Strata - Spire expansion The City Must Fall, the review

Strata - Spire expansion The City Must Fall, the review

Strata - Spire expansion The City Must Fall

The city of Spire is very sprawling, every corner contains a mystery, every street a story to discover and an abuse to fight. The difficult coexistence between the Dark Elves (Drow) and the rich and privileged Alfi Alti (Aelfir) is intertwined with the very structure of the city. Knowing the main neighborhoods is essential to enter this bizarre world and collect new ideas for your own adventures of revenge and revolution. Strata is here for this.

In the basic manual of the role-playing game Spire - The City Must Fall we already had a general overview of the city, but let's be honest, the peculiarity and charm of this setting had left us with a lot of curiosity and desire to know more. Strata is the answer we needed.

Briefly, in Strata we find:

- two new classes, Inchiostraio, pulp journalist / novelist able to weave his stories with magic black and the Shadow Agent with a thousand identities;

- new weapons and equipment divided into the various districts where it is easier to find them;

- new extra Advances valid for all classes (not just for the new classes introduced in Strata). It should be noted that among these new Cults are also described;

- ten adventures to immediately launch into the streets of Spire with numerous ideas to help us create more new stories.

The new Classes: Inked and Shadow Agent

Spire has accustomed us to original Classes, but above all fun to play and also the two new Classes introduced by Strata are no less.

Wanting to use labels, Inchiostrato is a pulp journalist / novelist, even if not in the splatter definition of Tarantino, but more noir. From him he has the formidable ability to be able to channel the magic with the word of his narrative, thus making him a character particularly suitable for any eventuality. The element that we found particularly interesting is that the magic of the Inked allows him to influence the narrative, not only in fiction, but in fact by actively intervening on the story (albeit in a limited way) that the players are playing. For example, he is able to introduce a narrative element such as the presence of a hidden trap door, or a drunk traveler nearby. Or decide that a party you are invited to is being held nearby. In short, it is a particularly versatile Class and able to give excellent satisfaction in the hands of the most creative players.

The Shadow Agent reminded us at first glance of the faceless men we have seen and read in Game of Thrones. In fact, his skills allow him to assume the identities of others (Roofs) or appear to be a member of a certain organization, thus obtaining the relative benefits. Also in this case the Class really lends itself to offering various game ideas, and it is also interesting to dissect the relationship that is formed between the character and the various personalities that from time to time he finds himself "wearing". For this particular Class we also find specific Complications that can be linked to the character's Coverings, such as meeting a png that he believes he knows has already met the identity of the Cover and will therefore have to face an unpleasant situation.

The Districts: the thousand faces of Spire

As we have already said at the beginning, Spire is a sprawling city, an urban agglomeration full of contradictions which, with its different facets, it is constantly looking for a balance.

When we think about contrasts, the first that immediately springs to mind is the main focus of the gaming experience provided by Spire: High Elves vs Dark Elves.

Although the two peoples live in the same city and often find themselves sharing the same spaces, the social condition of each of them places them at the antipodes, with an immediate reflection in the neighborhoods they frequent.

Strata does not have the ambition to go into detail in every single district of Spire, it would be a very considerable undertaking, but it focuses on the contrast between Aelfir and Drow, between the rich and noble privileged caste and those who struggle daily to survive and resist the injustices perpetrated by color or that oppress them.

An apparently clear contrast between black and white, but which actually leaves room for gray shades that make the setting even more intriguing and three-dimensional.

Alta Spire

Three neighborhoods are covered in this Strata chapter: Amaranth, the Ivory Quarter and the Silver Quarter.

Amaranth is the residential center of the High Elves and reflects all the sumptuous eccentricity. Here the Aelfir feel somehow free to pursue their ideal world and in their homes they find themselves praying to the four divinities of the Pantheon of the Sun (linked to the cycle of the seasons), who in the urban life of Spire have replaced the creed of the Ancients. Northern gods. Strata accompanies us in the oddities of the comfortable and over-the-top life of the Aelfir, their habits and customs, but warns us that even among them there are some rebels ready to ally with the Cult. Can it be trusted? Difficult to say, but it is undeniable that they often do it for a pure and innate need for pleasure.

The Ivory Quarter shows us a reality that is extremely tense in a constant struggle between three forces that compete for the territory headed by Lady Theryn (an immortal Aelfir), Archbishop Wynn (a human devoted to the Basilica of the Sun who appears to be intent on building a huge temple) and Mr. Atlas (a rich and cruel Drow who can offer many services and safe places, as long as they are paid for). These three prominent personalities have already been addressed in Spire - The City Must Fall, but with Strata we have the opportunity to deepen their personality, the objectives and the methodologies adopted to pursue them. Enemies and possible allies of each faction are also highlighted, thus providing greater detail on the intricate network of relationships that always keep the neighborhood in tension and that the Storytellers will surely be able to exploit adequately.

At the center of the three slices of the territory into which the district is divided we find a fourth zone, the so-called Red Strip managed by the Quinn House, a sort of mafia criminal organization.

The last district of the Alta Spire that we see treated in this section is the Silver Quarter, a border area between Alta Spire and Bassa Spire. Here Aelfir and Drow walk side by side in the name of fashion, fun and money, three things present in abundance in the Silver District. In Strata the habit of some libertine High Elves to pose as Drow is unraveled, the shows and entertainment of the neighborhood, the fashion that fills and colors its streets. It doesn't matter if order is maintained directly by criminal organizations, that's how things go here and after all it seems to work. For now.

Lower Spire

Let's come to the Spire sector frequented mainly by Drow and let's go into the Condotti districts, the Garden Quarter, the Perch and Derelictus.

If in Spire - The City Must Fall we learned about carbon black, a sort of residue of the intensive industrial activity of the Condotti district, Strata warns us against carbon white, a substance capable of infecting those who come into contact with it. We also find a description of the Malak trafficking (sedative very common among the Drow), the "movement" of duridic ecoterrorism, which considers Spire a living organism and an unexpected Aelfir gunsmith.

The chapter dedicated to the Neighborhood del Giardino, which we can define as the agricultural district of Spire, explains what Hunger is, a force that insinuates itself into the minds of its inhabitants and that in some cases can lead them to madness. The Garden is an extremely mysterious place full of secrets, and having an overview of its oddities and its mysteries is a very tempting thing for every Narrator, including the story of a mysterious Witch ...

Then we arrive at the Trespolo, the Spire neighborhood that rests on the precariousness, not only of its inhabitants, but of the very structure of the buildings that compose it, made of ropes, metal plates and wood capable of defying gravity. In this section we return to talk about the Little Gods (already treated in Spire), the relationship of the population with these divinities and above all how the Funambuli (the neighborhood vigilantes) must be able to imprison these divinities within their blades in order to be admitted to the group (along with some examples of blades and their effects). The chapter continues by describing the sacred Fires, and their guardians, who with their smoke protect the neighborhood from the sunlight, as well as the inevitable and juicy oddities in which one can come across.

Finally we enter Derelictus, perhaps the poorest part of the whole Spire, made up of people trying to survive on the edge of everything, made up of superstitions and legends (the section reports several, all useful material for our game sessions). Gangs of kids who literally run the neighborhood, are basically criminal organizations, but with within it a series of levels of secrecy that make them similar to mystical cults. And finally the rumors about the Golden (as the Aelfir are called here), who come to this forgotten area for their interests.

It's not just a question of neighborhoods

In reading the chapters dedicated to the Spire neighborhoods, we also find sections dedicated to new Weapons, and new Equipment distributed in that specific area. Not only that, Strata also provides ready-to-use generic PNGs, such as the member of a certain gang, the ecoterrorist druid or the hungry farmer of the Garden District.

Another gem are the Scaglia Implants, small metal splinters. imbued with magic that some Drow insert into their body to change its physicality. In order not to miss anything in Strata we also find lists of possible allies of the Cult that can be found in the various neighborhoods, very useful for narrative connections or as a starting point for your own adventures.

Finally, but not least, we have the Extra Advances, scattered throughout the manual, which allow you to further customize and vary the characters.

The main Advances described are:

- the Artist: Aelfir poets, wizards and for the 'precisely more generally artists, focused on the light and the lattice of movable windows of the Ivory district. They are organized into various movements, each with its own specific manifesto.

- il Giornalista del Gazzettino: the press plays an important role in every society and in Spire it is no exception, especially in the Condotti where the main printing works

- the Druid of the Living Spire: they believe that Spire is a creature, a living being or something similar to this concept and they are convinced that there are signs to affirm that this organism is now ill.

- Former Boys Gang Member in Derelictus: neighborhood gangs are a mixture of an organized criminal gang and a mystical cult, with internal levels of secrecy.

10 Scenarios for You

Strata is very clear since the opening of this chapter: don't expect adventures prescribed and detailed in the smallest details with a rigid narrative structure. The stated goal is to provide all the tools necessary to start game sessions in a fast, but above all flexible way.

Generally speaking, an opening of the story is defined for each scenario, and an indication of the possible scenes that the characters might experience. Less experienced storytellers need not fear being disoriented, because everything is organized very well, between narrative hooks and suggested scenes, and no special efforts are required to manage the development of the plot while maintaining the necessary and fundamental freedom of table game.

What we particularly appreciated is the emphasis placed on the non-player characters (png) that appear in the scenarios. Strata provides us with the motivations that move NPCs, what in essence pushes them to act, what characterizes them, what they want and what they despise. In this way, characters are provided that have a thickness that helps the Narrator to manage them in the best way, even in a context where there is no rigid adventure that says what the tal png does at a given moment.

Another thing we have noted with pleasure is the indication at the beginning of each scenario of the "content warnings", which lists the possible sensitive topics to which the players could be exposed (harassment, murder, alcoholism, etc. ). This is an immediate and fast way to communicate with transparency any issues to which the players may be particularly sensitive, respecting all those who participate in the game session.

Game suitable for…

We recommend this manual to anyone who wants to learn more about the city of Spire, the dynamics of its inhabitants and the many mysteries that surround it. Equally recommended for those who need some ideas for new adventures (here you have 10 of them and each could give you the "the way" to start others made by you).


Let's say immediately that Strata is a supplement that we recommend that you make your own, not because it is absolutely essential (after all, the basic Spire - La CittĂ  Deve Cadere manual is already very exhaustive), but because each page provides ideas, inspiration and above all the desire to play it, and it is by no means a trivial matter. Not to mention that between weapons, equipment and Extra Advances, not only your stories will benefit, but also the variety of your characters.

The neighborhoods are well characterized, and provide all the elements to set your adventures , and if you have no idea where to start, the 10 scenarios included are the answer for you. You will hardly finish reading Strata without some idea to develop that bounces in your head, indeed, if anything, you will have many, because although Spire is a single city, each district has very distinct characteristics that distinguish it, becoming a sort of small game world .

Last but not least, the quality of the materials is in line with the good quality that we have already been able to appreciate in the basic manual.

It's time to start your revolution!

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