Pen and paper RPGs largely served as my introduction to tabletop games. My friends and I used to play at lunch in middle school by using a 2nd edition monster manual to create narratives and rules for our own adventures. I eventually graduated to actually using D&D’s rule systems, and ran campaigns for Diablo, Everquest, and Rogue Trader.
Even though I don’t have enough time anymore to partake in long PnP campaigns, I still read up on new systems people are developing to innovate in the hobby. Burning Games’s Faith: The Sci Fi RPG caught my attention through various media outlets when it first went live on Kickstarter(click to see the project page) due to its amazing artwork, and when I did go check out the campaign I was pleasantly surprised to find a project of substance, and a campaign page that did all the right things.
I’m less familiar with critiquing RPG campaigns than I am board games, but Faith’s page is very easy to follow and contains good information about the game, including a variety of excellent review sources, without overdoing things. Images are mostly clickable and open up other elements like an informative quick play guide, introduction, and image gallery that further showcases the game’s art; that helps to reduce clutter while still making it obvious there’s additional content available.
Art for these projects is usually relegated to making the rulebook look pretty, but Faith removes the pen and paper and even the dice from the equation and replaces those elements with these beautiful custom playing card decks for each character, character boards, a GM deck, and an equipment deck. That means the stellar artwork is present on the table as you play. The fact that the card information is only a glance away, combined with the streamlined mechanics system Burning Games developed for Faith, means there’s also no need to comb through rulebooks and disrupt the action and immersion.
I was able to catch up with one of the designers on Facebook, and Burning Games graciously agreed to take some time out of their campaign management to answer some question for us about the campaign:
I’ve only seen one other tabletop RPG that used a poker deck mechanism to replace the normal pen and paper dice mechanics of a traditional PnP RPG, but that game still required a lot of pen and paper. What was your inspiration behind creating this new system, and what are you hoping to provide with it?
We designed the card driven mechanics with two goals in mind: story immersion and resource management.
We want the players to be able to immerse themselves in the game, and having the art on the table lets you know how your equipment looks like or gives an idea of how the place you are in looks like. The gear and non player characters come in cards to illustrate the former, and the player deck illustrates the latter.
Additionally, using a hand of poker cards allows players to choose when to be lucky and play their high cards and when to be unlucky and play their low cards. It also brings a layer of strategy to the checks performed during the game, which we have found to be very interesting and even dramatic during play testing.
If you could, please tell me more about the narrative-driven aspect of the game.
The game mechanics are pretty simple, with the core rules explained in a two page quick start guide. This allows players to start playing almost right away and moves the focus towards the narrative. Additionally, there are a few mechanics to encourage good roleplaying.
The advantage and disadvantage system rewards players that use the right tools for each job and describe their actions in an interesting and creative way. On the other hand, the Gods introduced in the setting act as the moral compasses of the characters. Those characters that behave according to a divine moral code will be granted supernatural powers that will allow them to break the laws of physics, while those that are not consistent in their morals will not have that edge over others.
The art is amazing, and I love the idea of having it on the table while playing. What various sources served as the inspiration for the world and the art?
The setting is the result of many years reading books, studying different subjects and thinking about the endless possibilities of actual science (The wormholes have been described to us by an astrophysicist as a very real possibility). The inspiration from the art comes from many places, including film concept artists, other games, TV shows… However, the main ingredient is the amazing creativity of both Milan Nikolic and Aleksa Bracic.
I really like the fact that players have to use all the cards in their deck before getting to re-shuffle. It adds a LOT of strategy and planning to every action. Did you consider adding a deck-building element to that part of the game, or is there room for a deck building element to expand the poker decks as games progress? Why or why not?
During early play testing we considered allowing characters to modify their deck as they gained experience, but the idea was discarded because it unbalanced many elements from the game. It is more interesting to reward characters with new upgrades and improved stats, as it reflects how they adapt and grow more closely than being able to tinker with their decks would without being obvious choices. This way characters can evolve in very different ways and there is more variety.
Are there plans to provide additional sourcebooks about the world, or scenarios to get people started?
At the moment we only have a starter campaign that can be downloaded for free from our website, but we will continue to support and develop the universe of the game for many years to come. The idea is to make the universe of Faith as rich and interesting as we can, and if the game musters enough support on Kickstarter, we will be more than happy to develop it further.
How do you foresee the system itself expanding in the future if the core game is funded? For example, what new content-modules might players see down the road?
There will be an expansion introducing spaceships at some point, that is almost certain. We have also planned several more playable species and we will try to release many other things like gear, additional player and non-player characters, etc. However, it is important to note that the Faith: the Sci-fi RPG Core Set is a full game that does not require from any additional content to be played.