Given the global protests against police brutality and systemic racism, it’s become sensible to make our stance clear on the matter in case there’s any confusion: we are in support of those protesting against police brutality and systemic racism. (Please refer to our earlier work, Spire, for more information.)
We are going to donate 50% of the profits from our new Spire sourcebook Shadow Operations to Black Lives Matter UK – backdated to when it went on sale, and continuing in perpetuity.
We are committed to working with POC creators to bring a breadth of voices and perspectives into our community.
Sanctum is out now.
Sanctum is a sourcebook for the Heart roleplaying game – inside, you’ll find advice for building settlements with your player group and, once everyone’s invested, rules for destroying them with four new variations of Angel. The whole thing is underscored by increasingly mad excerpts from Beyond The Edge Of Madness by Gris Hannemann, a down-on-his-luck travel writer who attempted to escape his debts by fleeing into the Heart for a year-long bender.
SHADOW OPERATIONS is an upcoming supplement for the Spire RPG which features eleven one-shot missions all designed to be as easy to run as possible written by a variety of authors.
WHAT ARE THOSE SCENARIOS?
LIFE AND SOULby Grant Howitt: The legendary Red Row gangster Mr Winters is having an extravagant birthday party in his spacious mansion, which is a shame, because you’re going to murder him for selling weapons to the cops.
THE LAST TRAIN by Nathan Blades:The Last Train is the only functioning train left on the cursed, infinitely fractal mass transit network of Spire. It can never stop, and you don’t steer it – you pray to it. Now: steal whatever’s powering it.
A SHOTGUN WEDDINGby Christopher Taylor: Can you defend a wedding between Brother Hellion’s only biological daughter and a renegade noble-blooded Knight of the North Docks? Bear in mind that it takes place at the Church of the Gun, so everyone is armed.
HOUSE OF LEAVING by Sharang Biswas: When a prominent researcher – and her research, and her office – go missing within the boundaries of the Infinite Library, the cell is dispatched to bring her back intact.
HOW TO STEAL A BODY by Pauline Chan: Simple enough: all you have to do is get a magically-radioactive corpse through the streets of New Heaven while both the blood-hungry Charnelites and the sanctimonious Morticians are trying to stop you doing it.
JAILBREAK by Basheer Ghouse: Liberating an infamous gnoll prisoner of war from the Hive would be hard enough, but once you make contact, it looks like he’s in no hurry to leave.
THE MOON BENEATH by Jabari Weathers: A useful moon priest has defected to worshiping something strange and chthonic in the environs of the Heart. Pull her out of the darkness and bring her back to the light.
POWDERKEGby JP Bradley: Two rival houses of Knights are pitching the North Docks into turmoil. Can you squash the beef tonight before the police turn up and start shooting?
RIME AND REASON by Christine Beard: A renegade Warrior-Poet has been magically frozen in a block of ice; can you get him to a safe house so he can aid the revolution, even though he’s rapidly defrosting and warping reality around him as he does it?
THESE FERAL SAINTSby Pam Punzalan: Drow Saints reincarnate when they die. One of them has shown up in the religious tinderbox that is Pilgrim’s Walk: recruit her as an operative before the church of Our Glorious Lady or the sect of the Crimson Vigil execute or sacrifice her.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON by Jason Pitre: For one night only, a revolutionary desang play will be performed on the streets of Spire. The authorities want to stop it – and it’s your job to run interference. Also, the play magically alters reality as it’s performed, so best of luck.
I think there was a period of five days last year where, unprompted, three different people asked me which Spire adventures were best to adapt to one-shots. The best answer I could give was “Blood and Dust” but the honest answer was “none of them,” because we tend to write adventures that take at least three sessions to play out. SHADOW OPERATIONS is an attempt to give people what they need to get Spire up and running as quickly as possible.
Each scenario is about 1,500 words long, and is broken down into the following elements:
Mission Parameters. An outline of the mission to give you (and your players) an understanding of what sort of events will take place. You can read this aloud to the players to set the scene.
Suggested classes. Most classes can fit into most missions, but these ones will have an easier time of it thanks to their typical abilities, skills and domains.
Intro. Use this section to guide the players into the story. There will often be questions for the players, generally around how they arrived in (or infiltrated) the mission area. This is intentional, as it gets right to the interesting bit.
Non-Player Characters (NPCs). A list of NPCs for the GM to use as they wish. Some of these will be vital to the plot (if you’ve been sent to rescue or kill someone, they’ll be here); others are up to you. As with all the scenarios we write for Spire, we’ve intentionally given you slightly too many to choose from so you can mix and match for the best experience.
Suggested scenes. Events involving the NPCs that explore their characters or advance the plot. Some of these are written in order and others are a spread of ideas to be accessed as you wish. Keep a note of these as you play and use them where appropriate – for example, if the players seem directionless, you want to introduce a new character or if you need to amp up the pace.
Locations. Every situation in these missions takes place within a defined location. This doesn’t have much of a mechanical effect, but should help to focus the players and maintain the game’s pacing by making their position in the world as clear as possible.
Props. Props (or approaches) are small, often throwaway details that can give the players a means of influencing the story or just doing something cool.
Twist. Each of the scenarios has a defined twist that you can reveal towards the end of the session (or the middle, depending on the adventure). If you’d like to run a scenario more than once, you can get a lot of mileage out of it (and keep it interesting for yourself) by changing the twist to something else.
Reward. If you’re using the mission as part of an ongoing campaign, this section has some ideas for what you can give to the player characters in exchange for completing their objectives (in addition to normal advances).
A NEW WAY OF RUNNING ONE-SHOTS
Maybe it’s not entirely “new;” makes for a more interesting headline, though. Basically – you write down the locations on index cards, and then the props and NPCs on other index cards, and arrange them appropriately. Here’s a picture of LIFE AND SOUL laid out in such a fashion:
If there’s any hidden props or NPCs, you can slip those inside the locations, and reveal them when the player characters investigate. (Seeing as we’re all trapped indoors for gaming at present, this should all work online on your gaming platform of choice, too.) You conceal as little information as possible from the players because you’ve got maybe three hours to play out an entire story – so it’s not worth messing around.
What’s more, we’ve consolidated down our NPCs into Iconics – broad types such as The Queen, The Fool, The Monster and The Rising Star – that have their stats outlined at the start of the book. This allows us to save space, and allows you to quickly find the rules for an emergency NPC from a short list.
WHEN’S IT OUT?
SHADOW OPERATIONS is written and illustrated, and it’s in the final stages of layout now. We’re planning on releasing the PDF within the next month or so, and on printing the physical book alongside the Heart supplements (June, or thereabouts). The PDF will be £5 and the softback – with a free PDF included as standard – will be £12 (tbc).
If you’ve backed Heart and you’d like to get a physical copy of Shadow Operations at the same time as your Heart books to save on shipping, we should be able to sort you out. Send an email to email@example.com and we’ll have a chat.
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
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.
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):
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org – 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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.