Iron DM 2010: All Submissions and Judgments


Limit Break Dancing
IRON DM 2010

Round 1, Match 1
Wednesday, June 2, 12:00 p.m. EST

MortalPlague vs. ender wiggin
Judge: Radiating Gnome
Winner: ender wiggin

Round 1, Match 2
Friday, June 4, 9:00 p.m. EDT

Iron Sky vs. Tremorsense
Judge: InVinoVeritas
Winner: Iron Sky

Round 1, Match 3
Saturday, June 5, 9:19 a.m. CST

Sanzuo vs. humble minion
Judge: Pbartender
Winner: Sanzuo

Round 1, Match 4
Monday, June 7, 12:00 p.m. EST

Pour vs. MatthewJHanson
Judge: Radiating Gnome
Winner: MatthewJHanson

Round 1, Match 5
Wednesday, June 9, 9:00 p.m. EDT

Wicht vs. Green Dice
Judge: InVinoVeritas
Winner: Green Dice

Round 1, Match 6
Saturday, June 11, 9:00 a.m. CST

Waylander the Slayer vs. Pro-Paladin
Judge: Pbartender
Winner: Pro-Paladin

Round 1, Match 7
Sunday, June 13

Allenchan vs. ajanders
Judge: InVinoVeritas
Winner: ajanders

Round 1, Match 8
Tuesday, June 15

Wik vs. howandwhy99
Judge: InVinoVeritas
Winner: Wik


Round 2, Match 1
Sunday, June 19, 8:00 a.m. EST

ender wiggin vs. Iron Sky
Judge: Radiating Gnome
Winner: Iron Sky

Round 2, Match 2
Monday, June 21, 6:30 a.m. CST

Sanzuo vs. MatthewJHanson
Judge: PBartender
Winner: Sanzuo

Round 2, Match 3
Wednesday, June 23, 7:00 a.m. PST

Green Dice vs. Pro-Paladin
Judge: Radiating Gnome
Winner: Pro-Paladin

Round 2, Match 4
Friday, June 25

ajanders vs. Wik
Judge: Pbartender
Winner: ajanders


Round 3, Match 1
Tuesday, June 29, 9:00 a.m. EST

Iron Sky vs. Sanzuo
Judges: Radiating Gnome, Pbartender, InVinoVeritas
Winner: Iron Sky

Round 3, Match 2
Friday, July 2

Pro-Paladin vs. ajanders
Judges: Radiating Gnome, Pbartender, InVinoVeritas
Winner: ajanders


Championship Round!
Saturday July 10, 12:00 p.m. PST

Iron Sky vs. ajanders
Judges: Radiating Gnome, Pbartender, InVinoVeritas

Next Up
In progress
Awaiting Judgment


What is an Iron DM?
"An Iron DM tournament is a contest in which writers show their ability to turn a collection of random ingredients into a cohesive adventure over a short period of time."

So how does this work, anyway?
The Iron DM contest is a single-elimination writing contest, loosely based on the Japanese game show "Iron Chef." Contestants are given a short list of ingredients, all of which must be used to create an original adventure, encounter, or side-trek. Contestants have but 24 hours to create, write, and post their entries. The DM with the best story wins, and proceeds on to the next round.

What do I win?
This year's prizes include:

  • The glowing admiration of your peers
  • Maybe some XP from your fans
  • The respect of at least one other DM in this forum
  • Street cred
  • A warm, fuzzy sense of accomplishment

...and many other things that money cannot buy.

Who can enter?
Anyone who is not a judge. If you are reading this, you are invited to compete.

Who are the judges?
This event is organized by the Rat Bastard DMs Club, and judges are drawn from this membership.

Can I edit my entry once it's posted?
No. Entries that have a "Last edited by..." tag at the bottom may be disqualified, depending on how strict your judge is. If you spot an error in your entry, you should send a private message to the judge about it.

What are the judges looking for?
Each judge has his own way of choosing a winner...some are formulaic, others are abstract. For the most part, entries will be judged on (a) ingredient use, (b) playability, (c) creativity, and (d) overall impression.

Ingredient Use: How well were all of the ingredients tied together in the story? Was each ingredient a necessary, irreplacable part of the adventure, or was it merely a prop or McGuffin that could have been replaced with anything else? Did some ingredients get over-used?

Playability: will other DMs find it interesting and useful? Can it be easily dropped into an existing campaign, or will it require extensive work on the DM's part to adapt to his game world?

Creativity: did you use the ingredients in innovative, imaginative ways? or did you simply drop six ingredients into your favorite published adventure? Are you using someone else's adventure? Did you go "above and beyond," and include stuff like hand-drawn maps or original poetry? Did you create new monsters, spells, magic items, or other "crunchy" items?

Overall impression: is the adventure cool? Is it something that you would pay money for? Does it tell an awesome story? Can it hold the reader's interest?

Different judges will give each category different weight in choosing a winner. It is recommended that all contestants read through the judgments of last year's contest to get a feel for what different judges will be looking for.

Which edition of D&D are we supposed to use?
This contest is edition-neutral; you may use any edition you want. Most entries will probably be 3.x or 4E, but we have seen older editions before, as well as d20 Modern, Pathfinder, and even Star Wars (and I can't remember for sure, but I think there was a G.U.R.P.S. entry a while back.) So go with your favorite.

Keep in mind that one of the things you will be judged on is "playability." So if you write an adventure for a non-D&D system, consider adding some conversion notes. This is not a requirement; merely a suggestion.
In each round, contestants will be given six ingredients. The categories for these ingredients (and examples of each) are as follows.
absent-minded professor
pastry chef
Elvis impersonator
three beautiful widows
eladrin merchant
unemployed assassin
President Abraham Lincoln
12th level rogue
disfigured veteran
ice cave
pie factory
abandoned coal mine
burning building
medieval Europe
desert island
a collapsed bridge
The Black Temple of Azaroth
The Sears Tower
magic potion
fresh pumpkin pie
the Hope Diamond
alabaster necklace
the letter "Q"
toenail shavings
three letters to the same princess
wand of fireballs
pool of acid
sonic boom
unabated hunger
burning passion
eagerness to please
urban renewal
embarrassing honesty
that sinking feeling you get when the waiter tells you that they have sold out of your favorite pie
rabid blink dog
half-dragon scorpion
fiendish purple worm
a pet earthworm
an intelligent ooze
vampire bat
halfling pie-thrower
Pennywise the Clown
six-headed hydra
This could be any of the above...a second monster, or a second location, or another idea. It could also be a special writing requirement ("Include a poem at least four lines in length") or a "meta" ingredient ("create and show the stats for a pie golem") that must be included in your submission.
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Limit Break Dancing
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 2010 Iron DM Competition!

Round One, Match One...MortalPlague versus ender wiggin! The ingredients will be posted as soon as these two contestants post a message saying they are ready.

Our judge for this match: Radiating Gnome.
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Radiating Gnome

Round 1, Match 1
MortalPlague vs. ender wiggin
Judge: Radiating Gnome

Aerial swamp
Human slaver
Universal suffrage
Broken chronometer

Official start time is 3pm Eastern. Entries need to be posted as replies in this thread at or before 3 pm Eastern tomorrow.


Where Cloud Giants Go To Die
A D&D Adventure by MortalPlague

Adventure Hook:

In a pile of treasure in some dusty dungeon, the adventurers find Mjornheil, the huge greatbow once wielded by the cloud giant champion Grimvol the Magnanimous. Etched with runes in the giant tongue, the massive bow is made of darkwood and is heavily enchanted. The weapon is intelligent, though it does not speak; it makes its feelings known by vibrating its bowstring, giving off a musical note. For contentment or approval, a pleasant note. For mourning or sorrow, a minor key. And for anger or disagreement, a discordant note. The bow is clearly sized for a giant, and it refuses to change its size for a wielder.

The adventurers quickly discover (either through their own knowledge or by showing the bow around) that Lord Arthur Pennlynn of Ridgecrest Keep is an avid collector of cloud giant artifacts, particularly weapons. More knowledgeable historians would know that Lord Pennlynn is focused on Grimvol and his equipment; in fact, he has collected everything except his legendary bow. Alas, Ridgecrest Keep is high atop Mount Paranore, overlooking an inhospitable mountain pass; while most merchants would love to earn the money, the dangers and the rigors of the journey would cost them dearly.

The promise of great rewards for a mere journey up a mountain? What adventurer could refuse?

Arrival At Ridgecrest Keep

It takes a week to reach the mountain pass, though the majesty of this place is apparent even days out. Mount Paranore towers over every mountain in sight by a good thousand feet. Its snowy spire reaches up to touch the clouds, which swirl in a never-ending gyre around its peak. Great dark shapes can be seen in the clouds, and as the adventurers draw nearer to both mountain and keep, the nature of the storm becomes apparent. In the mire of clouds, massive giants float lifelessly through the sky, in perpetual communion with their beloved heaven. The magic that keeps them aloft must be powerful indeed, far beyond the scope of mortal capability!

Beneath this surreal spectacle is Ridgecrest Keep. The fortress is thick-walled and businesslike, watching over the mountain pass. The icy road up takes an hour to traverse, and the guards take the characters' names before they are admitted. The interior of the keep is a sprawling courtyard, marked with a number of stone buildings. Up this high, wood is too scarce to build houses. A tall bonfire burns off the left, where about twenty soldiers and servants are warming themselves.

There are two buildings which command immediate attention. The Lord's keep lies dead ahead, standing four storeys with battlements at the top, a pair of archers on watch over the mountain pass. The second is a shorter building, a mere two storeys off to the right. The structure is ringed with an iron fence, ten feet tall with spikes capping it. Ten people with a distinctly feral edge to them are clustered around their own bonfire, behind the fence.

The second building belongs to a number of refugee lycanthropes. Over the years, a number of admitted lycanthropes have flocked to the safety of Ridgecrest Keep. Lord Pennlynn permits them to be within the walls. At first, there were many strict conditions; constant watch by guards, and confinement to their barracks. But as time went by, the fear lessened to mistrust, and Lord Pennlynn put them to work. Most of the lycanthropes have excellent eyes, and make capable scouts and guards. But lately, the lycanthropes have grown weary of the common mistreatment; despite their prowess, none of them are officially members of the guard. And despite numbering a full quarter of the keep's population, they have no one representing them on the Lord's council.

The adventurers are quickly whisked into the keep proper, for once he's learned the nature of their visit, Lord Pennlynn is eager to see them. They meet the lord in his gallery, where he has the other pieces of Grimvol's gear proudly displayed.

Arthur Pennlynn is in his mid fifties with graying hair and a quiet, dignified manner. He is civil, preferring not to stand on pomp and ceremony, and he is happy to discuss his collection at length with anyone who inquires. His history is not a happy one, however. About ten years ago, his son, Gregory was lost while climbing the higher reaches of Mount Paranore. Arthur was devastated; he suffered quietly, and in private, still capably fulfilling his duties as a lord. But the only thing that brings him joy anymore is the thought of completing his collection.

Arthur's two closest advisors are also present. First, Provalor the Proficient is the Court Wizard and Artificer. The pompous halfling wears a great deal of thick, regal clothing, and he has a good number of little mechanical trinkets (most of them his own design). One of his more practical devices is a beautiful, silver chronometer; an extremely delicate construction which keeps very precise time.

The other advisor, a more recent arrival is a man by the name of Zellenin. His skin is a deep brown; he arrived a year ago from the south, bearing a Grimvol's bracers. As it turned out, Zellenin was a scholar of great knowledge; he and Lord Pennlynn had many conversations, covering cloud giant lore and artifacts. Impressed with the new arrival's keen intellect and knowledge, Arthur appointed him his chief advisor. Unbeknownst to his liege, however, Zellenin is a weretiger. He traveled to Ridgecrest Keep at the request of his lycanthrope bretheren. In human form, he'd try to subtly nudge Lord Pennlynn towards greater recognition of their deeds. In his weretiger form, he became Swiftclaw, a hunter who frequently comes and goes from the Keep, often spending many days abroad. In Swiftclaw's guise, he became a vocal crusader for suffrage.

Lord Pennlynn agrees to pay a substantial reward for Mjornheil, and will house the adventurers in his keep for as long as they'd like to stay. He also asks them to join him for dinner in the evening.

The Night Raid

While the adventurers dine with Lord Pennlynn, Zellenin shifts to his weretiger form and becomes Swiftclaw. He joins his lycanthrope brothers, and shares the news that the lord's collection is now complete. With Lord Pennlynn in better humor than he's been in the last year, he plans to speak to him directly in the morning.

Provalor the Proficient would like nothing better than to see the lycanthropes driven from the keep. Seeing Swiftclaw appear, he moves quickly to put his plan into action; he uses magic to contact a band of slavers who operate from the storm at the top of the mountain, offering the bow, Mjornheil in payment. Their part of the bargain? Kidnap Swiftclaw. Without their vocal crusader, the lycanthropes would have no champion for their cause.

For the adventurers, the dinner goes smoothly, and tired from their travels, they retire.

During the night, they awake to a terrible cacaphony; the sounds of battle fill the air. The storm giants have attacked the fortress! A good twenty storm giants have smashed the gate and entered the courtyard, tearing down the fence and taking Swiftclaw. Their leader, a human with a deadly longsword which sings with each swing is a capable combatant, though by the time the characters arrive, he's already departed.

Three storm giants remain behind to keep any organized pursuit from happening, and they engage the adventurers ferociously. If they're badly wounded, they will attempt to flee, though they will not surrender willingly.

To The Lofty Tempest

Following the raid, the adventurers are asked to rescue Swiftclaw by the lycanthropes. Bernerac, a werewolf who came to Ridgecrest Keep two years ago acts as their leader, pleading with the characters to help them. He explains the situation with regards to their social battle; without Swiftclaw, they have no hope. He also tells the adventurers the secret; that Swiftclaw is also Zellenin. Having an advisor with Lord Pennlynn's ear on the inside will greatly help their cause. He doesn't have much, but he will offer the adventurers what little money he can manage.

If the characters investigate the lycanthrope's building, they'll find little. An examination of the gatehouse, however, reveals something. Though the gates were smashed, they were not closed tight when they were smashed. Provalor unlocked them first, then pulled them ajar. Nobody saw him do it, however; he was invisible at the time.

It's common knowledge around the keep that a band of storm giant slavers operate out of the Lofty Tempest, the swirling storm at the top of Mount Paranore. With the direction clear, the adventurers will set out for the peak.

Scaling Mount Paranore is a challenge in and of itself. It's up to the DM how much emphasis they want to put on the climb; this could easily become a tax on the adventurers. The true test, however, lies ahead.

Drawing near to the top, the nature of the Lofty Tempest becomes clear. This is where cloud giants come to die. There are hundreds of dead cloud giants, floating limp amongst the clouds, their arms outstretched towards one another as they float in perpetual glory. The clouds, perhaps pulled by their kindred giants swirl ever inwards, forming a gently turning mire of cloud and corpse. A lone cloud giant arm descends from the tempest, its finger brushing the tip of Mount Paranore.

At the very top, the adventurers find a dying cloud giant. He is unarmed, and seems extremely peaceful. His name is Chogrin, and he explains that cloud giants of great age come to this spot to ascend to their final resting place. If asked, he will explain how in the dawn of time, the cloud giants forged a pact with the elemental spirits of the sky and mountain to safeguard their dead. And so, to this very day, cloud giants climb Mount Paranore in their twilight days, and ascend to the Lofty Tempest.

If asked about the storm giants, Chogrin becomes grim. These giants are a blight on his ancestors' graves. He did see them pass up into the Tempest as the dawn broke. Chogrin also saw their leader, the young human with the singing blade. Finally, he also noticed that one of the storm giants was carrying a huge, ornate bow.

The way up to the Lofty Tempest is along the cloud giant's arm, which is not a terribly difficult climb. Taken slowly and carefully, the characters should be able to enter this aerial mire with relative ease. The cloud giant bodies are packed close enough that navigation isn't a challenge.

Footing in combat, however, is another story.

The DM is encouraged to make use of more combat encounters than those listed here. There are roughly twenty storm giants in the slaver group, but they could easily have allies; gryphons, rocs, or any aerial threat would be particularly appropriate. Below is detailed the key encounter.

Gregory Pennlynn, King of the Slavers

The Slavers of the Lofty Tempest have made their base towards the western edge of the gyre, lashing together about twenty cloud giant corpses into a serviceable platform. A large, sturdy pen holds about twenty creatures, mostly ogres and smaller giants. The slavers deal in monstrous slaves (more readily available here, and they bring a much higher profit), but there are also a handful of humans here as well. A special silver cage sits off to one side, containing Swiftclaw. The bulk of the storm giants are here, as is Gregory Pennlynn. As the adventurers approach, it becomes clear just who is leading the band; Gregory is a spitting image of his father, just thirty years younger.

The young lordling is a capable combatant; he's a very mobile fighter, swift and deadly. His storm giant companions are equally deadly, though they are considerably less agile. The adventurers may attempt diplomacy, trying to convince Gregory to take a peaceful solution. He left home out of a restless boredom to seek a life of adventure, however, and he has no desire to return to that. Furthermore, he has murdered people, and he doesn't think his father would forgive him for it. It would be difficult, but not impossible to convince the young lordling to give up the scheme.

The fight should be an exciting encounter. Consider the fantastic terrain; this battle takes place across the floating bodies of dead giants, miles above the mountain pass below! The opportunities for memorable manoeuvres and daring deeds are all around. The battlefield is riddled with small or large crevasses, where large or small creatures could fall (or be pushed) to their death. And of course, if an adventurer should fall, there's always the chance to grab hold of a giant corpse floating just a little lower, to climb back up and into the fight. The dead giants aren't easy to navigate, either; footing is precarious, which both parties can take advantage of. The DM should make sure not to hinder their players overmuch, but also ensure that the terrain plays a role.

It should also be noted that one of the storm giants is wielding Mjornheil, the songbow. This bow is a powerful magic item, and the giant wielding it should be hitting more often and a fair bit harder than his friends. The players also have the option to free the weretiger; he is a capable combatant, even without weapons. If an adventurer spends the time to get the cage open, he will eagerly get revenge on his kidnappers!

Once the slavers are defeated, Swiftclaw will thank the players for their aid. He will show them the only item he managed to grab when he was kidnapped; a broken chronometer. It is Provalor's chronometer; the artificer dropped it while aiding the storm giant raid. This little piece of evidence should point very strongly in the halfling's direction.

Justice Served Cold

The adventurers return triumphant with the rescued Swiftclaw, the recovered songbow, and the broken timepiece. Things move fairly quickly; they return to Ridgecrest Keep, and with Swiftclaw, are ushered in to see Lord Pennlynn. There, they find Provalor the Proficient looking uneasy, which turns to panic when they reveal the broken chronometer. There is no denying his role in events, however; Lord Pennlynn had his own suspicions that the storm giants had inside aid, and the evidence points the way pretty clearly. Provalor is led away in chains, to be tried at a later date, and a major step towards lycanthrope suffrage is made.

Contest Elements In Use
Weretiger - The weretiger is, naturally, Zellenin / Swiftclaw
Aerial swamp - The aerial swamp is the Lofty Tempest. A swamp is full of dead organic matter, so I figured that a sky swamp would be full of dead cloud giants.
Human slaver - The human slaver is Gregory Pennlynn.
Universal suffrage - The entire conflict is brought about through the lycanthrope's struggle for suffrage.
Broken chronometer - The broken timepiece is the damning evidence for Provalor.
Songbow - The songbow is Mjornheil, which changes hands several times during this adventure.


First Post
Greed in Greencloud
An adventure for early paragon groups in 4th edition D&D

Greedy for sun, the trees of Greencloud grow appendages full of gas, lifting them high into the air. There they flourish, in time blacking the sun out for all of their less ambitious brethren. Greedy for water and cut off from the nutrient rich ground, these gasbags grow appendages that hoard rain; catch it in hammocks and wide spongy reservoirs that save the precious fuel for a dryer season. Free from the earth, the flying bog floats with the clouds, climbing and falling with the pull of the tide.

Greedy for power, Vivian Rylock keeps a stranglehold over her harvester slaves. They navigate the dangerous swamp, pierce the unstable gasbags, and breathe in the noxious fumes. The gas, worth twice its weight in gold, is sold in bulk to researching wizards around the world. Many terrible men are made wealthy. Greedy for revenge, the rebel slave Weretiger betrays his promise of peace, pushing onward towards retribution or death. Will the players slay the monstrous Weretiger and quell his bloody rebellion, or will they see justice in his cause and bring an end to Rylock’s cruelty?

Background (DM Only)
Throughout the world, arcane technology is developing. New, innovative spells and rituals are being invented at increasing frequencies, the education of wizards is becoming more accessible to the public, and fear of ancient magicks is giving way to the bravery and curiosity of a generation of adventurers. But mortal bodies are perhaps not built to withstand the constant bombardment of magical energy, and incidents of Mana Sickness are beginning to surface in large cities with high spellcasting density – a debilitating disease brought on by years of continuous exposure to aberrant magical energy, residue from permanent lights, force walls, construction automatons... The disease addles the mind, impairing cognitive processes while slowly transmutating the body into a disfigured hulk. Without a cure for this relatively new illness, cities resort to putting the monsters down before they can harm others.

Greencloud Imperial Harvesting, however, has a better solution. Rather than watch these mana stricken individuals be executed and disposed, they offer a cleaner alternative for these municipalities – lull the sick with promises of healing and comfort, magically dominate their weakened minds, and put them to work in the noxious gasbag swamps miles in the sky. The manager in charge of this slave labor force is Vivian Rylock, a meticulous and self-righteous wizard. Her most powerful tool is a piece of gnome illusory magic she calls the songbow, an enchanted instrument that spreads a subtle enchantment magic in a relatively wide radius. Using multiple songbow spells to blanket her domain, she is able to tame and control a large population of mana-stricken individuals.

But not all of the mana-stricken victims become mentally dull and exploitable. Mana Sickness can do inexplicable things to a mortal, and in the case of a latent sorcerer, can produce results far from typical. The Weretiger is one such example. He must have looked like any other stricken when Rylock threw him into the swamps, but somehow he slipped through her copious defenses. His mental status quite the opposite of his brethren, the Weretiger quickly discovered GIH’s scam, and with some deception and charisma was able to galvanize a small rebellion within the ranks of GIH’s slave force. Not wanting to risk the larger operation, Vivian offered a deal – she would grant him freedom and restitution fees for him and a number of his rebellion comrades. The Weretiger agreed, but reneged his part of the deal after Vivian had upheld hers, vowing to remain an outlaw champion within the Greencloud swamps until emancipation was complete.

Tentative Adventure Outline
  1. The players are hired or otherwise tasked with investigating an ongoing problem with GIH’s gas yield.
  2. The players happen upon the scene of a skirmish amongst the trees of Greencloud on their way in.
  3. The players meet Vivian Rylock and are given her version of the story.
  4. An investigation ensues, leading to a showdown with the Weretiger. The players, confronted with both versions of the story, must choose either to put down the rebel or to confront Rylock and end her cruelty.
  5. They players either:
    a. Chase down the Weretiger and kill him or:
    b. With the Weretiger’s help, break down GIH’s defenses and destroy their control over their slaves.
  6. Possible followup adventures include investigating higher level management involved in this slavery scam, finding a more humane solution to the growing epidemic of Mana Sickness, and, if the players chose to side against the Weretiger, quell new threats to the GIH infrastructure.

Part 1: Hooks

The player characters are either instructed by their employers or tasked by their superiors to help GIH investigate and deal with an ongoing rebellion amongst their harvesting camp. A variety of alternate hooks are available, but the initial hook should place them on the side of GIH and not the Weretiger. The act of defecting, should they take it, is a critical and poignant part of the story and should be motivated by the players themselves.

Part 2: Arrival

Travel within the Greencloud swamps is mediated in its most populated areas by magical cars that float up and down several hundred feet, carrying several individuals or up to a half ton of weight – colloquially termed Vector’s Floating Discs. However, entry into the Greencloud from outside must be accomplished via flying mount, teleportation, or some other external means. Once on the outskirts of the swamps, the bulk of the travel is done on foot and can take a grueling day or two. During this trek, the party happens upon a grisly scene. Read the following:

You swat a coin-sized insect off of your sweaty cheek. It is quiet and dark. A sliver of light makes its way hundreds of feet from Greencloud’s roof, illuminating a small hammock ahead. Eager at the prospect of walking, you sludge through the spongy reservoir, water at your ankles. The telltale signs of a skirmish are everywhere around you – ripped leaves, charred bark, chipped pieces of chainmail that float in the shallow water. The bodies must have been removed, but the forest will remember the violence for years to come.

This is the site of the most recent skirmish between the Weretiger, a few of his loyal rebels, and Vivian’s soldiers. The Weretiger was able to escape, although his chronometer, a piece of gnome engineering, critical to safe navigation within the swamps, was damaged. The party finds pieces of this device scattered in small nooks around the combat scene and may be a vital clue to later identifying the Weretiger. A short investigative skill challenge yields the following information:

Failure: the group finds pieces of a broken device but cannot tell what it is. One of the pieces says Erudite Engineering.
Partial Success: In addition to the above, the group surmises that a number of evocation spells were cast here, in addition the broken arrowtips and chipped pieces of armor. Furthermore, they identify Erudite Engineering as a prominent gnomish arcane manufacturer.
Complete Success: In addition to the above, the group recognizes the broken pieces as vital parts of a functioning chronometer. They have at least a vague understanding of the importance of a chronometer in the swamp (see below).

Part 3: Vivian

Vivian Rylock and her core contingent of soldiers have agreed to meet with the PCs at Skylark Lodge, the swamp’s only service for visitors. When the group finds this meeting point, read the following:

The Skylark tavern hangs there, in the darkness, hooked to a large gasbag above it by a score of sturdy ropes. A bit of smoke billows out of its sole chimney, and moss has invaded every inch of its wooden surface, not that you can tell. Vivian Rylock has clearly tightened the security of this establishment, as a retinue of at least a dozen guards patrol the area on discs, watching each of your squishy step. Even from outside, the sound of a plucked instrument can be heard from within, carrying out a calming melody that seems to percolate for miles.

The interior of the tavern could probably be mistaken as any watering hole of a large city, except that everyone’s feet are wet and the floor is a grimy mess. The music is loud but not overwhelming, plucked out by a young woman in a veil.

Your glance about the place finally finds Vivian, a thirty-something matriarchal figure who is probably capable of causing more damage with her wrinkled scowl than the heavy sword strapped to her belt. Standing up from the table of guards, she approaches you and offers a handshake. It is a vice grip.

Vivian Rylock openly shares with them the following:
The Weretiger is an abomination, a treacherous sorcerer, and a dangerous rebel. Using his netherworld abilities to enhance and shape the effects of Mana Sickness, the sorcerer hides as a seemingly normal human by day and terrorizes her pleasant mining program by night as a monster with claws, teeth, and inhuman speed. He has somehow controlled the physical aspect of his disease, but clearly the mental transmutation has escaped his ability to manage.

Of course, Vivian is hiding various aspects of the truth. If the players intuit that she is holding information back, she reluctantly explains that while most of her ‘employees’ find their work reasonable and their lives comfortable, there are a few that find their conditions unacceptable. Vivian, citing reasons dealing with harvesting efficiency, initially declined their requests for change. Without any other means of demanding their terms, this small fraction of her company violently rebelled. Being against violence of course, Vivian negotiated a number of terms with them, ultimately resulting in a large severance package for the entire disagreeing party. The Weretiger, however, refused to stop his crusade.

Part 4: Weretiger

Navigation through the middle half of the Greencloud swamp is, barring a climbing accident or hostile indigenous animals, relatively safe. At this point, the PCs shouldn’t be worried about those dangers. At the low and high ends, however, travel becomes tricky and very dependent on time. There are two slipstreams, almost silent, flanking the top and bottom of the swamp. Ironically, the largest gasbags (able to withstand the strong winds) containing the rarest and most expensive of gases are located at these ends, and it is imperative for GIH to gain access to them. Greencloud itself follows a tidal cycle, rising and falling a few thousand feet, and the company issues its human overseers chronometers to ensure that they can pinpoint their absolute elevation at all times, based on the time and their relative location within the swamp.

GIH’s infrastructure is composed the harvesting unit, an independently acting force of 20-50 slaves, a single songbow spell that is capable of delivering its enchantment effect for several hundred feet, and one or two overseers that crack the whip. If questioned about the ubiquity of the music, GIH management will explain it as a new therapeutic technique to calm the stormy minds of the bereaved. The slaves are all complacent, calm, and appear mentally subdued – however, their compromised mental status is explained away as a side effect of their terrible disease.

The Weretiger poses as a harvesting overseer with a number of his rebel brethren, needing mobility within the swamp but badly outgunned on his own. His songbow, unlike that of the other units, is fake (a real person actually plucking a musical instrument); he tasked one of his more lightly afflicted freedmen to play the instrument, although a keen eye will spot the telltale symptoms of the Sickness. The Weretiger’s chronometer, in light of the recent events, is also broken, forcing him to rely on intuition, perception, and luck to keep his team alive.

The PCs can find the Weretiger easily if they have researched the clues they found at the scene of the skirmish and know what to look for. Otherwise, they have to rely on a more difficult skill challenge – eventually, the Weretiger will slip up in a casual interrogation. If the PCs arrive at this point in the adventure are clearly have not at all investigated the chronometer and display no intention of doing so, it is advised that the DM give them a push in the right direction: for example, Vivian may express a suspicion that the tiger is hiding amongst her own groups and offer a list of all of her harvesting overseers that the group can use to cross reference.

Once confronted by the party, the Weretiger will relate his side of the story:
He has worked in Greencloud for far longer than GIH suspects, as he was once an overseer himself. He subjugated the economically challenged, forced them to work in hazardous and unforgiving conditions for meager pay. Eventually, when major cities became democracies and universal suffrage became fashionable, cruel operations like GIH were forced to shut down, and he lost his job. Two years later, fate dealt him another stroke of bad luck, and he contracted Mana Sickness, a seemingly irreversible condition that destined him for a bloody death. He thought it fortune that GIH was offering a sanctuary for him, a place in relative seclusion where individuals like him could try and cope with the advance of his disease.

Arriving here, however, he realized that the situation was quite the opposite. He realized that GIH, devoid of labor after the changes in government regulations, turned to more nefarious routes to power their gas extraction. After being magically compelled for several months, suffering from not only the Sickness but grief and guilt as well, he accidently uncovered his own sorcerous nature when his own transmutation process began to oscillate between cogent human and violent killing machine. Interestingly, the former meant that he was no longer under the influence the songbow, and the Weretiger escaped from the clutches of his captors, vowing not to let his brethren wallow like he did in his old life. The Weretiger wreaked havoc for a month before Vivian reluctantly offered a deal – release the Weretiger’s old unit, the members with whom the Weretiger had grown attached to, in return for their exodus and silence. But this was just a ploy, for now he possessed a sizable force capable of threatening the entire GIH company.

The Weretiger urges the group to see the righteousness in his ways. When (if) it comes time for him to make his last imploring statement, read the following:

“Do you know the legend of the Weretiger? Yes, a dangerous beast, he slew many innocent men, ripped their innards out left them to bleed out, but there was another side to him. Beneath the monster lived a man, every bit a victim as his body which had taken control of him. And these people, this bitch Vivian, her minions, they are no more than another disease, turning that man into the despicable tiger.

I exist because of the monsters. I hunt and I kill because of the monsters. I fight because of the man.”

Part 5a: Slaying the Monster

If the group decides not to side with the Weretiger, a skirmish will erupt. The bog should provide for very interesting terrain and cinematic action, with the Weretiger being exceptionally mobile in his monstrous form. It should be noted that falling (failing Athletics checks, etc) should result in a level appropriate amount of damage, as the preponderance of hammocks that evolved to catch water should break their fall and allow them to get back into the melee at the expense of a round or two of movement.

Part 5b: Emancipation

Should the group decide to betray their own allegiances and agree with the Weretiger’s sense of morality, they are faced with a more complicated task. There are a number of avenues to approach – should they assault other harvesting units and gather an army? Should they find Vivian herself and plow through her guards? The approach is up to them, but Vivian’s security is strong and it may require several combat encounters to finish the deed. Dealing with the songbow makes for an interesting combat skill challenge, as disabling it uses up valuable time during the fight yet could wreak havoc amongst the guard if it is successfully disabled. When pushed on the defensive, Vivian will hole herself up at the Skylark and use a Sending for martial aid, which will come after several days. A political storm will likely ensue, generating apt hooks for future adventures.

Other Considerations

The script intentionally keeps the initial description of the songbow players light, such that the player’s attention is hopefully drawn more to Vivian than the tavern music. However, a thorough investigation of the songbow would certainly draw suspicion amongst the players and it’s not the DM’s job to stop this possible route. However, the songbow is certainly very powerful gnomish magic and the man or woman playing the instrument is even capable of producing limited speech while ‘playing’. The players are likely to know that something is wrong if they realize that the music never stops, the musicians never move, but Vivian will refuse to expound upon the enchantment process, and if she deems the group has learned of their techniques, is authorized by GIH to use force to make sure the trade secret stays that way. If the illusory effect is dispelled, either by an arcane skill challenge or other means, a complex machine is revealed with lots of moving parts, glowing sigils, and the name Erudite Engineering emblazoned on the side.

Ingredient Use
Weretiger: the mythical legend of the lycanthrope, and the man who took his name to fuel an idea.
Aerial Swamp: A marsh filled with gasbag plants that evolved to gain better sunlight exposure, and secondarily, water conservation.
Human Slaver: Vivian Rylock, the manager of GIH’s operation, who resorts to slavery in times of need, and all of her GIH underlings.
Universal Suffrage: Recently adopted by a number of influential organizations, galvanizing a mass exodus of the harvesting job. This is the cause of GIH’s labor crisis, which eventually led them to use even less ethical methods.
Broken Chronometer: a critical clue used to track down Weretiger.
Songbow: the name of a gnomish illusion spell utilized by Vivian in order to enslave her workers and deceive outsiders into finding them docile and content. The spell is seen by unafflicted human eyes as a young man or woman plucking a musical bow.

Radiating Gnome

Round 1 Judgement

It is always a mixed blessing to have two entries that are credible responses to a set of ingredients. On the one hand, it means we have a lot of good stuff to read, but it also means judgement is going to be challenging.

Thanks for making my job hard. ;)

As a sort of best practice, I try to refer to the names of your entries rather than you directly -- an old habit from my writing workshop days. I'm not evaluating you, just this product of your fevered brains. I'll abbreviate to make my life easier, too.

So, we start with the review of the ingredients:

Weretiger - the weretiger, in both cases, plays an important role in the story of the adventure. In "where cloud giants go to die" (WCG), the dual nature if the lycanthrope is used pretty well, but it did bother me a little that the players, as they work their way through the adventure, don't really get to have much of a relationship with both personalities before they find out that he has two identities. I felt like a scene where they meet swiftclaw early in the adventure would deliver that discovery.

In "Greed in Greencloud" (GG), the dual nature of the lycanthrope is also used to have an NPC with a dual identity, but while there is a bit of investigation to reveal the weretiger, it feels like the lycanthrope is just a means of disguise, and almost any sort of disguise, illusion, or shapeshifting would have served jus as well. Also, I'm scanning over the entry again, double checking, but did he get a name at any point? He ought to have a name. It was pretty good, but in comparison I find I like WCG's weretiger better.

Aerial Swamp - GG's floating gas swamp is just a damn cool setting, and it is the sort of place I would love to send players. Bizarre, dangerous, and redolent with fart noises. It feels like a well imagined, very alien setting, something pretty remarkable.

The "swamp" in WCG is a stretch, and while I think the potential for some entertaining encounters exist in the raft of giant bodies, this aerial swamp pales in comparison to GG's.

Human Slaver - WCG has Storm Giant Slavers who only dabble in trafficking humans. So, they are only barely human slavers if "human" indicates the slaves they traffic in, and not the slavers themselves - and that feels strained, too.

GG has a patron/villain who is a human slave master. I actually had to look up slaver to make sure it could also mean someone who owns slaves, not just someone who sells them. It also occurs to me that it was possible to run with the other word spelled "slaver" - the saliva/drooling one. That would have been a fun way to turn the intended ingredient on it's head.

Anal retentiveness about definitions aside, the slaver in GG is a more integrated part of the story. In WCG, the storm giants need not have been slavers at all -- removing that detail doesn't hurt the story at all. So, another point to GG.

Universal Suffrage - This one was not nice. Democracy doesn't really fit naturally into the sort of feudal fantasy we are used to. And the historical examples of democracy that pre-date feudalism don't really approach one-person-one-vote. That's a very modern idea. So, this was a real curveball.

In WCG, the lycanthropes in the small community have no representation in the local lord's council, and they're lobbying to win that concession. In GG, however, the idea of suffrage has morphed in to emancipation, rather than suffrage. WCG is stronger here, although I felt like the idea could be smoothed into the adventure a bit better than it is in the current presentation. I think, to really make the suffrage an important part of the adventure, some sort of voting or election must be an important part of the action -- otherwise it's just background material that the players need never truly interact with. WCG gets closer, so the point goes there.

Broken Chronometer - In WCG, the broken chronometer belongs to an important NPC, the halfling Provalor. He loses the trinket when he is helping the storm giants break into the keep and kidnap swiftclaw. Swiftclaw ends up with it, and hands it to the players at the end of the adventure. I'm not particularly happy with the use of this ingredient. For one thing, it could have been any trinket -- there's no reason why it had to be a chronometer, it could have been a riding crop, a beenie baby, or a shrunken head. Also, the players don't get to make the discovery themselves -- Swiftclaw just hands it to them at the end. The players should be the active parties in the adventure . . . they should be the ones picking up this item and making inferences from it's discovery.

In GG, the chronometer is a much more important part of the story. The chronometers are necessary because of the tidal flux of the swamp (I think that's pretty damn cool, by the way), and the slave masters need them to know their position within the swamp. The Weretiger's is broken, and that means he doesn't know where he's supposed to be -- an important clue in trying to figure out which of the slave drivers is the shapeshifter. It couldn't be something else, like a beenie baby -- in this case the item has to be a chronometer, or at least it's woven into the fabric of the story in that way. Point for GG.

And lastly there's the Songbow. In WCG, it's the adventure hook and also the bribe used to hire the storm giant slaver's compliance with Provalor's plan. In GG, the songbow is the enchantment used to enslave the swamp gas mine workers. Neither use was great, IMO. In WCG, it's part of the regalia of a dead giant hero, but it could have been any item, again -- a big sword or the giants favorite bag of rocks. The same story could be told with a different item in it's place. But in GG, it's barely a songbow -- it's a layered enchantment that is pretty much just called a songbow, and if the players reveal it's true nature in the end they find out that it isn't a songbow at all, but a complicated bit of machinery. It feels like a near thing to me -- like I said, I'm not pleased with either use, so no points on this ingredient.

So, the score for ingredients is:
WCG - 2 (Weretiger, Universal Suffrage)
GG -3 (Aerial Swamp, Human Slaver, Broken Chronometer)


In this area, we examine the playability of the adventure, and this gives me an opportunity to get onto one of my high horses about traps we can fall into as we develop these adventures.

We all do it -- I've done it in my own entries over the years, but we risk some critical weaknesses in our entries when we write long backgrounds for adventures, and the players don't get to interact with the majority of the story that is included. Writing those backgrounds and setups for adventures are easy -- we don't have to worry about the choices players might make, and we can shoehorn a lot of stuff into the adventure there that's hard to place anywhere else.

To evaluate that in each adventure, I like to take a quick look at what the players will actually get to do and interact with over the course of their adventure.

In WCG, the players have the songbow and deliver it to their buyer. That night, the keep is attacked, and they get to fight some storm giants. Then they get asked to climb the mountain and fight their way into the slaver camp on the cloud giant corpse raft to free Swiftclaw. At that point, Swiftclaw hands them the final clue that lets them know that the halfling Provalor was responsible.

In GG, the characters are sent to investigate the problems in the swamp gas mines. They meet Vivian, get his version of the scoop, investigate and find the nameless weretiger, and either fight him or join him and emancipate the slaves.

Neither is too bad about the background thing, actually. Both adventures look like they've got some good playability, and have some interesting settings to run around and smack things in. I do think that GG has a slight advantage here because the players have a fairly ambiguous choice to make in the adventure, and their choice will have a dramatic effect on the future of the swamp, the people, the area, and the company that hired the PCs. And either choice is playable. Especially clever PCs might even try to find a way to help the Weretiger without completely sacrificing their relationship with the company -- a very interesting problem to put in front of the players.

The final act of WCG, on the other hand, involves the players being handed the one clue the need to reveal Provalor's treachery, and Provalor apparently doesn't have the wherewithal to insist that the chronometer proves nothing, that it was stolen from him during the commotion of the Storm Giant attack -- probably to frame him, but he's sure no one will fall for that, blah blah blah. Anyway, the players are just along for the ride, they don't get to make important choices that shape the story, which is a weakness when compared to GG.

So, playability goes to GG.


Judging Iron DM is all subjective, but I think judging the creativity of an entry is the MOST subjective part of the whole process. WCG gave us a sky filled with cloud giant corpses lashed together into rafts. That's pretty good. GG gave us the floating gas trees in the tidal aerial swamp, complete with rain-catching hammocks and floating transport cars . . . in the end, an incredibly vivid environment I'm dying to see and run players around in. This setting captures my imagination and sends my head spinning off in all kinds of different directions.

Which is not to say that WCG didn't have it's strong point, or that there are not weaknesses in GG (I'm still looking for the Weretiger's name). But I think GG edges out WCG for creativity, too.

Final Judgement.

Writing these responses is always an act of discovery. I think these are both good entries, and both have their strong points, but in the end I find that I prefer Greed in Greencloud, which has edged out Where Cloud Giants go to Die in enough of the key evaluation areas to make it my choice in this match.

So, ender_wiggin advances.

Mortal Plague, your entry was strong, but you drew a tough opponent.

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First Post
Round 1, Match 3
Sanzuo vs. humble minion
Judge: Pbartender

foppish dandy
collapsing bridge
Demon, Type V
hungover mountain range
plum dumplings

Submissions are due June 6th, 9:19 am CST.

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