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Saturday 12 October 2019

#WeAreAllUs: The Sword of Kings

October 10th marks the first anniversary of Greg Stafford’s passing. To both commemorate that date and celebrate Greg’s contribution to the roleplaying hobby, Chaosium, Inc. is publishing not just one free scenario, but five. One for each of the major roleplaying games published by Chaosium, Inc. Either designed or influenced by Greg, they include RuneQuest: Roleplaying in GloranthaKing Arthur PendragonHeroQuest in GloranthaCall of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, and 7th Sea. The aim of these releases is twofold. One is to showcase each of these worlds and roleplaying games, typically with a scenario that can be brought to the table with relative ease, whether that is your own or at a convention, but primarily the purpose is to get everyone sat round the table and playing since we are all roleplayers. In Greg’s words, that #WeAreAllUs.

The Sword of Kings is a scenario for 7th Sea, the preeminent roleplaying game of swashbuckling action, adventure, and storytelling in Théah, an alternate and fantastical version of Europe and beyond in the seventeenth century. Written by the game’s designer, John Wick, it is a one-shot, one-session adventure that can be run as a demonstration scenario, a convention scenario, or a scenario that dropped into an ongoing campaign with relative ease. It is thus quite short, consisting of three scenes and is relatively easy to prepare, but on the downside, as a demonstration or convention scenario, The Sword of Kings is lacking pre-generated player characters. The Game Master will need to prepare these prior to running the game. On the plus side, the scenario comes with staging advice aplenty such that the designer’s voice is strong throughout.

The Sword of Kings begins in medias res—two ships, one of them on fire (the one the heroes are on, of course), a raging storm, and a sea battle—as the stalwart heroes withstand assault after assault from brute squads and a villain bent on getting his hands on the one half of the McGuffin that the heroes have in their possession. The player characters are not meant to know what is going on, but a quick flashback reveals that they are off the Highland Marches having been ashore in Avalon where a woman wearing the symbol of the Explorer’s Society not only told them of a legendary sword that could ruin the reign of Queen Elaine of Avalon, she also gave them half of a map that would lead to its location. Guess who has the other half and happens to be aboard the sailing ship that is not on fire and that the heroes not aboard?

The subsequent acts get the heroes onto the island where clues to the location of the sword might be discerned and from there to its actual location. The simplicity of the set-up and the scenario—which are all but clichés—means that it is not heavily plotted, but instead focuses more on staging its various scenes, such as things that can occur aboard the burning boat, what happens should the heroes be captured, and both who the player characters’ patron might be and who the villain might be. A sample villain is included, but the Game Master is free to create one of her own or simply bring a recurring villain from her own campaign. The plot is definitely more spine upon which the Game Master can hang contingencies and the like in reaction to the player characters’ actions. Adapting to such contingencies likely means that the scenario will never quite turn out the same way twice if run as a demonstration or convention scenario.

The ending in which, of course, the heroes find the sword of the title, may well be slightly downbeat following the excitement of the opening scenes, especially if the Game Master is running it as a demonstration or convention scenario. Perhaps she may well want to add one last confrontation with the villain of the piece, if only to show off what the newly found sword can do. For an ongoing campaign this is less of an issue as ownership of the sword is likely to cause the heroes further complications.

Physically, The Sword of Kings is an eleven page, full-colour, 5.20 MB. Behind its full colour cover, the scenario tidily laid out and written in an engaging style. The scenario comes with a decent map and a decent handout (also a map).

The Sword of Kings is relatively easy to pull and run with a minimum of preparation, that is, if using it in an ongoing campaign. As a demonstration or convention scenario it will need pre-generated characters and those will need preparing ahead of time. Otherwise, The Sword of Kings comes with everything necessary to provide a 7th Sea Game Master and her players with a session’s worth of swashbuckling and sorcery—more than mild peril, a dastardly villain, a McGuffin, and a mystery.

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