Magic in Khitai

Three people 'kowtowing' to an altar, one woman crying, othe Wellcome V0015171

Let’s talk about magic.

In Théah, Sorcery is quantified and often divided by national borders. The nobles of Montaigne use Porte, and they are the only ones who do so. The Hexe of Eisen and the Glamour Knights of Avalon have distinct powers, as well as power sources, that come with their own unique and separate rules. These rules involve mechanics as well as narrative elements; a Hexe has to deal with the average Eisen’s opinion of witchcraft, while the Avalonian Knight must abide by the knightly code of the Graal.

Magic in Khitai doesn’t work the same way.

As we talk about magic, keep in mind that all of this is subject to change. Basically…

The following is a true design goal. The names and mechanics have been changed to protect the innocent.

Chinese woodcut; Daoist internal alchemy (7) Wellcome L0038977

Power Source

Khitai Magic is much more unified than Thean Sorcery. Different Nations interpret and use this power in different ways, but the font from which that power springs is shared with those of other Nations.

Shamanism involves communion with spirits. A spirit in Khitai is tied to an object, place, or ideal—a temple can have a spirit, as can a sword, as can a family bloodline. These spirits tend not to have goals beyond the preservation and safety of their tethers. The spirit of the monastery wants to protect it, the spirit of the family bloodline wants to make sure it isn’t snuffed out. Shamans can communicate with these spirits, and draw information and power from them.

Alchemy is the mystical science. Khitai holds many secrets in its stones, plants, and creatures. An apothecary studies these secrets, and learns how to combine them to achieve extraordinary results. She can craft a miraculous curative potion, or a terrifying poison. She can make a device that will create a dazzling flash of light to blind her enemies, or a small bomb to collapse a dangerous tunnel. From an elixir that forces the drinker to speak only the truth to a smoke bomb, the alchemists of Khitai study the world in order to master it.

Forbidden knowledge addresses the terrifying power of the things that creep in the shadows. Summoning and binding demons, learning secrets that are whispered in the shadows, or harnessing otherworldly power to return life to the dead, mages who study forbidden knowledge break the natural rules of the world as they see fit. While the shaman communicates with spirits of the natural world and the alchemist knows how to combine and alter substances to achieve unusual results, a person who studies forbidden knowledge discards the rules that bind them to the natural world.

Extraordinary heritage is the power that comes from a bloodline that isn’t entirely human. Perhaps an ancestor fell in love with a divine being, or your mother made a pact for power with a dragon. In either case, a person’s extraordinary heritage grants them abilities that, if they study it and seek to perfect it, grants them a great deal of power. Characters with this power might find themselves ostracized from a community or regarded as a demigod.

壺天聚樂圖-Merry Gatherings in the Magic Jar MET DP202137 CRD

National Differences

Magic in Khitai shares a small number of sources, but the Nations have different expressions of that power. A shaman from Agnivarsa has a great deal in common with one from Han. Both of them commune with spirits, but the shaman from Han does so in a different way—and can appeal to the spirits for different benefits. The two share similarities in their experience that they can bond over, but have enough differences to create drama and a sense of uniqueness between them.

Fair Warning

Those are our goals for magic so far. A lot of things are still in development, but if you’ve read the Quickstart (which you should), you’ll get a good idea of the direction we’re going.

7th Sea: Khitai is on Kickstarter NOW through November 12thTo celebrate the first major expansion of 7th Sea’s world, we’re sharing stories and thoughts straight from the developers. We’ll be discussing people, places, magic, game systems, and what the designers themselves are most excited about! Stay tuned.

Takahashi Rumi

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi - The moon on Musashi Plain (Musashino no tsuki) - from the series 'One hundred aspects of the moon (T... - Google Art Project
The Moon on Musashi Plain, by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi
Takahashi Rumi is the daughter of the Daimyo of the White Fox Clan. Her older brother Rikimaru was always slated to be their father’s heir, so Rumi’s fate was unclear. Married to secure a political alliance, or acting as an advisor for her brother? She was never certain, but she always trusted her father. He expected a great deal of her, and always told her that his aspirations for her were more than anyone suspected.

In her youth, Rumi was an exceptional student and obedient daughter. She studied hard, and always did as she was told. Her tutors praised her attentiveness to their lessons and her overall intellect no matter what the subject. Like most girls of noble birth in Fuso she studied etiquette, calligraphy, poetry and music, but her father also insisted on her instruction in the fields of mathematics, philosophy, and history.

She studied cooking (although her social status would almost certainly ensure that she would never be required to prepare her own meals), military history (despite the fact that such topics were often considered too gruesome for a girl of her station), and architecture (she would certainly never be called upon to design the layout for a castle).

She studied kendo, alchemy, archery, horse riding, and gymnastics. While always studious, she didn’t excel in everything (she is the first to admit that her equestrian skills leave much to be desired).

Then, on her 17th birthday, her father presented her with a curious gift. Once all other gifts had been presented, he met with her privately and gave her a box containing a wooden mask, carved to resemble a fox’s head and painted pitch black.

Then he spoke of her calling.

All of Rumi’s life, all of her schooling and education, had been to prepare her for this purpose. Her father had always planned for her to take up this mantle, and now it was time for her to understand what would be asked of her.

To devote her life to serve the clan, the family, the Emperor. To keep all of them safe from their enemies, no matter who they were, what allies they had, or what their plan of attack was. This was why she studied architecture—in order to understand how a castle is designed, so that she could find where she needed to be. Cooking taught her what could be eaten safely and what was poisonous, and military history educated her on the ways a general views a battlefield so that she could predict their decisions.

All of Rumi’s life, all of her schooling and education, had been to prepare her for this purpose.

Publicly, she would serve her family in the capital as a diplomat and ambassador, safeguarding their political and economic interests. Privately, she would spy, steal, blackmail, listen—and if needed, she would kill. All for Fuso. All for the Emperor. All for the White Fox.

Takahashi Rumi is now the Black Fox. Along with the assassins appointed by the other clans (one from each Clan—always and only one from each Clan), she meets with the Emperor to do what must be done in order to keep Fuso working. Now, however, she suspects that one of the others has been replaced with an imposter. She wants to uncover the infiltrator, but she doesn’t know who she can trust—after all, the most likely culprit is one of the other clans or perhaps the Emperor himself.

7th Sea: Khitai is coming to Kickstarter October 3rd. To celebrate the first major expansion of 7th Sea’s world, we’re sharing stories and thoughts straight from the developers. We’ll be discussing people, places, magic, game systems, and what the designers themselves are most excited about! Stay tuned.

Heroic Stories in Khitai

7th Sea: Khitai – The Duel

Khitai presents opportunities for heroic stories very different than the ones we see in western culture. The typical western hero is a renegade, rebelling against the corrupt tyranny of society. In the west, we distrust authority, often casting such figures and structures as villains. Think of Darth Vader and the Emperor in Star Wars, the Alliance in Firefly, or even Principal Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. These people and entities exist as villains in the west because we, as a people, feel distrust of authority is virtuous. A citizen’s duty is to guard and monitor people and structures of authority.

However, the Eastern Hero we’ll find in Khitai has a different attitude toward those same people and structures. In Khitai, a Hero’s duty is to protect those people and structures. Think of the role of the yojimbo: a bodyguard who puts the life of his charge above his own. This is because Khitai views human institutions as representations of natural order. All the world has order: the turn of the seasons, the movement of stars, the cycle of life and death. Everything has an order, and that includes the lives and destinies of human beings. The purpose of authority is to maintain the health and welfare of its people. When all things are in balance, people and institutions work toward this goal, but when they are not in balance, people and institutions begin thinking about themselves above the welfare of others. This kind of selfish pride is often considered the worst kind of villainy in Khitai. A human who thinks she is above the natural order, thus throwing off the cosmic balance, bringing suffering and despair to others, just to nurture her own pride.

“Everything has an order, and that includes the lives and destinies of human beings.”

So, let’s return to Star Wars for a moment. For while it may appear to be the story of a Western Hero rebelling against authority, Luke Skywalker is actually an Eastern Hero trying to restore balance to a galaxy that has been thrown out of balance. The Empire could be using its power to bring peace and plenty to its people, but instead, serves the selfish needs of a very few. The Rebellion seeks a political solution to the problem, but Skywalker knows the solution is actually metaphysical. The soul of the galaxy is at stake, and the only way to save it is to redeem it. And that means redeeming the soul of his father, Anakin Skywalker: a hero who failed his own test, just as Luke is in real danger of failing his own. In the end, by casting down his weapon, Luke is willing to give his life to prove to his father that he does have light still in his soul. And his sacrifice—his unwillingness to fight the Emperor—Luke redeems his father, transforming him from Darth Vader to Anakin Skywalker again.

Han Solo, on the other hand, is the Western Hero. He’s a smuggler and a thief, dodging authority whenever he can. He doesn’t trust the Empire because it is authoritarian—as opposed to Luke who fights against it because it’s villainous. Han gets involved because he wants the money promised him, but he stays involved because of his friendship with Luke and because he’s fallen in love with Leia. And while those motivations are selfish, the outcome—the overthrow of the Empire—is still a just cause in his eyes. Solo is selfish, but he’s only selfish up to a point. He probably wouldn’t smuggle slaves, for example. He wouldn’t use his profession to protect the Empire or help it flourish. He’s still a hero, even if some of his motivations are less than heroic.

Han Solo represents the things we admire about the Western Hero.

In the end, Solo represents everything we admire about the Western Hero while Luke represents everything we admire about the Eastern Hero. Han values freedom. He’s highly independent and provincial and informal. Luke values virtue, and wants to save the galaxy from something he views as morally foul. Han wants to dismantle the Empire because he believes that freedom itself is a virtue. Luke wants to dismantle the empire because he believes it doesn’t serve its people in the appropriate way.

Granted, Luke’s journey begins as a revenge quest. The Empire killed his family—both his father and his aunt and uncle—but he eventually overcomes that hate and his own personal motivations. He realizes vengeance will not solve the problem. Solo, on the other hand, maintains his personal motivations and helps overcome the Empire because his personal motivations give him the strength and courage he needs to be a hero.

And so we have the Théan Hero empowered by freedom and the Eastern Hero empowered by balance. In the end, both Heroes want the same thing: peace and harmony for all. But they get there on two separate paths. This isn’t to say that they can’t sit together at the same gaming table and fight against villainy. Just as Luke and Han fight together, so can your Théah and Khitai Heroes fight together. But they get to bicker and argue all the way, just as Han and Luke do.

The friends who fight together, stay together.

7th Sea: Khitai is coming to Kickstarter October 3rd. To celebrate the first major expansion of 7th Sea’s world, we’re sharing stories and thoughts straight from the developers. We’ll be discussing people, places, magic, game systems, and what the designers themselves are most excited about! Stay tuned.

Last Day for DriveThru’s Xmas in July Sale

We’re celebrating DriveThru’s Christmas in July Sale with 25% off JWP titles—including the 7th Sea Core Rulebook, Nations of Théah Volume 1 and Pirate Nations.

You’ll also find these recent titles on the John Wick Presents publisher page:

Nations of Théah Volume 2

As Théah’s eastern nations struggle to find their footing, explore revolution and democracy in a landscape where unrest looms in the horizon. Click here to view on DriveThru.

7th Sea Adventures

We’ve published two official 7th Sea adventures, with more to come! Explore war-torn Eisen in The Castle and delve into The Grand Design in The Caliberi Letters.

Explorer’s Society

The 7th Sea community content program is thriving! Try out Sweet Jenny, a gambling card game set in the world of Théah, download the free Wine List, or use Cards on the Table to create new Consequences and Opportunities in your next 7th Sea game.

Game on!

-John & The Crew

Vote for 7th Sea at the ENnies

Summer is con season, but that also means it’s awards season. We got nominated for an Origins Award, won a Golden Geek, and now, it’s time for the ENnies.

Usually, I don’t get excited about awards, because I’ve won my share, but this year is a little different. People like Mike Curry, Rob Justice and Mark Richardson are up for the first time and it would be really cool to let them take the stage. That’s my plan, anyway.

So, yeah. I’d like to see the people who worked so hard to bring 7th Sea: Second Edition to life get some recognition for that. And you can help. Go to the ENnies website and vote. If you think we deserve an award, give us a thumbs up. That way, the folks who brought you 7th Sea 2e will get that recognition they deserve.

Thanks and see you at GenCon!

-John


For quick reference, here are the nomination categories. Thank you for your vote!

Click here to vote.

 

 

 

Free RPG Day 2017: Official 7th Sea PDF Adventures

We’re celebrating Free RPG Day early at John Wick Presents!

Today, we’re proud to announce the launch of the 7th Sea: Second Edition official adventures line, available on DriveThruRPG!

The Caliberi Letters (written by John Wick)

The War of the Cross nearly destroyed Théah. In the end, nearly eight million people died. But what many do not know is the secret reason behind the War…

The Caliberi Letters is the first part in a series of adventures called The Grand Design, which reveals this secret truth to your Heroes. What begins at a wake for a friend—Magda Müller—turns into a desperate chase to expose the Villains who burned Théah to the ground for their own personal gain.

You can play this adventure with Heroes from any Nation, although a Hero with Hexenwerk can provide an advantage when it comes to dealing the dead. The Caliberi Letters will be free to download until Thursday 6/22 in honor of Free RPG Day. Click here to download.

The Castle (written by Rob Justice and Leonard Balsera)

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…

The Castle is a supernatural horror adventure set in war-torn Eisen; it’s an adventure for adult audiences that comes with the following content warnings: cannibalism, loss of agency, child endangerment and risk of death. The Castle will be available to download for $1.99 until Thursday 6/22. Click here to download.

Thanks for joining us to celebrate the launch of the 7th Sea Adventures line!

The War of the Cross: A Letter From John

Hi everybody!

It’s hard to believe that the Kickstarter launch for The War of the Cross is just one week away. We’re going to be publishing updates every day this week to talk more about the game and to share our excitement. Today, I’m here to tell you a little bit about the history of The War of the Cross board game. It all starts twenty years ago. Actually, twenty-two, but who’s counting?

Back in Rancho Cucamonga, California, in the AEG offices, Dave Williams and I (and others) were working on the Legend of the Five Rings collectible card game. We were all first time game designers, flying without radar, fresh out of college and thought we knew everything. Dave and I began bonding over games, and as we talked, we found out we two mutual favorites: Avalon Hill’s Dune and Diplomacy.

Dune Board Game print-and-play recreation, Image from Board Game Geek

We used to talk about a board game that combined the best aspects of both games. Not a lot of math, intuitive rules, lots of diplomacy and secrets. But L5R dominated our time back then. Dave and I both went on to win Origins Awards—for Best Collectible Card Game and Best Roleplaying Game—and a lot of that had to do with the chemistry we had. Dave was in charge of mechanics and I was in charge of story, but I was always in Dave’s office making suggestions and he was always in my office making them, too. It was kind of like a guitarist and lead singer playing off each other’s strengths. That chemistry, I think, is one of the many reasons L5R really felt like capturing lightning in a bottle.

Many years later, when the 7th Sea Kickstarter exploded, Mark Diaz Truman and I talked about making a board game stretch goal. And as soon as we did, I thought of Dave and the game we always wanted to make together. So, we gave him a call.

Dave jumped at the opportunity, but insisted we bring Luke Peterschmidt on as well. I’ve known Luke almost as long as I’ve known Dave. He’s been doing board game Kickstarters for a while and had the kind of experience neither of us had: actual production. That’s so important. So many landmines you have no idea are out there waiting for you, and Luke knew them all.

Dave and Luke drew up a board and started proposing rules. Mark and I threw feedback at them and things started moving fast. Big changes, little changes. But the goal was always the same: simple game, intuitive rules, no dice, lots of diplomacy, and secrets. We stuck to those goals and one day, I received a working prototype in the mail.

Meanwhile, Thomas Deeny and Mark Richardson—layout and cartography, respectively—started making a board. Thomas has experience in board game layout, so his insight came in useful as well. And, of course, Mark’s attention to detail added even more awesome.

Side-by-side of early version of map and final map

And now, as I write this, we have a game that I think achieves all the goals young Dave Williams and John Wick wanted those twenty years ago.

And let me tell you, honestly, no BS plug here: I love playing this game. I’ve been playing it almost non-stop since I got the materials in the mail. I’ve been playing it with folks new to strategy games, folks who play a lot of strategy games and a whole ton of grognards (a term I not only use as a compliment, but considering my age and time in the industry, now wear with pride). A local game designer here in Phoenix—a man with some merit—told me, “I like this game more than Diplomacy.” That made my heart two times too big for my chest.

The game also accomplishes another goal of mine: it broadens the world of 7th Sea. The 30-year long incident known as “The War of the Cross” has always been a kind of mystery. Everybody knows about it, but not everybody knows what happened. Now, with this game, we can tell the story of a three decade long war that nearly tore Théah apart. And there are secrets—oh, yes my friends, there are secrets—waiting for you to uncover in the game. The origins of the war go deeper than politics. And why did the war go on for so long? There’s a reason. It’s ugly and awful. And you’re going to be mad.

Let me say that again: you’re going to be damn angry. And when the Heroes of Théah discovered it…

Well, let’s just say you’ll be finding that all out in The War of the Cross.

See you there!

-John Wick


The War of the Cross launches June 20th on Kickstarter. We’ll be counting down with daily updates and sneak peeks of the board game on the 7th Sea mailing list. Sign up to receive those updates here:

Awards Suck…Until You Win One

That picture is me holding the “Golden Geek” award for Best RPG from Boardgamegeek.com. See that look on my face? It’s a look of suspicion. As in, “I don’t trust you.”

I have mixed feelings about awards. And as award season begins this year, I find myself thinking a lot about them. I mean, I could write an essay about awards after awards season, but that seems…you know…disingenuous. Best to do it before all the nominations start so I can sabotage my company’s efforts up front rather than seeming to bitch about them afterward.

I’ve won a pretty good number of them. RPGA Player’s Choice Award for Best RPG, Origins Award for Best RPG (twice), I was on the design team for Best CCG (again, twice)…I’ve won my fair share of them. And winning an award is fun. It’s recognition from fans and peers that you’ve done a great job.

7th Sea Second Edition was the result of a lot of work from a lot of different people. Mark Diaz Truman, Marissa Kelly, Mike Curry, Rob Justice, Jess Heinig, Thomas Deeny, Mark Richardson, Brendan Conway, Sally Richardson, Amanda Valentine, Shen Fei, Giorgio Baroni, Manuel Castañon Gurerero, El Tio Drake, Young Yi Lee, Digeo Rodriguez, Beth Sobel, Meagant Trott…and that’s just to name a few. That’s a lot of people doing a lot of hard work to make 7th Sea a great game. And they all deserve recognition for their work.

But is it “the best” game?

I’ve never been a fan of the idea of “best.” In fact, it unsettles me. I don’t know how you evaluate any work of art over another. Is 7th Sea better than Masks (the runner up)? I don’t know. Or Wrath of the Autarch? I don’t know. I own both of them and I don’t know which measuring stick anyone uses to evaluate one RPG over another one.

Instead of definitive terms such as “better” and “best,” I like to use more subjective terms such as “favorite.” Pendragon is one of my favorite RPGs. I don’t know if it’s the best RPG, but I do know it’s one of my favorites. Over the Edge kicked me in the teeth with its design and presentation and I know other game designers have cited it as an RPG that influenced them as well. But is it “the best?” Very soon, Pinnacle will be launching a Kickstarter for the new edition of Torg. I love that game and can name at least ten other designers who do as well. But is it “the best?” I have no idea because I don’t know what criteria to use. And I’m pretty sure every person has their own way of evaluating games. Kind of like measuring apples and oranges but worse because everyone has their own definitions of apple and orange and what makes those things better than the other.

I’m also suspicious of awards because they make the whole creative process into a competition. I’ve already played in the Camarilla and I’ve seen what happens when you add PVP to the creative process, so no, thank you. I prefer helping and working with my fellow creators, not compete against them.

Awards also get into your head. Make you feel like you’re better than you are. Go back to the early days of the Legend of the Five Rings forums and look for my name. Yeah, you’ll see how quick awards can go to a normally humble guy from Minnesota’s head. It happened so fast, I don’t even remember when the transformation took place.

I remember winning the Best RPG Origins Award for Legend of the Five Rings. I was so damn proud, but at the same time, I also felt awful for the folks who didn’t win that award. I wanted to apologize. I loved their games. At the same time, I remembered that my mom—who threw away all my RPGs when Oprah said they were “Satanic”—was waiting by the phone to hear if we had won. I broke up on stage in front of a bunch of people. I was proud of what we accomplished, but at the same time, I was thinking of everyone else who was nominated and how they deserved the right to stand on the stage with me. They had produced games I loved. They deserved the same spotlight as me.

So, as awards season approaches, I view it with both hope and suspicion. Hope because a lot of the folks who worked on 7th Sea haven’t won awards yet and they deserve to have a moment standing on stage, feeling that joy and elation. And suspicion because…well, all that I’ve already said. To all the winners this year, I offer you my congratulations. And to all the “losers,” I offer you my congratulations as well. Maybe I’ll make my own awards and hand them out at the big cons this year.

Yeah…I’ll have to talk to Hannah about that…