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IRON DM 2013--Entries, Judgements, Commentary, & Trash-Talk

Deuce Traveler

Sure. First, I have to admit that I had the most problem with the Home. Each ingredient has to be integral to the story or adventure. A home is almost too easy, since I could just state that the adventure occurs in someone's house. But that doesn't work, either, because any building or dungeon is a house to someone, so such use is a bit week.

So then I thought about how to make a home integral to the adventure by having the home fortress of the party taken over and the party having to fight room by room reclaiming it. The High Holy Days and Out of Time elements could be added somehow to make the threat planar or alien. But I threw this idea out, because not every adventuring party owns a home. In fact, in later editions of the game homes are hardly considered at all.

I then started going through my mind about what houses were famous in history. Haunted houses are too cliche. Baba Yaga and her house is pretty awesome, but was done in D&D before. Still, the idea of a living, walking house I thought was pretty neat if I could only give it a new take.

I love Morrowind (much more than the other Elder Scroll games), and started thinking about the Silt Riders as an example of an alien creature in fantasy that walked around with insect-like legs and the idea for the house came together. Out of Time and High Holy Days also were worked in, making the house extra-planar and truly alien.

The secret was also tough to make integral, and I think it was my weakest ingredient. I decided that the secret was the nature of the house and how to gain entry. Because it was so important, however, the idea of the house becoming hijacked came into being.

Because time became so important at this point, I couldn't help but think of using a clock as an internal organ to the creature, making it both a mundane object, but something with wondrous power. Visually, I think of it as something that looks like it came from the set of The Naked Lunch or Beetlejuice.

For Unusual Currency, the only thing that seemed important as an element for this adventure was time. I hated the idea of magically aging characters as part of the currency to enter because it seemed unfair. Same for sacrificing experience points or some sort. After awhile, I decided that a day of someone's life worked well as a narrative device, but if left to abuse a character would always pick a bad day or a failure to sacrifice. I also thought of having Obbins sacrifice a day of his life each time, but remember it, becoming a sort of planar hedonist, but I tossed that idea out because it made quaint the idea of sacrificing important events and lacked appropriate gravity. Finally, I decided to make sacrificing a day really matter, which had the additional effect of making Obbins and K'Rikkt's friendship more important and Obbins a pretty decent guy. He's sacrificing for the friendship, just like K'Rikkt sacrificed by leaving home. These two guys truly respect one another's mind and are willing to go to great lengths to philosophize together.

Finally, I thought of a character sacrificing a day where he saved a life, meaning that his decision to do so created a negative person. A person who should exist, but doesn't. I decided it was too distracting to my overall submission and would add another thousand words unnecessarily, but I still like the thought of an adventure to restore a timeline for a negative person... a person that should have existed but, due to a character's bad mistake or the machinations of an evil entity, no longer exists and leaves an unsettling hole in reality and a constant nagging in the party's mind.

Examples of a negative man from literature and song:

Antigonish by Hugh Mearns:

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...

When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door... (slam!)

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away

The Man Who Sold the World, by Davie Bowie and later covered by Nirvana:

We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone, a long long time ago

Oh no, not me
I never lost control
You're face to face
With The Man Who Sold The World

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed

I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions here
We must have died alone, a long long time ago

Who knows? not me
We never lost control
You're face to face
With the Man who Sold the World

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The Haunting of Weeping Oak

The small village of Weeping Oak, known primarily for its soft wool, cured lamb shanks, and quaint wood-carvings, lies three days journey from the larger community of Hillsfold. Hillsfold has, of recent year, risen in prominence and power due to a conflux of religious and political events. The promotion of the Bishop Alzarn, a native of Hillsfold, to Grand Celestial Clergy of the King's Own, the subsequent expansion of the Temple in Hillsfold, and the establishment of a Knight's Lodge have all worked to make the once sleepy backwater city into a true economic and political entity. And, as its power has grown, so has its reach and influence upon the surrounding countryside.

Hillsfold has, of late, in all good faith, been sending emissaries to neighboring towns and villages, offering protection and seeking to establish a union of sister communities, all under the leadership of Hillsfold. By and large other communities have readily agreed, in no small part due to their reverence for the priests of the Hillsfold Temple and theirespect for the protective power of the Knight's Lodge.

But Weeping Oak is quite content to be its own village and wants no part of Hillsfold's scheme. Their reasoning lies in the faith of the villagers. They are followers of a heretical sect of druidic priests which disdain the dogma of the King's Faith, and instead follow a more primitive nature worship. Their faith is largely benign, excepting the kidnapping and sacrifice of a virgin during the Summer Harvest moon, and the fact that the elite of the faith are all werewolves. Recognizing that the Priests of Hillsfold would condemn their heresy, and would send missionaries to try and convert them, or maybe even kill them, the villagers have agreed upon a plan to make their village, one of the furthest from Hillsfold within the region, unpalatable as a sister community. Their plan involves claiming that their village appear is cursed and haunted; and they are going to use an actual haunted bridge, north of the village, to aid them.

The PCs are approached by representatives of the powers of Hillsfold, who earnestly desire to help the plight of the village of Weeping Oak. Weeping Oak has begged off joining the collection of communities Hillsfold desires to lead, citing, as their reason for doing so, the fact that they are cursed and their fear of spreading this curse to others. Upset that Weeping Oak is apparently suffering so from some calamity or other, and thinking that solving the problem will demonstrate Hillsfold's good intentions, they want the PCs to investigate the problems of Weeping Oak and, if possible, settle them, exorcizing any demons or curses that might actually afflict the smaller community.

The PCs, traveling to Weeping Oak, find it a rather pleasant community, full of seemingly cheerful people; except when the subject of the curse is brought up. Then each villager has a dread story to tell about the ghastly haunts reported by their neighbors, the sickness and death visited upon this herd or that, and the problems they have had with the harvests in recent years. As the PCs further investigate, they do discover strange things afoot, especially north of town at the bridge called “Daemin's Stand” by the locals, which is haunted by a powerful ghost.

In the meantime, the PCs are also attacked by a spellcasting werewolf (a priest who disagrees with the plan), are led on several wild goose chases, including dealing with any local monsters the villagers can find, and find themselves suffering from apparent food poisoning.

The more the PCs investigate, both in Weeping Oak, and in Hillsfold, the more they realize the villagers must be lying. Eventually, they discover the true nature of Weeping Oak's secret, or at least a part of it, and must decide whether to confront the heretical cult, or else let it be.

The Village and Its Secrets
The villagers of Weeping Oak are, outwardly, a perfectly normal group of people. They are cheerful and friendly to strangers. However, the leaders of the community are actually druidic werewolves belonging to an old cult of blood-sacrifices and cannibalism. Little evidence of this cult shows in the mannerisms of the villagers, though there are signs here and there of the “old faith.” Likewise the King's Shrine in the middle of town is little used, except when the priest from Hillsfold visits. Then the villagers take turns pretending to pay their respects.

PCs investigating the village discover that the villagers are only too eager to share with them their problems and the problems caused by the “curse.” In truth, at the beginning of concocting this plan, the villagers gathered around their sacred oak and told a variety of spooky tales, implausible stories, and fabricated fictions to one another, so that they could truthfully pass on such tales as having “been heard.” Thus, while each villager has only a limited number of things they can report as having happened to them bad, they have a wealth of tales to tell about what their neighbors have reported happening. In particular, the villagers try to point the PCs towards Daemin's Stand, a bridge north of town, as the center of the curse.

The High Priest of Weeping Oak, and his acolytes, live as normal villagers most of the year, only donning their robes for ceremonies at night, or taking their alternate forms to hunt during the full moons. These druidic priests are all in full control of their wolf nature and are careful to commit their heinous acts of violence as werewolves in such a way as to not leave any signs pointing to Weeping Oak. Still and all, the regions around Weeping Oak are said to be full of werewolves but the village itself reports no such thing as plaguing them.

North of Hillsfold is an old bridge, called, “Daemin's Stand” by the locals, in honor of one of their priests of old who used the bridge as a choke point to single-handedly stop the advance of an orc horde. Though the powerful priest, Daemin, died in the fight, his effort weakened the horde and allowed the rest of the village time to prepare an effective defense. Since that time, the ghost of the lycanthropic priest has haunted the bridge, attacking those not of the faith, but healing and blessing the remains of his “flock,” when they bring him offerings. Though the wood of the bridge is failing, and the villagers no longer use it for travel, they do not knock it down, out of respect for their hero and benefactor, considering the bridge sacred. In fact, if the PCs are stealthy they can observe the villagers interacting with the ghost. However, the villagers all provide accounts other than the truth to the PCs about the nature of the ghost there. A few claim it is a vengeful demon. Some of them claim it is the spirit of a highwayman who died in the waters under the bridge. Others say that it is the collective spirits of murder victims and their deranged killer haunting the bridge. Still others claim that it is a sign of the gods' wrath and that the village must remain isolated from all others until it passes. The villagers also all suggest various ways of laying the spirit to rest, all of them futile, and some of them dangerous, such as sacrificing a live wyvern upon the bridge, defeating the ghost in unarmed combat, or spending 24 hours in prayer and silent meditation upon the bridge. Truthfully the villagers hope the ghost kills the PCs, thereby creating more evidence for the seriousness of their “curse.”

West of the village, in the woods, upon a blood-soaked hill, is an ancient, gnarled oak: the sacred tree of the village. This tree drinks in virgin blood once each year in a ceremony meant to bless the village. If the PCs should discover and try to desecrate the site, they bring the wrath of the village down upon them and find the whole village turns out to hunt them.

Investigating in the Great Library
There is, in Hillsfold, connected to the new Knight's Lodge, a grand library with records going back three hundred years on the communities around Hillsfold. If the PCs think to return there to investigate the bridge, or Weeping Oak, they can discover the story of Daemin's Stand, absent any mention of lycanthropy. Alternately, they can discover that the founders of the community were elsewhere accused of being werewolves, and that the community was once suspected of heresy but no charges were ever brought.

Events During the Adventure
It is likely that the PCs try to destroy the ghost of Daemin and fail; the only way to lay his spirit to rest is to utterly destroy the village he is sworn to protect (albeit he is limited in that protection by his being anchored to the bridge that bears his name). The villagers use such failure as prove of their cursed status and thus as further reason why Hillsfold should not want to associate too closely with them (though cany observers will note the village still wants to sell its wares).

If the PCs are around near to the Summer Equinox, they hear reports of a kidnapped girl in a neighboring village. The girl has been taken by the priests of Weeping Oak, and will be sacrificed if the plot is not uncovered (this is one way the adventure might climax).

The PCs are attacked one night by a spellcasting werewolf, one of the priests who thinks the whole plan is foolishness. He tries to kill them and if he fails, he flees to try again.

In an attempt to make the village appear cursed, the innkeeper poisons the food of the PCs, hoping to make them violently ill.

Concluding the Adventure
If the PCs give up the quest to save Weeping Oak, the village remains forever independent.

If the PCs uncover the true nature of Weeping Oak's heresy, there are two ways the adventure might end: in violence or acceptance. If the villagers suspect the PCs of suspecting their heresy, they will attempt to put a good light on it, begging the PCs to look the other way, allowing the village to continue following its “ancient ways.” This goes down better if the PCs don't know about the human sacrifices and cannibalism. When these things are discovered, the village attempts to murder the PCs as quickly as possible.

Poison Pill – the plan to make Weeping Oak appear to be cursed and haunted and therefore a poor candidate for Hillsfold's collection of communities.
Decrepit Bridge - the scene of a supposed mass suicide and murder. Its haunted, alright, but the ghost cannot be laid to rest by listening to the villagers of Weeping Oak
Hearsay – While there are some villagers in Weeping Oak who will claim to have seen a ghost or goblin around town, most of them report what they heard from their neighbor or friend, especially if they suspect the PCs are using magic to divine the truth.
Hallowed Ground – The bridge itself is a minor religious site for the villagers, who leave offerings for the ghost there. To the west of town is a great oak tree, the true “consecrated” ground, revered by the villagers and the site of their religious celebrations.
Heresy – the faith of the villagers of weeping oak: it not only reject's the king's faith, but also promotes human sacrifice, cannibalism, and lycanthropy.
Wealth of Information – The town of Weeping Oak is full of information concerning the town's plight: Too much information, some of it conflicting, almost all of it wrong. Of greater help is the Grand Library of Hillfold, connected to the newly established Knight's Lodge. The scribes of the library have amassed a wealth of information on the region, including troubling histories surrounding Weeping Oak.


Commentary on Time Out Of Time

None of the ingredients scared me. I zeroed in immediately on Unusual Currency. Reading many places that larvae are coin of the realm in the lower planes, I knew it was an unusual starting point.

Surprisingly, Mundane Wonder caught me next, and I was surprised I did not convey it better. I should NOT have given in on using the words in text, and left it up to the reader to get my meaning. Even Graz’zt is sophisticated enough to appreciate the world in detail when you can observe it closely and slowly enough to appreciate it. We appreciate closeup pictures of flowers and bugs. Many action films use slow motion to accentuate action scenes for effect. Two scenes that illustrate this are second Transformers where Bumblebee skins the panther transformer and the latest Conan movie where the final sword fight uses it to show Conan getting his butt kicked. I think if I hadn’t sinned by using the name of the ingredient, I would have not lost that one.

Using Graz’zt was inspired by Sepuchrave’s Tales of Wyre. Sep uses Graz’zt sparingly but consistently enough that you always feel he’s got a dog in every fight. I considered what Graz’zt would do to humiliate and crush mortals without killing them. I know I would not be able to play this one out, I would not be able to be that mean for that long.

Now, the High Holy (Unholy) Days were important, in my mind. Graz’zt is not a being I think would be fond of passing gifts around. It would have to be at some time where he would gain something for doing so. A time where he could show off at his “generosity” and cleverness at providing a memorable gift. A gift with gravity beyond its worth. He intends this gift to be part of his scheme to get out from under the thumb of whoever is the recipient.

Home was Graz’zt’s bittersweet carrot to twist the victims for his own pleasure. Sure, you can go home, but no one will know you are there. It will be home, but not. It was a further example of Graz’zt’s cruelty. I probably could have had him take the victims there to show this in person.

The Secret was not an ingredient the players could exploit, but it was a secret nonetheless. Twisted into this is the description of its origin which further enhanced Graz’zt’s credibility as a meany.

Out of Time developed out of my absolute refusal to use it as a deadline type thing. I looked at the differences in the spell descriptions of Haste and Time Stop, and considered the control of the flow of time between those two spells. Haste speeds you up enough that you can do slightly more than everybody else around you, Time Stop speeds you up so fast that everybody essentially freezes around you. If you were able to open and close the spigot, you could do some interesting stuff. If I were to incorporate something like this actually in the game, there would definitely be some “time cops” to make sure it was not going to be a game breaker.

In real life it was a hot and steamy evening here in Eastern Connecticut and another night where thunderstorms were in the forecast, where we often have power and internet blips. I did not want to get caught with a polished entry with no way to send it in.

I love building dialog and fleshing out NPCs. In my opinion, well developed NPCs are the hallmark of a good game. This is not to say they have to be meticulously statted out. They have to be recognizable by presentation whenever they pop up to interact with the player characters. The players like to see them, the good ones and the bad ones, when they show up.

I will continue to follow the contest and learn from the pros. I have been reading these since the first ones were run over ten years ago. I have saved many entries for plagerization. I am not ashamed.

Have fun, everybody, that is what this is all about.


Once A Fool
Please folk! Hide your commentary on ongoing matches behind spoiler or sblock tags! I want to view the entries with fresh eyes!


A Case Of Mistaken Identity

The Elements

Poison Pill - The jar of lightning Salander carries to slay the god is a poison pill. It is not a conventional weapon, but rather must administer the poison (the lightning) to Asceon's core.

Decrepit Bridge - The bridge of the crashed starship that serves as Asceon's home and lair serves as this element. The stat blocks for his defense systems would elaborate on the decrepitude by making many attacks unreliable or random.

Hearsay - The tome 'Hearsay' fulfills this requirement, both in name and in its operation by regurgitating information.

Hallowed Ground - Asceon's Sanctum is hallowed ground.

Heresy - The tome 'Heresy' partially fulfills this requirement, but the more interesting example is Asceon's deification. And, from a certain angle, Salander's quest to slay a god is also heresy.

Wealth of Information - The books created by Asceon are known as the 'Wealth Of Information'. They literally provided a wealth of information to an unprepared population, and the empire crumbled under the weight of it.

Adventure Background

Five hundred years ago, a god fell from the sky.

Asceon was his name. His legs were shattered in the fall, but his mind was sharp as ever. And what a mind it was! His intellect became renowned, and devotees realized that surely, this was a divine student of the god of knowledge. A grand temple was built to house the god. While he could not move, he delighted in conversing with sages and priests, and learned people of every race and station. Worried that their god would become tired of all the visitations, the priests of Asceon began to restrict the numbers they admitted to see him. At first, they chose the most learned and wise, but as the years passed, they admitted those willing to pay the best price.

Though Asceon was disappointed at his priest's actions, he was not one to challenge his fledgeling church. But he was still resolved to spread knowledge to the world. He created a set of tomes, known as the Wealth Of Information, and he instructed his priests to distribute them to the people. It was a set of four tomes. Their volumes were Hearsay, Harmony, History, and Heresy. Somewhat concerned at the fourth volume's name, the priests hid it, and distributed the other three books to learned sages.

They marvelled at the books; Hearsay was quickly discarded as a useless novelty, but Harmony and History were both incredible tomes, teaching great feats of magic and science. As the knowledge was handed to them on a silver platter, the nation became complacent. They gained fantastic knowledge, but they had no respect for it. They hadn't had to work for it. And the empire began to rot from within.

There was a civil war, and it shattered the empire. The fragments of the great nation formed their own nations, and Asceon's Sanctum was forgotten. The books were lost.

Where Do The PCs Come In?

While looting a chest, the PCs have come upon one of the ancient tomes, Hearsay. The tome is an odd one; iron covers, and the pages are covered in scrawl from different hands in different languages. Every language is represented at least once. The scrawl is all nonsense; even with considerable effort, nothing can be gleaned from it.

Just as they are examining it, a voice whispers, "Forget about the stupid book. It's useless anyways. We need to get out of here before the Emperor's forces surround the place. The book is Asceon's joke. Wealth of information? Hah."

If the PCs linger in the area for a little longer, another whisper comes from the book. "What do you mean, you don't have the money? We had a deal, Brooks. And you don't break deals with Black Charlie."

After another couple of minutes, there is yet another whisper. "Do you think anyone saw us come down here? I'll get in so much trouble if my daddy knows who I'm... seeing."

The PCs may make knowledge or intelligence checks to discern that these three whispers are from three different time periods. Whatever the book is doing, it ought to intrigue the PCs enough that they seek out a sage or a library to figure out more about it.

The tome can hear whispers from the past, spoken in that area, and bring them forward. Hearsay doesn't filter the information; it just regurgitates what it finds at random. Throughout the adventure, Hearsay will often have random tidbits to share, and the DM is encouraged to invent other inconsequential things for the book to contribute.

Any amount of research can reveal the background information above. Clearly, the PCs hold one of the tomes. The whereabouts of the others are hinted at in records of the war; most scholars agree that Harmony and History were probably destroyed in the conflict. But as the PCs are researching, Hearsay picks up some pieces of information.

1 - "Take the books; Asceon was wrong to trust us with them. Return them to his Sanctum. Man is not worthy of his gifts."
2 - "One of these days, Zharich is going to fall on his face, and I can't wait to see it happen."
3 - "Consul Davos, I have read Heresy. I know the truth. Asceon must be destroyed."
4 - "But with proper application of enchantment, one can bind the spirit to the scepter, creating a totem staff."

Only pieces 1 and 3 are of any use, and 3 is actually recent. Gathering information, the PCs may determine that Consul Davos is a foreign dignitary from the land of Nalair, in service to a Cleric of Ioun named Salander Chayn. Recent reports indicate that Salander left town a week ago, in the company of two mercenaries, Tansley Griffon (a fierce warrior) and Carabelle Islington (a capable mage).

One way or another, the PCs will be headed for Asceon's Sanctum. Salander's pace is quick, but the PCs are seasoned travellers, and can narrow the distance between the groups. By the time they reach the Sanctum, only an hour or two seperate the quarry from the hunters.

The City And The Sanctum

The temple is a huge monastery built around Asceon himself. It sits at the top of a large hill, in the center of the ruins of a large city. There are carnivorous creatures and monstrous humanoids afoot here, picking through the ruins of what once was an empire's heartland. At the top of the hill, the massive stone structure still stands, proud and solemn. It is more like a grand tomb now than a place of learning and worship.

The first obstacle for our stalwart heroes will be these monsters and scavengers. Whether through stealth or combat, or other means, they will have to pick their way past the foes. However, Hearsay will offer a few tidbits of information that might allow them to pass unseen.

1 - "Tansley, have a look in that building's cellar, the secret passage should be there." The book is repeating what Salander told to his mercenary not long ago. Should the PCs follow up on the clue, they'll find a secret passage in the cellar, which winds between two buildings, saving the PCs a few hours of travel.

2 - "Men, look around you. We are brothers. We are soldiers. And we will defend our streets against these creatures. There are no others I would rather have at my back." The book is repeating the words of a guard captain from the days of the civil war, when a horde of magically-summoned creatures destroyed the city.

3 - "These are Asceon's gifts to us! Look! See the claws, sharp enough to rend stone? See the teeth? These creatures will win the war for us." The book is repeating what a powerful mage said while showing off the creatures she summoned with the knowledge gained from the books.

There are other lines which are of little consequence, but Hearsay does not filter. It will happily channel lines of little use to the PCs. Here are three other lines it may pluck from the annals of history, but the DM should feel free to be creative and invent others.

4 - "Why did you use the wood stain for that? You ruined it!"
5 - "Do you think Quinsley knows it's a fake? The way he carries on, protecting it and showing it off, it's like he doesn't know that everyone can see the chipped paint."
6 - "You fool, what have you done?! Don't you know they'll hang you?"

Picking their way through the ruins, the PCs will eventually reach Asceon's Sanctum. The massive stone door stands ajar. But as the PCs approach the door, Hearsay will whisper, "Carabelle, Tansley, make sure our interlopers do not interrupt me." The book foils the planned ambush, and if the PCs are clever, offers them the opportunity to turn it around on them!

Carabelle and Tansley are mercenaries of some skill, though they are still mercenaries; they could be bought out. They could be persuaded to stand down (although that's somewhat more challenging). If it comes to blows, neither one will fight to the death; they'll attempt to escape, or will surrender if necessary. If they must, to save their own lives, they will tell the PCs that Salander plans to use a tiny magical device to destroy the god. It is a tiny phial filled with lightning with a needle point at one end.


As the PCs finish dealing with the mercenaries (or find another way in), strange sounds begin to echo from the inner sanctum of the temple. Strange, electronic sounds. Beeps and alarms, the likes of which the PCs have never heard before.

The truth is that Asceon is an AI on board a crashed starship. Most of the vessel burned up when it hit the atmosphere, and none of the crew survived. The starship's bridge and its emergency power source are all that remains, shattered on the rocky ground. When people first discovered the ship, Asceon appeared; a great holographic head of vaguely human appearance. It took two minutes and a mental scan to learn the local language, and then Asceon began to converse with his guests.

Not knowing what to make of it, the discovers named Asceon a god, and built the temple. And became his priests.

As the PCs pass through the temple, Hearsay will offer up plenty of information. There are still some scavengers who lurk on the dark places of Asceon's Sanctum, so the PCs may be busy fending them off.

1 - "A being of pure light? Who speaks all languages and knows all secrets? Surely he is a god. Who else can do such things?"
2 - "Your Excellency, there has been a terrible accident! Brother Gerard is... well, he's gone! He was cleaning near the altar and there was an awful wail and a flash of light, then..."
3 - "Your masquerade is at an end, Asceon."

The following messages are from the aliens who originally flew the ship. It is a language nobody has heard before, though someone with magical comprehension could decipher it. Though perhaps deciphering the messages would only further confuse a poor PC.

4 - (indecipherable) "The port fin is sheared off and we're venting plasma. We're going down, there's nothing I can do about it."
5 - (indecipherable) "What do the scanners say about their power level?"
6 - (indecipherable) "Captain, I can't put any more power to the shields! We're going to burn up in atmo!"

Soon, the PCs will find their way to the inner sanctum, where they will pass through the doors to find a dome-shaped room built around the shattered bridge of the crashed starship. In the center, a luminscent head floats above a console, tilted slightly with the angle of the projector beneath it. A series of small pedestals and stations lay all about, and there are many sparking wires and dangling cables. More sinister still, there are a number of panels that are closed, which a perceptive character might notice could swing open.

The head will turn to the players and smile, speaking in smooth, neutral tones. "Welcome. I am Asceon. What do you seek to know?"

"I thought you'd have given up by now," Salander says, fiddling with a tiny jar of lightning. He is a tall man with gaunt features, and a certain zeal in his eyes. He carries a black tome titled Heresy in his other hand. "In any case, you know the truth. Asceon is not a god."

"Your people called me such," Asceon replies. "The title fits."

At this point, Salander will plead his case. He seeks to end the heresy of Asceon's existence, where people proclaim him as a god when really he is just a construct. The jar of lightning must be jammed into a socket at the base of Asceon's projector, which will short-circuit the AI's core computer, putting an end to him for good. Asceon will proclaim his mission to share information, and protest that violence is the antithesis of his being. But self-defense is a core mandate for a god, and he will defend himself should need be.

If the players side with Salander, Asceon will bring his defenses to bear. Several unreliable laser cannons and short-range disintegration beams will try and vaporize the party. But should any manage to plant the device in the console, Asceon will perish.

If the players side with Asceon, Salander will attempt to defeat them with magic. He will try his best to get to the console and spike it with lightning. With the PCs defending him, Asceon feels no need to show his weapons; it goes against his better nature.

Whichever way the chips fall, the adventure is concluded.

Further Adventures

The tomes Harmony and History are still missing. Harmony is a potent aid for metamagic, offering both startling secrets in its pages and the magical ability to bolster spellcasting. History is more academic, but its magic allows one to sift through its pages by thought, finding what they seek instantly. Recovering them could be a lucrative enterprise.


Once A Fool
It's usually a good sign when I don't know the winner after the first read-through!

Also, folk, I do encourage commentary on ongoing matches! I'm definitely not trying to shut it down. Just please hide it
like this
or [sblock]like this[/sblock].


Once A Fool
Round 1, Match 2 Judgement: MortalPlague vs. Wicht

There's a lot to like in both of these entries, so I might dig a little deeper looking for flaws. Both contestants should take that as a compliment; both of these were good entries (well, one was a great entry).

I'll start with the ingredients.

For those of you who don't know, a Poison Pill can sometimes refer to a literal poison pill (used, for instance, to commit suicide instead of being captured), but also refers to a business practice by which a company averts hostile takeover by diluting the value of its shares. It also has come to refer to an amendment to a legal bill that is intended to prevent the bill from passing. MortalPlague's entry, henceforth referred to as “Mistaken Identity,” uses a literal interpretation of the ingredient—with a twist. It's neat, but, unfortunately, amounts to nothing more than a McGuffin—and not even one the PCs are likely to interact with much. On the other hand, Wicht's entry, which I will refer to as “Haunting,” uses the business interpretation, more or less. And, with it, creates an amazing scenario for the players to get caught up in.

The Decrepit Bridge in “Haunting” has great atmosphere and a really good connection to the town—and it's current situation. Yet, it really could have been any location and still worked. Sure, it would have felt a little less like Sleepy Hollow if it wasn't a bridge, but, fundamentally, it didn't need to be decrepit or a bridge to work in the adventure. It, therefore, was but window-dressing. “Mistaken Identity” uses the ingredient much better. It absolutely had to be the ancient and decrepit starship bridge that it was. Also, great twist! Some groups might not like it, but I know mine would!

Hearsay is used well by both entries. “Mistaken Identity” might better have called its book, “Eavesdropping” instead of “Hearsay,” but the language of the hints could easily be altered without changing the function. And what a function! The constant whispering of all kinds of—often completely banal—information makes a tedious McGuffin into a flavorful NPC. Nice. But hold on! “Haunting” steps it up with this ingredient—having the villagers intentionally create a web of hearsay as part of their plan is clever. Using it to drive the adventure is beautiful.

Unfortunately, the Hallowed Ground in “Haunting” was much like it's use of the Decrepit Bridge: it makes for good atmosphere, but it doesn't seem especially significant in the context of the whole. In “Mistaken Identity,” it is significant—it's the crux of the whole adventure!

Then there's Heresy. I would very much like to have known what was in the book, “Heresy,” in “Mistaken Identity.” As it is, I never got a sense of just how it fit in to the four volumes. I assume that it contained the truth about Asceon. But, that's an assumption on my part, because we're never actually told what's in the book. Which is a shame, because it turns an interesting bit of the game into yet another McGuffin. In its current state, it could hardly count as a fulfillment of the ingredient-requirement. Yet, it never really was meant to fulfill that purpose, as far as I can tell. Salander is the real heretic and his beliefs seem to be backed up with the book. But, even this could have been detailed better. We never really get inside his head at all. All we know is that he intends to kill a (false) god (which is more of a blasphemous act than a heretical one, by the way—heresy is fundamentally about belief). It feels like much effort was spent in developing this part of the adventure, and yet much potential was also squandered.

“Haunting” is more subtle with its use, but it is also more prevalent. The heretics drive the action, the heresy motivates them to maintain their independence (their very lives could depend on it), and the heresy is the unknown factor that will haunt the PCs has they unravel things. Subtle, but damned good.

As for the Wealth of Information: “Haunting” does a credible job with the final ingredient, simply overloading the PCs with rumors and rumors and rumors. Forcing the PCs to sort out what's true and what's not—especially with the total collusion within the village and the tricks being played upon them—that's fun. But, while the definition of the ingredient was technically met, I was hoping for a little more. Fortunately, I got it with “Mistaken Identity.” Sure, calling the set of books “Wealth of Information” was a little cumbersome, but it really was a lot of information—in various forms and, more importantly (to me), really felt like wealth. It was something that could (and was) used by a society and by individuals to alter their situations. It was something that had the potential to corrupt and decay a society. It was even something with value relative to the tome and to those possessing or seeking the tomes. And, oh, yeah, it was something to be shared—or collected and closely guarded. Yeah. That's what I was looking for.

So, the entries are pretty even as far as the ingredients go. That leaves the adventures themselves. They both look fun. I can see myself running them both. But one of them would require a lot more work for me to run, for a few reasons. “Mistaken Identity” has a lot of potential for fun stuff to happen, but is written very linearly. It's a great premise and has great elements in it. It has a great story, but, ultimately, it feels too much like a story to be run as-is. “Haunting” in contrast, is very open in the way it is designed to play, while, at the same time, being a very tight adventure. It is superb, even for one of Wicht's entries.

MortalPlague, I liked your piece. A lot. Based on your performance in this match, I am certain that you'll produce strong entries in future tournaments, if you enter. This time, however, Wicht advances to Round 2.

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