A downloadable game

Buy Now$12.00 USD or more

A card-based story game of wretched scoundrels and patient revenge for 2-4 players.

Interested in writing your own playsets for The Slow Knife? Check out this handy little wiki I made :)

The Slow Knife is inspired by stories like The Count of Monte Cristo, where a simple death is too good for all those years the villains took from their victim. This isn't a John Wick-style action flick, no—this is curt whispers over fine wine, jewelled masks of jade and bone, half-buried scandals and half-heard truths, and yes - sometimes - a quiet blade in the dark.

You'll establish a promising young soul whose life is ruined by a handful of grasping scoundrels, then you'll tell the decades-long story of the victim's overdue and inevitable vengeance. You'll tell this story from the perspective of the villains, with the protagonist - The Knife - moving in the shadows or behind disguises.

You'll answer card prompts about your villain's life as you add notes and connections to a pinboard of sin and scandal.

Yes, an actual pinboard!

These prompts are split into four acts to help guide your story to a satisfying conclusion. As you progress through these acts you'll also tell the story of The Knife as they rise from depraved captivity to high society and begin to enact their revenge.

By the end of the game you'll have constructed the conspiracy that destroys your wretched character as they find themselves broken and utterly ruined, face-to-face with The Knife for one last reckoning.

Then, as the sun rises on a land free of those avaricious scoundrels, you'll consider what solace - if any - The Knife might find for the rest of their days.

the game

The Slow Knife is a roleplaying game - in that you're playing the role of one of the villains - but it doesn't demand much from you in terms of improvised oration or dramatic narration. Even if you've never played an RPG before, this game is designed to make your first experience with the hobby a great (and comfortable) one. All you need is a love of good stories and a willingness to ask curious questions. If you're a seasoned RPG player, maybe with a long-running D&D campaign, this would be a great game to play if someone can't turn up one week or you're looking for a break between campaigns—simple, self-contained and zero prep. And of course if you're already on board with playing a bunch of unique, often-strange story games, well then you know what's good already!

At the core of the game is a 52-card deck of prompts that asks probing, establishing questions about your villainous characters and their dishonourable lives. You'll take turns answering from this deck, building out the story of your character as you pass through the years. After resolving each card, you'll consider the board in front of you and add cards and connections to reflect what you've added to the story.

Some of the cards from the game

The board is the other major component of the game. As you progress through the game your host of characters and events will swell—the board is how you record that information so you can maintain and complete story beats. It's also a really fun artefact of play, something you can imagine hanging on the wall of your single-minded protagonist.

A board from an early playtest

By the time you reach the fourth and final act, you'll have a knotty web of cheap lies, bad blood and dirty money that The Knife can twist and expose to exact their revenge.

When your story is complete, you could even use the rich world you've built as a setting for a story in another game, taking place as the dust settles from your explosive finale.

the deck

The Slow Knife is inspired by games like For the Queen that are rules-lite enough to start playing immediately. Since you always proceed through setup in the same order, I'm providing a simple booklet to teach you the game step-by-step as you play. This, along with a guided setup process that takes you through the creation of your world and characters, means that you don't have to do any kind of prep going into a game—just open the box and get going.

Here's what you get:

  •  52 act cards, split into 4 sets.
  •  4 act opening cards, to set up and explain the 4 acts.
  •  4 conspirator cards, that you'll use to end the game.
  •  32-page rules booklet to teach you the rules & set up your game.
  •  28-page prelude booklet to set up your story and create characters.
the playsets

So, the box has everything you need to play a game of The Slow Knife. 

But sometimes you don't want to spend an hour of your evening (or more, if your group is anything like mine!) building a world & characters from scratch. So, I've also written three playsets that will provide an original, pre-written setting and define all the major characters of your story—the Knife, your villains and the setting itself. These playsets are designed to be a quicker experience than the 'from scratch' approach in the box, and they will fill your story with beats and possibilities that make starting play effortless.

You'll get:

  • The Count of Saint-Lazare, set in Revolutionary France & inspired by the work of Alexandre Dumas & Victor Hugo.
  •  Arcadia Prime, a sci-fi playset that takes place on a wealthy space station above a dying Earth.
  •  The Lament of Broken Glass, which blends Tolkien's elves with the Carnival of Venice to produce a stylish story of crowns and conspiracy.

I hope you enjoy the game!

Thanks so much to all of the playtesters that helped make this the best possible version of The Slow Knife imaginable, especially the Discord crew and my ever-patient friends.
CategoryPhysical game
Rated 4.9 out of 5 stars
(39 total ratings)
AuthorJack Harrison
GenreRole Playing


Buy Now$12.00 USD or more

In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $12 USD. You will get access to the following files:

00 - Introduction.txt 616 bytes
01 - The Slow Knife.zip 25 MB
02 - Playsets.zip 18 MB
03 - Playing Online.txt 2 kB

Community Copies

Support this game at or above a special price point to receive something exclusive.

Community Copy

Claim a free copy of The Slow Knife if you are marginalised/in need. Copies will be limited but I'll be adding more here as people donate.

Donate a Community Copy

For $24 you'll get a copy of The Slow Knife and donate a copy of the game for others to claim. 


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(1 edit)

Hi Jack,

I can't seem to find the book version between the files anymore. I got access by ordering a physical copy as part of the Koriko crowdfunding.

Am I looking in the wrong place?

Hello ! I was wondering when does the boxed version (with cards) will come out ? it is just written "preorder" on your website 

Is there a way to get a physical copy of this?

You can preorder the book version here:


The card version is no longer in print

(3 edits)

I ran this for five players and we had a great time - we played online and i modified one of the playset miro boards so we could do our own setup, really appreciated that you have created such good online tools for the game. If not using a playset, budget in an extra 45 minutes to an hour for the setup phase, we went for about 4.5 hours total including a couple of breaks. It was such a good game; we decided we were elves living on a floating city above a flooded world vying for control over the trade routes and skyships with our jail buried in the depths of the sea, and we tore ourselves to pieces so efficiently the Knife barely needed to do anything.

The only bit I initially had an issue with was using the cards online, since my brain had difficulty with the idea of mapping them to a normal deck suggested in the online play tools and I wanted people to be able to read their own prompt cards. I made a playingcards.io room with all the cards uploaded into it and I think it works pretty well - happy to share if you would like it.

Hey! Thanks for sharing, sound amaaaazing! I love it when the villains basically screw themselves—that’s certainly by design :)

I’d love a version of the online tools that included the cards, but nothing really worked as intended at the time. I keep looking for alternatives that might let me do the whole thing, though!

The ones you have are really great, I don't know what else you could have done. The playincards.io room worked well for us though, hopping between the two tabs wasn't an issue - as I said I'm happy to give the file to you if you would like it, the site is free and the files are very easy to import :)

What limitations would prevent this game from being played at a table of 5 players?

Hey! Two things really: that the number of cards would be fewer per player, and that the premade playsets only have four player characters included. I’ve heard lots of people reporting having a great time with 5+ (even 8!!) players though :)

Good to know! Thank you for the quick response! :D


I played this for the first time yesterday at a small rpg event we do near my place, managed to play it with 8 conspirators pretty smoothly (with some tweaking) and had the fun of a lifetime. In the end we obtained a pretty convoluted conspiracy board and everybody was happy! Amazing game!  

Thank you so much for sharing, what a treat 😍 glad you had a good time with it!

Hello! I consider getting this to have it printed. Are the card designs created with enough margins to make this possible? And are the 4+4 opening/ conspirator ccards the same size as the rest?

I'm hoping to have a PDF with a card on each page, because that's what the printer needs. Thank you very much!

The game includes a PDF with a card on each page and a set of PNG files which each one is a card.

Hope this answers your question I just got the game.

Thank you, that sounds perfect!

Hey! Sorry I missed this. The pdf is formatted for printing, so hopefully you should be good! All the cards are the same size :)

Wonderful, thank you!


Okay, if anyone else is considering this (and Jack, for you as feedback), the cards cannot be given to a printer as they are, because there's no margins (either in addition to the card format or an inner margin). The way they are, printers cannot cut them with precision.
Additionally, backs and fronts are not in separate files, which printers hate.

To create the correct files, you need to:
a) Print a PDF from Cards.pdf with this pages option for all the backs:

b) Print a PDF from Cards.pdf with all the front sides: 

Now you have 2 PDFs, which your printer company will like! Alas, they have no margins. Maybe you can order cards that are a little bit smaller (say, 64 x 114, cutting 3mm off each side), that would be easiest. There's no text near the borders, you'll only lose the colored border. Jack, if you included these files and erased the colored border, people could more easily give it to printers!
If y'all have access to something like GIMP, you could open the PDF and color in the border in the color of the background (which I will do).

I'm looking forward to playing this soon! :) My printer takes 17€ per card set.


If you're looking into the comments unsure of the game let me just tell you: buy it right now. Do not even claim the community copy, go pay the 12 bucks, it ain't much and it's absolutely worth your money.

One of the best gm-less storytelling/worldbuilding games my group has ever played. We went for the Count of Saint Lazare playbook (because otherwise we would get stuck on worldbuilding for 2 hours, thank you for the option) and it was an absolute blast. I really liked the amount of flexibility even the premade world and characters allowed, each of the players had a Conspirators who was vile and detestable in the exact way they enjoyed (Pierre-Voclain yoU BASTARD). Prompts were fun, structure was great and art was inspiring. The only suggestion I could really give is that some of the epilogue questions assume the Conspirators to be still alive and yet it is impossible to reach the end without feeling a deep need to kill all of them off, thus rendering the choices for questions quite limited (mostly suggesting it as a joke but it was an actual issue my group encountered lol). My friend already suggested we play Arcadia Prime with a slightly different group in the near future and I cannot wait.

PS: Appreciate the Miro board. It is absolutely stellar. The single best one I've seen for any rpg so far.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write this review, very glad to hear you enjoyed it :)

I’ll have a review of the epilogue questions as I redo the layout next year :)

I tried to check out the Miro Boards after reading through the playsets. I was only able to access the Lament of Broken Glass. Game looks super fun! can't wait to try it out

I ran into the above problem as well when trying the board for Saint Lazare: the board asks for a password.


Weird! They should all need a password, as detailed in the ‘playing online’ doc with the links. Miro is down for maintenance at the moment but I’ll check back next week and make sure it’s all working :)


This looks so incredibly cool. And WOW, that header art is absolutely killer.


Thanks so much! Rafael did an amazing job :)