Some of you have seen our other worldbuilding lines, through Kickstarter, Patreon, and DrivethruRPG, and are eagerly awaiting the next installment. Some of you have been shared this and don’t know what to make of us. Hi, we’re kinda story architects [Ste: I prefer story scaffolding specialists]. We help people tell stories.
So, I’ve run roleplay games for a couple of decades, – actually I prefer the term ‘storytelling games’ as it’s a better fit for the kind of games I run. Or possibly ‘movies in your head’ – I often use a vocabulary in common with film students – “In last weeks exciting episode….” Time for a Training Montage! And so on.
When we (my regular gaming group) sat down to talk shop, we realised we have all run up against a recurring problem. When I run a published module, chances are everyone in the game has read it, heard war stories about it, (and it turns out that the seeming safe path is illusion and there’s actually a plank down the middle of the room! Ha Ha!) or at the very least can look up a lot of the details on the Net. This makes for un-fun gameplay – the surprises aren’t, the doublecross fails when the party shoot the key NPC just to see what happens. The rest of the team have encountered similar with regards to published settings – it’s entirely possible that one of your players knows the setting better than you do.
The trick we all independently came up with is to use the same basic shape but give it a new twist. Perhaps the teacher is a nurse instead? Maybe the boss-fight-at-the-end is in a hospital instead of a back alley? The problem with this is is takes a lot more prep time than playing straight out of the book.
What we write is story elements and worldbuilding advice – so you can more easily mix it up a bit. Either plug our elements into existing settings as a quick twist – or tack a few together and make your own world.
Writers and storytellers too can make use of our pieces as prompts. Explore a character’s backstory; chronicle a location; begin on a planet. Almost everything we publish implies more is going on – we specifically don’t tie down elements like how magic works or what alien races exist. If you make use of a story-seed like this and write something, we’d love a copy. If you make a million, buy us a coffee or something.
Why ‘Shards’ ?
We wanted a word that implied disconnected pieces of a whole. Jigsaw didn’t work, as it implied more of a solid final setting. So we ran through a number of idea – fragments, modules, [scratched off pretty quickly due to the “adventure module” implication] capsules, chapters, even “world clay”.
As for why we ended up with Shards in particular? Blame the members of VAGUE – that’s the Manchester Metropolitan University Tabletop Gaming Society. We wandered along one week with a list of names, and asked anyone who would talk to us which ones they liked. I think marketers call it a focus group. We call it talking to your mates.
Why a Zine?
We’ve been kinda looking for a new way to do what we do best – make world pieces. We’ve made a lot of Concept Cards, and Jigsaw Fantasy was taking all our time for virtually no money. I’m sorry, terribly mercenary of us, but we got rent to find and bills to pay.
Honestly, we probably wouldn’t have thought of presenting in this way without KS doing their Zine Quest. But it does fit the criteria we’ve been looking for – not too expensive to print (we’re banking on you wanting to read it because it’s useful, not because it’s shiny), regular (see Douglas Adams’ wise words on deadlines) and managed – we can stop trying to be sales reps and get on with making new cool stuff for you to play with.