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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.
 

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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

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
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

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
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!
 


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.
 


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