Recently I had the very good fortune of spotting a Tweet asking for play-testers for a new tabletop RPG, written by someone who’s games I already greatly admired for their fun-to-effort ratio (high fun, low effort), I jumped at the chance to get involved and I absolutely didn’t regret it.
You may have heard of games designer Grant Howitt before – he’s known for rules-light, story-rich games that are easy to understand and compelling to play – with his ‘One Page’ offerings such as Honey Heist, The Witch is Dead, Royal Blood, One Last Job, Warrior-Poet and a number of other story-focused games that you can receive through his Patreon (or retroactively here); along with being involved in the recent rewrite of Paranoia.
You may also recognize his name being associated with two other popular games, Goblin Quest and Unbound, which were both successfully (over)funded via Kickstarter. The same team of people that brought you those two games (Mary Hamilton, Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor, and their company Rowan, Rook & Decard) now bring you something brand new in the form of Spire.
Your religion, your culture, and your people are being destroyed all around you. You have seen your fathers, your mothers, your grandparents subjugated by the high elves, and you have had enough. You have joined the resistance: the ministry of Our Hidden Mistress, worshipers of a forbidden goddess.
In Spire you play as dark elves, sensitive to the sun and the submissive citizens of a vast and unfeasible spire-city that has been warred over for as long as anyone can remember. It was once your home, but now you are part of several generations of enslaved and suppressed masses under the high-elf ruling classes. The Spire itself is a city of many layers and secrets, home to dark and twisting magics, arcane technologies and anthropological engineering, cradle of a thousand strange and multifaceted gods.
Character creation in this game is just as strange and wonderful as the setting itself. Its simplicity is an absolute joy and the skill sets that might seem familiar to begin with diverge from the norm quickly, giving a real sense of individual purpose to each class. The way I’ve been selling it to people? I got to play as ‘Clover’, a Drow revolutionary historical painter that specialized in frescoes, capable of moving crowds of people to extreme emotions to devastating effect. Extremely devastating. As in, a whole room of people turned on each other after watching her paint. There was a lot of red afterwards.
If the art style is familiar to you, you likely have a copy of Unbound sitting on your shelf, as the very same artist Adrian Stone is involved in bringing the titular Spire to life on the pages of this new RPG. Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate how devastatingly good these maps are? Created by their enigmatic cartographer.
I’ve completely fallen in love with this grimpunk (can I call it that? it sort of fits…) inspired setting; it scratches all the itches that I have for urban fantasy games like Shadowrun, without any of the rules and skills-based headaches. It is entirely focused on letting you explore just how effed up life in the Spire really is; from priests with pet hyenas to artist that drive others mad instead of themselves.
All in all, it was a privileged to get to play-test this game and I can say hand-on-heart that if there’s one RPG you should absolutely invest in this year, it has to be Spire. The Kickstarter is set to run till August 17 and all of the pledge levels I’d say are incredibly reasonably priced for something so special.