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

Continue reading →

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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.

Continue reading →

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Concept Cards vs. Online Random Generators

If you’re reading this, you have access to the internet. And if you have access to the internet, you have free access to random generators for anything you can imagine: characterstreasures and much more.

But we feel that Concept Cards offer something uniquely valuable, which is why we make them. So I’d like to take today’s post to explain a few of the things that make Concept Cards special.

They’re Physical

Everyone knows that tabletop roleplayers tend to prefer physical tools to digital ones, but it’s not always obvious why.

Why roll dice when you could use an RNG? Why meet in person when you could roleplay online? Continue reading →

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Concept Cards – Finding Fantasy

I’ve been talking this month about the Modern Range of Concept Cards – but the original ones do still exist, and are still available – indeed they’re slightly more available now as we’ve done some reorganisation.

If you’re interested in them, but unsure, you can check out a sampler deck (with 54 cards) for free.

If that whets your appetite, then you can pick up the full decks digitally on DriveThruRPG or physically on BackerKit. We’ll also be listed soon on Apprentice Games

Be well, and enjoy the Sampler

-Ste

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Modern Concept: First Look

Before I start, I’d like to mention that we’ll be releasing a freebie from Jigsaw Fantasy this Thursday, and every Third Thursday of the month from now on.

We had a meeting today, hoping to iron out our full plans for Modern Concept Cards, but the results were inconclusive, we’ve still got some open questions in the deck designs for the Modern Day Concept Cards – the biggest question of which is how we’ll be launching them. There are two different plans in place, fighting for implementation.

We know that the first deck we’ll be doing is Modern Characters, but we’re not sure what will be going alongside it: Either it will be two split decks (High Flyers and Superheroes, Urban Fantasy and Cyberpunk) or it will be one whole themed deck (likely Urban Fantasy)

If it’s a whole themed deck then it’ll take a little longer to get to the Organisations decks, as we’ll do the other two themes in a separate kickstarter.

Here’s a sample Urban Fantasy Character as it would appear in a full deck:

SampleUrbFanCha

And here’s a sample Cyberpunk Organisation as it would appear in a split deck:

SampleCyberOrg

Let us know your thoughts on Facebook

Be Well

-Ste

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Modern Concepts: Characters and What?

As with last week today’s post is about the upcoming Modern Concept Cards. We’re going to be starting with Characters, as we did with Fantasy Concept Cards, but beyond that the genres are rather different in terms of needs. We could simply do one set of Modern Concept Cards, sticking with Characters only, but that would likely be leaving demand unfilled – so we’ve been planning ahead for what could follow it up.

A deck of modern day Creatures would likely interest no-one, there are only so many different dogs, cats, rats and rabbits one can write about interestingly – and I don’t think we could manage 56.

A deck of modern day Treasures would be odd – modern day campaigns rarely focus on the kind of treasure-gathering adventures often seen in medieval fantasy – but it could be done, and would see some use, with items such as laptops with hidden partitions, diamonds hidden in a matchbox, fake IDs, and suchlike. Still, the expansion sections (Urban Fantasy, Superheroes and Cyberpunk) could all do interesting items, so it might well be worth considering doing in a slightly different split than we have planned for the characters – avoiding the base Modern Day deck entirely.

A deck of Modern Plots would work fine; jobs, heists, assassinations, political events, etc. it would likely be very useful, just as our fantasy Plot Hooks deck is. But it’s also a very hard deck for us to write – we struggled greatly in writing Plot Hooks – and while the end product is probably worth it we’d need to be absolutely certain we were both prepared and had a significant market before we considered going through that again.

Of the fantasy decks that leaves Locations – the first port of call after Characters because they’re something we so often create for our own games and we can fit so much plot potential within such a deck. But somehow when looking at both Modern Locations and Superhero Locations we found that there was something off about them – in most cases only one suit was truly interesting. Clubs as danger sits badly in the Modern Day decks, outside of the subgenres and wartime the modern world is mostly safe – diamonds as wealth worked okay, but it feels flat – spades as structure was too often simply another standard building – hearts  was where all the interest lay, the inhabitants of the location, who they worked for and with.

So we talked it over and decided that we were looking at things wrong. For medieval fantasy locations are a key feature of the tale as you travel from place to place encountering difficulties along the way – but in modern stories they’re not that important, they’re more like the backdrop. For the second set of Modern Decks we’re looking at focusing on that one suit in locations that mattered – the hearts – and doing a deck of…

Modern Organisations

As a new deck type this required some significant discussion, but we think we’ve worked out how Organisations will work.

So come back next week to see the structure of an example Character and Organisation from the modern deck – the formatting will be far from final, but we’d certainly appreciate your feedback.

Be Well

-Ste

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Concept Cards: Modern Modifications

We’ve done 11 different decks of Concept Cards over the past 6 years, but they’ve all been aimed at the Medieval Fantasy genre of roleplaying. During those projects we’ve had calls for a number of different genres of spinoff, most commonly:

  1. Science Fiction
  2. Superheroes
  3. Lovecraftian Horror
  4. Cyberpunk
  5. Urban Fantasy (e.g. Dresden Files or World of Darkness)
  6. Western

 

The set we’re working on right now, Modern Day, isn’t named on that list, but it is there: both the Superheroes and Urban Fantasy genres are essentially “Modern Day+” – and digging a little deeper Cyberpunk is very similar to modern day too.

So what we’re planning on doing is rolling the ideas together by making a core of Modern Day decks, and then expansions for Cyberpunk, Urban Fantasy and Superheroes specific elements, due to the way those spin off from the centre in different directions

The exact structure of the Kickstarters is somewhat in the air at the moment, likely to be locked down over the next few weeks, but we’re intending to limit ourselves to three decks per project – four, as we did in our last project, is simply too much to allow for a sensible delivery schedule.

That means that we’ll be doing Stretch Goals a little differently – rather than effecting the current project, Stretch Goals will be mostly about what we’re doing *next*.

Unfortunately I’m in poor health this week so I don’t have the energy to write much more, so I’ll be back to talk some more about Modern Concept Cards next week

Be Well

-Ste

 

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