Monstrous Mondays: S is for Siren

Sirens are one of those monsters that has changed a lot over the years, so they’ve got quite a history:

History

These beautiful singing ladies that bring sailors to their doom are best known through greek myth, but there are many stories of them, or very similar creatures, from different times and places in the world.

One of the first greek stories told of how they were Persephone’s three handmaidens: when she was kidnapped by Hades Demeter gave them wings, so they could search for her, and their singing voices to call her home with. When they failed to find them Demeter cursed them to only live until a man has heard them and managed to pass them by.

Another story tells of the three sirens losing a singing competition to the muses, and when they did so the muses plucked off their feathers so that their disgrace would be visible – so they threw themselves in the sea and became islands.

Both of them link nicely into the idea from another story where they were the daughters of Poseidon (since he is the father of monsters) but they still had feathers they were like seabirds – indicating where land is but without a clean path it might bring you to your doom.

The story of their relation to Poseidon may be the start of their shape changing – since Poseidon is god of the sea, depicted as part fish and connected to mermaids (and mermen, such as Triton).

The Sirens turn up in both The Argonautica and The Odyssey and many a sailor’s story throughout the centuries tell of how they saw mermaids and sirens and lost there ships and nery there live or know someone who had. These stories were part of the gradual change of the Siren’s form mixing and changing over time telling of how the mermaid sing to them to draw them close therefore taking on some of the siren’s qualities and therefore in story they became the same thing. so as can be seen the stories have changed their appearance over time but what set it firmly into its new shape was the paintings from the renaissance period, where they are depicted as a woman in water or a mermaid or some mixture of the two – thanks to this what we see them as – both in the media and our mind’s eye is very far from their original description.

 

Physiology

  • The face of a beautiful woman with long hair which in older versions may have feather mixed in with the hair.
  • A body of a woman some of the older version sometime have feather on the body but always had human breasts.
  • Older depictions often have the wings of a bird instead of arms, though sometimes they have both.
  • Older versions of the siren depicted them with the legs of a woman hideous bird-like feet with big claws and sometimes even scaled legs too.
    Other versions, especially newer ones, depict them with an elegant scaled fish tail like a mermaid.
  • They always have an unthinkably beautiful voice that is draw men to them.
  • They are unaging, and no-one who hears their song can harm them
  • They are usually found on an island out at sea, singing alluring songs until the men come to them and crash upon the rocks – then they eat them. In some more tragic tales their immortality means they don’t need to eat, but that they are simply surrounded by the corpses of those they called to them for companionship – as the island is too barren to support mortal life.

Ideas

  • A travelling singing act is actually a trio of sirens who travel town to town, drawing men to follow them into the wilderness when they leave and the players have to find the men who have followed them before they starve.
  • Adventurers might seek to remove the curse from the sirens – returning them to their past as immortal handmaidens.
  • A birdlike siren has set up its nest in a haunted cemetery, populated by undead. In fact, that siren has developed the art of necromancy, and is building an army so that it can challenge the gods that cursed it.

 

If like to know more about this here are some links you might find useful.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siren_(mythology)

https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Creatures/Sirens/sirens.html

http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Seirenes.html

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Siren-Greek-mythology

http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-europe/seductive-sirens-greek-mythology-how-heroes-resisted-temptation-008198

http://www.gods-and-monsters.com/sirens-mythology.html

http://www.greeklegendsandmyths.com/the-sirens.html

http://www.talesbeyondbelief.com/nymphs/sirens.htm

https://www.ancient.eu/Siren/

http://knowledgenuts.com/2014/02/05/the-difference-between-mermaids-and-sirens/

http://www.realmermaids.net/mermaid-history/siren-history/

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Idea Bargain Bin: A Hidden Movement Mechanic

Games about finding someone come in many forms

There are a good few games percolating in my noggin – at least a dozen1)though from what I hear many successful designers have far more. But there are even more ideas than there are games – and I don’t feel comfortable abandoning a good idea even if I don’t know what to do with it.

So I’m going to use today’s blog to do something with one of those useless (to me) good ideas.

I was listening to a podcast on Hidden Movement Games and I got stuck on a single thought: Why can’t the game pieces serve as a neutral arbiter? Perhaps it’s because I loved Stratego as a kid, or my interest in MtG’s design but I simply couldn’t resist fixing the problem of relying on player honesty.

The Solution?

For the purposes of this solution we’re reliant on a game with only one player controlling hidden characters: changing that is possible but awkward and, if you want characters to bump into each other, an engineering challenge (I’ll give a brief thought at the end as to how to make it work).

The core of the vast majority of hidden information in games is having something face down – and this is no exception. But just one face-down thing is useless for a hidden movement game – you can see exactly where it is!

Instead you use multiple face down things, just one of which matters – you pull a three-card monte. In addition to your “I am here” token, the hidden player has a number of “nuh-uh” tokens, with identical backs, that indicate places they could be – until searched.2)Amy’s suggested I was drawing on Flashpoint (one of my recent favourites) when I came up with that idea, and it’s set of false alarm tokens. She might be right, it has certainly been on my mind as part of another game design…

That gets the hidden placement down, but hidden movement requires a tiny bit of extra finesse. First you have to define how your hidden character can move.3)If you’ve got more than one type, they’re either going to have to all have the same movement method, or they’ll need different backs and separate sets of “nuh-uh”s. Then you have a three stage process of movement:

  1. Pick up any number of “nuh-uh” tokens, revealing them, and putting them into your hand. These are spaces that it’s now clear you’re *not* in.
  2. Choose any token that you want to move into previously empty spaces, and a set of empty spaces it could move into.
    1. For each such space, take a “nuh-uh” token, then take the original token (without revealing it) and put them all onto the board face down, as you wish. The original token may now be in any of the spaces filled this way (or even back where it started – this is after all about hiding your position)
    2. Rinse and repeat – remembering that this process can only be used with empty spaces, not ones filled earlier this turn.
  3. Pick any number of tokens on the board in spaces that weren’t empty at the start of the turn, and that can all reach each other by a single movement (in some games this will always be a pair tokens, in others it may be more).
    1. Pick up all those tokens, without revealing them, and then place them back down in any arrangement you want.
    2. Rinse and repeat, but with the restriction that you can never pick up a token you’ve already used in part 3.

 

And that’s it. Thoroughly hidden movement – how the other player goes about flipping your pieces to take a look is part of the rest of the game, and I’m not worried about it.

But what about having multiple players with hidden movement?

Well, each could player have their own tokens, each part of the board having space for one from each player. That’s really damn awkward – you could be in the same space as each other and you’d never know it. The engineering comes in at this point – each players real piece, the one that isn’t a “nuh-uh” has a magnet in it: just a small one, not very sensitive, but enough that if placed in “sensing range” of another players piece they’ll feel the tug. If placed directly on another players piece, it may even be obvious to the whole table!

What are your thoughts? Anyone got a brand new idea for how to make a great game from this? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter

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References   [ + ]

1. though from what I hear many successful designers have far more
2. Amy’s suggested I was drawing on Flashpoint (one of my recent favourites) when I came up with that idea, and it’s set of false alarm tokens. She might be right, it has certainly been on my mind as part of another game design…
3. If you’ve got more than one type, they’re either going to have to all have the same movement method, or they’ll need different backs and separate sets of “nuh-uh”s.

The End of the (Instant) Universe

The End of the (Instant) Universe

Last Thursday our kickstarter campaign for sci fi concept cards ended. It was, all things, considered, a rousing success.

The final tally was £5,544 and 244 backers. Thank you to all our backers – we couldn’t do this without you and we like doing this!

We have reached the stretch goals for two extra cards per deck, and three extra suit symbols.

What Remains To Be Done

Elvis may have gone home to live among the stars, but we still have work to do. There are a few cards left to write, more now we have reached that stretch goal, and we need to commission more art.

Then comes the process of proofreading. To be honest it’s my least favourite part of the job, not least because I’m not very good at it. Fortunately Ali is, and we have a couple of volunteers to aid in the process. It is very necessary, though – I am rather prone to making typos. By the time it goes to print I am confident that every error but one will be squashed (that one will show up three weeks later…).

After that is done we send files to the printers, and wait anxiously for them to send us boxes of decks.

Then we package and post them to the backers.

If you missed the Kickstarter it’s not too late to get in on the action – you can still join us on Backerkit

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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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KS Updates: Stretch Goals and Add-ons

Stretch Goals

On Wednesday Loz mentioned that we were going to be releasing some more of our Stretch Goals after we had a chance to triple check the details – and here they are:

Full-bleed Borders at £6000

Black borders are traditional on cards – but that’s partly because of printing technology, which has improved over time. On a larger run it’s perfectly affordable for us to add some detail to those borders, allowing the starfield effect to slowly fade out, creating a slightly deeper feel to the cards

The “Even More Art” Goal is at £7500

It’s a little over double where we currently stand – and is at the top end of where Kicktraq’s projections put us – but we have confidence that it will be reached.

While far from vital, it’s an improvement we would certainly like the opportunity to implement – we just need the funds to pay the artists.

£9000: 64 Cards

The First of our Sky-Pie goals, and the only one we’re announcing for now, is making the deck up to 64 cards – 16 of each suit, for a total of 2^6. The new cards are currently planned to be a full suite of jokers (one per suit, rather than just red and black) along with a Pilot and an Admiral for each of the suits – but the precise names are not set in stone, so let us know if you would prefer different bonus cards.

56 Shares: A 10 Page Solar System

We’re not marketers – we’re writers. So we want to harness your desire for our writing in order to gain the power of connections!

If the Kickstarter page is shared a total of 56 times on social media (we’ll be watching Facebook and Twitter, but let us know about others) in non-spam contexts, we’ll give every backer access to a 10 page piece detailing one specific solar system – with four inhabited worlds split between two very different species.

We picked 56, because we’re pretty sure that’s how many cards the deck will have when this goal is reached!

112 Shares: Another 10 Pages

Simple enough – the solar system gets more detailed, with more information about the culture on each planet, and some of the individual people living there.

 

Add-Ons During the Kickstarter

You can increase your pledge for more decks of the sci fi cards at the same cost as the backer levels – that is:

  • £12 per deck or
  • £30 for a full set of all three.

Assuming we reach the social stretch goals for the Solar System Setting Shard mentioned in the previous update you will be able to add that too – you will automatically get the PDF, but you may want a printed version. The cost depends in part on the printing costs which we are investigating – the simplest option would be to use something like DrivethruRPG’s Print On Demand service. Once we reach that point we will, of course, announce that.

After the Kickstarter

We are using Backerkit again as it seems to have worked well for us in the past. This means you will able to adjust your pledge at that stage too. You will be able to grab the above options then, but if you do so before the end of the kickstarter we are more likely to reach our stretch goals and you will get more!

You will also be able to add the fantasy cards at that point, too. We are not making them available as an add-on at this stage because we want to keep things focused on the current project – not least so we have a better idea of how many sci fi decks we need to order, and know we can afford to do so.

After That

The cards will be available in various retail locations. We have a retailer level (Generation Ship), and of course will let you know who they are so you can point your friends at them. If you know any games stores who would be interested in carrying our cards please point them at the Kickstarter.

Or you could try to find a shop which sells them here
Or you could try to find a shop which sells them here
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The Night Before Kickstarter

Tl;dr: Sci Fi Concept Cards Kickstarter launches tomorrow.

‘Twas the night before Kickstarter, when all thro’ the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The cards had been written on the computer with care,

In hopes that St. Kickstarter soon would be there;

The creators were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads

Well it’d be nice, wouldn’t  it? Not gonna happen though. We’ll be tweaking the page and trying to improve things right up until launch.

It’s akin to stage fright.

But that’s okay. Some things are scary and they’re still worth doing, This is one of those things.

We launch tomorrow at about 4pm (give or take a few minutes for last second typo spotting). This time we are offering three decks of Concept Cards, science fiction ones.

  • Characters – people from all over the galaxy
  • Locations – places you might find on a space station or a city on another planet
  • Planets – worlds scattered through the cosmos

 

Our first Kickstarter, about four years ago now for the first set of concept cards (called Character Cards back then because we didn’t know there would be more of them) was funded in a day, an our best was funded in four hours and ha taken more than twice its original target in a day – It would be wonderful to beat that!

To facilitate that, we’d love it if you would do a couple of things for us:

  • First go to the Kickstarter preview page and click the “❤ Notify me on launch” button near the top on the left. Take a sneaky look at the page while you’re there, and then on launch day try find what we changed.
  • Second: Spread this blog post, or any of our other social media posts (Facebook / Twitter) you see to anyone you think might be interested.

 

The faster the total rises at the start the more prominently Kickstarter will display the project meaning more people will see it, meaning a higher total and more people get to enjoy our work. A higher total means more stretch goals and a better product for you – and helps us stay in business to make more products in future.

So I’m off to tweak the page some more – you’ll have to do the dreaming of sugarplums!

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Kickstarter – SF Concept Cards 13th of March

The Art is In

We delayed Science Fiction Concept Cards because we knew the art would be arriving late – due to illness on the part of the artists we were working with.

Fortunately despite the current freezing weather, the art we required has come in; meaning that we can plan a launch date – and as the title says we have picked the 13th of March

We are of course looking to further polish these symbols, and any comments on likes and dislikes are appreciated. Let us know on Facebook.

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SF Concept Cards – When is “Done” Done?

“Perfect” and “Done” are opposites.

At Artemis Games we can be perfectionists to a fault. We hate releasing anything with identifiable flaws – and yet as everyone knows “only God is perfect”: There are claims for many religious artistic traditions, from Islamic geometry to Amish quilting, that they deliberately include imperfections to avoid blasphemy. 1)Of course that’s not even slightly true. Few people will deliberately introduce an error into their work, and of those who do none of them do it because they think they’re better than God and don’t want to upset Him. It’s a training technique for some recovering perfectionists, and a trick for many contractors, to introduce an error and never fix it.
A perfectionist will be forced to accept that searching out every error is futile, as they already know where one is (likely a tiny one) and aren’t allowed to fix it.
A contractor on the other hand does it because they know the client wants to give input – by including an obvious error for the client to fix they can avoid more difficult editing when they’re confident their product is good.

We’re not God, we don’t even actually have Artemis on the team (although we do like her, partly on account of the inherent contradiction her being the goddess of both childbirth and virginity) – so perfection isn’t an option for us.

That means we have to have a way of deciding when something is sufficiently good, rather than perfectly good. We have to have (high) standards, but also ways of accepting our limitations, and our imperfections2)Which there are many of, with three out of four of us having chronic health issues yet still putting out a product.

So how do we set the bar? How do we let go, and say it’s done? With the Jigsaw Fantasy project we’ve used the deadline approach – it’s done on the release date, end of story3)well, not quite – we’re allowed to go back and improve things post-release, as it’s purely digital and we’ve been learning to make that work – ensuring that

There are a number of facets to how to make that principle work for us, but two of them are key:

1) We need to know exactly how long it will take to finish the work – and double it to include time for problems and polish. This generally means that we need to have done about half the work before we set the deadline, or (in the case of regular projects) before we can be sure which options are ready to go.

2) There must be a set size to the project. We’ve done things with stretch goals expanding them before, but that will always make deadlines wrong, and if the deadline is wrong we no longer have a release point!

But that’s for our writing work; Jigsaw Fantasy and Concept Cards. For the game design side of things, such as Clash of Blades, we still don’t know when to call “done” done – writing for us is as much writing as polishing, but good game design is all about the polishing; I could design three unique new games in three minutes, but they’d all be terrible.

So when is “done” done?

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References   [ + ]

1. Of course that’s not even slightly true. Few people will deliberately introduce an error into their work, and of those who do none of them do it because they think they’re better than God and don’t want to upset Him. It’s a training technique for some recovering perfectionists, and a trick for many contractors, to introduce an error and never fix it.
A perfectionist will be forced to accept that searching out every error is futile, as they already know where one is (likely a tiny one) and aren’t allowed to fix it.
A contractor on the other hand does it because they know the client wants to give input – by including an obvious error for the client to fix they can avoid more difficult editing when they’re confident their product is good.
2. Which there are many of, with three out of four of us having chronic health issues
3. well, not quite – we’re allowed to go back and improve things post-release, as it’s purely digital

SF Concept Cards – Pushing Back the Kickstarter

Our previous kickstarters have had unexpected delays after they finished, this time we’re hoping to get them out of the way beforehand.

We’ve learned over the years that it’s better to launch late and deliver on time than to launch early and deliver late: and unfortunately we’re in a space where we’re making that choice this week.

Art for the Science Fiction Concept Cards suit symbols was meant to be all in at this point, so we could launch on Tuesday confident that we had what we need, but unfortunately both artists fell ill, causing significant delays, and so we only have one of the five suit symbols we need at minimum: a clubs representing the connections of a planet:

We don’t want to take any chances with regards to delivering on time, so we’re pushing back the launch back and working with the artists to plan a new schedule. Once that’s done we can let you know the new launch date – which is likely to be in mid-march.

Be Well

-Ste

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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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