Sign up for the HEART RPG playtest now!

In two weeks’ time we’re going to release the playtest document for Heart, our next big game – and if you’d like to help shape it from the ground up, we’d love for you to be part of our alpha playtest community. (If you don’t want to read any more and just want to sign up for the playtest straight away, click here.)

WHAT IS HEART?

Set in the Heart – the nightmare, unreal labyrinth that pulses and writhes beneath the city of Spire – Heart is a game about damnation, redemption, survival and obsession. It’s also a game about body horror, walls made of breathing meat, and exploring a possibly-malevolent parasite dimension. It’s also a game about dungeon-crawling, at the base of it; we wanted to take the classic story of descending into a dangerous underworld and see what twist we could put on it.

We’ve got amazing illustrations from Felix Miall (we’ve posted some of them here, you can’t miss ‘em) and layout from Jay Iles.

We’re going to Kickstart Heart towards the end of 2019, but before then, we want to see if we can make it really, really good.

CAN YOU JUST GIVE ME A LIST OF COOL THINGS THAT ARE IN HEART WITH NO CONTEXT?

Of course! In the playtest document alone, you can expect to find:

  • Flightless owl hives
  • Predatory libraries
  • Heretic priests of the Moon Beneath
  • Platemail made out of repurposed train parts
  • A mimetic virus that makes you build labyrinths
  • Full rules for accidentally becoming a messiah
  • The Ravening Beast, a hunting dog that hides in your thoughts

WHAT DO YOU NEED FROM ME?

We need you to play it. Get your friends together, make some characters, and play out a few games using the rules in the PDF. We’ll have some questionnaires for you to fill out, talk about how the game felt, ask you what you liked and disliked, and so on.  We’ll need you to actually play it – we want to see how it performs in practice.

We’ve tried to make Heart as easy as possible to run, and made it so that a GM and players can sit down with very little planning and improvise a session on the fly. (However, if you want to draw out your own mad undercity and expose your players to it, you’re welcome to spend as much time as you want to prepare for a session.)

WHAT’S IN THE PLAYTEST PACK?

The document will feature full rules for running games of Heart – the core systems at play, but also mechanics for exploring and mapping the undercity, making and reinforcing connections between landmarks, and developing relationships with the people you meet down there. We also have five of the (planned) nine classes, and five callings – reasons that you’ve chosen to explore the shifting, dangerous world of the Heart.

Finally, there are some details on the world of Heart – landmarks, havens, incidental details, non-player characters, and adversaries – and a scenario to run through, if you wish. It’s not representative of the final product, but it’s enough to be going on with for our purposes.

There will also be links to an exclusive Discord community for early discussion of the game, as well as at least one feedback form we’ll ask you to complete to help us improve the game.

WHAT RULES DOES IT USE?

Heart uses a modified version of the Resistance system that we created for Spire. Some of the skills and resistances you’ll recognise – we still have a Blood resistance to measure how hurt you are, and a Sneak skill to go unnoticed. Others are new and designed to tell stories unique to exploring a body-warping magical city – Echo resistance shows how much the Heart has changed you, for example, and Supplies resistance shows how much spireblack your lantern has to burn before it sputters out and leaves you in pitch darkness.

We’ve streamlined down some of the systems from Spire, making them (hopefully) easier to use on the fly.

We’ve focused on making fallout smoother to use in play and, with the addition of Critical fallout, used it to give your character a descending arc as misfortune and pain are poured upon them. We’ve added a little more complexity to the combat system, because there’s more of it in Heart, but not a great deal (and we aren’t using tactical maps or anything like that).

The systems will be instantly recognisable to anyone who’s played Spire, and we hope you enjoy the tweaks we’ve made.

IS THIS A SPIRE PRODUCT?

It’s not – it’s completely standalone. However, we will continue to support the Spire line – we’re in the process of writing our next supplement right now and will continue, if demand stays high, to release a new major sourcebook on a yearly basis.

WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

Fill out the form below and, once it’s all ready to go, we’ll send you a download link to the PDF documentation.

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NEW PRODUCTS ON SALE!

Hello! We’re happy to announce that, as the Kickstarter for Strata is now fully wrapped up (and those of you who backed it should receive your books very soon) we’ve got a load of new products on sale in our online store. Here’s what you can get (in print and PDF):

STRATA. A full-length sourcebook for Spire (it’s actually slightly longer than the core book) with new classes, extra advances, ten scenarios and a load of information on the richest and poorest districts of the city. If you’re late to the party, you can get Spire and Strata together at a discount through our bundle deal.

Spiral Muse Image

THE SPIRAL MUSE. A 12-page in-character newspaper designed for use with the scenarios in Strata – it’s absolutely dripping with hooks and leads to drag the players into the GM’s devilish schemes. Written and designed by Tim Wilkinson Lewis, who created the Spire and Underspire maps, this newspaper has the same obsessive level of detail and black humour that you’ve come to expect from his work. If you get Strata and The Spiral Muse at the same time, we’ll give you a little discount because we’re nice like that.

Book of Masks cover image

BOOK OF MASKS. Twenty fashionable, innovative and practical masks – complete with full-colour illustrations of all of them, and rules for using them in your games. Written by master masktress Lysk Thin-Hands-Scratching of the Amaranth district.

SPIRE SCENARIOS – IN PRINT! Blood and Dust, Eidolon Sky and Kings of Silver are now all available in physical form for the frankly absurd price of £4 a pop. They each come complete with pre-generated characters, so it’s never been easier to get started with Spire.

BLACK MAGIC – IN PRINT! Replace your organs with wax copies made by bees! Retch up a black-eyed, needle-toothed child that wants to hurt you – every night when you fall asleep! Make curry goat so good it brings the dead back to life! Make unspeakable pacts with unknowable creatures housed in unstable and dangerous machinery! All this and more awaits you in Black Magic, now available in print for the first time ever.

a range of beautiful art prints

ART PRINTS! Adrian Stone’s art has defined Spire. If you’d like it to define the wall of your lounge, bedroom, office or bathroom, why not pick up a print of your favourite piece? We’ve updated the store with the new illustrations from Strata, and installed a fancy new plugin that makes browsing the available prints a pleasurable, rather than frustrating, experience.

ROYAL BLOOD – IN PRINT! Nothing to do with Spire – this is a standalone game set in the modern day where players take on the roles of the Queens, Pages and Princesses of the tarot and attempt to overthrow the major arcana in a single night’s heisting. Played using a deck of tarot cards, this game has been laid out and illustrated by the fantastic Banana Chan – it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s available in print right now!

ONE PAGE RPG COLLECTION YEAR TWO – IN PRINT! Following on from the first 13 one-page games (and their back pages) we’ve stuck another 13 together to make a second volume. These come with their exclusive, never-released-online back pages – extra hacks, content, and on occasion entirely separate games. At present we’re still getting these printed, so you’ll be able to back-order them and we’ll send them out when they’re with the distributor – should be within a fortnight of this blog post.

ALSO ALSO you can get discounted bundles of EVERYTHING, the WHOLE SPIRE RANGE, in print and PDF. An excellent present for someone you like very much, or at least someone who you would very much like to run Spire for you.

Right. Phew! That’s a lot of stuff. Please buy it.

Much love,

-Grant

Strata pre-orders are live, and also here

STRATA is the first full-length, hard-cover sourcebook for the Spire RPG – and it’s coming out in April 2019.

The book contains two new classes (the pulp fiction occultist Inksmith and the identity-stealing Shadow Agent), a bunch of new extra advances, background information on the richest and poorest districts of Spire, and ten (10) scenarios designed to help you tell evocative and interesting stories in the mile-high cursed city.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy, you can pre-order one from our Backerkit store here. (You can also buy hard copies of all of our existing Spire sourcebooks, such as Black Magic, or get in-character newspapers with plot hooks for all the scenarios for Strata, too.)

Strata Kickstarter goes live Tuesday 16th October

We’re excited to announce that the Kickstarter for Strata, our first full-length sourcebook for the Spire RPG, will launch on Tuesday 16th October. Follow us on Kickstarter to stay up-date.

Strata will include, but is definitely not limited to:

  • Two new classes: the Inksmith, who is a pulp-fiction two-fisted literature occultist, and the Shadow Agent, who has given themselves up to the Hidden Mistress in exchange for the ability to mystically transform themselves into cover identities.
  • Five scenarios written by exciting authors: these range from a one-shot where the cell liberate the victims of artistic beautification surgery to a full campaign frame that sees the doomed drow house of Starys return to try and reclaim Spire.
  • Advances for playing a character from each of the nine noble families of the drow.
  • A huge amount of setting inspiration and details for the richest and poorest places in Spire: the glittering perversity of Amaranth, the folk tales of shadowed Derelictus, the warring factions of Ivory Row, drug-dealing speakeasies in the Works, and more besides.

What’s more, backers will be able to pledge at a higher level to be part of the book itself – suitably Spire-ified, of course.  Want to become a patron of the revolution, or set up your own organisation – complete with a set of advances that members can access? That’s a thing you can do.

We’re really excited to make this happen. See you on Tuesday!

Resistance Toolbox: now available!

All the best indie systems have a creative commons rules-set that you can use to write your own games, so we figured ours should too. To that end, we’re proud to announce that the Resistance System – the rules that power Spire – are now available to download for free from our shop.

We’re calling it a “toolbox” rather than a full system reference document (or “SRD”) because this isn’t a plug-and-play system; when using it, you’ll need to define your own skills, domains and resistances – as well as the abilities that characters can use to help influence the world. There’s a bit of work involved, but we think the rules have the potential to make some really interesting games.

Download the Resistance Toolbox for free here. Oh, and just because it bears repeating, we’ve got a Kickstarter for Strata, our Spire sourcebook, coming up next month. Take a look at the exciting stuff in that here.

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