Heart front cover with smoke and red lighting © SHAW STUDIO

Heart: The City Beneath is now on general release

Posted on November 10, 2020 in News

We are beyond happy to announce that Heart, our RPG of cursed dungeon-crawling and nightmare body-horror, is now fully available everywhere. We’re going to show you what Heart’s all about in this blog post, so join us, won’t you?


Following on from Spire, our 2017 game of urban fantasy insurrection, we wanted to create a game which let us explore a perennially popular subject for roleplaying games – the dungeon crawl. We took the concept of the Heart – the roiling unreality that rests underneath Spire, and the source of no end of strange magic and monsters – and expanded on it. What sort of people would willingly descend into the bowels of the earth in search of treasure, absolution, glory or forgiveness when a perfectly decent city exists directly above it?

Broken, dangerous people – that’s who. Every character in Heart is hell-bent on something – an obsession that burns at the core of their being and pushes them onward to power and damnation. This Calling – as we’ve named it – provides a road-map for advancement focused around a variety of story beats that push them in various self-destructive directions.

The Class part of your character is more traditional: what you do to stay alive and help your allies. The Deadwalker is a ranger, of sorts, who died and came back from the brink and is now followed around by a spectre of their own narrowly-avoided death; the Vermissian Knight patrols a cursed mass transit network wearing powered armour built from ancient trains; the Witch has contracted a blood disease which gives her mastery over the flesh and blood of the Heart; and the Deep Apiarist, who has replaced many of their internal organs and part of their brain with waxen simulacra built by industrious magical bees.


The book has masses of setting information, but none of it is set in stone (or flesh, teeth, hair, etc) – your group will create the world around them as they play, scarring the Heart into a mirror of their desires. Temples to forbidden gods are commonplace, as are vast and incomprehensible machines; trees who learned the trick of walking but also the curse of madness stalk through twisted forests that have never seen the sky; predatory buildings lay in wait like great pitcher plants, disguised as perfectly ordinary pubs or bookshops; and from the unfathomable depths of the Heart Itself, crimson Angels march forth and herald their arrival with a screeching, scraping song of rust and ashes.

Which should surely be enough to be going on with, right? However, thanks to the enthusiasm of our Kickstarter backers, we ended up publishing a variety of sourcebooks that shed more light on various aspects of the setting. We’ll take a look at those now.


One of the most engaging ways to start a Heart campaign is to get your players to build their own settlement as a group and determine how they fit into the overall environment – and Sanctum gives you the tools you need to do just that. One of the most engaging ways to end a Heart campaign is to take an Angel, the Heart’s implacable messengers and killers, and send it to destroy the settlement that the players built at the start of the game – and Sanctum comes with four new kinds of Angel, described by the famous travel writer and liar Gris Hanneman, to do just that.


Elsewhere is a city between worlds – a nexus of doorways and paths that stitch together the various realities that creep into the world of Heart. In this campaign frame, we detail the strange Belle Époque-style city of Elsewhere, the inhuman inhabitants, the worlds attached to it, and the ravenous shadow creatures that descend once night falls and consume anyone not wreathed in electric light.


We use the expanded combat rules in Heart to lend weight to your Spire campaigns – by recruiting seasoned delvers as special operatives on dangerous missions for The Ministry of Our Hidden Mistress, the paramilitary organisation that lies behind the revolutionary themes of the game. With extra rules for firefight-themed fallouts, new weapons, details on the murderous Autumn Soldiers of the Paladin cult and a full breakdown of each Vermissian Line in full, VBlops (as we’ve taken to calling it around the office) is just the thing to satisfy players with a craving for action in their espionage games.


We tried to write a way to translate your characters from Spire into Heart, but: it didn’t work and it wasn’t good enough. So instead we made a meat grinder and called it Burned and Broken. This is a set of rules to rebuild your Spire ministers as Heart delvers once the Ministry has turned their back on them and damned them to a life of exile in the City Beneath – choose what you clung to as you fell from grace, navigate the dangerous streets of Derelictus pursued by enemies old and new, and maybe find absolution or revenge in the Heart.


If you want to get a handle on what Heart is, you can download our free Quickstart rules. The PDF comes with all the rules you need to know to play and run Heart, five pre-generated characters and a choice of advances for each, and a basic starter scenario which sees you on a race against time to stop an extradimensional entity flooding the City Beneath with saltwater, making it somehow less hospitable than it already is. (You can get a physical print of the Quickstart for cheap, too!)


The thing about Heart is that it doesn’t have a canonical map – instead, each game builds it anew as it shifts and warps into a pattern that best suits the delvers that step into it. This thick boardgame-style fold-out map and associated hex stickers are, we reckon, the best possible way to illustrate your party’s descent into the ancient madness of the Heart. (Or you can do it on a bit of paper, too – that works. We just think the map is neat.)

We’re really excited to see people get their hands on Heart and explore their own version of this strange unreality. If you’d like to learn more, you can check out all of the Heart stuff in our store. Or if you run a games store and you’d like to stock Heart (or any of our products) in your business, you can drop us an email at admin@rowanrookanddecard.com to discuss discounted wholesale rates.


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