KS Update: Who are your most unusual characters?

If you’re anything like me you have dozens of characters, ideas for games and general strangeness floating around in your brain (That’s probably why I write them on cards…). Today I’d like to relay a couple of them to you, and ask what’s the strangest character you’ve come up with, whether you actually played them or not?

TBD-768, aka “Teebee”

We were about to start a superheroes-in-space campaign and Ali had a character worked out mechanically, but didn’t have a name. The character was a space ship brought to life by a hyperspace accident. As a space ship she needed a name that was suitable, so I put TBD (for To Be Determined”) and some random numbers. Weirdly she liked it and stuck with it, only adding the diminutive “Teebee” as the character was incredibly inquisitive and eternally upbeat and optimistic.

As the original crew were smugglers, and the contract between them stated that the payout for their current cargo would be split between the crew, and as the rest of them had died in the hyperspace accident that brought Teebee to life, she determined she deserved the money. These funds were then used to buy a near-indestructible humanoid robotic body from aliens, only to discover shortly after purchase that the body was stolen!

That character inspired this card

You could retain the upbeat attitude if you like.
You could retain the upbeat attitude if you like.

 The Incomprehensible Party

A long time ago we were going to play a Star Wars campaign. It never got off the ground for a variety of reasons, but we did propose the least comprehensible party ever – three Wookies and an R2 unit! This was back in the days of the West End Games system, which stated that if you played a character who could not speak common were only allowed to speak in character in imitations of the noises that character could make. This would result in the Wookies’ players only ever saying “Worraaagh” and the R2 unit’s player only ever making bleeping noises. As the GM didn’t speak either Shiriwook or Binary that would have made life difficult to say the least.

Probably for the best those characters never got played!

How About You?

So, share with us your weirdest characters – especially ones you could never actually play but are cool ideas none the less!

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Kickstarter Time: What do the cards mean:

For all Decks:

The main suit of each card defines it, or is what you notice first, while the numbers represent how strong it is.

For Characters

Hearts Represents Desires: 
Maybe they want to travel the universe or rid the galaxy of aliens.

Spades are Physical Descriptions:
They be very small or bright green and cybernetically enhanced

Diamonds Mean Professions:
Spaceship Captain or Interstellar Lawyer would go here.

Clubs are Connections:
Politicians or teachers are people who know people.

The Secret: Every card has a twist. A hidden mutation or a shady past with space pirates might go here. And it can modify the others.

For Locations

Spades Mean Physical Features
If it is decorated with star charts or really noisy it will say here.

Clubs Represent Dangers
From robust safety measures to death by exposure to vacuum.

Diamonds are Resources
The value within may be gold and jewels, or hidden knowledge.

Hearts Show Inhabitants
You could find the medical officer or a smuggler with a heart of gold.

The Secret: Every card has a twist. An alien hunter lurking in the shadows or impending staff walkout. And it can modify the others.

For Planets

Clubs Show Politics
A weak leader clinging to power or the beating heart of a star empire.

Hearts are Inhabitants
Scientists studying local plants or a teeming metropolis of billions.

Spades Represent Environments
There could be methane snow, or fourteen moons and two suns.

Diamonds Show Resources
Rare chemical isotopes or star ship building yards are found here.

The Secret: Every card has a twist. Hallucinogenic plants or long lost alien cities can appear unexpectedly. And it can modify the others.

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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:



What do you think? Which do you prefer?

Which is your favourite of the cardback designs?

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Let us know why on Facebook.

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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: Space is Big! [On helping the sci-fi GM]

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“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

No, really, space IS big. Most fantasy games cover a kingdom, or even a whole world. Scifi adventures cover whole galaxies – maybe even the Universe. Throw in time travel as well, and that’s a lot to fill. Ever wonder why there’s a maximum of half a dozen locations on any given planet?  

Because no author, filmmaker or designer can actually portray space as big as it is, and still have something we can relate to. So you get ‘this week’s planet is a jungle’ “this civilisation is Ancient Greece, but IIIIN SPAACE!”

As GMs, we have to walk a tightrope between not enough detail and too much. We have to include enough from the canon to make it the setting we chose to play in, while writing enough new to make the story our own.

Think for a minute about Star Wars. The middle unstated bit of the original trilogy – after Yavin, before Hoth. Vader hunts down the Resistance because they are a problem. So there are stories to be told elsewhere about other groups of intrepid resistance fighters getting up the Empire’s nose, enough that the Rebellion as a whole is more than just Luke, Leia, Wedge and a handful of extras. But because we’re playing Star Wars, we probably need to visit Tatooine and Hoth and Bespin and Coruscant – otherwise we could be anywhere (The problem of who gets to be the Jedi is a different argument, which I am not getting involved with) But we also need new places, not specified in the book. Places that aren’t in the films, because we were there – and if my personal experience of playing Star Wars is in any way indicative, probably blew up / made uninhabitable / sent to the Dark Side / set up franchises on  – whichever seemed most destructive.at the time.

In order to tell fun stories, the GM needs a whole pile of people to meet, shoot at, betray, fall in love with, and rescue. Planets we can freely visit, come from or devastate. Locations to rob, blow up, control or maybe even just occasionally walk away from. (does anyone spot a theme to my scifi games?) So, we here at Artemis are writing a whole bunch of concepts for you to wrangle into your games.

Unlike the fantasy cards, every card is likely going to need tweaking to fit the setting you play in. Take Lt. Commander Martinn Jarvi. He’s an Imperial Officer, young for his rank,  who believes in absolute galactic order, knows all the right people to get ahead, and has a remarkably quiet voice. He’s even prepared to sacrifice lives for the greater good.

A card of generation alpha-0.2 – come back soon for a more polished version.

In Star Wars, depending on when you play, he might be a Republic official, a Death Star officer, or a New Order officer. Other than that he can be pretty much dropped in as is.

For Star Trek, he almost certainly works for the Federation, but the liberal attitudes of that organisation don’t really fit him. Make him a Vulcan, however, and the desire for order and logic becomes much more explicable.

In Warhammer 40k, he could be an officer in the Imperial Navy, but he makes a much better impact as a Space Marine, stamping out heresy and rebellion. He’s a good fit for an Ultramarine, but he has to be demoted to Sergeant to fit the much smaller deployment model the Marines have. The quiet voice becomes firmer, and his physical description becomes more about his transhuman anatomy than “probably blond hair and blue eyes” He could also be an Inquisitor, where his stamping on everyone ‘just to make sure’ makes him a suitably fanatical antagonist.

Likewise other settings will need him to morph to reasonably exist. Some internal locations make more sense on planets than on space stations, or vice versa  – perhaps the mine is on a nearby asteroid, and the ore is processed on the space station? We’re trying to make as few as possible that couldn’t exist on DS 9 or Babylon 5 – you might never have seen the Water Processing Plant, but logically there probably is one. And your contact wants to meet there – why?

Stories work because we, the protagonists, go to interesting places and meet fascinating people. And not always kill them. Unless they wear black hats. Morality in gaming? That’s a whole ‘nother question for a whole ‘nother day.

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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


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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:


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


Let us know your thoughts on Facebook

Be Well


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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


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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



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