Actual Play – The Black Spot (5/8/2014)

dungeon_world_finalGM: Justin Evans
Players: Greg Bailey, Josh Curtis, and Sean Nittner
System: Dungeon World
Dungeon/Adventure: The Black Spot

In our rotation of GMs, Justin has signed up to run Dungeon World, specifically a swashbuckling pirate version of Dungeon World. His pitch:

Imagine a man’s skull, pale and grinning. Now imagine a hammer blow to the skull’s chin. The bone cracks, the jaw tears away and teeth scatter. From a crow’s eye view that is what the Rictus Islands would look like. They lie just 2 days off the coast of The Colonies where folk try to scrape out a living in a new land of opportunity. But the Colonies weren’t the first to inhabit these lush jungles and fields. An ancient kingdom lies forgotten and buried under their vines. It’s a mystery how this kingdom was laid to waste. Ancient temples and pyramids hint at a society greater than any in the Jagged Kingdoms. Some surviving tribes trade with the Colonies, some raid them.

You have to pass through the Rictus Islands to start the two week journey back to the Jagged Kingdoms … which makes them the perfect hunting grounds for pirates and sanctioned privateers alike. Trade makes it worthwhile so Fort Shackletown, to the north, was built to help keep them in check. While Sovereignstead to the south claims to be loyal to no king.

You are a prisoner heading to Fort Shackletown now, to stand trial.

The Landguard is a ship in service of the Colonial Trade Alliance. In it’s brig are:

The Brute
The Dashing Hero
The Sea Dog
The Theif


Since it’s his birthday this month (Happy Birthday Josh!), Josh took first pick and napped the Sea Dog! I went for the Brute, and Greg picked the Thief. Here’s how they turned out:

Left-hand Lew (Josh) is a handsome man, or would be if it weren’t for those strange facial tattoos. Like zig-zag blade scars from his temples to his jaw. He is an older man, with long, salt-n-pepper black hair tied in a pony tail. He wears a fine leather long-coat with the standard poofy shirt and pants beneath. A blue sash completes the look. His saying: “Me always offers quarters, but only to those who fight to the death!”

Minotaur (Sean) is stupid big. Even for a monster he’s big. If we’re in manacles, he’s just in chains, none of the normal manacles would fit. One of his horns is missing, cloven off years ago by a blade wicked sharp. He’s got an eye patch as well, or if these fucking maggots took it from him and milky white eye instead. His saying: “And there’s coin in it?” as in “I have to put on a dress and play the pretty one to seduce that drunk fuck? And there’s coin in it? I’m a size 44.”

William Golden (Greg) …. Some say he was once highborn, that’s probably why he talks so funny. Some say he could retire and be a nobleman thrice over if he’d just hold on to his money, instead of dropping it where it’s most needed, in the poor shanties that lie between Fort Shackletown and Sovereignstead. He’s got a mission for sure, but no one knows why he does it, maybe he just wants to take every last silver possible from the colonials, either that or he has a deathwish. There’s a price on his head alright, and now it looks like someone’s gonna collect. That bounty hunter over there looks mean and fearsome, and he’s got good ole Golden locked up in chains real good.

Our History (how we got in this brig)

Minotaur used to work as a bouncer in a gambling hall. He did honest work, more or less. Sometimes people get drunk and need to be roughed up and thrown out. Sometimes those people are Carlos Skiverrez, aka The Jackal. Sometimes, when you’re new and don’t know shit, you accidentally treat The Jackal like he’s just another schlub and break his sword arm in the process of escorting him out.

Sometimes life sucks.

After that, Carlos had a personal vendetta against Minotaur. Said his arm would never be the same and that if Minotaur wanted to make it right, he was making reparations. A word Minotaur later learned meant paying money, a lot of money.

Most recently Outside the ancient moss covered temple in Greenhearth Valley. “Merchants” hired Minotaur for caravan duty hauling their supplies (pilfered relics) out of the valley and back to their ship. The moment they crested the hill out of the valley, he heard a shout of a lieutenant ordering them to stand down and her men to shoot if they moved.

Minotaur dropped the casket on the ground. He wasn’t going to die for these fuckers.

Left Hand Lew’s story:
“Twas a year ago in a town called Mud that me heard it. The Wood Dragon was already rowdy that eve, when the mad minstrel came a tumblin in from the wilds. He walked right up to the fire, pulled out his drum, and began a singin. His songs were wild and epic, randy and rude, but most of all, they were strange. And he sang all night no stoppin.”

“The more the crowd drank, the more they loved im. And they drank a lot… thanks to Left Hand Lew. Me was buying drinks left and left, but wasn’t drinking meself. Was hired to fill the press, you see, an these landlubbers were the perfect mark. Drunk men were easier to herd aboard a ship. Unconscious men even better. So me sat there, buying drinks, and listening to the mad minstrel. When the night was old and me press gang about to spring, the mad minstrel started a new song. Twas a dark and twisted tale of an empire long gone. Some of it wasn’t even in common. Couldn’t imagine where the fool had learnt it, somewhere in the wilds I spose. It had the ring o’ truth to it though and so me ears kept a listenin. Twas the last verse that made me sit up and take note. The cadence of the song changed. The words went from poetic fanciness to somethin more akin to a command. Or perhaps even… directions! Here’s what was sung, word for word.”

“Six blind sentinels gaze at her lustily,
While four loyal traitors guard her virtue valiantly.
Two hateful lovers touch her lips longingly,
But only the dragon’s tears may enter lovely Tomoachan.”

“There was more to the song twas sure but the press gang jumped in and that was that. The mad minstrel found himself aboard the boat; and so to a few coins to unscrupulous folks to ensure his quick and watery demise. Couldn’t have that tale spread about.”

Recently alas, Minotaur… I sold that treasure map to the “merchants” and brokered the deal between Minotaur and them. Of course, then I sold them out the Colonials. “Why get paid once for a job, when you can get paid twice”, me dad used to say.

He tried to collect the treasure for himself (get paid a third time if you can) which ended him in the brig as well!

William Golden is a hero to some, and insurrectionist to others. He hates colonials. No surprise he found himself in their brig!

Our Domains

J-dog uses a technique that he shares with Archipelago, which is to give each players narrative authority over one element of the game. We dived them  like this:

Minotaur: Corrupting influences

Left Hand Lew: The Sea

William Golden: Swashbuckling action

The idea being that if one of these elements can into play and needed to be described, the player in charge of the element would narrate it. Good stuff.

The Play is the Thing

We stared the game and got a bit into playing before establishing our bonds. That caused some confusion as we weren’t sure if we knew each other or not, but then realized we did. And realized that we had very different ideas about each other. For instance William Golden believing Minotaur has his back, whilst Minotaur believing William would make a tasty snack. Good times.

Once the action started in earnest though we opened in the brig, when one of the crew, sick as the devil was sent down to be on guard duty and opted to take a piss on Minotaur. The beast backed up enough to lure the guard in close (he really wanted to make sure the piss got on him) and then lunged forward shouldering him support beam and unconsciousness.

Moments later the shit hit the fan. Our started turning in place (the was no wind so we had been stuck drifting for some time) and the starboard side lurched down into the ocean. A moment later a call came out from the crows nest. “Pirates!” We were being boarded and pulled under by some horrific sea creature.

Time for a daring escape. We got free, past the crew and pirates, recovered some of our possessions, stole a longboat and made for a hidden cave that William knew about.

Along the way there was savagery from Minotaur, earnest care and leadership from William, and dashing seaboard acrobatics from Left Hand Lew. Huzzah!

Thoughts on the Game

It’s been a while since I’ve played Dungeon World and I intentionally didn’t print out the basic rules as a method to keep me leading with the fiction (at least for my own part). That seemed to work well for all of us as moves were usually pretty easy to discern based on our actions.

I was originally planning to be a Minotaur (named Minotaur) but when Justin suggested the book The Minotaur take a Cigarette Break and asked the question if I was the Minotaur of legend it make perfect sense. Of course he was the Minotaur, and Theseus was a pansy.

The nice thing about not “fighting” is that our characters felt super competent. We were doing all manner of heroics and while we weren’t always succeeding, it wasn’t because of ineptitude, but rather interference.  It was some pretty awesome competence porn. I think that will change when we get into a fight and LHL’s quick blade or Minotaur’s burly strength fails to drop an opponent in a single blow.  We’ll see.

Justin used a custom move to represent the dread of the “Black Spot” on a miss, you can be given the Black Spot, which represents a sense of dread, a doom you know will befall you. When you have the black spot your are -1 to Defy Danger (as you assume you’ll fail) but +1 to Hack and Slash as you fight without regard for self preservation. It passed around during the game (we all had it at one point) and added a hot potato element to the game. Hot Potato of Doom!


  1. Justin

    Some credits:

    I’m using ‘Pirates a Dungeon World Source Book’ by Wynand Louw available on as inspiration.

    I’m also stealing elements from ‘Pirate World’ by Iain Chantler, which is another pirate source book for Dungeon World currently under development after a successful Kickstarter. Sadly I only learned about it after the KS, so I grabbed what I could from the sample material out there (including The Brute playbook and some moves from the Pirate playbook).

    Nobody is playing the Dashing Hero, but that is a custom playbook by Jacob Randolph (available on rpgnow).

  2. Justin

    Oh and if you hold the Black Spot you also gain the tag ‘doomed’.

  3. Josh

    One of the things I liked is we actually did do some fighting but we handled it more like an obstacle. LHL shot his way out of the captain’s cabin and Minotaur killed a bunch of pirates (that LHL instigated into attacking him). But since none of the individual npc’s mattered (mooks) there was no need to resort to HP damage. I can see if we had to widely them down through HP damage it might have been a slog. Doing that with the ship captain or someone more competent might be a lot of fun though. The back and forth being interesting. Just a thought.

    • Justin

      Yeah, I’m totally using mooks/minions (best thing to come out of 4e)…especially for an online game. You never came to blows with the one named NPC you guys ran up against (Captain Grace Harrington). It ‘helped’ that there were tentacles and a sinking ship distracting everybody.

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