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Uphold your vows to the Tenets of Honor and become a paragon of justice in a broken, cruel world.
Uphold your vows to the Tenets of Honor and become a paragon of justice in a broken, cruel world.
Uphold your vows to the Tenets of Honor and become a paragon of justice in a broken, cruel world.
305 backers pledged $4,102 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

$4,102

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The world of Sasara, your home, is broken and depraved. Despots rule over isolated city-states, indifferent to the suffering and squalor of the people. In the shadows of the enigmatic Ruins - the last vestiges of a prosperous era long forgotten - the vile terrorize the innocent few without fear of retribution. Until now.

You are an Arbiter, protector of all that is good in Sasara. Only as you embody the Tenets of Honor will you be empowered to protect the weak, avenge the victims of the wicked, and unlock the knowledge of the ancient Forebears to usher in a new age of peace. Will you take the Vow of Honor? Will you do what is necessary to save your home? 

Vow of Honor is a tabletop roleplaying game focusing on the Arbiters of Fasann: icons of justice sworn to the Tenets of Honor.

Why play Vow of Honor? It's a game designed specifically for one reason: to play skilled warrior judges sworn to a strict honor code in a world full of dishonor. The system and the setting are unique and designed to fully support one another, and playing as an Arbiter is often a resonating experience. You get to be a hero (fallen or not), and the game supports and encourages that.

Primary Design Focus: Playing morally obligated characters in a world that makes moral obligations exceedingly difficult.

Setting Highlights: Dystopia focusing on humans living on the remnants of an artificial planet that has malfunctioned and decayed over thousands of years. The Arbiters emerged as the counter to a culture of brutal pragmatism and dishonor, surviving in the shadow of the Forebear Ruins.

System Focus: Characters gain strength through a combination of skill and adherence to their code of Honor. The gameplay integrates with the narrative, guides character action, and creates morally charged scenarios.

Game Format: The game is only going to be released in digital formats (starting with PDF), a little over 30,000 words (200 A5 pages), professionally edited, laid out, and illustrated in full color.

Deep integration with Honor

Vow of Honor's system is focused on the characters' ethical code, and how their actions reflect or ignore that code. Characters are empowered by acting in alignment with Honor. But the code is strict, and no Arbiter is perfect.

Far future setting with a well defined culture

Sasara, Vow of Honor's setting, focuses on how human colonists have survived tens of thousands of years in the future, after their artificial planet malfunctioned and killed all but a few in the process. Sasara is both alien and familiar - beautiful, bizarre, but believable.

Arbiters: protectors, warriors, judges

You'll play as powerful warrior judges inextricably bound to the Tenets of Honor and the dangerous world they love, hate, and try to enlighten. Vow of Honor's system, setting, and focus on Arbiters connects to form a unique gaming experience.

Honor is an integral part of the game's system and setting. Your character's moral journey is a major and rewarding aspect of play. You'll be confronted with cold pragmatism and moral ambiguity, and have to make decisions that don't violate your vows- all while trying to stay alive.

Arbiters take vows to the five Tenets of Honor:

  • Commitment: dedication to your cause and loyalty to your allies
  • Compassion: charity and kindness
  • Purity: cleanliness of mind, body, spirit, and action
  • Righteousness: valor, courage, and the will to mete justice
  • Understanding: empathy, comprehension, and dedication to truth
Arbiter Nayakan feeding a Tasalian child, by Lee Che
Arbiter Nayakan feeding a Tasalian child, by Lee Che

Honor Dice

Arbiters face situations which have no simple solution. They'll have to make difficult decisions and carry out dangerous quests. Arbiters gain Honor Dice (HD) if they keep their vows and behave Honorably. HD are used to perform Maneuvers and add dice to any roll. Characters lose Honor Dice if they break their vows or act with Dishonor.

Stained Tenets

Consistently violate your vows and the forsaken Tenets become Stained. Characters can't improve once a Tenet is Stained, and must go on a Quest of Redemption to be absolved. Certain Arbiters enjoy the freedom a Stained Tenet allows, and take advantage of it.

Corruption

Arbiters can over-zealously pursue one Tenet to the point of Corruption. Righteousness is twisted into murder. Understanding is tainted through torture. Those who pervert the Tenets pervade the Order, and need to be brought to justice. Characters must be wary- as their obsessions can lead to Corruption.

Sasara is embodied by stalwart heroes facing off against depraved marauders, monstrous creatures, misguided cults, and the insidious creep of dishonor endemic to Sasara.

  • A slate gray, sunless sky
  • A horizon that curves up and away instead of down
  • Heavily fortified city-states built to keep the strong in power and protected from the dangerous adabhuta that stalk the wilderness
  • Massive and misunderstood ruins of the ancient Forebear civilization
  • The Order of Fasann, comprised of Arbiters with a Vow of Honor, protecting the innocent and punishing the wicked
  • A vibrant and detailed culture

Read more in the Setting Details section below.

Vow of Honor's Task system seamlessly handles combat, social encounters, mental puzzles, and physical obstacles:

  • D6 dice pools represent your Arbiter's aptitude in the eight Skills, covering everything from Might to Logic
  • Honorable deeds give you additional power, represented by Honor Dice
  • Thorough GM guidelines to create engaging obstacles and moral issues
  • The GM never rolls, allowing him or her to focus on the action and narrative
  • Rules for how Arbiters can Corrupt, Forsake, or Stain the Tenets of Honor
  • Further flesh out characters by swearing Oaths and defining their unique Talents
  • Make use of Maneuvers granted by your character's dedication to a particular Tenet

View the character sheet or read more in the System Details section.

As an Arbiter, you'll travel through the rugged landscape, defending and guiding those you encounter. It is your solemn vow to uphold the Tenets of Honor, demonstrate their benefits to Sasaran society, and gain strength and wisdom through adherence to their doctrine. Arbiters wear their vestments openly, calling upon the wicked to expose themselves and serving as a beacon of hope and good in the world.

You are respected as a champion of the people, as a lawful judge by the powerful, and as a zealous enemy to the unrighteous. Many Sasarans welcome the Order with open arms, grateful for its protection and nobility. Others plot its destruction and slit its Arbiters' throats in their sleep.

by Lee Che
by Lee Che

Vow of Honor is set on Sasara, a world many lightyears from Earth. It was the most advanced technology ever built by humankind, and the height of extrasolar colonization. Thousands of years later, the descendants of those colonists try to understand their forgotten history, and survive in the world left by the Forebears. Now, most Sasarans live in small, isolated city-states, with technology and scientific knowledge roughly equivalent to fourteenth century Earth. Most things are made carefully by hand. Resources are rarely squandered, and the world is large, dangerous, and unexplored.

One of the Arbiters' main functions is to learn about Sasara, its history, and how its people came to be. All that the Order and its Arbiters know is that the Forebears once dominated Sasara's surface, and wielded vast power. Now all that remains of their great society are the Ruins, massive sprawls of incomprehensible rubble infested by adabhuta: monstrous, humanoid creatures with unimaginable brutality and a taste for human flesh. Few who enter the Ruins and encounter a pack of adabhuta survive.

You, as a member of the Order of Fasann, will seek these dangerous places out. You will teach Honor to those who are willing to learn. You will pass judgment on the unrighteous, and place retribution on the wicked.

You are an Arbiter, and you are honor bound.

Order of Fasann Enclave in the Shenlin Forest, by Stephen Rusk
Order of Fasann Enclave in the Shenlin Forest, by Stephen Rusk

Daughters and sons of Sasara

While all Arbiters share the same Vows, they have come to the Order from a wide array of backgrounds and reasons. Arbiters must weigh their loyalty to the Order against their families, home, and personal wishes. All must be tested, hardened, and judged worthy to don the vestments of the Order.

For some, the wicked fall by the blade. For others, the path to Honor is through peace and compassion. It is up to you to decide how to improve your homeland, and the lives of those you care about.

Action and Honor

The system focuses on competent people driven by their oaths. It highlights the dynamic between the characters' strict moral code and the cruel realities of the world.

D6 dice pool

Vow of Honor uses a pool of d6 to resolve Tasks. Successes are counted based on the face value of each die (1-6), with the number determining success based on a character's Skill. Poorly skilled characters succeed on a 6, while the most competent succeed on 3s or better.

Skill based competence

Characters' abilities are defined by eight Skills (Awareness, Coordination, Influence, Knowledge, Logic, Might, Resistance, and Stealth). The better at a particular Skill, the more likely an action within that Skill will succeed.

Arbiter Murasada spearing an adabhuta, by Lee Che
Arbiter Murasada spearing an adabhuta, by Lee Che

Universal task resolution

Players roll a relevant Skill to overcome a Task, and can add Honor Dice (HD) to their base roll. When characters fail to overcome Tasks, they suffer Consequences equal to the Task's Severity. Combat, mental challenges, physical obstacles, and social interactions are all handled with the same Task system.

Oathsworn Tenets

Characters can become Oathsworn to a Tenet, earning extra HD when adhering to it, and granting correlated Maneuvers. A character Oathsworn to Righteousness can become immune to Fear, while one Oathsworn to Understanding can automatically solve a puzzle. Most Maneuvers are triggered by spending Honor Dice.

Self defined Talents

Each character has player defined Talents, freeform abilities that provide bonuses when relevant. A character could be especially Convincing, gaining a bonus to Influence when trying to persuade someone, or a Master Swordsman, and get an advantage when locked in melee combat.

by Lee Che
by Lee Che

Can I play as someone other than an Arbiter?

Absolutely. There are character creation rules for playing an Ally, someone who's decided to assist the Arbiters in their quest. Rather than make use of Honor and Honor Dice, Allies are compelled by their Motivations, things such as Vengeance or Acceptance or Love.

Want to read the full game?

Here's the full rough draft of the text as it currently stands. Bear in mind this is a rough draft working document that's ugly and poorly organized. I'd love for you to read it, play it, and let me know what you think.

If you don't have time to read the full thing, you can read the quick start instead.

  • Over 30,000 words (about 200 A5 pages)
  • Discusses the Setting, System, and the definitions of Honor in equal detail
  • Edited by Joshua Yearsley (a master wordsmith)
  • Laid out by Phillip Gessert (king of legibility)
  • Illustrated by Lee Che (cel-shading pro) and Stephen Rusk (environmental guru)

Vow of Honor will be professionally edited, laid out, and illustrated in full color. I've selected the best in the business, and I want to make the final product as aesthetically pleasing and easy to use as possible. Here are some different example pages with art and layout.

The game is being released in digital formats only, starting with PDF and expanding to .epub and .mobi if the appropriate stretch goal is met. As this is only my second Kickstarter project, I'm trying to keep it simple enough to focus on producing the best possible game that I can.

Where the funds are going

  • Artwork: $750
  • Layout: $550
  • Editing: $700
  • Fees: $500
  • Total: $2,500

As you can see, I've absorbed all of the cost and time to write the manuscript (happily too!) but I've hired some talented experts to put the game together. I want the book, even though exclusively digital, to look beautiful and legible. 

Murasada and Nayakan studying maps of the Spine, by Lee Che
Murasada and Nayakan studying maps of the Spine, by Lee Che

Stretch Goals

  • $3,000: A beautifully detailed cover illustration
  • $3,500: The GAME pledge and above now includes an .epub and .mobi format
  • $4,000: Additional artwork
  • $4,500: Sasara cartography

The Team

Ben Dutter has written and designed several roleplaying games: notably Forge of Valor. Ben's been playing RPGs for twenty years and tinkering with their systems for nearly as long.

Joshua Yearsley is a seasoned editor specializing in roleplaying games. He's worked on Nova Praxis and is now an editor for Evil Hat Productions. His extensive experience and profound understanding of RPGs is invaluable to this project.

Phillip Gessert is a talented graphic designer and layout editor. He's completed hundreds of manuscripts, books, magazines, and technical documents in a wide array of styles and mediums. His focus on high legibility will ensure Vow of Honor is easy to read and comprehend.

Lee Che is the game's primary artist, specializing in cel-shading and clean linework. Her creative vision and attention to detail has made the world of Sasara come to life.

Stephen Garrett Rusk is an expert environmental illustrator, specializing in landscapes and unique structures. His concept work and innovative vision has helped to define the world that the Arbiters operate in every day. Stephen has experience with other RPG illustrations, including the recently successful Book of Terniel adventure path.

Timeline

Vow of Honor is written. Artwork is well underway, and the book's layout design has been roughed out. As soon as the campaign's success is clear, editing will begin and artwork production will accelerate. I have an optimistic estimate that the book can be finished by early 2015, and conservative estimate of final delivery by late Spring or early Summer in 2015.

Acknowledgements

The KS page as you see it now was most certainly a group effort, with copious amounts of editing, artwork, writing, commentary, critiques, and help from so many. Here are some folks that really stand out:

  • Lee Che, artwork
  • Stephen Rusk, artwork
  • Ric Stubbs, editing and writing of the KS copy
  • Phillip Gessert for the layout and graphic work
  • The rpg.net, Story Games, and reddit communities

Risks and challenges

The book has been written and the system heavily playtested. If I (Ben) somehow fall ill, I have colleagues close to me who can oversee and manage the completion of project.

If one of the other core members of the team is unable to complete his or her duties (such as editing, art, or layout) I have relationships built with several others in their respective fields.

I am financially stable with a successful consulting business and day job, so if the costs start to balloon out of control (which I highly doubt) I will still move forward with the project in some iteration or another.

This is my second Kickstarter, and even though my first campaign did not fund successfully, I learned so much through the process and have applied those lessons to this project. Everyone working on the game are professionals of the highest caliber, each demonstrating their ability to deliver satisfactory products on time and within budget.

The greatest risk involves delays due to artwork or layout issues, which I've done everything I can to mitigate. I will consistently communicate with the team and all backers to ensure we're all in the loop and aware of Vow of Honor's progress.

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    THANKS: Exclusive backer updates and a thank you in the book.

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    GAME: You get the full color PDF of Vow of Honor. If the .epub and .mobi format stretch goal is made, you'll get those too.

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    ELEMENT: You get to define a unique element of Sasara - a faction, NPC, artifact, or location. We'll work with you to make sure it fits with the rest of the game. Read the FAQ for more details. You also gain all previous reward tiers.

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    CHARACTER: One of our artists will make an illustration of your character, or a character that looks just like you. We'll work with you to make sure it fits the tone and style of the book. You also gain all previous reward tiers.

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Funding period

- (33 days)