Actual Play – Isle of Dread (1/10/2015)

dungeon_world_finalGM: Josh Curtis
Players: Greg Bailey, Justin Evans, and Sean Nittner
System: Dungeon World
Adventure Module: Isle of Dread

Edit: I added in Croawan ending Nathaniel’s suffering.

After a long hiatus from The Black Spot Josh offered up another Dungeon World game. Awesome!

Intro to the adventure

You all had good reasons for leaving the capital city of Pentafax behind and make the arduous 3 month journey to the recently discovered lands of New Pastoria. A wide open, temperate land free to settle and make a new life in. To get to this new life, however, you had to sail round the Cape of Dragons and through the Sea of Mists and it was there that your journey took a terrible turn. For those of you with magic flowing in your veins or minds, you could tell someone aboard the PSC (Pentafax Colony Ship) Agricola was casting a powerful ritual… some sort of calling. You felt the hairs on your arms vibrate as the Veil parted and the island came into view. An island of jungles and mountains shrouded in mist stood suddenly and ominously in your path.

You heard the ship’s crew and officers working to change course but then something giant and angry struck the Agricola and broke its keel. You are not sure how long you spent in your desperate attempt at survival but somehow, you made it to shore. Far behind you and out to sea, you can barely see the broken remnants of the PSC Agricola jutting out of the water. Black sand lies beneath your knees and hands as you crawl up the beach and lay upon the dry shore. In front of you stands what looks like an impenetrable jungle, dark and foreboding. Strange calls and sounds can be heard within its depths. Looking about, three other survivors have made it to shore with you although one looks like death is closing in. Four left where the ship had held over one thousand! And while you have your weapons and personal gear, all of the supplies and wealth you had in the hold of the Agricola are lost as is your future of ease and peace, apparently.

The only question left is… what the hell do you do now?

Our Characters

Cedric Walloon is the head foreman in the Pentafax Bureau of Natural Resources send to New Pastoria to take char ge of a new iron mining operation. He’s government man who has risen to a respectable station (but not further) with a mixture of charm, fastidiousness about his work, and being of mixed ethnicity the ability to work with the crew assigned to him. Cedric is concerned for his life certainly, but he’s got an entire claim on New Pastoria that is likely to be lost if he doesn’t get off this island and that troubles him deeply.

Custom Move – New Race

Half-Dwarf: Stone Lore – Add Great Stone Works to your areas of expertise in your Bardic Lore.

There are gaps in Halwyr’s memory. Some are caused by the dregwine he drinks every night in place of dinner. Others were caused by the eldritch fire that scarred his face and took his ear. The gaps are cruel. He forgets the good and only the horror remains. When his arcane experiments consumed his family hall, he was cast out. It didn’t matter. Everything he cared for was dead. Except her. He managed to save her from the flames by trapping her ‘Inbetween’. Halwyr has heard her whisper to him through others he has been able to summon. Sometimes she wants his kiss, other times she wants his blood. Maybe she wouldn’t be able to find him in New Pastoria.

Croawan Duskwalker and his brother Percy used to go on many adventures together. They still do, in a manner of speaking. Croawan is an elf with signs of human blood as well. He dresses in nondescript earth tones, like a ranger.


Halwyr knows that Cedric is woefully misinformed about the world; I will teach them all that I can. This is probably due to the fact that upon meeting him on the ship Cedric professed to know Halwyr by reputation, and to have already woven fine tales of Halwyr’s arcane adventures.  Halwyr also knows that Croawan is keeping a secret from him, which is saying something since Croawan has guided Halwyr before to a planar portal and in the magical battle that ensued, Croawan’s brother was turned into an Owl.

Croawan knows that Cedric has no respect for nature, and so he has no respect Croawan. This is because this is not Cedric’s first adventure with Croawan; the faced an enraged dryad once before after Cedric’s mining operation destroyed her grove. Croawan knows Cedric does not understand life in the wild, and so, perhaps simply because they are stuck together, Croawan will teach him.

Cedric, now with first hand knowledge of Halwyr, is going to expand the stories he’s told of him before and compose a ballad about him. He knows the Croawan does not trust him, and for good reason, but despite this (see Dryad above), but despite this, he holds Croawan’s secret and has promised not to share it.

Some things left unknown – we’ll find out in play

Croawan’s secret

You awake on a black sand beach…

Behind you, 30′ up the beach is a lush green canopy that seem to extend forever. While every detail is different, a new flower, a strange fern, an unknown insect buzzing, it all blends into one indecipherable jungle. Just off the shore of the beach is the shattered carcass of the Agricola, the ship that we were all sailing on to New Pastoria. Past that is an impenetrable mist that seemed to circle the island. Just down the beach from you there is an older portly man who also washed up. He is lying face down in the sand. What do you do?

Cedric: I run over to him of course! Is he one of my crew. Please, merciful gods say at least one of them survived!

You turn the body over and recognize him. He is not one of your crew, but another passenger on the Agricola. He name is…

Cedric: Nathaniel Brisstock

Yes, his name is Nathaniel Brisstock. He looks to be and older gentlemen. In his hands he clutches a satchel to his chest and his eyes are wide. A broken shaft of wood is buried in his chest, just above his heart and blood is pooling around him in the wet sand. He is gibbering something unintelligible, speaking of his service to his masters. What do you do?

Cedric: “Nathaniel, good man, you have little time left. Tell me, do you have a child or a wife, someone for me to carry your parting words to?”

He seems barely conscious of you. He’s gibbering something about his masters. How he has served them well, how he brought the ship here but it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Cedric: I’m speaking frankly with him, so I’m using my Charming and Open move. “Nathaniel, who are these masters that you serve?”

“I serve the Remaker. I brought them what they required. They were to reward me richly.” He clutches the satchel again nervously.

Halwyr: “You mean this?” I snatch the satchel out of his hands. I know many arcane secrets and hidden mysteries, what do I know about The Remakers? I want to Spout Lore.

[Strong Hit] You know that it is a long lost term meaning “king” that applies to an ancient alien race called the Illithid (please dont sue us WotC).

Croawan: I put him out of his misery.

You just kill him?

Croawan: Yeah, I cut his throat.

Okay, he’s dead. [There was no move here, nothing opposed Croawan]

Croawan, Halwyr, and Cedrid: Squabble, squabble, squabble about what to do now. Look for survivors? Bury this man? Find food? Find who lives here?

Croawan, your keen senses pick up a rustling in the bushes before the others notice. Something is coming towards to you fast. Something big. What do you do?

Dinosaur attack!

Croawan: I run for the tree line. Away from the noise and then up a tree.

Halwyr: I run after him.

Halwyr, as you start running, you see something burst forth form the canopy. A giant lizard like creature that stands on two legs. It has a powerful tail swishing behind it, claws, and sharp teeth. It’s starts running toward you. Cedric, you’re still with Nathaniel, what do you do?

Cedric: I close his eyes, and wish his soul safe journeys.

The creature that just came onto the beach is at least 8′ feet tall, it locks eyes with you and then charges toward you. What do you do?

Cedric: My area of expertise is a Bestiary of Creature Unnatural. I want to use my Bardic Lore to ask a question. Does this creature have animal or human intelligence?


Cedric: I cringe and pray for forgivness for my act before I push the body of Nathanial in front of the creature, hoping the smell of blood and the freshness of his death will take it’s attention. Then I run for the trees after Croawan and Halwyr.

Croawan, you make it up the tree safely but visibility here is terrible. You here a lot of noise from below as something else is coming through the jungle, what do you do?

Croawan: I have Percy (Croawan’s Brother/Owl) fly around to see whats going on. How many of them are there and such.

It sounds like you’re Discerning Realities.  [Strong Hit] You can ask me three questions from the list.

Croawan: What is about to happen? What here is useful or valuable to me? What here is not what it appears to be?

Several beasts are going to try and tackle you to the ground and eat you.  The canopy is so thick up top that you can actually move along the branches from tree to tree. It will be very slow going if you do. Nothing* You get a +1 forward when acting upon that information.

Halwyr, you get to the tree just a bit after Croawan makes it up. You’re about to climb when another one of the beasts bursts through bushes and is almost upon you. What do you do?

Halwyr: Croawan is up in the tree, yeah? I’m going to hold my staff straight up and hope he can pull me up fast enough.

Okay, you’re going to Defy Danger. It sounds like you’re mostly just trying to hold on and endure getting yanked up, so you’ll do it with Constitution. You made it, or got really close. [Weak Hit]. One of the creatures runs, jumps and comes scrambling up the tree. It’s about to grab your foot and pull you down. What do you do?

Halwyr: Oh shit, in a panic I open a portal to the elemental plane of fire and summon fire wasps from my hand and hurl them right down it’s snout!

Cool, as the the portal opens and we see the fire wasps begin to flood out, lets cut over to Cedric. Cedric you run to the trees, looking over your shoulder with a smirk on your face as the creature devours Nathaniel instead of chasing you –

Cedric: Hey, no smirking here. I feel terrible for offering him up!

Okay, you run with dread on your face. When you get to the jungle line however, you see more of them have come out of the bushes. There is one in between you and the trees, what do you do?

Cedric: I charge! I take a deep breath, put my shoulder down, call on my dwarven ancestors for strength and stability and try to ram into it to knock it over and then dart up the tree.

Go ahead and Defy Danger with Strength. [Weak Hit] It’s surprised. It’s a predator and it expects prey to flee from it. You knock it over and climb up a tree. (Josh took an aside here to look at GM moves and pick something appropriate). When you get to the top however, you realize you went up a different tree and in such a thick canopy you can’t see Halwyr or Croawan. There are savage noises all around you.

Magic Missile rules the day

Back to Halwyr.

Halwyr: I Cast a Spell. [Weak Hit]. I’m going to draw unwanted attention or put myself in a spot.

The fire wasps pour into it’s open mouth and fill up it’s insides, lighting it up. The creature howls and falls to the ground. As it lands you here the others below turn on it and begin to devour the their fallen pack mate. You raise up your arms in triumph and the branch you’re sitting on snaps. You go plummeting to the ground. Croawan, you see this, what do you do?

Croawan: I pull out my bow and get ready to sink an arrow into any of them if they attack Halwyr.

Some discussion at the figurative table later… We’ll call that a Defend action but Roll +Dex instead of +Con. [Strong Hit] Okay, you hold 3, which you can use to do anything on the list of the basic moves.

Cedric, your looking for your companions and then a bright flare draws your eyes. You see Halwyr falling down to the beasts below, what do you do.

Cedric: You know how Tarzan looks swinging on vines in the jungle. That’s NOT Cedric. I cut a vine with my short sword, swing down and try to knock Halwyr out of the way so he doesn’t get eaten, spinning around out of control as I do it. (Cedric has an 8 dexterity).

That will be Defy Danger again, this time roll +Dex (of course).  [Weak Hit] Okay, you’re not in very good control. You’ve got a choice, help Halwyr and put yourself in danger, or swing past and do nothing.

Cedric: I’m helping Halwyr!

You swing down and crash into one of the beasts, knocking it out of the way, but then Halwyr lands on top of you. You take 4 damage.

Cedric: Does my armor absorb a point of that?

Yeah, unless damage is some how armor piercing in nature like magic, poison, etc. Armor counts.

Halwyr, you have a nice soft landing. Right on Cedric! As you both stand you see two of them charging right at you.

Croawan: I’m plunking one with an arrow to buy Halwyr some time (using a Defend hold to give Halwyr +1 forward)

Halwyr: I Cast as Spell and summon the fire wasps again. But I miss. Guess I get an XP. Oh no, wait, I’ve got +1 from the arrow in that thing’s shoulders. [Weak Hit] I think this time the planar portal doesn’t close completely and I’m disturbing the fabric of reality.

Another one burns up. But after it does one of the fire wasps flies back to you, like it’s trying to get back. It’s buzzing around your head distracting you. Cedric, there is one charging at you as well. It leaps into the air to tackle you with outstretched claws. What do you do?

Cedric: My short sword is out. I hold it with both hands and try to impale the monster! I’m going to Hack and Slash… or I guess I won’t. Snake eyes. [Miss] Well, I will get an XP.

It swats your sword away and slams down onto you. The claws rake into you (2 Damage) and knock you down, stunning you for a moment. It’s on top of you! Halwyr and Croawan, you both see this what do you do.

Croawan: I want to use another Defend hold to shoot it and aid Halwyr

Some discussion at the table if Defend can be used since he’s really defending Cedric. The move says “When you stand in defense of a person, item, or location…” and Josh rules that we’re still in the same location, so he can use it.

Halwyr: I’m going summon the fire wasps again. I Cast a Spell.

Cedric: I know you said I’m stunned, but can I call out from under the creature?

Yeah, stunned was a just a description to shift the action to the others. Do you have a move in mind?

Cedric: Yes. We know I tell stories of Halwyr’s eldrich might. I’m going to use my Arcane Art to weave a performance into a basic spell. I call out for all to hear the might of Halwyr and empower his spell. (He does +1d4 damage)

Halwyr: Okay then, I’ll show you just how mighty I am. I Cast a Spell [Strong Hit] and obliterate the thing in flames!

It is immolated! Hey Croawan.

Croawan: Yeah?

There’s a snake if your tree.

Snakes on a Motherfucking Branch

Croawan leapt down away from the snake and joined his companions in (relative) safety below. We were discussion what we should do (go to the beach, get up in the canopy, stay on the ground in the jungle) when Halwyr felt a vibration coming from the satchel he had taken from Nathaniel.

He opened it up and found three things. A box (which was vibrating), a journal, and a map. He opened the box (which stopped vibrating) and saw silvery metal square with a blue gemstone set in the center. Cedric held the stone up in the air to get a good look and realized it was the Keystone, a key to part the veil between worlds! (Bardic Lore of Great Stone Works). He quickly gave it back to Halwyr to keep safe!

The journal was that of an explorer (who we only know by their initials R.B.) who had sailed around the island. It was too long to read just then, but flipping through the pages we saw mention of other people’s on the island and the mapping they had done from ship. Here was the map they had made:

Explorer's Map of Isle of Dread

Croawan did some orienteering by scouting up and down the beach with Percy and determined we were on the main island (not one of the archipelagos) on the eastern edge of the southern tip.

From the journal we leaned that the black dots were places the explorer had found people. We set out to find them!

Thoughts on this Game

As much as I could remember it I tried to retell the opening of the story as it was in game. Usually I don’t get this detailed, but my intent was to show how the DW moves worked seamlessly. Mostly we led with the fiction to find a move, but occasionally for clarity we’d start with “I’m trying to do X” move. We had a few moments of uncertainly either to determine which move it should be or what a weak hit outcome should look like, but in general glancing at the moves and a quick discussion resolved all of them.

We didn’t do the End of Session move because the game was cut short, but I’m confident we’ll remember what we did for next game!

* When Greg asked “What here is not what it appears to be?” I could tell that Josh was struggling with something to say. He didn’t have any more surprises in mind so his brain was working fast to think of something. I remembered the Dremmer’s Birthday game that Vincent ran, and how there were some questions that he would just answer “nothing” to. I offered it up and Josh ran with it. Sometimes “nothing” is exactly what you need to keep the action moving.

It busted me up that Halwyr’s oh shit move was “cast magic missile at it”. It reminds me of the classing Burning Wheel instinct “When surprised, I cast The Fear!”

Fucking old school sandboxes man! Can you imagine mapping out every one of those hexes? And I thought Kingmaker was a lot of exploration!

Josh mentioned before we started the game that he was doing next to zero prep for this game. It still felt plenty real and ready to play in. I’m sure that the old adventure has enough monsters, traps, strange NPCs, and unexplored ruins to keep us busy for a long time. Not to mention Illithid (please don’t sue us WotC).

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