What’s weird about these elves?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Header image by Angie Trenz on Flickr

What does this serial killer collect from their victims?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Cover image by Ben Smith on Flickr

Blood and Dust play report

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

Blood & Dust – Session 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of dragon is that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Header image by Michael Day on Flickr

What’s defending the lich’s sanctum?

1 – A roiling tornado of bone. Looks like a spell got out of hand; this thing has been spiralling through the catacombs for years, bashing open coffins and adding the contents to itself. The Lich might even be in here, trapped, and more insane than ever.

2 – Copies of adventurers. They’re simulacra of bone and dried flesh, glamoured to look like people – people you know. The lich has a keen interest in history, and used to be an adventurer themselves, so they use magic to make their minions act out famous stories for their amusement. The ones defending the place are either: a younger version of the grizzled ex-soldier who runs the inn in town, inaccurate caricatures of legendary fantasy races, or wildly exaggerated copies of the player characters themselves. A canny group could disguise themselves as the undead guardians, if they can act appropriately.

3 – A great inland sea, still as a mirror, with the creaking bones of an awakened leviathan corpse beneath the surface. Which is weird, because the sanctum is a regular-sized building; clearly the lich built around a world-shard, or something. Anyway, you’ll need to find a boat if you want to reach her.

4 – A shifting labyrinth full of necromantic traps. The traps, and the shifting walls, are made of animated bones and flesh; you catch a glimpse of a skeleton without hands, its wrists grafted to the wall, sliding a section into place as the maze rearranges. The concealed pit trap is a load of skeletal hands holding up the floor, and they let go when they sense intruders on the surface; the crossbow traps are made of the top halves of soldiers, enchanted to watch and wait forever. The lich’s own energy is so potent and distinctive that she can walk through the maze without fear – the skeletons simply don’t attack her, and move the environment however she pleases. If you could grab something stained with her power, you might be able to enjoy the same freedoms.

5 – The crushing innards of a great chthonic beast. It died to make the world alive, or the sun come up, or something; the lich found the corpse far beneath the earth, raided the tomb, and brought it back to life so she could live in it. It’s huge – easily the size of a town, with a mouth like a valley – and, over the years, the lich has refined the innards to be controlled from a central dias in the belly. From there, she can crush intruders by wrenching the windpipe shut, or animate the razor-sharp teeth that line the throat. (The reason why you’ve got access now is that she’s come up to ground level; she’s attending her great-great-great-granddaughter’s wedding.)

6 – A picket fence. She’s just moved in down the road and she’s trying not to make a scene. Being a lich isn’t technically a crime; doing necromancy is. But she’s offered to have her skeletons help defend the town and bring in the crops, and she seems nice, so.

7 – Whirling revellers. The lich decided to make her afterlife one constant party, seeing as she no longer needs to sleep, so she sent out a psychic invite to the wildest hedonists she could uncover and let it happen. The party is currently in its thirtieth year, and shows no signs of stopping any time soon; she keeps the wine, drugs and song flowing and takes lovers, both living and undead, from the ranks of the debauched throng that lines the halls of her palatial mansion and grounds.

8 – Angels. Or: things that look like angels – too many faces, lots of wings, fire, the works. They’re true neutral beings, devoted to equality in the cosmos, and a series of big wins against the forces of evil and death have shifted the balance too far towards the living and the “good.” They’re defending her while she makes an army of undead to sally forth and destroy the nearby towns; they view it as part of the ecology of the world.

9 – A load of churches. There’s a turf war going on in the undead community; the vampires are taking land down by the south side of the river, there’s a wight and a banshee who just got engaged and are Bonnie-and-Clyding their way through the farms on the outskirts, and the zombies are revolting. The lich has built her sanctum inside a ring of churches and she teleports in there; should any other living dead try to approach, they’ll have to deal with the sanctified ground.

10 – A dwarven stronghold. She snuck in here many years ago and has been operating secretly, stealing dwarf bones from the cemeteries and animating them into a sort of army; if she can take the armoury, they’ll become a force to be reckoned with. A trusted oracle saw her presence in a vision; the dwarves refuse to believe that she’s there, and won’t let you into their inner sanctums to investigate. Can you persuade them to provide access, or will you have to sneak inside?


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

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

Header image by Badlands National Park on Flickr

What’s weird about the club downtown?

1 – It’s run by the fey, and alongside the coat-check, you can hand in your reflection for the evening as well. Without a reflection, your soul doesn’t get stained from sin, so you can do whatever you wish and not end up karmically tainted by it. (In more concrete terms, you don’t feel bad about it, either. And you don’t even feel bad that you don’t feel bad.) The club keeps your reflection if you can’t pay up, and sells them on to desperate vampires at extortionate rates if you leave it too long.

2 – The music is a ritual. It’s one of the longest the world has ever seen, and it’s been performed by ten artists over about fifteen years; they come on stage and perform certain notes to add to the oversong. When it’s complete, they say that the whole club will ascend, but that’s probably just a spiel to get people through the doors.

3 – It’s infinite; there’s a room for every kind of music that you could imagine. However, seeing as the number of people in the club is finite, the less popular the musical style is the fewer people you’ll see. A number of shadowy organisations hold meetings in the throat-singing room, convinced that they’ll never be interrupted.

4 – You can only get to it by elevator. There are six elevators that go there, spread across town, and each of them has a slightly different combination of button-pushes that allow access. A lot of the elevators come with a “test” of some kind – a creepy-looking woman or child entering the lift and asking you weird questions – but that’s just to put off the tourists.

5 – It’s on the inside of a sphere; you can look up and see the other dancefloor. Which would be difficult enough to handle if you were sober, and you definitely aren’t. Some people like to throw small change up into the centre to see if you can get it to float in the middle of the sphere; the bouncers kick you out if they catch you doing it, though.

6 – It’s Valhalla for ravers. If you die on a dancefloor – generally thanks to an overdose, dehydration, or looking at the wrong guy in the wrong way and getting your head kicked in – then you come here, and dance all night, and sleep all day in the back of the chillout room. It’s jam-packed with the most hardcore party people available from throughout time, and they’re all impossibly irritating to be around if you’re sober.

7 – They’ve been playing the same song for the last twelve years. It’s incredibly long, and they just turn it down and leave it running when the club closes. Regular attendees believe that the mysteries of the universe are contained within the song – eventually. It seems to be about two years behind whatever’s fashionable when you hear it, which is pretty good going considering it was written last century.

8 – The place is jam-packed full of birds; owls, crows, hawks, ravens, etc. The staff’s main job is cleaning up after them, but if you can deal with the droppings, it lends the place a fantastic ambience.

9 – It’s pitch black inside. Most of the things that come here can see in the dark, and indeed prefer to function without light, so they don’t need it. Torches (and therefore phones) are banned; you can use night-vision goggles to see what’s going on, but expect the other punters to laugh at you and try to steal them.

10 – It’s in a rooftop garden. The plants here are unnaturally lush and vibrant, no matter what time of year it is – you reckon that there must be a dryad in charge, or at the very least a druid – and, occasionally, you see a deer or a fox scampering away down one of the corridors. Some of the more elaborate cocktails come served in pitcher plants or sliced-open cacti; the regulars tend to stick to glasses, though.

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 electricnude on flickr

What’s under the church?

1 – Another church. Older, for a different religion; lots of crows, tapestries of a great and terrible crown. Roll again on this table to see what’s under this one.

2 – A roiling mass of worms. You can’t tell how far down they go, or what they’re surviving on down there. The door slams shut behind you.

3 – An underground cave system. Mostly it’s flooded, but the one dry-ish tunnel leads to the basement of a brothel in town.

4 – A forgotten library. It’s got the original religious texts of the church above it in there, but it seems like no-one knows it’s here. This would be an excellent opportunity to set yourself up in a prophecy of your own invention, if you’ve got a pen to hand.

5 – The anti-church. Built by a sect of True Neutral monks, this anti-church dwells beneath the above church and espouses completely different values for the sake of balance.

6 – A vault containing contraband treasure. Looks like it’s stamped with the insignia of the evil overlord who was cast down from his throne of blood thirty years ago. They (or anyone else who picked it up) would have a hell of a time shifting this. Why do they have it, anyway?

7 – A labyrinth, made out of repurposed wood. It’s filled with half-starving feral boars and the scant remains of the last people who came down here.

8 – A portal to heaven. At least: they reckon it’s a portal to heaven. It’s definitely a portal. The priests here are rapturing people from the local community after deeming them worthy of entrance into the great eternal. (God knows where it really goes, though. Would be a laugh if it actually was heaven, eh.)

9 – An enormous chasm, going way, way down. You can hear music – bells, flutes, pipes etc – and cackling coming from the bottom.

10 – A dark void. A magic hole in space and time, a portal to the elemental plane of No. The church was built on it to contain it, but their wards are failing, and now it’s only a couple of feet beneath the main altar.

11 – A vampire. Leave him alone! He’s trying to sleep.

12 – A suspicious quantity of arms and armour. Good stuff, too. Non-magical (aside from a handful of potions) but it’s of strong make, and there’s enough here to outfit a squad to do some serious work. Which is odd, because it’s hidden beneath a godsdamned church.

13 – A prison. They put sinners here. Sometimes they put food here. The town is calm and peaceful and crime-free, and they like it that way, so no-one asks too many questions about the black-masked priests who walk the streets at night and drag away the undesirables.

14 – A wizard’s tower. You’d think it’d be the wrong way up, but there’s a sky under here and everything; the tower is on a promontory overlooking a wild sea, and you can see something huge shifting under the waves. Wizard’s a bit of a weirdo; she says she’s studying the air currents here, and refuses to believe that there’s a church in her basement.

15 – Catacombs. But: round here, while you’re in mourning, you go and live with the dead under the church. Some folks never come out of mourning. There are about thirty people down there at any given time, and at the end of a funeral, family members are escorted down into the depths with the body.

16 – The same church, but last week. It’s one of the weird sharding effects of the cataclysm; the church is underneath itself, inverted, but the one underneath is a week in the past. As long as you visit the church once a week and stay on good terms with the vicar(s), you can effectively cheat death so long as you don’t mind getting kidnapped by your mates from the future every now and again.

17 – A hospital. The staff here are trying to hide the fact that there’s an outbreak of plague in the area; if it gets out, the panic would be impossible to handle. Their beds are filling up, and they’re on the verge of uncovering a cure, but time is not on their side.

18 – An opium den. None of the priests are actually priests; they’re drug dealers, and most of the town is in on it. They run a pretty solid operation, and don’t care about killing people who shove their noses in where they don’t belong.

19 – An orcish invasion. They’re tunnelling in from their world of darkness and fire and hate, and they’re hungry to see the light and feast on the pleasures of the surface world. You find evidence of an orc camp in the cellar, and then hear the unmistakable sound of iron-shod boots clattering against flagstones.

20 – Cogs from the machine that keeps the world turning. They creak and click at an incredibly slow rate, and beneath you, the sound of vast cthonic rumbling hints at something far larger beneath you. This is a maintenance access panel, but: do you really want to go exploring down here?


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

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

Header image by fly on Flickr

What’s the supernatural weakness of this new threat?

1 – Television static. The black-and-white snow on detuned televisions shows echoes of the big bang, and it’s this cosmic afterbirth that sets the monster’s teeth on edge. You’re not entirely sure why (and you’re not sure you want to find out, really) but getting an old cathode-ray TV and setting it to a dead channel works like salt, or holy water, or church bells on these guys. You’ve heard tell that there’s a guy downtown with several specimens trapped in circles of hissing TVs, and he’s always on the lookout to buy old models if you pick any up.

2 – Your blood. Just you, though – not anyone else. You think it’s something to do with the way that you’ve got The Sight; anyway, they’re killing people all over the shop, and various factions are becoming interested in harvesting your blood to use as a weapon. You, of course, would rather that it stayed in your body where it belongs. Can you track down someone else with a similar effect? (Or: infect them?)

3 – Digitalis. You can get digitalis from foxgloves (also known as Dead Men’s Fingers); they use it in heart medication to slow down irregular heart-rate. When you jab these monsters with it, in a high enough dose, it slows their pulse down to a human rate, and they lose all their supernatural powers: no more incredible strength, no more accelerated healing, etc. At that point it’s just as easy as killing a regular human.

4 – Crowds. They don’t see humans as individuals; something about their minds means that they see their targets as a sort of hive, a singular mass of swarming entities. They can understand one person (and talk to them, kill them, eat them etc) but if confronted with a crowd, they can’t fathom the intent of it, or any of the people inside. Big enough crowds overwhelm their senses and give them splitting headaches; they avoid crossing train-lines or busy intersections like a vampire avoids crossing water, because the buzzing stench of crowds never leaves those places. You’ll be safe as long as you’re never alone.

5 – Darkness. Something chased them here. (Something worse?) Now, they can’t endure the dark, not even for a second; they adorn themselves with lights, bathe in neon glow, cluster under street lamps. They reckon that if they’re in darkness, whatever hunts them can find them. (And: it does. If they spend too long in the dark, they die.) So you’re completely safe from them, as long as you’re in utter darkness.

6 – Mathematics. There’s something raw and bestial about them, something feral that rejects a higher understanding of the universe; so long as you’re performing arithmetic of some kind, they can’t abide your presence. (They hunt scientists out of a kind of hate.) In the modern world, they’re screwed, because most everyone has a device in their pocket that’s carrying out millions of calculations a second, so they have to wait until your phone runs out of battery before they strike and smash you to pieces against anything hard in your immediate surroundings.

7 – Heat. They’re creatures of bitter winter, and the colder they are, the stronger they become. You’ve heard tell that they rule the upper reaches of Scandinavia, but obviously something’s driving them down into more temperate climes; and now they’re here, in the city. They can walk about as normal during the depths of winter; in summer, they’d be lucky to last for an hour or more outside of an industrial freezer unit before their organs shut down and they die. Now: you and your friends are holed up in a run-down flat, surrounded by a protective ring of three-bar heaters, wishing for the snowstorm to end.

8 – Painkillers. They have a special relationship with pain, so anything that blocks it is anathema to them. People tried making protective circles of ground-up analgesics, but that only went so far; now, if you hunt them, it’s considered a good idea to get loaded up on codeine before you set off, which causes its own problems. Some people say that anti-anxiety drugs work too as they can feed off your fear (which makes them stronger), and they swear by 200mg of Pregabalin to start the day or wear protective charms made of Valium pills strung through dental floss.

9 – Fire. Back in the day, everyone had fire; we lit our houses with candles and lamps, and we burned wood to warm them. Now, the closest most of us come to an open flame during the average day is lighting a cigarette; so these creatures, clad in shadows and emerging from lightless corners, are having a field day. A lighter or match isn’t enough to keep them at bay, and you’re going to get some funny looks (and probably arrested) if you carry a burning torch around with you.

10 – Disease. They only eat clean things, so anything or anyone with a disease is disgusting to them. A minor cough or cold will put them off or slow them down (but not, say, stop them if their backs are to the wall) – late-stage leukemia will send them running in fear. If you hunt them, you’ve got a few choices: stay sick, so they’ll give you a wide berth; carry vials of disease around with you, which is a crime, and you’d have to break them open to use them; or bring an ill person with you, probably in a wheelchair, probably waiting in the van outside, to use as a tac-nuke if everything goes to shit.


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 Alpha on Flickr

Worlds Apart Episode 0 – Aliens X Dwarves

We’re trying out some new stuff as we’re having a look at overhauling the stretch goals on the Hearty Dice Friends patreon, and one of the first ones is a show called World Apart where Chris and I design a world live on air.

If you like it and would like to hear more, or if you have any ideas for concepts for shows, please let us know!

– Grant