2018 IRON DM Tournament - Page 7
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  1. #61
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    Congrats to @MortalPlague! I definitely dug your adventure. I especially liked the medisa and her drones...I thiught that was really clever. Good luck in the final round!

    The most obvious issue with mine is the length. All I can say is this was a case of real life interfering with the contest. I was dealing with something at work all day and the figure 1550 was involved. That number got stuck in my head, and became my target goal...I got my entry to 1545 and thought I was good. As soon as I read the first judgment I was like now way I know I got it under....ohhhh ooops. Pretty funny.

    @Iron Sky and @Deuce Traveler I realize now that I should have broken up my paragraphs more. I think I was trying for a more uniform look, but functionality should have taken precedent. And the bit where I kind of went into King’s mindset without using quotes...I thought it made sense, but both judges mentioned it, so it was obviously unclear. I should have thrown some quotes around it.

    The DNA/autopsy angle is a bit unclear. I thought that I implied that an autopsy was done because they were unsure what cause Miranda to crash, so they were looking for a cause. I originally mentioned a bit about Delta Green having access to any medical records where certain red flags came up....DNA irregularities that wouldn’t be noticed by standard ME but would register in their system as a risk. It seemed an overly long explanation so I cut it in the interest of the word count. Also, the rules say that the entry can be an adventure synopsis, so I figured such a detail was unnecessary. But again, both judges mentioned it, so it was definitely an issue, even if a minor one.

    For the ingredients, just to clarify:
    - High Toll- the toll on King, the possible toll on the town if Sayer isn’t stopped, and finally the possible toll on the town if Delta Green decides they need to blow it up (I think this last one was lost due to the word limit being exceeded, but is also implied in the Briefing section).
    - Affluent Panhandler- A connected agent to a powerful covert agency, who goes mad and winds up begging in a park. I even named him King to give it a bit more. I had some dialogue in the park where he was tossing breadcrumbs and muttering about being the “king of pigeons”, but I had to cut it.
    - Indignant Retort- this was indeed King’s progress report at the start.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my entries, and those of everyone else. I’m sure this is time consuming, and you guys have all been giving really detailed and solid feedback. It was fun...I’m glad I was able to take part. Looking forward to seeing how it tirns out.
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  2. #62
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    Judgement for Round 2, Match 1: MortalPlague vs. hawkeyefan

    Let me begin by saying that the parameters in IRON DM are each intended to challenge the contestants in different, often synergistic ways. No single parameter is less important than another. A competitor may be tempted to squeeze in a few (or, let’s say, forty) extra words and gamble that the strength of the writing and ingredient-weaving will carry them through. The reason that is a gamble is that the end of the entry isn’t going to counted. Or read at all, at least in this judge’s case.

    hawkeyefan’s “Catalyst” crosses the line. Different word-counters have indicated varied results for me, but the most generous pegs it at 38 words over the limit. I wasn’t happy to see that, but, oh well. I chopped off the end and started reading.

    Then MortalPlague posted “Morality Index.” I copied it over to my word-processing app (minus title and ingredients). 1506. Uh oh. Copied into a different app. 1506. That didn’t seem likely. MortalPlague had turned the piece in with time to spare and had already talked about trading words to hit the word-limit. 1506 would be a pretty ridiculous oversight.

    So I conferred with the other judges. Iron Sky pegged it at 1497. I alternated between reads of the entries, note-taking of same, and trying to figure out the source of the discrepancy. Eventually, I had to conclude that this particular mystery would have to go unanswered. I just don’t have the time for it.

    Then Deuce chimed in, reminding me of the existence of WordCounter.net, which gave him the count of 1499. I tried it and...1493. Good enough. I’ll be using that site from now on, so contestants might do well to check it themselves.

    Oh, and by the way, that most generous +38 word count for “Catalyst” also came from the site. So that’s that.

    Back to business:

    Both adventures are pretty strong and fairly well-presented (at least, up to 1500 words). “Catalyst” gives a tight investigative horror scenario that does justice to the genre. The scenes are arranged in a loosely non-linear cluster with plenty of minor picture-building clues. Sprinkled within are a handful of big clues that are very likely to steer the PCs toward the next important location (assuming they actually get those clues).

    The effect of this is to create a scenario that is likely to broadly follow a particular path, without getting hung up on the limitations that actual linear design bring along with it, assuming the GM is skilled enough to avoid it. This is good design, particularly for an investigative scenario, although some GMing advice would go a long way toward making it actually play out as well as it has the potential to do.

    Along the way, there’s really a lot to uncover. There’s not a lot of actual action in the course of things (until the climax), but that’s perfectly within genre expectations. The attention spent on detailing possible repercussions of the PCs’ choices is well-implemented and much appreciated. Of course, I don’t know what happens if the PCs flat-out fail, as I had to chop off the last 38 words because: rules. But I think this can be pretty well inferred based on the plentiful clues throughout the adventure.

    At first read, this is a good adventure. After multiple reads, it looks even better. I’m impressed. True, the language is sometimes pretty clunky, which works to obfuscate the underlying goodness. Cleaning it up a bit would likely have shortened it to be within the word-limit, too. But, looking past that, yeah. I’m impressed. There’s a lot to be impressed by.

    As it happens, “Morality” also presents a very solid adventure with a strong investigative element, as well as a very intense cat-and-mouse scenario complicated by the potential for those roles to flip (possibly more than once!). To top it off, the adventure adds depth with a level of moral dilemma. And right in the middle of that, there’s a wild-card in the form of an enigmatic and possibly problematic out-of-place NPC.

    This adventure seems simple because it is tightly presented and has a clear set of goals presented at the outset. It is deceptively complex. Throughout, the PCs are likely to be questioning their mission, figuring out what the situation really is, figuring out how they want to deal with it, figuring out how they can deal with it, and, if they survive all that, hoping they’ve figured out if they even want to complete the mission. Ideally (from a GM-point of view), the PCs won’t agree on that last point.

    This is not a good adventure scenario. It is a superb one.

    But the ingredients...

    The High Toll of “Catalyst” is not explicitly pointed out, but is used as a theme to illustrate the mounting consequences of the madness. As such, the ingredient is omnipresent and inherently tied to all of the others. This is a very good usage of the ingredient. The fact that it is also a direct threat to the PCs makes that much better.

    “Mortality” uses a more direct approach. The High Toll is the method the PCs carry with them throughout the adventure to deactivate the Medusa-bot. It is, thus, extremely relevant to the PCs. That’s good. Unfortunately, it really didn’t need to take that form. For instance, wouldn’t something like a portable EMP work better?

    Both entries make similar use of the Time Bomb ingredient. The bomb in “Catalyst” seems at first a minor clue, but the ability for the PCs to make use of it themselves enhances its relevance a bit. This is lessened by the somewhat unlikeliness it actually will be used in such a way. On the other hand, there is a not-insignificant chance that at least one of the PCs will go insane and having a time bomb available just makes that better.

    “Morality” ties the ingredient (in the form of the ship’s self destruct sequence) in nicely to the ultimate moral dilemma – as long as the Medusa doesn’t trigger it earlier. If she does, of course, that sets up yet another (possibly overlapping) exciting sequence. Of the two, this use seems superior.

    The Affluent Panhandler of both entries is problematic as an ingredient. In both, the affluence of the panhandler is minimally relevant at best. Worse, neither actually panhandle! Binjun comes closest, but his demands for money are more of a (perhaps unreasonable) attempt at debt-collection. The panhandlers’ roles are important and the characters are good (especially Binjun), but the ingredient-usage simply isn’t.

    I’m pretty sure that “Catalyst” intends for the Dread Virago to be the Phobic Medusa, although they are never actually called that. The phobic part is quite clever; the creatures spread an irrational and overpowering fear. The problem is, even with the name, “virago,” giving them a connotation of violent female traits (and what does that even mean in this context?), the leap from there to medusa is very long. Too long for me to make, at any rate. And, in case the idea of being “petrified from fear” was supposed to come up, I will point out that no subjects of the fear-effect are ever described as being frozen with fright. Indeed, they all very specifically remain mobile.

    In contrast, the Phobic Medusa in “Morality” really does provide a genre-appropriate (and really creepy) petrification effect. Added to that, having the Medusa-bot’s poorly-calibrated threat assessment algorithm trigger her defensive (offensive) protocols is a bit of pure briliance. This, alone, would make for a very well done ingredient. The fact that the Medusa’s role is so integral to the adventure elevates it further.

    Regrettably, “Mortality” offers nothing particularly memorable – or even identifiable, really – in the way of an Indignant Retort. “Catalyst” at least gives us King’s last communication, but its only function is as background color.

    I am a little confused about just what the Dirty Secret in “Catalyst” is. Presumably, it is the Dread Virago in King’s dirty apartment, but the Dread Virago itself is smelly, not dirty. And the importance of the apartment’s dirtiness, while not entirely absent, is fairly subdued.

    On the other hand, “Morality” hangs its Dirty Secret (DelphiCorp’s insertion and activation of the Medusa on the Seriphus) over the entire adventure – ever-present and impossible to ignore.

    Finally, there’s the Pure Sample. In “Morality,” it comes in the form of Medusa’s code. As such, it is basically just a Macguffin, though its tie-in to the moral predicament helps redeem it.

    Meanwhile, Sayer’s Dread Virago in “Catalyst” also seems a weak use of the ingredient at first, but the possibility that the sample might actually be able to be used to make an effective cure strengthens its importance to the adventure manyfold.

    Reckoning:

    So that’s an even split of 3 to 3, with one ingredient being used equally poorly in both entries.

    Which brings us back to the qualities of the adventures, themselves. hawkeyefan did well in that regard, but MortalPlague did even better.

    What can I say? @hawkeyefan, you’ve got good vision (in the long run, that’ll be your greatest strength, I think) and you came [i]very[i] close to knocking off a former IRON DM in this round. A little more regard for the parameters of the competition and a little more polish – even just one ingredient integrated a little better – and I think at least two of these judgements might have tilted your way.

    This time, though, @MortalPlague shows how an IRON DM gets it done and advances, by unanimous decision, to the Championship Round.
    Last edited by Rune; Tuesday, 16th October, 2018 at 08:14 AM.

  3. #63
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    Thanks, @Rune! Sorry I jumped the gun on my reply to the earlier judgments...since it had already been decided, I wasn’t sure if the third would be needed.

    I commented on the word count issue above, and most of the other concerns, but one thing to add is that medusa is also a word for a kind of jellyfish, typically the umbrella-like ones with stinging tentacles. And the dirty secret was Sayer’s experimentation with it.

    Thanks for taking the time to provide the feedback.
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  4. #64
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    @hawkeyefan, I was floored that neither of us went with a fantasy adventure. I thought the medusa element would strongly steer this into that territory. But when I tried to rationalize a science fiction medusa, I just liked it more and more. Your take on the medusa who inflicts phobia was a very clever take. I really thought it gave my own alternate medusa a run for her money. I also thought your indignant retort was very good.

    I have not yet tried Delta Green, but I really want to. More so, after reading 'Catalyst'.

    @Iron Sky, @Deuce Traveler, @Rune - Thank you all for taking the time to judge. Some of you pointed out how Binjun and the retort aren't really connected to the rest of the adventure as tightly as the other elements, and that was a late change. I had originally intended to have a collection of silver and chrome entertainment bots floating around, hawking services (loudly) at the PCs. Their shiny exteriors would have allowed the PCs to use them to reflect the petrification rays, making their affluence meaningful. I showed the piece to two of my players, however, and independently, neither one thought it qualified as panhandling. So I drafted up Binjun instead, who is likely to fill some of the same role of being a wrench in the works.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rune View Post
    Then MortalPlague posted “Morality Index.” I copied it over to my word-processing app (minus title and ingredients). 1506. Uh oh. Copied into a different app. 1506. That didn’t seem likely. MortalPlague had turned the piece in with time to spare and had already talked about trading words to hit the word-limit. 1506 would be a pretty ridiculous oversight.

    So I conferred with the other judges. Iron Sky pegged it at 1497. I alternated between reads of the entries, note-taking of same, and trying to figure out the source of the discrepancy. Eventually, I had to conclude that this particular mystery would have to go unanswered. I just don’t have the time for it.

    Then Deuce chimed in, reminding me of the existence of WordCounter.net, which gave him the count of 1499. I tried it and...1493. Good enough. I’ll be using that site from now on, so contestants might do well to check it themselves.
    This makes me a little concerned. Do you know what's causing the word count to fluctuate? Do contractions count as two words in some counters?
    XP hawkeyefan, Rune gave XP for this post

  5. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
    Thanks, @Rune! Sorry I jumped the gun on my reply to the earlier judgments...since it had already been decided, I wasn’t sure if the third would be needed.

    I commented on the word count issue above, and most of the other concerns, but one thing to add is that medusa is also a word for a kind of jellyfish, typically the umbrella-like ones with stinging tentacles. And the dirty secret was Sayer’s experimentation with it.

    Thanks for taking the time to provide the feedback.
    Ya know, I was so fixated on analyzing other things, that Jellyfish angle floated right by me. Had I noticed, that would indeed have improved my opinion of your usage of the ingredient. Such are the dangers of subtlety. Of course, that was stacked against one of MortalPlague’s very best ingredients, so that, alone, couldn’t have tilted the match. But, I still want to publically say that it is more clever than I gave it credit for being.

    On the matter of feedback:

    Given the large amount of effort required to judge a match, it is tempting for a judge to wonder what the point of providing a third judgement for an already-decided match is. But, as a contestant (particularly, one who hopes to continually improve), I find that the actual act of creating and polishing an entry is only half of the learning process. Reading the hyper-analytical outside perspectives is every bit as informative as the experience of crafting.

    Because that is so, when I am a judge, it feels as if, in forgoing a judgement, I would be cheating the contestants of something of potential value that they had earned by stepping up and putting their creative energies on the line. You did that. You therefore deserve to have me put in the work and offer something of substance, even when it mathematically can’t change your fate in the tournament.
    Last edited by Rune; Wednesday, 17th October, 2018 at 07:31 PM.

  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by MortalPlague
    This makes me a little concerned. Do you know what's causing the word count to fluctuate? Do contractions count as two words in some counters?
    If you can figure that out, it would be a service to us all. Obviously, the actual sections the judges choose to count might vary. The rules say that only title and ingredients are excluded from the count, but subtitles and section headings are a gray area. For the record, I count the subheadings as part of the body and the subtitle as part of the title, as long as the only information it provides is brief and necessary to run the system. Things like level-ranges, genre, and rulesets.

    Then there’s the possibility that some combinations are getting counted differently. Words or numbers divided by dashes, slashes, or hyphens might count as two in one app and one in another. Maybe. Incidentally, my primary word processor (with the original 1506 count) counts hyphenated words as two, but that couldn’t possibly be the source of the discrepancy in this case (unless some additional discrepancy was working in the opposite direction), because your entry had 13 hyphenated words in it (by my last visual count), but my total count was only 9 greater than Iron Sky’s.

    Yeah. I sank a lot of time into this.

    It bugs me, too.

  7. #67
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    It all depends on what the program defines as a word. When factoring how many words per minute you can type, a system usually takes the average of 5 keystrokes to equal one word, regardless of how many actual words are present. That includes all letters, numbers, symbols and spaces. If one program does that, and another program counts the number of times you hit the space bar to equal separate words, or it tries to coins the number of times you group only letters together...you can see how it can cause variations.

    I think you should post a link to the word counter that will be used by all judges before the first match, so contestants can use it before posting, if you didn’t already. That would help cut down confusion.

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by tglassy View Post
    It all depends on what the program defines as a word. When factoring how many words per minute you can type, a system usually takes the average of 5 keystrokes to equal one word, regardless of how many actual words are present. That includes all letters, numbers, symbols and spaces. If one program does that, and another program counts the number of times you hit the space bar to equal separate words, or it tries to coins the number of times you group only letters together...you can see how it can cause variations.

    I think you should post a link to the word counter that will be used by all judges before the first match, so contestants can use it before posting, if you didn’t already. That would help cut down confusion.
    I think so, too. Though obviously, it’s too late to do that for Round 2. (There is a link to that site in my judgement of R2M1, but it’s kind of easy to miss.)

  9. #69
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    I was wondering if some of those bullet points and other symbols showed up as words, but I do not know since I do not write the involved software algorithms.

  10. #70
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    At least in my case, that wouldn’t have been relevant, because they didn’t get transferred over during the copy.

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