So, You Don’t Want to Be A Villain? Corruption Alternatives in 7th Sea

I mentioned in the 7th Sea review that I’m not a fan of removing agency from the players when it comes to the corruption mechanics. Rolling the character’s corruption or lower causes them to become a villain, which means with a really bad roll, the first time a character does something morally questionable, they can turn into an NPC.

I like having mechanics that reinforce the theme of a game. I’m all for tracking corruption. I just don’t want to have an all or nothing rule that literally yanks a character away from the player.

What I’m thinking of would run parallel to the Death Spiral for a PC. It would still reinforce that you don’t want to have corruption, and still encourage a redemption story. It would not, however, cause a player to lose their character right off the bat.

And yeah, I know–I haven’t played with the rules as written yet. Generally I like to do that before I tinker with a game system. This is kind of a thought exercise about one of the things I’m not as excited about, regarding the system.

The Corruption Spiral

The assumption is that if a character has corruption, that it bothers them. They haven’t given up on being a hero, they are just in a bad place. Corruption stacks the same way that it normally does in the game–first act, one corruption, second act, two plus the original corruption, etc.

But now we introduce the Corruption Spiral. Instead of rolling to see if you lose your character, for acts of corruption your character has performed, you progress on the Corruption Spiral. A character cannot spend hero points until the GM has spent points from the danger pool equal to their corruption.

Dramatic Corruption

Every fifth point of corruption the character gains adds a point of dramatic corruption. For each point of Dramatic Corruption the character has, the GM gains an extra point to their danger pool. Once a character has Dramatic Corruption, the GM can invoke their Hubris for free. The player can deny this invocation by paying a hero point instead. They can spend this hero point even if they are not yet allowed to spend hero points in the session.

This invocation and spending hero points represents a temptation to go down the dark road, and the character fighting hard against that temptation.

The Reckoning

Once a character has taken four points of Dramatic Corruption, that character leaves play. The player can decide if they want the character to die in disgrace, or if they want to redeem themselves in death. If they die, this happens off camera, between sessions (the character finishes playing the character for the rest of the session where they gain corruption, as normal).

If a character dies in this manner and redeems themselves, they can choose to perform an action that advances a story, either for the whole group or an individual character. This action cannot complete a story for anyone.

Statistically, because of how corruption escalates, this means that when a character gains their 6th point of corruption, they will take their 4th Dramatic Corruption at the same time.

Becoming a Villain

At any time while they have corruption, the player can decide to retire their character as a PC and declare them a villain. They may also chose this option when the Reckoning comes, instead of dying in disgrace or redeeming themselves in death.

Consequences of this Change

Essentially, a character doesn’t need to worry too much about having one or three corruption under this system, but statistically, under the old system, the only penalty was really that 30% chance they would become an NPC.

Taking corruption doesn’t just hurt the player, it hurts their friends. This represents that the character is conflicted. They are fighting against the corruption, so they can’t fully focus on making the world a better place.

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