As part of the rotating Days of High Adventure column series, I’m bringing you Dungeon World, a free tabletop fantasy RPG setting for old school adventuring. As promised in the last installment, here’s a closer look at the regions of Dungeon World. The Dungeon World map is available here.
Kingdom of Ice
Formerly the kingdom of Rolgar, the Dead God of War and Keeper of Justice, the once-fertile hills and valleys of these lands are now blanketed in snow and ice. The sky is always gray, and a cold, biting wind howls unceasingly across the icy hills, bringing without warning blizzards that can last for days. High atop the tallest hill in the Kingdom sits Snowspire Castle, the God’s former seat of power. Legends say that the Dead God’s physical remains still sit upon his throne in the highest tower, watching over the frozen remains of his domain. No one really knows if this is true, since none dare brave the icy wasteland long enough to make the journey to the castle.
Black Water Bay
Some say that the powerful magicks that plunged the Kingdom of Ice into perpetual winter still ripple and eddy amongst the unfathomably dark waters of Black Water Bay. Others claim that these waters were haunted long before that day; that they are in fact a “hole” in reality, from whence the Master and the Dead Gods sailed into the World. A few even believe that those who have the knowledge to do so may sail to the realm of the Dead Gods’ home via these waters. Regardless of the speculation, the unsettling fact is that most who attempt to sail these waters simply vanish without a trace.
On the southern edge of the Kingdom of Ice lies a land of rolling hills and valleys known as the Frostwolds (or simply the ‘Wolds by many). Although most denizens of the World consider this cold region too inhospitable, life nonetheless thrives here. While the northern lands are stalked by creatures that thrive in the bitter environment, the southern portion is more temperate and is home to several large clans of hardy nomads. Most of these people claim to be descended from the refugees that fled Rolgar’s kingdom in the days leading up to the Day of Tears. These clans now worship the Dead God of War and Justice, although the belief systems of each are different and disputes erupt regularly – sometimes resulting in blood feuds that last for generations.
At the southern edge of the ‘Wolds lies its only city, Hilltown. The city’s sole purpose is to act as a center of commerce between the northern clans and the rest of the World. Because of that, Hilltown is the largest center of commerce in this part of the World.
Cloaked by a perpetual shroud of gray clouds, the Mournpeaks were once home to the second largest dwarven city in the World, back when this range was known as the Moonpeak Mountains. The halls and mineshafts of the Moonpeak dwarves penetrated the roots of the entire mountain range. The cataclysmic shock waves that shook the eastern lands of the World on the Day of Tears laid these passages low, however. Most of the Moonpeak dwarves were lost – the few who survived fled and took up residence with their cousins in the Grimspurs. Their halls and shafts now lay in empty ruins, their former glory forgotten by most mortals.
On the side of a mountain at the southeastern tip of the range sits the crumbling remains of a mighty fortress: Crowskeep. Once a stronghold that protected the main gate of the Moonpeak dwarves’ city, the fortress is now mostly in ruins. It’s rumored that foul beasts now dwell within, preventing all but the most daring and clever adventurers from gaining entrance to the remains of the ancient city.
East & West Trollwood
Collectively known as the Trollwoods, the massive forest that occupies much of the central lands of the World is divided into two sections. East Trollwood and the grasslands that surround it are some of the most beautiful lands in the World. The human cities of Greenhold and Brunston are thriving communities, and a multitude of small villages and outlying farms dot the forest’s glens and dales, and the neighboring countryside. The elven city of Moonsmeath, the only of its kind, rests in a serene hollow deep within these woodlands. Some say that the city may only be found by those whom the elves wish to find it; indeed, there are few non-elves who can truthfully tell the tale of their experiences in the fantastical fey metropolis.
As one travels west from Moonsmeath, the pleasant woods become denser, darker, and more unwelcoming. The well-worn paths of East Trollwood are choked out by the encroaching briars and over-hanging trees, and ultimately disappear entirely. This is West Trollwood, as dark and dangerous as the eastern woods are bright and friendly. It is said that these woodlands were once one of the favorite sites for the Dead Gods’ adventures, and that the spawn of creatures they battled still dwell deep within the forest’s sunless depths.
At the southern edge of this unhealthy wood sits Thornberg, an ancient city that serves two purposes: The first is to act as a stop on the Brunston-Rocport road. The second is the unenviable purpose to serve as protection for the small communities that lie to the south of the forest. The city keeps a permanent army – the only city in the World that does so. Service in the city’s army is mandatory for any healthy resident, for a minimum of two years. (It’s also not unheard of for travelers to find themselves conscripted in times of need.)
The range known as the Wyrmspines was once no more than a series of low hills. However, on the Day of Tears these hills suddenly grew into mountains, blocking any landward attempt to flee the rain of fire that simultaneously began to fall on the kingdom of Califrax. Unlike the destruction of Rolgar’s and Lissa’s kingdoms, there were no refugees from the soon-to-be Blighted Lands. Those who attempted to flee to the east were either crushed by the erupting hills, pitched from the sides of the mountains as they grew, or driven back to perish in the rain of fire.
These mountains, abnormally shaped like sharp teeth or spines (thus their name), are host to a seemingly endless array of evil creatures. A narrow pass northwest of Drakenmoor is the only means of traversing this range – should anyone be crazy enough to seek adventure in the Blighted Lands.
The Blighted Lands
This desert was once a land of fertile plains, the land of Dead God Califrax’s kingdom. The largest city in the land was, surprisingly enough, called Califrax. (The Dead God’s egocentric nature is well known.) This city was a center of learning and development, both magical and scientific. Stories are still told of the wonders a visitor would see here on a daily basis. Prior to the Day of Tears, however, this appetite for discovery became more and more bent on developing weapons and war machines. It was Lissa, the Caregiver, who sundered Califrax and the surrounding lands. It’s believed that her reason for raising the Wyrmspines and trapping the residents of the kingdom was not an uncharacteristically bloodthirsty desire to kill all who lived therein, but to prevent any of Claifrax’s techno-magical war machines from escaping.
Over the ages, there have been many large, well-publicized attempts to raid the lands for their lost treasures of knowledge and power. On the rare occasion that any of the adventurers on these quests returned, they brought less in the way of riches than they did of warning: They told their stories to few and in only hushed tones; tales of frightful war machines and maddening mutated beasts stalking the sand-swept barrens of the Blighted Lands, and a pristine city that is inhabited by the phantoms of those who once dwelt there.
South of the Blighted Lands is Hullbite Bay. Once a thriving commercial port at the western end of the Brunston-Rocport trade route, the port city of Rocport is now nearly forgotten. Its former glory lost under a pall of decay and neglect, part of the city’s misfortune is the result of the raising of the Wyrmspines, which also caused spine-like protrusions to grow from the seabed of the bay. The bay is now a navigational hazard, shunned by all but the most foolhardy ship captains. The other reason for the city’s decline is the cease of travel on the once-busy road to Califrax, of which the city was a major hub.
Wood of Wonder & Kraken Bay
Many argue that the region between Westkeep, Thunder Point, and Hagshead is the best place in the World to live. The lands here are fertile and relatively peaceful, and have been so since long before the Day of Tears. Most believe that this is due to the influence of the Master, who is said to reside in the forest known as the Wood of Wonder (or Weirdwood, or simply the Wood, if you’re a local). Full of strange and wondrous locations and beasts, many believe that the Wood is the Master’s playground wherein he indulged his more whimsical side. Although it is often full of such whimsy, the Wood can be equally dangerous and is thus traveled with care, if at all.
Westkeep, occupying the enviable position to the northeast of the Wood and west of the agricultural heartland south of the Trollwoods, is the largest and wealthiest city in the World. The surrounding countryside is home to several halfling communities – the only ones of their kind.
Said to be the oldest mountain range in the World, the Grimpsurs are home to the first and largest dwarven settlement. Though encountering a dwarf is a rare occurrence – and encountering someone who’s seen the halls of the Grimspur dwarves rarer still – there is no doubt that the race still thrives here: Human traders from the nearby cities regularly do business with the dwarves. (Such traders are from families who have done so for generations.)
Haunted Hills & Glumwood
While the lands surrounding the Wood of Wonder are believed to be blessed by the whimsical aspect of the Master’s nature, the lands east of the Grimspurs are believed to be cursed by his nature’s darker aspects. By day, these lands sit under a perpetually overcast sky. By night, the skies above are full of clouds that drift slowly across the moon, which is either full and bright or pale and gibbous – there is no in-between. All the local villagers are wary of strangers, but if pushed they may begrudgingly share – in the form of stern warnings – that ghosts walk these lands, that witches lurk in the deep woods, and that all manner of baleful creatures stalk the night.
Cragkeep, home to the Old King who has watched over the local lands for ages, may only be reached by a half-forgotten road that traverses the forever fog-shrouded moors to the south. (Unless the traveler is mad enough to attempt to cross the Haunted Hills or Glumwood.) Some say the Old King is under a curse, doomed to dwell in the sunless lands forever. Others say he’s an ancient vampire. Others say he’s a lich, or maybe a ghost. A few even say he’s the Master himself.
The Sunken Kingdom
This series of irregular islands is littered with ruins of the once-beautiful kingdom of Lissa the Caregiver. Once home to schools of healing, both magical and natural, and a center for art, it was said that Lissa’s kingdom was the most beautiful in all the kingdoms and cities of the World. On the Day of Tears, after Califrax destroyed Rolgar and his lands and the two surviving Dead Gods turned their magicks against one another, much of the beautiful kingdom lay at the bottom of the sea.
These islands and the waters that surround them are now shunned by mariners, who believe them to be cursed by those who perished there on the Day of Tears. It is believed that their restless spirits hide beneath waves, waiting to pull unwitting sailors to their deaths.
Chris Brackett is a web monkey by trade, but in real life he’s a veteran gamer and author of several tabletop miniatures games. He spends far too much of his time working on his RPG-focused game blog, A Rust Monster Ate My Sword.