STRATA: AUTHORS, ADVENTURES AND NEW CLASSES

STRATA – Kickstarting in early October – will be the first hard-copy sourcebook for Spire, our game of fantasy-punk insurrection, and we’re really excited to tell you about what’s inside. Namely, a bunch of brilliant scenarios from nine different writers, and two new classes!

OUR WRITERS AND THEIR SCENARIOS

For the first time, we’ve brought in new writers – some seasoned RPG creators and some completely new voices – to play in the Spire universe..

We have five adventures, or campaign frames, included in the book at funding:

  • Christine Beard (Beast: the Primordial, Seventh Sea, Changeling the Dreaming 20th anniversary) writes Eye of the Beholder, where the cell attempt to rescue drow used as canvases for a cruel aelfir’s surgical arts.
  • Pauline Chan writes Lines in the Dirt, which sees a downtrodden and under-funded cell in Derelictus get evicted from their tenement apartment block, and fight to keep it.
  • Chris Farnell (Dirty Work, Mark II, Legacy: Life Amongst the Ruins) writes Dark Harvest, where the player cell are bundled off into a suspiciously idyllic community deep in the Garden district after a mission goes disastrously wrong.
  • Laurence Phillips (Primal Pathways) writes The Forgotten, where disabled and marginalised drow are caught between the machinations of the ministry and the brutality of the aelfir after the untimely death of their protector.
  • Chris and Grant, who you know, are writing Better the Devil which deals with the arrival of the powerful and damned drow lineage of Starys to Spire, and their attempts to take over the city.

We also have five scenarios lined up as stretch goals:

  • Helen Gould (Cthulhu Dark, Fear’s Sharp Little Needles) writes Home is Where the Hatred Is, which is essentially Downton Abbey except all the staff are revolutionary drow and all the posh people are undead high elves.
  • Ben Brock writes Ironshrike, in which the cell are tasked with killing a marketplace and also working out just what that entails.
  • Coman Fullard writes The Sulphurous Press, in which the cell are given control of a news-sheet and use it to spread revolution through the city.
  • Kira Magrann (A Cozy Den, Resistor, The Veil, The Sprawl, Dialect) writes Glasshelm, in which a cadre of rebels attempts to destabilise Spire’s banking system.
  • Xalavier Nelson (PC Gamer, “Screw You Bear Dad!” and MCV rising star) writes Bisquiet, which focuses on the unique art of overthrowing the government via precise application of gourmet baked goods.

All of our unlocked stretch goals will be included in every copy of the book – there’s no additional tier required to get them, and they won’t be released as PDFs only.

TWO NEW CLASSES

As well as plenty of extra advances – additional ability sets that any character can use – we’ve produced something special: two brand new classes to flesh out your Spire games and give you new ways to affect the city.

The first is the Inksmith:

“Ever since humans brought the printing press to Spire, the ability to control and channel the zeitgeist has never been easier; you know the occult power of pulp fiction, channel the magic of sensationalist journalism, and wear narratives like a cloak. You ride the razor’s edge between truth and fiction. As a writer, you’re not bad; as a magician, you’re top-notch.”

They’re pulp fiction con artists running a scam against reality, and they’re always in search of a good story. They have spells such as: A MAN WITH A GUN, that summons someone holding a gun into the room they’re currently standing in; STAR-CROSSED LOVERS, that makes two NPCs fall in love; and COMMON FEARS, which lets them access what a community’s scared of and use it against them in their writing – or otherwise.

The second is the Shadow Agent; they’ve devoted their lives utterly to Our Hidden Mistress, drow goddess of grace and revenge. As they grow in power, in addition to canticles and prayers to their patron, they gain the ability to own and maintain more and more covers – false identities that they can slip into and out of as they please.

At first, they’ll have a couple of tricks and a fake ID; at higher levels, they can animate their covers to act independently, summon choking shadows over the mouths of their enemies, or sacrifice their precious other selves on an altar to their goddess to gain her favour.

THE REST

So far, we’ve written about 40,000 words of setting information, supplemental rules, weapons, abilities, bonds and weirdnesses that you can find in the richest and poorest parts of Spire; as ever, we don’t want to talk about what happened in the past, but instead about what might happen tomorrow. Spire is a changing, dangerous, exciting place, and we want to give you what you need to put your players right in the centre of it and let them try to take control.

That’s it for now. If you’d like to stay up-to-date with the campaign, you can follow Grant on Kickstarter herefollow our Twitter account here, and sign up to our mailing list here.

– Chris, Grant and Mary

Strata: Kickstarting in October!

STRATA: A SPIRE SOURCEBOOK KICKSTARTER

Since we released Spire, we’ve been so excited to see what the community has done with it We’ve heard so many stories of brilliant games of rebellion and intrigue set in the world we created, and now we want to createmore of it. So, we’re even more excited to announce that the kickstarter for our first hard-copy sourcebook, Strata, will launch in early October.

WHAT IS STRATA?

Hopefully, it’s more of what you like about Spire – more weirdness, more story hooks, more rules, and more words about a place that’s on the brink of revolution and waiting for the players to push it over the edge.

We’re focusing on the richest and poorest places in Spire. In the same way that our Black Magic PDF sourcebook focused on the Occult domain, Strata will be based around the High Society and Low Society domains. But it’ll be much more comprehensive book, stuffed with adventure frames and campaigns as well as details of the world itself.

We’re going to be releasing Strata as a high-quality book, using the same printers as the core Spire book, with all-new artwork by Spire artist Adrian Stone. We’re also hoping to release a newspaper, designed by Tim Wilkinson Lewis, that will act as an accompaniment and play aid for all the scenarios in Strata – and add some more secrets to the world in the process. You’ll hear lots more on this as the campaign goes on.

WHAT’S IN THE BOOK?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just from flicking through the document you can expect to find:

  • New advances for Idols based on their artistic school in the Sunlight Collective
  • Rules for possession-junkie ghost-gangs that stalk ruined mansions
  • A song-bow that plucks out your last breath as you die and turns it into music
  • A list of famous heists in the Silver Quarter, including this one time when someone stole the casino they were gambling in
  • Rules for giving your body to the Spire and being rewarded with beautiful flowers blossoming out of your skin
  • Music made by re-purposed industrial machines played to underground speakeasies
  • The child-gangs of Derelictus and their patchwork miracles, passed down in games and songs
  • A knife that loves you and wants you to be safe
  • The guild of ladder-men and the council of stairs, angry that unlicensed ropers are making climbing routes through their turf
  • Aelfir blinding parties
  • And much, much more

ADVENTURES AND CAMPAIGN FRAMES

We’re really excited to be working with several other writers to bring our world to life. In addition to a full campaign frame written by the original authors, Strata will include up to nine scenarios written by other people who range from established industry professionals to new talent with promise and a knack for words. (Exactly how many we’ll publish is reliant on stretch goals.)

We can’t wait to see what they bring to Spire.

THAT’S IT FOR NOW

We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to write in Spire again, and commission some awesome people to create stuff alongside us. If you’d like to stay up-to-date with the campaign, you can follow Grant on Kickstarter here to receive an update when we launch, or subscribe to our mailing list here.

Grant, Chris and Mary

SPIRE – CALL FOR WRITERS

EDIT – This call has now closed. Thanks for all your pitches!

When we started making Spire, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. As the project has reached completion, we’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm and support of our players and readers – and we think we might need your assistance to give them what they want.

Spire is big. Bigger than we can handle ourselves. There are a million nooks and crannies to explore within the towering nightmare city, a million stories waiting to be told, and we want you to help.

WRITE FOR US!

What ideas do you have, when you flick through Spire? What stories do you want to help people tell? What weird twists and unexpected secrets have you hidden in your version of the city?

Take a look at our pay-what-you-want adventures: Blood and Dust, Eidolon Sky, and Kings of Silver. They’re an example of what we like when it comes to adventure design – lots of setup, lots of player choice, and very little in the way of scripting player actions. (Also: they’re not too long.) We like to think in terms of characters and motivations; of neat scenes that the GM can slip into the story wherever is appropriate; of giving the players difficult choices and no clear right answer. The adventures take the established locations within Spire and introduce a new element to them, then explore how that changes the already shaky status quo in the city.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an established RPG author with reams of material under their belt or if this is your first stab at writing something for publication. We’re interested in hearing from you if you’ve got stories to tell in our world; especially if you’re part of a culture that doesn’t see much representation in the RPG industry.

Also, don’t worry about “getting it right” with regards to canon – we work in very broad strokes, and what’s true and what’s not in the world of Spire is a concept with a lot of wiggle room. As long as you have a broad understanding of the themes and concepts within our world, you should be fine – this isn’t a test to see whether you’ve memorised everything we’ve written and can regurgitate it back to us, but rather an exercise in seeing if you can use our words as a springboard to reach something better.

WHAT WE WANT

  • Original, punchy scenarios and campaign frames that give the GM agency to tell their own stories
  • Well-written, engaging words that spark the imagination; we’re proud of the standard of writing in Spire, and we want to continue the tradition
  • New extra advances, equipment and enemies that tie into your scenarios
  • New rules, descriptions and story hooks for things we haven’t covered in great detail – like the stuff we did in Black Magic
  • Interesting takes on well-worn fantasy tropes
  • Additional details, locations and characters for Spire

WHAT WE DON’T WANT

  • Scenarios set outside of Spire (that is, in Nujab, or the Eastern Kingdoms, or the Home Nations, or in an entirely different world etc; you can set stuff on the outside of Spire)
  • New classes
  • Huge mega-campaigns that require the player characters to act in certain ways to further the plot (write a novel instead, get it out of your system, then come back to us)
  • The big secret metaplot behind the universe (there isn’t one)
  • Brand new big secret organisations that mess with the world behind the scenes (we’ve got enough of those, use one of the existing ones)
  • Lists of unconnected weapons and monsters

WHAT WE CAN OFFER YOU

CASH. We pay our writers.

EDITING. All your work will be edited by us, and either fed back to you for improvement or published once we’ve made changes. Which means: your work will be better, which is good.

MECHANICS. If you aren’t comfortable writing mechanics for our system, we can do that – just tell us what you need the mechanics to do and we can fill in the blanks if we’re capable. If you are comfortable, take a go at writing it, and we can make sure that it lines up with the rest of the world.

YOUR NAME IN LIGHTS. Well, your name in print, or PDF, at least. But: you’ll be credited for everything you do. If you write something, it’s important that people know you did it.

THE NEXT STEP

Send a pitch to admin@rowanrookanddecard.com – no more than a hundred words or so – which outlines what part of Spire you’d like to explore, and what kind of scenario you’re interested in setting up there. What are the players tasked with doing? What opposition stands in their way? Imagine you’re describing it to a group of prospective players and you want to share your excitement with them.

Also, send over examples of, or links to examples of, other work that you’ve done. If you don’t have a portfolio, send us a link to your blog, or some other place that you store your words. (If you don’t have any examples of your writing to make available to us… well, wow us with the pitch, and we’ll talk.)

If we like it, and we think that the concept has the capacity to be turned into something special, we’ll be in touch.

  • Grant, Chris and Mary

Free RPG day giveaways

It’s free RPG day! Which means – well, it means free RPGs. RPGs that we’re going to give to you absolutely gratis. Zero money exchanged. Of course, we have a load of one-page RPGs and adventures for Spire that are free (or pay-what-you-want) all of the time, and you can download those here.

HOWEVER, in addition to that, for this weekend only, the following games are one hundred percent free:

  • WARRIOR-POET, a haiku-based game in which you play a beautiful sorcerer-artist and fall in and out of love and die within a year, but you do your best to burn bright and leave a beautiful corpse.
  • ONE LAST JOB, a flashback-heavy game where you come out of retirement to carry out a heist. Unlike basically every other RPG ever you don’t have a character when you start the game, and everyone else defines one for you in play.
  • HAVOC BRIGADE. a madcap rambunctious farce where you play a bunch of tremendously loud orcs on an “infiltration mission” into a human city; comes with a nice map and illustrated pre-gen characters. One of the characters is just six goblins in a coat trying to fit in.
  • ROYAL BLOOD, a beautifully-laid-out book which pitches you and your friends into the role of half-blood junk magicians trying to con the Arcane, living embodiments of the major arcana from a Tarot deck, out of their power over the course of a single night. All you need to play is a deck of tarot cards and some tokens.

Each of these games normally costs nine full English pounds – so that’s THIRTY-SIX POUNDS all together, and we’re giving them away for NOTHING. Just think of the things you could do with the money you’ve saved:

  • For the next two weeks, you can buy two Tesco meal deals every weekday lunchtime instead of one, and give the spare one to a dog
  • You’re over halfway towards affording those nice £70 shoes you’ve been eyeing up – so go in the store and buy the left shoe right away and tell them WE sent you
  • Next time you’re out at the pub with five friends, you can buy them two rounds of drinks! Unless you live in London, in which case you can buy them a half each and the buggers should be grateful for it
  • You can buy seven ASDA rotisserie chickens  and try to eat them all before they go off; there’s even a quid left over that you can use to pay a boy to watch you do it
  • Walk up to a corner shop where they’re selling bowls of fruit and veg for a pound a bowl and wordlessly buy out the entire stall
  • You could even buy some of our other titles, such as Spire – a grim fantasy-punk game set in a city poised on the brink of rebellion, where the players form a cell of sacred freedom fighters and attempt to dethrone the corrupt government. In fact, you could get a hard copy for the money you’re saving, imagine that

Anyway. Don’t let us pressure you into anything. Enjoy the free games. Happy Free RPG day.

New Extra Advance – Corpsefruit Dealer

There was a cryptic crossword attached to the newspaper clippings that backers could purchase during the Kickstarter – we offered a prize for completing it, but never reckoned that anyone would. We were wrong.

Congratulations to Wil and Clare on the Spire Discord for solving the crossword in what seems like a tremendously quick time; in exchange for doing so, we have written an extra advance of their choosing. They opted for Corpsefruit Smuggler.

Corpsefruit is a drow delicacy, imported by brave (and some might say stupid) dark elves through secret underground routes that run between Spire and the Home Nations. It only grows in graveyards; the scarlet-skinned, sweet-fleshed fruit draws its flavour and powerful narcotic properties from the dreams of the dead that slumber eternally beneath the soil.

It is illegal in Spire, and those who choose to import it and move it through the city can make a tidy sum of money – if the guard, or rival dealers, don’t take them out before they finish the deal.

You can download the Corpsefruit Dealer extra advance here.

Kings of Silver release date: 31st May

[edit: Kings of Silver is out now! Download it here.]

We’re excited to announce that Kings of Silver, the latest campaign frame for the Spire RPG, will be released on the 31st of May.

WHAT IS KINGS OF SILVER?

Kings of Silver is a campaign frame – a way to set up a series of linked games of Spire using the same characters – set in Spire’s Silver Quarter.

Some of the weekly happenings in the Silver Quarter, courtesy of The Silhouette

If you’ve read our other ones – Blood & Dust and Eidolon Sky – you’ll have noticed that we don’t really do pre-written scenarios the way a lot of other games designers do. As we don’t like to make reams of notes when we run games ourselves – and we’re not big fans of reading them, either – we wanted to create a setup that game the GM and players flexibility to explore the weird world of Spire but also a solid framework to guide them through the experience.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Kings of Silver newspaper clippings

Kings of Silver starts with a sheaf of newspaper clippings cut from magazines and newspapers distributed throughout the city.  (We’ve included all 10 as stand-alone images, too, for ease of printing.) The cell are instructed to use the clippings as a starting point to investigate three power-players in the glittering Silver Quarter:

  • Hestra Wander-the-Lost, scandalous media sensation, master seductress and sister to the morose warrior-poet on the city council with the same surname
  • Lay-Deacon Strides-Out-Harmonious, a wealthy devotee to Father Summer, who has been building heavily-defended temple-casinos throughout the district, and
  • Loq Walks-On-Light, enigmatic ex-military playboy who boasts an increasingly large entourage and some strange philosophies

From there, we adopt a hands-off approach to adventure design. Each of the three main NPCs (and a few other important people) are given full breakdowns and a series of suggested scenes that the GM can weave into the story, and we’ve taken a guess at a few finales that might happen, but we can’t be sure how it will end.  After all, if you know how a roleplaying game is going to finish… well, what’s the point in playing at all?

EXTRA STUFF

Kings of Silver also boasts several pages of random tables designed to evoke the atmosphere of the gaudiest district in Spire – festivals, noble families, street furniture, whatever the gangsters who run the place are doing, and whatever the city guard are doing to keep things ticking over – six pre-generated characters with Silver-Quarter-ready backstories, and a full list of employees for The Manticore gambling house which the player cell has received as a cover identity.

Hestra is protected by the Order of the Querent Hound, handsomest knights in all of Spire

What’s more, we’re releasing this 45-page PDF on a pay-what-you-want basis! We’re really keen for you to hit the ground running with Spire – hopefully Kings of Silver can help, and give you inspiration for your own campaigns. We’re really proud of Kings of Silver,  and we’re looking forward to sharing it with you. Keep an eye on our Twitter account, or check back here next week, to pick it up.

Advancement in Spire

ADVANCEMENT

Since releasing Spire, one of the pieces of feedback that we’ve received is that some people are finding it tricky to judge when to allot advances to their players. Advances allow characters to grow in power in exchange for changing the city around them, but what sort of changes do they need to make? We’ll discuss that, and what went into the experience system, now.

WHY CHANGE?

Spire is a game about change, and we wanted to reward players who mess with things. (We also wanted GMs and players alike to not be scared of changing the “canonical” Spire; roleplaying games never survive contact with the players, and settings of roleplaying games doubly so.) So: when a player character makes a change in the city of Spire, they advance. They gain a low advance for a small change, a medium advance for a medium one, and high advance for a serious, lasting transformation on the city.

Crucially, though, the change doesn’t have to be for the better. (And: it rarely is.) We wanted to step away from moralising at players and judging change as “good” or bad” – we’re rewarding chaos, not justice. (Spire is not a game about good and evil, but ends and means.) Also, we wanted to give people a chance to advance regardless of whether or not their actions turn out for the best, because it would be pretty dissatisfying to lose out on getting cool powers just because the guy you choked to death at the opera turns out to have been secretly funding orphanages all through the city.

But: how much change equals an advance? That all depends on the scale and scope of the campaign.

SCALES

Bonds come in three flavours in Spire – individual, street, and city – that reflect their size and influence, so we might as well use those flavours for illustrating change as well. An individual (low) change makes someone’s life different in a big way; a street-level (medium) change affects a group of anything up to a hundred people; and a city-level (high) change has wide-reaching implications for a lot of people – thousands, if not more.

But: these assume a default campaign, and by default campaign, we mean: a cell operating in secret throughout a handful of districts and attempting to overthrow or undermine aelfir interests within those districts. Success on a grand scale would see the city changed – rulers dethroned, buildings erected and destroyed, new festivals commemorated and possibly the odd giant statue thrown off the side of the city. There are other levels of resistance in Spire, such as:

A devoted cell of operatives play the long game and decide to take the Council back into drow hands through years of political maneuvering, assassinations, blackmail campaigns and several riots. (City-level.)

A hand-chosen team of ministers are tasked with taking full control of a single district – the Silver Quarter, say – and given resources to achieve their aims. (Street-level.)

A gang of Knights and a few layabout priests, new recruits to the Ministry, find themselves forced out of their tavern HQ by rival gangs of Knights. To carry on their mission of righteous justice, first they’ll have to save their pub, and the people who live around it. (Individual-level.)

In each of these, the scale differs, so the actions performed within shift in narrative impact. Let’s take the example of the following change: the players publically humiliate a local gang leader, dragging him beaten and bloody through the streets.

In the city-level campaign, this barely matters; the characters have bigger fish to fry, and they probably have bonds that can handle this sort of thing. It’d probably be a Low advance, if anything at all.

In the street-level campaign, this could represent a useful step in the right direction; it stamps their authority on the district and secures them some power. It’d be a Medium advance.

In the Individual-level campaign, this might represent the culmination of several games’ work: gathering info on the gang, ambushing the guy, getting a crowd together to watch him getting the tar beaten out of him, buying off his bodyguards, etc. This could be a High advance, and signal that the campaign is coming to a close – presumably after a fitting climax, where the gang leader comes back for revenge, or his aelfir bosses start asking difficult (and violent) questions.

WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON

In essence, levels of change are roughly equivalent to effort and impact. If a change took a lot of effort to enact – multiple game sessions, risky actions, expenditure of resources, suffering fallout – then the players have earned a bigger advance than they would if they’d just sent one of their bonds off to handle it during downtime.

In addition to bonds, advances are one of the ways that the GM can reward players for acting in ways that they like, and encouraging repeat performances. The scope of the change is secondary to the time spent and importance of the act to the group as a whole.

5 TIPS FOR USING ADVANCES

– Talk to your players at the start of the campaign and ask them what they reckon would constitute a Low, Medium and High advance; discuss it with them, and you can all try to get on the same page about what constitutes what.

– The scope of a campaign can change! Don’t feel stuck at one level, and trust your gut.

– Get your players to plan out their insurrection as a series of low and medium advances leading up to a high advance. Maybe get them to build a “murder board,” with pictures of important characters and buildings written down and connected with red lines. These can change as you play, but it basically amounts to having players do your campaign prep for you.

– Sometimes a bond can be as powerful, if not more powerful, than an advance – especially a bond in the right place. Don’t forget to reward players with new relationships and connections, especially as a means of mechanically codifying alliances with NPCs that arose naturally out of the fiction.

– Bribe your players! Tell them you’ll give them a Medium advance if they pull something off without a hitch, and a Low advance if something goes awry. (It’s all basically up to you anyway, you’re the GM, but it can be exciting to feel like something’s on the line.)

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.