Spotlight on Spire
Let me preface this by saying, I’d not really looked properly at Spire before I wrote this. I’d heard of it; some friends had spoken about it. But I’d never really looked at it, so when I decided to make Spire the focus of this writeup – I spent the last few days deep in research mode and I have to admit, I love what I see and read here.
For a start it’s from Rowan, Rook, and Decard.
If that’s not a great name for developers of RPGs, I don’t know what is.
The Spire is the Limit
What is Spire?
It’s a roleplaying game about revolution, punk and fantasy. It’s a game where you take on the role of the dark elves, oppressed by the high (aelfir) elves who rule the towering city of Spire. In essence, Spire is more Cyberpunk than most Cyberpunk RPGs on the market.
Spire’s world isn’t a nice place, and it has its fair share of terrors. From oppressors, to rivals, to wicked trauma – Spire is going to put characters through the wringer – there’s no doubt about that.
It’s on the edge of a knife, the city must fall, and you’re going to be the ones to help push it over the edge.
The city that Must Fall!
Spire’s a mile-high impossible city ruled by snooty high elves. It’s older than most people can remember, and it used to belong to the dark elves. Not any longer, the high elves (aelfir) took it from the dark elves by force and that was that.
Now as long as a dark elf performs four years of service to an aelfir lord, once they come of age, they can live in the Spire. Isn’t that kind of the high elves, right?
Now you can see why there’s the dark heart of rebellion in the shadows.
Spire is on the edge, and it crumbles from within, as well as from the outside. An ancient, old, and gigantic It’s been built and rebuilt more times than anyone can remember, and at the center of the mass is something called the Heart.
A jagged, ragged, weeping hole in reality.
A nightmarish place of perverse luxury and widespread destitution. This is where the drow (dark elf) laborer’s toil in the factories, and the vast gardens, working their fingers beyond the bone to produce all kinds of treasures for their lofty masters.
It is a place of secrets, of magic, and more.
System of the Downed
When I look at things like this, I always want to know what the mechanics are behind the game. Since I often feel, you can have a great setting and a lot of detail, lore, fun stuff to engage the players. If the system lets you down though, you’re going to have a hard time persuading people to play the game as-is.
Yes, you could just port the setting to something like D&D 5th Edition (I hear many people say) – however – that seems to be a waste of money if you bought the book.
What is the system that powers Spire then?
Let me step aside for a bit to let the developers explain it.
‘Spire uses a straightforward D10 system to determine success or failure on risky actions; players gather a pool of between 1 to 4 dice, roll them, and select the highest – this gives an indication of success and the amount of stress incurred when attempting the challenge.
Stress covers any and all misfortune a character might suffer: from hits to reputation, to physical wounds, to loss of cover. Each time a character takes stress, there’s a chance that it might solidify into fallout. Fallout is concrete, ongoing consequences for their actions, whether that’s a broken leg that needs healing, a connection burned or betrayed, or increased police attention.
We’ve worked hard to ensure that all fallout pushes the story forward rather than blocking it or slowing it down.’
I like lite-RPGs, and here at Exiled News we’re pretty much all big fans of lite systems these days. There’s a lot of scope here though, with Spire’s system as-is, to create fun dramatic moments and it’ll suit a group of players who love to fail forward and take their hits as they come.
Turning a disaster into a win, through sheer grit, determination, and a hell of a lot of roleplaying.
Who do you play?
Apart from playing dark elves that is, just what are the characters in Spire?
First of all, you’ll be playing members of the Ministry – a forbidden paramilitary religious sect devoted to one goal: overthrowing the aelfir.
The classes you can play as are just as interesting, and as bound into the heart of Spire, as the lore of the world itself.
The Azurites: blue-clad worshippers of the god of gold, they’re great at deals, and have a very keen understanding of what drives a person.
The Bound: These vigilantes operate in the Perch, a shanty town of Spire. They revere the small gods that live in their clothing, and protect the poor.
The Carrion-Priests: Found in the twisty streets of New Heaven, atop Spire, these are a strange sect of heretic death-cultists. They worship their god, Charnel, and each one of the ordained has their own personal hyena to act as a conduit to the god.
The Firebrands: They didn’t start the fire, or perhaps they did. Agent provocateurs and revolutionary leaders who’ll stop at nothing until ever last high elf is dead, or fled.
The Idols: When you attain great power, with it comes, greater power. So great, that you can become too perfect to harm. You can charm others, twist minds, and let everyone see just how bleeding-edge your art and sorcery are!
The Knights of the North Docks: Once a sect of noble protectors, sworn to defend the rights of traders and merchants. Now? They war amongst themselves, care less about the people they once protected and became the very thing they fought against.
The Lahjan (Silvered): Priestesses (or priests) of Our Glorious Lady (one of three drow moon goddess not outlawed by the aelfir). They are described as mercurial, and strange, able to see what others cannot and more.
The Masked: Want to hide in plain sight, manipulate people subtly via social tricks? Then the Masked are for you. Once servants of the high elves, now they have their own plots and schemes – they craft and use magical masks.
The Midwives: Perhaps one of the strangest of all, the Midwives are spider-blooded protectors of those drow yet to be born. They can use their ancient magics to change their shape, they become spider-like and are well respected across both dark elf and high elf society. They make excellent spies, protectors, and diplomats.
The Vermissian Sages: A curious sect of drow historians, who can use non-Euclidean space to sore information, and relics of their home nations.
Spire Spire Burning Bright!
Spire is unique and quirky, interesting and bizarre in equal measure. With one of the best depictions of dark elf society, and high elf society in any media for a while.
It doesn’t cleave to Gygax or Tolkien, it stands apart from the cliches and tropes that pervade the dark elves of most fantasy.
Spire is quite brilliant, and if you’d like to get a hard copy, you can find it at Amazon and other places.