What minor pocket dimension have we stumbled into?

1 – First, you need to find a tree that’s stood for more than a century; then it has to get struck by lightning, and die. Then you have to crawl down inside the rotted-out trunk of it, into the ground, and eventually (pray it’s a short trip) you’ll emerge into the garden. There isn’t a name for it, really; no-one really knows it exists, and for some reason there’s a cult of one-eyed priests who are going around and uprooting every lightning-struck tree they can find. The dimension itself is a small rooftop garden, and storm clouds roll overhead, and the air is heavy with the threat of a storm that never comes. But at least it’s quiet.

2 –It’s where cats go. You know, at night? It’s a mix of rooftops, linen closets, the bins out the back of taverns, and blankets. All the ceilings are too low, the stars are blurry and indistinct, and it smells like cat piss.

3 – It used to be a well-maintained graveyard, but it fell into disrepair a long time ago; you don’t think that dimensions can be “hungry,” as it were, but it’s as though it doesn’t want you to leave. The longer you stay here, the more of your vitality drains away, and your colour, and you begin to feel like laying down in one of the (suspiciously) open graves and going to sleep.

4 – You know when you’re drunk – like, really drunk, can’t-find-your-shoes-drunk – and you wake up at home? This is the dimension you use to get there. It’s a universal shortcut, but you can only use it when you’re blackout drunk, so. If you took notice of your surroundings – which you can’t do, you’re too busy throwing up in an alley – you’d notice a cadre of wine-making monks who have set up their monastery here, and who are all several drinks in all the time.

5 – Look, we’re not here to judge you, but: you went to a peep show. We’re sure you’ve got your reasons. But when the partition rolled back, you saw into a different pocket dimension, instead of the dancing sex worker you paid for. Turns out the place is its own shard of reality – in the back, at least – and you can use it to spy on people (or… cats) in other ones. This could be tremendously valuable in the right hands, but at the moment those hands are busy with other things.

6 – It’s a library; you fell asleep face-down on a pile of books, and woke up here. All the pages and covers are blank and it’s utterly, terrifyingly, silent. Your heartbeat begins to deafen you, and you can hear the high-pitched buzz of your central nervous system.

7 – He paints landscape scenes, and he’s very good at it. So good, in fact, that people wishing for sanctuary – usually when they’re running away from something – stumble into these peaceful, tranquil skylines and city-scapes. At the edge of the space there’s a rough pane of glass, which looks out of the painting and into his studio, so you can talk to him if you want. He doesn’t seem inclined to let you out; it’s as though capturing people was his aim all along.

8 – There’s a Screen Omega at this cinema, and you can get into it, if you know how to ask. You don’t recognise any of the films playing here – they’re all one step away from familiar, featuring people who look a little like the stars of yesteryear, and they’re all in black and white. Some of them are in languages you can nearly recognise. Anyway; the rules of cinema, not the real world, apply here. Walk in with a gunshot wound and you can heal it with a bandage and a montage. (Alternatively: walk in with a nasty cough and it’ll develop into full-blown tuberculosis by the end of the film, so be careful.)

9 – There’s a reason you don’t talk to people on the bus – they aren’t people. Every single bus is part of a mass hallucination, and there’s only one interdimensional space that we use to transport between locations; the bus is just a way to let your mind handle it. Why do you think they don’t let you off if it’s not at a stop? You’d be torn to shreds by transdimensional parasites.

10 – Someone built this place – it was a Sorcerer-King’s mind palace, they say, back when you had Sorcerer-Kings – and since then, every Tom, Dick and Harry with a stepping sideways spell has been through here and lifted everything of value. All the majestic tapestries have long since been ripped off the walls and sold; all the devious traps have been triggered, or rusted into inaction, or been deactivated and stripped for copper; even the walls themselves have been chipped away at, the shards of mind-stone sold for a few quid, leaving the place barren, empty, and draughty.


Glimmers is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create an urban horror world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[GLIMMERS.] The city is alive. The city is connected, with streams of light and noise and people, to every other city; they are all the same being, all branches of the same concrete-and-glass tree. There are streets between them, forgotten streets, with secret names and grim inhabitants. (And: there are wild-lands, dark places, the Spaces Between, where nothing seems right. Airport waiting rooms. Churches, at night. Backwater villages.)

There is vast power in the thrum of machines and the buzz of traffic, and it can be yours, for a price.

Image by Eelke on Flickr

Blood & Dust play report – Session 3

Eoin Dooley has recently been running the Blood & Dust quick-start adventure for Spire. What follows is an account of their second session. Be aware this will have spoilers for the adventure.


Red Row is on fire. A riot has spread through like a shockwave, smashing windows, tossing rubble, and leaving people bloody on the street. The Weeping Maiden’s enchantments were akin to gasoline that the prison uprising ignited, cascading from flashpoint to flashpoint, and now the district is engulfed in chaos. That is what Seiger and Illyria see from their rowboat as they emerge from the depths of Endline. The sight terrifies them, as they know now that the Dust Machines will have kicked into overdrive, feasting on the entropic energy in front of them, so they make for Dacien’s church, both for as a rendezvous and also maybe some back-up praying.

Dacien emerges from the basement of her church, having concluded an hours-long ceremony that saw her enter the first circle of Scryatrices. Her robes, now of fine cloth and silver sigils, juxtapose with the mass of battered civilians taking shelter on the main floor and the sound of gunfire and shrieks. She walks outside, and out of the fracas emerge Loz and Quenelle, awkwardly proud of being top-tier shit-stirrers. Dacien berates Loz for giving in to Lekolé’s influence. Quenelle argues this was needed to achieve the ultimate goal of liberating Red Row. Seiger and Illyria then show up and explain exactly why this the worst possible thing that could be happening, as well as the mechanics of the Dust Machines. The gang realise that they’ve likely played directly into the hands of whoever is behind this, and that a lot of people are going to die no matter what. A gaggle of cast and crew from the Weeping Maiden arrive, begging the party for shelter in the church. They are allowed to hide out the riots inside, though whether the party is now uncomfortable with needless violence or they wish to vengefully extort them later is unclear. But it suffices for the desperate.

The team put their heads together and realise that the only way to salvage the situation is to take back control of the Dust Machines. Towards this end, two plans of attack. The first is to rewire the Machines. Rather than have them absorb and direct entropic energy, perhaps they can direct positive energy which will inspire Red Row, possibly even all of Spire, with Quenelle and Loz acting as focal points for the energy – their prison break technique put to restorative use. Perhaps they could even take the Weeping Maiden actors or some of Quenelle’s fans to put them in the Machines in a strong display of thematic irony. Loz and Seiger will meet with Loz’s retroengineer contact, Jackson Crouch, who was kicked out of the order for his heretical experiments, to ascertain the possibility of this and recruit him regardless. The second is to redirect the Machines. If they can find representations of a more useful target – perhaps the Aelfir council – they can buy themselves space and power to restore Red Row more directly. Quenelle, Illyria and Dacien head towards a manor Councilman Drynn was known to be staying in, to ascertain the effect of the Machines on their target and any other useful information. Loz gives a rousing speech about what each of them are owed by the Aelfir – and notes that oppressed gods become devils. Illyria imbues the speech with arcane knowledge, finding dormant ancestral abilities in Seiger and Loz she will trigger for the assault on the camp. Athelmayas and Madame Cazanoux protect the church, and the final mission commences.

The party boys find Jackson drinking himself to an early death in a quiet pub. They explain the situation and Jackson, even if smashed, is familiar enough with the theory to make rewiring the Dust Machines possible, though time-consuming, and in need of new catalysts that aren’t nihilistic cultists. Easier to make the signal stronger or weaker. Also, if they tampered with anything the retroengineers will be expecting trouble. Seiger says they did a bit but they put it all back – ‘it’ being a person – so, uh, no trouble right? Jackson, frankly, doesn’t care, he just wants the big fucking gun he made back in his hands. The one that sentry had. The one that will be pointed right at them. At least the drunk is eager.

The three mystics, however, find Drynn’s manor a ruin beyond description. The walls, the fences, the very foundations, have rotted to dust and mulch. They step over maggot-ridden guards and hide their noses from the sickening stench of decay. The Dust Machines worked overtime the last few hours. In the distance, they see an Aelfir woman in finery with four Solar Paladins in gleaming armour. Councilwoman Thorns-On-Silk steps over the wreckage and finds a twisted, blind, toothless Drynn half-buried under rotten wood. She smiles, grabs his neck, and needs only shift her fingers slightly to snap his spine, and his skin sloughs off like an overripe peach. It is now obvious who told the guard to work overtime, and who commanded the retroengineers. Quenelle sneaks over to see if Thorns-On-Silk leaves anything that can be used with the Machines – and their hand pushes through a crumbling wall, leaving them stumbling out in front of the Big Bad and her elite guard. Thorns-On-Silk recognises the celebrity, and orders the Paladins to destroy the now confirmed agent of the Ministry. No matter what, Quenelle and everyone Quenelle has known or cared about, will be hunted down, tortured, and killed by Aelfir inquisitors. Dacien bathes the Paladins in Limyé’s calm to stall them, and the trio run full pelt back to the river, abandoning any chance of taking new people to put into the Machines.

Rowing on the river, the party are quiet as they realise how hopelessly outgunned they are with Paladins in the shadows behind them. Illyria reveals that Loz descends from House Yssen, the Unquiet Blades, and Seiger descends from House Malrique, the Unlidded Eyes, who cannot be surprised or ambushed. Seiger sees a plume of smoke behind them that belongs to the engine of a small barge, and a vision of a figure standing at its prow. He is wreathed in cordite smoke, and his only visible facial features are glowing red eyes half obscured by a broad-brimmed leather hat. Two revolvers, black and white, are holstered by his sides. Brother Hellion and his followers have found them too. They row into the canyon-like channels of the Endline river. Illyria knows the place well, and steers the boat into an eddy tucked out of sight around a bend. She smacks on a train carriage and a pile of equipment for infiltrating the retroengineers camp falls into the boat. There is a beat where they realise this boat is the only way out without entering the Vermissian. The party clamber up the side of the river as the Hellionite barge passes, and sails straight for the retroengineers. Brother Hellion shouts a challenge for Seiger, and is promptly shot at by the sentry with the big fucking gun. However, the bullet passes right through Hellion and into the floor behind hm – because no gun can shoot him unless he wills it. He laughs. The Hellionites return fire, and butcher the grounded Knights.

Loz, wanting to draw the conflict out, invokes Lekolé to set fire to the store of gunpowder on the barge. The barge detonates, taking a handful of Hellionites with it, but not the divine lunatic now shooting point-blank at the oncoming swordsmen. The party sneak to the train where the Dust Machines are stored, all except for Seiger, who Brother Hellion spots and attacks. Seiger summarily beats the shit out of him (GM note: rolled a 10 with single die, then rolled an 8 for damage. After Armour, Hellion had one Resistance left). Hellion catches an almighty overhead swing between his revolvers, and sinks to a knee. This provides an opening for Illyria, tracking the zealot with her crossbow from above. She fires, and the crossbow bolt sticks into the mist of Hellion, killing him. Yet, Brother Hellion is no mortal. He is a monster of smoke and fury. The Sage’s mind is battered by its soul, overcoming her and entering into her body. Unbeknownst to everyone else, the mind of Brother Hellion slowly begins to take control of Illyria’s faculties. No matter what, Illyria’s identity will be subsumed by Brother Hellion’s, and her control is slipping even now. The remaining combatants flee, leaving the Machines to them. Illyria tosses her crossbow to Loz, and takes the revolvers from the corpse.

They descend into the reeking, wretched chamber where the Machines do their work. Neither of their plans are possible. They lack new people to put in the Machines, as well as any representation of Aelfir targets. Worse, Quenelle feels a presence the others do not, something watching and whispering to them. Dacien scries and sees inside the Vermissian, with a wall of black, writhing tentacles reaching for Quenelle. The Hungry Deep yearns for the perfect Idol, and wishes to consume them. This was why Illyria had seen Quenelle wandering the Vermissian in a trance – the Hungry Deep called to them in their sleep. In that moment, Quenelle realises that if the Hungry Deep gorges on their perfection, it might slow the destruction in Red Row. It might give them an opening to inspire the people directly. Quenelle moves aside the representations of Drynn, and cuts a lock of their hair to be placed between the Machines. The only problem is time – the Paladins will be here soon. Seiger and Loz decide to hold the front line and meet the Paladins directly. Dacien will wait in the chamber to stall any who arrive, and blesses her love Quenelle with shining moonlight. Illyria escorts Quenelle, Jackson and Seiger’s squire Vennis through the Vermissian. They emerge by the destroyed Voloren Standard barracks, and Quenelle begins to play a new song on the viola.

(GM note: This was the piece used as Quenelle’s song, and it was played over the remainder of the game)

Quenelle walks forward, spotlit by a moon that isn’t there. Their viola pierces the violences around them. A small crowd begins to form behind them, a procession enchanted by song. Illyria stays behind, smiling sadly at her friend, and then turns back to the Vermissian. As Quenelle’s song plays, Illyria walks far into the impossible tunnels, far past anything she knows or recognises, walking as long as she can to drive the spirit of Brother Hellion and his revolvers deep into the bowels of the earth. Illyria Lox will never be seen again, and nobody will know why.

The Dust Machines take effect on Quenelle. Hair turns white, then falls out. Teeth turn yellow, then black. Skin wrinkles. Joints twist. Muscles atrophy. Eyes turn rheumy, then to cataracts. Quenelle plays on flawlessly. Seiger and Loz walk out to meet four Paladins face to face. They sing an old Drow folk song as they do. Loz invokes Lekolé’s rage, a ring of fire erupting around them, he himself ablaze too, and shoots one dead. Seiger charges, but soon finds himself outmatched, wearied and bloodied. He roars his name, causing the Paladins to pause, then turns, declares his love for Loz, kisses him, and then drops his sword to tackle one of the Paladins into the river. Weighted down by armour, the two drown. Loz fires Illyria’s crossbow, then takes up Seiger’s sword to continue the fight. He slays one, but the last Paladin skewers him. Loz grabs the Paladin in a bear hug, and summons Lekolé one last time, as the two are incinerated in a pillar of flame.

Quenelle reaches the church, where a huge crowd has gathered to see the Idol degenerate to nothing, for no cause they can see, though to the Drow among them, the reason is obvious. Quenelle is no Idol now, but an icon of violence degrading something that once was perfect. Quenelle plays their last in the centre of the crowd, and withers away to dust, carried away on the air. The Dust Machines have done their work, and the Hungry Deep has eaten. One of her fans, Molly, who viewed them as a mentor, steps forward with her own viola, and begins to play a counterpoint.

In the reeking darkness, Dacien waits to give her life. She waits for hours, singing softly all the while, never certain if it was time enough, but nobody comes. Eventually she steps out to ash, and finds Seiger’s sword stuck in the ground. When she touches it, symbols of Limyé, Lombre, and Lekolé appear, united as the one true mother goddess, Damnou. She carries the sword back to the Knight-Admiral’s boat, and drifts back to Red Row, alone.

At a later time, Dacien will reclaim the Dust Machines with those inspired by Quenelle. Her church will become an epicentre for Ministry activity. The cultists in the machines will be euthanized, and replaced with Aelfir inquisitors and sympathisers, for they will become torture machines. For Quenlle’s performance did not change the fact that they were caught by Thorns-On-Silk, no, now the Councillor shall wage war upon Red Row to stamp out any remnant of the icon and their final song. The rule of gangsters in Red Row is over. Now far more guards and agents of the Aelfir shall walk the district. Dacien, who began this story as a new recruit, shall lead a cell of Ministry agents against them all in turn, and will not rest until Thorns-On-Silk dies. The Councillor will relish the challenge. ”


Eoin Dooley – GM – @eoin_dooley

Dave Fennell – Lozlyn de Vire – @MysteriousDrD

Jess Bernard – Quenell Laurant – @InfiniteJess

Aisling Reina – Ganford Seiger

Ciaran Monaghan – Illyria Lox

Samantha Keaveney – Dacien Theroux  – @sampersand

What’s different about these gnomes?

1 – Gnomes are what happens when you leave magic items unattended for long periods of time; they absorb information from around them, grow and become sentient, then sprout a pair of legs and wander off into the countryside to go live up a tree or down in a cave. To that end, it’s quite hard to keep hold of large quantities of magic items – if you don’t want your favourite axe to turn into a gnome, keep it by your side and take good care of it. Gnomes don’t have any particular universal physical traits, aside from their diminutive stature – they look a bit like the item they grew out of.

2 – They’re swamp witches; they live in wet ground and hang out with toads. Some of them marry the toads; others ride them as mounts, leaping stickily through the mud, grabbing people with long tongues and dragging them under the filthy water to drown. Careful examination of the toads has proven that they are the kind that secrete hallucinogenic grease, and may well be dominating the gnomes with some sort of innate mind-control spell.

3 – They’re all the avatars of deities. When they visit earth, gods assume the ideal form; turns out it’s gnomes. Weird.

4 – They build cities in strange places where life shouldn’t be able to survive: the frozen north, deep beneath the sea, in lava-spewing volcanoes, in mid-air, that sort of thing. They’re fiercely isolationist. Diplomats emerge once every few months to trade with the outside world; you hear tell that each gnomish city is a brutal totalitarian state devoted to keeping the outside out and the inside in.

5 – You remember how gran always said you were to eat your vegetables so you’ll grow up big and strong? She wasn’t wrong. If you don’t get a varied diet as a child, you’ll never grow past four feet tall, and you’ll become a gnome. Most gnomes live in the ghettos, marginalised for their stature; a few reach positions of responsibility or power, but it’s a rarity.

6 – They’re machines, but: they’re made of flesh, just like you and me. They’re part of some vast, complex, world-spanning computational engine designed to solve the problem of eternal life – the machine operates on a scale that neither we nor the gnomes can really comprehend. This explains why they like machines so much, why they seem a bit weird to outsiders, and why they snore in binary.

7 – A gnome is born every time someone swears at a piece of broken machinery; mechanics have a wide variety of replacement profanities to hand so they don’t end up having to take care of (or “take care of”) a small gaggle of gnomes that they’ve created.

8 – They’re beastmasters. They have an innate knack of getting animals to do what they want; gnomes will generally ride the biggest creature they can find and get it to eat the second biggest creature they can find for dinner. They’re absurdly good at it, too – elephant dressage is a popular gnomish sport in the flatlands.

9 – They can never set foot on land. Well, they can, but they instantly start to sprout roots and, within a minute or two, become horrid little tree-statues. As such, gnomes live their lives as sailors, pirates, river-traders or trees.

10 – Gnomes happen organically when you store too many books next to each other; they coalesce out of dust mites and torn pages until, before you know it, you’ve got twenty of the little buggers running around the stacks. They steal books and then hurl them into the river, laughing the whole time; no-one’s quite sure why. Seeing as they’re comprised out of knowledge, they know some weird things that they shouldn’t know, so you might be able to get something useful out of them. Or they’ll just piss on you and run away, one or the other.


Remnants is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create a fantasy world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[REMNANTS] Once upon a time, when the dragon-kings ruled the aetherealms and the Witch-Queens fought grand duels over generations with arcana of unimaginable power, the worlds split apart. There was too much magic, and reality couldn’t bear the weight any longer. The otherworlds splintered apart like ships crashing against a shoreline; but the pieces remained, shards of reality, and they pierced the material realm. A thousand dimensions, all attached to various degrees, to the prime material: some forgotten, some overrun with new inhabitants, some spawning monstrous creatures into the world, and some ripe for plundering.

Blood & Dust play report – Session 2

Eoin Dooley has recently been running the Blood & Dust quick-start adventure for Spire. What follows is an account of their second session. Be aware this will have spoilers for the adventure.


The gang meet up on Knight-Admiral Seiger’s excessively ornate rowboat on the sewage-soaked river of Red Row, and avail themselves of the very small shelf of spirits aboard. Rowing drunkenly together, they share reports of the Weeping Maiden play and Brother Hellion, but Loz suffered a wound escaping the Hellionites which reveals his old Vigilite tattoos. Quenelle reasonably decides they want to pull over and talk about the fact that a former terrorist is on the team. Seiger suggests a waterside pub, the proprietor of which, Clarence, is terrified of Seiger due to some debt collection work, so free drinks probably.

The party head in, give Clarence a small panic attack, get yet more drunk, and find some of the Weeping Maiden cast having a drink post-performance. Before they can interrogate them, two Hellionites with shotguns burst in and demand the cast tell them which of their Knights cut off the head of one of their sisters. Seiger is shoved behind a curtain, with reminders that it was you, you idiot. Loz, with his Vigilite past out of the bag, creates a “distraction” by invoking Lekolé to set a fire to the liquor display behind the bar. The display explodes. Clarence starts burning to death. Seiger rushes to help but winds up with two shotguns pointed at him. Clarence finishes burning to death. Some fighting ensues. Seiger leaps out the door to try and seduce the actresses as they dash away. One Hellionite has their head shot clean off, but the other leaps out a window, probably to take revenge another day. Loz is recognised as a possible Vigilite by guards on patrol, what with the gang tattoos, shotgun, and sudden inferno, and, knocked out and bleeding, is arrested.

Against the backdrop of a burning bar falling into a stinking river, Illyria and Quenelle figure out the next step, sensibly, is to get out of there. They look over to see Seiger doing a surprisingly decent job chatting up a fair maiden about her work. They retract the plan, and Quenelle plays wingman. Said maiden tells them the retroengineers aren’t really involved in the production of the Weeping Maiden beyond patronage and odd suggestion of magical rituals to manipulate crowds. They actually spend most of their time in Endline, a twisted warren filled with the wrecks of trains and carriages from when the Vermissian used to run, now home for scavenger gangs. Seiger and Illyria decide to investigate Endline while Quenelle meets up with her fans to organise a Johnny Cash in San Quentin type gig for Loz.

Loz, in the immensely overcrowded central lockup in the Voloren Standard, swiftly organises a rally of the prisoners with a fiery speech. Enter Quenelle, now with rather fertile ground for their performance (rolling 5 goddamn d10s for it). The Voloren Standard is a reclaimed shipping warehouse. It is not built for masses agitated by Idols and Firebrands.The prison and guard barracks are both torn apart from the inside, and, with a prayer to Lekolé from Loz, set ablaze. A colossal mob spills out onto the streets, attacking guards left and right and destroying any and all nearby property. Quenelle, Loz, and Loz’s guard contact under Loz’s protection, disappear back into Red Row.

Back in Endline, unsettled by the more-ominous-than-normal atmosphere, Illyria and Seiger row up through the train graveyard, and find the retroengineer camp with hydroelectric turbines powering something deep in a large abandoned train. The camp is guarded by Knights, lookouts, and a sentry with an exceedingly big gun. With the help of an equipment stache that Illyria somehow knew was there the whole time, they sneak in to the train and find a dark underground chamber, with a spotlight focused on something grotesque and foul-smelling.

Three plinths that look like somewhat like computer servers with veins, hooked up to three beds with glass coverings. The air is thick with dust, flies, maggots and rust, and inside these beds are three Drow wearing soiled, threadbare robes, shaking as if in a permanent seizure, thick wires shoved into their arms and legs and stomachs. Seiger vomits.  Illyria learns how these Dust Machines operate, that they feed off the unrest in Red Row, and they are targeting Councillor Drynn (GM note: I want Councillor Thorns-On-Silk to be the big bad because it works better for this group, even though in the official text Drynn is the one in charge). Illyria also recognises the Drow as members of the Church of Absolution, a nihilistic cult that lives deep in the bowels of Spire, that worships the all-consuming Hungry Deep that lives in its Heart, but that, y’know, mostly keep to themselves. The cultists are acting as unwilling catalysts for the entropic force the machines are channeling and focusing onto Drynn. A tense argument ensues over what to do with the Church members. Seiger wants to kill them all. Illyria wants to abduct one. Illyria wins out, and they get so far as unhooking one from a machine but, realising they’d have to sneak back out, place him back into the machine, back to being tortured, and, dismayed, they escape.


Eoin Dooley – GM – @eoin_dooley

Dave Fennell – Lozlyn de Vire – @MysteriousDrD

Jess Bernard – Quenell Laurant – @InfiniteJess

Aisling Reina – Ganford Seiger

Ciaran Monaghan – Illyria Lox

Samantha Keaveney – Dacien Theroux (MIA this session) – @sampersand

How are you still alive?

1 – Duct tape and epoxy putty. You just stuck yourself together. Further examination of your body shows multiple patch-jobs concealed under your clothing – fishing-line stitches, sawdust and staples instead of organs, and so on. You are entirely unsure why you haven’t died yet, but it seems to be working.

2 – An angel with neon hair and bluescreen eyes came down from the skies above and brought you back to life with a binary whisper. Everybody saw it but no-one’s really… talking about it? Maybe they don’t want to admit that they think it’s real. On camera, it shows up as a blistering anomaly, or it just flat-out fries the hard-drive that the video records to, so it’s all eyewitness accounts and nothing else – unless you can get a polaroid of it.

3 – You’ve replaced most of your internal organs with car parts (specifically: parts from a 1977 Ford Thunderbird), which makes you almost invulnerable to harm. But not tearing.

4 – The bullet went right through you, and now sand is pouring out of the hole. Wait: not sand, gold-dust. Weird. Anyway, it’s running through your fingers, and passers-by are partially concerned and partially interested in stealing the stuff.

5 – You shudder, and add another ghost to the swarm that follow you around, then get up and walk away. You’re on twelve, now; two small ones from the same day when you went camping in the forest as a kid, one from heart disease, a couple of car accidents, and so on.

6 – You’re the God of Mirrors. The woman who shot you through the chest is face-down dead with a ragged exit wound in her back. You have a bet going with several noted deities that they can’t kill you, and are welcome to try, because you’re getting bored of being alive and interested to find out what’s next.

7 – Because you are the True King (or True Queen) and commoners cannot hurt you. You’ve only ever been hurt by those of noble blood, and the more noble blood they have in them, the easier it is for them to hurt you. You’re petrified that a royal family (from another country, not your country, because the royal family in your country are a bunch of charlatans) will find out and use it against you somehow.

8 – You’ve never once stepped on a crack in the pavement. (Ironically: your mum’s in a wheelchair.) Also, you avoid walking under ladders, turn around when you spot a black cat, never open umbrellas indoors, and so on. But honestly, it’s just the cracks that work.

9 – You flickered out of reality for a split-second, just when it would have hit you. It saved your life, but you went somewhere else for the duration (which felt like hours to you, even though no time passed at all as far as everyone else was concerned) and you come back reeking of spoiled milk and hot plastic. You can’t remember much about where you went; you’re not sure you want to.

10 – You’re soul-bound to your brother, and you have to die at the same time in the same way or it just doesn’t… take. Still hurts, though. Your brother’s been trying to kill you (and, by extension, himself) for the last three years. At the moment he’s in hospital following his last attempt.


Glimmers is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create an urban horror world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[GLIMMERS.] The city is alive. The city is connected, with streams of light and noise and people, to every other city; they are all the same being, all branches of the same concrete-and-glass tree. There are streets between them, forgotten streets, with secret names and grim inhabitants. (And: there are wild-lands, dark places, the Spaces Between, where nothing seems right. Airport waiting rooms. Churches, at night. Backwater villages.)

There is vast power in the thrum of machines and the buzz of traffic, and it can be yours, for a price.

Image by Salva Graziano on Flickr

What’s weird about these elves?

1. They’re feral, like all elves are until the age of 100 or so. Up until that point they dwell in the forests in caves, or improvised lean-tos; they hunt with their nails and teeth, leaping out of trees and tearing the throats out of deer. At the end of their first century, they undergo a sort of awakening and become the book-reading, spell-casting, dress-wearing elves you’re used to, staggering away from their latest kill and naked, stinking cave-mate in abject horror.

2. They’re plants. They photosynthesise, which is why you never see them eat, and instead they sleep with their feet buried in soft earth. (They extend little roots down there to suck up moisture and nutrients; it’s gross.)

3. They were created by True Elves many years ago (hundreds? Thousands?) and, even though their towering and alien makers have died, the elves continue to function. They are complex machines of stolen bone and ultrafine metal wires, kept taught and wound up nightly to power their bodies; they cannot breed, but they can make inferior copies of themselves in turn, and those copies can do the same, and so on; like worn-out photocopies, badly-sculpted and malfunctioning elves populate the poorer places of the world.

4. They come from painted worlds; in works of fine art, occasionally an elf will appear in the background, and slowly move forward in the frame, and then one day they’ll emerge. (This destroys the painting, or rather, turns it into an elf, so collectors are generally against it.) They seem to be able to find each other once they emerge, and they’ve formed a culture.

5. There’s only three of them. When one dies, another one is born. Or: arrives. Anyway, there are minimum three and maximum three elves at any one time, and they all work in concert.

6. They only exist in moonlight. Or they’re only visible in moonlight, which makes more sense, but they tell you they don’t exist if the moon isn’t shining on them. There are various folk stories about moon elves stalking unwelcome hunters through the forests, only visible as strobing images.

7. They aren’t born; they happen. All elves start off as beautiful, famous humans – as big as celebrities can get in fantasy worlds – and as more stories are written of their exploits, and portraits commissioned of their visages, the adoration poured upon them physically changes them. They grow taller, thinner, more cruel.

8. They’re all drunk, all the time. You wouldn’t really be able to tell unless you knew; but when an elf sobers up, their refined mannerisms and graceful movements become even more refined and graceful, turning them into alien creatures who are largely impossible to communicate with outside of a sort of high-pitched vibration they use instead of speech. They drink to bring themselves down to our level, which is kind of them, even if it doesn’t really work.

9. They’re hollow vessels for ghosts. Generally, an elf will be filled the spirit of an ancestor when they come of age so their elders can continue to advise on courtly happenings; when the body dies, the ghost takes over and carries on. That’s why elves live so long: most of them are already dead.

10. They eat gold. Or: anything that’s expensive, because they derive nutrition from value. Gold is the easiest way to do it, but it doesn’t taste of much, so when an elf wants to treat themselves they’ll eat gems, crowns, phylacteries, oil paintings, etc. They don’t pass solid waste; they just absorb everything they eat. (Wizards reckon this is out of reasons of politeness, and also because it could be quite painful to shit out a crown).


Remnants is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create a fantasy world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[REMNANTS] Once upon a time, when the dragon-kings ruled the aetherealms and the Witch-Queens fought grand duels over generations with arcana of unimaginable power, the worlds split apart. There was too much magic, and reality couldn’t bear the weight any longer. The otherworlds splintered apart like ships crashing against a shoreline; but the pieces remained, shards of reality, and they pierced the material realm. A thousand dimensions, all attached to various degrees, to the prime material: some forgotten, some overrun with new inhabitants, some spawning monstrous creatures into the world, and some ripe for plundering.

Header image by Angie Trenz on Flickr

What does this serial killer collect from their victims?

1 – FINGERNAILS. And toenails. They rip ‘em out with pliers, and fix them to their own scabby, pallid skin with staples. (The “scales” function as a kind of armour, weirdly.)

2 – THEIR LAST MEAL. Pumped straight out of the stomach.

3 – AURAS. They rip it off them in their last moments and add it to their own; a swirling, incoherent mess of jagged colours that makes electric lights malfunction when they get angry.

4 – SHOES. They reckon if they steal the shoes off people, they can’t “walk into heaven,” which is kind of a dick move; instead, they nail horseshoes to the soles of their feet to pin them in place. Most of them hang around as ghosts, but on the other hand, most of them don’t deserve to get into heaven given what they’ve done.

5 – THE LAST THING THEY SAW. They used to reckon that the last thing people saw was imprinted on their eyes when they died; they were wrong, but you can use magic to access the information. The serial killer does, and renders them as nightmarish paintings – most of them self-portraits.

6 – PETS. They don’t want them to die; they take them home, put them up, feed them, etc. They’ve built an impromptu (and illegal) kennel in their apartment, and they’re starting to run out of space and money.

7 – IDENTITIES. It’s gross, but: they hollow them out and wear the husks, and some back-alley sorcery lets them pose as the person. It’s a good likeness, too, right down to the mannerisms, until the body starts rotting; they keep a couple of bodies cured and dried in their bedroom, ready for emergencies. So, you know: look for suture marks on the backs of your friends’ heads.

8 – EYES. They install the eyes around their home, and they can focus and look through them, letting them act as a sort of security camera system. (They varnish them so they don’t dry out; it impairs the vision a little.)

9 – HANDS. To make a Hand of Glory, you need the left hand of a man hanged for murder. Those are really hard to come by these days, so the killer is capturing people, having them kill one another and then hanging the survivor, cutting off their hand, and selling it on the black market. (If YOU’VE ever used a Hand of Glory, odds are it’s coming from an illegal Hand Farm like this one.)

10 – MONEY. The killer (or is it killers?) receives instructions detailing the location, appearance, and movements of the target from a mysterious source; they track them down and kill them, and each one of them just so happens to be carrying a huge amount of cash, which is the killer’s payment. Who’s setting it up, and where is the money coming from? And are you going to open that briefcase that appeared in your living room last night?


Glimmers is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create an urban horror world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[GLIMMERS.] The city is alive. The city is connected, with streams of light and noise and people, to every other city; they are all the same being, all branches of the same concrete-and-glass tree. There are streets between them, forgotten streets, with secret names and grim inhabitants. (And: there are wild-lands, dark places, the Spaces Between, where nothing seems right. Airport waiting rooms. Churches, at night. Backwater villages.)
There is vast power in the thrum of machines and the buzz of traffic, and it can be yours, for a price.

Cover image by Ben Smith on Flickr

Blood and Dust play report

Eoin Dooley has recently been running the Blood & Dust quick-start adventure for Spire. What follows is an account of their first session. Be aware this will have spoilers for the adventure.

Blood & Dust – Session 1

Deep underneath Spire, a mile-high city where the masked Aelfir rule, is Red Row, a misbegotten quarter ridden with crime, drenched in smoke and hazy from the ruddy glow of red light districts where the Drow are allowed to live with minimal attention paid to them. It’s a place where gangsters tell the city guard who they’re allowed to arrest, and a sensible guard hopes members of the competing gangs agree, or takes enough of their drugs not to worry about the issue. It’s been a remarkably stable equilibrium, but in the last few weeks it’s been threatening to spin out of control. A marked uptick in beatings, shootings and serious swear words are symptomatic of anger in the air. Yet, most people are talking about the Weeping Maiden, an avant-garde play that’s the hot new ticket in town, doubly noteworthy as a bunch Knights of the North Docks are running security. This isn’t their territory – it’s not like Red Row is lacking for drunken goons with blades the size of their egos, after all.

To find out what’s going on, a cell of insurrectionist Drow have met in a loft, and, after a brief ritual dedicated to Lombre and the Ministry of Our Hidden Mistress, discuss goings-on. Ex-military Firebrand Lozyln de Vire is incredibly annoyed someone told the cops about the seditious texts he may or may not have been keeping under his bed. A new recruit of his, Lajhan priestess Dacien Theroux is ticked off the Crimson Vigil have been recruiting out of her church, probably because that should be considered Ministry turf and she doesn’t need their goddess Lekolé setting the place on fire. Her secret crush, Idol and former thief Quenelle Laurant is positively fuming over the attention the play is getting instead of them. Vermissian Sage Illyria Lox is rather vexed about someone blocking off her routes into the Vermissian, colloquially referred to as train hell for smart people, and where Quenelle has apparently been seen wandering around in a trance. Knight of the North Docks Ganford Seiger though, is just, like, real happy to be there and has already started on the rum he brought, wondering idly if he should bring up his 16 year old Dagger-addicted squire Vennis for a drink. Given how much the kid has seen when he and Loz go out a massively illegal secret society meeting should be no big deal.

The atmosphere is punctuated by a bullet cracking through the window and into the roof. Loz kicks over the table, shotgun out. Illyria rushes to the window and sees what appears to be an old blind Lajhan firing around wildly with a revolver. Dacien recognises her as Madame Cazanoux, a former scryatrix who didn’t quite make the cut for magical vision after she blinded herself in the name of Limyé, and runs downstairs to bring her in. Loz makes to head off guards coming to investigate, thankfully including a friend of his named Athelmayas who the players decided is Steve Buscemi. Madame Cazanoux is delirious, raging about the goddess who took her sight and the Aelfir that took the rest, but Dacien is able to coax her inside. Athelmayas has been working overtime thanks to orders from on high to crack down and round up criminals, and is totally exasperated to see Loz, but Loz makes everything better with a pouch of silver. Seiger decides Vennis is better off downstairs.

Upstairs, Illyria jury-rigs the ritual material lying around to diagnose and fix the nun. Cazanoux has been enchanted, both with intense anger, and with a desire to see the Weeping Maiden. As the enchantment is broken, Cazanoux snaps, babbling nigh-incoherently of visions of blood and dust and rot and the Hungry Deep that resides at the Heart of Spire and of all-consuming rage and decay. Illyria is mostly unperturbed and finishes repairs. The nun, sweet and kindly now, explains to the gang that her parishioners were kind enough to crowdfund a ticket for her to “see” the Weeping Maiden. It seemed impolite to refuse, and she figured she could listen along anyway. After she left the revolver was given to her, allegedly for her own protection, by a member of the Church of the Gun, which is headed by local lunatic Brother Hellion yet maintains a respectable following due to the incredibly large number of quasi-divine guns they have. It was sometime after she left the play that she started seeing visions again, and attacked them. Sadly, Cazanoux is not the best eyewitness, so the gang split in two to investigate. Loz and Seiger will chat to Brother Hellion in his church on Kiln Street, while Dacien, Quenelle and Illyria attend the next performance of the Weeping Maiden.

The debauched party boys arrive on Kiln Street to see a Sister of the Gun blessing a few beggars with the protection of Brother Hellion, which is to say, giving them a pistol each. Seiger quickly infers that this is probably the person who gave a gun to Cazanoux, and decides to put a stop to this mess. He walks up and decapitates her with his big fuck-off sword. The beggars flee in horror, Seiger stoops down to pick up the guns, and before Loz can explain they just wanted to talk to the Hellionites they are shot at from the church by multiple rifles. They duck into cover, and the Hellionites demand they come out to face justice. They do the opposite, and scarper down an alleyway.

The three mystics arrive in front of the theatre to find a line stretching around the block, with a Knight on bouncer duty, and doors not yet open. After a couple of failed attempts to get in by flirting, Quenelle stomps their feet, reminds everyone that they are famous damnit and that famous people get into theatres. The bouncer and the patrons agree out of sheer shame. They get a stall and Dacien scries on the cast and crew and learns that while they’re mostly in it for the art, they are secretly getting paid a tonne of money by someone. The trio head to the stage where the head playwright, Jessamyn, is shouting at her cast. Quenelle interrupts her to ask her about the play, and Jessamyn is displeased to see an arrogant celebrity walking in here. A ferocious conversation follows, which Illyria takes advantage of to access Vermissian-stored knowledge and determine the relationship between Jessamyn and Brother Hellion. She learns there is no direct one, but they are in fact estranged brother and sister. Illyria extorts the playwright by alluding to her relationship with the gun nut and implies word will get out if she doesn’t talk. Jessamyn, horrified, tells them they receive funding from human retroengineers and the enchantments in the play were their idea. She then commands Knights to escort them off the premises. The trio leave with new information, but are uneasy about the fact that the Weeping Maiden will continue to produce new hoodlums like Cazanoux.”

Eoin Dooley – GM – @eoin_dooley
Dave Fennell – Lozlyn de Vire – @MysteriousDrD
Jess Bernard – Quenell Laurant – @InfiniteJess
Aisling Reina – Ganford Seiger
Ciaran Monaghan – Illyria Lox
Samantha Keaveney – Dacien Theroux – @sampersand

What kind of dragon is that?

1. Aluminium. The other dragons make fun of it because it’s weaker than they are; it has hollow metal bones, great feathered wings, and its maw is more beak than teeth. Instead of gouts of flame, it emits a stabbing jet of superheated air with an ear-splitting screech that can easily melt through steel. Its hollow bones are highly prized by collectors who use the super-light materials to make flying machines.

2. Trash. It comes from the elemental plane of Trash (which is where goblins are from) and it consists mostly of leftover junk, leaf matter and old rags. It smells awful, it has a terrible (if enthusiastic) sense of humour and it vomits up high-pressure streams of slurry about once every three hours, whether it wants to or not. There is no particular reason to go trash dragon hunting, other than to stop the smell.

3. Corvid. They hang out in cemeteries (or mass graves of their own creation) and collect bones, skulls, mementos mori and death cults; they are all in love with The Morrigan, a death goddess, who doesn’t really care for them. They build great piles of bones to try and draw her attention, and sing to her in the night, and it’s rumoured that once every twenty years or so she ascends from the underworld and takes one as a pet.

4. Hermit. They live in buildings, except; they pick the buildings up with their bodies and move around. Most of the ones you’ll see in the wild have stolen potting sheds or pagodas, and make do with shuffling around and keeping themselves to themselves. The really dangerous ones are big enough pick up seriously heavy buildings, like inns or churches, or that happen upon structures with some kind of resonance; you’ve heard tell that there’s one in the mountains who’s stuck in a wizard’s tower that he’s way too big for, but he’s unwilling to give up the spellcasting ability that it gives him.

5. Mouse. They’re pretty much the same as your standard common-or-garden fire-breathing sky reptile, but they’re the size of a mouse and they come in groups of about fifty or so. They’re not much of a problem, really, aside from a nasty little bite and the ability to set fire to your house from inside the walls. Some rich kids keep them as pets, which is how most infestations start.

6. Dust. Dragons don’t die of natural causes; they just get less and less vital over the centuries, and eventually shift into a sort of stuttering zoetrope half-existence. Dust dragons are the final stage of this process, and they’re almost all pathetic, sorrowful creatures, looking for a way to fix it. They leave dust wherever they walk, and breathe gouts of entropy over people who mess with them – equipment breaks, teeth fall out, vision falters and fades, and the truly unlucky just lay down and die.

7. Train. These ones don’t fly; they’re long, and they have an awful lot of stubby leg, and they stomp at speed across the flatlands, shovelling the topsoil into their mouth and sieving it for nutrients before ejecting it as dry dust through special gills. (The dust hangs in the air behind them, so you can usually tell they’re inbound and get out of the way.) Having few natural predators on account of their size, they’re content to charge around the highlands; several enterprising merchants have tried to use them as beasts of burden, but steering them has proved all but impossible.

8. Dream. There’s a special kind of opium that appeared on the market a few years ago, and everyone’s crazy for it; you take it, and you dream of a vast and mighty empire in which you are ruler, and scintillating, crystalline dragons fly above you in the skies. Here’s the deal: those dragons are real, except they can only exist in the dreams of people who take this opium. (It was a curse. You know curses.) Now, if enough people in one place dream of them at once, they can start to manifest in the real world.

9. Steel. Metallic dragons are naturally-occurring; these ones are alloyed, so they’re the result of careful interbreeding and genetic engineering at the hands of wizards. They’re smart, well-armoured, keen tacticians and, rather than use their breath glands to throw fire (or acid or frost or what have you) they can bellow their commands at a volume where they can be heard far across the battlefield. (Or: yell at you until you burst from sheer sonic pressure.) The other thing you need to know about steel dragons is that they all rebelled against the wizards about seventeen years ago, set up a feudal culture far to the north, and now they’re coming back with their own armies.

10. Ape. We don’t know how it happened. Wizards? Probably wizards. Anyway, what’s important now is: these things are the size of small houses, built like gorillas, and they can breathe fire but instead they tend to focus on punching things to death and then tearing them into pieces. Unlike normal dragons, these guys have a family-based social structure, so they’re in groups of ten or more and they’re stomping all over the city as we speak.


Remnants is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create a fantasy world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[REMNANTS] Once upon a time, when the dragon-kings ruled the aetherealms and the Witch-Queens fought grand duels over generations with arcana of unimaginable power, the worlds split apart. There was too much magic, and reality couldn’t bear the weight any longer. The otherworlds splintered apart like ships crashing against a shoreline; but the pieces remained, shards of reality, and they pierced the material realm. A thousand dimensions, all attached to various degrees, to the prime material: some forgotten, some overrun with new inhabitants, some spawning monstrous creatures into the world, and some ripe for plundering.

Header image by Michael Day on Flickr