Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh DW Port


Notes:

This adventure is tightly, but unofficially, based off the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh modules to be played in Dungeon World. Because this is a DW module, you will have to put some more guide rails on the game than a traditional DW session would have. I still encourage you to throw away this book if something your players mention is better than what is written here. Again, this is only a module, not a script.

Everything is as I like it, so please don’t mess with the margins.

Blue text denotes things the GM should know but the players must find out.

It is still a work in progress and based mostly for my now defunct game, but portable enough.

Things to do:

Finish the adventure with books 2 and 3.

Make maps for the house, cave, and the like.

I’d use the official ones, but I don’t want to anger WotC.

Cast:

Town Council – Vyncent (leader) Smart and wild eyed, knows more than he’s letting on
Will join with the smugglers if they’re discovered and let to stay

Anded (craftsman) second in command, uses it to play devil’s advocate

Ehryn (Merchant, Hog in Armor) fights w/ Vyncent, merchant caravan

Gyliam (Capt of Guard) retired soldier, doesn’t care as long as SM is safe

Bertio (Priest) traveling priest that went native

Hames Arken (merchant, Polished Dagger) owns the other shop in town, compulsively plays with ring. He is in cahoots with the smugglers and knows the secret.

Rarder (poacher) drunk who has been to the house, willing to tell story for ale

Hank and Ride Sone (fishermen) own the largest fleet in SM, wary of visitors

Efril (Human Illusionist) leader of the smugglers’ land operation

Inns: Draught 'o th' Crossroads

River's End

Stakes:

Who will control the Town Council?

What is the fate of the haunted house and hideout?

Dangers:

Town Council (Corrupt Government)

Impulse – To retain status quo

Grim Portents

  • Perform dog and pony shows to keep the public quiet

  • Soft enlist of the group to search the haunted house (destined to fail?)

  • Align with the smugglers for a profit

Impending Doom: Tyranny

Smugglers

Impulse – To gain wealth

Grim Portents

  • Guard their secret

  • Assassinate an enemy

  • Lose power over their magic

  • Hide tracks and run away

Impending Doom: Different Tyranny

Area 1: Village of Salt Marsh

Small fishing village on the coast of the ocean surrounded by rolling, unfarmable hills.


Steeding Tags

Prosperity: poor

Population: steady

Defences: none

Resource: fish

Other: blight(Haunted House)


Connections

  • The road out of town

  • A small dirt trail up to an abandoned house on the cliff (Area 2)

  • The sea (Area 7 and 8…)


Impressions

  • The overwhelming smell of fish

  • Mist and fog weigh down the air


Notable Locations

  • Town Hall in the center of the village

  • Hog in Armor – small shop on the edge of town, has a larger supply but fewer buyers

  • Polished Dagger – 2nd small shop with a different owner, odd collection of useful and rare items, cheaper

  • Draught 'o th' Crossroads – dark inn that serves mediocre food for a fair price

  • River's End – dockside inn that is slightly louder and dirtier

  • An old, abandoned house outside of town.


Rumors (1d4)

  1. Did you see the lights coming from the house last night?

  2. Franz named his new ship Cattitude. What the hell was he thinking?

  3. Another ship never made it back last night. That’s the 2nd one this month.

  4. A cold wind still blows from that mansion.

Area Moves

When you ask around about the house,
roll +CHA:

10+: You are pointed to an old poacher, Rarder. He’s been there before.

7-9: You are quietly told it is haunted and that you can see lights moving about at night.

6-: “We don’t trust outsiders.” Mark exp.


Discoveries

You find Rarder, the old poacher, looking for cheap drink at D’ot’C. He will be happy to tell you about his time visiting the house looking to liberate the abandoned wine cellar.

While talking roll +CHA or +WIS:

10+: Rarder is a drunk and is telling you this story so you keep buying him drinks. You learn he was at the house, but knows nothing.

7-9: Rarder convinces you to buy a round while he’s telling the story. After 2 or 3 drinks on your tab, he’s starting to repeat himself and changing details.

6-: You buy multiple drinks and hear everything from vampires to ghosts live there. Did he just say they own pet skeleton rats? Mark exp.

You can get him to guide you to and through the house, for a price.


GM Moves

  • Town Council summons adventurers to help (for money obviously)

  • 1d4 Goons intimidate the party about asking around

  • A shadowy figure enters the Polished Dagger late at night

  • A chill fog rolls in

  • Vyncent joins the smugglers, selling his sway for money

Area 2: First Floor of the House on the Hill

Half a day’s hike up a dirt path you come upon the infamous house, long since vacant


Connections

  • A small dirt trail back to Salt Marsh (Area 1)

  • Clever adventures can go up to the 2nd floor (Area 3) w/ Area Move

  • Stairwell up to the 2nd floor (Area 3)

  • Stairwell down to the cellar (Area 4)

  • Secret passage to the hidden cave (Area 5)


Impressions

  • Broken doors and window frames let the wind whistle through, chilling your bones.

  • Were those footsteps or just the house settling?

  • Everything is rotten and crumbling. Nothing seems to be in one piece anymore


Area Moves

When you search for a way in, roll +Wis:

10+: You find a way in, describe it

7-9: You find a way in, but chose one

6-: GM Move. Mark exp.

  • The way in is difficult or treacherous

  • You stir up some creatures in the brush or house


Giant Rat                       Horde, Tiny, Stealthy

Bite (d4-2 damage)                                Hand

3HP                       1 Armor                      

Instinct: To scare off intruders

  • gnaw into something

  • Drop down unexpectedly

  • inflict disease

Discoveries

  • Rarder knows nothing. He attempted to break in one night to liberate the wine cellar, only to be scared by lights and noises.

  • There’s a faint set of footprints going from the stairs to the kitchen and stairs to the living room (10+), or recent activity (7-9).

  • The Living Room has a trap door going down that is guarded by a powerful illusion and ghostly voice.


Incidental Items

  1. 1d6 coins

  2. a small gem, worthless but pretty

  3. a few books that weren’t ruined by mildew and rot (Bag of Books uses)

  4. a pair of boots left behind be the prior tenants

  5. a small vial of mute pink liquid that smells spicy (Antidote? players call?)

  6. a scrap of paper that is mostly ruined. Only the two words “… beyond skeletons…” are legible.


GM Moves

  • You kick up some yellow mold and get Sick or Weak

  • You hear a hideous laugh or blood curdling scream and become Scared

  • Some roosted critters defend their nest. 1d4+2 rats attack.

  • Your presence was noted.

  • An accident or unfortunate event happens to deal damage to the party (if Ned is around)

Area 3: The Second Floor

Broken rafters and holes in the ceiling are more prevalent up here


Connections

  • Stairwell down to 1st floor (Area 2)

  • Broken stairwell up to the attic
    (not listed)


Impressions

  • Broken doors and window frames let the wind whistle through, chilling your spine.

  • Were those footsteps or just the house settling?


Area Moves

When you cross a hole in the floor, roll
Defy Danger (describe it):

10+: You make it over the hole

7-9: You make it over, but pick one

6-: GM Move. Mark exp.

  • You only partially make it, you’re hanging onto the other end

  • You drop something down the hole

  • Shaking the ground you open another hole in the floor in the way you’re going


Attic

The steps to the attic have long since crumbled away and have left a gaping hole in the ceiling to attempt to get up.

The attic is T-shaped like the rest of the house, but with no walls separating it. If you move forward to investigate, you have 1d4+2 Stirges coming in to flank you.

Stirge                                             Horde, Tiny

Proboscis (d4 damage 2 piercing)           Hand

3HP                       0 Armor                     Wings

Instinct: To suck blood

  • Attach to an enemy

  • Hide in the dark

  • Drink blood through its proboscis.

  • See in the dark

Discoveries

In a locked room there is a man naked and tied up named Ned Shakeshaft. He was looking about the house for loot when something hit him on the back of his head and woke up here.

In reality, Ned is an assassin paid by Hames to keep the party from finding the smugglers. He will only attempt a flat out attack if alone and the timing is right. Stat block in Area 5

If able to follow the footprints up the stairs, it will lead you to an empty room with a window looking over the cliff into the ocean.

If investigate:

10+: You notice scrapes on the window sill, like from a lantern being put up and removed

7-9: You can tell there was someone here a lot more recently than the rest of the house.

6-: GM Move. Mark exp.


Incidental Items

  1. 1d6 coins

  2. a secret compartment that holds 2d10 coins or a gem

  3. a small chest of old documents from the last tenants

  4. rotten clothes


GM Moves

  • Dust gets kicked up, take -1 Forward

  • You hear a hideous laugh or blood curdling scream and become Scared

  • The floor breaks under your weight. Fall to the first floor (Area 2) and take 1d6 falling damage.

  • Some roosted critters defend their nest. 1d4+2 rats attack.

  • Your presence was noted

  • An accident or unfortunate event happens to deal damage to the party (if Ned is around)

Area 4: The Cellar of the Haunted House

Deeper into the house you notice the light becoming more scarce, and the smell more unpleasant


Connections

  • Stairwell up to 1st floor (Area 2)

  • Hidden door to a hidden cellar (Area 5)


Impressions

  • You enter the cellar that was once filled with expensive wines. The racks now rotten and crumbling.

  • As you enter the room you see a rank corpse in plate mail with his shield across his legs, sword still in hand.


Area Moves

When you search the body, roll +Wis:

10+: You notice that his purse is cut and died from a knife in the back. All his gear is yours.

7-9: Pick one

6-: GM Move. Mark exp.

  • You get the 10+, but the body breaks open spilling out Rot Grubs

  • You learn his secrets. No Rot Grubs and no gear.


Rot Grub                                   Horde, Tiny

Burrow (d6-2 damage)                             Hand

3HP                  0 Armor       Burrow into Flesh

Instinct: To infect

  • Burrow under flesh

  • Lay eggs

  • Burst forth from an infected creature

Discoveries

In the back of the cellar there’s a secret door that goes deeper under the house. This is able to be discovered by following the footprints from the front door/stairs, scrape marks on the ground, or anything you think is appropriate.


Incidental Items

  1. 1d6 coins

  2. a bottle of wine that’s still good and was overlooked for all these years

  3. a scrap of paper that is mostly ruined. Only the two words “… beyond skeletons…” are legible.

  4. rotten clothes


GM Moves

  • You kick up some yellow mold and get Sick or Weak

  • You hear a hideous laugh or blood curdling scream and become Scared

  • You disturb a creature’s nest
    1d10 Rot Grubs attack

  • Your presence was noted

  • An accident or unfortunate event happens to deal damage to the party (if Ned is around)

Area 5: The Hidden Cellar

Hidden behind a wall you’re astonished by the sight. A well lit area with signs of life and recent activity.


Connections

  • Hidden door back to the cellar (Area 4)

  • Secret passage up to the living room
    (Area 2)

  • Door with “DANGER” scrawled upon it and a wooden bar across it that you can easily lift (Area 6)

  • A well hidden door that goes deeper into the caverns (Area 7)


Impressions

  • This place is the complete opposite as the rest of the house. Recent activity with plenty of light and well furnished for up to 10 people


Area Moves

If your presence was noticed:

This room is empty with a small wooden boat still in the works and carving knife left on the table. The smuggler is mounting an ambush

If your presence was NOT noticed:

There is a man sitting bored at the middle table carving a small wooden boat.


Ned Shakeshaft          Solitary, Stealthy, Devious,

                                                                         Intelligent

Poison Dagger (d8 damage 1 piercing)   Close

12HP               0 Armor       

Instinct: To deceive

  • Causes unexplained accidents

  • Attack first

Smuggler      Group, Organized, Intelligent, Hoarder

Stab and Slash (b[2d8] damage)   Close, Near

6HP              1 Armor       

Instinct: To protect the cargo and the boat

  • Waylay the unsuspecting

  • Rally round the mast

  • Climb the mast and rigging

  • Brawl

Discoveries

At this point Ned will attack in the open for fear the smugglers will be found out.

A small room off to the side is clearly the living quarters of the superior. In there is a lantern with a shutter on it and a small scrap of paper that has a few words translated from Gnolish (potentially illegible based on languages).

Another hidden door that goes deeper into these smuggler’s caverns.


Found Items

  1. Bolt of fine silk (100 coins)

  2. Rations (3 uses)

  3. Low level magic scroll

  4. a volume of errotic poetry, fully illustrated

  5. Personal effects of the workers

  6. Bottle of expensive brandy (50 coins)


GM Moves

  • Ned attacks

  • The smugglers mount an ambush

Area 6: The Skeleton Room

Locked up behind a door, what could be so dangerous as to resort to this?


Connections

  • The barred door that opens up back to the living quarters (Area 5)

  • A shadowed door leading to the laboratory (not listed)


Impressions

  • The only light comes from the other room, shining only into the corner. You can see a few skeletons on the ground.

  • The lab has a large collection of broken glass and earthenware with a few jars of colored liquids. You see a figure with its back to you studying something on the table.


Area Moves

When you fumble around in the dark, roll +WIS. You find the two doors and…

10+: Pick 1

7-9: Pick 3

6-: GM move, mark exp.

  • You find only one of the doors

  • You don’t know which door is which

  • You find it quickly

  • You need to use Adventuring Gear


Skeleton                                                  Horde

Slam (d6 damage)                                    Close

7HP               1 Armor       

Instinct: To take the semblance of life

  • Act out what it did in life

  • Snuff out the warmth of light

  • Reconstruct from misc bones

Discoveries

There’s a door nestled in the dark that goes to the laboratory.

The man in the lab is long dead looking over a book on the Philosopher’s Stone


Found Items

  1. The Philosopher’s Stone book

  2. A golden apple (100 coins)

  3. A golden human skull (750 coins 1w)

  4. A golden rose (75 coins)


GM Moves

  • 6 skeletons awaken in the dark

  • The door closes shut on you, leaving you in the dark.

  • The players find a cursed luck stone in the hand of the alchemist that looks like medium sized pebble encased in gold with a few runes carved on it (Philosopher’s Stone?). You cannot get rid of it, if you try it shows up back in your pocket the next day.

    • I should create a good cursed magic item for this. Any ideas other readers?

Area 7: The Sea Caves

Hidden under the abandoned house is a small cave that connects to the sea, riddled by smugglers


Connections

  • Stone doorway back into the cellar of the house (Area 5)

  • A small boat on the water dock, an easy row back to Saltmarsh (Area 1)


Impressions

  • Dark and moist, this twisting cave is dark at first in order for the smugglers to hide themselves better. As you walk further into the cave it slowly warms with torches nailed in the walls.

  • As you move further in you enter a huge cavern with crates lining the walls and torches flickering in the sea air.


Area Moves

If your presence was noticed:

The smuggler leader, Efril, is here with 2 gnoll slaves under her spell and a total of 4 Bandits, all ready to attack.

If your presence was NOT noticed:

The smuggler leader, Efril, is barking orders at her 2 gnoll slaves as they walk crates of goods up a ramp from the lower area. There is another Bandit yelling down the pathway.


Black Pudding                      Solitary, Amorphous

Poison Touch (d10 damage, ignores armour)                                    Close                          15HP                     1 Armor       

Instinct: to dissolve

  • Eat away metal, wood, and flesh

  • ooze into a troubling place

Gnoll Slave             Group, Organized, Intelligent

Dagger (d8 damage)                               Close                          6HP                     1 Armor          Special:scent

Instinct: to do as commanded

  • Defend master

  • Attack intruders

  • Work as a pack

Discoveries

This is the base of operations for the smugglers. They’ve been using the house as a hideout and rigging it to scare away the curious.

Deeper into the cave is a small water dock with a rowboat that can be sailed back to Saltmarsh loaded with gear

A crude map detailing where another cave structure is within a day’s travel. Combine with Item 4, they’re selling to lizardmen


Found Items

  1. Bolt of silk (100 coins 1 weight)

  2. Expensive bottle of brandy (50 coins)

  3. Massive stash of low grade weapons

  4. Receipt for weapons in draconic

  5. coins, coins are always good

  6. Evidence Hames Arken is working with smugglers


GM Moves

  • A Black Pudding falls onto the adventurers from the ceiling above

  • The Illusionist Efril escapes

  • Smugglers cross your path

  • You trip a bell trap

  • Real evil entities enter the house


Efril

Group, Magical, Devious, Intelligent, Hoarder

Magic Blast (d6 damage, ignores armour)                                    Close, Reach, Far            10HP                 4 Armor       

Instinct: to command the lesser willed

  • Command its subjects

  • Disorient its enemies

  • Change the landscape, even if only in your head

  • Attack the mind, not body

Intermission

Congratulations heros, you’ve saved the day!

Something about money, and prizes, and other quests to complete. Ya!

Oh wait, what’s that? There was a discovery of lizardmen in a nearby cave structure? Choo Choo!

Area 8: The Sea Ghost

Smuggler ship, add detail here


Connections

  • The sea (areas as needed)


Impressions

  • Dark and moist, this twisting cave is dark at first in order for the smugglers to hide themselves better. As you walk further into the cave it slowly warms with torches nailed in the walls.

  • As you move further in you enter a huge cavern with crates lining the walls and torches flickering in the sea air.


Area Moves

If your presence was noticed:

The smuggler leader, Efril, is here with 2 gnoll slaves under her spell and a total of 4 Bandits, all ready to attack.

If your presence was NOT noticed:

The smuggler leader, Efril, is barking orders at her 2 gnoll slaves (get it? barking, gnolls) as they walk crates of goods up a ramp from the lower area. There is one more Bandit there yelling down the pathway.


Black Pudding                      Solitary, Amorphous

Poison Touch (d10 damage, ignores armour)                                    Close                          15HP                     1 Armor       

Instinct: to dissolve

  • Eat away metal, wood, and flesh

  • ooze into a troubling place

Gnoll Slave             Group, Organized, Intelligent

Dagger (d8 damage)                               Close                          6HP                     1 Armor          Special:scent

Instinct: to do as commanded

  • Defend master

  • Attack intruders

  • Work as a pack

Discoveries

The ship is too large for you to pilot it yourself. You will need a much larger crew to make it anywhere


Found Items

  1. Bolt of silk (100 coins 1 weight)

  2. Expensive bottle of brandy (50 coins)

  3. items

  4. coins, coins are always good

  5. Evidence Hames Arken is working with smugglers


GM Moves

  • You crash the ship into a sandbank, completely immobilizing it.


Efril

Group, Magical, Devious, Intelligent, Hoarder

Magic Blast (d6 damage, ignores armour)                                    Close, Reach, Far            10HP                 4 Armor       

Instinct: to command the lesser willed

  • Command its subjects

  • Disorient its enemies

  • Change the landscape, even if only in your head

  • Attack the mind, not body

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