SHADOW OPERATIONS

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 SOUL by 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 WEDDING by 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.

POWDERKEG by 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 SAINTS by 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.

WHY ONE-SHOTS?

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:

Image

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 admin@rowanrookanddecard.com and we’ll have a chat.

Otherwise, if you’re interested in picking up a copy, you can subscribe to our mailing list and we’ll let you know when it’s out!

Strata Kickstarter goes live Tuesday 16th October

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

Strata will include, but is definitely not limited to:

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

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

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

Strata: Kickstarting in October!

STRATA: A SPIRE SOURCEBOOK KICKSTARTER

Since we released Spire, we’ve been so excited to see what the community has done with it We’ve heard so many stories of brilliant games of rebellion and intrigue set in the world we created, and now we want to createmore of it. So, we’re even more excited to announce that the kickstarter for our first hard-copy sourcebook, Strata, will launch in early October.

WHAT IS STRATA?

Hopefully, it’s more of what you like about Spire – more weirdness, more story hooks, more rules, and more words about a place that’s on the brink of revolution and waiting for the players to push it over the edge.

We’re focusing on the richest and poorest places in Spire. In the same way that our Black Magic PDF sourcebook focused on the Occult domain, Strata will be based around the High Society and Low Society domains. But it’ll be much more comprehensive book, stuffed with adventure frames and campaigns as well as details of the world itself.

We’re going to be releasing Strata as a high-quality book, using the same printers as the core Spire book, with all-new artwork by Spire artist Adrian Stone. We’re also hoping to release a newspaper, designed by Tim Wilkinson Lewis, that will act as an accompaniment and play aid for all the scenarios in Strata – and add some more secrets to the world in the process. You’ll hear lots more on this as the campaign goes on.

WHAT’S IN THE BOOK?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just from flicking through the document you can expect to find:

  • New advances for Idols based on their artistic school in the Sunlight Collective
  • Rules for possession-junkie ghost-gangs that stalk ruined mansions
  • A song-bow that plucks out your last breath as you die and turns it into music
  • A list of famous heists in the Silver Quarter, including this one time when someone stole the casino they were gambling in
  • Rules for giving your body to the Spire and being rewarded with beautiful flowers blossoming out of your skin
  • Music made by re-purposed industrial machines played to underground speakeasies
  • The child-gangs of Derelictus and their patchwork miracles, passed down in games and songs
  • A knife that loves you and wants you to be safe
  • The guild of ladder-men and the council of stairs, angry that unlicensed ropers are making climbing routes through their turf
  • Aelfir blinding parties
  • And much, much more

ADVENTURES AND CAMPAIGN FRAMES

We’re really excited to be working with several other writers to bring our world to life. In addition to a full campaign frame written by the original authors, Strata will include up to nine scenarios written by other people who range from established industry professionals to new talent with promise and a knack for words. (Exactly how many we’ll publish is reliant on stretch goals.)

We can’t wait to see what they bring to Spire.

THAT’S IT FOR NOW

We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to write in Spire again, and commission some awesome people to create stuff alongside us. If you’d like to stay up-to-date with the campaign, you can follow Grant on Kickstarter here to receive an update when we launch, or subscribe to our mailing list here.

Grant, Chris and Mary

SPIRE – CALL FOR WRITERS

EDIT – This call has now closed. Thanks for all your pitches!

When we started making Spire, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. As the project has reached completion, we’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm and support of our players and readers – and we think we might need your assistance to give them what they want.

Spire is big. Bigger than we can handle ourselves. There are a million nooks and crannies to explore within the towering nightmare city, a million stories waiting to be told, and we want you to help.

WRITE FOR US!

What ideas do you have, when you flick through Spire? What stories do you want to help people tell? What weird twists and unexpected secrets have you hidden in your version of the city?

Take a look at our pay-what-you-want adventures: Blood and Dust, Eidolon Sky, and Kings of Silver. They’re an example of what we like when it comes to adventure design – lots of setup, lots of player choice, and very little in the way of scripting player actions. (Also: they’re not too long.) We like to think in terms of characters and motivations; of neat scenes that the GM can slip into the story wherever is appropriate; of giving the players difficult choices and no clear right answer. The adventures take the established locations within Spire and introduce a new element to them, then explore how that changes the already shaky status quo in the city.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an established RPG author with reams of material under their belt or if this is your first stab at writing something for publication. We’re interested in hearing from you if you’ve got stories to tell in our world; especially if you’re part of a culture that doesn’t see much representation in the RPG industry.

Also, don’t worry about “getting it right” with regards to canon – we work in very broad strokes, and what’s true and what’s not in the world of Spire is a concept with a lot of wiggle room. As long as you have a broad understanding of the themes and concepts within our world, you should be fine – this isn’t a test to see whether you’ve memorised everything we’ve written and can regurgitate it back to us, but rather an exercise in seeing if you can use our words as a springboard to reach something better.

WHAT WE WANT

  • Original, punchy scenarios and campaign frames that give the GM agency to tell their own stories
  • Well-written, engaging words that spark the imagination; we’re proud of the standard of writing in Spire, and we want to continue the tradition
  • New extra advances, equipment and enemies that tie into your scenarios
  • New rules, descriptions and story hooks for things we haven’t covered in great detail – like the stuff we did in Black Magic
  • Interesting takes on well-worn fantasy tropes
  • Additional details, locations and characters for Spire

WHAT WE DON’T WANT

  • Scenarios set outside of Spire (that is, in Nujab, or the Eastern Kingdoms, or the Home Nations, or in an entirely different world etc; you can set stuff on the outside of Spire)
  • New classes
  • Huge mega-campaigns that require the player characters to act in certain ways to further the plot (write a novel instead, get it out of your system, then come back to us)
  • The big secret metaplot behind the universe (there isn’t one)
  • Brand new big secret organisations that mess with the world behind the scenes (we’ve got enough of those, use one of the existing ones)
  • Lists of unconnected weapons and monsters

WHAT WE CAN OFFER YOU

CASH. We pay our writers.

EDITING. All your work will be edited by us, and either fed back to you for improvement or published once we’ve made changes. Which means: your work will be better, which is good.

MECHANICS. If you aren’t comfortable writing mechanics for our system, we can do that – just tell us what you need the mechanics to do and we can fill in the blanks if we’re capable. If you are comfortable, take a go at writing it, and we can make sure that it lines up with the rest of the world.

YOUR NAME IN LIGHTS. Well, your name in print, or PDF, at least. But: you’ll be credited for everything you do. If you write something, it’s important that people know you did it.

THE NEXT STEP

Send a pitch to admin@rowanrookanddecard.com – no more than a hundred words or so – which outlines what part of Spire you’d like to explore, and what kind of scenario you’re interested in setting up there. What are the players tasked with doing? What opposition stands in their way? Imagine you’re describing it to a group of prospective players and you want to share your excitement with them.

Also, send over examples of, or links to examples of, other work that you’ve done. If you don’t have a portfolio, send us a link to your blog, or some other place that you store your words. (If you don’t have any examples of your writing to make available to us… well, wow us with the pitch, and we’ll talk.)

If we like it, and we think that the concept has the capacity to be turned into something special, we’ll be in touch.

  • Grant, Chris and Mary

New Extra Advance – Corpsefruit Dealer

There was a cryptic crossword attached to the newspaper clippings that backers could purchase during the Kickstarter – we offered a prize for completing it, but never reckoned that anyone would. We were wrong.

Congratulations to Wil and Clare on the Spire Discord for solving the crossword in what seems like a tremendously quick time; in exchange for doing so, we have written an extra advance of their choosing. They opted for Corpsefruit Smuggler.

Corpsefruit is a drow delicacy, imported by brave (and some might say stupid) dark elves through secret underground routes that run between Spire and the Home Nations. It only grows in graveyards; the scarlet-skinned, sweet-fleshed fruit draws its flavour and powerful narcotic properties from the dreams of the dead that slumber eternally beneath the soil.

It is illegal in Spire, and those who choose to import it and move it through the city can make a tidy sum of money – if the guard, or rival dealers, don’t take them out before they finish the deal.

You can download the Corpsefruit Dealer extra advance here.

Kings of Silver release date: 31st May

[edit: Kings of Silver is out now! Download it here.]

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.

Some of the weekly happenings in the Silver Quarter, courtesy of The Silhouette

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 newspaper clippings

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?

EXTRA STUFF

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.

Hestra is protected by the Order of the Querent Hound, handsomest knights in all of Spire

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.

Advancement in Spire

ADVANCEMENT

Since releasing Spire, one of the pieces of feedback that we’ve received is that some people are finding it tricky to judge when to allot advances to their players. Advances allow characters to grow in power in exchange for changing the city around them, but what sort of changes do they need to make? We’ll discuss that, and what went into the experience system, now.

WHY CHANGE?

Spire is a game about change, and we wanted to reward players who mess with things. (We also wanted GMs and players alike to not be scared of changing the “canonical” Spire; roleplaying games never survive contact with the players, and settings of roleplaying games doubly so.) So: when a player character makes a change in the city of Spire, they advance. They gain a low advance for a small change, a medium advance for a medium one, and high advance for a serious, lasting transformation on the city.

Crucially, though, the change doesn’t have to be for the better. (And: it rarely is.) We wanted to step away from moralising at players and judging change as “good” or bad” – we’re rewarding chaos, not justice. (Spire is not a game about good and evil, but ends and means.) Also, we wanted to give people a chance to advance regardless of whether or not their actions turn out for the best, because it would be pretty dissatisfying to lose out on getting cool powers just because the guy you choked to death at the opera turns out to have been secretly funding orphanages all through the city.

But: how much change equals an advance? That all depends on the scale and scope of the campaign.

SCALES

Bonds come in three flavours in Spire – individual, street, and city – that reflect their size and influence, so we might as well use those flavours for illustrating change as well. An individual (low) change makes someone’s life different in a big way; a street-level (medium) change affects a group of anything up to a hundred people; and a city-level (high) change has wide-reaching implications for a lot of people – thousands, if not more.

But: these assume a default campaign, and by default campaign, we mean: a cell operating in secret throughout a handful of districts and attempting to overthrow or undermine aelfir interests within those districts. Success on a grand scale would see the city changed – rulers dethroned, buildings erected and destroyed, new festivals commemorated and possibly the odd giant statue thrown off the side of the city. There are other levels of resistance in Spire, such as:

A devoted cell of operatives play the long game and decide to take the Council back into drow hands through years of political maneuvering, assassinations, blackmail campaigns and several riots. (City-level.)

A hand-chosen team of ministers are tasked with taking full control of a single district – the Silver Quarter, say – and given resources to achieve their aims. (Street-level.)

A gang of Knights and a few layabout priests, new recruits to the Ministry, find themselves forced out of their tavern HQ by rival gangs of Knights. To carry on their mission of righteous justice, first they’ll have to save their pub, and the people who live around it. (Individual-level.)

In each of these, the scale differs, so the actions performed within shift in narrative impact. Let’s take the example of the following change: the players publically humiliate a local gang leader, dragging him beaten and bloody through the streets.

In the city-level campaign, this barely matters; the characters have bigger fish to fry, and they probably have bonds that can handle this sort of thing. It’d probably be a Low advance, if anything at all.

In the street-level campaign, this could represent a useful step in the right direction; it stamps their authority on the district and secures them some power. It’d be a Medium advance.

In the Individual-level campaign, this might represent the culmination of several games’ work: gathering info on the gang, ambushing the guy, getting a crowd together to watch him getting the tar beaten out of him, buying off his bodyguards, etc. This could be a High advance, and signal that the campaign is coming to a close – presumably after a fitting climax, where the gang leader comes back for revenge, or his aelfir bosses start asking difficult (and violent) questions.

WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON

In essence, levels of change are roughly equivalent to effort and impact. If a change took a lot of effort to enact – multiple game sessions, risky actions, expenditure of resources, suffering fallout – then the players have earned a bigger advance than they would if they’d just sent one of their bonds off to handle it during downtime.

In addition to bonds, advances are one of the ways that the GM can reward players for acting in ways that they like, and encouraging repeat performances. The scope of the change is secondary to the time spent and importance of the act to the group as a whole.

5 TIPS FOR USING ADVANCES

– Talk to your players at the start of the campaign and ask them what they reckon would constitute a Low, Medium and High advance; discuss it with them, and you can all try to get on the same page about what constitutes what.

– The scope of a campaign can change! Don’t feel stuck at one level, and trust your gut.

– Get your players to plan out their insurrection as a series of low and medium advances leading up to a high advance. Maybe get them to build a “murder board,” with pictures of important characters and buildings written down and connected with red lines. These can change as you play, but it basically amounts to having players do your campaign prep for you.

– Sometimes a bond can be as powerful, if not more powerful, than an advance – especially a bond in the right place. Don’t forget to reward players with new relationships and connections, especially as a means of mechanically codifying alliances with NPCs that arose naturally out of the fiction.

– Bribe your players! Tell them you’ll give them a Medium advance if they pull something off without a hitch, and a Low advance if something goes awry. (It’s all basically up to you anyway, you’re the GM, but it can be exciting to feel like something’s on the line.)

Blood & Dust play report – Session 3

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


Red Row is on fire. A riot has spread through like a shockwave, smashing windows, tossing rubble, and leaving people bloody on the street. The Weeping Maiden’s enchantments were akin to gasoline that the prison uprising ignited, cascading from flashpoint to flashpoint, and now the district is engulfed in chaos. That is what Seiger and Illyria see from their rowboat as they emerge from the depths of Endline. The sight terrifies them, as they know now that the Dust Machines will have kicked into overdrive, feasting on the entropic energy in front of them, so they make for Dacien’s church, both for as a rendezvous and also maybe some back-up praying.

Dacien emerges from the basement of her church, having concluded an hours-long ceremony that saw her enter the first circle of Scryatrices. Her robes, now of fine cloth and silver sigils, juxtapose with the mass of battered civilians taking shelter on the main floor and the sound of gunfire and shrieks. She walks outside, and out of the fracas emerge Loz and Quenelle, awkwardly proud of being top-tier shit-stirrers. Dacien berates Loz for giving in to Lekolé’s influence. Quenelle argues this was needed to achieve the ultimate goal of liberating Red Row. Seiger and Illyria then show up and explain exactly why this the worst possible thing that could be happening, as well as the mechanics of the Dust Machines. The gang realise that they’ve likely played directly into the hands of whoever is behind this, and that a lot of people are going to die no matter what. A gaggle of cast and crew from the Weeping Maiden arrive, begging the party for shelter in the church. They are allowed to hide out the riots inside, though whether the party is now uncomfortable with needless violence or they wish to vengefully extort them later is unclear. But it suffices for the desperate.

The team put their heads together and realise that the only way to salvage the situation is to take back control of the Dust Machines. Towards this end, two plans of attack. The first is to rewire the Machines. Rather than have them absorb and direct entropic energy, perhaps they can direct positive energy which will inspire Red Row, possibly even all of Spire, with Quenelle and Loz acting as focal points for the energy – their prison break technique put to restorative use. Perhaps they could even take the Weeping Maiden actors or some of Quenelle’s fans to put them in the Machines in a strong display of thematic irony. Loz and Seiger will meet with Loz’s retroengineer contact, Jackson Crouch, who was kicked out of the order for his heretical experiments, to ascertain the possibility of this and recruit him regardless. The second is to redirect the Machines. If they can find representations of a more useful target – perhaps the Aelfir council – they can buy themselves space and power to restore Red Row more directly. Quenelle, Illyria and Dacien head towards a manor Councilman Drynn was known to be staying in, to ascertain the effect of the Machines on their target and any other useful information. Loz gives a rousing speech about what each of them are owed by the Aelfir – and notes that oppressed gods become devils. Illyria imbues the speech with arcane knowledge, finding dormant ancestral abilities in Seiger and Loz she will trigger for the assault on the camp. Athelmayas and Madame Cazanoux protect the church, and the final mission commences.

The party boys find Jackson drinking himself to an early death in a quiet pub. They explain the situation and Jackson, even if smashed, is familiar enough with the theory to make rewiring the Dust Machines possible, though time-consuming, and in need of new catalysts that aren’t nihilistic cultists. Easier to make the signal stronger or weaker. Also, if they tampered with anything the retroengineers will be expecting trouble. Seiger says they did a bit but they put it all back – ‘it’ being a person – so, uh, no trouble right? Jackson, frankly, doesn’t care, he just wants the big fucking gun he made back in his hands. The one that sentry had. The one that will be pointed right at them. At least the drunk is eager.

The three mystics, however, find Drynn’s manor a ruin beyond description. The walls, the fences, the very foundations, have rotted to dust and mulch. They step over maggot-ridden guards and hide their noses from the sickening stench of decay. The Dust Machines worked overtime the last few hours. In the distance, they see an Aelfir woman in finery with four Solar Paladins in gleaming armour. Councilwoman Thorns-On-Silk steps over the wreckage and finds a twisted, blind, toothless Drynn half-buried under rotten wood. She smiles, grabs his neck, and needs only shift her fingers slightly to snap his spine, and his skin sloughs off like an overripe peach. It is now obvious who told the guard to work overtime, and who commanded the retroengineers. Quenelle sneaks over to see if Thorns-On-Silk leaves anything that can be used with the Machines – and their hand pushes through a crumbling wall, leaving them stumbling out in front of the Big Bad and her elite guard. Thorns-On-Silk recognises the celebrity, and orders the Paladins to destroy the now confirmed agent of the Ministry. No matter what, Quenelle and everyone Quenelle has known or cared about, will be hunted down, tortured, and killed by Aelfir inquisitors. Dacien bathes the Paladins in Limyé’s calm to stall them, and the trio run full pelt back to the river, abandoning any chance of taking new people to put into the Machines.

Rowing on the river, the party are quiet as they realise how hopelessly outgunned they are with Paladins in the shadows behind them. Illyria reveals that Loz descends from House Yssen, the Unquiet Blades, and Seiger descends from House Malrique, the Unlidded Eyes, who cannot be surprised or ambushed. Seiger sees a plume of smoke behind them that belongs to the engine of a small barge, and a vision of a figure standing at its prow. He is wreathed in cordite smoke, and his only visible facial features are glowing red eyes half obscured by a broad-brimmed leather hat. Two revolvers, black and white, are holstered by his sides. Brother Hellion and his followers have found them too. They row into the canyon-like channels of the Endline river. Illyria knows the place well, and steers the boat into an eddy tucked out of sight around a bend. She smacks on a train carriage and a pile of equipment for infiltrating the retroengineers camp falls into the boat. There is a beat where they realise this boat is the only way out without entering the Vermissian. The party clamber up the side of the river as the Hellionite barge passes, and sails straight for the retroengineers. Brother Hellion shouts a challenge for Seiger, and is promptly shot at by the sentry with the big fucking gun. However, the bullet passes right through Hellion and into the floor behind hm – because no gun can shoot him unless he wills it. He laughs. The Hellionites return fire, and butcher the grounded Knights.

Loz, wanting to draw the conflict out, invokes Lekolé to set fire to the store of gunpowder on the barge. The barge detonates, taking a handful of Hellionites with it, but not the divine lunatic now shooting point-blank at the oncoming swordsmen. The party sneak to the train where the Dust Machines are stored, all except for Seiger, who Brother Hellion spots and attacks. Seiger summarily beats the shit out of him (GM note: rolled a 10 with single die, then rolled an 8 for damage. After Armour, Hellion had one Resistance left). Hellion catches an almighty overhead swing between his revolvers, and sinks to a knee. This provides an opening for Illyria, tracking the zealot with her crossbow from above. She fires, and the crossbow bolt sticks into the mist of Hellion, killing him. Yet, Brother Hellion is no mortal. He is a monster of smoke and fury. The Sage’s mind is battered by its soul, overcoming her and entering into her body. Unbeknownst to everyone else, the mind of Brother Hellion slowly begins to take control of Illyria’s faculties. No matter what, Illyria’s identity will be subsumed by Brother Hellion’s, and her control is slipping even now. The remaining combatants flee, leaving the Machines to them. Illyria tosses her crossbow to Loz, and takes the revolvers from the corpse.

They descend into the reeking, wretched chamber where the Machines do their work. Neither of their plans are possible. They lack new people to put in the Machines, as well as any representation of Aelfir targets. Worse, Quenelle feels a presence the others do not, something watching and whispering to them. Dacien scries and sees inside the Vermissian, with a wall of black, writhing tentacles reaching for Quenelle. The Hungry Deep yearns for the perfect Idol, and wishes to consume them. This was why Illyria had seen Quenelle wandering the Vermissian in a trance – the Hungry Deep called to them in their sleep. In that moment, Quenelle realises that if the Hungry Deep gorges on their perfection, it might slow the destruction in Red Row. It might give them an opening to inspire the people directly. Quenelle moves aside the representations of Drynn, and cuts a lock of their hair to be placed between the Machines. The only problem is time – the Paladins will be here soon. Seiger and Loz decide to hold the front line and meet the Paladins directly. Dacien will wait in the chamber to stall any who arrive, and blesses her love Quenelle with shining moonlight. Illyria escorts Quenelle, Jackson and Seiger’s squire Vennis through the Vermissian. They emerge by the destroyed Voloren Standard barracks, and Quenelle begins to play a new song on the viola.

(GM note: This was the piece used as Quenelle’s song, and it was played over the remainder of the game)

Quenelle walks forward, spotlit by a moon that isn’t there. Their viola pierces the violences around them. A small crowd begins to form behind them, a procession enchanted by song. Illyria stays behind, smiling sadly at her friend, and then turns back to the Vermissian. As Quenelle’s song plays, Illyria walks far into the impossible tunnels, far past anything she knows or recognises, walking as long as she can to drive the spirit of Brother Hellion and his revolvers deep into the bowels of the earth. Illyria Lox will never be seen again, and nobody will know why.

The Dust Machines take effect on Quenelle. Hair turns white, then falls out. Teeth turn yellow, then black. Skin wrinkles. Joints twist. Muscles atrophy. Eyes turn rheumy, then to cataracts. Quenelle plays on flawlessly. Seiger and Loz walk out to meet four Paladins face to face. They sing an old Drow folk song as they do. Loz invokes Lekolé’s rage, a ring of fire erupting around them, he himself ablaze too, and shoots one dead. Seiger charges, but soon finds himself outmatched, wearied and bloodied. He roars his name, causing the Paladins to pause, then turns, declares his love for Loz, kisses him, and then drops his sword to tackle one of the Paladins into the river. Weighted down by armour, the two drown. Loz fires Illyria’s crossbow, then takes up Seiger’s sword to continue the fight. He slays one, but the last Paladin skewers him. Loz grabs the Paladin in a bear hug, and summons Lekolé one last time, as the two are incinerated in a pillar of flame.

Quenelle reaches the church, where a huge crowd has gathered to see the Idol degenerate to nothing, for no cause they can see, though to the Drow among them, the reason is obvious. Quenelle is no Idol now, but an icon of violence degrading something that once was perfect. Quenelle plays their last in the centre of the crowd, and withers away to dust, carried away on the air. The Dust Machines have done their work, and the Hungry Deep has eaten. One of her fans, Molly, who viewed them as a mentor, steps forward with her own viola, and begins to play a counterpoint.

In the reeking darkness, Dacien waits to give her life. She waits for hours, singing softly all the while, never certain if it was time enough, but nobody comes. Eventually she steps out to ash, and finds Seiger’s sword stuck in the ground. When she touches it, symbols of Limyé, Lombre, and Lekolé appear, united as the one true mother goddess, Damnou. She carries the sword back to the Knight-Admiral’s boat, and drifts back to Red Row, alone.

At a later time, Dacien will reclaim the Dust Machines with those inspired by Quenelle. Her church will become an epicentre for Ministry activity. The cultists in the machines will be euthanized, and replaced with Aelfir inquisitors and sympathisers, for they will become torture machines. For Quenlle’s performance did not change the fact that they were caught by Thorns-On-Silk, no, now the Councillor shall wage war upon Red Row to stamp out any remnant of the icon and their final song. The rule of gangsters in Red Row is over. Now far more guards and agents of the Aelfir shall walk the district. Dacien, who began this story as a new recruit, shall lead a cell of Ministry agents against them all in turn, and will not rest until Thorns-On-Silk dies. The Councillor will relish the challenge. ”


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

Blood & Dust play report – Session 2

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


The gang meet up on Knight-Admiral Seiger’s excessively ornate rowboat on the sewage-soaked river of Red Row, and avail themselves of the very small shelf of spirits aboard. Rowing drunkenly together, they share reports of the Weeping Maiden play and Brother Hellion, but Loz suffered a wound escaping the Hellionites which reveals his old Vigilite tattoos. Quenelle reasonably decides they want to pull over and talk about the fact that a former terrorist is on the team. Seiger suggests a waterside pub, the proprietor of which, Clarence, is terrified of Seiger due to some debt collection work, so free drinks probably.

The party head in, give Clarence a small panic attack, get yet more drunk, and find some of the Weeping Maiden cast having a drink post-performance. Before they can interrogate them, two Hellionites with shotguns burst in and demand the cast tell them which of their Knights cut off the head of one of their sisters. Seiger is shoved behind a curtain, with reminders that it was you, you idiot. Loz, with his Vigilite past out of the bag, creates a “distraction” by invoking Lekolé to set a fire to the liquor display behind the bar. The display explodes. Clarence starts burning to death. Seiger rushes to help but winds up with two shotguns pointed at him. Clarence finishes burning to death. Some fighting ensues. Seiger leaps out the door to try and seduce the actresses as they dash away. One Hellionite has their head shot clean off, but the other leaps out a window, probably to take revenge another day. Loz is recognised as a possible Vigilite by guards on patrol, what with the gang tattoos, shotgun, and sudden inferno, and, knocked out and bleeding, is arrested.

Against the backdrop of a burning bar falling into a stinking river, Illyria and Quenelle figure out the next step, sensibly, is to get out of there. They look over to see Seiger doing a surprisingly decent job chatting up a fair maiden about her work. They retract the plan, and Quenelle plays wingman. Said maiden tells them the retroengineers aren’t really involved in the production of the Weeping Maiden beyond patronage and odd suggestion of magical rituals to manipulate crowds. They actually spend most of their time in Endline, a twisted warren filled with the wrecks of trains and carriages from when the Vermissian used to run, now home for scavenger gangs. Seiger and Illyria decide to investigate Endline while Quenelle meets up with her fans to organise a Johnny Cash in San Quentin type gig for Loz.

Loz, in the immensely overcrowded central lockup in the Voloren Standard, swiftly organises a rally of the prisoners with a fiery speech. Enter Quenelle, now with rather fertile ground for their performance (rolling 5 goddamn d10s for it). The Voloren Standard is a reclaimed shipping warehouse. It is not built for masses agitated by Idols and Firebrands.The prison and guard barracks are both torn apart from the inside, and, with a prayer to Lekolé from Loz, set ablaze. A colossal mob spills out onto the streets, attacking guards left and right and destroying any and all nearby property. Quenelle, Loz, and Loz’s guard contact under Loz’s protection, disappear back into Red Row.

Back in Endline, unsettled by the more-ominous-than-normal atmosphere, Illyria and Seiger row up through the train graveyard, and find the retroengineer camp with hydroelectric turbines powering something deep in a large abandoned train. The camp is guarded by Knights, lookouts, and a sentry with an exceedingly big gun. With the help of an equipment stache that Illyria somehow knew was there the whole time, they sneak in to the train and find a dark underground chamber, with a spotlight focused on something grotesque and foul-smelling.

Three plinths that look like somewhat like computer servers with veins, hooked up to three beds with glass coverings. The air is thick with dust, flies, maggots and rust, and inside these beds are three Drow wearing soiled, threadbare robes, shaking as if in a permanent seizure, thick wires shoved into their arms and legs and stomachs. Seiger vomits.  Illyria learns how these Dust Machines operate, that they feed off the unrest in Red Row, and they are targeting Councillor Drynn (GM note: I want Councillor Thorns-On-Silk to be the big bad because it works better for this group, even though in the official text Drynn is the one in charge). Illyria also recognises the Drow as members of the Church of Absolution, a nihilistic cult that lives deep in the bowels of Spire, that worships the all-consuming Hungry Deep that lives in its Heart, but that, y’know, mostly keep to themselves. The cultists are acting as unwilling catalysts for the entropic force the machines are channeling and focusing onto Drynn. A tense argument ensues over what to do with the Church members. Seiger wants to kill them all. Illyria wants to abduct one. Illyria wins out, and they get so far as unhooking one from a machine but, realising they’d have to sneak back out, place him back into the machine, back to being tortured, and, dismayed, they escape.


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 (MIA this session) – @sampersand