2018 IRON DM Tournament


Once A Fool
Welcome, one and all, to the 2018 IRON DM Tournament. Eight contestants enter the arena. One emerges as the IRON DM 2018.

To keep down the clutter, all scheduling will take place in the scheduling thread. Ingredients, entries, and judgements will all be posted in this thread. As usual, commentary and trash-talk also should be posted in this thread (for posterity).

This post will be maintained with a link to every entry and every judgement, with latter ones hidden behind sblock tags. Be warned, however, that tags are not universal between the different viewing mediums available nowadays, so use this resource with caution if you don’t want to know who won a match before reading its judgement(s).

[sblock=The Rules:]The Basics:

The tournament is set up in a single-elimination bracket style, with each match determined based on scheduling availability among the eligible contestants.

Each match will consist of two contestants given a single set of ingredients with which to construct a brief adventure or adventure synopsis in any game system or genre. You should waste neither time, nor words, on overly detailed stats, but you should also not assume familiarity with any given system or genre. Explain what you need to explain, and stop there!

These entries will be evaluated on their own merits and those evaluations will then be compared to determine the winner of a match, who will then proceed to the next round.

All matches will be given a time-frame to submit the entries within. An entry that is late will still be accepted, but with a penalty applied to its word-limit. Late entries that are less than 1 hour late will have their word-limits reduced by 10% (meaning, for example, a first-round entry would have its word-limit reduced from 750 to 675, which is harsher than it looks). Entries that are at least 1 hour late, but less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced by 30%. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced by 50%. Entries that are at least 2 days late may be disqualified at the discretion of the other competitor and judges. Entries that exceed their word-limits will be considered to end once they reach that limit; we will ignore everything after.

Obviously, you really want to avoid being late, especially in the first round, but life happens, and sometimes you just can't make it. In such cases, you should take the extra time (before your next threshold) to polish your entry with your new word-limit in mind. It won't be easy, but you might still win. Even if you don't win, you may at least find the judgement enlightening for future IRON DM tournaments!

Entries are expected to make good use of all of the ingredients submitted. The ingredients should be creatively applied, well-integrated, and fundamentally necessary to the adventure that they are used in. This is the crux of the tournament, so don't think that maybe (for example) doing a good job with three ingredients will be enough, as long as you can craft a better adventure! I wouldn't count on it, if I were you.

Finally, matches have traditionally (but not always!) had exactly six ingredients. This will not be the case in this tournament. The list of required ingredients will get longer as the rounds progress!


All entries are to be submitted with the list of ingredients at the top and are not to be edited, once submitted. Let me repeat that last part: DO NOT EDIT YOUR POST, ONCE YOU HAVE SUBMITTED IT! Check your work before you send it in. Then check it again. We will not look favorably upon any entry that has been edited and may penalize the entry as we see fit, including, possibly, outright disqualification. Part of the challenge of IRON DM is in the development and use of discipline in editing and time-management.

Please do not expect us to follow links within your entry. You may include links for others to follow if you choose to do so, but understand that any information that is necessary to the entry must be in the actual entry. We will be reading each entry multiple times and, thus, unlikely to also be willing to go outside the entry to find context for it. More importantly, expecting outside sources to carry the load of exposition very much defeats the purpose of the word-limit.

Along those lines – I reiterate: we will be reading each entry multiple times. Please don't make that difficult for us. Don't bore us and don't make our eyes bleed. Please.


Each of the first-round matches will have a single judge. The second- and third-round matches will have the full panel of three. As I said before, each entry will be judged on its own merits and then the two competing entries' critiques will be compared for the final judgement. In the latter rounds, the majority opinion will determine the victor. Different judges have traditionally had different processes to arrive at such outcomes – for instance, some may use a point-based grading chart, while others may prefer a more abstract analysis.

We will endeavor to be Nemmerelesque in our judgements – critical, but also fair and constructive in that criticism. It's tradition. Even so, please understand that not everybody will agree with every decision that we make – that's the nature of the game. Traditionally, trying to figure out what the judge will want to see is all part of the game (though not necessarily a recommended strategy) – and that can lead to some undesired outcomes. It can sting sometimes (believe me, I know!), but it is a game. Let's have some fun with it!

That said, those wishing to gain a little insight into the judges’ thinking will need to do a little research to do so, but the information is out there. Be warned, though! We may have changed our thinking on some of these things within the last couple of decades!

Tournament Structure:

Round 1: The Crucible

All matches in the first round will have a 24 hour time-limit! All matches in the first round will have six ingredients, all of which are to be used in each entry. Entries in these matches will have a 750 word limit, not including the title and ingredients list. Any descriptions or definitions of ingredients included with the list will count against the limit! That may not seem like a lot, but I assure you, it's even less than you think! Contestants who win their Round 1 matches will proceed to Round 2.

Round 2: The Refinement

All matches in the second round will have a 48 hour time-limit. These matches will each have seven ingredients, all of which are to be used in each entry. Entries in these matches will have a 1500 word limit, not including the title and ingredients list. Any descriptions or definitions of ingredients included with the list will count against the limit! Contestants who win their Round 1 matches will proceed to Round 2.

Round 3: The Tempering

The third round match will also have a 48 hour time-limit. This match will use eight ingredients, all of which are to be used in each entry. Entries in this match will have a 2000 word limit, not including the title and ingredients list. Any descriptions or definitions of ingredients included with the list will count against the limit! The contestant who wins this match will become the IRON DM 2018!

Scheduling, Discussing, and Spectating:

As previously mentioned, the scheduling thread will be used for scheduling the matches.

This tournament thread will be used to post the ingredients, the entries, and the judgements for each match. Commentary will also be welcome in that thread, but, please, if you are commenting on an entry that has not yet been judged, hide that commentary with sblock tags, [sblock]like this,[/sblock] so that we can view the entries with fresh eyes!

If spectators would like to play the home game, please do that in another thread.

One final note:

Once these tournaments have been completed, we try to archive them on these boards for posterity, and so that the adventures can be run or plundered by future Internet generations. We make no claim of ownership over the entries, but we do request that you do not remove your entries once the tournament has concluded. [/sblock]

Our Contestants:

1: Gradine (IRON DM 2017)
2: tglassy
3: Imhotepthewise
4: CleverNickName
5: LongGoneWrier
6: MortalPlague (IRON DM 2014)
7: Mister-Kent
8: hawkeyefan​

Good luck, y'all.

Round 1: The Crucible

Match 1:
MortalPlague vs. Mister-Kent. Iron Sky’s Judgement.
Match 2: Gradine vs. tglassy. Deuce Traveler’s Judgement.
Match 3: Imhotepthewise vs. CleverNickName. Rune’s Judgement.
Match 4: LongGoneWrier vs. hawkeyefan. Deuce Traveler’s Judgement.

[sblock=Round 2: The Refinement] Match 1: MortalPlague vs. hawkeyefan. Iron Sky’s Judgement. Deuce Traveler’s Judgement. Rune’s Judgement.
Match 2: Gradine vs. CleverNickName. Iron Sky’s Judgement. Deuce Traveler’s Judgement. Rune’s Judgement. [/sblock]

[sblock=Championship Round: The Tempering]Gradine vs. MortalPlague. Iron Sky’s Judgement. Deuce Traveler’s Judgement. Rune’s Judgement. [/sblock]
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
IRON DM 2018: Round 1, Match 1, MortalPlague vs Mister-Kent
[MENTION=62721]MortalPlague[/MENTION] and [MENTION=6972087]Mister-Kent[/MENTION], you have 24 hours to post your entries to this thread. Please limit your entry to a title, a list of the ingredients used and 750 additional words. Please include your list of ingredients at the beginning of the entry and please do not edit your post once it is submitted. Please refrain from reading your opponent's entry until after you have posted your own. You are on your honor to do so.

Entries that are between 1 and 59 minutes late will have their word-limits reduced to 675. Later entries that are at less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 525. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 375. In addition, entries that are at least 2 days late may be disqualified at the discretion of the judge with consent from the match's opposing competitor. Entries that exceed their word-limits will be considered to end once they reach that limit; I will ignore everything after.

Your ingredients are:
• Blind Faith
• Blood Debt
• Body Count
• Ethereal Courtier
• Odd Cube
• Regicide

Happy writing!
Last edited:


The Elements:
Blind Faith
Blood Debt
Body Count
Ethereal Courtier
Odd Cube


The City-State of Banderwall has been protected by a ritual since before anyone can remember. On Midsummer's Eve, six names - the Fortunate - appear on an iron cube called the Auspicate. For a week, they are celebrated, and the city revels. At dusk on the seventh day, the die is cast. One of the Fortunate is sacrificed. The others return to their lives, and the city is safe for another year.

Ten years ago, King Jolan's name came up. At the King's command, the Court Wizard Methael created a ritual to replace the King's name with another, one that King Jolan selected. The King presented the altered cube to the population, and at the close of the week, the name that had replaced his was chosen and sacrificed. The next year, the King's name appeared again. The ritual was conducted once more, and the added name was the one who perished. And again, the next year. And again.

This is the eleventh year of the deception. Methael has been dead six years; the King murdered him for developing a conscience. He learned to conduct the ritual himself, picking people who have become inconvenient. Nobody is any wiser.

The Auspicate
A smooth iron cube the size of an apple, heavy in the hand and utterly featureless except during the feast. The six names appear written in common, engraved into the surface. The cube is an artifact, and radiates strong divination magic. Methael's ritual changes the face without altering the magical aura, and the ritual cannot be dispelled by normal means.

If one of the Fortunate die during the week, their name disappears from the cube, and it is rolled with one face blank. A blank face has never come up. Furthermore, nobody can recall a time when a name has appeared for a second time.

Feast of the Fortunate
The heroes are in Banderwall when the Auspicate is presented. There is a grand ceremony where the Fortunate are named; they become celebrities. Throughout Banderwall, there is drinking, feasting, and merriment. These Fortunate have been chosen to keep Banderwall safe from threats. Their bravery must be celebrated.

An Apparition
Late the first night, the ghost of Methael appears to the heroes. He explains the truth: the ritual has been compromised for years through his actions. He cannot rest until the deception is exposed and his debt is paid. He has tried for six years to find someone to listen to him, but no citizen of Banderwall believes the Auspicate can be compromised.

Methael can guide the heroes in dispelling the ritual, but he requires several components. The only challenging ingredient; a drop of the King's blood.

Out For Blood
The heroes have six days. During the feast, the King is often in the streets, surrounded by his royal guard. Banderwall soldiers are slow to violence, due to the long-standing peace they have enjoyed.

King Jolan also spends time in the palace. A wall with battlements and a courtyard garden ring the estate, which is, itself, a labyrinth of corridors and chambers. Finding the King would take time, and the heroes would have to deal with servants and soldiers.

The heroes may employ many skills and tactics to achieve their objective. Creative plans should yield some opportunity for success. The people of Banderwall are peaceful, and may be cowed by displays of aggression.

Changing Fate
With King Jolan's blood, Methael will help the heroes set up the counter-ritual. It must be within five hundred feet of the Auspicate, and the heroes should wait until the king has emerged from the palace to enact the ritual. King Jolan should not be given a chance to detect the reverted name.

With the ritual complete, when the Auspicate is cast, it will come up with the King's name. A ripple of confusion spreads through the crowd, and a look of horror dawns on the face of the King. Methael appears to the crowd at large and tells the people that the ritual can be undermined. That King Jolan has manipulated the result for years. He reads a count of those killed by the King's hand, including himself. The angry crowd drags the King to the block and sacrifices him.

Banderwall is safe for another year.

Moving On
The people of Banderwall are too set in their ways to abandon the ritual, but where there was utter certainty before, now there is doubt. There is a murmur, that perhaps one day will grow to a roar.









The capital of MARROWVANE is all that is left of an embattled kingdom, whose doom began generations ago with the death of King REDIVAN. His closest friend, SANDRUGO—vizier, court doctor, and mage—seized power. He channeled the people’s burgeoning paranoia and used sacrifices to place warding spells against threats to the kingdom. When the next attack against the kingdom failed, the people swore an oath to serve the new king, forever indebted to his dark power.

Today Marrowvane’s inhabitants huddle under the thrall of the long-lived vizier, now the self-styled “SANGUINARIAN”, who claims he requires a sustained influx of blood. The citizens always dutifully offered up their neighbors if it ensured survival, but after a few generations locally-sourced sacrifices are scarce. The Marrowvanians send scouts seeking fresh meat.

On the road betwixt adventures, The Party discovers a series of corpses missing various organs. At the end of the bloody trail is a maiden, her freshly-wounded eye dressed with a makeshift eyepatch. FAITH trembles but speaks boldly, claiming cultists ravaged her merchant caravan and took her family as sacrifices for the Sanguinarian. As proof, she presents an item dropped by the raiders—a wooden box, perfectly cubical, engraved with the Marrowvanian seal. Within the box is a heart, recently belonging to Faith’s mother. Faith urges the party to rescue her kin. The girl and her family are in truth brigands whose caravan robbery was interrupted by cultists, but neither she nor her family (should they be found) will betray The Party if given aid.

The keen-eyed survivalist Party may track the cultists’ horses to the secluded city. Alternatively there is a hillside hovel overlooking the massacre site—the hermit within knows Marrowvane’s location. ISPER GRALE was raised here, but his great-great-grandfather served Redivan. Fearing Sandrugo, Isper’s ancestor fled Marrowvane and never returned. Isper believes his ancestor discovered Sandrugo was behind Redivan’s death. The old servant knew of another entrance to the palace, an underground tunnel accessed from the South. Isper can be paid or persuaded to share this secret.

The city’s outskirts are littered with canopic cubes, stacked in cairns or arranged in symbols. The boxes are empty. There are no spells present should an attempt to detect magic be made. The capital is mostly empty houses coated in dust, their owners long since sacrificed by their neighbors to “save Marrowvane”. The Party will discover evidence of history throughout—tally marks scratched into walls to count the dead, final messages left by residents, alternately resigned and regretful about their fates. The houses are shells with stores of gold, metalwork, and fine goods, untouched for generations. In the streets are statues of Redivan, still clean and well-preserved.

The city’s patrolled by cultists as well as the Bloodless. When Marrowvanian’s die, their oath revives them as Bloodless—pallid translucent specters who become solid when hunting living blood. Near the palace is a hamlet of maintained homes. Marrowvane’s entire population has now dwindled to about four dozen people, mostly elders who send the young and vicious out for new sacrifices. They will desperately defend their homes against intruders, alongside the Bloodless, with any arms available and down to the last man, driven by the belief that they MUST LIVE no matter the cost. Within the Governor’s Manse, the cellar has been converted into a dungeon—Faith’s siblings are held here, with no sign of their father. Once freed, the siblings are eager to join the search for their father. If they make it safely back to Faith, they will share some of their stolen loot.

Within the palace, The Party finds a court of less immediately-hostile Bloodless tending the Sanguinarian. (Taking Isper’s secret tunnel reveals the “sacrifice room”, full of occult artifacts and a freshly carved victim, Faith’s father.) The Sanguinarian sits atop a throne of canopic cubes as his courtiers replace his shallowly beating heart with a fresh one. Sandrugo saw Redivan slain by servant conspirators (including Isper’s ancestor), breaking his heart and mind, causing him to dread his mortality. He preyed on his subjects fear to supply himself with fresh bodies, necromantic fuel to keep himself alive forever. The canopic cubes were never warded—people stayed away for fear of the bloody-minded Marrowvanians, not any protection spell. The Sanguinarian will not let The Party leave alive without swearing an oath never to reveal his secrets to the outside world—breaking the oath results in transformation into a Bloodless. Otherwise, he will have his courtiers attack.

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Off to consider my judgement. Feel free to talk post-writing about your entries now that they are done and before the judgement. I've copy-pasted them into a doc and won't read anything else in this thread until after I post my judgment so don't worry about me reading them.


Once A Fool
A brief bit of commentary, since I’m not judging this one:

[sblock]As is not completely unusual with these matches, these two entries look like they would combine pretty well. The similarities in the scenarios would allow for the strengths of each take to enhance the other. I quite like the foreboding and creepy atmosphere of [MENTION=6972087]Mister-Kent[/MENTION]’s piece and [MENTION=62721]MortalPlague[/MENTION]’s scenario looks like a solid bit of trouble for the PCs.[/sblock]


The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
My own commentary:

[sblock] These are both pretty solid adventures, both giving the players a range of options either in how to accomplish their task or in what tasks to try to accomplish. It seemed like there would be some issue of ingredients being strictly background elements at first, but I think both entries eventually handled most of those issues quite handedly, often in ways that put them directly in the PC's hands. I actually tried coming up with a rubric to score the ingredient usage, and I came up with a tie both in a case-by-case basis (2-2-2) and in overall points. That probably means I would score them again, this time with a bit more critical of an eye, but I feel like this is a pretty close match, when all is said and done. If I had to guess, I'd say one of these entries probably has a slight edge on ingredients usage, but the other I think is a more interesting adventure overall and also has a slightly better take on ingredient interpretation. Interested to see how the judgment comes down, but these are both good adventures and great Iron DM entries! [/sblock]


On my opponent's entry:
[sblock]I feel like you've crafted an evocative, atmospheric adventure. I really like how we both tackled the idea of a culture of sacrifice, but approached it in entirely different ways. Both from a cultural perspective, but also in the focus of the content; stealth / combat vs subterfuge / social challenge. Your names are really good, too. I really like the idea of the Sanguinarian doing organ transplants to prolong his life; it's some wonderful body horror, and would make for a memorable villain.

I may have to put your adventure on the table sometime. It reads like it would play very well.[/sblock]

On my entry:
[sblock]I toyed with a few ideas before I settled on this one. I entertained the notion of the PCs hunting a T-Rex (Tyrant King) as Regicide. I did a rough draft of a murder mystery at a mountain retreat where the king is found dead, but I didn't have enough space in 750 words to outline a cast of suspects and fill in a timeline.

My entry came together when I thought of using the Odd Cube as a die to select who gets sacrificed. I thought Regicide would make an interesting element if it was something the PCs caused. My first draft was an adventure where the PCs uncovered the secrets of the ritual and had to expose or kill the king. But I think things really came together when I added the requirement for a drop of blood. As a DM, I would love to see how my players came up with a way to get close to the king and get some of his blood. And I don't think two groups would do it the same way.

If I had more words to use, I'd want to lay out the city in more detail, put in some NPCs (especially the Fortunate), and really add in the finer detail that would be needed at the game table. But for an adventure overview, I feel pretty happy about my entry.

Deuce Traveler

Round 1: Gradine vs tglassy

IRON DM 2018: Round 1, Match 2: Gradine vs tglassy

[MENTION=57112]Gradine[/MENTION] and [MENTION=6855204]tglassy[/MENTION], you have 24 hours to post your entries to this thread. Please limit your entry to a title, a list of the ingredients used and 750 additional words. Please include your list of ingredients at the beginning of the entry and please do not edit your post once it is submitted. Please refrain from reading your opponent's entry until after you have posted your own. You are on your honor to do so.

Entries that are between 1 and 59 minutes late will have their word-limits reduced to 675. Later entries that are at less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 525. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 375. In addition, entries that are at least 2 days late may be disqualified at the discretion of the judge with consent from the match's opposing competitor. Entries that exceed their word-limits will be considered to end once they reach that limit; I will ignore everything after.

As a judge, I favor entries where the ingredients are integral to the entry.

Your ingredients are:

- Lost Minotaur
- Disguised Warehouse
- Idiomatic Confusion
- Affably Evil
- Perfect Game


Once A Fool
I’m not sure Deuce is going to see this for a while. Therefore, erring on the side of fairness to the contestants, I’m going to repost his list with an added sixth ingredient. Also, the 24 hour time limit will have to be reset to the forthcoming post.

[MENTION=57112]Gradine[/MENTION] and [MENTION=6855204]tglassy[/MENTION], be on the lookout; that post should be up momentarily.


Once A Fool
Round 1, Match 2: Gradine vs. tglassy

[MENTION=57112]Gradine[/MENTION] and [MENTION=6855204]tglassy[/MENTION], you have 24 hours to post your entries to this thread. Please limit your entry to a title, a list of the ingredients used and 750 additional words. Please include your list of ingredients at the beginning of the entry and please do not edit your post once it is submitted. Please refrain from reading your opponent's entry until after you have posted your own. You are on your honor to do so.

Entries that are between 1 and 59 minutes late will have their word-limits reduced to 675. Later entries that are at less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 525. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 375. In addition, entries that are at least 2 days late may be disqualified at the discretion of the judge with consent from the match's opposing competitor. Entries that exceed their word-limits will be considered to end once they reach that limit; I will ignore everything after.

Your ingredients are:

Lost Minotaur
Disguised Warehouse
Idiomatic Confusion
Affably Evil
Perfect Game
Found Wanting

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Before I begin, let me say that I probably how you are feeling right now. The flash of excitement and nervousness that the judgment is up after checking it constantly since the second entry went up, the conviction that your just wrote something amazingly creative under intense time pressure and word count limits. All of that is true and valid and I applaud both of you for having the guts to lay your creative babies on the altar of Iron DM.

That said, here's an overview of my judging process. I've found it works best to go over each entry in several passes, each time reading for different things. Also, this will be probably absurdly comprehensive, nitpicky, and analytical since I'm not good at doing things half-way; fortunately I don't have a word count limit or I'd lose at judging the first round.

My first pass will be literary: how well does it read? Are there typos? Is it coherent? Is the phrasing awkward, awesome, or ambivalent? Did the writing help or hurt the entry? Does the adventure tell a good story?

Second pass will be as a GM: would I want to run it? Is there a good hook? Does it flow? Do I have all the information I need? Is it mostly backstory or mostly adventure? If I bought this adventure to save prep, how much prep does it require? Is the conclusion satisfying?

Third pass will be as a player: would I want to play it? Are there any interesting choices? Do my actions matter? Does it have interesting things to do for different types of players? How about characters? Is the conclusion satisfying?

Fourth pass will be ingredients: how well were they used? Could any be removed or altered without changing the adventure in major way? Are they tied together tightly? Any particularly clever uses?

I'll finish with a conclusion that sums it all up and throws in anything else that doesn't fit into one of these categories such as logical breaks, major inconsistencies, or other elements that "break" the adventure as posted.

A final note before jumping in: I try to be entirely constructive and honest with my feedback since that's been the main benefit for me doing the half-dozen Iron DMs I've competed in and my ability to write has been drastically honed by them for all types of writing, not just adventures. Empty praise or skirting problems to be "nice" is pleasant and useless. If I like it, you'll know and if I think it could use work... you'll know. Feel free to discard it if you don't agree, my main goals are to be fair, honest, and critical.

Literary Pass, Auspicious: A smooth read until "Their bravery must be celebrated." This seems to be a strange opinion from the narrator that also doesn't really help the story at all and could easily be omitted.

There was also some confusion near the end with there being two rituals, the Auspicate and the counter-ritual that made me read it again for clarity. "With the counter-ritual is complete, when the Auspicate is cast..." would have clarified things.

Aside from that, an entirely functional read which is no small accomplishment with such a tight word count and time limit. There were a few extra commas here and there, but otherwise a nice mix of short and long sentences(after the first paragraph at least), clear formatting, and nothing impedes understanding of the adventure.

The biggest gap in the narrative for me is: protected from what? If there's such a great threat that having a 1-in, say, -thousand chance of being killed every year is worth it to keep it at bay, why don't they just leave? I mean, there's at least enough freedom of movement for a random band of ̶c̶u̶t̶t̶h̶r̶o̶a̶t̶s̶ ̶ adventurers to wander in. From the very first paragraph I was wondering and the question was never answered. I would think the murmur would grow into a migration.

Literary Pass, Blood Tithe:Right off the bat, the lack of headings hurtled a "wall of text" in my face. Even for so short a post, I was spoiled by MortalPlague breaking it into segments which is especially helpful for adventures (and judgments of them) as you'll often jump around looking for specific bits of information. Headings give a map to speed the lookup.

Using capital letters for character names the first times they were used seems like it would be helpful, but it mostly threw off my reading as they distractingly drew the eye backwards or forwards while I was trying to read since CAPS ARE URGENT READ THIS FIRST. I'LL BET SOME OF YOU READING THIS JUMPED TO THIS SENTENCE TO SEE WHY IT WAS SO IMPORTANT. While this may have been helpful for reference, it was distracting the first read through. Headings cost a few words, but my word counter said you had a dozenish to spare.

The "always" in the second paragraph threw me off a bit since it implies they still do so I would remove it: "The citizens dutifully offered up, but..." then would also add "The Marrowvanians now send scouts..." for further clarity.

The hook paragraph is a bit deep. Keeping track of Faith was part of a caravan that was attacked by Marrowvanian cultists but are actually brigands that won't betray the party if they try to help... that took some unraveling. I know, "f@^&ing word limit", but just splitting those data points into different sentences would have helped.

In the following paragraph the locations again became confusing – secluded city, hillside hovel above the massacre site, the hermit within knows where Marrowvane is but was raised here having fled Marrowvane. I think the first sentence is what sparked it and if it was moved it would have been less confusing. Also, his "ancestor discovered that Sandrugo was behind Redivan's death." "The old servant" then becomes confusing again since we didn't know beforehand how this ancestor served (knights serve too for example) or that he was old. By old do you mean the "ancestor" or are we talking about the old hermit here?

That there is no magic to detect seems like an odd sentence to include. You could have said "there are no apples here if they are searched for" or "if the characters look for ponies, they find none." Unless there's some indication of magic, why would we assume there was some?

When Marrowvanian's possessive should maybe be Marrowvanians plural? In which case, their oaths revive them?

Unfortunately, more questions and typos as we continue and reading through again to see if I missed something brings up more. Why did thousands of people allow themselves to be sacrificed to protect them? Attacks from who or what? Paranoid about what? When most of your people are being killed to keep your people safe from... something, their demand that they MUST LIVE no matter what broke my suspension of disbelief. "That I live is so important that I'll die for it and fight to the last man to ensure it!" Also, what bandit stolen loot? Weren't they interrupted while raiding? What happened to the caravan? Why is a whole sentence in parenthesis near the end? Why do his raiders risk attacking armed bandits to get sacrifices but will let a handful of wanderers go if they just swear an oath? How did Sandrugo use up so many hearts so fast? Does he need one a day or something? Why don't they send Bloodless out on raids rather than the few dozen survivors? What does less-immediately hostile mean? Do they wait a round before attacking instead of trying to kill the PCs instantly?

Literary Pass, Comparison
In spite of my criticisms, I actually found Mister-Kent's city much more interesting: an empty town creepily littered with conoptic jars, scrawled with messages of doom, littered with wealth and the odd pristine statue of a long-dead King. It's like something Robert E. Howard would have Conan be hunted by ape men through.

MortalPlague's city wasn't terrible – a Hunger Games-esque sacrifice based on rolling a big death dice is cool, but not quite as evocative.

Likewise hooks. MortalPlague has a ghost show up and beg the PCs to help, though witnessing the Auspicate first is a nice touch. Mister-Kent has them stumble upon a bunch of bodies with organs removed leading to a one-eyed maiden holding her mother's heart in a box. Second one is much more compelling.

Not relevant to the judgment, but why did those ingredients both lead to entries involving wizards sacrificing people? I mused through what I might write with those ingredients and that wasn't on the list. Also both involve rituals that keep the people safe from... BOTH FAIL TO NAME WHAT THEY ARE BEING SAVED FROM! The strangest coincidence ever.

Anyway, MortalPlague's writing is far more clear and concise so he comes out ahead on the Literary Pass.

GM Pass, Auspicious
Lets start by breaking the game down into scenes that will actually be played out.

(Hook) A ghost asks for help → get King's blood → do King's blood ritual at the right time and place → unjust King is executed by his own people

The whole thing is absolutely simple and linear with the giant caveat that step 2 is an absolutely perplexing challenge that I could see taking all six days to figure out. MortalPlague gives us a rough sketch of the king's routine then leaves it open to the players to come up with their own solution. It's a perfect puzzle: clear, deceptively simple, and horribly daunting. The more I think about it, the more awesome it is and I absolutely want to watch, run, or hear about how a party handles it. An especially delicious failure scenario that isn't listed is the PCs piss the King off and he makes one of their names show up on the cube.

There's plenty of fun GM shenanigans to throw in to complicate their plans and seems like it would be a blast to run.

GM Pass, Blood Tithe
Let's do the same for Blood Tithe.

(Hook) find organless bodies, Faith begs help → Branch A or B
A(skilled party) → skilled party finds City → get into hamlet free family → enter palace → Conclusion
B(unskilled party) → meets hermit and gets backstory and secret entrance → use secret entrance to palace, learn father is dead → Conclusion
Conclusion: swear oath to keep city secret or fight army of ghosts.

There are more scenes as written, but the immediate problem I have is the more skilled/successful party misses out on most of the backstory, one of the few NPCs, and a secret entrance. That's their reward for being good? As written it seems to be a backup in case of failure to find it, but I'm not a huge fan of the cooler outcome being gated behind failure.

Theoretically there are a few different ways of handling all of it: fighting in, sneaking, or knowing the secret entrance, but the first two are defaults and the PCs won't find the last if they succeed. I could see some neat battles with ghosts in a creepy empty city and fighting a necromancer on a throne of conoptic jars, but no individual scene beyond the hook strikes me as extremely challenging or compelling.

GM Pass, Comparison
The fact that Mister-Kent's adventure is actually playable to a satisfying conclusion in 750 words with a few neat visuals is no mean feat. Read back to a few previous Iron GMs since the word limits were established and you'll find several that flat-out fail.

That said, a group of PCs sneaking or fighting into a city then fighting a necromancer (I can't think of a group would go with the oath option unless it was clear there was no other choice) is pretty standard RPG fare. Trying to steal a drop of blood from a king in public during a week-long festival so he'll be killed by his own corrupt means is amazing.

Auspicious has this pass too.

Player Pass, Auspicious
Let's start with what happens if the PCs don't show up or fail: the King continues to get away with murder. Doesn't directly impact the PCs so not overwhelmingly crucial to them.

However, if they bite into the hook, the deliciously agonizing plotting alone would be a blast, much less the actual attempts. Getting to see the King undone with no one aside from Methael even knowing they had anything to do with it is absolutely satisfying.

Player Pass, Blood Tithe
After the great hook, PCs either find a city, fight or sneak past a bunch of ghosts and suicidal paranoid preservationists, then fight or bow to a necromancer OR they find a hermit, hear a tale of cursed immortality, sneak into a palace to find a dead dad, then fight or bow to a necromancer.

The first one is essentially just a Diablo-esque dungeon crawl. The second is much more interesting but requires them to fail to find. The final confrontation with the necromancer might have been more interesting (he could offer them immortality too, just sacrifice someone and...) but will almost assuredly be a boss fight.

Player Pass, Comparison
It's probably pretty clear by now which way this one goes.

Ingredient Pass, Auspicious
Due to the format of Iron DM, this pass is probably as important as the other three combined as the goal of Iron DM is twofold: 1) write an interesting adventure, 2) make all these ingredients integral to it. As such, I'll go through each ingredient individually for each to see how it was used, how replaceable it was, and how well they all tie together.

• Blind Faith: The people's faith in the ritual to keep them safe from X. This would be stronger if we knew what it was protecting them from that leads them to so blindly have faith in it.
• Blood Debt: The King postponing his death. Also Methael's need to avenge his own death. Also the sacrifice needed to perform the ritual. Some judges believe multiple uses weaken ingredients, I think they just show the contestant's creativity – assuming they are well used anyway, which these are.
• Body Count: The eleven people who died in place of the king. Strong. Also the six potentials that may die.
• Ethereal Courtier: Methael, servant to the king. His most important trait seems to be that he is a wizard, however. His etherealness does at least come from being a ghost rather than fiat, however.
• Odd Cube: I knew this would be a tough one and this one is very creatively odd. Odd as in unusual, its infrequent and also in that it is not doing what it is supposed to be doing. Stronger than I thought it would be.
• Regicide: Undoing the King's ritual so that he dies as he should. That the PCs do it indirectly is awesome.

A sentence: An Ethereal Wizard's Blood Debt due to the king's Body Count causes him to recruit the PCs to use the people's Unwavering Confidence in the Odd Cube to commit Regicide.

On the whole, pretty strong.

Ingredient Pass, Blood Tithe
• Blind Faith: The Marrowvanian's blind commitment to living even if it kills them which I have a hard time grokking. Also half-blind Faith NPC which is only half-blind.
• Blood Debt: The people's oath to the king to keep them safe, fueled by blood, which in reality is more of a immortality ritual. Also the Bloodless who lose their bodies except when hunting blood because... um, just because. Why blood?
• Body Count: An entire city wiped out to keep them safe. It is a high count, though they are never actually counted.
• Ethereal Courtier: The Bloodless serving the Sanguinarian. They are ethereal because... um, so they would work for this ingredient. They don't even serve the king, they are specters in service to a necromancer.
• Odd Cube: The square conoptic jars. They could have been any shape.
• Regicide: Sandrugo's murder of some king way in the backstory. The PCs never even learn of it if they are successful.

A sentence: (Half-)Blind Faith shows the PCs an Odd Cube to entice them to help her free her family from a city where the people's Blood Debt has resulted in a massive Body Count that has resulted in some of them kind of becoming Ethereal Courtiers decades after a tenuously-relevent Regicide.

Hm. Let's replace the non-essentials: A False Bandit shows the PCs an Grisly Jar to entice them to help her free her family from a city where the people's Cursed Oaths have resulted in an Body Count that has resulted in some of them kind of becoming Hunting Specters decades after an Irrelevant King.

Ingredient Pass, Comparison
With most of them strong, one especially great, and only a few weak ones, Auspicious has it.

Most of Blood Tithe's ingredients seem to be squeezed into the story rather than the key pieces of it. The goal of the adventure is to rescue a bandit family with the rest being backstory for the (admittedly cool) setting and strange monsters in their way. If the PCs knew none of the backstory nothing really changes.

In Auspicious, by contrast, the PCs are resolving the Ethereal Courtier's Blood Debt created by the King's Body Count, altering the Odd Cube to ensure that the people's Blind Faith causes them to commit Regicide. All of them are directly involved in, interacted with, and key to the functioning of the adventure.

Final Conclusion
Considering this is your first entry, @Mister-Kent, I'm pretty impressed. As harsh as I may have seemed on your entry, this first round is brutal and MortalPlague is a long time veteran. Against most first-timers you probably would have done quite well, but Auspicious may be the best first round adventure I've seen since the word count was reduced. The organ-transplant immortality hinted by the first hook, the feel of the city, all is excellent and stealable.

My first few rounds I lost, I railed against the judges that they didn't see how brilliant my entries were, but looking back at them later when the passion had faded I agreed with most of their criticisms and my Iron DM and writing games have both benefited greatly thereby. I hope that this all comes across constructively as hard as it is to hear when you've worked so hard and done so well. Hopefully we'll see you back next year and also I hope you don't mind me stealing the "find bodies missing organs" hook to set up some creepy shenanigans when I run games.

@MortalPlague, bravo. I don't think there's a first round entry from the last several tournaments that could have beaten this adventure. The funny part is I wasn't super impressed on first reading, just seemed like a too-simple, run-of-the mill adventure. Each pass just reinforced my respect for it and the skill with which you wove it.

MortalPlague advances to round 2.
Last edited:


Thanks [MENTION=60965]Iron Sky[/MENTION] for the great critique! Absolutely useful going forward. :D I'm stoked that there were some parts that came of really well, and if I was able to leave at least some stealable images or elements then I'm proud of it for a first go. You definitely pointed out lots of things that can be reworked.

Congrats [MENTION=62721]MortalPlague[/MENTION]! I read your entry but didn't get to put my comments up yet. It's so funny how we both arrived at some similar concepts like the sacrificing wizards -- at one time I considered having my Odd Cube be a dice thing, so that would've been waaay too freaky.


@Iron Sky, thank you for the great write-up. I love the way you summarize the use of elements in a sentence, that's an excellent way to look at their usage. The elements were very interesting to work with, and I must confess, at the close of this competition, I'm still thinking about how the PCs might try to get the blood. I might just have to stat this one up in greater detail and run it to find out.

@Mister-Kent, it was an honor and a privilege to compete against you. I thought your entry had incredible atmosphere and a very interesting theme running throughout. I hope to see you on the field next year!
Last edited:


"Speak of the Devil"

Lost Minotaur
Disguised Warehouse
Idiomatic Confusion
Affably Evil
Perfect Game
Found Wanting

This is an Urban 5e adventure for level 1 characters. It can also be used any time during larger campaigns that take place in cities or urban environments.

A carnival worker, Jormund Piddlestomper, has been practicing dark magic, taking customers and secretly sacrificing them to a devil. He is very charming and likable, always smiling and making jokes. He forces his victims to play a “Game”, where they attempt escape and rescue others, but failure means they lose their souls. Piddlestomper must win 10 times in a row, making the “Perfect Game”, or his soul is forfeit.

The Adventure:
The party hears rumors that some townsfolk have disappeared near a carnival. Speaking to the Carnival Master, he also has lost his prized exhibit: a Minotaur. Further investigation shows that people keep disappearing in the towns and cities this carnival goes to, and the owner wonders if one of his crew is involved. Talking to any of the Carny’s with a DC 10 Persuasion or Intimidation check has them point out Jormund Piddlestomper’s cabin. He’s the magic behind the carnival, and they are all wary of him.

Upon searching the cabin, they find a note with a local address on it. If they succeed on a DC 15 Perception check, they find a hidden compartment with a journal which talks about dealing with devils, and a related game the man is frightened of losing. He needs a “Perfect Game”, though it indicates he has succeeded in 9 times, and only needs one more to win the game against the devil.

The party goes to the address and finds a warehouse. Once inside, though, the door shuts behind them, and disappears, and they find themselves in a Labyrinth.

A voice calls out over the party, “Welcome! Come and play Devil’s Advocate! Well begun is half done, but can you whether the storm? Before you is a maze of magic and might, beyond young maidens do quiver with fright. You must continue through thick and thin, but you must also run like the wind. Leave no stone unturned as you riddle each gate but take too much time and you’ll be checkmate. For within I kill two birds with one stone, a Minotaur hunts, his bloodlust has grown.”

The maze is magical, and blocks attempts to circumvent the fun with magic. Every time they turn a corner, roll a d20. On a 16-20, they find a gate, and a 1-5 finds the Minotaur, otherwise there are just twists and turns.

There are three gates to get to the center. Each gate opens by solving a “riddle”, utilizing a different idiom. If they take too long, roll a d20. On a 1, they Minotaur finds them and attacks. Each time they succeed at a gate, Piddlestomper humorously makes a comment about the idiom used.

1. A scale, two measuring bowls and two large jugs, one labeled “Cure” and one labeled “Prevention”, sit on a table next to the gate. They must pour some of each into the bowls, and then set the bowls on the scale. Since an ounce of Prevention is worth a pound of Cure, they must use only 1/16th of Prevention to equal the same amount of the Cure. Trial and error can work but takes time.
2. Next to this gate is a skeleton of a man and a horse. You have to beat the dead horse in order to get the door to open.
3. They come to a trench, with a bridge spanning the gap. Across the bridge is the gate. They must cross the bridge and then burn it to open the gate.

In the center of the maze is a glass house with no door. Inside the glass house are the captured townsfolk. The glass is completely indestructible, unless you grab one of the stones around on the ground and throw it at the glass. Then it shatters, and the game is won.

At this point, Jormund Piddlestomper screams and the maze disappears, revealing the mage. If the Minotaur is still alive, he sends it after them. If not, he is consumed by infernal flames. A Devil briefly appears, and says “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting.” The Devil does the same if the party fails, only in this case consuming the party. On Piddlestomper’s corpse is 1d4 random Magical items from Table B, and 200gp.


The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
The Little Bloodhounds in: Have You Seen This Calf?

The Little Bloodhounds in: Have You Seen This Calf?

Lost Minotaur
Perfect Game
Affably Evil
Disguised Warehouse

Found Wanting
Idiomatic Confusion

Clubhouse Detectives
The Little Bloodhounds are a group of friends in the second grade at Monsterberg Elementary. Monsterberg is a relatively small town on the outskirts of Seatown. Between regular evil plots and do-gooder adventurers, there’s always some mystery for the Bloodhounds to unravel. When they’re not saving the town, these pint-sized fanged and furred sleuths do private investigating for the low price of five silver pieces: just enough for some Sour Dwarves, their favorite treat.

The Lost Boys
Minnie Taur is the biggest kid in Ms. Ichtytriax’s second grade class, but he's a shy minotaur. He is often bullied by Connor Stinson, a fourth grade hobgoblin of small mind, for having a name like a “girly chinchilla”. It wasn't strange he didn’t come to school on Monday; he sometimes skipped classes to avoid being teased. By Wednesday, though, Minnie’s face was on the side of every milk carton. Connor goes missing the next day.

Game Over
On Friday, one of the Bloodhounds finds a flier in their cubby. “Come to The Labyrinth tonight and find the Perfect Game!” The flier has a Checkmate 4200 game cartridge on it. The flier could only be referring to one thing: Moley the Subterranean, the game that sank Giveaway Games. The epic game was never released, as Giveaway dissolved shortly before release. But Moley the S.T. was supposedly finished, and thousands of copies are rumored to be left in a warehouse. A similar flier can be found in Connor’s cubby (Minnie's is empty) for any Bloodhound willing to brave Mr. UIithard’s 4th grade class; they most search the cubby and escape with as much of their brain intact as possible. It’s well known how much Minnie loves video games, and he often talks about wanting to play Moley the S.T.

The Labyrinth is an indoor carnival, but it isn’t supposed to be open until next month. If the Bloodhounds arrive at night, however, the lights inside are on. Inside they meet Explicia Malevolen, an overly friendly ettercap. She has great candy and only one eyepatch, so she seems legit. She also insists she is cursed that she cannot tell a lie, so you know she’s being honest. She says the other boys are lost in the maze, still looking for the Perfect Game. They cannot leave until they’ve found it. She has one last reveal: that she bought this location to host her Labyrinth because it used to be a warehouse for Giveaway Games!

In reality, Explicia Malevolen is evil! She’s right about the curse, but she’s found it only prevents her from telling direct lies. Her plan is to lure Monsterberg’s children into her lair (which truly was a Giveaway Games warehouse) and force the parents to make her the mayor in return for their children back! If only she had the Perfect Game...

The Labyrinth is a terrible maze filled with puzzles, traps, and devious lab rats. Unbeknownst to the Bloodhounds, they’re being followed themselves by a nasty monster… Connor! Connor is all talk, and puts on a brave face, but he’s actually scared of the Labyrinth, and can’t traverse it alone.

In a dark corner of the Labyrinth, the Bloodhounds find Minnie. Even if the Bloodhounds (and possibly Connor) decide to confront Explicia, Minnie refuses to leave; he wants the Perfect Game! He won’t leave without it, but he’ll need to be convinced to work with Connor, let alone share his supply of Blood Orange Juice and Cheddar Hobbits. Minnie, as a minotaur, never gets lost, and is a great help navigating the Labyrinth, but struggles with the puzzles.

Yugoloths in the Outfield
At the center of the Labyrinth is the Perfect Game; Explicia wasn’t lying about that. She’ll try her hardest to prevent the Bloodhounds from finding it, but cannot stop anyone from leaving once it’s found.

But it’s not a video game; it’s a trading card commemorating one of Beholderball’s most famous perfect games: Lucky Franz’s Crossplanar Series win for the Seatown Krakens, in which he struck out twelve gladiators and decapitated three umpires in a single inning, a multiverse record! It’s not Moley the Subterranean, but it might sell for enough to buy a new console. Minnie wants the new Creole Exodus, but Connor wants the Checkmate 6900, the grownup console his uncle has, and might try to steal the card! The Bloodhounds must stop Connor and decide what to do with their new treasure.

The Little Bloodhounds will return in… The Reluctant Jackalwere
Last edited:


The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
Wow, that... really ended up messing up my formatting. That's what I get for not previewing it first :(
Last edited:


The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
This begins my pre-judgment analysis:

[sblock]I have been watching way too much Disney Jr with my daughter[/sblock]

This concludes my pre-judgment analysis.

Epic Threats

An Advertisement