18 November 2019
A twisted fantasy-punk take on persecution and revolution..
The first full-size follow-up to one of last year’s most exciting indie RPGs, Strata oozes dark charm. Packed with new player options, locations and scenarios to play through, it’s a well- crafted supplement that adds a slab of ideas to the base game.
A twisted fantasy-punk take on persecution and revolution, Spire transported players to a towering mega-city where high elven overlords thrive on the toil and misery of downtrodden dark elves. With oppression and dread hanging in the air, it feels strangely appropriate that rather than shaking up the status quo Strata simply aims to expand it.
Perhaps the most obvious additions are two new classes for players to add to their party of revolutionaries. Both are fascinating for rather different reasons, and in their own way do a rather wonderful job of capturing the book’s tone.
The Inksmith, for example, is where Spire grounds its obvious love of storytelling, with spells that compel someone to walk through the door with a gun or invoke the mighty powers of Narrative Convenience. The darker, grimier and harrowing side of the setting comes with the thoroughly spooky Shadow Agent, who are robbed of their sense of self during a dark initiation and turned into perfect spies.
Along with this is a wealth of information on fresh districts about the Spire, painting a beautiful picture of both the very highest neighbourhoods and the very darkest, dingiest slums. The creativity perhaps peaks among these chapters, as do the chances for fresh character advances and equipment.
The chunkiest portion of the book is devoted to ten brand new scenarios, evenly divided among the heights and depths of society. Each provides an interesting take on the world, especially those designed for one-shot games or very short campaigns with specialised characters. An early mission against an elven noble treating her staff as living dolls is particularly fascinating and horrifying in equal measures.
While these are all great reads, some of the more high-concept scenarios aren’t the easiest to run, sacrificing clarity in favour of elaborate storytelling. Honestly, though, if you aren’t on board with a slice of the dramatic it’s unlikely you’re a fan of Spire in the first place.
RICHARD JANSEN PARKES
PLAY IT? YES
Designer: Grant Howitt, Chris Taylor
Artist: Adrian Stone
This review originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products.