Dagger in the Heart

Dagger in the Heart

A full-length adventure for Heart: The City Beneath RPG, written by Gareth Hanrahan and illustrated by Sar Cousins.
£174,087 🎉
of £25,000 (GBP) goal
Project Ended
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A banner that reads 'What is "Dagger in the Heart".

A rendered image of a book and GM screen, with some fake blood and dice. Both the cover and the book depict the delving machine (a bio-mechanical train) moving through the twisted and bloody organic world of the Heart.

You are caught in the wake of the Delving Machine: a device that bores through rock, blood, bone, space, time and reality, towards the scintillating terror of a crimson eternity.

As your journey progresses, you doomed delvers will encounter a trio of antagonists who each seek control of the machine to shape their ideal future: the arms dealer Ptolemy Bay, the aelfir politician Aramos, and The One Who Waits In Ashes, a ragged figure who appears all too familiar. You'll witness the dreadful impact of Zenith abilities – your Zenith abilities – on the places that they journey through. You'll venture via uncanny passages to Summersisle, home of the humans, on the eve of their greatest tragedy.

Dagger in the Heart is the first hardback sourcebook for Heart: The City Beneath, featuring a full-length campaign designed to take your gaming group to the Heart itself...
An image of a player character being consumed by a mass of grasping red tendrils as they try to flee. Text above them in red reads: Below, we die in the dark. Below, a red-lit heaven. Below, we ascend.

A banner reads: 'The Story'

A long illustration of a mural with text floating atop it. The mural depicts a stylized history of the creation of the Delving Machine. The text reads: When the Vermissian was built, they forged a shining machine, a machine to cut into the Heart. They called it the Delving Machine. The Vermissian lies cursed and sealed. But the Machine cuts still. Through the scab tissue of dead universes, through dreams and nightmares. Through infinity itself. Claim the machine. Steal destiny.
A header reads: The Opposition
You are not the only group searching for the Delving Machine. During your descent into the Heart, you'll encounter many opponents, the greatest of whom are:

An illustration of Ptolemy Bay, a muscled human with a wild, bright blue moustache. He is augmented with brass machinery, including robotic 4 fingered hands, pipes, and pistons. He is firing a massive chaingun and screaming. Text on the image reads: An amoral industrialist arms dealer who exploits the fumineous, chaotic magic of the Heart to power his nightmarish tools of war. Such weapons can only be constructed in the Heart, so there his factories lurk and spread, burning reality and bottling chaos. Forging guns that shoot the wrath of nameless gods. To him, the Delving Machine is a weapon, and the means of his great and terrible vengeance.

An illustration of Aramos Brightness-sears-the-eye, and aelfir man in a waistcoat leaning over a table full of paperwork and a large knife. He also wears a mask made of broken glass. Text reads: An arcanist genius, Aramos was once a chief engineer on the Vermissian project. However, where lesser minds saw a means of transit through the mile-high Spire, Aramos held loftier ambitions. With the power of the Heart, he sought to lay tracks through time and reality itself. In the wake of the Vermissian disaster, Aramos was disgraced, unmasked, and outcast. Yet his genius and patience are not so easily smothered. Now he is the patron of countless Delvers, who claw arcane secrets from the Heart for their master's machinations. In his hands, the Delving machine is a path to redemption, and rewriting history itself.

Illustration of The One Who Waits in Ashes, a hunched and hooded figure sitting cross-legged on the ground. They rest a large greatsword over their shoulder in one skeletal arm, while two other arms rest at their sides. The text reads: Who is the cult leader known only as The One Who Waits in Ashes? Why are they so intent on stopping your quest? Why do they seem so familiar? Who knows what The One Who Waits In Ashes will do if they seize the Delving Machine. Perhaps some fates are best left unspoken.


A banner reads: What is Heart?

A photograph of book for Heart: The City Beneath.

Heart: The City Beneath is a game about delving into a nightmare undercity that will give you everything you’ve ever dreamed of – or kill you in the process. It is a dungeon-crawling, story-forward tabletop RPG from the designers of Spire that focuses on what characters have to lose in pursuit of their dreams in the chaotic darkness beneath the world.

Since Heart was released in 2021, it has won seven ENies, including golds for Best Setting, Best Writing and Best Layout. It has sold over 7,000 copies, and graced (or cursed) many a table. Here are some comments from the players and reviewers of Heart:

Gloriously unhinged, grotesquely absorbing, fascinatingly atrocious... Rowan Rook and Decard should receive ALL the awards, but then be locked away for all time for the good of all society. – Ben C

It lets you play as an Occult Beehive, what more could you possibly want out of an RPG? – James

 A whirlwind of blood and good ideas. Come for lively, horrific dungeon crawling, stay for the soulful catharsis of self-destruction. – Brendan McLeod

The first time I played heart, my best friend vomited up a load of eels so evocatively, it caught on. Became the chic thing to do. Soon everyone was vomiting up eels, just for kicks. You want to play Heart. If you can’t trust me, a guy you’ve never met, who CAN you trust? – Alex Rinehart

A banner which reads: New to Heart? Click here to download free quickstart rules.
A banner reading: What we're making

The Dagger in the Heart crowdfunding campaign is focused on the creation of two new products: the Dagger in the Heart sourcebook and the Heart GM Screen.
A mockup render of the Dagger in the Heart book with fake blood splattered around it.

Dagger in the Heart is the first hardback sourcebook for Heart: The City Beneath. This new 144-page release is dripping with evocative prose from author Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, grotesque full-colour illustrations by Sar Cousins, and immersive layout by ENnie award-winning Mina McJanda.

Inside you can find a sandbox adventure that takes Delvers into the deepest recesses of the Heart in search of their destiny. Dagger in the Heart features:

  • Three major antagonists and their accompanying factions all vying for control in the depths that can be opposed, allied with, or betrayed.
  • New Beat sheets designed specifically for Dagger in the Heart, which allow players to chain their fates to the Heart and the Delving Machine.
  • Dozens of new creatures and NPCs to encounter, from eccentric Junk Mages to body-snatching insects known as flenslings, and worse horrors besides.
  • 40+ new landmarks to explore, overflowing with unique resources, fallouts, and potential plots to ensure every delve is distinct in its own beautiful and horrifying ways.
  • 20+ delves ready to use as the connective tissue that pulls your party inexorably towards the bleeding wound at the centre of reality.
  • And more secrets yet to be uncovered...
A page layout mockup of the Dagger in the Heart book

A header reading: The Gm Screen.

Supporters also have the opportunity to claim a brand new GM screen for Heart: The City Beneath.

The Heart GM Screen is a three-panel landscape screen which depicts the sprawling vista of the Below, where the Delving Machine itself cuts through reality to reach the centre of the Heart.

On the rear, you will find valuable advice, tables, and references for any game masters who seek to lead delvers into the deadly world of Heart.

Additionally, we have unlocked a stretch-goal which will add a 24 page booklet to the GM screen bursting with additional tables and references. Use the booklet on its own, or cut out the tables you need the most and stick them to the back of your screen to make your perfect GM screen (all physical copies will also come with a PDF of the booklet for those who don't want to cut up their booklet!)
A mockup render depicting the Heart GM Screen.
A banner reading: Rewards and Goals

A header reading: Pledge Levels

The following pledge levels are available during the crowdfunding campaign. Note that due to the unique nature of certain rewards, some pledge levels are limited in number (namely the Heartsblood and Original Art pledges).

If you don't see a specific collection of rewards that suits your dark desires, you can tailor your rewards to your liking by picking up additional add-ons during your pledge management.
An illustration which visualises the various pledge levels and their contents
A header reading: Add-ons

Since the release of Heart: The City beneath, several sourcebooks and resources have been crafted by talented creators to expand on the Heart and the stories you can tell there. If you want to squeeze more into your games of Heart, or pick up extra copies for your friends, you can include these as add-ons in your pledge.

You can find more information on each of these products on the Add-ons page, or our website.

An image visualising the various add-ons available in the campaign
A banner reading: Stretch goals

The deeper we delve, the more stretch goals we discover...

An illustration showing the progress towards various stretch goals. It is a hex grid map, with certain hexes marked with crosses to indicate they hide Stretch goals. The first ten hexes are revealed, with the first five (£25,000: Funded, £40,000: GM Screen Booklet, £55,000 More Art, £70,000 Cover Foiling, £85,000 Bookmarks, £100,000 More Pay, £125,000 Echo Edition,  £150,000 Actual Play Funding) filled in. The remaining reads. £180 Glistening Gore

£40,000: GM Screen Booklet [Reached!]

We will add a 24-page booklet to both physical and PDF versions of the GM screen. This booklet will be rammed full of additional reference materials and random tables that we couldn't fit on the back of the screen itself.

The booklet will feature tables to help you generate random delvers, ready to use environmental descriptions organised by Tier, trinkets and rubbish found in the depths, twisted fauna, weird Haven generators, and more. It will be your one-stop shop for fleshing out the world around you as you adventure.

Use the booklet as a separate reference, or cut out the tables you use the most and stick them to the back of your GM screen to make your own personal murderboard. Printable versions of the tables will also be included for those too squeamish to cut up the booklet itself.

An illustration of a Junkmage obsessing over Heart, they have attached lots of illustrations, newspaper clippings and string connecting them to a wall. They have smeared blood over the centre of the collection, their hands are covered in blood.

£55,000: More Art [Reached!]

While all the most important aspects of the adventure are already illustrated, this stretch goal allows us to commission Sar Cousins to produce additional illustrations to sprinkle throughout Dagger in the Heart like grim confetti. From monsters and NPCs to landmarks and resources, the book will be full of new life and death for you to feast your eyes upon.

An illustration depicting a strange creature with six eyes and eight fingered hands working at a console

£70,000: Cover Foiling [Reached!]

We will add gorgeous crimson foil to key areas of the Dagger in the Heart cover design. This will be applied to all physical versions of the Dagger in the Heart book at no extra expense to backers. This should give the book an extra lux vibe that makes people at the table say 'oooh' right before you begin playing and they start screaming 'aaah!'

£85,000 Bookmarks [Reached!]

We will create three different full-colour, card bookmarks for Dagger in the Heart. Not only will these help GMs keep track of various important parts of the book, each bookmark will also feature illustrations and mechanical references for one of the three major Oppositions in Dagger in the Heart (Aramos Brightness-sears-the-eye, Ptolemy-Bay, and The One Who Waits In Ashes). All three bookmarks will be added to all physical pledges, free of charge.

£100,000 Extra Pay [Reached!]

This stretch goal will allow us to set aside extra funds to give our freelance developers (Gareth and Sar) a lovely bonus. There are few better ways to show your appreciation for outstanding work.
 A drow in a run down junk-store is exchanging goods for coin with an individual wearing a sack cloth over their head

£125,000 Heart: The City Beneath, Echo Edition [Reached!]

Reaching this stretch goal will allow us to execute an update and full reprint of Heart: The City Beneath, including the creation of a new collectors edition, known as the Echo Edition. Like all echoes, these new editions of Heart are similar, but different. Warped by their time in the Heart and reflected back into your waiting hands.

Both new editions of Heart: The City Beneath will feature:
  • Integrated errata and layout tweaks to create the best version of Heart to date.
  • 4 additional pages of GM advice on creating Delves for your games (the most requested addition to date).
  • Subtle changes throughout the book for the discerning delver to uncover, such as quotes, messages, and cyphers from doomed souls who came before. 

The Echo Edition of Heart: The City Beneath will also feature:
  • A gorgeous quarter bound cover of faux-leather, cloth, and foil. This cover takes the original design from the first printing of the Heart collectors edition (pictured below), and twists it into an echo of itself, by changing the colour of the cloth to light blue and the foil to a crimson red, to set it apart from the first edition.

How will I get the new edition?
If we reach this stretch goal, all backers of this campaign who purchase a copy of Heart: The City Beneath will receive a an updated edition of the book free of charge (Physical or PDF based on your pledge).

How do I get a copy of the Echo Edition?
If your pledge does not already include a physical copy of Heart: the City beneath, you will be able to add one to your pledge using the Add-ons feature. Alternatively If your pledge already includes a physical copy of Heart: The City Beneath, you will be given the option to upgrade it to an Echo Edition during pledge management at a reduced cost.

The original Heart: The City Beneath collector's edition as proof of concept. Note the Echo Edition will use different coloured cloth and foil in its design.

£150,000 Actual Play Funding [Reached!]

If we reach this stretch goal, we will set aside funds to commission a professional actual play of Heart: The City Beneath. A high quality actual play is one of the most common requests we receive from the community, as it's one of the best ways to learn a new system, or share with your game group to get them excited to play. This money will let us do just that! 

£180,000 Glistening Gore

Have you ever felt like your Heart books could do with feeling a bit... wetter? Well we certainly have! And since we make the books, you have to deal with our strange urges! If we reach this stretch goal, we'll add extra glossy spot UV treatments to the cover of Dagger in the Heart, and the front side of the GM Screen, to really make it feel like you're running your fingers over the bleeding organs and writhing worms of the Heart itself. 

Further stretch goals will be revealed as we delve deeper...

A banner reading: The Project

A Header reading: The Team

Dagger in the Heart is a collaborative work dragged screaming into existence by the following individuals and/or inhuman entities.

A picture of Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Writer - He/Him

Gareth Hanrahan's three-month break from computer programming to concentrate on writing has now lasted twenty years and counting. He's written more gaming books than he can readily recall, by virtue of the alchemical transmutation of tea and guilt into words. Follow him on Twitskyadon as mytholder or at garhanrahan.com.

A picture of Sar Cousins, Artist, They/Them

Sar Cousins is a freelance illustrator based near Oxford. Their work focuses on sci-fi and fantasy with a particular love for weird oozing creatures and grotesque wet settings (they loved working on this project). Usually they are hunched over their desk in an inky mess furiously crafting comics and zines or also hunched over their desk playing TTRPGs with their long running campaign mates. However, sometimes they emerge from their nest to peddle their wares at small press events around the country. You can find their website/portfolio at sarcousins.co.uk, or follow them on social media at  twitter.com/6knifes or instagram.com/tocsidiser.

A picture of Minerva McJanda, layout, she/they

Minerva McJanda is a graphic designer, layout artist, game designer and font-hoarder based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You’ve probably have seen her ENnie award-winning layout work in Heart: The City Beneath, and possibly her award-snubbed work in LANCER, Voidheart Symphony, Hard Wired Island, and the 5th Anniversary Edition of Spire: the City Must Fall. She’s extremely excited to be returning to the world of Heart, and will soon get to work curving text around gribbly tentacles and daubing pages with digital grime. Check out her work at honeybatdesigns.myportfolio.com.

A picture of Elaine Lithgow, producer, she/her

Elaine Lithgow is a producer and game designer from the frigid wasteland known as ‘Scotland’. She is best known for her work on a frankly staggering number of RPG books set in the Warhammer universes (the fantasy kind with the elves, and the futuristic one with the skulls… and space elves), in addition to the post-apocalyptic fantasy heartbreaker Broken Weave. As a long-time lover of Heart, Elaine is buzzing with anticipation at the prospect of steering new delvers into the depths (any bees spotted in her proximity are entirely coincidental). You can follow Elaine’s enthusiastic ramblings on the sinking ship formerly known as Twitter at twitter.com/ElaineLithgow.

Pictures of Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor, Creators of Heart, He/him (Separately)

Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor combine together, mecha-like, to form a two-headed, eight-limbed entity that lives and works in Sheffield, England as a sort of games designer. The entity’s work to date includes Spire: The City Must Fall and Heart: The City Beneath; one of its heads (and two of its limbs) wrote Eat the Reich and, ages ago, Honey Heist. It enjoys smoking cigarettes, consulting thesauruses, and talking to itself. Read more of its work at rrdgames.com.
A header reading: Timeline

The initial text, illustrations, and playtesting for Dagger in the Heart are already in the bag, meaning we are off to a great start. However, making games is tough and full of surprises. Especially once you factor in stretch goals and polish.

With that in mind, we have provided our intended timeline for delivering your rewards. We ask that you temper this with our promise that any delays will be a result of our commitment to giving you the absolute best version of Dagger in the Heart and all other rewards.

  • March 2024: The crowdfunding campaign ends. 
  • April–May 2024: PDF previews for Dagger in the Heart and the GM screen are made available to backers.
  • June–July 2024: Final files are proofed and sent to printers. 
  • August–September 2024: Physical fulfilment of backer rewards begins.
A header reading: Shipping

Shipping costs will be calculated during fulfilment and vary based on your chosen rewards, their combined weight, and your location. To help you plan for this, we have provided some estimated shipping costs for various rewards.
A graphic indicating the estimated shipping cost of various pledges. UK and USA prices are between £7 and £10, EU prices are between £15 and £25. AU and NZ prices are between £11 and £13. Rest of the World is between £25 and £40

Important Note: Shipping costs may change based on factors beyond our control. Such as freight cost changes, inflation, or wildcard freighter captains blocking the Suez Canal.
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