Skyships ply the 7 Skies, soaring from Cloud-Island to Cloud-Island for conquest, espionage, trade, and piracy. Kingdoms clash, cultures collide, and secrets abound. Heroes and villains roam Above the Blue, seeking action, intrigue, adventure, and style. Will you be one of them?
Enter the world of Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies (S7S), the latest game from Chad Underkoffler featuring the PDQ system! In S7S you'll find a richly detailed setting of sky-ships, piracy, intrigue, mysticism, musketeers, and more, whether you're sailing through the haunted Ghost Sky, battling pirates from the inconstant isle of Ilwuz, intriguing in the Spider Empress' court of Barathi, or chasing thieves across the rooftops of Agua Azul.
A Game of Imaginative Fantasy Swashbuckling [ edit ]
Like many of the other pirate RPGs listed here, Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies takes a more fantastical approach, rather than a realistic one. Instead of being set on Earth it is set in a world with a flat bottom (filled with blue goo), a fiery center, and a bunch of floating cloud islands orbiting that fire. There are seven "skies" (akin to seasons) which also orbit, giving the setting its name.
The Seven Kingdoms
There are also seven different orbiting kingdoms, each offering a very unique setting to explore. There's the Royal Colrona, which is similar 17th Century France, but then there's also Sha Ka Ruq, a (very different) land of wilderness and a barbarian people ... who ride giant parrot-like birds.
There's the Middle East-flavored Zultanate Colrona for Arabian-style adventures, the mysteriously teleporting pirate island of Ilwuz, and the viking-like Viridia. Finally there's the urban/city setting of Crail, and Barathi, a Renaissance Italy-like country of intrigue and deceit.
Traveling between these different sky islands requires sailing through the skies, but when a ship arrives at a kingdom it can't "fly in": it has to sail in on the kingdom's ocean. This ensures that, despite the sky piracy aspect of the setting, there's still opportunities for more traditional naval encounters.
The PDQ# System
Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies uses a variant of the "PDQ" (Prose Descriptive Qualities) system, known as PDQ# (ie. PDW Sharp). The PDQ system itself is a lighter rules, more narrative-focused system, more similar to an RPG like Fate than a traditional one like Dungeons and Dragons.
Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, First Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse
Character Creation [ edit ]
Characters in Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies don't have attributes or skills, as in many RPG systems. Instead the game uses a lighter-weight concept of "fortes" and "foibles".
A forte is a word or phrase that describe's one of a character's strong points. It might be a skill they have (eg. Fencing or Skysailor), their background (eg. Aristocrat or Priest), or a resource (eg. Sidekick or Vehicle).
Each character gets seven fortes, some tied to their background and some that they can choose freely. The game provides 36 defined fortes, but players and GMs can easily add others. Each forte has a rank, with new characters getting their fortes at rank Good (+2).
One of the character's fortes is the special "Swashbuckling Forte", ie. the thing they're really good at. Players can buy techniques for their swashbuckling forte more cheaply.
Techniques are a special training, background, etc. that provides a benefit in a relevant situation. For instance, a character might be good at fighting while drunk, while in the dark, using a certain weapon, or against a certain group of foes.
Each character gets five technique points. A technique for any forte costs 3 points, while one tied to a specific forte cots 2, and one tied to the swashbuckling forte costs just 1. When used techniques give bonuses or bonus dice.
Foibles are a character's failings, and each character has one. Unlike fortes they are not ranked.
Example foibles include being loyal to a certain group, being in love, or seeking revenge. When a foil impacts the character during play, they get rewarded with a "style die".
Core Mechanics [ edit ]
Tasks in S7S cab either be "challenges", for more basic, single die roll events, or "duels", for a more extended sequence, such as a major combat.
In a challenge the GM first sets the target number, from Poor (5) to Inconceivable! (21+). The player then rolls two dice, plus any extras they may get from relevant Techniques, keeping the two best. They add any applicable bonuses from Fortes, and if the result equals or beats the target number they succeed. If they fail, they (not the GM) narrates how they failed.
Duels cover events like combat, chaces, witty repartee or high stakes gambling. Duels use multiple rolls instead of just one, and those rolls use 3d6 instead of 2d6. If there are four or more characters in a duel, they must split up into duos or trios ("that is the swashbuckling way").
Duels begin with whichever character has the most Style points, and then alternates back and forth between attacker and defender. Each round the character divides their three dice between Attack and Defense, and then they roll off against their opponent.
If the attacker beats the defender they inflict damage.
In S7S damage is taken to a characters Fortes, making them also serve as hit points in other systems. If a character is reduced to Poor (-2) in all of their Fortes, they are "zeroed out", and on death's doorstep.
When a character acts stylishly, role-plays well, is affected by a foible, gets the short end of the stick from the GM, feeds the plot, or brings snacks for the group, they earn a Style Die. They also get one just for showing up.
Style dice can be spent to either add extra rolled (but not kept) dice to a roll, or to add a simple +1 to a roll.
Combat [ edit ]
As mentioned combats are handled as duels in Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies. There are however a couple of pages of rules for combat-specific duels, covering dirty tricks, feints, impasses (conversation breaks in the fight), etc., all with a strong swashbuckling feel.
Ship-to-ship combat is handled as a special form of vehicular duel. In a combat the captain of the ship can give a number of orders equal to his bonus from his Skyship Captain forte. Vehicle dice are then distributed between the acting participants, and used to accomplish various actions (eg. making attacks).
Is it Any Good? [ edit ]
Aggregated Review Scores
|Source||Average Score||# of Reviews||As Of|
|Amazon||5 / 5||1||4/19/2022|
|Drive Thru RPG||4.7 / 5||15||4/19/2022|
|Good Reads||4.17 / 5||24||4/19/2022|
|RPG Geek||7.83 / 10||29||4/19/2022|
Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies was originally created for Atomic Sock Monkey Press, but was ultimately published by Evil Hat Productions (makers the popular narrative RPG Fate). Both are relatively small publishers in the space, and since Swashbucklers wasn't a major release for them, it hasn't gathered as many fans (and reviews) as more popular games.
However, from the almost seventy reviews we do have, we can safely say that 7 Skies has its fans. On Drive Thru RPG, where only customers can rate the game, it earned an impressive 4.7 / 5 average. In contrast RPG Geek (the web's harshest critic of RPGs) gave it a lower, but still relatively high, 7.83 / 10, the equivalent of a 3.92 / 5.
In general fans loved the diversity of the kingdoms in the game's setting, its lightweight rules, and the swashbuckling feel of the game overall. They were particularly pleased with the ship-to-ship combat, which they felt was especially well done (and is something many other pirate RPGs struggle with).
The book was not without it's critics however. Some were unhappy with the book's layout, saying that it could have used a better organizational structure overall, and more condensed summaries of the rules at the start of chapters.
At least one reviewer also felt that many of the settings of the various seven kingdoms were just too weird for a swashbuckling/pirate game, noting that neither vikings nor giant parrots were in any way period-appropriate. Obviously, this sort of thing will vary based on personal taste, but if you're looking for a "classic" pirate game, 7 Skies probably isn't your best bet.
However, if you're for a narrative system with fairly light rules, and a fantastical setting that allows for sky piracy, naval piracy, and exploration of many different adventuring realms, Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies will likely be perfect for you.