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

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Radiating Gnome

Jeez, Radiating Gnome! I can't help but think there's gotta be some way to cut down the length of that block of exposition... :p

Ha. Smartass. I deserved that.

Actually, I was feeling really smug when I started writing my entry - "I'm going to jump right in and skip over any sort of backstory -- it's not necessary" then I realized I'd just moved backstory into the damn exposition that Cringle gives. So, I figured, what the hell, label it what it is (exposition) and move on from there.

Had I been writing for HBO, someone would have been having sex while you read that part.

As I did last time, I wrote a reflection on writing the entry after I posted, but before seeing the judgement. Here's how that went:

I found this batch of ingredients incredibly frustrating.

Weeping Willow and Sinking Ship seemed very cool, easy to tie together. Trust is vague, but that leaves a lot of room. Beginning of Time seems to force a time travel adventure, which I tend to dislike handful of reasons. And unlikely Appointment is a weird one open to a lot of interpretations.

But "nobody special". That one's pure evil.

I mean, think about it. Lots of our stories are about "everyman" and "John Q Public" -- at least at the start -- but those stories tend to be about how that person rises to the occasion, how they BECOME someone special -- which means they're not really nobody special at all, just someone who's special-ness hasn't been revealed yet.

So, how do you work with nobody special? How do you keep that someone not special at all -- they don't get a name,they don't become something special, they could be anyone?

F***ed if I know.

The other thing that struck me about this batch of ingredients was that it really didn't feel like a D&D adventure to me. Time, trees, sinking ships….these are all elements that really were tugging me in another direction.

So, I spent a bunch of time thinking about how to try to connect things. The Willow and beginning of time…. that seemed like a natural connection, somehow. I knew time travel was going to have to be part of it, but one thing I really did not want to do with this adventure is create one of my pet peeve Iron DM tropes -- the travelogue adventure through ingredients connected by magical travel.

What I mean is this -- it's not unusual to see an Iron DM entry that uses some sort of magical travel -- time travel, extra planar travel, whatever -- to string together three totally weird and unrelated scenes that just happen to cover the difficult ingredients for the contest. I felt the ingredients, with the influence of time travel, trying to pull me into that trope, setting up one sinking ship as one scene, one that led to trust somehow, another that led to a willow tree. Boom, dust off your hands, and you're done. Meh.

So, I started trying to force some more organic links between elements. Like I said, trees and time connect pretty well for me. The specific of the Weeping Willow put me onto Sorrow as a theme to play out. Of course, the Titanic fits that pretty well. The throwaway joke about Lovecraft's elder gods and tentacled horrors being blurry images of the willow tree amused me, and I left it in.

So… the tree is somehow at the beginning of time, and it's setting the tone for the age because it's a weeping willow. It's a tree of sorrow, and that's why we have troubles, blah blah blah. I'm on the hunt now.

The idea of trees and time brought me Santa Claus (Chris Cringle) as the servant of the Evergreen trees and their ideas about how time and reality should be ordered. At first, his intentions were good and sincere -- ending the age of sorrow would put another tree on top and things would be better for humanity.

Of course, that got stuck in my head pretty quickly -- like "nobody special", the idea of ending sorrow has all kinds of consequences when you lay it out. Without sorrow or need or pain or difficulty, we would never be driven to achieve or improve. So, the idea that the Age of Sorrow is the Age of Man got fleshed out a little bit.

And then, I was left looking at my desire to NOT have a travelogue. The players needed to go to one place, and somehow that one thing they did would change everything.

So, as I often do when I'm stuck, I start browsing around on Wikipedia. I've still got the "nobody special" thing rattling around, not sure what to do with, and I start looking at all the "special" people who died on the titanic. I start looking for someone special in the list of passengers whose survival might have been a very good thing -- someone whose good works ended because he or she died when the ship went down. Reading about Stead cemented that one for me. He was very special, and yet behaved very selflessly and honorably, and died for it.

He, of course, was just one man, but as a symbol, he could mean everything.

So, I started piecing things together.

Looking at my use of ingredients…..unlikely appointment may be sort of weak, tacked on as the hook. I talked myself into settling for that -- you're never going to get everything just right, especially on a list of ingredients this hard. Weeping willow is pretty good -- it's a tree, it's important, and it's specifically important as what it is -- a symbol of sorrow. Sinking Ship is absolutely covered. Beginning of time is workable. Trust -- the Pcs have to win Stead's trust twice. Could get dinged there. Nobody Special -- that nobody is not really keyed in the adventure --it's anyone nameless, available on the scene. I could get dinged there, too, but I think I did well with it -- once you name and describe the person, they start to become special.

And, as a final note, lets talk for a minute about editing. My entry -- coming in under the word count limit -- didn't get the rigorous comb-through it usually gets, and you can totally see it. This, alone, should cost me dearly:

"They find the elderly Chinese woman sitting beneath the tree, crying. She greets them with a weak smile, and they turn and see the grove of pine trees is dead. Nearby, the grove of pine trees is a charred, dead wreck. There are signs of the wounds given to Cringle and his allies on the trees there. All of the trees there are clearly dead, and as the players watch they turn to ash and blow away. "

But, wait, there were dead trees? Where?[/SBLOCK]

Thanks to DeuceTraveller -- his excellent entry proves that all that stuff I couldn't see a good way to do was totally doable. By my entry had more Santa, I guess, and everyone loves Christmas.


Radiating Gnome

You'll pay for that....

<sharpens pencil>

<blows shavings onto floor>

<feels guilty, looks around, then cleans up the big pieces>

<sits back down>



Once A Fool
Championship Match: Wicht vs. Radiating Gnome

[MENTION=221]Wicht[/MENTION] and [MENTION=150]Radiating Gnome[/MENTION], you have 48 hours to post your entries to this thread. Please limit your entry to 2000 words. Please include a list of ingredients at the beginning of the entry and please do not edit your post once it is submitted. Neither the list of ingredients at the beginning of your entry, nor the title, will count against this limit, but everything else (including any definitions or descriptions of your ingredients that you may wish to include) will! Please refrain from reading your opponent's entry until after you have posted your own. You are on your honor to do so.

Your ingredients are:


Successful Enterprise


Insufferable Ally

Something Wicked

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Once A Fool
While we're waiting, would either of the other Round 2 contestants like to tell us about their creative processes for those entries?


First Post
While we're waiting, would either of the other Round 2 contestants like to tell us about their creative processes for those entries?

Sure. :)

While last round was pretty quick in how I managed to think something up, this set had me puzzled.

The really troublesome ones for me were Diplomatic Immunity and Impossible Dream. Impossible Dream is, of course, easily a thematic element, but how do you use it and make it really impossible? It ended up becoming motivation for the bad guy, but that came about later. Diplomatic Immunity was just a pain. It seemed there was not much in the way of making it really interesting to the adventure, particularly with the state of the other ingredients.

Over a few hours at work, I got to thinking about an Artificial Intelligence and how it might interact with things, especially with regard to the “natural order” and the divine. Being artificial, there really wouldn’t be a place for it among nature or the creations of the various deities. The other part of the AI bit that stuck out to me was the idea that, however advanced it was, it would still be similar to a computer and thus governed by certain rules. The most prominent of those rules, for a thinking machine, would likely be logic. And over the many, many years of its existence, it would witness the numerous holy wars instigated by all manner of gods, followed by the mass deaths of the mortals following them. Coming to hate this pointless order of things would drive it to cause the End of the World so as to kill the gods to fulfill an Impossible Dream. The dream’s impossibility is because, largely due to the nature of how the divine seems to work in D&D, mortals will ascribe power to various things and then believe them to be gods, thus fueling the creation of gods with their worship. And with the AI’s plan to rebuild the world free of gods, the new mortals would be confronted with this nigh-indestructible, impossibly powerful mechanical creation that was clearly bigger and stronger than they were and capable of performing what would seem like miracles. Sounds like a clear recipe for immediate worship, especially from a primitive people.
I think I ended up kinda going for a fanatic-style Shockwave (from Transformers, particularly the new material in the Fall of Cybertron game and the Prime TV show, as I really haven't had much experience with him in Gen1).

I settled on using Unearth both in its standard definitions (literally digging or figuratively doing so to uncover evidence) and as a quick name for the engine created by Arkaz to allow him to remake the world. Had I had more words, I would have gone into a better explanation of the place. :p

Diplomatic Immunity finally came around as the concealment used by Arkaz as it made rounds of the planes, weakening the gods. The idea was, “Arkaz did it? You can’t be serious. It came here under banner of diplomacy and wouldn’t threaten relations like this. It must be caused by someone else,” would be the sort of reaction to anyone suspecting Arkaz. And to make the PCs interact with it a bit (and hey, they could throw a little weight around some godly courts), I decided to offer it to them, too.

I came up with Harleckee as an additional sort of visitor to the various divine realms. I thought it was an okay use, but I wasn’t thrilled with him. Mainly it was a way to use the ingredient and provide some hints/clues to the PCs. And like I said before, I hadn’t even thought of Wise Fool applying to Arkaz, which is a far better interpretation of the ingredient.

With those building blocks, I came up with some events to set things in motion, things for the PCs to interact with and handle (I would have really liked to highlight more of the strife happening on the Material Plane), and a work-up of events. It took a while, and I honestly wasn’t thrilled with the result. My previous entry seemed to ooze (if you’ll pardon the little joke) style, while this one seemed more flat. It didn’t help that I wasn’t really pleased with my own use of a few of the ingredients.

When I had finished writing it up, I stepped away for a bit. I came back to try to edit and tweak things, but I just couldn’t find anywhere I could feasibly do so while maintaining the adventure. And at that point, there was no way I was going to cut and rework large portions of it, however much it turned out I should have.

By the way, curse you, limited word count! :p

Regardless, I did have fun during all this. If anyone reading this is on the fence about whether to sign up next year, I say to go for it. The competition is amazing for making you think and write quickly, while also making you throw together some really weird and engaging stuff.


Successful Enterprise
Insufferable Ally
Something Wicked

The Luck of the Mighty
a PFRPG adventure

In the very beginning, one of the gods, left a small piece of highly condensed space and time on the material plan. This piece of ultramatter, shaped like a small red stone, by its very nature, bent time and space around it so that all events, people and places in its vicinity, stretching from the beginning of time to the end, potentially coexisted at the same intersection of reality. This piece of ultramatter is known as the Actuality Hook. Though mostly harmless on its own, the Actuality Hook, in the hands of a powerful mind, can be used to transport things and people across time and space.

Two Thousand years ago, the wizard-lord Vonshpin unleashed three beings of pure malicious thought out into the world. One of these psypossessors took over the body of an infant gold dragon and has lived for all of that time in that body. This dragon, known as Raxkalmon the Mighty, rules as supreme tyrant of the Jungle Kingdom of Lakxan, Though many give him the benefit of the doubt due to his heritage and the general reputation of gold dragons, it has long been suspected that he is capable of great acts of deception and cruelty. The palace of Raxkalmon is called the Morphic Palace and lies half in and half out of the Plane of Dreams. Moreover, for many years, Raxkalmon has had possession of the Actuality Hook, keeping it in the depths of his palace and using it to draw forth subjects from both past and future.

Twenty-seven years ago, Levortin “Levo” Goldmanse VII was born, the seventh son sired from a line of six other seventh sons. At his birth, the god of the hunt blessed young Levo with the perfect hunter's eye and the god of luck blessed the child with the best luck in the world. However, the god of misfortune, after the other two had spoken, decreed that should Levo ever lose an archery contest, his fortunes would turn. In the years since, Levo has become rather renowned as a rather lucky sort of hero, able to perform the most fantastic feats of archery.

One year ago, the ruins of ancient Monassan were discovered east of the city of Hillsfold, setting in motion a chain of events; one of which was decision by Raxkalmon the Mighty to send an army of his subjects northward, with the goal of marching across the Kingdom and capturing Hillsfold, so as to claim the untold treasures still buried in the wizards' ancient city. The army has just reached the borders to the south and rumors of war are beginning to filter through the country.

Adventure Summary:
The PCs, who it is expected, are the most renowned heroes in Hillsfold by this time, are invited by one of the city council to enter into a contest with the Kingdom's best archer. The archer's name is Levortin”Levo to his friends,” Goldmanse VII, and he is in town because the King wants him to meet with the PCs. The archery contest, which the PCs have no real chance of winning, allows them to meet Levortin “Everyone just calls me Levo” Goldmanse VII, who seems like a likeable individual, although he's a little full of his abilities (albeit with reason).

Following the contest, Levo, the PCs and several dignitaries, including Bishop Alzarn, a native of Hillsfold, and Grand Celestial Clergy of the King's Own, meet in a secure room. The PCs learn the truth of the war that is coming, and the fact that while many of the soldiers of Raxkalmon use conventional weapons, indeed some use weapons quite archaic in their design, others are armed with such mighty weapons that the world has rarely seen their like. The King's Own has decided that the best course of action is to send a small squad into the dragon's Morphic Palace in the southern jungles and end the war at the source. Divination about the palace is hard to come by, yet the gods have revealed two facts: the dragon who is not a dragon must be slain by a sword that is not a sword, and, the anchor of reality must be undone by a single perfect shot. Based on these foretellings, research has been done, and a plan has been made. The PCs are asked to escort Levortin “no really, Levo will do nicely,” westward to the city of Baskue where the Monks of Irskbin will deliver into his hands a perfect arrow capable of shattering the Actuality Hook, which s in the dragon's control. From there they must journey to the Port of Demarn where the church has gathered a contingent of thirty powerful clerics to fashion a deadly piece of negative energy into the outward form of a sword. Each of these two weapons is useable once. With weapons in hand they will need to sneak into the dragon's palace, strike the dragon with the sword, and shatter the Actuality Hook with a perfect shot using the Perfect Arrow. The PCs and Levortin “Stick with me and it'll all work out” Goldmanse VII are asked to take the King's Oath before beginning: to see the deed done, to be true to one another, protecting one another against all foes. The Kings Oath functions like a self-inflicted geas (no save).

The trip to Baskue goes smoothly until the party is attacked by a large group of soldiers affiliated with Raxkalmon. The attackers speak in a dead language to each other and are armed with weapons bearing a design from an empire 4000 years in the past. In the attack, the party gets to witness Levortin “It just come's natural to me I guess” Goldmanse VII's incredible luck and unbelievable skill with the bow. Mechanically, Levortin “Do you want a few pointer's” Goldmanse VII's is a fighter with feats and abilities all oriented towards archery. He also has two singular, god-given advantages. He is under a permanent (for now) True Strike effect whenever he uses a bow, granting him +20 to all archery shots, in addition to his other bonuses. He is also the luckiest man in the world. Whenever he needs to roll a d20, he rolls three d20s and chooses the best result. While he's not necessarily a proud man (“I have been blessed in life,”) he can be a bit condescending and his constant cheerfulness tends to grate after awhile. The PCs should be ready to knock him down a peg or two by the time they leave Baskue with Levortin “I should be the one to carry that,” Goldmanse VII now in possession of the Perfect Arrow.

A second attack occurs on the way to Demarn. This attack features a small group of strangely dressed individuals armed with weapons of steel and glass which fire beams of light. The weapons are mechanical, not magical, and they do not work for anyone but their original owners. While in Demarn, the party must wait for a few days as the “Sword of Darkness” is finished. Certain of the PCs are approached by a man named Leon Talstiv, who has a method of besting Levortin “I never miss” Goldmanse VII in an archery contest. The method is slightly underhanded, involving some minor illusion magic, a really powerful enchanted arrows, and a set of complex and powerful enchantments on the archer. Leon is hoping to clean up by betting against the Kingdom's best archer and winning. Whether or not the PCs agree to help, Leon arranges his contest and talks Levortin “tricks will never work against me” Goldmanse VII into competing. Surprisingly, Leon's plan works and Levortin “I lost!” Goldmanse VII loses his first archery contest ever.

Losing the contest irrevocably changes Levortin “What happened?” Goldmanse VII's fortunes. His true strike[/] effect is gone and now, whenever he makes a d20 roll, he rolls three dice and chooses the lowest. Furthermore, his poor luck is catching. Whenever he rolls a 1, he inflicts bad luck on all allies within 30 feet so that they must themselves, for 1 round, roll 2 dice for all d20 rolls and choose the lowest roll.

It is likely the party does not realize the full extent of their problem until after they obtain their next weapon and teleport themselves to the backdoor of the dragon's Morphic Palace.

The palace itself is a mixture of reality, dreams and illusions. Much of the reality is trapped; the traps being masked by illusions and hidden behind shifting dreamscapes. This makes navigation through the palace difficult, and all the more so when considering the presence of Levortin “Sorry, didn't mean to hit you with that shot” Goldmanse VII's bad luck. Unfortunately the terms of their Oath prevents the PCs from abandoning their companion until after the deed is done.

In addition to the challenges posed by the changing nature of the palace and the many traps, the castle houses elite soldiers from the past and the future, drawn into the present by the power of the Actuality Hook. While the soldiers from the past are more numerous, and something of an oddity from a scholarly perspective, the soldiers from the future are armed with powerful weapons from a variety of time periods. Some of these are magical; others are mechanical in nature, such as guns, flamethrowers and lasers.

Finally, after many fights and dangers, the party enters into the chamber where the dragon resides. To kill the dragon they must simply strike it forcefully with the sword, assuming they have not already used the sword. The sword will totally unmake a single creature with a single attack, but can only be used once. Attacking the dragon is harder due to the dragon's minions which attempt to prevent the party from closing in. The Actuality Hook floats in the center of the room and has an AC of 40. The perfect arrow, if it strikes it forcefully, will shatter it. All other attacks fail. Naturally the party should not let Levortin “I can't hit anything anymore” Goldmanse VII use the arrow, but he will attempt to fight next to them, with mixed results. If the party destroys the Actuality Hook but not the dragon, the dragon's minions fade away into nothingness. If they destroy the dragon, but not the Hook, the armies remain but are now leaderless. If both are destroyed, the threat is done and the party can return in total victory.

Anachronism Raxkalmon the Mighty's army is comprised of people from the past and future

Successful Enterprise Leon Talstiv, a semi-shady gambler, concocts a scheme, successful in its implication, to have Levortin Goldmanse VII lose an archery match.

Figment The Morphic Palace of Raxkalmon the Mighty, draws power from the plane of dreams, bending reality and unreality. Also, the sword forged to kill Raxkalmon is not really a sword, but a piece of negative energy imposed upon the material plane in the illusory shape of a sword.

Insufferable Ally Levortin Goldmanse VII is not a bad person, but he is a bit hard to live with

Something Wicked Raxkalmon the Mighty, a two thousand year old Gold Dragon is possessed by one of the three psypossessors created by the wizard-lord Vonshpin in ancient Monassan and is quite wicked.

Singularity Levortin Goldmanse VII is a singular, utterly unique individual, blessed and cursed by the gods. At the same time, the Actuality Hook provides a point of singularity at which all events in time and space within its vicinity potentially interconnect.

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