FUNDED IN FOUR HOURS! THANK YOU TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS.
This is Spire: a mile high city, crumbling from within and without. A metropolis that splits the sky where a thousand gods vie for dominance, where red-mawed sacred hyenas stalk the streets and eat the dead, where a great cursed train network punctures the flesh of the city and bleeds unreality into the stonework, where cruel and beautiful high elves rule from glittering palaces and dark elves, subjugated, worship an illegal goddess and plot revenge and rebellion.
Spire is a roleplaying game, and Strata is the first full-length physical sourcebook for Spire.
Strata is the ice-rimed carpeted streets of Amaranth where high elf dilettantes fund revolutionary cells for sport. Strata is being blessed by the Spire Herself and watching, helpless, as ash-grey roses burst from your skin. Strata is a pulp author with a gun who knows the occult power of purple prose. Strata is a drow so deep in service to the goddess they have burned their identity on a funeral pyre as tribute to her.
Strata is rescuing thirty drugged and mutilated drow from a wicked sculptor-surgeon. It is fighting for what little you’ve got when the police try to take it away from you. It is stumbling blind through the backstreets of Pilgrim’s Walk, hoping your handler doesn’t sell you out to your enemies as a bargaining chip.
Strata is higher highs and lower lows. Strata is the next evolution of Spire, digging deeper into the secrets of the city, and offering more ways to fight for what you believe in.
PRAISE FOR SPIRE
“Spire’s a mix of narrative freedom and wired and weird narrative detail, its ideas thrusting up from the landscape of fantasy game, visible to miles around. Even my hatred of Elves can’t lower my admiration” - Kieron Gillen (the Wicked + the Divine)
“Howitt and Taylor lovingly built Spire out of compelling plot hooks that will motivate any group of players to chase the satisfaction of smashing it into glistening pieces... a smart balance of well built action and socio-political commentary.” - James D'Amato (The One Shot network)
“Spire has one of the most intriguing settings of any game I’ve come across, backed with elegant and simple mechanics. It’s a fascinating RPG experience.” Adrian Tchaikovsky (Shadows of the Apt, Arthur C. Clarke Award winner)
"Spire blends clever narrative mechanics and an incredibly vibrant setting to make a game that constantly poses you the question: what will your revolution cost you? Will you make the necessary sacrifices, or impose them on others? And what wonderful, miraculous, and monstrous things will you find yourself capable of? I'm very impressed by what Grant, Chris and Mary have achieved here." Jay Iles (Legacy: Life Among the Ruins)
“Spire was an excellent read. It's one of the rare books that seems to excel on setting, system, situation, and subtext simultaneously.” Jason Pitre (Sig: the Manual of the Primes, The Spark RPG)
“This is an edifice of urban fantasy with the electricity of Miéville at his best, and the pressure-cooker claustrophobia of Blades in the Dark. It’s bombastic, sexy, downright political stuff which rises up from foundations in the deepest strata of Gigaxic kitsch into the thin air of pure invention.” Nate Crowley (The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack, The Sea Hates a Coward)
"Spire is stunningly creative, written with style and panache and glorious inventiveness. If a game can reignite that sense of wonder that is all-too-hard to rekindle, Spire is that game. Go buy it." Kevin Kulp (TimeWatch, Swords of the Serpentine)
“Grant and the Spire team have answered one of the oldest questions in fantasy: how to do something different with dark elves. Their answer is Spire, a police procedural in Hell, a baroque conspiracy thriller and a heroic tragedy all wrapped up in two mile high feral walls and urban chaos.” Alasdair Stuart (The Doctor Who Roleplaying Game)
WHAT IS STRATA?
Strata is a full-length, full-colour, hardback sourcebook for the Spire RPG. (If you’d like to learn more about Spire, you can check out the summary on our website, or listen to Rusty Quill's actual play series of the system. In short: you play a cell of dark elf revolutionaries caught up in a secret war against your high elf colonisers in a weird, labyrinthine metropolis.)
Ten scenarios. Written by a mix of established and new authors, these campaign frames and adventures for Spire are written with the system and setting in mind. They’re evocative, inspiring, and most importantly open-ended, allowing gamesmasters to weave their own narratives within the boundaries presented. (You can learn more about the scenarios below.)
The Inksmith class. The Inksmith is a black-market, black-magic occultist who channels the power of pulp fiction into spells. They can knock out adversaries with a single haymaker, introduce schlocky details into the story, embody the fears of a community and, if things are moving slowly, magically summon a man holding a gun through the nearest available door.
The Shadow Agent class. Devotees of Our Hidden Mistress, the Shadow Agent risks their own identity to receive covers - semi-mystical fake identities that they can embody to further the revolution. At higher levels of power, they can “leave” injuries and madness in their cover identities, and put aside a broken leg as easily as shedding a disguise.
Lots of extra advances. We have rules for: all nine of the noble houses of the drow, giving players the chance to take on the role of disaffected aristocrats; playing a Druid of the Living Spire, and letting sacred plants grow through your skin; becoming a gazetteer and distributing illegal pamphlets through Spire; devoting your character’s sorcery to a particular artistic movement in Ivory Row, and more besides.
Reams and reams of setting info and plot hooks. More than 40,000 words of engaging writing on the highest and lowest parts of society in Spire, illustrating the volatile city that’s waiting for the players to show up and change it. Aelfir blinding parties, undercity folk tales, the secrets of Bound god-prisons, Silver Quarter heists, drug-dealing speakeasies, fashion, music, art, madness, magic, and ravenous, unknowable gods - they’re all here.
Full colour artwork by Adrian Stone. We’re lucky to work with Adrian Stone on Strata, as we did with Spire, and as you can see he’s continued to define the aesthetics of the city and its inhabitants. We’re offering A3 prints of his work as pledge rewards and add-ons, too.
Strata will contain at least five scenarios - or more, depending on which stretch goals we hit - written in the same open-ended, improv-led style as our previous campaign frames such as Eidolon Sky or Kings of Silver. While some of our authors have experience in the RPG industry, some don't - we held an open call for submissions for content, and from over a hundred entries, these are the ones that really stood out to us as capturing the spirit of Spire. We're really excited to work with these authors and share their work with you.
The first five scenarios, included if we fund, are:
Line in the Dirt by Pauline Chan. The cell’s safehouse - and home - is in the god-forsaken district of Derelictus, amongst the lowest of the low. But as they wake up one morning, they discover that aelfir-owned companies are threatening to destroy their apartment block to make room for new housing, and evict them in the process. Can the players keep hold of what little space they’ve managed to mark as their own, or will their fellow residents sell them out for a chance at a better life?
The Forgotten by Laurence Phillips. The players aren’t Ministry operatives - instead, they’re people with disabilities who were, until recently, under the care of a kindly minister in the cut-throat district of Pilgrim’s Walk. When their guardian is abducted, it’s up to them to take matters into their own hands to find out what really happened - and try not to get exploited by the Ministry in the bargain.
Dark Harvest by Chris Farnell. The cell’s last job went wrong. So wrong, in fact, that the Ministry have shipped them off to a quiet backwater village in the Garden District until things calm down. But when an aelfir goes missing, the guard start knocking on doors, and the players must conduct a clandestine investigation to prove that they’re (sort of) innocent.
Eye of the Beholder by Christine Beard. The height of fashion in aelfir society is to surgically modify a drow employee to make them more beautiful, useful, or graceful. In this scenario, perfectly suited to one-shots or a short series of linked games, the cell are tasked with extracting a group of drugged, mutilated dark elves from an eerie auction in one of Amaranth’s most elegant gardens, and bring the justice of the Ministry to the surgeon who scarred them.
Better the Devil by Grant Howitt & Chris Taylor. The drow noble house of Starys has long been accused of wickedness and cruelty - indeed, hundreds of years ago, most of the family line was drowned in the river that ran through the old drow city of Fathom as retribution for their crimes. But now they’re back, bringing strange and forgotten technologies, and they have their sights set on control of Spire. Will the players side with the newly-ascendant house, or will they be forced to find unusual allies to ensure that the aelfir aren’t replaced with an even worse class of oppressor?
All these scenarios, and all scenarios unlocked as stretch goals, will be printed in the book and included in the PDF.
Tim Wilkinson Lewis, designer of the Spire maps and newspaper clippings from the previous Kickstarter campaign, will once again create in-character artefacts from the world of Spire - available at certain pledge levels (and as an add-on through Backerkit after the campaign has ended). This time he’s creating a full 12-page newspaper, riddled with the curiosities and weirdness that you’ve come to expect from him - and what’s more, the newspaper will act as an in-character handout that lends support to all of the scenarios contained within Strata. It’s the perfect companion for the book.
FUNDED! £16,000: The Sulphurous Press by Coman Fullard. The cell are tasked with publishing a newspaper that furthers the goals of the revolution, and in the process they must tackle problems with distribution, crackdowns on seditious materials, and finding enough stories to fill the lifestyle section. Contains two new sports that players might take part in or report on: stairway luge and a deadly cross between hurling and squash.
FUNDED! £20,000: Home Is Where The Hatred Is by Helen Gould. The cell infiltrate an aelfir household as the staff, looking to gain information and leverage over the lords and ladies that dwell within. A tense, single-location scenario in the style of Downton Abbey, except all the wealthy people are undead elves and all the servants are murderous revolutionaries.
FUNDED! £24,000: More art. We’ll pay Adrian to make more art, which is unquestionably a good thing.
FUNDED! £28,000: Ironshrike by Ben Brock. How do you kill a place? The cell must find out: they are ordered to kill an underspire marketplace where a warped sect worships the god of predatory capitalism. Will burning it to the ground be enough, or must they destroy the spirit of the district too?
FUNDED! £32,000: Glasshelm by Kira Magrann. Glasshelm is the centre of the aelfir banking network in Spire, and a handful of downtrodden drow are going to ruin it. Taking the ideas of computerised banking and adapting them for a fantasy setting, this scenario leans hard into cyberpunk - but all the hard-drives are the wet brainmeat of captured magicians, and the hacker is a blood-witch with a parasitic intrusion spell curled around her heart.
FUNDED! £36,000: Even more art. We’ll put more pages in the book and cover them with Adrian’s beautiful drawings.
FUNDED! £40,000: Bisquiet by Xalavier Nelson Jr. Can baking overthrow a city? The Ministry are hoping it will. Offering unprecedented access to the rich and powerful citizens of Spire, a popular high-class bakery has been acquired by revolutionary forces, and the player characters are placed at the forefront of a distribution network that sees them placing poisoned petit-fours in the perfumed palaces of politicians.
FUNDED! £45,000 - Adopt a goat. Goats are becoming a strangely important part of Spire. We’re going to adopt one, via a charity, and gift it to a village in the developing world which needs a goat. (We’ll get you all to help us name it, if possible.) In addition, once everything’s done and dusted with the Kickstarter, we’re going to go to deepest darkest Kent and hang out with some other beautiful goats, take a bunch of pictures, and recuperate a bit. This goal helps us make progress towards our aim of paying everyone on this project a living wage; it also lets us start commissioning art for...
FUNDED! £50,000 - Book of Masks. A (mostly) in-character illustrated brochure advertising the latest and most fashionable masks available to the aelfir and wealthy drow who want to look good whilst hiding their faces. Where appropriate, we’ll attach an advance to the masks so you can use them in-game. Backers at the digital hardship level and above will receive a free PDF of the brochure, and it’ll be available as a physical add-on after the campaign has ended. The book will be illustrated by the incredible Iguanamouth.
£55,000 - Goats of Spire wallchart. Have you seen a goat? Wondering precisely what kind of goat it is? Does it have too many eyes? Human-like hands? Is it picking a lock with its tongue? Can it not stop yelling? Identify and enjoy the myriad goats of Spire with this elegant and informative wallchart. Backers at the digital hardship level and above will receive the chart as a free PDF, and it’ll be available as a poster print as a physical add-on after the campaign has ended. We've commissioned Iguanamouth to draw the goats, too!
£60,000 - The Magister's Guide. We’ll publish a series of articles, also downloadable as PDFs, that outline how to hack the existing rules in Spire into managing and running a revolution: expanded rules for safehouses and covers using the bonds system, ongoing campaigns with tiers of fallout representing the encroaching aelfir threat, and so on.
£65,000 - Book upgrades, both physical and fictional. We’ll ask the backers of this Kickstarter to pick from a variety of options for an additional “thing” within the book - a Silver Quarter Casino, a Derelictus temple, etc - and, once they’ve voted, have Adrian Stone illustrate it.
In addition, we pledge to put at least one (1) ribbon page-marker in every physical copy of Strata. We are unable to include digital ribbons in digital copies.
£75,000 - Pocket Guide to the Vermissian. “Glittering jewel of industry! Vast machineries that offer most elegant affordances to elf both high and dark! With this convenient and handsome guidebook, the myriad tunnels of the Vermissian will be revealed to you, young reader, and at an affordable cost!” This in-character booklet is one of the few surviving original guides to the Vermissian, now long-since collapsed into an interdimensional nightmare realm, which details the way that things should have been if the Heart hadn’t infected the entire network. In addition, the booklet has been updated and the aelfir propaganda corrected by a keen scholar, who’s copied in more accurate historical texts and, where necessary, written in warnings and guides themselves in a lunatic scrawl.
Every backer at the digital hardship level and above will receive a free PDF of the Pocket Guide, painstakingly written by Mary Hamilton with support from Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor, and physical copies will be available as an add-ons once the campaign is over.
HIGHER PLEDGE LEVELS
Want to contribute a bit more to the project? We have an array of backer rewards reserved for high-level pledges.
You can become a patron of the revolution in the book, set up an organisation within Spire (and we’ll create specially-made art and rules to go with it), have Chris and Grant mastermind an evil conspiracy for your own Spire campaign, or - for the truly generous - attend a one-time only game of Spire in London, where every player will be served unique cocktails and presented with a hand-made custom mask modelled after their character.
First things first - if you missed the first Kickstarter for Spire, you can purchase a copy of the core book through this Kickstarter.
You can also add the following things to your pledge once the campaign ends, through Backerkit:
- All digital rewards from the original Spire kickstarter
- The Spiral Muse, a 12-page in-character newspaper by Tim Wilkinson Lewis
- Physical copies of our campaign frames (Blood and Dust, Eidolon Sky, Kings of Silver) and the Black Magic mini-sourcebook
- Spire RPG corebook
- The last remaining copies of the Spire RPG corebook special edition, which comes with an alternate cover, printed endpapers, a ribbon and - until we sell out - exclusive newspaper clippings created by Tim Wilkinson Lewis
- High-quality litho-printed A3 art prints from Spire and Strata by Adrian Stone
- High-quality litho-printed A2 maps of Spire and Underspire by Tim Wilkinson Lewis
SHIPPING NOT INCLUDED
It’s important to be aware that, for this campaign, we are not including the cost of shipping in our Kickstarter pledges.
As we’re including all the stretch goals in the physical book, we’re not sure how much the final book will weigh. Also, we don’t know how many books we’ll be sending out, so we can’t work out any bulk discounts up front. To avoid over-charging or under-charging you, when we’re ready to fulfil the Kickstarter, we’ll go to several suppliers for up-to-date quotes, then work out the correct pricing for shipping and charge you for it at cost through Backerkit.
That way, we protect ourselves from being unable to afford to ship out the books, and we ensure you get the best price too.
However, if you’d like to add some money to your pledge up front to cover shipping, our initial suppliers suggest this will be the rough cost:
WHAT ARE WE PAYING FOR?
Primarily, you're funding the creation of a physical sourcebook - that requires paying writers, artists, designers and producers as well as paying for creating the actual books themselves (which forms the vast bulk of the costs involved).
However, we want to talk about the other things we’re looking to achieve with this project:
Firstly, we’re paying our authors fairly - well over industry standard. We don’t like how RPG writers are treated (and paid) like hobbyist authors, and want to raise the standard of compensation in the industry.
Secondly, we want to generate funds to put back into the Spire line. We’re funding another print run of the Spire corebook. We’ve nearly sold out of our first print run, and we need to gather some capital to fund another run. By holding a crowdfunding campaign, we can secure the extra money we need to make this happen, and get a sense of the demand to make sure we print the right number of copies.
Thirdly, we’re printing the Black Magic mini sourcebook and three adventures - Blood and Dust, Eidolon Sky, and Kings of Silver - and making them available through our store and as add-ons for this Kickstarter. While these have been available as PDF-only products, we’d like to take the opportunity to print them up as physical items, making them easier to bring to the table and use in your games.
What you’re not paying for is shipping - see the “shipping” section above for more details on that.
All the money from this Kickstarter will be ploughed into supporting Spire for the long term; we don’t want Strata to be the last supplement we publish, and the more money we make the more it becomes viable to spend time, energy and money investing in the setting and the system. We’re hoping that this Kickstarter will be the springboard we need to bring new writers into the world of Spire, support hacks using the Resistance system, and fund warehousing and printing costs to help us keep making stories and expanding the game.
Thanks for all of your support so far!
Mary Hamilton, producer: Mary Hamilton is the business brain of Rowan, Rook and Decard. She produced the Kickstarters for Spire, Unbound and Goblin Quest. She also works in technology at the BBC, and can be found on Twitter (and most other places) @newsmary.
Grant Howitt, writer: Grant is lead writer at Rowan, Rook & Decard - his previous works include Spire, Goblin Quest, One Last Job, Honey Heist, Paranoia, and about twenty-five more games besides. He lives in London with his partner and a rotund ginger tom called the Colonel, and you can find him on Twitter as @gshowitt.
Chris Taylor, writer: Chris is one-third of Rowan Rook & Decard, and specialises in games mechanics. Chris' previous games include Spire, Unbound, Crash Pandas, Skyfarer (in collaboration with Failbetter Games) and, in what many would call his greatest stroke of genius, Jason Statham's Big Vacation. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMaddigan.
Adrian Stone, illustration: Adrian Stone is a designer and illustrator whose clients include John Lewis, Penguin Publishing, Horrible Histories and Usborne.
Alina Sandu, layout and design: Alina designed Strata, Unbound and the Exuviae RPG - you can see more of her work on her website.
Helen Gould, scenario writer and proofreader: Helen Gould is a writer and poet, as well as a cast member on The Rusty Quill Gaming podcast. She's been involved in the London indie gaming scene since 2014 and has written for Cthulu Dark, Fear's Sharp Little Needles, and Pelgrane Press.
Chris Farnell, scenario writer: Chris Farnell is the author of two books, Mark II and Dirty Work, and once got a room full of people to write an entire novella between them in 75 minutes. He's written backstory, concepts and cultural tid-bits for games including Legacy: Life Among the Ruins, and The Trial live game at the Science Museum's Zombielab event.
Ben Brock, scenario writer: Ben Brock lives in London and works in publishing. He plays and runs a lot of RPGs, but this is his first published adventure. He is on twitter as @cinemashoebox.
Coman Fullard, scenario writer: Coman Fullard (@comanfullard on Twitter) is an Irish writer who has been playing, GMing and hand crafting RPG's since the 1980's. His day job exposes him to the challenges & techniques of mass communication and so, Coman is producing a story frame rooted in Spire's industrial centre that encourages players to explore the moral ambivalence of a propaganda driven insurrection.
Pauline Chan, scenario writer: Pauline Chan has been telling stories for fun since she was seven, but this is her first professional writing project. She lives in California.
Christine Beard, scenario writer: Christine is a writer and developer based out of New Jersey, where she works alongside her husband and their two cats. She’s written on a number of game lines including Vampire: The Requiem 2nd Ed, 7th Sea 2nd Ed, and Changeling: the Dreaming 20th Anniversary Ed. Find her at thepetitewarlock.com or on Twitter, @petite_warlock
Kira Magrann, scenario writer: Kira's previous work includes supplemental content for Resistor, The Veil, The Sprawl and Dialect, and A Cosy Den, in which you play half-lesbian, half-snake creatures making a home for the winter months.
Laurence Phillips, scenario writer: Laurence Phillips is a freelance writer and game designer, and the author of Primal Pathways, a bio-punk setting for Legacy 2nd edition. As an autistic tabletop gamer, he is particularly focused on representing disabled communities and experiences in his work. You can check out his work on his patreon page.
Xalavier Nelson Jr., scenario writer: Xalavier Nelson Jr. is a critically-acclaimed freelance narrative designer, PC Gamer columnist, and MCV Rising Star. He created the itch.io best-selling accessible role-playing system, Ellipses RPG, and cannot wait to create a new opportunity for the dark elves of Spire to f*ck up some bourgeois.
Risks and challenges
This is our fourth Kickstarter - we have the infrastructure in place to deliver on time and on budget. We hope to use the same printers as Spire (Belmont), the same designers and artists, and (depending on the final shipping quotes) the same distributors - but life happens, and we’re a small business working with small suppliers, so we’ve built in a contingency fund to help solve any problems we face over the development of this project.
Strata is largely written, as are the core adventures. We need to tighten up the text and iron out some details, but the majority of the book is ready to be sent off to the editors. The largest challenge we face is working with the new authors - we’re relying on them to create content that needs to be complete before the book is ready for distribution. While the core adventures are written (as mentioned) the stretch goals aren’t, and the more of those we hit, the higher chance we have of someone missing a deadline or delivering unsatisfactory work.
We’ve scheduled our project with this in mind, and should a writer not deliver what we need, we’re not prepared to hold up the project and wait for them - instead, we’ll apologise to the backers and find alternate means of providing the content, whether that’s hiring other writers, doing it ourselves, or editing and rewriting their work into something that we can use.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)