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Iron DM 2009 - all matches


Penguin Herder
InVinoVeritas v Iron Sky
Both entries are great. Both entries have problems.

Ingredient use first:

Damned Alley: IS, I worried that your only Velos was "damned", but since he had been melted into the fabric of the alley itself, that would qualify. Your alley is damned by a plague of flying fish, too. IVV, your alley is itself a location of damnation. Point to IVV.

Non-Reflective Mirror: IS, cool use of mirrors, but the only ones relevant to your story are reflective ones. It's a chore to get one, but once you have it, you don't need any non-reflective ones. IVV, your non-reflective mirrors are integral. Point to IVV.

Sleeping Watcher: IVV, your watchers are the PCs, but I'm not sure the players will associate their visions with sleep strongly enough, since no other "sleep" effects occur. IS, your watcher evokes in me a strong Cthulhu vibe, which works fine and fits your setting well. Point to IS.

Giant Mafia: IS, your mafia has no necessary "giant"-ness. In my humble opinion you could have stuck with a known aberration like Aboleths and done better here. (That would also give a good excuse for having canals running everywhere, which you needed for the piranhas.) IVV, your giants must be giant to grab the halfling through the mirror, so point to IVV.

Flying Piranhas: IS, in your scenario, they're there because "Far Realms magic!. I'm willing to accept that they fly because "Far Realms!", but you demand I also accept piranha for the same reason -- and that's pure handwaving. However, you tie their "piranha"-ness well to the "alley" element. IVV, I totally don't get how the dragon causes the piranhas to fly -- but you integrate "piranhas" well into the "mafia" element. I'm calling this one a wash.

Rod of Fumbling: IS, nice. It's just ironic enough that the PCs should have seen it coming, and that is the highest art of the Rat Bastard. IVV, playing "guess the one thing the DM wants you to do" with this ingredient is bad. Sure, you've made it integral to the scenario -- by making it the only ticked off this railroad. Point to IS.

Flaming Dragon: IVV, if pouring alchemist's fire on a faerie dragon and then dropping it into a bathtub would give the bather wings, that species would swiftly become extinct. IS, straightforward use of a dragon who is on fire, and his fire is integral to the backstory and final confrontation. Point to IS.

Evocative prose: Both are good, tie here.

I love the doomed Aztec giants -- they remind me of Death Giants -- but I also love the Far Realms city. It's interesting that both of you went to the Planes with this match, and that you both crafted such plausible, evocative alternate realities.

Bodycount: Not really a category, but I do really like how most of the NPCs introduced by IVV were dead by the end.


IVV, you've crafted a tight narrative. This is a great strength of yours. But this time, it's too tight, to the point of restricting the players into a single preset route. That's awesome when it's used for setting up the time paradox (e.g. the PCs awaken and trigger the event they rush in to prevent), but super lame when their in-game choices have no effect, and super ultra MEGA lame when they have to guess the one and only choice that can win.

IS, great location, gloriously alien, and has me slobbering creative juices on my keyboard. However, there are zero NPCs. You use rumors to fill that gap, and you use them far too much. I mean, what the hell kind of rumor is this: "Whatever the Sleeping Watcher took from The Damned, it is said that he magically hid it on the Pedestal near the base of his statue – and no one has any hope of finding it unless the Watcher breathes upon it." Raw exposition stinks like raw sewage: don't serve it as soup, hide it in the gravy.

None the less, usability point: Iron Sky. And that's basically the contest right there. IVV, no matter how many nice things I find in your scenario, it's not usable for any game I'd want to run or play in. You've shown great ability to craft tight, cohesive entries. Dial it back a notch and you'll be back in the groove that won you to the finals.

IS, given that the PCs are in a city, and given how many confrontations the PCs are expected to have with the Cosa Nesunna, it's disturbing that there are no named NPCs except for the God of Fishfood. None the less, great scenario. You've well earned this victory.

Thanks everyone, summary soon!

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Penguin Herder

The winner of this match -- and this year's IronDM, by a unanimous vote -- is Iron Sky.

In my opinion, Iron Sky, you took a very ambitious project -- the alien hell of the Far Realms -- and made it work. Your ambition paid off.

InVinoVeritas, we all agreed about the fatal flaw in your scenario. Unfortunately, I don't see any easy fixes, except for one aspect: you could change the Stone Giants into Ogres, which would allow the PCs to at least cope with them by conventional combat while they figure out how to trick them into destroying their own mirror. (Or while someone runs back to fetch the Rod of Plot.)

The other way you could go is to have Hell's Close fall, have the PCs escape, and then the campaign becomes: let's never allow that to happen again, first bringing the PCs into conflict with humanoid mafias, and finally at mid-to-late Paragon the PCs travel to the Aztec hell dimension and kill their demonic sun-god, or something.

Iron Sky, in case you're interested, here's what I'd personally change about your scenario:
- Mafia: just use Aboleths, that'll justify canals and piranhas, and they're known as masterminds already.
- Mirrors: instead of making them useless, make them translucent. They don't reflect anything, but looking through one still allows you see invisible stuff -- but imposes a hefty penalty on every other use of vision, so load up on those Utility powers & magic items that give you non-visual navigation.

These are just details, though.

I agree with RG that too much of the Far City is not explained well to the PCs, but I figured that if I were to use it, I'd be dropping hints to the PCs fairly early: aboleth criminal masterminds would be behind several plots they foiled, there would be aberrant interlopers who hinted at the existence of the Far City, the PCs could buy rare items from certain beholder "fences" who might also supply the party with rumors, etc.

- - -

These were some very tough ingredients, and you both did truly good work integrating them into anything resembling coherence. But both entries are not merely coherent: they're vibrant, evocative, and even haunting.

The fact that my current urge is to base a whole goddamn campaign around each one is telling.

Thank you both.

In fact, thank you to all contestants. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to judge this contest.

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