OK. It’s been a while, but I think it’s time to get back on the horse – and why not do it with a game from a genre that I don’t actually get to play that much: RPGs? While I do love that immersive, let’s get together and tell ourselves a story way of playing, it’s actually pretty hard to pin me down and play anything more than a one-off run most of the time. We’re all busy people, and with a whole room filled with games (or, at this moment, a couple of pallets due to make their way to the USA), there’s always that desire for more. In the four hours that we could spend playing part – part! – of an RPG setting or campaign, we could crack out a bunch of small to medium sized games and have a whole load of fun.
Not that I’m saying a good RPG isn’t fun, not at all. In my wee sabbatical away from the LMDS keyboard I’ve spent a fair few hours looking through the finally released new edition of D&D (the three main books and the first campaign) and I can see already that it’ll be splendid. However, sometimes I want a few robots and lasers in my collectively told story, but outside of a rare Warforged wandering about, they’re not exactly Dungeons & Dragons fodder. As if by magic (or by science, really), something new and shiny landed in my lap called Faith that has managed to scratch that itch in a marvellous way, and surprise! It’s on Kickstarter now.
Some of you may be aware of an older game called Shadowrun that mixed the worlds of the fantastic and scientific to create a very interesting product. I was a big fan of it when I was a kid, reading the main book until its spine was cracked and pages dog-eared, but could never convince anyone to play the damn thing because, in the eyes of my friends, it was a little too far out there. Faith, to me at least, feels a little reminiscent with its world of hyper-futurism mixed with actual gods who are out for only one thing – dominance. This is no game of players assuming such roles though; in Faith, while the gods do exist, they can only affect the world through manipulation of their believers. It’s an interesting concept, having these incredibly powerful beings fight for control of the mortal realm where, in actuality, they’re impotent and can do nothing without our assistance. Of course, giving them that belief and help is good for us, the players, too – we get to mess about with physics-breaking abilities and ludicrous weaponry.
Our story lies in the far future, with a battered and bruised humanity attempting to recover from being enslaved by the Corvo, a universal race that pretty much controlled a network of wormholes called the Labyrinth – at least until another bunch called the Iz’kal showed up. With two huge forces primed to wipe each other out, mutually assured destruction was backed away from in the form of a peace treaty that is relatively stable – and that’s where we come in. Armed only with a specially modified Poker deck, players will attempt to carve their own story from the universe of Faith, with a little godly assistance and clever card play. The rules of how to actually play the game are beautifully simple, condensed down to a simple two pages; most of the time, if you want to do something you can just consult with the GM and you’ll be able to do it. I love this kind of game, though if you’re the kind of GM who likes to be in full control of your party, I’d suggest you stay well away from Faith. It rewards creativity, welcoming free-flowing thought and explanation, and having someone in control of the game who enjoys this kind of play is essential – there’s no room for ‘rocks fall, everyone dies’ in the Labyrinth.
This isn’t just about letting your imagination get away with anything though. The game is broken down into Scenes (which feel rather like a speedier version of D&D 4E’s encounters) where you begin with seven cards drawn from your deck – new Scenes begin whenever the GM decides though, so with that necessarily liberal person at the helm you shouldn’t run low too often. When the story befits it, cards will be played from your hand to trigger and boost Skills that should help you get out of a tricky situation or assist you as needed, with the highest scoring player (or GM!) making the call on what happens. Rather than go into detail, I urge you to check out the quickstart rules – seriously, they’re only two pages – which explain how actions from hacking into computers to punching someone’s nose in breaks down.
Everything in Faith is card driven, from the deck that you draw from to the weapons and items that your character has in their possession. The set I was sent out is representative of what will be included in the proposed initial release, and should it succeed I promise that you’re going to get an awful lot of stuff in there. A huge variety of loadouts should see you and your fellow players fit to deal with any situation, and even if you don’t have the right gear to hand the game allows you to think around a problem as much as shoot right through it. With the cards in your hand being the things that will essentially decide your destiny, Faith gives you the option to plan ahead rather than rely on a random dice roll, so with a good team of people around the table this could well be one of the most creatively entertaining RPG systems around.
As with any RPG though, the game lives and dies with that group. As much as I said that Faith requires a fairly liberal GM to run the thing, I would suggest that you also need a pretty creative group of players too. Playing the game requires the unlearning of a lot of standard RPG rules, but if you give yourself over to Faith you’ll find that it’s a very satisfying system that can offer a group plenty of entertainment. In recent years, the big Role Playing Games have focused more on the dice roll than the storytelling, but Faith looks to pull that back towards a game of imagination where the system doesn’t get in the way of the fun.
It also helps that the creative team behind the game have created a huge amount of material for you to work with. To begin with, the art that’s seen throughout the game is beautiful; from the biggest set pieces in the rulebooks to the smallest details on the equipment cards, Faith has already had a huge amount of investment put into it. The graphic design throughout is clear so players can refer to their abilities and skills quickly, and as you play and grow, tokens are used to keep track of enhancements that you develop. It’s a very clean system, and it’s plain to see that a huge amount of thought has been put into making Faith as easy to use as possible. Even the GM’s book, though packed with the details you’d expect to need when running an entire universe, is simple enough to get into, making the whole product pretty impressive all round.
With a focus on discussion, group play and imagination, Faith certainly deserves a shot at the RPG big time. It feels very different to previous systems I’ve played with, so that alone deserves some level of recognition, but the fact that everything works so well means I’ll certainly recommend it. As with any RPG, the previously mentioned caveat remains – you definitely need a playgroup willing to give something new a shot – but who wouldn’t want to play something that gives you such freedom? Trying this one was a pleasure, and I can’t wait to see how the final product turns out.
Faith: The Sci Fi RPG is on Kickstarter until March 12th, 2015. Designed by Carlos Gómez, Helio de Grado & Mauricio Gómez with art by Milan Nikolic, Aleksandra Bilic and Aleksa Bracic, it will be published by Burning Games with a prospective delivery date of October 2015 – so… Essen. Everything you need to play is included in the £46 level, though you can pick up a deck for as little as £14 if you want to support the campaign. Which you do. Yes.