Friday, September 2, 2016

7th Sea Second Edition - Villainous Intent


Memorable heroes need memorable villains to battle. What are Batman with out the Joker, Luke Skywalker without Darth Vader or, closer to the genre point, the Musketeers without Richelieu? The first edition of 7th Sea was no slouch in the villain department. Richelieu got a worthy mirror on Esteban Verdugo, the arrogant L'Emperuer is just itching to lose his head and Reis terrorizes the sea with his murdery band of pirates and his tricked out Syrneth scythe. I'm putting together a one shot for some friends soon and I was a little surprised at just how streamlined villain design was in the game. Two stats? That's it? (I know there's a bit more, like Villainy Rank and Advantages, but this was my gut reaction.)


I think I understand the design intent. The minimalism of the stat block keeps the focus on the heroes. Many GMs would change the stats of Verdugo and his ilk anyway to avoid that one player who memorizes lore chapter and verse and might huff a bit should Reis have more dice in Weaponry than expected. It's also an easy way to drop a giant pool of dice on the table that should stand up to the combined efforts of the players.

But, still, two stats?

I could easily design NPCs as PCs, since it doesn't take much time at all and house rule in some of the functionality from Hero Points to serve those NPCs. But I've also learned as a designer that I should try to run the rules as written before I decide to tinker with something under the hood. (Partially out of respect for the other designer, partially because I've jumped in headfirst only to discover that my solution to the problem is just as bad a few times.) I may be keeping just the two stats, but that doesn't mean I can't add something to give a character a bit more depth that also offers mechanical solutions.

So, once again, I look to a superhero game for a bit of inspiration. Masks: A New Generation is an excellent Powered By The Apocalypse game that runs the teen supers genre very, very sharply. Their villains don't have any stats, and yet I was very happy with their implementation. Why? Because the villains are defined by their motives and their actions.

Villainy In Thought and Deed

When designing a Villain, summarize their Strength and Influence in a sentence. Then, take a few moments to define their Motive, Goals and their Deeds.

Motive: Why does the Villain do what he does? Page 297 is a good starting point to determine the broad motive but don't feel like you have to pick from a list. 

Goal: This is the specific application of their motive in the story. How does the villain's ambition make her do terrible things? Summarize that goal in a short sentence. Bigger villains have bigger goals. A 5 dice henchman might only want to skim a little bit of cream off the tax collector. Someone like a 20 dice Verdugo probably will  prepare the faithful of the Church by any means necessary.

Deeds: Write down three short sentences about how the Villain looks to achieve these goals. These deeds should serve to inspire Consequences when Heroes take Risks. Choose a deed that reflects how the Villain would act to solve (or cause) a problem through physical, mental or social action.

Example Villain: Serafina Bonetti

Villainy Rank: 5

"I am ready to inspect this noble blood you claim to possess."

Strength: 4

She's a very deadly duelist instructed in the
Ambrogia style by her mother.

Influence: 1

She's on the outs with the Duelists Guild (and her mother), but she can usually round up a few local thugs to back her up.

Arcana

Virtue: The War
Hubris: The Tower

Advantages

Duelist Academy - Ambrogia

Motives & Goal

Ambition. To make her way in the world as a Duelist, NOT a courtesan like her mother.

Deeds

Make a wild eyed attack that covers up a cheap shot.
Send in some Brutes to soften up her opposition.
Question something obvious about her opponent.

Opening Up A New Shop

I'll be collecting these hacks and other bits of info for an upcoming campaign at this blog. I'll still be posting any 7th Sea hacks on this page, but if you want to see more characters (like Serafina's boss), check out the other blog.