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Explore cursed dungeons in Spire creators’ dark fantasy tabletop RPG Heart: The City Beneath


Descend into a nightmare undercity with dark fantasy tabletop RPG Heart: The City Beneath, in which you play desperate dungeon delvers exploring a surreal world of horrors.

Set beneath mile-high town Spire - the setting of co-designers Grant Howitt and Christopher Taylor’s 2018 tabletop RPG of the same name - the area of the Heart is described as a “rip in the holes between worlds”, with reality becoming increasingly unstable the closer to its centre you go.

On its outskirts are settlements full of eccentric outsiders, whereas the Heart itself contains crimson labyrinths ruled by spectral beasts, murderous trees and lakes of dust that sit beneath alien skies. Ever predatory, the Heart perceives your adventuring party and will alter itself to match their dreams and desires.

Players can take on one of nine unusual character classes, including an occultist who can manipulate reality (and is also full of bees), a horrifying witch and an addicted mage who has access to entities that live in the depths of the Heart.

Each character class has a unique range of equipment and abilities, as well as a ‘calling’ that determines why they’re descending into the Heart, such as a yearning for adventure or a need to atone for crimes. These ‘callings’ determine ‘beats’ - significant events and goals for characters to achieve - that serve as pivotal moments for the characters in the roleplaying game’s overarching narrative.

Heart: The City Beneath has no canonical geography, with players building up locations and discovering the map as they go. The tabletop RPG’s core rulebook provides over 50 landmarks to use and detail on the different parts of the Heart. More than 30 enemies are included in the sourcebook.

Mechanically-speaking, Heart: The City Beneath predominantly uses ten-sided dice on the player side. More dice can be added depending on each character’s individual skills and expertise.

Dice results from the pool are removed during difficult situations to increase the odds of failure. If characters fail a test, they take stress. This can manifest in a number of ways, covering everything from blood loss to being contorted by the eerie energies of the Heart itself.

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Not all skills require dice rolls on the part of the player; only actions that have something at stake need to be rolled for. For example, to hit a monster in combat would require a roll, because missing might mean taking physical damage, whereas getting a drink at a tavern wouldn’t - unless the character had some ire with the barkeep.

Heart: The City Beneath was funded on Kickstarter last year. Heart uses a modified version of Spire’s Resistance gameplay system and is set beneath the titular city, but is a standalone experience that can be played without any prior knowledge of Spire.

The tabletop RPG comes from Rowan, Rook & Decard, the independent UK publisher co-founded by Howitt and Taylor which previously released Spire and lighthearted storytelling RPGs Honey Heist and Goblin Quest. Howitt also co-created zany tabletop RPG Reverse Beast Master.

The digital edition of Heart: The City Beneath is out now in PDF for £15 ($19), with an upcoming tabletop RPG print edition - including a map and stickers - due for release in July.

The core rules will be followed by four additional Heart: The City Beneath PDF sourcebooks set for release over the coming months.

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