February 26th, 2012


Within the Devil's Reach

Within The Devil’s Reach (WDR) is a book of Dungeon World three adventures set around the isolated mining town of Devil’s Reach. It is the first in a proposed five book series, the Gears of the Worm God cycle and is currently the subject of a funding drive on Kickstarter. The author, Josh Mannon, kindly sent me a beta/playtest version of the text to review. Currently, without art or maps, it weighs in at 21 pages and is nominally for a group of 2-7 players. I say nominally because I would not consider running Dungeon World for seven, but each to their own!

WDR comprises three adventures, The Silent Tomb Speaks, The Mad Scientist’s Experiments, and The Madness in Hamish Mine [Yes, I know. So does he.], which can be played in any order and each can lead on to those in the next book, The Skies over Danbury. Before the adventures come several short sections on how to use the adventures and maps in the book (including which to use if you don’t plan to play them all and how this book connects to the next). Three general opening questions for the GM to address to the players are included, and a nice little section on framing the characters straight into the action.

Storn's interior teaser "The Beast"

Each adventure starts with at least one Front (including impending doom, stakes, cast, and grim portents) and three questions. It then outlines the locations within the adventure including the environment, foes, loot, & magic, as appropriate. Each adventure concludes with a paragraph on ending the adventure.

The Silent Tomb Speaks (five pages) includes 1 front and 8 locations; The Mad Scientist’s Experiments (my favourite, and the shortest at four pages) has 1 front and 5 locations; and The Madness in Hamish Mine (seven pages) is quite the factional battleground with 4 fronts and 10 locations. All three adventures look suitable for a group of first or second level characters, with a couple of tough fights along the way. Following one of the more common DW hacks, the monsters are have stats for both static and random damage. At this stage, the moves for the monsters are a little sketchy, but I’m sure that will be one of the aspects that Josh looks to polish over the next month.

The monsters, environments and situation of WDR are pretty evocative, as are the two campaign specific mini-classes included at the end. The mini-classes develop the flavour of the main threads of the campaign and grant access to additional moves if a character dies in certain circumstances. The idea of special blessings and moves only available after death is a neat tweak on Dungeon World’s “bargain with death” mechanic. At the start of each adventure, Josh gives advice on tweaking the adventure to fit the collaborative setting-building aspect of Dungeon World, while still maintaining the flavour of the larger quest.

Depending on the rate and style of play, each of the adventures should take a 3-4 hour session to play through and should be quite friendly to newcomers, especially when the illustrations and maps are included. The adventures and locations are not as detailed as the Bloodstone Idol, which could be an advantage for immediate “pick up and play”. I’m sure more than a few groups will be able to vanquish the evils contained within Devil’s Reach over the course of the GenCon release.