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Seven Leagues roleplaying game of Faerie $22.00 $13.00
Publisher: Malcontent Games
by James H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/13/2006 00:00:00
Seven Leagues from Malcontent Games delves into subject matter that has never been covered in any great depth by the roleplaying industry as a whole - fairies. Certainly we have our modern 're-imaginings' of traditional folklore in Changeling and Delirium, but these games are just that - modern re-imaginings. Seven Leagues deals more with traditional folklore and the otherworldly realms inhabited by the fae, although some contemporary romantic themes do leave their imprint on the finished product.

Before we go much further, I should note exactly what I mean when I refer to traditional folklore here. In traditional English and Irish folklore, fairies were most certainly not of the friendly or singular disposition that the overwhelming majority of modern (e.g., late 19th and 20th Century) fiction portrays them as embodying. In traditional folklore, fairies were the medieval equivalent of what you probably knew as The Boogeyman when you were growing up. The good natured creatures that many people associate the word "fairy" with today are purely a modern innovation designed to cast yesterday's nightmares in a different light for the youth of today.

Now, having clarified that, while Seven Leagues definitely draws more inspiration from folklore as opposed to modern fiction, it isn't all doom and gloom (as previously noted, some contemporary romantic themes do make an appearance). The difference is one of focus and, in Seven Leagues, the focus lies more on creating an alien world steeped in magic and full of peril than being politcially correct or honoring modern literary tenets. If exploring a truly different kind of fantasy is something that appeals to you, then you'll find much to like in Seven Leagues. The game is definitely best described as indulging in the baroque, as opposed to the familiar.

Characters in Seven Leagues are largely defined using only words, although some checks and balances in the form of Virtues (i.e., attributes), Charms (i.e., benefits), and Taboos (i.e., flaws) are instituted in the interest of not veering completely into what is largely uncharted territory for many gamers. There are three Virtues in Seven Leagues (Head, Heart, and Hand) which correspond to mental, emotional, and physical aspects of a character respectively. Each of these Virtues is rated on a scale that ranges from 0 to 7+, with the Virtue rating being added to die roll results during actual play. Charms and Taboos may similarly effect die roll results, but are slightly more complex, taking the form of detailed edges and flaws.

Which brings us to Fortune. Fortune is bit of a conundrum, mechanically speaking, as it appears to fulfill very much the same purpose as Charms and Taboos, albeit in a temporary capacity (Charms and Taboos tend to be permanent character features). The initial explanation left me scratching my head, but ultimately what I walked away with is that Fortune seems to serve as a kind of a dual-faceted, variable, point pool aimed at adding a few more die roll modifiers into the mix. Personally, I?m not entirely sure that using Fortune is necessary, given that it seems to cover the same ground as simple situational modifiers or Charms and Taboos do (in fact, I could see myself running Seven Leagues without it).

Finally, characters are rounded out with a Legend. I use the phrase ?rounded out? loosely as, despite being the last step in character creation, it?s arguably the one step that adds the most to characters in terms of description. So, what exactly is a Legend? Just what it sounds like - a piece of prose that details the origins of your character, be they descended from fairies or mortals. A Legend is, quite simply, your character?s own mythology. It will, of course, evolve and expand over time as the game is played - much like legends of old evolve and expand as the characters around which they revolve do ro say things to impact the flow of a story. I?ve seen this concept used in many roleplaying games and it?s something that I personally enjoy, perhaps more so in the context of Seven League?s baroque realms.

The system of Seven Leagues will be, I suspect, a love it or hate it affair for many consumers. The game engine itself is extremely light and, while it does incorporate the use of dice (a single twelve-sided die) and numbers, it is largely focused on using descriptive language to both evoke action and atmosphere. The crux of action resolution itself revolves around rolling a result that is equal to or exceeds thirteen on the aforementioned twelve-sided die (you add modifiers to the die roll based on a number of different things, including a character?s Virtue ratings and their Charms or Flaws). If a player manages to do so, their character performs whatever action that they were attempting successfully, while should they fail to do so, the action outcome is also a failure. It is all very, very, simple.

For me, system transparency is a huge selling point, and Seven Leagues nails it. The nice thing is, it doesn?t do so at the expense of all detail, only at the expense of unnecessary detail (something that a great many game designers could learn from, in my opinion). Seven Leagues gives you absolutely everything that you?ll need to weave thrilling adventures, without weighing you down with rules that serve only to suspend the adventure to focus on metagame considerations. If you play RPGs to act out adventure, you?ll likely enjoy this aspect of Seven Leagues, but if you merely see RPGs as being advanced board games and think that the means matter more than the end, Seven Leagues will probably disappoint.

In the end, I think that Seven Leagues will appeal most to those consumers who enjoy a baroque fantasy experience, transparent rules, and the use of dice as randomizers. If you have a strong aversion to any of those three things, Seven Leagues may not be the game for you, but otherwise, I think that you'll find it a very satisfying experience. I?m not a huge fan of fairies or the fae in role playing games, but Seven Leagues gave me pause to rethink my biases - and I am certainly glad that I did.

[Note: This review was edited for spelling.]






LIKED: I very much enjoyed the transparent mechanics, with the possible exception of Fortune, which seemed to cover some ground twice. Additionally, I much enjoyed the focus of the game and the opportunity it gave me to view faries in a traditional context.


DISLIKED: Not much, honestly. Only Fortune sticks out in my mind as being somewhat awkward and, even then, I'm still on the fence for the time being.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review. For anyone wanting another perspective, there's also a pretty comprehensive review at http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/12/12417.phtml. Thanks again!
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Seven Leagues roleplaying game of Faerie
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