Swords of the Serpentine

A GUMSHOE roleplaying game of swords & sorcery!

by Kevin Kulp and Emily Dresner

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 investigation, 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!

14 Responses to “Swords of the Serpentine”

  1. Andy M. Young says:

    Yes, please. When may I give you all my money?

  2. Steve S. says:

    Looking forward to this!

  3. Raymond Bennett says:

    Can’t wait for this!

  4. Jason says:

    Oh wow.

    GUMSHOE just never stops being a pleasant surprise.

  5. Spence says:

    Sounds really interesting. I’ll be watching for more info on this one.

  6. Jakob says:

    This sounds exactly like what I’d been planning to home-brew a few years ago with gumshoe (I think I even have some .docs with untesteed ideas for how to handle fantasy armor, weaponry and magic). Nothing came of the project, so I’m really looking forward to this – sounds like I’ll get to play Gumshoe in a weird, sprawling fantasy metropolis after all!

  7. allan prewett says:

    Please include 1 on 1, thought.

    • Kevin Kulp says:

      Allan, you won’t see one-2-one rules there like you’d see in Cthulhu Confidential. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t play the game with one hero and one GM, though. I’ll go add some quick thoughts into the GM advice chapter on this, to make it easier for folks.

      • Stefano Gaburri says:

        Yes Kevin, do that please! I think Serpentine will be great with one GM and two players… I’m already channeling a Lankhmar vibe…

  8. Rich says:

    This sounds like a winner all around. I’ll definitely be looking forward to this!

  9. William says:

    How is this / will it be different from _Lorefinder_?

    • Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan says:

      Lorefinder just replaces a few F20 skills with GUMSHOE investigative abilities, but leaves everything else – combat, adventuring, magic, monsters and the like – unchanged. Swords of the Serpentine is GUMSHOE from nose to tail.

  10. gdave says:

    Are you planning a Kickstarter for this?

Leave a Reply