- GUMSHOE 101 – Kevin Kulp’s helpful overview of GUMSHOE.
- Giving Out Clues in GUMSHOE – GM-facing advice on the most central element of a GUMSHOE game.
- How to Read the Rules – A quick start guide to Swords of the Serpentine.
- Three Things About Eversink – An overview of the more flavourful aspects of the Swords of the Serpentine‘s city setting.
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 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!
- Exploring Bookhounds of Eversink – Kevin Kulp looks at five different ways you might set up a SotS Bookhounds game in Eversink.
- Strange Bedfellows: Manipulating Politics in Swords of the Serpentine – Kevin Kulp on the tools players can use to manipulate political factions.
- Social Combat in Swords of the Serpentine – Kevin Kulp explains the robust and fun social combat systems in Swords of the Serpentine that let you defeat a foe without laying a finger on them.
- The Cost of Corruption – Sorcery in Swords of the Serpentine – Kevin Kulp explains how sorcery is both narratively and mechanically expensive in Swords of the Serpentine.
- The Eversink Post Office – Emily Dresner with an article about The Great and Distinguished Eversink Guild of Letter Deliverers (aka the Post Office).
- The Iconic Hero: Fantasy Classics in Swords of the Serpentine – Kevin Kulp looks at modelling classic fantasy heroes, such as Robert E. Howard’s Conan.
- The Iconic Hero: Elric of Melniboné in Swords of the Serpentine – Kevin Kulp looks at two ways to play Michael Moorcock’s classic antihero.
- One-Hero Play: Two-Player Adventures in Swords of the Serpentine – Kevin Kulp on the changes needed during character creation for a one player, one GM game.
- Swords of the Serpentine guidelines – Collected guidelines Kevin Kulp and Emily Dresner used when writing the game.
- Why GUMSHOE for Swords & Sorcery? – Kevin Kulp on the match of system to setting in Swords of the Serpentine.
- Words of the Serpentine: Finishing the Book – Kevin Kulp on reviewing the print proofs and the home stretch.
- What Kind of Hero Are You? – Swords of the Serpentine has any number of ways to be a hero. Kevin Kulp looks at some of the options.
- Swords of the Serpentine Hero Generator – Matthew Breen’s online tool allows you to build a character from scratch, or randomly generate a starting template for inspiration. Export a finished sheet as a PDF, or create a short-form stat block.
- Four Heroes: Your Swords of the Serpentine source for pre-made heroes – Kevin Kulp’s short series featuring sample Heroes for each profession.
- Four Heroes 1 – Sentinel, Sorcerer, Thief and Warrior pre-generated characters.
- Four Heroes 2 – More Sentinel, Sorcerer, Thief and Warrior pre-generated characters.
- Four Heroes 3 – Six pre-gens, as used for The Dripping Throne adventure, featuring Sentinel, Sorcerer, Thief, Warrior, pre-gens along with two mixed profession preg-gens, Sorcerer / Thief, and Sentinel / Sorcerer / Thief.
- Download a blank character sheet for Swords of the Serpentine
- Download a blank character sheet in black and white for Swords of the Serpentine
- Download a blank character sheet with no background for Swords of the Serpentine
- Matthew Breen has designed some fantastic resources on his website:
- Swords of the Serpentine Hero Generator – Build a character from scratch, or randomly generate a starting template for inspiration. Export a finished sheet as a PDF, or create a short-form stat block.
- Adversary Builder – Create stat blocks for Adversaries and Monstrosities. Use existing Adversaries as a template, or start from scratch.
- Triskadane Deck – Deal a hand of cards to populate the Triskadane, Eversink’s secret ruling council. The membership of the council and their faction affiliations can help determine the political climate of the city.
- Name Generators – Generate names for people, professional societies, thieves’ guilds, and more.
- The Dripping Throne – An adventure seed for one or two game sessions by Kevin Kulp.
- Sin-drinker – An(other) adventure seed for one or two game sessions by Kevin Kulp.
- Rebellious Factions Part 1 – Kevin Kulp with advice, NPCs and adventure seeds using the first six of Swords of the Serpentine‘s factions.
- Rebellious Factions Part 2 – Kevin Kulp with advice, NPCs and adventure seeds using the first six of Swords of the Serpentine‘s factions.
- Eversink Villains – Over on her blog, Emily Dresner has a series of villainous ‘Sinkish NPCs, along with accompanying plot hooks:
- #01: Silvio Langella, Enemy of Stephanos Everywhere
- #02: Gaspar Bruni, Lord of the Hermitage Mailroom
- #03: Insanity Forrest, Mad Mage of the Sea
- #04: Ventura Rotunno, the Prince of Pants
- #05: The Cult of Vetyx, God of Riches and Honor
- #06: Clive the Barbarian Attacks!
- #07: The Nautilus
- #08: The Vampire of the Opera
- #09: The King of Harbor Approach
- Kevin Kulp runs Sots for ENWorld’s Morrus and Peter – PodBean link * YouTube link
- Kevin Kulp’s Twitter play-by-poll thread
- Twelve-Sided Stories’ Blades of Eversink follows the exploits of sellsword friends in the city of Eversink.
- Follow Commander Pulsar’s intrepid Denari’s Half Dozen on YouTube or Twitch
- Gnome Stew‘s Jared Rascher reviews SotS
- Zoar Game Geek‘s SotS review
- The Walking Mind – Rob Donahue’s SotS review
- SotS on RPG.net
- Twelve-Sided Stories talks with SotS writers Kevin Kulp and Emily Dresner
- Dicegeek talks SotS and giant shark movies with Kevin Kulp