About this project
"Grant Howitt's games are always strong on play experiences. With Spire, he and Chris Taylor have carved out a compelling space for us to play in, too -- a dark, desperate setting that nonetheless has room for hope and beauty, and looks very different from the familiar worlds of mainstream roleplaying games.” - merritt k, host of Woodland Secrets, designer of Vin Diesel DMing a Game of D&D Just For You
"I'm so glad you guys are creating another game together." - Rob Heinsoo, lead designer on D&D 4e and 13th Age
“Spire deals with skills in a way that makes every check as interesting and as much of a threat as combat, the world feels huge and unique, and the classes are just beautifully ridiculous.” - Dylan Malenfant, playtester
“Spire is a tinderbox of evocative potential weaved together to form the most compelling setting I've read this decade. It features the kind of resonance Neil Gaiman aims for on a good day.” - Sean Smith, author of Exuviae
"This setting is really dazzling. I want to try out these characters!" - Jason Cordova of The Gauntlet podcast
"So you're telling me one of the classes just comes with a hyena? 'Core abilities: Hyena' is what you should put on the cover instead of review blurbs." - General Ironicus of the Six Feats Under podcast
“I've never said 'I want to use that' so many times as when making my Spire character. Every word reinforces the eerie setting, and the mechanics fizz with a perfect blend of weirdness, power and risk.” - Clare Jones, playtester
"Grant Howitt always seems to be involved in the kinds of games that make me wish I had more time to play games – and more time to write games. Always inspiring and challenging. The Spire is no different, with a strong focus on storytelling, the mechanics geared towards great roleplaying in a world that offers something we’ve not seen before. The sort of game experience that’s not just fun, but actually rewarding to play." - Gav Thorpe, author of Inquisitor and, like, half the Warhammer 40k universe
WHAT IS THE SPIRE?
Spire is a new stand-alone roleplaying game from the designers of Unbound and Goblin Quest. It’s like D&D crossed with Unknown Armies, or Gormenghast crossed with Necromunda: a city-bound fantasy horror game of terrible decisions, hard choices, and deeply personal loss.
Spire is a city of a thousand gods: Our Glorious Lady, the light of the moon, beloved of the drow (and her sisters, the dark side of the moon and the eclipse, whose worship is banned by the high elves); the Solar Pantheon, great and terrible, who dominate the city from glittering cathedrals; the ravenous Hungry Deep that slumbers beneath the city; the laughing carrion god Charnel, whose hyenas prowl the bloody streets of New Heaven. Worship of these gods can grant miracles to the faithful - player characters included.
It is a place of industry and profit: human retro-engineers arrive with armfuls of arcane technology dug up from forgotten dungeons of a lost civilisation, then hotwire them into life and sell cheap copies down in the lawless undercity. There are acres of underground lakes brimming with algae; dark farms where the dead hang from spidersilk, their bodies dotted with fungi; and the vast, cursed, never-completed Vermissian, a failed attempt at a subterranean travel network.
It is a place of horror, too: bloodwitches return from the Heart, the rotten hole in reality that is the centre of Spire, carrying mystical blood diseases that rewrite men’s minds; spider-skinned midwives sprout additional chitinous limbs to defend unborn drow; magic masks are sutured to unwilling faces; hearts are plucked out and stored in jars, so that the owner might have eternal, strange life at the hands of the Morticians.
The book contains: rules for creating, advancing and playing a character; reams of setting information loaded with hooks and plots for your campaigns; advice on how to run a game of Spire (whether you’re a first-time gamesmaster or a seasoned storyteller); loads of evocative art from Adiran Stone; and a smaller variant of the full, A2 map of the city. It's a beautiful book, too - we wanted to create the nicest possible thing to house our ideas.
What's more, if you back us at a level that allows access to additional content past the core book, you'll be able to immediately download our quickstart adventure, Blood and Dust. Blood and Dust comes with all the basic rules, five sample characters (with some room to advance) and an adventure that should last around three individual sessions of play.
Having run two previous Kickstarters, we've learned that shipping costs are almost always higher than you initially expect. In the past, we've gone with cheaper shipping options only to run into issues with delays and damaged products, so this time we've tried to find an option somewhere between hand-delivering every book ourselves, and throwing them out of a plane and hoping. We're using Mail Workshop in Nottingham for fulfilment, and they will be shipping out international packages using Airmail, in die-cut boxes with bubble wrap to minimise potential damage. We're making no profit on shipping, just covering our costs - and it means we can guarantee that shipping and fulfilment won't cause issues with the finances or with the delivery of the final products.
Spire uses a straightforward D10-based system to resolve conflicts. It focuses on storytelling over simulation: the more skilled and knowledgeable the character is about the action and the location it takes place in, the more D10s they roll, and pick the highest. Generally, rolling higher is better, but most of the time - succeed or fail - characters will accrue stress as part of the action.
The more stress a character has, the more chance that it will hurt them in the form of fallout - serious repercussions that they’ve earned for pushing their luck too far. (Or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.) Spire doesn’t weigh physical, mental or emotional damage differently - they’re all treated the same, and they’re all at stake when you work for the resistance.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER GAMES?
Spire offers players a chance to take part in a fantasy revolution, and to fight back against those who oppress you. Unlike many games, the monsters aren’t out in the wilderness; they’re living above you in obscene luxury, dominating your people in the aftermath of a brutal war. Spire tasks players with changing the city, whether for good or ill, and that’s how they gain experience and new abilities.
Spire has a unique setting, and the rules have been written from scratch to embody the fiction at all times. You don’t just play a Ranger: you play a Carrion-Priest, a hyena-worshipping death cultist. You’re not a Rogue: you’re a Bound, and you pray to the small gods in your ropes to stop you from falling off the side of the city. You don’t just play a Fighter: you play a Knight of the North Docks, a member of a long-fallen order of nobles who once upon a time defended the honour of traders and travellers, but who now swagger about in flashy quarter-plate and operate an alarmingly wide variety of bars.
We’ve taken the common tropes of D&D (and other fantasy mainstays) and adjusted them to mesh with our own world, so while there’s plenty that’ll seem familiar to any seasoned roleplayer, there’ll be something in there to surprise everyone, too.
WHO ARE YOU?
We are Mary Hamilton, Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor, and our business name is Rowan, Rook & Decard. This is the third Kickstarter that we’ve organised, and both previous projects - Goblin Quest and Unbound - funded well-over budget, and we delivered our products to people both online and in physical forms.
Grant’s solo work includes Honey Heist, The Witch is Dead, Royal Blood, One Last Job, Warrior-Poet and a wide variety of short-form, story-focused RPGs. He was also in the team that co-wrote the latest edition of Paranoia. Spire is his first opportunity to be part of a team writing a full original setting and the system to support it, and he’s excited to share the results with you.
We’re working with seasoned professionals who we know well. Adirian Stone is creating the art, Alina Sandu is handling the layout, and Harry Goldstone is doing proofreading. They all did a fantastic job on Unbound and we’re happy to work with them again.
We’ve also teamed up with Tim Wilkinson Lewis, illustrator on Goblin Quest, to create an A2-scale map of Spire itself; every centimetre of the paper is crammed with detail and hooks for your stories.
We understand that the content of Spire mirrors real-world political, social and racial struggles, so we’ll ensure that the manuscript is checked by several sensitivity readers.
We’ve decided to commission a UK-based printer and fulfil from a single location this time. Our experience with Unbound showed us that distributed printing, while cheaper, comes with risks, and we want Spire to be the most beautiful book on your shelf. We’re hoping to print with CPI, who have lots of experience with short run projects like this and are the printers working on Cthulhu Dark; if the game sells really well and we need a longer print run, we’ve lined up Belmont, who print books for Games Workshop.
WHAT AM I PAYING FOR?
The rules of Spire already exist, and we know that they work. We’ve written, rewritten, tested, re-tested and designed a game we’re genuinely proud of and that we think is beautiful. You’re paying to make that game into a physical product that’s as beautiful, dark and interesting as the rules and the world it contains.
Primarily, you’re paying for the cost of art and layout, which we like to pay fairly for. You’re also letting us access the economies of scale available when we order larger print runs of books. Finally, you’re paying for Chris and Grant, the writers of Spire, to earn significantly less than part-time UK minimum wage, but still some money, for their work, and Mary, the producer, to take a small cut too.
Risks and challenges
As ever, unforeseen events can slow down or impede the progress of the game, but we’ve done our best to leave room in our plan for them. This will be our third project on Kickstarter, and Mary has steered us successfully through bringing the previous two to fruition.
Throughout Unbound, our previous Kickstarter, we worked hard to be transparent with our supporters and communicate with them to outline the ongoing status of the project, and we don’t want to work any other way. We’ll be updating you with news as and when we get it so you can stay abreast of what’s going on with your book.
We’re also running a Discord channel for backers who pick a deluxe package, so that you can talk among yourselves and also get access to sneak peeks, updates and new info as we go along. The rules and setting information sections - the bulk of the book - is entirely complete, and we’re just putting the finishing touches to the GM section as the campaign runs. Just under half of the art is complete.
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