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Mortician Executioner Class Breakdown

The Mortician Executioner is one of the two new classes in Sin, our upcoming sourcebook for the Spire RPG, which is currently on Kickstarter. You can learn more about Sin – and maybe even secure yourself a copy – by clicking here.

“As punishment for your crimes, the city of Spire has declared you dead – and it falls to me to correct the administrative imbalance that sees you standing here, alive, breathing, in flagrant violation of several crucial edicts and one Grand Statute.”

Executions are illegal in Spire thanks to a law instituted over a century ago by a Legislator-Architect who found them unfashionable. However, the influential Mortician sect were able to find a loophole around the ban – declaring a person legally dead and then redressing the balance at swordpoint. You are a Mortician Executioner, and you have joined the Ministry of our Hidden Mistress; you live a double life as a state assassin and a revolutionary, and must shoulder all the burdens that brings.

The Mortician Executioner has been following us around for a while. (Not in real life, you understand: that would be terrifying.) They were one of the original Spire classes, back when the game had a Control stat for every fight, a Black Bag skill and used, god, playing cards or something to resolve challenges or something. We knew that we wanted a death magician, but they kept skewing too close to being in authority for us, and we couldn’t come up with enough interesting abilities to make them work properly so we shuffled them off to one side and forgot about them for four years.

And now! Here we are, older and wiser, with a better understanding of what Spire is about and hundreds of hours of games design experience under our collective belt. We figured we’d have another go at the Executioner, because it would be interesting to take a look at death (and the administration of same) through the lens of a culture that differs from the Carrion-Priest in the core book.

OVERVIEW

All told, the Executioner is a joke that got out of hand. We liked the idea of state executions being illegal but declaring someone dead and then correcting the real-world inaccuracy with murder being perfectly legal, because that’s the kind of Kafkaesque gag that fits perfectly into the black humour of Spire. In practice, it’s actually been really hard to work with, because the murderous insouciance of the aelfir has resulted in a lot of in-canon executions which we’ve just sort of glossed over, but here we are.

Let’s address the elephant in the room: the Executioner is a cop. 

The Knight is a sort of cop if you squint and don’t worry about the fact that the only badge they have is tattooed onto their arm. The Bound is a vigilante. But the Morticians are directly supported by the city and enforce state law, in as much as they kill enemies of the state (or anyone important enough to have that title thrust upon them via bribery), and they’re part of a vast and influential bureaucracy that controls vast swathes of land and power within Spire.

In short: not your average revolutionary. Which is another reason why we didn’t include them in the first book, because they felt too powerful and too in-charge to be interesting to play, especially when we had the refugee Carrion-Priests who were doing the same job and got a cool hyena to play with. 

What we’ve tried to do with this class is underline the fact that the player character is undercover in the Morticians – they’re a state executioner, but given the lack of oversight applied to their actions, they have the ability to manipulate and abuse the systems of power from the inside to benefit the revolution. That’s why their refresh ability is focused not around doing their job, as in the case of a lot of the other classes, but about subverting challenges and turning them into tools to be used rather than destroying them. That’s one of the central themes of Spire – subvert, don’t destroy – and it was nice to be able to reward it directly.

EQUIPMENT

We’ve gone for two different flavours of Executioner using the starting equipment choices. Firstly there’s a witch-hunter, Inquisitor, cool-lookin’-guy-in-a-coat with a crossbow and an axe type; secondly, there’s the Russian-Orthodox-Priest-lookin’-guy who gets a big staff and a load of robes and holy symbols, who is more of a cleric. We spent a very long time researching names for particular kinds of holy attire (tippets, chasubels, kalimavkorai, etc) but most of them were so obscure or funny-looking to be of no use whatsoever, so we settled on “robes” and let you fill in the details yourself.

CORE ABILITIES

Once per situation, Executioners can automatically detect who in the immediate area knows what they want to know – getting it out of them is their problem, though. Hopefully this can speed up investigations and remove red herrings.

Crucially, once per session, they can declare someone legally dead. A few of their abilities key off this (see below) and they get increased combat capability against their target; they can mark extra people using this method, but doing so causes their Shadow stress to mount up as they risk discovery from their Mortician masters. 

ABILITIES

The Executioner is a combat powerhouse, if you want them to be – they’re easily the equal of the Knight or the Carrion-Priest once they get up and running. Abilities like ONE DROW ARMY and REAPER’S TOUCH allow them to chop through whole groups of assailants at once:

Mina’s on holiday so we couldn’t get these laid out properly – please use your imagination as to how good they’ll look

Single targets aren’t safe either, thanks to DEATH’S KEEN BOLT:

I like any combat power that includes multiple written reports

Which, you’ll note, is great unless you actually kill anyone with it, at which point you get in trouble with your boss and have to start falsifying records to cover up the fact that it wasn’t shot at an enemy of the state but, in fact, an aelfir arms dealer who you decided was easier to deal with once they were dead.

But! Honestly? The combat bits are the less exciting part of the class compared to their MAGICAL BUREAUCRACY and CORPSE SURGERY abilities. We wanted to show that the Executioners aren’t just Judge Dredd-style badasses running around and killing people, but that they’re part of a larger organisation with its own rules, benefits and restrictions. For example, you can use SPEAK WITH “DEAD” to communicate with someone who’s legally dead but not actually dead:

Why? Because we thought it would be fun to distract someone with a ouija board and then steal their wallet, or pretend to be someone’s subconscious and see if you can’t trick a password out of them. You can also influence the city around them to reflect the fact that they’re no longer a living citizen, to make them late for things, because we’re really into that kind of petty evil here at RRD Towers. Channelling the bureaucracy of the dead in different ways allows them to recreate events from official reports or half-forgotten memories, erase Shadow stress and fallout, and even – once – swap out their own death for someone else’s.

The corpse surgery elements come from the way that the Morticians have developed Undying surgery – a necromantic practice that fixes you at your current age and renders you immortal but prone to madness, moth infestations, curious leakages, etc. We figured that we could play with the idea that they’ve managed to implant stuff in people that shouldn’t strictly be in there, which leads to audacious and fashionable implants such as visible organs behind glass, nonfunctional megacorvid wings, hands of glory, dead men’s eyes, and so on. Do well enough and you can get the full Undying package:

INSPIRATIONS

The Mortician-as-state-badass is undoubtedly inspired by Inquisitors from Warhammer 40k and the Witch Hunters of real-world history; we can’t say that we agree with their methods or their goals but there’s a lot of scary imagery and association to draw on, there. 

And: you know how there’s, like, funny laws? Like “you can’t carry a pig under one arm in the market square on Sunday in Canterbury” or “in Zachariah, New Michigan you can’t marry a Frenchman unless your door is painted green,” that sort of thing? We like those. Or rather we like what they say about law – that it is infallible and strange and a purely social construct, and that once you step away from it for a hundred years or a hundred miles it can seem perverse and ridiculous.

That’s what the Executioner is – an extension of the ridiculous and a sack of ideas about death and bureaucracy and ritual tied up in a bag that’s trying to overthrow the government. They’re the most organically Spire class we’ve ever done, I think – they’ve arisen out of the fiction and become something more than they started as, and they fit really neatly into the overall whole of the game.

You can learn more about Sin, our upcoming sourcebook for the Spire RPG, by checking out our Kickstarter. And why not pledge while you’re there? 

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Gutter Cleric class breakdown

The Gutter Cleric is one of the two new classes in Sin, our upcoming sourcebook for the Spire RPG, which is currently on Kickstarter. You can learn more about Sin – and maybe even secure yourself a copy – by clicking here.

THE GUTTER CLERIC

“Azur! Charnel! Limyé! Incarne! Merhor! Great Damnou! Uh, Brother Harvest? Plür? Is ANYONE listening up there?”

You are on the cutting edge of Applied Theology. Wielding miracles granted by a dozen gods, you are somewhere between a field researcher and a metaphysical con artist who tricks forbidden, dead or merely unpopular deities into blessing you with their aid and hiding from their sight before they realise what happened.

We’ve been toying with the idea of the Gutter Cleric for a long time. They were one of the original classes in the Spire corebook, but we couldn’t figure out how to make them work without being jarring – despite the game definitely being about religious magic and unorthodox uses of same, they didn’t quite fit. We called them GODHACKERS as a placeholder name, which maybe explained why we never managed to make them fit into the game; it doesn’t gel with Vermissian Sage and Carrion-Priest.

Anyway. We’re better games designers now, and we needed classes for a new book, so we went back to our old ideas and saw if we could do them justice. Turns out that changing the name from Godhacker to Gutter Cleric – a name with heavy overtones of the Junk Mage, their counterpart in Heart – gave us the inspiration we needed to properly build them out. Rather than being an academic innovator, the Gutter Cleric became a sort of desperate con artist who was ripping off gods by pretending to be faithful just long enough to earn a miracle.

EQUIPMENT

Gutter Clerics start with either a big heavy self-written holy book (D3, Defensive, Surprising) or a one-shot improvised pistol and a cut-throat razor, which are popular recruitment tools in the grim backstreets of Pilgrim’s Walk. You have two options: either a sort of bumbling scholar who hits people over their head with a bible or the sort of bastard who’d sell your grandma for a sack of hooky relics. Both are good.

CORE ABILITIES

PETTY COMMUNION allows you to speak with the small gods of objects and talk with them; the more important the object, the less it cares about what you have to say. BOOTLEG MIRACLE lets you go slightly mad or attract unwanted attention in exchange for rolling with mastery on any roll you like. I’m mainly telling you about these because I’m happy with the names.

ADVANCES

We matched each tier of advances to a tier of gods – unpopular gods for low advances (or things that aren’t quite gods at all – they can siphon Idol powers, for example), the Nine Forbidden Faiths for the medium advances, and then ancient Titan-esque precursor gods for the high advances.

Great news for people who love big toads

Eagle-eyed readers of Spire will note that we have not really defined what the Nine Forbidden Faiths are (and indeed we go on to imply that there are actually Seven Forbidden Faiths in the sentence immediately afterwards due to a typo) and that there’s been no mention of precursor gods at all so far in the text, so it was both fun and a challenge to come up with things that fit the tone of Spire whilst making for a fun class and not contradicting any lore that we’d established in the past. (Or: contradicting it in an interesting way, at least.)

We even managed to get some of the REALLY Forbidden Faiths in there with a clever workaround that you can barely notice

So the medium advances focus primarily on the banned Old Gods of the aelfir (The Void Above, The Beast Beyond The Walls, The Fire Stolen) which was fun, because we got to flesh out the history of the high elves and imply some stuff about their difficult past in the Frozen North. It’s also nice to give players an option to use the gods of their oppressors against them, I think.

We wanted to show the experimental/improvised nature of the Gutter Cleric by giving them two different power levels in each medium advance – one for a low stress cost, and one for a high stress cost. This puts them somewhere between traditional reliable Divine magic users and riskier Occult casters. The high advances let us really mess with the mechanics of the game, because we wanted to show that these gods are different from the other gods we’ve seen so far, as you can tell from this ability which lets outright ignore fallout as long as you don’t mind it accidentally hitting increasingly familiar people instead:

We’ve gone for a traditional Moirai or Norns set-up, but we put in a fourth sister who lets you Groundhog Day your way into eternal madness too

INSPIRATIONS

I really like that scene in The Mummy where Benni, the sort-of-villain character who wears a fez, gets threatened by the titular Mummy, and starts cycling through holy symbols and prayers from different religions in an attempt to gain divine protection. The Gutter Cleric is basically a whole class about that.

Of course, there’s a lot of crossover with the Junk Mage, and both of them share DNA with the characters in an unpublished novel I wrote called God In The Attic which features a con-artist demonologist who spends the entire book lying to demons and passing off crap he bought at a pound shop as ancient relics in back-room sacrifices. I will continue making characters who lie to supernatural entities and maybe get away with it until my demands are met (i.e. the novel is published). 

You can learn more about Sin, our upcoming sourcebook for the Spire RPG, by checking out our Kickstarter. And why not pledge while you’re there? 

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Witch Class Breakdown

the witch
the witch

There is a disease, deep in the City Beneath, that worms its way inside the blood and binds the victim to the place; they become a part of something far greater than themselves. Those who have made such a bond are called witches, and are viewed with a mixture of suspicion and awe by the other inhabitants of the Heart.

Each strain of the disease has a lineage and history associated with it, and witches are careful not to infect those who they think would squander the gift. This long tradition, combined with the way that some witches can easily kill the average person simply by glancing at them, means that the sect is treated as nobility, or emissaries of the Heart Itself; they are almost fae-like, existing in their own world of strange practices and esoteric arts whispered from teacher to student over several centuries.

The witches’ base of power is Hallow, a ramshackle town built within a burned-out cathedral within the Heart; almost every witch has passed through there, is going to pass through there, or is trying to avoid it at all costs. 

CORE ABILITIES

The witch has two core abilities, and they’re both rather neat:

CRUCIBLE represents the way that they take energy from the Heart and transmute it into magical power using ritual and rite. At any time, the player can roll a D6; if it’s equal to or lower than the amount of Echo stress they have marked (Echo stress being the warping effects of the Heart on the body and soul), they clear that much stress and roll with mastery when they next use magic. If it’s higher than their current Echo stress, they mark that much stress .

This gives them a quick-release value for Echo stress, which is good, because they have no other way of soaking it.

Secondly, TRUE FORM allows them to – in fact, forces them to – turn into a terrifying unreal monster at moments of extreme stress. Once in their true form (we use the phrase “flickering zoetrope horror” a lot to describe it) they roll with mastery on Hunt and Kill actions, but everything else becomes riskier to achieve.

ABILITIES

Witches are the fae royalty of the Heart, and their abilities are appropriately grandiose and mystical.

GREAT AND TERRIBLE allows them to fully control the transformation into their true form, and can be further upgraded to stun anyone, or anything, that sees them change into inaction. (Even Angels of the Heart are given pause when witnessing such majesty.) THE OLD BLOOD lets them view auras; DIVINITY gives them access to the secret places where witches are revered as messengers of the Heart Itself. DISTINGUISHED LINEAGE lets you offload stress onto bonds without risking fallout, as people are used to just doing what you say and dealing with the consequences themselves.

They are, of course, magicians too. EXSANGUINATE allows them the option of yanking a pint or two out of their target’s mouth and nose, and it can be upgraded to not need line of sight as long as they have a sympathetic token. ASCENDANCY rewrites the world around them into something raw and bestial that they alone control; CRIMSON MIRROR lets they use their blood to scry into the future and determine what’s going to happen on a delve before they leave their haven; WILD-WITCH lets them brew healing drafts from animal bones and wild mushrooms.

No witch would be complete without their FAMILIAR; in Heart, familiars are used as a place to put harm sustained from casting – or being the target of – magic. They can be improved through training, or heartsblood transfusions, to become expert trackers and attack beasts. 

And, crucially, being a witch gives you access to a LAIR. I’m just going to post the whole ability below, because I think you’ll like it:

ZENITH

As a witch, you have three endgame options:

THE RED QUEEN puts you in charge of the witches of Hallow, for a time, and lets you control their immense power until you’re overwhelmed and must be interred in the Red Vaults beneath the settlement.

FINAL FORM transforms you into a mighty, landmark-spanning version of your true form; you decide who lives and dies within your domain. You fade away, gradually, etching yourself into the spirit of the place.

PERFECT RESURRECTION lets you make an absolutely perfect copy of someone who’s died, right down to the soul; and what’s more, now they can never die again, and will just wake up naked and screaming in the City Beneath a month after their current body is destroyed. They don’t get a say in this, but you know what’s best.

INSPIRATIONS

The witch was the first class we wrote for Heart. In fact, we wrote it before we started writing Heart; it’s from the Black Magic sourcebook for Spire, where it was called the Blood-Witch and was a bit… gorier. They were the weirdest class by far, which is saying something when you consider the others.

In our first draft of Heart, they were the Crimson Aspirant, which sounds a bit daft now I write it out loud in public; they were witches-in-training, en route to the Heart to acquire the disease. But we realised that someone who didn’t have any magical powers in a game where every other bugger had them wasn’t hugely interesting, so we widened them out to be carriers of the disease in general, and we got to speak about the culture of witches in the City Beneath too.

We originally had them split between two facets – the wild witches, who live under trees and shout at wolves, and the noble witches, who live in houses and shout at people. With the arrival of the cleaver as a stretch goal during the campaign, we realised that we were trying to do too much with the class, and cover too many bases. We cut away the wilder elements from the witch and portioned them off into the cleaver, and firmly positioned the class as Heart nobility – from blood, but not from parentage. 

The true form of the witch – something which has always been iconic to them – is inspired in part by horror movies where weird-looking creepy people move in ways that people shouldn’t move. Chris watches these; I don’t, and instead just look at clips that he sends over. This test footage from Mama is pretty much what we imagine when a witch pops into true form, but with more cockroaches and flickering.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy of Heart, you can learn more about it from our Kickstarter page and pre-order a copy from our Backerkit store

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Class breakdown: The Vermissian Knight

The Vermissian Knight is one of the classes from Heart, our upcoming RPG. Check out the Kickstarter here.

The Vermissian is cursed. Intended as a revolutionary mass transit system within the city – the first in the world of its kind – the creators attempted to pierce the Heart Itself in order to power its engines, and unleashed a nightmare unreality throughout the dark corners of Spire. Within the bounds of the Vermissian, time and space come unstuck – but it provides limitless potential for those brave enough to explore it.

The Vermissian Knights are brave enough to explore it. They are protectors, avengers and guides for those who would step into the thrice-damned tunnels; they wear uncanny powered armour made from repurposed train parts, and channel the network’s loose grasp on reality into strange technologies.

CORE ABILITY

The Vermissian Knight used to have the core ability SHORTCUT, which made delving quicker. But it felt unbalanced, and also cut out quite a lot of the fun part of the game, so after playtesting we decided to swap it out. Having spent a while talking about what was the core image of the Knight, we kept coming back to their armour – hulking, semi-powered, repurposed and mysterious. We made it their core power.

Now, with VERMISSIAN PLATE, the Knight can consume resources with the Occult or Technology domain – presumably by repairing it with them or just shoving them into the furnace – to power it up once per session. You can find full details of this in the Quickstart game, but suffice to say it lets you, for example, burn the pages of a magic tome inside your suit and wreath yourself in shadowed energy to gain the Sneak skill, or ignite the parasite-ridden bark of the Blighted to release the resonance within and smash apart your enemies.

ABILITIES

Want to kill big things? The Vermissian Knight has an ability specifically devoted to that! DRAGON KILLER improves your damage and defence against anything that’s significantly larger than you, and in the Heart, lots of things are significantly larger than you. Upgrade it enough and you can summon a particular monster that’s hunting you – it’s still hunting you, but it might well kill some of your other problems along the way. 

AETHERIC FIELD protects you from the weird energies of the City Beneath, and allows you to reroute ambient power into augmenting your attacks or overwhelm adversaries with waves of force. ECHOING RAILS allows you to find back doors to the Vermissian – even if they weren’t there when you previously checked – and access moving haunts to heal your wounds and gain respite. GUARDIAN puts you into a classic knightly role; you become better at defending something, no matter what that is, and you inspire those around you to greatness.

ZENITH

We wrote the Vermissian Knight first, and the first Zenith power we wrote for them is THE LAST TRAIN, which informed a great deal of the rest of the abilities in the game. Using THE LAST TRAIN summons The Last Train – the only remaining functional locomotive on the Vermissian network, which is unable to ever stop and is only loosely steerable – and it smashes apart everything in the area. Here it is:

There are others, too; becoming electricity and blinking between Technology landmarks, or punching with the power of a flat-out engine, but THE LAST TRAIN is the one that really sums up the Knight for us.

INSPIRATIONS

Okay so:

Take a Paladin. (Paladins get a bad rap, I reckon.) Remove the whole “god” bit and replace it with a furious desire to protect people; to impose structure and understanding on a world that defies it. Combine that Paladin with Iron Man, because powered armour is cool. Channel the Vermissian Sage class from Spire into it, so none of the technology works properly and no-one understands how it functions, and tinge everything with the occult.

That’s the Vermissian Knight. The big turning point on was seeing Felix’s art – we knew that the Knight was cool, but seeing the dude in armour looking battered and faintly sci-fi really sealed the deal. Have I mentioned, also, how I’ve been playing Warhammer 40,000 for the last twenty years, and always been quietly fascinated with the blend of high-tech and low-tech that that game has? Maybe you can see my obsession in the Knight.

The Knight is easy to play; they’re a knight, and knights hit things and protect people. (In roleplaying games, at least. The less said about knights in real life the better.) They’re the Fighter class, for want of a better word, and they do the protecting and hitting that Fighters do, but they also have a special domain that’s all their own – the Vermissian. More than any other class, the Vermissian Knight allows the player to claim spotlight time and show off their abilities.

You can back the Heart RPG, and download a Quickstart Edition of the rules, on our Kickstarter page.

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Class Breakdown: The Junk Mage

The Junk Mage is one of the classes from Heart, our upcoming RPG. Check out the Kickstarter here.

There is power in the Heart; ancient power, not quite asleep and not quite awake, burrowed in the red heaven beneath the earth. Gods sealed away for their crimes; extradimensional entities taking advantage of the tattered walls between the worlds; great sorcerers of ages past, now immortalised and far, far from the people they once were. Limitless potential, roiling away out of sight.

The Junk Mage is going to steal it. The Junk Mage – the sort of wizard who’s hooked on bad magic, the sort of wizard who makes up spells as they go along, the sort of wizard whose brain itches with scintillating madness – siphons off power from otherworldly sources and hopes they don’t notice. The risks are great, but what power comes without risk?

CORE ABILITIES

The Junk Mage works better when they’re slightly insane. If they have four or more Mind stress, they roll with mastery when using magic to achieve their aims. Seeing how fluid the fiction is in Heart, “using magic to achieve their aims” is a pretty broad category. We want to encourage players to show off how weird their characters are by drawing magic into their descriptions; a Junk Mage using the Mend skill, for example, could whisper broken items and bones back together, leaving spectral spiderweb over the pieces. Or set them alight, and have a new, repaired version emerge from the ashes and smoke. Mechanically, it’s the same as sitting down with some glue and string, but it’s up to you how magical you want your character to be.

So: by holding on to a little bit of Mind stress, but not suffering fallout, they do better at their jobs. This puts them into a knife-edge balance where they’ll want to freak themselves out a bit – expose themselves to the unnatural and strange – and then channel the stress into power.

They also get access to SACRIFICE, which allows them to destroy Occult resources in order to placate their – well, patrons isn’t the phrase, more “the beings that they’re stealing power from.” Consuming appropriate resource allows them to gain protection on their next magical action, allowing them to avoid taking stress and operate more reliably, at a cost.

ABILITIES

Junk Mages are, fundamentally, warlocks. (Just over half of the classes in Heart are warlocks, if you squint.) We wanted to use this as an opportunity to talk about the powers beyond the veil in the world of Heart; the big stuff that’s happening off-screen, and not central to the Heart vs Real World conflict that’s at the core of the game.

So: the Junk Mage uses elemental magic. Fire, Water, and Earth – we couldn’t come up with anything interesting enough for Air, so it got cut. The entity for Fire is some kind of unreal beyond-space-and-time red dragon; the entity for Water is the Drowned Queen, a colonialist monarch who’s also an extradimensional eel; the entities for Earth are the Stone Chorus, who are the Titans from Greek mythology but with added angst.

Each comes with dominion over two things – their Blessing (which is their governing element) and their Curse (which is their fundamental flaw – the Drowned Queen, for example, is very dead and this gives her power over ghosts). There’s no limit to how many entities you can access, assuming you’ve got the major advances to spend, so you can steal power from as many places as you like. 

ZENITH

Generally, the zenith abilities for the Junk Mage – the highest ones available to them – involve them bonding with the entities in some way. They also kill the user, because of course they do. The Drowned Queen offers up her hand in marriage to the caster as they summon her into the material realm and she seeks to make a pact to cement the transition. This gives the Junk Mage total control over a landmark, and all of its inhabitants, but the mental strain of being married to a mad ghost eel from beyond space and time is too much to bear for long.

INSPIRATIONS

We like warlocks.

They were always the best class in D&D 3.5; not the most powerful, but one of the most fun to play. They had spells you could cast as many times as you want rather than having to faff about with spellbooks and eight hours of rest; they were thematically interesting, rather than the grab-bag of everything that wizards and sorcerers ended up being. We didn’t have many warlock-like classes in Spire, so Heart presented us with a nice opportunity to talk about the weirdos who practice dangerous magic.

The first draft of the Junk Mage (back when they were called the Gutter Mage)  had much more traditional occultism – hands of glory, hearts with nails in, dream-quests for ominous doors, black candles, etc. It was good but it didn’t say anything about the world, and the best classes help sketch out the setting around the player. So we overhauled them, put the old-school magic to one side, and made them desperate addicts instead.

Here’s a clipping from a very (very) early draft of Heart where we were sketching out the spells for the mage

“Junk Magic” is an old term of ours – we came up with it, oh, six years ago? It’s in an unpublished novel about drunk wizards that Grant wrote, and it crops up in our game Royal Blood too. It’s magical hacking, lying to demons, throwing together spells from fragments found here and there, casting by the seat of your pants. It felt like a natural fit for the lawless environs of the City Beneath. We’ve also leaned into the other meanings of Junk, too; each Junk Mage is an addict, hooked on the rush of sensation they get when they plumb their tiny, fragile human mind into something huge and powerful.  They’re garbage, too – no magical school worth their salt would accept them through their doors.

In a world where your wizard is full of alien bees, your witch is afflicted with a magical blood disease she caught from a well that’s also a mouth and your fighter is wearing armour they stole off a cursed train, the Junk Mage gives players and GMs a way to drop weird and exotic stuff into the game and have it still make an impact.

You can learn more about Heart or order a copy through our Kickstarter page.

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Class Breakdown: The Deep Apiarist

The Deep Apiarist is one of the classes from Heart, our upcoming RPG. Check out the Kickstarter here.

THE DEEP APIARIST

Felix came up with the idea that the Apiarist could carry a smoker and huff on it to clear out their bees for a while; we’ve put it in the game, now. Also worth mentioning is that the iconic class art is an unmasked aelfir, presumably exiled from the City Above.

The Heart is a parasitic dimension – one of chaos and disorder that manifests as blood, and bone, and ever-changing boundaries. The Deep Apiarist is the antithesis of the Heart; both a vessel for and part of an otherworldly megaconsciousness called the Hive, a primordial force of order that takes the form of thousands upon thousands of glyph-marked Deep Bees. They keep the bees – in hives, and within their wax-filled bodies – and do their best to keep the Heart at bay.

CORE ABILITIES

The Deep Apiarist is a magical weirdo. Are most of the classes in Heart magical weirdos? Yes. But they take it to a new level, we’d like to think. Their core ability represents the fact that they’ve plumbed their mind into something otherworldly and terrible; at the start of every situation, they clear all stress from Mind as the Hive dissipates it through itself. However, they can never receive Mind protection, or remove stress from Mind in any way aside from using their core ability. Which makes them an interesting blend of fragile and sturdy; they don’t need to worry about going mad so long as they can catch their breath for a minute, but they can’t stop stress from coming in.

Also, crucially – and there aren’t rules for this bit, it’s just a thing that happens – every Deep Apiarist is partially filled with bees. You can take advances to give the bees specific powers and abilities, but as standard, at least one of your organs is a wax copy made and operated by the swarm.

ABILITIES

There are two main strands of ability in the Deep Apiarist class. Firstly, there’s the way that they’re the opposite of the Heart – we wanted to double down on the fact that the Hive is as otherworldly as the Heart Itself, and opposed to it, whilst being completely distinct from drow, humans, aelfir etc. This manifests as powers which let them control probability (making Risky or Dangerous actions safer) or just outright stating what they want to happen and, through clever manipulation of sufficiently advanced bee technology, making it so. Or maybe you want to tear through heartblooded creatures; the ANNIHILATION ability turns your body into a living engine of unchaos that burns away the Heart with a touch.

Secondly, there’s the way that they’re full of bees. (Obviously.) We toyed with the idea of giving them a Mind heal power by making honey in their chest cavity for a while but that’s too gross even for Heart; so instead they can choose to create sacrificial bees whose narcotic sting brings sweet oblivion. Or spread their consciousness out through the swarm, seeing through a hundred compound eyes. Or just set their bees on people.

ZENITH

The ultimate expressions of the Deep Apiarists’ power is crystallisation; to encase something of the Heart in unbreakable hexagonal mineral and leave it there forever. So you can do that, and permanently stop anything you don’t like, but the strain of manifesting means your consciousness is lost entirely within the Hive. Alternatively, if you’re tired of a haven misbehaving – being full of unpredictable people, shifting in position around the Heart, riven with internecine conflict – you can take it over and become its Queen, and watch it fall into perfect order. 

Or maybe you just become a swarm of occult bees and can never die.

INSPIRATIONS

Hello. My name is Grant Howitt and my favourite kind of monster is where you have lots of little monsters inside a larger monster. 

There’s something horrific about it. I first came across it in World of Darkness – there’s a monster which is a load of rats inside someone, and they fight magical extradimensional spiders, so you can see some overlap with our Order versus Chaos trope too. I would also like to give credit to The Secret World, which has extradimensional bees who fight… extradimensional dirt? Flies? It’s not entirely clear. No new ideas under the sun, anyway. 

The Deep Apiarists themselves originated in Black Magic, a sourcebook for Spire, in which they were an extra advance that any character could take (if they wanted to fill themselves full of bees). We were toying with making it a full class for a while but, as far as revolutionary efforts go, there’s not a lot of room for a buzzing weirdo whose primary job is to counteract the energies of the Heart. 

There’s a lot of room for that in Heart. So; we took what they had in Spire and extrapolated on it, widened it, tried to offer a bit of variety. Also, we wanted to underline the fact that the Hive isn’t benevolent (or malevolent) towards people in general – it’s an outsider, something that can only exist in very specific terms, and it craves structure and order. It uses Deep Apiarists like armoured personnel carriers on the front lines of a war, and one of the fun things about playing one is to toy with the divide between yourself and megaconsciousness you’ve become a part of.

You can learn more about Heart or order a copy through our Kickstarter page.