Dungeon World on the Isle of Spires (Spiders)

Another 8 person session of Dungeon World. Those are definitely, definitely hard, and this was no different. I made a conscious effort to make it something other than a non-stop action sequence, and the pacing suffered for it. The simple reality is that exploration with 8 people is hard. It did not help that the group had a surprise attack of competence, and the usual cascade of failures and near misses that drive our sessions was largely absent.

We had one new player, who picked up The Alchemist which gave the party a little more healing, which is nice given our general cleric deficit. I offered him a number of oddball classes[1] (Since Druid & Cleric are the only two core books left unchosen), and the Alchemist could throw bombs, so that was kind of the win. Class worked out solidly in play – the font is a bit too small on the character sheet, so it took a bit to sort out some details, but my only real complaint is that the move that lets you use potions on other people seems like it should be core rather than an advance move[2]. I can sort of see the thinking for why this is not so – there’s a lot of interesting mess-with-yourself stuff in the class, but the advanced move seemed like a must have. Thankfully, since I let him start at level 2, it was self-correcting.

Play started with a sea monster attack on the Sea Witch. On board we had Sanguinus, the Pirate Paladin, Tetra, the Dashing Hero, Dogan, The Fighter, Fafnir, The Barbarian, Lily, The Bard, Urv, The Wizard, “Doc”, The Alchemist and Jack, the Thief. There were giant tentacles, Doc ended up hanging from a boom over the ocean, a Shark with Bat Wings was summoned, and the monster was driven off after Jack and Doc combined skills to build an injector out of a barrel of chemicals, a large funnel and a length of pipe, and poisoned the creature (at least enough to drive it off).

The ship had been badly damaged, and limped to the nearest safe harbor Sanguinus could find. He rolled ok, so they got to a harbor on the Isle of Spires (their destination), but not the civilized harbor. They had to beach the Ice Witch to make repairs. Thankfully, the supplies were still intact, so the expedition launched inland while the crew worked to make the necessary repairs.

The isle of spires gets its name from the numerous spires on its surface. they’re huge, tall, covered in moss and vines, and immediately reminded Urv of Umulon. The goal of the expedition was the nearest spire. Problematically, there were also giant spider webs between some of the spires (which were half a mile apart at the closest).

The trip inland encountered a trio of gigantic (body about 25 feet long) spiders which resulted in violence. They rolled like fiends and especially between Jack & Dogan’s damage output, tore the damn things apart (Fafnir was less lucky, as his “Catapult me with a palm tree” plan worked out less well than hoped). Jack saw other similarly sized spiders in the distance, but after the death cry of the third, they returned to the mountain that was their lair. The mountain was in approximately the direction they were going, but they steered clear of it.

At the spire, they cleared away the moss and vines to discover a smooth surface that might be elderglass (the same material that the towers in Umulon, as well as Dogan & Lily’s weapons, are made of.) Urv wanted to test a theory, and had Dogan hit it with Bellringer.

This caused some problems, as the entire tower rang out with such force that it knocked several of the characters onto their asses. More importantly, it upset the spider web attached to the spire, and the mountain revealed itself to be a truly gargantuan spider, which climbed up to the center of the web, and unleashed the army of “baby” spiders on its back. Doc blew up the nearest threat to buy some time (as the spiders re-routed) and Urv managed to find a way into the spire, which the group managed to enter just ahead of the wave of spiders, who were too large to fit. Lily also used her bardic skills and Songblade to bring Dogan out of the fugue he’d been in since he rang the tower.

The interior of the tower offered a single staircase up or down. Lily managed to earn a hard choice, so I told her that the story that had lead her hear suggested that riches were up, knowledge was down. She opted nto to share this, and directed the group down. Some weirdness with the physics of the place followed, and at the bottom of the stair, by a single door, they encountered an odd looking individual, seemingly of a type with the one they’d encountered at the underground meeting (the one who no one saw enter). He was perfectly civil, answered a few questions about the place, and warned them to be careful about the door. He implied that the door could be used to come out in Umulon, but the group was unwilling to leave the Ice Witch behind.

Given that, he offered to show them how to get to a different spire, but at the cost of a future favor. They agreed, and he directed them through the door. Once they went through, I took each player aside individually, and the (name unrevealed) and had a small private negotiation with the guy. This resulted in some private arrangements and a certain amount of treasure handout, something I largely had no done to date, so we’ll see how that plays out.

As the one random aside, I feel this is the game that cemented Advantage/disadvantage as the right way to handle +/–1. With this many people, it still worked very smoothly, and it encourages Aiding quite nicely.


  1. Including the Immolator and a few of the Inverse World playbooks which were a bit more setting-portable.  ↩

  2. The alchemist uses similar rules to wizards and clerics, but with extracts in lieu of spells (so on a 7–9, you draw attention, take –1 forward or use it up). If you take the advanced move “Infusion”, other people can use your extracts, but doing so uses them up. My inclination is to make Infusion a core move, then make the advance move that you roll normally.  ↩

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