Shards – Excited About Layout and Typesetting?

We are – we’ve just increased the size of the Zine by 12% without adding a single extra page.

With our experience of printing on playing cards and small leaflets in our previous projects we’ve become well aware of the cost of wide borders, and the dangers of small ones – just how important it is to get them as small as possible and no smaller.

Shards is our first major case of printed long-form text, and we’ve therefore been playing with the borders for a while now, working out what size they can be – but we missed one major factor that more experienced book-printers would have spotted immediately: The three outside borders and the inside border should not be the same size. We’d been working with them equal, and that was costing us a lot of space as it means the borders had to be a whole 6mm (quarter of an inch) wider. That’s a 4% increase of the usable height, and 3% on the width.

But that’s only a 7% increase in area – so why am I saying 12%? That’s where the typesetting aspect comes in: words rolling over the end of the line, and paragraphs rolling over the end of a page, take up a surprising amount of space.

But Wait, There’s More: We’ve also tested decreasing the font size from its past 12pt to a smaller 11.5pt text, on the upper end of what paperback books use – it’s still thoroughly readable for even low-quality eyes, but it saves another 8%, letting us fit in even more content.

We knew from the start that we wanted the text bigger and clearer than on our past Concept Cards projects – their space requirements were far tighter – but we overshot what was necessary. Partly this is due to our first test print being done on a printer with a slight misalignment – the text blurred in a way that made it slightly harder to read at small sizes – which has now been corrected.

And Another Thing: We’ve settled on cream paper stock for the zine. We had been considering “Natural” paper, the kind that many older novels used – as it is nicely yellow, and a little more environmentally friendly. However we decided to do a test run on that paper type, and were reminded that the nice yellow tint of a good book takes about a year to really kick in – and we’re not going to be using tea to artificially age the Zine…

Let me leave you with a final thought: There’s one week left on this Kickstarter – so now’s the time to back before you miss out!

Be Well

-Ste

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Shards – Table of Contents

With the changing numbers of pages we’ve been doing a bit of shuffling around, but we’ve worked out which of the pieces we’ve got written will be going in the first issue – and which are getting pushed back to issues 2 and 3.

So here’s the contents section – page numbers are not included, as art and typesetting may shift some things; or a “People’s Hero” backer might increase the size of the Zine still further.

Editorial: Introducing the authors and the concept of the Zine

The Grand Labyrinth: The world’s largest maze, which hosts three or four exits: The three below and potentially the more mysterious Hero’s Gate, if combining with Issue #2s Labyrinth of Time

↳   The Wayfarer’s Gate: At the northwest of the maze is an exit best reached through days of painstaking progress

↳   The Warrior’s Gate: At the northeast of the maze is an exit which can only be reached by battling mechanical beasts

↳   The Adventurer’s Gate: At the center of the maze is the most challenging exit to reach, one that will take cunning, combat skill and endurance combined.

Bokort’s Bar: A future tavern with alien patrons and bartenders, alongside some technological gambling games.

↳   Staff: The bartenders, bouncer and croupier.

↳   Notable Patrons: Interesting people who might be found here reasonably often.

↳   Hooks: Example ways to weave the location into a story as well as a world.

The Great And The Wise: Neasa Aranrhod: A fey queen with an interest in answering questions “helpfully”.

↳   In Other Genres: Exploring how to alter Neasa to fit in worlds beyond traditional fantasy

Using the 5 Ws in Worldbuilding: An introductory article looking at how to dig deeper into an aspect of your world by asking the standard questions: “Who?”, “What?”, “Where?”, “When?”, “Why?” and the honorary sixth w “How?” – using one of our past creations to illustrate the method.

Magpie’s Nest: Stealing Thieves: Some things you can take from history, mythology, folklore and fiction to craft your worlds thieves, and their gods.

Letter Lich: In this issue, she answers a questioner asking how to incorporate Drow into a roleplaying campaign without causing trouble for an arachnophobic player.

Credits & Thanks: Art credits along with thanks to our biggest backers and supporters in this project.

As always your comments and input are welcome – although in this case rather than on facebook or twitter we’d most like to hear them over on the Kickstarter page

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Shards: Worldbuilding Zine – 12/02/2019->04/03/2019

We now have a date for Shards launch – the 12th of this month. It comes with a set, and appropriate, end date – the 4th of March “GM’s Day”.

We’ll be doing 6 issues over the next 6 months, each with three shards of setting – at least one being sci-fi and one being fantasy – a fourth article on worldbuilding, and a letters section where our resident agony aunt The Letter Lich can help you solve your worldbuilding and game-running problems.

Each issue is a minimum of 36 pages long, but there’s also going to be a high-roller backer level that allows the backer to fund 4 additional pages for every copy of the zine, for all six issues; because sometimes it feels good to give!

We’re currently finalising the writing and art for issue #1, and will be launching with those in the bag and at least half of May and June’s articles already written – insuring against any future schedule slips.

p.s. our regular weekly blog is here

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New Monthly Post: Playtest Report

We’ve decided to add a bit more structure to the blog, and this is the first piece of it: Every month, on the 2nd monday, the Artemis Games blog will have a Playtest Report – talking about some playtesting we’ve done, and what modifications it has pushed into the games.

December/January Playtest Report

Over the past month we have been largely focused on playtesting Tinfoil Hat, our upcoming Conspiracy Theory game.

Overall the response has been positive, but there’s been some vital criticism.

The biggest of Tinfoil Hat’s problems is the beginning: at the start of the game, as it stood last week, you had to rant for 30 seconds on the connection between two pieces of a conspiracy. This didn’t really work – most of the 30 seconds was spent umming and ahhing as there simply wasn’t enough to go on.

Our first fix attempt was to make the 30 seconds timer only function as a maximum, not a minimum. But that resulted in a brand new problem: With no push to keep talking the ranter was a lot less likely to elaborate on their conspiracy in interesting ways, and to potentially back themselves into a corner.

We’ve worked on the problem again, and now have a working solution: In addition to the two cards played at the start by the judge, to start the rant, the first 30 seconds includes a completely random card from the top of the deck. The 30 second timer still functions as both minimum and maximum, but the game hits its stride far faster while allowing time for the players to make vital mistakes.

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Draconic Laziness

It’s new years eve, and the fifth monday of the month, so I’m going to practise the draconic virtue of resting and enjoying my treasures in my home.

No update today, but we will return next week; when we’ll be establishing a new pattern for the new year.

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Gifts for a Dragon

What can you give the beast that’s got everything?

More Shiny Stuff

No matter how large a dragon’s hoard, they always want more – dragons are greed personified. So even if they have everything, consider what they don’t have two of; and get them that.

Dragon Eggs

By gifting a dragon an egg you are providing them with one of three things: First it could be their own egg, in which case they will be grateful for its return, although unless you also provide the thief they may be somewhat suspicious.

Secondly it could be the egg of another dragon they tolerate, in which case you have given them powerful leverage for diplomacy.

Thirdly it could be the egg of another dragon they either don’t know or don’t like, in which case you have provided them with a rare and delicious meal.

Tartare Sauce

It is a well-known fact that one should not interfere in the affairs of dragons – humanoids are crunchy and go well with ketchup. By buying a dragon Tartare Sauce you can spur them to enjoy seafood for some time, distracting them from kidnapping princesses and devouring knights.

Laxative Tablets

Dragons consume a very mineral-rich diet, high in iron, steel, silver and gold. Unfortunately it is also very low in fibre, meaning that dragons can easily become constipated, rather grumpy and overproducing methane – which leads to town-destroying rampages. Give your neighbourhood dragon some mild laxatives to help them stay regular and happy in their lair.

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The Rebirth of Jigsaw Fantasy as Setting Shards

It’s Easter – or at least it was two days ago.

So it feels appropriate that we talk about a rebirth – at the end of last year Jigsaw Fantasy, our Patreon project, died. It was sad, but we talked about why it needed to be done. We’ve now gone through some of the changes that needed making, and we’re preparing to relaunch with the new name “Setting Shards”.

We’re looking at making physical versions this time, and expanding our options to include things beyond Fantasy, but we think that the new name and new design will make much of the necessary difference.

We’re still fine tuning the design, but as you can see we want it to show a wider array of possibilities!

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Artemis Games New Years Resolutions

Today is new years day – so we’re all a bit drained from yesterday – but we still want to say something significant. So here are the business-related new years resolutions for us this year:

  1. Go all-in on the February Concept Cards Kickstarter: More marketing, more contacts, better prep. It’s our central product, we need to make sure everyone sees its value.
  2. Work with local game stores to demo and advertise our products – help new players find our tools.
  3. Rebrand Jigsaw Fantasy – either when Dr!p launches, or when we’ve finished design work on Science Fiction Concept Cards.
  4. Talk to at least one publisher each month about getting one of our card games into production.
  5. Get more connected to the UK and international tabletop design communities – and look for opportunities to collaborate with other members of that community.
  6. Continue developing our art resources, and connecting with artists, to create the best looking products possible.
  7. Always remember that we have to look after our own health – and each others – in order to be productive.

 

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Amy and Ste Writing Techniques

Neither of us are even close to that neat…

 

Amy – by Amy

For me it usually starts with me watching, reading or dreaming about something and thinking “That’s interesting, but how does it work” or “Could it be done another way” or “I want to know more, but there’s no answers around”…

  • Then I usually write a small bit of it – an introduction or some bullet points on the bits of the piece that make immediate sense.
  • And I ask myself some questions – like why and how it exists, and what it smells and sounds like.
  • For instance with The Floating city, I had always liked the idea of a moving ocean city in fantasy with the city on the back of dragon turtles, and also the floating cities in the real world in vietnam and south america, but I didn’t want to simply copy either, I wanted to combine aspects of both – and then I saw a show call “The Future is Wild” and it had giant jellyfish and I realised that they could work as the base of a floating city. But once it came to writing it I had to work out how that would work in fantasy world, i.e. why would the jellyfish allow people to build upon them, and never dive beneath the waves.
  • So I make a template asking these questions within the piece, both for Jigsaw Fantasy and for the Monstrous Monday Blogs.
    • Questions often delve into things that are commonly ignored in fiction – for instance “Where do Kraken nest?”.
  • I also try to give background to a few things that most people might see as just a monster or just someone they met on the road – a bit of back story and place they come from – whether that be the origin of a species, or a young royal elf would be traveling with children he’s not related to.
  • When I know what I want to write to about but am stuck on how or what to say, there a few different things I do to help with this like
    • I go on a run, and think about it as I do so.
    • Read or watch some more information about it.
    • I talk it over with Ste
    • I dream walk, which is a bit like lucid dreaming, but rather than taking full control I just pick a point from which to allow my thoughts to spread – I do this either while in a half-asleep state, or while meditating.
  • My pieces are always finished off with a pass by Ste, doing a deep-dive of copy-editing that often involves filling out some areas where I’ve forgotten to put down things that I know about the piece – simply due to the fact that, with my dyslexia, I don’t always put things in writing.

 

Ste – by Ste

My pieces begin with a “High Concept” some major element of worldbuilding (or, in the case of People with Two Sides character building) that I feel a drive to explore – whether that be “the greatest possible city”, “a glacial disaster”, “nature on steroids” or “why do Devils really want souls”

  • I then break it down into subsections, writing a brief synopsis of each subsection at the start (this is generally cut from the final piece). Each of these subsections is something I expect to be roughly the same length – if they prove not to be I’ll subdivide further.
  • My subsections often share a structure, at least at first – for instance geographic ones will each have the same number of major elements from their region explored in depth, while each character will explore a set number of sensations and of behaviours.
  • I ask Amy what she thinks of my subsections and she’ll ask those questions that she alway asks herself 1)She does this with every piece she reads, but with those by Ali and Loz it’s often late enough in the process that there’s no longer space to devote to longer answers to those questions, and they end up in the Jigsaw Links as more open questions.
  • After the edits Amy prompts, the strictness of my writing structure is almost always broken, but that’s not a problem as the structure was there as *scaffolding* to help me write clearly.

 

Together at the End – By both of us

We always finish off our pieces together, chucking problems and ideas back and forth as they come up.

  • Sometimes art will change how we see something – “Why is a male elf wearing what looks a wedding dress?”
  • Occasionally Jigsawing makes significant changes – something that was specified one way actually makes sense multiple different ways.
  • Every now and then we have to cut something for space, due to over-writing – it is in these cases that we’re most likely to look at whether the patrons want a semi-sequel piece.

 

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References   [ + ]

1. She does this with every piece she reads, but with those by Ali and Loz it’s often late enough in the process that there’s no longer space to devote to longer answers to those questions, and they end up in the Jigsaw Links as more open questions.