part of theirs, which means if your son dies, you inherit nothing. Each generation has a new derhfine . Marriage is purely economic and has nothing to do with love. Social rank works thusly: At the top is the O'Bannon. Under him are the lesser kings, the tuaths . Under them are the families who owe fealty to them. Each king also has a sect of knights who serve as his army, the bó aire . A knight who owns land is a flaith . The O'Bannon has his own knights, the Fianna , who leave their old families and answer only to the O'Bannon. Their duty is to serve him and guard the Fål Stone. They are always destroyed after the O'Bannon leaves. To join, one must prove their strength, their skill and their wit, and they are granted hospitality and honor everywhere. Many have Sidhe lovers.

The Inish love music - their songs tend to be variations on old legends, often grisly things turned into bawdy drinking tunes. They also love to fight. They really love to fight. A good fistfight is a friendly thing, and no one would dream of pulling a blade. They don't hit below the belt and they are always respectful - though they certainly know how to make low blows. Anyone who interferes with a fight is likely to get beaten down by everyone nearby. The Inish also practice professional boxing as a hobby. The Inish have developed the best systems of unarmed combat in the known world, centering around one major innovation: they lift their elbows and are thus able to twist their hands and move their arms easil, using uppercuts, roundhouses and elbow strikes (all very recent developments). Inish law is decided by druids, the brehon in Inish, who settle all disputes. A man's worth - and thus the price for killing him - is caled eineach and is measured in cows, determined by rank and method of murder. However, enforcement of payment is left to the winner of the court case - and if they can't manage it, they will often declare tain , a feud of cow theft that is considered a perfectly normal way to get the payment.

There is also a concept called tuarastal : you must return any gift you are given in equal or greater value. Until you do, you are bound to the person who gave you the gift. The polite way to get out of it is to refuse the gift on grounds of modesty, though of course someone can waive the right to a return gift. Lastly, there is Comhlann , the formal duel. It does not have to be to the death, and when between friends or siblings, it is usually a race of some kind or a fight to first blood. The most typical challenge, though, is this: both men take up a sword. The challenged man takes one swing - just one. If he can, the challenger than makes his own single swing. After both man have struck, the matter is settled, no matter who survived.

The Inish are fierce nationalists, who hold nothing but scorn for Montaigne (for being arrogant, conceited and overly willing to conquer) and Vodacce (for being humorless men with no sense of proportion). They are, however, very fond of the Vestenmannavnjar, and recognize the Vendel as useful if not respected. They rather like Ussura's simplicity, though the place is something of a mystery to them. They like Castille's passion, but hate her church. The Avalon alliance is somewhat shaky - it's held together by the O'Bannon's words and Elaine's charisma, but they just don't trust their old conquerors. They do trust the Highlanders, though - the Inish and the Highlands are fierce friends and allies.

There is no official religion of Inismore; their tradition religion is identical to Avalon's and there are plent of Vaticines and Objectionists around too. They get along rather well, surprisingly - they remember Iron Margaret's intolerance, and believe they are far better than her, and so have avoided most problems. The Inish refer to the Sidhe as the Tuatha de Danaan and credit them with creating the island. They say that when they first arrived, the defeated a race of giants called the firbolgs, built mounds and circles, and made a pact with man. The pact is embodied by the Fål Stone. The O'Bannon and most Inish lords maintain a very close relationship with the Sidhe.

The Highland Marches

The Highlanders began their history as disparate clans who warred against each other for centuries. The Old Empire made outposts in the Highlands, but mostly let them kill each other in peace. This ended six centuries after the fall of the Empire, when Montaigne invaded as part of the Avalon conquest. No individual clan could fight them, and they were too distrustful to unite. The Montaigne swept them aside and installed an aristocracy - and in so doing, they ended the Clan wars. The Highlanders chafed under their rule and refused to give up their identities. They did not join the Vaticine, maintaining their old ways in secret - and so the Montaigne banned kilts and bagpipes as heretical. Still, the Clans lacked the unity to resist them, and slowly they began to fade.

This ended in 1215, when Robert the Dark emerged as a powerful warlord. He resurrected the idea of clan identity and used it to bring the clans together, returning the kilts and bagpipes of the old days - but he also brought with him the idea of national unity. He advised conversion to the Church - but in an altered form, emphasizing criticism over obedience. He refused to say what clan he was from, and so transcended old rivalries. He had amassed an army before anyone knew what he was doing. The Avalons raised an army of their own to stop him, but Robert defeated them at the Battle of Dun Val in 1218. The Highland nobles could not oppose him directly, so that crowned him High King of the Marches in 1219 - so long as Robert paid homage to the Avalon kings, and through them Montaigne...and so long as he was loyal to the Church. Thus did the Highlanders first achieve unit. Robert organized a High Council of clans, advocated cooperation with Avalon and subtly increased Highland self-rule. He allowed the Highland culture to flourish, and he gave the Marches a sense of purpose. When he died, his son Robert II inherited the throne and established a new clan, the MacDuffs, who became the royal clan.

The Highlands remained this way until the death of Iron Margaret, when the High King saw a chance for independence. He was James II, and he declared himself Objectionist, rejecting both Vaticine and Avalon Churches. Almost overnight, the Highlands became fre. Their independence was short-lived, though - when Elaine rose, they were throne into turmoil. Elaine wanted a united kingdom, but few were willing to trust her youth and sudden appearance. James, who belonged to long and noble lineage, could unite the three islands...or plunge them into war. He supported her rule, to everyone's surprise, and so he is the true creator of the Avalon alliance of the three crowns, and as a result has caused the Highlands to gain a lot of prestige.

Prominent clans include the MacDuffs, the royal clan. They have expanded, and while women are usually excluded from the throne, they have had three High Queens since their founding. In exchange for their unquestioned rule, the MacDuffs have no seat on the High Council and cannot rule other clans directly. Rather, they serve their nation as generals, merchants and ambassadors. The clan, besides the king, holds little power - but they are hugely popular as heroes, and many have joined the Knights of the Rose and Cross. They have no blood feuds with other clans. The next clan is the MacBride clan - the leaders of the Highlands' independence movement. They do not believe that alliance with Elaine is the best plan. They are the Seperatist leaders, opposed by the king's Unifists. The MacBrides can trace their lineage back further than any other: a thousand years. They fought the Montaigne invasion and were branded as troublemakers, and they were the first to really to Robert the Black...but when he sued for peace, they felt betrayed. When independence came under James, they felt their time had come - but again, they were betrayed. They like the MacDuffs, but they don't like their tendency to subjugate the Highlands to foreign powers. Today, their leader Fergus MacBride does everything he can to to move for seperation.

Next are the MacCodrums, a clan of fishers who are said to have a special relationship with a type of sea Sidhe called the Selkies. They're said to have married into the MacCodrum line, and certainly the MacCodrums and selkies have excellent relations. The MacCodrums protect the selkies and forbid outsiders from coming close to them - and in return have the best fishing spots in the Highlands. The MacDonalds are rather more powerful - they suffered least of all the clans in the Montaigne occupation. They are feuding with the MacLeods, and have been for quite some time. The MacDonalds have accused the MacLeods of being Sidhe puppets, and have secretly been gathering information to fight Glamour and Sidhe power - and have thus absorbed more members of the lost MacEachern clan than any other.
The MacEachern Clan were a clan that had learned the secret of destroying the Sidhe - and they were willing to use it. They were blacksmiths and metalworkers, and earned the Sidhe's ire somehow...so they developed a weapon that could kill the Sidhe, a new type of sword. They armed all their warriors...and while the Sidhe laughed at first, they didn't laugh long. The Queen of the Sidhe destroyed them utterly, scattering them to the four winds. Only a few survived, but some kept their knowledge, and now they hide in other clans, keeping their lineage secret. They still have the secret of the unforged sword, and they identify themselves with a horseshoe tattoo.

Then there's the MacIntyres, the only clan to never be conquered. They hid deep in the moors and repelled every attack. They are famous for their isolation and their berserk fighting, forgoing gunpowder in favor of claymores and woad. They worship nature spirits and are ruled by a warlord, and have savage bloodsports that outsiders may not watch. OTher Highlanders respect them as the symbols of the island's fighting spirit. While they hold a seat on the High Council, they have never claimed it and want only to be left alone. The MacLeods are next, and unlike most clans they like the Sidhe. Their power is derived from a bargain with the Seelie court. Long ago, their lord, Malcolm MacLeod, had a Sidhe Lady fall in love with him, and while he would not go with her to Bryn Bresail, he married her. After bearing him a son, the lady deperated, leaving behind a green flag. The son, Sean, grew to manhood, and when the MacDonalds attempted to defeat the MacLeods in battle, he went forth and waved the flag. Suddenly, the Sidhe came to fight for the MacLeod cause! In times of great need, the flag can call forth the Sidhe - but only three times, ever. After the third use, a curse will befall the MacLeods and they will be destroyed. It has only ever been needed once - and Lord MacLeod prays it is never needed again. The MacLeods are distrusted for their Sidhe ties...but their Glamour power has earned them immense respect, and so while they are not liked, they are powerful.

Highlanders mix rural tradition and sophistication. The wear kilts and badges to show their heritage, play bagpipes and perform traditional folk dances. However, they have also begun having gentrification. This pull between the old and new is what defines them now. Their towns are very rural - even their capital, Kirkwall, is in the midst of open country with little around it. Once a month, the High Council meets there for a week - and the population practically doubles. This is called Faire Week. The Council is 500 seats, each held either by a Clan lord or a member of the gentry. The seats are hereditary and cannot be held by anyone but their designated holder. Honesty is a watchword among Councillors, and they act with utmost respect at all times (with the exception of the MacLeods and MacDonalds in respect to each other). The High King serves as moderator and advisor for the Council. Officially, they are his advisors, but in practice they are the legislators. 400 of the 500 seats are Unifist, led by King James. T he rest are Seperatist, often fierce nationlists or mistrusting of Elaine's motives. They focus heavily on domestic affairs and are very patient.

The Highlands tend to mirror the Avalons in foreign affairs. They hate the Montaigne and have alienated Castille with their embrace of Objectionism. They respect but do not understand the Vodacce, and they fill empathy for Eisen. They respect the Vestenmannavnjar, but also appreciate the Vendels' efforts to strengthen their nation, and attempt to stay out of that feud. They have much in common with Inismore, though the O'Bannon worries them, as does the Inish tendency to cheerful chaos. They support Avalon as a whole but tend to avoid individual Avalons - they're great allies, but not the best of friends. Religiously, the Highlanders are mostly Objectionist, with a handful of Vaticines and Traditionalists. Unlike most others in the Avalon alliance, the Highlanders tend to see the Sidhe as inhuman monsters and want nothing to do with them (with the exception of the MacLeads in general, and the MacCodrums in regards to the selkies). They are respectful, of course, but do not want to be friends. Rather, they try to make life as unpleasant as possible for the Sidhe without making them actively angry. The general attitude is 'be polite but agree to nothing and leave as soon as possible' when it comes to dealing with them.

Next time: The Goodlie Folke: The Sidhe!

Grief enough to lust after a barbarian from the north?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Glazius posted:

I love the O'Bannon. Is it ever hinted at what he's doing when he's away?

Not really, at least in this book! He may or may not be going to Bryn Bresail - I don't remember if they ever actually say what he does between times when he's High King.

7th Sea: Grief enough to lust after a barbarian from the north?

The Sidhe, as a whole, lack history in the standard sense. They are timeless beings who only vaguely grasp the concept of 'past' and 'future', and certainly have no experience with aging beyond their prime or even of major societal changes in the human sense. They lived on Avalon for untold centuries before men arrived - and the bards say their retreat to Bryn Bresail was because of human history. The Sidhe wanted nothing to do with such a strange thing, so they left. There are still gates between their world and ours, however - Faerie circles, enhanted woods, that sort of thing. In Avalon, the barriers between the human world and Bryn Bresail are thinner than most, and there has been an intermixture between men and Sidhe. They have given the men and women of the islands four gifts: a Cup (the Graal), a Sword (Firinbrand, to be described later), a Banner (the MacLeod Faery Flag) and a Stone (the Fål Stone). When the Montaigne invaded, they fled Avalon to avoid the dull "progress" that was brought, and took the Graal with them. The Faerie circles closed and the Glamour left the land for six centuries. Only a few lesser Sidhe remained behind.

This all changed with the return of Elaine. Once more, the Sidhe walk the lands - but this time, there is something different. Glamour is tempered by humility and history. This fascinates the Sidhe, but they also feel violated: Avalon is no longer theirs alone. The Sidhe do appear in other lands, of course - the Montaigne have their boggies, the Vesten have their gnomes and trolls. But AValon is the place of greatest numbers, where the Sidhe are not the exception but the rule. They infest the landscape, with the lesser Sidhe found almost everywhere if one goes looking. Much of their strength is found in the waters, the lakes and streams. Every lake has its own Sidhe, and they draw their power from it - and this is why the Avalons see water as holy and refuse to hold battles near rivers, to avoid polluting them with blood. There are two other major examples of Sidhe geography: the Faerie hills and the Faerie circles. The hills are Sidhe outposts where they can live unmolested - great mounds that hold wild Sidhe parties or buried Sidhe gold. There are no doors into the Faerie hills, not unless the inhabitants want to lure someone inside for some nasty reason. You can hear the voices under the hills sometimes, but only the foolish go to investigate, and those invited in usually don't return. Faerie circles are different - they come and go at random, can show up practically anywhere and might lsat anywhere from a second to a decade. The only constant is the danger - the space within the circle is linked to Bryn Bresail, and those who enter them can be trapped and enslaved forever. The Sidhe often try to entice people across, to kidnap people. Those who escape are no older when they return than when they left - even if, in the real world, decades have passed.

There's some good news, though. The Sidhe cannot hide their circles - they don't work if they're disguised. They may appear as stones, toadstools or a ring of dancers, but they must be visible. Druids and other mystics tend to build more permanent stone circles around areas that have recurring Faerie circles, trying to tap into their power. If it works, they can be very powerful - but if it fails, well...there are twisted ruins marking the spots where some people have tried.

When people speak of the Sidhe, they usually refer to the Seelie Court, ruled by its Three Queens. The Seelie can be terrible, but they are at least not actively malevolent and can sometimes even be helpful. However, when humans first arose, there was a group that refused to follow the doctrine of non-malevolence. They preferred primal chaos, and were cast out as the Unforgiven, the Unseelie. They follow no rules and do not even try to emulate humanity. They are cruel, malicious and dangerous. Some remain vile shapeshifters, while others became ogres and giants. They have no protection, and if someone manages to kill one, there will be no revenge - though killing an Unseelie is no easy task.

The Seelie are ruled by three Queens, and divided into three "courts". Each Queen has a mortal (or part mortal) champion, whose duty...well, isn't told to them, except that their actions somehow serve the Sidhe. The first and most famous Queen is the Queen of the Sky, called only "the Queen". She appears as an inhumanly beautiful woman who is tall and thin - all other details are never the same twice, except her eyes, which remain emotionless and cold. She leads her court in parties, hunts and other such activities - though unlike human nobles, these activities are often distorted and cruel. These are what are most often thought of when one speaks of the Sidhe. Her champion is Elaine, who attempts to ensure that proper respect is paid to the Sidhe but has no idea what her actual job is. The second Queen, the Queen of the Earth, is the Lady of the Lake. She rules the stones and rivers of the islands, and it is said that she is tied to the blood of all that lives in Avalon. She is rarely seen, save in times of great change, but she can manifest in any lake or pond in Avalon. She appears as a pale woman in white robes floating beneath the surface of the water. She's mostly benight, but can be terrible when roused. Her followers are nereids and water sprites, who watch over the lakes and ponds of Avalon - even those as small as a well - and report on what they see to the Lady. She knows practically everything about the nation. Her champion is Lawrence Lugh, the sidhe turned mortal. Like Elaine, hasn't a clue what his duties are.

The third Queen is Maab, Queen of the Sea - though she is not the only one called that. Her eternal enemy is the other Queen of the Sea, the god-queen of the sirens, whom she has battled for eons. Maab watches over Avalon's sailors, claiming those who drown and granting them the fate they deserve: the good are allowed to die peacefully, while the wicked drown eternally. Those in between serve as Maab's knights until they have earned their freedom to move on. In her youth, she was kind and gave birth to many children: the selkies. Today, however, she is cold and ignores her children. They still fight the sirens in her name, but Maab has spoken to none of them since she left her original court. Maab appears in any form she desires, with no set pattern, and is the most unpredictable of the queens. Her Champion is Meryth, the abandoned daughter of Elaine. Meryth knows exactly what her duties are, and she is happy to be patient and wait to do it.

Legend also speaks of the Seelie King, but no mortal has ever seen him. He is said to be a great man with the legs of an elk and antlers sprouting from his forehead. They also speak of his son, the Holly Prince, who hunts him in vain every equinox. The Queens never speak of either being. Ever. Some famous types of Sidhe include the Inish aughisky, the water horses. They are the best steeds in the world, who never tire or hunger and can run across water as easy as land - but if they are allowed to be neat the sea, the rider will lose control and be drowned as the aughisky returns home to the water. The most famous, of course, are the Lords and Ladies of the court, tale and angular beings of painful, cold beauty. They consider themselves superior to everyone else and make sure you know it. Then there are the pookas, mischevious shapeshifters. Their natural form is a jet-black man with a goat's head, but they can appear as horses, bulls or dogs, and they try to get mortals to ride them. Once someone does, they'll be dragged off on a wild ride that lasts a whole night and leaves the rider lost and confused at the end. They especially love to do this to thieves and the overconfident. They can be benevolent, though, and guide home those already lost - and, of course, they adore children and would never harm them.

Special mention is due to the selkies, said to be the children of the King of the Sea and Maab. They were beautiful, golden-eyed children who sang and played haunting songs. When Maab vanished, the King sought solace in the arms of a witch (said, perhaps, to be the sirens' queen) - and she hated the children. She cast a terrible enchantment on them, turning them into seals - but their golden eyes remained, and they could still sing, so the king learned of what was done and banished the witch to the depths. The selkies can now take their normal forms only one night per year, when they come ashore and dance, guarded by the MacCodrums. Selkies, unlike many Sidhe, are never cruel, just shy. The MacCodrums are their special friends, and they are unforgiving to any who harm that clan. They also hate the sirens and fight them whenever they can. Last of the Seelie to be mentioned are the shapeshifting spriggans, little creatures with sharp features and spines along their bodies. They can't hurt people at all, but can take the shape of any monster they like with illusions, and they love to scare people and try to force them to pay tolls to cross areas. They also love to steal food, and have destroyed entire crops. Their official duty is to kidnap children and leave changelings in their place. Once captured and revealed, they are perfectly harmless though prone to swearing up a storm.

The Unseelie are more terrible. They appear most often in the dead of night, and run rampant every Hallowe'en (yeah, that's a holiday in Avalon). They especially love to hurt liars and murderers, but they hate basically everyone. The most feared is the goblin Redcap, who lurks in ruined towers and castles, especially those where wicked deeds happened. He appears as a guard with a halberd and bow on his back, but terrifying fangs and bulging eyes, as well as unsettling stains on his clothes. He never speaks, but instead tries to terrify his victims as much as he can before cutting off their heads and wetting his cap in their blood. He cannot be killed, only driven from a site - he'll always show up somewhere else. Many lesser goblins imitate him in the hope of gaining his power, and these can be destroyed. Inish legend says that the O'Bannon once beat the Redcap in a duel of wits, stole his cap and bleached it dry. For this reason, the Redcap hates the Inish most of all.

There is also the Unseelie Host, which appears only on the new moon or especially haunted days. It appears as a swarm of terrifying creatures on leathery wings, who snatch mortals up and bite at them, mutilate livestock, hurl stones at villages and, once done, drop their victims on hard and spiky ground. There are also the firblog, the inhabitants of Inismore before the Sidhe. They leave in cities deep underground, and appear as wretched, misshapen giants. Occasionally they come up to steal children or livestock, and they especially hate the Fianna and love to kill them and put their heads on pikes. The Firbolgs are twelve feet tall and have black skin and eyes. They are terrible braggarts.

We could make mischief but honestly we just don't feel like it.

Now then, some of the important folks of Avalon! Naturally, there is Elaine, who was never told that when she was given to be raised by a minor noble, it was by Derwyddon, who told the man that she must never be allowed to marry and that he'd come for her. After nineteen years, her foster father just gave up and let her get married to her lover - but Derwyddon came just as the wedding began and took Elaine to Bryn Bresail. Her child was torn from her flesh, and she was never told what happened to it. She assuaged her grief with learning, trying to understand the Sidhe to avoid the pain in her heart, and became fascinated by Glamour. At last, she was taken before the three Queens and beat all their challenges, earning the Graal. She and the twelve knights who were brave enough to follow her defeated all who opposed Elaine's ascension and ushered in a new age. Derwyddon, by the by, is not human - but neither is he Sidhe. Even he doesn't know what he is. He remembers when man first came to Avalon, he remembers Elilodd, and he remembers when Elaine was betreyed and her daughter killed all the knights of Avalon. He remembers a tertible bargain, and the time when the Inish and the Highlanders will march on Carleon. He remembers Bors McAllister, and he doesn't like the man, who teaches Elaine lessons of lies and deceit and treachery. He also remembers that he must sleep when he performs his great magics, and the greatest of them take years. He has no choice in what he does, for he sees the future and the past. He has one pure red eye and one pure blue, and tends to only look at people with one at a time. He speaks in riddles and tells people what they don't want to hear, so most of Avalon avoids him like the plague.

The first of the Twelve and the greatest is Lawrence Lugh, who was once a Sidhe - until he was enchanted by a witch, who cut off his hand and replaced it with iron. He was banished from the Sidhe courts for being too hideous to gaze on (that is, not perfect) and he felt great horror at his own eventual death. He has struggled with his new existence, with the intensity of his emotions, and for a long time he was a gibbering madman with constant mood swings. When he joined the knights, though, their code gave him a sense of order that brought sanity and strength. His exploits are legend already, and he fears that without the knights he would slip again into madness. His greatest and most secret emotion is his love for Queen Elaine. He refuses to grow a beard because he hates the idea of looking old, and he is never seen in public out of uniform. Even in private, he never removes the glove that covers his iron hand. And then there is Meryth, Elaine's young daughter. She is a green-skinned girl who pretends to drown to lure knights and young girls to their deaths. Elaine refuses to have anything done about her, however, because...well, it's her daughter and she can't bring herself to hurt the girl more. The knights she kills become her servants, in preparation for the day she'll need them, and the girls become her ladies in waiting.

Then there is King Piram of Breg - the most visible foe of Elaine. He may have kneeled, but he has not forgotten his ambitions. He won't publicly speak out against Elaine, but takes every opportunity to disagree with her and find flaws in her plans. He also spends a lot of time drilling his armies, claiming it's in preparation for the Montaigne. Elaine has yet to give Bors MacAllister the power to act against Piram. Piram is a tall, handsome man with cruel features. And Bors? Bors was a servant of James MacDuff and his father. James sent him to join Elaine's knights to support the queen, and Bors pretended at first to be nothing but a northern barbarian. In truth, he speaks ten languages fluently, understands the etiquette of court perfectly and can read men like a book. The truth was revealed when a group of Castillian ambassadors began discussing plans to undermine Elaine in their native tongue, not realizing MacAllister understood. When they left, he recited their entire conversation to Elaine, who let him handle the situation. Four days later, three radical revolutionaries were found dead in the river. Since then, MacAllister has been in charge of dealing with issues that no one else can handle, things that more honorable men cannot do. The last of the Avalon famous folks is the Highwayman, the most stylish thief in the world. He is a masked man in black on a pale horse, who is always courteous and polite and never harms those he robs unless they resist - and even then, he fights to wound and disable, never to kill. His gentility and power of Glamour have made him famous, and some young women have even planned lengthy journeys in the hopes that he'll rob them. He's got an army of imitators now, and for a while it was the fashion to claim to know him. He's found all this hilarious and is very rich. He now approaches robbery as an artform, and takes pride in his ability to soften the blow with flair and a show. There's a 2000G bounty on his head.

Now, let's talk about the Inish. The O'Bannon was the son of a Sidhe lady and a human. When he was twelve, his mother took him to a river in Bryn Bresail, the River of Forgetfulness. It is there that Sidhe children have the emotion, remose and regret bathed out of them, leaving them cold and immortal. His mother knew he'd never survive, so she held him by the hair when she dipped him in it. His human soul called out to the souls around him, and hundreds came into him to fight his Sidhe nature, which threatened to overwhelm him as his mother hoped it would. When he was pulled out, the battle had not been decided - and he was driven mad by the hundreds of souls within him. He was immortal, but human, Sidhe yet mortal. He fled Bryn Bresail and found himself in Inismore, home of his father - but he found his father had been killed. He spent several months killing everyone at all related to his father's death, ending with the high king of Inismore. He didn't care, and he didn't care when they made him the new high king. He just fled, screaming at the voices in his head. Ever since then, he's come back every so often to claim his throne, though he's not sure why he does. He just does it, because the clear voice in his head, the nice one, tells him to. It's this voice that told him to serve Elaine...and for now, he'll listen to it. The O'Bannon goes barefoot, save when he wears his famous Seven-League striders, and has silvery hair and a youthful face. He is covered in scars that seem to change appearance and location overnight.

Arghyle O'Toole, the current O'Toole, was not, like his predecessors, on the throne when the O'Bannon returned. He was under Avalon rule, and he hated them. They had no respect for the Inish way. When the O'Bannon returned and killed the Avalon ruling Inismore, he threw all his support behind the madman in the hopes that he'd make Inismore free. When the O'Bannon bent knee before Elaine, Arghyle was incensed, and swore he'd see the man dead. He's spent every day working towards removal of the O'Bannon, and he's gathering support - but the Lynches are blocking him, and if they don't stop he may soon arrange an accident. Arghyle was once a cheerful old man, but all his cheer is gone now. His son, Roland O'Toole, captains his merchant fleet and has made the clan rich. He's a coward who never fights fair in hopes that he won't get hurt, and while he's friendly among his family he's sarcastic and rude to outsiders. And, lastly, there is Roary Finnegan. When he was young, he got into a bragging match with another man, aliming he could take a full dozen men. He then found that twelve men were ready to take him up on that bet. He fought them all - and while at the end of the night, he had a black eye, three lost teeth, a broken hand and bitsm issing from his right ear, he'd won. He became the greatest of the Inish prizefighters, and has since retired to Donegal to train others - because there's many men who'd love to be taught by the legendary Fighting Finnegan.

And now, Highlanders!

The most beloved barbarian king in the world!

James MacDuff the II is the current High King of the Highlands. He has been groomed for politics since childhood and is both an honorable man and an extremely skilled politician. He is a quiet, thoughtful man - but a master of verbal combat when he speaks, and his debates have reduced foes to tears before. Currently, he splits his time between advising Queen Elaine and debating with the MacBride seperatists. He respects Fergus MacBride, but hopes that Fergus will realize he might be threatening the entire Highlands. MacDuff is aware that Highlanders are seen as barbarians, and so he tries to act the complete nobleman to dispel such thoughts. He is extremely well educated and the only person other than Elaine in the triple kingdom that is not afraid of the O'Bannon.

His archrival is Fergus MacBride, head of Clan MacBride and the Seperatist movement. Before Elaine, he was a tenacious fighter for Highland independence, and even lived as a fugitive for a while. He became a national hero, and he is a patriot above all. He truly loves the Highlands and doesn't even dislike Elaine or AValon - he just thinks they'd be better off without an alliance. He has no desire for a bloody revolution, but will do everything he can to fight against the alliance in Council. He is a very, very patient man and his mastery of speech rivals even MacDuff's. And, lastly, there is Connie MacDonald. Connie is an old woman who lives in an ancient forge. She rarely goes out and has few visitors. Those who know her rarely speak of her - but there are rumors. She is an iron witch, a Sidhe-killer: a MacEachern. And it's true. She is the eldest of the MacEachern clan, and she has the skills to forge cold iron into deadly weapons. She has been practicing her trade for more than fifty years, and while she rarely makes the famous MacEachern blades, she's let a few secrets of fighting the Sidhe fall to those that need them...and three times in her life, she has made the killing weapons. She has never taught anyone how to do it, or told those who used them where she lived, and she has no idea how they were used. That's how she wants it. Every once in a while, she laughs to herself about how the Sidhe aren't so tough as they think.

Next time: Sidhe powers, MacEachern weapons and Finnegan "fencing"!

The name means nothing to me anymore. I am not my father's daughter. Nor my mother's daughter. I am Maab's daughter. I am Meryth.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: The name means nothing to me anymore. I am not my father's daughter. Nor my mother's daughter. I am Maab's daughter. I am Meryth.

It's advised not to start fights with the Sidhe. Goatheaded men are the least of your worries.

Okay. Sidhe don't actually have stats. They are immune to all normal harm, and anything they do is backed by Glamour. Unless it is dramatically appropiate that they fail, they automatically succeed at everything. They can only be hurt or killed by special cold iron weapons, and will flee if struck by a weapon of unforged iron. However, making a Sidhe run in terror earns the creautre as a terrible nemesis. It won't show up while the weapon's around, but will play countless cruel pranks on the hero as much as it can without being personally present. Getting it to stop is left to the GM.

But Killing a Sidhe? That's not easy. They can be killed, to be sure - but they don't like to remember it. Most of them don't ever think about themselves as mortal and don't understand death - and so the Seelie punish any loss heavily. They can only be killed by special MacEachern weapons, some types of magic and possibly some rare Syrneth artifacts. If the heroes kill a Sidhe in the proper circumstances - either it's Unseelie or they killed it in self-defense or defense of the weak or a loved one, then they might just get away scot free. The other Sidhe won't like it, but that's allowed. They could also get permissions from the Queen of the Fae, though that's very, very rarely given and only to righteous causes. But any other death? That will draw the Seelie ire, and they will send hordes to get their vengeance. A straight-up fight is not advised. Sidhe, in combat, are considered to have 6s in all traits, and can take 7 Dramatic Wounds with a Sidhe-killing weapon before dying; they suffer no penalties until death. Some Sidhe - the Queens, say - can't even be killed by Sidhe-killing weapons.

Now, how does Sidhe Glamour work? It runs on belief. If you think it's real, it's real - and when magic exists, it's easy to see it as real. Thus, Sidhe magic rarely kills, just alters. Some Sidhe can shapeshift or make [pwerful illusions with their Glamour; Sidhe generally can do whatever they like with it as long as it fits their personal story. Including, say, turn you into a toad. They never need to roll for this and it automatically succeeds. They have no limit on how much they can do per Round with it. The catch? The Sidhe aren't native to the world and their power is almost never permanent. Any change they make fades with the rising son - and they can't kill because of this, merely send someone to enchanted sleep. Some Charms can stop Sidhe magic, too - a horseshoe over the door to protect a house, a circle of iron around the body, special ointments. The Sidhe have found some loopholes, though. Naturally, in Bryn Bresail their magic is completely permanent and can do whatever they like. And there are a few ways for a Sidhe to make its power permanent in Théah. First - anyone who steps into a Faerie circle can be permanently enchanted, as can anyone who enters a Faerie hill without protection. Anyone who eats Sidhe food or drinks Sidhe drink can be permanently changed, as can anyone struck by a Sidhe weapon. Anyone who has no Drama Dice to spend can be enchanted, and so can anyone who gives verbal permission. ( Don't do that. )

Now then! New player options! You can spend some points at chargen to be a MacEachern. All MacEachern know how to make the killing weapons, though without smith skills that's not actually useful. However, they always roll an extra kept die when resisting Glamour, and are considered to always have one unspendable Drama Die left when resisting Sidhe sorcery - so they're hard for a Sidhe to kill, as noted above. They can also make an unbroken circle of twelve iron knives around themselves, which will stop all Sidhe magic completely. They must keep their heritage secret from the Sidhe or be hounded to a cruel death, though. You can also have a MacEachern weapon! When those strike a Sidhe, they roll for wounds as normal...but instead of a wound check, just divide the rolled wounds by 5. That's how many Dramatic wounds you do. No note on which way to round; I'd go with up, this is points spent on a weapon whose sole special property is 'can kill the Sidhe.' Oh, and you shouldn't have more than one around - if there are two in the same place, any Sidhe will be able to detect them easily.

You can also buy Sidhe blood! A Sidhe-blooded hero gets to buy a package of blessings and curses that his blood provides. Naturally, any contradictory blessings and curses can't be taken together. They include: Any appearance advantage, keen senses, being large or small, and some new ones. Child of the Earth lets the hero sense impending earthquakes like animals do, and when taking falling damage the stuff they land on is considered one category softer than normal. Child of the Sea lets the hero sense storms, and are considered to have 3 more Resolve for the Drowning rules. Child of the Sky gives you use of a Glamour knack once per Act without spending a Drama Die. Fearful Countenance makes you scary, while Good Reputation gives you an extra Reputation die when dealing with the Sidhe and a discount to buying Sidhe weapons. Slow Aging and Immunity to Disease causes you to age at half speed and be immune to all diseases, as you might guess. Smell Glamour lets you detect when a Sidhe or Glamour mage is using Glamour within 30 feet, and it doesn't have to be via smell. Now, the Curses lower the cost of Sidhe Blood - which is good, because it's pretty damn expensive. Cold-Hearted makes you less emotional, like the Sidhe. You can never have True Love except via magical means and you get bored of relationships easily. Whenever you have a romance, you must ended it by the beginning of the next story and when you do you lose 3 Reputation points. You also begin the game with a 2-point Lost Love background that never gives bonus XP. Diurnal causes you to lose two dice to all rolls when not in direct sunlight. Gifts causes you to be enchanted to have to return the favor when anyone gives you a gift, and causes you to cumulatively lose a die to all rolls each day you don't. Iron Susceptability causes cold iron weapons to deal an additional due of damage to you, and MacEachern weapons to deal an additional kept die of damage. Iron Vulnerability causes you to lose a die from all actions until the end of the scene if you touch cold iron, and cold iron weapons deal an extra kept die of damage to you. MacEachern weapons treat you as a full-blooded Sidhe. Nocturnal causes you take a penalty of one die when in direct sunlight. Running Water keeps you from crossing running water without a bridge. You just can't. And Sea Bound causes you to take a -2 penalty to all rolls when more than ten miles from a body of salt water.

You can also take a Gesa, which we'll discuss more when we talk about Druid magic. Or a Sidhe weapon! Sidhe blades are light and deadly, able to be wielded with Fencing Weapon or Heavy Weapon. Swords are 4k2 weapons in Avalon and 3k2 elsewhere, while daggers are 2k2 in Avalon and 1k2 elsewhere. Either allows you to act a little faster than you should. Sidhe bows and arrows, meanwhile, are also special. Their bowstrings never break, and the arrows can always be retrieved. Anyone killed by a Sidhe arrow doesn't actually die, but instead falls into enchanted sleep for as long as the GM desires. There are also new rules for longbows, which differ from normal bows only in having 200-foot range, and the Highlands cclaymore, which are huge and heavy and unwieldy, dealing 3k2 damage. Any attack roll suffers a -1 penalty, but all damage rolls with claymores get a +1 bonus.

Now, let's talk fencing. The Finnegan School of fencing! Which isn't fencing. You don't learn to use a sword and people who learn Finnegan are not considered Swordsmen. This is because Finnegan School is a boxing style, taught by the famous Roary "Fighting" Finnegan, which teaches the user to put their weight on the balls of their feet instead of the heel, to move in circles and to use sidesteps, uppercuts and roundhouses instead of quick jabs. The big weakness of Finnegan is a tendency to hang back and observe, and someone who presses the attack and forces the Finnegan fighter onto the defensive can knock them off balance. All Finnegan fencers learn how to duck around foes, acting faster whenever their opponent misses them. Apprentices also learn how to punch hard , rolling 0k2 base damage for barehanded attacks instead of 0k1. Journeymen learn how to take hits and roll with blows, so whenever they fail a Wound check, they divide the amount they failed by in half (rounding down) before suffering any Dramatic Wounds. Masters...well, Masters learn Roary's secret: a man fights better with some beer in his belly. They reverse all penalties from inebriation into bonuses for purposes of attack and damage rolls, wound checks and active defense. They also never, ever pass out from overdrinking, and Able Drinkers, who normally ignore inebriation penatlies, can use these bonuses.

So yeah. Drunken Irish boxing.

The Goodfellow "fencing" school is, likewise, not fencing. It's archery. It is the technique originating with Robin Goodfellow, and its practitioners learn to arc their fire, build special, powerful bows and fire arrows at amazing rates. Goodfellow style produces the best archers in the world, but it suffers from a fatal flaw: there is a pause before loosing every shot which an enemy can take advantage of to fire off a shot of their own or get out of the way. Goodfellow "swordsmen" do not get free admittance to the Swordsmen, much like Finnegan "swordsmen". They all learn to Arc their fire, which increases their range. Apprentices also learn how to build a bow, and any damage rolls made with their personal bow add their Brawn, much as melee weapons do. Journeymen have learned to aim and fire, and learn now how to load faster. They can make two attacks per action, but if they do both attacks suffer a -2 penalty. Masters get a free +1 to Finesse, which also raises their maximum possible Finesse by 1.

And lastly, there is the MacDonald School, which actually is fencing. MacDonald fencers are the fiercest of the Highlands, who learn to use their claymores with deadly skill. Their style is wild and unpredictable, ignoring defense in favor of devastating blows that can take foes down in a single hit. The big weakness? Well, no finesse. A clever, quick foe can wear them down as long as they can avoid getting hit. Apprentice MacDonalds ignore the penalty to attack normally given by the claymore. Journeyman MacDonald fencers learn how to swing their swords with wild abandon, and may voluntarily take as many dice penalties to Attack as they want. If they hit, all of those dice are added to the damage roll. Masters have learned to put their whole body into swings, roll an extra kept die on all claymore damage rolls.

Now, Elaine's knights. There's a few rules if you want to be one. First, you have to be Avalon, Inish or Highlander. You must swear a ow to serve Elaine and Avalon. You must either be a Glamour mage or know one of Donovan, MacDonald or Goodfellow fencing. You must serve a specific member of the Twelve - and note, it can't be Lawrence Lugh, who has no direct command, or Jeremiah Berek, whose "knights" are the Sea Dogs. Talk to the GM about who your boss is. You do get a free 0-point Patron, though! You get no income from that, but they'll happily give out advice. However, you must keep your Reputation above 5 or you'll be kicked out of the order, and you may not belong to any other knightly order, including the Rose and Cross.

And now, let's talk magic. Druid sorcery is pretty cheap, because it's not really as good as normal sorcery. It is the power of secrets, of the stars and trees, the wind and shadow. Druid magic can be learned, unlike most sorcery which is in the blood. It ignores effects that stop sorcery, as a result - but no sorcerer may ever learn "shamanic magic" like the Druid school. Druids base their rolls on the season, except at night, when they use their Moon knack instead of a seasonal one, except on new moons. During the new moon and the Prophet's Mass, they roll just using wits, with no knacks. Apprentices learn the Auspices, allowing them to, three times per story, add their ascendant knack's rating to any roll made by another hero after it's been rolled. This may only be used once per roll. Adepts, or Bards, learn to place lesser gesa. Gesa can only be placed on full heroes or villains, and no target may have more than two lesser gesa at a time. A druid can have up to three lesser gesa active on people at once. What a lesser gesa does is place restrictions on the target's actions. If they perform the restricted action, they break the gesa and it goes away. If they don't, they get 1 bonus XP at the end of the story per active lesser gesa. You have to make a roll and spend Drama dice to place a gesa - 3 dice for gesa that are easy to uphold ("never eat dog")m 2 for harder to avoid ones ("never bathe") and 1 for very hard to avoid ones ("always offer hospitality to strangers"), as determined by the GM. If you fail the roll, you still lose the Drama dice. Anyone who breaks a lesser Gesa may not have new Gesa placed on them until the next story. And masters, or Ollamdh, learn to place greater gesa, which restrict how the target can die. Only when the condition is fulfilled can they be killed - anything else will ensure they somehow survive. Even if they do get really beaten up. To place one, you spend three drama dice and make a tough roll, stating that the target can only be killed by a specific weakness, such as "fire" or "your own horse" or "a dead man" or "a red-headed man" or "a left-handed woman". Only one trait can be attached, though - you can't go for a one-eyed, red-headed left-handed man. Anyway, there is a penatly here: when attacked by their weakness, the Hero is nearly helpless. They can't spend Drama dice while the weakness threatens them or make Active Defenses against it. If they suffer twice their Resolve in Dramatic Wounds from the weakness, they immediately die, period, and the damage can never be healed, even by sorcery. The GM can also creatively interpret the weakness - so "a dead man" might be fulfilled by a man whom everyone thinks is dead. The secret rank above ollamdh, Druid, has even greater powers, but PCs don't get to be full druids. There's only seven of them, period.

And where would we be without new Glamour knacks? Those are fun!

Anne o' the Wind (Finesse) was a legendary woman who beat the four winds in a race. As a prize, she was given a cup that was always full of wine, a pot that was always full of stew and a bag that was always full of bread - and a good thing, too, because the race had made her so hungry that she sat down and ate for three months straight.
Apprentices can add 5 times their rank in Anne o' the Wind to their Initiative total for one round. Adepts can add their rank in Anne o' the Wind to their Sprinting knack for a round. Masters can immediately spend all actions for a round at once at the beginning of a round, before anyone else can act. (If multiple mages use this at once, they go in order of initiative.)

Blackcloak (Finesse) was the greatest thief in Avalon's history, who could climb any wall and pick any lock, and he never left any trace of his passing.
Apprentices can hide the traces of their passing for one scene, increasing the TN of anyone trying to track them by 5 per rank in Blackcloak. Adepts can reduce the TN of a single Climbing check by 10 times their rank in Blackcloak. And Masters can reduce the TN of a single Lockpicking check by 10 times their rank in Blackcloak.

Iron Meg (Brawn) was the toughest woman who ever lived. She ate nails for breakfast and swords for supper, and she once caught a cannonball fired at her and took a bite out of it while it was still burning hot, just to mock the gunners who fired it.
Apprentices may instantly heal themselves of 5 Flesh Wounds per rank of Iron Meg. Adepts can instantly cance the effects of any one type of poison that they're suffering from. Masters can automatically succeed at a wound check as long as its TN is less than or equal to 100.

Isaac Snaggs (Wits) had the fastest hands in the world. Once, while he served with the Avalon army, his unit ran out of arrows for their bows. So Isaac ran in front of the enemy and caught every arrow they fired, using them to replenish the stores and allowing Avalon's forces to beat the Montaigne army.
Apprentices can add double their rank in Isaac Snaggs to an Active Defense total after they've rolled it. Adepts can catch any thrown missile weapon or arrows so long as they have a free hand, automatically succeeding on an Active Defense and taking no damage as they catch the weapon. Masters can do that to bullets, too.

Jeremiah Berek (Panache) is a living legend, and Glamour mages can draw on his infinite luck to gain a measure of his power.
Apprentices can add twice their rank in Jeremiah Berek to any single roll after it's been rolled. Adepts can activate their power before making a roll, causing any dice that explode to roll and keep two more dice instead of just one. Masters can activate their power after failing a roll to re-roll the check, though if they fail a second time, they have to keep that roll even if it's worse. This ability may only be used once a roll, and does not stack with other re-roll abilities.

King Elilodd (Wits) forged a lasting friendship with the Sidhe, and was well able to negotiate with and make deals with them.
Apprentices may add give times their King Elilodd rank to any single use of the Repartee system against a Sidhe. Only Charm and other positive effects can be used against Seelie, while only Intimidate and other negative effects can be used against Unseelie. Adepts may call on the nearest Sidhe for aid. If they succeed on a roll, a Seelie will answer their call and help you in exchange for a later repayment. If you fail badly enough, though, an Unseelie will show up - and if it doesn't just try to kill you for calling it, the price it demands for aid will be much harsher. Masters may create a ten-foot-wide circle centered on themselves which Unseelie cannot enter. If they're in the circle when it goes up, they are hurled out of it. Unseelie also can't use their magic on you or anyone in the area while this is active. You can maintain the effect until you next go to sleep, but you must stay in the same place to maintain the protection.

Mad Jack O'Bannon (Brawn) is, like Berek, a living legend - but he's been around a lot longer. Tales tell of his ability to disappear behind anything, appear out of anywhere and even take his own life only to rise again in the morning.
Apprentices can activatee their power while standing behind anything that partially covers them in order to disappear, turning invisible as long as they don't move. If you peek out around the object, though, the upper half of your body will become visible until you stop, and you are not inaudible. Adepts may step behind one object and step out from behind another object within 100 feet per rank of Mad Jack O'Bannon. Masters can spend three Drama dice when killed to return to life the next morning, fully healed and purged of all harmful substances. However, their Brawn drops by 2 when they rise again, and if that'd drop their Brawn below 0, they are dead for good.

King Robert the Dark (Resolve) united the Highland Marches with his powerful personalitiy, and great victories became associated with his name. Even today, skilled leaders are said to have Robert's Blessing.
Apprentices may add their Rank in Robert to their general's Strategy rolls for a round in mass combat. Up to three mages can do this at once, or five if the general's a MacLeod. Adepts can add their rank in Robert to their personal results roll in mass combat. Masters may add twice their rank in LEadership to the next roll of up to five people they pick, which can include themselves. They can't pick the same person more than once. If the bonus is not used by the end of the scene, it goes away.

St. Rogers (Panache) was the first pirate ever. It's said that his ship was a part of him, and when he vanished, his ship died with him. They say the two lie together in St. Rose's Coffin, but none know for sure.
Apprentices may add three times their St. Rogers rating to any check involving the Sailor skill. Adepts may instantly heal a ship they're touching of one Critical Hit (which is like a Dramatic Wound for a ship). Masters may become the ship they're piloted, allowing them to use the highest of their or the ship's traits for any roll. This ends as soon as they let go of the ship's wheel, and while active, any Dramatic Wounds suffered become Critical hits on the ship and vice versa. Also, once - and only once - in their lifetime, a St. Rogers Master can bless a ship, permanently granting it one of three abilities: the ship may get Reputation, which it can spend as if it were a Glamour mage. It gets reputation dice equal to the total of the crew's reputation dice divided by 10, rounding down. The ship can be blessed with a permanent, cap-breaking +2 to any one trait. LAstly, it can be given the ability to pilot itself, keeping it from running into any obstacles or reefs (regardless of normal movement limitations) unless the pilot actively tries to hit them.

The Stone Knight (Resolve) was a legendary defender who called for help across a hundred miles and held a narrow pass for a day and a night against an entire army. As soon as reinforcements arrived, though, he dropped dead of exhaustion.
Apprentices may shout for help, choosing a number of people equal to or less than their Stone Knight rank, who will hear the call no matter what the distance is and will immediately know where you were when you shouted. Adepts may ignore a Fear rating less than or equal to their Stone Knight rank for a scene. Masters can choose a patch of ground, bridge or whatever no more than ten feet wide and ten feet long. Until a sunrise and sunset have passed, as long as they stay on that spot they can neither die nor be crippled. They can still suffer Dramatic wounds, they just ignore them until the effect ends. Leaving the area ends it immediately. When the power ends, if you've taken three or more times your Resolve in Dramatic Wounds, you drop dead on the spot.

Next time: Magic items, secrets of the Avalon people and rules for if players insist on playing a Sidhe.

Your greatest love will bring your darkest day.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Your greatest love will bring your darkest day.

We're almost done with the Avalon book now. We're going to start off talking about magic items. One of the four great items of Avalon is Firinbrand, the sword wielded by Lawrence Lugh. It's a 4k4 weapon that the Champion of the Lady of the Lake can wield without any penalty for being unskilled - though he's got enough skill that at present that hardly matters. While in AValon, Inismore or the Highlands, the wielder of Firinbrand cannot be harmed by bladed weapons so long as he bears its sheath. Also, Firinbrand can cut through anything, even dracheneisen - so nothing provides armor against it. Ever. It's less famous than the Graal, though. The Graal has little direct power, but it can only be touched by Elaine - others can touch it only when she does, I assume, to let them drink from it. As long as the ruler of Avalon is true to the land, the Graal protects it from falling to its enemies.

Then there are the Seven League Striders, of which a few exist. Normally, they are owned only by the O'Bannon, druids and bards. When worn by a druid, they can be used to teleport anywhere in sight, though this can't be used in combat or indoors. Anyone wearing them, though, gets a +1 bonus to Finesse for all noncombat actions. Some varieties exist that let people jump really high. Then there's Theus' Cup, a magical golden goblet. Spending a Drama die and drinking whatever liquid is placed in it will heal the drinker of all wounds - but the cup's magic only works once for any given person, ever. Once healed by it, it can never heal that person again. There's the Tinder Box, which contains any useful gear that might fit within a 3 inch by 4 inch by 6 inch area. The bearer has only to think of the object, and it will appear in the box. The items disappear after a day, and no more than 20 of any given item can be called forth in a single day. It also can't summon or create money - just useful adventuring gear. And lastly, the Unseelie Cup, the dark reflection of the Graal. It is a twisted black goblet, and any who drink from it become deathly pale for one day and one night. At night, they glow with a soft green light, and while affected by the Cup, they gain Keen Senses and Night Vision. However, anyone who drinks from the cup is marked, and any Unseelie who sees them after will know - and the Unseelie tend not to be kind with those they think have stolen their cup. Not that they're ever kind.

The Sidhe have odd fashion sense.

Now, you might want to play a Sidhe. Naturally, a true Sidhe is far too powerful to be allowed, so any Sidhe Hero will not be immortal or have all the powers of a Sidhe. The book advises against Sidhe Heroes, and definitely against having more than one around. They warn that any Sidhe player should keep in mind that Sidhe lack true emotion and are very inexperienced with it. Players will be "Fallen" Sidhe, turned mortal either as punishment, curse or because they felt true emotion. They are bound to the human world now and can never return to live in Bryn Bresail. They are new to their bodies, which bear all the weight of mortality. Unlike normal heroes, Sidhe begin with 2s in all traits instead of 1s, and naturally have Legendary Trait for all traits, so they can get up to 6. They cannot learn a number of skills - generally "coarser" and less refined ones, or ones involving technology, science and medicine. They cannot buy Advantages, but instead get a free package: Appearance at 10 points and Dangerous Beauty, one of Combat Reflexes or Keen Senses, one of Large or Small, the Slow Aging and Immunity to Disease and Smell Glamour blessings from Sidhe Blood, and up to 10 points of Sidhe equipment, with a -1 point discount. They have the same 100 points to spend as normal heroes. However, they have no Drama Dice and can never get any unless given some by magic. They cannot have Virtues or Hubrises and can never activate Villainous Flaws. They all have full-blood Glamour sorcery. Sidhe begin with 10 reputation points and a number of Glamour dice equal to their Reputation plus their highest Trait, and gain glamour dice the way normal people gain drama dice. They cannot, however, turn these into XP - just use them to boost rolls or activate magic. They also all suffer from the Iron Vulnerability, Iron Susceptibility, Salt Vunerability, Running Water and Gifts curses of Sidhe Blood.

Wait. Salt Vulnerability wasn't listed. What? Oh, and anyone who uses the Repartee system on them gets a two die bonus.

Anyway, from here let's move on to GM secrets. Elaine has two important ones. First, she is well aware of the fact that Meryth is her daughter, and knows that Meryth is a grave danger to her rule. However, she cannot find it in herself to order the death of her only child. Bors MacAllister has offered, but she's refused. She also knows the secret of the Graal: she must devote herself to Avalon above all to keep its magic strong. If she were ever to love anyone more than the Avalon isles, she would lose the Graal forever. She has vowed never to find out what that would do. She suffers terrible nightmares now of Derwyddon's darkest prophecy: "Your greatest love will bring your darkest day." She knows she has to do something - but what can she do? Derwyddon, meanwhile, has no stats. He succeeds when the GM wants him to and fails when the GM wants him to. He has all druid powers listed and automatically succeeds at any Gesa he places. He cannot be harmed by any means. He also remembers literally everything except one thing: he cannot see himself in any of his visions, except one: he knows he will be forever trapped in a teardrop at some point. He really, really hates Bors MacAllister, but he can't do anything about it and knows that Bors is important somehow.

Lawrence Lugh has none of the benefits or penalties of being a Sidhe hero, because of his iron hand. So long as it's on his body, his Glamour is suppressed completely and he has no sorcery. He is, however, a master of Donovan, MacDonald and Leegstra fencing - and he has a Gesa that says he can only be killed while kissing his true love. Which is Elaine. Lawrence suffers no special harm from MacEachern weapons as a result of his hand, and when punching with it, he deals 0k2 base damage. Lawrence is afraid of death, but doesn't understand it and has gotten his reputation for courage in part because he never truly grasps the danger he is in when adventuring. In part, it's also because he hates the idea of growing old and would prefer to die young. He keeps his love for Elaine hidden as best he can because he knows the terms of the Graal. Meryth, meanwhile, has no stats, like Derwyddon. She is immune to all mortal harm and automatically succeeds at anything she does so long as she's standing in at least a foot of seawater. She hates and resents her mother, and while she has been granted knowledge beyond her years by Maab, she remains emotionally a child.

King Piram is a Donovan Master and full-blooded Glamour sorcerer. He also is Maab's lover and plans to rule AValon in place of Elaine, at Maab's urgings. He can't act yet, though - but Maab's told him his moment is coming. Bors MacAllister is, in fact, Elaine's black knight, doing all the terrible things a queen needs done. He's a pretty sensible fellow and has never abused Elaine's trust - he doesn't want power, just to do what needs to be done. He has taken efforts to limit his own influence, in fact, and really prefers to do things personally. The Highwayman is a full-blooded Glamour sorcerer, a gentry member named Phineas Flynn. He inherited a lot of debt and he took to robbery to pay it off, specializing in using the Jack knack to disguise himself. He's long since paid his debts and now just keeps the money to live well. When not being the Highwayman, he's an unassuming fellow who just wants to have a good time.

The O'Bannon is exactly what he appears to be: an immortal madman. He has no stats and is considered to have every Glamour knack at 5. Even though the rules say you can't do that. He can only be harmed by MacEachern weapons, and must suffer 10 Dramatic Wounds to be killed. Any time he successfully hits (with an 8k5 pool), he either instantly kills or knocks out his target, at the GM's option. Arghyle O'Toole, as you might guess, plans to usurp his throne. He is trying to make an alliance with Fergus MacBride, though it's still just tentative right now. He's also seeking out MacEachern weapons. He is also meeting with Esteban Verdugo of Castille - Arghyle's a devout Vaticine thanks to the rejection of the O'Tooles by the Sidhe, and he'd like to have the Inquisition helping him out. His son Roland just wants to make his father happy - and will do anything to do that. Right now, that means sailing for the Highlands to get ahold of MacEachern blades. Roary Finnegan, meanwhile, has no secrets. He's just the best hand-to-hand fighter in the known world.

James MacDuff is a master of MacDonald fencing and has no sorcery. He cares first about the Marches, and believes that the alliance will truly help his country. However, should that change, so would his plans. He's attracted to Elaine but doesn't let that blind him to the fact that she is Queen first, woman second. He'll flirt, but has no plans to make it serious. Fergus MacBride is a full-blood Glamour sorcerer and unlike the O'Toole or Piram, he's fervently loyal to James MacDuff. He's got great respect for the High King and would never seek to undermine him. Rather, all he wants is to break away from Avalon, which he thinks is what's best for the Highlands. He doesn't fight on issues he can't win, and he wants no outside help: this is a Highlander battle, thank you very much. Connie MacDonald, meanwhile, is an old woman and knows it. She's looking for someone she can trust to be her successor, since she has no children.

Then, we have some notes on how to portray Glamour. In summary, it's meant to be mysterious, full of secrets hidden in plain sight. It can be known, but not understood. The Sidhe are similar - they are inhuman and alien, and should be shown to be such. Even when they are known, they are beyond human understanding. They lack the imagination and passion of humanity, and that is what so fascinates the Sidhe. They love to watch and play with humans, to see what they don't have. This is why their culture is a distorted mirror of humanity's. Most of Avalon's famous monsters started as humans, but became infamous and were twisted by the Glamour into hideous creatures.

For example, the Inish Banesidhe. She is a terrible creature who haunts the dying, and it's said that she appears as a pale woman in a green dress, with a wide, snakelike mouth and blood-red eyes. Her shriek can apparently kill those she haunts, and can turn the healthy people around that person into gray-haired, red-eyed people. Then there's the Hounds of Night and Fog - creatures of the Highlands who hunt travelers and appear as great dogs and wolves with strangely human features. They hunt and disembowel their prey - and those who survive are infected and will join their ranks if not cured. The hounds can only be harmed by cold iron or silver, and if you can survive them for a night, the will never harm you again.

Then there's the giant Jack-in-Irons, a convicted murderer who struck a deal with the Unseelie to escape his cell the night before his hanging. When the bailiff came in the next day, he found Jack was missing, as were his chains and the stones they were chained to. For decades after, he would assault travellers, who heard his chains before they saw him. With every attack, he got bigger and meaner. Now, he's thirty feet tall and still wrapped in chains. He carries a club but often prefers to attack with his bare hands, collecting heads on his belt. Or then there's Jenny Greenteeth, once a wise woman of Inismore. She grew jealous of the happiness around her, and the hatred poisoned her heart. She began smothering children and eating them, and when discovered, she fled into the swamps. There, she turned into a monster, and now she appears in swamps across the isles, enticing travellers to be drowned. She has long, skeletal arms that end in talonlike fingers, and her famously green teeth are wicked and barbed. She'll eat anyone, but she especially loves children. She never reveals her true, hideous form until it's too late.

Last of all are the Will o' the Wisps. They are resentful ghosts of travelers, dead of misfortune. They appear as glowing balls of light, usually near bogs or caves - wherever the traveler died, really. And they appear only at night. The ghosts appear to the lost, pretending to be lantern light, and try to entice people to follow them to their dooms. This can lead to clusters of Will o' the Wisps in one place. They have no material form and so cannot be harmed - but at least they are incapable of hurting people directly. The only way to dispel them is to find the original body of the ghost and bury it within a mile of a permanent road.

Next time: The 7th Sea Villains' Kit! Also, because that'll be like a paragraph or so, Nations of Théah, Volume III: Montaigne.

What of the new prisoners, sir?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: What of the new prisoners, sir?

7th Sea Villain's Kit

The Villain's Kit is two things - first, a book that provides some useful but not all that interesting advice on constructing Villains, Henchmen and Brute Squads. It also came with membership in Novus Ordum Mundi, the 7th Sea fanclub. It also contained a brief introductory adventure for the idea of the Fan Club Adventures. These were how the metaplot would be decided, apparently: you'd run the adventure, then fill out a brief set of answers for important questions about the adventure, then send that to AEG. They'd use the collected answers to decide what canon would be. I think.

The adventure's pretty brief. The players are in a battle between pirates and a merchant ship. The merchant's the bad guy, by the way. After defeating him, they get a map to a lost treasure, but part of it's missing. The only person who has it is in a Montaigne prison. (Important questions: did the merchant's pilot and captain survive? Did any of the crew escape?) The heroes thus break that guy out of the island prison, which isn't easy. They can use whatever means they like. They'll not want to let him get out with his friend, though, and there's a chance to rescue two other people. (Important questions: Which NPCs survived and escaped?) They can then follow the map, assuming that it was not stolen during the last part, and there they find a giant spider guarding a reef, with quite a bit of treasure. including a stone tablet with four indentations. One has a ruby in it, and anyone who touches the ruby and spends a Drama die becomes immune to fire damage for a scene. (Important questions: Did they find the reef? Did they kill the spider? Who got the tablet?)

That's basically it for the Villain's Kit. They also provide a generic tavern location if you want to insert it somewhere, rules on changing Brute stats for different nations, and the advice. But really, kinda boring.

Nations of Théah, Book III: Montaigne

We begin with a short piece of fiction detailing the events of Montegue's Stand, when the rifleman Montegue held the line and defeated the entire gathered army of Castille and the Church. Montegue's best friend and sniper, an Eisen named Karl, takes out a commander in a single shot. Montegue then organizes the line so that there will be near-constant fire, as men fire, rotate back, reload and fire as the next group rotates back. It works perfectly: Castille has no idea how to handle it. We then get a bit of fiction about Empereur Léon Alexandre XIV. He is surrounded by wealth, but it is dull to him now. He is discussing things with an imprisoned mirror ghost, the only being he trusts - because it cannot betray him. He dislikes Montegue, who is a commoner that is loved by the people in a way he never has been. He hates the man, and hates that he gave the man rank. However, he is very happy with the move of marrying his daughter to Montegue, thinking it will ensure a male heir. He tells the ghost about his plans to have Montegue killed in Ussura.

Now then! History. Montaigne's origins lie with the first sorcerers - specifically, Senator Octavius Montanus, the man who would father the Montaigne. The Montanus family ruled in the West for centuries, apparently untouchable - until Imperator Carleman. He reduced their power massively, and on his death left the area that would be Montaigne to his son Charles. However, to maintain stability, Charles was forced to marry Isabeau Montanus. Within five years, Charles died and Isabeau was his only heir. She married her cousin, Léon Alexandre Montanus, and named the nation Montaigne, changing her name to Isabeau du Montaigne. Montaigne was the local language's translation of 'Montanus', see. She divided the nation into eight provinces, and her husband was a puppet ruler for her, remembered as Léon the Weak.

When the Third Prophet came, the Montaigne royals had to hide their magic for the first time, as the Vaticine became violent. This proved to be wise, as the Castille royals were destroyed soon after for not hiding their own power. Montaigne's king formed the Lightning Guard in response, for protection. In 1028, Henri du Montaigne invaded Avalon and conquered it, with the aid of the Leveque family. A soldier named Lucien delivered the body of the King of Avalon to the Montaignes, and was granted rule of Avalon, becoming Sir Lucien Savary du Lac, since the king died next to a lake. He ruled well, but his descendants integrated with the natives and Avalon became psuedo-independent. After 600 years, AValon threw off the Montaigne yoke entirely, and the last loyal Montaigne family, the Savaries, fled for their lives. They were stripped of their title and name, and now are known only as the "du Lac" family.

More recently, when Imperator Riefenstahl took the Eisen throne in 1636, the Church pressured Montaigne to join the war against the Eisen reformists. However, Léon XIV held a grudge against the Church and declared that he'd rather see Eisen in ruins than Montaigne. When the war had devastated most of Eisen, Montaigne invaded along with several other nations, and the Imperator was forced to sign the Treaty of Weissberg, turning over large amounts of land to the invaders. Many refugees ended up joining Montaigne's army. In 1664, Léon openly declared his sorcery, and that Montaigne would shelter sorcerers from the Church. The Hierophant issued a statement of disapproval, but didn't know what else to do. The High Inquisitor did, though, and two years later he led an army on Montaigne, reaching the capital via diversions with a minimum of bloodshed, the army days behind them. Only the Lightning Guard were there to defend the King, and they were outnumbered five to one.

The battle went poorly, with half the Montaigne dying in the first volley. The army was forced to the palace, the Cháteau du Soleil, and the Lightning Guard closed the gates before they could enter. At last, only a single division remained, led by a corporal named Montegue. He organized the survivors into an extremely efficient formation to drive out the Castillians, and snipers were used to take down officers. At last, the Castillians fled under Montegue's fire, the Lightning Guard chasing them out. Montegue was promoted to High General of Montaigne and married the King's youngest daughter. He was then ordered to invade Castille. Montegue's leadership allowed for swift seizure of two full provinces, though a small portion of the province of Zepeda maintained heavy resistance, and the advance stalled. Out of nowhere, Montegue was called back to Charouse and sent out again to invade Ussura. Since his departure, the Castille war has been a disaster; for more information, we'll see the Castille book later. For now, we just have to know that as long as the fortress El Morro and the new structure called La Muralla al Ultimo, the Last Wall (a wall along the front line, protecting southern Castille), stand, then Montaigne will be stuck in a stalemate that kills more and more men.

Now, the noble families of Montaigne! There is, of course, the Montaigne family - the royals. Only the Empereur, his wife, his children, some cousins and the husbands of his daughters can claim the name 'Montaigne'. Montaignes have effectively infinite income and get double points for Sorcery knacks during chargen; GMs are told not to let players be them most of the time. Then there's the Allais du Crieux. They are a wealthy family whose control of key ports have allowed them to even refuse the Empereur's demands on occasion. Their current leader is Douard Allais du Crieux, his nephew Fench and his sister Julie. Douard is a stubborn man, while Fench is a witty courtier and Julie is the host of the famous Spring Ball, when young nobles are presented to society. Allais nobles receive an extra 100G per month but have two fewer Reputation dice when at court in Charouse.

Next is the Flaubert du Doré family, led by Pierre Flaubert du Doré. They got very rich recently by converting all their farmland into cattle ranches - but it's put a huge crimp in food for the war effort. A famine is starting, largely because of Pierre's decision, and the family is being shunned as a result. Pierre is a hotheaded man out to improve his family at any cost. Other notable members are his brother Xavier and his daughter Sylvia. Xavier is one of Montaigne's best diplomats, and Sylvia is one of the most eligible bachelorettes in the nation. Flauberts begin with an extra 150G per month but have one fewer Reputation dice in Montaigne. After that is the Riché du Paroisse family, who control a large part of Montaigne, taxing traffic along the Sineuse River. They are renowned (and mocked) for their ferocity, called "terriers" - though doing so is likely to get you challenged to a duel. Their current leader is Mariana Riché du Paroisse, one of the more gentle of her family. Her uncle Jardin is retired admiral, and her grandson Albion is a very skilled duelist. Richés get the Small advantage free, and get 2 more points than normal if they take the Hotheaded Hubris; however, they must pay 2 points more than normal if they want the Self-Controlled Virtue. They also receive 100G less per month than normal and their maximum Brawn is reduced by 1.

Next family is the Leveque d'Aur, masters of the Leveque War College. The Leveques have led every succesful invasion of Avalon, and the commoners believe the family have some sort of power against the Sidhe. As a result of their victories, their land is tax-free in perpetuity - thus, they are d'Aur, not du Aur. They are the land, not just of it. They also tend to be less comfortable with nonmilitary life. Their current leader's name is Victor, famous for his cold demeanor and his skill in battle. His son Luc is an officer who leads the forces assaulting El Morro, both of whose elder brothers have died doing the same job; Luc has been sent to redeem the family name, even though his death will leave the family without an heir. Victor's niece Irene is a famous singer who is having an affair with the widower Pierre Flaubert du Doré. Leveques cannot be taxed in Montaigne and receive the Academy advantage free. However, all Civil Skills cost them more points at chargen and more XP afterwards. Also, they tend to have a close eye kept on them by l'Empereur. After them are the Duboise du Arrent, owners of the largest and most food-producing province. They're a very large family, currently led by a man named Samuel, known to be generous. He often donates money to the poor. His aunt Anne is a major socialite, his cousin Georges is a bishop in the Vaticine Church and has recently disappeared, and his nephew Guy is a famous scholar. Samuel has posted a 1000G reward for the return of his cousin, no questions asked. Duboise nobles get the Friendly virtue at half price and get a free Raise to all Reputation actions in Montaigne. However, they only get half points if they take the Proud hubris and it costs them more to learn Martial skills.

Next up: the Valroux du Martise! They're famous for their swords, their trading and their wit. They're the inventors of the Valroux style, and have made a lot of enemies, which are threatening their trade interests. The Valroux are somewhat standoffish and isolated, and most nobles don't like them. Their current leader is "Grandmother" Madeleine Sabine Valroux du Martise, a lady of common sense and grace whom any of the family would die for. Her son Victor is rumored to be a smuggler and her grandson Sébastien is one of the three finest duelists in Montaigne (and also estranged from his father). Valrouxs get a discount to learning Valroux and get a free Raise to all Taunt and Intimidate actions against Montaignes. However, all other Reputation actions are harder for them in Montaigne and they have an extra cost to all Montaigne styles that aren't Valroux. Then there's the Bisset du Verre, who control a key port for resupplying troops in Castille. They'd prefer the war not end, as it makes them lots and lots of money; this hasn't helped their reputation for greed. Their current leader's name is Claude, a highly intelligent man with a talent for doing math in his head. His grandfather Maurice is a crotchety old man who's got lots of money - and no real taste for his younger relatives. Claude's sister Paulette is a famous political satirist who recently got ahold of a recepit showing that a hundred peasants could be fed for six months for the price of one of the Empereur's outfits...though if it's published, she may vanish from society forever. In the meantime, she holds some clout because no one wants to upset her. Bissets get extra points if they take the Greedy Hubris and get an extra 125G per month; however, they pay extra points for the Altruistic virtue and if the war ends they'll lose their extra income and instead get 50G less than normal per month.

Then there's the Étalon du Toilles, famous for their virtue. They have strong claim to being descendants of the famous knight Bastion and are some of the physically strongest nobles. Their horses are the most prized in the nation as well. Their leader is Tristan, an ancient man who inspires the youth of the family but will likely die soon. His nephew Philippe is a cavalryman whose unit has never been beaten, though it always suffers heavy casualties. Philippe's in line for the family when Tristan dies. Tristan's great-granddaughter Marie is a black sheep in the family because of her enthusiastic embrace of Porté, and is a renowned scholar in the sorcerous arts. Étalons pay half price for all Virtues, but get no points for taking a Hubris. Instead of the normal Montaigne stat bonus, they get +1 Brawn, and their monthly income is halved; the other half goes to charity. It's expected of the family! Next are the Praisse du Rachetisse, some of the best sorcerers in Montaigne. Dogs also tend to hate them, for some reason. Their current leader is a woman named Aurore, a mighty sorceress who wants to convince Vincent Gaulle du Motte to marry her and join their two provinces. Her uncle is High Admiral Alazais Valoix, and he often arranges positions for his family. Her nephew Hughes is blind but a powerful sorcerer, especially since he can travel the Doorways with ease - he can't ever accidentally open his eyes, after all. Praisse nobles get two extra points of knacks if they know Porté, but get fewer points to spend on things and dogs hate them. Those without Porté get neither the knacks nor the points penalty and dog hatred.

Next: the Rois et Reines du Rogné, who were once two seperate families. They are famous for loyalty and valor, and more of them are musketeers than any others. It is the most trusted family, led by Thérése, a strong woman who withholds support from those in the family who oppose her or the Empereur. Her grandsons Jean-Marie and Gerard are famous musketeers - Jean-Marie heads the order, and Gerard serves as an advisor the Eisen known only as the General. Rois et Reines get Musketeer membership free, but if they take it they must take a Hubris as well, which they don't get full points for. Then there's the Gaule dul Motte; the dul is simple short for 'du la', and has no special meaning. They are reclusive and small, with no patience for the courts of Montaigne. They are famous for studying and capturing spirits. Their leader is Vincent, a powerful sorcerer who cares little for the outside world and is busy trying to convince Aurore Praisse du Rachetisse not to marry him. His grandson Simon is one of the best swordsmiths in the country and his granddaughter Jeanne is a civil engineer trying to improve the lot of the peasantry. Gaulles cannot learn the Courtier skill and lose one Reputation die in Montaigne cities; however, they get the Scholar skill free and get two free Raises against all Fear effects due to their familiarity with the unnatural.

Next are the Sices du Sices, a very recent family who rule over what was once Eisen land. They are famous for producing "Wits", courtiers who specialize in humiliating others. Their leader is Lady Jamais, the greatest Wit. Her cousin Louis is a gunner and sorcerer in the navy and her daughter Diane is a philosopher and atheist, a Wit and a frequent correspondent with Nicklaus Trägue of Freiburg. Sices get a Free Raise on all Repartee actions, using or defending, and get two kept dice for every Drama die spent on Repartee actions. However, they must spend two Drama dice to get a kept die on any roll of a Martial skill. Then there's the Michel du Gloyure, another recent family who own former Eisen land. They own part of die Schwartzen Walden , the Black Forest, and so far 20 men have died trying to cut trees down. Since the Michels have no sorcery, they have very few occult experts - but on the other hand, they're highly resistant to magic. Their leader is Jean-Paul, who is rather resentful of the sneers he gets from older families. His son Pierre is a powerful merchant and his cousin Alice is the best tracker in Montaigne. Michels cannot learn sorcery and get 75G less than normal each month, but anyone trying to use a sorcerous knack on them suffers a two die penalty. Last of the full nobles are the Deneuve du Surlign family, in charge of the Paix Embassy; this puts them in an odd position of serving foreigners, but gives them the best information network of all the families. They get little respect - until they turn their network loose on those who go too far. Their leader, Lillian, is a skilled manipulator and information seeker. Her nephew Cédric is a great scholar and her cousin Georgette is a skilled seductress who loves to use her skills to get secrets from men. Deneuves get the Servant skill free and are considered to have a Gossip knack one higher than it actually is when in Paix; however, the TNs of all Reputation actions targeting Montaigne nobles is up by 5.

Lastly, there's some other famous names. The du Lacs have no more holdings and are only technically nobles; they once owned Avalon, and even when they lost its crown they remained prominent. Only a few have survived; most were put to death when Avalon rebelled. Then there's the du Paix - a false name, equivalent to claiming to be "Mr. Smith". It's used by those who hide their true names or those who want to declare their allegiance to Montaigne in spirit if not fact. Someone from Paix would be "Jean Paix", not "Jean du Paix."

Next time: The sights of Montaigne!

My subjects, illusory or not, love him dearly in a way they have never loved me.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Can't stand the names? That might be a problem, since they're gonna come up a lot. Nobles are important.

7th Sea: My subjects, illusory or not, love him dearly in a way they have never loved me.

Montaigne's got fifteen provinces. Charouse, of course, is the Imperial Province, ruled directly by l'Empereur. It is home to the nominal capital, also called Charouse, though the city of Paix is a strong competitor for the title in practice. Charouse was once a colony of the Old Republic, and it is famous for its cathedrals (now boarded up by order of l'Empereur, which infuriates the church), its many great public buildings like the observatory or the haunted tapestry factory called Fantóme, and of course Cháteau du Soleil, the Imperial palace which l'Empereur built when his father's mansion was not, he felt, big enough. There is an extensive cave system beneath the city, which have largely been converted into sewers, and something lives beneath them that occasionally snatches people. The sewers are called Petit Charouse, because they're practically a city in their own right. Next is the province Arrent, ruled by the Duboise du Arrent family. They are one of the largest provinces, and the western half is heavily farmed; the eastern half is covered by part of the Lockhorn Forest, and not many people are brave enough to go there. Its capital is the trading hub Rayure, and little is special except that harvest time is a very bsuy time there.

Then there's the province of Aur, another farming province ruled by the Leveque d'Aur family. The peasants there are mostly happy, since the Leveque d'Aurs are focused on the military and largely ignore them; they don't even tax heavily. The Lockhorn Forest borders Aur on the east, but they've had little trouble with it. Their capital is the only port in the province, Muguet, which is famous for being launching point for all Avalon invasions. The Duke d'Aur lives there, guarded by bodyguards second only to the Lightning Guard. There is also the lumber town of Liérre-Vallée, built in a valley that is full of lilies. Flowers make the city far more famous than its lumber, and once a year they hold a huge Lily Festival that triples the city's population as everyone comes to visit. Next is the powerful Crieux province, ruled by the Allais du Crieux. It is extremely rich and gets many concessions economically. Its capital is Crieux, famous as the headquarters of the Knights of the Rose and Cross (publically, at least). The Duke du Crieux is tolerated by his people for his economic skill, but he often holds mock battles or entire games of chess using human pieces.

Next is Doré, ruled by the Flaubert du Dorés. It's largely a cattle province. Its capitale is Dechaine, but it's rather small. The peasantry like the Duke becaus of the prosperity he's brought, though it's starving the rest of the country. They are also reputed to be more provincial and less intelligent than other Montaignes, though the Duke will not stand for such insolence. After that is Gloyure, ruled by the Michel du Gloyure. It was won by its current lord at auction, and he can't call himself a duke - his great-grandson can, if the family keeps it that long, though. Half the province is forest, but thanks to disappearances harvesting the former Eisen wood is going very poorly, but at least the other half is fretile. The capitle is the town of Prevoye, the greatest logging town in Gloyure. Morale's been having problems with the disappearances, Lord Michel has taken to going with the loggers into the forest, armed with his hunting mustket and twin pistols.

Next is La Motte, owned by the Gaulle dul Motte family. it is mostly cut off from the world, and its people don't much like outsiders. It also has a huge concentration of ghosts - outsiders are often suspected of being disguised spirits at first. It has many bountiful orchards, and Duke Gaulle is reputed to be very friendly with his peasantry despite his noble and sorcerous blood. Its capital is Bascone, a city designed to blend with the forest around it. It's a very tightknit and simple place, and the Duke treats his people like family. L'Empereur visited once, and the entire Gaulle family had to move out of their manor and camp on the lawn to make room; l'Empereur was so embarassed that he hasn't visited since. After that is Martise, ruled by the Valroux du Martise. It's huge, but most of its life is centered around the Sineuse River and Courais Lake. Riverboats are a staple, and most balls and duels are hold on them. The current capital is Echine, a center of trade that is frequently bothered by pirates at the port they trade with. Pirates are something of a problem for the whole province.

Next up: Paroisse, ruled by the Riché du Paroisse. Its economy is doing well, and it pays few taxes. The local peasants are actually happy! Its capital is Tamis, but most of the nobles avoid it. They're even considering moving, especially after Porté stopped working in Tamis some time last year, for no clear reason. No one can get in or out by magic, and even the permanent portals have closed. The Rilasciare have claimed responsibility, but no one really believes them. Then there is Rachetisse, famous for its sorcery. It has more gateways than anywhere but Charouse, and dogs are banned in the province because they tend to hate the Praisse du Rachetisse. Its capital is Vergogne, which has a population of 25,000 people and about as many cats. Cats have become a nuisance, especially since the Duchess took a liking to them and passed a law forbidding anyone to harm a cat on pain of three lashes. There are three gateways in Vergogne, leading to Charouse, Numa and Carleon.

In Rogné, ruled by the Rois et Reines du Rogné, most work is fishing. Since the war started, it's been heavily militarized and travel is extremely restricted - bribes are needed to avoid being arrested everywhere but the capital, Buché. This is the last open port between montaigne and Castille, frequented by both Vendel and Vodacce traders - though to avoid disputes, Vodacce has been asked to dock at the city of Barcino instead, and the Montaignes are trying to play the two off each other to drive prices down. In the province of Sices, ruled by the Sices du Sices, well - much of the place is uninhabitable thanks to the Lockhorn Forest. The province was won at auction by Lady Jaimais Sices, and she can't yet claim the title of Duchess, as the Michels cannot be Dukes yet. Its "capital", deep in the Lockhorn Forest, is Mont San Gabriyon, and it is surprisingly safe - none of the monsters of the forest have ever attacked the city or its roads. It is said that Saint Gabriyon, a singer, went to look in the woods for her brother. She stumbled across him in a clearing, and sang to her brother to calm him. The song drove the monsters to retreat, and she sang though the night to keep them away. The next day, they made their way out and a number of woodsmen later found the monsters would still not go near the clearing; Mont San Gabriyon was built on that very spot.

The tiny province of Surlign, ruled by the Deneuve du Surlign, was created solely for the embassy of Paix. The province is pretty much, well, the city: Paix. It is home to the embassy (known locally as Le Labyrinthe for its massive size and confusing corridors), and serves ambassadors from across Théah. l'Empereur never visits, finding the place boring and passé, so there aren't too many courtiers there either. However, many parties are held there since you can relax - l'Empereur will never show up unexpectedly! In the west is Toille, ruled by the Étalon du Toille family. It was the last province to be settled, and its people have driven off many foreign invaders - even the Vestenmannavnjar raiders. Its capital is Bastonne, home of the ancient castle of the Étalons and their famous cavalry, the Vent Conquérant - the best in Montaigne. There is also the city of Entour, where all supplies for horses in the Castille War are supplied. The Duke may not care for the war, but he knows that without his family's horses, many men will die needlessly, so he pays for them willingly.

Next, the historically poor province of Verre. The war has made them lots of money, and they're the current headquarters of the Montaigne army. Without the war, of course, they'd fall back into poverty. Their capital is Arisent, the hub of the war effort. Most of the army's leaders live there right now, and while Montegue may lead from the front, they don't - and with the Porté message system Montegue set up, why should they have to? Then there are the colonial holdings. Most famously, L'Il du Béte, the Island of the Beast - an island dotted in Syrneth ruins that the Montaignes use pretty much solely for hunting - they bring monsters and animals through in portals, set them loose and kill them. Only nobles are allowed to visit. They also maintain a number of prison islands to deal with their increasing number of political dissidents and criminals, and of course own several parts of Castille, which will be talked about in the Castille book.

Montaigne's culture is world famous - especially their art. They love art. They really, really love art. Painting is best-loved, but it also has the most volatile trends - what's in one month will be worthless the next. The current fashion is for dark, somber pieces after Basil Margonne produced a portrait of suffering peasants which was greatly loved...and completely failed at calling attention to their plight, which is what Basil wanted it to do. Sculpting is the least developed art, though recently the Vodacce sculptor Pascal Vestanzi came by and made a statue of l'Empereur and another of the Imperatrice - though he had just finished hwen he disappeared mysteriously. l'Empereur claims he was called back home, but the peasants whisper he was killed because the Imperatrice's statue was nicer than the Empereur's.

Moving on from art, we find that Montaign is also full of social clubs - groups of people who share a common interest and meet regularly. These can produce surprisingly useful political connections, and tend to foster a strong sense of brotherhood. Montaigne is also extremely advanced in architecture, having had the chance to study a number of Syrneth buildings, which have made them the forefront of civil engineering. They're also some of the best gunsmiths in the world - their artillery is arguably the best in the world. It's less powerful than Eisen cannons, but it's more accurate and their use of light, horse-pulled cannons makes them very maneuverable.

The Church, as we know, has been steadily losing ground with the nobles - but the peasants remain as devout as ever. The nobles have turned away from a combination of personal preference and to retain l'Empereurs favor - open Vaticines lose a lot of prestige, and those who retain the faith must do so in secret. The peasants, however, largely remain Vaticine - Léon is afraid that if he outlaw the Church entirely he'll have a popular uprising on his hands. So instead he just imprisons any priest that preaches against him. Musketeers have been known to attend sermons in disguise and arrest priests who break this law mid-sentence. This has caused a lot of resentment, both among priests and peasants. And no church services of any kind can be held within ten miles of the Cháteau du Soleil, and neither can anyone employed there be an open Vaticine. This is to protect the Empereur from assassination by religious zealots - and indeed, only one open Vaticine, the Cardinal Dukheim of Eisen, speaks to l'Empereur with any regularity. The Church has lost a lot of power as a result, and even some of the peasants have begun to question it - after all, if l'Empereur can get away with what he's doing, perhaps Theus does not truly exist. Some even believe l'Empereur is the Fourth Prophet, come to destroy the world.

It hardly helps that Montaigne's Cardinal has vanished along with all of his nine archbishops. Some believe they fled for their lives when the Empereur began wearing the Cardinal's ring. It's left the Church entirely without leadership - the bishops are trying their best, but no one is directing policy. And until the Cardinal is replaced - which can't be done until the Archbishops are found - a new Hierophant cannot be elected, since you need all the Cardinals to elect one.

Montaigne has two famous legends, beloved by the peasants and usually laughed at by the nobles - though both are known to be at least partly true. Sort of. Elements of truth, at least. The first is of a noblewoman of Bascone who liked to sit between two mirrors sos he could see herself infinitely, for she was very vain. One night, she heard a moaning noise and saw a ghost hovering over her bed, its hands cut off at the wrist and its eyes full of blood. She tries to use her sorcery to teleport away - but she found she could use none of her powers! The hgost reached out to her, and despite having no hands, she felt fingers on her neck. She fled, and as the ghost passed between the mirrors, it howled and found itself trapped. She showed it off proudly - her only regret that her mirrors now showed only the ghost, not her reflection. When she moved one of the mirrors so she could put the ghost in another room, though, it escaped as soon as the line between the two mirrors was broken, strangling her in an instant.

The other legend is of Montaigne's famous Puzzle Swords. Many years ago, the greatest swordsmith ever to live in Montaigne was Maitre, a full-blooded sorcerer who knew more about Porté than any man before or since. He also understood clockwork better than any other man, before or since. He was also a skilled swordsmith, of course - and he combined his three skills to create the Puzzle Swords, elaborate weapons with hidden switches that performed strange feats - they could cut through armor like it wasn't there, teleport to the owner's hand or other bizarre powers. Maitre eventually took on two apprentices, Créer and Detruire. Neither had sorcery, so he could not teach them that secret - but they learned the art of clockworks and swordsmithing. Créer made weapons that protected their owner or prevented themselves from being stolen, while Detruire made deadly weapons with secret tricks to harm the foe. When they were old, the two became rivals and each took on a single apprentice - Créer took on a woman named Renard, while Detruire took on a man named Loup. They were able to teach the secrets of the swordmaking, but not the power of the clockworks. Loup and Renard produced lesser weapons, and the rivalry might have continued had the two not met and fallen in love. They were married, and swore to pass on their secrets only to their children. unfortunately, Renard was barren and the secrets died with them. The Puzzle Swords, of all five masters, still remain, passed down among families, who show the new bearer the secret switches and how they are used. (This legend, by the way? Totally true and happened.)

We'll skim along now - what people wear and eat is only so interesting, after all - and we learn that unsurprisingly, the Empereur is the unquestionable ruler of all the land, able to do literally anything he wants. Under him are the Dukes and Lords, who rule over provinces and are largely able to do what they like as long as they don't contradict the Empereur. Dukes outrank Lords. Under them are the Marquis and Marquises. These are the lowest rank with a title and own small portions of a province; they can do what they like in their own lands as long as they don't contradict their duke or lord. Next are the Intendants, a title even commoners can reach - they are the direct servants of the Marquis and uphold the laws, command musketeers and so on. There's only one for every four regions, though. Next are mayors, who are elected by the people and govern a single city, serving as spokesmen for the nobles. And below that, there's simple administrators. Laws have three types: Imperial, which affect all of Montaigne and cannot be contradicted, Ducal, which affect a province and cannot be contradicted by regional laws, and regional, which affect only a small region ruled by a Marquis. There are also three courts: the Low Court, which is for cases between commoners, the Middle Court, for gentry and merchants as well as appeals from the Low Court, and the high Court, for appeals from the Middle and also nobles. Only nobles and gentry can appeal from here, going up to the Empereur hmself. All citizens have the right to a lawyer but must pay for it themselves and most commoners can't afford it. Commoners also have little chance of winning, because it costs money to appeal a decision and commoners don't have that. Also, a noble's word overrules all but a ranking musketeer's, and a musketeer's is worth that of three commoners. Also, a commoner can't challenge the documents submitted by a noble. Commoners also tend to have much harsher sentences.

The Musketeers are the primary law enforcement of Montaigne. Anyone who wants to join must be at least 16, never been convicted of a crime in any court and have no crippling disabilities. The first class of the year is open only to veterans, but the other three can be applied to by anyone. Musketeers learn to be literate, learn basic math, some politics and economics and courtly etiquette. They also learn how to ride. Anyone who passes this basic training gets to go to the Musketeer's School, where they learn fencing, detective work and international etiquette. About half of these students pass and can take the Musketeer's Oath, swearing loyalty to the royal family. Their job is to be police and to serve as judges for arguments between citizens. They need approval from the order to get married, though their kids get the best schoolsm and they can receive a pretty good salary and are allowed to retire after 30 years. In fact, they have to retire. They get a pension and exemption from taxes. Oh, and you should know: Montaigne has enemies everywhere . No one likes them. The Eisen hate their involvement in the War of the Cross (though they'll still work for Montaignes), the Ussurans are nervous around their magic, the Vesten think they are popinjays. Only the Vendel and Vodacce claim to like Montaigne, and then only because of trade. However, just because the nations hate each other doesn't mean the people do - individual Montaignes can get along well with pretty much anyone even as the Montaigne people are reviled.

Next time: The sights of Montaigne!

I think you enjoy your curse more than you let on.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: I think you enjoy your curse more than you let on.

Mirror Ghost, listen to your mother.

We start things off with another short piece of fiction. A Cardinal of the Church named Erika performs a strange ritual, summoning forth the Empereur's mirror ghost with her own blood! It appears in her mirror and answers three questions for her - one useless, one telling her that Montegue is being sent to Ussura and one telling her that it's because the Empereur wants to get Montegue out of the way before his grandson is born...probably. The ghost thinks he's insane. Erika dismisses the ghost, then, after promising it that she will let it die when her vengeance is complete - and then reveals that the ghost was once her brother, Michel.

Now, let's talk important people. We can't forget about L'Empereur Léon Alexandre du Montaigne XIV. When he was twelve, his father, Léon Alexandre XIII, passed away and left the kingdom in the hands of his queen, Camille Bisset du Montaigne. She didn't much care about raising a son, so Léon was left to his nursemaids while she had an affair with the young Cardinal of Montaigne, Maurice d'Argeneau. The Cardinal became the nation's true ruler, extending the Church's influence to levels unheard of since Leon XI. The Cardinal lived extravagantly and Léon was forced to live in poverty, wearing rags unless he was being presented to nobles. On his eighteenth birthday, Léon told his mother she was a disgrace and forced her to retire to the country. She never saw Cardinal d'Argeneau again, and it's said she cursed her son while on her deathbed, swearing he'd never have a son to pass his throne to. The Cardinal remained at court, though Léon ignored his advice and often worked against it, reducing the Church's power greatly. Léon began to live well, indulging in every luxury now that no one could tell him what he could not do. When his nation became prosperous thanks to the War of the Cross, he raised taxes immediately to indulge in yet more expensive habits.

Léon's first wife was a peasant named Estelle, who bore him five daughters before dying, apparently of natural causes. Léon had loved her deeply, and he believed her death to be murder, killing her doctors before he came to his senses. He never married for love again. His second wife was a political match: Rosa Velasquez del Sandoval, princess of Castille. This helped repair the distrust the nobility had for him due to his marriage to a commoner. She gave birth to three daughters and then died; her body was not returned to Castille when requested. This didn't make Castille happy. Finally, he married his third wife, a Fate Witch of Vodacce, in 1647. She has borne only one child - his last daughter. Léon has finally given up hope; however, his wife has survived thanks to not wanting to alienate Vodacce. In 1664, Léon announced his nature as a sorcerer and said that he would shelter any others who wished to live in Montaigne.

In 1666, the Inquisition grew tired of the Hierophant's lack of action and invaded Montaigne, leading to Montegue's stand. Léon was a nervous wreck, hiding in a secret room where he was later found by his trusted bodyguard Remy. He immediately promoted Montegue to General, and emerged with a sense of invincibility, determined to bring down the Church itself. He'd always hated them, after all. When the Hierophant came to visit, the man became ill and died, and Léon took it as a sign of favor from Theus, declaring himself Empereur. Three months later, Cardinal d'Argeneau vanished without trace, and Léon was seen openly wearing the man's ring of office. He has been growing increasingly more erratic, some days paralyzed by guilt at the condition of the peasantry while other days becoming immensely cruel. Only his power and remaining political savvy keep him safe at court. He trusts only Remy and he hates and fears Montegue's popularity. He has never liked the nobles of court or his daughters, but with his youngest daughter pregnant, he is sure his chance for an heir has come at last, and has greatly increased her guard against her protests.

His wife is Imperatrice Morella du Montaigne, youngest daughter of Vincenzo Caligari of Vodacce. After her first child was a girl, Léon never lay with her again, and their relationship was purely for political alliance. Morella's relation with her daughter is also strained, for her daughter lacks the power of the Fate Witch and so they have always found each other somewhat alien. When she was five, her sister Beatrice foretold that she would marry the most powerful man in the world but displease him, that this would lead to the birth of the most powerful sorcerer ever to walk the face of Théah and that Morella's death would mark the beginning of the worst bloodbath Montaigne would ever see. The first has come true; the others are yet to come, if at all. Recently, a sculptor named Pascal Vestanzi arrived and did a magnificent sculpture of the Empereur, so she approached him for one of her own. They spent many hours talking of their shared homeland, and the sculpture he made was almost supernaturally beautiful. The Empereur was jealous, and stormed away after telling Morella she was his and his alone. Pascal was soon escorted away, and hid the statue so it could not be destroyed. Pascal did not return, so she knew he must be dead. Since then, she has taken to painting as a way to find comfort, and has been spending a lot of time with Jean-Marie Rois et Reines, who enjoys getting to spend time away from his busy schedule. Sometimes, her husband comes to her for use of her magic. When she looks at him, his strands are always far too powerful to even read, and so she has sometimes had to refuse him. Oddly, he has never gotten angry at this answer - other things, yes, but sorcery, never. She believes that when she has no further use for the man, she will die.

Her daughter is Dominique du Montaigne, youngest of the nine daughters of the Empereur. She has no sorcery whatsoever, despite being the child of a full-blood Fate Witch and full-blood Porté master. The Empereur lost interest in her when he heard that, and she has mostly been raised by the kitchen staff. She has become self-sufficient, with a mix of noble and common upbringing that has left more aware of the servants around her than most. She was put in charge of sending gifts to those who earned the royal family's favor, and used this to send out a network of maids who serve her as spies. After Montegue's stand, she was ordered to marry the peasant general, and she has been trying to come to terms with that. She's had some success relating to him, and the two are trying to deal with the relationship they have thrust into. They respect each other, but are unsure if they love each other. It's at least a friendly marriage, though time will tell if it goes beyond 'friends'.

Dominique's maid is a Fate Witch named Anna, assigned to her when both were only six. Anna has sworn to protect Dominique and is a servant of the Imperatrice - but while she will still report to the woman, her loyalty lies with Dominique and she would never hurt the princess. Dominique is also currently pregnant, and her mother says it'll be a boy. The Empereur has smothered her with so much unwanted protection and attention that she longs for the days when her parents just ignored her, and is worried that this attention bodes something sinister.

The Empereur's other eight daughters are much less important to the metaplot, but they exist. Eldest is Chérie du Montaigne, a full-blooded sorcerer married to Don Aldana of Castille. She's in an awkward position but has as yet come to no harm from it. The next two are twins, Rosamonde and Evelyne, who are sorcerers but have only been able to master a very simple sort of Porté - they can Blood only one object, a chalkboard which they use magic to pass between each other and leave notes. Rosamonde is an inspector in the nay, and Evelyne envies her adventures, as she has married into nobility and stays at home. They are quite close. The fourth daughter is Miriam, ambassador to Vendel. She has become involved with Joris Brak of the Carpenter's Guild, and the affair recently became public. Her father wants her to either break it off or marry the man. The fifth daughter, and last by the Empereur's first wife, is Lydia, a full-blooded sorcerer who recently disappeared while investigating the Lockhorn Forest.

The three daughters by the Empereur's second wife, Rosa Valesquez del Sandoval, are all half-blooded sorcerers, as Rosa had no magic. The eldest of these three is Anna, the happy wife of Jean-Marie Rois et Reines, captain of the musketeers. She is a skille dcourtier and acts as the royal family's representative at social functions. Seventh is Nicolette du Montaigne, who has been essentially banished to the Paix Embassy for angering the Empereur. She is officially the royal attaché, but has no real power. And last, Ysabette du Montaigne rebelled and ran away from home five years ago. She has since taken to calling herself Isabelle and working as a smuggler and pirate in the Castille War.

Montegue du Montaigne was originally just a peasant from Paroisse. His mother died when he was young, and his father was kicked in the head and killed by a plow horse when Montegue was fifteen. He sold the family farm and hoined the army, rising to corporal after two years of service. He was trained by his superior, Luc Flaubert du Doré, in the arts of strategy and tactics as well as military history, all things he found he had a natural talent for. It was not long after this that Montegue's STand occurred, when Montegue took command after Luc fell to Castillian muskets. Montegue was not a patriot - he just worked to save the lives of his men, saving the day in the bargain. Since then, he has been elevated to General and married to the King's youngest daughter. After receiving a brief training in etiquette (which never totally stuck), he was presented as a noble and sent to "liberate" Castille from the Church and place the "true" Castillian royal bloodline back in command if they could be found. He devised innovative ways of using Porté to communicate across the army, allowing him to conquer two provinces with relative ease. However, when the King became Empereur following the Hierophant's death, Montegue was no longer the favored son. Instead, he was ordered from the front and sent to Ussura. Montegue knew it'd be dangerous, but to do otherwise would be suicide...and he's always been pragmatic.

Beyond the royals, there is Cardinal Erika Brigitte Durkheim, Cardinal of Eisen. She is a beautiful woman, though lame in her right leg and forced to walk with a cane. She joined the church at a young age and rose through the ranks due to her belief and devotion as well as her parents' political connections. She studied in Castille under a man who would be her mentor, Salvador Garcia, and eventually became a ardinal. However, four years ago a servant claimed to see her talking to a ghostly image in a mirror, which he thought was a demon. She was interrogated by the Inquisition for three days before being cleared of all charges and later receiving a grudging apology. She recently came to Montaigne to help Cardinal d'Argeneau deal with the effects of the Hierophabt's death, knowing he was out of his depth. However, the man disappeared and when she questioned l'Empereur about it, he practically admitted to murder, made a pass at her despite her vows of chastity and celibacy (and her obvious disgust) and then ended the interview when she didn't fall into his arms. Because of things said during the meeting, she withheld this from the Council of Cardinals and has remained in Montaigne to repair some damage the Empereur has caused. She hopes she can finish her work and return to Eisen before things get too much worse.

Then there's Thérése Rois et Reines du Rogné, a sixty-year-old woman who remains strong. She was raised on tales of musketeer heroism and is very devoted to the crown - indeed, she used to be a musketeer, and even saved the life of Léon XIII once. She only retired years later after falling in love with a d'Aur, though she kept her own name as the heir to the Rois et Reines family. From him, she learned politics. Eventually her husband died and her children grew up, and she spent several years very loneely. However, it was then she became leader of the Rois et Reines. This gave her something to live for, and she has become one of the Empereur's most trusted advisors. She is sometimes called the Grand Dame of Montaigne Politics, and she hears about almost everything. She is very strict with her family, and they don't like her much. Especially after she imprisoned one of her own sons for speaking against the Empereur. Jean-Marie Rois et Reines can tolerate her as long as his wife's name is not mentioned, but Gerard Rois et Reines became a navy man solely to get away from her.

Jamais Sices du Sices is a young noblewoman who once sought to be a scholar, becoming an avid student of history. When she got bored with that, she took to reading biting satires, learning little of politics as her elder brother was supposed to succeed her father as head of the family. However, he died in a hunting accident as she was preparing to head to university, and she was instead forced to quit and study politics. She hates math and statesmanship - they were boring compared to history. She was an introvert and had trouble with court. However, one day a man insulted her in public - and she lashed out, humiliating him before the entire court with a few well-chosen sentences. His reputation was ruined, and he would not be the last. She won admiration for her talent for ridicule, and so she gradually became much crueler due to all the people encouraging her. She once humiliated a man so badly, it's said, that he committed suicide. She has taken care not to step into treason with her jabs, but she's made few friends. Thérése Rois et Reines hates her guts, and wants to see her ruined.

Perhaps more important is Karl Thomas Steiner, a short man with cropped white hair. He breaks all stereotypes of the Eisen - he's short and he's a coward. As a boy, he once spent a night in the Black Forest on a dare. He can't remember what happened, but he was shattered by the events, his hair turned pure white and he lost the ring finger on his right hand. He also bore terrible claw marks on his chest that were made by no known beast. Whenever in a deadly situation, he becomes paralyzed and then a sobbing wreck. Before he learned that happened, he was a guard of Reinhard von Wische's last son. A highwayman tried to rob the two, and Karl collapsed in fear - and the boy died. Karl wrote a letter to tell his master Reinhard of the son's death, and Reinhard sank into apathy. Karl has tried to serve others, but each time his cowardice would force him out in disgrace, ending when Erich Sieger tried to kill him for failing to stop an assassin. Karl escaped and joined the Montaigne army thanks to his sharp mind and grasp of tactics - something greatly needed. He became a sniper in Montegue's unit, since killing from a distance didn't trigger hs cowardice. The two became great friends, and Karl took down three officers during Montegue's Stand. Montegue made the man one of his advisors - the two just seem to work well together, turning Montegue from a genius to a miracle-worker. They are excellent friends to this day. He tried to talk Montegue out of the Ussura invasion, but Montegue pointed out that he'd be executed for refusing a direct order. Should Karl desert, Montegue would be left in a bad position - he's become dependent on Karl.

Next time: More people of Montaigne, more fiction and more fencing!

I'm nobody's fool, least of all the Empereur's.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: I'm nobody's fool, least of all the Empereur's.

Now then! Remy du Montaigne, the Empereur's cousin. He's a tall, handsome man who is quite possibly the single best swordsman in the country. He is Captain of the Lightning Guard and personal bodyguard to l'Empereur. He gets anything he wants, and is a rival of Jean-Marie Rois et Reines, the Captain of the Musketeers. He fears that Jean-Marie may someday replace him, and the two have nearly fought three times. The Musketeers and Lightning Guard have started to develop a rivalry as a result. Remy is at heart an honest man, but he's been spoiled by years of luxury. He loves hsi lifestyle and will indulge in anything but drunkenness - he refuses to get drunk in case someone tried to take advantage of it to kill l'Empereur. He doesn't like all that his cousin asks him to do, though - like the time he was told to close the gates and not allow Montaigne troops in, leading to Montegue's Stand; Léon wanted the men to fight for their lives. Montegue and his men still hold a grudge against Remy, and he has nightmares of that day. It is also rumored that Remy was ordered to kill Cardinal d'Argeneau and cut off the man's finger.

Jean-Marie Rois et Reines du Rogné is another handsome man of Montaigne, the Captain of the Musketeers. He's an impressive man who was once a young nobleman in the musketeers, assigned to escort Anna du Montaigne on a long journey. Over the journey, he listened to her complain for three days before finally asking her if she did anything else, since she wouldn't admire the beautiful scenery. He thought he'd angered her, but three months later she had him assigned to escort her again. This trip was in absolute silence - as were the next few. A year later, the two were married, and Jean-Marie was promoted to Captain. His happiest times are when he is with his wife; the two seldom speak when together, but instead generally spend their evenings holding hands and gazing at the stars. (They both spend all day talking; the silence is a welcome gift.) Jean-Marie is often forced to do things he doesn't like, such as diert food from villages to feed cattle, shoot protestors or have men executed for stealing a bit of bread. He has tried to make up for this by donating much of his wealth to the poor, and he is loved by the peasants for his kindness, but he wonders if he could do more.

Alazais Valoix Praisse du Rachetisse III is a regal old man who remains athletic and stately. He dreamed of becoming a sailor as a youth and joined the navy - though he learned to regret it. After finally being assigned a desk job, he turned out to be a master politician who rose through the ranks on his personality and wit. Eventually, he even got to meet personally with the Empereur - they played a game called Squares for twelve straight hours. Rumor has it that if Alazais lost, he would be killed - but if he won, he'd be made High Admiral of the Montaigne navy. And while he was the less skilled player, Alazais kept up such a stream of stories that l'Empereur could not concentrate and he won. Alazais denies the rumor, but it never goes away...even if it's odd that such a famous braggart is refusing such a grand story. His greatest strength is his tongue - he is charming and a great liar who attends all major parties and tells people what they want to hear. When he actually has to get on a ship, he allows the men to do their jobs - he's not a good commander, but he has a real talent for delegation.

Does this guy shave with a nail file?

Then there's the man called only the General. He is an Eisen who happened to be around while l'Empereur was chewing out his admirals. He said that he "bet that Eisen General there could do your job better" - and gave it to the man. He nearly choked on his food when that happened. Now, he has been given a ship and the job of killing any pirate who dares prey on Montaigne. When asked his name for the formal commission, he said that he had none he answered to, and the paper was simply filled as 'The General'. The Empereur wanted results in three months; he got them in two. The General's mastery of tactics and his stern leadership turned out to be very effective, and he killed forty pirates within his first 57 days, making his reputation as the greatest pirate hunter ever to sail. Rumor has it that he was once a noble and idealistic man whose spirit was crushed, turning him into an amoral mercenary who sneers at the word 'honor'. He cares only for money, hates his crew and is hated by them. He is a harsh man who whips them when they fail; he's used to cruder men then he's been given. However, they are a deadly team, using spies, informers and a ship's sorcerer to track down pirates and kill them. Once or twice, they've even tricked pirates into taking aboard Blooded chests and then teleporting onto the ships and killing everyone aboard.

There's also some commoners - such as Pascal Vestanzi of Vodacce. He was once the best sculptor alive, blessed by a Fate Witch whom he helped as a youth to have luck in his trade. Pascal became great - but made the mistake of going to Montaigne to seek his fortune. His sculpture was beloved, and he even got to do a job for the Empereur...but he fell in love with the Imperatrice, and while the Empereur did not love her, he was very possessive. Pascal was taken away by Remy and never seen again; it's said he returned home to Vodacce, but if so, Vodacce hasn't heard about it. And last, Private Jerome. Jerome is one man of many thousands in the army, but he is unstoppable, driven by a love that cannot be beaten. It has led him to survive three major battles, two ambushes and everything else life's thrown ath im - because nothing will stop him from going home to marry his love, Valory. There's only one problem: she got married while he was away, assuming he'd died in the year he served. She was heartbroken, and when Yanick Bisset du Verre offered her marriage, she took him up on it - a noble's income would help her family. Unfortunately, Yanick is a violent-tempered man who verbally abuses her - and even strikes her when she argues back. But Jerome is returning home now, discharged after he saved an officer from a sniper and told his story. The officer decided the best that could be done was to give the man a bag of coins, a fast horse and a discharge. He'll be home in a few weeks - and he'll learn what's happened to her. If Jerome ever learns of the abuse Valory suffers, he will kill Yanick, nobleman or no.

Why is he important? Good question!

Now we get some fiction as Karl and Montegue talk about their recent assignment to Ussura. Karl is sure it's hopeless - Eisen's tried to invade four times, and never succeeded despite being some of the best in the world. Montegue is trying to persuade him it's not that bad - but they both know it is. Until he gets proof that l'Empereur is sending them off to die, though, he can't do anything but obey. He also tells Karl that his generals are planning an idiotic frontal assault on the fortress El Morro once they leave - and so he's taking his best men with him, to ensure they don't die senselessly assaulting an impregnable position.

Now then! Some new Porté rules: Porté mages can hand off Blooded objects to other mages across any distance - but it's harder the further away the blood relation is, ranging from TN 5 for twins to TN 30 for anything past first cousin. Journeyman or higher can rip a hole to save themselves mid-fall - the longer the fall, the easier it is. If they do, they then can Walk to any blooded object as normal. A permanent gateway can be made by at least 5 Master Porté mages from different bloodlines (that is, TN 30 or more as per handing things off). This means creating a stone archway at each end which costs 1000G, as well as three months on each end of ritually Blooding the sites. They all permanently sacrifice a point of Resolve, which drops their maximum Resolve by 1. Any who hit 0 die, though as long as at least one survives the creation works. Gateways can be used by anyone to pass between the two sites at the cost of a Dramatic Wound as some blood is stolen to keep the thing working. If a gate goes unused for centuries, it will turn bloody red (normally, they're yellow) and destroy the first person to step through it, using their blood to replenish its energy. Also, Porté mages can now learn to catch incoming projectiles in portals, sending them off into the endless mists. This works only as Defense only on ranged attacks, but can be used against firearms and gets a free Raise when used as an active defense.

Now, swordsmen. The first new school, Boucher, is not really for gentlemen - though it definitely gets results. Boucher fighters use a long knife in each hand, using the two together for a flurry of blows. It's one of the fastest styles in the world, and once it overcomes the opponent's reach it is deadly. The problem? The reach. The knives are both short range weapons, and a clever foe can keep even a master at arm's length to avoid harm. Boucher students do not get free Swordsmen membership. Apprentices suffer no off-hand penalty when using a knife, and add the current phase to their initiative total when they have a knife in each hand, letting them act faster than normal. Journeymen learn to draw attention to the knife not attacking, and require foes to make two Raises when using active defenses against their knife attacks. Masters can unleash a devastating flurry. To begin it, they must make a Raise with no other benefit. If they beat the opponent's Passive Defense (even if they are actively defended against), they may make another attack, which requires two Raises with no other benefit. As long as they keep beating the enemy's passive defense, they keep getting attacks, which cumulatively require more Raises.

Next is Rois et Reines, the Musketeer school - it trains in muskets and pistols. They also learn to use their bayonets to make makeshift spears. Their big weakness? Well, they're not great in close combat, especially against anyone ready for spears. They're amazing at range, though. They also aren't Swordsmen. Apprentices add 10 to pistol and musket range, suffer no off-hand penalty for pistols and get a free Raise to all attack rolls with a mounted bayonet. Journeymans increase their range bonus to 25, may draw and fire a pistol in a single action and get +10 to their initiative total when wielding a mounted bayonet, thanks to their extended reach. Masters increase their range bonus to 50, may spend a Drama die to negate all normal modifiers (such as cover, range and so on) to a target's TN to be hit for a single attack, though TN-modifying special abilities such as Aldana's Journeyman ability or Pyeryem forms that grant armor still apply.

Then? Tout Prés, more philosophy than fighting style: they believe the best weapon is the close one. They aren't Swordsmen largely because they fight with literally anything , specializing in improvised weapons. They are most effective, of course, when backed up with a sword. Many students also wield wide-brimmed, lead-weighted hats, since they can expect to never be unarmed. The weakness? Well, improvised weapons aren't as good as swords, and a skilled enemy will take advantage of the weaknesses of the weapon. Apprentices have no off-hand penalty when using improvised weapons, get a free Raise on using Parry to actively defend with an improvised weapon. Journeymen learn to react quickly, and may pick up and attack or parry with an improvised weapon in a single action. They also get a free Raise to any non-Parry active defense. Masters may use their weapons to distract their foes. After attacking, even if they miss, they may immediately spend an action to attack with a fencing weapon; such an attack cannot be actively defended against.

We'll skip over the special family member advantages - they're just 'you have a talented family member who helps you out' - and the social clubs ('you belong to a social club, which gives you advantages like access to rich, rich men who will make outrageous bets with you if you are also rich, or access to the newest fashions if you are rich). We'll also skip over the stats for grenades, horse-drawn cannons and bayonets - they're nice, but kind of boring. Explosives are not safe to handle, though - the fuses have little quality control. We'll also skip the Courtly Intrigue rules - they're a fairly neat system which involves trading favors, blackmail and gossip to get people to do things for you. But that's all you need to know; if you care about the specifics of the rules, look 'em up.

Instead, let's talk Puzzle Swords. You'll want to set aside 10 points if you plan to start with one, because their cost varies between 2 and 10...but you find out how much you have randomly. You roll 1d10, with certain birthplaces modifying the roll up 1 or down 1 on all rolls involving Puzzle Sword generation. 0-5, and you pay 2 points and move to the Renard chart; 6-11, 2 points and the Loup Chart. But first, general rules: all puzzle swords take a TN 30 Wits check to find their hidden switches unless someone shows them to you, and if you know where they are it is a free, costless action to push one if you're holding the sword. Sometimes, using the sword's tricks will send it off balance, giving -1k1 to all attack and active defense rolls using the sword.

Now, Renard swords! You roll 1d10 here, modified by birthplace as normal. You can get: 0 - Garotte Hilt - the hilt has a garotte, and on a successful attack from behind, the victim can't make any sound and begins to suffocate as per the Drowning rules; they are also considered grappled and can break free as normal for that. 1 - Solid Grip - the grip allows for tricky feints, adding +5 to the TN of anyone actively defending against an attack from the sword. 2 - Disguised Sheath - The sheath appears to be a cane or stick, getting two free Raises on all rolls to conceal it. 3 - Well Balanced - the balance is so good that you get +1 to all attack rolls with it. 4 - Blade Catcher - Your hilt is meant to catch swords, and you get +2 to all active defense rolls when parrying with the sword. 5-6 - Roll Again - you reroll on this chart ignoring further 5-6 results, then spend 3 more points and roll on the Uncommon Swords chart. 7 - Long Reach - you get +5 to your initiative total. 8 - Locksmith's Hilt - the hilt contains a set of hidden lockpicks (TN 40 Wits roll to spot) which give a free Raise on lockpicking rolls. 9 - Secret Compartment - the pommel has a secret comparment big enough to hide a jewel, message or other small item, which requires a TN 40 Wits roll to find. 10 - Rustproof - the sword never rusts, tarnishes or corrodes, though it can still dull or be broken. 11 - Locking Sheath - There's a catch in the sheath that keeps it stuck inside unless you press a hidden latch; Brawn 6 can pull the sword free by breaking the sheath.

Loup swords! Again, 1d10 modified as normal. These are the other common swords. 0 - Serrated Blade - The blade makes ragged, nasty cuts. Whenever the wielder makes a Raise on his attack rolls for damage, he adds an addition 2 to the damage roll for each raise, on top of the normal bonus unkept die. 1 - Flambergé Blade - damage rolls with the sword reroll any 1s, until there are no more 1s. 2 - Light Sword - the sword is very light, and when making a Riposte, you get a Free Raise to the attack roll if the defense succeeds. (This is part of the fencing rules, Riposte is a counterattack fencing knack.) 3 - Unbreakable - The sword can never be broken and always straightens if bent. It can still rust or dull. 4 - Barbed Guard - The guard is decorated with bladecatchers, which give a free Raise to all disarm attempts made with the sword. 5-6 - Roll again - Roll again on this chart ignoring further 5-6 results, then spend 3 points and roll on the Uncommon Swords chart. 7 - Keen Blade - the edge is so sharp that all damage rolls get a +1 bonus. 8 - Spiked Guard - The sword's pommel is spiked, so pommel strikes do base 2k2 instead of base 0k2. 9 - Never Dull - the sword never dulls or needs any maintenance, though it can still rust or be broken. 10 - Heavy Blade - the sword is particularly heavy, and gets two free Raises when using the Beat knack. 11 - Dagger Hilt - When you push a special button, a dagger blade pops out of the pommel, letting you use the Attack (Knife) knack even when your sword is in a Bind. The dagger deals base 1k2 damage and automatically breaks the Bind the wielder's sword is in if it deals damage.

The uncommon swords table is 0-5 for a Créer sword, and 6-11 for a Détruire sword. Each has the ability ruled for common swords, plus one of their own. What's Créer like? 0 - Smoke Cloud - when a button is pressed, the sword sprays smoke in a 10 foot radius, putting the area into total darkness for 10 phases. It contains enough smoke for one use, and then needs a chemical refill costing 1G, which takes 5 actions. When the reservoir is empty, the sword is off-balance. 1 - Articulated Grip - The sword fits the hand precisely; actions may be used to parry as though one Phase faster than they actually are. 2 - Lizard's Tail - The sword has a false tip that can be 'shed'. After the sword is successfully parried, the tip falls off and forces a reroll of the parry. If it succeeds a second time, the sword's blocked, but if not, the attack goes through. It takes 5 actions to reattach the tip, and the sword is off-balance while it's gone. 3 - Coiling Hilt - Unless a hidden catch is pressed, the hilt springs shut on the wielder's hand one phase after being picked up. It takes 5 Brawn to pry the hand loose, and the victim must roll his Resolve or lower on one die or have his hand broken for a month, giving a -1 Finesse penalty. The hilt can be opened via the hidden catch. 4 - Grasping Hilt - The hilt locks around the hand, preventing all disarm attempts. It will not open unless a hidden catch is released. 5-6 - Roll again - reroll and ignore 5-6 results. Then spend 5 points and roll on the Maitre chart. 7 - Adjustable Hilt - The hilt can be lengthened or shortened, to be used either as a fencing (base 2k2) or heavy weapon (base 3k2), by spending one action. The heavy weapon form takes two hands, the fencing one. 8 - Grappling Gun - The hilt can be used as a grappling gun. It has 20 feet of cord and takes 10 actions to rewind. If used as a weapon while unwound, the sword is off-balance. 9 - Healing Touch - The sword has a button that activates a concealed injector which heals the wielder of 15 flesh wounds with a formula known only to the wielder. It costs 5G per dose, but only works by injection, and only one dose per day can work on a person. The sword holds only one dose, and takes 25 actions to refill. While empty, it's off-balance. 10 - Loyal Hilt - A poisoned needle jabs into the base of the holder's thumb one phase after the sword is picked up unless a special catch is released. The poison is either arsenic or knockout drops at the owner's choice. Heavy gloves, gauntlets or a panzerhand will prevent the poison from working. The poison must be refilled after each use, but will not knock the sword off-balance. 11 - Blade Breaker - There is a device in the sword which will catch a blade and snap it. After a successful parry with the sword, the user may hit the hidden button. The sword acts as the Journeyman Eisenfaust power with a Brawn of 4. Once used, it takes 10 actions to rewind the device before it can be used again and is off-balance until rewound.

Détruire? 0 - Pistol Hilt - There's a concealed pistol in the hilt which can be fired with a hidden button. If used after the sword has just damaged a foe, it automatically hits, dealing 4k3 damage; otherwise it takes an Attack (Firearms) roll with one Raise to hit. It is reloaded as normal for pistols (IE, it takes forever). 1 - Firebreather - When swung and a concealed button is pressed, the sword sprays oil from the tip and ignites it with a built-in flint. This causes a two-foot arc of flame, which takes a TN 20 Finesse+Rolling check to avoid, which doesn't take an action. Failure causes two dice of fire damage as per fire rules. The sword has enough oil for one use and takes 25 actions to refill. While empty, it's off-balance. 2 - Blinding Spray - The sword has a reservoir of blinding liquid that can be sprayed at a foe's face with a button. This takes an attack roll with two Raises. Instead of dealing damage, the opponent is blinded until the liquid is washed from their eyes or an hour passes, whichever is first. The sword has enough for one use and takes 5 actions to refill; refills cost .5G. When empty, it's off-balance. 3 - Dart Hilt - The sword can fire a dart from the pommel up to 10 feet. This takes an attack roll with 3 Raises; usually, the dart is poisoned. If lost, it takes a skilled blacksmith to replace it at the cost of 10G. While the dart is out of the sword, it's off-balance. 4 - Strange Metal - The sword is made from a very light metal that allows the user to either lower one of his actions' speed by one phase or add +10 to his initiative total at the start of a round. 5-6 - roll again , yadda yadda. 7 - Spreading Blade - The sword has a spring that divides it into two halves when released, usually in the body of a victim to cause terrible wounds, inflicting an additional two dice of wounds seperate from the sword's damage. However, the sword is 5 TN easier to break at all times and is useless until 10 actions are spent resetting it. 8 - Poison Reservoir - There is a reservoir in the hilt which poisons the sword when activated while the tip is pointed down for one action. Until the end of the round (or the next hit, whichever is first), the weapon will poison on its next hit. It has enough poison for one use, and takes 25 actions to refill. When empty, it's off-balance. 9 - Collapsing Hilt - When drawn without pressing a hidden catch, roll a die. That many phases later, the sword falls apart, taking (10-Wits) actions to reassemble. 10 - Tainted Metal - Whenever an enemy fails a wound check against this sword's damage, he can only erase flesh wounds equal to the total of his wound check, rather than all of them. 11 - Razor Edge - For ever 10 the wielder Keeps when rolling damage, the sword deals an automatic Dramatic wound instead of any flesh wounds. 10s do not explode and are not counted towards the damage total, and dramatic wounds so caused do not get rid of flesh wounds.

And last, the Maitre swords - so great they're magic, in addition to their other two powers. 0-1 - The Eager Blade - The sword jumps the user's hand whenever he wants it, from any distance. If he ever hands the sword to another hilt-first, that person is the new owner; if he dies, the next person to touch it is the owner. 2-3 - The Ghostly Blade - only the user can pick up and touch the sword - it is immaterial to all others when not in his hand. It transfers ownership as above. 4-5 - the Grasping Blade - once per act, the sword may cut from at range, making an attack on anyone the user can see, no matter how far away. The blade vanishes, appearing in the air by the target. They may defend as per normal, though if unaware of the wielder they need to make a surprise check on which the wielder has two free Raises. 6-7 - the Shimmering Blade - Once per act, the sword can "shimmer" like a mirage, ignoring army and becoming impossible to (actively or passively) parry until the beginning of the next round. 8-9 - The Greedy Blade - The user can spend an action to cut a hole in the air with the sword and reach into it as though he had the Porté knack Pocket at rank 3. Objects inside never vanish. 10-11 - the Thirsty Blade - Once per act, the sword can draw blood from a foe. The user declares he's using the ability before rolling damage, and then may double the value of any one kept die - including any explosions of the die.

Puzzle swords fucking own .

Next time: Secrets of Montaigne!

"Madam, your husband is no fool." "Prove it to me and come back alive."

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: "Madam, your husband is no fool." "Prove it to me and come back alive."

Surprisingly, a relatively happy marriage.

We get our last piece of fiction: Montegue and his wife Dominique are discussing his reassignment and their own relationship. Montegue is overly formal and bad at telling when Dominique is joking, but they're getting closer. They are both aware that his assignment is probably a trap - but they agree that he must go. Dominique promises that if she discovers proof, she will send a letter to Montegue calling him home. There's even a small hint of love between them, just beginning.

Now, we get an essay about playing a Montaigne. First: don't be a dick. Sure, your nation is hated by most of the world - you aren't your nation. Nationalism is just beginning, and it's still more rare to see a hero who can't put it aside to get on with his friends than one who can. Sure, you might have some friendly debates, but nothing serious, because don't be a dick. Also, the Montaigne are stereotypically stylish. Like, really stylish. What matters is not that you win, but how - because of course you'll win, you're French . The French win. It's what they do. You are courageous, honorable, never underhanded. You offer your foes their swords back when they're disarmed. And you win anyway . Of course, in court that's not so - underhandedness is the norm there, as are clever quips and insults, but that's court. It's suggested you keep a notebook with one-liners in it so that you aren't caught off-guard when you need them.

Now, then - secrets! Firstly: l'Empereur did, in fact, poison his second wife. He was angry that she bore no sons and when he saw the poison left telltale signs he refused to send her body home. He also did, in fact, send Montegue to Ussura to die, for fear that Montegue would take his throne. He also did have Remy kill the Cardinal d'Argeneau. He is in fact cursed to never be able to have a male child; somehow, his mother's dying curse worked. And most importantly? Léon Alexandre du Montaigne xIV murdered the Hierophant. There was no sudden sickness - he was killed in cold blood. Almost no one knows that, and he's got an ace up his sleeve anyway: he's kidnapped the nine archbishops of Montaigne so a new cardinal can't be elected, and without a cardinal there can be no new Hierophant. It'll take three years before church law allows them to be replaced - but the Church doesn't have three years.

The big secret the Imperatrice Morella has? Two months ago, she awakened to find a black fate strand attached to her - something no Fate Witch has lived more than six months after seeing, save for her elder sister. She is planning to escape, and has prepared a letter to her sister for help. Her daughter Dominique has only one real secret as well: when she was examined at birth, she was declared to have no sorcery...but her son would be the most powerful sorcerer ever. She's just heard about the prophecy and is furious. She is planning to perform a ritual that will steal the child's sorcery for herself, but it must be performed just before the birth.

Montegue? Has no secrets. He really is just a peasant who is insanely good at tactics. He tries to be kind and loyal, but his reassignment has made him doubt. If he received proof that Léon wanted him dead, he'd march back to Montaigne and perform a coup d'état - he doesn't take kindly to betrayal. How about Cardinal Erika Brigitte Durkheim, the Eisen cardinal? Well, she's half-blood Montaigne - specifically, a half-blood sorcerer . She's really there to find her father, if he still lives. Second, she has in fact made a dark bargain to give her new power - she traded her reflection for the power to summon mirror ghosts and ask them three questions a day. The reflection is now intelligent and can manifest in the physical world - though it's her own mirror image and limps in the wrong leg; it was the reflection that was inspected for sorcery and proven innocent because it has none. Why did she do it? Well, her boss and the Hierophant both asked her to. Her boss, after all, is Gunther Schmidl of Die Kreuzritter, which she belongs to.

Duchess Thérése Rois et Reines du Rogné is exactly as loyal as she appears; she regrets imprisoning her son but is too stubborn to forgive him. She is also planning to trick Lady Jamais Sices du Sices into insulting the Empereur and thus being killed. She's a full-blood Porté sorcerer and journeyman Valroux fencer. Lady Jamais is a full-blood sorcerer but no fighter; she does, however, get a free Raise with the Repartee system, two kept dice for every Drama die she spends on it and only one kept die for two Drama dice spent on martial skills. She is also profoundly lonely. All she really wants is some friends and her history books, but she has neither. Someone really did commit suicide over her insults, and she feels a deep guilt over it - enough to harbor suicidal thoughts herself.

Karl Thomas Steiner has a dark secret - one even he doesn't remember. That night in the Black Forest? He ran into the legendary Schattenmann himself, the Shade Man - a monster of thin limbs and shadow who dismembers victims with shears. The Schattenmann could have killed him - but instead, it looked into his eyes and saw that one day he would spread a great darkness on the world. It cut off his ring finger and told him that when it returned, the darkness would be born. Whether the prophecy is true or not remains to be seen. Remy du Montaigne, meanwhile, is a full-blood sorcerer and master of Donovan, Valroux, Ambrogia and Tout Prés, as well as an Aldana journeyman. He wields a Maitre puzzle sword with Long Reach, Tainted Metal and the Thirsty Blade. His only secret is that he didn't directly kill Cardinal d'Argeneau - he just cut the man's finger off and dumped him in the river, as he felt bad about killing an old man.

Captain Jean-Marie Rois et Reines du Rogné has only one secret: despite leading the Musketeers, he hates the Empereur; he just won't break his vows and put himself and his wife in danger by opposing the man. Admiral Alazais Valoix Praisse du Rachetisse III did, in fact, win his rank by gambling with the Empereur - but there's a clause only he and the Empereur are aware of: if he doesn't get rid of all piracy in Montaigne waters by 1670, he's going to be killed. The General was once an honorable Eisen noble who tried to unite some other nobles during the War of the Cross; they preferred to bicker and take advantage of the chaos, so he grew sick of it, buried his dracheneisen armor in a field and left. He has left his name and honor behind with his armor, feeling that none of them ever brought him anything but pain. Pascal Vestanzi is not dead - when the Empereur saw his statue of the Imperatrice, he had the man's hands crushed and his tongue cut out, then dumped in a village 50 miles away. Pascal was saved from dying of his wounds by a pair of peasant woodcutters who nursed him back to health; while he is still a good sculptor, he will never be the perfection he once was. He is also illiterate, so he can't tell anyone what happened thanks to being made mute. And Jerome? Well, Jerome has no real secrets in his past and you know what he'll be coming home to...but without him and his approaching tragedy, the looming Montaigne revolution will be impossible, so GMs are told to keep him alive - he's going to be important.

Lastly, some new monsters. During the war on Castille, the Montaigne tried some questionable things - like sending a Porté mage into a castle with some wolves on a leash. They'd go mad, he'd release them and then teleport away. The wolves were a distraction for an assault. Sometimes, the mages never came back - and soon after, black wolves the size of ponies were seen in Castille and Montaigne. These wolves are infected with Porté, able to teleport - though far more easily than sorcerers can, as they need no Blooding, they just jump from spot to spot. At least they don't hunt in packs.

There's also Echoes, creatures formed when someone dies of their worst fear. They linger near where they formed and try to lure others to the same death, which strengthens them somehow. Any physical blow will destroy an echo for a day, but anyone facing one must make a Fear check once a round, with a penalty of one die per Dramatic wound the creature's caused. If a hero has the Cowardly hubris and it's activated, they automatically fail the check. Each failed check causes them suffer an automatic Dramatic wound and feel as though they are suffering the same death as the first victim. The only way to permanently destroy an echo is to somehow force it to fail a Fear check of its own, perhaps via the Courageous virtue.

There are also the Forest Fiends of the Lockhorn. Imagine a pack of angry, abnormally large and bloodthirsty black squirrels that can skeletonize a cow in about ten seconds. That's...yeah, that's about accurate. And, of course, mirror ghosts. They appear as misty humans with bllod-red eyes and bloody stumps where their hands should be. If they pass between two facing mirrors, they become trapped - but the mirrors must remain facing each other, or they'll be freed again. While trapped, they appear in both mirrors, pounding on the glass. Porté doesn't work in the same room as a mirror ghost. They can attack, but only characters with a Hubris - and only once per round, one person at a time. Ghosts automatically hit, dealing one kept die of damage for each time the Hubris has been activated this story successfully. They move about as fast as a man can run, so you can outrun them if you're quick, and you can trap them as above. They are immune to all damage, but while trapped cannot hurt anyone.

Next time: Secret Societies of Théah, Volume II: Rilasciare!

He's a butcher in judge's robes. If we let it continue, dozens more may die.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: He's a butcher in judge's robes. If we let it continue, dozens more may die.

Well, technically the 7th Sea Compendium came before Rilasciare, but that book has no new content - it recollects fluff info from the Player's Guide, GM's Guide and the Erebus Cross. We've seen all of it. Now, buckle up - we're about to learn where Sorcery truly came from.

We begin with some short fiction about the Honorable Sergio de Benedictis, a Vodacce judge. He is a cruel man who orders many hangings as a show of power and to keep people in fear. Two people, in secret. discuss his evils, and agree that the Prince won't listen - they need the Secret Court, whatever it is. Meanwhile, de Benedictis holds court against a man who didn't pay his taxes so he could afford bread for his child. The man is sentenced to eight years hard labor for conspiracy to commit treason - de Benedictis says that tax evasion is treason because of Vodacce's merchant war. We then get a speech about the crimes of de Benedictis, presumably to the Secret Court, and a member of the Inquisition bribing de Benedictis to dispose of a troublemaking priest. The Secret Court agrees the man must die, and allow the one who discovered his crimes to do the killing. We cut to Benedictis going through his letters when he finds one sealed by a strange seal he doesn't recognize, containing a paper with the word 'Guilty' on it and some dirt. He turns - and his brother Eduardo is behind him, plunging a knife through his eye. It turns out that his "prosecutor" was his own brother, who does not regret the killing - he is cold about it, like a proper Vodacce.

Now, let's talk about the secret history of the Rilasciare. Many don't realize their true size, since they organize into discrete and small cells that cannot expose each other - but they are very powerful, and the philosophically savvy have noticed similar unorthodox arguments from different groups at the same time, while patterns exist in vandalism and seditious acts. No one's put all the pieces together yet, though - no one's realized that Rilasciare is truly a huge group across all nations. After all, their symbol has been used to preach love and to show murder! How can they be the same? And they don't even have a public face.

But they are old. WE're going to talk about Numa, the Old Empire. Eventually, the Senate lost power to the Imperators, and the conflict between Senate and Imperator came to a head in 698 AUC, after nearly three hundred years. General Gaius Phillipus Macer took power in a military coup, tired of the struggles, and was welcomed with open arms as the greatest of Imperators by the people. For 26 years, the Senators tried to kill him - but all plots failed. At last, after all possibilities were exhausted, Senator Octavius Montanus discovered a strange artifact - a rod that let him summon strange, supernatural beings. He studied it for months, then gathered a small group of allies in a hidden Senate chamber and activated the rod.

The creatures arrived through a hole in space, appearing as horrifying demons. Some of the conspirators fled screamings, others fell to their knees and one went completely mad. Only Montanus remained calm. He began to bargain with the creatures, promising them anything if they would help him and his allies, pleding himself and his bloodline to their aid. At first, the creatures threatened him with damnation - but at least, they began to negotiate, as Montanus remained strong. The creatures, which Montanus called the Bargainers, would give the Senators great power - and they would spread those powers, first by teaching...but once they died, the power would be in the blood of their descendants. Each new practitioner would give a window into the world for the Bargainers, which they'd lost millenia ago. The Senators did not care. They agreed to these conditions and swore to pass on their knowledge - so the Bargainers gave them power. To Montanus, the power to step between shadows. To others, prediction of the future, control of fire, killing with a touch. The Bargain was sealed, the rift was closed.

And unknown to all of the conspirators, they were not alone. Three common servants had witnessed the Bargain, terrified but maintaining composure. As the Senators left, they agreed they must all fight against this abomination - and the Rilasciare were born. The leaders, Philo, Matias and Vesta, knew that they could not fight alone. They bided their time, watching as the Senators used their new power to defeat Gaius and broke his power, taking control of the Empire. They called themselves Fortis, the Courageous, and gathered allies. They found witnesses of the Senators' power and recruited them, training themselves in poison and assassination. They never revealed themselves ave to those they could trust, and struck back in small ways, even managing to kill one of the conspirators by stealth. But the Senators grew in power as well, spreading their power among their friends and allies. When sorcery was revealed, it did not stop their power - people were too frightened to act against them.

It was then that First Prophet arose. Vesta, the last survivor of the founders, overheard him speak of loving mankind, worshipping the one god Theus - and decrying sorcery. She was moved by his words and noticed his great charisma as a weapon that could be used. As a street preacher, though, his power was limited. Perhaps as a martyr, he could be unstoppable. Vesta offered the Prophet the chance to speak to the Senate itself, and he did not seem surprised. After his speech, he was arrested, tried and executed - and Vesta was found as the one who let him in, dying as well. Except...she was right: the Prophet's words gained strength. Many had heard him, and a cult sprung up, growing with each generation. Fortis encouraged its spread, preaching to all the Empire. The sorcerers tried to stop the cult, but it was too strong. In 203 AV, the Imperator himself announced his conversion. The sorcerers had to flee or face the wrath of the Empire.

Fortis splintered, then - some joined the Church, others began to hunt the sorcerers out to the colonies of Numa. Without a great threat, though, they lost contact with each other and fell from power. But as the Empire fell, the sorcerous nobles began to snap it up, dividing it into kingdoms. Sorcery by now was not taught, but genetic. Some nobles lacked it, and the sorcerers came to dominate, even as they hid their power. The society that was once Vestis was divided, had even lost its name, but it still existed - partially in the church, partially without. This was when they first became called Rilasciare - an old title meaning "Troublemaker" in the language of Numa. The cells' goals varied widely - but eventually, fighting the sorcerers became its true purpose, for they knew that genetic sorcery meant the Bargainers had a stronger foothold. For centuries, they fought a secret war, butchering nobles and being hunted as bandits.

Their greatest triumph was in 918: the death of the von Drachen family, the sorcerous line of Eisen. Their magic, now forgotten, was Zerstörung , which could age things with but a touch. The society had killed others before, mostly Porté mages and Castillian fire mages. But this time, with the aide of a rival without sorcery named Karl Sieger, they devised a plan to destroy the entire von Drachen family, for their magic was limited only to the one family and a few easily snipped branches. They had a reputation for cruelty, so it wasn't hard to start a secret rebellion. They began by striking at the minor cousins, slaughtering the families in their sleep. When the main family realizes they were under attack, they gathered at their fortified castle - just as the Rilasciare wanted. The kitchen staff smuggled in assassins, and by morning no von Drachen were left alive. Sieger annexed the land - and it soon became clear they'd replaced one eivl with another, as Sieger was a brutal oppressor who knew of their existence and kept an eye out for them. Sure, he wasn't a sorcerer, but he was not a good man.

Rilasciare cells began to debate - perhaps sorcery was not the only enemy. Power itself seemed to corrupt as surely as the Bargain did. If killing sorcerers would not prevent tyranny like Sieger's, then they must also fight tyrants. Tax collectors, nobles, kings. New members were drawn to Rilasciare, and their disillusionment with power came to a head with the Third Prophet. Many Rilasciare were in the Church - until then. They applauded his stance on sorcery and actively helped destroy Castille's sorcerous royal family, but they were appalled by his abuses of power. The crusades took thousands of lives for no good reason, and the Prophet tried to steal power from the Hierophant, starting a bloody internal war. He founded the Inquisition - and used it against political enemies. He ascended on the bodies of the dead and used his authority for power. The Rilasciare were horrified. The final straw came when Niccolo Benevisti, a Cardinal and member of Rilasciare, spoke out against the Inquisition and was burned as a heretic. Many of his followers in the group burned with him, sought by the Inquisitors, and the rest fled the church. The lesson was clear: Authority is poison and power corrupts completely. If mankind was to live free of fear, all authoirty must be destroyed.

So began a five century shadow war against the Vaticine and nobility. It wasn't easy - sorcery was driven underground, and fighting both secret mages and the Church was a huge drain on resources. Both the inquisitors and sorcerers sought to destroy the Rilasciare, and while they could be played against each other, there were just too many. The Rilasciare went into hiding - and found aid from an unlikely source: non-sorcerous nobles. The Rilasciare found foothold with these elites, recruiting them in its fight even as it planned to destroy their power. It became a game of cat and mouse, with careful movements to prevent allies from becoming enemies. Reckless Rilasciare died often, usually via magic. The cells became loose and informal, unitedo nly by philosophy and correspondence. They scored a few victories, but could not enact real change. A code of communication developed among these Rilasciare, to talk to each other without being recognized as doing so.

In 1500, they had developed into salons and gentleman's clubs. Direct action gave way to debate and mostly they were concerned with political philosophy instead of direct action. The were secretive, but no longer assassins - until a new cry arose. Francois Goddard du Rachetisse published a manifesto demanding the dismantling of all authority. He coined the term Free Thinker and urged all others of the group to follow him. He ignored the debates that followed, instead infiltrating a major construction project of the King of Montaigne - a dam meant to make a fishing lake. He and his followers packed it with gunpowder and blew the entire thing up during its inaugaral ceremony. The incident, called the Firework Dam, became famous - and Goddard became the most wanted man in Théah after the flood washed away an entire noble estate and killed three of the king's entourage. Other cells began to follow his example, performing direct and often very public acts of mayhem, while others began to distribute political leaflets and educate peasants, and yet others clung to their quiet debates. But Firework Dam changed everything.

In the century since, the Rilasciare have become very active, exchanging letters, arguing, acting to further their agenda. They remain divided on how extreme their methods should be, but they are all committed to the common goal. They have disrupted bureaucracies, causes chaos and even made some real changes. They were appalled by the violance of the War of the Cross, by the twisting of the Prophet's words for senseless slaughter. They hope to ensure that the suffering is not in vain by preventing a new Imperator from rising, and have been working to keep the Eisen barons at each others' throats, to ensure they won't reunify. They are also behind the revolt of la Bucca - it's one of their greatest successes, on the lines of the destruction of the von Drachens or the martyrdom of the First Prophet.

Several Rilasciare members were friends of Prince Javier del Castille, and they spent years trying to find him when the Inquisition kidnapped him. At last, he was found on la Bucca, calling himself Allende. They made contact, and smuggled him what he needed to pull off a revolt, including chemicals used to fake an outbreak of the White Plague. The revolt went off perfectly, and inspired by the debates with his old friends, Javier founded the Brotherhood of the Coast: a genuine democracy. He's still not part of the Rilasciare, but he remains in contact with them and will help them. In return, they will help his pirate "nation".

Despite being divided so much, the Rilasciare have a fairly unified philosophy. There are three basic tenets that all members hold true: First, no man, woman or child should ever want for anything. Second, sorcery is evil and must be destroyed for the good of humanity. Third, power corrupts and thus all trappings of power, called "Dominion", must be destroyed. These form the core of their beliefs, centered around the need for enlightenment and freedom of thought for all mankind. The first tenet is focused on the positive aspects of their beliefs - to build up, not tear down. In their ideal world, no one would be hungry, fearful or oppressed; they seek to achieve this by enlightening others and thus giving them the strength they need. They call this vero coraggio , true courage, achieved by learning to think for yourself. If you can do that, you can change the world. Peasants endure becuase they know no better - teach them joy and they will not stand for it. Rulers oppress because they do not care - show them the pain and they will change. Spread enlightenment and educate the ignorant, and you will create vero coraggio , which will end all hardship.

The second and third tenets come from the first, but are rather darker. Those who disagree with the Rilasciare, who do not feel equality is beneficial - they must be stopped and destroyed. Ironically, though, many Rilasciare are the noble elite even as they seek to overthrow it. No group of oppressors, they feel, is greater than the Bargainers, the creatures which gave men sorcery. They have corrupted an entire class, giving them magic in exchange for a foothold in this world - and that magic has been used to make a huge gap between the haves and have-nots. The Rilasciare cannot destroy the Bargainers, for they are beyond mortal reach, but they can destroy magic, slamming the door on the Bargainers. N o member has ever disagreed with these core tenets; it's implementation that varies.

We've got a sidebar, as a note - most people accept that nobles are just better. Magic self-evidently proves it: some people are just innately more capable than others. 'All men are created equal' is not an idea that exists outside the Rilasciare. They know the source of the power and that something was traded for it - sure, the original three left few records, but they know that magic has a price. They can see it in the lashes that mar Fate Witches and in the blood that coats users of Porté. Knowing there is a price makes it much easier for the Rilasciare to know that every human is born equal.

Next time: Feelings on sorcery and factions in the Freethinkers.

The law does not excuse cirumstance, signore, no matter how tragic.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: The law does not excuse cirumstance, signore , no matter how tragic.

The Rilasciare know of seven original lines of sorcery; of those, only three have survived to the modern day. The rest were destroyed via infighting, crossbreeding or, in one case, the Rilasciare. Porté and Sorte are the most common of the surviving Bargainer magics, while the Castillian El Fuego Adentro survives only in isolated tribes thanks to the Church's efforts in the time of the Third Prophet. The Free Thinkgers want to drive teleporters and fate witches ot the same fate. After all - every time they do their magic, they help the Bargainers. Glamour, Pyeryem and Lærdom are harder - one comes from the Sidhe, one from Matushka and one apparently from religious beliefs. They may or may not be as bad as the Bargainer sorceries. The Rilasciare have no cohesive polciy on them, but they generally don't approve of any kind of magic. Pyeryem and Lærdom are the hardest - the cultures that practice them are similar in their lack of structure to what the Free Thinkers want . Also, Avalon's Druid magic is hard to deal with because it comes from an internal enlightenment, which they approve of, but is magic, which they don't.

As a general rule, Rilasciare all dislike the Bargainer sorceries, disapprove of Glamour but not as much and vary in their views on Pyeryem and Lærdom. However, they all agree that no sorcerers may be allowed into the Rilasciare, no matter what they practice. It should be noted - the Rilasciare believe that sorcery is evil, but it doesn't have to be. Sure, it came from the Bargainers - but countless heroes have used their magic to help others. Even the Rilasciare don't discount that. Mostly. They just feel humanity should not have to pay the price for all that power.

By design, Rilasciare has very little structure. It has no leaders, but is instead organized into semi-autonomous cells that vary widely in organization and tactics. However, there are a number of "factions" which are based on implementation - five primary ones, really, and their debates tend to shape what might be called overall policy, such as it is. The first and most common faction is the Freeman League, who are what people think of when they think 'Rilasciare'. The Freemen are pranksters, discordians and public nuisances. They are the most public and most hunted. They care less about sorcery than the overthrow of authority and replacement of nations with decentralized states. The way most Freemen go about doing this is to ridicule those in power to remove their authority, which can man illegal satirist leaflets...or it can man burying statues in cow manure or filling tax offices with paint. Or, sometimes, it means burning down government buildings and filling churches with incontinent geese. Sure, it seems frivolous - but there's a serious purpose: to render authority useless by showing people how well they can get along without it. While they tend towards good humor, Freemen have also been deadly serious - hunger strikes, for example, are another Freeman tactic. The authorities hate them because they are humiliating - and humiliation is deadly at high levels. The Freemen tend to be young nobles themselves, using that to get access to their targets and safehouses. (In fact, the Rilasciare have a surprising number of nobles, who tend to be deeply principled and feel that while they've got a lot to lose, the gains for society will be worth it.) Freemen refuse to kill if at all possible and try to ensure their pranks don't cause physical harm. They may kidnap officials, but they'll keepo them safe and release them unharmed - just very ridiculous and humiliated. Their missions tend to be planned extremely carefully, and they are very passionate.

Next is the Freethought Society, the most moderate action. They counsel caution and restraint, and are mostly older people (usually wealthy, nobles or both) whose more adventurous days are behind them. They have wisdom, experience and contacts, though, so they are well-respected. They focus on education and enlightenment of the masses. Yes, laws and government are bad and must eventually be done away with - but people aren't ready for freedom yet. They need to be educated, to be prepared for what is to come. The Freethought warn others of the dangers of sorcery, encourage tolerance and teach people. This is important - most schools are run by the Vaticine, and the Freethought Society want to change that. Sometimes that means opening their own schools, open to anyone - or perhaps leccutring on street corners, pamphleteering or even going into the fields and teaching people to read. They also use their extensive contacts to try and improve life however they can. Generally, they're modest in their goals - progressive legislation, putting their members in key positions to held others, that sort of thing. They can do more when needed, though - free wrongfully accused prisoners, plant evidence and so on. While the others may call them do-nothing babblers, the criticism goes away when someone needs their contacts and legal prowess. Their most dramatic success has been the spread of a new literary movement in Montaigne, wherein anonymous publications question everything from the class system to property rights. They have caught on like wildfire, though mostly as a fad, because no one knows who would dare publish such material. The Society's chief enemy is the Church, who see them as an affront to Church authority and shut down their schools whenever they can, arresting the owners for heresy. Several prominent Soceity members have vanished without trace, while others have been burned at the stake - but the Church underestimates how much some old men care for the idea of dying for a worthy cause.

Their polar opposites are the Guerrilla Alliance. Some Rilasciare believe that the revolution can be peaceful; these aren't them. They don't care about pranks or arguments - they want to tear down the tools of oppression now . They are largely from the lower classes, and they scorn the respectability of the other groups. They want to take down the nobility by any means necessary - and they're very dangerous. They are highly active and known for performing daring missions with no care for their own safety, attacking the instruments of government, nobility and the Church in an effort to bring it all crashing down. They target both sorcery and other forms of power, and have performed several notable bombings, kidnappings and acts of open sedition. Many know how to use explosives, most are trained soldiers, and some are even professional killers. A year ago, one of their cells infilitrated a Vendel masquerade and murdered the head of the Usury Guild, Master Solomon, in front of five hundred guests. Six months before, they blew up a prominent public works deparment in Paix with forty-two barrels of gunpowder. While most of the Paix cell was arrested, the Guerrillas have shaken society to its core - and unlike most of the Rilasciare, they have no care about killing when they feel it's needed. Almost every Guerrilla is a wanted criminal, and those who aren't are such only because they haven't been identified. They've lost the most men of any faction, but they feel the results are worth the risk. While fanatical, they are also extremely brave, and while violent, few can deny they possess vero corragio . When executed, the leader of the Paix cell laughed at the crowd and willingly leapt to his death on the noose. While their actions may be terrifying for the other Rilasciare, their courage is inspiring.

Then there's the Liberation Guild. They're...well, thieves. They steal from the rich and powerful and give to the Rilasciare, the poor and themselves. They have only two major cells to their name, the least of any faction, and have performed some of the most daring robberies in history. While they spend their idle hours in debate, much like the Freethought Society, they have few idle hours. Instead, they are always busy with the next heist, using the Rilasciare's philosophy to focus their actions on worthy targets - generally tax collectors, government treasuries and the extremely wealthy. They use a mix of planning and audacity and steal the most valuable items they can find, no matter what guards them. The wealth they steal is always sent to those in need - either Rilasciare cells or the poor. Taxes are generally given to the taxed, while art is auctioned off to the highest bidder or ransomed, the money used to keep people fed and cells well-supplied. They've started a game of oneupsmanship with each other, daring each other to greater heights. The greatest theft so far has been that of Konrad Proovost, who broke into the summer home l'Empereur and stole a prized Syrneth artifact, replacing it with a cheap fake and evading guards and hounds. He sold the real copy to the Explorers, but his coup is not total - the Empereur has not yet noticed the thing's missing. Either way - the other Rilasciare may condemn the Liberation Guild as frivolous or self-serving, but on the other hand, they're happy to use their income to fuel the society, as well as to use the skills that the Liberators bring to the table - few are their equals in climbing, break-ins and escapes. Sure, the Guild cares more about thrill than purpose - but they produce results and they have style .

The Oppositionists are closest to the original purpose of the Rilasciare: fighting sorcery. They feel all evils of power ultimately spring from sorcery, and that so long as it remains, humanity will suffer. They point to things like the growing madness of l'Empereur, the bloody history of Vodacce and the witches, the sinister nature of the Sidhe or the fact that Pyeryem keeps Ussura under Matushka's thumb. The Oppositionists want to remove sorcery from the world - perhaps by killing sorcers, by convincing them not to use their powers, by giving them little need to use their gifts - anything they feel will work. They retain strong Vaticine ties, and many Oppositionists are devout. Some are even priests. When the Oppositionists find sorcerers who abuse their power, they often try to have them killed. "Heroic" sorcerers are dealt with via subtler techniques - perhaps trying to convince them not to use their power, or giving them things that make the power redundant. Vodacce has been the hardest, as Sorte is the only power most witches have - so there, the Oppositionists have started working, unlikely as it seems, with Sophia's Daughters, to educate the witches and get them out of the country, to places where they don't need to use their power. They also attempt to place nannies, stewards and teachers into places where they can convince their charges not to use sorcery, to dissuade sorcerous marriages and so on, in an attempt to kill off the family lines. The Oppositionists possess a rare set of ancient scrolls, written by Vesta herself, about the Bargain. Few have seen the scrolls, but rumors abound among the Rilasciare about their content.

Last are the Couriers, the glue that holds the Rilasciare together. They have no political position; rather, they are the delivery service that keeps the many cells of Rilasciare in touch with each other. Without them, the Free Thinkers would have perished long ago. They are masters of safety, secrecy and anonymity, run from a main cell in the Vendel city of Kirk. Only the chief Courier knows all the secret names and codes used to address and hide the messages, and his couriers range from poor servants to wealthy merchants, using every means - except sorcery, of course - to move the messages along. Couriers have been known to burn themselves to death rather than allow their letters to fall into hands other than their recipients. They have, by necessity, remained utterly outside the factional debates, maintaining neutrality and trust. It may take them months to get letters mailed, but they get there - and so debates can take years, but the society remains cohesive. Mostly. Sure, the time between letters gives each cell time to work and splinter away from the others - but this is the best they've got right now.

And some Rilasciare have no faction. They are often members of no set cell, but rather travel the world and support the goals of the Rilasciare however they can. The Free Thinkers are okay with that - vero corragio comes in many forms. Sure, they get courted by various factions, but the independents are recognized as an important part of the Rilasciare cause.

Joining the Rilasciare isn't easy. Their members keep an eye out for those who seem to think the same way, and feel them out as best they can before inviting them to join the group. That could be years of observation! They'll then explain the cause and the dangers, and give the recruit a chance to join. Most are all too willing. Cells have varying initiation rites depending on faction, nationality or whatever. Once you're in...well, you liven normally most of the time - until it's time to act. Meetings are serious but informal, and leadership varies by cell. The only thing they all share is the Secret Court. Most of the Rilasciare doesn't like to kill, after all. (The Guerrillas and Oppositionists might disagree, of course.) Still, those noble tenets can be a disadvantage - most of their foes have no such qualms. The Rilasciare have thus developed a way to serve as judge, jury and executioner. Anyone can convene the Court - all they have to do is tell the Couriers they're doing it, naming a "Criminal" or group that will be the defendants. Then, the Rilasciare gather evidence - eyewitness accounts, listing of crimes, finding documents and so on. Any Rilasciare testimony is assumed to be true, while other witnesses are judged by circumstance. Once all evidence is ready, the accuser assembles his arguments and sends it to the Couriers, who give copies to every single cell. They then have 24 hours after receiving the evidence to debate and turn in a verfict. A majority vote of "Guilty" means the crimes merit execution.

Each cell has one vote, which can be arrived at however they like. When the couriers get the votes, they return the verdict to the accuser. If it's guilty, then the accuser may act. This can be by hiring a swordsman, a more subtle assassin, send in a Rilasciare killer or even do the job themselves. Some defendants even get tortured before being killed if their crimes were particularly terrible. If possible, the killer will always leave a small mound of black earth from the spot the Old Republic Seantors struck the Bargain. Anyone wanting to kill must convene the court; accidental deaths, of course, aren't a problem - they should be avoided, but they happen. Killing in self-defense or a personal vendetta, also not a problem. But if it's plan to kill someone to further the Rilasciare's goals? Then the Court's needed. The Guerrillas have acted without it, but doing so is very rare, lest the others turn on them en masse. Some day, the Rilasciare feel, the Court will no longer be needed - but until then, it acts as a way to ensure that any dark acts they must take are justified and their aggressive members are kept in line.

The Rilasciare have developed many codes to help identify each other, but they tend to be informal. Only two systems are universal and organized. The first is the "Coat code", a way to convey messages via clothing. It evolved from togas of the Old Empire, which were cut to pass messages among the Fortis; modern cells wear specific outfits, hats and scarves to give out information. These coats are designed to have easily changeable for many messages, and are capable of relaying three - and only three - types of information: First, precise directions within a given city. Second, types of people (such as musketeers, judges, soldiers and so on). Third, events - that is, meetings, ships leaving port or particular dates. It can't do names. So you could learn that a musketeer is at an inn five blocks up and three houses down, but not his name or the name of his inn. You also can only get three pieces of information into the code before you look too ridiculous to be normal. The coats are created by Hans Uppmann, who has also taken to adding features like hidden lockpicks or other useful items. The other code is building marks - basically, the Rilasciare use hobo code.

See? Hobo code.

Now, let's talk about relations. The Rilasciare...well, they have very little power in Avalon. People love Elaine, and what's worse, she knows about the Rilasciare and has set Bors MacAllister on keeping it in check - and he's great at erreting them out. Only a isngle major cell has survived, hiding in the city of Luthon. The Rilasciare, for their part, think Elaine's as bad as the old senators - she gained power through Sidhe magic and has spread Sidhe power like wildfire. She stands against all they believe, and they want to bring her down...but since they know little about the Sidhe, they're not sure how to do it. They love the Highlands - the government is structured much as they'd like it to be, and James MacDuff is one of the few kings who seems actually worthy of his position. On the other hand, Inismore is a disaster - chaotic and fractured, the bad side of structurelessness, and ruled by a mad demigod who could vanish at any time. Artificial authority's bad, but so is pure chaos! There's little activity in either country because the locals don't want outsiders - though there's a quiet Freethought cell in Kirkwall.

Castille has a good number of Rilasciare, dating from the days when they worked with the church to defeat El Fuego Adentro . The Liberation Guild is strong there, stealing from abandoned rancheros , while the Oppositionists have strong allies in the Church. And, of course, the Freeman League had strong friendship with Prince Javier before his disappearance. They've been keeping an eye on Sandoval. The war has given them freedom to act, though they must be careful not to weaken Sandoval too much - they very much don't want Montaigne to win. So instead, they use subtler means or pursue interests unrelated to the crown. Castillians think of them as well-meaning eccentrics, sometimes helpful and sometimes a pest. They'll happily listen so long as no actual revolutions are involved. The Church, on the other hand, has little friendship left for the Rilasciare, especially with the rise of the Inquisition. Fortunately, their contacts in the Church have kept them one step ahead of the Inquisitors so far, and they're not that high on the list of priorities.

Eisen...well, it suffered a horrible war, but at least it's left behind a disunified mess. The Rilasciare hope that without a central authority, the Eisen will learn to rely on themselves, and they are committed to keeping Eisen divided. The problem is that most of the Eisenfürsten want to unify the nation under themselves. Okay, Georg Hainzl's lost touch with reality and is pretty safe, and Nicklause Trägue is happy with just Freiburg, but the other five are dangerous. The Free Thinkers have tried to play them off each other and solidify their territorial borders; sooner or later, though, they'll have to act against one of them. The Eisen are generally unware of the Rilasciare and wouldn't care if they knew - there's enough madmen around without looking for more.

Montaigne...well, on the one hand, l'Empereur is a pig destroying his people, the nobles squander their position on petty gains and the peasants suffer. On the other, there are many individual Montaignes who are noble, courageous and devoted to their fellow man. Artists and thinkers are free to develop new theories, and the musketeers tend to be bastions of justice for all classes. The Rilasciare admire much and hate much. Ever since the Paix bombing, though, they've become rather passive in Montaigne - educated peasants, putting on radical plays, but little else. Maybe they've realized how hard revolution is...or maybe they're biding their time. Due to the Freethought Society's essays, more Montaigne than anyone else know about the Rilasciare. It's currently very avant garde to read their works and discuss them...but people are still very unsettled by the Paix bombing and other such incidents, and some wonder if they'll be next. Most believe the essays will fade when the next fad comes along.

Ussura...well, the Rilasciare aren't strong in Ussura, quite, because they don't seem needed. The country is fat, happy and largely disorganized and huge. It's everything they could want, and the few Ussuran cells mostly try to keep the boyars from overstepping. Still, the notion of Matushka is rather unsettling, though it hasn't caused the same problems as Avalon's Sidhe. The Rilasciare do dominate what intellectual debates the nation has, holding endless arguments in Pavtlow's teahouses. Many Rilasciare flee to Ussura to hide while the heat dies down, and the Pavtlow cell writes more letters than any two cells combined. The Ussurans tend not to trust intellectuals much, but the Gaius indulges them so long as they stay quiet.

Next time: More thoughts of the Rilasciare, and some important cells!

I should like to see the methods you use to obtain such pious confessions.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: I should like to see the methods you use to obtain such pious confessions.

We left off with Ussura, so we move to Vendel. The Rilasciare and Vendel hate each other. Sure, the merchants are no nobles - but their focus on profits is used for economic domination, and Rilasciare can't stand that. For their part, the Vendel hate them for driving profits down. The entire business rubs the Rilasciare wrong because the merchants thrive on making people want for things - something that goes against all the Free Thinkers believe. Vendel Rilasciare tend to be more radical than most, and the Guerrillas' largest cell is in Kirk. The Couriers are also based there. The Rilasciare approve of the Vestenmannavnjar and their old tribes, though Lærdom makes some nervous, and the two groups get on relativvely well. IF the Vesten were not so monofocused on Vendel, the Rilasciare might even consider revealing themselves as a whole and proposing an alliance.

Vodacce's an important country. The city of Numa's as close to sacred as anything is for the Rilasciare - and the nation itself, well...it's a dangerous place. There's sorcery...but in the hands of those with no other power. The nation is divided...yet when threatened, the Princes can act as one. The people are devout Vaticines...but they break the Church's laws every day. The Rilasciare still have no clear idea how to deal with it, and have settled for going for pragmatic solutions and dodging Princely reprisal. The Vodacce are proud, and don't take well to their games - most of those who know about the Rilasciare see them as a tool to be used rather than a force of change. Many Rilasciare find themselves serving petty agendas as they work, and they move very carefully to avoid it happening too much. They've also convened the Secret Court in Vodacce more than any other nation.

As noted, the Rilasciare love the Brotherhood of the Coast - they consider it their creation. While Allende may not be a member, they are both very happy to work togther. The Explorers, on the other hand - well, they approve of the quest for knowledge, but many Rilasciare view Syrneth artifacts as dangerous and destructive, though not as much as sorcery. They mostly leave the Explorers alone - but if they go too far, the Rilasciare will not hesitate to act. They really, really want to help the Invisible College, but can't, because the Invisible College is too good at hiding. The Rilasciare have no idea who they'd be assisting.

The Rilasciare believe that the Knights of the Rose and Cross, while heroes, are doomed to inevitably stagnate and become corrupt. They've tried to infiltrate the group in order to prevent it, but have yet to succeed. They suspect that die Kreuzritter werre not, in fact, destroyed when history says they were and that they still serve as the Hierophant's will. Such an order could be either wonderful or terrible - and either way, they want to know more, though they have few leads. They love Los Vagos - it's their ideal form of organization: the leader leads by example in the name of justice and never claims authority. They love El Vago. They do whatever they can to help Los Vagos, though El Vago is prepared to fight them if they ever try to harm Good King Sandoval. Until they do, though, he'll accept their help.

Sophia's Daughters have an alliance with the Rilasciare - both seek to better the oppressed, and they have some common foes. The Daughters have used Rilasciare to smuggle women out of Vodacce, and the Rilasciare have used Sophia's Daughters extensive library at times. Still, it's an alliance of convenience, not ideology. The Rilasciare are very concerned over the fact that the Daughters love sorcery as a tool, but things have been kept from getting too bad because the Daughters have claimed they'll be happy to abandon it when their goals are achieved. For now, Rilasciare will accept that. For now.

Okay. Now, cells of the world! Avalon has only one major cell, a 7-man one in the city of Luthon. They are called the Brothers of Freedom and are a member of the Guerrilla Alliance. They're the only group that's managed to evade Bors MacAllister for long, hanging around with Luthon's bureaucrats. They've gotten rid of a few corrupt clerks and passed out seditious literature but have otherwise done little, since there's not much they can do. They've made contact with Piram and offered to help him - they don't like him, but Elaine has to go first, and after that they can take him out relatively easily. In the meantime, they continue to try and dodge MacAllister, while he continues to try and arrest them and blackmail them into fingering Piram. If they get a chance, they'd not hesitate to kill the man. There is also a Freethought Society cell in the Highland capital Kirkwall, called the Faculty of the University of Kirkwall. 11 men who are...exactly what they claim to be. The University was founded fifty years back by a pair of Rilasciare nobles, Justin McFadden and Sean MacDonald, who intended the University to be a school seperate from the Vaticine and all trappings of authority. They spend most of their time running tutoring programs, building roads and so on, and they are currently funded by the King himself. They're easily the most content branch of the Rilasciare - they feel their efforts are working, and they're improving the Highlands in the hope of making it an ideal community.

Castille has a number of cells. In Altamira, there are the Nimble Fingers, one of the two Liberation Guild cells. There's 14 of them, who meet in a villa full of stolen goods. They're mostly Castillian nobles, with a few Vendel and Avalons, who try to perform the most outrageous thefts they can. They fund many Rilasciare cells, though they're seen as highly flippant and frivolous. In the Vaticine City, there's a 26-man cell of Oppositionists, the Holy Order of the Four Prophets. They hunt down sorcery, and while none of them are Church members, they are all devout. They were instrumental in the overthrow of El Fuego Adentro , and some still pursue the last users. They tend to frame sorcerers and get them killed by the government, but will call the Secret Court if they can't. They are also prominent in politics, trying to arrange marriages to dilute the sorcerous blood via a network of spies, informants and blackmailers. And in San Cristobal, there are Los Nueve y Siete, the Nine and Seven - once, they were a band of noblemen who hung around with Javier de Castille, who were outrageous pranksters. He kept contact with them, and they believe he was righteous and good. They are, in fact, a 16-man cell of the Freeman League. A year after he disappeared, the swore to find him and disrupt any authority that might take his place. Since then, they have struck out at all authority around - they even made a prank on King Sandoval...though that changed when they found Javier on la Bucca . They helped him created the Brotherhood of the Coast, but he told them to stop undermining Sandoval, and instead to try and teach him to be a good ruler. They agreed, so now their efforst are focused on the Church and dons, and are consulted from time to time by Sandoval.

Eisen only has a few cells. In Freiburg, there is a nameless group of Guerillas, 18 strong. They want to shatter the Eisenfürsten completely, leaving the nation to complete anarchy. They are based out of Freiburg by necessity - nowhere else would tolerate them - and they harry everyone but Freiburg's own people - largely because Freiburg's already in a state of near-anarchy. In Gottkirchen, there is a Freeman League cell of 20 men called the Vereingung das Uneinigkeit. I have no idea what that means. They are pranksters who work to keep the Eisenfürsten at each others' throats - they don't want to destroy them, quite, but do want to keep them from uniting the people, so that people realize they do not need an Imperator. They belittle the Eisenfürsten and place the blame on...the other Eisenfürsten, along with stirring up discontent among the soldiers and officials.

In Montaigne there are quite a few cells. Charouse has Jacob's Political Society, a Freethought cell of 12. They are a gentleman's club that debates ideals and slowly distributes anonymous essays, which are worming their way through the court. They were founded by a noble, and consist solely of idealistic nobles and aristocrats - though they've started letting in nouveau riche and upper middle class members, too. They spend most of their time drinking, gaming and debating, but their essays have brought new ideas to the fore and paved the way for major reforms. They have no idea how to implement any of this, but they have some of the most sophisticated ideas of the Rilasciare. Dechaine, meanwhile, has the Cirque d'Chaine, a Freethought cell of 15. They are a band of traveling actors who journey across Montaigne and perform radical plays, generally for the peasantry. They have also been working to educate the peasants, as well as serving as an informal mail service for them. Paix has the Paix Historical Gentleman's Club, an eight-man Oppositionist cell. They have become a bit crazy, especially with the loss of Paix's Guerrillas after the bombing. They claim to have been in Montaigne since it was formed, hunting Montanus and his family. They exclusively hunt Porté sorcerers, which they feel are most dangerous, and believe that the Bargainers live in the Walkway. They hope to eventually find proof of this or some secret weakness that can be exploited.

Ussura has a single cell, the nameless Freethought cell of Pavtlow. There are 23 official members, but it also serves as a home in exile for any Rilasciare that need to hide out. It is the central organization of the Ussuran intellectuals, few though they are, and their agenda is no secret, though their membership to the Rilasciare is. They mostly try to establish schools and teach people, which has been a slow success. They are uncomfortable with the idea of Matushka but have no idea how to address it - you might as well try to banish a forest. They also have strong ties with sophia's Daughters, and often shelter women for them. The Pavtlow cell spends a lot of time arguing and has almost no organization.

Vendel, now...well, Kirk has two cells. The first is the True Path, a 16-man cell of the Guerrillas and their most prominent cell. It is an extremely active and destructive cell, infamous even before they assassinated Master Solomon of the Usury Guild. They trade weapons with the Vesten and aim to shatter the Vendel sense of security and cause mass panic. The Couriers are also based in Kirk, and they're 45 strong - the largest "Cell" because that's all the Couriers. All of them. They are run by a man named Nolan Chaucer, who coordinates the links between all of the cells of Rilasciare. Only a few tend to be in Kirk at any one time, though. In Chaucer's free time he publishes an illegal but popular newspaper called the Rum Barrel. The Couriers have no direct links with the True Path, and go to complex drop points to ensure that none of the True Path realize they're in the same city.

And Vodacce has several cells. The first is a nameless Freeman League group based on the island of Dionna, 17 men strong. They take great pride in their work, because Vodacce will kill over insults - and that is their stock in trade. They humiliate people, and that brings results, because a humiliated man is not long for power. They have caused three suicides, forty-one duels and countless resignations, but have never directly killed anyone. They've greatly destablizied the local government - though the Villanova family has not lost any real power, and they don't dare strike against Giovanni Villanova - it'd be suicide. On Bernoulli's Isle, the Esteemed Union of Burglars, Clowns, and Roustabouts (AKA the Burglar's Union) is a nine-man cell of the Liberation Guild. They are far more prgamatic than the Nimble Fingers, and they tend to care more about money than challenge. They are largely smugglers and skimmers off ship cargo, being dockworkers by trade. They're very good at their jobs. They don't do much political work, but they do fund quite a lot of the Rilasciare. And then there's the Bane, a 13-man cell of Oppositionists based in Florentina. They are hapy to kill off any sorcerers they get their hands on...but after years of butting heads with Sophia's Daghters, they have agreed to not harm a certain list of Fate Witches and smuggle some women out of the country, in return for detailed information on Sorte mages outside the Daughters' protection and aid in striking them. It's an uneasy alliance at best, but so far it's worked.

And of course there are other cells, beyond these. But these are the major cells! You can join one or make your own.

I can't shoot a man who looks like he's having that much fun!

Now, important people. Well, most important is arguably Nolan Chaucer, the only man who could really claim to lead the Rilasciare. He's head of the Couriers, an Avalon whose family moved to Kirk when he was young. He was always an outcast for his accent and tendency to poke around in other people's things, and he had a healthy distaste for Vendel and for authority when he graduated. He ended up as a courier, and occasionally doctored the letters he delivered to be insulting or misleading, becoming quite a good forger. Eventually, a Rilasciare Courier in the same company recruited him, teaching him patiance and discipline. Eventually, Nolan ended up as Head Courier - the best man for the job. He's served for over thirty years, and reads every piece of correspondence. He knows the real names of 3/4s of the sect, as well as the headquarters of every cell. He keeps everyone connected, and is often the only voice the more radical cells listen to. His son Ryan is set to replace him when he dies - Ryan's been learning the job since he was thirteen, and he's more than competent. Nolan's a big, heavy man with a friendly face and easy smile, and he considers the Couriers his surrogate family.

Benoit Jantot du Toille is a senior Courier under Nolan, delivering the most vital messages. He never goes to the Kirk office, but rather picks messages up at drop points - he knows none of the other Couriers and only has a rough understanding of the organizational structure. Chaucer is his only contact. He is paid extremely well for his work, and has something a reputation as a chatterbox, able to talk about anything for hours. He's a handsome man with a knack for impersonations, and his wife never asks him about his job. Ever. Then there is Willem Karls, born Fritz Guren. His parents were Objectionists who died in the War of the Cross when he was 13, so he moved to Avalon and changed his name, using his inheritance to pay for private schooling at all the best Avalon universities. He learned quite a lot, but began to run out of money at age 19 - but by then, he knew more than men twice has age. He'd been noticed by the Kirkwall cell, and the Rilasciare contacted him through an aging Courier named Javier Rois del Guzman. For the first time, Karls found something he wanted, and joined easily. He has been given a sense of purpose, and at 28 he is one of the most important couriers. He serves aboard ships, and is one of the best sailing Couriers in the world. He also carries a ledger of important dates and events, coded to prevent easy reading. He doesn't ever reveal his true allegiance, but will direct the Rilasciare to men and women he feels would be good recruits.

Then there is Eduardo de Benedictis, of the starting fiction. He's a Rilasciare...but a very cold one, with little emotion or warmth. His laugh is chilling, and his eyes show no feeling. He works for the Burglar's Union, planning all their operations with immense precision. He was the son of a lawyer, and his brother Sergio was a prominent judge. He was expected to follow the family trade, attending the best law schools - but his views were radical, arguing for enforcing the law equally to all classes and defending the poor without charge. When he dared to challenge the ethics of one of his professors, he was expelled but months before he'd have graduated, and his father threw him out of the house as a failure. Fortunately, the Burglar's Union recruited him, promising him the means to change the world for the better. He agreed, and found a great knack for organization and logistics. What's made him famous, though, is that he personally sought out proof for the execution of his brother Sergio and killed him without ever blinking an eye. Sure, Sergio deserved it - but Eduardo's insistence on doing the job has made everyone else a bit weirded out. For all that he lacks emotion, Eduardo has a rigid and strong set of ethics, and has never harmed anyone but his brother. Still, it often seems like he has these ethics simply because he's expected to.

And then there's Hans Uppmann! Hans joined the Free Thinkers after the War of the Cross destroyed his country, his business and his faith. He used to be the personal tailor for Georg Hainzl, and loved it - but the War showed him the flaws of the Eisen system. He joined the Vereinigung das Uneinigkeit as a skilled and ingenious prankster, retiring when he was no longer able to keep up with the physical demands. He has taken to becoming the tailor for the Rilasciare, forming the standards for the coat code. He has strict designs to keep to, but varies them up in color and pattern to make it hard to tell they're actually all so consistent. His coats are always fashionable, and he has recently taken to custom-making cuts with various tricks in them - lockpicks in the hems, knives in the pocket linings, spring-loaded daggers in the cuffs. His coats have allowed for succesful pulling of incredibly dangerous stunts. He's a small, compact old man who always wears his own designs.

Next time: More Free Thinkers!

Bill. Bill. Transfer of prisoners - this shouldn't be here. Bill.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Oh, Planetary, when are you not amazing?

7th Sea: Bill. Bill. Transfer of prisoners - this shouldn't be here. Bill.

We'll start things off with Hubert Michel du Gloyure, the foremost painter of the Rilasciare. He is a hihgly political artist, whose two greatest works can only be seen at the Political Society of Charouse - The Maid's Mistake , showing an 11-year-old girl cowering from an enraged noblewoman over a broken teapot, and Sunset , a portrait of Léon Alexandre du Montaigne slouched in his throne, hung over, disheveled and holding a half-eaten leg of pheasant. Hubert attempts to use his scandalous images to try and change how people think about "superiors," and in person he never really comes off as the radical he is.

And then there's Arnaud Maximilien du Charouse, a Montaigne lawyer who joined up practically by accident after he defended a Free Thinker in court. He rarely speaks in meetings, praises l'Empereur as a benevolent ruler, lives in a middle-class neighborhood and has a wife who hasn't shared his bed in years. But his writings? He writes amazingly , full of fire and revolutionary idealism. He is a utopian writer, and his cell often relies on him to write its letters and essays. He is deeply respected, despite his quiet, unassuming nature. He rarely talks unless angry, when he will deliver venomous diatribes, and takes notes on everything he sees. And if you can't guess who he is, shame on you.

What a strangely familiar face.

This is Boris Nicholaievich Sokolov, King of the Exiles. The self-given title annoys some of his colleagues...so he keeps using it. Sokolov is the practical leader of the Ussuran Rilasciare, the son of a minor boyar who was disgusted with the infighting of the boyars. He was sent to school and told to stay there rather than become corrupted. Sokolov agreed with his father, and was happy to become one of Pavtlow's intellectuals. He became a member of the Freethought Society before he knew it. He's naturally friendly and cheerful, and he is the one who takes care of the Rilasciare who have to hide out in Ussura. His main reason for being annoying to ohters? He thinks that they take themselves too seriously, and that any fanaticism can be tyrannical - so he tries to temper it with humor and annoyance. He refuses to get upset over political arguments, ever, and refuses to hold grudges, always buying drinks for his foes after an argument. It keeps most people from being able to hate him.

On the other end of the spectrum is Vincent, head of the Kirk Guerrillas. He has no use for the tamer parts of the Rilasciare. He was imprisoned at the age of 12 for stealing bread, and spend six years learning how brutal authority could be. When released, he renounced his name and life, becoming simply "Vincent". He was offered a place in the Kirk cell after he stole nearly 10000G from a prominent Vendel bank, and quickly embraced their philosophy. Vincent is now the mastermind of most of the Guerrilla Alliance's schemes. He helped plain the Paix bombing and many other acts - though he has an uncanny knack for never getting caught, even when he was personally the killer of the Usury Master Solomon. He is the unquestioned leader of the Kirk Guerrillas and is often consulted by others. He could be either Vendel or Vesten, but refuses to say which. He never smiles, though he is capable of warmth, and only very recently learned to read. He writes poorly, but sees things in the very big picture. He has no cares about killing and ignores the Secret Court whenever he can.

Then there's Gerard Trainer, who has seen the evil of sorcery firsthand. He was once an officer under a noble named Uwaine during the Avalon civil war. He believed in his lord and wanted Uwaine to rule - but when Elaine appeared with the Graal, his beliefs were shattered. Uwaine abandoned his cause to follow a young girl . Even worse, Uwaine lent her his immense skill as a general! All because of the Graal. Trainer quit rather than serve a Sidhe pawn and was hired on as a mercenary for the Rilasciare, soon becoming a full member. Trainer is the one who has kept his cell from being destroyed by Bors MacAllister. He was an advance scout and has put all his training to good use in hiding the cell. His strategic mind is a match for MacAllister's, and his planning is nearly perfect. He's turned what was once a criminal band into a psuedo-military elite who generally perform raids against Elaine's government and the Sidhe when they see a chance. Trainer has made contact with King Piram to seek his help, despite once being a foe of the man. He is calm and unemotional, and a master of hiding - Bors knows his name, but not his face, and he never betrays any emotion. As far as he's concerned, the cell is still at war.

Next, Gabriél Menendez de Altamira. Menendez was always a daring man, willing to do anything with grace and enthusiasm. By the time the Montaigne invaded, he could pick locks, climb walls and steal small objects with the best of them, earning the name "Magpie." He has also always been uneasy with the casual comforts of the ruling class and the indulgences of some of the Vaticine. Why did they have so much when others had so little? He soon fellin with the Rilasciare, and has become a leader among the Liberation Guild while his brothers joined the army to fight Montaigne. He has become one of the greatest thieves of the age, and equally good at issuing challenges - the raid on l'Empereur's palace was his idea, and he still thinks that it's hilarious. He lives decadently, treating thieving as a noble pastime, though he sells anything of value that he steals and gives the money to the poor. He doesn't care much for lectures - sure, he enjoys life, but he's still making a better world. When not thieving or partying, he can be found performing magic tricks for children, and he always lets them keep the coins he uses.

Now we'll talk about Brother Giancarlo Ciccioni. He's killed twenty-five sorcerers in his long life, mostly Fate Witches, mostly young. He is not proud of what he's done, but he regrets none of it and would do it all again if he had to. The burden on his soul is nothing to the benefits for humanity. He was once the leader of the Bane, an ex-priest who left the Church when he felt they had no true understanding of the sorcerous threat. He'd found a copy of a Rilasciare book on the Bargain, and he soon joined the Oppositionists. He proved a natural assassin, and well able to survive everything the strega threw at him while he hunted them. He should have retired years ago, but he stayed on as a de facto leader of the Bane. He helped forge the alliance with Sophia's Daughters, and he has slowly been losing his leadership role as the Bane moves to a different path. The feel he's too set in his ways now to be effective, though he is still highly respected. He wants to change things, but cannot decide how.

Next is Romona Beckett, daughter of an Avalon butler and Castillian laundress. She was raised in the household of a Castillian don who treated his servants like slaves. She rebelled against this treatment, learning a growing disgust for the noble elite. She was discovered when the Rilasciare infiltrated the serving staff, and proved a great ally. She was recruited at 15, taught valuable skills in combat and in court. She never joined a faction or cell - she didn't care. Instead, she offered to serve as the assassin of the Rilasciare. All she needed was a name, and she would kill. To further this goal, she has begun masquerading as a Castillian noblewoman in Avalon, using her looks and training to become trusted. She has killed eight people so far for the Rilasciare, each time using a different method, and each time revealing her allegiance only as they died. She truly hates nobility, but hides all her emotions perfectly behind a mask of cheerfulness.

Then there's Velik Galecatcher, whose real name is Barnard du Ganador. He's one of the Nine and Seven, and it is pretty much entirely because of him that the Brotherhood of the Coast was possible. He infiltrated la Bucca and ensured that his smuggler allies would be able to provide the goods that wer eneeded. He was the man who discovered that Javier was imprisoned there. He helped plan the revolt - and he now serves as Allende's quartermaster aboard the Hanged Man. He's a valued advisor who tends to argue for the Rilasciare cause aboard the ship, if subtly, and even Allende doesn't realize he's actually a Rilasciare.

Lastly, there is Donnabella Zümerdwindt, the daughter of an Eisen utopian. Her name was chosen because her mother felt Eisen names were coarse. She refused to compromise her idealism for the harshness of Eisen, and ended up a member of a Rilasciare cell on the Vodacce border. She handed out seditious literature for them, got caught and thrown into one of the harshest prisons. She has lived there over 15 years, and has carved several manifestos into the walls of her cell, which a spy of the Burglar's Union has seen and copied, publishing them anonymously. They have become a rallying cry for the Free Thinkers, and Donna has no idea her former comrades so revere her. She is proud of never having had to kill anyone for her beliefs or for survival, and while her idealistic youth is long behind her, her passion still burns.

Now, we move to mechanics. There's some changes about Rilasciare membership. First: you can't join if you have sorcery. You just can't. Period. Ever. However, in return, once per scenario you may add one die to any Resolve roll due to your True Courage. You may also get up to two weapons at a time free via your connections, though these cannot be panzerhands, Sidhe weapons, Syrneth artifacts or any other form of rare and magical weapon, nor cannons or heavy ordnance. You can use the Couriers to move messages across Théah in absolute security, and have a free Connection with another member of the Rilasciare, who'll give you advice and guidance if you need it. You also get a benefit from faction!

Freemen can spend a Drama die to ask the GM for a hint on how best to humiliate a Villain or Henchman - perhaps the GM will tell you about his secret mistress, or his fear of spiders. This works only for personal information, not any form of stats, and you have to spend at least a day observing the target unmolested first. You can use the ability only once per scene. Freethought members get literacy in their native tongue for free and get a 1 point discount on their first purchase of the Language advantage, to a minimum of 1 point. Guerrillas pay only 1 point for the Bomb Making or Arson skills, and may add one to the number of phases before any grenade they throw goes off, though they can do this only once per grenade. Liberation Guild members who have the Criminal Skill get a free rank of the Lockpicking knack. Oppositionists learn to spot sorcerers, and their Wits is considered 1 higher when determining if a particular person does magic. And Couriers? Couriers get all traveling expenses paid. Inns and food are free, and if they start in Kirk they can get free passage on a ship, access to a carriage or use of a fast horse for one adventure, though such things should be returned intact if at all possible.

The Free Thinkers have three Grandmasters avaialble for training - Gabriél Menendez de Altamira, Grandmaster of Lockpicking, Boris Nicholeivich Sokolov in Oratory and Nolan Chaucer in Logistics. They also have developed their own "swordsman school" - an informal sort of thing called Vipera ex Morsi, old Théan for The Adder's Bite. It is a very practical style, designed around the idea that you should only need a singel blow. It's a stealthy style, designed for long knives instead of swords, and is really meant for assassination. It's weaknesses? Well, it has little defensive value due to its nature, and any competent swordsman can fend it off if they have warning. Most users of Vipera flee if their first blows miss. It's also an honorless style with no sense of fair player - even the Rilasciare don't like it much, but use it as an ugly but practical means to an end. If a killing has to be done, after all, it should be done as absolutely as possible, with no thought of fairness.

Apprentices of Vipera ex Mortis suffer no offhand penalty with knives, and get a free Raise to attacks made with a stiletto. They also get a free Raise to called shots with a stiletto. Journeman rarely miss, thanks to supreme focus. When they miss with a knife attack by (their Attack (Knife) Knack)*2 or less, they hit anyway and roll damage as normal - the opponent just doesn't have to make a wound check. Masters, meanwhile, learn how to cut deeply with a single blow. If their foe has made a successful wound check for damage they caused with a knife attack, they can force a reroll. They can only force one reroll per blow, though - if the enemy succeeds again, oh well. Still, that's a really nasty trick.

And there are also rules for Zerstörung, in case your GM wants to allow it to still exist. By default, the magic is gone. All the von Drachens died, and Zerstörung no longer exists. But here's the rules. See, Zerstörung was the magic of entropy - it corroded and dissolved matter. An Apprentice could spend a Drama die to corrode a single non-living item no firmer than wood and no greater than a man in size, making it brittle and unusable after touching it for three actions. They can make Raises to affect additional items, to a max of their Zerstörung rank. Journeymen learned to use their power on metal, stone and earth, able to affect either a cubic foot of material or a single object no greater than three feet high, making it pitted and rusted. A single piece of armor (panzerhand, breastplate, whatever) counts for this, and each Raise allows an additional cubic foot or object, to a max of the Zerstörung rank. Masters learned to be able to corrode flesh, able to affect living things. They caused one Dramatic Wound to the target per Drama Die, and could spend one Drama die plus one for every two Raises they made, to a max of their Zerstörung rank in wounds. It still takes three actions of unbroken physical contact, but the target feels nothing until those three actions are up. Their skin dries, they lose body fat and become more skeletal. It takes a month of complete rest to heal a single Dramatic Wound made this way, and the target will always feel a certain tightness of the joints. The magic can only affect creatures up to the size of a horse.

What are the limitations? Well, you need to make those three actions of skin contact. To do so on a person or moving object, you have to make an attack roll that does no damage, and maintain contact long enough, though there are ways to speed it up. Also, dracheneisen, Syrneth artifacts and Sidhe equipment are immune to the magic, as is water and anything ageless, like ghosts, Sidhe and possibly those who drink the Sophia's Daughters' immortality potion. Now, knacks. The Zerstörung knacks are Disintegration, Indirect Touch, Distant Touch, Fast Application and Focused Effect. Disintegration lets them turn any object the user has corroded into dust, affecting one cubic foot per rank in Disintegration - but rank 5 lets you disintegrate anything, no matter how large, so long as you corroded it first. Indirect Touch lets you learn to corrode something that is touching something you are touching - flesh through a shirt, a table through the floor it's on. This is done by rolling Resolve+Indirect Touch, with the TN getting higher for each piece of material in the way, and harder for the thickness of each material. Distant Touch can never be higher than your Indirect Touch, but lets you corrode things through air - 1 foot of it at rank 1, 2 at 2, 5 at 3, 10 at 4 and 20 at 5. Fast Application lets you make a Wits check to reduce the time needed to use Zerstörung to a single action. If you fail, you can try again on the next action, to reduce it to 2 actions instead of 3. The TN is easier the more Fast Application you have. And Focused Effect? That lets you corrode a single part of a thing instead of the whole thing. You have to still be able to do the whole thing, but then you make a Resolve check, the TN based ony our rank in Focused Effect, and if you succeed you only corrode the desired area (a hand, perhaps, or one page of a book). If you fail, the whole object is corroded as normal.

The game does suggest not letting people have Zerstörung, though - it puts them very high on the Rilasciare hit list if found out, and it'll make almost any Eisen who learns about it mad, as they're proud of having no sorcery. Still, up to the GM. Beyond that, there are some new advantages, a few of which are worth looking at! There's The Bargainer's Secret, which means you know and understand what happened back in Numa, making any sorcery directed specifically at you require a Raise to do anything, in addition to any other penalties it might suffer. Or you could buy an Uppmann's Coat. You either pick a power, or you roll 1d10, and get the following powers: 1 - Picks - There's a set of lockpicks in the coat which take a hard Wits roll to find. 2 - Knives - there are two 1k1-damage knives in springloaded triggers in the sleeves, which will shoot into your hands when triggered. It takes two actions to reset them in the sleeves. 3- Pistol - there's a one-shot pistol in the sleeve, which will be shot to your palm when triggered. It has a 10 yard range does 4k3 damage. It can only be fired once before breaking, and costs 25G to replace. 4 - Secret Pockets - there's two concealed pockets, unfindable by any search, which can hold one item each that's pistol-sized or smaller. 5 - Weighted - the coat makes a good weapon because it's weighted, dealing 0k2 base damage. Anyone with the Attack (Improvised Weapon) knack or the Tout Prés school gets a free Raise when attacking with the coat. 6 - Reversible - the coat can be quickly reversed and worn inside-out, with any pattern the hero wants on the inside. Reversed coats can't use the coat code. It takes three actions to reverse the coat, or five while running. 7 - Secret Buttons - three of the buttons have small amounts of gunpowder and will detonate when given a sharp blow, dealing 1 die of damage to anyone in three feet. This can be used to loosen bars, bloow out windows or whatever. Alternatively, the buttons may contain pison, a garrote or a hollow space to hide messages. 8 - Armor - the coat reduces incoming damage from hand-held weapons by 2 Flesh Wounds per hit, but firearms ignore it. 9 - Waterproof - The coat is waterproofed using imported Cathayan materials and can be inflated via hidden tube to act as a life preserver, staying afloat for days. Only one person can use it at a time, though. 0 - Roll twice and no you can't choose this one, it has to be randomly rolled. And you ignore further 0 results.

Next time: Secrets of the Rilasciare!

This is Vodacce, Kasper. Brothers kill each other here for far less reason than I had...

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Fuck it, I'm bored and at home.

Books until the Montaigne Revolution: 15.

7th Sea: This is Vodacce, Kasper. Brothers kill each other here for far less reason than I had...

We're skipping over the cell design rules, the rules for caltrops and special Rilasciare long-distance crossbow bolts, garrotes and improved grappling guns. and also stilettos. Oh, and the bombmaking rules. Now, there's an essay on how to play a Rilasciare hero. They're a gray area in a world that's largely black and white, and that can be hard. But the important thing? The Rilasciare stress that above their rules, above all laws, your own conscience is your master, and nothing else. It's up to you who you tell about your affiliation. It's up to you how far you're willing to go. What matters is my favorite way of describing the game's advice: don't be an asshole. You're playing with friends, and don't try to mess things up for everyone. The Rilasciare are capable of flexibility - even witches and nobles can show vero coraggio , and those that do...well, most Rilasciare will accept that a single person is worth making exceptions for. If you're going to not do that, be sure everyone's okay with it because otherwise you're an asshole.

Now then, secrets. Nolan Chaucer has recently begun to suspect that there is some sinister, very powerful group working towards world domination. He's terrified, and has begun gathering evidence to try and prove its existence. Two people have already vanished while searching for facts for him; he won't lose more. So he's moving slowly, discreetly and invisibly - and when he learns all he needs, he will call a Secret Court against every member of the group. Benoit Jautot du Toille has a huge secret: he's a full-blood Porté sorcerer. Only he and the Chaucers know this fact, and Nolan Chaucer approves, because Porté is vital to moving important information quickly. Should the Rilasciare realize he's a sorcerer, though, no one will ever trust the Couriers again, so he wears gloves to hide his stained hands, disguises his accent and everything he carries has its dates removed. Benoit doesn't mind that the Rilasciare hate sorcery - he won't be teaching it to his children, and they won't wipe it out in his lifetime.

Willem Karls is an Apprentice Donovan fencer and doesn't realize the danger of the codebook he carries. Sure, it's encrypted, but has the names of contacts and safehouse locations that threaten many, many people. He'll destroy the book before it falls in the wrong hands - but if he realized the true threat, he'd burn it on the spot. Eduardo de Benedictus is a journeyman Ambrogia fencer and an apprentice Vipera ex Morsi fencer. He was devastated by being disowned and has never recovered. He believes his ethics saved him from corruption, but the pain of the rift has never died. He hides it all by cutting himself off from emotion, clinging to his ethics as a guideline - but the longer it goes on, the more he becomes detached. EVentually, he may become a complete sociopath. Hans Uppmann is just an old man - but while nominally he'd like to keep Eisen divided, he has a soft spot for his old boss, the madman Georg Hainzl. He'd be okay if Georg became Imperator, unlikely as it is, and if anyone should move against him...well, Hans has contacts among a number of mercenaries - enough to provide Hainzl with an instant army.

Hubert Michel du Gloyure has written a play, The Birdcage Revolt , which is designed to be performed in the middle of a crowd. A few people have read it, but no one dares perform it - it's treasonous to the extreme. Hubert hopes he can perform it someday, perhaps after l'Empereur dies. Arnaud Maximilien du Charouse has little to hide right now but he is a true believer in the cause. He just lacks initiative. And seriously this guy is Robespierre. He is important. Boris Nicholaievich Sokolov...is terrified of Matushka. He always has been. She's everywhere. She's everything. What good is enlightenment against the land itself? He's tried to keep the Rilasciare from drawing her ire, and he knows that some day he may have to choose between his beliefs and the Grandmother Winter. He hopes he can make the right choice.

Vincent...is only Rilasciare to use them. He needs their money and supplies. The moment they are no longer useful in spreading the revolution and ruining Kirk, he will cut them loose - and he just might take the Guerrilla Alliance with him. He is also a master of Vipera ex Mortis. Gerard Trainer is a Journeyman Donovan fencer and refuses to talk about what he did during the Avalon civil war. He is not really a very nice man, and he did some rather nasty things. He won't hide them - but he'll never talk about them. He has vowed to kill Bors MacAllister personally, and plans to cut his throat right in front of Elaine, as he sends them both toppling from power. Gabriél Menendez de Altamira is an apprenctice Aldana fencer and really is a true patriot of Castille. He tries to focus his thefts on the Montaigne, and he's thinking of joining Los Vagos, but doesn't know how to contact them and believes they might not take an unrepentant thief.

Brother Giancarlo Ciccioni regrets his part in the Sophia's Daughters alliance, and he believes they are too dangerous, too concerned with temporal power and too willing to use sorcery. He feels the price of cooperation is too high, and he thinks that belief is what has cost him leadership of the Bane. If here weren't so old, he'd do something reckless to break the alliance - and if he could find someone he truested enough, he might let them in on his plan to kill one of their inner circle. Romana Beckett is a journeyman Vipera ex Mortis fencer and is fascinated by Bors MacAllister. The two have been flirting, and she actually is drawn to him - he seems different, he doesn't want anything from her or see her as a tool. She feels a connection to him and has no idea how to react to that. She has no idea about Gerard Trainer or his plans to kill MacAllister. If she learned it...well, who knows what she'd do? She'd have to choose between the group that gives meaning to her life and the one human being she has ever felt any kind of personal connection to. Velik Galecatcher has no secrets he knows about, beyond the fact that...well, he's a Rilasciare member. He's an apprentice of Rogers fencing. And lastly, Donnabella Zümerwindt is planning to escape her prison. She has learned of a tunnel leading to the open sea, and she just needs a boat. She's been trying to contact the Rilasciare, and is going to implement a new scheme to get their attention soon.

Next time: Nations of Théah, Volume IV: Eisen.

It's all right, Mr. Braun. I've just become one of the nine richest people in the world.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: It's all right, Mr. Braun. I've just become one of the nine richest people in the world.

Eisen isn't a happy place. It's a land of the dead and dying. We begin the book with a story of Joseph, butler to Imperator Riefenstahl. A rider approaches the palace while only he and the Imperator remain awake. He hears someone enter the Imperator's chambers, approaches with a sword drawn, and hears shouting. The Imperator is arguing with a hooded man and shouts him from the room. Joseph checks to see if he's all right, is told to leave and goes to sleep outside the door, in case the man should return. When he awakens, it is because the guards have found him outside the room. He gets them to open the door to check on Riefenstahl - who has hanged himself, much to his butler's dismay.

We then move to a bit of fiction as Fauner Pösen is interviewing her servitor, Lord Eckert. He wants her to reduce taxes, but claims he's had no difficulties this year other than with crops. She reveals that she has received a letter about bandits raiding Eckert's lands repeatedly - and him never being present to stop them. He gets upset, especially when she reveals that the writer, Father Stans Grumel, would never lie to her and that she thinks Eckert is a liar. He draws his dracheneisen blade - which she proceeds to snap in half with immense effort. He becomes very upset and attacks - and she quite handily takes him down and orders him banished, putting Grumel in charge of his lands. This turns out to not be the first time this sort of thing has happened.

Now, the history of Eisen. Before the Imperators, the Iron Princes, the rise of man - before all this, the Drachen called Eisen home. These creatures were immense, bigger than anything that has ever lived - and yet they wer eintelligent, masters of sorcerous magics who ruled the land for thousands of years. None know what happened to these ancient Drachen - some say they were wiped out. Some say they degenerated into the far smaller savage creatures that are today's drachen. But they are gone now, either way. After their fall, Eisen's people began - a group of barbaric tribes who warred amongst themselves for centuries. It was not until the Old Republic came that they were able to unite. From 236 to 255 AUC, the Numan legions tried to conquer the Eisen tribes of the Brutomannim, Alii, Exomanni and Quidii. The barbarians set aside their differences and expelled the legions in 255, when the Republic constructed a wall to keep them at bay. Thus was the Eisen reputation for war started.

The Republic continued occasional attempts to conquest or colonize for the next three centuries - and each time, they met great resistance, as the Brutomanni, Exomanni and Quidii banded together. From 502 to 508 AUC, the Republic faces immense raids on its colonies, and they were forever driven from Eisen. For six centuries, the tribes raided Vodacce to pillage the Republic's lands. The Empire splintered over time, and at last the Brutomanni sacked Numa in 297 AV, beginning the Dark Ages. Monsters emerged from the woods in Eisen during this time, and Vesten raiders harried the coast, while the Vaticine made inroads into the land. In the seventh century, Carleman arose and united the world. He trained his sons in statecraft, to avoid the mistake of the previous Imperator, Corantine, whose empire crumbled when he died. The central part of his empire, which would be Eisen, belonged to his eldest son, Stefan. Stefan did not get on well with the younger Iago to the east, and they bickered while their brother Charles, in the west, grew sick and died, leaving his land to his wife, Isabeau Montanus.

In 686, two cartographers working for Stefan discovered the first dracheneisen mines and learned to work the metal. Stefan made the two men barons, giving them the lands that would eventually be Pösen and Heilgrund. It became a tradition - anyone who found a dracheneisen mine would get land and title. Stefan refused to let Iago and his Fate Witch wife or the Montanus family to have any access to dracheneisen, and that led to bad blood for centuries to come between their kingdoms. However, Stefan knew that allowing either group to use the metal would mean he would lose his land to them. So instead, he armed and armored his own men, to ensure his strength. In 691, he realized that the three kingdoms could no longer really claim kinship - the Montanus had renamed their land Montaigne and become independent, and Stefan did the same. He named the land Eisen, a word which in the local tongue meant Iron, and he is still remembered to this day as a wise and canny ruler.

Thanks to Carleman, the Vaticine became widespread, and Eisen served as a military arm of the church. It expanded heavily, stealing land from Montaigne and invading Ussura fruitlessly four times as well as subjugating much of mainland Vodacce. Only Avalon, Castille and Vestenmannavnjar were spared Eisen conquest for the Holy Republic. This was formed in 782 by Stefan's descendant, Gottschalk I. He set aside the land around Numa for the Hierophant's own use, and was named Imperator of Eisen in return. For many years, power would shift between Hierophant and Imperator, and they were very closely associated until the Third Prophet appeared. Tired of constant arguments with the Hierophant in Vodacce, the current Imperator, Friedrich II, supported the Castillian Church and helped conquer Vodacce. In return, he was granted a pact of noninterference in Eisen that lasted nearly six centuries.

By the 15th century, Eisen was second only to Montaigne in power. In 1517, though, Matthias Lieber appeared in southern Heilgrund, accusing the church of violating its own tenets. Lieber was called before the Hierophant and was arrested after a debate with the Cardinals and Hierophant. He was to be executed the next day - but the Imperator, Franz II, had dispatched an elite band of knights to protect Lieber. They staged a daring raid and rescued him before the execution, smuggling him into Eisen and placing him under the Imperator's protection. He began the Objectionist movement, writing the text called Lieber's Book, which spread quickly throughout Eisen, thanks to the printing press invented some eighty years before. The Hierophant demanded his head, but Franz refused. When the Hierophant threatened to excommunicate the nation, Franz suggested that perhaps a new Hierophant would see things different. The Hierophant then tried to get Castille to declare war - and Franz invited him to try. The Castillian king declined. The Objectionists continued to grow in Eisen, and it soon moved beyond the borders. Franz was alarmed - he wanted reform, not a new faith, but he kept his misgivings to himself, and while never an Objectionist, he refused to persecute them. Tensions remained high between the faiths for a century.

The Eisen Objectionists had to be quiet for fear of Vaticine reprisal until 1587, when Weiss III, called the Great, came to power. He forbade the persecution of Objectionists and ruled peacefully until his death in 1636, when his cousin Riefenstahl took the throne. Riefenstahl was a strict Vaticine, and the Objectionists revolted rather than give up their new rights, hurling their Imperator-appointed governors from a window. (The men survived the three-story plunge due to a miraculous snowbank.) This started the thirty year War of the Cross. Riefenstahl sent his best general, the elderly Helmut Stauss, to crush the rebels with the aid of Castillian troops. It only took ten days, and it seemed like Eisen would be united as Vaticine.

However, before Stauss could kill the rebel leaders, a Vendel merchant named Stefano Wulf received a letter appealing to him for aid in freeing the Eisen Objectionists. Wulf, a devout Objectionist and brilliant tactician, gathered an army and attacked. Stauss had to go face him, but he died mysteriously before the two could engage each other, having stopped at his estate on the way - where he was stabbed to death by assassins. This left the army in the command of an incompetent, General Dehmer. Wulf led him in a long game of cat and mouse, and the conflict epxloded on hundreds of smaller frotns. Neighbor fought neigbor, village fought village. Warbands on both sides pillaged the land as Dehmer and Wulf clashed again and again, and the country tore itself to pieces.

At last, Riefenstahl replaced Dehmer with a wilier general, Gietl, having no more patience for Dehmer's decades of failure. The southern barons had, by then, been persuaded to secede, and Gietl had to fight both them and Wulf. He threw everything he had at it, and the war ended only when Stefano Wulf was killed by a fluke - a Vaticine bauer refused to give up his livestock to feed Wulf's army and stabbed Wulf in the throat. The army, without leadership, collapsed under Gietl's forces and the rebels dug in and waited. As Gietl turned southward, Castille and Montaigne invaded Eisen to grab land. Gietl thus had to deal with them, but his army was decimated and exhausted, and this time facing fresh troops rather than equally weary ones. Montaigne and Castille easily defeated them. Riefenstahl looked at the devastation the war had caused - disease, starvation, destruction. He surrendered.

Montaigne and Castille each took one sixth of Eisen in the Treaty of Weissberg. Riefenstahl took what he had left and tried to consolidate his power, setting aside land for both Vaticine and Objectionist. But in 1667, a cloaked figure came to the Imperator. They argued in the night, and the cloaked man left. When the butler found the Imperator after, he had hanged himself - and there was no heir. The barons of Eisen split the nation in the ensuing chaos, forming seven kingdoms, the königreichen , each ruled by a former baron, now Eisenfürsten, Iron Princes. Each had a small supply of dracheneisen that was the base of their power, and none claimed the country as a whole - all were tired of the fighting.

As a side note, we have a sidebar on monsters. Eisen has long had monsters of the dark, of shadows and hidden places. In the early days, the Eisen huddled around the hearth and would not go out at night, for fear of the Schattenmann, the Horror of Angonehm, Fleischwulf the Woodcutter and many others. Brave heroes fought them, and when the country was unified, they were driven back. With the War, however, the dark places are returning and the shadows reclaiming the night. Fleischwulf, the Schattenmann and their brethren have returned to the nights of Eisen. Eisen today has had almost half its population killed, and the War of the Cross, while over, has left a deep scar on the land. Stability is slow to return, enforced by the Eisenfürsten. But the Eisen have not given up. The Eisen never give up.

Each of the ruling families of Eisen has a motto that sums up their governance or philosophy, a crest and one of the Imperator's dracheneisen armaments. This tradition began with Stefan I, who had a full suit of dracheneisen armor, a shield and a sword. When he created the baronies, he gave his sword to Baron Pösen and his breastplate to Baron Heilgrund, saing that he did not need them any more for he had them. Eventually, the whole suit was given out, though some pieces have been lost, redistributed or stolen. Anyone who could manage to get the entire suit without stealing any of it from the Iron Princes would have a strong claim to be new Imperator. The first königreich is Fischler, ruled by Faulk Tobias Fischler. His family motto is "Pride is a poor candle," and his crest is a church in a valley with a lit window. Fischler owns the Imperator's helmet, shaped like a drachen's head and bearing two Syrneth stones in the eyes that glow faintly. Riefenstahl told Fischler: "I do not need this any more. You will be my eyes in the south. The Schwartzen Walden must be carefully watched." Fischler is a quiet kingdom, and its people have a reputation for cowardice due to their refusal to act unless they see an opening to win by. They live on the outskirts of the Black Forest, a terrifying place full of monsters. Heroes from Fischler always have a TN 5 higher than normal when making Fear checks and have 2 points added to the cost of any abilities that even temporarily let them ignore Fear. However, they get one of the Riverboat Pilot skill, Hunter skill or Keen Senses advantage free.

The capital of Fischler is Seeufer, a large town on the mouth of the Südlache, the largest lake in Eisen. Entire boats have been lost on the lake at nightm and while nocturnal attacks are infrequent, they can be terrifying. However, an 80-year-old man named Franz Behle shows little fear of the dark. As a young man, he was trapped outside the gates after dark, and went to hide but was found by a beast. He never speaks of the evening, but the townsfolk heard him sing for several hours, and he was hoarse for two days afterward. Since that night, he has patrolled outside the walls after dusk, singing. For some reason, it seems to have reduced the number of monster attacks, so the people ensure that Franz wants for nothing. Faulk Fischler was born and raised in Seeufer and he now owns a large manor in town, composed entirely from the Blackwood, the wood of the Black Forest. This is said to be bad luck, but Fischler's a good man, so they're worried more about him than themselves. Despite the dangers, people often go to the town's several taverns after dark, and Fischler himself sometimes shows up when he's feeling lonely. Once in a while, people are attacked while walking home by a small cloud of bat-like creatures, but no one has ever been killed or seriously hurt by these "Shepherd's Bats", who seem to stop attacking when people arrive at a building. They attack only those who have been drinking.

There's also the town of Tannen, home of the famous Kippe military academy and the site of the massacre of the Black Crosses in 1411, where the crusading knights were wiped out. The town centers around providing services for the wealthy students of the academy and also agriculture. Students patrol the streets at night as part of their training, and so Tannen remains open into the dusk, save on new moons, when no one goes out after dark. Overlooking the town is an old graveyard in the shape of the Prophet's Cross, each of the crosses in the graveyard carved of Blackwood. Forget-me-nots appear on the graves after new moons, and shadowy figures walk the streets on those nights, so people are sure it's haunted by ghosts seeking the betrayer Hierophant. As a result, many citizens are Objectionist to avoid ghostly wrath. However, only one man has been killed in the graveyard - a would-be murderer slain as he threatened his victim, and it's said that the ghosts drove off an army that wanted to attack the town during the War of the Cross. The academy of Kippe is supposedly cursed due to being built on top of the old Kreuzritter headquarters, but it remains popular despite the odd number of bizarre and unexplained deaths around it.

The Südlache ("Southern Puddle") is said to be bottomless, and it has always been good fishing...though in recent years, it has taken deeper nets to get the fish, and none know what they might someday drag up. It is also very, very bad luck to walk on the ice when the lake is frozen over - in one case, a broken hole fifteen feet wide and covered in blood was found after someone went ice fishing. And of course there is the Schwarzen Walden, the Black Forest. The wood there is called Blackwood, and it burns with dark red flame. It's said to attract monsters and is very unlucky to build with - and worse, the monsters of the forest are said to be able to track the scent of any man who has Blackwood sap on his clothes. Kobolds, vicious beasts the size of dogs, are known to haunt the forest - they are the least of the monsters. The greatest is the Schattenmann, a huge, spindly creature with eyes of darkness. It cuts its victims to pieces with an enormous pair of shears, and it's believed the Schattenmann was once worshiped as a god of darkness.

Certainly, once a year the people hold the Shadow Fair in every town and village within a hundred miles of the Black Forest, on the first Sabbath of each year when the sun goes down. The people each send a group to the Black Forest, and each group cuts down a single tree. They cut the tree up for a bonfire, to "honor" the Schattenmann. The villagers then dance and sing around the fire, eat rich foods and drink black beer. A single loaf of pumpernickle is left out for the Schattenmann, and it's said that anyone who eats it will suffer terrible misfortune in the coming year. The Fair ends at midnight, when an effigy of the Schattenmann is thrown onto the fire. It's believed that this protects the village from him for a year. The Church has tried to stop the Fair due to its pagan origins, and no one's ever found out if it actually works.

Next time: Freiburg!

I know Father Grumel, and he would never lie to me. I despise liars, Eckert.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: I know Father Grumel, and he would never lie to me. I despise liars, Eckert.

Freiburg, of course, is ruled by Nicklaus Trägue. His motto is "No questions," and his crest is a man in the shadow of a tower. He has the Imperator's right-handed gauntlet, which has a stylized sleeping drachen on it and is covered in carefully carved scales. When Riefenstahl gave it to Trägue, he say, I do not need this any more. You will be my right hand. Greet those who come to Eisen with open arms." Freiburg is only 30 miles in radius and is centered around a single town, which is centered around an ancient Syrneth tower caled Wachtturm. Trägue has claimed no more than this. The city is one of the largest in the world, though, due to having no taxes and being a home for refugees. It is a highly cosmopolitan and tolerant area. Heroes from Freiburg cannot take the Hunter skill and have the TNs of all their Civil knacks increased by 5 when not in a city. However, they either get 3 points of languages, the Combat Reflexes advantage or the Scoundrel advantage free.

Freiburg itself is a highly important city now - a black market, sanctuary from the law and trade port all at once. Trägue remains almost completely uninvolved, and his steward Wilma Probst does very little organizing - mostly just aiming people at the right employees for a small fee and managing the city guard, who are paid by merchants who hired them for portection. They use that money to arrange patrols of the entire city. Poorer sections of the city can get very little law, though, when business is slow, and quiet gang wars are not uncommon. There are also rumors of slavers and shady artifact dealers. Trägue is not happy to hear that slavery may be in his city - it's one of the few things he actively wants to stop. Two groups have been fighting the trend to chaos, though - the Knights of the Rose and Cross and a group of Eisen warriors who call themselves Wachhunde , Watchdogs. They fight almost entirely nonlethally, with dual panzerhands.

Freiburg is surrounded by the shantytown Verzweiflung, a much more cramped and nasty place than the city itself. About 500 people each month die there of disease or starvation, though new refugees soon replace them. Kobold corpses have also been found around the shantytown, suggesting that they've started hunting nearby. The Rose and Cross or Wachhunde rarely enter the place, so no one is at all sure who's been killing the kobolds. There's also a rather interesting cathedral in town - it's built out of the skeleton of a drachen. The locals frown on asking questions of people's pasts - doing it too much gets you thought of as a busybody or spy for the guards, and can result in beatings. In Verzweiflung, there are only three social rules: You never take food from a child, ever. You're on your best behavior when an employer comes looking for workers. And last, you never talk to the city guard about anything, ever.

Hainzl is ruled by Georg Hainzl. His family motto is "The earth does not forgive," and his crest is an owl holding a flamberge blade in one talon. He has the Imperator's boots, which have an etching of a drachen with wings spread on each boot, along with detailed scales and a spur on each hell. Imperator Gottschalk gave it to his family years ago, saying, "I do not need these any more. You will be the foundation on which the Empire stands." Hainzl is a rough and hilly region with some of the best mines in the nation, as well as being home to the Nibelungen , the secret order of dracheneisen smiths. The people are perpetually unlucky, and the area's rumored to be cursed. Whenever a Hero from Hainzl has more than one die explode in a single roll, the GM gets a Drama die which can only be used against that Hero. However, they also gain either the Small advantage, the Merchant skill or a 25% increase in monthly income free.

The main town is Atemlos, home to Eulestein Castle, the Atemlos Opera House and the Caves of Opa Nacht. Eulestein Castle is home to Georg Hainzl, and is built to be exactly like that described in the fairy tale The Three Owls. It was one of his last sane orders. An aside - the Three Owls is a tale about a miller's son who finds three magic owls in the woods. He gives them his food and is left with nothing to eat. Later, he finds a beautiful castle in the woods, and inside he meets three beautiful princesses who feed and clothe him. He's told he can stay as long as he likes, but he must never open the door leading to the roof. He lives there for years until at least his curiosity overwhelmes him and he goes to the roof, only to see the princesses as they are transforming into owls. The castle falls into ruins and the owls fly away, never to be seen again. The boy hurls himself to his death. Pleasant!

Anyway, Hainzl had the place made accurate down to the last detail, including the roof door. Everyone's very superstitious about the door - they believe Georg Hainzl's madness began when he opened it. The only other servant who's dared to open the door was found dead on the rocks below the castle, so the door is now kept sturdily locked. Hainzl himself designed and built the Opera House - before his madness, he was a great patron of the arts. It was there that he saw The Three Owls performed as an opera, giving him an idea for the castle. Out of sorrow, that opera has never been performed there again, though it still puts on shows twice a week.

The Caves of Opa Nacht, meanwhile, are the richest iron mine in Théah. It is surrounded by natural rock formations that rival the best sculptures ever made. These caves are believed to be home to Opa Nacht, Grandfather Night, and the miners are very careful to pay respects to him at the beginning and end of each day. After being mined and smelted, the ore is sent to Prachtig for export. Prachtig is a port town which handles all the trading of Hainzl and is the last stop on the way to Ussura. The place is, as a result, something of a destination for merchants and prices are very high. It's home to the Matthiast order of monks, an Objectionist order who believe in eating no solid food and drinking strong fortified ale to keep themselves pure.

The königreich is also home to the Southern Drachenbergs, an immense chain of mountains dotted with empty mines and abandoned towns - miners have been there for centuries. Such places are generally considered haunted, and they're certainly full of large animals. If any drachens have survived, they're probably here. Anyway. Local customs include recognition of Grandfather Night, Opa Nacht. He is a tiny wrinkled man with long arms and huge nknuckles, who can sense imminent cave-ins in the aching of his knuckles. He will pound the walls to warn miners away, so any Hainzl miner who hears a knocking sound that he doesn't recognize is sure to go fleeing from the mine. A few people have imitated Opa Nacht as a prank, bt oddly they all died in mining accidents within a month. Opa Nacht is treated something like Ussurans treat Matushka - a local friendly minor god or servant of Theus who must be respected. He is paid in saucers of milk and honey, and it's believed that when a thread is played out he will lead miners to a new one if given a loaf of bread, a pile of ore and a sausage. (He leaves a trail of ore.)

Heilgrund is one of the older königreichs, ruled by Stefan Heilgrund. His motto is "The center must hold," and his crest is a man crouching behind a shield as a drachen breathes fire at him. His armament is the dracheneisen breastplate of the Imperator, which bears a roaring drachen and the motto of the Imperators: "Theus is the light." It, like the rest of the armor, is also carved with scales. When Stefan I gave the breastplate to the Heilgrunds, he said, "I do not need this any more. You will protect the heart of my nation. Remember, the center must hold, or everything else will be lost." Heilgrund is the traditional capital of Eisen, and it is famous for producing leaders and heroes - though it's been a while since it produced anything but food. Some blame this on the curse of the Undying Swamp, which has been a source of evil for over fifty years.

Heilgrund natives are very proud, but are current suffering from a strange wasting disease. All heroes from Heilgrund suffer from a permanent set of 5 Flesh wounds that can never go away - they can have more than that, but never less, even after failing a wound check. However, they get one of the Ordained advantage, the Citation advantage or both the Commander and Rider skills free.

Heilgrund's capital is Gottkirchen, ancestral home of the Heilgrunds. It also houses a number of monuments to heroes and scholars, and once it was said that heroes were their primary export. Sadly, the place seems cursed with lethargy, and those who fight against it seem to constantly get sick with the terrible wasting disease. It is home to the Steil Academy, built in 1661 by Oskar Steil, a distant cousin of the Imperator. The place has traditionally had more applications for students of war than room - though with Gottkirchen's fading reputation, the applications are dwindling fast, and Steil Academy may have to close its doors.

There is also Heilgrundstadt, once the Imperator's Palace, built away from the cities by Gottschalk I. It was owned by Riefenstahl, but after his death, Stefan Heilgrund moved in. No one else wanted the place. He enjoys the privacy the castle has now, but he wants it to be a center of culture and learning in the years to come. He has begun to refer to the palace as Heilgrundstadt, the foundation of a new city he will build when the nation is strong. This has produced a lot of jokes at his expense. Recent strange lights and noises have led people to believe the Imperator's ghost haunts the place, but Stefan seems undisturbed. There is also the Undying Swamp, believed to be the source of Heilgrund's wasting disease. Eighty years ago, the river leading into the swamp was diverted in a landslide and the place began to dry up and stagnate. Odd creatures began to show up, and a young man came back from a fishing expedition babbling about a white snake as big as a mountain, which killed and ate three of his friends. Where its skin touched, the soil turned to ash and plants withered and died. The creature has become a local legend, Verschlingen, and no one goes out to the swamp any more save for one old hermit who is sometimes seen on its outskirts. No one bothers him.

Heilgrund is covered in memorials to old soldiers and battles - there's 87 in Gottkirchen alone. The most famous is the Walk of Remembrance - each stone is inscribed with the name of a man or woman who committed a great act of valor. To get on the walk, you must be born in Gottkirchen, have committed a courageous act with at least two witnesses to verify it and receive 20G from someone not related to you by blood or marriage. Gottkirchen also has many museums. Heilgrund's wasting disease began shortly after the Verschlingen tales began, and it spreads outward up to a hundred miles from the Undying Swamp. Stefan Heilgrund believes Verschlingen is the cause and has offered a 5000G reward for the creature's head. Six groups of mercenaries have tried - but none have returned from the swamps.

Next is Pösen, ruled by Fauner Pösen. Her family's motto is "Stand against the avalanche," and her crest is a drachen with wings cupped around a crossed sword and olive branch. The Pösens have the Imperator's dracheneisen broadsword, whose hilt is carved of a gilded drachen tooth and whose blade is the finest smithing in history. It is sharp and well-balanced, and its name is carved into the blade: Totung. When Stefan I gave it to the Pösens, he said, "I do not need this any more. You will be my sword when my nation is threatened." Pösen is famous for its military tradition, and its academies are said to be the best in the world. Even the peasants have a military mindset, and due to a well-prepared army it was spared the worst of the War of the Cross. Should Fauner choose to reunite Eisen by force, all but a few of her fellow Eisenfürsten would surrender, but she seems to have little desire to do so. Her main problem is that the standing army drains the local economy, and if something's not done, they'll eat the place into the poorhouse.

People of Pösen are famous for their military preparedness and have a reputation as warmongers. Heroes of Pösen always get one fewer Reputation dice than normal to a minimum of zero, but they get one of the Academy advantage, the Heavy Weapon skill or the Firearms skill for free. Their capital is Insel, built on an island surrounded by a lake, with a land bridge appearing only at low tide. It's a grand, beautiful city - but it is also under constant near-martial law. Curfews are imposed and people are told to keep their business to themselves. It is home to the Pösen family chapel and the Gelingen Academ, which trains future soldiers. Gelingen students are taught the art of monster hunting as well as war. Those who do not stay in Pösen or become mercenaries tend to become professional monster hunters, moving across Eisen to kill marauding creatures. It's dangerous, it's a hard life and it can be terrifying - but those who live are beloved by all they save, and they are remembered as heroes for generations.

Pösen is home to some bandit-filled forests...but also the Gregorskorn, a fastness in the Drachenbergs believed to be hte last stronghold of the drachens. Long ago, a man named Gregor went into its twisting canyons and tracked down a drachen, fighting it in its lair. The Imperator's shield was lost deep within the cave in which he fought, but Gregor slew the creature and was sainted for his valor. The shield has never been recovered, and presumably lies still deep within the Gregorskorn. There is also the Salzsumpf, a salt marsh in which Gelingen students go to hunt monsters for training, killing sirens, ruin monsters and other strange things. One student even found a small drachen here nearly two centuries ago - and he killed it, though he died in the act. Townsfolk occasionally visit the place to collect the raw eungélion root, a plain white-flowering plant that emits a soft trill at night as air is forced through the stalks. The root is extremely useful in medicine, but grows only in dangerous places.

Pösen also houses several warrior orders, like the Order of St. Gregor, founded in 988 as the Imperator's personal law enforcers. They all wear unmarked dracheneisen rings as their symbol, and all the Barons had to bow to their rulings. Now, though, they sell their services as bounty hunters, attempting to take their targets alive if possible but killing if not. Payment is expected immediately on delivery. Many knights have left the Order since the Imperator's suicide - they still wear the ring, but they remain true to the old purpose rather than bounty hunting: they enforce law and justice in Eisen, working outside normal legal channels. Some are even wanted due to performing unsanctioned executions of evil men. There's also the Tobian order of monks. When one of their monasteries was attacked in the War of the Cross and killed to the last man, the monks began to study war to defend themselves. They got a reputation as deadly warriors, and many became field chaplains, performing last rites in the middle of battle, sewed up wounds and occasionally turned the tide of battle. They adopted the motto "Only with life may we teach, but only with death may we live." They intended to imply that dead men cannot do good works, and that self-defense was a necessary evil due to Legion's influence. Now, they usually go to dangerous areas that need priests. Last are the Winged Kursars, formed when a minor baron looked for a way to make his cavalry menacing and settled on a metal framework resembling wings. They gave the men an otherworldly appearance occasionally blocked blows. Then he named them for the most fearsome group he knew: the corsairs. The Winged Kursars are now one of the most famous and feared cavalry units, and while they serve Fauner Pösen now, they consider themselves a fraternity beyond her normal chain of command.

Next time: The final königreichs!

Oh Theus. No more! I will give you everything I own, just have mercy!

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

And that's pretty much exactly how every 7th Sea game is meant to begin: with the PCs as big damn heroes who are now embroiled in something bigger.

7th Sea: Oh Theus. No more! I will give you everything I own, just have mercy!

Sieger is ruled by Erich Sieger, whose motto is "Surrender is death," and whose crest is a foot stepping on a serpent, which is biting the heel. Sieger owns the left-handed panzerhand of the Imperator, which bears an attacking drachen and as usualy the finely carved scales. When Stefan I gave it to the Siegers, he told them, "I do not need this any more. You will be my fist. Make sure the barons see to their duties, and discipline any who disobey me." Sieger's one of the most devastated parts of Eisen. It used to be bigger and more powerful, but Riefenstahl used part of it to create Fischler and then gave another part of it to Montaigne after the War. Erich Sieger only has what's left because he destroyed his own fields and salted the earth to keep Castille from claiming his land. It worked, but now the land is ruined.

The people of Sieger are among the strongest and toughest in Eisen. They are also famous for being surrounded by excitement and problems. A Sieger Hero cannot take a Virtue and must take a Hubris, but only gets 5 points for it. However, they gain one of the Large advantage, Toughness advantage or Foul Weather Jack advantage free. Their capital is the fortress Stahlfort - though calling it a town is a hard thing to do. It's just the hardest defensive position in Eisen. Dueling is outlawed in Stahlfort, save for duels to the death in a ring of stones - Erich Sieger has found it cuts down on the number of duels. More populous is the port town of Stärke, famous for Wasserkampf, a form of unarmed competetive fighting performed hip-deep in water. Drowning the foe is legal. Besides that, it's known for beer, called das Bärchen , the little bear. The once-prosperous trading town of Stützung has been taken over by Sieger's men, the Mörderbande - a band of cutthroats and former bandits who can't be held accountable for their crimes since they are the police. For a while, a cloaked figure calling himself the Wächter kept them in check, but they recently trapped and captured him, revealing the mayor's son, Hans Jost. He is scheduled to be hanged within a month, and the Jenny who was hired as bait for him, Barbara Rainer, has vanished.

Unlike Fischler, Sieger uses the Schwartzen Walden in his strategies. He has men tap the trees for sap, which they then boil down into a concentrated syrup and place in sealed containers. They then sneak into and throw those containers into enemy camps near the forest, causing monsters to attack the camp due to the scent. Sieger has also captured some monsters and uses them as guards. Sieger's isolationism has been caused by the fact that Riefenstahl gave away some of his lands to a foreign power. He was willing to (grudgingly) accept Fischler, since precedent existed, but the giving of his lands to Montaigne and Castille was too much. Many of his people are leaving for Vodacce thanks to his salting the earth, and while his restoration projects are ongoing he may soon have no one to rule over. He has deliberately filled his personal guard with the vilest men he could find - they are willing to commit atrocities, and so while Sieger's made enemies, he's gained a reputation as a man not to be crossed. He keeps his peasants busy taking dirt dredged from the riverbeds, carting it to be fertilized with dung and left to sit, then putting it back in the fields. It's slowly restoring the lands to usable if not fertile status.

Wische is ruled by Reinhard von Wische...in theory, anyway. He's comatose and isn't exactly in much of a state to be ruling anything. His family's motto is "Endure," and his crest is two men pulling on a chain that binds them together. His family had the sword belt and sheath of the Imperator, made to look like the tail of a drachen and with the leather made of tanned drachen hide. When the Imperator gave it to the von Wisches, he told them, "I do not need this any more. Your eloquence will bind the rest of my armaments to me. Should they stray from their duties, remind them of the oaths they have sworn and the debts they owe their country and their Imperator." The belt vanished shortly after Reinhard von Wische went catatonic, and it remains missing.

Wische has been hit hardest of any part of Eisen. It is close to collapse, and full of the waisen packs. The waisen are not normal people - the light in their eyes is dead. They have no awareness, and do strange things. They seem to instinctively band together, and waisen will often form packs, following each other aimlessly in circles. A Fate Witch tried to cure a waisen with her magic, but within a week she began mumbling about "broken dolls without strings" and shortly thereafter became waisen herself. A Hero from Wische has no starting income and has any monthly income reduced by 25%. However, they receive either a 3 point Orphaned background, a 3 point Lost Love background or a 3 point Waisen Dependant background for free.

The capital and only real standing city in Wische is Siegsburg, the living ruin. Half of the city is rubble, but the people will not leave. They can't afford to rebuild and they can't afford to relocate. Regular guard patrols attempt to keep ghouls and other monsters from attacking, and many weakened citizens have killed themselves rather than be eaten alive by the ghouls. The city has sent out messengers looking for aid, but since they can't pay, it may never arrive. Wische is also home to the Weissberg mountains, where the Treaty of Weissberg was signed at the pass of Gold Divide. It's said that the Imperator's ghost haunts the hostel where the signing happened. Wische has developed an odd custom for dealing with grief. A person who is crying will pick up pebbles for every tear they shed, and when they cannot hold the pebbles in their hands, they scream out their anger and hurl the pebbles as far as they can, repeating the process if they cannot step crying still.

Regarding Eisen as a whole - nothing shapes the people like dracheneisen did. It has made the finest weapons and armor available in the world, can be used for great feats of engineering when used strategically, and has led to great advances in metallurgy. The Eisen are quite proud of it and of their lack of magic, having long forgotten their old mages. It's also made the Eisen private and distrustful - after all, foreigners might be spies come to steal the dracheneisen. It has also led to a highly offensive martial style, as a full set of dracheneisen armor can ignore all but the most powerful attacks. Dracheneisen, in raw form, is soft and malleable, like gold. Once the Nibelungen smiths apply their secret forging process, though, dracheneisen becomes hard enough to scratch diamond. It is dracheneisen which marks a noble, save for the Imperator himself. Claims to titles are based on ownership of dracheneisen mines - and anyone who found a new one would have a claim to be a new Eisenfürst. The War of the Cross has thrown everything into chaos, though - no more Imperator to acknowledge claims, and dracheneisen spread to the four winds after nobles died in battle.

The Nibelungen are an ancient order of blacksmith-mystics, the only ones who can forge the dracheneisen. No one knows how they learned their craft, and they guard their secrets jealously. Legends paint them as god-like heroes, gathered high in the Hainzl mountains, requesting service of the respectful in exchange for dracheneisen. They give dangerous tasks, but always honor their bargains in these legends. Today, they've lost some of those near-divine trappings - they have no magic and are no gods. They are men with a secret. Still, they are held in quiet awe by much of Eisen, and tend to live like hermits, contacted by the nobles to create dracheneisen weapons and armor but controlled by no one. They follow their own code and none dare challenge them - after all, they are ultimately the source of all authority, and no one wants to make them angry. Joining them is not easy - you must be chosen, and those who refuse to join are never given a second chance. Trainees travel into the Drachenbergs, learning their craft for years in a hidden location. Once they pass all their tests, they forge a great hammer that marks them as Nibelung. Their duties consist of attending certain meetings, forging the dracheneisen ore and ensuring only the worthy get their craft by requesting great services as pay. Only the Eisenfürst can get an item without such fanfare, since they bring the raw material. Even they, though, must not anger the smiths, or they will be cut off.

Dracheneisen is not unbreakable - but it is incredibly tough, twice as hard to break as steel, yet incredibly light. A full suit of dracheneisen weighs perhaps five pounds. Weapons are usually weighted with lead, iron or gold to give them heft. Dracheneisen never loses its edge and, once forged, is incredibly hard. It hasn't spread due to a highly limited supply - less than a thousand full suits exist, and most are split into pieces. The Eisen are very protective of the metal and are known to kill anyone who steals it. The Eisen are famous for their operas and their heroic sagas. One of the most famous of their operas is the Song of the Nibelungen, a tale of a man who tries to win a woman's heart, and must go on several quests for the Nibelungen in order to do so - swimming to the bottom of the Südlache, stealing the shears of the Schattenmann and slaying a drachen. A common theme in recent works is that meaning can be found in fighting the inevitable - even if you know you cannot win.

Eisen is split north and south - Vaticines to the north, Objectionists to the South. The Vaticines are highly traditional, while the Objectionists vary widely in their beliefs. The most focused beliefs are those objections raised by Matthias Lieber. Most notably: the church should not suppress information on sorcery, for understanding is more important and the church should not gather political power but instead rely on the truth of their own teachings. Animosity has, at least, died off since the War - no one wants to start that fight again.

Eisen gets along well with most nations, save three. Avalon is seen as a nation of tricksters and liars, and the Eisens tend not to trust them at all. Montaigne is viewed with disgust due to its opportunistic invasion at the end of the War, though enough money can get most Eisen mercenaries to look past this. And the Eisen fear Vodacce's Fate Witches, which tends to mean a general mistrust of Vodacce itself. Everyone else tends to be okay - Castille is good-hearted, despite their attempts at land-grabs. Ussura is well-meaning if unsophisticated. Vendel is civilized if shameless, and the Vesten...well, any Eisen knows not to fight a cornered dog. Still, most Eisens judge people individually rather than based on their place of birth.

The drachen have been ingrained in Eisen as a symbol of strength and power. They are everything Eisen once was - strong, indomitable, stubborn - and everything it will be again. However, they were also uncontrollable and harsh, the force of an uncaring world - and the Eisen do not look away from this. It's believed the drachens may have gone extinct ninety years ago, when Leopold Weidenhammer choked a drachen to death on a winebottle he threw at it while nobles were hunting the thing. Leopold never claimed to be a drachenslayer, attributing his kill to sheer luck rather than merit.

We move now to the next chapter, with a story about Reinhard von Wische. He is catatonic on his throne, dreaming of the deaths of his family endlessly. Over and over, they die in his mind. His clerks have no idea what he's going through - but four times a day, he lets out a terrifying cry of anguish. They try to work around it. Over and over, in his own mind, Reinhard tries to save his wife and sons - and over and over, they cannot be saved. Eisen is really not a happy place.

Now, let's talk about people. Faulk Tobias Fischler was a fisherman who wanted to be a noble - but to do that, he'd need a dracheneisen mine. He hunted for one for seven years before giving up in disgust...and stumbling over a a cave full of dracheneisen ore pretty much by accident. The Imperator named him a baron, splitting off part of Heilgrund and Sieger for Fischler's land. He was charged with taking care of the Südlache, since he was a fisherman. Unfortunately, nobility is not what Faulk hoped for. The other nobles look down on him, and his old friends have changed how they treat him, being too deferential or pleading. Only his sister remained the same. Things went from bad to worse when the fish stopped being as abundant. Now, he's running into even more resource shortages! Fortunately, a letter arrived from Gaius Nikolovich of Ussura, asking if Faulk's sister would meet with his son. The Gaius was impressed with both Fischlers and Katerina Fischler married his son in exchange for a trade agreement. This left Faulk alone, though, save for his advisor Franziska - who will speak only of politics. He's taken to traveling to the pubs, where at least the bartenders listen if he tips well.

Georg Hainzl...well, he was once a great patron of the arts. However, when he moved into his castle built to be like that from the fairy tale the Three Owls, he suffered from a superstitious fear aboutt the roof door, fearing it would destroy him. It got worse and worse until finally, he unlocked the door to see the roof for his own peace of mind. When they found him the next morning, he was a madman, huddled around a hammer he was chipping the wall with and claiming to be a miner from a famous novel. Georg has loving friends and family, who now run his kingdom for him and hope he will recover. So far, he hasn't improved - he's a new character each day, sometimes a tragic lover, sometimes an ancient tyrant. He's had to be forbidden from attending opera because he can't tell fantasy from reality and once got up on stage and nearly killed a man in what was meant to be a stage duel. The staff have learned to keep weapons away from him, and while several servant women have been passionately kissed when he's in a romantic role, they've gotten good at avoiding him on those days. Hainzl dresses in outlandish costumes based on who he believes himself to be that day. No one knows what drove him mad, but so long as the kingdom prospers, his family will care for him.

Stefan Gregor Heilgrund III has always been pressured to maintain his family heritage. He feels that he shamed his family even before he became a man - he was in the palace the night Riefenstahl killed himself, and he's still unsure what happened. He was talking to someone, and then suddenly it was morning. He knew some magic was afoot, and rushed to check on the Imperator, only to learn that nearly everyone in the palace had suffered the same blackout and that the Imperator was dead. He has always felt he should have resisted the spell and protected his liege - it was his duty, and he let it down. The guilt was reinforced when his parents, horrified by Eisen's collapse, took poison together. Stefan wants to reunite Eisen, seeing it as his chance for redemption. He's convinced this must be done by military means, and has begun studying the occult in hopes of finding magic or devices capable of conquering Eisen. The other Eisenfürsten treat him as a joke, save for Nicklause Trägue, who fears he'll be dangerous but thinks he may be useful. He's broken off relations with everyone but Trägue and Fauner Pösen, whom he has a small crush on. Heilgrund is a major patron of the Explorers, often purchasing the more unusual findings they put up for sale. He is rather more intelligent and aware than most give him credit for.

Fauner Pösen was born early in the War of the Cross and has been fighting all her life. She has been tutored by the best swordsmen and tacticians that could be found and has even developed moves she's never taught others. She has killed more than a hundred people, almost forty of them in duels. She treats killing as a tool to reinforce her authority, and no one really knows if she feels any remorse for it. She governs like a general, though her inability to delegate has made her less effective than she wants. She can handle one kingdom, but may be too rigid to rule a nation. She could reconquer Eisen, but would have no idea what to do with it. Fortunately, she seems to have little desire for conquest. When she was younger, she took a lover whom she later discovered in the arms of another woman. Fauner killed them both and has since avoided romance for fear of further pain. She is still beset by suitors, due to her power, money and beauty. When they realize she's not interested, they tend to get angry, and she's killed several of them for overstepping their bounds, damaging her reputation or in one case trying to rape her. I cannot imagine who could possibly think that was a good idea. Her most persistent suitor is Hendryk Brandt, who has been wooing her for quite so time. He started by serenading her outside her window. She threw a small statue at him, but fortunately it only broke his arm. He hasn't been discouraged in the slightest.

Next time: More people!

Charles, my whipping pistol.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I loved Hucksters when I played Deadlands. my last character ever rolled up ended up as a zombie (who didn't know he was a zombie, he thought he'd gotten really drunk the night he died) and a huckster who ended up shattering his own leg in like five places because he tried to eavesdrop on a conversation with magic. Every other spell cast after that went similarly. I had a lot of bad luck.

7th Sea: Charles, my whipping pistol.

Erich Sieger, now, one of the biggest assholes in Eisen. He was once a devout Vaticine who led a division with his father during the War of the Cross. Erich's father planned to surrender and would not be talked out of it...so Erich strangled him to keep him from dishonoring the family name. He then led his men under a flag of truce to assault the enemy forces, breaking through them before they could react. When the war ended, though, Riefenstahl had to give away some land - and Sieger's was close to the border. More importantly, the Imperator just really hated Sieger. Sieger, of course, felt betrayed - his Imperator turned on him and his Church stood by, even eager to have Castille take his land. So he returned home, kicked all the clergy from his lands and then burned the fields and salted them. The Castillians showed up, looked around and promptly went home. Sieger has only ever been in a relationship with one woman, a commoner whom he got pregnant and who tried to use the child to get him to marry her. He realized she'd been trying to get at his money all along and promptly ceased to acknowledge her existence. He's quite proud of his son, Logan Gottschalk Sieger, however. He took a great interest in the boy, and when he came of age, Erich sent Logan off to a military academy. Logan used the money to become a scholar instead - and Erich was very pleased, for it proved that Logan was his own man. Of course, he didn't tell the boy that. Instead, he sent a later telling Logan not to come home, but to find a job in Freiburg. Erich hopes it will toughen Logan up enough to rule Sieger when he dies, and he has changed his will to ensure Logan inherits.

Next is Nicklaus Trägue, a man who became baron when he was a soldier. He participated in one of the last battles of the War of the Cross, and he fled the battle for the mountains, where he took shelter in a cave and found a dracheneisen vein. He asked for the ruined fortress of Stein as his barony, and the Imperator agreed. He set about making the fortress a trade city using the income of his mine to support it. Once it was made, he set up an administration to run the place, sat back and began writing a book about his philosophical beliefs. He's an atheist - not in the sense that he feels Theus doesn't exist, but in that he doesn't worship Theus, because he believes that any being that could create such a cruel place as the world could not possibly have humanity's best interests in mind. He also strongly dislikes organized religion, seeing it as a destructive influence on man and unneeded for a moral code. He points to the Crusades and the War of the Cross to back himself up here. He lets the Explorers investigate the Syrneth ruins near Freiburg, but he is deeply uneasy with the Syrneth and their artifacts - he feels their power threatens human ingenuity, as scholars use their minds not to forge ahead but to unlock the secrets of an ancient race who seem to have wiped themselves out - possibly with the very devices the scholars pore over. Trägue believes man must turn away from this developmental dead end or follow the Syrneth into extinction. He also sets forth the idea that sorcery has no moral standing inherently, but rather that its morality is determined by its use - a philosophy many sorcerers have begun to embrace. Of course, he admits, these are all opinions and could all be wrong. He dictates his book to his scribe, drinks and watches Freiburg. He's not really a ruler - more an alcoholic warden to Freiburg. All he cares about now is finishing his book. When he's done, he plans to drink himself to death.

Someone get this man a drink.

Reinhard Dieter von Wische was once a happy man. He had a beautiful wife named Cornelia and three strong, brave and handsome sons. What else could he want? When he was off fighting against the Objectionists, he received a message: his wife had died in a fire. He stabbed the messenger, who died three days later, calling him a liar and falling into a deep depression. His eldest son ran Wische while he was mourning, and he came out of it all right, prouder than ever of his children. His kingdom had been ravaged, so he began to rebuild while his sons took command of his army, as Reinhard was too old to charge into battle himself. His eldest son was killed in battle, and his second son died in battle a month later. He became desperate to ensure his youngest son would live, so he hired a bodyguard named Karl Thomas Steiner to protect him. For two years, it worked...Reinhard occasionally engaged in bouts of drunken self-pity and developed an irrational fear of messengers, but he was happy enough. And then came the later from Karl, telling him that his son had died to a highwayman and that Karl fled in fear of Reinhard's wrath. There was no need. Reinhard dropped the letter and spoke the last words he'd ever say: "I have become a Prince of ashes, nothing more." Since then, he has been catatonic. He eats what's given to him, walks if led - but otherwise, he just sits on his throne. Four times a day, he digs his hands into the thrones sharp iron edges and lets loose a howl of pain and anguish. When they tried to pad the throne, he tore the padding away - apparently he finds the pain comforting. None can say if he will ever recover.

Stefan Heilgrund's greatest advisor is Odel Herrickson, a Vestenmannavnjar man who never speaks of his past. However, he bears the scars of a ritual scalping and removal of the right arm - a ritual performed to strip someone of their Lærdom sorcery and generally reserved only for serious traitors. Most don't survive it, but Odel has. He can't use sorcery, but he has a number of Syrneth artifacts to serve him, gifts from Heilgrund. He acts as an occult consultant, boasting of knowledge of Syrneth ruins and lore. Odel does, however, tend to exaggerate his own knowledge - once, he assured a fellow explorer that he knew all about the dangerous of the Thalusian Isles, when he'd never been there, and ended up getting sprayed by a mist and causing a silver globe to explode into red liquid, causing a swarm of deadly insects to come after him - he was eventually found hidden in a lake, breathing through a straw, too afraid to check if the killer beetles were still there. He is very, very unpleasant-looking.

Reinhard's regent is Gisela Hilda Inselhoffer, a woman who met Reinhard when her parents sent her to court his eldest son. A few months later, there was some kind of scandal and she was sent home, plans canceled. After that, she refused all further matches, remaining faithful to the von Wisches. When she heard of Reinhard's illness, she came back to see if she could help. She has no official authority, but she hired clerks to manage the treasury and has become the de facto regent. Everyone realizes she's in love with Reinhard von Wische - she feeds him, binds his wounds and reads to him whenever she can. She desperately wants him to recover, though she fears he'll prefer the memory of his dead wife to her. Either way, she'll do anything to bring him back. Recently, though, she's been caught in another scandal: funds are vanishing from the treasury! People have accused her, though Reinhard's personal guard, the Roaring Drachens, support her innocence. Her own brother, Klaus Inselhoffer, has threatened to come take over the area if the situation continues. She can't defeat him in arms, though, as most of the army deserted when they started being paid for IOUs for months on end. Now, only the Roaring Drachens remain. Gisela knows Reinhard would never forgive her if she lost his kingdom, so she is frantically trying to find out what's going on. She has been given exactly three months to do so.

Philip Knef is the man who manages Hainzl's dracheneisen mines. He's been a miner all his life, and it's what he understands. He spent twenty years in the mines, ever since his youth, and he managed to keep his family fed by mining even during the War. As he grew older, he moved on to overseeing the mines, and by the end, he was in charge of several major lodes. His superiors were mostly killed in the fighting, so when Hainzl's new government formed, he ended up as head of the operation. Knef's large nose and broken smile made him reesemble a character from the opera Der Rabe, much to Georg Hainzl's delight. He promises Knef men and money to continue his work - though Knef realized such promises weren't much, and he soon learned to make requests by paper rather than in person. He knows how to keep the mines running without Georg's help, which has made things continue smoothly. His efforts have made Hainzl rich, so he's allowed to do what he likes. He works hard and quietly, and once broke a nobleman's nose for suggesting safety cutbacks to save money - an act which made him many friends in Hainzl's court.

Franziska Köhl is Faulk Fischler's advisor, and has been for four years. She's kept the economy going, ensured the army's armed and even managed relations with his neighbors. She's the only one around Faulk who respects him, and the only one he trusts. She was the daughter of a minor lord who resigned herself to being a bureaucrat. She married as a political move and rarely saw her husband. The War put a major strain on her family, and it was her job to run things. She awoke one day to find an enemy general outside her walls, telling her that her father and husband had been killed and that their lands were his in tribute. He demanded her surrender - and she did what any Eisen in the situation would do: she spat in his face and was besieged. It lasted forty-five days, ending when an unrelated battle cut the enemy's supply lines. Köhl's organizational skilles were instrumental in keeping everyone fed - and by the end, even with them, she was reduced to hunting rats in the cellar. Still, when the siege ended, most of her charges were alive and the walls were intact. Faulk Fischler heard about her talent and sent her a letter to see if she'd be his advisor. She agreed, and while originally contemptuous of Faulk, she soon grew to respect his sharp mind, and the two now share a mutual respect and empathy. She refuses, however, to pursue any romance, feeling she must teach Faulk that isolation is the price of power. She is a very clever, practical woman who is never, ever surprised.

Then there's Hendryk Brandt, the most persistent suitor Fauner Pösen has ever had. He's a wealthy nobleman who fought in the War without much distinction and was spared its worst ravages. He really had no goals or desires until he saw Fauner - and then, he was in love. It wasn't until later that he found out she was an Eisenfürst, but he didn't care. He was willing to do whatever it took! He beat two rivals in duels and even took a broken arm - but he's still going for Fauner. He has no real interest in power or wealth - he's just...in love. Seriously. He's sure that time and persistence will show how much he cares and give his bones a chance to knit.

And lastly, there is Miguel Soldano de Acedo, once the son of a wealthy Castillian don. He somehow angered the king's advisor, Esteban Verdugo, and was reassigned as Castille's Governor of the Eisen lands. The lands which Castille had never claimed. The lands which Erich Sieger was still living on. When he arrived in Sieger, he was tense, sore and cranky. Which is when he ran into Erich Sieger and was informed that the fields were salted and the land was worthless. He couldn't go home - refusing a royal appointment would mean death. So he ended up stuck there...and after a violent row with Sieger, he ended up being assigned to feed the pigs. He wrote a letter home, but he's not sure it ever arrived, and he's heard nothing from Castille. His "supervisor" is an eight-year-old named Petr, who torments and mocks him whenever he messes up. Miguel hates the little guy. He is also convinced that the pigs are demonic - they bite at him, trip him up, escape their pen and force him to chase them...all sorts of trouble. He's not sure what he did to make Verdugo mad, but he deeply regrets it - he was born to woo ladies, not muck out pig pens! He's sworn that someone is going to pay for this. Anyone who could get him out of his current problems would have a friend for life.

We now get some fiction of Erich Sieger meeting with Miguel Soldano de Acedo, who informs him that he is the new governor. Sieger tells him he can sleep in the pigsty - and after explaining that Miguel is having a joke played on him by someone in Castille, he again makes clear: the boy will sleep in the pigsty. Miguel challenges him to a duel, so Sieger cold-cocks him and puts him to work in the pig sty, serving under Petr. As you might guess, Miguel is not very happy about it.

Now then! There's new skills which we'll skip, and new Swordsman schools, which we won't! We start with the Drexel school, developed by the mercenary Kristoff Drexel, leader of the warband called the Blood Spirits. He developed the style as a flexible fighting style revolving around the Eisen zweihander. It's very popular because of its adaptability, and those who learn it are called doppel soldiers, because they're paid twice as much. A Drexel fencer learns more ways of attacking and defending than any other. However, because of the focus on flexibility, there is a hesitation when a fighting situation changes quickly, as the student tries to figure out how to respond - and that can be deadly. Apprentices learn two of the four Stances taught by the school, which have their own Apprentice abilities, and get a +5 to their initiative when wielding a zweihander. Journeymen learn a third Stance, and also receive a Fear rating of 1 (or +1 to their rating if they already had one), as they learn to intimidate others. This can be used to aid leadership, intimidation and panic rolls, giving a free Raise for each point of Fear - and, of course, you help counteract the Fear rating of anything you fight against for those you lead. Masters learn the last Stance they don't know and get +1 to their fear rating.

I should note - the zweihander has a special rule. It's very powerful by default, but after swinging you need to spend an action resetting your hold because it's so goddamn huge.

The Bittner, or Forward Stance counteracts this. It's mostly defensive, and reduces the zweihander to a base 2k2 weapon. However, an Apprentice doesn't have to spend an action to reset the zweihander and gets a free Raise to any Parry Active Defense. A Journeyman gets two Free Raises, and his actions are considered 1 phase faster when using an active defense. A Master gets three free Raises and his actions are considered 2 phases faster when performing an active defense.

The Gerbeck, or High Stance is the one most untrained folks use with a zweihander, and it's used for huge, powerful swings. In this stance, a zweihander has base 3k3 damage. An Apprentice learns how to attack while resetting, allowing the user to make a base 1k2 attack while resetting the zweihander. A journeyman improves that to base 2k2, and a master improves it to base 3k2, equal to a normal heavy weapon.

The Köhler, or Low Stance is meant for extremely rapid movement of the blade. It deals 2k2 base damage. The Apprentice gets +10 to Initiative on top of the normal +5, and his actions are considered one phase faster when attacking, resetting the zweihander or making an active defense. Journeymen are two phases faster when doing those things, and Masters are three phases faster.

The Metzger, or Back Stance is an offensive stance meant for quick, powerful attacks. The base damage is 4k3 in this stance, but the wielder's passive defense is reduced by 5 and the TN of any active defense attempted is increased by 5. An apprentice's actions are one phase faster when attacking, and a journeyman's are 2 phases faster. A master deals base 4k4 damage while in this stance.

The next "fencing" style is Gelingen. Gelingen...is not really a fencing style. It is, instead, the art of learning to fight monsters effectively. You learn to look for weak spots in the anatomy of creatures you fight, so that next time, you're even better at killing them. You learn to aim for joints, use poisons on monsters and go for soft parts like the eye. Gelingen is pretty shit at fighting humans and intelligent foes, though - it's designed to look for predictable, repetitive moves and intelligent foes vary too much for these simple patterns. Gelingen "fencers" do not get automatic admission to the Swordsman's Guild. An apprentice gets one Exploit Weakness (Monster) knack at 3 for free, and may purchased up to three more at normal cost. When fighting a monster whose Exploit Weakness knack they have, they add their rank in the knack to any damage rolls against the monster. They need four Exploit Weakness (Monster) knacks at 4 to become Journeymen. As a note - you can only, other than the ones for being Apprentice, get Exploit Weakness (Monster) when you kill monsters. You can buy one rank in a monster's Exploit Weakness knack when you kill one. By itself, the knack adds dice to attacks and active defenses when fighting that type of monster. All swordsman schools also have such a knack, which you normally learn by learning the school. There is an optional rule here to allow heroes to learn the appropriate knacks when they defeat a swordsman of the school. Anyway. Journeymen learn how to identify some common attacks and habits, and add twice ther rank in an Exploit Weakness (monster) knack to their passive defense when fighting that kind of monster. Their apprentice damage bonus is also doubled. When they get four Exploit Weakness (monster) knacks to 5, they become masters. Masters are considered to have rank 1 in all possible Exploit Weakness (Monster) knacks, due to having much experience and the ability to make broad generalizations based on his training, and may now purchase the knack without having to kill monsters for it.

Some advice: don't pick drachen as your starting knack. You won't be happy with the results.

Next time: Crossbows and mass combat "fencing schools"!

Even a madman is better than the tender mercies of the Vestenmannavnjar.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Even a madman is better than the tender mercies of the Vestenmannavnjar.

We left off with the Höpken school of crossbowmanship. The crossbow is famous in Eisen for making peasants effective and able even to pierce suits of dracheneisen - something no normal bow could do. Adrian Höpken, a peasant, developed a set of techniques for the crossbow to make it even more effective, and began teaching them after the War of the Cross. It focuses on accuracy and reload speed, and Adrian developed a high-powered heavy crossbow to use with it, along with some gearing tricks and a reloading device similar to a shoehorn. The weakness? All those tools mean you're gonna be standing still, and that makes you an easy target. Also, the crossbow twitches just before launching a bolt, giving a tell for a fast opponent. oh, and you don't get to be a Swordsman, but who cares? You get to arc your crossbow bolts. Somehow. And bounce them off stuff in trick shots.

Apprentices deal 3k3 damage with crossbows and can learn the Reload (Crossbow) knack more cheaply, making it easier for them to reload quickly. it normally takes 6 actions to reload a crossbow, reduced by 1 for rank you have Reload (Crossbow.) (Guns take longer - the best way to use guns is the surprisingly period accurate method of 'have multiple guns, don't bother reloading until later.') Anyway. journeyman Höpken fighters increase their crossbow range by 10 yards, and change the short and long range modifiers to -0 and -5 respectively. They may also build a special 5000G heavy crossbow that deals 4k3 damage instead of 3k3, but require anyone with less than Brawn 4 to spend 3 extra actions reloading it. A Master is the most skilled crossbowman in the world, increasing the range by 15 now and changing the range modifiers to +5 and -0. They may also purchase rank 6 in Reload (Crossbow), allowing for a reload time of 0 and firing every action.

The Pösen school utilizes the boar spear, a mounted spear with a crossbar meant to keep a boar from fighting up the blade to kill the rider. it began as arrogant nobles using it to "hunt" enemy soldiers on the battlefield, protected in their dracheneisen armor. Eventually, it became a way to prove courage. And the Pösens developed a fighting style that turned it into a brutal cavalry weapon. It is designed around a huge initial burst of action, but its big weakness is that it leaves the fighter exhausted after that, and if they're cut off from retreat they're not too hard to take down. Oddly, despite using a spear, it does give you Swordsman status, presumably because it's a noble style. in fact, you get a 5 point discount to learning it if you have the Dracheneisen advantage (which is generally truer indication than the Noble advantage in Eisen).

An Apprentice Pösen fencer learns to use the spear to keep enemies at bay while on horseback. They get +15 to Initiative for the first round of combat, and when using their Lance (Polearm) knack in the first round, they roll and keep an extra die of damage as long as they have decent space to maneuver in. Journeymen learn to focus their strength, and during the first round of combat may choose to add 1 to their Brawn, Finesse and Resolve. if they do, though, then after that round they have to subtract 1 from all those traits for the rest of the scene. If that takes them to 0 in a trait, they become KOed immediately. A Master Pösen fighter learns to attack early and often. At the start of a round, they may borrow against their actions from next round - so if they have Panache 3, they can make up to 3 more actions this round...but next round will be reduced to however many they have left. They may use this ability once every other round.

Then there's the Steil school. Steil is not a fencing school; Steil is a commanding school. It teaches men how to lead. Specifically, how to lead by inspiring loyalty in the men. It's well-suited for small units, where good relationships are critical. However, its weakness is that the commander puts his emotional well-being in jeopardy by caring so much, and may make rash decisions to save the lives of a few men by throwing the battle away and killing many more. Steil students do not get membership in the Swordsman's Guild; instead, they get the Academy advantage. Their knacks are based around Orders, specific mass combat maneuvers that they learn to be better at. When using those maneuvers, they add (points in the appropriate knack times mastery level) to their strategy roll that round.

Apprentice Steil commanders learn to understand their men, and they get a free Raise when resisting or using the Repartee system, while all NPCs loyal to them get 2 free Raises to resist other people's use of Repartee in their presence. They also get a 1 point discount to all advantages that would give them an NPC character that follows their orders, and may spend XP to improve Henchmen and Brutes. (1 XP spent gives a Henchmen 2 to spend, and 10 times a current Brute Squad's threat level increases it by 1. You can also buy knacks for the brutes by paying XP equal to knack's rank. This makes your minions very, very good if you care to invest.) They must learn 4 Orders knacks at 4 to become Journeymen. Journeyman Steils learn to track many men at once. They may team up with a number of Brutes under their command equal to (Wits+Leadership) instead of the normal amount, and any time a Brute under their command is Knocked Out, they may spend a Drama die to prevent it. When using the Mass Combat rules, they can add their mastery level in Steil to their personal results roll to represent their men watching out for them. After learning five Orders knacks at 5, they become Masters. Masters are hugely charismatic men, and when using the mass combat rules as general of an army, they may inspire the men. Before battle, when they make a Wits+Incitation roll, they get a Free Raise for later use with every 5 points rather than every 10. Also, once per scene they can spend an action to reduce the Fear rating of a foe by their Leadership.

Oh, and there's an optional rule for allowing everyone to use the Experienced Henchmen rule, but anyone without Steil pays double cost.

Opposing Steil is the unabwendbar school, which focuses on the need to not struggle against what can't be changed. Accept it and use it. If you see a unit is going to die, don't throw away resources to save them. Instead, pull away and use them as bait for a trap. Turn these situations into tools for victory. It's a very skilled way to command, if very, very cold. It improves strategy, but tends to piss off the men, unlike Steil's inspirations to greater loyalty. Unabwendbar, like Steil, does not give Swordsman membership, but rather a free Academy advantage. Same deal with the Orders knack as Steil.

An Apprentice of Unabwendbar learns discipline and concentration. For every phase they hold an action before performing it (or every ten minutes out of combat), they add points equal to their mastery level to the roll, up to five times their mastery level (so +5 at Apprentice to +15 at Master). If they take a Dramatic Wound while holding the action, their concentration breaks and they lose the bonus (but not the action). Unabwendbar students also get a 5 point discount to the Man of Will advantage. We'll get to that. A Journeyman is generally a leader by now, and they learn to follow instructions and give orders well. If they add their rank in Leadership to their general's strategy roll, they ignore the normal -2 penalty to their personal results roll. Also, when more than one person in your party is doing the same action at the same time (such as attacking with identical weapons on the same phase), you may add three times your mastery level to each of the participating heroes' rolls. A Master of Unabwendbar is able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. When making Tides of Battle rolls in mass combat, once per battle they can convert a past loss into a win to help accumulate the three wins in a row needed for victory. This is hugely powerful. Also, once per act, after anyone in the party's failed a roll they may turn that roll in the minimum number needed for success, though doing so cancels any Raises made for the roll - which prevents this from being used for rolls that need Raises to succeed, but would let you turn a miss on an attack into a hit at the cost of any raises made for damage.

Let's see...expanded dracheneisen rules. Depending on how much dracheneisen you're wearing, you get bonuses to your TN to be hit and reduction of kept dice of damage rolled on you. A full suit of armor gives +10 TN to be hit and -2 Kept dice, which is veeeeery nice. An expanded table of what sort of thing you can buy with dracheneisen, and rules for modifying a dracheneisen panzerhand - normal ones are not light and strong enough for these mods, apparently. You can get a locking grip, which prevents your binds from being broken and allows you use of the Eisenfaust journeyman power or disarm knacks. It also requires a key and 3 actions to release the grip, and until then your hand can't be used for anything else. You can mount a base 1k3 crossbow on the thing, or build a pistol into it. It takes 20 actions to load the pistol, but the first time you successfully punch someone it goes off, dealing 4k3 damage, with +1 unkept die for each point of Brawn you have. You can add spikes to the hand, making it deal base 2k2 damage. Or weighted knuckles, which does the same but prevents you from using the panzerhand for anything but punching, including the Eisenfaust special panzerhand tricks.

The Man of Will advantage is 25 points - that's quite a lot. You can't take a Hubris if you take it, and you can never have any kind of magical ability, ever. You get a 5 point discount on a Virtue, are immune to all mind-altering magic, including Sorte Cups or Staves magic, emotion-affecting runes and Sidhe illusions. You are also immune to the Repartee system, Fear and being Crippled. That's a lot! I'm not sure if it's worth a quarter of your points, though. Let's see..The Iron Guard. Iron Guards are the personal forces of each Eisenfürst. They all have to be Eisen natives, and beyond that each group has specific needs. The benefits? Well, you get free equipment, room and board, a stipend that varies by employer and you can ask your buddies in the Iron Guard for help.

The Wily Foxes of Fischler are hunters and trackers who wear all black with green trim and wield heavy weapons. They must have Wits and Finesse of 3 or more, 10 points or more of knacks from the Hunter skill and at least three Martial Skills. Their duties are to enforce Fischler law, obey Faulk Fischler and watch the Black Forest for trouble. They get 20G per month. Freiburg's got the Freiburg Guardsmen, who are paid by the local merchants for protection. They wear black with white trim and wield paired panzerhands. They need Brawn and Resolve of at least 3, at least 5 points of knacks from the Panzerhand skill and at least three martial skills. Their job is to enforce Freiburg law, obey Nicklaus Trägue's nonexistent orders and act as a bodyguard when hired out. They make between 0 and 40G per month based on a chart. Hainzl has the Steel warriors, who wield dracheneisen arms and armor and wear black with grey trim. They needs Wits and Finesse of at least 3, 10 or more points of the Dracheneisen advantage and at least three martial skills. Their job is to enforce Hainzl law, obey the Hainzl family and guard the mines. They get 20G per month. Heilgrund employs the ghosts, stealthy men who learn to stay out of sight and notice. They wear all black and wield heavy weapons. They need Resolve and Finesse of at least 3, 3 or more ranks in Unobtrusive, Stealth and Shadowing, and at least three martial skills. They enforce Heilgrund law, obey Heilgrund and speak to no one about what he does. They get 20G in Eisen Marks per month.

Pösen has the Swamp Dogs, who wear black with blue trim, carry lots of weapons and are all trained Gelingen fighters. They need Wits and Brawn of 3 or more, must be Gelingen fencers and have at least three martial skills. They enforce Pösen law, obey Fauner Pösen and kill monsters. They get 20G per month. Sieger has the Clenched Fists, who are usually former murderers, thieves or worse. They wear black with red trim and wield a panzerhand and spiked club (which counts as a fencing weapon). They need a Brawn of at least 4, a reputation of -10 or less and at least three martial skills. Note: by default, heroes become NPC villains under the GM's control at Reputation -30. Their job? Enforce Sieger law, obey Erich Sieger and try not to kill anyone important. They are paid 20G in Marks per month and are completely immune to legal punishment in Sieger - but on the other hand, other Clenched Fists are unlikely to want to help you out. Wische's Roaring Drachens are loyal and respected men who have not abandoned their kingdom despite being paid in IOUs that will likely never be paid back. They are all Drexel fencers, many preferring Metzger stance. They need Brawn and Finesse 3 or more, the Drexel school of fencing and at least three martial skills. Their job is to enforce Wische law, obey von Wische (or his regent) and protect the people. They get 20G per month in IOUs, which are accepted in 20% of Wische shops out of a sense of respect and loyalty. They aso get +5 Reputation.

Or maybe you prefer to be a Nibelung! For a fifth of your points, you can! This gives you the ability to forge dracheneisen into usable form, which takes two months and 1000G per unit of dracheneisen. It costs 1 unit per point the thing would cost on the dracheneisen table. You also get a Nibelung's Hammer, a special heavy weapon that deals 3k2 damage but can be wielded one-handed, which marks you as a member of thE Order. Being a member of the Order is meaningless outside Eisen, but in Eisen it means you get assloads of respect from anyone in power. Oh, and you learn the Nibelung's secret weapon: they can make a liquid that dissolves dracheneisen. It takes a month and 600G to brew a vial of it, but you can then throw it at someone wielding or wearing dracheneisen, and it will destroy one of their dracheneisen items. Completely. The items turns green with corrosion, and unless immersed in water within 2 phases, it's gone forever and slowly dissolves into goo.

Let's see...rules on gaining reputation for monster slaying, boar spears, the Eisen high-damage Roaring Cannon, zweihanders...which are base 3k3 and the whole resetting thing. Some mass combat stuff we'll skip over...we get to a piece of short fiction, where Stefan Heilgrund and Odel Herrickson are chatting with each other. Odel is still keeping it secret that Stefan knows more about the Syrneth than him. Heilgrund is close to a breakthrough on deciphering an old book, and he's sure it'll give him power. Odel warns him about an old Vestenmannavnjar myth about the Beast of Great Tårn Mountain, which gave out power that was too much and destroyed its users. Stefan is confident he can handle it, though. He receives a letter saying that Nicklaus Trägue is "delighted" to let him visit the drachen caves and "would be glad" to give him a personal tour. Odel is fairly sure that Trägue has never even seen the letter, thanks to those words, but Heilgrund is overjoyed. Odel feels a rune's power rise within him, only to die before he can grasp it - as it always does now that he's lost his scalp and hand. He thinks Stefan is mad...but, well, it could be worse.

Now we're into the essay on playing an Eisen. And here's the trick: Never give up. Ever. If you give up, you give in to fear. Fear gives power to evil. But courage denies evil its hold. Stand up. Spit in evil's face. Go into battle knowing you will lose. The fight itself is your triumph. It doesn't matter if you fail. Losing is not dishonorables. Refusing to fight is. Oh, and we get a short bit on a uniquely Eisen relationship. Everyone has friends. Everyone has best friends. The Eisen go beyond that. Maybe, just once in your life, you will meet a friend worthy of dying for. Worthy of killing for. And if you judge him or her truly worthy? Then you declare him your Rücken, your Back. It is the strongest relationship there can be short of, and just maybe, marriage. You will always be there to guard your Rücken's back, and they will be there for you - and your families, loved ones and friends. They're family now. You will help your Rücken without a second thought, and they'll do the same for you. The worst betrayal any Eisen can do is to abandon their Rücken in battle. They'll never look back to check on you, because they know you'll be there - and so you leave them to die and earn their eternal hatred. Never do this. A true Eisen would give his life for his Rücken without a scond thought. It's unlikely anyone would ever take a second Rücken once the first died - it's hard to recover from the loss of such a close friend, and many never completely heal.

So yeah, the not-Germans? They're great. There's also some stuff on roleplaying grief, since most Eisen have lost someone important thanks to the War of the Cross. But that's kinda boring, so let's move on to the secrets of Eisen. Here's the first one, and it's a biggy: the man who spoke to Imperator Riefenstahl before his suicide is named Herje. He is the Vestenmannavnjar living rune of ruin, who struggles against his own godlike power. Sometimes, it makes him do terrible things - like talking Riefenstahl into suicide. He is currently hiding out in the Undying Swamp, in the hopes that he'll cause no more trouble. He's wrong: his presence has spawned the Verschlingen, cause of the Wasting Disease of Heilgrund. He's the old hermit people have spotted in the swamp. More on him in the Vendel book.

The drachen...well, they're nearly extinct. By default, there are between 10 and 15 remaining drachen in the world, mostly in the Drachenbergs. They don't have kids often. Dracheneisen is not actually a metal, though it resembles one. Rather, it is the result of magical energies leaking from the ancient drachen ruins. It's got nothing to do with modern drachen, which are...basically monsters. The magical energies react with certain minerals to form a dense clay that is the dracheneisen "ore". The Nibelungs learned that by heating the clay and adding certain rare plants and chemicals, they could turn it into a metal-like ceramic that is very hard, yet very light. Once hardened, dracheneisen cannot be reforged, and once it's all used up, it's unlikely there will ever be more.

The Imperator's Armaments are some of the best dracheneisen arms and armor ever made. They consist of a helmet (with Faulk Fischler), two arm guards (whereabouts unknown), two boots (with Georg Hainzl), a breastplate (with Stefan Heilgrund), a gauntlet (with Nicklaus Trägue) a panzerhand (with Erich Sieger), a sword (with Fauner Pösen), a buckler (lost by St. Gregor somewhere in the Gregorskorn), a sword belt (lost by Reinhard von Wische, more on that later) and two leg guards (whereabouts unknown). Each piece is worth one more armor point than normal for dracheneisen, and if that raises armor points past 25, they get +10 to their TN to be hit and subtract 3 kept dice from enemy attacks. The sword, Totung, is a heavy weapon that gives +2 dice with Heavy Weapons knack, the buckler gives +5 TN to be hit and +2 dice with Buckler knacks, and the sword belt gives +2 dice on Repartee actions against Eisen who recognize it. Though of course you have to be Eisen to get that bonus - otherwise you're clearly a thief and should be killed.

Next time: More secrets of Eisen!

Sorcery's just like any other source of power - it can help or hinder, and it doesn't care which.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I'm getting bored with this argument now.

Books until the Montaigne Revolution: 14.

7th Sea: Sorcery's just like any other source of power - it can help or hinder, and it doesn't care which.

We get the locations of the dracheneisen mines. Faulk's is in an underwater cave beneath the Südlache. Trägue's mine is exactly where he claims it is, in the Weissbergs, but he's removed all the dracheneisen and has hidden it beneath Freiburg's fort. Hainzl has two huge mines in the Drachenbergs, while Heilgrund's mine has actually been completely played out for years. He's got no other source, and he's keeping it a secret. Pösen's is north of the Gregorskorn, while Sieger's is ina cave hidden in the Black Forest. Wische's is in the Gold Divide, near where the Treaty of Weissberg was signed. The signtings of the Imperator's ghost there are in fact mine guards dressed up to scare folks away. Very Scooby-Doo.

In Fischler, remember that guy Franz Behle, the guy who sings at night? He found that his singing causes monsters of the Black Forest to calm down and go away; he's never met anyone else who can do it and doesn't know where he got the gift, but it's possible that if he found someone worthy he could pass it on when he dies. The Shepherd's Bats are creatures who obey the strange friends Faulk Fischler has made; more on them later. The Ghosts of Tannen are, in fact, not ghosts at all. Tannen is a recruiting ground for die Kreuzritter, and the ghosts are Knights who are careless and get spotted. They were the ones who scared off the invaders in the War of the Cross; more on them and Kippe academy in the Kreuzritter book. The Shadow Fair is, in fact, originally a rite of worship used to placate the Schattenmann, and as long as it's performed, the Schattenmann will only harm those who hurt the Black Forest or burn him with light. Should the Fair be stopped...who knows what'd happen?

In Freiburg - well there's a huge source of the magical emanations that create dracheneisen. Far beneath the city is a humongous depost that could make someone Eisenfürst ten times over. More on this in the upcoming Freiburg boxed set! Oh, and the guys who hunt kobolds in the shantytown? Kreuzritter. Let's see...on to Hainzl, Opa Nacht is totally a real guy. He's pretty cool and means no one any harm. The Hainzl curse is being caused by the ghost of a servant who fell off the roof - he's trying to get someone to investigate the roof and realize there's nothing there that could have driven Georg mad, and is also trying to reveal what really happened. More on this later.

Heilgrund...well, Herje's presence is causing the Verschlingen which is causing the Wasting Disease. If the monster is killed, the disease will end...but unless Herje is dealt with, some new trouble will start up. In Pösen, well...the Eungélion root is in fact hugely powerful as a medicine, curing all Dramatic wounds as as well as any disease or poison. However, the sirens also want the root for some ritual known only to themselves, and regularly swim into the swamp to hunt for it - anyone harvesting at night is in for a nasty surprise. Oh, and the real reason the Order of St. Gregor has split up as bounty hunters? They're looking for a new Imperator, and it's a cover to get close to the Eisenfürsten to test them. It's entirely possible that the Order's got one or more of the missing armaments of the Imperator, and they'd certainly pay highly for any pieces that people found.

Sieger's emigration problems are partially caused by a deal Sieger's made with Prince Alcide Mondavi of Vodacce. He's buying food from Mondavi in exchange for peasant farmers and soldiers. Mondavi plans to use them to take over Vodacce - more on this in the Vodacce book. In Wische, the real culprit of the money thefts is Gisela's brother Klaus, who has been stealing the money through a secret passage to the treasury and using it as an excuse to take over. The missing sword belt was stolen by a visiting Avalon merchant, but it soon proved too dangerous, so he gave it to a friend in Castille, who gave it to a friend in Vodacce and so on. The GM can decide where it is now, but it should be a merry chase to find it.

Okay. Faulk Fischler's got a friend! He was walking home one night and was kind of drunk when he met a dark figure sitting on a barrel. He struck up a conversation, and the guy seemed nice enough. As they were saying their goodbyes, the dark man told him to build a house of Blackwood, so "my kin would know your smell". He then vanished. Faulk was a bit nervous, but reasoned that his new friend wouldn't mean him harm, so he built the blackwood house. And now he meets lots of interesting people after dark! They're doing what they can to help him, like sending the Shepherd's Bats to make sure he gets home okay. Of course, the bats are a bit dim and sometimes confuse other drink people for Faulk Fischler, but no harm's been done. Yet, anyway.

Now, Georg Hainzl. He's always had a bit of a problem with fantasy and reality, but it wasn't too bad. He obsessed a bit about the castle door in Eulestein, but that was okay until he confided his fears in his advisor, Marcus Stefan Adolfo. Macrus secretly hated Georg, and so when he talked Georg into confronting his fears, he released three owls into the air as the door opened. Georg was convinced that he'd doomed everyone to die in the castle's collapse, and his mind snapped. Unfortunately, Philip Knef realized what happened and arranged for an "accident" to befall Adolfo. His body is now at the bottom of a walled-up mine, and everyone thinks he was killed by wild beasts. Knef didn't do this for Hainzl - he just didn't want any competitors. More on him later. As for the servant who went through the "cursed" door? Adolfo killed him when he found owl droppings and other evidence on the roof. Now, the ghost wants revenge on Adolfo, unaware that the man is dead. It'll continue to haunt the palace until someone tells it otherwise, but no one wants to go onto the roof for fear of going mad.

Stefan Gregor Heilgrund III becomes surprisingly athletic and eager when exploring ruins. He loves it, and he's very good at it, having discovered many secrets which he's not shared with people. His big secret he hasn't even told Odel. See, he's found evidence that one of the monsters of Eisen lore is similar to the Sidhe and other beings that have historically granted people magic. He has a very simple plan. A very simple plan.

Stefan Heilgrund is going to bargain with the Schattenmann for sorcery.

I can't see how this could possibly go wrong, can you?

Fauner Pösen is a master of Drexel, Eisenfaust, Gelingen (incidentally, 'horse' and 'wolf' are viable monsters, as is 'bear'), Leegstra, Pösen and Unabwendbar. She also has a full suit of dracheneisen, a dracheneisen boar spear and Totung. She is a Villain, but not evil - she tries to do the right thing and is honorable. She has no plans to conquer Eisen. But she is stubborn and very harsh. Many of the people she's killed didn't need to die, and many of the policies she's contemplating will bring misery to Eisen. She's used to a wartime economy, and might start a war just to balance her books - the moral repurcussions just don't occur to her. It'll keep her people fed, after all, right? And that's why she's a Villain. Also, she actually likes Hendryk Brandt but is afraid he's just after her money.

Erich Sieger is a master of Eisenfaust, a huge dick and really has no secrets. He's got a dracheneisen sword, leg guard, boot and the Imperator's panzerhand. But yeah, he's a huge asshole and not at all secret about it. Nicklaus Trägue refuses to commit violence and if attacked will hide behind his bodyguards, despite being able to fight. His big secret? He's running Freiburg - well, not running Freiburg - as an experiment to see whether man is inherently good or evil. So far, it looks like evil. Reinhard Dietrich von Wische owns a dracheneisen greatsword, helmet and breastplate, though he could only be cured of his catatonia by seeing his wife or sons again. They're dead, so that won't happen, but Gisela Inselhoffer has a plan that just might work.

Odel Herrickson knows practically nothing about the Syrneth. He hates going into the ruins, but doesn't complain because he likes working for Heilgrund. He's not very good at anything any more - not since he had his power stripped from him. He was once a master skjæren, but he was selling rune-engraved artifacts to the Vendel. That pissed a lot of people off, so they enacted the horrific ritual that stripped him of his scalp, right arm and power. However, despite being unable to use his magic, he could still teach Lærdom to someone able to learn from him. Let's see...Gisela Inselfhoffer really is innocent and isn't sure how to prove it. She's hoping the Roaring Drachens will solve the mystery within three months. She's got a last desperate plan to cure Reinhard: she's going to dye her hair blonde and dress up as his wife, Cornelia. She knows the woman's habits well enough to pull it off, and it just might work.

Philip Knef has been hoarding dracheneisen from the mines. He and a small group of supervisors hide it in an abandoned shaft, where no one looks. He plans to use it to go to the Nibelung and have it forged so he can raise an army to overthrow Hainzl - after all, if a fisherman like Faulk Fischler can rise to rule...he feels that Hainzl's madness is too dangerous and that after the War, nobles cannot be trusted. He knows the truth of what happened to Georg Hainzl but he's not really sympathetic. Franziska Köhl is deliberately underestimating Fischler's resources - Faulk thinks they have far less than they actually do. She wants to see if he can handle difficult decisions, and believes that the reserve supplies will be enough to handle any crisis. The fish shortage is real, though. Hendryk Brandt has no secrets - he really is just in love with Fauner Pösen and really does just want to marry her for love. He has no desire for power, though most suspect him of some ulterior motice. Miguel Soldano de Acedo is a journeyman Aldana fencer who attracted Verdugo's rage when he picked up a letter the man dropped and gave it back to him - Verdugo believes he read the thing, and it was an important Inquisition letter. He didn't, but that's why he was sent off to sieger: to die. The reason the pigs are so nasty to him is that Petr gets up early and hits them with a stick to torment them so they'll bother Miguel more, and sometimes he lets them out of the pen. Miguel lacks the nerve to just run away.

We now get monster stats! Drachens...are terrifying. They have a Resolve of 10, so they tak forever to kill - and that's before we get into their special defenses. All damage not dealt with dracheneisen, Sidhe or other magical weapons is halved. However, they have weak spots that can be aimed for, and so each Raise for damage adds a rolled and kept die instead of just an unkept die. Drcahens are immune to all barehanded damage, like boxing or wrestling. they can, fortunately, only use each of their four attacks once per round - two claws, a bite and a tail slap, and they've only got three actions. Their attacks, however, can't be parried. They have a Fear rating of 3, are immune to Fear, the Repartee system and most poisons. Fortunately, they cannot breathe fire. Kobolds are just little monsters the size of a dog; those with wings are called gargoyles.

You. C'mere.

The Schattenmann appears as a very thin man, twenty feet tall. Its limbs are twisted and spindly, its stomach sunken and its ribs clearly visible. Each hand has three long fingers tipped in sharp, sharp nails - from a distance, they look like a pair of scissors. The creature's face is ancient, wrinkled and human, save for two eyes that are only pools of blackness. It normally lives in the Black Forest, but can go out so long as the moon is new and there are no bright lights nearby. It draws strength from darkness - in total darkness, it is invulnerable to all harm, can pass through solid objects and can kill a man in a single blow. It can also teleport. However, it doesn't kill without cause. It'll attack anyone who's cut down a tree from the Forest within twenty days (and it can smell the sap, no matter how hard you wash it off), and will kill anyone who's harmed it before with light. Anyone else it'll leave alone. Usually.

You can hit the Schattenmann, but he can't be harmed by weapons - not even dracheneisen or Sidhe weapons. He has only one weakness: light. In a lit area, the Schattenmann can only lash out from shadow. the brighter the light, the harder it is for the Schattenmann to strike and the less damage it deals. It also takes damage from the light that can drive it away. Its claws are too fast to avoid, and armor is useless - avoiding it is based entirely on how much light is around to blind the Schattenmann and throw off its aim. More light also burns it faster; once it takes 50 wounds, it will creep away to tend its injuries. If caught in direct sunlight, it will not die - the Schattenmann is unkillable, and will instead be incapacitated until sunset. There's a chart listing how much light deals what damage and changes its attack stats to what. It has no other stats.

The Verschlingen, now...it's a huge, hundred foot albino snake that secrets deadly toxins. They spread out to a hundred miles away, but are only truly serious within 10 feet of the thing. It is also very, very hard to kill but at least it's slow. It ignores the first 10 damage of any attack, which can reduce damage to 0. Standing within 10 feet of it causes 1 Flesh Wound per phase; heroes and henchmen make a wound check every round, while brutes automatically pass out at the end of a round and die if they're exposed to the poison for more than an hour. Being bitten by the Verschlingen means instant, horrible, poisonous death. Don't get bit. The game says to have it so that the snake, if it hits a hero, is stopped the first time as a loyal NPC jumps in the way, to show off its deadly bite. After that, no more playing nice. Fortunately, should the thing die all its toxins will instantly become inert, as they are magical, and the Wasting Disease will slowly come to an end.

Next time: Nations of Théah, Volume V: Castille!

We are Montaigne! The world is ours! Am I clear?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: We are Montaigne! The world is ours! Am I clear?

We begin with fiction about some a Montaigne general arguing with his advisors about retreating. He doesn't want to, despite the fact that a giant wall has loomed over the battlefield where there wasn't one all that long ago. He believe's it's a bluff, not truly impenetrable - especially because it covers the whole front. He plans to find the weak spot on the wall. Except...the wall was made by the best engineers in Castille, as our next viewpoint, from a Castillian general, tells us. He has been playing cat and mouse throughout the whole war, and now, without Montegue, he believes he can win. He has the men prepared. And three hours later, the Montaignes attack, throwing waves of men at the wall - several just to be killed as a distraction. Castille's general realizes that the Montaignes have stretched themselves thin so they can make a push for the wall while its defenses can't be shored up. For a moment, it seems to be working - but as things seem at their worst, Castille's cannons overwhelm the foe, and even the Musketeers move into retreat rather than die in the onlaught. Castille has defeated the inevitable - for now.

We then get a new piece of fiction, from early in the Montaigne invasion. It is a surpise assault on Barcino, in Rancho Ochoa - an attack that seems, impossibly, to have come from within, though no one knows how a hundred and fifty troops got inside. A soldier of the Ochoas is trying to flee to the docks when he finds that they're surrounded there, too - warships, who have already overwhelmed the defenders. Where did those defenders go - they should be here still! But no - things have failed. Tomorrow, Barcino will be Montaigne.

Castille's history is a bit complicated - until very recently, it wasn't written by Castillians. Castille, called Castillo buy its native people, has been invaded and occupied for centuries. In ancient times, it was caled Acraga, and it was populated by nomadic hunters and herders. They lived along the banks of the Rio de Delia and Rio de Dios, and along the coasts. They traded with merchants of what would become the Old Republic and mingled freely with foreigners. In AUC 228, they were invaded by the Old Republic, though it began peacefully enough, with trade agreements and cultural exchange. In 268, though, Numa began to envy the trade that the Acragans had with what would be Montaigne, Eisen and Ussura. They had been planning for years to do this - and when gold, silver and iron were found in La Sierra de Hierro, open warfare began. The Acragan Wars lasted for 75 years or so, until 344. The Numans were just too strong and too good at planning, and half of Acraga was captured in the first weeks. The brush wars continues until 320, when Numa had conquered all of Acraga save for three strongholds: the fort now called Puerto de Sur, the settlement known now as Altamira and the capital of Marina Linda, now called Barcino. All three were sacked by 344, putting an end to the bloody Acragan Wars.

The senators, led by Caius Castillus, consolidated control of Acraga, and Castillus's family ended up in charge. Numans continued to march for Montaigne, while the Castillus family institude widespread reforms, absorbing the Acragan society into their own. Numan technology improved the sea trade, dye and textile production that the Acragans specialized in, harvests doubled, and they introduced what would go on to become a legendary Castillian winemaking technique. Numan influence remains even today. Roads were built, cities prospered - including Marina Linda, now Acraga Nova, which would later be renamed again to Barcino. For every advancement, though, the Numans took. They stripped the ore, subjugated the people, removed the natives from all decision-making and exploited the area in a way that would be the pattern for centuries. It was here that the first threads of hatred of foreigners were instilled in the local populace. The worst came in the mid-700s AUC, when one of Caius Castillus's descendants arrived with the power of sorcery. The natives called El Fuego Adentro, the Fire Within, for it gave the power to draw fire from the soul. The art spread through the bloodline and helped subjugate the people. Eventually, some local nobles married in and learned the power, but it was always used to maintain control.

However, there was always an Acragan guerrilla resistance, until the Numan system collapsed. In AV 98, Acraga suffered political rebolution, and Imperial authority was compromised there. They and a number of other regions were given semi-autonomy and named the Western Empire. An Imperator was placed in charge, in the Numan-built San Cristobal. For two centuries, Acraga had the support of the Empire, but little interference. The provinces began to develop on their own, so the fall of the Old Empire in AV 297 was not so traumatic for the Acragans as it might have been. The Castillo family, the remnants of the Castillus, asserted their position as Numa fell, and they mostly peacefully won dominion over the other kingdoms of Acraga. In 299, Josémaria de Castillo was crowned king of united Castille. The former kings of the provinces were granted administration of their lands in exchange for fealty, and named Gubenador , governors. The monarchy advanced its power through mining and trade - especially trade with the Empire of the Crescent Moon.

The Crescent Moon alliance gave the Castillo new trade, military innovations, archictecture - and in exchange, the Crescents were allowed colonies along the southwestern coast of Rancho Gallegos; their two primary ports that stand today were Malaca and Puerto de Sur. The alliance survived the Corantine Empire, the coronation of Carleman, even the creation of the Vaticine. With it came alchemy, metallurgy, math, astronomy and the Crescents' version of the Second Prophet's teachings. For 700 years or so, there was peace and prosperity, formalized when King Josémaria married the eldest daughter of the Crescents' Caliph. In 313, their child, King Alonzo Al-Mahmud de Josémaria, was named second high king of Castille and Caliph of the Crescent Moon. (The heir to the last Caliph had died shortly after inheriting, and he was the only one left of the line.) It was more symbolic, though, than practical. Alonzo's ascent is seen today as a horrendous compromise of sovereignty, the gradual dissolution of a traditional lifestyle to outsiders.

Many Castillians resented the Crescents and wanted to lash out. In 306, they saw their chance when the Second Prophet was killed in the Crescent Empire. Vodacce called for war, and many Castillians joined the Crusades. None of the fighting was in their territory, though - it was all on the Vodacce/Crescent border. It created a schism in the ruling lines and the symbolic unification of the two nations was shattered. Alonzo's son abdicated the Crescent throne to a cousin who had never left. Still, the alliance survived, and most of its vocal foes died in the Crusades, leaving only more moderate voices. Trade continued throughout the Crusades, and for seven centuries peace remained, allowing Castille to weather the dark ages well. The Church and Crescent medicine provided a haven from barbarians, the plague and other dangers, and by the time of the Third Prophet, Castille was one of the most sophisticated civilizations in the world.

In 1000, the Third Prophet emerged, performing miracles in northern Castille. At first, the Hierophant was apprehensive, so the Prophet invited him to a pilgrimage to La Sierra de Hierro, where there was a hidden cave containing a spiraling jet of flame from the floor. They meditated for three days. At dawn on the third day, the Prophet places his hand into the flame, which turned white, and claimed that the Flames of Theus cannot harm those who obey His word. The Hierophant was convinced, and word soon spread. The Chamber of El Fuego Sagrado , the Holy Flame, is now one of the most sacred sites in Castille. However, the Third Prophet began to speak out against the Crescent Empire's influence. preaching that Castille had lost its identity and connection to the true faith. Many rejected his divinity over this in more Crescent-influenced areas, and civil unrest flared.

Open conflict began in 1002, when a mob of Crescents in Malaca murdered a Vaticine bishop. Within days, the Third Prophet stated that anyone who rejected his teachings or claimed fealty to the Crescents would be branded heretic and expelled from Castille. The Second Crusades had begun. By this time, the Crescents had a stronger foothold in Castillian society than any foreigners before or seince - but the Hierophant and the Prophet were the religious power of the nation, and had great influence. The nobles had to choose - the King, or the God. Many had already made their choices. The civil war continued for eight years, as did the Crusades. Thousands fell before the armies, in Castille and the Empire. In 1008, neither side had clear advantage, and the Third Prophet called for aid from other Vaticine nations. In 1009, High King Gracia and the Crescent armies were defeated at the Battle of Malaca, now remembered as El Fin del Cielo , the End of the Cycle. With the death of the king and his followers, the fire magic of the nobles was left only in a few renegades and those few under the Propeth's banner who used it. Those received sainthood...but only if they gave their lives for the Church. Sorcery was declared an evil heresy, to be purged and forgiven in the holy flames of El Fuego Sagrado - and many stepped into the flames, assured they were going to Heaven. Few with the blood still lived, and they fled to the wilds of Rancho Gallegos.

While El Fin del Cielo ended the war in Castille, the Crusades continued on, not ending until the destruction of the Poor Knights three hundred years later. But in the meantime, Castille needed a king. They chose a noble in 1014, a warrior of the Second Crusade named Ramaon Sandoval. He was crowned High King, and his first act was to restart the nobles, granting the peasants who'd distinguished themselves the title of Don. Roman himself was not actually pure Castillian - he was of a mixed family, his mother a Crescent and his father a Castillian noble. He changed sides several times, fighting for whoever had the moral high ground at the time. Despite that, his success on the field - he was said never to lose a single fight - and his capture of Malaca earned him a treasured place in the minds of the loyal Castillians. His life has been immortalized in the epic poem El Cantar de Mio Sayyid , the Song of the Master, and many other pieces of art.

Ramon Sandoval divided the land up into new ranchos, giving them the names of their ruling Dons' families. The land governed directly by the king remained around the ancient capital of San Cristobal. After taking his title as Don and High King, Sandoval offered part of his estate on the Rio de Dios to the Church, for a new Vaticine City. The first building was the Great CAthedral of the Prophets, home to the third Prophet until his eventual death in 1030. Castille rebuilt the land, and they didn't end up tearing down the Crescent buildings, but rather incorporating them - it is easier, after all, to maintain than to build.

A year after the Second Crusades began, though, power began to shift. Castille was becoming the home of the Church, and Vodacce wasn't happy, especially when the Prophet openly declared it to be the Vaticine's center. Hostilities began in days, and the High King joined the battle alongisde the Castillian Hierophant. From 1012 to 1019, the Hieros Wars raged, as the Castillians fought eastward to Voadacce and defeated it. The Hierophant allowed Vodacce to keep its two arch-dioceses, but only to protect the religious integrity of the Vodacce. The wound to their pride has never truly healed. Castille's Church had a secure power base for nearly four centuries.

Through the Dark Ages, the world had suffered the terrible White Plague, which killed a third of the populace before it ran its course. Castille was spared the worst thanks to the Church, though, and in the 900s most thought it was over. In 1386, however, it struck again, in the heart of San Cristobal. The disease spread out from the harbor and engulfed the city. It was quickly quarantined, and the Sandovals were removed in the hopes they'd be spared. It was too late: the king lay dying, and his family was dead. The disease never escaped San Cristobal, but the royal family was destroyed. There were no heirs or even collateral relatives - some distant cousins, but none with a clear mandate. The Church debated, and the cousins fought, and eventually a native Montaigne named Jacques Cesar Prais du Rachetisse emerged, claiming the throne. The Castillians were horrified - he was related to the Sandovals only through distant marriage, had never been to Castille and was rumored to be a sorcerer!

Faced with a popular revolt in the making and unwillign to acknowledge du Rachetisse, the Cardinals, at the request of the Hierophant, refused to grant him the title of king. Without legitimacy and support of the Church, he could not run the place - and so the Cardinals took over the government, acting as a council that served in place of the king. The Dons answered to them, as did the courts and arm. For six months, this continued despite du Rachetisse's saber rattling, and finally, a solution appeared. One of the king's cousins, a diplomat sent to Ussura, was found and recalled. He was much closer to the royals than du Rachetisse, and the Cardinals liked him. He slew the usurper Montaigne in a duel and was personally crowned by the Hierophant. The White Plague outbreak was never explained.

Through the 1400s, the Castillians realized they'd spent most of their history looking in. They took a new interest in international affairs and established political dialogues with other Vaticine states. They sent forth missionaries - and they sponsored Cristobal Gallegos, an ocean navigator who claimed that if there lay another part of the world over the horizon, he would find it and claim it for Castille. He also promised he'd circumnavigate the globe. Noth the High King and Hierophant died before seeing if he was right. He left his home in the early 15th century and was never heard from again, vanishing somewhere west of the Syrneth Isles. Many have hunted for the lost explorer's expedition, but no clues to his fate have ever been found. All ships that have gone too far west have vanished as well. Some suggest that the Corridors of Flame destroyed him as he circled the globe, while others thought he found a new land - and it killed him. Others believe he never actually left and retired in seclusion as the best con man of the age - though they can't explain why later vessels vanished. Either way, with his failure, interest in exploration waned, and Théan archaeology and cartography would nto resume until the founding of the Explorers in 1598.

When the War of the Cross began in 1636, many Castillians went to fight - Objectionism had been banned in Castille for a century, and Objectionists burned at the stake. They were happy for a chance to fight. The nation as a whole, though, stayed officially neutral until the end of the war, when it and Montaigne openly invaded to seize part of the land of Eisen. The Treaty of Weissberg gave them the lands now owned by Erich Sieger, but they have no desire to have it - it's salted and burned, and they don't even bother trying to tax Sieger. In 1659, the entire Castillian Armada - 180 ships of many sizes - set sail under the command of Hernando Arciniega de Orduño, an advisor of the King. Their goal: Destroy Elaine, who had declared independence from the Vaticine. They were doomed from the beginning, plagued by bad weather, a hurricane that destroyed a third of the fleet, a lack of supplies that forced an unplanned stop that revealed their hand - and after all that, further lack of supplies. Once they made it to Avalon, they were attacked by Vendel raiders, which used up critical amounts of powder and destroyed twenty-seven more ships. Only 94 were left to face Avalon, but they continued onwards against their captains' better judgement. On the morning of battle, they ran into a fogbank so bad they couldn't see more than six feet, and when they emerged, less than half of the fleet was there.

Which is when they ran into the Sea Dogs, 200 strong. That didn't end well, and at the end of the day only 32 ships were left. 36000 men died at sea, including Orduño, who some say was thrown overboard by a rebellious crew. Others say he died in battle, while others say he committed suicide in shame. The family was disgraced, and the King's son, Javier, was made Admiral. He served well, and he was expected to be a good king. When his father took ill, he returned home as regent, and his ideas were innovative and effective. He was well loved by the court, and everyone thought he'd be formally made king soon. Something went wrong, though - he vanished without a trace one night, and there was no finding him. Soon after, King Salvador Aldana de Sandoval died, and Javier's younger brother, the thirteen-year-old Salvador Bejarano de Sandoval, was made the youngest King in the history of Castille. Some fear his inexperience will usher in terrible things, but he was doing all right so far, if rather obviously biased towards the Church, thanks in large part to his dependence on El Concilio de Razon, the Council of Reason. It's the King's personal council of Church advisors.

Next time: Montaigne invades.

Tomorrow, a foreign sun would rise over Barcino.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I'd love to see the revision, it'd mean not ever needing to make one of my own! And I'd need one because I fucking love fencing and sorcery and want any players to want, you know, to take them.

7th Sea: Tomorrow, a foreign sun would rise over Barcino.

In 1664, King Léon of Montaigne openly declares his sorcery. Two years later, the Inquisition gets an army mostly made of Castillians and tries to arrest him. Yadda yadda. Cue Montegue's Stand, and the Montaigne invasion. The Castillians were totally unprepared, and betrayal didn't help: remember the story about Barcino? Don Marco Ontiveros del Ochoa betrayed Castille and let the Montaigne into Barcino with only token defenders. With Barcino seized, Montegue could use it for supplies and made a huge assault through Rancho Torres and most of Rancho Zepeda, seizing towns, ports and cities with ease. Rancho Torres lost everything, and the Castillian forces were constantly overrun. The Castillian general, Jose Rioja del Montoya, was cut off from the capital and fell back to Rancho Zepeda.

Montegue turned east towards Rancho Aldana, once he'd cut Castille's forces off. El Rio de Delia was home to the finest defensive positions in the world, and Montegue wanted to take them before reinforcements came, so he left General Francois du Toille to handle Rancho Zepeda. Du Toille advanced on San Juan, a town between Ranchos Torres and Zepeda. General Montoya ordered a civilian retreat - but the people of San Juan would not leave. They wanted to defend their homes, so Montoya left what supplies he could before pulling back to La Reina del Mar. The people of San Juan built a sturdy defensive line, and they survived six days of fierce fighting on determination and high morale - indeed, the Battle of San Juan seemed to have no advantage for either side, which infuriated du Toille. These were peasant militia!

Du Toille ordered a full withdrawal, but before the celebrations could begin, he continued his plan: two days straight of artillery bombardment. When the smoke cleared, half the city was gun and thousands were dead or crippled. Du Toille easily took San Juan, gathered the survivors...and put them to the torch. As you might imagine, Castille was not happy. Meanwhile, Montaigne's amphibious forces had sat idle through the war until the attack on Castille's western seaport, La Reina del Mar. Du Toille wanted to take it by land, given its formidable sea defenses, but that plan was delayed by San Juan. The Montaigne navy put in a blockade, but the army was still behind schedule - so Don Montoya ordered another evacuation, and this time almost everyone left. Only a few regiments were left behind, ordered to hold the city as long as possible and withdraaw. La Reina fell with minimal casualties.

Meanwhile, Montegue was moving east. The Casitllians had put up a massive set of fortifications between El Morro and La Selva de Fendes. The Vaticine engineers overseeing the project believed it was unbreachable - but they hadn't count on Montegue. He used Porté mages as advance scouts and crossed the river through the Forest of Fiends, long believed impassable. Thanks to Porté and his own genius, Montegue managed it. He launched a devastating set of assaults, and withing a few months he'd destroyed all fortifications north of El Morro. Each allowed him more troops, massing for the final blow. The Castillians prepared for one final, massive counterattack in a desperate gamble to turn the tide. And then a miracle happened.

Montegue was inexplicably recalled to Charouse and reassigned to Ussura. A hundred thousand men retreated. Montegue's underlings were confident they could handle it - too confident. They pland to attack El Morro, the one target Montegue had refused to engage. They immediately launched an ill-advised attack on the fortress. At which poin the Castillian counterattack hit. Tens of thousands of Montaignes died trying to breach El Morro, and the survivors could not handle the Castillian counteroffensive. Within seven days, the Montaigne had been driven back across El Rio de Delia, recapturing what had taken Montegue months to seize. The Montaignes managed to hold the Castillians at the river, but they could not get back across.

Meanwhile, in the south, General du Toille kept advancing. Many Castillians had criticized Don Montoya for his continued retreats, but they didn't realize he'd preserved 90% of the army and given his engineers time to build a defnesive position that could do for a final stand: La Muralla al Ultimo, the Last Wall. As news of Montegue's withdrawal spread, hope begin to rise in the Castillian south. In 1667, Montoya's patience proved wise. The Castillian army slipped through the darkness to La Muralla - and two weeks later, the Montaigne assaulted what they thought would be an empty battlefield. To their dismay, a wall lasting as far as the eye could see awaited them. Du Toille arrogantly threw man after man at the wall, assuming the Castillians unable to defend its whole length. Thousands of his best troops were killed under the defenders' coordinated fire, and it soon became clear that the wall ran the entire peninsula with no weakness. The advance was stopped.

Since the autumn of 1667, the war has become a stalemate. La Muralla has been intensely frustrating, with the city of San Augustin just north of it still holding out against invaders. In the east, El Rio de Delia is a bristling line of guns, the lakeside castles and villas turned into fortresses. The Montaigne don't want to lose any ground and have been fortifying the west bank of the river. River traffic has become very, very dangerous. The Castillians are slowly realizing that while the Montaignes are still huge, their command is fractured, and they hold out hope that they can turn the war around. Today, in 1668, Castille's pride and passion remains strong. Bloody battles occur daily, and many wonder how it has come to this - but they are Castille. They know who they are, what they fight for, and that is all the difference in the world.

Castille is run largely by families, but while outsiders see only eight, Castillians see dozens of smaller bloodlines of extreme complexity - under each Great Don, there are many Lesser Dons, each with his own name and holdings, though many are now homeless and poor due to the occupation. Their system is a complex one that gives even peasants rights and judgments in property and law. There are, however, only eight major families. First are the Aldanas, formed when a young peasant alcalde , sheriff, named "Aldana" came to the Third Prophet's attention for his boundless devotion. He became one of the Prophet's advisors, and the Church even offered him the seat of Hierophant. He turned down the offer, saying he wanted no reward for his service - only to return to his home. His humility shocked even the Prophet, and his homeland was declared Rancho Aldana, with Aldana as alcade and Don. The Third Prophet declared the new Vaticine City would be built in Aldana, and the Aldanas were to be representatives of the people, speaking on behalf of the common folk in court. They've always done so. Their current leader is Don Francisco Guzman del Aldana, occasionally stubborn but largely just, fair and forgiving. He is on his second wife, Doña Cherie du Montaigne del Aldana, eldest daughter of the Empereur, but she loves her new home and its people despite the war. His nephew, Andres Bejarano del Aldana is one of King Sandoval's advisors and a master swordsman, who once saved Sandoval's life alongside El Vago. Noble heroes whose father is Aldana get a discount to the Aldana school of fencing, but can never, ever take the Criminal skill, ever. Nobles whose mother is Aldana get the Courtier skill free, but have their TNs increased by 5 when using Repartee actions against the Gallegos family. That seems like a good trade to me!

Speaking of the Gallegos...the Gallegos have been scorned since founding because of foreign influences in their blood, both Crescent and Vodacce. They lost the chance to redeem themselves, as well, when Cristobal Gallegos vanished. Since then, they've mostly just managed the coastal ports. They are friendly, once the initial stigma wears off, and have healthy appreciation for life, renowned for their daring and adventurousness. Outsiders look on the Gallegos and their commoners as savages and witches, and certainly the few surviving practitioners of El Fuego Adentro hide in their province. However, they are simply more in touch with their mystic side. Nobles with a Gallegos father get a discount to the Gallegos fencing school, but may never purchase the Streetwise skill, ever. Nobles with a Gallegos mother get a free Raise on Sorcerous knacks, but have -2 Reputation dice in Castille.

The Ochoas, until recently, were one of the most respected families in Castille. Today, they are reviled, unwelcome everywhere. It began when Don Marco Ontiveros del Ochoa, son of the family patriarch, arranged for the Montaignes to meet almost no resistance in taking Barcino, allowing the invasion to begin without trouble. None know why he betraed Castille, and rumors are raging - blood debts, money, coercion, insanity. Either way, though, the Ochoa are anathema in Castille, the survivors hiding, joining Montaigne or fighting guerrilla wars in the occupied lands. Rumors spread that Don Efron, the patriarch, was murdered somewhere in San Cristobal. Heroes from the Ochoa family may never buy the Noble advantage, ever.

The Orduño family, officially part of the lesser nobles, are nonetheless famous as shipwrights. They occupy the southeastern corner of Rancho Aldana, and they have been instrumental in thwarting the Montaignes. Orduños hold the posts of Admiral General, Headmaster of the College of Naval Engineering, Master of Naval Shipyards, Master of Royal Artillery Academy, Harbor Master of the naval base at Tarago and Admiral of the Armada. In fact, more warships have an Orduño aboard than do not. Recently, though, their fortunes have begun to fail, starting with Hernando Orduño's disaster against Avalon. They lost command of the navy to Prince Javier, and they hope to turn their performance in the war into a way to regain their former stature. The current patriarch is Admiral General Don Julio Rivera del Orduño, commander of all Castillian warship operations. He's brilliant, but also arrogant and aloof, especially with those who know nothing of sailing. His brother, Admiral Enrique Rivera del Orduño, is commander of the Armada, and...book, why are you listing all these names with positions? Anyway. Nobles with Orduño fathers get the Sailor skill free but can never have the Hunter skill. Nobles with an Orduño mother get a discount to the Commission advantage, but receive 50G less in income each month.

The Sandovals, of course, are the royal line, centered in San Cristobal. Anyone can roam their rancho along La Boca de Cielo, but military presence has increased since the war started. The Sandovals also have private ranchos in Vaticine City and the island port of Altamira, for the winter. The return of the White Plague has been terrifying for them, and Javier's disappearance has made it so there is no heir - after all, Good King Sandoval is so young! The family is now just home, a numver of cousins, "adopted" Dons - old heroes, duelists and statesmen, mostly - and relatives by marriage. The rancho halls are silent now, with Salvador and his elder son both gone. Nobles of the Sandoval family get twice the normal income and get the Castillian Education advantage free. GMs are warned to be careful with these guys for balance purposes.

The Soldano family are famous for swords and wine. Soldano blades are prized across the continent, second only to dracheneisen in strength and durability. The secret of their creation is guarded closely. The wines produced by the Soldanos are also the most exotic outside the Crescents and Vodacce. Like their wines, Soldanos are fiery and passionate, mixing Vodacce, Eisen and Crescent heritage, mostly from a mass migration during the First Crusades or marriage between soldiers in the Second Crusades. Nobles with a Soldano father get a discount to the Soldano fencing school, but can never purchase the Servant skill. Nobles with a Soldano mother get a Free Raise with the Repartee system, but 100G less income per month.

The Torres family were once the wealthiest short of the Soldanos, but they suffered greatly in the war, losing their entire province, and are now refugees. Historically, they have been export traders, but now, well...not so much. Their matriarch is the grieving Doña Elodia Avila del Torres, whose husband Fernando and three sons died defending their home. Elodia now spends her time as King Sandoval's personal guest, aiding her nephew, Andres Bejarano del Aldana. Some say she's mad with grief, and Andres is handling her family affairs in her stead. Her only living child is Elvia Avila Torres del Guzman, who is waging a guerrilla war alongside her husband, Javier Gallegos del Guzman, though their adherence to Torres fencing has caused them some trouble. Nobles with a Torres father get a discount to Torres fencing, but may never learn the Dirty Fighting skill. Nobles with a Torres mother get a free 3-point Dispossessed background and 100G extra starting cash, but they must purchase a Hubris and get only 6 points for it.

And of course, there is the other refugee family, the Zepedas. They've done a bit better than the Torres, having rallied their army and made their stand at La Muralla al Ultimo. Before the war, they twoo were prosperous traders. Now, they are symbols of Castillian determination to resist. They have become fully dedicated to the war, led by General Don Ciro Lopez del Sepeda, who got shoved into the role when his parents were captured and executed by the Montaigne. He hates the Montaigne for their deaths, and he has been fueling General Montoya's campaign of ambushes on the enemy flanks. Montoya' sson, Jorge Vasquez del Zepeda, commands an artillery battery on La Muralla. The Zepeda are classicaly very pious and isolationist, but cooperation between them and the rest of Castille is being forced on them. Heroes with a Zepeda father get a discount to Zepeda fencing, but may never buy the Performer skill. Nobles with a Zepeda mother get the Priest skill free, and get 12 points for the Overzealous Hubris, but they may never take a Virtue.

There are also a number of lesser families. They are: the Acedos (fishermen and merchants), the Arciniegas (scientists originally from Vodacce), the Avilas (administrators and alcalde), the Bejaranos (farmers), the Garcias (ore merchants), the Grijalvas (living in exile over a heretic in their family, now living as forest guides), the Guzmans (boatmen), the Lopez (guerrillas cut off from the rest of Castille), the Montoyas (soldiers), the Nuñez (artists and farmers captured by Montaigne), the Ontiveros (politicians), the Ramirez (soldiers and devout Vaticines), the Riojas (old blood smugglers and pirates), the Rios (wealthy), the Riveras (border guard)m the Rodriguez (mostly killed by Montaigne), the Vasquez (miners and lumberjacks), the Valesquez (crafters conquered by Montaigne) and the Yañez (horse breeders and traders).

Naming's pretty simple. You have your titles, your given name, your mother's family name, the word 'de', your father's family name, the word 'del' and your native country, which is usually omitted. So you have, say, Don Pablo Aldana de Lopez del Castillo - Pablo's a don, his mother's an Aldana, his father's a Lopez and he's from Castille. Married women and non-nobles are slightly different. Married women use Title, Given name, Mother's family, Father's family, de, Husband's father's family, del, Country. So Doña Celina Bejarano Aldana de Ontiveros del Castillo - Celina's a doña, her mother's a Bejarano, her father's an Aldana, her husband's an Ontiveros and she's from Castille. Non-nobles just use Given name, father's family, de, native region, del, country. So Juan Garcia de Vasquez del Castillo - Juan's father is a Garcia, he's from Rancho Vasquez and he's from Castille. Children also introduce themselves with their parent's names - so you give your name, then 'el hijo de' or 'la hija de' your parent's name. In youth, children usually have -ito or -ita attached to their names as an affectionate nickname - so Miguel becomes Miguelito, and Rosa becomes Rosita.

Next time: The Five Ranchos!

Tell the men to be ready - and tell them that the butcher of San Juan commands the enemy.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Tell the men to be ready - and tell them that the butcher of San Juan commands the enemy.

Okay. Rancho Aldana. Rancho Aldana is the heart of Castille, and it's got...well, a lot of important cities. Vaticine City, the trading centers Tarago and La Pasiega, the fortress El Morro. All kinds of stuff. El Morro, the Black One, is the strongest defensive position in the world. It is on top of a rocky knoll, covered in cannons, and is made of four stories of black granite. Two walls are flush with the water, while another is guarded by the Pantano Grande, a huge swamp. Any approach is going to involve crossing a river or a swamp at least part of the way. It's also home to the Royal Artillery Academy, where all of Castille's gunners are schooled, and where cannons are tested. At this point, testing tends to mean 'point them at Montaigne and see if they work.' The cannons and their crews are the secret to its defenses - they use pivoting gun carriages, allowing each gun 45 degrees of turning - or 90, at the corners. This lets crews fire continuously at ships that sail by, and no ship yet has ever been strong or fast enough to outrun the guns of El Morro. Its crews are commanded by General Bardo Rivera del Rios, headmaster of the Royal Artillery Academy, and besides the siege guns, it has 2000 infantrymen with muskets, who fire from murder holes and gun slits. It also has a hospital, blacksmith and repair foundry, along with food and living space for the entire garrison. El Morro is fucking tough.

The port of La Pasiega is also in Aldana, one of the most important ports in the nation. It's home to the College of Naval Engineering and the Naval Shipyards, making it the birthplace of the Castillian Armada and merchant fleets. It's got excellent drydock facilities, and with the war it has grown massively in size. They need all those people to maintain production, but it's started to get really cramped and tense. There is no rest in La Pasiega - work starts at sunrise, ends at sunset and never stops between. The constables are overworked, between raucous borachos (read: drunks), Montaigne saboteurs and more. El Vago has even been seen in the area assisting the alcalde, and rumor has it that he lives in La Pasiega.

Then there is La Selva de Fendes, the Forest of Fiends. It is home to much superstitious fear, more than anyone except perhaps La Sierra de Hierro. Everyone's got their own ideas about the place, ranging from demons to hidden cults. The Explorers are interested in the place, looking to see what might be there - demons? Monsters? Ruins? The monster-hunters are headed up by a cartographer named Sienna de Guzman del Torres, who spent her early career hunting zombies in the sewers of Charouse. She believes the forest is haunted by monsters of Eisen myth. Her camp's been running into a lot of trouble - landmarks they use move, food vanishes, tracking markers go missing...and so have some members of their party. Eventually, the guides discovered that someone or something was tracking them in the forest...but still, Sienna and her men have gone in three times and never found actial proof. The second group is a team of scholars who feel the legends are an elaborate hoax. They are led by an Eisen Objectionist, Gregor Wische, hwo believes that the danger of the forest is a gang of criminals escaped from a Sieger prison who fled to the forest. Most people avoid the forest.

Let's see - ah yes. The capital, San Cristobal, is also in the Aldana lands. It is famous for architecture - both sewage systems and complex aqueducts. It's a beautiful, highly defensible city full of beautiful mosques and cathedrals. Once, the Vaticines wanted to tear down these structures, designed by Crescents, but the military objected - the cathedrals and mosques are full of great defensive positions, and they managed to keep them intact. Today, new buildings form an outer ring from the original city, where most people live. The most impressive structure, though, is the Turbe Malik, the Crypt of Kings, where the greatest weapons and works of art of the Crescents are displayed beside the tombs of their most honored dead. At one point it was a monastery and royal household, but it was closed to protect its contents from theft and vandalism during the First Crusades. Today, it's a major tourist attraction. San Cristobal is also home to the University of San Cristobal, one of the oldest and foremost of the world's schools. The Inquisition's been unable to close it down, though they've abducted a professor or two, and it's a haven for displaced students and teachers. Hundreds have flocked there from occupied regions, straining it to the limit, but it sitll manages to make great advances.

And...no, we can skip Tarago, that's uninteresting. The Vaticine City is the official capital of Castille, despite San Cristobal's being the trade center and military headquarters. It's also the religious center of the world, the seat of Vaticine power. It also hosts the Palace of Wolves, a set of labyrinths in which most of Castille's politics take place. Things are dire in the Palace - Torres and much of Zepeda have been lost, and the roving, homeless Dons want recompense and revenge. Until the war, things went pretty well, and the Dons managed most of it - but now, with so much land suddenly gone, it's harder and harder to meet everyone's needs. The Vaticine City also holds the famous La Ciencia university, more on which later.

Now, Rancho Gallegos! It's a very important place, though most Castillians avoid it: it's home to the mines and ports that fuel the war. The Gallegos get few resources to support themselves - the fishermen build their own ships and train their own crews, and the fish are relied on to feed the whole province. This is because Gallegos is rather hard to get to, thanks to the mountains of La Sierra de Hierro, and the superstition surrounding it. Most believe the Gallegos secretly trade with the Crescents, and it's where the last remnants of El Fuego Adentro went! Still, it's a productive and pretty land, with wild, uncharted mountains full of strange beasts. The people are sturdy and aloof, and they still refer to themselves as Acragans. Though part of Castille, they're generally left to their own devices and don't like outsiders much.

Gallegos is home to the city Avila, in the Peninsula of Oranges. They're famous for fruit. So much fruit. Orange trees, especially. They also produce wine. More important is La Sierra de Hierro, the Saw of Iron. The mountain range stretches from the Peninsula of Oranges across much of Gallegos. It is huge, stark and beautiful - and very unexplored. There are rumors of rogues and outcasts in the mountains, Los Nublados ("Those of the CloudS"). Some say they are the last sorcerers, carving out a mountain kingdom, while others say they are ghosts of those who refused the Second Prophet. Still, these spectral renegades are a major legend of the Sierra de Hierro. In the 1500s, Don Louis Trejo went looking for them, but came back empty-handed. He was sent to an asylum soon after, claiming nightmares of "men bathed in blue fire shot through with the shadow of death." None of his men would speak of his rambling, and all retired or died within the next decade. No one has dared to go find Los Nublados again.

Let's see...skipping Malaca...Puerto de Sur is a Numan-built port that makes its money as a vacation spot for the rich, but other than that not super interesting. Roja's a fishing port...yadda yadda...oh hey! San Eliseo. It's a huge city, a major mercantile port that is home to the Castillo de Santa Marillo, a nigh-impregnable fortress. Once, it was besieged by Crescent invaders, who captured the commander's son, Hecter de Basquez, and threatened to slit his throat unless the garrison surrendered. The father threw his own knife down, saying it'd be better to lose a son with honor than a castle with disgrace. The son died, but Castillo de Santa Marillo remained uncracked. San Eliseo is also the mining headquarters of Gallegos, growing richer by the day. A few miners have disappeared, and rmor has it that Miguel de Trujillo, the mining head, is looking for people to look into that. Let's see...oh, and there's San Felipe, a town that is home to the Dragos tree - an immense tree which can grow 70 feet tall and 25 feet wide, with some trees perhaps 2000 years old. Montaigne sorcerers believe the tree's sap is magical. And more fruits and vegetables come from San Gustavo, the capital which is surprisingly uninteresting.

Rancho Soldano lies between the peaks of La Sierra de Hierro and La Selva de Fendes. It's almost completely rural - it's got only one city: Altamira. There's some garrisons, but no other cities. Just villages and towns. This is omething of a preference, actually - the Soldanos have always been first to be taken by outsiders, so little has been done to give it much to lose. The primary center of activity is in the foothills of the mountains, at the passes, and the city of Altamira. Altamira is a riverport city far from the war and the trouble - it is perhaps the most peaceful city in Castille, reminescent of a lost age of youth and innocence. It is a mercantile hub for the entire world, and home to the famous de Cordoba moneylenders, who own many interests in the city, including the bullfight arena of La Vengaza. There is also Paseo Largo, the "Long Walk" of shops and flea markets. Unlike the paranoia of Vodacce or arrogance of Vendel, Paseo Largo is a cheerful, happy Castillian trade center. Prices are fair, quality is high and above all is service . Browsing is encouraged, and people often come visit the plaza during siesta, when fireworks, free lunches and children's games are all provided. Indeed, many store owners even hand out gifts to customers during siesta. It is also home to a major branch of the Swordsman's Guild, a popular and courteous branch called the Guild of San Marcos. There's also La Universidad de Arciniega, a well-stocked university and home to a great cathedral. The Altamirans also believe that Altamira is Centro del Mundo , the center of the world - it's home to everyone, even those elsewhere. Each family has a private ranch in Altamira, including the Sandovals, and it is a beloved tourist destination.

Altamira's pretty cool is what I'm trying to tell you. You should base your heroes there.

Rancho Torres is the farmland of Castille...or, well, it was. Most of the farmers were killed during the invasion, while the rest are n the army or fled to the east. Until the Montaigne can find laborers to work them, the rich fields go unharvested, severely limiting their advance. The trade centers are shadows of their former selves, and Montaigne colonists have found violent guerrilla resistance awaiting them in the Torres farmlands. The Torres are deeply Vaticine, and they know Theus supports their cause. The port of Barcino is now the primary Montaigne staging area, in Rancho Ochoa (a subprovince of Torres). Heavy tolls are levied on all but Montaigne trade, and most Barcino citizens have fled to join the resistance. So far, they've destroyed only one ship and razed some depots, but they've proved impossible to crush for Montaigne's puppet government. The city has not forgotten Don Ochoa's treachery, and many have vowed to die if it'll protect Barcino and Torres from the Montaigne's depredations.

Rancho Zepeda, like Torres, was once lush farmland. Now, it's a wasteland of battlefields, with La Muralla al Ultimo standing as the only barriers to Montaigne conquering the entire western peninsula. Most of Zepeda's population are soldiers now, serving at the wall, or fled to the east. The farmland is being worked only by colonists or imported labor from Montaigne. The Wall is a complex network of wood and soil, with trenchwork on the Castille side to allow infantry to shower Montaigne forces with bullets while maximizing cover. Both sides are clean of all natural resources to support combat. Both sides have the time and space to rebuild between assaults, and as yet the Last Wall has never been penetrated. The Montaigne thought they could starve the defends out, but the Castillian Navy's smugglers mobilized too quickly and keeps the troops supplied despite the fierce blockades.

The once proud city of La Reina del Mar now lies empty of all but the Montaigne. Controlling this base was key to the Montaigne war effort, and it's the site of one of the few successful amphibious assaults in history. La Reina was seized and held even after the Castillian Armada arrived to free it, and the elaborate port is now held by Montaigne, supplying all their forces in the south. It's a key port for them. The city of San Augustin goes uncaptured, though. Before the war, it was simply a way station with a small university - but now, it is the anchor of the Last Wall, improved so as not to fall like La Reina did. The few ships that still defend it try to break the blockade daily, and this keeps the city from being overrun. San Augustin is growin in war, filled with troops, supply depots and repair facilities that rival all but the Armada's traditional home in Tarago. Housing is becoming a problem, though - Montaigne artillery has destroyed many buildings in the northern half of the city. Should the place be overrun, General Montoya has prepared a fallback position in the south to preserve La Muralla al Ultimo. We know what happened to San Juan, but there is a note now - the Montaigne soldiers based there now are convinced the place is haunted. Disappearances are attributed to desertion, but many believe the ghosts have come to claim revenge. San Juan is being used less and less as the war continues. And...yeah, San Teodoro isn't interesting so that's it.

That bull is just pissed off, dude, it's not even bleeding.

Castille is a passionate and artistic culture, though the Inquisition has taken to policing its artists and writers who produce "heretical" works and "dissident" statements. Their architecture blends Crescent, Eisen and Montaigne as well as their own unique and rugged flair, and dancing is a cultural touchstone. Many believe (falsely) that the Castillians invented dancing - they didn't, the Montaigne started ballroom dances and Vodacce invented theatrical dances. But Castille? Castille's commoners took to their own dances, which have slowly been sporeading to the nobles over the past 300 years. Today, dancing is a widely respected art, devoted to showing off emotion and passion in mesmerizing, immersive manners. The two main types of dancing are danza , very regimented dancing with formal training needed, which is primarily the domain of bailarinas , theatrical career dancers who train for years. The other is Baile , more of a folk dance that originated in Rancho Gallegos, which is very instinctual and rugged. It's even seen as licentious among some of the nobles, for it is passionate, fast and prone to pulling onlookers into the dance. Bailadora , the common dancers, are competitive and can be found in dancing "tournaments" across Castille in homes and shops. They often dance in the street to entertain others. Danza is for nobles, and has been adopted by the Vaticine, who run academies for it, and over the past fifty years, chorales (theatres for danza) have become fashionable.

Baile is much more a commoner's style, and extremely flashy. It comes in many styles - the flashy Soldanos' Canario, the informal Flamenco of Gallegos, which even the nobles love, the wild Folia, associated with drunkenness, the Montaigne-influenced Sarabande, which has constant movement, the clapping and stamping of the peasant Villano, and the forbidden Zarabanda, which the Vaticine has outlawed for more than a century because they feel it's obscene. It doesn't stop anyone from performing it. Castille also produces literature, in the form of historic poetic texts and social satire focused on low views, justice and retribution. It's perhaps a bit out of touch with the minds of most Castillians, but some say it's just ahead of its time. More than any art but dance, though, painting is hugely Castillian. Paintings have caused duels, treaties, even wars. Paintings have reinforced faith and sent governments into chaos. Castillian paintings tend to focus on religious themes, though that has led to a certain amount of a stagnation, and cross-pollination with Vodacce styles is common.

Castille also has a number of unique festivals and celebrations - of course, there are many, many regional celebrations, but these are all over Castille. Every day is a holiday somewhere in the nation, but these are holidays everywhere. In Spring, there is El Festival de Llamas, the Festival of Flames. Its origins have been lost, though some Gallegos believe it is connected to Los Nublados. It is highlighted by the burning of niñots , giant paper-maché figures that are often bawdy or depict some unpopular event in a satirical light. Currently, that usually means lampooning the Montaigne forces, though some have targeted Ésteban Verdugo and the Inquisition. These tend to vanish quickly. The days before the Festival are full of parades and dances, and four nights after the niñots appear, they are all filled with fireworks and set ablaze.

I love Castille.

Next time: More yearly festivals!

Montegue isn't here to help you any more. Your war stops here.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Montegue isn't here to help you any more. Your war stops here.

In summer, there is a festival dedicated Don Juan Kerenyi de Torres del Ussura, Patron Saint of Drunks. Los Borrachos, the Drunks, takes on a special meaning in San Juan, which was named for the saint. The festival begins on at midnight, Julius 6, with a fireworks display, dancing and drinking until dawn. It continues for a whole week, with parades, dancing, music and lots and lots of alcohol. In Fall, there is El Banquete de Todas las Almas, the Feast of All Souls. It is a Vaticine holiday held on the first of Nonus, to honor Theus and all saints, known and unknown. It is also a makeup day if you missed any saints' feast days. It's the most somber holiday, with candles, visiting graves and a special mass. In winter, there are two festivals! The first is the Prophets' Birthdays, La Noche Divinos, the Divine Night. This holiday, which is on the winter solstice, is celebrated differently in towns no more than a few miles apart, but all festivities revolve around the midnight mass, where the faithful contemplate the teachings of the Prophets. It is a time of forgiveness, reconciliation and inner meditation. Some more unusual traditions include reenacting the stort of El Olentzaro, when a charcoal burner is brought down from the mountains to learn the good news of the Prophets, and the villagers play the game caga tió, where a tree trunk is filled with gifts and food and then hit with sticks until it all falls out. The second winter festival is El Año Nuevo, the new year. The days between La Noche Divinos and El Año Nuevo are filled with smalelr festivals, ending with bonfires and more fireworks. In honor of all these events, the High King gives out favors and gifts, and commonly any prisoner held for more than ten years is released - or five, if the king is feeling generous. Of course, this is a modern notion, and it never applied to La Bucca prisoners, which has infuriated many pirates, who tend to pillage the ports during the first hours of each new year.

The people of Rancho Gallegos play a dangerous sport they call pelota vasca, where two players meet in a three-walled arena with long hardwood scoops on their hands, the cesta. A server throws the pelota (a ball) at the other player with his scoop, and it may be rebounded off walls but must be caught in the cesta or the server gets a point. Then the catcher becomes the server, and this continues until one player gets a set number of points. The pelota is a very, very fast ball, and it's been known to kill players who don't catch it. Other areas just play corrida , the bullfight. It began in Tarago, in 1133, as an honor to the coronation of King Guadalupe IX. Since its inception, it has been a chance of men to show their courage. It is taken very, very seriously, and with only one exception, no deviations in how it is done are allowed. First, the paseillo happens, and all the bullfighters parade on horseback escorted by their alguacilillos (servants). Ater that, the bullfighters go beneath the nobles' balcony and salute by taking off their wide-brimmed montera hats. This is called the brindis. Then, each takes their place. In the first third, or tercio, a bull is brought out to see the fighter currently up. Picadors ride in on horseback and enrage it with blunt lances, then retreat. The bullfighter studies his foe through its reaction to the capote, the red cape. Sometimes, bullfighters will face just a single bull, but usually that's only for training the novillero, the junior fighters. Generally, it's more than one man to a bull, and almost never more than one bull to a man. The sound of clarinets announces the second third, the tercio de varas, when the fighters receive their picks and lances. These are never sharpened - bullfighting is a humane sport, save by the Order of Muleta. We'll get to them. The picks and lances are to draw out the bull's strength and tire it, while avoiding its horns and hooves. By the end of the tercio, each bullfighter is judged by a panel of his peers - masters of the art - and one is chosen as Valiente, the Fearless, a title he carries until dethroned in a given region or competition. Generally the winner also gets some gifts, sometimes even titles, land or boats. Bullfighting is a sport of precision, and one false move, especially in the Second Third, can maim or kill the matador.

The tercio final, the Final Third, is no longer accepted in Castille, for the death of the bull has been outlawed for almost a century. There is a small movement, largely in Rancho Gallegos, that ignores this. In the Final Third, the matador is given the muleta, the ritual rapier, and left alone with the bull, in a duel called the faena. After several passes, the matador goes for the estoque, the final touch to the death. The matador is judged not only by whether he kills the beast (if he doesn't, he's dead), but also by length of time to reach estoque and by cleanliness of the kill. Muleta, as members of the order are killed, who fail to kill cleanly and quickly are chastised - though never expelled, for that would risk discovery, Champions are applauded and given the ears and tail of their kills, along with training in a secret, exclusive fighting style meant to kill in a single strike. Muletas may dedicate a death to someone in the audience, or even the whole assembly. If one person is observed, they keep the muleta's montera through the faena, and if it's the entire audience, the montera is thrown into the ring, or over the muleta's shoulder for luck - but if it lands upside down, that's a bad omen.

Castillians also really like duels. Challenges are always public, though actual fighting is generally done in private to avoid legal problems and the Swordsman's Guild. Duels are either first blood or to the death, but neither is taken lightly. Families can quarrel for generations over a duel if the terms are not set in stone. Castillians are obsessed with respect and graciousness, united by a fervent nationalism. They nevet turn away travelers or allow beggars to go hungry - a tradition leading back to the Crescents, who believed any wayfarer might be an angel in disguise. This doesn't hold true with foreigners, though - Castillians are polite, but rarely anywhere near as warm as they are with each other. When an outsider proves worthy of true loyalty, however, they never forget that and treat them as family forever.

The government has two heads: the High King, who controls all rules of nobility, laws, finances and the military, and the Hierophant, who advisoes on religious, moral and humane affairs. Currently there is no Hierophant, and Sandoval's advisors are circumventing him. Fortunately, the government can handle that, for those below are trained to take over when those above are neutralized or ruled incapable. El Concilio de Razon have turned King Sandoval into practically a figurehead, sequestering him in the Vaticine City. The only reason this works is because of unanimity - anyone in the government can be countered by those directly beneath him provided they are unanimous. Technically, the tax collectors (recoucadores) and sheriffs (alcalde) are on the same level as the Council, but they are merely servants of the crown and have no real power. They have, however, kept Sandoval with at least some power, as they obey him and not the church. Below the Council are the landed Dons and Vaticine Bishops, who have direct control of resources - land and people, respectively. They can make any decision to protect or administer said resources. Below them are the gubenadores, the diplomats. Their role as governors belongs to the Dons, and they have become the legislature, creating and applying law. They also handle the courts. Below them are relatively powerless tiers: the Monsignors, Church officials who represent parishes, the High Priests, who are the ordained clergy, the non-ordained clergy, and after them, the caballeros , who are the non-landed Dons. They have no rights other than to request food and shelter from landed nobles. The noble courts are informal, like a large family gathering, and generally are treated like parties. It's usually held during the afternoon siesta, and guests exchange small gifts. Large gifts are an insult, as they make the countergift look cheap. The art of gift-giving is central to Castillian diplomacy.

Laws are enforced by the alcalde and sometimes the recoucadores. There are four legal courts, each with their own jurisdiction, which they jealously guard. The secular courts handle crimes against the kingdom and people, like theft, murder or treason, and they are local affairs. The religious courts deal with crimes against Theus or the Church - the Church would love to handle secular crimes, but that would greatly cost it favor. The Inquisition mostly uses these try for heresy. The Guild courts have existed for only a little over 200 years, and deal with crimes betwene guild members. And the military courts are private affairs meant to handle crimes within the military. Neither Church nor crown ever meddles with the military's affairs - the pride of soldiers is dangerous.

Castille tends to be critical of Avalon culture, wondering why anyone would want to live in a place where nothing might be real. They also feel the place is ugly, and three of their last five ambassadors to Avalon were blind. The hate and fear Glamour. The Castillians have never truly liked Montaigne, feeling Porté is sinful and evil; some have even called for Crusade, but with no Hierophant that's very unlikely. Castillians also have a longstanding hostility to Vodacce over differences of opinion about the Church; they also tend to dislike Fate Witches and see them as evil. Every other nation...well, they like to stay uninvolved, and this feeling of laissez faire has made them relatively friendly with Eisen.

Castille has a ton of legends, being very, very superstitious. For example: La Llorona, the Woman who Cries. Several hundred years ago, the story arose of a woman who committed an atrocity on a cold winter night when food was scarce: she drowned her own children to save them from starvation, then killed herself. Her actions would not let her pass on, so now she roams the countryside as a ghost, wailing in grief. This terrifying sound is used as a warning to children, that they should lie fast asleep lest La Llorona take them away. Of course, no one's ever proven a link between any missing person and La Llorona. And then, whispers have spread in San Cristobal about a masked man who saved a peasant from burning at the hands of the Inquisition. The same man was seen near Vaticine City, saving a village from bandits. More and more, the masked man is spoken of as a doer of good deeds and a protector of the people: El Vago ! The Vagabond, soon after Sandoval's coronation, appeared to save him from assassins. They might have succeeded, had El Vago and Don Andrés Aldana not dispatched them with great skill. No one has ever tracked down his origins or found where he vanishes to when his work is done - but so far, he is always in the right place at the right time, whenever he is needed. No one can describe accurately save for his mask, and he has been in many places at once, somehow. All rejoice, though, when they see him - El Vago! He might be a person with superhuman powers, or a spirit in human form - but he is legend now, the embodiment of the resolve to stay free and enjoy life.

Why aren't you playing a Castillian right now?

Anyhoo. The Vaticine gets a section here going over their history. The First Prophet appeared 700 years after the founding of Numa, 50 years after the Bargain. He was 23, and he spoke before the Senate without fear, just a gentle smile. He had traveled much of the world, gathering followers to his side. None knew his origins and he never spoke of them, but many loved his words. He spoke of one god, not many, and the beauty of that god's creation. He spoke salvation through brotherhood with humanity, and of three prophets to follow him. Among his followers were the nine Witnesses, who had given up their lives to follow him, and who wrote down all his words. The Prophet knew of the Bargain and preached against it, but it was not enough. After five years of wandering, he gathered his followers on a hill and told them: he was leaving them, that they might all be saved. They must go apart and wait for one year before resuming their preaching. They obeyed, not understanding, and stepped down from that hill to go their seperate was. Today, that hill is in the mountains La Sierra de Hierro, between Castille and Vodacce. It is called Monte Joyas, the Mount of Jewels, and some believe it will be the staging ground for the coming Fourth Prophet's armies.

The Prophet, now, went into Numa and spoke on the corners, including to a Senate page named Vesta. She was struck by his courage and offered to smuggle him into the Senate. He agreed, and spoke directly to the Senators about the nature of the world and the Seven Deadly Sins, of the dangers of Legion. He angered them, and Senator Castillus demanded to know who he thought he was, to say such things. His answer? "I am no one, but I bear the burden for all." Castillus demanded he demonstrate his god's power. The Prophet fell silent, met the eyes of each seantor, then walked to Castillus and touched his hand gently. The Senator froze, then went into a maddened fit, twitching like a leper. His colleagues backed away in fear, save one: Tobias, who went to Castillus and tried to comfort him, instantly ending the spasms. When asked what this man, Tobias the Meek, had done, the Prophet explained. He had done nothing that anyone should not have done - he just showed courage, respect and an understanding that he and one in peril are the same. He explained that he had not harmed Castillus, but instead given him a gift - a chance to see what waited for him, should he not repent. Castillus grew angry, and cast flame upon the Prophet with his sorcery, and his fellows soon followed.

The Prophet emerged from the fires unharmed, unaffected by any magic. He walked quietly from the chamber, and what transpired after can only be told from historical records. The Senate called for his arrest, and he turned himself in before the warrant could be signed. He was imprisoned, put to trial in absentia, and sentenced to death. Tobias the Meek went to his cell and spoke to him for many hours, learning of the three Prophets to follow. Tobias went forth to find the Witnesses and told them of the Prophet's fate. He was burned to death the next morning. Tobias took the name Mattheus and renounced his senate seat. He left Numa forever to become a wandering preacher, encountering the Witnesses and telling them of the Prophet's fate, and that they should return to preaching. They were saddened, but did as they were asked.

They found that a popular following had grown around the Prophet after he was martyred. He had followers in Numa and beyond. Each witness would spend the rest of his or her life adminstering to these faithful and spreading the Prophet's message. Through their efforts, the Prophet's cult spread, despite the Senate's best efforts. By the time they passed away, the Church of the Prophets had spread across the world, to every town and village. In 203, the Imperator himself announced his belief, and the religion was truly born. In 305, three centuries after the First Prophet, a new man emerged from the mountains between Vodacce and the Crescent Empire. He had blue eyes, unheard of among Crescents, and ten tribesmen came with him. His name was Malak, and he was the Second Prophet.

He arrived at the age of thirty, claiming to be visited by an angel that showed him the Eternal Puzzle, and the plight of those who followed the Church. He told them their Church had become corrupt, and they must go to another place, so they might not be betrayed by their leaders. His message spread more slowly. He preached against drinking, prayed constantly and fasted several times a month. He refused to hunt, forage unless he needed it or even use weapons. He preaches that all should be treated equally, regardless of race, creed or nationality. He said that his followers must follow him in pilgrimage to the Empire of the Crescent Moon. The Imperator ordered the Prophet brought before him to be sure he was true - he thought the man a fraud. His soldiers returned days later, unharmed but bearing no Prophet. They told the Imperator that they could not reach him, for his ten "Witnesses" protected him and shrugged off all sorcerous power. The Imperator called for his armies.

But the angel had told Malak that nothing could harm him if his faith was true. Malak stood without fear, was taken into custody and was silent through his year in prison. The morning of Primus 1, AV 306 was calm and clear - but the guards of the imprisoned Prophet saw something come from the clouds - a blanket of light flowing across the sky and blotting it out. No one knows what happened, but Malak escaped his cell, leaving only a pile of smoldering rubble. He was next seen gathering his Witnesses on Monte Joyas, where he called for all those unhappy with the Church's corruption to follow him. 40000 men and women did. They traveled to Rahajeel, the first outpost of the Crescents, with the Imperator's armies trailing them. The Imperator didn't want to lose his people, after all.

When they arrived, though, they found only the remains of Malak and his followers, who had been killed during High Mass by some Crescent tribes, and then left out to bleed in the sand for the vultures. The armies viewed the scene, and then a sandstorm arose - and when it ended five hours later, the bodies were all gone. Completely traceless. The Imperator was shaken, and ordered retribution - such an atrocity could not go unpunished, even if the Prophet was false. The First Crusades began.

Next time: The rest of Chuch history, science and famous people.

You are scavengers, du Toille, not worthy of my anger.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: You are scavengers, du Toille, not worthy of my anger.

And now, El Vago fights the Inquisition Ninjas!

In the early 4th century, Imperator Corantine came to power and changed the world, seizing control of the Western Empire and establishing stability over much of the continent. He also unified the faiths, reconciling the teachings of both Prophets into the Vaticine Church - the messages differed enough, Corantine said, that a division had grown between them and they had become like cults. He declared that the bickering must end, and gave them a year to conceive a unified credo. In 313, the Reformed Vaticine Church was formed. The Third PRophet arose in AV 1000, claiming that the Final Prophet had visited each Prophet, and that he had been granted knowledge of the path that must be followed to avoid Legion's victory. Few of Vodacce, the center of the Church, were willing to listen - but Castille knew his power, as you know from the history.

The Third Prophet preached that science and the testing of limits was the only way to understand the Eternal Puzzle, revolutionized medicine by favoring herbs over bleeding, and was utterly extreme in his views regarding others. He invented the term 'infidel', and told his followers that those outside the Church were wrong, and needed to be punished. This led to the Second Crusades and the Hieros War. We know about that shit. In 1665, the Hierophant grew ill and died in Montaigne, and shortly after, Cardinal d'Argeneau of Montaigne vanished, quickly followed by his nine archbishops. We know that. The Inquisition has risen to fill the power vacuum left by the Hierophant, replacing the Church's traditional values with an extremist agenda, seizing Church assets and declaring an end to science. They future direction of the Vaticine is now very much in doubt.

Speaking of science - before now, the Church has always believed in science and reason. Before the Third Prophet, though, experimentation was based on changing the experimenter, not his environment. The Church had believed they could purify individuals through psuedo-scientific experiments intended to alter the world. Alchemy's the best example here. The Third Prophet, however, caused the Scientific Revolution, renouncing quackery like bleeding as barbaric and harmful, endorsed learning in all forms and helped found the modern universities. He paved the way for six centuries of scientific progress. It didn't happen overnight, though. It took a while to catch on, and was most popular in Castille, as it appealed to the meticulous locals. It has flourished there ever since. Galeno Rioja, student of Larenzo Alvarez, is still remembered as a forefaather of modern science, charting the movement of Théah and the other planets, as well as their relative distances. Castillians like him have categorized nearly everything. Umberto de Gaya once wrote that Montaigne might have the most beautiful libraries, but Castille had the most complete.

Aqueducts, sewers, road construction techniques and other innovations have all come from Castille, though until recently, they treated more military research as secondary to things of social and intellectual worth. With the war, though, more practical research is encouraged. As of the fall of 1667, more than half the scholars of Castille have been turned to weapons and defense. Powder, pre-packed charges and swiveling turrets are all scholary success stories for the military, and they want new weapons. Rumors say that Eisen has produced something new called phosphorus, and people are very interested in that. The Council of Reason has also been encouraging people to try and figure out how to mass produce Soldano steel, though so far no one has. Castille's top university has traditionally been La Ciencia (formally, La Academia de Ciencia del Profeta y Salvador, or the Academy of Science for the Prophet and Savior). It is here that many scientific breakthroughs have been made, and here that bureaucrats guide research funding in an effort to prevent the Inquisition from drying everthing up. La Ciencia also appears to be a hotbed of Invisible College sympathies, despite being run by priests.

Incidentally, the Church has placed embargoes on quite a number of "sinful" items, named heretical by the Inquisition. It includes the Crescent people, all kinds of Syrneth artifacts under any circumstances, Objectionist propaganda, scholarly works outside the authorized Church research, religious texts unless carried by clergy, anti-Vaticine sentiements, sorcerous items of any kind and more named every day. It's a long and often counter-intuitive list that only the Inquisition knows all of. These items may be restricted, but they can still be found, in full defiance of the Inquisitors.

Now, we get a piece of fiction starring Don Marco Ontiveros de Ochoa, who is trying to force the shame he feels away as he watches Montaigne invade Barcino. He'd been promised the attack would ensure minimal casualties, that all Marco had to do was allow the soldiers to teleport in...but now? Now, all seems lost. General du Toille banters with him, and it's clear that Marcos hates the man and feels intense self-loathing. He attacks du Toille, smashing the man's face with the hilt of his sword before being caught and sent hurtling out a window, where he joins the defense of the town.

We start with Good King Salvador Bejarano de Sandoval. He never wanted to be king - he thought it'd be big borther Javier's job, and Javier was good at it. Salvador could be a courtier, a diplomat or advisor, and he liked that idea. But when his father fell ill and Javier disappeared, Salvador found himself king at thirteen - and his father died weeks later, sealing his fate. Since then, he's had to deal with crisis after crisis - the invasion, the loss of the Hierophant, the Church desperate to assert its aurhoity, courtiers seeking to bend him to their will. He's been hamstrung by his own advisors and had three attempts on his life - that he knows of. There might be more. Well the church refuses to grant him his rightful title and constantly rewrites his edicts, Sandoval is no puppet. He has learned more about himself and his own strength than he ever knew - and while detractors talk about bureaucracy and a church out of control, the Montaigne advance has been halted, the people are fed and the Vaticines cannot abolish his rule. Sandoval's leadership is responsible for all of that. Unfortunately, he's far too busy to appreciate his work. All he sees are his shortcomings, all he hears are his failures. He remains unconfident, even after three years, and that may be his doom. He never wanted this. Sandoval is a handsome, charismatic and intelligent teenager who is extremely well-educated.

Andrés Bejarano del Aldana is a friendly, open-minded man. His father was a judge who believed that the spirit of the law was far more important than the letter, and he taught his son to remember the people beneath him and act with compassion in all things. Andrés learned his lessons well, and his empathy caused him to rise to be Castille's chief diplomat. While he can lie with the best of them, he rarely needs to, and people tend to trust him to do what's right. He was recalled from Montaigne when the war started to serve as Javier's advisor. When Javier vanished, he became Salvador's confidante and senior advisor. There is no one Salvador relies on more, save for Cardinal Verdugo. Verdugo talks of the nation - but Aldana speaks of her people and the need to ease their suffering. The two make a strong balance. Aldana realizes Verdugo is even right sometimes, but he feels the Cardinal is too dangerous to give any ground at all, and so argues vehemently against Verdugo at all times, on principle if nothing else. Aldana regularly heads out to the countryside to speak to the common people and listen to their concerns - it helps him put a human face on large problems, and he enjoys it. While loyal, he feels a condescending pity for a king far too young to be effective and in need of help until he gains experience. He keeps this well-hidden, though, as Salvador needs all the confidence he can get. ...man, is every dude in this book 'handsome'?

Don Javier Rios del Guzman was an important scholar and professor in Vaticine City. (And not the prince. Different Javier.) He was a professor of philosophy and literature, as well as an active attendee and orchestrator of protests, rallies and discussion forums. In 1662, he became involved in an assembly that would forever change his standing. Few witnessed what happened, but it seems he and a few students broke into a library and burned several hundred books in the North Wind of La Ciencia. A few weeks later, he resigned and fled to Avalon, joining the University of Kirkwall. He still taught, though he lacked enthusiasm - such a merry, jocular land was no place for a brooding, introspective philosopher. Still, he eventually began to grow excitied - students were easy to find, and they rekindled his love of education. His prize student was Willem Karls, an Eisen boy paying with family inheritance. The two were inseperable, and Karls even taught some classes while Javier was away. Eventually, Karls moved on, but the two remain in steady contact even today. In 1666, when war broke out, Javier returned to Castille to manage Rancho Aldana for his brother-in-law, Enrique Yanez del Aldana, a captain in the army. Javier soon mastered the work of managing the rancho (that is, the ranch, not the province - he's not in charge of the province), and he has a strong rapport with the local farmers. Today, he's trying to rebuild his reputation, and rumor has it that he maintains a haven for refugees on Rancho Aldana, and that Vodacce smugglers are helping him move contraband. He's a very erudaite man who can out-argue almost anyone. ...huh, guess not.

Cardinal Esteban Verdugo's first epiphany hit him when he was only five years old. His mother took him to church to pray for the soul of his dead father. As he knelt at the altar, an angel descended from the clouds and appeared to him, claiming to be the voice of Theus and telling him he was destined for greatness, things no other was capable of. It give him a glimpse of heaven's glory - and when he came to, his mother told him he'd had a seizure. Only he had seen the vision. It was all right, though - he'd see for his mother. For everyone. When he was old enough, he enrolled to become a priest. He moved up in the ranks on zeal and intellect, and was appointed as part of the Inquisition. He worked tirelessly to eliminate heresy in all its forms. Sure, sometimes that meant gruesome torture or destruction of beatiful art, but he did it all without question or tears. All that mattered were the souls he saved - the agony would buy their salvation. After ten years, he became Grand High Inquisitor. When the Hierophant vanished, he had another vision: the armies of Legion marched across Théah, doing battle with the righteous souls risen from the grave. He watched them fight, burying all of civilization in their battles - and when the carnage reached its worst, a great light came and overwpoered them all. Verdugo woke screaming, but he knew what he had to do. He publically declared that the time of the Fourth Prophet was at hand, and ordered the Inquisition to begin its current campaign of terror. Since then, the Inquisition has become the dominant power of the Church, and Verdugo has kept busy. Some say he wants the Castillian throne, and the disappearance of Javier Sandoval and the refusal to acknowledge Salvador lend credence to this despite his denials. Verdugo has absolute confidence, knowing - knowing - that he has saved more people from Legion's flames than any other person in all of history.

Then, there is El Malvado, the Wicked. The Castillians say that the greatest scoundrel is seen in the mirror, that the easy path is not the right one. If you are not careful, they are told, your sins will infilitrate your spirit, you will become malvado, the wicked. The saying has resonated more since the emergence of the man called El Malvado. He is believed to be Don Lorenzo Zepeda del Acedo, a charismatic soldier of San Juan, famous for his seductions and abandonments. His reputation spread after his enlistment, and he pursued women across the nation. He became called El Malvado by those enraged by what he was doing. When the Montaigne invaded, though, his family was captured by du Toille, and he was among those left behind just before San Juan was put to flame. He saw the smoke rising where his family had been, and he realized that the civilians had been put to the torch. He tried to save them - but neither they nor his men survived. Several weeks later, a message was delivered to du Toille - a scarlet kerchief stitched with a quote of the Prophets: "The deeds of the wicked will return upon them a thousandfold." The general ignored it. Days later, a man went missing, later found burned black. Other soldiers went missing or dead, all of them having been at the massacre of San Juan. Patrols have been doubled, but none have been able ot thwart the assassin. The attacks follow no pattern, save for their focus on the San Juan veterans. Even a few men recalled to Montaigne were killed, flames consuming them in their wagons. The few eyewitness accounts say the attacker resembled El Vago, but du Toille has dismissed these - for all that El Vago is an enemy, he is no killer. Some have wondered if El Malvado had always been El Vago, and if the deaths of his family put him over the edge. DOn Lorenzo was devastatingly handsome. None have seen El Malvado's face, but rumor has it he was horribly burned and now wears a hooded cloak to hide it. No one can verify it, and his victims certainly aren't talking.

Admiral Enrique Orduño was a minor captain during the disastrous naval assault of Avalon. He did very well, but one ship cannot win a battle. He took command of the shattered armada and led them home, reporting his uncle Hernando's death. He asked for the chance to make amends for the failure, but Prince Javier was put in charge instead, and Enrique burned with the humiliation for his family. When Javier vanished, he asked again - and this time, the king reluctantly agreed, despite the protests of those who remember the loss of 1659. Enrique swore to erase the shame. The Montaigne war has made that easier. For two years, he has been repairing the armada, impatient to return to sea. Even meeting his wife, Margaretta, could not dim his passion to prove himself. Not, his plans are ready. The navy has been refurbished and awaits his command. He can't seek retribution on AValon, though - but l'Empereur's navy makes a good target. He plans to make an example of them the world will remmeber, restoring the Orduño name. He is a devout Vaticine, but rarely talks about it, hiding everything behind a mask of calm.

His wife, Margaretta Orduño, has been a musician since before she could read. She then became a dancer, fascinated by the commoners' baile dances. Her father, Roberto Vasquez del Soldano, brought in nomads to teach her the dances. By the time she was 14, she was a master of flamenco and sarabande. When that, at last, bored her, she discovered swordsmanship, becoming the most enthusiastic student her teacher in the Aldana style had ever seen. She has also helped, between these projects, with diplomatic work, first entertaining her father's guests and later serving as his bodyguard. She was fascinated on one trip by Enrique Orduño, and while her father disapproved, he wasn't about to start saying no to his daughter now, and they were wed the day the admiral's ship, Corazón del Castille, launched to sea. Now, she serves as her husband's first mate and bodyguard, using her skills with a sword to make up for her lack as a sailor. The crew respects her, and she never chides them if they do their duty. She continues to train very hard, and she has helped her husband express his hidden emotions, while he's helped her keep her wild side in check. They are very, very deeply in love.

Alvara Arciniega is a rogue swordsman and theorist, one of the foremost pioneers of science. His work in math and natural science have helped forge modern philosophy, and he was one of those who supported construction of Altamira's Arciniega University. As of the summer of 1666, though, he is a wanted man, one of the most sought targets of the Inquisition. His open criticism of the new Church doctrine, particularly their control of science, has ensured him a spot as an enemy of the Church. Shortly after he discovered how to split light into a spectrum of color, three Inquisitors tried to arrest him. A fight ensued, and it was revaled that Alvara was as formidable with a sword as he was with a prism. Over the last two years, his research has continued despite the Inquisitors, and he's been helping others escape their oppression. He's gone underground, always one step ahead and filtering his discoveries through the Invisible College. His most recent invention is the reflecting telescope, proposed only a few months ago. The ramifications of the discovery and the fact that it happened right under the Inquisition's noses have contributed to Cardinal Verdugo's announcement that all forms of experimentation are heretical, punishable by death. Many astronomers are using the telescope to test the edict, arguing that it moved past theory and into practice, and rumors persist that numerous telescopes have already been built - and that two of them have been shut down by the Church, their sponsors jailed or worse. The Inquisition's hunt has been both good and bad for Arciniega. On the one hand, he's one of the world's most wanted criminals. On the other, his celebrity has given him advantages he never had as a reclusive scholar. Nobles across the world secretly fund his work, foreign printing houses publish his theories and the scientific community is more ready than ever to listen to him. His network grows by the day, and he even has contacts among the Vendel and Vodacce merchant leagues ofering him great wealth and access to new resources. He even has some rare, illegal Crescent items.

Next time: More important people! Also sword schools.

The Church has forgiven you, and believes you should not have to bear this burden alone. Find all of Efron's blood, and ensure that they join him in Paradise.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Getting the styles of another group is fine - you just get a discount on fencing schools from your own nation. Uppmann Coat means being Rilasciare only by default, because that's a secret society thing. Puzzle Sword is Montaigne only by default because they are very, very rare and handed down in families. Though in all cases, 'talk about it with the GM' works wonders - perhaps you're a Rilasciare Inishman whose godfather was a Montaigne noble who gave you the sword.

7th Sea: The Church has forgiven you, and believes you should not have to bear this burden alone. Find all of Efron's blood, and ensure that they join him in Paradise.

We left off with Salvador Garcia, the headmaster of La Ciencia. He spent the first fifty years of his life as a devout priest and teacher, an author and a scientist. He even made it up to Bishop, and still took time out to teach. As the years went by, though, he began to doubt. He saw the Church abuse its authority and the Inquisition destroy lives. When the Hierophant died, the infighting sickened him, and he turned away from the church, using his clout to get himself out of it and appointed Headmaster. He's been a strong support of scientific research and experimentation now, and has been growing increasingly disillusioned with the church and, in fact, organized religion in general. He still believes in Theus, but he has even penned a treatise, A Need For Doubt, which declares that atheism is needed for religion to be truly just. It could get him burned as a heretic, but it could also start a revolution in secular thought. It's not published yet - but soon. Garcia is not afraid of dying for his convictions, after all. His life has been led well and he has few regrets.

Alicia Zeneta de Lazaro is a celebrity, the first prominent matadora. She was raised to be a nobleman's wife, but chafed under the restrictions, always disguising herself and going out to the field with the hired help. Her family was very distressed by all this, continually trying to get her to practice etiquette and social graces. She learned, but it never really took. One day, while she had snuck out to help tend the herds, a huge, enraged bull charged her father and his men, goring her father's horse and knocking him to the ground, unconscious. Alicia got its attention by whipping her jacket in its face, allowing her brothers to pull their father out of harm's way. The bull charged her - and at the last moment, she dodged aside, repeating this again and again until the other workers could get ropes around the beast and bring it down. Word spread quickly, reaching Don Javier Rios de Guzman, and he had a great idea. With her parents' permission, he sponsored and paid for her training and entered her into amateur bullfights. The crowd loved her fiery style and she has spent the past year touring Castille as the nation's first major female matador. She's rather unpopular with more traditional matadors, and she's been publically denounced as a dilution of the art and even been sabotaged in her more recent contests - but she doesn't care. How can mere men overcome what Theus has given her?

Luis Rafael Dominguez de San Angelo was an orphan, living to the age of six on the streets of San Angelo, where his wit caught the attention of the local Don, Alejandro Dominguez, who was without children. He and his wife Floriana took on the young boy as a ward, loving him as their own son, and they adopted him officially a year later. Luis loved his childhood from then on, learning fencing, guitar and horseback riding. He was accepted into La Universidad de San Angelo, studying with intention to join the priesthood. However, one night he was disturbed in his studies by screams - and without any pause, he grabbed his sword and ran out to to conront a gang of rowdy sailors accosting a young woman. He killed three and defeated the rest without trouble, learning that the sailors had stolen the girl's bracelet, a family heirloom. Six hours later, it was hers once more. The young woman was Sybil Morgan, daughter of an Avalon diplomat. She petitioned the Knights of the Rose and Cross to accept Luis, and when they did, he was shocked to learn that his father was a retired Knight as well. Alejandro Dominguez was so proud that his son had needed no help to join the Knights, and passed on the family sword - a masterpiece that had been in the family for generations. Luis loved being a Knight of the Rose and Cross - he was good at it, too. But when Montaigne invaded, everything changed. He and his fellows were ambushed by soldiers on the way to Rancho Dominguez, and after evading them, they found the estate had been gutted, that the Dominguez family had been killed, shot from a distance while the Don tried to defend his wife with a sword. Luis took it as a personal defeat - he failed those who meant most to him. He buried his parents beneath a great tree on the property, burying his sword, pendant and tabard with them. He no longer felt worthy of them. Ever since, he has served as a mercenary, though he's not much of a scoundrel. He's still a defender of the weak and righter of wrongs, he just doesn't advertise any more, hiding his emotions and views behind a hard face and flat voice.

Now we get some more on the Ochoas - specifically, Don Efron himself going before King Sandoval and his advisors to beg forgiveness for the family. Verdugo insists that the entire family is lost, traitors, but Andrés Aldana counsels hearing Efron out and not making decisions before there is proof. The King listens to both, thinking on how Efron was once a friend to the crown, how the man's wife helped raise him. He orders Efron be received and listened to. Efron comes in, begging that the Ochoas be spared judgement - only his son was a traitor. Blame him, and if another must be blamed, blame Efron. Punish Efron, and leave his wife and brothers out of it. Verdugo tells Sandoval this is acceptable, and it is done. We cut then to Verdugo examining Efron in his cell beneath San Cristobal, telling him that the Church has forgiven him - and believes he should not be alone. He then orders the Inquisition to find all of Efron's family and kill them, to join him in Heaven. Verdugo's a dick .

Now then! Swordsman schools. The first is Gallegos, also called the Three Circle style. It teaches that leaping around is unneeded in a fight - that a true master can stand still and be completely victorious. Each level is taught with the student forced to stand in a smaller circle, from which he cannot move, while his opponent can move freely. With this training, Gallegos swordsmen learn how to slide away from thrusts simply by turning, and achieving lightning-fast parries, forcing their foes to come to them and overextend themselves. The weakness is that they tend to forget they can move at all, making single powerful blows or firearms very effective. Gallegos is practiced, like Aldana, with a single sword in hand.

The Apprentice of Gallegos has mastered the First Circle, the easiest. He learns to play the waiting game, getting a free Raise on all parries with a fencing weapon, and the ability to act with greater initiative total on held actions, making them more likely to act first with a held action. Journeymen have mastered the Second Circle, and are comfortable only occasionally stepping left or right. They wait for attacks, shift away and riposte, receiving a free rank in the Riposte knack, which raises their maximum potential Riposte to 6. The Masters have achieved the Third Circle, and no longer need to move their feet at all to be hard to hit, thanks to their graceful swaying and flashing blade. They get +10 to their TN to be hit.

Soldano swordsmen, meanwhile, learn to fight with a rapier in each hand, borrowing techniques from an old Crescent style. They fight like a tornado, leaping all over the place, whirling around and leaving ruin. They fight with flair and skill, dispatching hordes of unskilled foes with ease and infuriating them with the dual blades. However, their weakness is that their exuberance and excitement often leaves small openings in their defenses that a skilled foe can take advantage of. They get the special Whirl knack which greatly increases their skill fighting Brutes.

An Apprentice of Soldano also learns to fight multiple foes with style. They get no penalty to the off-hand when dual-wielding fencing weapons, and at the start of each battle they get a number of free Drama dice equal to their mastery level, which go away if unspent at the end of the battle. A Journeyman, learns to make a single, devastating attack. After they've done damage but before the wound check, they may spend a Drama die (including those from the Apprentice ability or special knacks) to make it easier for a wound check failure to cause multiple Dramatic wounds - normally, it takes failing the check by 20 to get an extra dramatic wound, but that number is reduced by 5 for every Drama die you spend, though it can never go lower than 5. A Master of Soldano learns to enrage and outwit foes. Once per round, at the start of a round where they're fighting a Villain, they can use an Intimidation action free, adding 1 to the roll for each Brute they've personally killed and 5 for each Henchman. If the Master wins, instead of the normal Intimidation effects they steal a Drama die from the GM's pool, plus an additional die for every 5 they won by.

The Torres school was designed for bullfighting, and as a result members do not get membership in the Swordsmen despite using a sword. They fight with a rapier in one hand and a cloak in the other, using subtle movements to draw focus to the cloak and blindside foes with the rapier. It's a very effective defensive style, the cloak helping shield from enemy blades, and Masters are said to be some of fastest men in the world in thought and action. However, it has very little offensive power, lacking the penetrative force such that a tough foe can treat them as an annoyance. They get a new Side-Step knack that allows them to increase the speed of actions when they successfully use active defenses. (This used to be an advanced trick of the Athlete skill, but it's a basic trick of Torres.)

Apprentices of Torres fencing learn to use their cloak to draw attention. They suffer no off-hand penalty when using cloaks, and in addition may use the Side-Step knack on (Mastery level) extra dice each time it's used, rather than just one die. Journeymen learn to be fast on their feet, treating any active defense as if it was a number of phases faster equal to twice their Mastery level. Masters are some of the fastest in the world, getting a free +1 to Wits, which also increases their maximum Wits by 1.

Zepeda fencers learn to fight with dual whips. Whips, while not deadly so much as swords, are great for intimidation and defense - even a Swordsman won't want to be hit by that. It hurts! The Zepeda school teaches a number of whip tricks and intimidation techniques, but it does have a weakness. Against those who can take the pain of the whip and get close, it's next to useless - at close range, a whip has very little ability. Also, because this is whips, not swords, you don't get to be a Swordsman.

Zepeda Apprentices learn to use the whip to cause fear. They can spen an action cracking their whip to increase their TN to be hit by their Mastery level, as foes are too scared to get close. This lasts until the round ends, and can be done as many times as you like, but the bonus does not apply against foes who are immune to Fear, and ends immediately if your whip leaves your hand or becomes entangles, such as during a Bind. You also get a Free raise on attack rolls with a whip. A Journeyman of the Zepeda school learns to use the whip in very versatile ways. As long as they're holding a whip, they can use the Attack (Whip) knack in place of the Animal Training, Break Fall, Swinging or Grapple knacks. They may also try to yank a foe off their feet, knocking them prone with an attack but raising their TN to be hit by that attack by 10. A Zepeda Master is greatly feared, having learned to use their whip to teach others respect. For every successful hit against someone which causes damage, they get +1 Fear rating against that foe until the end of the battle.

We also get rules for the new sorcery: El Fuego Adentro! It is one of the most destructive sorceries known, making fire dance to the tune of the caster and allowing them to bathe in the fires of the mightiest volcanos. Sorcerers could be identified bythe tiny flames that would burn in their eyes when controlling a fire. The royal family was chased out and mostly killed, but some sorcerers have survived. Some seek to redeem their good name, while others hide and plot to take back the throne from the Church and Sandovals. Many are afraid to use their power at all. Most people who have El Fuego Adentro come from Rancho Gallegos, and must be careful about using it - it'll bring the Inquisition and other groups down on them hard. GMs may require fire sorcerers to take a 3-point Hunted background to represent this.

Apprentices learn the Heart of Flame, taking the fire and making it part of them. Fire and heat-based damage cannot harm them, nor any equipment kept in close contact, like worn clothing. They can go swimmin in molten lava and come out fine. They can also control the movement of one fire within ten feet, which will ignore winds and even move across water - though without the Feed knack, it'll be immediately extinguished by doing so. More fires can be controlled at greater distance by the Concentrate and Range knacks. Adepts learn the Hand of Flame, allowing them to grasp fire as a solid object. They've been known to climb flames like a ladder, throw fire with their bare hands and some say they even made fire dance along a sword blade. Masters achieve the Spirit of Flame, letting them give their flames the semblance of life. They can shape birds and snakes of flame with special knacks they unlock. (Yes, this doesn't do anything but unlock knacks.) The limits? Well, fire's not very fast - you can make it move faster the more mastery you have, but it's never going to win a race. Plus, you can never actually create fire, you just make it grow and control it. You need a spark or flame to already exist, and must keep it burning, using the Feed knack if it would normally go out.

The Concentrate knack lets you control an additional flame at a time per rank in the knack. The Extinguish knack lets you put out flames, spending an action to reduce the size of a flame (measured in dice) by a number of dice equal to your rank in this knack. If that brings it 0, it goes out. You can affect 100 square feet of fire per rank in Extinguish, and you can be opposed by the Feed knack. The Feed knack requires no action, and allows you to keep a fire burning without fuel by letting it draw on your own life force. For each die of damage the fire would have lost that phase, you take 2 flesh wounds, though you reduce the damage by 1 per rank of this knack. Any phase in which you take at least 1 new flesh wound requires a wound check. The Range knack lets you affect fires at a range of 40 feet per rank, rather than just 10 feet away. There are also 6 Fire Stunt knacks.

The first is Firestarting, which takes an Apprentice level of mastery. This allows you to suffer 1 Flesh wound in order to light a fire in adverse conditions. You still need flint and steel, of course - you just make the spark catch. At rank 1, you can do it with damp tinder or strong wind, with 2 wet tinder or light rain, with 3 waterlogged tinder or medium rain, with 4 noncombustible tinder or heavy rain, and with 5 you can light a fire with any material and weather. The other Apprentice-level stunt is Flaming Blade - you stab a fire, then use your magic to protect the sword from the heat and keep the fire going. This lets you add your mastery level times your Flaming Blade rank to the damage of the sword, though you take 6 Flesh wounds (reduced by your Feed as normal) at the start of each round. You can end it at any time. At Adept level, you can learn the Hurl Fire knack, which lets you spend an action to reach into a fire, pick up a handful and throw it. The range is 5 plus twice your Brawn with no penalties to hit, and the attack roll is Finesse+Hurl. If you hit, you do one die of damage, plus one per mastery level, and the fire immediately goes out. You can't use Feed to keep it going. The knack deals 2 flesh wounds to you each time it's used, but can be reduced by Feed as normal. I have no idea why you'd ever take more than 1 rank of Hurl Fire, unless by 'Hurl' they mean 'Hurl Fire', the knack, in the attack roll.

Masters get three stunts they can learn! The first is Fireflies. They can spend 3 actions and suffer 1 Flesh wound to pull a 10 foot by 10 foot cloud of living 'fireflies' from any fire at least one die big. The fire is immediately reduced in size by 1 die. The flesh wound suffered will not go away, even after suffering a Dramatic wound, until you dispel the fireflies (which can be done at will) or they are killed by immersion in water. The creatures are controlled by you and resemble burning embers floating in the wind, though they don't need to be maintained by Feed. Any creature in the cloud takes 1 flesh wound per phase unless wearing heavy clothing or some other sort of protection. The fireflies can move slowly each phase, and you can have one cloud at a time per rank in the knack. The second Master stunt is Flame Serpent. You spend five actions and suffer 3 flesh wounds to draw a serpent of fire from any fire two dice or bigger, which immediately loses two dice in size. The flesh wounds never go away, as above, unless the serpent is dispelled by you or killed by water. It can be controlled without a die roll, has 3s in all traits and is immune to all harm save immersion in water. When it hits, it deals one die of damage per rank of Flame Serpent that you had when you made it. This goes down by one die each time it hits until it reaches zero dice. When at zero dice, it is a tiny wisp of flame that must recuperate by being immersed in fire, recovering one die of damage per round of immersion, up to its original max damage. You can have one flame serpent at a time per rank in the knack. The final Master knack is Firebird, which takes ten actions and 5 flesh wounds (permanent as above) to make. It's a staggeringly beautiful bird of fire made from a fire of at least four dice, which is immediately reduced in size by four dice. The firebird can only be killed by water or being dispelled. It has a 40 foot wingspan, has all traits at 3 and can only be harmed by immersion in water. Generally, firebirds are used as steeds, flying at 50 miles a day per rank in the knack when created and able to carry one passenger per rank as well. The firebird's touch does not burn, but the creator may cause it to explode into a rank 4 explosion made of fire, instantly extinguishing it.

Next time: Castillian swords, miracles and secrets.

For you, for Castille, for all...

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Books until the Montaigne Revolution: 13.

7th Sea: For you, for Castille, for all...

Castille doesn't really have magic swords. This is because Castille doesn't need magic swords. After all, as every Castillian knows, the finest swords in the entire world are from Castille, and the finest swords of Castille are from their home province. Though technically the people of Rancho Soldano are the most correct in this belief. Aldana blades are light and flexible, good for quick attacks and parries. They let you act one phase sooner on one action per round. A Gallegos blade is durable and well-balanced, able to survive being bent double. They add 2 to attack rolls and add +5 TN to any attempt to break them. A Soldano blade is Soldano steel forged by the best smiths, holding an edge longer, harder to break and with perfect balance. They add 2 to any roll made with them. Any roll. Including damage or swordsman knacks. They also add +5 TN to any attempt to break them. A Torres blade is exceptionally sharp and cuts very deep, adding 3 to all damage rolls. A Zepeda blade, generally seen as the last valuable, is light and sharp, adding 1 to all attack and damage rolls. All Castillian swords are base 2k2 fencing weapons, and you get a 1 point discount to a sword from your own province. You can only have one of these swords.

Because Castille is full of the faithful, they also introduce a new advantage: Miracle Worker. A Miracle Worker gets 1 Miracle die per 5 points spent on the advantage, to a mx of 3 Miracle dice. The GM controls when your Miracle dice activate, and when they do, a miracle happens. There is never any physical evidence of a miracle, and any leftover dice become 2 XP each at the end of the story. GMs make up the miracles, but some examples are given. For example, Healing Wind is a miracle which heals 2 Dramatic Wounds - they don't vanish, they just stop bleeding and hurting. They're still there , they just don't do anything any more. Righteous Fury gives you a push to succeed when you would otherwise fail, turning into three Drama dice retroactively added to a failed but important roll. Shield of the Faithful lets you cheat death, making a Villain's attack automatically miss, and causing him to lose all further actions in the round, thanks to your extreme luck. Strength of Theus gives you a little bit more luck to draw on, turning a Miracle die into two Drama dice when you run out of Drama dice. But the miracles can also just be whatever the GM likes, so long as they are in this vein of the PCs being unable to really tell if they're just lucky and tough or if Theus really is smiling on them personally.

Do not fuck with El Vago.

We now get rules on cloaks as weapons, prepackaged powder magazines for better reloading, and whips. Skipping past this...Andrés Aldana has overheard what Verdugo is planning for Efron and the Ochoa family. He prepares a sealed message, sending his messenger via very specific routes to Altamira. He knows that he can't accuse Verdugo without proof - that someone else will be needed. Someone legendary. The messenger is halted in the route by a man in purple and black, his face a pale white mask with a madman's smiles. El Vago is here! He threatens the messenger silently, until the messenger gives the code phrase Aldana had told him and hands over the messager, vanishing like he'd never been there. The messenger stands, and heads back on the road to Altamira, now missing a horse. (It ran off in terror when El Vago dropped from the trees.)

Now we get a short essayo n Castillian family and passion, and are told how everyone in your family is to be treated as close as a brother, mother, sister or father. It's pretty short. So instead, let's talk about secrets. Salvador Sandoval truly believes his brother Javier will return and take the throne, and thinks of himself as a pretender just holding it for his brother. He longs for the day when he can just be an advisor, and should he ever realize he's stuck with the job, there's no telling whether it'd give him the kick he needs to be his own king, or if it would break him. He doesn't fully trust either of his advisors, but tries to weigh their words and use them against each other.

Andrés Aldana is a founding member of Los Vagos and a master of Aldana fencing. He's participated in many of Los Vagos' missions, including the dramatic rescue of a kidnapped headmaster. Some have said that he himself is El Vago, though when he fought next to the masked man to save Sandoval, it seemed to stop. His dedication to Los Vagos is absolute, and while many suspect a connection between him and El Vago, he's so far been able to convince them otherwise. Javier Rios del Guzman is a member of the Rilasciare, and the fire that made him resign was actually him and some students trying to keep a group of radical Guerrillas from burning down the whole school. An argument broke out, a gun got fired and some books were caught in the flames. The Guerrillas fled, and he was left defending ashes. Javier resigned and went to Avalon. Now, he smuggles refugees, political prisoners and important documentation through his rancho. He is an apprentice Aldana fencer.

Cardinal Esteban Verdugo does, in fact, plan to take over Castille - but not for reasons of temporal power. He doesn't care about that: he wants to save souls, and running a country would give him more power to do so. He truly believes his actions are right, and his plans are currently being thwarted by Sandoval's backbone and Andrés Aldana's words. He can't move against the royals openly, but he doesn't let that stop him - he had Prince Javier removed, and has tried to do the same to Sandoval, though El Vago always stops him. Verdugo believers that sooner or later, either El Vago will fail and Sandoval will die, or he will convince Sandoval not to listen to Andrés. Either way, he wins. Oh, and there is nothing supernatural about his visions at all, and he's not being manipulated by sorcery or Syrneth beings. He's just crazy.

El Malvado really is Don Lorenzo de Zepeda, and he really did belong to Los Vagos at one point. However, San Juan broke him, and now he will stop at nothing to destroy the men who performed the massacre. His methods and brutality have led Los Vagos to disavow him and, in fact, to begin hunting him down - but his latent El Fuego Adentro was awakened by the burning of the town. His mother was a Gallegos and he had the blood, but never got taught how to use it even though she could've done so. Today, he is an adept of the sorcery, a full-blood sorcerer and a journeyman in Zepeda. His magic grows by the month, and he is nearly a force of nature. (Oddly, he is listed as having the Stunt knack, rather than the seperate stunt knacks.) He also, naturally, was not scarred by fire. He can't be.

Admiral Enrique Orduño is a Journeyman of Aldana who intensely dislikes the Inquisition and sees Verdugo as a huge bully. He keeps it to himself, though if he had a chance to hurt the Inquisition without risk to his own position, he'd do it with joy. His wife Margaretta is also a Journeyman of Aldana. She is afraid of heights, though her position aboard the Corazón del Castille has allowed to make some progress with it - but it's gonna be a long time before she conquers the fear completely. Only she, her father and her husband know the truth.

Alvara Arciniega is a master of Soldano fencing and a journeyman of Valroux. He is negotiating with the Vendal and Vodacce for sorcerous objects and knowledge, and is very interested in the blood of magic-wielders, which he uses for alchemy. He believes alchemy changes those who practice it and is trying to scientifically prove this, also hoping that distilled "spell-like" effects will aid the underground scientific movements. And, of course, unknown to everyone , Arciniega is the mastermand behind Novus Ordum Mundi, having inherited the job from his mentor, Don Iselo Arciniega de Aldana, whose family had controlled NOM for three centuries. He uses proxy commanders, none of whom know of each other, to administrate the conspiracy.

Salvador Garcia is an active member of the Invisible College who smuggles experiments out before the Inquisition can get them. He's published several great papers through the College, and plans to release A Need For Doubt the same way. He could, were he to reveal all he suspected, do great damage to the College...but his age and faith mean that it'd be impossible to get him to do so. Alicia Zanela de Lazaro is exactly what she seems to be - the first female matador, and currently plagued by nasty sabotage from more traditionalist rivals who resent her. She is also a Miracle Worker.

Luis Rafael Dominguez de San Angelo, called Wandering Knight Salvador by the Rose and Cross, has been under surveillence by the Invisibles since he joined the order, though he's never known. They are still watching him and waiting for a good time to approach him about returning to the Knights and recruiting him for the Invisibles. Oh, and that sword he buried with his parents? That's an ancient artifact, born in the chamber of El Fuego Sagrado. It adds a rank to any one El Fuego Adentro knack that the wielder has - though only one knack at a time, not affecting the others. Luis does not know this, being no sorcerer - instead, he's a Master of Aldana and a Journeyman of Desaix.

There's also stats for Castillian bulls (who are not weaklings by any stretch, they're pretty nasty and will kill you if you aren't careful) and...the Fire Mountain. The Fire Mountain was a fire mage who learned great secrets and secret rituals. He gathered up a ton of rare materials, including a flawless ruby the size of an egg, and headed up the side of a mountain. The ground shook, steam burst forth and molten lava oozed from the mountain. He had turned himself into a living volcano. It was very taxing, and he went to sleep for 300 years, awakening only recently. He has become a powerful, inhuman creature. He cares for nothing now - not power, immortality or friendship. He wants only to protect the flawless ruby that has become his life force. It hides in a cave on his mountain, and it is the only way to kill him. While his stats are all 1s, he is immune to all damage of any kind, and for the love of god do not let him punch you , because he takes the form of a 40-foot-tall man made of fire, his punch deals massive damage and anyone hit by it gets set on four dice worth of fire. If you were to get ahold of the gem, you could kill him very easily, however - if it's destroyed, he dies, and it's very easy to destroy. Whole, it is worth 10000G or more to the right buyer...but the Mountain will hunt it down as best he can. Destroyed, its fragments could fetch up to 250G.

Next time: Nations of Théah, Volume VI: Vodacce!

I have found a greater treasure than gold, wife.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Awesome. Gonna have to look that over in more detail later.

7th Sea: I have found a greater treasure than gold, wife.

The Vodacce book begins with fiction about Paolo and Celia, a married couple of beachcombers. They go to explore a shipwreck, though the sound of some creature crying out can be heard. They explore, and find a child locked in a flooding sea chest - a baby girl. The two adopt her, thanking Theus for answering their prayers - for ten years, they have tried and failed to conceive a child. We jump to twelve years later, with Celia and her daughter, Lucrezia, doing needlework. Lucrezia is fourteen now, and becoming beautiful. (Which is kind of creepy, book!) Celia tells Lucrezia that the headmistress of the courtesan school has asked to buy her. Celia is very sad to tell her daughter about it - but on the other hand, the money will feed the family, and Lucrezia will never starve as a courtesan. Lucrezia agrees to be sold to the courtesans. Three years later, Lucrezia is an accomplished, well-taught courtesan, beloved by her peers for her wit. She is the most headstrong of them, the most demanding of her suitors, and the most sought after. It is there that she meets a man who, two years later, will be her lover: Gioseppe Vestini. He lacks the funds to buy her contract, though - and his wife will give him no money to do it with. He gives her a locket, which becomes her most treasured possession. Soon, there is a confrontation between Lucrezia and Gioseppe's aged and angry wife, Sofane. Sofane uses her dark power - Sorte - to try and kill Lucrezia, shredding her future. Somehow, though, the pain awakens her, allowing her to see the many threads of fate. She reaches out - and she pulls a thread, forcing it to bear her weight. She stands - and the fate strands snap back, lashing out at Sofane and slaying her. Lucrezia has used Sorte - a heresy, a woman who can read and do magic! Gioseppe has no love for her now, insulting and threatening her as she tries to understand what's happened. She declares her eternal love for him - and he hurls her locket away, promising that she will burn.

Vodacce's history is long, for it is the cradle of civilization. The earlist people in Vodacce were the first human settlements in Théah. They were sailors, hunters and gatherers. Slowly, influenced by the Crescents, they began to master pottery, weaving and livestock. They became fierce and warlike, warring against each other and the early Crescent tribes. Seven hundred years before Numa, the Crescents invaded Vodacce, driven west by some strange cataclysm. They conquered parts of Vodacce, merging with the locals - but they could never reach the Vodacce islands, and the islanders remained untouched by Vodacce's strife. They eventually became the Arene, a seperate culture from mainland Vodacce.

History truly begins with the founding of Numa in the Levanzo Hills, at the mouth of the Tigres River. It was a trading center, led by the semi-mythical figure Numus, and it soon grew rich. Numus and his governors established law, founded the first organized armies and established the idea of citizens' rights for those under their protection. The wars continued between city-states, but by 102 AUC, Numa dominated the entire peninsula and had established colonies on the islands. Over the next fifty years, the Old Empire devolped, a council of noble families rising to lead. They would eventually become the Numan Senate. They elected an Imperator each year as a titular leader and passed laws and edicts through him. The most prominent familes were each given an island to rule, and while their power remained in Numa, the Arene introduced them to new philosophies and political beliefs. The notion of a republic was formed then, and the early Senators established a system for making the people's will known.

From 148 to 189 AUC, Numa expanded through conquest, alliance and treaty. Arene thought created new philosophies, which stabilized and unified the kingdom. It was a golden era of peace and art, with the Imperators building roads and aqueducts across Vodacce. The army grew as well, and along with it the military reputation of Numa. The enemies of the city soon learned to fear them, as they made conquest after conquest, eventually defeating a superior Crescent army at the Battle of Pulo di Olimpia in 213, despite being outnumbered ten to one. Their tactics, superior weapons and unbreakable morale allowwed them to win. By 225, Numa had even expanded into the western corner of the Crescent peninsula, and the troops of the Eleventh Legio were invading Eisen.

The Imperators, meanwhile, turned elsewhere - to Acraga, across the sea of La Boca, and beyond. In 228, Priscus Tecpatus forged a treaty with the Acragans, more on which we know from Castille. The Numans conquered Acraga after Priscus's death in 268, and eventually defeated in 344, ruling it for the next seven centuries. The Eisen would prove a constant problem, and in 255 drove the Numans out. The sixth, seventh and fifteenth Legia invaded north and east, sweeping across what would be Montaigne and pushing back the Crescent tribes. They even invaded Ussura a fw times. The pinnacle came in 424 AUC, when Julius Caius conquered Avalon. They now owned almost half of the known world. Corruption set in among the ruling elite, and their noble notions gradually died in this time of decadence.

Julius Caius grew sick of the Senate's corruption and returned home, declaring himself absolute Imperator. He was assassinated as a threat, but his son Tigranus demanded vengeance and drove the conspirators to exile, ascending to become Imperator himself. His rule was absolute, and for two hundred years the Senate had no true power. In the sixth century AUC, the few Numan colonies in Eisen fell. In 573, contact with Avalon was lost for fifty years, and when it reappeared no one tried to recolonize. Despite these setbacks, the Empire prospered, and its control of its core never wavered. It reached from the eatern shows of Castille to the center of the Crescent Empire. The government was a complex system of alliances and provinces, with towns given rank and prestige by their yearly tithe, with varying levels of citizenship and various priveleges, like roads and military protection. Numa kept half a million men in arms at any given moment, and their money became the common currency of the continent. In the capital, the Senate continued to try and undermine the Imperators, and fortunes changed based on who had the upper hand. The Senate finally regained its power in 581 AUC, after the rule of Imperator Clementes the Mad, whose cruelty prompted a popular uprising the Senate backed. They proclaimed a New Republic and vowed to uphold the old virtues of Numa.

It soon became clear that nothing had changed, though. The Senate was better than Clementes, but cared little for the ideals. Occasionally, a new Imperator would rise, but they always maintained control. So it remained, with the people growing weary, until 698, when General Gaius Philippus Macer seized power after a long campaign in Eisen. He was a hero of the people, beloved by all, and when he returned to Numa, he declared himself Imperator and relegated the Senate to mere advisors. For 26 years, he ruled with absolute authority and was hailed as a savior. Power began to shift again in 724, when a small group of senators researched ancient Syrneth artifacts and made contact with the Bargainers. Yadda yadda, newfound powers. They forced Gaius to give up authority, but left him in place to keep their power hidden. They taught others sorcery, fusing it with the blood of the nobility. Eventually, their powers came out - but none dared speak against them for fear of their wrath.

Meanwhile, many colonies had become semi-autonomous, some even revolting. The Legia were busy putting down rebellions on the frontier, and new barbarian incursions from Eisen and Ussura taxed them to their limit. Still, the first real challenge to the Senators' rule appeared in 774 AUC - Year 1, AV, the Year of Truth. Few realized it at the time. The First Prophet appeared, decrying sorcery and advocating monotheism. Yadda yadda, spreading of faith. The Vaticine cult grew powerful despite the Senate's efforts to crush it, and new pressures from the outside threatened stability. The Empire of the Crescent Moon ejected Numa from its land in 32 AV, and the Second Legio stopped a barbarian horde from Ussura in 98 AV, barely managing to stop them from reaching Numan territory. The cult's growth and the government's instability caused the Senate to break the empire in two - the Eastern Empire, ruled from Numa, and the Western Empire, from San Cristobal. They put two Imperators in charge, but retrained nominal power over each.

The plan backfired horribly. Rather than stabilizing the empire, it gave others a chance to usurp power. In 105 AV, the Eastern Imperator joined the Church of the Prophet, soon followed by his Western counterpart. The Senators were unable to make being Vaticine illegal, though they did outlaw conversion - but the damage was done. The Imperators used the Church to regain power and legitimacy. A hundred years later, the sorcerous noble families ruled - and the people turned to the Church for protection. They laid siege to many sorcerous families. In 203 AV, the Eastern Imperator, Donatius, made a grab for absolute power, declaring himself Vaticine and making the Church of the Prophets the official religion of the Eastern Empire, devastating the senate. The populace rose up against them, and those who were not killed fled far - to the countryside and outlying colonies. Many retreated to the southern isles, and with their departure, Vodacce was united under Donatius. He divided the nation into eleven regions, allowing the Senate to remain powerless in exile, and set out to reforge the Empire once more.

It didn't work out. The political infighting drew Numa away from many threats, and economic instability took hold. The barbarians invaded, leeching military power, and the Imperator's authority began to splinter. Over the next century, the senators in exile would begin to establish their own kingdoms, far from the Vaticine, and the Legia began to desert in record numbers. In 297, a horde of Eisen barbarians sacked Numa and burned it to the ground. The Imperator was killed, and the central government destroyed. The Western Empire retained order of a sort, holding Castille - but the Eastern Empire had fallen. The fall of Numa shattered Vodacce into many city-states, some ruled by senators, others by warlords or renegade legionnaires. The eastern edges came under Crescent control, though that was lost after the First Crusades. Many rulers used Sorte sorceresses, called the Fate Witches by the people, to control their power, and Sorte spread throughout Vodacce's noble families.

The rise of Corantine in the 4th century originally did nothing to Vodacce - he claimed the Western Empire, but had little interest in them. However, by consolidating the faith of the PRophets into one church, he hugely affected the area. The Reformed Vaticine Church was based out of Numa, and the faithful flocked to Vodacce. By the itme of Corantine's death, the nation was full of monasteries preserving and spreading culture. The Hierophant and monasteries possessed huge power, and a strong network of control. With the support of the church, Vodacce's feudal system was introduced to Castille. Corantine died in 376, but his influence remains strong today.

We move, as we always do, from Corantine to Carleman. Carleman conquers a huge part of the continent, forges and unites an empire, dies and splits it between his three sons. Vodacce goes to Iago, a schemer who preferred to plot agianst his brothers than rule his kingdom. When Charles of Montaigne died, he threatened war against Charles' widow but was outmaneuvered. He turns to Eisen and tries to start a war with Stefan, ignoring the threat at home: a trio of ancient families moving against him. The first to act was the Delaga family, artisans from north Vodacce who sent mercenaries into the south to conquer it. Soon, the Lorenzos followed, and at last the Gallilis, a scholarly family. Iago's troops mass on the border, and by the time they realize the real threat's behind them, the kingdom is stolen away. The Lorenzos capture Iago and his wife and burn them alive. This was the last time Vodacce would ever be united. Still - it was a nation now, all Vodacce even as it had many princes.

The Delagas turned their land into a haven for craftsmen, while hte Galilli family turned to the Vaticines and study of the esoteric. The Lorenzos made the strongest mark, ruling with an iron fist and threatening all around them. They were so infamous that many foreigners thought they ruled the whole nation. Only the Church and the political skills of the Delaga family kept them in check. The rise of the Third Prophet in the 11th Century shoved Vodacce back onto the world stage. The Prophet declared Crusade against the Crescents, and Vodacce was one of the rallying points, mustering the faithful as Castille exploded into civil war. The ruling families devoted themselves to the Crusades, and many of their youngest sons died on Crescent sands for the Church. Vinchenzo Lorenzo and his wife, "Mad Queen" Marrieta (a Fate Witch of immense skill) saw many of their subjects join the Crusade just to get away from them, and they became so weak that the Delagas began to take parts of their territory. Vinchenzo promised a decisive victory agains the Crescents to put the fear of Theus until all of his enemies, and at his behest, the Mad Queen attempted to erase the entire Crescent Empire from fate itself. She had apparently learned how to turn her power backwards - to change the strands of the past. If she could erase the Crescents, she could erase anyone. As the Crusaders returned home in defeat, she attempted to rewrite history.

That didn't go well at all.

The Lorenzo island vanished entirely - destroyed by Marrieta's efforts along with every living being on it. All that remained was a sea full of blood to mark its location - and to this day, the sea south of the southernmost Vodacce isle runs red sometimes for no clear reason. Some Sorte witches say the island did not vanish, but became displaced in time, existing outside it - or perhaps it was simply destroyed. Many who were not on the island when it vanished remembered details of it, so it was clearly not removed from history. The surviving Lorenzos were destitute, forever broken. They split into two minor lines, the Bianco and Serrano, and abandoned their territory to the others. The Delaga, too busy squabbling amonst themselves, left it for the Gallili, which became the most powerful family. In fact, all of today's ruling families come from the Gallili line.

The loss of the Lorenzos and the Crusade's damage left Vodacce weak when it most needed strength. The Third Prophet consolidated the Church in Castille, filling empty seats with Castillians - and Vodacce, the Church's heartland, objected. In 1012, when Numa was declared no longer the Church's capital, the Vodacce refused to stand for it, and a new war began. It lasted seven years, with both sides strapped for resources, but eventually, the Castillians defeated the Vodacce and peace was reached with Castille keeping the power of the Church, but Vodacce getting to continue to have two Cardinals instead of one. (They now have five, thanks to intense politicking.) Vodacce has never forgotten its humiliation, though, and the wounds remain on its pride to this day.

Finally, Vodacce once again fell back to its own devices, left alone. The ruling families split and bickered and divided up the land. Power fluctuated rapidly, and the peasants learned to accept that they might have a new prince each year. It remained Vaticine, and some say the dedication to the Church allowed art and learning to flourish, while others believe the constant scheming meant humanity had to excel to survive. Either way, it was the birthplace of the Renaissance. The University of Elena's scholars produced new translations of old Numan philosophies, conducted many experiments and pursued art on a massive scale. Maneual Chrysoloras and his student Leotano Vinchenti spearheaded a movement that swept the nation's painters, sculptors, scientists and philosophers. These fields developed madly, turning Vodacce into a center of both culture and money. By the mid-fourteenth century, their ideas spread throughout the continent, and the Merchant Princes were some of the most powerful men in the world.

Next time: The White Knight, modern days and the Families.

Would that I was truly her mother. Then, perhaps, I would know what decision to make.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Would that I was truly her mother. Then, perhaps, I would know what decision to make.

We left off in 1400, when the Bianco branch of the Lorenzos extended their power as bankers and moneylenders. Before now, they'd been quiet - but in 1400, evidence that the entire family worshipped Legion reached the Church. The Vestinis were given permission to wipe out the entire family. Even with Church support, it nearly failed. The Bianco had strange powers - probably the result of Legion-worship - which staved off and destroyed foes. It took the actions of a knight of die Kreuzritter named Andare del Casigula Rosa to turn the tides. Little is known of Rosa - he was a commoner, adopted into the Black Cross at the age of 11, in 1392. His training was uneventful but he had disturbing dreams and visions. These visions, it is said, were signs from Theus that Andare would lead a crusade against evil, which culminated in his destruction of the Bianco. He and his holy followers, now revered in shrines in the town of Saint Ivo della Sapienza, bore the brunt of the Bianco forces, and with his help the Vestini seized control of their lands. The Vaticines see Andare as a great hero, and the people of Mantua, where the Biancos ruled, believe he was instrumental to their freedom from Legion. He is revered as the greatest knight in Vodacce history. Shortly after the final battle, Andare died and was entombed in St. Ivo della Sapienza.

More recently, Vodacce emerged from the Rennaissance as an economic power, kept from true greatness by its divided nature. The Merchant Princes used their influence to plot against each other, ignoring the world in favor of their games. Because of this, the nation as a whole never rose to true prominence and never recognized the growing northern threat: Vendel. When the War of the Cross broke out, the Vendel made huge advances in the chaos and when it ended, they were equal in power to Vodacce. A quiet trading war has begun, with Vodacce ports closed to Vendel ships. They want to drive the Guilder to extinction, and have sponsored many pirates to attack Vendel shipping as well as causing many "accidents." The Vendel have responded in kind, and the subtle conflict has lasted five years so far. It's been mostly out of sight for now, but sooner or later, one side will go too far.

Today, Vodacce remains divided, ruled by seven Merchant Princes, each with ambitions of a united Vodacce. Beneath them, the country prospers and the trade war continues. The future is unstable, and even the Fate Witches cannot see what is coming, but they are unconcerned. Disaster might be coming, sure - but a thousand years of scheming has made Vodacce strong. They welcome their next challenge.

The nobles of Vodacce own her land and her trade, controlling the nation with an iron fist. Vodacce poets speak of the heart that beats for love and the heart that beats for duty - and it is the nobles' duty to guide their people. Duty is what rules the Princes, followed by pride - and then, only distantly, by love. The politics, called the Great Game, are shaped heavily by a scholar named Scarovese. Scarovese studied a minor ruler and wrote a pair of books: Means to Ends and Victory . They have taken Vodacce by storm, and they advise that politics is all about power: ensuring you have it and your enemies don't. Scarovese advised backstabbing and ruthlessness, and while outsiders may look on such bitter and cruel advice with shock, the Princes know it works. If you're not familiar with Scarovese and get into the Game, you're going to die. The Princes use his lessons to wield near-absolute power, utilizing everything they have to get more. Trust is rare - a man is considered extremely friendly and trusting as a prince if he trusts his closest relatives. Vodacce is run by dictators, and no one really tries to pretend otherwise.

Bloodlines are a bit weird - men and women of the nobility have little connection, with noblewomen being kept apart from the lives of luxury the men lead and not even being allowed to learn to read. Men take courtesans openly and bastard children are a way of life. Inheritance is done irregularly and by will, rather than any standard of primogeniture or otherwise. Many times, a man leaves his things to his illegitimate children rather than anything by his own wife. Acknowledgement of bastards is the right of a noble, and men occasionally adopt their courtesans' children. (Just the males, of course.) Noble women must sometimes even raise the children of their husbands' courtesans. Succession thus becomes a bit hazy, and any prince's heir must be on constant guard - if he's not, an uncle or cousin is likely to supplant him.

Now, the families! We begin the ancient ones, starting with the Delaga family. Luis Delaga was from a senatorial family, with several Imperators in his ancestry. He seized the southern part of Vodacce while Iago was busy squabbling over the northern border, stabilizing it with mercenaries and filling it with the exiles of other kingdoms, bringing their talents and loyalty to himself. Delaga demanded much from his people, seeing himself as their stern father, and he brutally punished those who opposed him. However, there was too much internal strife among the Delaga for them to achieve true power - their bickering kept them from capitalizing on the fall of the Lorenzos. Only the Villanovas and Caligaris now can claim Delaga blood - and the Caligaris don't want it.

The Gallili were a family of philosophers and mathematicians who maintained their education as the key to their nobility. Their family was highly interbred with Castillians, and they are in large part responsible for the Rennaissance. They began the process of translating ancient philosophy, spurred on by the Church, and established the traditions of scholarship that came with the spread of these texts. They were the ones best able to capitalize on the fall of Lorenzo, and it is from the Gallili that almost all the current Princes' family lines originally sprang.

The Lorenzos traced their line all the way back to Imperator Tigranus's eldest daughter. They claimed thus to be Vodacce's 'true' rulers, held back only by the Delagas. They built the palace on the first of the isles, now Villanova Isle, and it remains the most magnificent in Vodacce. The Lorenzos were a sadistic and twisted family who treated torture and pain as the counterpart to revelry, encouraging their descendants to do the same. Lorenzo parties generally ended in the brutal murder of all the servants in display for the guests. They loved bloodsport and torture, and their punishments for even minor crimes were cruel. Their line ended, as we know, when Mad Queen Marrieta tried to help her husband unite Vodacce by wiping the Crescents from history. She was insane, capable of forgetting people ever existed a mere day after killing them and speaking of things that never were. The last fragments of the Lorenzos became the Bianco and Serrano families, though what happened to them is anyone's guess. It's said the Serranos sold their daughters to the courtesans and retired to Numa, while of course the Biancos were eradicated as Legion-worshippers. No further heir to either family has been found.

There are seven noble families. Six claim descent from Gallili (though the Caligaris are lying - they are in fact Delagas, but changed their name), and one from Delaga. No one claims Lorenzo blood - and to do so would be suicide. The first family is the Bernoulli, descending from the first son of Gallili and inheritors of their scholarly forebears. They have always been stout Vaticines, and claim that they once housed the First Prophet, which is undoubtedly false. They control the largest section of the mainland, from Palo de Olimpia to the southern coast. Their land is full of shrines and churches, and they are the only legal traders with the Crescents. In the past, the Bernoullis have protected huge stores of knowledge, but the current head, Gespucci Bernoulli, has turned them all over to the Vaticine and renounced his claim to them. Most believe he's trying to protect the knowledge from his debauched sons, though others think it's part of a deal with the Cardinals. The Bernoulli are famous as duelists, if not as dangerous as Villanova or as treacherous as Vestini. They are direct and honorable in combat, instead. Nobles from the Bernoulli family must buy the Scholar skill and 5 points of knacks from it. However, they get a free Raise when researching or using a book-learned Scholar knack, like Astrology or Mathematics.

The Caligari claim to descend from Gallili, but they do not. They were once the Caligara, descendants of the Delaga family, and even closer to their ancestors than the Villanova. However, they have renounced all that as of three generations ago, when Prince Aldo Caligara claimed that any true son of Delaga could win a duel when his family name was on the line. Guiseppi Villanova heard of this, and took Aldo to task, challenging him to a duel with their names as the wager. Aldo was forced to accept - and he lost. The Caligara were forced by honor to reject their names and refuse their heritage, and have to this day borne a grudge against the Villanovas. Every Caligari is sworn to an oath to restore the family heritage, and they watch the Villanovas for any sign of weakness. They seek out any means to defeat their hated rivals - magic, secrecy, Syrneth artifacts, anything. Nobles of the Caligari family get a discount to the Foul Weather Jack advantage and get 75G extra per month. However, they must take a 2-point Defeated background for the insult of the Villanovas.

The Falisci are descended from the youngest daughter of Gallili and her Montaigne husband. Their loyalty to the family is unbreakable, but anyone else gets no mercy. They control the mainland's grapes and olives, and make the finest wines. They have held their land for all living memory, and no one has ever gotten them to give up any of it by any means, as they have the most loyal armies in the nation, since each soldier is paid in Falisci wine. The Faliscis hold grand parties each year, and at these parties even the Great Game is relaxed - no violence is allowed at all, and duels are forbidden. However, politicking is perfectly allowable. Nobles of the Falisci get a free Raise when trying to manipulate others, get 2 bonus points for the Arrogant Hubris and must pay 2 extra points for any Virtue. They must also roll a Resolve test at TN 15 to avoid taking any bet, as they are compulsive gamblers.

The Lucani are at once the poorest and hardest working family in Vodacce and also the most powerful practitioners of Sorte. How are they still poor? A curse. A thousand years ago, a jealous wife found her husband in the arms of a Lucani girl and cursed their witches that any attempt to bring money to the family would bring only ruin, devastation and madness to the witch. It's always turned out to happen. The family is the newest of the rulers, having been minor nobles for centuries until 100 years ago, when they made a deal with the Villanovas for land. Details of the deal have been lost to history. Even today, they lack the stability of their rivals and are mocked for their shaky claims and small fortune. Luckily, the constant gifts from suitors wishing to marry the powerful Lucani witches keep them going, and said witches often become very influential wives. This and their renowned needlework keep them afloat. Lucani nobles with Sorte get 2 extra points of Sorte knacks, but get 5 fewer points in general and may never use their sorcery to directly aid themselves or a Lucani. Lucani heroes without sorcery get neither the 5 point penalty nor the 2 bonus knacks.

The Mondavis are famous as food producers, and they control the western Mantua territory, once Gallili land. The Mondavis rarely suffer war, since their food is vital to everyone. Because of this and the mountains at their back, they are very secure against invasion, though they have had to get plenty of Eisen mercenaries to keep that true. The Mondavi continue to hope the Eisen will be happy to be paid to guard and not take to stealing the food for their home country - but a bad winter could change that. When the Lorenzos were destroyed, their last daughter married into the Mondavi line, and some say her blood turned the Mondavis from peaceful farmers to bloodthirsty politicians. Whatever the reason, the Mondavi are renowned for their valor in war and dueling. They aren't, however, very good at politics or looking pretty. Their current leader, Alcide Mondavi, is quiet, boring, short and pale, but nearly peerless with a sword. More than a dozen are dead for insulting him, and many more are dead by his wife's magic. Nobles of the Mondavi family get a discount to learning Ambrogia, but must take a Hubris and get only 8 points for it.

The Vestini family came to power by helping destroy the treacherous Biancos. They were once a mere family of artisans, becoming nobles by sheer force of will. Their tie to the Gallili is weak at best, though reinforced by marriages - they were originally servants of the Gallili line who married into it. They are famous neither for valor or magic, but beauty and wit, and they are perhaps the craftiest of the families. They are renowned for beauty and many of their line would've been great courtesans were it not for their noble blood. The first Vestini drove her husband to prominence - but she was a courtesan, and her daughters had no Sorte. Rather, they used beauty and intelligence to guide themselves to power instead of magic. Few of the Vestini women have Sorte, and those who do tend to be weak - but the entire family, including the women, are known for their skill in art and interpersonal issues. Nobles of the Vestini get the Above Average Appearance advantage free, but must take the Hedonistic Arcana, which they get only 8 points for.

The Villanovas are masters of the Great Game, powerful swordsmen and politicians. They are the last of the Delaga line (and certainly the last to openly be Delaga). Ever Villanova learns to bring about the destruction of his foes, plotting to unite Vodacce under a single king. This has been the goal of every Villanova since the family began. Giovanni Villanova, their leader, is the most powerful of the seven princes in terms of personal skill, though he still lacks the strength to unite Vodacce, and Numa hates him. The Villanovas own the nation's largest university, though they care only for results, not learning itself. The tensions between them and the Vaticine has caused quite a few problems, another reason why they have trouble uniting Vodacce. Giovanni's father once said that if they managed it, they'd banish the Vaticine from Numa and make them second to the kings; as a result, the Church really does not like them. Villanova nobles get 2 extra Reputation dice in court in Vodacce, but must take a 3-point Nemesis background representing the Church.

What of the lost blood, the Bianco and Serrano? They vanished centuries ago. The Lorenzos publically fell in 1175, when the last of the Serranos lost power due to Vestini maneuvering. The Bianco, of course, made their mark as moneylenders and were fought to death in 1398. Today, less than a hundred men and women can claim descent from these two families together. They hide their true lineage and serve as retainers to the other nobles, suffering indignities and dishonor to get close to their foes. One day, they will have the strength, they swear, to attack a prince and seize his land for their own. The Serrano were infamous as poisoners, and peasants say that children of the Serrano were fed poisons to raise their immunities. The Bianco, of course, were known as mockers of the Vaticine and dabblers in dark and infernal power. Some say they even had male Fate Witches. The eastern mountains of Mantua are said to still be haunted by Legion's men, searching for the Bianco souls. Characters (because they certainly aren't heroes ) of the Serrano family get the 1-point Poison Immunity advantage free, and get 2 free Raises when working with poison; however, they need to take the 3-point Nemesis background to represent the Vestinis. At least one Vestini knows who they are and hunts them. Characters from the Bianco get the Unbound advantage for only 10 points, but must take a 3-point Lorenzo background and are hunted by the Vaticine.

Next time: Places and culture.

Like all Witches, her heart is as cold as her bed.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Like all Witches, her heart is as cold as her bed.

Politically, Vodacce has eight provinces, but the nation's peasants divide themselves up into the four old Numan provinces culturally: Mantua in the north, Teramo in the east, Arene Candide in the west and south, and the islands. While the land may be owned seven ways by seven Princes, the people are Mantuan, Condide or Teramos, not Villanovan or Vestinian. Mantua, in the north, is bordered by Castille, Eisen and across the Palo de Olimpia mountains by the Crescents. It is divided among three of the princes: Mondavi, Caligari and Vestini. The people of Mantua are Mantuan first, Vodacce second.

The Mondavi province is owned by Alcide Mondavi and governed by Gallisus Mondavi. It is some of the most bountiful land in Vodacce, and provides the Mondavi food fortune. Its main city is Palizza de Agitazione, between Castille and Numa. It's a major trade city, and has existed since the days of the Numan Empire. The Lorenzos owned it once. Its most notable feature is the Palizza, officially the home manor of the Mondavis, though they rarely stay there. It has 2143 windows, 1252 fireplacess, 67 staircases and 1400 fountains in its gardens. Another important city is the small Profeta Chiesa. Despite its low population, it is surrounded by the richest farmlend, and Alcide's governor (and eldest son) officially lives there - though he spends most of his time on the Mondavi island. The true ruler is Gallisus's wife, Nemice du Arrent Mondavi, who forges his signature (on his orders) and runs the province in his absence. She doesn't mind him not being there - they hate each other, and Gallisus prefers his courtesan, Marifi.

The Mondavi island-city, Chiarisa, is the farthest from the mainland. It was founded in the 12th century on an old Numan ruin, and is one of the most architecturally striking islands. It is a major tourist destination, full of towering buildings covered with a spiderweb of bridges and arches. It is home to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Mondavi's personal palace. It is structured on the island's mountain crest, with huge arched bridges coming out of it, and rises nearly 2000 feet above sea level. It is held aloft by good architecture and the power of the Mondavi Fate Witches, and has a pair of 640-foot bridges linking it to the Piazza della Scala (where secular business is done) and the Piazza della Duomo (where spiritual business is done), on opposite ends of the island. In 1627, a triumphal arch was added to celebrate the birth of Alcide Mondavi, his father's only son of five children.

The Caligari province is ruled by Vincenzo Caligari and governed by Vito Calligozo Caligari. Its main city is Laurentia, an ancient Numan city that is a major trade center and in fact Caligari's only mainland city. It holds the Laurentian Library and the cloister of St. Lorenzo. (The peasants claim he must have been Castillian, for no Lorenzo was ever holy or good enough to become a saint.) It also has an abundance of playwrights, architects and scholars all trying to gain entry to the cloister's prestigious academy, and those who do well are often invited to Dionna University. The library is rumored to be home to the remnants of the Serrano family.

The Caligari island, Reinascienza, is the closest to the mainland, and has few mountains. It rests just above sea level, with only a few hills. Its population swells in early winter, when the upper mainland is covered in snow and ice and many nobles must go home, passing through Reinascienza to head to their own islands and stopping along the way for the Winter's Ball in the famous Twin Piazzas. These, Piazza Navona and Piazza di Castillia, are home to a famous statue of Senator Delaga, ancestor of House Caligara. The northern plaza, Navona, was built in the monumental style of Numa by the Senator's family. It also holds the church of Saint Agnese, an immense church that had fifteen Witches aiding in its building and was made by the famous architect Stefano Campo del Caligara. It is nearly twenty stories high and is impossibly thin and delicate. It also holds the ancient monastery of House Caligari, where Prince Vincenzo comes often to pray, deep beneath the church. The Piazza di Castillia, also known as the Piazza of the Castillian Steps, suffered generations of controversy until being completed by Francesco de Sanctis, as it was built over a Numan holy site and torn down when the Senate disbanded. Some say it was the place the Bargainers first made contact with the creatures beyond. Whatever the truth, it's said to be haunted, and few go there unless a ball is being held.

The Vestini province is ruled by Marco Edorardo Vestini, and governed by Enrico Edorardo Vestini. It is not so rich as most of Mantua, but full of folklore - it was once home to the Bianco family, and some say their souls still haunt the hills looking for sacrifices to Legion. It is home to the small town of Saint Ivo della Sapienza, home ot the church were the White Knight of Vodacce, Andara del Casigula Rosa, prayed for three days straight before facing the Biancos. It holds a sstatue to him that is a common spot of pilgrimage, and some say the White Knight aids those who leave flowers there. There is a popular movement to canonize Andare. The capital, though, is Fontaine, once home of the Bianco manor house and the city Quattro Alle. The Vaticine excommunicated the place, had it cleansed, then re-blessed it for rebuilding It seems to have worked. Fontaine is one of the largest cities on the mainland, supported by great crafters and low taxes. The Vestini believe that lowering taxes for those who actively tithe to the church or contribute to the city's growth is good, which has led many to want to live there. Still, some of the Biancos' atrocities live on, and few will go near a sewer entrance at night out of fear. There is also a rumor of a cabal of Legion worshippers hidden in the city, guiding the Vestini government while the nobles stay on their island. There is also the ancient Numan city of Elena, long past its prime. It was once home to a great university...which now operates at just over a sixth of full capacity. Only the Vestinis' constant struggles to create trade keep the place alive. Thanks to continuing to teach ancient theories and old teachings, the university's a laughingstock that isn't taken seriously by any serious scientist. Still, the Vestini won't give up on their tie to the Numan past and to legitimacy, and continue to try and keep the city alive.

The Vestini island is Serine, and it's full of Fate Witches thanks to being home of the largest school for young ladies, the Dilatente. It is less a school and more a place where the daughters of nobles learn to use Sorte, manage a household and run their husbands' affairs while the men are busy. Serine is actually two smaller islands linked by many, many bridges. It is a major center for the mysterious Sophia's Daughters, as the Vestini are secretly strong supporters of women's rights - at least, more than any other noble family. They believe that their daughters should learn to be literat,e to better use their magic to help the family. They encourage their courtesans to study as well, and many of those courtesans are not what they appear, but are secretly masked girls of the Dilatente. The woman in charge of this operation is the headmistress of the Dilatente, Signore Denizia Verde della Vestini, a quiet and kind woman who, while not beautiful, is very friendly, which earned her marriage to a Vestini and, after his death, the position of headmistress. She has been a faithful servant of Sophia's Daughters and dedicates herself to helping women as much as she can. Her own daughter has been something of a scandal: Simona Verde della Vestini fled Serine the night before her arranged marriage, taking the name Morgause Mercuri and becoming a sailor aboard the Santa Cecilia. She is impractical, headstrong and a terrible sorceress, preferring to use a sword. Her mother was scandalized, of course, but her failure has made her determined to do right by the girls of the Diletante, in an effort to salve her guilt at losing Simona.

Arene Candide was once the most prestigious land in the Numan Empire. It covers most of the coastline and has ben divided many, many times. It currently holds three provinces: Lucani, Villanova and Falisci. It is a level land and has all the major ports of Vodacce, as well as the only passage to the islands. Lucani is ruled by Alberto Lucani, and governed by Fausto Luce del Lucani. It is home to Guarre de Puertofino, one of its two major cities, and one heavily influenced by Castille. It was built just before Numa fell, and its chamber of government has seen use since then, with continuous redesigns, including once by the famous Leotano Vinchenti. It is known officially as the Cuore Governo, the Heart of the State, but is generally just called the Rachele, after Vinchenti's lost love, who died of disease as he was building it. After her death, his work was never the same, and he left a small plaque, dedicating it to her. There is also the former capital of the Arene Candide lands, Sant'Andrea. It is as aold as Numa, originally being the warlike city-state of Speturas. Today, it is famous for its needlework, and the Lucani hold many balls there. It is one of the most famous ports in Vodacce and a major tourist spot. Some of the most famous ruins in Vodacce also lie just north of it, dating back perhaps even before the Numans. Many lie unexplored, and Lucani forbids any archaeologists who do not get specific permission. Many of the ruins are home to crypt ghouls. What's a crypt ghoul? Good question!

The Lucani isle, Gorivari, is a twin to the Falisci isle, just across the bay. The two islands were once linked by bridges, long since destroyed. It was originally a Billanova isle, but the Lucani got a century ago. It shows major Castillian influence, with thick walls surrounding the port. The most important site on the isle is neither a building nor a place of revelry. It is the Perseguita, the Haunting Place, a mark of black land in the otherwise beautiful streets. It was here that the Lucani were cursed by a powerful Fate Witch, banning the Lucani witches from using their powers to aid any of Lucani blood. It is fifty feet across, full of curmbling marble pillars where once there was a great manor house. Now, they form a labyrinth that rejects warmth even at noon, and its center can barely be seen from outside. Any Lucani who sits foot in the Perseguita is sturck down by a sudden illness, and must either leave or be struck by repeated seizures. More than a few have seen the ghost of a terrible woman in white in the Perseguita.

The Villanova lands are ruled by Giovanni Villanova, and governed by Dimitrius Villanova de la Deus Varna. Its most important city is Porta Serafina, the home to most of the Villanova family - their leader, Giovanni, has less efficient spies here, and those who plot to seize control from him prefer it to the island. Dimitrius, the governor, is Giovanni's greatest foe in the family, and also his cousin. Besides them, Porta Serafina is mostly known for a trade port with extremely effective military and very severe piracy laws. Just claiming to be a member of the Brotherhood of the Coast is enough to be hurled in jail. We'll skip the next two cities, which are boring.

The Villanova island is Dionna, the smallest of the chain. It is a city renowned for its university and for its shadowy politics. Dionna University is the tallest building on the island, and home to some of the most groundbreaking medical research - in part thanks to Villanova's lack of ethical guidelines for them. Giovanni lives in Dionna in...well, several places, including one only he knows of, but the official estate is atop the island's mountain, and his wife Valentina spends most of her time there. Besides its school, Dionna is famous as a trading port, and has many smugglers, despite the danger of being found face-down in a canal.

The Falisci province is ruled by Donello Falisci and governed by Meander Verde de Falisci. Its capital is Emelia, a major wine-making city and home to the governor. Meander is perfectly loyal to Donello and believes that his prince is exactly what Vodacce needs. He is also brother to the famous schoolmistress of the Dilatente in Serine. Emelia is full of refugees from the tyranny of Villanova, and Meander isn't sure what to do about them - they obviously can't be sent home, but keeping them risks war with Villanova. It doesn't help that Donello's kindness and cleverness have made him no friends among the nobles. The next city is Casigula Rosa, once capital of the entire Arene Candide. It can be entered only from one bridge, thanks to its prominent natural walls, and that bridge is so amazing that no one has been able to reproduce it. Called the Span, it is a mile long and very tall. Some call the city the City of Angels, and ancient texts mention the bridge as one of the wonders of the world, thick as three carriages and wide enough for five horsemen, with its outer edges maintained by slanted walls. Fate Witches who walk across the san become sick and uneasy due to the powerful Sorte used in its construction to keep it up.

The Falisci island is Medico, twinned to the Lucani isle. It is a hub of politics and fashion, with visitors coming all the way from Avalon and Montaigne. It is a huge mess of roads and canals, even moreso than the other cities, and is built not just up but down as well, with an undercity for the poor and diseased, that the nobles might not have to look at them. There is constant work to create more underground roads and waterways to irrigate the city and make sure sewage goes out.

The Teramo region is the only one ruled by a single prince, not chopped up among others. It has always been Gallili land, and still remains in the hands of a descendant of the Gallilis. It is a very mountainous region, containing most of the Palo de Olimpia range, including Mount Olimpia. Legend has it that the gold of Numa is somewhere in the mountains, long forgotten, but none have ever found it. The Bernoullis own the whole place, ruled by Gespucci Bernoulli and governed by Denis and Albano Bernoulli. Mount Olimpia is more than a mountain, though - it is a city as well, a huge tourist spot that was home to some of the most revered scholars in Vodacce, including the famous Scarovese. Today, it is also the capital and home of Denis Bernoulli - a particularly poor ruler who survives by following tradition in all things. There is also Porto Spatia, a port city that could be so much more important were it not run by Albano Bernoulli, a hedonist who cares nothing for laws or governing. The guard is corrupt, and gangs rule the streets. Despite that, it is very rich thanks to illegal trade with the Crescents, and also home to the massive St. Baldarrazzo monastery, which the Bernoullis keep well-funded not to pay attention to the Crescent trade. Monks also go to the city of Jesalute, a border city and home to the Abbey of St. Giovanna, the starting place for most pilgrimages to the Crescent Empire. Few return from such trips, and those who do tell preposterous tales, of dragons, rakshasha, were-creatures and so on.

The Bernoulli island is Amozare, which runs high with water. It flows not just in canals, but up through the city, lifted by fountains and water pipes - a Bernoulli secret that the other Princes have never managed. The island is surrounded by tiny islands, tied together by bridges, and today few can say where one ends and another begins, though the distance between landmasses is sometimes as great as half a mile; buildings have been built in the water itself, giving the illusion of land where there is none. Prince Bernoulli maintains a huge dock, allowing his private ship to sail directly into the city's heart; that ship is designed such that it fits into the bridges and buildings like a hand in a glove, disturbving nothing and docking right against the palace.

Lastly, there's Numa, the Vaticine's city. The church owns it and all land in a hundred miles in every direction, keeping order in the province with Vaticine guads. Even the Princes consider this land sacred and sacrosanct. The city itself is huge, larger than any other city in Vodacce. It has developed in concentric rings, with the innermost the most primitive and oldest. Ruins still stand in the center, including the huge racecourse of Hippodromus Magnificens. The city is run by five Cardinals with full autonomy from the Princes, and for 700 years was the seat of the Hierophant and the Church. It isn't now, though, thanks to the 11th century's Hieros War. Numa is nominally seperate from politics, but the Cardinals keep a close eye on the Princes, to ensure that peace is maintained. Everyone near Numa works for the Vaticine, including the peasants. It's a nice place if you're devout, and taxes are light - but tithes are heavy. With the recent death of the Hierophant, the Cardinals are considering a new building in an effort to get the next one to live in Numa again. One of the most powerful cardinals is Teodoro Ciosa, a respected man whose word is generally considered law. He is very devout, and no one has found anything on him. Rumor has it that he can even perform miracles, but he never brags or seeks fame. The other cardinals are Ernesto Denzelli de Bernoulli, who wants Numa to be indepedent, Benedetto St. Vito, whose past is shrouded in mystery and was once a mere monk who witnessed, it is said, the returning of the dead to life. (He never speaks of it, ever. Or anything. He speaks through his aides, and they say he traded his voice for another man's life.) Then there is Carouso della Spada Lucani, a major supporter of the Lucanis and proponent of bringing the Hierophant to Numa, along with other modern, perhaps heretical changes to doctrine. And last is Michel Durand del Felisci, brother to Donello Felisci, who sometimes becomes too involved in Montaigne politics - though despite his name, he's purebred Vodacce. He works closely with Cardinal Erika Durkheim and has written several letters to l'Empereur, insisting the Church be allowed back in.

Next time: Okay, the places took up a lot of space, so culture!

Shut up, woman. You are a heretic, a renegade and a murderess.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: Shut up, woman. You are a heretic, a renegade and a murderess.

Culturally, the Vodacce are obsessed with pomp and display of wealth. Scarovese wrote that a tyrant is feared, hearing everything, seeing everything, known for cruelty and enemy of all that is good and honest. His people will hate him and wish him dead: a true prince does not allow this, but rather create the illusion of delicacy and riches, using thin strands to do much work. Vodacce culture follows the Princes, who follow the teachings of Scarovese, and so image is everything .

There is no national government, of course, and the Princes meet only occasionally to discuss policy. Beyond that, they each rule their own land with absolute authority, and with the addition of Numa there are effectively eight seperate governments. Numa can cause some problems - after all, the ethics of the Church and the realities of the Great Game are rarely in line. Over time, the Princes developed a system to allow their servants to act in their names without fearing Legion's fires: the Lord's Hands. These are special writs signed by the Cardinals, which say that a person is absolved of any sin committed in the name of the Prince. They are more legal license than religious reassurance now, and can be issued as a Prince sees fit. The Lord's Hands are very powerful, and many want those writs.

Below the Princes are various councils, bureaucrats and officials, who do the actual work of governing. The Princes just serve as the guys in charge. In addition to the ruling families, there are also minor nobles beholden to the houses, who form the backbone of the bureaucracy and courts. In the islands, government focuses mostly on keeping order and controlling trade, while on the mainland the governors have more leeway, away from the Princes. Each Prince manages the specifics differently, and the system is generally byzantine and complex, all part of the Great Game of princes and rule. Numa, of course, manages itself.

The Vodacce are not simple about anything, least of all foreign relations. The only groups the Vodacce publically dislike are the Ussurans and Vendel. Officially, they want nothing to do with Avalon, thanks to the break with the church, and the same with Montaigne - and yet they continue trade with both relatively happily. Montaigne's relations with Vodacce have been heavy since their break, but the Vodacce have responded by charging Montaigne ships three times normal prices. Most courtiers believe the Vodacce princes are secretly supplying Castille with weapons and supplies, but won't do so openly until the Castillians agree to shift Vaticine power back to Vodacce. Eisen is a metaphor, to Vodacce - a sign of what happens if rulers do not manage power well. Since the fall of Eisen, the Vaticine tithes have increased quite a bit, in hopes that Theus will not strike them down, as well. Beyond that, Eisen is a happy ally of the Vodacce. The Ussurans and Vodacce don't like each other much, and they are always on the lookout for signs of hostility. The only public war is with Vendel, though - the trade war. The Vodacce sometimes fund Vesten raiders to fight the Vendel, and the one thing all the Princes agree on is that Vendel must go...or so they say, anyway. That unity will likely last only until one of the Princes makes a major screwup and loses something big to the Vendel - at which point the others will likely turn on him.

The Vodacce respect nothing more than strength. Strength of will, strength of conviction and strength of arms. The last man standing is the one who is right, and a man never backs down from a challenge. Strength is equalled only by pride - the Vodacce work hard and are not afraid to trumpet their own deeds. Both of these traits have led to the Great Game, in which the most cunning or ruthless excels and gets to showcase his strength. The Vodacce also enjoy fights - while duels to rhe death are rare, a good non-lethal fight is a daily occurance in Vodacce cities. Almost every man has a scar from a sword or knife fight, and brawls are regular. They also love to argue and can debate for hours on end. Some businesses practically even shut down whule haggling with a stubborn customer. Vodacce honor is famous - men place a great deal of importance on their word, and never break a promise once given. Friendship also matters a great deal to them, and loyalty is more precious than gold. Of course, the Vodacce rigidly define honor, and may adhere to the letter more than the spirit, but still - honor and pride, even in the Game. More on Vodacce honor later.

First, though, let's talk about the Cymbr people. The Cymbr are wanderers and travelers, who have no residence. They are explicitly not the Gypsy analogues - that's in Ussura. These guys are strictly Vodacce and have nothing to do with those nomads. Rather, they are Vodacce who reject any lord. The Cymbr tend to congregate in bthe mountains of Palo Olimpia or the abbeys of the land. They trade labor for food and board, and use their natural craftsman's skills to pay rather than have a permanent residence. A few Cymbr villages exist, but they rarely have 500 people at any point, and may change their entire population out within six months. The Cymbri identify each other with colored patchwork flags, and speak a strange dialect of Vodacce that relies heavily on the ancient Théan tongue. The original Cymbri are said to have been Numan refugees who interbred with Crescent warriors and later Eisen mercenaries. The Cymbri are commonly woodcutters and carpenters, and they rarely trust outsiders, especially nobles. They are very secretive, but have a huge sense of Vodacce honor.

The peasants speak of the Three Women of Vodacce. First, the Fate Witches, the ruling class behind the veil. They must be respected for their sorcery, and all men know they hold destiny in their hands. They are uneducated and kept behind walls, but they hold more power than all the rest of the nation put together. Second are the courtesans, who are not as powerful but have their own ways of control. They can read and are generally well educated. Their power is transitory, but more public - men are willing to listen to courtesans on matters of learning, but when they lose their beauty, they lose their audience. And last are the Senzavista, the Sightless daughters of noblemen. They suffer more than either, being neither Fate Witch nor courtesan. They lack the power and respect of the Witches, and the education of the courtesans. Senzavistas often become part of a Fate Witch's dowry - a sort of 'second wife.' Vodacce refers to these extras as Vedova. Fate Witches, of course, are never Vedova. Senzavista don't have a choice about the disrespect, though. Sometimes a courtesan is Vedova, but when that happens, she must give up all trappings of her former life and be subservient to the ruling Fate Witch wife. This rarely happens, mostly to courtesans who begin to grow old, and few of those survive it. Fate is not kind to the Vedova.

We've talked about the Dilatente...ah. Tessatore. The Fate Witches have placed a ruling council over themselves: the Tessatore, the Weavers. They are the oldest and most powerful Atropos in Vodacce, serving as a bastion of culture and tradition. They strongly oppose change, and they punish the Fate Witches who break the cultural rules - generally letting the men handle it, but sometimes taking it into their own hands. They meet only rarely, but each city has its own inner council. There's no rules to joining - when you belong, you know . Even the Princes fear the Tessatore, though they'd never admit it.

A woman who becomes engaged is given two choices: marry the man their father has chosen, or retire to a nunnery for the rest of their lives. Few Fate Witches accept nunneries, but many Senzavista accept that fate rather than become Vedova. Nunneries are strange in Vodacce - the nuns are neither members of the women's world, nor part of the Game, but they are not forgotten, and spend their days in prayer or charity. Women in nunneries may never leave the grounds, but they may speak freely to each other and even learn to read. The Church has, however, put severe restrictions on nuns: they must swear never to use sorcery if they have it, or be burned at the stake. Courtesans, meanwhile, receive impeccable schooling. Those who fail end up in whorehouses - but those who succeed can end up the personal aide of a Prince. The difference between triumph and tragedy is thin - one wrong word might be enough to be bought by an abusive nobleman or worse. However, a skilled courtesan can find a noble who will do anything for her, wielding him like a puppet. Courtesans are typically peasants or minor nobles sold to the courtesan's guild, and no sorcerer is allowed to become one. Senzavista are only rarely allowed. Some women do not obey the rules, though - they flee, trying to make a life for themselves outside. These runaways are generally hunted by Vodacce swordsmen who seek to bring them to 'justice' for their transgression of culture, and they usually have the personal backing of a Prince. The punishment is always the same: burning at the stake.

Vodacce is unique in that they do not outlaw duels, even those by non-Swordsmen. Most noblemen are Swordsmen, of course, due to their training...but some are not, and if everyone is a Swordsman, none can issue a proper challenge. The Vodacce pay lip service to the Guild at best. The Guild once considered issuing sanction against the whole country, but after Villanova killed a rival publically and then the ten Swordsmen sent to collect grievances (and sent them home in pieces), they tought better of it. We'll skip most of the art section since it's not that interesting - except one note. The Vodacce breed spiders as pets, and they take the place of dogs and cats for the nobles. Cats are common, but the Fate Witches refuse to keep them, seeing capture of a cat as unlucky. It's not that they dislike them - far from it - they just see it as a wrong to imprison them as pets, so instead Vodacce has a huge stray cat population, generally fed by donation to large public troughs. Spiders, meanwhile, are kept and bred for various functions, sometimes enchanted via esoteric Sorte.

There are a number of famous authors and artists in Vodacce. The greatest, of course, is Cristoforo Scarovese, and it should be understood: he really didn't like the people whom he wrote about. He thought they were horrible people - but he felt they could unite Vodacce, which was his goal in life. He tried to gain favor with those he wrote about, and his work shocked and outraged the public - but the nobility loved it, and adopted it wholeheartedly. Scarovese was appalled, but could do nothing - to keep his money, his family required him to embrace his 'success.' He hated what his work had become, but he had to do nothing if he wanted to live. He never wrote another book, and died mysteriously of food poisoning in 1412. Then there was the greatest sculptor and architect of Vodacce, Benzidi Poficiare. He singlehandedly restored fame for architecture to Vodacce, and his work dominates baroque architecture. His work uses Sorte to help provide tnesion for high arches, creating a strength that mere stone could not provide, and many believe he sold his soul to Legion for his talent. Lastly, there is Leotano Vinchenti, student of the Castillian scholar Manuel Chrysoloras. He was an inventor, a scholar, a sculptor and a painter. He spent years trying to master alchemy, creating traps to capture sea monsters and spreading knowledge in every way. He did everything . He is, you know, da Vinci. He could speak with fourteen languages, write with both hands at the same time and recite entire chapters of philosophy from memory. He built kites that needed ten strings to pilot and many other things. He never took any offers of patronage, taught a generation of students and was one of the most prolific men of the Renaissance. And, to everyone's admiration, he never had anything to do with the Great Game. He died at 76, and was buried beneath the Rachele.

Religiously, of course, the Vodacce are all Vaticine. All of them. However, theirs is a Vaticine belief system that is full of odd contradictions. They define vice in such a manner that it does not interferre with their lifestyle - and in return, the church is granted authority over all spirituality. Fate Witches devoutly pray for futures they could easily control with magic, husbands pray for the lives of their families and then return home to women who are not their wives. They honor the sanctity of human life, yet often duel to the death. The Vaticine has an elaborate system to address these contradictions, which is nearly as complicated as everything else in Vodacce. It should be noted - while all Vodacce might appear devout, many just use religion as a political tool. Still, the Vaticine is firmly ensconced in Vodacce, and the peasants and priests tend to be truly devout. Objectionism is never going to get a foothold here, and even Giovanni Villanova must be seen in church each week or he would have his power threatened in a way nothing else could do. Still - the Vaticine was tried hard when Scarovese's work was published and quickly supplanted their traditional values. The Church has responded by reinforcing Numa's role as an impartial moderator and become a balancing force in the Great Game, trying to mediate and be the trustworthy party in a nation of underhanded dealings. They brought peace to wartorn regions and established Numa as neutral ground. Of course, they are now part of the Great Game even as they try to control it, and have been compelled in some times to exercise Scarovese's teachings in their own unique way.

Now, important people. Gespucci Bernoulli, like most of his family, is a devout Vaticine. He is also very, very, very rich. Like, so rich only l'Empereur comes close. He works hard to stay on good terms with the Crescents, and while he hasn't left Vodacce in years, his name still holds weight there. As a result, his lands are also less of a target for Kheired-Din. However, he feels that the Church comes first, and is a major supporter of its doctrine and its finances. His sons, Augustin, Giuseppe and Dominic, are the most renowned hellions in Vodacce, despite their father's convictions. All three regularly head into the Crescent Empire for trade, and while they keep things in order, the business matters a lot less to them than their own fun. Augustin has a reputation as a womanizer, Giuseppe kills on a whim and Dominic...well, he smokes the desert weed. Gespucci's given up on correcting them, and prayers for their souls when he dies. His closest friend is Cardinal Ciosa, whom he supports without question. Common rumor is that on his death, he will turn all his lands over to the church.

Vincenzo Caligari has long sought Syrneth artifacts as a way to defeat the Villanovas, but Vincenzo takes the obsession to new heights. He once wanted to join the Explorers, but discarded the idea when he realized he'd have to follow their goals as well. He wants the Syrneth to serve him, not the other way around. For more than sixty years, he has been seeking anything to aid his quest, and is a fierce rival of the Explorers. He is the foremost expert in the world on Syrneth artifacts, and owns a huge collection. However, destroying the Villanovas is only a small part of his plan: he wants to live forever. Old age is weakening him, and he'll not have that. He spends nearly all his time searching for anything that might make him immortal. Recently, it seems like he fond it. A few months ago, he locked himself in the dungeons - and then vanished for three weeks. When he returned, he seemed more vibrant, and he paid the adventurers who'd brought him the artifacts exceptionally well. They were found dead a few days later. He is mostly interested in immortality, though he has never forgotten the tale of the Caligara name, and he does care about getting his vengeance on Villanova.

Donello Falisci is a rarity as a Falisci prince - a decent man who is more interested in wine than politics. His great-great-great-so-many-greats-grandfather was Scarovese, but he shows no signs of inheriting the family lust for power. He is content to host parties and celebrations of great extravagance, and the other Princes keep waiting for the mask to drop - but it never does. Donello is extremely intelligent and stubborn, and he never does anything with less than his full intensity. He is currently looking for a wife, incidentally. Like all Falisci, he's a hedonist - but he's got some Montaigne pragmatism in him, through his mother, and while he could make a bid for the throne, he doesn't want it. It'd just get him more enemies, and even l'Empereur would bend his knee for a bottle of wine already, so what more does he need? His search for a wife has taken an unexpected turn recently - he's been enthralled by a Montaigne noblewoman, a well-educated, clever woman without any Sorte at all. He knows it's hopeless, but it doesn't matter. He's fallen in love with Jamais Sices du Sices - and she hates his guts.

Alberto Lucani grew up being told his family was worthless - that everything they did could be done better by another ruling family. He heard this and vowed to change it. In the meantime, he tried to address the deficiencies by overcompensating for everything. He tried to become the best merchant, got his workers to be the best embroiderers, sold his textiles only to the best nobles. He sponsored the Knights of the Rose and Cross in exchange for occasional aid, dressed gaudily and threw parties just to show his wealth. By the time he was head of the Lucani, he was famous as the biggest fop in Vodacce...and he didn't manage to change his family's reputation. Thangs began to look up when he married a Vestini woman named Francesca and had four children - all daughters. He was delighted, unlike most nobles of Vodacce. They'd never usurp him, and were all powerful sorceresses. He had them trained as Fate Witches and they could be hugely useful to him. There's just one problem: he loves them dearly. They are his joy, the only genuine joy he has ever felt, and he sees their intelligence, their innocence...it breaks his heart to think that they must one day leave him. He knows he can't keep them - it's not what's good for him or the family. He must sell them to the highest bidder - and he can't stand it. It is the only way for his family to prosper, yet it will make him truly unhappy.

Next time: More men of power.

"No, Gioseppe. I love you...I will always love you." "You will be burned."

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: "No, Gioseppe. I love you...I will always love you." "You will be burned."

Marco Edorardo Vestini was a boy whose every whim was catered to. His father was a boor and a hedonist, and Marco seemed ready at first to follow his footsteps. He was essentially a sociopath, a terror to his teachers and friends and some say he drove his mother to her death. On his tenth birthday, though, he stumbled across his father, unconscious, soaked in wine and hideous. He was revolted, and sought out the family priest for guidance. (Even at 10, he was rather clever.) The aboot told him that fulfillment came from honor and devotion to one's fellow man - so long as he lived for himself, Marco would be more and more like his father, but living for others would save him. Marco took the advice to heart and dedicated himself to being an enlightened nobleman. On his fifteenth birthday, he challenged his father to a duel - and while the elder Vestini was a skilled swordsman, landing a cut above Marco's right eye, Marco won, killing his father. From then on, he was the lord of the family. Since then, he's worked to make life in Vestini lands as pleasant as possible. He employs the best craftsmen, which he sells at outrageous prices, but his schools teach the poor at no cost. AS he prospered, he came to understand the abbot's wisdom. Today, he is the golden boy of Vodacce: Young, handsome and irresistable. He plays the Great Game with skill, but never lets it cloud his goals. He is the leader of the charge against the Vendel, and has advocated outright war against them. The other Princes think he's just an upstart - but he knows he's right. No longer the spoiled boy he was, he is a noble and confident leader who still bears the scar of his father's sword.

Giovanni Villanova is the leader of the most black-hearted family in the world, and has few peers in villainy. Reis may be more terrifying, l'Empereur more capable of widespread suffering - but Giovanni is a genius, too smart to be blinded by vanity or hunted by his foes. He lacks their weaknesses. At ten, his father Allegro suffered a terrible fall down a flight of stairs, breaking his neck - and none dared mention that Giovanni was with his father at the time. Giovanni's elder brother Giam became Prince then - but Giovanni had plans for that, too. Giam promised to abdicate when Giovanni came of age...but Giovanni preferred to spend two years poisoning his brother to death. Since then, he has become the best of the Great Game, having ruthless ambition and no morals. He has killed dozens and thwarted countless coups. He never underestimates his foes and is always objective - he has no use for emotion in his plans. His reputation keeps the other princes aligned against him, or he'd have united Vodacce long ago. Today, he rules with absolute authority, threatening war on his neighbors and supporting the largest university in Vodacce. He keeps a careful eye on their work, always looking for things to increase his power an prestige. He knows about the plans of the other Princes, and intends to use them to his own benefit, ensuring they begin the war so he can end it. He trusts only two people - his courtesan, Juliette, and his wife, Valentina. One is his lover, the other merely his servant, albeit one treated with greatest respect. Valentina is a powerful Fate Witch, but not so powerful as some, and he wishes that her talent were greater, to better support him. He has recently learned that Bernice Caligari is practicing new powers of Sorte, which she won't even discuss with her closest maid (his spy), but writes in secret journals (which his spy reads). He knows she's planning to duplicate some sorcery of the Mad Queen. He's sure he can turn this to his advantage, and Juliette insists she can be controlled. Giovanni is smug, evil and not at all afraid to let you know it. He is a perfect sociopath.

Imagine giant flashing lights telling you not to fuck with this guy without a plan.

Beyond the princes, there is Cardinal Teodoro Ciosa, a child of a gentry family under the Bernoullis. He grew up wanting for nothing, and entered the clergy more out of family expectation than anything else. He didn't want to be a monk or ascetic, and chose priesthood instead. He was merely an average scholar, nothing great. But in Numa, where he was assigned, he began to see the Church as something more than just a place to eat and live. He gained a new sense of purpose as he worked with the local peasants, leading him to study harder, eat less and shoot up through the ranks as he grew in knowledge and dedication. At last, he inherited his family's lands, as his elder brother died without heir - and he promptly gave it all away, dividing the lands up and giving them to the farmers living on it. Prince Bernoulli respected the man's wishes, and allowed the locals to select their own governor. Ciosa then headed to the monastery of Saint Baldarrazzo, where he quickly rose to be Monsignor. He reformed the monastery during his tenure, making it the most successful in Vodacce. He is now an old man, made Cardinal at the same cathedral he once served at. He is responsible for nearly half of Vodacce, and has never given any reason to make people regret his appointment. He is also technically still Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Baldarrazzo, and spends most of his time either there or in Vaticine City, as the cathedral is a short trip from the monastery. He is a reformer at heart, and has put forward several ideas to put the Church back on track, advocating giving Castille a new Cardinal to replace Montaigne's and shut Montaigne out of Church politics; however, Cardinal Verdugo of Castille opposes the plan, and Ciosa trusts him less and less with each passing day. His close friends with Gespucci Bernoulli.

Bartholoemus Corradin is a man from a long line of composers. His early works were unspectacular - technically proficient but lacking. Last year, however, he wrote his first opera. Vincenzo and Belloza is a tale of love and passion, chronicling the affair of the shy Vincenzo and the passionate but circumspect Belloza, who tries to get Vincenzo to make the first move by flirting with another boy, Matteo - which leads Vincenzo to find refuge in the arms of a woman named Lucia. They all confess to Father Giovanni, who guides them to one another through continued conversations with each in turn, and the final act climaxes with the four lovers confessing their feelings in a beautiful quartet. Vincenzo and Belloza come together, and Matteo and Lucia realize they are also in love. It has received great acclaims, and Corradin was marked as a man to be watched. Six months later, he made a second opera: Rosetta . It features a serving girl, Rosetta, who marries an uncaring man, Nicolo, only to fall in love with and be carried off by Prince Dante. The sorcerous dwarf Pasquale witnesses the act, and punishes everyone involved - Nicolo for being swine, Dante for carrying off another's wife, and Rosetta for living above her station. Rosetta returns to a new, caring Nicolo and the two declare their love for each other in a stunning duet. It is hailed as perhaps the greatest opera ever written, loved by commoner and noble alike. It has made Corradin a very, very wealthy celebrity, who spends lavishly and dresses in the finest clothes. He is friendly and flamboyant, acting the hedonist in all was - though he does everything he can to avoid challenges, and his hired a huge swordsman named Giorgio Filin to be his bodyguard. He refuses to take students or to accept visitors in his own home, and says he is working on a third opera, which will be his best yet.

Sebastiano Scogna is a mongrel - his mother was child of a Montaigne merchant and an Eisen captain's daughter, and his father was the son of a Vodacce sailor and a Castillian dancer. His father was a navigator aboard a trade ship, and Sebastiano soon followed his father and grandfather's footsteps, heading out to sea, where he learned to sail, swear, think fast and pray - and to dream. His father saw to it that his curious son was given education by the best tutors available, and Sebastiano took over navigation when his father grew too old to sail. His career might have peaked there were it not for that curiosity. At 22, he knew all about seamanship - and then his ship took a Castillian pirate vessel. The ship couldn't be dragged home, and Sebastiano didn't want to leave it - so he claimed it, taking a skeleton crew to bring it to Vodacce for repairs. The Santa Cecilia, as he named it for the Patron Saint of Wanderers, has now weathered several battles under his command, and the crew is fiercely loyal. They have sailed the six seas, fought pirates, drank with pirates, helped pirates and been pirates. Now 37, Sebastiano speaks seven languages, has contacts across the world and is comfortable anywhere. His first mate's a Crescent, his ship's master is a Vesten skjæren, his head borader an Ussuran and his chief gunner a Vodacce girl. He is a first rate captain and navigator, and has made lots of money for the Princes with his ship. He's very openminded, and is a supporter (but not a member) of the Order of the Rose and Cross, as well as a member of the Explorers. He can tolerate just about anything - but when he does fight, he fights to kill.

Beatrice Caligari, the only child of Vincenzo's favorite brother, has been left to her own devices for a long time. When her parents died, Vincenzo adopted her, and she grew up with Vincenzo's daughter Morella. She showed great talent at Sorte as a youth, and was sent to the Diletante to study, where she learned to dance, sew, run a household...and to read. She has kept that secret from everyone but Morella. She made three prophecies on her sister's sixteenth birthday: that Morella would marry the most powerful man in the world, but displease him. That the marriage would lead to the birth of the most powerful sorcerer ever to live. And that Morella's death would mark the beginning of the worst bloodbath that Montaigne had ever seen. The first has come true, for Morella married the Empereur, and Beatrice fears the others will as well - she's never been wrong before. She's always felt alone - her parents died when she was young, and her uncle has always been distant. Her cousins are too busy running Caligari land. She married Aldo Falisci, but he was scared to death of her and the two sleep in seperate rooms. Morella, the only sister she ever knew, left to be Imperatrice of Montaigne, and she was left completely alone. She doesn't mind so much - it's nothing new to her. She doesn't speak, invite friendships or visit her husband in his chambers. This is best, because Aldo keeps four courtesans as well as a Vesten lover who'd probably kill Beatrice. She keeps a secret journal, known only to herself and her maidservant, and spends her days practicing Sorte, manipulating the threads to some unknown purpose. Those Fate Witches unlucky enough to live near her rooms often find themselves sick and disoriented. She is a beautiful woman, but fears that beauty and refuses to enter any room with a mirror. She also wears a heavy veil at all times, and once tried to pluck out her own eyes in her youth.

Juliette is a beautiful and powerful courtesan - the personal courtesan of Giovanni Villanova. She is the daughter of Veronica Ambrogia, the courtesan who invented the Ambrogia fencing school - but she was never allowed to learn the sword. She was trained from an early age to be the best of courtesans, and learned it well. She's veryi ntelligent, and a master of courtesan skills, both traditional and untraditional, and has learned to look after herself - for none will do it for her. She began her career in Dionna, and soon had the entire male populace eating from her hand. This made her very rich, bouncing from one admirer to the next - but to be secure, she needed a permanent consort. Only one man could fit the bill: Giovanni Villanova himself. It took a year to earn his affections, and two more before he became her sole admirer. She needed all her considerable skill to manage it, and she did. Three years ago, she became his permanent consort, and has allowed him to believe that it was his prowess that won her over. She has, since then, done whatever must be done to make Giovanni happy, and in return she gets the best life a woman could hope for - so long as she stays on his good side. She has never learned Ambrogia, but Giovanni is teaching her Villanova fencing - he thinks it's funny when his courtesan can beat his students. The only problem in her life is Villanova's wife, Valentina. The Fate Witch hates her and wants to see her drowned in a canal. Giovanni protects her from assassins - and of course she can protect herself - but Valentina is implacable. The two often fence verbally.

Morgause Mercuri, once Simona Verde della Vestini, is the daughter of Denizia Verde della Vestini, mistress of the Diletante. Simona was a small girl, bullied and abused by her father and brothers, and all she ever got from her mother were vague promises that things would be better when she was older. At 13, her father arranged her to marry a cloth merchant, who made it clear that he had no use for as anything but a bedwarmer. The night before the wedding, she climbed out a window and fled. She took her new name for her new life, stowed away aboard a ship and was only found when the ship was attacked by Castillian pirates. The captain of the pirate ship Caballero Negro took her as his share of the loot, and...kept her as a, uh, concubine for a few months. Ew ew ew ew ew stop talking about people wanting to bang the thirteen-year-old girl! She learned how to live aboard a ship, and once the captain grew tired of her, he let her learn gunnery, as her small size made her good at scrambling around in the ship. She learned how to fight, how to fire the guns. And after a few months, she put her plan into action as the ship attacked a Vodacce merchantman. She blew up the powder charges she'd left all over the ship, killed most of the crew as they prepared to board and watched as the merchantman's sailors killed the rest, hiding in the powder room. Fortunately, the Vodacce were more curious about the explosions than angry at the attack, and the navigator of the merchantman, Sebastiano Scogna, took pity on her - and when he claimed the pirate ship Caballero Negro, he took Morgause with him. (This is the ruined pirate ship from Scogna's backstory. This is why it was so ruined.) Now, she is the chief gunner of the Santa Cecilia, and is fiercely loyal to Sebastiano. She is still small, but is a great shot and the fiercest knife fighter the crew knows.

Valentine Villanova was born a Vestini, and showed signs of genius from an early age. She had a great talent for painting, sculpture and math, even then, and her mother took her to a nunnery to keep her from being killed, hoping the nuns could drive the "evil" from her. The Mother Superior was dumbfounded by the girl's intuitive grasp of theoretical math despite her illiteracy, and suggested at first that the girl be trained as a courtesan. Shortly after, her powerful Sorte emerged, and the nuns punished her severely for showing any interest in math, reading or writing. Only one person encouraged her: a local girl named Giulia. Though the two could not be friends, since Giulia was a commoner, they developed a strong kinship. Valentina was taken from the nunner at fourteen, and the two wept furiously, sure they'd never meet again. Valentina soon caugh the eye of Giovanni Villanova and was married to him, producing two sons. Her duty done, the prince promptly ignored her save for asking occasional use of her Sorte. Valentina allows him to see what he wants - that she is an eager servant whose powers are just enough to do the job, but no more. She hides her true intelligence from him, as it would be highly dangerous. Villanova once caught her looking at books and beat her senseless to "teach her her place." She's never touched a book again. When Giovanni took his first permanent courtesan, Juliette, Valentina demanded she be killed and even tried to hire assassins. Villanova foiled them easily and beat her again for her arrogance, but had expected no less. In order to taunt her, Giovanni introduced Juliette at a grand ball, and Valentina threatened her life with a dagger, and when subdued fell into a fit. She was forced to leave and forbidden to return - just as Giovanni had wanted. Valentina has never forgotten the incident, and it has changed her life. Now, she is quiet, dedicating her life to her sons, and never speaks out of turn or looks up. In public, she spars verbally and very nastily with Juliette, and many believe the two will actually try to kill each other.

We move now into the new mechanics part of the book! There's a new knack for Sorte: the Black Strand. Learning the Black Strand allows Fate Witches to see the black strands, which can never be altered in any way, and the knack can only be learned by Adepts or Masters. Those who learn the knack seem to leave unnaturally long times, remaining young throughout. The black strands representing impending death - but not every person who dies gets one, so there's probably some other condition, too, which we aren't told. There are also new tricks: the Card Spreads. These can be done when using a Sorte deck as a focus, and require ten minutes of uninterrupted concentration. After that, the witch lays out the cards and follows the rules of the Spread. Spreads can cause Fate Lashes as normal. The book also suggests perhaps using Tarot cards rather than rolling dice. (There is also a sidebar on allowing Fate Witches to learn an esoteric ability to weave fate strands into music, allowing the listeners to experience new heights of emotion. The GM can allow Fate Witches to add one die to their Composer rolls per rank in Sorte, but only if their Composer is at least two. The GM may tell them to pay a Drama die for the bonus for particularly hard songs.)

The Coins Spread, which can be done by Apprentices, is used to try and increase luck in monetary endeavors for the person being blessed. The Witch pulls out all the Coin cards from the deck, shuffles them, then picks three at random, laying the second lengthwise across the first, and the third above those two. The witch either spends 1 drama die or the target spends 2 drama dice. The Witch then rolls exploding dice equal to her Coins knack (or draws that many cards, with Court cards being 10s), adding the total to the recipient's income for the next month. This Spread can be done as often as the cost can be paid.

The Cups Spread, like the Coins Spread, is easy and can be done by Apprentices. You take out all the Cups and do as above, trying to increase the attraction of a particular person to the target - it's a temporary love spell. The Witch spends 2 dice or the target spends 4, and the witch rolls dice equal to her Cups (or draws cards as above), and for every 15 points rolled, the target gets +1 die when making Charm repartee attempts against a specific person for one month. This can be done as often as the cost can be paid.

The Staves spread is harder, and requires an Adept, though the actual physical spread is identical to the above but with Staves. It increases fame and influence. The Witch either spends 3 Drama dice or has the target spend 6, then rolls dice equal to Staves and adds the total to the target's Reputation for the next month. This can be done as often as the cost can be paid.

The Swords spread is the most powerful and valuable spread an Adept can use, as it gives a destiny to a weapon that is usable by others. The spread is identical to the above but with the Swords cards. The witch spends 4 drama dice or the person the sword is intended for spends 8. This adds one Destiny die to the weapon, which we'll go into later. The weapon must be an ordinary one - dracheneisen swords, puzzle swords and so on can't be enchanted. This can be done as often as the price is paid, but the Witch can't have more than her Swords knack in Destiny dice enchanted at any given time. She can cancel any Destiny dice given at will.

The Black Spread requires a master, and it seems very simple at first - but only the most powerful can do it, and only for themselves. Never others. The spread is done with a special suit of cards, the Skull suit, which is rarely used in other things andh as the standard 1-10 and Court cards. The spread also includes the Tower arcana. The Witch shuffles the cards, blindfolds herself and picks two at random, laying one above the other. The riitual keeps the Witch young beyond her years - it doesn't extend the lifespan, but it keeps her physically young until the day she dies. If the Tower is chosen, though, all previous Black Spreads are instantly undone. You spend 5 Drama dice on this spread, and then roll dice equal to your Black Strand knack (or draw cards as above). For every 15 points you roll, you add 1 year to your Middle-Aged and Old categories on the aging charts - so rather than being Middle-Aged at, say, 26, you are Middle-Aged at 27. You can do this as often as the cost can be paid, but if you ever get a Fate Lash, your age reverts to normal.

Last is the Arcana Spread, the most powerful Sorte effect the Witches know. It can be done only by a master, and rather than cards, the Witch weaves a tapestry and weaves Fate strands into it, taking a single Sorte Major Arcana card and weaving a tapestry of the intended target in front of the picture. The effect is so powerful that it can change the target's personality, though it will eventually reassert itself. The tapestry takes two months and 50G to make, and once woven the Witch must spend 10 Drama dice to weave the strands into it, giving the target the Arcana of her choice - either Hubris/Flaw or Virtue/Wile. It lasts for 10 months, -1 per rank of Resolve of the target. It replaces any Arcana the target normally has for the duration, and can be done as often as the cost can be paid. However, you can only have three tapestries active at any given time.

Next time: Vodacce honor and what a Destiny die actually does. Also, sword schools.

One day, she just appeared up there, laughin' like a storm.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea: One day, she just appeared up there, laughin' like a storm.

The Vodacce code of honor is not adhered to by everyone, but you can take a background saying that you will never break one of its rules, ever. What are the rules? First, never harm a child. Ever. They are innocents and thus immune to the rules of the Great Game. Second, never harm a mother or expectant mother - similar reasoning, they raise the leader of tomorrow. Third, never harm the Vaticine Church or its institutions. Fourth, always meet a man's eyes unless he's clearly your superior, otherwise you're a coward. Fifth, once you draw your sword it must taste blood before it can be sheathed. Sixth, Always repay your debts - a man who can't has no honor. Always collect what's owed you - a man who can't has no strength. Seventh, family loyalty is more important than anything, and an insult to your family is an insult to you. Last, never refuse a challenge. If you take the Code of Honor background, you get XP when the rules you can't break cause you trouble...but you lose a Drama die if you break them.

The first new school of fencing is Bernoulli, a style designed based on Crescent techniques, but modified for the cavalry saber. It is designed to use sweeping moves to keep foes at a distance until they weaken, which you then take advantage of. The school's overly defensive approach and the nature of the saber make it hard to adjust on the fly, though - but on the other hand, you're hard to hit, and the methodical movements of Bernoulli can be surprising in Vodacce, where most styles use quick cuts...as long as you can keep track of them all and plan for them. An Apprentice Bernoulli fencer adds their Mastery level to their TN to be hit, learning defense first. A Journeyman learns the technique of fleché , a special lunge aimed at the head. This allows them to give up actions to add dice to the damage roll of a lunge and make it harder to actively defend against. Journeyman also get a free rank of Lunge, which raises their maximum Lunge to 6. A Master Bernoulli fencer can attack from a defensive position - even if they're retreating. Once per round, they ma reroll a failed attack.

Many do not consider the Cappuntina School a fencing school - certainly the Swordsman's Guild doesn't, and learning it doesn't get you membership. Its name is derived from the word for 'hat pin', and it's designed for women to learn to protect themselves. It uses thrown knives or, in older times, hat pins. Its great strength is swiftness, and students learn to disable foes with vicious cuts, then flee before they recover. The weakness is that Cappuntina lacks stamina - if you can't win fast, you can't win. Apprentices of Cappuntina learn to draw and throw quickly, suffering no off-hand penalty with throwing knives and letting them draw and throw a knife in a single action. They may also buy the Throw (Knife) knack as basic, not advanced. A Journeyman of Cappuntina learns to strike with more than one weapon; she can throw a number of knives per action equal to her mastery level. All must be at the same target, and you make a single attack roll for them. If they hit, they deal damage as a group, doing 1k1 damage per knife. A Master can take down entire brute squads with one rain of knives. They may modify their Journeyman flurry to hit multiple targets, but must make a seperate Attack roll for each one. For each knife you choose not to throw, you get a free Raise to the throws of each other knife that action.

The sinister Villanovas have developed the Villanova school, designed to quickly return blows and incorporating all kinds of dirty tricks. Students are taught only at a secluded academy in a swamp deep in Villanova territory, and it's said that all graduates must swear fealty to the Villanovas, though it probably isn't true. Its big strength is the ability to reverse an attack, utilizing the stop-thrust to attack the foe based on their own attack, as well as many feints. However, it also encourages overconfidence, and more than a few Villanova fencers have died due to underestimating their foes. The Stop-Thrust is a new fencing knack, which lets you use a held or current (but not an interrupt) action to make an attack on your foe when they attack you - and if you deal a Dramatic wound with the attack, they automatically miss. An Apprentice of Villanova also learns to use their concealed secondary weapon, suffering no offhand penalties when using a knife in the off-hand, and getting a free Raise on Parry (Knife) rolls. Many Villanova fencers use special ring grips as well. Villanova Journeymen learn to conceal their moves behind feints, getting a free rank of the Feint knack and raising their maximum possible Feint to 6. Masters of the school learn to trap foes by faking openings, and may voluntarily lower their TN to be hit at the start of a phase, in increments of 5. If you are attacked and perform a stop-thrust while your TN is so lowered, you get a free Raise for every 5 you lowered your TN to be hit by.

Let's see - on to Advantages! You could spend points on Cymbr Connection, which gives you Cymbr f