Hey everyone, we we’re unfortunately unable to get the guys from Burning Games on the podcast due to scheduling issues but we’re able to conduct an email interview instead. Hope you enjoy it and check out the Kickstarter.
Tell us a little bit about FAITH?
FAITH is a tabletop roleplaying game, that is classic in certain aspects and very fresh in others. The classic part comes from the overall format: there’s a GM and there are players, ready to immerse in a unique setting and live exciting adventures. The fresh aspect comes from the mechanics.
We have created a system where actions are not decided by the random throw of the dice, but by the active decision making of the players. That’s why each of them begin with 7 cards in their hand, representing the different values and suits that can be found in a poker deck. From there, when a confrontation takes place, the players will be able to choose which values to use each time to increase their chances of success. In a way, it’s similar to rolling 7 dice in advance, and then choosing when to use each one.
The setting is science fiction where humans are a second class species and two huge intergalactic civilisations fight for supremacy. In this turmoil, each of the five gods interact with their believers, granting them supernatural powers to advance their respective moral agendas.
How does the new edition differ from previous versions?
The new core book expands everything that has come before it. It multiplies the amount of lore we’ve been able to include in previous editions and the mechanics are greatly polished, taking into account all the great feedback we’ve gotten from our community. It also adds two new decks with new gear and NPCs, which enhance the playing experience bringing the art to the table.
The core book is also a very good fit for those who have the starter set entitled Faith: A Garden in Hell, which we released earlier this year and includes a campaign that explores the secrets of the Ravager, the mutant menace of the Faith universe.
You’re going to be putting out a pretty hefty book at over 300 pages but surprisingly only a fraction of that is dedicated to the core rules. Would you consider FAITH to be a rules light system?
It is definitely on the lower end of the rules crunchiness, and that’s something we have fought hard to achieve. The thing is that the mechanics are easy to learn and teach, but they rely on player agency to fully develop, meaning that each of the members of the group needs to know how to play, not just the GM. It takes a couple of rounds to get accustomed to it, but it’s a very natural and organic system that has been received very well among board gamers, but also hardcore role players… although it does require a open attitude.
With only 75 pages of rules, we’re getting tons of rich setting material that really gives the potential for immersive game play and great story telling.
That’s indeed the idea. There are two levels to FAITH lore: on the one hand there’s the macro view, where two hugely powerful species – the Corvo and the I’zkal – fight for intergalactic supremacy and where the Gods try to influence their reality through their believers. It’s a riveting setting, but it needs a second layer, the nitty gritty of the day-to-day to-s and fro-s of the regular people. It’s in that front that we add much depth: who are the richest fellows of the corvo capital of Tiantang? Who rules the streets through well organized mobs? What planet can you visit to hunt valuable, rare animals? And so on and so forth. We want the player to feel that they can take advantage and thrive in very complex political situations.
One of the interesting things about FAITH is the inclusion of gods in a hard sci fi setting. How did that come about?
We wanted to explore morality through the lore and the mechanics, and the Gods allowed us to do so. Each God represents a different moral bearing (for example, Kaliva is the God of the selfish individualists) and if you follow its commandments, you will be able to obtain powers that will help you in the game.
For us, they were a very natural fit in our hard sci-fi setting because they are not omnipotent beings that act any way they can. Conversely, they have very limited ways of affecting reality, and who knows what they really are? Maybe they are just “very advanced technology”… but all of this will be further explored in latter books, of course 😉
In games like D&D we tend to think less in terms of discreet scenes but in FAITH it’s a core tenant as the resolution mechanic revolves around the cards in your hand and refilling them at the end of a scene. It reminds me a little bit of Fate or World of Darkness.
Yes, we believe the scenes are a really great narrative tool and thus we made them a central part of the mechanics. From our point of view, the most important thing that is achieved by breaking the gameplay down into scenes is making it a lot more cinematic. It gives the group a sense of closure (“alright, we have achieved this goal, or fleed these gangsters, or otherwise gotten out of trouble”), and allows to get a fresh start on the next scene.
There are only a handful of games out there using cards as a resolution mechanic. Why use cards and is it harder to design around that as an action mechanic?
There are many games with wonderfully accomplished dice based mechanics. Actually, we are pretty certain that the best dice-based system has already been created. We wanted to explore something new, something where we could put into practice all the ideas that we have gathered during decades of gaming, and a card based system seemed like the ideal way to include our core ideas: reducing the randomness of dice, increasing player agency, placing the art in front of every player etc. From the reviews we’ve gotten, we would say mission accomplished.
Regarding the second part of the question, whether it’s more difficult or not to design around cards, we believe that that’s not the case. After all it’s a randomization mechanic that changes the way in which the numbers are “rolled”. The most difficult part, by far, is convincing role players that this is not a gimmick, but a fully fledged, thoroughly tested mechanic that works very well to create a certain style of gameplay that many people can enjoy.
There is certainly a moralistic element to FAITH with the inclusion of the gods and their tenants. There also seems to be a bit social commentary in the nature of the relationship between the technological, capitalistic Corvo and the communal, progressive Iz’kal. All without judgment as the book says there are no “bad guys” in the setting. Is this a way to maybe get people thinking about what going on in the world in the safety of an RPG setting?
Yes, of course. Every piece of media or artwork is a reflection of the author and the society they live in, no matter how trashy or commercial it is (indeed, a very commercial movie is a very powerful symbol in and of itself). We wanted to bring all these philosophical questions to the foreground of the game, so that people could reflect upon them without “playing” them. The actual gameplay takes place in the fringes of all these huge topics, but it’s not devoid of meaning: if you steal a very expensive jewel from a rich person, how will your God perceive that? How will members of your species react when you tell them your deeds? There’s no such thing as an action without a consequence, and we wanted players to be aware of their doings, without giving straight answers.
The artwork for FAITH is amazing, who do you have working on the project and where did you find them?
To answer the second question first, our art director Carlos has spent countless hours diving through Artstation, Deviantart, and Pinterest finding the coolest illustrators around. We try to select the ones that best fit our style and those who have great working ethics, which are most of them, actually. We have worked with a bunch of them, more than 20 during the last couple of years, and we can’t be happier. We won’t name them one by one here, but you can find them in the credits of everything we publish: each card credits its illustrator, and each book has a comprehensive list of the artists involved. We are proud to say some of them have worked for companies such as Blizzard, Respawn Entertainment (Titanfall 2), and others.
What games are hitting your own table these days, both board games and RPGS?
In terms of RPGs, we have to be honest and say that we don’t have the time for long campaigns lately, so we mostly have to resort to one-shots. The latest game we’ve enjoyed was Belly of the Beast by Ben Dutter, a truly great setting with an intuitive system.
As for boardgames, a sure hit is Warhammer Conquest, as well as Blood Rage, Ether Wars, Twilight Struggle, Forbidden Stars, but also Codenames or Potion Explosion… we try to play a bit of everything!
Do you have any other projects that are in the works that you’d like to talk about?
We are working on Dragons Conquer America, which will be our take in a fantasy setting during the Age of Discovery. The game will use a card based system very similar to Faith’s, and will be our reinterpretation of the conquest of America by europeans, only this time around myths from both sides of the pond are real: the Spanish ride dragons, descendants from the dragon that St. George (didn’t) kill, and the Mexica fight alongside the feathered snake.
But we digress: we’ll be happy to come back when the time comes to talk more about it!
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