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Swords of the Serpentine

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A GUMSHOE roleplaying game of swords & sorcery!

When it’s summer, you smell her before you see her. As you come around the curve of the Serpentine river the scent of the open sea is replaced by the stench of low tide, of boat tar, of rare spices spilled from a smuggler’s ship; of cooking smoke and human waste. Bells ring out across the water and echo like the song of ghosts, loud enough to almost drown out the chanted prayers of your ship’s rowers.

You round the bend past the lower fort and there she is: the great city of Eversink, sprawled out on scores of islands across the sheltered water. Her jeweled and crystal turrets are reflected in a shimmering bay full of hundreds of brightly colored boats. Architecture from a dozen eras towers above a tangle of grand plazas and narrow canals. Temples to her goddess rise above the mansions and tenements, calling her people to prayer. She may be ancient and corrupt, slowly and inexorably swallowed by an endless bog; but she’s alive in a way most cities aren’t. She’s a melding of faith and stone and wood and water – and mud – that’s unique in all the world. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve come to kill a rival, earn a fortune, learn a secret, or hire an army. You’re home now, and the Sinking City will embrace you. All you need to do is survive.

Swords of the Serpentine is a sword & sorcery game of daring heroism, sly politics, and bloody savagery, set in a fantasy city rife with skullduggery and death. The rules adapt the GUMSHOE investigative roleplaying system to create a fantasy RPG with a focus on high-action roleplaying and investigation inspired by the stories of Fritz Leiber, Terry Pratchett, Robert E. Howard, and others.

Your characters will discover leads that, if followed, propel them headlong into danger and forbidden knowledge. A lead might point the way to sunken treasure, jungle ruins, the missing key to a sorcerous trap, or the true identity of a notorious murderer. The GUMSHOE game mechanics ensure that you’ll always notice leads if you look for them. It’s up to you to choose which one you'll follow into whatever perils lie ahead, in hopes of fortune, glory, justice, or just staying alive another day.

If you want to track down foul sorcerers in a corrupt and decadent city, clamber through underground ruins to sneak into an enemy’s home and rob them, or wage a secret war against a rival political faction, you’re in the right place.

Swords of the Serpentine offers:

  • A fantasy city of mystery and magic inspired by Lankhmar and Ankh-Morpork
  • Tools for fast and effective character creation
  • A customized combat system that opens the door for cinematic, heroic battles
  • Social combat that targets your enemy's morale, letting you defeat some foes through wit, guile, and threats
  • Sorcery that allows you to rip apart a tower with the flick of a hand—but are you willing to pay the price in corruption to body and soul?
  • Powerful allegiances that give you influence in one or more factions across the city, but which can earn you equally powerful enemies...
  • Streamlined abilities that power four distinct types of heroes, and which you can mix-and-match across professions to customize your character further
  • Gameplay and rules mechanics that encourage players to help build the world they're adventuring in
  • Rules for death curses, true names, alchemy, sorcerous items, ghostly possession, political manipulation, and more
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Reviews (1)
Discussions (5)
Customer avatar
VALENTINOS K September 27, 2022 4:17 am UTC
That you could do a fantasy-noir or swashbuckling game with this system is very clear from the get-go, but would you say it would translate well in doing Thief (the videogame) style campaigns?

And finally: are there any plans for a quickstart?
Customer avatar
Janek S September 23, 2022 8:23 pm UTC
How does this game play with larger (5-6 player) groups? I've run a few ToC adventures and noticed that with larger groups there are always points for everything and generally something rattled in the gears.
Also: is there something like stability/sanity system here?
Are there a lot of examples of rules inuse ? Maybe a longer piece with sample combat/chase/ social conflict somewhere online?
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Customer avatar
Janek S September 25, 2022 7:24 pm UTC
Nevermind, I've bought the book and already read it. Abandoning my current campaign and starting a SoS game next week.
Customer avatar
Justin W September 14, 2022 8:14 am UTC
PURCHASER
I am loving this! My favourite types of campaign are city based so I could easily see using this for WFRP, Ankh-Morpork or possibly Port Blacksand from the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks of my youth. As this setting is human-centric, how would you treat different species using this system?
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Customer avatar
Greg S September 14, 2022 4:43 pm UTC
It would be pretty easy to just hand-wave player species in. If you look at articles for this game on the Pelgrane site, they have a sample character that is literally a sentient magical sword.
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Customer avatar
Kevin K September 14, 2022 5:11 pm UTC
Co-author here! I'll add to Greg's comment by saying that a personal design goal was to let me use the system for Ankh-Morpork in my own home game, so you should find it a great fit. We have rules coming out this next month (Sept-Oct 22) for non-human heroes in Swords of the Serpentine. Those will first be available on Pelgrane's Patreon, and then will appear on its blog See Page XX over at Pelgrane's website. While we're only releasing one non-human Ancestry per month (I have about 26 written), the very first article shows you how to design your own for home use.
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Customer avatar
Justin W September 14, 2022 5:24 pm UTC
PURCHASER
All of that is quite awesome! To the Patreon!
Customer avatar
Callahan K September 06, 2022 5:56 am UTC
Due to DTRPG's review policy, I am unable to place my review on this page since I purchased the the PDF+Print bundle directly through Pelgrane. That being said, were I able to, I would readily and eagerly give this game a rating of five stars. I was admittedly hesitant when I first heard that Swords of the Serpentine would use a modified GUMSHOE engine for the mechanical basis of its gameplay, however I can definitely say that my fears have been completely assuaged and replaced with excitement at the incredible depth of both possibility and creativity present within this game. This game perfectly encapsulated what I love to see in fantasy games, and finally delivered a system that can expertly accommodate many settings and adventures I simply can't replicate with other systems. Well done to everyone involved.
Customer avatar
Callahan K September 05, 2022 6:03 am UTC
Hello! I've been eagerly anticipating the release of this game, and have been unable to find definitive information on one of my key concerns: Can this rpg be used with a homebrew setting of my own creation? As in, can the setting of Eversink be entirely removed to be be substituted with a world of island landmasses and coastal cities similar to Earthsea? I'm sure Eversink is an amazing setting from what I've seen, I just enjoy setting my games in my own settings. I'm also curious as to how well the system can handle overland travel and exploration when compared to conventional fantasy tabletop rpgs. Thank you so much for your time.
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Customer avatar
Kevin H September 05, 2022 12:13 pm UTC
Yes it can! While the setting is well fleshed-out, the book talks quite a bit about how you can just use the game in your own homebrew world.
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Customer avatar
Kevin K September 05, 2022 8:48 pm UTC
Co-author here. You'll have no trouble using the core rules in a different setting; it's designed for separating rules-from-setting or setting-from-rules, and there's advice in the GM chapter for doing so.

Overland travel is handled with travel montages, interspersed with action or RP scenes.
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Customer avatar
Callahan K September 05, 2022 11:57 pm UTC
Wow, thank you both so much for the speedy and informative replies! I'm happy to hear about the system and setting versatility. This is definitely a winner for me, then!
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Product Information
Silver seller
Rule System(s)
Pages
392
ISBN
978-1-912324-29-3
Publisher Stock #
PELGSS01D
File Size:
421.7 MB
Format
Original electronic
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File Last Updated:
September 01, 2022
This title was added to our catalog on September 01, 2022.