Tabletop roleplaying game with a card based mechanic

Hello there! I’m Helio, one of the co-founders of Burning Games. Our story as game designers goes back almost as far as I can remember, starting out when we were little kids. FAITH: A Garden in Hell is a tabletop RPG grown from the seeds of all those experiences as young roleplayers using pretty much no rules, up until our last few years as LCG aficionados.

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When we started creating FAITH, one of our first impulses was to get rid of all rules, and freewheel through stories and settings. However, we quickly discovered that that puts too much weight in the role of the Game Master, who would need to rule over everything without any reference framework.

We had to ask ourselves: is there any way to balance the “work” of the players and the GM? Can the rules be easy enough so players can learn them on the fly or at the very least have decent references in front of them? How could we free the GM of the burden of rules micromanagement to focus on storytelling and drama? To answer those questions, we had to look at our other passion, boardgames.

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For decades, boardgames have offered practical solutions to basic gaming problems… If you think of it, it’s rare for a boardgamer to go back to the rulebook after the first few games, so we tried to achieve the same with our RPG.

The first thing to go were the dice: they add a randomizer element that, in our eyes, gets in the way of decision-making. Why would you fail at an easy task if you are an elite soldier? Or why would you attempt a very difficult task if you don’t feel up to it? We give each player 7 cards from a poker deck, from which they can select the value to use while other mechanics dictated when to draw new cards. Thus, the hand came to represent stamina: if you play high cards (more likely to succeed) you make a higher effort and “get tired”, but if you use low cards, it isn’t much of an effort and can draw a new card (but you are less likely to succeed).

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We took this logic one step further. If our favourite games are card games, why not bring the NPCs and pieces of gear to the table and put them in front of the players so they know who they are facing, and what are they carrying? This allowed us to introduce slightly more complex or specific rules without bogging down the game, as you can just check the relevant card in front of you if you don’t remember how something works.

One question lingered: what setting would be the perfect match for the first game using the FAITH mechanics? And more importantly, what did we want to talk about? The sci-fi setting was appealing to us for many reasons: on the one hand, this genre is arguably one of the best ways to convey our thoughts about humanity and what it means to be human. On the other hand, we have too many friends who are engineers or scientists of some kind, and that has allowed us to write about many cool things in a sensible way with their help.

Mixing those elements we came up with a Universe where two powerful and antagonistic species, the Iz’kal and the Corvo, struggle for supremacy in a cold war of sorts, while humanity tries to survive in its devastated Earth or as mercenaries and bounty hunters for the more powerful species.

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The art came later, after extensively and thoroughly researching dozens upon dozens of online portfolios in Deviantart, Artstation and Pinterest. We contacted Milan Nikolic from Whale Shark Studio, whose work perfectly matched what we had in mind, and he agreed to be lead concept artist. He created the main species and the overall look and feel of the game. When work became too much for himself alone, we contacted several more artists all of whom followed Milan’s lead.

For FAITH: A Garden in Hell, the process has reversed. We discovered the work of Dutch illustrator Arthur Haas and instantly fell in love with it. It had to become a part of our universe and so we tailored a story around it. That seed grew into a full campaign about the Ravager, the legendary species that forced the Iz’kal and the Corvo to cooperate.

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All in all, we believe FAITH’s mechanics bring something new to the table, a system that tweaks the standard RPG formula to make it more accessible for new players. The culmination of all the efforts we’ve talked about and the feedback from last year’s Core Set is FAITH: A Garden in Hell. It is a standalone RPG campaign that comes in a small, inexpensive box with everything you need to get started in the universe of Faith, from playing, gear, and NPC cards, to pre-generated characters and a full-fledged adventure you can pick up and start playing with almost no preparation, even if you are a novice roleplayer. Additionally, it provides the grounds to continue gaming in the universe of Faith after you finish its story, thanks to the free resources available in our website.

FAITH: A Garden in Hell is fully funded on Kickstarter with still 15 days to go, and now we are rapidly approaching exciting stretch goals that will make the game better for everyone, as well as expand the content available for FAITH: the Sci-Fi RPG.

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