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Iron DM 2012 -- R2 complete, Finals in Progress

Deuce Traveler

Ack. Running late. Sorry for the delay and wait.

Deuce Traveler, Ender Wiggin; here are your ingredients for Round 2 Match 1. You have until 4:45 pm EST to use the following in an adventure synopsis:

Bundle of Straw
Forlorn Cyclops
Gaudy Gangster
Abandoned Foundry
Powerful Suit

Good Luck Gentlemen!

Wow. Just wow. 4:45 EST of Tuesday it is.

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Radiating Gnome

Round 2 Match 2: Waylander the Slayer vs Lwaxy

Artist's Studio
The Final Dragon
Battered Manuscript
Suspended Clergyman
Checks and Balances
Robe of Bones

Due by 4 pm EST Wednesday.


First Post
Iron DM 2012 Round 2: ender_wiggin vs. Lwaxy

Ambush in the Armatorium
A ‘paragon-tier’ adventure for a high-fantasy setting

Adventure Background

Isadora the Tyrant
A hundred years ago, the land belonged to Queen Isadora, who ruled with an iron fist and bloody sword. Although erudite historians point out that Isadora in fact made a number of critical changes that revolutionized the kingdom from poor feudal state to booming industrial empire, her holocaust of ethnic and cultural traditions and her violent asphyxiation of political opposition earned her the colloquial name the Tyrant Queen. As ruler, she constructed a number of arcane factories - armatoria - that could purportedly print arcane sigils onto the surface of liquid adamantite. Isadora used these armatoria to equip her soldiers with cutting edge magical arms, which allowed her to maintain martial law for years. In the end, it was betrayal that cost the Queen her throne and her life, and the ensuing anarchy destroyed any social progress the Isadora had spent her life working toward. A symbol of her hate and despotism, the armatoria were quickly dismantled. But rumors circulate of additional armatoria built by the queen as an auxiliary resource in anticipation of widespread revolt. These sleeper factories are said to lie hidden in the crevices of the Queen’s kingdom, awaiting activation.

Sunny Side Sorel
Sorel Montagne is an aging drug kingpin. He calls himself Sorel the Extravagant, but is known better on the streets as ‘Sunny Side Sorel’ because of his relentlessly cheerful affect, which is anywhere from deceptively charming (when doing business) to psychotic (when flaying a man alive). Hand in hand with his disposition is his sense of fashion, an amalgamation of springtime pastels, exquisite jewelry, and nauseating patterns. Sorel’s obsession with his attire is unparalleled: to acquire buttons made from gold dragonbone, Sorel slew a dragon; to make a coattail out of peacock feathers, Sorel bred thousands of peacocks until one was sired with the perfect brilliant rainbow. Sorel’s organization derives the majority of its income from growing, processing, and selling ambrilic hair in bulk. Ambrilic hair is a magical cereal plant whose grain contains a potent psychostimulant. Harvesting the grain allows multiple drug modalities to be created - a potion to be imbibed, a candle to be ignited and inhaled, a powder to be snorted, even a long-lasting paste that is applied topically. These modalities are all high-priced. To cater to low-income markets, Sorel utilizes the leftover straw, which contains very small amounts of the active substance, and rolls cigars out of them.

Sile Moireach
An underboss within Sorel’s organization, Sile enforces order upon Sorel’s drug fields. These hundreds of acres of farmland, tucked away in a clandestine corner of the kingdom, flourish with ambrilic hair. Sile is in many ways Sorel’s foil. She is economic with words, spartan with dress, and is brutally efficient in her work. Her temper is infamous and she wears a scowl like Sorel wears diamond. Inducted into Sorel’s army of orphan child soldiers a decade ago (mostly orphaned by him, no less), she has never paid her loyalty much attention. Now in her early twenties, she has discovered Isadora to be an icon of feminine power, and she idolizes the late Tyrant Queen. Sile has began to consider Sorel’s inevitable retirement (by choice or otherwise) and has learned from Isadora’s actions that power goes to those who take it. Serendipitously, Sile’s lackeys have recently discovered, hidden underneath the soil, one of Isadoria’s fabled armatoria. Within it, they see a dusty vault and undecipherable runes. Sorel sees a thumb ring of sigil-etched adamantite. Sile sees a coup.

The Armatorium
The armatorium is a massive structure that is entirely buried underneath the surface. Its principal function is to liquefy rare metal, enchant it with any number of magical effects, and cast the metal into a functional shape -- whether that be weapon, armor, or jewelry. The core of the facility is a cylindrical drum with its long axis parallel to the ground. The exterior of this device is modular and can be fitted with various molds. The interior of each mold can be laced with runes, each encoding a spell to be delivered onto the surface of the metal. When the machinery runs, liquified metal pours down onto the drum while it slowly spins, filling the molds. A powerful, consistent energy beam is applied to a tangent of the drum’s surface. The runes underneath the metal are triggered by the passing beam, delivering its spell onto the semi-formed cast. The metal continues to cool as it runs along the underside of the drum, and falls out at the nadir of the its rotation. By this process, the Tyrant Queen transformed what was historically a tedious, barbaric process into a standardized assembly line.

When Isadora built the armatoria, she charmed a group of cyclops giants to work as servants within. They were intensely loyal to her, a product of both the magic she used and their innate docility. She picked these creatures for several additional reasons: (1) they could, from their eye, deliver a beam of energy strong enough to activate the runes or melt most rare metals, (2) they live very long on very little food, (3) they were strong enough to do all of the necessary heavy lifting, and (4) their skin was thick enough to protect them from the constant bombardment of errant arcane energy when the drum was cycling. To protect lesser mortals, the queen invented the suncoat, an abjurative vestment, for moving around the facility while it was active.

The armatorium that Sile found is fully functional, except that it has not yet been stocked with raw rare metal. The handful of cyclops that were effectively imprisoned here have enough food and supply to survive at least another century, and they eagerly await their master’s return. Sile, clever as she is tempered, has exploited the cyclops sense of abandonment, easily tricking the dull creatures into thinking that she is the queen.

Adventure Mechanics

The PCs are hooked into the adventure by Sorel Montagne. He is a businessman, not an arcanist, and he needs someone to help him activate the armatorium. Why the PCs would help him is campaign dependent. A few options are outlined:
  • They are friendly with Sorel and wish to help an ally, and/or Sorel will pay them.
  • They owe Sorel something and the gangster has more muscle than they care to oppose.
  • They secretly want to bring Sorel down, and this mission is a perfect way to corner the drug lord in a vulnerable, dangerous location, where his vast network of loyal underbosses cannot tell the difference between an accident and an assassination.
  • They have come from abroad, having heard about the armatorium, and want access to it. Sorel controls it, and thus they must go through him.

Activating the Armatorium
When the PCs arrive with Sorel, he will expect them to handle the magic and will carefully watch what they do. Activating the facility is a multifaceted test of the PCs exploration ability.
  • A character with level-appropriate arcane competence can study the factory to understand the basics of how it works and how to turn it on.
  • The cyclops, who are largely dimwitted, have a very rudimentary understanding of the facility. However, they can provide details on what their role is in the armatorium’s function, which may provide some limited guidance.
  • Good roleplaying with the cyclops or good skill rolls will clue the PCs in on the importance of having suncoats. Sile has already figured this out and has confiscated the suits for her own lackeys. She will give the group a set should they ask, not wanting to tip her hand too soon.
  • Perceptive or insightful PCs will notice that Sile has apparently also been using the foundry to store large crates. Opening the crates reveals that they are full of ambrilic hair cigars (see above). Sile will claim that their warehouse topside temporarily ran out of storage space, and she improvised.
  • The final step of activating the drum, must be achieved from inside the device. As soon as the PCs activate it, with Sile watching, she will turn on them and take advantage of their tactical vulnerability.
The Ambush
Sile’s Plan A is to kill the PCs while they are inside the drum, or near it: an exposed location where she can tell her cyclops minions to take shots at. Should this fail, her plan B is to fill the armatorium with a drug haze by setting the cigars ablaze.
  • The PCs must first fight their way out of the drum. Sile brings to bear a retinue of her lackeys, as well as a few of the cyclops which bombard the cylinder at range. Daring acrobatics involving melees on top of (or inside) a rotating cylinder should be encouraged, with various runes at their feet that can be activated by a successful skill roll or by a cyclops’ eye beam.
  • Sorel, after Sile's betrayal, unleashes a slew of denigrating gender slurs at his former lieutenant, and then can't help but laugh at his own jokes. Unfortunately, his genius is in words, not steel, and he offers little in the way of martial utility.
  • If/when the PCs break out of this stranglehold, Sile uses her backup plan. Sile has placed crates full of ambrilic hair cigars in strategic locations around the facility. She will set alight these crates at the appropriate time, filling parts of the massive foundry with mind-altering haze, hoping to hamper the PCs vision while shepherding them into serial traps.
  • Open ground in the activated armatorium is bombarded by radiant energy any time a rune is activated. Sile will take advantage of this fact to shower the PCs any time they are exposed. PCs can ameliorate this environmental hazard with suncoats, but the awkward coats are a liability in combat and slow PC movement around the facility. How they use this resource is a tactical decision of the players, and Sile will try to outsmart them.
  • The PCs at various points in the adventure have an opportunity to interact with the cyclops. Hack-happy groups may simply treat the cyclops as enemies, but if they take the time to investigate they have the opportunity to discover Sile’s deception and reveal the truth to the cyclops. If this is done a critical time, it could turn the tides against their assailant.
There are many possible outcomes dependent on what the players want out of the complex situation. The future of all major parties can be influenced by the party’s actions.
  • They could take down Sile using brute force.
  • In a bargain for their lives, handing Sorel over may earn them ground. This, of course, will bring them a number of complications down the road.
  • The future of the armatorium after the adventure could go any number of ways. Damage to the facility during the fighting may damage or destroy it. If the DM wishes to avoid an arcane revolution in his/her setting, (s)he may rule that the knowledge of how to fully operate the arcane machinery ends being too complicated to fully appreciate. Alternatively, the PCs could learn it and use it to arm themselves in epic-level warfare.
  • They can kill the cyclops, or they can give them their freedom, or they can continue their enslavement as an integral part of the facility. If the facility is destroyed but the drug trade remains alive, the cyclops will be sentenced to decades of pulling threshers, without PC intervention.
[sblock=Summary of Ingredients (not included in word count):]Bundle of straw: ambrilic joints, ready to go up in smoke by the millions; a trap set by the power-hungry Sile (pronounced Sheila).
Forlorn cyclops: a cadre of lonely pets, abandoned by the tyrant master; a critical part of the functional armatorium.
Gaudy gangster: Sunny Side Sorel, the drug kingpin whose vice is exotic attire.
Abandoned foundry: the armatorium, a marvel of arcane engineering.
Powerful suit: the suncoats, suits of powerful abjurative magic that protect soft-skinned mortals from dangerous arcane energy.
Drum: the centerpiece of the armatorium, which accepts a cyclops energy beam to burn sigils onto cooling metal.

Deuce Traveler

Going Legit, Round 2: Deuce Traveler vs ender_wiggin

Round 2: Deuce Traveler vs ender_wiggin

Name: Going Legit

Author: Deuce Traveler

Game Engine: DnD 3.X or Pathfinder


Bundle of Straw: An item that Nine Finger’s diviner foretold would be of great importance
Forlorn Cyclops: A lone cyclops guarding the dismal remains of a once great flock of two-tailed cows on Oester Island
Gaudy Gangster: Jimmy ‘Nine Fingers’ Octon, a middle-aged half-orc crime boss tiring of the violence and wanting to keep his hard-won wealth
Abandoned Foundry: Failed foundry purchased by Nine Fingers
Powerful Suit: The court action, “The People of Sunnyvale vs Jimmy ‘Nine Fingers’ Octon”, which Nine Fingers lacks the financial means to defend against.
Drum: Used to coordinate Islander attacks against the party on Oester Island.

The party is contacted by Jimmy ‘Nine Fingers’ Octon, an infamous and quite wealthy half-orc gangster who runs a lucrative smuggling business. Jimmy has grown accustomed to a lifestyle full of tailored clothes, expensive dinners and polished jewelry. He has grown soft and sees the new generation of hungry and violent criminals as a force against which he lacks the energy and means to handle. Jimmy plans to go legit, and poured some of his wealth into an abandoned foundry on the outskirts of the ritzy town of Sunnyvale. The gaudy gangster hopes to use the foundry as the basis for a high-end limited edition jewelry business, recasting himself in the process as an entrepreneur.

There are two problems. First, the abandoned foundry is not in working condition as it was built more than two centuries ago by an eccentric inventor who believed that manure from a species of two-tailed cows would be better for the foundry than importing expensive coal. There haven’t been any two-tailed cows in these parts for seventy years, and the species is considered extinct. Ranchers found their dietary needs to be too complex when compared to the single-tailed cow.

Attempts to use other kinds of manure have ended in failure, and Jimmy lacks the funds to retool the plant to function for other kinds of fuels. A diviner hired to solve the problem had a vision of an island of two-tailed cows in the direction of a constellation, and a ship carrying straw. Desperate, Jimmy hires out a sloop and crew, orders a large bundle of straw for the ship and requests the heroes guard the bundle and ship for the voyage, with the intention of them bringing some two-tailed cows back to create manure for the foundry.

The second problem is that Jimmy is not wanted by the Sunnyvale community, nor is a working foundry. Over the last few decades manufacturing and farming was steadily pushed out of this small territory, and coastal Sunnyvale became a very expensive community of financial employees and employers who were able to enjoy the long periods of sun and surf without the stench of coal or agriculture. The Sunnyvale foundry was an ivy-covered tourist attraction until Jimmy was able to show a questionable title of ownership over it. A working foundry run by an infamous mob boss would be both a distraction and a threat to property values. The community brought a powerful suit in law against Jimmy, stating that he inherited decades of back taxes that he owes to the community as the title holder. Of course Jimmy lacks the money to pay such an exorbitant amount, but believes he might be able to bribe some town officials, and threaten the rest into compliance if he can get his business up and running before the back taxes and accumulated late fees from the suit come due.

The party is hired when the straw shipment makes it into the town. This tightly packed bundle of straw is two feet thick and six feet long, and weighs five hundred pounds, though it comes in a specially made canvas sleeve with multiple handles for carrying. It has been specially treated with an ancient solution found in old agricultural books that are supposed to provide healthy vitamins for two-tailed cows. The party needs to protect the shipment for two days and two nights, while facilitating the local health inspectors’ inspection of the ship, followed by an inspection of the straw.

Because of the obvious importance of this endeavor, the local government sends in the health inspectors with the intent of hitting Jimmy with more suits in order to shut him down financially. The party must make a difficult local knowledge check and spend time at the town library in order to understand the set of regional byzantine regulations that the inspectors may choose to employ against them for the ship on the first day, and the bundle of straw on the second. Two successful checks equates to the party members anticipating the inspectors, who grudgingly give a passing grade and allow the expedition to proceed. For each failure, another suit is slapped onto Jimmy and the expedition delayed for a full day to give the party a chance to fix discrepancies before the inspectors come back again armed with more obscure requirements. Jimmy docks the party a third of his promised pay each time they fail, as he needs the money for the new legal fees incurred by their failure. If the party fails three times, Jimmy is wiped out from the suits and the adventure is over.

There are also elements within and outside of Jimmy’s organization that do not want him to leave his life of crime. They are hoping that his attempt to become a legitimate businessman fails so that he returns to the fold. There will be an attempt to destroy the treated bundle of straw each night that the expedition is waiting to deploy. These attempts are made by lackeys hired through intermediaries, as no one wants Jimmy to track down their efforts to sabotage him. Treat each of these attempts as an easy encounter, which the party should have little problem thwarting as long as they take reasonable efforts to guard the straw each night.

The crew of the sloop plans to head out the morning after the party finishes dealing with the inspectors. The sloop complement includes thirty crew members, six shady-looking porters (one of which is another hired saboteur who intends to destroy the straw if he can do so without being implicated) to transport the straw, and the party. The sloop heads towards the direction of a constellation as foretold by Jimmy’s diviner and will encounter the uncharted Oester Island on the twelfth day.

Oester Island is a circular mass frequently punctuated with large-headed statues. When they arrive onto shore, the party and deployed porters will find signs of abandoned dwellings, complete with partly cooked fish and dwindling fires. Many dwellings have a fanged face with a single large eye painted upon their surface, as an obvious symbol of worship.

The islanders scattered at the sight of the incoming ship and headed deeper into the isle and into a network of caves. The land is barren, and if the characters make a moderate nature check they will realize that the natives have been using up the surrounding grass in their cooking fires to the point that only occasional tufts can be found. The most prominent feature of the island is a single, spike-shaped mountain in its center, where there still appears heavy vegetation. Travel to the center should take two days, as the porters will have to carry the bundle of straw over treacherously sharp rocky ground. The sound of a large drum can be heard coming from the mountain and echoing across the island. The drum beat being used was an audible signal telling the islanders to flee for the cave networks. Once the party begins heading towards the center of the isle, the drum beat will noticeably change. The call for evacuation has now been changed to a call to war.

There are three island chiefs in competition with one another on the island, though they form a temporary alliance in order to expel the intruders travelling towards the mountain. The center of the island is considered sacred, as it is the residence of the island’s deity, a forlorn cyclops that only the three chiefs and their various shamans are permitted to visit by island law. The law gives the chiefs sole access to the cyclops’ two-tailed cows, and one of the only remaining sources of meat left on the resource scarce island.

The now elderly cyclops came to this island a century ago with his parents. They raised a large flock of two-tailed cows on a land abundant with trees and grass. Years afterwards, the first islanders arrived in large numbers and began to quickly use up the island resources in order to create statues in honor of the vain leaders. It was too late by the time that the three cyclops had realized that most of the trees suitable for creating large boats for transporting them off the island had been used. They attacked the islanders in an attempt to drive them off, but the humans were too numerous, though the attacks did solidify the community’s cultural fear of the giants and their isolation from them. Eventually the two parents died, leaving their offspring alone. He came into an agreement with the chiefs, offering the occasional cow in exchange for a supply of fish and some conversation to ease his loneliness. The cyclops also asked that the chiefs keep the islanders away from his grazing land, as desperate people have been pulling up grass needed by his dwindling and sickly herd. The chiefs eagerly declared the cyclops to be a deity and his grazing land to be holy land, and if anyone violated the cyclops sanctuary, they would bring ruin to the island. The party’s drive threatens their access to tasty cow.

The three chiefs and their shamans wait at the top of the mountain where they coordinate attacks upon the party using their huge drum. The islanders wear no armor and use inferior stone spears, and are little threat to armored veterans. Therefore they will attack en masse, trying to overwhelm the party. Treat them as a swarm of humans. The chiefs will have the attacks come every few hours in an attempt to deprive the party and porters of rest, hoping that the combination of exhaustion and swarm attacks eventually wipes them out. If the party retreats back towards the ship, they will be allowed to flee unmolested. If the party makes it to the cyclops or can somehow find a way to destroy the drum, the attacks will also cease as the chiefs accept their loss and decide it is time to parlay. The cyclops can be understood as he speaks a rough dialect of common, though the islanders speak a foreign tongue and can only be understood by gestures or magical means.

The cyclops is eager for company and is willing to barter with his fourteen remaining cows. He will part with half of the entire herd for transportation back to land if the party can bring a boat large enough for his herd and him, an outcome that is probably unlikely in the short term, and would likely reignite the island chiefs to violence. If the party was able to bring the bundle of straw, the relieved cyclops parts with two of the herd, a male and female, and thanks the party for saving his flock with the food. If they have any other objects that would be of value to a lone giant stuck on an island, he may part with a single cow. He also tries to make a trade agreement for manure shipments in exchange for continued imports of straw and news of the outside. If the party agrees it would be enough to solve Jimmy’s fuel crisis, but they will also have to deal with the islanders who place themselves as intermediaries. If the party deals with the chiefs, the chiefs ask for a shipment of metal weapons with each trade ship, as each chief wants to settle their overpopulation problem through a war each believes he would win. If the party decides to take the unorthodox decision to negotiate separately with the regular islanders, they will find that the islanders will be willing to ignore their chiefs’ calls to war if they could receive goods that would allow them to fish for food, such as metal hooks, wood for boats and fishing line. Finally, the party can choose to kill the cyclops, take four cows that would fit on the sloop and which would provide a bare minimum amount of fuel for the foundry, and fight their way off the island. Their decisions will dictate the islanders’ ultimate fate.

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