Creating a Fantasy Card Game – The Mechanics of Firelight

Firelight is a fantasy card game which puts the power of dynamic storytelling in your hands. Players cooperate to tell improvised, movie-length stories set in a shared fantasy universe.

The driving philosophy of Firelight during development has been to create a simple tabletop RPG, one which allows for freedom of improvisation but does away with hours of character creation, story planning, and number counting. The question during the prototyping phase, then, became one of balancing player freedom against the inherent restrictions of a simple design.

Streamlining Tabletop Games

Firelight may put a new spin on tabletop gaming conventions, but the ‘eureka’ moment during development was actually inspired by video games like The Witcher 3 and Skyrim.

These games take place in what is commonly called a “sandbox” – A large, open world complete with preset locations, characters, and objectives, which players are free to interact with in any way they wish. While the structure of these sandboxes is largely predetermined, the millions of variances in player interactions means that no two experiences will ever be the same.

Firelight is a game of many different sandboxes.


In the game box, there will be 20 different “Quest” cards, each of which comes with its own set of locations, characters, and objectives. Just as most theater utilizes a five Act structure, each Quest has five objectives which, when finished, will form a complete and satisfying story.

Firelight's Quests will take players through multiple storylines, all taking place within the same fantasy world

Firelight's Quests will take players through multiple storylines, all taking place within the same fantasy world

One player, taking the role of the Game Master, is free to exercise complete creative control over the moment-to-moment details of those objectives. A Quest involving a bank heist, for example, can change drastically depending on the structure and security of the bank, and the types of characters inside of the building when players begin their heist. Perhaps one Game Master will choose to introduce a cast of side characters, while another might prefer telling a pared-down story focusing only on a few key players. There’s even room for variance in tone – One might choose to create a madcap adventure in the vein of Ocean’s Eleven, while another might prefer a gritty robbery styled after Heat.

Thanks to this combination of structure and interpretation, there are infinite variations on each of the 20 Quests included with the game.


Game Masters aren’t the only ones who have influence over the story. Up to three other players can take the role of Adventurers – basically, the stars of the Quest. In a normal tabletop role-playing game, there is often an hour or more of character creation involved. In Firelight, this process is streamlined to about five minutes.

 A Dungeons and Dragons character sheet as provided by Wizards of the Coast. Firelight streamlines this information into a few cards

 A Dungeons and Dragons character sheet as provided by Wizards of the Coast. Firelight streamlines this information into a few cards

First, each player chooses an Adventurer card from the pile. There are eight Adventurers total, and each facilitates a unique play style. The Warrior focuses on brute strength, the Thief on stealth, the Trickster on persuasion, and so on. Each Adventurer has preset statistics which determine their proficiencies, so there’s no need to spend an hour balancing and re-balancing your character’s stat sheet. Adventurers also come equipped with three unique Abilities which enhance and complement their proficiencies.

The second and final step of creating your Adventurer is to develop his or her Personality profile. This is done by drawing five Personality cards from the deck. Players choose their favorite Personality traits – from “kleptomaniac” to “cult leader” to “werewolf” – and build their character’s profile around them.

During play, Adventurers act based on their chosen Personality elements, giving even more variance to how each Quest plays out.

Treasures & Enemies

The final two types of cards are Treasures and Enemies.

Treasures represent the different types of items that players can utilize during their Quest. From glass decanters which unleash raging storms when uncorked, to angelic swords that sap health from enemies, Treasures provide even more ways for Adventurers to interact with their environment. Each Adventurer draws one Treasure card at random upon beginning a Quest, and more can be awarded throughout the game.

One great way to find Treasure is by defeating Enemies. Each Quest has certain Enemy types associated with it, but Adventurers can encounter any Enemy type in any Quest, as per the Game Master’s discretion. Each Enemy has their own unique attack and defense characteristics, as well as a unique ability. Damage dealt and incurred during battle is handled via a simple series of dice rolls – There are no huge numbers to add up, and no lengthy combat encounters which interrupt the pace of the story.

Bringing it all Together

Quests, Adventurers, Personalities, Treasures, and Enemies come together to streamline the traditional role-playing process. With many of the more tedious elements of role-playing reduced to simple, player-driven choices, the freedom and fun of improvisation is left to shine on its own merits.