Within the Devils Reach Review
Within the Devils Reach is the first in a series of adventures for Dungeon World. Given that there are scant few published adventures available for this excellent system, I gave it a download from drivethrurpg.com and checked it out.
The product presents three loosely defined adventures that can be run independently, or as part of a series, with the author planning on publishing more titles and expanding the concept into an entire campaign. All the adventures centre around the titular settlement of Devils Reach, a grim and inhospitable mining town that’s described as “A blight at the edge of the map…”
So, the perfect place to stage some Dungeon World adventures then.
Within the clean and nicely presented twenty-six page pdf you get an assortment of scenarios, the first being a more traditional dungeon crawl into an ancient tomb, the second being an investigation style adventure where you try to uncover the plot of an evil cult (with a mad Frankenstein like monster thrown in for good measure) and the last – a delve into the towns deep silver mines themselves, in an attempt to thwart an ancient evil from returning to the world.
Each adventure follows a similar format, starting with the adventure front and then progressing into sections on locations, foes, loot and magic and ending with a few words on how to tie the three scenarios together. At the end we get two Compendium Class’s that relate directly to the events of the adventures, and we are rounded off with a small bestiary with a dozen or so new stats for new monsters.
I have a few problems with the format that Within the Devils Reach has adopted. As anyone who has ever played Dungeon World will know, the game itself is very loose and open-ended. One of Dungeon Worlds golden principles is for a GM not to over prepare his scenarios and “play to see what happens.” In this vein every adventure starts with a number of questions to ask the players about the current situation, and to its suggested you twist their answers against them.
In theory this should work, as it allows many thing to be defined in play but most of the time I just didn’t know who-was-who and what was meant to be going on in the scenarios. The plot details that exist are a bit all over the place, and I frequently had to go back and forth to try and remember what was suppose to be going on. More clarification of the adventures fronts at the beginning of each chapter would have made things more concise, and would have also given the GM a much clearer picture of the authors intent. Although the events of a Dungeon World adventure unfold as a result of the players actions, background material does not have too, and should be clarified if there is a complex storyline going on behind the scenes.
There are also a few other nit picks such as the triggers for the new moves not being Bolded as they are in the dungeon world book, and most of the magical items presented are fairly uninspired. A simple +1 shorts sword is just not Dungeon World-y to me.
The art by Storn Cook is excellent and provides a happy medium for me between old-school and modern art styles that is really evocative. Every few pages is interspersed with a cool looking new beastie, or a scene from one of the dungeons. On the topic of dungeons, kudos also has to go to Matt Jackson for his brilliant dungeon maps that frequent many of the pages. It should be noted that in keeping with Dungeon Worlds philosophy for maps, that many are not keyed encounter locations ala Dungeons and Dragons but rather give you a description of the area along with some enemies, and its up to the GM to decide the specifics of things on the fly. This I like very much.
Would I recommend Within the Devils Reach? Yeah, probably. Overall there is a lot to use here for your own game, even if you don’t run it as written. I think it would have benefited more by presenting the town as a toolbox, and threaded the fractions and locations in there for you to use as you please. This is how I’m going to make use of the product anyway.
Crisp black and white that is easy to read and find what you are after.
Relevant and evocative.
The meta plot should have been removed or further clarified. Locations, new enemies and loot are all very usable regardless if you are using the storyline or not.
I got the pdf for $9 as part of a Dungeon World bundle on drivethrurpg.com, this seemed a bit pricy for a small press product that came from kickstarter originally.
Overall (not an average): 3/5