Posted on September 17, 2004 by Flames
Written by Robert Baxter, Edwyn Kumar, Scott Mitchell, Joseph Nassise, Creative Illusions (CTV10002)
I recently ran across The Seventh Seal: Roleplaying Game of Prophetic Revelations at a local game convention. With all the other games about the end of the world out, or coming out, I wanted to know what made this game stand apart. Initially it appeared that the setting was the major difference. This game did not take place after the apocalypse, or even during the final epic battle between good and evil. Instead this game takes place during the events that lead up to that war. The result is a game that has more in common with our own world, and, therefore, places it firmly in the Modern Horror genre.
More important than the setting, however, are the characters. The Seventh Seal revolves around “tragic heroes.” These are the men and women who sacrifice their “normal” lives to postpone, or hopefully thwart altogether, the end of the world. But how does one build a character for a game like this that isn’t some flat monster hunter?
That is where the Sentinel’s Bible: Player’s Source Book comes into play. It is an invaluable resource to understanding and creating round, realistic characters for The Seventh Seal.
The introduction follows the story of a lone Sentinel as he attempts to find other people following his cause. It continues the saga of Josh Cable that was started in the core book, and is written in the form of diary entries and flashbacks. The chapter is made to look like an open notebook, and aids in creating the feel of reading an artifact from the game.
Chapter One, The Tragic Hero, outlines the creation of believable, compelling player characters. It pulls heavily from classical ideals and the work of Joseph Campbell, and his mythological archetype of the Hero. This chapter is a must for both players and Prophets. In fact, this chapter is worth the price of admission. Rounding out the entry is a list of inspirational sources including books and movies.
Chapter Two, The Chosen Elect, primarily lists material that has a mechanical bearing on the game. Several new backgrounds are written-up, including many “joe – everyman” backgrounds, but also more esoteric entries such as “magi” and “psychic.” Additional Benefits and Detriments are also included. The most important part of this chapter is the inclusion of three new archangels for the PC’s to choose from. These additions alleviate a major complaint from the core book, which contained only four paths for the characters to choose from: if a “standard” RPG party consists of roughly six player characters, they would have to double up on which archangel to follow. Now, with the Sentinel’s Bible there are enough different player character paths to keep a party diverse.
The downside to the additional archangels is that they might be a tad unbalancing. They seem to be character classes that would be more suitable for NPC Sentinels that the PC’s may learn from, or more advanced player characters. Ending this chapter are three sample characters.
Grace Exalted, the Third Chapter, delineates the new Divinities and Angelic Blessings used by the newly introduced archangels from chapter two. It also establishes Divinities that can be used by the followers of any archangel and new Arcana Rites.
Finishing up this chapter are Places of Power, and the rules for Sentinels governing religious Pilgrimages. The information is well-written and informative, but might be more at home in a Game Master’s, or Prophet’s Guide.
Chapter Four, The Time of Uncertainty is very short. It gives valuable information on the world in which the game takes place, but leaves the reader wanting more. In a world so rich in biblical prophecy and intrigue, one would think that they could fill more than a couple of pages on the topic of the world in which the game takes place. In keeping the chapter short they do skirt the issue of overly dictating how the game world is, and therefore railroading Game Masters into a set plot. At any rate, the information in this chapter, in an expanded format, would fit nicely into a Prophet’s Guide.
The last two pages of Chapter Four examine the horror genre of gaming from the player’s perspective. It also lists a series of biblical symbols and their meanings. Again this might be an aid more fit for a GM’s guide, but is useful in a players’ supplement.
Legion Bane, the fifth chapter, details the seven sacraments used as weapons by Sentinels against their Infernal foe. The primary thrust of the chapter goes into extensive, and informative, detail about the Rite of Exorcism. The history of the rite, and easy to follow mechanics, open the door for compelling role-playing scenes and codify aspects of game-play that might have been problematic. Six more rites are listed, including Last Rites and Matrimony. They are also given rules to dictate how each of the rites affects the player characters involved. This information could be used to greatly heighten the inter-party role-playing experience, helping to bond the Tsaba together.
The remainder of chapter five is given over to a treaty on Artifacts. These objects are symbols of the Divine on earth. Charts for discerning power level and expectations of artifacts are listed. Rules for Prophets to create artifacts for their own Prophecy are proposed. Also several established artifacts, such as the Ark of the Covenant and the Spear of Destiny, are given statistics. Again, this is information that might be better placed into a guide for the game master’s eyes only.
The last chapter, Brothers in Arms, details other factions at work for the greater good in the world of The Seventh Seal. Many sample characters are listed, most of which would make nice additions as walk-on parts in any Prophecy. Not only is their personality and a brief history listed, but they are also given full game statistics. There are Lone Wolves, or Sentinels who hunt the Legion alone, and a couple full Tsaba (only the leaders are given stats).
Also discussed are two major organizations which may come to the player’s aid. Histories and background are given for the Jesuits and the Chaldean Magi. Rules are also included for making player characters from either of these backgrounds. They are well written, but leave the reader wanting more detail. On the upside the text allows for interpretation on the part of each individual Prophet.
All in all, the book is well written. The artistic style has matured nicely from the original core book, and many of pages contain “artifacts,” such as letters or journal entries, that could easily be used as player handouts or clues. The information is organized well, but perhaps not as intuitively as one would like. This is probably a side effect of the book being written for players, but containing many things best left to the game master. It is a “must buy” for all fans of The Seventh Seal, but the game master should give the book a careful look before allowing it into the player’s hands.
Reviewer: Aaron Sheehan