Published late last night, the 10th issue of Worlds Without Master holds within its covers the weird fantasy game The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku. The game is blend of horror and sword & sorcery, inspired in part by the works of Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance. You are skalds and half-scholars under the geas of Duke Vulku and compelled by witchery to adventure with him at the command of the seventeen sages. This game is also a glimpse at what Dread may have looked like if I had waited until today to write it.
It has been over 15 years since Dread was first conceived and over ten since it was born. When the first game ever of Dread was played, there was still an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The litany of changes to the design and structure of tabletop roleplaying games and to the methods of production and distribution since then is staggering. Pile upon that my own personal journey through gaming this past decade and a half, and you have a recipe for a new take on a familiar game.
The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku has all the elements of classic Dread.
- There’s the Jenga tower, though now it is called the Spire.
- Characters still die when it falls, but now there’s stuff to do once you’ve crossed over.
- Characters are created through questionnaires, though much shorter ones and now the Host has their own questionnaire to fill out.
- Fighting amongst yourselves is still bad news.
- The heroic sacrifice option is still there, but with a couple twists, including the right to demand of your companions “Which among you will sing of this?”
The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku has a much sharper focus than Dread. It is a single scenario. One that can be played over and over without fear of spoiling the mystery, but it does not have Dread‘s scope. In its stead, you will find specific rules tailored to the scenario. This is the marriage of Dread and Apocalypse World with moves built around the pulling of blocks. Among the list of new wonders to be discovered by fans of classic Dread there are:
- Custom moves for each character, inspired in part by some of the designs in Dread House, where each player keeps a cache of blocks that can be used in lieu of pulling from the Spire.
- Each time the Spire falls, one of the surviving characters will learn new moves.
- Those sinister enough to set their will against that of Duke Vulku’s must make their pulls with their off hand.
- Those that have died can still mete their petty vengeance upon their former companions by forcing them to push blocks back into the Spire.
If you are all curious, I urge you to surrender yourself to the Duke’s will today. Pick up your copy of Worlds Without Master issue 10. Regret will be the least of your torments in Duke Vulku’s service.
This 42-page issue of Worlds Without Master contains:
- “Because I Clasp the Clouds As Mine,” a tale of a shifting identity byOsmond Arnesto.
- “The Hoard of Yengra,” a tale of commerce and justice by Epidiah Ravachol.
- Illustrations by Wendy Martin, Vlada Monakhova, and Tiffany Turrill.
- Another installment of Bryant Paul Johnson‘s comic Oh, the Beating Drum!
- The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku, a game of horror and wonder based on the game Dread by the original author, Epidiah Ravachol.
- A miscellany of delays and distractions for any journey.
- And full-color cover art by Jabari Weathers.
Get your copy of the issue at the Worlds Without Master bazaar, at the Dig a Thousand Holes Payhip store, or at DriveThruFiction. You can also read “The Hoard of Yengra” as well as all of Epidiah’s other sword & sorcery fiction for free at Medium.com/Words-Without-Master/.
And as always, you can stand with the Patron Horde, lend your sword to the cause while guaranteeing your share of the spoils.