This is the Introduction video for Sapience. It will tell you a lot of the same information that's outlined below but requires a lot less reading, and a lot more more thinking "Wow, that's so cool! I'm going to buy that right now!"
Please do read the rest of the page too though... :-)
Sapience is a Tabletop Roleplaying Game set in a distant cluster of stars that has been populated by massive sleeper ships fleeing system-wide wars back at Earth. Humans are the dominant species, albeit not necessarily the most populous one - along with them are the Gorillas, Orangutans, and Octopuses they genetically uplifted to intelligence, plus the only sapient alien species ever encountered (who mysteriously look a lot like old Earth legends of Goblins!)
The cluster has been embroiled in a Cold War very like the American Civil War for more than a century now, between people who feel that (being fully sapient) the uplifts should be treated as equals, and those who feel that they're still basically animals and so they should be kept as servants and slaves and shock-collar controlled soldiers and such.
Then there's an extra wrinkle because the first AI has been developed, so there's the same sort of questions going on about whether biological sapience is more important than machine-based sapience, and it's blurring the lines because some of the Apes and Octopuses feel that this is their chance to feel superior to something even though they hate when that's done to them.
There are many colonizable (and colonized) planets and systems in the Cluster, terraformed by a long vanished species who left behind enigmatic ruins and mysteries, and a very strange plant that only rarely fruits, but those who eat the fruit, well, it changes them...
Characters can involve themselves in the war, in trade or piracy, in treasure hunting and Indiana Jones type escapades, in espionage or politics, in scientific research, or simply explore the cluster and the many cultures that have sprung up since the arrival from Earth.
Sapience uses a brand new die system known as the Focus Engine. Characters build a die pool with three different colors of D6 dice based on their Mental, Physical, and Social attributes. When a skill check is made, a number of dice equal to the skill level are drawn from the die pool (keep them in an opaque bag or in a bowl so you don't see what color they are as you draw them) and then rolled. The higher that your level in an attribute is compared to the other attributes, the more likely you are to draw dice of that color. The dice then generate two completely different results at the same time - Effort and Focus.
Your Effort is the number of dice that roll 4 or greater, and they determine your level of success (or failure) at your skill check.
Your Focus is the number of dice you pulled that match the color of the Attribute your skill to keyed to. Focus can be used for a few different things, such as adding momentum to upcoming skill checks related to the check where the Focus was earned, but can also be used to modify the skill usage through what are effectively adverbs - you might use Focus to perform your skill Quietly (making it hard for people to hear you doing it), or Quickly (improving the speed it's performed at) and so on. In combat? Focus adds to damage, because you did it Violently. Various uses of Focus are described in the book, but players and GM's are encouraged to come up with new ways to modify skill usage with Focus.
Wounds add other colored dice into your die pool. Any wound dice drawn during a skill check don't add to Effort or Focus, so the more wounded you are, the less likely you are to succeed at a skill. Better get some healing to remove those bad dice from your pool!
Don't have enough D6's in the right colors? We have you covered. You can purchase die sets as part of the Kickstarter; you can download a Windows-based die roller from the Resources page (if you're a backer); you can download a roller as an app on the Android or iOS app stores (after the Kickstarter); and you can use the web-based roller right from this very webpage (right here).
Rules for creating and advancing your character, with 6 playable species' and a "guided freeform" method of skill and trait selection and development.
A detailed timeline of the history of the colonization of this new region of space, and all you need to know about the current state of the Cluster, its politics, its various colony worlds and asteroid settlements, the factions and guilds involved in the cold war, and much much more.
A really good justification for why the sample characters you saw in the video were carrying Swords in a Science Fiction setting! (on top of "because that's fun")
Rules for creating and crewing your own spaceship.
Melee and starship combat
A discussion on the darker themes of the game, how to incorporate them into your own stories and campaigns, and how to not use them when all you want is some escapism and a fun space opera.
A whole bunch of starship battlemaps (which you could even use in other sci-fi games, I don't mind), a Cluster Map, Personal and Starship character sheets, quick guides, and much more. You can download all that stuff from the Resources Page right on this website if you back the project!
And so much more!
This section is pretty heavy. It's about my goals and why and how Sapience came about. Please remember that I really mean the stuff I say below, and it's important to me, but I fully understand that it might not hold the same importance to everyone. After all, Roleplaying is meant to be a fun pass-time where we get together and socialize with our mates and make cool stories. I had certain themes in mind when I developed the game, but I also had decades of my love of pop culture, Star Wars, Fantasy, board games, and geek stuff that once had us all consigned to the basement and hiding from "jocks". Sapience doesn't have to be about discrimination and racism. It doesn't have to include slavery and oppression. It can be as dark or as light as you like. If you want to explore those darker themes, the game will support that. But if you're in the mood for a light-hearted romp where your cigar smoking anthropomorphic Gorilla and his best mate the shady Octopus gambler fly around the star systems looking for adventure and profit, Sapience is here for that too. Play it your way!
That said, I feel that all great science fiction and fantasy holds up a mirror to our own world, and lets us examine the issues of our time. By exploring the struggles and trials of the inhabitants of fictional worlds, we can work through difficult subjects cradled safely in a thick layer of allegory.
Star Wars was famously written to protest the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. Godzilla was a metaphor for the atomic bomb. Planet of the Apes explores how easy it is for societies to use science and religion to enforce and justify inequality. Terminator 2 had a cop as the villain because as director James Cameron put it “Cops think of all non-cops as less than they are; stupid, weak and evil. They dehumanize the people they are sworn to protect…” That film came out the same year as the Rodney King assault, and almost 30 years before the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the start of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The inequalities and injustices of this world aren’t new, but thanks to mass social movements they’re becoming more visible to the average person than they’ve ever been before. These injustices aren’t the result of a few bad actors but rather come from systems of oppression that operate on a massive scale, invisible to most of the people who benefit from them. While more and more people become aware of the ways in which the marginalized are pushed down and silenced, there has risen also a proudly bigoted reactionary backlash that needs to be fought by every available means.
Science fiction that interrogates and questions the bigotry and oppression present in our world has never been more relevant than in the 21st century. Done well it can open eyes and minds, and give people the opportunity to deal with subjects that would be too painful to face directly. I hope that my game is a worthy successor to the stories that have come before it, and that it helps at least a few people imagine worlds where bigotry and injustice can be defeated.