2019 IRON DM Tournament

Gradine

Polymorphed Self
IRON DM 2019: Round 1, Match 3, MortalPlague vs lowkey13
@MortalPlague and @lowkey13 , 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:
• Bleeding Moon
• Lifeless Doll
• Forbidden Library
• Missing Puzzle Piece
• Master of the Seas
• Manufactured Chaos

Happy writing!
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
What a Troubleshooting Fool Believes

A Classic Paranoia Adventure

Ingredients

Bleeding Moon

Lifeless Doll

Forbidden Library

Missing Puzzle Piece

Master of the Seas

Manufactured Chaos

GM NOTE- Do not pass up any opportunity for a bad joke, or a good player death.

It’s another beautiful day in Alpha Complex starting with the joyful buzz of fluorescent lights. You reflect on the bounty of the Computer- your two ration pellets, your humongous 2m^2 cell, and the soft dulcet tones of the Computer.

“Good morning Citizen. Time to serve the Computer.”



The Mission

The Troubleshooters have an important mission to escort a high-ranking Admiral to an undisclosed location on the surface for the weekend. Details will be provided by Admiral BERN-I. A team of Vulture Squadron goons escort the Troubleshooters to BERN-I and depart.



The Background

The Secret Societies know about BERN-I, and all believe that BERN-I possesses the missing puzzle piece that will unlock the Forbidden Archives; they believe that the Archives will improve Alpha Complex, will destroy the Computer, or both. Every Troubleshooter is given an instruction by their Society to protect, kill, or kidnap the Admiral.

One Troubleshooter will be assigned the Operation Chaos Mission (see below).



The Admiral

In an empty white room, the Troubleshooters find, dressed in a jaunty sailor’s cap, wearing a sailing jacket festooned with little flamingos, holding a festive drink in one hand, and wearing sunglasses … a mannequin. Admiral BERN-I is a dressed-up mannequin.

Complications-

Cannot tell Computer - Computer is infallible.

Cannot tell Societies - will assume Troubleshooters were turned.

Room is code Ultraviolet.

Computer demands status updates on BERN-I.




Wandering the Alpha Complex

Take as much time (and clones) as needed for the Troubleshooters to wander Alpha Complex with BERN-I searching for a way to the outside world. So long as the Troubleshooters treat BERN-I as a living, high-ranking Admiral, so will others.

Any questions about the outside will be viewed as Treason, resulting in execution.



The Rail

The Troubleshooters will be approached by a bot named DEUS EX, who states:

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get ye all


DEUS EX tells the Troubleshooters that the Archives contain the launch codes for a powerful weapon, the YAT ROK missile, and that firing this missile fulfills the end-times Pink Moon prophecy of Nyk Drake-U.

Troubleshooters are given map to Archives and location of missing piece in BERN-I’s finger.



Ambush!

Darryl-O Hall and John-O Oates along with 5 Rock-Rs mount a surprise attack on behalf of Society Death Leopard. They target DEUS EX first, then the Troubleshooters, to kidnap BERN-I.



Archives

Operation Chaos- the Troubleshooter with this mission was told that the Archives contain the power of “smooth, smooth grooves,” and that the release of these “grooves” into the Alpha Complex will cause chaos and destruction and the end of the Computer. The Troubleshooter will not know how to release the “grooves,” or what “grooves” are, but will be looking for any opportunity to do so.



BERN-I does have the missing piece of the key embedded in its finger, a Pink Moon.

The door key is a puzzle; there is a blue diamond, a purple horseshoe, an orange star, and a green four-leaf clover, with two spots remaining (for a moon and a heart). The Troubleshooters must duplicate the Pink Moon and jam it into both the Moon and Heart slot. Putting anything else in, or just putting in a single Pink Moon, will result in a massive electric charge and death to the Troubleshooter.

The inner chamber is filled with screens and one shiny, red button.

-If the Troubleshooters do not press the red button, they will have to determine how to report back to the Computer. Even knowing about the Archives is evidence of treason!

-If the Troubleshooters press the red button, then the Archives spring to life; all the monitors come on, and the Troubleshooters will hear the same thing that is now being broadcast throughout Alpha Complex:


“Right now, brand new bakery-fresh music from Toto, and forgive my Français but effin’ sh**, I wish I knew the girl this song was written about.”

(Start playing Toto’s Rosanna, and if the Troubleshooters are still in the archives when Toto belts out, “I can see you face still shining through the window on the other side” then a large Vulture Goon squadron will burst into the room and terminate the Troubleshooters.)



Conclusion

If the Troubleshooters activate the Archive, then after the initial song, “Sailing” will be stuck on loop 24/7 for the next year.

Success!
 

MortalPlague

Adventurer
Ingredients:
Bleeding Moon
Lifeless Doll
Forbidden Library
Missing Puzzle Piece
Master of the Seas
Manufactured Chaos


Torpor
A science fiction adventure


Chiasmus Station; an illegal mining outpost built on a moon orbiting a barren planet. The yield was minerals at first, but when they pierced the crust they began bringing up blood. The startled miners found they were drilling into Czerentoag, an ancient, malevolent creature who once sailed the solar currents, leaving destruction in his wake. The drill was rousing him from his hibernation.

While sleeping, Czerentoag’s psionic electrokinesis allowed him control the android CZ-4, who began to interfere with attempts to stop the drilling. Things became violent. Before CZ-4 could murder them all the crew killed the generator, stole a piece from the drill, and encrypted the archives to prevent erasure. With the crew dead Czerentoag tried to have CZ-4 re-activate the generator, but before he could, he succumbed to torpor.

This adventure tracks Czerentoag’s awareness; PC actions may raise or lower it.

0–Torpor (starting point)
1–Dreaming: Czerentoag can puppet CZ-4.
2–Stirring: Czerentoag can control simple systems; manipulating doors, triggering alarms, powering down computers.
3–Rising: Czerentoag can force systems to override their safeties and break. He can slice people in half with doors. He can cycle and open the airlock, exposing Chiasmus station to vacuum.
4–Awake: Czerentoag begins to sail through the cosmos once more.

Important: The drill has a nanite coating to help pierce hard materials, but it also blocks Czerentoag from controlling it directly.


ADVENTURE
The PCs are hired to investigate why Chiasmus Station went dark.

Chiasmus Drilling Station has been offline for a month. The exterior of the station, like much of the moon, is crusted in ice. Once the PCs get through the ice they must pry open the airlock doors and force their way into the station. The interior has a thin layer of frost on everything.

POWER
The generator is easily found and activated. The airlock doors automatically close and begin to cycle. Heaters turn on throughout Chiasmus. Awareness up.

DRILL

In the center of the station the drill is silent, poised above a hole in the carapace. The missing drill piece is with the crew remains at maintenance.

ARCHIVES
The systems boot up fine. PCs may attempt to decrypt the archives, but the progress is slow and difficult. Decryption will reveal the ancient and malevolent nature of Czerentoag. It will also reveal that severe cold can reduce his awareness.

MAINTENANCE
A dozen insectoid predators (hitchhiked aboard a supply shuttle) are thawing out here, put into hibernation by the cold. They dragged the bodies of the crew here and picked their bones clean, though the blunt trauma wounds on the skulls are inconsistent with the predators’ jaws. The missing drill piece is here.

For every area the PCs investigate before this, three predators have thawed and slipped into the ventilation ducts. There is a cache of heavy liquid nitrogen canisters stored here.


CZ-4
CZ-4 is a hollow android shell controlled by Czerentoag. His cybernetic brain and motors are missing. He will resist any attempts to examine him.

Czerentoag needs the generator to remain online to keep thawing him out. CZ-4 will stop any attempts to shut down the power. CZ-4 will also search for the drill piece and use it to re-activate the drill.


DRILLING
Every three rounds of drilling; Awareness up.

CZ-4 does not need to remain at the drill’s controls to keep it going. He tries to prevent the PCs from shutting down the drill or the power generator. The thawed insectoids, attracted by the noise will attack here, trying to pick off lone PCs. Czerentoag will manipulate doors and make it difficult to help. If Czerentoag is rising, he will try to kill the PCs.

Any explosives used by the PCs will cause Awareness up. Any extreme cold applied to the carapace will cause Awareness down.

By shutting down both drill and power, and applying cold, the PCs can put Czerentoag back into hibernation.

The PCs can override the drill’s safeties and force it into overdrive. If they successfully do this, the drill can be used to bore a hole directly through Czerentoag and stop the ancient creature for good. If Czerentoag reaches awake, this is the only way to stop him.

Less heroic PCs could opt to simply escape. While Czerentoag won’t show them any mercy, he won’t go out of his way to stop them from leaving. The PCs will hear about horrific spacefaring accidents over the next few months which are all thanks to their failure.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
@lowkey13: What a great fit for an Emperor’s New Clothes scenario! Looks like tons of fun!

@MortalPlague: Solid structure. Looks like it would make for a great sci-fi horror. Serious Alien/Aliens vibes with the murderous android and the predators in the ducts.
 

Gradine

Polymorphed Self
Rules and Readability

Both "What a Troubleshooting Fool Believes" (henceforth "Fool") and "Torpor" fall within the 750 word limit. Both are well edited and well structured. Well done on both fronts.

Adventure Flow & Potential

This is my subjective "what did I generally like/dislike about the adventures" section of the judgment. I'll start "Fool". "Fool" gives us useless equipment, impossible demands, enforced backstabbing, and payoff that, when it comes at all, is incredibly, pointlessly stupid. In other words, "Fool" provides the quintessential Paranoia experience. Paranoia, by its very nature, provides built-in hooks (Master Computer has a job for you!) and stakes (Master Computer will kill you for doing anything wrong. Or for doing most things right) and complications (your secret society wants you to accomplish X, hopefully without Master Computer or your teammates/rivals finding out and killing you). The structure of the adventure leaves a little to be desired; wander around Alpha Complex until a robot literally named DEUS EX shows up to provide a map, and the musical geniuses behind "Maneater" pick a fight. However, the complications and on-the-nose references are fun and fitting, the puzzle at the end is actually pretty clever, and I've already covered the payoff. It's a shame there wasn't more room for a little more guidance on the briefing and de-briefing, which are always some of the best scenes in a Paranoia adventure. Overall, however, this is a really great adventure that shows off what the system does so well.

"Torpor" is, likewise, a classic take on a classic genre, in this case, the "scary monster in a spooky space station". It ticks all of the usual boxes wih gusto: an android that cannot be trusted, inhuman monsters stalking the vents and ducts, and the station itself acting out of malevolence. It's like Aliens meets 2001: A Space Odyssey. Very fun, very hectic stuff. My main concern here is that while the hook and stakes are perfectly fine on their own, I worry that they may end up working against each other. The sort of unscrupulous band of mercenaries that would take a job to investigate an illegal mining station going dark also seems less likely the sort that would stick their necks out to stop an evil entity on their own. This would still be fine if "escape" was almost as difficult a goal as "heroics", but the line calling out Czerentoag not going out of their way to stop them I think diminishes that somewhat. Or maybe if their failure in some what more directly impacted them rather than second-hand stories meant to simply give them shame. Ultimately, though, this is as fantastic an adventure as "Fool", especially if the PCs are putting in the extra effort to figure out how to stop the creature, especially since there appear to be multiple ways to accomplish that.

The Ingredients


Once again, it's looking like this is probably going to come down to the ingredients.

Bleeding Moon


One thing "Fool" does well is tie its ingredients together in such a way that several elements are pulling double duty. It's a clever way to incorporate ingredients together. Unfortunately, I don't really get the sense that the moon is "bleeding". At least not in the sense that Czerentoag does in "Torpor". That alone makes it a better ingredient usage; tying it directly to the main antagonist of the adventure makes it all the stronger.

Lifeless Doll

Admiral BERN-I is "Fool's" lifeless doll, and its status as such is the exact sort of idiotic twist that makes Paranoia adventures so unique. That the Troubleshooters have to "Weekend at Bernies" with it around Alpha Complex lest face the wrath of Master Computer (and the fact that everyone else has to play along too) makes it an even more fun complication. Meanwhile CZ-4 in "Torpor" plays a pretty central role as Czerentoag's main avatar on the station (at least until it begins to Rise). Both are cleverly utilized ingredients that are key pieces of their respective adventures.

Forbidden Library

The Forbidden Archives versus the Encrypted Archives. Both are clever uses of the ingredient, but I have to give the point to "Fool" here; its Archives are a little more central to the adventure, and their nature as Forbidden a bit more of a complication in the lives of the Troubleshooters (ie, they're not even supposed to know about the Archives).

Missing Puzzle Piece

In "Torpor" this is the missing piece of the drill. As a macguffin that drives not just the plot but the motivations of both CZ-4 and the PCs, not to mention that the PCs have to make a tough decision on whether to keep it hidden or use it to try to kill Czerentoag, it's a pretty solid use. It just doesn't match the "Puzzle" aspect as used in "Fool". The Pink Moon is an actual puzzle piece, and it ultimately serves as more than just a video-gamey insert-key-in-lock item, as the Troubleshooters need to figure out that the "Pink Moon" is pulling double-duty for both the Pink Heart and Blue Moon spaces. In any other type of game a puzzle relying on that kind of meta-gamey esoteric breakfast cereal knowledge would be frustrating and kind of awful; once again though it kind of fits Paranoia perfectly.

Master of the Seas

I'll admit this was a tough ingredient, and it seems like this was a struggle for both entries. I'll give the slight edge to "Torpor" though; using "seas" as a metaphor for "space" helps Czerentoag fit the ingredient pretty well. In "Fool" BERN-I's status as an "Admiral" is ultimately pointless (though admittedly hilarious, given Alpha Complex is an underground facility). Also, this was a perfect opportunity for Captain and Tennille or Commodores reference that went wasted.

Manufactured Chaos

Here, "Fool" gets the edge again, though it cheats a little to get there ("Manufactured Chaos" could almost be considered Paranoia's subtitle). The Secret Societies here provide most of the impetus for the chaos: each Troubleshooter is given a different motivation or responsibility to ensure the mission's success/failure, and while that's a feature of any Paranoia adventure, it's played up to amusing effect here. I have a bit more trouble parsing where the Chaos in "Torpor" is, and how exactly it's being Manufactured. My best guess for its intended use is the awakening of Czerentoag, and as a "failure" condition that's not a bad use for an ingredient, but I would have liked it to be a little more clear the kind of chaos a fully awake and released Czerentoag is likely to create.

In Conclusion


These are both great entries; they both do a really good job with the ingredients, and both are filled with a lot of potential for ending in a lot of different ways. I think, ultimately, "Torpor" is a slightly better adventure on balance, but "Fool" does slightly better on the ingredients.

Ultimately, "Fool"'s lead in ingredients edges out "Torpor"'s lead in overall design. Again, this is was an extremely close match that very easily could have gone either way.

Mortal Plague, you've not only won these twice, but both times you steamrolled over me to do it. So I have no business giving you any Iron DM advice. You know what you're doing, and it shows. "Torpor" was a really great entry that just had the misfortune of coming against a slightly greater entry.

As it is however, I say congratulations to lowkey13 for making it through the next round! Keep up the great work!

Bring on Match 4!
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Two great entries. Both demanding to be run. Yet, as with highlanders, there can be only one.

Congratulations to
@lowkey13 for knocking out the defending champ!
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Two great entries. Both demanding to be run. Yet, as with highlanders, there can be only one.
There are no losers.

Except for anyone who was like, "Hey, I haven't listened to Toto or Michael McDonald in a while ..."

Don't do it!

Seriously, though, I don't even know how people can pick between entries as disparate as the ones we have. My hats off to @MortalPlague for a really well-written sci-fi adventure.
 

Radiating Gnome

Adventurer
IRON DM 2019: Round 1, Match 3, @Iron Sky and @Psykick


IronSky and Psykick, 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.

My evaluation will focus on the use of the ingredients, especially their imaginative use in a way that seems natural and creative. I value playability highly, and hope to see adventures that give good opportunities for memorable player engagement with the overall story.


Ingredients:

  • Secret Admirer
  • Serene Coven
  • Belt of the Copper Dragon
  • Hurricane Recovery
  • Funeral Rites
  • Shadow Couatl
 

Psykick

Pizza Cheesus
Ingredients:

Secret Admirer
Serene Coven
Belt of the Copper Dragon
Hurricane Recovery
Funeral Rites
Shadow Couatl


Sacrifice

The party has received a missive from the Yawning Portal, inviting them to participate in a hunt into Undermountain to deal with a Stirge infestation. They are heading to the port of Rascalin to secure passage to Waterdeep.

Upon reaching Rascalin, they discover that a hurricane has hit the city. Repair efforts are underway, but it’s clear that this happened very recently. A pair of soldiers on patrol hail the group and explain that the Mayor, Magale, has promised gold for those who help in the recovery. Those willing should report to the Burnished Dragon Inn.

The Burnished Dragon is a stone structure in the center of the city, it is banded with copper shaped in the form of an ouroboros encircling the inn. Close examination reveals ancient runes of protection expertly engraved into the design.

Magale - wearing a copper chain ouroboros belt matching the inn’s - is organizing repair efforts with several townsfolk. The party is asked to run supplies to the triage tents across the city. On the way to do so they will need to complete some challenges:

  • Rescue a trapped family from debris (DC 12)
  • Stabilize an injured member of that family
  • Find a way through or around a street filled with rubble (DC 16)
  • Defeat a pair of looters

Surviving family members and townsfolk at the triage tents talk of a nearby witch coven that they think is responsible for the hurricane. The coven is blamed for unusual circumstances that occur locally such as:

  • Forest paths turning into endless circles
  • Trees moving into the middle of fields
  • Entire harvests changing from corn to rice overnight
  • Doors disappearing from houses leaving solid walls

Though frustrating, all fairly benign issues. More recently the occurrences have gotten worse:

  • livestock dying horrifically
  • Important roads disappearing
  • a low tide that lasted for a month and disrupted trade

Upon their return, Magale will enlist assistance with a task. Magale was secretly the leader of the Coven of the Copper Dragon. Magale fell in love with the Inn’s former owner, Jayal. Tragically Jayal drowned rescuing children from a flash flood, and in their grief, Magale left the coven and took over the Inn as a way of desperately clinging to the love she lost.
Like their namesake, the coven’s witches are tricksters but ultimately good. Long ago, the coven created the Burnished Dragon in a feat of legendary magic, afterward their role has been to periodically create minor chaos - the energies created by this chaos are a cosmic balance to the field of protection and prosperity generated by the Inn.

Magale recognizes the coven’s hand in the hurricane, and believes that they are corrupted by an ancient shadow couatl foe, Noxical, that the original coven magically sealed long ago. As much as it pains Magale, they ask the group to end the corruption by eliminating the coven and performing a funeral rite binding Noxical’s power back on itself, thus neutralizing its dark influence. The group is given the location, a ritual scroll to accomplish the rite, one of Magale’s Earrings of Sending to communicate, and promises of gold and potions.

Upon arriving at the coven’s dwelling, they are met by a trio of witches performing a ritual. One witch has a belt similar to Magale’s except it is dark, tarnished, and looks like a couatl. The group can fight or attempt peaceful resolution - Noxical’s corruption is not absolute:

  • Fight: One witch will stop casting to fight, and when they are dead or downed, the other two will abandon the ritual and fight. Once the battle is complete, the funeral rites go off without a hitch, and the party can return to Magale for their reward.
    • The witches carry an assortment of gold, gems, and valuable spell components - as well as a journal found on the belted witch.The witch, Sariah, was a member of the coven and secretly loved Magale. When Magale left, Sariah fell into a dark despair that allowed Noxical to influence and corrupt. It has been slowly breaking the bonds of its imprisonment through the corruption.
  • Peace: Sariah will share their story if negotiated with and Magale suggests the funeral rites can be completed, but will require Sariah’s “death” in the form of sacrificing all of their memories permanently. The rite will break the link to Noxical and allow the binding magic to work as well as cleansing the other witches who are in Sariah’s thrall.
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Ingredients
  • Secret Admirer
  • Serene Coven
  • Belt of the Copper Dragon
  • Hurricane Recovery
  • Funeral Rites
  • Shadow Couatl
The Storm Prophet
A 3-5th level 5e D&D adventure.

Tempest

Out of a clear sky, a furious storm strikes without warning. The party's ship capsizes. Awakening on a beach, the PCs discover NPCs and/or items of import missing. Exploring the rocky island reveals a harbor town flooded and broken, anchored by a rocky crag jutting fang-like over the remains.

A long, winged shadow passes. Skyward glances reveal only dark, churning clouds. A sibilant female voice whispers in their minds:

"This storm was evil-wrought, Havershorn-town now coven-claimed. Its dragon guardian slain and skinworn, Havershorn's people tricked by witch-word and hag-glamour. Your storm-lost treasures stolen by a false dragon lurking within yon looming pinnacle."

Silence meets any questions.

Devastation
Havershorn slowly rebuilds, wracked with sobs, clogged by debris, reeking of salt and rot. Tired hands wrap burial shrouds about bodies dredged from the sea.

The town barber approaches the party, ordinary but for a large amber monocle from which a cloudy eye peers. He offers baths and grooming. Passing townsfolk cry "hail the Storm Prophet!"

If questioned: in visions he foresaw the hurricane. Under blue skies, none listened to unlikely warnings with all energy directed towards completing Havershorn's yearly ritual.

The Prophet now oversees reconstruction at the behest of the guardian dragon, Titian. Normally new arrivals would meet Titian, but the switchbacks to his lair were obliterated.

The Prophet offers aid gathering bodies of lost ship fellows for burial, promising passage once docks repairs are complete.

Clues
About Havershorn:

•Most blame the storm on sea hags who've plagued the town for years.
•Glimpses of Titian gazing down from crag-top.
•Nahutai, “our spirit-serpent protector" is missing, though many claim sight of her shadow.
•Reports of troubled dreams and Nahutai's bodiless voice whispering.
•Changeable funerary directions from the Prophet: first excarnation near the crag that the storm gods might claim the bodies, now instructions to instead wrap effigies for the gods and turn the now-flooded ritual cavern beneath the town into a mass tomb.

Inaction
If the players do nothing, the townsfolk place effigies about the crag, drain the ritual cavern, and lay their departed within. The following day the "dragon" and “his” two new beautiful female attendants march out of the crag to confront the Prophet over the fake excarnations just as storm-drowned Havershornians flood from the ritual cavern as undead shadows, led by Nahutai's shade.

Chaos and carnage.

Why?

Nahutai - guardian of the secret shadow rift below the town - urged the townsfolk to complete their ritual as storm surge flooded the cavern. When they fled, she tried to finish it alone only to be consumed by shadow, her corrupted shade sent to manipulate the Prophet with false dreams.

The barber secretly promised the coven his eternal love and devotion after spotting their illusory beauty from a distance, becoming their (Hag's) Eyes and ears while leaving bundles of hair and fingernails to aid their Scrying. In turn, they imparted Planar Contact-divined forewarning of the storm, betting none would believe but he'd gain credibility after.

What they didn't realize: their Planar Contact was the very shadow god seeding the storm.

As Titian rescued townsfolk washed to sea during the tempest, the coven ambushed, killed, and skinned the young dragon, crafting his hide into a girdle allowing their illusory forms to mimic his own. After looting the PC's shipwreck, they skulked through the crag's (Scryed) secret entrance, instructing their Prophet to extol excarnation: a feast of human flesh arrayed on their doorstep. Victorious, they sank into relaxed complacency in Titian's comfortable abode.

With unquestioning devotion, the Prophet unhesitatingly accepted “new visions” wherein an alteration of funeral rites led to final consumation of his long-anticipated tryst. How could he know Nahutai's shade was Dreaming them?

Resolution
If the PCs invade the lair, they face a daunting climb to a copper-dragon-crafted labyrinth of tricks, traps, and riddles lying dangerously damaged and partly flooded. Navigating carefully, quickly, and quietly, they might ambush individual hags sleeping or relaxing. If reckless, slow, or loud they confront a full coven spell onslaught and acid/slowing dragon breath from whichever hag wears the belt.

Victorious, they reclaim whatever was lost in the shipwreck plus a dragon trove, but return to find Havershorn overrun by swarms of shadows following a shadow couatl.

Unless...

...if they uncovered Nahutai's shadowy plans through magic, investigating the flooded ritual chamber, and/or questioning townsfolk they might halt the mass entombment then ward off attacks from Nahutai's shade while the townsfolk complete the ritual before infiltrating the crag.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Sacrifice has some hauntingly tragic characters. I wonder if the PCs can convince Magale to confront her coven with them and whether that would help free Sariah from Noxical or she would still need to be memory-wiped.

The Storm Prophet: Wow! That’s got a lot of complications for 750 words! Looks fun!
 
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Radiating Gnome

Adventurer
Iron DM 2019 Round 1 Match 3 Judgement

I love it when the decisions are difficult. The two entries provided by our worthy contestants are evocative, interesting, and at first blush appear to be making reasonably good use of the ingredients. So we're going to have to look closely.

We have Sacrifice (by Psykick), the tale of a town beset beset by a coven with a hurricane. In this adventure the party is asked to help in the recovery efforts by Magale, Mayor of the city and lynchpin to the story, and the big bad is a coven of witches that Magale was once the leader, but has left after some personal grief.

And we have The Storm Prophet (Prohpet), in which the party is shipwrecked by a storm in a coastal town, where the town barber and recently-dubbed Prophet is rebuilding the town, despite his secret connection to a coven of pretty nasty witches.

Lets jump right into examining the use of ingredients.

Secret Admirer.
This is an ingredient that I imagined would be very difficult to integrate into an adventure in a meaningful way -- making it a meaningful part of the player experience. In Sacrifice, at first I thought that Magale's romantic connection to the dead inkeeper was how the entry was handling the secret admirer, but then in the very end there is the revelation that Sariah, one of the witches, was secretly in love with Magale -- and her thwarted love for Magale was how the big bad, Noxical, to influence the coven. This meets the need to include the ingredient, but it's not particularly good use of the ingredient because, while it's part of the motivation behind the adventure, it's not something that the players discover until the adventure is over. Meanwhile, in Prophet, the secret admirer is Titian the barber prophet who has secretly pledged his love and support to the coven. In this case, his love and devotion isn't hidden from the object of affection, which is a core part of the 'secret admirer' trope. So, I don't see this as quite meeting the needs for the ingredient. So, Sacrifice is stronger on this one.

Serene Coven. So, this is another challenging ingredient because of the adjective "serene." We typically imagine that covens are a source of twisted evil, and anything but serene. So I'm looking for a use that makes that modifier an important part of the story. In Prophet, the coven is the big bad of the story, and doesn't even appear to be a serene influence at any point along the way. In Sacrifice, the coven was at one time ultimately good, but were tricksters like their namesake dragon. I don't think either use is particularly good, but there is a whisker of an advantage to Sacrifice here.

Belt of the Copper Dragon. This is an important item in both adventures. In Sacrifice, it's worn by Magale, and never really is something that the players interact with. In Prophet, it's an item that the coven uses to impersonate the copper dragon protector of the town, and that falls into the player's hands at the end of the story. So, that gives Prophet the better interpretation of this ingredient.

Hurricane Recovery. This ingredient is another one that is easy to include, but the distinctions are in how well it's integrated into the story of the adventure. In Prophet, the recovery from the hurricane is tied directly to the funeral rites, to the through-line of the adventure. In Sacrifice, the hurricane recovery is a significant part of the early activity in the story -- the players are asked to take on a lot of skill challenges and other activities which gradually reveal some of the trickster/fey magic that is involved. Both use it pretty well. But I think in the end the use in Prophet is stronger -- Sacrifice's recovery feels like a lot of busy work, while Prophet's is a bit more intrinsic to the story.

Funeral Rites. This one is probably the most straightforward and direct ingredient in the list. In Sacrifice, the usage feels tacked on -- the ritual that the party must complete a "funeral right binding" the big bad's evil energy back on itself after killing it. While I really dig the way that feeds the ouroboros theme of the adventure, the ritual isn't quite a funeral rite (in that it's not honoring or protecting the subject of the rite). In Prophet, the funeral rite is a clue (because of the way the funeral rites change after the Prophet is being influenced) and it is part of the coven's plan to make the villages feed them unknowingly. Prophet's use is stronger.

Shadow Couatl. In an adventure in which we have two creatures whose alignments are apparently flipped (the Coven and the Couatl) this one I expected to be the big bad as things played out. In Prophet, the couatl is the town's missing guardian. There are pieces of the Nahutai thread that I find confusing. Nahutai is the guardian of a secret shadow rift near the town, but the rift doesn't appear to be an important part of the story. The proximity of the rift makes Nahutai also a protector of the town, and she even tried to finish the funeral rites herself, but was consumed by shadow in the process. There's a piece of this I find a bit confusing -- if the funeral rites were for people who had been killed by the storm (and part of the hurricane recovery) then the rite must have been taking place after the storm had passed, when I would have expected the storm surge to be receding, not rising. But, even with that weakness, this couatl is shadowy and dark and an importantly bad influence on the story. In Sacrifice, the couatl Noxical is the big bad behind the coven and the thing that needs to be contained after the coven is defeated. The usage doesn't confuse me the way it does in Prophet, but it's also a detail that could be anything. In both entries, frankly, the couatl-ness of Noxical/Nahutai isn't a significant part of the story, although in Sacrifice the ouroboros theme does connect nicely to the imagery of the couatl. I have gone back and forth on this one, and I find both uses of the shadow couatl interesting but problematic, and I can't find that I prefer one over the other, so we'll call this ingredient a wash as well.

So that means that Sacrifice has stronger use of Secret Admirer and Serene Coven, while Prophet is stronger on Funeral Rites and Hurricane Recovery. So, again, a very tight competition.

Creativity and Playability

They're both strong entries, I think. I think the hooks are reasonable, but not great. The use of ingredients wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but were satisfying. The overall story of a former-coven-member mayor and tavern-keeper is good, and while the skill challenge activities seem a bit like busy work, there are clues there about the nature of things to come that the players can interact with. And the story of the barber/prophet/betrayer is a mix of cliche and unusual, I find that I'm intrigued by this interpretation of the belt of the copper dragon more -- and the belt that allows the wearer to become a copper dragon seems like an awesome item to put in the hands of players at the end of the adventure.

At the same time, the idea of the players having to pick their way through a recently defunct copper dragon's trap-filled lair sounds like some good fun, too.
In the end, given how close the two entries are in many ways, I find that the ideas and interpretations in Prophet are slightly more interesting and memorable than the ones in Sacrifice. In Sacrifice, the skill challenges and traps are very much business as usual, while the final battle in Prophet seems more epic, and the rewards are more unique and interesting.

So, Prophet wins, and Iron Sky advances.

Thanks, and congrats to both of you for such strong entries.

-rg
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Another two entries of quality. And, yet...

Congratulations to
Iron Sky
for advancing.
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Whew. You'd think after decade-ish of doing this I wouldn't get shaky reading judgments, but here we are.

For my entry, I tried to differentiate the town's yearly ritual to keep the shadow rift sealed and the funeral rites that happened after the storm, but with the limited word count and stylistic reveals it necessitated it appears I wasn't able to make it as clear hoped.

As for the coven, serenity was admittedly weak as I focused on them relaxing after "victory". I'll admit they weren't spreading peace and calm even if they felt it for a while but by the time I realized the degree of indirectness it was far too late to change things.

I also tried to use hurricane recovery as a hook - the PCs being missing important people or things after the shipwreck that they need to recover, but wasn't able to flesh it out as much as I'd have liked.

@Psykick , I really loved the ouroboros-coatl belt unity from the story and was impressed at your ability to inject meaningful interpersonal drama into such a tight word count. I also loved every one of the "minor chaos" bullet point events and I'll steal those to stuff into my "GMGooder.txt" I've been compiling for years if it's okay with you.

Thanks for the challenging competition Psykick and the judgement @Radiating Gnome , looking forward to the next round (and more words to spend!)
 

Psykick

Pizza Cheesus
Oof, sorry for the later response - work has kept me busy!

Can't say I disagree much with the assessments! I definitely initially had Magale as a secret admirer of Jayal, but cut that piece down to its current form in favor of keeping Sariah's secret admirer status to link it all together. Similarly I wanted Noxical and the Copper Dragon to be in some kind of balancing conflict with more depth, including more back story on the significance of the belts, including a fun twist about the inn...but sacrifices (pun very much intended) had to be made for the word count.

All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with how it worked out and fully intend to continue working on this for that magical day when everyone's schedule works out to play D&D 😂

@Iron Sky fantastic work! I thoroughly enjoyed your hook (I love a good "best laid plans turned chaos" intro). I also liked the (tragic) fate of the dragon and how that was used to influence.

Solidly done, and congratulations on your well earned victory!

@Radiating Gnome thank you for the ingredients and the judging! Looking forward to the next 2 rounds. Make sure you throw in some more curveball ingredients 😂 Hurricane Recovery and Secret Admirer were really fun to work with!
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Round 2, Match 1: @Iron Sky vs @Wisdom Seeker

@Iron Sky and @Wisdom Seeker, we are now on Round 2 where your time limit, word limit, and number of ingredients have increased. You have 48 hours to post your entries to this thread. Please limit your entry to a title, a list of the ingredients used and 1500 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 1350. Later entries that are at less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 1050. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 750. 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.

A note about how I will score. 2 max points for timeliness, 2 max points for grammar and readability, two points for each ingredient that is used correctly and is integral to the narrative, and finally two max points for how employable the overall entry would be for a game master. Keep in mind that in case of a tie, I'll also give special considerations for entries that have ingredients that are integral to one another.

Without further ado, here are the ingredients:

Laconic Sphynx
Thieving Caravan
Astral Jaunt
Last Crownbearer
Affluent Troll
Crystal Seal
Fountain of Love
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Ingredients
Laconic Sphynx
Thieving Caravan
Astral Jaunt
Last Crownbearer
Affluent Troll
Crystal Seal
Fountain of Love

Arrow, by Versace
A modern supernatural adventure.

Introduction

The gods are dying, entire pantheons eliminated as Ragnarök nears completion. Though skewed by interaction with other faiths and mythologies Ragnarök proved the Twilight of the Gods, but not of mankind. Our world hosts proxy battles in the shadows; echoes of the real war ravaging realms perpendicular ours.

The PCs play agents at the periphery of the struggle, whether freelancers or working for some faction.

They have a job to do and it starts in Athens.

Attica
Inside a dead-dropped manila envelope: an Attica Zoological Park visitor's guide, Angola Lion circled. Underlined variously throughout: 1 3 0 a m. Also, a flier for a poetry reading in two days, the address smudged out.

After breaking into the zoo and arriving at the lion pen at the date and time, their contact is late. About the time the PCs begin to expect a setup, the huge lion "sleeping" on a rock in the pen raises its head and unfurls its wings. The sphinx says:

"Your contact, Phix, am I
Listen close lest you die.
In riddles must I speak ever on
Cursed legacy of my father Typhon,
From my words your answer must flower
Lest part of you must I... (devour)."

Phix can only speak in riddles, leaving out the word in (parenthesis) for the PCs to answer. First wrong guess or too long without an attempt, she raises an eyebrow. Second, she unsheathes her claws and snarls, her canines growing. Third, a furious attack, unceasing until she's has devoured part of an involved PC or is beaten unconscious. She'll try for an ear or finger, if possible, but generally speaks as little as possible in hopes of avoiding such working complications entirely.

As a supernatural being, she'll regenerate from anything short of dying.

"Ragnarök hit Greece harder than Kratos of Playstation,
Once twelve now zero; the pantheon of our nation.
So desperate we for a deity near us
We resort now to your Cupid, our (Eros)."

"Last resort am I, all previous failed,
Seeking to uncover how Hellas' last Scion's jailed.
Unknown prisons contain our lost divinity
Though in visions a crystal seal is (key)."

Pushed for more detail, she adds:

"When a vision visits from the great RNG
It comes as .txt, not (.png)."

...or (.jpg) as alpha channels lie outside sphinges' purview.

Phix absolutely insists on accompanying the group wherever they go, thus largely restricting the PCs' travel to vehicle convoys since she lives and travels in a large, heavily-modified RV. Additional challenges arise from satisfying her ravenous hunger for meat. “Redder is better, but living's the (thing).”

The saddlebag always slung over her side blazes like a beacon to arcane detection, radiating from a Zeus' vacant olive-wreath crown.

Clues
Digging for info about crystal seals and/or Eros reveals clues. Each has a difficulty and is related to one investigation:

• Investigation Alpha.
♦ Investigation Beta.
▲ Investigation Kappa.

Casual
•Recent art exhibits all over the world feature exquisite crystal animal and human sculptures – complete with “3d etched” layers of bone, muscle, skin, and organs.
•The sculpturist, "Gorgo," has never been seen or photographed.
•Gorgo Artwork Incorporated offices reside in Ayvalik, Turkey.
♦Numerous ancient gem seals called intaglios exist in museums and private collections.

Moderate
•A fur seal sculpture stands out in the background of a few, rare pictures from inside Gorgo's workshop.
•It's not in any of the exhibits.
•Any first-hand arcane analysis reveals sculptures are victims of petrification.
•By medusa curse.
♦On display at the Louvre: an intaglio featuring Eros, carved by Dexamenos of Chios.

Arduous
•Gorgo's actual workshop address... in Sadha, Libya.
▲Eros ran Catch Cupid, Incorporated(CCI) until a few months ago when he vanished.
▲CCI runs dating websites, porn rings, and sells adult toys.
▲In a partnership with Versace, CCI just released “Arrow” perfume and cologne.
▲Early reviews report legit aphrodisiac effects.
▲CCI recently started making huge donations to the Norwegian Polar Institute.
▲Which funnels into “Troll”, an NPI research station in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica.
▲Eros dealt and dabbled with hard drugs.

•Alpha
If the PCs head to Ayvalik, they must first get their vehicle caravan into Turkey. Finagling a meeting with Spheno – the reclusive head of Gorgo Artworks – takes effort and finesse.

In person, Spheno appears as a olive-skinned woman of indeterminate age wearing a hijab. If accused of being Medusa, she laughs: “everyone knows Perseus' story”. She admits to being one of Medusa's sisters; Spheno runs the business while her other sister, Euryale, handles “sculpturing” in Sadha, Libya where she can “utilize” imported animals and human subjects from Sabha's slave market.

If shown pictures of the seal sculpture: “you'll have to talk with Euryale in person about that.”

If she's attacked, deadly-venomous scarlet snakes writhe out of Spheno's hijab. She's also a demigod with millennia of wile and cunning, but no petrification ability.

Bypassing some solid security to break into Gorgo Artwork's warehouse proves the the seal's not there. Cargo manifests list Libya as country-of-origin.

Libya
A drive to Sabha across a country in ruins after a nearly-decade-long civil war. If PCs don't ship their vehicles in, they face border crossings or smuggling their convoy across Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.

Navigating militia roadblocks, IEDs, extremist hostility, destroyed infrastructure, and harsh deserts takes them to Sabha. Deep in the ruins of the oasis city, Euryale's workshop proves a hardened compound complete with guard dogs, concertina wire, paid local militias and private security forces.

Euryale – a loud, confrontational version of Spheno – meets with them but won't part with the seal for any reason as it was first “sculpture” she made after learning to crystallize instead of petrify.

Phix pushes for theft.

Security: vaults, arcane and physical security systems, guards, a hostile demigod with a deadly gaze.

If/when they secure the sculpture, it's useless though its ear tag reads "NPI, Trl, AQ".

♦Beta
Driving their vehicle caravan across Europe to Paris is the easy part. Lifting the intaglio, however...

Casing the exhibit at the Louvre reveals the exhibit bears supernatural wards buttressing extensive physical security befitting a Treasures of Antiquity exhibit.

The finely carved rock crystal definitely bears arcane ties to Eros. Experimentation (and/or dangerous hints from Phix) after stealing it determines that stamping a wax imprint from the ring onto paper sends it flying towards Eros – towards Antarctica.

▲Kappa
A trip to Antarctica. Complications: hostile weather, attacks by Somali pirates, a black helicopter assault by Them.

Reaching Antarctica's shores enables the next step: driving a convoy of tractor trucks 235km to Troll research station. Though small, much more lies under construction. They are met by Jötunn Risi, head of Antarctic Research for NPI and also the new CEO of CCI.

Having tracked their progress online, he invites them to tour the luxuriant office-cum-palace below. The blinged-out Jötunn takes delight in subtly mocking them and asking provocative questions while showing CCI's extravagant new HQ.

The glass-walled hub of the wheel-shaped facility: a tall chamber featuring a fine jet of water aerosolizing to swirling mist. Jötunn brags the room performs commercially and aesthetically: genuine Antarctic meltwater mist in every bottle of Arrow.

Savvy PCs – or those he finds entertainingly reactive – find themselves invited to party later with Jötunn. As they part: "Wash up first.” A baggie of crystalline fragments slips to them during a handshake.

The Truth
Jötunn is a troll capable of taking a human form; also the “netorious” hacker [Goon]Grendel.

While waiting out Ragnarök in Antarctica (he also chaired the station's naming committee), Jötunn uncovered Eros' narcotic predilections while harassing him on the internet. His extensive Internet contacts led Jötunn to a strain of crystal meth so strong that consciousness blasts amps up into the Astral.

Hooking the God of Desire wasn't difficult, nor was signing the now-junkie god out of his corporation.

Eros now floats in a special bath below CCI's offices. Circulating water sluices essence of desire from the god while he Astrally trips, his constant meth IV-drip trapping blocking his attempts to find his way back to reality.

Completion

Freeing Eros:

○Assault: If security is tripped, Eros' intoxicating mist swirls into the compound while filter-masked guards converge. Add an ancient, rapidly-regenerating troll in true form accompanied by swarms of drones piloted by internet cronies taunting PCs and loudly broadcasting their locations.

○Theft: freeing Eros during the party first requires distracting Jötunn – he's especially fond of arguments and mockery, even if aimed at him – then quietly bypassing security to Eros' room and covertly extracting him.

○Awakening: “bumping” the meth briefly jaunts the user into the Astral. There they might track down Eros, guiding him back to his body. This is the quickest, easiest option, but regular meth addiction's a horror and this stuff hooked a god.

Jötunn, no dummy, immediately flees by snowmobile if the PCs awaken Eros, likely culminating in a chase across storm-blown Antarctica towards Jötunn's waiting boat.
 

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