2019 IRON DM Tournament

Wisdom Seeker

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

Pendragon: Love Eternal

Royal Brat

During the war on the continent, the party is assigned by their liege to guard a minor Frankish prince who is to be betrothed to a more important princess in the same general region. Sir Mallun the Subtle, the Prince’s bodyguard, is an experienced soldier (Notable Knight with an Intrigue and Romance skill of 16 each) and seems willing to swallow his pride if it means his Prince remains safe. In contrast, the thirteen-year-old Prince Hollus Sonne is not willing to tolerate any backtalk from the PCs, mostly out of a sense of inadequacy. The kingdom Hollus is to inherit is small to the point where he is barely a king at all, and he enjoys what little authority he can exert.
When they plan to stop at the nearest town as it begins to get darker, Sir Mallun requests his liege stay here. The Prince accidentally kicks the story off by demanding that the group continue. The party will probably be making Energetic rolls and grumbling as they have to deal with the lad longer, but soon things get exciting.

Ambush
A band of robbers led by a troll happen to jump the Prince and your group on the road. When the troll (use the Small Giant, but with Mace 16) sees the crown on the Prince’s head, he immediately wants it for himself, bellowing and charging into the middle of the group and cutting a great swath into it. Danger should be emphasized here, especially because this troll does not suffer from dim-light hindrances. The bandits try to seize as many wagons as they can, and, at no fault of the player knights, they mostly succeed due to sheer numbers and the element of surprise. Against the Prince's wishes, Mallun takes the crown off his liege and throws it to the troll.
As soon as the troll gets the crown, he prepares to leave, only fighting player knights that pursue. Among other things, there is an assassin present, who searches for the Prince but retreats if injured or when the troll does. Mallun notices him, which is why he threw away the crown, and he will admit this when accused of it. When the damage is surveyed, only the supply wagon remains in the group’s possession. The Prince, of course, is furious his symbol of rulership is gone and demands the player characters retrieve it. Player characters would be right to accuse Mallun of cowardice, but he insists that he had ‘proper motivation’ for his actions, and intends to reciprocate the ambush to much more devastating effect.

Royal Visitation
The party can head out the next day to the stolen royal caravan to find a group of twenty or thirty drunkards with a huge ‘Troll King’ in the center. The troll from before, Uberon, wears garish, if fancy, robes hobbled together overnight from the Prince’s clothing. True to his simple-minded nature, he essentially acts like a royal buffoon, wielding a mighty ‘royal scepter’ club and bashing the brains of anyone who dares to ‘refuse the King’. The raiding party humors this because his power is essential to their success. Since the attack took place under the cover of dark, none of the thieves recognize a knight who does not go out of his way to make himself known. Any member of the party who refuses to ‘pay taxes’ as they approach will feel his hot wrath as he attempts to beat them within an inch of their life.
A clever PC may manage to convince the proud troll to hand over his crown ‘so they can tell it’s real’. The crown is gold with a huge sapphire set in the center. The sapphire has magical properties, which will become important later. Whether the troll is killed or the crown retrieved by guile, the crystal will prove important in the near future. A secret that might be noticeable by a PC with high Awareness and Intrigue is that the assassin from before is here. If he is killed and searched or otherwise shaken down, he carries a scroll revealing that King Sonne knows that the Prince is Mallun’s son. If Mallun is with the party on this expedition, he will attempt to kill the assassin and pocket the scroll before any other knight does.

Seal
As the player knights either attempt to return the gem (as they ought) or to find a way to sell it (this should cost Honor), someone with a high Awareness will notice that the gem has been fractured very slightly at some point in the conflict. Things start to go very wrong: Space warps, creatures appear out of nowhere and vanish, the sun rises and falls with excruciating slowness or blinding speed. The gem has a magical seal on the flow of time designed to extend the wearer’s lifespan and to give the ruler more time to think or react.
Since the gem has finally suffered a fracture, its magic is acting erratically and it must be destroyed. Either the Prince or a party member versed in Faerie Lore knows that on time-related issues, one consults a sphynx. Dangerous as it may be, the issue is now in their hands: The crown is fixated on one player knight, preferably the one that damaged or retrieved it, and if more than a week passes, the sphinx comes to them. Derull, the creature in question, is a no-nonsense gynosphinx with the combat statistics of a Griffin (but with Claws 21). She demands the party give away the crown, until she is shown that the crown bearer cannot get rid of the crown willingly.

Strange Journey
Derull refuses to explain further until the party follows her deeper into her lair. Her lair quickly extends into a strange otherworldly realm that she calls the Astral Plane, as it acts as a bridge between places and times. Even as player knights step cautiously into the ether, stone floats from the abyss of swirling colors to guide their feet towards the destination the sphynx is leading them.
Enemies of all sorts appear to seize the gem, mostly bald, elf-like creatures with strange magical swords and armor claiming it is too valuable for the party’s foolish minds to comprehend. Adventurers and thieves from across time and space attack the knights with magic and blade, desperate for the gem’s power. One attacker is even a weakened vampire hoping to take its power. The sphinx refuses to explain where she is leading the knights, as is her severe and secretive nature. She finally points out a hovering platform made of carved stone, not floating earth, to the party, and guides them there.

Love's Price
Walking up to the hovering outcropping, the knights can see a deep bubbling fountain, the Eternity Depth, from where the gem was begotten. As they realize the fountain goes deeper than the outcropping itself, Derull explains why she was hesitant to tell the story. The gem was retrieved from this fountain, originally created by a wizard for his princess and lover. As age soon began to take him too and she couldn’t bear living without him, she asked him to make a second. When he returned for the second gem, he achieved it, but was killed soon after by a greedy berserker.
When the princess heard, she gave her lover’s crown to their secret son, traveled to the Astral Plane, and dove into the fountain from which the gem was generated. The crown is the Princess's, and Sonne is her descendant. Now the party member bound to the crown must either toss themselves in willingly with the crown or the effects will propagate forever. The knights have the option to fight Derull, but if she is able to seize the crown at any time, she will drag it into the Eternity Depth and vanish into ether, leaving the party her treasures. If the crownbearer goes willingly, the wizard’s soul protects them from destruction, taking his crown and letting them go free, ending the effects and furthermore reducing the knight’s physical age by up to 10 years.

Conclusion
The wizard is now together in death with his love. Impressed by their courage, the sphinx gives them whatever treasure they ask for among her historical trove and becomes a powerful ally to them in the future. If the party kills the sphynx and doesn't throw away the crown, they are trapped forever in the Astral Plane.

Prince Sonne is furious when he hears the knights have lost his crown forever, and accuses them of stealing it and making up an unbelievable story to cover for it. If nothing else is done and his parentage remains a secret, he dismisses them with meager pay. If the scroll is presented to him, he is shocked to find out that he is not legitimate. Immediately, he becomes much more Humble and thanks the player knights for their help before changing out of his royal clothing and heading out with his real father.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Deuce Traveler's judgement for Round 2, Match 1

"Pendragon: Love Eternal" by @Wisdom Seeker versus "Arrow, by Versace" by @Iron Sky

I'll be the first to admit that I purposely picked ingredients that didn't seem like they would fit well together. Right off I will say that Iron Sky's entry was not an easy initial read. I did like a lot of what I read though, since I do enjoy a Neil Gaiman-like story of mythical figures in a modernized setting. Wisdom Seeker's entry takes place in 16th century Earth, and was a much easier read involving courtly intrigue. I think it's interesting that both writers skipped out on the typical Tolkienesque setting. Let's break out the points.

Timeliness and Word Count:

Unfortunately, Wisdom Seeker's entry was both less than an hour late, though at least the word count was met. I cut the conclusion out as a penalty and will be judging from there. Iron Sky's entry was on time and within the word limit.

Score: Wisdom Seeker 1, Iron Sky 2

Grammar and Readability:

I'm not familiar with the Pendragon RPG outside of what I've heard in the gaming community, but I know it's well respected. I had some trouble following the events in the "Love Eternal" tale, but it did read like some Arthurian adventure and was readable. On the other hand, "Arrow" had a lot of sentence structure issues. One example right from the beginning: "First wrong guess or too long without an attempt, she raises an eyebrow" should be instead "If the players give a initial wrong guess or take too long to answer, she raises an eyebrow". There are a lot of errors like that, but I'm not going to nitpick all of them now. Advantage on this one goes to Wisdom Seeker.

Score: Wisdom Seeker 3, Iron Sky 3

Oh no... it's a tie. Let's see what happens when we grade the use of ingredients.

First Ingredient: Laconic Sphynx

Laconic means "terse or concise". So yeah... I was a bit unfair with this, because you want a sphynx that delivers riddles, but the laconic part of this gets tricky. Neither entry satisfied the laconic piece. In "Arrow" I get the sense that the sphynx (Phix) likes riddles, but it seems really talkative. I liked the riddles, but I never got the sense of the laconic characteristic. The Spartans were laconic. They would respond to long lists of demands with short, witty responses like "Then we'll fight in the shade." The problem with Derull in "Love Eternal" is that it seems laconic in the sense that it is "no-nonsense" and doesn't seem to explain anything, but otherwise the sphynx part of it does not shine through. It could have been a laconic dragon or laconic djinni for the same result. Even then, I think the laconic part is a stretch only because of a piece of the entry that says the sphynx refuses to answer a question. I'm giving an edge to Phix, who is a cool character with wonderful riddles. Derull just isn't developed enough.

Score: Wisdom Seeker 3, Iron Sky 4

Thieving Caravan

In "Arrow", the thieving caravan doesn't seem to really fit. The players form a caravan with the sphynx, but they aren't necessarily thieves until the Louvre, and even then the characters might choose a different path to their goal. In random encoutners there are thief-like groups that may attack the caravan... but this is still not enough. In "Love Eternal", the characters meet a bunch of bandits that attack their caravan. Later the bandits are living luxuriously out of the now-stolen caravan and its supplies, and the characters have to deal with that. So in "Love Eternal", the thieving caravan seems more integral to the adventure and I'm giving Wisdom Seeker the edge here.

Score: Wisdom Seeker 5, Iron Sky 5

Astral Jaunt

Both entries use the Astral Plane towards the very end of the adventure. Neither one uses the Astral Plane in all it's cool and bizarre glory. Instead it's just tacked on to help finish off the adventure. It's an unintegral wash.

Score: Wisdom Seeker 6, Iron Sky 6

Last Crownbearer

"Eternal Love" does something interesting with this ingredient. The supposed 'king' isn't a rightful king at all, but that's unbeknowest to him. So he can keep on believing he is the rightful wearer of the crown at the end or give it up. Several characters vie for the crown and perhaps the true last crownbearer waits at the end of the adventure. This ingredient is used well and is integrated in several different ways. "Arrow" has this sentence that is mostly unintelligible "The saddlebag always slung over her side blazes like a beacon to arcane detection, radiating from a Zeus' vacant olive-wreath crown." The words 'Zeus' and 'crown' never turn back up. I am guessing that now that Zeus is probably dead, that Eros is taking over his mantle, but it's not explicity said. I would agree that in my interpratetion, Eros is integral to the plot so I'll give Iron Sky a point here, but this ingredient is strongly won by Wisdom Seeker.

Score: Wisdom Seeker 8, Iron Sky 7

Affluent Troll

In "Eternal Love" the troll becomes affluent when he steals the caravan away from the characters. He also acts like a fantasy troll once he has the crown and treasures; basically he behaves like a bestial lout. It would have been better if he demanded a toll first or if there was a bridge involved. In "Arrow", I'm not sure what makes Jotunn a troll except the ingredient requires one. He could easily have been a rival god instead. Because of his position, I am assuming he is affluent. "Eternal Love" gets an edge here.

Score: Wisdom Seeker 10, Iron Sky 8

Crystal Seal

In "Arrow" the word 'crystal' comes up in both figurines and with crystal meth. I have trouble seeing how integral either's 'crystal' traits is in the adventure. In "Love Eternal", the crystal is really a precious gem and MacGuffin in the story. This is a problem though, because in reality a gem is not a crystal. There are web pages dedicated to the differences between them. Both entries are a wash here.

Score: Wisdom Seeker 11, Iron Sky 9

Fountain of Love

Iron Sky uses a captured Eros pretty effectively here. The captured god is being manipulated into using his essence as a sort of aphrodesic product set loose upon the world market. Eros is a fountain of love being sold off. The whole adventure is wrapped around this situation with the players likely setting him free. Wisdom Seeker has the fountain of love as more as a visual effect and wrap-up at the end. The fountain could be replaced with a portal or fairy ring or anything else.

Score: Wisdom Seeker 12, Iron Sky 11

Well that's it for ingredients. Now let's look at the GM's perspective.

Utility for a Game Master

I admit I have some major issues with both of these adventures.

"Arrow" has a lot of grammar issues and therefore is hard to follow and understand in places. I'm taking a guess here, but it looks like this is what is happening: In our modern times the ancient gods are all dead or dying from some cause. A mythological troll takes advantage of the situation and captures Eros to use his essence to grow rich. The characters are somehow brought in to find out what happened, but are told to talk to a Sphinx about it. The Sphynx gives advice in riddle form and tells them where to go next, but insists on tagging along and forcing the characters to use ground transportation as they have to reveal clues to what is actually going on. What if the characters leave the sphynx and take air transportation anyway? Or teleport? Or if they have mind readers and can circumvent riddles and the lies of Jotunn and his allies? There does seem to be some flexibility here in the terms of stealing objects, negotiating, and fighting, which I do appreciate as a GM.

"Love Eternal" is more of a railroad, though, and there seems to be more that can be broken. The adventurers are transporting a young lord so he can be wed. Right in the beginning they are threatened and are supposed to surrender the crown to protect their ward. During this same encounter, an assassin is mentioned that they may or may not see at first (their companion notices the killer though). What if the party does not surrender, fights the troll and the bandits, and win? What if they notice the assassin and track him or her down early? What if they see one or both these threats and do not continue on their path, but backtrack in order to find a potentially safer road? What if they convince their ward that the crown isn't worth his life and leave the crown behind with the bandits and continue on their way? What if the party doesn't notice the power of the crown's gem, or what if they decide it's not safe to contact a sphynx for advice and help? So much could derail this adventure and as a player I wouldn't choose half the decisions that would keep it on track. Not only that, but I was wondering what would happen to the woman the lord was supposed to marry and the relations between the territories. It seems a missed opportunity for mentioning hooks at the end. Of course, I can't also count some of the resolution since it was cut-off due to the lateness of the piece.

Because of this, I give an edge to "Arrow".

Score: Wisdom Seeker 13, Iron Sky 13

Well, damn. I've pretty much tied it on points and am left to go with my gut. I'm going with Iron Sky's "Arrow, by Versace". Neither entry really blew me away, but "Arrow" was on-time and has a lot more memorable NPCs. I did like elements of "Pendragon: Eternal Love", but in the end I felt it was rushed and lacked cohesion in the second half. The bandits and troll were used well, and the young, spoiled lordling seems like a horribly fun obstacle to the characters' goals. But not enough is fleshed out with the guardian, the assassin, the wizard, and the lord's ancestor.
 

Radiating Gnome

Adventurer
Round 2 Match 1 Judgement by Radiating Gnome

This was a certified sh@#show set of ingredients, and I think it's always interesting to see how people work with challenges that are so complex.

Add to it the idea that both candidates took the risk of not creating the adventure in a typcial D&D-pathfinder setting, and this looks like it's going to be a very fascinating challenge.

Having said that -- when I see choices like choosing a modern setting or a game system that is as distinct as Pendragon -- I go into the entry looking for a reason why it had to be that way -- something that makes the divergent choice the best choice.

So, What we have is "Love Enternal" by Wisdom Seeker and "Arrow, by Versace" by Iron Sky.

At first blush, I struggled with both entries. Arrow was a tough read, a puzzle to solve as much as it was an adventure to run. And Love appeared to be a sort of series of poorly connected episodes, rather than a coherent adventure. I had to go back and trace through both a few times to make sure I'm getting it.

As for ingredients:

Laconic Sphynx
- I tend to like the Sphynx in Arrow -- the riddles are created by leaving off a word, a sort of nod to the challenging "laconic" part of the ingredient. But the idea that he tags along in an RV and that becomes the reason for the caravan.... that feels fairly forced, and doesn't make a ton of sense. Meanwhile, in Love, we have the almost completely silent Sphynx Derull, who guides the party through the astral plane without speaking. Right up to the point where she explains after all. Phix is more interesting, so an edge for Iron Sky here.

Thieving Caravan - I enjoyed the image of the troll-led bandit caravan parading around the countryside stealing everything that isn't nailed down. And the sphynx-forced RV caravan was awkward and kind of pointless, except as a source of a goofy challenge to overcome for no strong plot reason. So, Wisdom Seeker's use is stronger.

Astral Jaunt. - Meh. Both used it, both felt like the adventure could work just fine without the jaunt. Nobody did this one especially well.

Last Crownbearer - I am just not sure how the Crown bearer works in Arrow -- a crown appears bu doesn't appear to be a meaningful element -- and the crownbearer challenge in Love is interesting, but could have been clearer, too. So, another bit of advantage for Love.

Affluent Troll - I really liked the troll in Love, as I said. He has personality and is a target for interaction different from other interactions with trolls. I don't see much reason why he needed to be a troll, per se -- could have been an ogre just as easily. And that's a little disappointing. Meanwhile, in Arrow there is a troll who is also an internet troll. Of sorts. Clever. I see what you did there. Both parts of Jotunn's troll-ness are under developed. I'm going to give Love the advantage here, because it was more fun, but neither solution is great.

Crystal Seal - Sigh. I wanted to like the one in Love better -- but combining the seal and the crown in a single item in this case is more confusing than anything else. Arrow has crystals all over the place, and even though that's a risk, i do think that they have the edge over Love in this case.

Fountain of Love - Again, Arrow is stronger in this case, with the integral fountain of love -- it's integral to the story in a way that the fountain in Love is not.

So, overall, I score ingredient use as a unhappy tie. Ugh.

Creativity/Playability

So, remember what I said about divergent game systems and settings? Yeah. That.

Pendragon, as I recall, is a game that is very much invested in the interal conflicts as much as external ones. It's about temptation and human weakness in a way that makes it's fans much more interested in it over a game like D&D. But I see nothing in Love that draws on those sorts of conflicts. The adventure reads very much like a D&d adventure until some unnecessary mechanical note tells me how to represent something in the Pendragon system (the troll is a small giant with a small adjustment, etc).

The best reason I can see for Love to be written as a Pendragon adventure is because the sort of episodic travel adventure it describes is thematic for an arthurian adventure. But that doesn't seem to be enough.

Meanwhile, Arrow is a modern adventure and it truly needs to be. The core idea, a lot of the scenes -- even when they involve a creature from mythology, are very modern in sensibility and flavor and use. For all of it's rough edges, it seems stronger to me in that way.

So, for that reason I'm going to give the edge to Iron Sky for this one. Both are interesting, and I really wanted to like Love more, as I have fond memories of Pendragon, but I think Arrow works just better enough to squeak past, in my estimation.

-rg
 

Gradine

Archivist
Gradine's Judgment, Round 2 Match 1

Rules and Readability


Both entries are well-formatted and edited, and easy to read. Pendragon: Love Eternal (hereafter "Pendragon") was sadly late by under an hour, and is therefore limited to a 1350 word count. This means that I have not read anything after the heading "Conclusion".

Adventure Flow & Potential


This is my subjective "what did I generally like/dislike about the adventures" section of the judgment. I'll start with "Arrow, by Versace" (hereafter "Arrow"). This is an interesting adventure of intrigue and mystery that seems to me to be modelled almost directly after the Alexandrian's Node-Based Scenario structure and Three-Clue Rule. This works out as an overall strength of the adventure, but it has the potential to cause some of the ingredients to suffer due to the necessary clue redundancies. The modern-day setting mixed with the mythological trappings are a perfectly great fit, and the adventure seems like it will be great fun throughout.

"Pendragon", on the other hand, is a much more linear and traditional affair, though with plenty enough wrinkles and twists on the formula to make it stand out. The lack of a proper conclusion (that exists, I just can't read/consider it) hurts it ultimately, but it avoids many of the pitfalls that normally befall linear adventures, in that in features numerous choice points for the players and even a particularly notable sacrifice (that is ultimatley reversed, but the players don't know this at the time). All of these trappings perfectly suit the setting in both tone and style as well.

Both adventures have fairly boilerplate hooks: they're hired to do a job, and things get more complicated (and notably weirder) from there. "Pendragon", though, does a better job of ramping up the stakes throughout the adventure through the space-time wibbly wobbly hijinks (which do sadly leave behind the more grounded and personal stakes of the knight and his charge/son and the assassin hired to kill him), whereas in "Arrow" I never really get a sense of what the consequences are of Eros' jailing or the PCs' failure to free him. Heck, I don't even get really a sense of what the consequences are, immediate or long-term, if the PCs succeed.

The Ingredients

Once again, this is looking like it will come down to ingredients.

Laconic Sphynx
"Arrow" has Phix and "Pendragon" has Derull. The Sphynx fits better, mythologically speaking, in "Arrow", whereas the creature has much less direct tie to Arthurian legend, and "Pendragon" just declares that you talk to Sphynxs about timey wimey wibbly wobbly because... that's what the adventure says. That said, "Laconic" fits much better with Derull. I think I get where "Arrow" was going with this interpretation in having Phix leave off a word at the end of each riddle, but that's not really laconic. In fact, Phix seems quite a bit more talkative and demanding than Derull in general.

Thieving Caravan
In "Pendragon" these are the bandits that take the crown, and as an inciting incident it works fine, but their relevance to the adventure ends fairly early on. In "Arrow" this ends up being the PCs, which is generally a much stronger use of an ingredient, even if the "caravan" aspect comes off as forced and unnecessary (why does a Sphynx need an RV? Can it not fly?). And do they have to take a barge to Antarctica? Can the RV even handle the terrain there? Does Phix even join for that leg of the journey? There's a lot of questions here, obviously, but I still lean towards giving this to "Arrow".

Astral Jaunt
Both entries feature the Astral Plane in some manner. In "Arrow" it is really more of a "jaunt", but there's a big chance that the PCs will never actually interact with it themselves, whereas it's central to the resolution of "Pendragon" and thus a stronger overall use.

Last Crownbearer
This is probably "Arrow's" weakest ingredient; Phix is off-handedly mentioned as carrying Zeus's olive wreath, and that it serves as a beacon, but that's it. Meanwhile, the crown and its story is again more central to "Pendragon's" story, especially as it attaches itself to a PC. As we've mentioned earlier, turning one or more of the PCs into an ingredient is an inherently strong usage.

Affluent Troll
Both entries give us a troll, but neither give us much reason for the troll being a troll. I think it's more strongly justified in "Arrow" and the character of Jotunn himself is more significant than "Pendragon's" Uberon, so I give this to Arrow.

Crystal Seal
I think I wanted this to be stronger in both entries than it ultimately turned out being. "Arrow" mixes in some some good puns but I don't get the sense for why the statue is a fur seal (or why Euryale can now turn things to crystal) or why the letter sealed with the intaglio flies straight to Eros; these are ultimately interchangible mcguffins. Furthermore, which solid enough detective work they're entirely missable, the Kappa path leading the PCs directly to Antarctica. "Pendragon's" seal is much stronger, but it's not even technically crystal, it's sapphire, which are not the same thing (sapphire crystal is a thing but it's synthetic and would be anachronistic here). Still, the ingredient's function as a "Seal" is stronger here in "Pendragon", so it gets the slight edge.

Fountain of Love
Both entries have a fountain, and both are quite strongly tied to "love" (or some fascilime thereof). I absolutely adore the detail that Jotunn is essentially selling bottled bathwater, and it functions as a fairly extreme obstacle for the PCs in some scenarios. Meanwhile, "Pendragon's" fountain ties directly to its settings' themes of romance, honor, and sacrifice. This is possibly the strongest ingredient in both entries.

In Conclusion

These are two great adventures and great Iron DM entries. Again, however, I am forced with a decision: do I choose the adventure that is, overall, slightly stronger than the other, or do I choose the adventure that, on balance, utilized the ingredients a little bit better?

Ultimately, I have to go with the ingredients, and in this case "Pendragon" has the edge on "Arrow". Had "Arrow" had fewer macguffins and otherwise weakly tied ingredients, I would likely have given it the edge. But especially at this stage, it's not enough to have built a vey strong and compelling adventure; the ingredients need to be tightly weaved throughout, and not just incidental.

However, it appears that I am in the minority in this judgment, with the other two judges narrowly siding with "Arrow". Thus, by a vote of 2-1, Iron Sky advances to the finals! Congratulations!

Wisdom Seeker, you came pretty close to knocking off a seasoned veteran here and former champion here, which is no small feat for your first time competing. If I have any advice for you, it would be to ensure that the disparate elements of your adventures flow better together, in terms of both theme and pacing. All told, though, I'm very excited to see what you have to offer us in future competitions. I believe you'll be a force to be reckoned with!

As it is, congratulations again to Iron Sky, and we will see you in our finale!

Bring on Match 2!
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
This was not obviously not my strongest entry and, aside from my usual final few editing passes being cut away by family time constraints, I think my weakest points had to do with trying to be too subtle about some ingredients and going with the "if you can't make one bulletproof ingredient, make three or four decent ones."

My biggest disappointment was that none of the judges seemed to get my attempt at laconicism: the sphinx eats part of the PCs if they get a riddle wrong so aside from the initial exposition, he would speak as little as possible. I think it might have been clearer if I'd written less riddles as in saying "he doesn't talk much" after writing 300 words of his riddles, I totally undermined myself.

As for the Crystal Seals, I had that as the Crystal Meth locking Eros in the Astral as they key bit from the get go, but rather than making it more focal, I threw in the other ideas for seals I'd brainstormed in the hopes that the better mystery would make up for each ingredient being weakened.

I'd originally had Jotunn's internet trolling being more central, but cut it due to word constraints. I hoped having him be a wealthy troll who trolled living in newly-luxurious Troll, AQ would cover my bases somehow. Stronger is definitely better than more.

Phix was a fun character to make up and write for, but in retrospect, it would have been much stronger if one of the characters had to carry the crown due to some thread of divine blood in their veins while others tried to steal it... I (weakly) used the sphinx coming along to make the PCs the caravan as a last resort as I couldn't figure out how else to tie that one in.

I also was fortunate that some plot-holes I picked up in rereading after submitting passed most of the judges eye; in trying for breadth of adventure space, the tightness of the weave definitely slackened. It might have been what bumped me, teetering over the edge with two of the judges, but having one or two stronger ingredients would probably have been the better choice.

Add it all to a weak hook and lack of conclusion (or stakes) makes this... not my strongest entry.

@Wisdom Seeker , for your first time competing, I'm definitely blown away. I've done this half-a-dozen times and I've never seen a match as close as this one with both entries essentially tied on score and thrown to the judges' gut to resolve.

Your adventure was solid - the scene with the drunken troll king and his merry band being my favorite, drifting me into nostalgic memories of The Last Unicorn from when I was a kid. My only advice if you compete again in the future (do!) was that your statting things out seemed to weaken a couple ingredients (Troll is a re-skinned Giant, Sphinx is a re-skinned Griffin) that may have consciously or not tweaked some of the judges too as well as costing you the precious words it took to enumerate.

Feel free to ignore me, come a hair's breadth from winning as you did. :p

Thanks judges for the critiques. Having worn your shoes a couple times now I know just how hard (and time consuming) it can be. Looking forward to the final round!
 

Gradine

Archivist
IRON DM 2019: Round 2, Match 2: Rune vs lowkey13

@Rune and @lowkey13, 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.

Your ingredients are:
  • The Sun's Consort
  • Inverted Tower
  • Divine Culture
  • Swollen Village
  • Malfunctioning Teleporter
  • Unlucky Vampire
  • Rings a Bell
Happy writing!
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Mad Mages and Grognards

A short adventure for 5e to get off your lawn

Ingredients

The Sun’s Consort

Inverted Tower

Divine Culture

Swollen Village

Malfunctioning Teleporter

Unlucky Vampire

Rings a Bell

GM NOTE- The following deals with regression to a dark, dark, dark time and requires access to 1e rulebooks and significant preparation. Be forewarned.



Background


In a forgotten land called Greyhawk, a capricious mage by the name of Zagyg is increasingly of the feeling that it is not he who is mad; it is the world. As he has watched, over time, he believes that things have changed, become different …. and Zagyg is going to change it all back to how it should be.

He is using an artifact of Great Power, the Bell of Lum the Mad, to turn Greyhawk back to the first edition of D&D. However, a side effect of using the Bell of Lum the Mad is that every day, it draws in a few additional people from other planes and other editions into Greyhawk. So Zagyg must ring Lum’s Bell each day, both bringing in some more unfortunates, and transforming those that have been brought in, to maintain the purity of his vision and keep Greyhawk the way it always was, and always will be, forever.



Regression

The World of Greyhawk that the party enters will already be “1e.” But this adventure is premised on the concept of regressing the party back. Zagyg will be taking the adventuring party from 5e to 1e.

Every day, the Bell of Lum the Mad will ring at midnight and cause a ripple in the space-time continuum, regressing the PCs. The sound of the bell ringing will be clear throughout Oerth, but can only be heard by those that have not regressed.



Lum’s Bell

The full course of this regression will take one week, with the effects as follows:

Day 1: Harmonize spells.

Day 2: Harmonize races.

Day 3: Harmonize classes.

Day 4: Remove skills.

Day 5: Harmonize equipment.

Day 6: Everything left changes to 1e and the 1e ruleset should be used.

Day 7: All effects are permanent. The seventh bell is the last one you hear.

For example, on day 1 only spells that are known to, or similar to, 1e may be cast. On days 2 and 3 only class options used in 1e may be used. Day 4 is the loss of any skills or skill proficiencies. And so on.

DM TIP: The DM may wish to provide double or triple the amount of time to encourage exploration. It is highly recommended that the changes to the PCs are decided ahead of time, so that playtime is not used re-writing character sheets.

Example- The party arrives. A tiefling warlock is fine. After midnight, it is DAY 1, and that PC can only cast spells that are the same (or similar) to those in the 1e PHB. On day 2, they wake up as something that is not a tiefling. On day 3, they are a spellcaster other than a warlock. On day 4, they no longer use defined skills. On day 5, any equipment (including magic items) must be the same as 1e. And on day 6, any and all rules are harmonized with 1e (such as healing and number of spells per day).



Entry into Greyhawk

The party should be based in some other campaign setting, such as Forgotten Realms. The next time the party uses a transportation spell (such as gate, or teleportation), a misfire occurs drawing them into Greyhawk.

The party arrives in the Village of Hommlet. The party will be one of a number of refugees from different areas that recently arrived, greatly increasing the village’s population. Emphasize the strangeness of the other recent importees. The villagers themselves will not understand the strangeness of any of this, but will only be able to attest that “Newcomers seem a little strange at first, but after a few days ….”


Sir Fang: One of the unfortunate refuges is an NPC from 3e Ravenloft. Sir Fang will is exceptionally friendly and will join the party. He has already been here for four days (so he is on DAY 3). Sir Fang, who will appear to be a human fighter to the party, will regale the party with stories of how he is really a vampire adventurer just like the people in the party, and he was something called a Shadowdancer. He is a little hazy on the past, but he knows that he feels strange, and that every night he hears the sound of a bell ….



The Free City

The party should be able learn (either through spells or other investigation) that the sounds of Lum’s Bell are emanating from the vicinity of the Free City of Greyhawk. The Free City is in the middle of a celebration of the Gods of the Flanaess, with the City shutting down every night as revelers take to the streets and celebrate the gods with reverence and debauchery.

The nightly celebration ends when an actor playing Pelor takes his place on a throne in the middle of the City, and the crowd symbolically offers him a donkey as his bride at the stroke of midnight. The donkey is dressed in the regalia of Zagyg. This is repeated each night.

The players should be able to inquire further and learn that no one can remember when the celebration started, or when the celebration will end. Overly invasive questioning on the subject will cause people to turn hostile.

The donkey’s regalia shimmers with magic when the bell sounds. If anyone asks about the meaning of the regalia, they will be told it is the symbol of the Mad Mage, whose ruins lie to the north of the City. If anyone asks about the Bell, they will be met with confusion at first as no one else hears it; a second question will cause the crowd to turn against the person asking the question. The people in the Free City will have, at best, foggy memories of the prior night each morning.



Zagyg’s Ziggurat

The hideaway of Zagyg is not Castle Greyhawk, which lies in ruins, but in the 7 levels that lie beneath like an inverted ziggurat. The first level is the largest and most expansive, and each level beneath it gets smaller until, at the bottom-most level, there is one 30’ x 30’ room.

DM TIP: Populate the levels of the dungeon with monstrosities of increasing difficulty; the final room should contain both the most difficult monster as well as a fiendish trap. However, keep in mind that the players are under a strict time constraint and that, by day 6, they will no longer be able to even heal using 5e rules. This should be run as a strict dungeon crawl.



The Final Room

The 30’ x 30’ room has a clockwork mechanism that drives a small hammer into Lum’s Bell once a day. There should be a level-appropriate guard left by Zagyg (choose a level-appropriate undead from a mummy to a lich, along with lower-level undead).

The Bell itself, along with the clockwork mechanism and small hammer is impervious to physical harm and magic, but contains an inscription, “What comes once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years?”

If the players say, “The letter ‘M’” (or a close variant) then the bell shatters.



Conclusion

  • Success?
  • Should the party make it to the Lum’s Bell and destroy it before the seventh day, then there will be a final, loud sound as successive waves go forth and undo all the prior changes. Specifically, the players should see and feel the changes being wrought before being blasted back from whence they came as it was a negative effect of the artifact that brought the party to Greyhawk.
  • Failure
  • After midnight on the seventh day, the effects are permanent on the party. Destruction of Lum’s Bell will prevent further people from other editions and campaigns from being drawn in, but will not restore them. This could be used to transition the party to 1e for a time, or, in the alternative, allow the party to find an alternate method to undo the damage; there are rumors that great Suel mages had an artifact ….
 

Rune

Once A Fool
The Sun's Consort
Inverted Tower
Divine Culture
Swollen Village
Malfunctioning Teleporter
Unlucky Vampire
Rings a Bell

The Long Day
A 5e D&D adventure for mid-level characters

Recently:

Halpess, refugee from the Domains of Dread, vampire:

  • Cursed by Dark Powers with ill-luck.
  • Escaped(?) to a pocket plane ruled by a deific sun-monarch.
  • Worse, no sanquineous sentients.
  • Finding himself uniquely invisible to the monarch’s consort (a deity of reflections), Halpess thought to imprison the consort in its own home, thus gaining leverage over the sun.
  • Ignorance of local culture (with regard to its’ deities’ relationship), has left Halpess with no leverage at all and unable to escape lest he be destroyed.
  • Motivations:To be freed from eternal daylight. Also, to feed. When the two conflict, hunger wins.

Attunement

Amongst treasures gained in the PCs’ adventures: a platinum tuning fork and scorched leaflet.

Congratulations! With your purchase of this key, you have embarked on an exciting journey among the amazing delights of fair Florasapia. See exotic vistas! Meet strange new peoples and learn their ways! Befriend living gods and win their favor! Deluxe travel package available for the unbeatable price of 599 gp. For details, contact the Just Plane Fun Travel Agenc...

Sigils fringe the edges of the brochure, partially burned away along the bottom.

The fork: a component necessary to plane shift to a particular teleportation circle on a specific pocket Prime Material Plane. Anyone who can cast the spell can use the sigils to make the trip.

If they do not, a modron quadrone tracks them down through the use of a crystal ball.

It introduces itself as Rogue Modron Quadrone Unit, but accepts a shorter name if given it. It needs their help.

  • This modron is a wild sorcerer (13th level). Among its spells: comprehend languages, all teleports, few combat spells.
  • Because of its fundamentally lawful nature, wild surges are particularly potent. In addition to surges resulting from spellcasting , it involuntarily casts dimension door to random locations with every non-cantrip cast. Also, whenever the timing would be funny. Especially in the middle of conversations.
  • As a rogue modron, it has been stripped of its Axiomatic Mind, but remains LAWFUL neutral.
  • Research suggests Florasapien culture is directly communicative with its deities, making said deities potentially befriendable. Calculations indicate a boon from said befriended deities may be useful in accomplishing its objectives.
  • In return for aid, the modron will reward the party with the crystal ball.
  • Motivations: To cleanse self of wild magic and return to non-rogue status. Failing that, to be destroyed, and energy returned to Mechanus to be recycled.

Once terms are accepted, the modron plane shifts PCs and self to the attuned plane.

Under the Sun

Atop the Tower of Daylight, a teleportation circle, sigils newly scorched by relentless radiance.

Below, a placid lake, impossibly still.

Across the lake, a village overgrown.

Above, the sun, unmoving.

If an attempt to repair the sigils is made, the PCs must determine what the destroyed sigils were (these match the burned sigils on their brochure), then must protect themselves from the sudden intense burning heat that berates them.

Upon descending, there is much to discover.

  • The lake: a perfect mirror, depths unfathomable. Even when disturbed, the surface resists rippling. At its center, the sun shines upward. Across it, the overgrown village watches its reflection, still and somber. The tower, too, is perfectly reflected, once a change of perspective reveals it.
  • The land: lush and verdant, grown wild. The path skirting the lake from tower to village seems well-trod and once well-kept.
  • The astute may conclude that wildlife are harshly effected by the unmoving sun. Scarce, exhausted, confused.
  • The village’s appearance is deceptive; the overgrowth is humanoid. And very large.

Florasapien language is certain to be unknown to travelers. Learning itis possible, but too lengthy a task to be practical. Fortunately, the Florasapiens have met tourists before and understand enough Common to make exceptionally awkward communication possible.

With effort, interaction reveals that the plant-folk of the village of Florasapia have some problems.

Sun-King is angry with its contemplative consort, Tranquility. This is typical of the fiery god. Atypically, the anger persists and the god petulantly lingers in the sky.

Because the sun remains, the Florasapiens cannot stop growing; they are literally swollen with daylight. Too large to shelter within their dwellings. No longer able to wield the tools with which to fashion new dwellings. In time, these might be remedied; for now, they are outgrowing their village and each other.

Additionally, just before the last dawn, some of their number mysteriously disappeared.

Florasapiens are a pious people and can relate much about Sun-King and Tranquility, should the PCs take the time to learn it.
  • The recently disrupted dynamic of their deities’ relationship: Sun-King begins each day angry and ascends the sky to govern its monarchy in solitude.
  • By day’s end, its temper is cooled. At the bottom of the Tower of Reflection, a silent bell is nightly rung, spreading ripples across the pristine surface and compelling the Sun-King’s return through paired teleportation circles at each tower apex.
  • The plant-folk traditionally ascend the Tower of Daylight to petition their monarch, but have found its temper too hot to withstand. They know that the Sun-King destroyed the circle’s sigils in a fit.
  • Tranquility’s lake reflects with perfect clarity: sky, tower, village, observers. All petitioners are welcome to descend the Tower of Reflection, if they can but accept the reflection as meaningful beyond mere mirroring. Creatures so welcomed are gifted with freedom of movement for the duration of their pilgrimage.
  • Of incidental relevance: the Florasapiens’ many clerics have received no spells from either deity.

Unbeknown to Halpess, the Tower of Reflection’s open invitation would have allowed him easy entry into the tower (and freedom of movement with it). Had he known, he could have saved himself the trouble of charming some plant-folk and sending them into the tower to invite him in.

In contrast, the modron’s truesight prevents it from seeing metaphor. Consequency, it sees mere photons reflected off of the surface of the lake and can never gain entry to the tower except through teleportation.

Ascent

Sun-King and Tranquility understand all languages. Thus, petitioning either is possible to even travelers.

However, Sun-King is currently very much enjoying a prolonged freedom. If reminded that the monarch has a duty to subjects or consort, petitioners will be met with a burning fury. Likewise, if they attempt to repair the teleportation circle. In time, however, their words set in.

Descent

Should the PCs attempt to enter the Inverted Tower, they will need some means of breathing underwater. Florasapiens have no such restrictions and cannot help in this regard. Additionally, unless they engage in contemplative reflection and thereby gain welcome, they must teleport blindly into the tower, with all of the risks of unfamiliarity.

  • Inside, many lake-creatures with the traits of vampire spawn. Hungry.
  • Water-logged plant-folk (much smaller than the villagers above) drift aimlessly throughout the tower. These are charmed by the vampire and interwoven with each other into living makeshift coffins, affording Halpess a ready refuge anywhere nearby whenever needed. Unless wakened by minions, there is a 50% chance that Hapless slumbers in one while the adventurers explore.
  • Deep down the tower, near its apex, Tranquility is imprisoned. No bonds hold it, but early attempts to escape resulted in savage attacks by a foe unseen. Since Tranquility knows not that the foe‘s nature, the deity has not attempted escape in quite some time. It has, however, had plenty of time to think.
  • Tranquility suspects that the foe is veiled from sight because he casts no reflection — a uniquely problematic situation. When the adventurers appear, the opportunity presented is immediately obvious.

Thus begins the hunt for a desperately hungry vampire trapped by his own ill-luck and ill-conceived machinations.

The curse of misfortune is real. The root is always of his own making, but effects are quite manifest and compound upon poor decisions. Each roll Halpess makes at disadvantage uses the worst of three d20 rolls.

Things could be worse. If the PCs descend the tower and ring the summoning bell, Sun-King will finally be compelled to return to the Tower. If the teleportation circle atop the Tower of Daylight remains broken, the return will take quite a while, as the deity takes the long route. Either way, once Sun-King is inside the tower, its entirety will be flooded with daylight.

Restoration

Once all is right:

  • Wildlife returns to normal cycles. The Florasapiens stop over-growing. Eventually, they fashion appropriately-sized tools and residences.
  • The clerics regain their spellcasting.
  • If the adventurers spend time among the Florasapiens, they find much to learn from the experience.
  • Each deity grants a single wish to the adventurers and a return trip to their home plane. If the adventurers insist on more wishes, the Sun-King takes offense.
  • If one of the wishes is used to strip the modron of magic, it relinquishes the crystal ball and rejoina the modron hierarchy to live functionally ever after.
  • Otherwise, it requests destruction, so its energy can return to Mechanus and be reused.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
@lowkey13:

Very meta! Looks fun! Especially if (as I presume is intended) the players don’t know the fundamental conceit going in.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Let’s give this a try: PALADIN. PALADIN. PALADIN.

They sure know how to keep us in suspense, don’t they, lowkey?
 

Radiating Gnome

Adventurer
Round 2 Match 2: Rune vs Lowkey13


It seems like we are plagued with delays in this round of IronDM. I’m sorry for my part of that. So, let’s get cracking:
This is a review of Lowkey13’s adventure “Mad Mages and Grognards” and Rune’s “The Long Day”. (Mad and Day for short).
These are a pair of exceptionally creative, mind bending adventures. It’s great, once again, to see such creative entires.
Mad takes characters in a 5e game and regresses them back to 1e. This seems fun and meta and creative, and at the same time it’s a huge gamble — an adventure that is so meta it may not actually work as a playable experience.
Meanwhile, the risks in Day are subtler. The adventure takes the players to a setting where they will interact with deities in a way that feels more like a fairy tale and less like a typical D&D game.
So, risks all around. Let’s review the ingredients.

The Sun's Consort
In Day, the Sun God’s consort is the god of reflection and tranquility. Her pool is an important location, and is critical to the story. In Mad, celebrants in Greyhawk symbolically wed a donkey to the sun god Pelor. This is a cute moment, but is not as integral to the adventure as it was in Day, so this point goes to Day.


Inverted Tower
Both use the inverted tower as an adventure location — although it’s a bit of a stretch to squint and see tower in a ziggurat, as it is used in Mad. With that exception, I don’t see much advantage in either entry. Call it a wash.

Divine Culture

I’m not getting a solid sense of divine culture from Mad, while Day

Is about tensions between the sun god and his consort. And about patching those things up. So. Day gets this point.

Swollen Village

In Mad, the village of Hommlet is swollen with refugees from other editions. And in Day, the plant folk villagers are swollen because of the excessive daylight. So, even here again.

Malfunctioning Teleporter


Both have this ingredient. For Mad, it’s how the adventure starts, but for Day, it’s the Modron who brings the party to the adventure.

Unlucky Vampire
Both stories have important unlucky vampires, but while Sir Fang joins the party and tags along, Halpess is the focus of the adventure and is much more integrated into the story. So, another point for Day here.

Rings a Bell


This one is clearly Mad’s advantage. The bells tolling and regressing the party, the bell as the final goal to put a stop to it — that is the lynchpin. The bell in Day is the tuning fork — another squinty one — and it’s just not so important to the story.



Creativity/playability
Both Mad and Day are very creative, as I’ve already said.
Both, though, sacrifice some playability for that creativity.
In Mad, the game appears to be much more about the meta-level edition twisting part of the game than about the story. The stakes are not so much that the characters will die as they are that the players would have to play first edition for the rest of the campaign. It’s conceptually fun and an interesting way to explore the way the game has evolved, but is it playable? I’m not sold that it is.
Day is less risky, but it’s certainly a setting and an idea that is off center. The difference is that the characters experience the difference, not the players.

RG Final Judgement:
I think it won’t surprise anyone that I found Day stronger than Mad. So, for my part, I’m giving the win to The Long Day and Rune.

Lowkey13 — well done and thank you for the fun read. You’re facing off against one of the best.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Deuce Traveler's judgement for Round 2, Match 2

"The Long Day" by @Rune versus "Mad Mages and Grognards" by @lowkey13

The list of ingredients meshed together well enough for a high-fantasy adventure, and that's what both authors provided for the D&D 5E system. At first glance at the ingredients, I'm expecting to see an unlucky vampire getting caught by the danger of either the sun or the teleporter. And I see an inverted tower, a village, and a divine culture all fitting together. But maybe this is too obvious and the entries will do something surprising. Let's see how the authors approached the ingredients and how different each entry was from the other.

Timeliness and Word Count:

Both submissions made it before the time limit. And both submissions were below the 1500 word count limit. Full points to both.

Score: Rune 2 vs Lowkey13 2

Grammar and Readability:

Both entries had a threat and important stakes, while at the same time delivering some silly elements.
Lowkey13's "Mad Mages and Grognards" plays as both a homage of classical D&D and a lampooning of grognards. A casual fan unfamiliar with the game's history would miss that Zagyg was Gary Gygax's creation (Gygax..Zagyg...) and so there's an added clever twist that it is Zagyg wanting to return to an earlier version of D&D. As a grognard myself, I want to point out that I wouldn't call a return to older versions of the game a 'regression'. In all seriousness, you could have played with this and brought it back to the older versions of basic D&D, which was separate from AD&D first edition. Heck, you could have taken it back to Chainmail. Ok, this old grognard is digressing now. Full points for the easy to follow readability and use of grammar.

Rune's "The Long Day" is another fun romp dealing with divinities, vampires, backfiring machinations, and a rogue modron. This thing is packed to the gills with plot and characters, but it reads like it was chopped up a bit too much. This terse and efficient text is typical for an entry from Rune, as it is his way to stuff in more information into an entry. This time I think he chopped too much, making it a little harder to follow. It's still a good entry, and I'm willing to bet he makes it up on the ingredients.

Score: Lowkey13 4 vs Rune 3

First Ingredient: The Sun's Consort

I was going to quibble a bit at Rune's entry. Tranquility doesn't seem to have much to do and is a passive and almost boring player in the drama. I even questioned whether she met the 'consort' portion of the ingredient, or whether she could be exchanged for "The Sun's McGuffin". Upon mulitple readings I changed my mind. Her passivity and manner is opposite that of the sun-diety's fiery nature, and their being consorts would fit in many a mythology.

Lowkey13's use of the ingredient is more stretched. Being a grognard, I know that Pelor is a sun diety in Greyhawk. However, I don't see how the use of a donkey consort is an integral use of the ingredient, or why it is dressed in Zagyg's regalia. I was tempted to give zero points for this, as the donkey consort could be exchanged for just about anything without it impacting the story. Heck, the regalia on the donkey seems more important than the 'consort' itself. I am grudgingly giving a single point here, because the bizarreness of the situation should result in the party asking important questions, which in turn leads them to clues they need to confront Zagyg.

Score: Lowkey13 5 vs Rune 5

Second Ingredient: Inverted Tower

I'm giving full points to each. Both gave flavorful reasons for the ingredient's use in their entries. Rune's entry fit with Tranquility's realm pointing in the opposite direction of the sun diety, while Lowkey13's entry made sense knowing the canon of Zagyg and his ruins. Magic-users in the original game used towers. Zagyg's facility was destroyed and he was thought to have been killed, when in actuality he just used his powers and resources to build downwards...

Score: Lowkey13 7 vs Rune 7

Third Ingredient: Divine Culture

"The Long Day" really nails this ingredient as it permeates through the entirety of the entry. The culture in the tale is both relateable in some ways (i.e. tourism) while also being quite alien, but the very active divinities drive their entire culture.

"Mad Mages and Grognards" mentions a religious festival in a town, which acts as a hook in the adventure, but otherwise the culture of the local populace doesn't have much effect.

Score: Lowkey13 8 vs Rune 9

Fourth Ingredient: Swollen Village

Again, "The Long Day" really nails an ingredient here. The people of the village are literally being swollen, which ends up raising the stakes for the adventurers concerned for the life of fellow sentient beings.

In "Mad Mages and Grognards", the village is swollen due to refugees pouring in from different realms outside of Greyhawk. This brings the party into the adventure, while showing them that something is going terribly wrong.

Full points to both.

Score: Lowkey13 10 vs Rune 11

Fifth Ingredient: Malfunctioning Teleporter

Interestingly, both entries use this ingredient to get the party from another realm and into this specific adventure. The ingredient continues to be in play in both; Rune has a comically malfunctioning moldron tagging along with the party while Lowkey13 has more refugees pouring into Greyhawk.
Full points to both.

Score: Lowkey13 12 vs Rune 13

Sixth Ingredient: Unlucky Vampire

In "The Long Day", Rune's vampire is the main antagonist that drives the entire plot. The vampire has screwed himself over, but is willing to take everyone else down with him as he desperately flails around in a likely doomed attempt to save himself. He is central to the adventure and removing this ingredient ruins the adventure.

In "Mad Mages and Grognards", Lowkey13's unlucky vampire is Sir Fang... who may no longer be a vampire adventurer due to Zagyg's machinations. He's another clue to the party that something is going wrong, but he could have claimed to be draconic or cambion before the transformation without affecting the tale, and he's an incidental character.

Score: Lowkey13 13 vs Rune 15

Seventh Ingredient: Rings a Bell

I'm going to quibble a bit here. Lowkey13's bell could have been a chime, harpsichord, or cowbell and it wouldn't have changed anything outside of the mood of the moment. However, I am going to agree that a bell works well here, especially thinking about how a bell holds special signifance in fantasy lore. And the effects of the bell are completely integral to the story. This is Lowkey13's best use of an ingredient in this match. Bonus props for throwing Lum into the tale, and I love the riddle at the end. True to classic D&D!

Rune's bell isn't as integral. The sun-king is summoned by the bell in order to bring in the night, but I really felt that it could have been any other instrument, and it would have been fit better if Tranquility sung to him or played an instrument to him in order to soothe his fiery temper. Unlike in his opponent's entry, a bell just doesn't seem to fit right here.

Score: Lowkey13 15 vs Rune 16

Utility for a Game Master

Honestly, I'd rather be a player in Lowkey13's "Mad Mages and Grognards" than Rune's "The Long Day". I take a bit of an affront with a bride donkey wearing Zagyg's (Gygax's) regalia, but enough of this was the right sort of nostalgic for me. But Rune's entry has a lot more depth to it and potential for where the character's might branch off. I do wish there was more to the "Ascent" part of Rune's possible party paths, however. Lowkey13's entry was more a straight dungeon crawl with little deviation outside of the oddball characters that could potentially be summoned in from outside the realm of Greyhawk.

Final Decision:

I can't fault either entry too much, and am willing to award full points to both.

Score: Lowkey13 16 vs Rune 17

Good job, both of you. Lowkey13, I think you lost a bit on the word count talking about NPCs the party meets. In the future, use fewer words on the non-ingredient portions of your plot. Use those saved words to beef up the importance of your ingredients. I also noticed that you used less than 1400 words on this entry, which means you could have tossed in an extra 100 points to make some ingredients more integral. I truly enjoyed your entry, but you just need to tighten it up some when you compete next year.
Rune, I choose you to go to the finals.
 

Gradine

Archivist
Gradine's Judgment, Round 2 Match 2

Rules and Readability


Both entries are fairly well-formatted and edited, and easy to read. Both Mad Mages and Grognards (hereafter "Grognards") and The Long Day (hereafter "Long") are well within word count as well. I will say that the occasional clipped tone and diction in "Long", while understandably a necessity to cram in as much as possible within the word count, does make the adventure quite a bit less pleasant to read through.

Adventure Flow & Potential

This is my subjective "what did I generally like/dislike about the adventures" section of the judgment. I'll start with "Grognards". This should be a fun if extraordinarily taxing romp through editions past as well as a way to poke good fun at Greyhawk purists. I approve in all cases. It's a bit of a shame that such a colorful locale as the Free City devolves into a fairly bog-standard dungeon-crawl, whereas I would've expected at least some deviation from the 1e norms to draw attention to/poke fun at the events happening. The final riddle is similarly disappointing; it is entirely disconnected from anything that came before; I would've like for it to have been tied to something from earlier, at a minimum; were it also tied to an ingredient that would have been ever better.

"Long" is, similarly, a journey to a strange location with even stranger people to meet. But what starts as an interesting puzzle of communication and culture once-more descends into a dungeon crawl through an inverted tower. The inhabitants here are at least explained and indicative of the issues involved, and the fact that the entire thing is underwater with automatic freedom of movement applied makes the journey itself more interesting.

Both adventures have strong hooks: in the case of "Grognards", the PCs are summoned against their will; "Long's" heroes must be petitioned, but there is plenty worthy motivation for both heroes both good and mercenary. The stakes are tied directly to the PCs' fates in "Grognards" which makes them inherently stronger than those in "Long's", whose PCs aren't personally involved in any of the adventure's precedings. This doesn't make it a bad adventure by any stretch, and in fact the stakes are not only pretty evident but ramped up and paced well; just not as strong as they are in "Grognards".

The Ingredients

So far, I think that "Long" has a slight edge in terms of strength of its adventure. Let's see how the ingredients shake out.

The Sun's Consort
"Grognards" has the whole festival of debauchery with Pelor and the donkey which... doesn't strike me as a canonical tribute to Greyhawk's sun god? But who am I to complain. The donkey's relevance to the adventure is in providing clues linking Zagyg to the bells and the changes, but its relevance as The Sun's Consort seems... to be entirely lacking. If The Sun's Consort had any relevance beyond "let's throw a party for Pelor every night! For reasons!" it would have been quite a bit stronger. Maybe having the consort provide the clue to the final puzzle as well? Meanwhile, Providence plays a much more central role in "Long", both as a consort to the sun and within the adventure's structure as well.

Inverted Tower
This is another one of those ingredients I was hoping for so much more from. Both entries have a dungeon that is a tower built down into the underground. "Long's" tower dungeon is a little more interesting on balance, but there's otherwise little to no reason given in either why the structure is a tower and why it's inverted the way it is.

Divine Culture
My guess in "Grognards" is that this is the festival to Pelor, which is a thing that happens, sure, and it does provide the PC's a useful cure as well, but the revelry doesn't seem to match the source (a nighttime frivolity marrying a sun god to a donkey?) and in either case its shape has no direct relevance to the adventure. It could have been any non-religious ceremony, and the clue could have been presented in any form. That this ingredient is tied in very well to The Sun's Consort is actually quite good and is to be commended; I just wish that either were more directly relevant to the proceedings. In "Long", the Divine Culture and their deities' behaviors are the crux of the adventure.

Swollen Village
Fun fact: I got this term from a textbook on turn of the 20th century urban and rural education written in the 1970's and I still could not tell you in the least bit what the hell it's supposed to mean. Both entries do a pretty good job of pulling this one off, though I again have to give this one to "Long" as it's a little more creative in how its inhabitants get "swollen" and its location matches the term "village" quite a bit more than The Free City of Greyhawk does.

Malfunctioning Teleporter

This is the misfire that sends the party to Greyhawk in "Grognards"; it's left unsaid, but this is probably responsible for all of the other campaign setting refugees as well. I actually like this use a bit more than in "Long", where its existence as an impediment to the sun's return feels somewhat unnecessary and tacked on, particularly as there is lack of any instructions on how, exactly to repair it.

Unlucky Vampire
"Sir Fang" seems like they would be a really fun NPC to have the PCs interact with, but sadly, his relevance to the adventure begins and ends with his introduction. The party could let him join them, or they could not. He's not really needed in the final dungeon or at really any point within "Grognards". He doesn't even have any reason to be a vampire, other than that's what the ingredient says. "Halpess" is a little more relevant in "Long" given his nature as the primary antagonist. I'm not sure that either his lack of luck nor his status as a vampire are strictly necessary; however the vampire's weaknesses play well with some of the settings' other trappings, which isn't terrible.

Rings a Bell
I was expecting this to be a difficult one, but both entries used bells to quite good effect. I actually have to give this one "Grognards"; not only is the bell itself a bit more central than it is in "Long" (where its use is more denouement than climax), but for a secondary reference that I am not sure was intentional (though intentional or not, I count an ingredient's existence) in the role memory plays in the adventure; both in the literal sense (characters beginning to forget where they came from/how they got there) and in the meta sense (remembering the way we used to play the game; the way Greyhawk used to be). If that was intentional, bravo!

In Conclusion

While I enjoy both of these entries quite a deal, I feel like one of the two stands out, not just on the strength of its adventure but on its usage of ingredients.

Ultimately, "The Long Day" stands as the better adventure and does a better job incorporating its ingredients. This is not to say that "Mad Mages and Grognards" was not a good adventure; it definitely is and it seems like it would be a great deal of fun, especially to the folks who would get the references. But too many of the ingredients were incidental or irrelevant. A strong Iron DM adventure makes those ingredients central; changing or removing them should fundamentally change the nature of the adventure.

Thus, it appears that, by unanimous decision, Rune advances to the finals to face Iron Sky! Congratulations!

lowkey, I think you know that this was not your best work, and your comments in the other thread revealed that you had some timing issues that prevented you from fully fleshing out your original idea (which I would love to have seen!). That this was your "last-minute backup" says a lot more about your skill and talent as an adventure designer than one might imagine. You've already shown your ability to put together some great works, and I'm excited to see what you have to bring to the table next year.

As it is, congratulations again to Rune, and we will see you in our finale!

On to the championship!
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Astute observers may note that I posted my submission for round two within three minutes of deadline. This is, of course, because I was racing the clock to put out a polished version. We almost got one. I had, after a draft that I was more or less happy with, a surplus of nearly 500 words. I had allotted myself plenty of time for the final editing/reformatting passes, but at 500 words, it was just barely enough and I still missed a typo here and there.

The judges have commented on my clipped writing style and a resulting difficulty in reading the entry. It wasn’t my intention to do so this time around; it was an unfortunate necessity. I had come to a point where I felt I could cut no more content of subsequence. I had more to trim and I had to make very quick decisions about where to do it. Oh well.

On the whole, though, I like the entry and I think it would be fun to play or run.

I spent the whole first evening working out those ingredients. But I couldn’t think of a good hook. To my mind, a good hook should draw upon at least one of three things. The most important of these: curiosity. After that: greed. Finally: responsibility to others. The hook that I landed on draws on the first two in order. And, of course, responsibility to others plays a large part of moving the adventure along once they get to it.

Thus began the actual writing.

About that hook: It had opened up the door to the adventure but it caused a few problems as well. For one thing, now that I had called out the material component of the plane shift spell (a tuning fork), I suddenly had something that could be mistaken for the “rings a bell” ingredient. Considering that I had a better intended use for the ingredient down the line, this could be a problem. But I really liked the hook, so no change.

The same thing happened with a different ingredient. Because plane shift utilizes a teleportation circle, I now I had a means for Sun-King to travel between sky and lake. Which, of course, the deity was inclined to destroy. But that meant that this damaged teleportation circle (that could still receive) could also stand in for an ingredient: the “malfunctioning teleporter”. I liked the modron much more, but it was OK.

Of course, the modron wasn’t actually integral to the adventure, anyway, and, in fact, could be bypassed completely if the players had access to plane shift on their own. Other than acting as a hook and possible entry to the inverted tower, the modron was pretty much a b-plot.

And about that bell? Did it really even need to be a bell? Well, yeah, it actually did. But it really wasn’t clear at all.

Since it was underwater, it was silent. But it created ripples across the usually pristine surface of the lake. Rings, as it were. It was this disruption that signalled to the ever downward-looking Sun-King and summoned the deity home (a thing I assumed the players would want to try to end Halpess and/or solve the Florasapien problem).

Did the inverted tower need to be a tower? Again, yes. Because the inverted tower was a reflection of Sun-King’s tower. Which, of course (being a place of petition and holy site for the Florasapiens’ worship of a sun-deity and the point of ascension for Sun-King’s daily rule), needed to reach into the sky.

About the consort: this was actually the first ingredient I worked out. The key to it all. I wondered what kind of constant companion I could come up with for the sun and after some deliberation I landed on reflection. Once I had that, the tower became obvious as well.

Of coarse, Tranquility’s presence in the adventure is felt mostly in its absence. But I wanted the deity’s personality to pervade throughout, nevertheless. And what was that personality? Exactly the opposite of the fiery sun, of course. And since it was a deity of reflection, I could play around with the meaning of that word, as well. Not just physical reflection, but introspection and wisdom, as well. The ingredient became a theme for the adventure and that meant I had a natural foil for the antagonist.

Speaking of whom, we come to the unlucky vampire: Of course, one must wonder if misfortune heaped upon one’s self can truly be called bad luck. I figured I could play around with that. Is the nature of the curse self-fulfilling? Could the unlucky vampire, through better decisions, have negated the curse? How good of a villain could he be when he is almost certainly going to be a pushover in combat anyway?

All fun things to explore, I thought. I was disappointed that I had to cut one line explicitly pointing out that, because he chose to enter the tower the hard way, Halpess lacked freedom of movement and therefore the enhanced unluck he was suffering would be felt on virtually every combat roll. An easy thing to miss while running a game, but I had 500 words to cut and those were some of them.

Swollen village: Sun god. Plant people. Uncontrollable growth. Stakes for the adventure. Looked good to me.

Finally, the divine culture: another major theme of the adventure was going to be the importance of culture (specifically, the importance of learning it). The plant people’s culture (as well as the adventure) was centered around the two deities’ relationship. All well and good. Of course, the actual deities did not have a culture within the adventure and the plant-folk were not themselves divine, but it looked good enough. Still pretty solid. I’d risk it.

Time to edit. Five hundred words to cut, while also fixing formatting inconsistencies. Less time than I needed. But I made it. Not my best entry, perhaps, but among the better ones.

I must confess, @lowkey13 was a foe I figured quite likely to have my number. This thought was only reinforced as I read the entry. Creativity and wit seamlessly blend into a deceptively tight framework. Of particular note, your “rings a bell” use exemplifies everything an IRON DM ingredient should be. It is evocative, integral (to the adventure as a whole and to the PCs specifically), and inherently interconnected with the others. AND it provides a thematic underpinning for the adventure. Well done, sir. We need more of that. I certainly hope to see you compete again!
 
Last edited:

Gradine

Archivist
IRON DM 2019: Round 3, Championship Match: Rune vs Iron Sky

@Rune and @Iron Sky, we are now on Round 3 where your 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 2000 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 1800. Later entries that are at less than 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 1400. Entries that are at least 1 day late will have their word-limits reduced to 1000. In addition, entries that are at least 2 days late may be disqualified at the discretion of the judges with consent from the match's opposing competitor. Entries that exceed their word-limits will be considered to end once they reach that limit; we will ignore everything after.

Your ingredients are:

  • Underwater Waterfall
  • Wandslinger's Disgrace
  • Doctor's Orders
  • Wicked Valley
  • Herald of Storms
  • Amphibious Lurker
  • Glowing Basement
  • Beef
Happy writing!
 

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
The 9th Pace
A fantasy adventure

Sailing across the ocean in search of riches, explorers found Karnia: a continent ringed by reefs and mountains, as remote as it is desolate. In spite of distance and danger, an infestation of penal colonies, struggling settlements, and rough towns dedicated to swindling a stream of idealists, adventurers, and refugees from the Old World soon marred Karnia's east coast.

No riches awaited, just rocky wastes populated by hardy scrub grasses and herds of wild cattle quickly multiplying after escaping from early settlers. Before long, the interior hosted roaming nomads driving herds of longhorns towards awaiting merchant ships in the east.

They found no civilizations, no ruins awaiting plundering... until recently when a group of pioneers discovered Wicked Valley. A narrow stretch of marginal land flanked by jagged ranges, Wicked Valley held three treasures: a strangely glowing freshwater lake, a ruin-scattered natural harbor, and a collapsed temple complex. The settlers set up at the edge of the ruins, utilizing the abundant masonry to cobble together a small town.

But the temple ruins weren't abandoned.

An ancient tribe of elves lived within; a bizarre, xenophobic, superstitious people, their Elven language barely recognizable. Miscommunications and the elves' extreme reactions to any outsider approaching the radiant stair descending into the temple's heart pushed relations to the brink of violence until the arrival of a third party flipped the whole situation on its head.

A desperado gang hit the big-time, making off with hundreds of longhorns. Driving their stolen cattle herd before them, the dozens-strong gang turned to the Valley to hide out, setting the longhorns to grazing near the lake and making camp around the town. Flush with success, the boss, Silver Jack, strutted about town like he owned it. The people cowered.

Except one.

Enter Two-Draw Fearson, bumping into Silver Jack as the boss exited the saloon.

A year ago he challenged the best wandslinger in the world, Ira Longarm. Fearson jumped at a noise and drew on the 9th pace, blasting Ira in the back before an audience of thousands.

Heedless of his men's warnings and restraints, Jack challenged Fearson to square off and was dead before he'd closed his mouth. Fearson's wands slid comfortably back into their sheaths before Jack's men even had time to draw their weapons. Without further ado, Fearson swiped Jack's smoldering coin pouch and walked into the saloon. The exiled wandslinger fled half-way across the world into the bottom of a bottle.

The gang immediately fractured. Jack's brutal enforcer, Jubal Clay, took over the majority of the desperados while Lil'Doc Deshyne, who'd tended man and beast, took the handful that remained. Clay thought he should be in charge and Lil'Doc, a root doctor, thought everyone should follow her orders since she held the antidote.

In her experiments mixing potions from local plants – using cow reticulums of cows slated for slaughter to grind ingredients faster – she found instead the plants toxified the cattle, producing meat that painfully drove its consumers mad. Antidote: the half-digested ingredients from a cow stomach.

Claiming the former owners of the cattle had leveled a curse that only her hoodoo could counter, she covertly fed the poisoned beef to as much of the gang as possible. Clay caught on, but not before many of his men fell under Lil'Doc's "curse", following her every demand in exchange for her “warding herbs”. Now Clay's few second-rate wandslingers devote most of their time to scanning their meat, dumping rejects into the lake.

The gang sits in two armed and hostile camps, the unfortunate townsfolk caught in between.

Add in the native elven tribe: long-isolated custodians now millennia into their task of sustaining Luagal, the demon guardian of Hatepuna, the Mother of all Storms. In a now-mythical war, Hatepuna's storms nearly destroyed the world. Unable to destroy the primordial, the victors locked her away at the end of the most remote and desolate continent in the world. The elven hero of the tale swore his people would stay to ensure the demon remained complacent. History surged onward leaving his people forgotten, isolated, inbred, superstitious, and increasingly deranged.

While the elves hide beneath the temple ruins, their leader, Duququm, raves in the streets, proclaiming in his crude Common the coming end of times unless everyone flees the Valley.

For good reason.

Luagal, a giant two-headed worm demon summoned from the primordial Abyss during the war, dwells within a massive underwater glass dome. Half the dome sits underwater, the other extends into the basement level of the temple. One of Luagal's gaping maws protrudes through a hole in the dome out into the lake, water pouring from its tail end onto the massive snail shell containing Hatepuna.

Should the shell no longer be cooled and grounded by primordial-touched water, Hatepuna's body of living lightning would shatter it in an instant. Even so, the water steams off while lightning randomly arcs from the shell – which looks like a gigantic, jagged boulder – to strike the glass panels of the foggy dome, setting them glowing for hours. Laugal's essence also taints the lake, concentrating especially the plants Lil'Doc discovered.

Long contented with the odd skinned rat or lizard thrown into the water as offering, Luagal recently sucked in toxic beef, feeding the demon's hungers. Elves have begun to steal cattle, skin them, and throw the bodies into the lake at night. Even worse, a desperado knifed in an argument and dumped in the lake sank to Luagal's maw. Duququm's kidnapped and sacrificed several townsfolk to keep the demon sated. Its appetite only grows.

To complicate things still further, a giant, ancient specimen of cone snail roams land and lake, its shell perfectly resembling the sharp boulders littering Wicked Valley. Trapped in the shell of its long-dead ancestor, Hatepuna has begun to control the snail from her prison, using the unsuspected creature to sow chaos and discord as it indiscriminately kills and swallows whole any elves, townsfolk, and desperados it catches alone and unaware.

Everyone blames someone else for the disappearances, but no group is strong enough to directly confront another.

Enter Heroes
Use the first of the hooks below, sprinkling in others as desired:
  1. Seers, high priests, and oracles foresee “a great doom looming in the West”. A powerful NPC patron of the PCs endows them with an enchanted fifteen-foot-long metal spike, admonishing them to "take this to the furthest coast of the furthest continent and, in the desolate vale, drive it through the Boulder-That-Is-Not-A-Boulder beneath the waterfall. The fate of our world depends on it.”
  2. Bounty posters for Silver Jack, Lil'Doc, Fearson, and Clay.
  3. Elven myths of “the lost tribe of the lost continent” point Karnia-wards.
  4. New settlers seek escorts to reach their families in Wicked Valley.
After the PCs endure unscrupulous guides, fake map makers, snake-oil salesman, harsh weather and heat, scorpions, snakes, attacks by exotic beasts and monsters, encounters with wary nomads, lack of water, directions, and supplies, plus rustlers targeting their mounts, they find the Valley full of wicked-sharp boulders, steep defiles, and unfriendly desperados protecting their stolen herd.

A summary of the situation in town:
  • Clay's gang camps at the north-east end of town. Clay: huge, brutal, direct
  • Lil'Doc's gang camps at the south-west end. Lil'Doc: amoral, bossy, manipulative
  • Townsfolk between, afraid to leave their homes. Townsfolk: cowering, powerless, hopeless
  • Duququm's tribe hides in the temple ruins while he roams the streets proclaiming the apocalypse. Duququm: raving, fixated, superstitious
  • Fearson drinking himself oblivious in the saloon. Fearson: depressed, touchy, melodramatic
  • A harpoon-firing, wagon-sized snail lurking in water or boulderfield
Wicked Valley.jpg

Clay, Lil'Doc, Duququm, and the townsfolk each approach the PCs, urging them to join their side and break the stalemate. Tactics include pleading, threatening, charm, seduction, intimidation, promising immanent glory or doom, offering alcohol, money, cattle, rank, profits, supplies, meals and lodging, and/or artifacts from the ruins.

PCs might try to profit by playing factions against each other, pick one and facilitate their victory, stake their own claim, or try to steer between them all while figuring out how they're supposed to save the world with the huge spike they hauled across ocean and continent. The Valley contains no waterfalls.

If the PCs assist any faction, they are tasked with helping advance the next step of the leader's agenda. After the PCs take significant action or remain inactive long enough, advance one other agenda (GM choice or random). Skip a step if the action listed is invalid.

Clay's Agenda
  1. Start
  2. Take control of streets
  3. Take control of entire herd
  4. Wipe out Lil'Doc's gang (Lil'Doc flees)
  5. Kill Fearson in his sleep
  6. Wipe out elves
  7. PCs: "Swear fealty or die"
  8. Victory: Establish seat of bandit kingdom. Grow powerful and feared.
Lil'Doc's Agenda
  1. Start
  2. “Curse” PCs, order them to help her in exchange for “reprieve from the curse”. If "cursed", PCs suffer sickness and madness from a demon-tainted, supernatural toxin. Effects worsen daily until gradually abating if they survive for two weeks.
  3. Take control of streets
  4. Take control of entire herd
  5. "Curse" Fearson
  6. Order Fearson to kill Clay. Lil'Doc takes over the whole gang
  7. Wipe out elves
  8. Victory: Spread the “curse” – always blaming it on some outside group – until she is the boss of all Western Karnia
Duququm's Agenda
  1. Start
  2. Thin gang ranks
  3. Round up townsfolk as sacrifices
  4. Kidnap and sacrifice Clay or Lil'Doc (random or GM choice)
  5. Convince Fearson of the coming doom
  6. Fearson kills the surviving gang leader and takes over gang
  7. Round up PCs as sacrifices
  8. Victory: Elves and desperados raid further and further afield for cow and human meat to keep Luagal appeased.
Luagal: simple, vain, ravenous

Elves eliminated: If the elves are ever wiped out, Luagal swims to the surface a week later and devours every creature in sight. After easy pickings are gone, the demon squirms inland to continue its feast.

A day later, Hatepuna escapes (see Hatepuna's Victory below).

Hatepuna's Agenda
  1. Start
  2. Indiscriminate (snail-caused) disappearances increase.
  3. Snail ambushes a lone or straggling PC. It moves surprisingly quickly and is practically invulnerable when it pulls into its shell, retreating to water if wounded.
  4. Surviving townsfolk flee
  5. Surviving gangs blame each other for disappearances and fight. Surviving gang (random or GM choice) is maimed.
  6. Remaining gang leader vanishes. Survivors flee.
  7. Duququm disappears. Surviving elves flee.
  8. Victory: see Elves Eliminated above.
If loosed, Hatepuna blasts up through the temple, unleashes a pack of sentient tornadoes at the heart of Karnia, then departs to level the Old World with wind and water.

Townfolk's Agenda
The people push the PCs to counter the other's agendas until the tribe and desperados all go away.

Fearson
By far the deadliest individual in town, Fearson seeks only to drown his guilt. Attempts to influence him require a careful, slow approach, convincing him gradually over several days that he can find redemption. Proposals include love (or lust), rescuing the beleaguered townsfolk and/or saving the world (heroic fame), leading the desperados (infamy instead), or other PC cleverness.

If the PCs sway him first, he'll help them blast through any supernatural and/or hostile obstacles.

Without intervention from outside, he simply drinks until his “just fate” befalls him.

The Holy Dome
If the PCs help Duququm achieve two steps of his agenda, he'll allow them access to the glowing temple basement. Alternately, they might fight or sneak in.

Half the glowing glass dome arcs into the space. An arched doorway leads into the dome wherein the spike's placement becomes obvious. Planting it is non-trivial in the face of fanatical elves, Luagal's other hungry maw, random lightning arcs, then the process of driving the lightning rod down through the shell - all in dense fog.

Should they succeed, Hatepuna's energy blasts through the spike into the ground and dissipates. The dome begins to collapse; cue dramatic final escape scene.

If Luagal is not also defeated, see Luagal Victory above.

Rewards
  • A return to the Old World as feted heroes.
  • Fearson's valuable friendship if guided to redemption.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Underwater Waterfall
Wandslinger's Disgrace
Doctor's Orders
Wicked Valley
Herald of Storms
Amphibious Lurker
Glowing Basement
Beef

Valley of Redemption

A fantasy + western adventure for use with Pelgrane Press’s Owl Hoot Trail, but easily adaptable to any other system suitable for the genre.

Arrival

In the Valley of Depravity, hellhounds rove in packs, loosed into the world by the Adversary to prey upon sojourners. Or they are wardens, maybe, set to keep the townsfolk of Decadence within.

These otherworldly beasts may hound the PCs as they drift townward, no doubt road-weary and in need of resupply. They more often watch from afar. Attempts to leave the valley meet more resistance.

The town is rough. Raucous laughter rolls along the street. The unmistakable scent of steak beckons the hungry, its welcome somewhat out of place.

Townsfolk and Talk:

  • Ruby Page, waits tables at the restaurant. Her greeting is clearly rote: “Welcome to Decadence, darlin’s. Home of the best damned steak you’ll ever taste. Seared over the fires of Hell itself and good enough to sell your soul for. But we’ll let ya have it for five dollars,” she winks. Once completed, she adds, “Preacher won’t touch the stuff, but everyone else knows better. And anyhow, he’s got his own demons to worry over.”
    What she knows: The restaurant’s owner and cook, Smokey Dreisbach, has some sort of deal with Doc Barton, who’s a big-shot, financially speaking.
    What she don’t: Doc Barton supplies the steak pre-seared to Smokey, who further cooks it in-house. Smokey doesn’t know why it must be this way, but folks love it and he makes good money, so he’s inclined not to wonder.

  • Ugly Bonnie Thomson, bartends at the Ugly Mug Saloon — den of pleasure, poker, and ofttimes violence. Ugly Bonnie hears lots of talk and she’s always happy to pass it along.
    What she knows: All manner of marital infidelities, petty acts of rivalry, and social flaws involving folk the PCs will never know. Also, some few things of greater import than she can fathom. For one, she knows the old preacher was once a man of violence (and magiks, too!). And he visits the doc on the regular — shaky going in, calmer coming out. She knows that Doc Barton’s basement’s got strange lights coming out of it in the midnights, too. Strange beastial noises. And the smell of cooking meat, of course, but that’s all throughout the town. She also knows that many a drifter’s come through and disappeared in the valley, their horses ambling back alone in time. And some do come back, draggin’ large burlap sacks behind. Straight on over to Doc’s.
    What she don’t: What any of it means. As far as she’s interested, the appearance of things amiss matters more than the why of it. She can make that up on her own, after all.

  • Jebediah Knight, preacher. He proactively seeks the PCs to request their aid.
    What he reveals: Once a wandslinger (akin to gunslingers, but better equipped to face supernatural threats), Jebediah killed a man who’s only guilt was to be demon-possessed. Worse, the demon resides still in this very valley. Jebediah’s better days are long gone and he cannot confront the demon again (besideswhich, he hung those wands up long ago to take up the cloth). With guidance from the Good Book and a healthy dose of holy water, Jebediah reckons the demon can be expelled from this world. He aims to convince the PCs to take up this task and so earn himself redemption.
    What the Good Book says: There are a few bookmarked passages that Jebediah often preaches upon the deaf ears of Decadence. One speaks of repentance, lest the Storms of Righteousness bring floods upon the Wicked to wash away the Evil. Jebediah believes this to be literal truth. Another warns against willfully poisoning body and spirit, lest the Adversary and his minions gain entry to the soul. Finally, another passage speaks a prophecy: Lo, the river shall rise. Seek ye then the vastness underneath. Therein a waterfall by miracle is wrought. Ye shall find the One who is Many even as he lays in wait. Yet, feed ye your blessings into the water’s source, that he may never again hide in this world. As if in response to the reading, a gentle rain begins outside.
    What Jebediah will give them: In exchange for exorcising the demon from the world, Jebediah is prepared to gift them with his pair of silver-plated, pearl-handled wands, sleek and deadly in trained hands. Quite valuable in any.
    What he’s hiding: Jebediah’s infirmity is not all advanced age. Within his sparsely-furnished home, many an empty medicinal bottle and a note reveals: Take a swig of laudanum twice daily and as needed to control the pain or shakes. Quit skipping doses! Doctor’s orders! — Gabriel

  • Doc Gabriel Barton, physician and all-around stand-up guy. He proactively seeks the PCs to offer them employment.
    What he reveals: An expected medicine shipment never arrived and he needs able adventure-seeking drifters to find its whereabouts. This happens from time to time and Doc Barton is pretty sure he knows who’s to blame: a minotaur inhabiting labyrinthine tunnels beneath the valley. Fortunately, he happens to know the obscure language necessary to question it. If the PCs will but capture the creature alive (a hefty dose of laudanum is provided for this purpose), interrogation will reveal his shipment’s whereabouts. He can reacquire it on his own.
    What he will give them: Since some risk will be involved, a generous payment of one hundred dollars seems reasonable.
    What he’s hiding: There is no stolen medicine. And there’s a whole herd of minotaurs down in the labyrinth. Doc Barton needs more beef. From a sentient. Thus, he sends more drifters into the labyrinth to find one of the bovine-folk and bring it back to slaughter. Or die trying, of course. Fortunately, there are always more drifters.
    What he’s up to: Doc Barton serves the Adversary. More directly, he serves the demon of the Valley of Depravity and carries out his will.
    What the demon wills: The demon’s orders are twofold. First, he views Jebediah as a threat and has given Doc Barton specific instructions to keep his old opponent enfeebled through addiction. More broadly, the demon desires the preparation of likely hosts. For this, a ritual must be performed: the willing consumption of sentient creatures’ flesh kissed by the flames of Hell. Those who partake are susceptible to possession. Beasts are too, but that’s less fun.

    Doc Barton knows this, which is why he never eats the steak. But he does the rest within his stone basement (wherein a caged hellhound provides Hell’s flames). Should the PCs discover this basement’s contents and kill the hellhound, this hinders the demon’s plans, but so long as Doc Barton lives, more hellhounds can be captured, and the demon remains, the delay is minor, at best.

Caverns of Depravity

Seeking entrance to the labyrinthine caverns should be simple enough; many adventurers have come before and left traces of their passing. A gentle river winds through the valley and several caves look down upon its banks. These ultimately lead to the same system of caverns. If the PCs map or mark their progress, things will be easier — especially when they are trying to leave with an unconscious minotaur in tow.

Every 10 minutes spent exploring, roll 1d8:

  • 1. A sudden unseen draft snuffs candles or torches and mayhap even lanterns fail.
  • 2. A scrabbling echo winds through the passageways, its source unseen.
  • 3. A small stream of refreshing water meanders across the passage.
  • 4. The way forward is too small for humans or orcs (or unconscious minotaurs) to fit. Hill folk or shee might squeeze through. Half’ins can proceed just fine.
  • 5. A large cavern opens up. Thousands of bats take flight.
  • 6. Territorial creatures attempt to drive the PCs off. Roll 1d6. 1-3: Giant bats! 4-5: Goliath rats! 6: A startled owl bear! It’s Howl of Lament may call other critters.
  • 7. A goblin raiding party happens by. Hijinks ensue.
  • 8. A minotaur, at last! It would rather not be captured.

Beneath the Storms

From the moment the PCs read (or hear) the prophecy heralded in Jebediah’s Good Book, the rains begin. They are, at first, a trickle to warn the unrepentant. Within hours, the downpour is unrelenting, the winds harsh. Lightning dances supernaturally through the valley.

If the PCs do not undertake Jebediah’s quest, things in Decadence will still seem temporarily improved. The hellhounds that roam the valley drown, their fires quenched. The surviving minotaurs migrate to some other labyrinthine home. But the demon remains and, eventually, his influence will once again ensnare mortalkind.

Elsewise, if the PCs embrace their roles in the Good Book’s prophecy, they must go down to the river. Beneath it, more like. By the time they reach the caves, the river is swollen and swift. The entrances now are just above the water-line. All, but one. This single submerged cave mouth drinks the river as if possessed of a great thirst. Within, a vast cavern falls away bellow, rapidly filling up with water. Their foe awaits:

One who is Many, servant of the Adversary, wearer of mortals. It’s present raiment: a frog-behemoth. Within the vast cavern, beneath the river and hidden by a watery veil, the demon awaits these newest mortals.
  • The demon, supernaturally aware of his peril, stole this amphibian form as soon as the rains began. If he must fight the PCs and finds them too tricky to simply devour, he endeavors to lure or drag them underwater where the struggle will be to his advantage.
  • If at least one of the PCs has consumed his minion’s hellish steak, the demon attempts possession. The target must succeed at a difficult Toughness + WITS test to resist. Should the demon gain a new host in this way, the newly-freed frog may continue to fight on its own. The demon rides its host back to Decadence where new hosts are available in which to bide his time. The demon can possess a new body even if his current one is dead.
  • The demon can be forced to return to Hell by dousing it’s host with holy water. Merely splashing the frog-behemoth with the comparatively the small amount given them by Jebediah will not suffice, but if it is poured directly into the waterfall, the demon will be exorcised as soon as the frog hops through again. Alternatively, if one of the PCs is a preacher, they could bless the waterfall directly. The PCs could possibly achieve either without even descending into the cavern.

Return to Decadence

  • If the PCs are successful in exorcizing One who is Many, they will find Jebediah thankful and relieved. Most others will never know the peril they were in.
  • If Doc Barton is exposed as a servant of the Adversary, an angry mob forms to kill him, but someone with enough Wile + GRIT may intimidate them into being content with exile. Either way, the town no longer has a doctor. In time, with the lessening of the doctor’s wicked influence, Jebediah’s pews will start to fill.
  • Jebediah desires to be freed from his addiction to laudanum. He will need support, if he is to succeed. If Doc Barton is gone, the supply will dry up and make this considerably less difficult.
  • If the demon was left lingering in this world disembodied, Jebediah will attempt to finish the job when the waters recede. He is weak and shakes badly, but it must be done. If another critter happened by, however, he may be too late...
  • If one of the PCs is hosting the demon when they return to town, he attempts to find another (safer) host at the first opportunity. If he cannot before they meet with Jebediah, the preacher is uneasy in their presence and will splash the group with holy water, unless somehow dissuaded from the act — which the demon will certainly attempt. Through violence, if necessary.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
@Iron Sky, that’s pretty epic. I really like how essentially structuring your entry like a Dungeon World front allowed for a greater scope than I think 2000 words would have otherwise afforded. Looks fun!

Was it wise to choose an obscure game system as the chassis for my adventure? Perhaps not, but, then again, it did force me not to rely on mechanal references as much as possible. And what few I included are evocative enough that they should be easily figured out or replaced.

For those who don’t know it, Clinton R. Nixon and Kevin Kulp’s (AKA @Piratecat) Owl Hoot Trail is worth checking out. It’s a stripped-down quick-running d20-type fantasy-western rpg with some elements inspired by more modern (as of 2013) indie games. Plus, as always, Piratecat’s included adventure is great!
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Man, oh man... here we are at the final round. Rune's "Valley of Redemption" is going against Iron Sky's "The 9th Pace" for the 2019 title. I'll try not to be too verbose here because we have a lot to go through.

Timeliness and Word Count

Full credit to both for being on time and within the word limit. Both were posted with less than two hours left and with 5 minutes of one another. Also both were posted with around a dozen words left to spare before the entries would of hit the word limit, according to wordcounter.net. Nice job to both.

Rune 2, Iron Sky 2


Grammar and Readability

I had some problems with these entries from the get-go. Iron Sky introduces too many characters in the beginning and does not do a great job differing them, making the plot line harder to follow until the second half of the entry. I came away feeling that parts were chopped from the beginning to make the word count. Rune had a spelling error: "besideswhich" in the Jeremiah Knight entry. I was also distracted by his entry's over-use of commas in the "One who is Many" and "Return to Decadence" sections. Half credit to each.

Rune 3, Iron Sky 3

I came away feeling that maybe the large list of ingredients and the generous word count caused some issues. Both entries feel a bit bloated with lots of characters and competing goals. Both entries had small, packaged adventure hiding a much larger threat. Let's see if the ingredients help find us a winner.

Ingredient: Underwater Waterfall

This is used to good effect in Iron Sky's entry. A waterfall that keeps a horrible evil cooled off and dormant. Disrupting this effect will have serious repercussions in the adventure. The waterfall in Rune's entry happens to be an entrance to an amphibious demon, which can also be used as a way to weaken the demon with holy water. I'm giving Iron Sky the edge on this one.

Rune 3, Iron Sky 4

Ingredient: Wandslinger's Disgrace

Iron Sky's Fearson seems like a cool character, but I'm still confused about why he is disgraced? Because he broke the town's wandslinging code? And he had an audience of thousands? Was that a small city, because if so that would go against the frontier feel of the rest of the tale. Rune's Jebediah Knight is a mirror-image to Fearson. He is the wandslinger, but he is relegated to the sidelines while the party does all the work. Both characters could help the party if certain conditions are met. Neither's assistance is vital, but more helpful. It's a wash.

Rune 5, Iron Sky 6

Ingredient: Doctor's Orders

Rune's doctor is more vital to the story-line, but doesn't give too much in the way of orders, besides a prescription for the priest. Iron Sky's doctor is more bossy and gives orders constantly and she may 'curse' the party and demand they help her for a cure, but other than that she is not as vital to the story-line. And I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a 'geas' she casts, since geas usually can only be planted on willing participants. Part credit for each.

Rune 6, Iron Sky 7

Ingredient: Wicked Valley

This just happens to be where each story takes place. I think we could have changed the valley to a hilly location and not really have suffered much.

Rune 7, Iron Sky 8

Ingredient: Herald of Storms

Iron Sky's Hatepuna is a frightening demon who can unleash horrible weather upon the area if she is freed. Rune's Herald of Storms is part of a prophecy and an indication to the party that something has gone wrong. It serves as a hint of what to do next, and therefore I'm giving the edge to Rune here.

Rune 8, Iron Sky 8

Ingredient: Amphibious Lurker

An end boss for both adventures. A demon-possessed cone snail in Iron Sky's entry, while Rune has the frog-demon in his.

Rune 10, Iron Sky 10

Ingredient: Glowing Basement

The doctor in Rune's entry has a glowing basement some of the time... when the doctor is in and engaged in his morbid work. This tells the villagers that something odd is happening. Iron Sky's glowing basement is more the bottom level of a temple that glows due to the effects with Hatepuna. But this effect is only found if the party meets particular objectives. Edge to Rune.

Rune 12, Iron Sky 11

Ingredient: Beef

Tainted beef is critical to both adventures. For Iron Sky it's the tainted beef that is of concern to one gang, but then ends up poisoning a demon that is helping to seal a greater evil. For Rune, where the implications of where the beef comes from drives the adventure.

Rune 14, Iron Sky 13

Usability for DM.

Iron Sky's entry has a ton of usage for the game master and a lot of flexibility for how the adventure can unfold. My one serious concern is the large number of NPCs with competing agendas can be a bit to manage and is hard to follow.

Rune's entry is more straight-foward, and therefore feels smaller. It also had a huge plot hole with the captured minotaur quest. If the Doc has been doing this for awhile, then it should be obvious to the town's people that something wrong is happening. Wouldn't the laborers and drifters who help in this talk? Even if these are somewhat new happenings, wouldn't everyone in town know that meat shouldn't be arriving from the cellar of a town doctor?

Rune 15, Iron Sky 15

Final Decision

Uh oh, we're tied. Both entries are good, but I don't believe they are the best work from either of you. In this case I'm giving the edge to Iron Sky. I am having too much trouble with the plot hole mentioned above, and I do appreciate the multiple paths the adventure could take.
 

Advertisement

Top