Spire Supplement Reviews

I’m taking a survey look today at various supplements for Spire: The City Must Fall, an awesome and evocative game from Rowan, Rook, & Deckard. While the core book is bursting with fantastic detail and character potential, the authors have gone on to expand the world in a number of awesome ways and I think I owe it to the world to make sure these are all very well known.

There are a few other small-scale supplements for Spire that I’m going to mostly skip over today. Rather than cover everything there is for the Spire RPG, I’m going to focus on the big stuff. But I do want to call out a few really awesome supplements:

  • Codex of the Deep Spire is a collection of weird threats, enemy stats, and mysteries to solve.
  • Secrets Kept from the Sun is the Ministry’s spy handbook so that you can be the most cunning fantasy spy in the city.
  • Black Magic is a creepy book of arcane secrets with the Blood Witch, one of the creepiest classes in the game.
  • Shadow Operations is a collection of one-shot scenarios to jump right into the action.
Image © Rowan, Rook, & Deckard

Strata Sourcebook

The first major supplement for the game was Strata, a deeper look at the societies and neighborhoods of the city of Spire. It starts off with two really awesome classes that deal deeply with what it’s like to be a drow in this conquered city. First up is the Inksmith, a thoroughly noir character who is basically a mage that controls people and reality through spells that channel narrative and pulp fiction logic. An Inksmith can cause someone to act on their most dramatic impulses, for instance, even if it’s not the proper thing to do in the moment and they can upend a situation with a summoned a person with a gun out of nowhere. Meanwhile, the Shadow Agent is a shapeshifting spy who can wear other people’s faces and meld into all the different societies of the city.

After this, the book covers the physical space of Spire through the lenses of the two different worlds, High Society and Low Society. Starting with the well-to-do side of things, the high elf neighborhoods of Amaranth and Ivory Row (including some art-related advances for the Idol) are described, as well as the merchant district called the Silver Quarter. Drow Noble Houses are discussed, traitors or useful inroads depending on your outlook, and some new equipment from the richest heights of Spire. From there we move to the Low Society and the smoke-filled streets of The Works (and an extra advance of the Gazeteer) the dangerous bounty of The Garden District (and an extra advance as a druid ecoterrorist!), the shanty-town of Perch and the strange gods who dwell there, and the tenement of Derelictus full of gangs and dark creatures (and an extra advance of ex-child ganger). There are new bits of equipment for the poor and desperate, cruel and strange inventions to mirror the toys of the rich.

Image © Rowan, Rook, & Deckard

Next up are a whopping ten scenarios covering all sorts of locations around the city, certainly enough to string together a campaign and a pretty long one if you combine this with the Shadow Operations collection. The last section of the book covers four different cults who are a pretty wide cross section of the city’s most zealous, all for you to fight or join. The Confederacy of Clavigers is a cult with magic keys to open any door, led by two Ladies who have opposite worldviews. The Joker Pack are cheaters who magically manipulate luck to steal and deceive. The Order of Lexicutioners are a splinter group of the Vermissian Sages, a cult that uses language as a weapon and manipulate language and reality. Lastly, the Children of the Runestack is a disturbing gang of children like a Dickensian fever dream.

Sin Sourcebook

This second sourcebook for Spire is a little heavier. Sin deals with crime and the seedier parts of Spire, delving into some pretty dark corners (with a list of content warnings in the inside cover to go with it). The book starts off with two new classes to allow characters to dive straight into this world. The Gutter Cleric is described as a divine conman, a priest who channels miracles from any god they can get to listen but not really devoting themselves to any one deity. Best of all the class’s low advances are small gods but the medium advances are forbidden, dark faiths and the high advances are primal, elder gods. Definitely awesome. The other class is just as metal, the Mortician Executioner. State assassins working for the aelfir, the Morticians are also a death cult with occult magic that makes them deadly and tough to shake. It’s also interesting to be living a double life working for the high elves and also for the Ministry of Our Hidden Lady.

Image © Rowan, Rook, & Deckard

The second chapter of the book deals bluntly with Crime. Different types of Spire-specific crimes are discussed from smuggling through the Vermissian and silversmithing retroengineered technology to leaving your Durance or faking your ancestry. The crime-ridden district of Red Row the battleground of several different powerful gangs in the city. After that are Shrines of Crime, small cults with criminal vibes along with advances and some NPC types to use in your story. The North Docks, home of Spires drunken knights, gets some detail as well including a list of pubs, a small map, and illicit goods for the blackmarket there. Up-Spire Crime, or “the crimes rich people do,” has a section as well and several example gangs with two-page spreads and specialty advances.

The counterpart to crime is, of course, Order and the law in Spire is given its own section including Enforcement by the City Guard, the elite forces known as the Black Guard, the Solar Pantheon’s Paladins, the magical police of the Ethics Board, and the contract lawkeepers of Local Law groups. There’s also attention given to the Allied Defense Force (ADF), the army that the aelfir conquered Spire with centuries ago which is now in Nujab oppressing gnolls. Drow are conscripted into the army, though, during some Durances and military forces might come back to the city for any number of reasons. The Colonial Rule of the aelfir’s Council is detailed with its various parts and how the high elves keep control of the city.

Image © Rowan, Rook, & Deckard

In between crime and order is Religion, both the Solar Pantheon of the high elves and triple goddess churches of the drow. A considerable amount of attention, unsurprisingly, is given to the Ministry of Our Hidden Mistress around which the default framework of the setting rotates. Organizational structure, directives from the Magisters, religious festivals, hallows to worship at, special equipment, and relations to other faiths will all deepen the role of the Ministry in your game. Likewise the Church of Our Glorious Lady, the light side of the moon and the tolerated drow religion in Spire, has more detail to strengthen its role in your game and describe the differences between the Glorious and Hidden drow goddesses. The third drow religion, the Crimson Vigil, worships the red moon goddess and its details have always been a little vague up until this book. Organization, rites, sects within the Vigil, and resources are all detailed for the Vigil so that players and GMs alike can make use of this bloody faith.

Obviously the high elves’ oppressive Solar Church gets some pages too and it’s a pretty complete one that turns the church into a living, breathing force in the setting instead of a straw man seducing poor drow away from the moon. The old faith of the Many from the drow homelands is detailed as well with some nice advances and the religious district of Pilgrim’s Walk is expanded with locations and a slew of lesser cults. Each of these sections (Crime, Order, and Religion) also have a scenario to go along with their content, and the whole book ends with a collection of Cults of Personality.

Magister’s Guide

The latest sourcebook for Spire is the Magister’s Guide which is an across-the-board support book giving new options and expanded rules for GMs and players alike. It’s shorter than Strata and Sin (coming in at just 56 pages) but it packs a lot into a small space. The first section is New Systems for Spire including Liberty which is a new resistance that represents the authorities coming down on the drow populations. Refined from some mechanics introduced in a Strata scenario, characters can mark stress to a shared Liberty resistance to create new consequences like increased City Guard presence or limits on the number of drow allowed to gather in one place.

Image © Rowan, Rook, & Deckard

The book also provides Advancement Beats, bringing the advancement mechanics of the spin-off game Heart (which you can read about in my review) to your Spire game. Rather than leave advancement in Spire to when it feels like things have changed enough in the city, players can instead pursue story beats and gain advances while contributing to the plot. Another system, Acquisitions, helps to streamline the process of gaining new resources for your characters and make it less arbitrary and since it’s tied to taking stresses it drives the drama as well. Finally, Safehouses are something every conspiracy needs and the rules here provide ways to create and upgrade your cell’s safehouse as your missions grow and change.

The exciting middle part of the book features around thirty pages of new options for every class in the game: not just the eight found in the core rulebook but also the Inksmith and Shadow Agent from Strata, the Gutter Cleric and Mortician Executioner from Sin, and even the Blood Witch from Black Magic. Fifteen classes overall and each one has a few new advances, some equipment that’s especially useful, an example adversary type to vex that class in particular, and some class-specific fallout to mark towards various resistances. There are also sidebars with handy tips for GMs and players both to highlight the class. There’s way too much here to summarize adequately so let me just call out two of my favorites: the witch-hunter adversaries of the Blood Witch who carry rifles filled with glyph-carved bees and the “punt guns” for Knights which are boat-mounted shotguns that will deal you Blood stress if you try to hold them while firing. What an awesome game.

Image © Rowan, Rook, & Deckard

The final few pages of the book are a collection of helpful advice and essays. Just the Basics has a basic pitch for explaining Spire succinctly to a new group while Preparing for a Game of Spire has advice for anything from “zero prep, I’m about to run this in a few minutes” to a few hours of prep for a carefully-planned one shot. It’s good advice for non-Spire games as well. When to Roll, and When Not To is a fairly self-explanatory essay and also full of good advice for any game, and while the page on Creative Use of Skills is more game-specific it also has some good advice and mental exercises for GMs.

Conclusion

So far I haven’t read a supplement for Spire that wasn’t worth getting. The big ones discussed here obviously have the most expansion for your game, and incidentally I’d recommend getting them in published order (Strata then Sin then Magister’s Guide, unless you want to do more worldbuilding yourself in which case the Magister’s Guide can come second). Along with the particular short supplements I called out at the beginning of the post, I think that if you know and like Spire you should seriously consider getting any and all supplementary material to explore the fantastic universe of this incredible game.

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