Welcome to Saorsa! So, wait, what is Saorsa, anyway?
Simply put, Saorsa's a tabletop role playing game focused heavily upon character customization, player choice and tactical combat, with mechanics and a setting developed to bring role playing into the modern era.
What's Saorsa about?
Well, to start with, you've committed a sin. Not against some arbitrary set of morals, not against some obscure deity you've never heard of before or anything like that. No, you've committed a sin against yourself. The one thing you considered to be the most important thing in your life, the one thing you valued above all else, which you would have died to defend... you betrayed. And, in so doing, you've been whisked away by a pack of holier-than-thou angelic wanna-bes who have decided to "fix" you by imprisoning you upon a penal colony planet which is specialized towards training its inhabitants to learn who they truly are.
Learn who you are and you'll be rewarded with the ability to go home, or to be teleported to any location or time of your choosing to begin your life anew. In fact, if you succeed well enough, you may very well find yourself ascending to godhood.
Of course, things aren't quite all sunshine and rainbows in paradise. The warden of Saorsa has plans that don't exactly jive well with the rest of the universe's inhabitants, the army of druids which reshape the world to the prisoner's needs are just about ready to begin a civil war, and things only go downhill from there.
So what makes Saorsa different?
TTRPGs have fallen behind video games heavily in terms of things like player psychology, UI management and player choice. Rather than complaining about the state of affairs, I studied and practiced as a game designer, a writer, and a world designer for years, and am now in a position to bring the highest quality TTRPG which has ever existed to the market - for free.
Come again? Yes, yes you read that correctly. Saorsa will be released as a free PDF - donations are greatly welcome of course, but if you want to just sit down and start playing with your friends, there's no financial barrier at all to be had here. I'm of the strict belief that if something is high enough quality, people will say "Shut up and take my money!" to help support their favourite game devs. Fortunately, the quality issue isn't a bottleneck for me, as the current TTRPG market is saddled with issues of not being able to progress beyond some problems that have lingered for literally decades on end at this point. Either the designers have their hands tied by corporate interests forcing them to make sub-par games due to profits coming before quality, or they're focused upon a very small niche audience, or they're amateurs with little to no experience in the field. As such, this leaves the market wide open for someone like me to come in and provide the highest quality gameplay seen to date.
So what do I mean by "highest quality" anyway? Just in and of itself, it's nothing more than marketing lingo, so let's look at what Saorsa does differently than anything else out there.
- Focus upon the characters. TTRPGs have a bad habit of being able to pull an entire party of characters out of the game and be replaced with a whole new group of characters with nothing changing. The very mechanics of Saorsa, combined with a comprehensive GM section, helps to custom-tailor games for the characters that are present, easing the burden on the GM themselves, and making the game more fun.
- That in-depth GM section is a big deal as well. We know from the last few decades that the key to a really great game comes down largely to a competent GM, yet most games just assume the GM knows how to do this well, and any resource books, such as a GM guide, tend to be filled with little else than loot tables. Saorsa comprises a starters guide for new GMs to learn how to make their own amazing campaigns, tricks and tips from experienced GMs, and Saorsa-specific information to make learning Saorsa itself that much easier.
- Speaking of GMs, those who run Saorsa get their own character - a Guardian Angel whose goal is to test the player characters. This guardian angel has various customization options to give them a distinct personality, style of gameplay, and a variety of ways they can help nudge their wards along.
- The setting of Saorsa is vibrant, yet wide open. It's been carefully constructed in such a way that pretty much any concept you can think of running can work within the system and make sense within the setting. GMs are given powerful, yet easy to use tools which help to build the game around their players, with a rough scaffolding of concepts that can tie together wildly divergent methods of storytelling. Basically, Saorsa allows for GMs to easily come up with custom-tailored worlds of their own, as well as all the strengths of a game module without the limitations.
- Player choices are extensive, with character customization being paramount. No generic elves with +2 Dex bonuses here - the species you play as are unique and interesting, with mechanics that allow each species to be distinctive from one another, while allowing individual characters to be set apart even from within the same species.
- The tactical combat in Saorsa has been built to be quick, streamlined, and yet highly engaging. Positioning enemies by knocking them back or shoving them into - or through - terrain, is augmented by things like a combo system which rewards players for applying status effects and then exploiting them.
- A modular spellcasting system makes for the most interesting spell system in any TTRPG to date. Begin with a core spell, then attach spell segments to customize the specifics of how it operates. Sure, a fireball is nice, but what about a fireball that bounces between multiple targets, exploding each time, and leaves patches of burning ground in its wake that heal allies and set enemies on fire? Unlike most other attempts to allow for customizable spells, Saorsa's Spellweaving doesn't rely on vague 'just narrate what you want to do' concepts, but actually provides a solid, balanced foundation for quickly piecing together the perfect spell for just the situation you find yourself in without slowing down the game.
- An actual stealth system which doesn't suck. No, seriously, you can actually bring your less than stealthy friends along and they'll still be useful, while your stealth expert will bring even more to the table. Specifically built to avoid the standard method of roll-to-lose most games offer, you'll actively find yourself wanting to engage with the stealth mechanics as the sneakier you are, the more rewarding it becomes, and Saorsa doesn't kick you out of stealth the instant you make a mistake, things just get... more interesting, shall we say.
- A social system which provides scaffolding for conversations that are enjoyable between NPCs and players, while not only helping that socially inept player who really wants to be James Bond actually play the suave, debonair character they've always wanted to, but also allowing the freedom for players to step more easily into the shoes of their character. Toss in the understanding that not every character will react the same way, and you'll find it may be a bad idea to try to threaten that shopkeeper after all. Fortunately, there are ways to feel out through small talk, observation and body language skills, what works and what doesn't, before you put your foot in your mouth.
- A combination of sensory awareness, intuition and the capacity of your senses makes it easy for a GM to know what a character is actually aware of so as to provide relevant information without having a random roll to see if you notice the airhorn blaring right in your face or not.
- An emphasis upon skill trumping luck, complete with a skill system which allows for the grandmaster swordsman with hundreds of years of experience to consistently always defeat the farmhand picking up a sword for the first time in his life, yet also allowing for exciting shifts to happen when combatants are nearly the same in skill.
- An advanced crafting system so your gear lasts with you the whole game. Why throw out that heirloom armour that has been passed down your family for generations for the first piece you find on the ground? How come every item you find has some excessive backstory about how it was custom-made for some famous king? Well, now you can create your own uniquely crafted gear and upgrade it to match your personal play style, and your items grow in power as you do!
- Player strongholds allow for players to pool their resources to build a base of operations that can withstand attack and provide all sorts of interesting benefits. From banquet halls fit for plying alliances with bonuses to your social actions, to being able to amass your own personal spy network, what more is there to love? ...Well, having a flying airship or a castle built around the long-dead body of a fallen goddess, I mean, that's pretty cool too I suppose.
- So how are you going to pay for all this? Most games run into issues with the one-size-fits-all solution of money being used for absolutely everything. This invariably never works properly. As such, several things most GMs use anyway have been standardized and built into the system proper, from tokens, to favours, to reputation with various factions.
- Weapons are a big deal, and let's face it, realistically most armies used spears, and swords were pretty rare. But that's not why you're here. Player characters don't tend to stay just being a generic soldier for long, if at all, and they have the time, income and capability to learn to use much more interesting, exotic weapons. From spell foci which project an image of your hands forwards to toss enemies about like ragdolls, oversized meteor hammers which can toss you about like a ragdoll, or the enormous siege crossbow meant to punch through castle walls to nail the squishy targets behind to the 4th wall they encounter leaving lovely cartoon-esque holes in the previous walls, the weapons of Saorsa are vastly more than just a generic 1d8 damage stat, but rather come with a list of unique abilities to mark for a specific play style.
And much more. Because... this sounds like an infomercial. See, I shouldn't be doing marketing, I should really have someone doing this for me, but I don't currently have that so you're going to have to put up with me writing this on my own unless you want to, you know, chip in with a subscription to help pay for that.
So why should you support me?
Now there's the real question, isn't it? I mean, I'm into the late alpha stages of building Saorsa as it is, it's going to be released free to the public anyway with full artwork and everything. Why would you support me?
Well, to get all that lovely artwork, that requires hiring artists since I simply don't have the time to build my muscle memory back up. I haven't drawn in years and while I know how, it's just not going to happen, and wouldn't be nearly as good as proper hired artists would anyway. Giving me money ensures that the artwork is top quality, and that I can hire a proper editor since, even though I've worked as an editor professionally before, it's virtually impossible to edit your own work. Quality of life adjustments like these would be nice to have, and I'd rather have the game look professional instead of just having the mechanics and setting alone be top quality. It should be a holistic package deal of quality.
The other reason is that by supporting me, I can keep producing more stuff like this. I'd love to have everything be free for everyone forever... but then I'd starve and you wouldn't get much else as there seems to be a significant drop off in productivity when dead. I have plenty of plans for Saorsa well beyond the base game, with several expansions in mind already and a novel series I'd like to write when I get the chance. For the extra stuff, I'd like to keep the costs as low as possible, hopefully under $10 apiece, and if I can get enough support through subscribers and donations, it'd be great if I could release the extra stuff for free like the base game and not worry about it. I mean, there are bonuses for supporting me and such, like early access, directly being able to question me on stuff, or to even get personal one-on-one help with your own projects, but really, I think it mostly comes down to producing something that is worth making.
So, since I suck at the talking about why you should give me money bit, let's just pretend that I totally woo'd you over with some wonderful argument, and you're like "Yeah, that's a pretty good reason." and you subscribe so I can get back to working on the game.