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IRON DM 2014 Tournament


To be fair (to us), I think the original ingredient, "banal airship," would have been tougher (even if "athletic competition" would have been easier).

I think it would have, yes. Hah.

So, how did I come up with Queen Under The Stars?

I saw several versions of the adventure evolve and be tweaked or discarded. Early on, I decided the astronomer would be a demigoddess, who would use her ring to grant immortality to whoever became her husband. That element changed very little through the adventure. Bouncing ideas off one of my players, we spun yarn about a Discworld-style nation who determined who would wed the Astronomer Queen through a series of banal competitions aboard an airship (athletic airship, in this case, meaning an airship devoted to athletics). There would be frogs, because the prophecies had been written down by a prophet who was hard of hearing and had badly mistranslated things as he wrote. The chapel of wings would have housed the prophecy.

In the end, I decided it would end up too silly, and the tacked-on nature of the elements wouldn't earn me many points. I kept the Astronomer Queen, and shifted things to a more serious competition of courtship. I had the PCs as the 'support team' for one of the candidates; basically, they'd flit about beneath the notice of really powerful NPCs and sabotage things or tweak things in their favor. Still aboard the airship, still doing banal competitions. I could never quite reconcile how the PCs would become involved in such an affair, though. Why would they be the first choice for an epic level NPC?

I don't remember exactly when it occurred to me to shift the PC into the role of 'husband-candidate', but that's when things started to fall together. The PCs get a hold of a letter (which they really aren't the intended recipients of), and so they slip on board the airship and participate in a fey revel. The other big shift was a switch from 'demigods' to 'fey', which brought things down to the point where PCs could easily be involved without being epic level. It also made the elements fit together better, and made it easier to use the frogs.

The other thing that went through several iterations was the finale. In my earliest drafts, I didn't have a villain. It was the PCs versus other NPCs competing for the same prize. But when I shifted things to the fey court, the idea of a 'Lord of the Frogs' came up, and I realized he could be using the icy toxin to put Feleira into a sleep from which she would never awake. And it would only happen at the climax of the dance when she took off the ring to give it to her chosen suitor! Perfect! I had him touch a frog to her cheek, and the toxic skin would induce the torpor. But the idea played out as too visible; he wouldn't get away with it. So instead he used a blowgun with the frog toxin, and unleashed several frogs on the populace. I was gleeful when I realized that the frogs could also paralyze the airship; I thought I was being quite clever. That would make it very important that the airship was 'athletic', and not merely a regular airship. Also, it tied the ice frogs to the airship element.

Overall, these elements were tough. I was looking up frogs on wikipedia for inspiration, trying to find something unique to frogs where they couldn't be swapped for another monster (hence the toxic skin). The athletic airship was a fit to come up with; I had visions of some titan swimming through the astral sea with a court on his back, I considered some sort of flying machine like what Gradine came up with, but I went with the owl as a symbol of the night. And the banal competition... how do you put a dull competition into an adventure in a central way without making it a dull adventure? These were very challenging elements, and I enjoyed working with them at every turn. They kept me thinking, kept me working right up until the final moment.

Gradine's entry was very impressive; I really enjoyed the ideas surrounding the heist, and I could definitely see this being a blast to run at the table. My group of players tends to enjoy roguish stuff like that, so I'm taking notes for a future campaign. A heist with airships is simply too much fun to pass up. I really hope you continue to compete in these, because I'd love to see what comes next.

As always, thanks to the judges. A lot of hard work has gone into this competition, and your efforts are appreciated. I hadn't ever been to round two before, so I didn't even realize that all three judges would weigh in on the entry, but the feedback and criticism has been very valuable.

I can't wait for round three. Best of luck to Wicht and Waylander.

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Once A Fool
As always, thanks to the judges. A lot of hard work has gone into this competition, and your efforts are appreciated.

Thank you for the appreciation.

I hadn't ever been to round two before, so I didn't even realize that all three judges would weigh in on the entry, but the feedback and criticism has been very valuable.

When we have three judges for the panel, anyway!

I can't wait for round three.

Best get ready to tighten up, then. Round Three has a 2000 word limit!


War Game: The “contest” between Lord Kyngamoto and Lord Ingyatomi
Demonic Kangaroo: Jurhaoni, an oni demon capable of possessing and animating an inanimate object, currently housed in a bronze statue of a kangaroo
Treasured Junk: General Hoshi's command boat, the apple of his eye
Repurposed Temple: The long abandoned Temple of Seven Gates; used as a staging ground for the contest between Lord Kyngamoto and Lord Ingyatomi's samurai
Boastful Promise: Lord Kyngamoto's boast that his samurais can defeat ten times their number in battle
Absent-minded Golem: Sutondor, an ancient stone golem tasked with caring for the Temple of Seven Gates, his programming was long ago corrupted with age

The Battle of the Temple of Seven Gates
A Pathfinder adventure for oriental characters of 7th level, featuring mass combat.

Adventure Background
The Temple of Seven Gates, built deep within the jungles of Harami province, upon the shores of the Tya river, has long been bereft of human life. The monks of the temple were a strange bunch, devoted to the worship of beasts, foreign and domestic, and strange demons. They filled their temple with hundreds of statues of animals from all over the world. Their veneration drew the attention of a clan of Choz-Oni, evil demons capable of possessing and animating statuary. The vile creatures tormented and eventually killed the monks and took control of the temple complex. The only remnant of the ancient order is an immense stone golem named Sutondor, which performs random acts of upkeep, his programming long ago corrupted so that he can no longer keep track of the order in which he does his tasks, nor even what his tasks are actually meant to be.

The Temple is about to become the scene of a major “war game” between a hundred samurai belonging to Lord Kyngamoto and a thousand samurai belonging to Lord Ingyatomi. The impetus for this battle was a boast made by Lord Kyngamoto, rather carelessly, that his samurai could easily defeat ten times their number in battle. The PCs, in the employ of Lord Kyngamoto have been tasked with delivering on their Lord's boastful promise.

Due to the fact that the Shogun has officially outlawed open warfare between samurai clans, Lord Kyngamoto and Lord Ingyatomi have chosen a rather remote region for their samurai to battle in, and they have officially commanded their forces not to fight to the death. Nevertheless, such war-games have the potential for becoming quite bloody.

The PCs, tasked with commanding the hundred samurai of Lord Kyngamoto, arrive at the ancient Temple of the Seven Gates upon the shores of the Tya River two days before the forces of Lord Ingyatomi are to arrive. As they and their troops prepare to engage their enemies, who are, it is rightly thought, going to attack via the river, they encounter the great stone golem, Sutondor, who, so long as he is not attacked, mostly ignores the presence of the troops as he goes about his bizarre tasks. At the same time, the clan of Choz-oni, led by Jurhaoni, begin tormenting the samurai, even going so far as to kill a few of the soldiers in the night, leaving their bodies in gruesome displays.

The samurai under the PCs soon begin to speak of the temple as haunted, and there are threats of desertion. Some few even attack Sutondor and get themselves killed. The PCs must balance the activities of the second day carefully, assuaging the fears of their men, investigating the deaths from the evening before, working around the activities of Sutondor, and continuing to prepare for the coming battle. That night, there are more deaths among the men, and some strange occurrences featuring the temple statuary.

On the dawn of the third day, the forces of Lord Ingyatomi attack, coming down the river in flat bottomed boats. They are led by one General Hoshi, who commands his many troops from a gold bedecked junk.The boat is the General's pride and joy. The general is quite willing to command his troops to not fight to the death, surrendering or playing dead upon the first strike upon their persons, so long as two conditions are met: one, that the samurai fighting under the PCs do the same, and two, that no damage comes to his boat. If his boat is ever damaged, he flies into a rage and commands his men to fight to the death.

As the battle rages, Sutondor takes it upon himself to begin tending to the grounds in the middle of the battle. At the same time, the activities of the Choz-oni, who delight in mayhem, are stepped up, as they attempt to act in such a way as to cause the battle to become ever bloodier and more confusing.

The PCs must use all of their skills and abilities to thwart the canny oni, keep their troops from being massacred and, if at all possible, for the honor of their Lord, win the day.

Character Hooks
The adventure, as conceived, is intended as a one-shot scenario, but it is quite possible to draw the PCs into the scenario in the context of a longer campaign. If the PCs are adventurer's in the employ of a Lord, the names can simply be changed to fit the actual circumstance of the PCs. If the PCs are unemployed adventurers then the easiest hook is for Lord Kyngamoto, realizing the foolishness of his boast, to hire the adventurers to lead his troops into battle, basing his decision on knowledge of their abilities and circumstances.

The Major NPCs
There are three major NPCs in the adventure, whose actions and decisions, apart from those of the PCs, will most shape the events of the Adventure. They are as follows.
Sutondor: This ancient stone golem is generally peaceful, but also resolute in carrying out the duties given to it by its makers. Unfortunately, the programming of the golem has become corrupt so that the golem is somewhat “absentminded,” having no real memory of anything it has done more than ten minutes previously nor even what its duties truly are. Thus its activities are almost completely random. The duties of the golem originaly included sweeping out the temple, raking the grounds, trimming the plants growing around the temple, wiping down the bricks of the walls, repairing the path leading from the temple to the river, putting anything out of place in the temple back to where it should go and feeding any animals on the grounds. Now it is as likely to be found feeding the bricks and sweeping the animals in a confused sort of way. Only if the golem is attacked does it attack back, and then only for a few rounds, before it forgets what it was doing and returns to its duties.

Jurhaoni: The leader of the Choz-oni, Jurhaoni inhabits a bronze statue of a kangaroo, a beast quite foreign to the area, but one whose shape amuses the oni. The pouch of the kangaroo statue operates as a handy haversack so long as the oni inhabits the statue. Jurhaoni, and all his clan, are quite wicked, delighting in tormenting mortals, inflicting fear and death. Throughout the days and hours leading up to the battle, the oni move surreptitiously through the temple, freezing in place whenever there are multiple soldiers around. They do what they can to break the equipment of the PC's samurai, confuse the work of the soldiers, and strike fear into the samurai by killing lone soldiers during the night. Encased in their statuary bodies, the oni feel quite safe, as they cannot actually be hurt until cast out of said bodies.

General Hoshi: Leader of the thousand samurai fighting against the PC's and their troops, General Hoshi is a proud, pompous man, possessed of an adequate military mind, but more interested in fishing than in battle. He sees the battle of the Temple of Seven Gates as a diversion, the end result of which is certain. His pride and joy is an imported gold-plated junk from which he directs his samurai during the battle. If the junk is ever damaged, General Hoshi becomes quite lividly furious, vowing to kill all of the PCs and the samurai under them.

Adventure Events

Day One
  • The PCs arrive with their men at the Temple of Seven Gates.
  • Sutondor makes his first appearance, meticulously raking the stone path leading to the river. So long as he is ignored, he ignores the soldiers, and is soon seen sweeping off the sides of the temple with an ancient broom.
  • The PCs must begin arranging their defenses.
  • A brick falls from the second floor of the temple, braining one of the samurai. There are whispers that the golem might have dropped it.
  • The temple complex is invaded by a large herd of spotted deer. One of the deer is later found dead at the feet of a strange statue of a kangaroo, its heart missing.
  • One of the soldiers, moving around inside the temple sets off an ancient summoning stone, conjuring forth an immense rampaging dire.
  • During the night three samurai are killed. One is found torn apart amidst a group of gore encrusted tanuki statues. A second is found hanged inside the temple. A third has been drained of blood. When Sutondor is next seen, he is covered in said blood. All three bodies are missing their hearts.

Day Two
  • The samurai are convinced the temple is haunted. There are whispers of desertion.
  • Sutondor spends an hour undoing any defensive structures the PCs have arranged before turning its attention to caring for the temple garden.
  • One of the samurai sees a statue of a five tailed fox moving inside the temple.
  • The statue of the kangaroo is seen in multiple places by the PCs.
  • At the same time as the day before, a herd of spotted deer invade the temple complex.
  • A group of five samurai decide that Sutondor is to blame for the problems and suicidally attack the powerful golem.
  • During the night the oni in the tanuki statues kidnap a sleeping samurai, take him into hidden chambers in the temple and torture him so that his screams echo throughout the complex.
  • A samurai is killed in his sleep with a dagger, his heart removed; said blade is found hanging from the innermost gate, blood still dripping from its point.
  • As dawn approaches, one of the Choz-oni, inhabiting the statue of a wolf, makes a mistake and is discovered while attacking one of the samurai. Assuming the PCs join the fight, the destruction of the statue reveals the oni, who seeks to inhabit another statue, or, failing this, fights to the death.

Day Three
  • The thousand samurai of Lord Ingyatomi arrive and the battle of the temple commences.
  • General Hoshi plans on attacking in three waves, with a fourth group in support. He has two hundred archers stationed on the far side of the river to provide cover. The first wave of two hundred samurai are to land their boats and charge the defenses of the defenders from the front. The second wave of two hundred samurai is to land to the north of the temple and attempt to flank the complex. The last wave of four hundred samurai are to land at the height of the fighting and help mop up the remaining defenders.
  • During the fight, the tanuki statues go on a murderous rampage killing any samurai in their way indiscriminately. These twelve statues function as their own combat unit.
  • Depending on the success of the oni in mucking up the defenses, a certain number of weapons, positions, and constructed fortifications begin falling apart.
  • Sutondor moves into the middle of the battle and begins trying to sweep up samurai from the battle field with his broom.
  • The herd of deer arrives early, but the battle confuses them and they begin running throughout the temple, getting in the way of the fighting.

  • It is possible for the PCs to figure out ways to get Sutondor to work for them. The golem can be manipulated if the PCs are willing to spend the time to figure out how to do so. However, any success in this area is limited as the golem will forget what it was about after 1d6x10 minutes.
  • If the oni think the PCs are on to them too early, they will misdirect by possessing statues, move them, and then vacate the same statues to inhabit others. The PCs can thus never be sure of which statues are truly possessed at any given time, excepting the statues of the tanuki and the statue of the kangaroo.
  • The PCs might be able to convince General Hoshi to postpone the battle while they cleanse the temple of evil, but doing so will require great amounts of evidence and some powerful diplomacy.
  • If Jurhaoni is cast from his kangaroo body, he flees into the massive chimeric statue located in the middle of the inner shrine, and, in the midst of the battle, animates the huge stone shape to wreak havoc amongst the samurai.

War Game: The Coliseum Games
Demonic Kangaroo: Hiawatha
Treasured Junk: The key to controlling Hiawatha
Repurposed Temple: The colesium
Boastful Promise: Made by Augustus Maximus
Absent-minded Golem: The “map” that leads to the temple
War Games of Infamy
The ancient tribes of the Orakami face eradication; their ways and people slowly being wiped out by the Ordo Imperium who landed on their shores a decade ago. Now they face the most difficult of choices, and perhaps the final solution; summon and control the destructive aspect of their most powerful totem; the Great Hiawatha, the First Kangaroo; he who is said to lead the Orakami to their land. However, the path to summoning and controlling Hiawatha is not easy, and one that only the bravest may tread, and few may survive.
The player characters are tribesmen of the Orakami, an ancient people similar to the aborigine tribes, who have left with but one option, to summon the demonic aspect of Hiawatha. The armies of the tribes have amassed, now confronting the superior forces of the Imperium. The PCs will have to negotiate through the battle front, and into the main city or Palentium where the Ancient Temple has now be repurposed by the Imperium as the Coliseum for the
Part 1- Entering Palentium
Palentium is heavily fortified and guarded, however, the main attraction that occurs periodically is the War Games. In fact, Imperator Augustus Maximus believes that the results of the War Games conducted in the Coliseum are indicators of the favor of their divine gods; they try to make it as authentic as possible. The in charge of the Coliseum, Aquius Verla, has promised the most powerful and authentic natives, and the best of the best for the war games, and also guaranteed “victory” for the Imperium in the war games (the opposing side is usually bled out and made weak, though provided with authentic armor and weapons). Unknown to Aquius, his main Requestor, Ayena Mallor, has slowly come to understand and love the Orakami ways and has agreed to aid the PCs.

- The PCs are thrust into the arena as “the natives” having to defend against the imperium forces. Thankfully, Ayena makes sure that the characters have their full complement of spells and weapons. It’s up to the PCs as far as how they handle themselves during the war games; there are a few key goals here
o Before, every such event Maximus boastfully promises victory for their forces, as he has been “told” by the gods themselves. Upending and defeating the Imperium forces in the coliseum severely impacts the morale of the troops and the credibility of Maximus.

Part 2- The Temple of Hiawatha
o The PCs have been provided a “map” of the Old Temple; a small kangaroo golem that can only be awakened with a prayer known to the shamans of the Orakami. There is a small problem however, the magic of the golem is no longer as potent, and it constantly takes wrong turns, and makes other mistakes. The PCs will have to protect the golem at all costs, to get to the secret temple chambers

o The PCs also need to recover a small wooden talisman before performing the ritual, now in a junk pile in the main gladiator galley. Recovering it will be difficult, as the PCs will have to go through the gladiators.

Radiating Gnome

It’s a common enough occurrence in Iron DM that a contestant has RL problems that interfere in his ability to complete an entry – it seems like that happens at least once per contest, and it’s always a shame to see. However, there’s a precedent for short, hastily completed entries that were so cool they won anyway, so we should make no assumptions, and get right down to judging this worthy contest between The Battle of the Temple of Seven Gates (7G) and War Games of Infamy (WGI).


War Game. In 7G, we have the lopsided challenge the PCs are forced into; outnumbered 10-to-1 to settle an idle bet made by their Lord. It’s an effective use of the ingredient, and sets up the whole adventure. In WGI, the war games again pit the PCs as the “natives” in staged entertainment battle they’re scripted to lose. I like this one too, and I can forgive any striking similarities to movies I might have seen. A lot. It still works.

Demonic Kangaroo. In WGI, we understand in the background that the demonic aspect of the Kangaroo god Hiawatha needs to be summoned, but in the actual action of the adventure that doesn’t seem to come up – it’s apparently something the PCs will have to do, but this is a victim of the author’s time crunch. In 7G, on the other hand, the Demonic Kangaroo is a statue of a kangaroo, possessed by a demon, that teases and torments the defending samurai. An excellent application, so advantage 7G

Treasured Junk. In 7G, this is the enemy General Hoshi’s pride and joy, and his command center. It works, but the adventure does not need the presence of this offshore command center – it’s not really integral. At the same time, in WGI, the more mundane use of Junk seems to be the less obvious choice, but it’s again not important that it be there – in the scene, the junk hides the prize, but it might as well be a chest – it doesn’t matter that it’s junk. So, that one also really suffers. I don’t think either is really worth the advantage here, but might circle back if I wind up needing a tiebreaker.

Repurposed Temple. The setting for the mock battle in 7G is the temple of the Seven Gates, long abandoned and now haunted by demons. I found this setting evocative, well-illustrated, and engaging – a place I really wanted to run for players. So, really good stuff. In WGI, I think we have a clear victim of time crunch – there’s no sign of the coliseum being a repurposed temple except in the list of ingredients. Clear advantage to 7G.

Boastful Promise. In WGI, the impresario staging events in the coliseum has promised powerful, authentic natives whom he guarantees the imperial forces will defeat. It works. In 7G, Lord Kyngamoto has boasted that his samurai can defeat a force of Lord Ingyatomi’s ten times their strength – this one also works. And, I think it benefits from being the entire setup for the adventure, rather than being a potentially unnecessary detail like the one in WGI.

Absent-minded golem. I’m amused by Sutondor – he is a fun addition to the adventure in 7G – but in a very real way he’s a tacked-on complication that does not need to be there. In that way he’s not really a stronger use of the much less colorful kangaroo golem guide used by the PCs in WGI. So, even though I like Sutondor a lot, he doesn’t earn much advantage here.
Still, looking at the ingredients as a whole, 7G has a big leg up over WGI.


I really like 7G. It has flavor and texture and a hopelessly complicated situation that the PCs are caught in, beset on all sides and desperately trying to keep their contest with the enemy samurai non-lethal will be a really complicated challenge.

WGI, on the other hand, is obviously less developed; the clash of cultures implied in the adventure could be used a great deal more. I’d love to see this fleshed out – I’ve always been a sucker for adventures that involve gladiatorial contests, so I want a lot more from this that it doesn’t quite deliver


So, at this point, it’s not much of a surprise that I’m going to cast a vote for The Battle of the Temple of Seven Gates.
Waylander, I’m glad you submitted your entry at the buzzer even if it wasn’t everything it could have been. Like I said, we’ve seen those dashed off entries blow the minds of the judges in the past, but this time, that didn’t quite happen.
So, Wicht, you get my vote. We’ll have to see how the other judges vote.


Hey, now! If you want to passive-aggressively imply that the judges should hurry up, do so in the other thread. :p

Far be it from me to hurry the judges, who, as true connoisseurs of the art of writing, choose every one of their succulent words with the utmost care, polishing and refining each as one would a fine gem destined for a frame of gold.


Radiating Gnome

Far be it from me to hurry the judges, who, as true connoisseurs of the art of writing, choose every one of their succulent words with the utmost care, polishing and refining each as one would a fine gem destined for a frame of gold.


:):):):), now I feel bad for getting mine done already.

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