Firelight, Game Development

How Podcasts and Webcomics Inspired Our New Tabletop RPG

As an obsessive fan of fantasy worlds, I can tell you just how easy it is to lose yourself in a good story. While the designers and artists working on Firelight have decades of combined work experience, we've been reading and listening to stories for as long as we can remember. 

Firelight began development during a road trip. Surrounded by seemingly endless miles of desert, my friends and I had the car on cruise control and podcasts blaring. We had been working our way through most of the MaximumFun catalog (seriously an awesome provider of pocasts, if you're looking) and were currently listening to The Adventure Zonea not-so-serious DnD podcast hosted by The Brothers McElroy, of MBMBaM and Polygon fame.

The Adventure Zone,  a DnD podcast by the McElroy Brothers.  TAZ  is what first inspired  Firelight

The Adventure Zone, a DnD podcast by the McElroy Brothers. TAZ is what first inspired Firelight

If you've never listened to The Adventure Zone, it's an ongoing story starring three brothers and their father coming together to play DnD for the first time, and it's every bit as charming as it sounds. The characters and relationships are fleshed out and complex, and the lore is insanely deep.

More impressive is that even with books worth of lore, the series never feels sedate or inaccessible. The brothers and their charming dad manage to pack each episode with belly laughs, even for new initiates who have never touched a role-playing game.

As we drove, I found myself desperately wanting to get back into the world of role-playing, but with a job that demanded 60+ hours a week and friends in a similar boat, it was hard to justify taking hours a week to brush up on the 100-page DnD rule book, teach my friends (who had only played simpler games like Exploding Kittens), and create a story out of nothing.

So instead I took hours a week to make my own role-playing game. Funny how these things work.

I knew on that drive that if I could only combine the immediate, physical nature of something like Exploding Kittens with the storytelling of DnD, it would be easier to teach my friends the broad strokes of role-playing games. I especially wanted to maintain the heart and humor of The Adventure Zone, giving players the chance to make characters they would end up falling in love with, laughing with, and ultimately having memorable adventures with.

That was the spark of an idea that would later turn into Firelight's core conceit.

It wasn't until months later, when I was catching up on Ava's Demon, that I cemented the idea for how the game would work.

Ava's Demon  by Michelle Czajkowski, contributing artist on Firelight

Ava's Demon by Michelle Czajkowski, contributing artist on Firelight

See, Ava's Demon is a long-running webcomic that had recently run an amazing Kickstarter campaign to print physical copies of the series. One of the rewards was a series of "pact cards", little cards that featured a few of the comic's main characters. The artwork looked so great on the cards, and I started thinking about how it would be neat to build a game around those characters.

That's where the concept of building a fantasy card game based around characters and their journeys finally cemented for me. From there, it was all about building out the mechanics and making it easier for friends to tell stories together.

The Firelight team grew quickly, and together we combined the humor and heart of The Adventure Zone with the style and character from Ava's Demon. We were even lucky enough to bring on Michelle Czajkowski, creator of Ava's Demon, and Caitlin Scannell, contributing artist for TAZ-spinoff The Adventure Zine. The two have been producing some beautiful artwork that we can't wait to share with you.

The journey of making Firelight has been a long one, and it'll continue on long into the future as we host our Kickstarter, ship units, and hopefully expand the game in years to come. But from beginning to end, we'll let the humor and heart of our inspirations guide us.

Thanks for reading, and remember - Look out for Firelight on Kickstarter beginning July 11!