Swords of the Serpentine: The Adventurer’s Edition pre-order

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.

Pre-order the Adventurer’s Edition of Swords of the Serpentine now, and get a free limited edition colour map of Eversink with your book!

Pre-order the Adventurer’s Edition now

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!
Stock #: PELGSS01 Author: Kevin Kulp, Emily Dresner
Cover Art: Jérôme Huguenin Format: Full colour hardback book, ~320 pages

Pre-order the Adventurer’s Edition now

116 Responses to “Swords of the Serpentine: The Adventurer’s Edition pre-order”

  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?

  11. Colin Chapman says:

    Does the Sinking City or game itself have a particular iconic symbol, e.g. a sword crossed with a snake? Just thinking ahead to ordering some custom d6s.

    • Kevin Kulp says:

      This is the coolest question I’ve been asked all week. Eversink’s flag is a blue pennant with a swan swimming over a golden coin (that might also be a pond). So a swan (you can see an example on the tower above!) or a coin would be *perfect*.

      • Colin Chapman says:

        Thanks, mate. So, I’m thinking that Chessex Gemini Blue-Gold with White ink, the 6 replaced with a swan symbol, would be ideal.

  12. STORN COOK says:

    Color me very intrigued!!!

    I would love to have a great S&S system to delve into as I’m a fan of the genre. I look forward to a corruption/sorcery system, that seems very in-genre.

    And if ya need art, I always love doing S&S art and don’t get the chance at it very often. (stornart.com)

    • Kevin Kulp says:

      Storn, you have no idea how delighted this makes me. Your work defined more than a decade of monthly superhero (MnM and ICONS) RPGs for us; you have art of one hero in a robotic body with a fishbowl for a head (Dr. Pisces, maybe?) that inspired one of the funniest games we ever played. So thank you.

      • Storn says:

        Awww… that is so nice to read! Yeah, fishbowl head guy was for a private commission and it came out really fun! Love hearing that my art helped inspire others in their games.

  13. STORN COOK says:

    One thing I was musing on, is that culture is a big deal in the Conan books. A Pict is different than a Cimmerian. An Aquilonian is different than a Hyrkanian. Now, I contend that REH was painting with a big brush in his stories to get across the idea of what a Pict or Cimmerian was with broad strokes in the sake of economy of words.

    When I was thinking of doing an S&S based game, I came at culture in this way. It is what the rest of the world thinks of your tribe, country, city-state etc…. not necessarily what the character thinks/feels. This allows the players to play against type. I could play a Cimmerian who has wandered south, who loves art and draws/drafts well, keeps a travelogue and likes “civilization” and the conversations with folks that would drive our prototypical Cimmerian, Conan, to boredom.

    Lastly, when it comes to social conflict, I think culture can play a HUGE part in that. (and I love me some social conflict, loved Burning Wheel for precisely that!).

    I’m wondering if culture is going play a part in Eversink?

    • Kevin Kulp says:

      Culture (and more importantly, loyalties) is a Big Damn Deal ™ in this game. Who you’re allied to, and who hates you, comes into play in every game. The culture for Eversink itself is really well defined. It’s further reinforced by Drives, which are expressed by answering the question “what three things are best in life?”

      As a default, foreign culture is lumped into the category “Outlanders” (in part because that’s how ‘Sinkish citizens tend to see anyone from outside the city — either you have friends with those damn foreigners, they have a grudge against you, or you don’t care about them either way). “Outlander” comprises folks from more than 8 detailed countries, and I have really easy guidelines that show you how to break out Allegiances with specific countries when you need to be more specific.

      Emily and I haven’t specifically broken down personality and cultural traits for each foreign country we talk about; that might be fun fodder for a supplement.

      • STORN COOK says:

        Awesome!!! Sounds like you have a track that I am very interesting in seeing. I really look forward to reading your game.

        I have a follow up question; is there a quick and easy way to handle npc followers, companions and hirelings?

        The reason I ask is I’m musing upon doing a Sword and Sorcery mercenary campaign… a way to have my 3 players lead a band of colorful characters into various scraps… somewhat influenced by Battle Brothers PC game… but not get bogged down in too much dice rolling and tracking.

        • Kevin Kulp says:

          Yes, although I don’t specifically address it in the book (I may want to). You’d build a hireling or companion the same way you’d build a supporting character or an adversary – a pretty simple stat block that only requires tracking one ability instead of a bunch. Supporting characters use fixed attack bonuses that can be supplemented in a pinch, and have a handful of special abilities that represent their capabilities. You’ll be left with someone as capable as you want them to be, but with no risk of getting bogged down in minutiae.

          Neat question.

  14. STORN COOK says:

    That one thread was starting to run off and get some words cut, but I just wanted to say that your last reply seemed very promising in terms of tracking and stats for allied NPCs.

  15. Stefano Gaburri says:

    STORN, you an press CTRL-U to view the source and look for the post in the resulting jumble (I looked for “supporting character” with CTRL-F and found it right away). Anyway, here’s Kevin’s text in its entirety:

    Yes, although I don’t specifically address it in the book (I may want to). You’d build a hireling or companion the same way you’d build a supporting character or an adversary — a pretty simple stat block that only requires tracking one ability instead of a bunch. Supporting characters use fixed attack bonuses that can be supplemented in a pinch, and have a handful of special abilities that represent their capabilities. You’ll be left with someone as capable as you want them to be, but with no risk of getting bogged down in minutiae.
    (end quote)

  16. Jenny Twobit says:

    As much as I’m looking forward to this game I’m hoping that Pelgrane can do it justice with regards to the art. Some Pelgrane books have been a bit hit or miss and, as someone who can be put off by the look of the book, I really hope they get this one right.

  17. Bradley CLARK says:

    I am looking forward to this. I haven’t been able to determine if this is “flintlock fantasy” or otherwise and if not will there be any sort of ruleset to allow black powder into the game? My other question is when…..when….whemn???

  18. Nicholas Fagundo says:

    I agree with @Andy M. Young.
    My family were some of the playtesters and we had a blast. When can we give you our money? When this comes out it’s definitely going into our collection. An awesome game

  19. Ben says:

    Can I run a “Dishonored-y” game with this?

    • Kevin Kulp says:

      Hey Ben —

      The world of Dishonored is far more steampunk and industrial than Eversink is. You could easily run with the concept of stealthy magical assassins who can sense thoughts, and that character concept is really easy to build, but you’d need to hack the setting to get the right world feel. (If you haven’t, do take a look at John Harper’s superb RPG Blades in the Dark. I understand that the setting is far closer to Dishonored.)

      • Colin Chapman says:

        Hey Kevin. Will be getting some gold plastic swan-shaped tokens to use with SotS. They’re super cheap and come engraved with a short sentence of my choice (they’re actually intended as wedding charms/scatters). I was thinking, “Gold is Denari’s Fortune.” Does that sound appropriately Sinkish?

        • Kevin Kulp says:

          Colin, that’s amazing. I’d love to see the link!

          I like your saying, too. I’m batting around “Every coin is a prayer” or something similar, but I think I like yours more.

          • Colin Chapman says:

            Thanks, Kevin. Let me know what you go with and I’ll create the tokens with the phrase on them. I found them on AliExpress with the title “60 Pcs Personalized Laser Engraved Gold Silver Mirror Swan Customize Baby Shower Birthday Wedding Party Table Decor Centerpieces” and the price and option to have them inscribed seemed too useful to ignore. Gold-backed plastic swans with a short prayer to Denari just struck me as perfect tokens for the game.

      • Ben says:

        Thanks, Kevin! My question was less about the setting and more about if characters such as Corvo, Emily and Daud are plausible, such as their powers. Like sorcery in SotS is, the gifts of the Outsider are forbidden and dangerous. I’m very interested in perhaps, if possible, running a 1-on-1 game featuring a highly skilled (and possibly magical) thief. And I do know Blades very well! Thank you for suggesting it nonetheless.

        • Kevin Kulp says:

          Ben, you’re right on track. The setting would fit really smoothly into what you’re describing. That 1 on 1 game with a magical thief seems incredibly fun. I’d probably build them with high Stealth and Burglary, and with ranks of City Secrets, Scurrilous Rumors, Skullduggery, Forgotten Lore, and Corruption (including the sphere of shadow). Maybe a rank of Ridiculous Luck as well? That’d be incredibly fun in a one person game, especially if you invest some ranks in Allegiances so you can single-handedly manipulate (or ask favors from) the power groups who are running the city.

      • Ben says:

        Thanks for the reply, Kevin! I should elaborate and say that I wasn’t expecting (nor wanting) a full-on Dishonored feel in the setting but in the characters, which you answered in the affirmative it seems, so that’s awesome! In my mind I see more Gentlemen Bastards/Dusk City Outlaws in the criminal aspects of SotS and characters can be like Garret or Corvo sans The City/Duskwall insofar as incredible skill and dangerous magics. Am I off here?

  20. James Walker says:

    I am interested in pre-ordering this because it sounds awesome, but you have gotten on rpg.net and other sites I think extolling this game’s system and interactions and hacking it for superheroes or other genres.

    How is it to hack this for other genres?

    • Kevin Kulp says:

      Thanks! We’ll open up pre-orders once we know exactly how many pages it will be, so that won’t be until it’s laid out in the first part of next year.

      And the answer is “quite easy”. I hacked it for 1930s Pulp heroes this summer by changing a few ability names; I skew towards designs that are easily adaptable. And you can adapt this for a different fantasy setting with great ease, just by changing a few core assumptions.

  21. John Ward says:

    Kevin, you are killing me. My money is RIGHT HERE! Just take it!

  22. Spence says:

    So, any news? Timelines? Guesses? Info? Anything :)

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hey Spence. Our current estimate for this is late July/early August 2020. Thanks, Becky.

      • 8bitninja says:

        Is that for the final printed book? Any possibility we’d see a pdf earlier than that?

        • Becky Smith says:

          That is for the print book and accompanying PDF. The stand-alone PDF will be available for purchase 3 months after the print book is released. Thanks, Becky.

  23. Colin Chapman says:

    Do we know who’ll be doing the interior art?

  24. Kevin Denehy says:

    I’d like to pre-order the “Adventurer’s Edition”, but I can’t tell if it’s a different version or just what I get when I pre-order. Can someone tell me how I’d know the difference? Or is the pre-order edition the adventurer’s edition?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Kevin. This is exactly the same version of the book, it just means anybody who pre-orders this (including those who have already pre-ordered and new pre-orders) will get a bonus limited edition Eversink colour poster map with their book. Thanks, Becky.

  25. Dan Hertogs says:

    Hi, is the ‘pre-layout PDF’ (part of the pre-order) liekly to be out any earlier than the print version? and how do timings stand overall with teh pandemic? The order still says 31 May for the pdf, but presumably that’s long since outdated.


    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Dan. The PDF was due to be released on 31st May, but this will be released with the next See Page XX, which is due today. The print book will be another 3-4 months. Thanks, Becky.

  26. Greg says:

    I was hoping to see the PDF today. Any news?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Greg. I’m sorry the PDF wasn’t released on 31st May as advertised. This will be released with the next See Page XX, which is due today. Thanks, Becky.

      • Colin Simmonds says:

        Sorry – I’m confused! Was the next Page XX due on 1st June? Or is the pre-layout PDF available from somewhere else? A realistic update would be very much appreciated. Really looking forward to this! Thank you.

        • Becky Smith says:

          Hi Colin. The latest See Page XX has been delayed, but anybody who has pre-ordered Swords of the Serpentine will find the pre-layout PDF on their bookshelf under the ‘Downloads’ tab. Thanks, Becky.

          • Colin Simmonds says:

            Ah, the BOOKSHELF! Thank you! I’m new here, and don’t know how everything works. I’ve found it now. Thank you again!

          • Becky Smith says:

            Hi Colin. If you’re unsure how anything works on the bookshelf just drop me a message to support@pelgranepress.com and I can assist you further. Thanks, Becky.

  27. Stefano Gaburri says:

    Hi guys. I did the preorder and it reads: “Pre-layout PDF available 31 May”, but I have nothing in my downloads. Any news?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Stefano. I’m sorry the PDF wasn’t released on 31st May as advertised. This will be released with the next See Page XX, which is due today. Thanks, Becky.

      • Just Here says:

        I was wondering why I didn’t get the PDF when I purchased it this morning. Thanks for the clarification, Becky.

  28. Pnick says:

    I know this is in pre-layout but can we have a look at the interior art in some way? I’d like to pre-order but would like to see what the inside of the book is likely to look like first.

  29. Sean says:

    Hey there: is the pre layout PDF now available? If so, I’ll purchase today!

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Sean. If you pre-order Swords of the Serpentine the pre-layout PDF will be added your bookshelf. Thanks, Becky.

  30. neil taylor says:

    I felt it was time to get in a pre-ordrr, as with LeisureGames listing it, it “must” be getting nearer.

    but now the accompanying PDF is still the pre-layout draft… any hints as to when you will actually go to press, or to deliver books?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Neil. There was an update regarding Swords of the Serpentine in the latest See Page XX. This is currently in layout, although layout has been paused while the final file is being reviewed. I’m unable to confirm when this will be released, though. Thanks, Becky.

  31. Shawn Barrick says:

    I see discussion that the game has been released – how do I get the pdf? Does “Adventurer’s Edition” imply that a different version of the game in coming?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Shaun. The print edition hasn’t been released yet, however if you pre-order the book the pre-layout PDF will be added to your bookshelf. The Adventurer’s Edition is just a pre-order bonus of a limited edition Eversink colour poster map that will come with the book. There is only one version of the game. Thanks, Becky.

  32. Cypress says:

    Is it possible to purchase the PDF alone, without a copy of the physical book? I don’t exactly need more physical objects knocking around my home at the moment, but I’d very much like to check this out.

    • Becky Smith says:

      You will be able to purchase the PDF alone, but the only PDF currently available is the pre-layout version that anybody who has pre-ordered the book will receive. The stand-alone PDF is usually released 3 months after the print book, but some PDFs have been released earlier this year due to the pandemic. Thanks, Becky.

  33. A patron mentioned he’s planning on commissioning a review of this. Is it reasonable to tell him I should have the book in hand by late September?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi James. We don’t currently have a release date for this, so I’m unable to confirm you may have this in hand by the end of September. Becky.

  34. Adam says:

    Hello there. I can’t see anywhere any information about the size or dimensions of the preorder bonus map. Is that detail known yet?


  35. Jamie says:

    Just watched the GenCon talk, this game sounds better every time I hear you talk about it. Thanks to everyone involved for making the first fantasy game I’ve been interested in playing/running for decades ! Can’t wait for the physical release.

  36. Greg S says:

    I received the pre-order PDF a while ago. I haven’t been able to put a group together to play this yet, but just reading the PDF has rekindled by enthusiasm for the genre.

  37. RCPS says:

    Could we get an update on the progress of this book, please? It seems to have hit some kind of snags, and it would be useful to get some details and honest estimates. Once you start taking money, I would say regular updates become a must…

    • Becky Smith says:

      Regular updates are provided for forthcoming titles in the View From The Pelgrane’s Nest section of See page XX. However, we’re working on so many projects there isn’t enough room to provide an update for each forthcoming title every month. With regards to this title, we are currently advertising for artists for this. Regards, Becky.

  38. Sean Carroll says:

    Curious: what’s the latest on this? Can we expect it this year—the finished PDF, at least?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Sean. Regular updates regarding the progress of forthcoming releases are provided in the View From The Pelgrane’s Nest section of See Page XX. I’m unable to provide a release date, but we have just advertised for artists to work on this. Thanks, Becky.

  39. Mike Ferdinando says:

    Hi! I’m running a SotS one-shot at a small online con in about two weeks. I’ve run “Corpse Astray” four times now (and played through it once) and I’m getting a little bored with running the same scenario over and over [even though it tends to play out completely differently each time]. I have heard that there are a few other convention one-shot SotS scenarios available… how would one go about getting one or more of those?

  40. Neal Dalton says:

    Hello, I was wondering if there is an update on how SotS is coming along? There hasn’t been a View from Pelgrane’s Nest this month from what I see. Any information would be great.

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Neal. As a small company with limited resources we can get very busy, especially when we’re working away on a number of different forthcoming releases. Putting together See Page XX takes quite a lot of work, so if we’re super busy, it isn’t always possible to publish a See Page XX each month.

      We have recently advertised for an artist for the cover for SotS, and we didn’t expect to be swamped by pushing 500 applications for this. So we’re pushing through on getting this ready to publish. Thanks, Becky.

  41. Cory Magel says:

    So, it’s been around six months since I pre-ordered, and was charged, for this. A status update would be nice.

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Cory. We don’t currently have a release date for this at the moment. We put out a call for artists and received over 400 responses. Going through so many portfolios slowed down the art process, so we’re not as far along with this project as we would like to be. Thanks, Becky.

  42. Sean says:

    Will we see this one in 2021?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Sean. Yes, this will be released this year, sooner rather than later. Thanks, Becky.

      • James Nicoll says:

        We’re now almost half-way through 2021. Any idea when SotS will see print?

        • Becky Smith says:

          Hi James. There was an update on this in April’s See Page XX. We’ve had some further setbacks with this, with two artists having deaths in their close family. At the time of publishing (20th April) we were hoping to get the final PDF to pre-orderers in the next See Page XX. Becky.

  43. Paul says:

    So the latest “See Page XX:” – 22 Feb, has a link directing readers to pre-order this item. Does this mean that you now have a better idea of the release date?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi Paul. This has been available on pre-order for a while now. The book is nearly finished, so we’re hoping to get it to print soon. Thanks, Becky.

  44. Neal Dalton says:

    Is there any update available on the final PDF of the book?

  45. Adam Laforet says:

    Hi, I pre-ordered the game and am still very excited about the release. I may need to change the address where I want the actual book delivered since I’m moving. How do I go about that, should it be necessary?

  46. “Jails usually hold people waiting for their court date, not those who have already been convicted, since convicts are usually executed, exiled, branded, or conscripted.” (p. 296)

    Fines would seem to be the obvious punishment in Denari’s city. But they are mentioned only once and in passing, on. p- 278, when you discuss unlicensed vendors. An oversight?

  47. References to the cardinal points in the text are confused. On p. 287, west is down on the map (the Waiting Tree). On p. 305, west is up on the map (because Sag Harbour is described as the easternmost part of the city). On p. 311, west is probably up on the map again because Harbour Approach seems to be the city’s main seafront harbour. But on p. 312, west is towards the top left corner on the map (the Arsenal).

    The map itself, meanwhile, does not have a clear north arrow. North can be either up or down depending on how you read the compass rose.

  48. John says:

    When is this going to be printed?

    • Becky Smith says:

      Hi John. The latest update regarding this was in the most recent See Page XX, published 20th April. We’re hoping to get the final PDF to pre-orderers in the next See Page XX. Becky.

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