This is the set-up for 7 Aboard the Schackel, semi-randomly generated prison-crawl adventure published by Bite-Sized Gaming following a successful Kickstarter campaign. It is compatible with Mörk Borg, the Swedish pre-apocalypse Old School Renaissance retroclone designed by Ockult Örtmästare Games and Stockholm Kartell and published by Free League Publishing. It includes tables to create Player Character motivations, plots, room and location contents, random events and sounds, curses and trinkets, the state in which the surviving members of the former crew can be found, full details of the seven escaped inmates, and more.
Set-up for 7 Aboard the Schackel begins with the tables ‘2d4troubling Ties’ and ‘2d4 Conceived Plots’. For example, the ‘Lady’s Man/Woman’ entry in the former places the Player Character in fealty to Lady Anthelia who has tasked him with slaying the abomination aboard the barge, whilst the entry in the latter table places Förtära as the primary target abomination aboard, an obese woman who has entered into a bargain with a great beast from the depths of the Endless Sea and is ready to birth a cold foetus on the land which will inherit the remaining land… These two tables provide different motivations and primary enemy for any play-through of the prison-crawl, but in play, the Game Master rolls dice to populate and detail each deck of the Her Lady’s Schackel and does every time the Player Characters move from one deck to another. This includes returning to a deck that the Player Characters have already visited or explored. What the Game Master is rolling for is appearance and placement of a member of ‘the 7’, any ‘Servile Cretins’, ‘Covetous Souls’, ‘Crippled Captives’, and ‘Butchered Flesh’. Named creatures will not reappear if they are killed and the number of dice rolled each time a deck is re-entered if the Player Characters manage to clear a deck. There are five decks on the Her Lady’s Schackel.
The bulk of 7 Aboard the Schackel is dedicated to the denizens aboard the Her Lady’s Schackel. These start with ‘the 7’, monstrously fallen men and women sentenced to imprisonment aboard the prison barge. They include the ‘Falskhet, the False King’, able to command—temporarily—those he strikes with his sceptre, but also cause a target’s bones to snap and pop with his ‘Cruel Wrath’ and suffer any damage he would instead with ‘Egotistical Leech’. In his former life, he was a scapegoat for a failed uprising against Lady Anthelia and now unleashes his anger and resentment against her on anyone around him. All of ‘the 7’ are described in similar detail with clear stats and a background and an agenda. In addition, the denizens include ‘tenth-spirits’, the spectres of those given as a tithe to the Endless Sea and cursed to stay in its cold embrace rather than pass on. They include Thera, a young girl still clutching a seaweed doll and in a search of a parent and even Törgar, the dethroned and dishonoured captain of the Her Lady’s Schackel. The Servile Cretins are lingering, broken creatures which remain aboard the vessel, like the ‘Blick’, plucked eyes animated by profane magic which cast about their withering gaze.
One issue with 7 Aboard the Schackel is the focus upon its denizens, monsters, and creatures. It leaves relatively little room for the tools to help the Game Master detail the Her Lady’s Schackel. There are tables for rolling random room names and mostly useless trinkets for the Player Characters to find, but little else. This leaves the Game Master room, of course, to create her own descriptions, but more prompts and suggestions would have been useful. Another is that randomising each deck every time the Player Characters enter a deck is time consuming and potentially means more work for the Game Master. If that is the case, an option would be to create a deck’s layout and description just the once per playthrough. Lastly, one issue with 7 Aboard the Schackel is the use of the word ‘cretin’ to describe some of its denizens. It is derogatory and potentially offensive.
Physically, 7 Aboard the Schackel is presented in the artpunk style of Mörk Borg. It does mean that it places it is not easy to read and that may impede play. The artwork is decent, a dark, twisted swathe of the grim and the brutal.
7 Aboard the Schackel brings to life an almost living ship, its random elements giving it a flexibility that a standard scenario would not necessarily possess. In fact, not running it as a campaign scenario would mean not making the fullest use of this feature. It would work as a one-shot, with the Player Characters having different motivations for going aboard the Her Lady’s Schackel and possibly with a trimming of a deck or two, as a convention scenario also. In whatever way it is used, 7 Aboard the Schackel is a bloody and brutal grim dark prison crawl caught between the Endless Deep and the end of the world.