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Develop your inner strength in a tactical choice-driven RPG inspired by Caledonia, featuring Doug Cockle, the voice of the Witcher.
Develop your inner strength in a tactical choice-driven RPG inspired by Caledonia, featuring Doug Cockle, the voice of the Witcher.
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1,435 backers pledged $65,000 to help bring this project to life.

Design Focus: Rethinking Choices & Consequences + 50% of the goal reached!

Posted by Poetic (Creator)

First of all, I'm happy that we're half way there! We've just reached 50 % of our goal in just 9 days, with 19 days still to go. Thank you so much for your support.

And thank you for your great reactions in comments when I asked you what topics you’d like us to cover in updates. Describing how we innovate the fundamental choice & consequence mechanic ended up being the favorite.

So let's dive into what we do differently and let's start with the why: while we love many RPGs, from Fallout to Shadowrun Returns to The Witcher, we think RPGs usually have a pacing problem, where story and gameplay do not support each other, but fight each other.

Either the story is good and you want to flip to the next page, but you need to clear another level of monsters first. Or the combat is fun but you cannot wait to click through the dialogues.

What if the game worked differently? 

What if winning a fight helped you advance the story?
What if winning a fight helped you advance the story?

What if gameplay and story supported each other?

What if meaningful story choices made you more effective in battle?
What if meaningful story choices made you more effective in battle?

Another issue narrative games have is that they present arbitrary challenges to compensate for the fact, that there is no challenge in clicking on dialogue options. So they use writing that misleads players, obscure the consequences and add time limits, or Quick Time Events.

What if you knew what's coming and the challenge was based on your characters personality?
What if you knew what's coming and the challenge was based on your characters personality?

What if the basic interaction with the story would be tactical? We could write better stories and our players could get satisfaction for succeeding in making a tough choice.

So I’ve just described 2 typical problems I see in RPGs: disconnect between the story and the combat and arbitrary challenges. 

Sacred Fire is using a numeric personality model to connect story choices and combat actions and make them support each other:

In addition, we apply the following 4 principles in the design of choices and consequences to solve the two problems I identified above:

You have to earn the right to make a tough call

If a story choice you want to make is out-of-character for the personality you’ve developed, you need to pass a probability check. To boost your chances you can use willpower points.

As a reward, making a tough choice develops your personality and helps you level up.

Choices shape your character as much as actions

Story choices shape your character's personality and this way indirectly affect his ability to perform at the peak of his ability.

Furthermore inner monologue gives the player’s character the ability to interpret and comment on what’s happening in the story. What are your thoughts on failure, injustice, or brutality in a scene? 

What is the motive behind your choice to help someone?
What is the motive behind your choice to help someone?

It’s your interpretation and motives that affect your character’s empathy, create guilt or strengthen your ideals. This all helps you to develop your character's willpower.

You always know the consequences of a choice

We never mislead the player into a wrong choice. Our goal is to create an experience where the player always has a smart option out of a tough spot. Notice a trap, sense an ambush, spot a hidden blade, make a leap of faith. You just need to have the will to make the extra effort to actually use it.

There is a difference between knowing a path and taking a path
There is a difference between knowing a path and taking a path

You have to earn the right to change the story

You do not start out as a leader. You have to compete for influence within the group of potential rivals or allies. NPCs don’t just get angry if they don’t agree with your choices. They have their own agendas and will try to undermine your choices.

We will also look into how these concepts innovate combat in one of our next updates.

Do you see other issues in RPGs that you’d like to see fixed? How would you fix them? 

Check out Battle Princess Madelyn on Kickstarter


 While this is not a narrative game, there is story behind it worth telling. When the creator's daughter Madelyn said "But daddy girls cannot be knights." he replied "Pfff, what color you want your armor?" It's one of the best things we can do for our kids, to take them seriously and show them we don't have to accept things in defeat, but can use our passion to shape our reality.

Check out their Kickstarter page.

Nami, Falkon Swiftblade, and 17 more people like this update.


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    1. Poetic Creator on

      @Aleonymous There is stuff that is optional, mainly related to the allied characters.

    2. Poetic Creator on

      @alcaray This is a good point, and we account for that it's not easy to stop the fight, once you are in, as you must again overcome the emotions that drive you. You can see that in both our videos, but most notable at the end of Something More,…

      where he must control his anger to avoid landing the killing blow to get the information about the missing child.

    3. Aleonymous on

      Will each play-through take us through the whole content, or there's stuff that are optional (like side-quests)?

    4. Poetic Creator on

      @Aleonymous Yes, that's exactly what we are doing, staying focused on a carefully laid out story with dynamic characters and events.

      We do not think about the game lengths in hours, and it's too soon to tell anyway, as we are still expanding the story with new options and events. We think about the length of the character arcs and story arcs we will take you trough in a shorter time than other RPGs. How many twists and turns and memorable moments you will experience with:
      - your own character overcoming his/her trauma and daemons
      - the other story characters in moments of hostility, friendship or romance
      - the villains of the story in moments of tense battles, set-backs and triumphs

      On that front we deliver a full fledged experience. We have enough story content for the personality RPG ruleset to stretch it's wings and let you shape your own character and carve your own path trough the story. We just make the experience cost you less time. In our mind this lets most of the players explore more run troughs and get more out of the games replayability.

    5. alcaray on

      @Dave, Shadowrunner "Another pet peeve of mine; in most RPGS, most of the time NPCs will fight to the death no matter what. They don't try to run or surrender when they're clearly losing the fight. This is silly and unrealistic to the point that it detracts from the immersion, reminding me that I am just playing a game..."

      I would sort of agree that the villains often behave stupidly. But the thing is, it is darned hard to stop a lethal fight once it is started. Realistically, these are fights where a man can be killed with a single shot or thrust.

      Typically RPGs give a pool of HP and these need to be whittled down gradually over the course of the fight. In a universe like this, then sure there would be plenty of time to surrender. You can probably blame Gygax & Arneson for this. Or maybe it just makes the gaming experience better.

      I mean, in real life how often do badguys get the cops to stop shooting before everyone is dead? Or how easy was it for General "Stonewall" Jackson to get his own men to stop (mistakenly) shooting at him?

    6. Aleonymous on

      I'd like to second two opinions voiced below: (a) no right/wrong choice-trees that limit replayability, (b) no filler content to artificially swell the game. The first one is pretty challenging, as it requires a very carefully laid out story/world, with dynamic characters and events. The second one is easier to accomplish; you just gotta stay focus on the scope of the game :)

      By the way, what is the estimated length of the game, in terms of all these "important" decisions and those story-welded battles? I mean, is it in the order of a few 10s or closer to 100?

    7. Poetic Creator on

      @Hasvers Thank you for your comment, long-term planning is a good point to discuss.

      Our design and writing supports multiple play-styles, so it's the opposite of reaching a dead end and having to restart.

      We have an elegant solution in place using two aggregate parameters - Authority and Influence. There are many ways how to build them and there-in lies the freedom for the player to role-play. But as long as you build those two you won't get stuck.

      Authority being the inner strength of your character used to pass psychological challenges. And Influence being the outer strength of your character used to pass relationship and story-branching challenges.

      Thank you for your support, we are looking forward to build a great game for you all!

    8. Missing avatar


      Great mindset! I will be interested in seeing how you deal with more long-term planning; in many stat-based games, you end up presented with a problem that you could solve in some way if you'd started building some stat hours ago, and you basically have to do a second playthrough (e.g. Long Live the Queen).
      In general, this is why I think that even good narrative games tend to have "tactical" problems, rather than strategy proper - you have localized problems that you can solve by thinking and planning over a few moves, but you have no visibility beyond these few moves until New Game+. On the other hand, I think the obfuscation of many story games comes from the fact that, if you give too much information on the game's structure, players are incited to minmax through the story by choosing the mechanically better option every time.
      I don't know if there is a simple answer to this dilemma, but I enjoy seeing devs try to tackle it, so good luck!

    9. Poetic Creator on

      @Dave, Shadowrunner Thank you for your detailed feedback, it's spot on and aligned with our design focus.

      I think too that filler content is the worst offense for narrative and choice-driven games and our design focus is to provide a constant flow of interesting story and gameplay choices.

      This also adds value to the replayability, as you do not want to reply a game that is tedious in the first place.

      The 'fight to the death' issue is also addressed in Sacred Fire on a fundamental level, as psychology of the combat, fear and intimidation is such an important part of the design.

      So while Roman soldiers are more likely to fight to the death, there are many combat encounters with characters where the most likely scenario is surrender, or one side fleeing.

      It's not like you need experience point for killing stuff to level up in Sacred Fire. The fastest personality development happens with gaining positive memories, so a memory of winning an encounter, for example by driving the opponent to run, is what counts.

      The self-preservation tendency of opponents in battle is also further supported by the 8 story NPCs having their own agenda. Most of them will not risk it all in one fight with you to the death, but will try to come out alive from a battle they are loosing and live to fight another day.

      Some are even open to recognize you as a worthy ally once you defeat them.

    10. Dave, Shadowrunner on

      Another pet peeve of mine; in most RPGS, most of the time NPCs will fight to the death no matter what. They don't try to run or surrender when they're clearly losing the fight. This is silly and unrealistic to the point that it detracts from the immersion, reminding me that I am just playing a game. Of course, there may be certain instances where a character would fight to the death (i.e., they know the opponent will show no mercy / wants them dead, or zealots who will die for their cause perhaps). But real people very often run or surrender when greatly outnumbered / outmanned because generally, they don't have a death wish.

      One of my favorite instances in RPGs is this one encounter fairly early on in Dragon Age Origins. These bandits demand money from your party. If a fight ensues and they start losing, the bandits stop fighting and beg for mercy. You then have the option to kill them or let them go. I'd love to see that sort of thing more. Or even RPGs that let me *try* to take my opponents alive to possibly interrogate for information, hold for ransom, or whatever makes sense in the story.

    11. Dave, Shadowrunner on

      My biggest issue with RPGs can be summed up as "filler content". Whether it is bland generic fetch quests or kill X number of this monster quests, "trash encounters" (tedious generic fights with mobs of the same exact enemy that aren't really challenging (often required in order to grind XP for a boss fight). I don't want to kill rats in the cellar. All these terrible tropes to die a quick, brutal death. I play games to have fun not waste free time. I strongly prefer a relatively short RPG with a high amount of replay value & choices that actually matte to a huge "epic" RPG that is full of tedious garbage content and false choices....

      Anyway, going by this update it seems like I am backing the right game. :)

      I also really like the idea of the NPCs potentially working against me if they don't agree with what I'm doing...

    12. Poetic Creator on

      @Marek Vincenc Hey, thank you for reaching out and putting a lot of thought into your feedback.

      I can confirm, that there is no one perfect playtrough and you can choose what winning means to you and what methods you will use to reach your goal. So the agendas you mention are exactly what we mean with 'this story is yours to tell'.

      There are also no forced messy decisions in Sacred Fire, our writing principle is to never mislead the player. To give you an option to prepare for what's coming and to give you a smart way out of a though spot. It's the game mechanics that adds challenge to your choices, not our writing.

    13. Marek Vincenc

      One thing I'd like to see is that while there would be no "right" or "wrong" choice, no perfect playthrough, for the game as a whole, there would be perfect playthroughs for specific goals, and one of those would be nobody dying (within reason), because if there's one thing I hate it's games that promise choice but then put you in a position where someone has to die to give artificial weight to your decisions, or merely to serve the plot. Telltale games I'm looking at you!

      You should never put your player in a bad spot without them walking or talking their way into it. If someone has to die I want to know that it's because I either screwed up and couldn't get them out of a jam, or chose not to to serve my own agenda.

      And that's the point, isn't it? Everyone has an agenda, even you. Your agenda might be not to kill anyone because you're sappy, or it might be wipe out dissent by force, or it might be to save your one true love and murder his or her lover (cough accident cough), or push a policy of some sort.

      Will this be the game that gives us true choice? Oh yes please.

    14. Poetic Creator on

      @alcaray Hey, thank you, that's a good point. Yes, we agree that there should be multiple ways how to learn about an NPC.

      We do that in Sacred Fire organically - if you pay attention the game will let you discover 'Insight' about a character - maybe a NPC slips and says something, or you overhear it, or you just deduct it from his reaction trough empathy.

      Insights are treated as a strategic resource in Sacred Fire and give you bonuses when dealing with the NPC and can be used to increase your influence or even sabotage the NPC by revealing their secrets.

    15. alcaray on

      I hate the tendency in many of the best RPGs to task the player with discovering NPC backstories. You have to beg and plead to get them to reveal each little bit. It turns the pc into a whiny, dependent asshat.