Jigsaw Fantasy: Kickstarter Review
Disclaimer: I was asked to look at these products and was given two of them for review purposes. No other compensation was involved.
The Kickstarter is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/703093372/jigsaw-fantasy-oceans-and-deserts-setting-help-for
“Generic” products are a common trend in RPG supplements: With so many systems out there, it only makes sense to try to cover as wide an audience as possible. Jigsaw Fantasy embodies that concept, and focuses heavily on giving advice and tools for integrating their supplements with an existing campaign — hence the name. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, these bits of setting and lore are intended to lock into the rest of the world.
I looked at two of them: The Floating City and The Sivatag Desert.
Every fantasy world needs a desert. However, a truly generic desert — “There’s, uh, some sand. And dunes. And I guess some cactuses? Or is it cacti? Whatever, it’s a desert.” — is pretty dull. Even if the defining quality of “desert” is “there’s nothing there”, there needs to be something there for players to interact with.
Sivatag provides the “something”.
There is a mix of relatively basic material — it’s hot in the day, it drops down to near-freezing at night, there are flowers and insects which have a lifecycle dependent on the twice-a-decade rainstorms — and the more exotic.
The latter includes some good examples of generic concepts. I like this approach, as it’s a way to get a GM to think about how to turn the general into the specific. Given the broad concept of “there are places where the bedrock breaks through, forming distinctive landmarks”, we then get a specific example: Skull Valley, which is described in more detail in the supplement. A similar pattern applies to oases: A broad description and a “plug and play” implementation of the idea.
But these are fantasy supplements after all, so there must be material that transcends what you could find by reading “The Big Book Of Deserts”. This is here as well: Mirages that are more than mere heat shimmers, and a variety of plants and animals that are just a step beyond the real, allowing them to fit into a range of fantasy settings. (GMs will need to work out the game mechanics for those which interact with the players in non-trivial ways; that’s the double-edged sword of generic supplements.)
The Floating City
Deserts may be common to most settings, but how about a city resting on pods of giant jellyfish? That’s the Floating City, an original concept that may not fit all worlds, but works with most of the major fantasy systems with only minor adjustments.
Once a small (and land-based) fishing village with an economy based on delicious smoked jellyfish (mmm… bouncy….), it was threatened with destruction when its volcanic home did what volcanoes do. They were saved by their goddess, who caused the jellyfish to form a raft to support the village, which later expanded into a city that exists in careful symbiosis with their goopy allies.
Like any good fantasy city, it has multiple neighborhoods, marketplaces, and regions. It also moves away from the generic to give it a distinct cultural flavor: It is a place where knowledge is transferred via song and story, not books, where buildings are mostly made from scavenged driftwood, shells, and cloth rather than stone or clay, and where the layout changes continuously as the supporting jellyfish drift and move.
This supplement is more focused than the Sivatag Desert. There’s not exactly a generic concept of “city build on jellyfish” that’s widespread in fantasy gaming, so the Floating City provides a more specific framework, laying out the city’s quarters, government, and the names and personalities of some of the leaders. (Again, no game stats.) It also sets up some potential conflicts and mysteries, which the GM is encouraged to find answers to. This fits the purpose of the Jigsaw Fantasy line: To provide something interesting and creative enough to be worth purchasing, while being flexible enough to fit into many milieu.