7th Sea: The Castle
This review is by Jeremy Wong, the other, more measured less bloviating half of Explorers.
Here’s what you need to know…
A Supernatural Horror Adventure for 7th Sea!
In northern Eisen sits the long forgotten Duster Castle, deep within the Angenehme Wald. The castle was once the proud home of the Baderbaasch scions, but their lands went into steep, terrible decline in the later years of the War of the Cross...
This adventure comes from the minds of Rob Justice and Leonard Balsera. Rob Justice worked on 7th Sea and a wide variety of games. Balsera worked on Spirit of the Century and many of the Fate games.
32 pg. PDF
About the system
“The Castle” is for 7th Sea, Second Edition, which is a game about swashbuckling and romance.
I don’t know if 7th Sea 2e is a good game. (Ed. note: I don’t either, but our talks have not made me less interested…)
Having finished a campaign for it, I found that the balance broke down and the stories became predictable. That’s when I realized I was playing it wrong. 7th Sea is more like Fiasco than Dungeons & Dragons. The messy system of Raises, Opportunities, and automatic Success works better for short campaigns or one-offs. There’s a reason that The Princess Bride, one of its chief inspirations, is a two hour movie and not a series.
The module is also somewhat setting-agnostic. So long as you have ghosts and spooky castles, you could probably run “The Castle” in just about any game with pulpy sensibilities.
The adventure is a meaty thirty-two pages. That’s a lot for a module. There’s a simple reason why.
It’s not nonlinear, but it’s also not linear. I wracked my brain on this until I realized that it’s a toolbox.
The book has a consistent arc throughout; introduction, travel to the castle, exploration of the castle, dealing with the spooky Baroness. But your arc will almost certainly be different from mine. Each of those individual scenes is actually three or more different scenes you can choose from depending on your setup.
Is the Baroness - the villain of the story - a tragic cursed victim? Then you get to use this scene. Have you decided that she’s actually a horrible vampiric monster? Then you use that scene, where she’s an irredeemable beast. That’s smart, because 7th Sea is a very collaborative game. Giving you all these options lets you change your game depending on players’ expectations, backstories, and desires.
Individually, many scenes are kind of cliche. There’s very little interesting about clearing a camp of bandits, especially in this system. Even a grisly scene like “a bunch of ghouls feasting on human remains” is scary, but not that scary. It’s not presented in a unique way. It’s just gory.
There are no images in this module. That’s fine. A picture of the castle would have been nice, though.
Each scene isn’t fleshed out in the same detail. Some of them are incredibly detailed, with ideas for Consequences, Opportunities, and stat blocks. Other scenes are just a paragraph of ideas.
You, the GM, could probably run this multiple times and get pretty different results. Not only does it have three endings, it has three beginnings. That’s good for you the GM - it’s fun to read and not boring. It’s meaty, too - $4USD gets you a lot of adventure for chump change.
The three stories are all pretty interesting! Giving you latitude to make The Baroness a victim capable of saving really breaks the mold of “spooky castle with villain in charge.”
This module has a section for “Suggested Villains.” That leads me to think that, perhaps earlier in development, 7th Sea wanted to have more focus on things like using “canon” heroes and villains. The fairly good Heroes and Villains book also came with a deck of cards so you could randomly draw your goodies and baddies. It’s a neat idea, but the financial troubles and issues with things like production may have derailed it. I’m not sure.
Buy or not buy?
If you’re good at doing some light improv, then this is a great adventure. If you’re good at the little stuff like music and lighting and character voices but bad at an overall outline, then this adventure will be perfect.
If you want specifics and stat blocks and traps and “if->then” clauses, this adventure won’t suffice.
However, for 7th Sea 2nd Edition, it’s incredible. The diversity of plots is great. The flexibility is exactly what you need in John Wick’s game of Heroes with a capital H and romance with a capital R.
Buy this product at Chaosium or DriveThruRPG…
Clayton uses his cut of the sales to mail strange things like newspaper clippings to Jeremy.