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Iron DM 2012 -- R2 complete, Finals in Progress

Deuce Traveler

[MENTION=34958]Deuce Traveler[/MENTION]:

[sblock=Commentary on entry, pending Judgement.]Dude! That adventure looks like a lot of fun! Really enjoy the build-up with the clues and the intentionally campy (yet creepy) feel of it![/sblock]

Thanks! I thought you would go with an undead theme also, considering the ingredients. Instead you had an unexpectedly nice mash-up that blended for me non-standard orcs, eastern mysticism and a sense of steppes people.

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Wow, both entries are quite good, I love the involvement of the baker in both of those ideas, but i think the Danse Macabre and evil city of traveler chopping wins it for me great story Deuce!


We have two very different entries, though each one showing promise and creativity.

As I have done in the past, I will grade the submissions using the following criteria/scoring system:
Followed the Rules: Wordcount, time limit, etc. (worth 6 points)
Ingredient Use: Were all the ingredients legitimately used as a necessary part of the adventure? (worth 12 points)
Useability: How easy could a GM plop the adventure down into their game? (worth 6 points)
Style: Personal preference – how much does the presentation and adventure appeal to me personally (worth 6 points)

Both entries were turned in on time and, barring the ingredient lists, were under word-count. So each gets the full 6 points there.

Regarding ingredients, I award 1 point if the ingredient is used (however poorly) and 2 points if it is used in what I deem a worthy way. Overall, I thought Runes use of ingredients to be the better of the two contestants. Some of Traveler's uses could have been replaced by any other generic ingredient or name without effecting the adventure at all. Our first ingredient, the tattered rug, is used in both, though I like Rune's use better. The tattered rug as an artifact does nothing to explain to me why it bears the title “tattered.” It could just as easily have been a gold rug, a silk rug, or any other sort of thing you placed under you on the ground. Both adventurers featured bakers as central to the casting, though I actually, in this case, preferred the brigand baker. I am not sure in what way a loving, caring baker who produces magical, tasty bread is pitiful. In both adventures I like the Maimed Hand of Vengeance and gave both full points for those. Likewise with the itinerant Cleric. Regarding both the Gothic Reunion and the Cheerful Cellar, I felt that the Danse Macabre use was a bit weak, actually very weak. Again, the name of the inn could have been anything, as could the ceremony. Overall, Vengeance and Pity, garnered 11 out of 12 for Ingredients and Danse Macabre 9 out of 12.

As far as useability, I actually thought that Danse Macabre showed a little more promise than Vengeance and Pity. I could see the bones of the adventure being used in just about any setting. With a little work, it could be fitted for a variety of genres even. Vengeance and Pity makes some assumptions that limit its portability, namely: redeemable orcs. This is a matter of campaign taste, but it just won't work in every world. I am giving Danse Macabre 6 out of 6 in this area and Vengeance and Pity 5 out of 6.

Finally Style. I like both scenarios, but I like Deuce Traveler's adventure a little better for one primary reason: there is more going on. Vengeance and Pity provides the seeds for an adventure, but I would have liked to see a little more intrigue than what is offered. In the end, there just is not that much there. The adventure calls for the adventurers to make a single primary choice: diplomacy or battle. Then it presents the ramifications of this one choice: you either fight a number of battles or try to arrange a meeting. (I think that a lot of time is spent developing the location of the cellar and the character of the Hand of Vengeance which could have been used to provide actual adventure.) Meanwhile in the other scenario, we have a hint of potential cannibalism, an army of undead, a murderous hand, and a town of scared citizens. There is a lot of room for development and subplots. I would, however, liked to have seen the information arranged better than it was. The format of the presentation left a lot to be desired and for that I am docking a point. In style, I'm giving Vengeance and Pity a 3 and Danse Macabre a 5.

In the end, I think that Rune used the ingredients much better, and in a more clever way. But they were not used to present as complex an adventure as I would have liked to have seen. By a narrow margin of 1 point Deuce Traveler edges out Rune and advances.

Rune – Vengeance and Pity
Followed the Rules 6/6
Ingredient Use 11/12
Useability 5/6
Style 3/6
Total: 25/30

Deuce Traveler – Danse Macabre
Followed the Rules 6/6
Ingredient Use 9/12
Useability 6/6
Style 5/6
Total: 26/30

Thanks to both of you and good luck Deuce in future rounds.


Steeliest of the dragons
"Staff of Storms"


crippled minotaur
Rock city
unfortunate smuggler
misplaced desire
tower shield
staff of storms

The following is a short adventure for a party of 4-6 characters of low to middling level (4-7).

The party is in the port-city of Flotsam in the borderlands at the edge of the Duchy. Not far to the north, about a day from the mainland is the island kingdom of Trete. The longest side of the triangular isle faces the mainland creating a rather narrow expanse of sea that is prone to harsh weather forced by the high crags and mountains at either side.

This narrow, but long, expanse is known by sailors as the Staff of Storms and is generally avoided at all costs for the perils rumored to accost its waters.

At the northern tip of Trete is the capitol, Rock, sometimes called "Rock City." It is rumored to be a place of great entertainment, a bustling music scene and decadence. "The King" himself is said to send noblewomen into frenzies with odd gyrating dances. Adding to this gambling of all kinds, a gladiatorial arena and other sundry recreational pursuits gives Rock a notorious reputation as a den of debauchery.

The party will hear d6 of the following rumors in Flotsam before answering a post for "Mercenaries wanted" to protect a trading ship called the "Floatin' Beard."
  1. The Staff of Storms cannot be crossed. The weather is too unpredictable.
  2. There is a titan that lives at the bottom of a great whirlpool in the middle of the Staff.
  3. Rock is no place for respectable persons. It is a den of pirates and thieves.
  4. There is rumored to be a quartet of musical coleoptera, unlike anything you've ever heard, that are all the rage in Rock City.
  5. The Arena in Rock is a place to gain fame and fortune.
  6. The Duke's navy is stopping all ships, leaving and arriving, on suspicion of arms running.
  7. Last month, an Ogre was slain in town. How it got into the city without notice remains a mystery.
  8. More humanoids are seen at the wharf, of late. They arrive on cargo ships from Trete.

The Floatin' Beard
The Captain, a peg-legged dwarf named Magnus Ironsides, happily takes along the party as added muscle. He readily tells them they're going to Rock City to deliver a shipment of tower shields and armor. He will not divulge, until they are already at sea, that their route is the Staff of Storms. Magnus brushes off any rumors about the Staff, "Bah. Sailor talk. I've done it a hundred times."

  • Payment is proposed as "part now, the rest when we reach Rock City." (the DM is free to generate the payment necessary to entice the party. Magnus has no plans on paying them anyway.)
  • The party is given their quarters (shared with 2 crewman).
  • They are strictly forbidden from entering the cargo hold...and advised it best to leave the Magist alone.
  • The journey will take 4 days to reach Rock City. 1 day to reach the entry point of the Staff of Storms, and 3 days through it.
The Crew

  • Captain Magnus Ironsides: A Fighter/Thief (combined levels should be 2 levels higher than the highest level PC). He fights with a short cutlass (treat as short sword) coated with a sleeping poison (save or sleep for 1 hour). He wears leather armor (but has a shirt of chainmail in his quarters to don if needed).
  • "First Mate": A lizardman simply referred to as "Mister Hiss." He fights with spear and net if forced into combat. He follows Magnus' orders at all times, seemingly understanding Common but does not speak (only hissing or growling replies). Magnus speaks Lizardman.
  • "Ship's Magist": is a mage of middling level, Arklebin Snide. He is curt to the point of rudeness. He retires to his cabin shortly after departure and remains there for the duration of the trip unless the ship is attacked, trouble breaks out on board, or summoned by the captain. He will not accept visitors. Arklebin has the following spells (others tbd by the DM, if necessary): Sleep (x2), Charm Person, Web and Invisibility. He also possesses a Wand of Paralysis (15 charges) on his person at all times.
  • General crew: 15 sailors. Assume Fighters levels 1-3 with assorted simple weapons. The DM is encouraged to make the crew as diverse and "piratey" as they like or need. All the crew are loyal to Magnus. They are superstitious and give PC magic-users a wide girth.
NOTE: None of the crew are "evil", just greedy neutrals (and/or chaotic neutrals).

For every 12 hours in "the Staff" to DM should roll (d10) for a possible encounter:

  1. A Storm giant (80HP) rises out of the sea to inquire if they have seen a sea serpent anywhere? His dear "Mister Finny" has gone missing. If the party hasn't seen it and/or convince the giant they haven't, the giant will thank them and be on his way. If they mention harming the serpent, the giant attacks in a rage. He destroys the ship in 10 rounds if he isn't damaged to (at least) half HP within that time. The giant will retreat when brought below half his hit points.
  2. Squall. The ship runs into a short (3 hours) but fierce storm. Anyone on deck (not tied down) must make Dexterity checks to keep from being flung overboard. All must make Constitution checks or be sea-sickened for the next 12 hours (-1 to all rolls).
  3. Nothing.
  4. Sea Serpent. A giant sea serpent (HP 60) attacks the ship, coiling around it several times. It will attempt to bite anyone fighting it (target swallowed whole on a natural 20) but will retreat if it receives 30 or more points of damage.
  5. A band of 15 sahuagin (HP 20 each) board and attack. They will retreat if 5 of their number is slain.
  6. Nothing.
  7. Sea Serpent (as #4). If returning, it will again retreat after losing half of its remaining hit points. If the serpent is already slain, nothing occurs.
  8. Squall (as #2).
  9. Harpies. d6 harpies attack the ship from the craggy coast of Trete. They will attempt to charm and carry off as many males (party or crewmen) as they can to devour back on the island.
  10. Nothing.

On Board
1: The Magist's Cabin: If the party forces entry, Arklebin will raise an alarm and use his spells and wand on as many party members as he can. If he takes damage, he makes himself Invisible and attempts to escape.

If the mage is not present, the party finds a neatly appointed cabin with desk, shelves of maps and books about weather patterns, marine life and theoretical works on divination. The magist also keeps, in a heavy bolted-down stand, a crystal ball (which he uses to scan ahead of the vessel to avoid hazards).

3: The Captain's Quarters: Stretching around the back of the ship are the large "U" shaped quarters of Captain Magnus. Furnishings include a large desk, long table (6 chairs), bookcase, bed, and all the fine dressings one would expect of a successful sea captain. Magnus will be found there 25% of the time during the day, 90% at night.

The desk contains a locked drawer (the captain holds the key) with a poisoned needle trap (failed save causes sleep for 1 hour.) Inside are several letters from someone named "Dervis." They are all written in dwarven listing dates, orders for "tower shields", records of payments, and one that reads:
"5 hobgoblins, 3 lizardmen, as many orcs as you can find... you still owe me an ogre."
A thorough examination will also reveal the following treasures: 4 potions (2 water breathing, 1 healing, 1 neutralize poison), a locked chest under his bed containing a suit of dwarven chain mail +2, a ceramic pot containing a thick purple liquid (Magnus' sleeping poison, 10 applications). In a hidden compartment behind his bookcase are sacks holding a total of 2,000 sp, 400 gp and 5 gems (worth 100gp each) .

4-6: Crew Quarters: Each of these tightly packed rooms hold 6 hammocks and 6 locked chests, each. In one of the chests there are 2 potions (water breathing and healing). A total of 350cp and 130 sp will be found between them all.

7: The Cargo Hold: The hold is constantly under guard. If the party gains access, on first glance it is exactly as Magnus said. There are crates filled with tower shields, helmets, assorted breastplates. If emptied (or torn apart), the party has the same chance as finding a secret door to notice that the contents do not seem to fill the full depth. There are hidden compartments at the bottom of two crates filled with axes and short swords.

There is also an actual secret door behind the largest crate (combined strength of 50 to move it). It opens to a hidden hold (see area 8).

8: The Prisoner's Hold: In this dank area the floor is covered in straw and filth. The walls are lined with iron shackles. There is also a giant box with large air holes in the top. There are six sets of shackles unoccupied. The whole place reeks like a stable.

Within this area are: 2 lizardmen, 3 hobgoblins (who can speak Common), a bugbear female, and near-emaciated human with a very curly beard.

If the party finds this hold by the 3rd day, the human will be very weak but alive and introduce himself as Captain Screwbeard. He will claim the ship is his and Magnus led a mutiny when they'd arrived in Flotsam last week. He will implore the party to free him and help him retake his ship.

If this hold is not discovered by the end of the 3rd day of travel, the unfortunate smuggler will fall prey to the (by then) ravenous humanoids. The party will only find his remains.

The party are told by the hobgoblins (or Captain Screwbeard) that they have been taken against their will and believe they are to be sold to slavery. They will promise to aid the party in any ways necessary if they are freed. They don't know what's in the giant crate, only that it stinks and moans quite a bit.

Within the huge wooden crate, if it is opened, the party will find a great iron cage within which is crammed a crippled minotaur. The bull-man's legs have been hobbled and placed in wooden and iron stocks so the beast cannot stand. If the party heals the minotaur (15hp to regain the use of his legs) and frees him, he will fight with the party until his captors are slain. He will then turn on the party (as will the other creatures).

If Magnus is confronted about the monsters below deck, he says they are criminals being brought to justice in the Arena of Rock. He will, under no circumstances, release them and tries to capture the party if they attempt to do so.

Assuming they are still on good terms with Magnus as the port of Rock City comes into view on the evening of the 4th day of travel, Magnus and all of the crew will be on deck. After a jovial speech from the dwarf, they all attack the party. All damage by the crew is considered "non-lethal" as Magnus is simply trying to acquire a few more worthy souls for the gladiator's arena.

Win or lose, the party arrives in Rock City. Does the party arrive at port with a ship full of contraband? Seek out this "Dervis" to make some coin? Do they wake up in chains in the bowels of the Arena?


First Post
Iron DM 2012 Round 1: ender_wiggin vs. steeldragons

An epic-tier adventure for a fantasy setting


Black as ebony, pliable as ooze, the immature igneous tautorite writhes and contorts, an amorphous geologic embyro of intense arcane potential. The outermost layers expand and cool, blossoming into a honeycomb pattern, bending and warping the physical space where it encounters resistance. Far from its embryonic origin, the tautorite’s energy finally dissipates and it settles into a mature, robust rock. Mature tautorite is known for the tricks it plays on space. Deep in the world’s depths where tautorite is endogenous, one may frequently discover caverns larger on the inside than out, observe gravity that shifts from one tunnel to the next, and return to the same location without ever having meandered from a straight march.

Here dwells the last of the minotaur, who possess an uncanny intuition of their capricious surroundings. Here they thrive, sheltered from the violent machinations of sunwalkers. Their metropolis of stone is built on a bedrock of tautorite, and they walk amongst their twisted design without need for maps. They name their labyrinthine city Monolith, after the colossal stone tower at its heart, connected to the city by a thick web of stone and rock tendrils. Inside of its hardened exterior lies the marrow, a column of embryonic tautorite that slowly matures outward through the tendrils into the city, the foundation of its paradoxical architecture. This intricate process, however, is vulnerable to destabilization. Even a small insult to the marrow disrupts the fragile equilibrium and could have disastrous ramifications on the city infrastructure. To avoid such a calamity, the city’s arcanists have hardened the monolith’s exterior into a abjurative exoskeleton. This protective shell they call the cortex, and the faint white light of its sigils renders a perpetual soft glow to the city streets.

The Mazerot
The locals openly tell you their creation myth. Once upon a time, the gods were young and inexperienced with their divine clay. They erred in giving their creations too much power (a hard lesson, for some of them) and their work was unpolished, lacking simplicity and elegance. The minotaurs are a product of that primordial time. They are monstrously strong and quicksilver keen, masters of both physical and arcane worlds. Yet they are unpolished; a poorly amalgamated set of biological characteristics later reiterated in (sensibly) separate species. More importantly, they suffer a curse, a relic of flawed engineering. Every minotaur in Monolith is doomed to meet the same excruciating end: a pervasive dementia that begins its course in the fifth decade of life. The disease - mazerot - waxes and wanes for a time, and is so subtle at first that one might only have a miniscule tremor. But it is inevitably progressive and eventually reduces even the hardiest of minotaurs to a disoriented, amnesic, incontinent, bedbound elder. In this state, if tended to, minotaurs can survive for many years.

There is no uniform cultural reaction to the mazerot, and it is up to each individual minotaur how to receive it. Some choose to end their own life when they have lost their independence, either quietly or by ceremony. Others choose to have their family members hold their care once they have lost their ability to navigate the city, which usually occurs in a later stage of the illness and is widely regarded as a point of no return. There are some who refuse death, choosing to subsist for decades in a pitiful state. The minotaur approach their mortality as mortals do: some with courage and pride, others with fear and shame.

“They have to turn him,” Corbellos explains. A team of servants tenderly lifts an gaunt, emaciated minotaur elder to his side. A weak cry of agony escapes from his lips. His eyes shine of confusion. “He no longer moves by himself, so we must turn him four times a day and apply ointment or he will develop painful sores. They stopped feeding him weeks ago, but we minotaur can survive months without nutrition...”

Thom Gamble
Thom Gamble is perhaps the most illustrious spice runner in the known world. Among higher circles, he is the most reliable way of getting goods (of any kind) from one place to another, no matter how far and how illicit. Those who know him understand that he is a marriage of foolish bravado and savant-like intellect. Luck had always been on the side of Thom until recently, when he found himself on the open seas in a political quagmire with no good options. With a stunning tactical maneuver that left his enemies baffled, Gamble sacrificed his ship for life and limb. Rather than let that be a harsh reality check or a cause for retirement, he has set out to build a new and improved vessel. One of his most important stops is Monolith, where he connives to steal a tiny piece of tautorite marrow, from which he can build a cargo hold larger than his hull. Unfortunately for him, luck is against him twice, and he is waylaid and kidnapped after just a few short months in the city, while on the brink of designing a spell to penetrate the tautorite cortex.

This middle-aged minotaur is caretaker of the largest library in town, and the likeliest source of any information about the city the PCs might desire. In his prime, Corbellos was a member of the Aegis Directive, an elite group of wizards that maintains the cortex. After his retirement, Corbellos has been reduced to running the library and tinkering with arcane trinkets. His most prized creation is a magical staff that can reproduce any environmental effect on a thousand-fold scale, utilizing the amplification techniques that allowed the Directive to strengthen large portions of the cortex simultaneously.

For much of his life, Corbellos has quietly suppressed his hatred of the mazerot and its consequences: the intense suffering of kin that is hidden from children and foreigners, and the impossible choice that every minotaur faces. Now, as his own time nears, a lifetime of these boiling emotions drives the wizard towards monstrous actions. Corbellos concocts a plan to destroy the entire city and its denizens, an act he believes will free his people from perpetual damnation.

Corbellos became aware of Thom Gamble’s intentions despite the rogue’s clandestine habits. Seizing the opportunity as he saw it, Corbellos steals Gamble’s work and traps the smuggler in a maze within the depths of his library while he modifies the spell to be used with his staff. Corbellos plans to destroy the city’s monolithic tower. While minor alteration to the marrow could topple a district over time, gross destruction of the column would invariably lead to immediate collapse of the entire city, killing tens of thousands and putting the minotaur species at risk of extinction.

“You people speak with such fondness the juvenile and irresponsible actions of our creators,” Corbellos’s voice resonates deeply off of the cavern walls. “You turn away, ignore the tragedy that awaits each and every one of you. To what end? Be proud in your adversity. Recognize what you truly are: a mistake of the ancients they would take back if they could.” He shouts now, and pebbles come loose from the walls. “I will not let you sentence our children to the fate of our forefathers! They deserve better than to be born accursed creatures.”

The characters will likely need a minotaur guide while in Monolith. For this purpose they meet Delphine, a young minotaur orphan from a part of town that collapsed in the years following damage to the marrow. As part of orphanage culture, Delphine is sheltered from the truths surrounding her fated demise. She expresses this naivete while on the job, and PC discussion of her situation (or lack thereof) may have profound impacts on her life after the adventure.

“Marrow tautorite does not move,” recites Delphine with a playful smirk. “It warps the space around it, and bends the light.”


The PCs are hooked into the adventure by way of Thom Gamble. They may know him personally from a previous adventure, or know of him through an employer/ally. Perhaps they are sent to apprehend him for his unpaid crimes, or rescue him when word gets out that he has gone missing. Either way, it is important to the PCs that they return with Gamble alive.

When the PCs arrive in Monolith, they are warmly greeted by its denizens so long they are not destructive. They should have an opportunity to explore the city and its culture. At some point, the group should meet Corbellos and Delphine. When the PCS find Gamble’s hideout they find its interior ransacked and in shambles.

  • Careful examination reveals that damage to the building was from a multitude of elemental sources: melted furniture, electrical scorch marks, freeze burns can be distinguished from one another in seemingly random distribution.
  • There is evidence of Gamble’s arcane experiments that Corbellos did not have time to extinguish. How much they learn of his work depends on skill checks: Gamble’s secret ingredient is acid from a black wyrmling he transported years ago, one of few compounds corrosive enough to burn through the cortex, and one wholly foreign to the city.

What happens next depends on how quickly the PCs can reveal Corbellos’s involvement. In addition to the clues above:
  • Corbellos will share with them his work on the staff, unaware that he left tracks.
  • Should the PCs talk to Corbellos twice, he forgets who they are the second time they meet.
  • Roleplaying or dice can reveal that Corbellos seems increasingly withdrawn and sullen according to his neighbors. Corbellos will espouse his tragic philosophy with them if pressed, but he will not confess his plans until there is no turning back.

If the PCs convince themselves of Corbellos’s involvement before he is finished integrating Gamble’s work with his own, they can assault or infiltrate the library’s depths, avoid/defuse the minotaur’s traps, and rescue Thom Gamble. Corbellos meanwhile escapes and plans his attack on the tower.

If the PCs fail to find Corbellos before this time, he publicly voices his philosophy and unleashes his attack upon the city. Gamble escapes into the netherworld. The PCs must choose to either lose Gamble or abandon the city to Corbellos’s whims. Without PC intervention, Corbellos will ultimately succeed, resulting in a genocide of the minotaur people.

Corbellos’s attack is fierce: with his staff, he calls down a relentless acid rain that showers the monolith and burns its way through the cortex. At this point, the conflict should be unveiled to the group and they should have the option to choose what side of the conflict, if any, they come down on.
  • Should the PCs decide to stand on the side of the city, they should eventually be able to stop the wizard. How they fare in this conflict will determine the extent of damage to the city. Let the PCs confront Corbellos with both steel and their own rhetoric.
  • Although Corbellos truly believes in his actions, he is also motivated by a strong fear of his impending death, and it is no coincidence that he acts now in the twilight of his life. The PCs can use this fact to seed doubt in his mind, and perhaps slow him down.
  • The PCs can keep Thom as a prisoner if they have him, or they can convince the rogue to participate in the city’s defense: though the man is known for pragmatism, he is not above compassion and would be a powerful ally.
  • If the PCs side with Corbellos or remain neutral, they can keep pieces of tautorite marrow from the doomed city, which surely will have utility for their further adventures.

“You humans are lucky. You live for a lifetime and die in a moment. We minotaur live in a moment and die for a lifetime. My people... they will look up to you now... Be good to them.”
-- Corbellos, if defeated

[sblock=Summary of Ingredients (not included in word count)]SUMMARY OF INGREDIENTS
Crippled minotaur: the minotaur species and their debilitating mazerot.
Rock city: Monolith, the city built on tautorite.
Unfortunate smuggler: Thom Gamble, stricken with bad luck twice in a row
Misplaced desire: Corbellos’s wish to ease his people’s suffering, confounded by his fear of death, manifest as his terrible attempt to commit genocide.
Tower shield: the cortex, a magical shield that protects the vital marrow
Staff of storms: Corbellos’s artifact, created with a career of expertise, conduit of his misplaced emotions.[/sblock]

Radiating Gnome

Usually, I'd start off with some longwinded preamble, but I don't think most of you care about that, so without further ado, the results:


Ingredients are, usually, the most important part of the entry and the judgement. On very rare occasions an entry can overcome ingredient problems, but those examples are few and far between. In this case, we've got a couple of entries that are struggling to make ingredients fit naturally. A well-used ingredient is one that is an important part of the story -- if it were removed, the rest of the story would fall apart. Weak ingredients often look more like garnish -- they might be on the plate to make the dish look pretty, but they're not an important part of the meal.

crippled minotaur- in SoS, the crippled minotaur is one of the humanoid monsters being smuggled to the city. This is an example of the sort of weak ingredient I mentioned above -- it could be removed and there would be no serious loss to the story of the adventure.

In MaM, the crippled minotaur is a little weird -- the ingredient has been applied to ALL minotaurs, who are afflicted with a terrible, crippling disease in their later years. It serves as the motivation of the primary antagonist in the story -- the troubled Minotaur Corbellos. It works, in it's way, although it feels like an uncomfortable fit for me. Still, advantage Mam.

Rock city - In MaM, the Rock City is the setting for the story, an underground city of Minotaurs, built around the powerful tautorite pillar. The Rock City, and since these are minotaurs, the Rock Maze City -- they're a direct result of that tautorite. And the Tautorite is key to the story, but the Rock City setting is not. In none of the description of the action the PCs play through do they deal with the rock city or the maze it creates. A more fleshed out entry, not limited by word count, might have been able to make more of it, but we have to work with this entry, and while the "rock city" ingredient is covered nominally, it doesn't really enter the story in any real way.

SoS isn't much better. There, the Rock City is a destination -- it's the place the PCs are traveling to, the place the humanoid prisoners are being smuggled to, etc. The location has some influence over the story -- the type of cargo on the ship is influenced by Rock City, but if we were to rename the city "Denver" nothing that the players really interact with would change. I'm all about the interpretive twists -- making the king of rock city an Elvis clone is funny and cool, but if the adventure never gets there for the PCs to interact with it, there doesn't seem to be much point. I'm not going to give either side advantage for this one -- they were both pretty weak.

Unfortunate Smuggler - in SoS, this is captain Screwbeard (love the name) who's imprisoned on the ship and might be rescued by the pcs. He's there, but the adventure would play pretty much exactly the same if he were not there -- it's entirely disposable, which makes him weak.

In MaM, the unfortunate smuggler is Thom Gamble, who is normally fortunate but seems to have had a bad streak -- he's the hook that brings the party to the underground city, trying to track him down. He's a bit more integral to the story, although I'm not totally happy with him, either. He's a prisoner that needs rescuing, and nothing about his actual role in the story draws on his being a smuggler or unfortunate. He could be any prisoner, any lost soul. Still, this is marginally better than the usage in SoS, so advantage MaM.

misplaced desire - in MaM, the misplaced desire is Corbellos' reason for his actions, and the threat he brings to the story. It works okay, although it feels like a bit of a stretch.

In SoS, I'm struggling to see which specific element was intended to be the misplaced desire. Other ingredients were bolded in the writeup when they appeared, and this one does not. There are characters with desires, but I don't see any one as specific ally misplaced. So, Once again, advantage MaM.

tower shield - In MaM the tower shield is the magic that keeps the Tautoric at bay, and the thing Corbellos must breach to complete his plans. In SoS, the cargo hold is full of tower shields. But, it's never important that they're tower shields -- they're generic cargo, and could have been replaced with Hawaiian Pizza without changing the story -- so, could have been better. Advantage MaM.

staff of storms - In SoS, the region the PCs sail through is called the Staff of Storms. I find this sort of use of any ingredient very frustrating. Sure, there are a few storm encounters on the random encounter table, but other than that, the idea of storms does not seem important to the story -- and just labeling a body of water "staff of storms" does not do much to satisfy the ingredient.

Meanwhile, in MaM, there's an actual staff, and it actually affects storms, and is actually used by the bad guy in the adventure. I'm not wowed or excited by the use, but it works.

So, MaM makes much better use of the ingredients than SoS does, on almost every count.

Creativity - There are a lot of things I liked about SoS -- just not the way it used ingredients. The Rock city as Elvis's kingdom was perhaps the best ingredient use in SoS, and it made me smile (and wish some of the adventure took place there). But character names and other elements made me smile. I did have to wonder how effective a first mate who never speaks would be -- and that would either be some very cool RP or a very big problem. I'm betting on some fun RP -- a lot of the rest of the writeup reads like you're good at DMing those sorts of absurdities.

MaM also had good, creative elements, but even though the scope was grander, I was less impressed with that creativity. The Tautocite is a pretty standard dingus -- Avatar's Unobtanium, Star Trek's Red Matter, etc. It's the stuff that makes the plot go. But I didn't get the feeling that the tautocite really did much in the story -- it was there, it has that primordial matter feel to it, but in the long run it's just there. In the end, I was not as excited by MaM as I was SoS, so advantage Sos.

Playability - SoS felt like I could pretty much drop it into a game and run with it. MaM was also pretty good, although it would require rewriting a chunk of whatever game's cosmology I drop it into just to make the adventure fit -- and totally changing the way Minotaurs exist in a given campaign world might not work very well for many DMs, so it's utility is limited. So, it's a small thing, but I'll give an edge to Sos here, too.

Final Analysis

In the end, Mazes and Mortals has it's problems, but it makes better use of the ingredients almost completely across the board. The non-ingredient good points that Staff of Storms has going for it are not strong enough IMO to recover from those problems. Still, it has a lot of good elements and could have been a strong contender with better integrated ingredients.

So, this round goes to Mazes and Mortals, and [MENTION=21629]ender_wiggin[/MENTION] advances to round 2.

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