SF Concept Cards: Cardbacks and Backgrounds

Two of the most important things about a card are how the back looks, and how the front looks.1)Technically that’s everything about a card – but in this case we’re thinking purely visual

So we’ve been putting some work into getting those aspects right – we’re not quite there yet, but we’re closing in.

For the fantasy line of Concept Cards we started with a very simple concept: That the characters were written on parchment: so the background was slightly yellow and lightly textured.

 

Fantasy Characters Background

Later fantasy decks had slightly more exotic, theme-tied backgrounds, but they strove to remain simple (with the exception of a few special cards, such as the elemental cards in epic decks)

 

Fantasy Treasure Background

The cardback came from Fiverr – after a number of false starts, we recieved something that looked simply excellent, so we used it.

Fantasy Cardback

 

While we like everything we made for fantasy, it’s obviously unsuitable for sci-fi. We so far haven’t found useable simple textures, so as seen previously we’re simply using coloured backgrounds. Meanwhile we’ve been working on cardbacks that keep the double-circle of the fantasy deck, but go in a more sci-fi direction. What we’ve got at the moment is nebulous:

A B
C

 

What do you think? Which do you prefer?

Which is your favourite of the cardback designs?

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References   [ + ]

1. Technically that’s everything about a card – but in this case we’re thinking purely visual

SF Concept Cards: The Other Two Decks

Last week we showed you an unedited video of us playing with cards, and one of the planetary cards mentioned.

This week I think it’d be good to talk through a couple more cards – one from the Characters deck and one from the Locations.

First the Character. Why would you draw from the characters deck?
The most common reason is that the players decide they want to talk to a local, or someone travelling with them, or whoever – and you haven’t actually planned the details of that particular bit of background scenario.

Between sessions you might instead draw cards to plan your next adventure. While planets or station locations may be more common sources of adventure, the characters involved are what make a story truly gripping, so drawing a few of both is often the best idea.

So, on to the example:

We’ve flipped the secret because it’s easier than you flipping your monitor.

Roberta, even more so than most characters, is capable of turning up anywhere – possibly even showing up repeatedly on different planets.

My immediate interpretation is that she’s one of the characters that falls into the category of “NPC Adventurer”, someone who is likely to deal with problems rather than screaming and running away.

The value of her hearts makes it clear that while she has a meaningful desire something about it is lackluster – she wants to see everywhere, but not only is that impossible, she doesn’t even have a plan!

The value of her clubs suit (above average with a 7) tells us that she’s well-connected, despite the constant movement – she doesn’t stick around but the friends she leaves behinds are still friends, and new ones are a constant.

Her diamonds (profession) is “Whatever it Takes” gives a lot more depth to her character – she’s not a spoiled noble brat, she’s travelling on her own dime, on her own blood, sweat, and tears.

The spades describes her, while also reinforcing the fact that she’s self-mobile.

The secret is the key to building a whole plot around her – she wants to prove that she still has a soul, which is not an easy task in a science fiction world where souls may not even exist in the first place! If the players get interested you may find yourself leading them on a trail of mystics and priests, looking for someone who can actually prove that their spirituality is reality.

 

Now onto the Location. Again, you might draw this when planning a session, or you might draw it when your players decide to wander down another corridor or another street, and need somewhere interesting to walk into – somewhere other than the adventure that you’d originally planned.

You might get to point them back at the plot, or perhaps you’ll find the card gives you a whole new plot:

A high hearts in locations means that the place is host to important people – in this case an extremely competent law firm.

The spades and diamonds both reinforce that these are skilled lawyers – but not kind ones. Still, they might be useful for adventurous types like player characters, who break laws in order to do what’s necessary.

And even if the PCs don’t have enough money to pay them, the secret provides an obvious out: They’re in need of protection, just the sort of story the PCs are used to sorting!

 

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Sci-Fi Concept Cards – In Use (The Sage of Hyblos IV)

Today we printed up and set out a whole load of concept cards, having set up some transitional suit symbols for them (they’re not final, but they’ll work for now).

And we decided to start trying for our Kickstarter Video, going with the approach that has served us best: sitting in front of the camera for ages playing with the cards, and cutting together something cool from that.

We did get something cool, but it’s a lot longer than we can use for the final video – so we decided to share it now!

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Third Thursday Freebie: The Druidic Paths

This piece is one drawn from our currently active 13th Age campaign – a solution to a common problem “How do we allow people to get to distant places quickly, without removing the potential of travel-related plots”

Of interest to some might be its original inspiration – a different take in some ways, while similar in others, and serving similar purposes for the play of its game – the Trods of the Empire LARP

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Sci-Fi Concept Cards: Suit Symbols

Three of the interim suit symbols for sci-fi concept cards – destined to be replaced.

In the Concept Cards line we treat the connection between card and concept quite seriously, using it both as a design tool and a way to standardise the structure of the concepts. Every card is defined by its primary suit – and each suit has a specific meaning in any given deck.

Over the course of the 11 decks of fantasy Concept Cards the meanings of the suits varied significantly, with each suit having at least two meanings (and most having three) – so when we came to start writing the Sci-Fi Concept Cards we decided to take a step back and think about what we were going to do with the suits.

We knew we were only doing a limited set of decks for Sci-Fi, whether 3 or 4, so we could plan ahead and get them all consistent – or so we thought.

It turns out that there was a very strong reason we weren’t consistent before – different concepts have different needs. There were some inconsistencies that could be solved by planning ahead, but others can’t be.

In the end we made only one major step towards consistency: in the original (fantasy) Character Cards decks Spades was the characters profession while Diamonds was their appearance – but in the Location Cards and Plot Hooks decks Spades was physical characteristics and Diamonds was wealth – so in Sci-Fi Character Cards we’ve made Diamonds the suit of their work, how they earn their wealth, and Spades the suit of appearances.

The suit meanings as they’re currently set out are:

Clubs: Connections/Politics for Characters and Planets, Dangers for Locations.
Diamonds: Wealth, resources or profession
Hearts: Desires/behaviours for Characters, Inhabitants for Planets and Locations 1)Listing the inhabitants of each character would be quite samey – E. Coli and other digestive bacteria every time.
Spades: Physical Traits

Of course, meanings aren’t the only complication when it comes to designing suit symbols. As you saw at the top, we have a set of interim images – but they’re far from the final version. For fantasy Concept Cards we had the amazing Marcos Hidalgo drawing the suit symbols, but this time around we’re looking for talent that we can afford to properly pay – people who either want to join the team, or who do such drawings as a job – rather than relying on finding another enthusiastic and artistic fan who’s just happy to be paid in decks!

My art skills (as displayed above) are massively better than they were, but they’re still not up to the standards we want for our work. By this time next month we should have better ones to show you!

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References   [ + ]

1. Listing the inhabitants of each character would be quite samey – E. Coli and other digestive bacteria every time.

Rebranding Our Patreon – What and Why?

This month we’re going to be talking about our ongoing project, Jigsaw Fantasy, and why that’s not going to be its name any more – and what else is changing at the same time.

Come January we’re going to be officially rebranding it, and making a few other changes to new products in the line.

First lets talk about what we’re doing:

The Big Name Change

We need a new name for Jigsaw Fantasy. The old one just isn’t cutting it.

We have a few options, and we’d like you to give us your input on which name you prefer.

Endnotes -> Footnotes

Originally we decided to have Jigsaw Fantasy have “jigsaw links” as endnotes as we saw them as akin to references in a book – you flip over to find out what it says in the cases where you feel you need to.

But as the design has developed, the use of the links has become more of an informational aside, with occasional references – more suitable to a footnote.

It will also help with making them physical if we ever do so again – endnotes are great with hyperlinks in digital form, but physically it results in an odd reading experience.

Art Updates

We’ve gotten a bit better at sourcing art than we were in the very earliest days of Jigsaw Fantasy, so we’re going to be updating bits here and there as we gradually go through the older pieces and switch them over to the new brand.

Why?

After the Jigsaw Fantasy Kickstarter failed to reach its funding goal, we knew we had two choices: Give up the project entirely, or work out what the problems were and solve them – and we don’t give up easily!

The biggest problem was, we discovered, the name – most people weren’t reaching the stage of deciding whether or not they liked the product, because the name Jigsaw Fantasy was failing to convey the concept and thus they were never even looking at it.

So, in order to give our concept a fair shot at taking wing we’re rebuilding the image from the ground up – working out what works and ditching what doesn’t, piece by piece.

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The Death of Kalendra – Nursery Rhymes in Fantasy

Remember, remember, the death of Kalendra,
Staked, beheaded then burned.
If Kalendra’s beheading was held at a wedding,
T’would be the birth at which she returned.

If you don’t recognise that rhyme then I’ll be quite surprised, but if you recognise the words I’ll be astonished.

Nursery rhymes have a powerful ability to infect the mind – they’re like ancient earworms – but they can also convey significant amounts of information and emotion about the history of their origin.

To illustrate, let’s first look at what the original rhyme would tell us if we were not of this world:

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Well, the fifth of November is clearly a date, and one on which a major event happened. An event that involved gunpowder (the meaning of which will become clear once we discover that guns are a type of explosive crossbow), and treason.

So we have a little idea of what’s going on, but not a huge amount – it’s not a well-structured rhyme for worldbuilding, but it doesn’t need to be. Still, if we want more information we could look at the rest of the poem (which is, in my opinion, much less well composed):

Guy Fawkes, guy, t’was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.

By god’s mercy he was catch’d
With a darkened lantern and burning match.
So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.

And what shall we do with him?
Burn him!

Now we know that we’re dealing with a monotheistic monarchy (with some sort of parliament supporting the king), that Guy Fawkes is the traitor in question, and that burning someone is a fitting punishment for treason. All portrayed in a much more fun way than just listing it out.

Now for the breakdown of Kalendra’s tale – For this act I’ll go line by line, for by design it’s densely packed.

Remember, remember, the death of Kalendra,

So we start with the fact that Kalendra is someone important who is now dead. Simple enough, but slightly useful for worldbuilding.

Staked, beheaded then burned.

Okay, so someone really wanted this Kalendra dead – and from the staking we can guess that vampires are a thing in their world.

Now “hung, drawn and quartered” is a thing in our world, so overkill is entirely plausible as a torture method – but beheading wouldn’t come before burning in that case, as you don’t want them to be actually dead until the third act.

If Kalendra’s beheading was held at a wedding,

An odd image. Obviously it wasn’t held at a wedding, but the fact that it’s something that would be suggested says that just as public executions could be celebrations in our world perhaps they could be combined with other celebrations in this world.

T’would be the birth at which she returned.

This line is the most important one – obviously Kalendra came back after being massively overkilled, but significantly she didn’t do so until after the expected gap between a wedding and the first child.

So Kalendra was not a simple vampire, but if she is a Lich or similar then she is not one that can just pop back up an hour later, but one that must regain her strength – more like Voldemort than Vecna.

Slightly less obvious is what this tells us about weddings within this world: Weddings can work in many different ways in different places, but here it is clear that wedding and birth are intimately linked – and not just in the abstract “married people have kids” sense – either the fertility in this world is quite high, and as such it is to be expected that the first pregnancy will occur within a few months of the marriage, or it is commonplace that people get married during the pregnancy.

In Your Games and Stories

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Third Thursday Freebie – Warrior Priests of the Sea

Warrior Priests of the Sea Cover

This month’s freebie is a small Noggin drawn from the Jigsaw Piece The Floating City – focusing on the priests of their Academic Quarter, who defend the elderly and the young with the gifts of their goddess.

As with all Jigsaw Fantasy products this also includes a series of “Jigsaw Links” giving advice on how to tie the elements into your own setting, using examples drawn from many different fantasy worlds.

Check out Jigsaw Fantasy’s Warrior Priests of the Sea

And if you enjoy that, you’ll love our upcoming kickstarter – so keep your eyes peeled.

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The Colours of Elements

four-elements

 

The base Elements of reality, or of mystical power, vary greatly between settings. In the real world their number is undefined (if we look at chemical elements they become increasingly shortlived as we go down the periodic table, with many being incapable of chemical interactions due to their tiny half-lives, while if we look at fundamental particles the list is incomplete and uncertain), but most settings that make use of them limit them rather more strictly – having them be well-understood phenomenon with a very definite list.

The Classical Elements

All can agree that Fire, Earth, Air and Water are classical elements, but there is commonly a fifth – Spirit, Void or Aether – representing things that are truly immaterial and cannot be felt in any way.

Looking at them in order of the complexity of assigning a colour to them:

Fire is always red.

Although the knowledge of white-hot flames is old, red fires were, and still are, by far the most common to encounter, with white flames requiring significant active effort to maintain in a forge or furnace.

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